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Chapter 1/ Camellia

 

[Wednesday, 17th of December. 17:46 P.M. Somewhere in the South - North Korean Border]

 

“Latitude: 38.198754605323906, Longitude: 126.98063918990465. Follow your pre stablished route without being seen. I repeat, Ground Intel S.V.T. team, Latitude: 38198754605323906, Longitude: 126.98063918990465. Follow without being seen. Good luck.”

He let the static fill the silence for him for a while, not really paying attention to the coordinates, while his team mates just waited for his command. The surrounding forest was dense, much denser than some of the roads they had taken after leaving civilization a few days ago, so he shouldn’t feel as tense as he felt, but couldn’t help it. His whole team depended on him, both the ones accompanying him, and the ones back in the base. Taking a silent breath he nodded and started his trek, his team following close behind. They had been in enemy territory for so long, they had forgotten how to proceed without caution, if he was being honest. Seungkwan was just being a tad bit overdramatic, but he couldn’t hold it against him. Due to sensible nature of their job, extra precautions had to be taken in order to survive, and tense hours like the ones they were living through right now were just part of the lifestyle.

They had grown accustomed at proceeding in silence, at least when running through mountain ranges, forests and rivers. Even if they were sure they had entered national grounds, they couldn’t possibly lower their defenses right now; between Jun’s delicate infiltration into the enemy’s base for longer any of them could have managed before going crazy, the sensible data The8 had managed to collect because of it, and Dino’s amazing emergency coordination, he couldn’t fail them in the one job he was supposed to excel at: bringing them home safe. Don’t get him wrong, he had been part of the whole operation from the very beginning, as the Ground Intel Commanding Officer of the S.M.U, but right now there was no doubt in his mind that every turn was his call and not his subordinates.

The formation was quite simple: Jun to their left: hands on his gun at all times, ready to react at the slightest notice of danger, and he never wore eyewear, arguing it affected his aim. To the right, The8 held a little controller on his hands and was looking into a tiny screen, he was their drone expert, and was in charge of analyzing their surroundings to assure they were relatively safe. Behind them, Dino set the pace. He wore the heaviest gear from them all, and arguably had the best stamina, so he was the one signaling them how fast or how slow they had to go. And he, himself, was on the front, analyzing the immediate terrain, controlling the direction they were to advance to, and ready to give orders to his team if they were needed. They worked like a compact, very effective unit and sometimes he got a bit scared at how coordinated and in sync they were, not that he was complaining.

[Long hours of training and companionship resulted in that, he mussed afterwards.]

“Boss” hissed Dino on his back and Hoshi kept walking slowly, senses as alert as they could be. He heard the slow shift of the mountain, it’s winds rolling down the hills chilling their skin under their clothes. He hummed, acknowledging his younger teammate’s voice “I’m hungry~” he whined, the whole tense atmosphere crumbling over his poor attempt at a joke.

Next to them, The8 chuckled, but his feet still were as light as a feather, hardly leaving any trek marks on his way. Jun just sighed, clearly amused, and he himself had to fight the urge to kick the youngest over his head.

“Not the time, Maknae” he grumbled, eyes fixed on their destination, his goggles giving him all the needed information “Not the time” he repeated.

He heard Dino roll his eyes behind his back, mostly because he could not see him, but was 100% positive the male was being a little shit. He never respected his hyungs, that brat, but he didn’t follow on his attempts at breaking the silence afterwards. They knew their leader could be a bit too strict with protocols when escaping and even if he really didn’t have to, took every procedure as a responsibility of his own. He took their safety and well being to heart, and even Dino couldn’t be so cynical of not appreciating the feeling.

It was tedious, walking that much, but they couldn’t risk being spotted so close to the border outside a sensible range from a check point. That, they could explain. Being rescued from the middle of nowhere? That would be a little messier. He knew Dino and The8 were exhausted, and he knew Jun was starting to fall sick with something (probably a common cold) but they couldn’t possibly afford to stop now, not when the night was nigh and it might start to snow soon. Without much preamble, he took two things from his jacket’s pockets: a hand held heating pack from his breast pocket, and a protein bar from the arm one. He gave the bar to Dino and tossed the pack at Jun, who silently thanked him and kept walking. The maknae didn’t make any move to acknowledge the gesture, but the soft sound of silent munching gave their leader a great sense of satisfaction. The8, on the other side of the formation, snorted softly and kept his position without even showing any need for attention. That was, till he hissed:

“Boss” and held his left arm straight across his chest, hand tense and fingers equally as straight, while his right forearm tapped the fingers in an upward motion, his hand in a fist, just his thumb sticking out. He did the movement two times.

Well shit.

Without looking around, he held both hands up, turning his fingers into an ”L" shapes. His right index finger laying up against the left thumb.He moved both hands forward as his index finger flexed twice. His right index finger wrapped around the left thumb and signaled forward. Without much hesitation, the team started to run in different, but rehearsed directions and Finally they heard the noise of extra boots hitting the ground and the cocking of guns.

Dino had gone from the very back of the formation to the front, his left hand on his communicator, indicating he was giving a distress signal to the rest of their team, and then he dodge south-wise, covering himself in the dense forage. The8, always focused on his drone, gracefully pocketed his controller and tapped his wristwatch twice, while taking out a gun and disappearing between the trees. Jun just covered half his face with his jacket and ran northwise,

While running through the trees, they had to make sure none of them was actually too close to the other, but not too far away they couldn’t support each other in an emergency. They knew well enough what it felt to lose members when they didn’t follow that simple rule, well, at least Jun and he himself knew that pain like a second skin. He hid behind a tree and held his hand high, in a tight fist, and hoped his team halted as well. The noise of the earth crumbling beneath the boots of their pursuers were far enough he was sure they couldn’t possibly had seen them hide into their positions, but he held himself low just in case. Night was almost there, and it was foolish to think they would be able to find each other in the wilderness if they were to get separated. So, he held his breath and breathed out so slowly, it couldn’t form the tell telling mist in the cold ambiance. A few seconds later, five pair of boots could be heard looking around, moving slowly, carefully.

From his position, he couldn’t see anyone, but his ear was trained enough he could pin point exactly were every soldier around them were. The men actually sounded unsure, talking in hushed dialect he wasn’t really able to understand, and knew neither Dino nor Jun could. The8 was even more out of the question, really. So it was a waiting game, of either getting to cold and dark to do anything or engage. The first option could really be as detrimental to the safety of his team as the second one, and the choice wasn’t as obvious; he had strict rules of not engagement and silent procedure, but the circumstances were dire and even if they actually were in national grounds, he knew the border was a sensible topic, no matter what agreement both states had. There was another option, too: waiting to see if Dino’s distress signal held any value to the military unit just a few kilometers down the range, and actually sent a patrol unit up there to support them, but he couldn’t trust a regular military unit to move as fast and as freely as they did, so mostly he wanted to believe they were alone in this.

For what he could hear, the unit pursuing them was as professional as they were: no shouting, no showing off. They knew the sensible nature of this situation and acted accordingly: no party could give up, but neither could, at the same time, engage and start a diplomatic nightmare. He trusted The8 cleaned up their steps carefully, so those guys had, in reality, nothing to hold against them and probably just noticed them going out the border like creeps. That being said, if they were to find them, he knew they were screwed.

A tense moment later, he heard the faint sound of a sixth pair of boots making way between the trees. He tightened the grip on his gun and tried hard to relax his muscles.

“Did you find them?” A new voice asked, not caring about the tone.

“Shh!!!” Another male voice answered, while answering negatively in a much hushed tone.

“Come on, let’s go. Nightfall in imminent and intel saw movement in the checkpoint. We cannot risk being found here.”

“But…”

“Even if we find them, moving four bodies it’s going to be a hassle. They are not going to survive the night here. And…” the man paused, looking around, and he held his breath even tighter inside his body, still as a rock “… it’s an order from upstairs, come on”

Protests were muttered, but in the end, after a few minutes of looking around aimlessly, the men started to walk away, in the direction they had just been before. He waited, tense and sharp, for longer he thought it was needed, but he had to make sure he didn’t feel anyone around. Holding both hands up, he first signaled with his right hand as a fist with both his index finger extended and his middle finger extended at 90 degrees towards his palm, then he tapped on top of his left. Right after, he signaled in the direction of the coordinates again and began walking carefully, gun still in hand.

Not long after, he could feel a light tap on his right ass cheek, signaling The8 had arrived and was back in position. Jun tapped his left ass cheek and he swore, felt Dino’s foot giving him a light tap in the end. He never quite understood why, out of every part of his body, the team had started to pat his ass, but right now it wasn’t time to complain.

[Nor ever, as he did tap his teammates ass just as often…]

The darkness wasn’t as blinding with night vision googles on, but that limited their view quite a bit, and made their advance so much slower. Still, they were so near, they had to keep moving. The promise of a hot meal, clean clothes and, god be gracious, a shower was enough motivation at that point, or at least, the promise of going home after a two month mission. He had missed his bed dearly.

“Hoshi-hyung…” The8 muttered “There’s a ravine in fifty meters. I think there’s water running there, too"

He stole a glance from his wrist watch and sighed.

They had to brave through it anyways.

 

[Wednesday, 17th of December. 19:03 P.M. Reserved Military Check Point. South Korea]

 

The Special Versatile Team< for East Asian Security, or S.V.T. was a undercover unit under Korean rule. It was composed, currently, by mostly Korean members, but their action stage was much bigger. They didn’t really partook in mission as far away as India, but were trained well enough that they could if so ordered. They had two American members who were ethnically korean - or at least half of them, in Vernon’s case - and two Chinese members, who had been recruited very early in their years. When Seungcheol was ordered to take the overall command of said unit, he had already been training and taking part in other operations and teams, so the chance to prove himself and conduct such a sensitive unit was a boost to his ego.

He had never hated his ego so much after the first few weeks getting to know his teammates.

The team was mostly formed when he arrived to lead them, and was wrongly pleased to see he had already met them all once or twice before in the different Units he had taken part in. Between the Tech Unit, or the ones in charge both field teams didn’t die because they were muscle headed enough to not understand the basics of strategy and technology, the Ground Intel Unit, or the ones getting sent to sensible places to gather information for the techs to analyze and the Special Engagement Unit, his own Unit besides leading the team, who were in charge of less sensible, but equally as important missions that required lots of field work. He thought most of the work was already done, with the other Unit Leaders already sorted and everyone somewhat familiar with each other.

Wrong.

Between prissy, whiny and lazy Jeonghan; angry, violent and short fussed Jihoon, alias Woozi, and the rest of that overly excited, impatient and messy bunch, he was getting bald before reaching thirty. The first two were, arguably, the worst problems he had to deal with, but Soonyoung, alias Hoshi, as his stupid, overly energetic ass, or Mingyu’s habit of breaking anything he touched because he was strong as he was clumsy, he knew he was in for a very bumpy ride. The others weren’t any better, but right not he was particularly stressed out because of Soonyoung, and his tardiness in successfully ending the mission assigned.

Two months they had been in North Korea. Two blasted months, and now they were almost four hours late to the reunion point. Seungkwan had assure him, time and time again, that he shouldn’t worry, that Hoshi was a competent leader and a even more competent spy, but he couldn’t help himself. He was restless and worried because Jeonghan had been angrier and prissier that usual, in a way to mask his worry maybe. But that meant that Wonwoo had gotten short with the gorgeous Tech and in return, Jeonghan had tossed a cup full of coffee straight to his head. But the cup didn’t hit fast and nimble Wonwoo, no. It hit Mingyu… and then-

Well, you get the picture.

So right now he had four tense and restless kids running around the room inside the military check point, and he was just this close to quitting his job - four, because most of the Tech Unit , plus Vernon, stayed behind HQ monitoring the rest of their on going assignments. But first, the GITs - Jeonghan was not going to let Soonyoung, Jun, Minghao and Chan live that one down, EVER - had to come back home. After that, he could send his resignation letter and retire to an unit were he could, he didn’t know, clean roads or whatever. Seungkwan had been assigned to be in constant connection with the GIT Unit but around five past six, they had had their last communications just around national territory. After that, it was just a thing of trying to triangulate where in the world were their teammates. But then it had happened: Jeonghan, who was overseeing every outside communication frequency that could indicate enemy forces had spotted them, had heard that a mountain rangers unit had been dispatched to coordinates uncomfortably close to the approximate area their friends were. And then came the distress signal and all hell broke loose. Between Seungkwan cursing every GIT member and every ancestor and successor they might have had o were going to have respectively, Wonwoo being the sarcastic nut he was, and Mingyu being adamant they had to go there and help them ASAP, Seungcheol was growing a very present headache.

The main issue with Dino’s distress call about an hour ago was that the commander officer in charge of the check point had been adamant in NOT letting them interfere. It was too risky to send another special unit to the wilderness in those conditions - nightfall and midwinter, right at the rocky mountainous border between nations and, most likely, against field North Korean Units who were in fact trained to pursue defector through those dire conditions - and expect them to survive. Four dead bodies were better than six or seven - and Seungcheol was counting both Seungkwan and Jeonghan as probable companions to Wonwoo and Mingyu’s operation - and they had explicit non-engagement orders, so if Soonyoung was to follow their rules, he was going to wait in the bitter cold till it all cleared out.

That was less than ideal, but he requested a Mountain Unit to prepare itself, just in case they needed to engage and support their teammates. The information collected was far more important than some rules of engagement or anything of the sorts, and while he expected The8 to erase every track or lead that could lead the enemy to their identities, they needed whatever the team had found in those months. Seungkwan, after his outburst, had focused on trying to get the GITs to turn on their communicators, but to no avail. Wether it was because Soonyoung still feared being spotted because of the signal, or because they couldn’t speak at that point, he didn’t know, but was forced to believe in the vivacious Unit leader.

“S.Coups-hyung, we have to go. We can’t let them there! They are going to freeze to death in this conditions! They have been walking for days now!” pressed Mingyu, his bigger, much sturdier frame almost vibrating from anticipation and worry. Besides him, Wonwoo snorted.

“And what do you propose we do? Trust Hoshi on this, he is going to bring them back” he argued, fox-like eyes glinting menacingly.

“Hoshi-hyung can’t possibly carry them all if anything happens!”

“Wonwoo, Mingyu, shut it” Seungcheol ordered, looking over Seungkwan’s shoulder “Tell me what you see”

Seungkwan bit his lip, and nodded.

“The distress signal was dismissed, S.Coups-hyung, but none of them is connecting to the safe signal”

He nodded, grimly, and went to Jeonghan, who in turn, snorted.

“Stop breathing down my neck Cheollie, this is not the place for that” he grumbled “but the ranger unit has been dismissed and ordered to go back to their check point, so we can assume they are safe from this threat. On the other hand…”

“… we can pin point exactly where the ranger last were from their communications. That puts them close to a stream that is about 25 to 32 km from here” finished Seungkwan, still looking at his screen, fixated on the location, trying to look over with as much precision the stardard satellite vision provided “I still can’t find The8’s drone signal, but if they cross that stream, I’m pretty sure Hoshi-hyung will order them to communicate… at least that’s what I want to believe”

Seungcheol sighed, utterly defeated and turned around.

“Wonwoo, prepare everything to assist them in case it’s needed, Mingyu, start packing everything up. The moment we find them, we are on that helicopter and out of this place. Seungkwan, keep me posted if anything changes and Jeonghan, narrow your search and aid Seungkwan in tracking any device the four of them might have on. I’m going to talk with the Check Point commander”

“Yes sir!” They exclaimed and Seungcheol left the room.

 

[Thursday, 18th of December. 16:52 P.M. S.V.T. HQ. Seoul, Korea]

 

“Gotta five?” Asked Joshua, head resting on his left hand, in front of him, Vernon shrugged.

“Go fish”

Waiting was really mind numbing, even if they were supposed to keep working while their boss and teammates were away. The problem was that monitoring often enough became a dull activity, specially for anyone not in the T.U.; in this case, Chwe Hansol - alias Vernon - had to stay behind and act as an emergency contention component to protect both the T.U. and the base in case anything happened. And if he didn’t wish for something awful to happen, anything was better to play Go Fish with Joshua, sitting on uncomfortable computer chairs and hearing Jihoon grumble about stupid spies and muscle headed idiots.

“Gotta eight?”

“Go fish”

Seokmin, alias Dokyeom or D.K., chuckled, smiling at the pure nonsense of the scene: while Jihoon was all over his myriad of computers, headphones on and fingers almost curling up in tension, Jisoo, alias Joshua, was sprawled all over his chair, while Vernon had his feet over the table and he himself was just lazing on the couch, his brown hair all over the decorative sparkly pillow Seungkwan had insisted they had to get. One would have thought that being such a secret, sensitive and influential Unit, would require them having a higher budget for living spaces, but no. All they had was a somewhat run down building, very understated, filled to the brim with young, loud adults and their questionable decorative choices. No one could tell them apart from college kids living alone away from their parents, and while that assumption wasn’t that incorrect - at least two members were taking some college courses that he knew of - if the dug a little deeper, they would notice the small things that didn’t quite make sense in the picture.

“Gotta two?”

“Asshole” grunted Vernon, tossing a card straight to Joshua, who caught it between two fingers, so graceful and smooth, it almost looked fake.

“Language” he warned, in return.

The blinking lights of Woozi’s equipment and the constant noise of tapping against abused buttons and the rattling of the keyboard just made the silence even more awkward. Usually, they would be joking around and annoying each other, or even just watching a movie while Jihoon burned his retina’s off in front of the screen, but the looming shadow of worry was eating them away since Seungcheol had informed them of the slight - are really eight hours considered “slight” these days? - delay the GIT’s had. And even if Seokmin’s confidence in Soonyoung’s leadership was unrelenting, there was just this permanent quota of danger their spies faced that just couldn’t be predicted or dealt with even with the most detailed planing.

“Any news, Woozi-hyung?” He asked, a tad bit louder he might have needed too, but Jihoon was already annoyed enough, so such transgression was going to easily fade under the thicker layers of stress.

“Isn’t the slacker over there in charge of monitoring THOSE activities???” He snapped bitterly, while Joshua shrugged without shame.

“If Jeonghan hasn’t called me, it means they aren’t anywhere near Seoul, so it would just be pointless to watch the screen and see their position in real-time. And if anything… well, less than propitious happened, I have no doubt in my mind we would have already gotten the memo” he answered easily, soft feature lightening up with a unreadable smile.

Jihoon growled in response. Vernon snorted back.

“Woozi-hyung, the alert system is going to work anyways. You are always perfecting and updating it, come sit with us…” he invited.

“No”

“Awww come on~~” Seokmin drawled, smiling “we know you are worried…” about who, he let the silence talk for him, as he noticed the tip of his hyung ears had gotten uncharacteristically red “… but sitting there leering at the screen is not going to change anything”

Stubborn as he was, Jihoon remained on his chair, but he softly shifted to the right, giving him enough angle to see each of them from the corner of his eye. Vernon suppressed another snort and tossed his cards on the table.

“You are cheating again, Jisoo-hyung” he pouted

“Me?” Retorted Jisoo, posing as the image of innocent surprise.

“Jeonghan has been rubbing more than just your body” he muttered, snakily.

Jisoo had the dignity to sound offended, but then just dropped his cards as well and sighed.

“What should we do, then?” He asked, changing the topic. Seokmin just snickered.

“We should make something to commemorate the GIT’s are coming back! Maybe bake a cake or something! They should appreciate the food!”

Vernon considered this, while Jisoo smiled gently and Jihoon snorted.

“A cake when neither of us can manage a noodle ramyeon cup? Seriously D.K.?” retorted Jihoon, now fully facing them, his head resting on his hand, unamused.

“We can go out and buy something. It’s not like there’s much to do here anyways…” provided Vernon, and, once again, Jihoon rolled his eyes, even less amused.

“Do you guys even know the definition of WORKING? Seriously, you slackers…” he groaned.

Jisoo snickered, shrugging.

“You aren’t doing much either, and for monitoring, you always have your portable devices. You three go and I stay making sure nothing goes wrong…”

“I’d rather stay…” retorted Jihoon.

Seokmin rolled his eyes, this time.

“You need sunlight and fresh air, hyung…”

Jihoon was going to open his mouth to protest once again, but one pointed look from Jisoo froze him in his tracks and Vernon had to bury his head between his arms to stifle his laugh.

“Go. Buy something good for dinner and a cake. The whole team is going to appreciate it. Now shoo, go before I call Cheollie and tell them you all are being difficult”

The three younger males gathered up and went out the door before Jisoo could even think of taking his phone out.

They knew not to mess with the resident snitch.

 

[Friday, 19th of December, 01:24 A.M. S.V.T. HQ, Seoul, South Korea]

 

With another heavy cough, Jun cleared his sore throat and grimaced at the sound of it. Almost six hours battling a heavy amount of snowfall in the middle of the mountains and the preexisting cold he knew was brewing inside his body had left him so sick he was sure, if not for Mingyu’s attentive treatment and fast reaction, he would be battling a fever later on. What was worse, the helicopter ride had been so uncomfortable and difficult - seriously, what was wrong with staying at the check point? Junhui will always think Koreans sometimes overreacted in their constant need for political correctness - and cold. Even with Wonwoo and Seungkwan cuddling him, rubbing his arms and back and Seungcheol rubbing his legs, he still felt like shit. He couldn’t complain, thought; the mission was an overall success, with the delay and all. Soonyoung had been so apologetic and miserable when they reached the reunion point and all but carried him, with the help of a sleepy but steady Minghao, straight to the truck, whispering the only apology he could pronounce in cantonese over and over again. He wanted to tell him it was just a down side from their job, nothing big, but his brain was just starting to work again between being sleep deprived, cold and hungry. At least it wasn’t snowing any longer.

Dino was no better off, if he could tell from his appearance. He had to carry the heaviest load and his shoulders were still stiff; Jeonghan had offered to massage them, but Dino had, as politely as he could force himself to be around them, denied it. Getting a massage flying on an helicopter wasn’t really a great idea. Minghao, on the other hand, was looking through his footage, keeping himself awake by showing Mingyu all the pretty scenery he could catch with his drone camera. Even then, he noticed the slight wince in his eyes every time the copter rattled because of the winds; surely his back was acting up again after living in tension for so long. Soonyoung, was besides Seungcheol in front of Jun, still wide awake and aware of everything, even if the bags on his eyes were heavy and the slump of his shoulders was getting slightly worse by the hour.

“I feel better now, thank you, guys…” he muttered, smiling at their leader, who in return gave him a strained grimace that tried to be a smile but got lost in translation.

“Well, you don’t look like you are on the verge of hypothermia anymore, so that’s a victory I’s like to claim” joked Jeonghan, eyes fixated on his portable satellite tablet.

“You have done literally zero work in keeping him warm, you snake” remarked Wonwoo, still running his hands up and down his arms, focusing on his hands too.

“This has been a team effort! I was taking care of poor Dino here!”

“I’m fine! I can take care of myself” protested the youngest, but Jeonghan gave him one look that promised banter

“Whose baby are you?”

“Argh, Jeonghan-hyung….!”

“Whose. Baby. Are. You?”

Defeated, Dino mumbled:

“Jeonghan-hyung’s….”

“Good, now don’t act up. It’s bad for my nerves. Tired boys should be acting spoiled” he remarked, looking straight at the back of Soonyoung’s head, who in return, nodded, and smiled at Dino.

“Listen to our hyung, Dino-ah~” he answered, and sweet melody in his words. Minghao, in front of them , snorted. Seungkwan would have too, but was slowly drifting off to sleep, his eyes heavy with accumulated tiredness.

“How long till we get home?” He asked, trying to give his younger teammate an escape from the oncoming coddling and bullying “I want to take off my shows and take a shower”

Seungcheol sighed.

“Just over three hours”

Mingyu nodded, looking out the small foggy window.

“The lights look so pretty, it’s almost like a Christmas scenary!”

“Those are towns, you moron. The GIT’s are the only ones allowed to say obvious or stupid shit, Mingyu. They are the ones who are delusional right now” taunted Wonwoo, smirking with his fox-like features.

Mingyu was about to return the insult, and start another pointless banter, but Seungcheol stood up and clapped his hands.

“Ok, kids. Shut up. Let the GIT’s sleep. They’ve had a rough day”

Soonyoung once again grinned and nodded. Seunghceol looked at him unimpressed.

“You too, Hoshi-ah, you look one step from doubling over. Now sit down and rest or I’m going to order Mingyu to take you out. Minghao, shut that thing off and, for the sixth time, Jeonghan, stop forcing DIno-ah to sleep on your lap!”

Jun didn’t have the energy to snort, but if he had, he also would have laughed out loud.

 

[Friday, 19th of December, 04:57 A.M. S.V.T. HQ, Seoul, South Korea]

Jihoon was wide awake when the team finally got home. He hadn’t slept, really, so it was no surprise he heard Seungcheol’s quiet voice disrupting the buzz of the equipment around him. Of the couch, a very tired Seokmin had tried to keep up with him and his insomnia, but once again, their Sound Navigation expert had succumbed to the arms of Morpheus. He didn’t blame him, and appreciated the gesture all in all.

Slipping out of the room, quietly as possible, he wandered to the main lobby, were the team was taking off their shoes and heavy coats. He scanned his teammates for any major injury, but besides the side effects of being ready to sleep for eighteen hours straight, he didn’t see anything that worrisome.

“Hey, welcome back” he greeted nonchalantly. Seungcheol was the first to address him.

“Still up? Haven’t you slept?”

He shrugged.

“Someone had to keep working. You left me only slackers to work with here” he retorted, unamused as always.

Seungcheol sighed.

“Go to sleep. Now. We are going to put the place on full lock down and every single one of us is going to sleep before the briefing today at eight with PLEDIS. I’ll need you all to be fresh as possible.”

Jeonghan made an exaggerated yawn and tossed his jacket on the hanger, without really caring how it was going to land. He nudged Soonyoung away from Jun and got him to stand up.

“Yeah, we all need our beauty sleep! I’m getting this one on his and then I’m off to bed. No one wakes me before seven thirty or there’s going to be hell to pay. Sleep well my children~~”

And with that, he was gone.

Minghao and Dino insisted on taking a shower, going straight for the community bathrooms, while Mingyu, Seungkwan and Wonwoo just went to their rooms, ready to crash for the night. The leaders looked at each other, and Soonyoung, as per usual, was the first to break the silence.

“Well, at least we are all home, but I think we need to call a doctor for Jun. I know Mingyu can deal with a lot but…”

Seungcheol nodded and gave him a reassuring pat on the back.

“I’ll take care of that. Now you deserve some rest before facing the big bad bossed tomorrow”

Soonyoung smiled, but Jihoon, perceptive and eagle-eyed as he was, noticed the strain behind what was evident.

“You don’t seem happy, even if the mission was a success” he deadpanned, crossing his arms.

Seungcheol sent him a warning look, but Soonyoung sighed and nodded.

“Yeah, we have a lot but… I think we are just scratching the surface really…”

“What do you mean?” Asked Jihoon again, getting closer.

Soonyoung ran a hand through his hair and answered

“There’s not just one facility. There’s a whole web of them”

Seungcheol, once again, wondered why his pride had pushed him to take charge of such a complicated Unit.

Chapter Text

Episode 2/ Hyacinth

 

 

[Saturday, 20th of December, 09:43 A.M. S.V.T HQ. Seoul, South Korea]

 

Working for S.V.T wasn’t really Seungkwan’s first choice in a career. Once upon a time, he would’ve loved to become a singer and perform in front on thousands of people, his heart beating in sync with his spectators and fans, his voice warm and heart full. That was his dream, but life, as it usually does, had other plans for him. That being said, he didn’t quite dislike his current path, it was just tiring and often lead him to wonder. If things were different, would he have chosen to be a soldier again? Would he have chosen a life and peril and danger? When he was young, he used to live in fear, his mother making ends meet with as much effort as a single mother could muster to provide for three children and, sometimes, herself. That meant money was tight and their living arrangements weren’t ideal, even down to the neighborhood he grew up in. Even if his country was overall safe, he couldn’t but to focus on the nastier side, almost in a constant state of involuntary paranoia. He wanted to protect his sisters and mother from that. He wanted to give them what no one else could, and in all fairness, being a singer would have made that a tad bit more challenging.

Government paid well, and he had very useful skills in regard to analyzing information and cracking codes - skill he acquired and abused when downloading music and shows illegally. When time came to chose his career path, the recruiter in charge of the newbies had thought poorly of him, with his soft cheeks and round face and overall lacking physical capabilities. And then he was found out cracking into the base server just to download FT Island new EP; he thought he was done for, but was pleasantly surprised that the commanding officer in charge just told him to be less obvious next time.

He should have known then, that what was presented to him then wasn’t lenience, but a challenge.

And so, he is a data analyst at one of the most undercover operations in all Asia.

Whoop di fucking doo.

“Seokkie, can you toss me the drive please? I swear the more I crack into this shit, the more shit I need to keep cracking! It’s worst than onions I swear” he complained for the umpteenth time that morning, hitting the poor keyboard in frustration.

Seokmin, who was his fellow data analyst and some-times-corporate-infiltrator snickered fondly at his coworker handling him the hard drive with care. Seungkwan huffed, but thanked him nonetheless. Because Jihoon had been a hard-ass and refused to go to sleep for almost 30 hours, Seungcheol had ordered them to be efficient, while he dealt with the irritable hacker himself. So that meant that both of them had to be inside the computer room, surrounded by artificial lights and the buzz of processors working and the rhythm of clicks and clacks from keyboards and mouses.

“I don’t know why I’m working when I had close to no sleep trying to track Soonie-hyung and his team! This should be Jeonghan-hyung’s and Jisoo-hyung’s turn! Not ours!” He complained further, waiting for the drive to connect to their main CPU so he could power up his tools.

“Well, as our superior officers, they are dealing with the higher ups, well at least Shua-hyung should be supporting Seuncheol-hyung and Soonie-yah. As far as I know, it’s bound to be a shit show, honestly…” he trailed off, while working on finishing up the data protocols for a recent request “Do you mind if I brief Gyu-ah and Hannie-hyung here? I’m too lazy to go upstairs…” he said, chirpy.

“Be my guest… BUT! Make Mingyu pick us something to drink, I’m dying”

“You know Jihoonnie is going to hand your ass back to yourself if you even try…”

“Yeah yeah, I was joking… humidity levels and what not” he grumbled, typing away in his computer “but if I die, let me rot here so he has to deal with my decaying corpse all over his precious machines”

“Kinky” all but answered Seokmin, and picked up his intercom “J. Lt. Kim Mingyu to computer room. Lt. Joon Jeonghan to computer room. I repeat, get your ass down here, Gyu-ah! You too Hannie-yung!~”

Seungkwan snorted.

“Lieutenant General Kim Yeonsoo would have a stroke if he heard you… using such an informal language with your coworkers…”

“Pff, he probably just scrolls through the reports and will care just when any of us snaps and jumps out the proverbial window…” Seokmin retorted, smiling amusedly.

“Aww, you think he cares enough to scroll down the reports! So cute~…. And he should listen to us sometimes. We make a good show. Our dorm life should be a docu series.”

“Kwannie, if our life was a series, people would panic because their safety is in our hands! Dude, our commanding officer is equally worried about flirting with the evil twins Jihan AND running our operations smoothly. We can’t show that to the public…”

The succumbed to a fit of giggles, trying to get themselves together before either Mingyu or Jeonghan made and entrance, but just looking at each other made them crack up all over again. That’s how they were looking when, about three minutes later, both the Junior Lieutenant and the Lieutenant came into the room, both in loose T-shirts and joggers. Seokmin let his head bump agains his desk, laughing harder than before.

“Well, aren’t you two having fun…” remarked Jeonghan, hands on his hips.

“Military Intelligence Officers au naturele: old shirts and baggy pants…” snorted Seungkwan and Seokmin succumbed to another fit of high pitched laughter.

“Do we wanna know?” Asked Mingyu, amused.

“Don’t fuel them any further, Gyu-ah, or you are not going to be on time for cooking dinner and Cheollie will eat Shua-ah in an starvation haze!”

“He will…. Eat…. Shua-hyung…” repeated Seokmin, wheezing, and Seungkwan tried, and unsurprisingly failed, to suppress his own giggles.

It was actually amusing watching the two data analyst roll down into sleep-deprived hysterics. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence if you had to stay in the computer room for hours with no other human contact. It was bound to get silly at some point. Yet, that was the more desirable out come; thing always could get nastier, so laughter was a good stage to be in.

“Ok, ok kids! Focus. Mommy is here to get briefed, then you can go back to whatever you BooSeok do without supervision.”

Seokmin put a hand on his chest and tried to recover his cool, while Seungkwan massaged his face roughly, trying to clean away any stray tears. After a second or two, both junior officers were calm enough to resume their duties. Mingyu smiled fondly at them. Sometimes he felt bad for the Tech Unit and their grueling hours in front of the computer. He knew he’d rather die than be in front of a computer surrounded by codes and machines that messed up with his perception, but he knew they needed their support more than anything. Their field work wouldn’t have any merit if the Tech Unit wouldn’t do his job properly.

“So… briefing?” He asked, tentatively.

Seokmin nodded, and made a show of using his arms to follow the rhythm of an acceptable pattern of breathing. Jeonghan snorted, fond of the silliness his dongsaengs usually incurred into.

“Ok, so… Tonight. Yes…” he laughed again a bit, and took two yellow folders from the printer and gave them to the two men in front of him “… sorry. Ok. Tonight after 20:00 an israeli representative, mister Adon Franklin, is going to go to the airport and leave the country, discreetly enough. The problem is HQ detected the possibility of an attack. We don’t know if it is in order to expose the visit of such a man to the country or to actually dispose of him. Either way, he needs to be protected. Mingyu-ah, you’ll be his direct bodyguard. Jeonghan-hyung, we need you there as back up and guide the driver to the best routes towards the airport and to detect any possible threats. We would have sent Minghao-ah but… well, he is out of commission with the bulk of the GIT’s…”

“Yeah sure, you just wanna make me work” snorted Jeonghan, voice light and clearly teasing.

“I would never…!” Retorted Seokmin, smiling. Mingyu snorted.

“Guys, please… anything else, Seokminnie?” Asked the tallest, looking over at Seungkwan, who was, once again, typing away in his computer like a mad man, while a series of green text consumed his monitor.

“No, not much, details are in your folders and Seungcheol is going to supervise you take the proper equipment…” Seokmin seemed to think for a while, before perking up “oh, yeah…!” He typed something into his computer, letters that shouldn’t make sense on their own filling a search browser and the image of a man of asian descent, bald head and soft looking eyes popped on the monitor “Ru Hyunjuk, 32, height: 1.77, 102 kg… As far as we know, he is an underling from the east jopok branch. He might be the one carrying the orders to dispose of mister Franklin. You have his data in the folder though, but get a good look at him in the monitor”

Jeonghan and Mingyu did as told. Whereas Jeonghan was going to have the privilege of viewing any needed information on his tablet during the mission, Mingyu had to act based on his own ability to remember and identify a suspect in the heat of the moment. Anyone on his unit was tasked with heavy field work, and had to be able to memorize and react quicker than anyone else, and most of all, they had to be ready to make choices based in their instinct. Maybe that’s why someone of their unit, Choi Seungcheol, was the one appointed as their direct commanding officer. Either way, Mingyu was good with faces, and was good at making choices in the heat of the moment and pulling them off, even if in his day to day life, he was clumsier than most.

“He apparently was in jail for five years for petty robbery and robbery with intimidation prior to this, so we really don’t know if recent involvement on this mess is a form of manipulation from the jopok or if he met a contact to the jopok in jail and gained enough trust from them to be trusted with this. Anyhow, he is someone to look out for. Inside the folder you have two plane tickets and fake passports, in order to be able to be alongside mister Franklin till he is inside the plane without raising any suspicion…”

Jeonghan snorted.

“Fake, they had to be fake… why can’t they pay for real ticket?” Complained Jeonghan “I want a vacation”

“That’s the reason they don’t pay for real ones!” Provided Seungkwan, smirking without looking back.

Jeonghan just flipped him off.

 

Taking a shower in a private bathroom was, probably, the only thing he enjoyed as a commanding officer, Seungcheol pondered. He neither had a solo room - mostly because he didn’t really enjoy putting such a barrier between him and the rest of his team - nor did he enjoy the expected basic respect for someone of his rank from his underlings. Sure, no one really disrespected him, and to be honest, most of them really relied on him given his position and overall role inside the team, but he never installed the idea of him being superior in anything but decision making.

If anything, Seungcheol had learnt, in the haze of the last few years, that in the particular case of units such as his, being distant was anything but useful to it’s purpose. If in your standard, everyday military unit, professionalism and distance from commanding officers was needed to keep perspective in the decision making process, in the case these… “elite” units, - as his fellow commander, Cpt. Lee Jinki, from the SHINEe Unit (which mostly focused on international hits, mainly against terrorism) had put it once, over a cup of coffee - the focus point was on the mission. They were excluded from most of the regulations and laws regarding military activities, and were expected to pose as terrorist acting solo if anything was to go south; they were expected to die first, and let the rest of the unit do the proper damage control. The so called freedom they possessed was just a cover up; a cover up to the name they should be having, “scape goats”. And that so called freedom they possessed ensured they could dismiss some rather stuffy protocols for the sake of sanity.

Sure, they worked on very delicate and sensitive missions, they weren’t “just” scape goats…but, in the end, they were just people who took the wrong choice at the right moment, and were stuck doing the dirty work for something much, much bigger than themselves. And because of that, they needed the support of people who really got what they were going through, people who had gained and lost as much as any of them, regardless of rank or age.

He got out of the shower and wrapped a fluffy towel around his mid section - the kind of towels Jeonghan insisted they should buy and charge it to the treasury office, because “fuck the government and their budget! They owe us fluffy towels and warm beds at least, Cheollie, how are you so near-sighted? I swear you are too square…” - and stepped right out of his private bathroom. The long hallway he was faced with was oh so still and silent, mostly because it was the dorm area and if anything, everyone was either wishing to be dead on their beds or running around the rest of the building, working or procrastinating. He had to fight a tiny smile from creeping up his mouth; the last few weeks had been horrible for everyone, and the sort of peacefulness having everyone in the compound brought was something he refused to take for granted. In a way, everyone knew everything was going to be fine - they weren’t an elite unit in name only - but having everyone around just provided a sensation of accomplishment that no one, not even stuffy higher-ups, could take from them.

He, alongside Soonyoung and Jihoon had been the first foot soldiers to been recruited for this new project. He had quite the history with both of them - and he still remembers his first impression of both males: youthful, bright-eyed, idealistic nineteen year old Soonyoung and hard-headed, nihilistic and pragmatic eighteen year old Jihoon - and still felt like he still had far too much to learn from and of the two of them. Sure, alongside having thirteen other roommates, and being the leaders to separate units inside their group, interaction among them had been reduced to mostly serious work-related talk, and friendly work-related banter… and yet Jihoon knew exactly when to make things easier for him when stress was high, and Soonyoung knew when to take the lead when he himself couldn’t. He was so proud of how far they had come, but deep down knew that Soonyoung’s eyes didn’t sparkle as bright anymore, nor was Jihoon as pragmatic when it came to risking everything for the mission. Seungcheol used to feel that, with more experience, came an understanding on why certain decisions had to be made in order to reach success, but years into a commanding position had taught them just the contrary: you never quite understand why you risk a friend’s life in order to complete a mission, you just did it because that’s what you “have” to do.

Trying to rid himself of such thoughts, not quite ready to ride down a path he knew he will have to address sooner rather than later, he gave in to his quite sharp senses and stilled. He heard soft footsteps around the corner of the long hallway and tried, unsuccessfully, to reach his room before the person could see him half naked and dripping wet in the middle of their dorm area, but Wonwoo reached around before he could jiggle the shitty handle - that had the tendency to size up - to the room he shared with Seungkwan.

“Hey, big boss” greeted the tall, lanky, fox-faced male. On his right hand, he had a tray full of food and in his left, two cups of coffee.

“Don’t spill anything or Mingyu’s going to have a seizure” he warned, ignoring the greet unintentionally “and good morning to you too”

“Please, this building is so old, the stains on the floor have stains themselves” he retorted, grinning “having trouble, hyung?”

Seungcheol groaned in return, still trying to fight the handle with his one hand, while the other held the towel firm around his waist.

“Is that for Jun?” He asked instead of answering. Wonwoo nodded, stiffly.

“He wanted to go up and eat with the others… you know, Soonyoung-ah and the rest of the GIT’s, but he is still feverish, so breakfast in bed it is. Not that he dislikes it, the spoiled brat. I swear that he would love to be pampered like this when healthy, but is so stubborn that acts all angry if he is sick…” he murmured, a tad awkward.

Seungcheol found it so endearing that Wonwoo, in all his aloofness, talked more than he usually did when flustered. And right now, it was notorious he was.

“Yeah, our Junnie is a handful. Be sure to spoil him. You know how hard is for him to come back after infiltrating for so long.”

Wonwoo nodded, determination deep in his eyes and Seungcheol’s heart swelled. Before entering the room, Wonwoo’s fox-like features morphed into an impish grin, and added:

“Soonyoung is being an ass, by the way… if that’s any news…” the sniper provided, using his foot to open up the door to Jun’s and Chan’s room “he wants to go for a run and what not. He is probably looking for ways to kill himself before the higher ups can even try.”

Seungcheol all but banged his head against the door, closing it again, and cursed up to high heavens, while Wonwoo snickered like the evil rat he was.

 

 

“This is the worst idea you’ve had this month, Soonyoung-hyung, and you flirted with a North Korean’s army officer’s daughter two weeks ago” reprimanded Minghao bitterly from the couch, his legs dangling from the couch’s armrest, long and relaxed. Besides him, Hansol and Jisoo nodded alongside.

“What? I always go for a run after briefings! It helps me think!” he complained, putting on a headband to keep his longish hair out of his eyes and zipped his black hoodie all the way up.

“You were walking through the mountains for more than a week…” deadpanned Hansol, flipping through the channels without much interest “… that should count as a workout, dude. The only thing that keeps you from thinking is your body going into overdrive.”

Soonyoung sighed and stood awkwardly for a few seconds. Jisoo looked him over, trying to decide what to say; while Minghao and Vernon just heard about what happened in the briefing room, Jisoo had been there and had heard everything. He knew Soonyoung had just too much energy running around inside his head, even if his body was going to collapse at any moment… he knew he should stop the younger and force him to rest like he was doing with the rest of his team but…

[“S. Lt. Kwon Soonyoung, are you telling us your intelligence team wasn’t aware of the high speed development of such dangerous weapons while you were there till the end of your stay?”

Jisoo had always admired Soonyoung. How he could keep a square face in front of the higher ups, he didn’t know. Even if he was nervous, his facial features didn’t betray emotion. Well, that’s why he was a leader, he mussed, because Seungcheol and Jihoon both had mastered such ability with the same amount of success. They might be highly emotional people, but when faced with their bosses, they made it look like they were built from pure steel.

Soonyoung nodded stiffly, and answered.

“The have improved their intelligence system quite a lot, sir” he answered, court. The Major sighed, not really convinced, but nodded towards Seungcheol, who was sitting right beside Soonyoung. Their fearless leader stood up and, with equal stoicism, added:

“Our intelligence team wasn’t aware because they are using a source of energy that our own equipment isn’t able to read, sir. While we have pushed our resources to the limit, and Lt. Wen Junhui did an impeccable job infiltrating, their abilities had been developing since even before we started in this quest. J.Lt. Xu Minghao acquired the whole timeline from their base’s main computer, and some data we still need to crack. The Decoding process is already underway as we speak, with S. Lt. Lee Jihoon in charge. That being said, we don’t have an approximate yet on how long it is going to take, sir.”

“That’s hardly good enough, and not what we expect from S. Lt. Kwon Soonyoung. Your next orders will be delivered shortly. For the time being, focus on the smuggling case, and the Israelite contact case. Cpt. Choi Seungcheol, I expect better results this time.”]

… he also knew Soonyoung took the words to heart.

He always did.

“Soon-ah…” started Jisoo, his eyes firm, but voice soft “stay home today. I’m sure a hot shower is going to do the job just as well as running till your legs burn…”

Soonyoung had the decency not to pout, but before he could retort anything, a wild Jihoon appeared from the kitchen on the other side of the hallway and kicked him.

“Stop being a motherfucking idiot and sit down, Soonyoung” he ordered, a cup of black steaming coffee on his hands.

“Language!” Protested Jisoo, amused while the GIT leader groaned in pain.

“Jihoonnieieieieie” protested Soonyoung, downright putting now. Hansol felt Minghao snickering on his side, and he himself let out an amused grin.

“Watch out, Soonie-hyung, Jihoon is armed” Hansol pointed out, signaling the cup of coffee with his head.

“I could knock him out without any hot liquid as a weapon, you stoner” retorted Jihoon, annoyance still painting his features, looking at Soonyoung straight on “Shoes of, you idiot”

Soonyoung usually complied when Jihoon was being bossy, and not because of rank - Soonyoung was just a little older in both in age and antiquity in that sense. No, he usually listened because he was just soft and pliant when Jihoon ordered him to do something, and that was rare in itself. Hansol was surprised at first, when he realized that Jihoon never ordered Soonyoung around, nor did he talk over him as he usually did with Jeonghan or other members of the team older than him. He was more surprised when he heard from a very amused Jun that Jihoon actually respected Soonyoung’s criteria as much he respected Seungcheol’s or himself’s. It went both ways, truly. So, when Jihoon actually ordered Soonyoung to do something, it was because he really thought something was wrong, and with the same amount of respect, Soonyoung usually halted and thought things over.

“No, Jihoon…” oh shit, full name. This is serious. “See you guys later!” He said, grinning, and Jisoo winced besides Hansol, both waiting for the shit show to start. Jihoon sputtered indignantly, following the spy down the short hallway.

“Listen you, motherfucking idiot, come back here before I…!”

“Soonyoung-hyung, wait. I’ll go with you”

Hansol’s head whipped so fast to see Minghao standing right up, that he knew he pulled something on his neck. He wanted to protest, but the drone master in all his grace and sweatpants glory, was right besides the door before any of them could stop him.

“Hao-ah, your back is still sore…!” Soonyoung protested, grabbing Minghao’s arm to stop him from crouching down to put on his running shoes “come one, don’t be like this…”

“If you are ready to go out on a run after that, I’m too” he said, looking at his leader right in the eye. To his left, Jihoon hissed and shoved Soonyoung lightly with his socked foot.

“Not you too, Minghao…” the tech groaned, his empty hand going up in protest “Listen to reason, you dumb fucks, and go rest”

“No, Jihoon-hyung, if Soonyoung-hyung is going out, I’m going too” he stated. The grip on his arm got a bit tighter, and he could feel his leader wavering, so he put on his hand on top of Soonyoung’s and smiled softly “is always better to run with company anyways”

Jihoon hissed like an angry cat, ready to attack, but Soonyoung, involuntary touched by Minghao’s display, sighed and shrugged off his shoes.

“You manipulative kid. Seriosuly…” he complained, smiling fondly, and Minghao smiled back. But the icy cold stare he got from Jihoon made him look away from his one dongsaeng and straight to the other “sorry for being a pain in the ass, Jihoonnie”

The shorter male grunted, his knuckles white from all the force he put on gripping his coffee cup. His eyes were glued to the hand holding the other two were still engaged on, and tore his stare apart from it violently.

From the couch, Jisoo and Hansol looked at each other, not knowing if they should laugh or wince at the cringe exchange. They couldn’t see much from where they still sat down, but the icy atmosphere around the trio was going straight into gelid and that alone was making both of them uncomfortable. It was no secret that Minghao was far too fond of his commanding officer, and it was no secret that said commanding officer was too much of an idiot to notice that such amount of affection wasn’t really in the friendly realm alone. At the same time, Jihoon, oh emotionally constipated Jihoon, never knew how to express his concern for their main spy in a way that didn’t involved colorful insults and angry jabs, so said spy had learnt to read between the lines, but not careful enough to notice the real meaning behind them. Jisoo usually found it entertaining, if he was to be honest, but two months with a very short-fused Jihoon worried sick for Soonyoung had left him less amused and more worried. Jeonghan had the gall to joke about foursomes to keep the heat in the cold winter, and Jihoon had all but broke his keyboard in half.

No one joked about such things after that.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m going to my office. If any of you fuckers wants to bother me, I’ll have your balls served for dinner…”

Jisoo wanted to reprimand him for language, but Vernon won his turn to speak, adding:

“Kinky”

The laughter that erupted from both GIT’s was loud enough to wake Chan up, and the kick Jihoon gave Hansol was hard enough to make Seungcheol, who just came into the room dressed up in slacks and a t-shirt, to wonder out loud why he had to put up with this kind of shit every single day.

 

 

By the time dinner rolled around, everyone was more or less briefed on the issues the GIT’s had faced in their mission and learnt about the higher ups position on the whole matter. Chan was actually very angry at Seungcheol’s lukewarm reaction to the whole ordeal, specially because that meant that he agreed they had done their job incorrectly when there wasn’t much they could have done differently in the position they were, with the means they had at hand. But he held himself back, bitting down his tongue and letting Soonyoung explain them all what they had uncovered while on their mission. Jun’s fever had broken a few hours ago and was allowed to join them for dinner, covered in blankets and forced to wear the warmest pair of socks any of them owned - they were Seungkwan’s bear fluffy socks, if you wondered.

Their dinner table wasn’t that big. Just two medium sized tables rammed together despite the slight difference in height and a side table to put away anything not being used at the moment on the table, in an attempt to safe space. They talked about buying some new furniture, but when it came to it, everyone was too lazy to go to the store and actually spend money on better accommodations while this still worked for them. Chan actually liked the lack of space to some degree - it annoyed him when he was irritated beforehand, or if he was sore after training or a mission - because it forced them together and they actually had to interact with each other without yelling for the person on the other end of the table to hear. It was actually pretty cozy, well, except for tall and clumsy Mingyu, but you just had to force him to step down for serving duties and no mess would find its way through dinner.

Chan enjoyed this moments a lot, specially when any of them came back from a complicated mission and they felt like this was the first time they interacted with each other in years. Every mission left them a bit changed, and a bit “less”, so this instances helped a lot to bring everyone back to a relative sense of normality: Jihoon and Soonyoung bickering over anything and everything; Seungcheol being tortured by a very nasty Jeonghan and a not so innocent Jisoo; a chill Hansol talking to a tired Seungkwan about the latest music he wanted the tech to download; Jun poking Minghao with his chopsticks and Wonwoo snickering when the former got annoyed and shoved the later into Mingyu’s side, making the tallest one to drop his food into the floor, again; Seokmin cuddling his side, eating lazily and laughing over any little amusing thing anyone said or complained about. When he told his parents he wanted to be a soldier, they warned him on the cold atmosphere a military unit could encompass, and yet, looking around, he only felt warmth.

“Mingyu-ah, is that what you are going to wear for our mission?” Asked Jeonghan, while feeding Jisoo a piece of chicken without much thought. Chan perked up, looking over to their cook; he was wearing a pair of dark jeans and a cotton shirt. Simple enough for a bodyguard job, he thought. He only needed his security jacket and mission parafernalia, and he was good to go.

“Eh, yes? Is something wrong with it?” The tallest asked, trying to keep Soonyoung from stealing some noodles from his plate.

“Yes. Everything. Go put on a suit before we go. You are a bodyguard, not a passerby” the beautiful man complained, pointing at Mingyu with his chopsticks.

“But I don’t want to ruin a perfectly good suit for this, Jeonghan-hyung!” He whined. Besides him, Minghao nodded.

“They are good suits too” he provided.

“This is a diplomat we are talking about, kids” he said, like it explained everything, tone reminding them all they were a bunch of morons apparently. Jisoo snickered loudly, and took another piece of kimchi into his mouth.

“And what are you going to wear, Jeonghannie-hyung?” Asked Soonyoung, amused “the grey suit?”

The man grinned.

“You know your stuff, Soonyoung!”

“You look the handsomest while wearing it, of course” Soonyoung added, smug. Besides him, Jihoon gagged loudly and at the same time, Seungcheol groaned in annoyance.

“Stop flirting” complained their leader “you are going to give me a headache. I already lost my appetite. Spare me.”

“Awwww, jealous much, Hyung?” Asked Seungkwan from the other side of the table, trying not to laugh like the hyena he was.

“I will kill you in your sleep, Seungkwan-ah” the oldest deadpanned and everyone laughed at the indignant protests they data analyst tried to get out of his mouth.

Yeah, Chan thought his parents didn’t knew what they were talking about.

His Unit was the warmest mess he had ever encountered.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3/ Rhododendron

 

[Sunday, 21th of December, 03:10 A.M., Incheon Airport, South Korea]

 

“FOR FUCK’S SAKE, MINGYU!” shrieked Jeonghan, completely done with the circumstances, all the while he watched Mingyu crash a window wall of a second floor building with his gun.

Why, you ask, was Jeonghan shouting to the top of his lungs and Mingyu tried to channel his inner Tom Cruise?

Buckle up people, this is a long one.

 

[Saturday, 20th of December, 20:30 P.M., Seoul Metropolitan Area, South Korea]

 

The night was quite chilly, very in tune with the mid December vibe. The year was coming to an end in about ten days and the roaring winds carried the quiet promise of a white Christmas. The city was illuminated by fairy lights and people walked hurriedly down the streets, covered in warm coats and thick shoes. Mingyu had always loved the holidays, even if just for the collective cheer and warm feeling people carried around at the promise of new beginnings, family reunions and delicious food; there was an underlying feel of fraternity and love running around the streets, even if not everyone was happy. Case in point, his colleague, Yoon Jeonghan, who was huffing in annoyance besides him, cursing the cold weather and the delayed mission. They had arrived on time, of course, but their protege had been caught up on a meeting in the US embassy - place they were parked in front of and had to stand their very handsy pat down at the entrance, like the guards didn’t know they were armed, Jesus Christ - and had yet to leave the building. The driver was inside the car, waiting in dull stupor as any driver would a that time of night for such a long drive down to the airport. Jeonghan would have felt sympathy for him if not for the situation they were in: the driver was inside his car, cozy and warm; they were waiting outside, bitter and cold.

“This guy’s taking his sweet time inside. Doesn’t he know he has a flight to catch? Is he going to be one of those guys who delays everyone’s trip just ‘cause he is a VIP?” Muttered Jeonghan, flipping his fringe in annoyance. His newly dyed auburn hair fell gracefully, featuring his sharp eyes and nose perfectly. People usually said Mingyu was handsome, and ok, yeah, he was, but there was something about Jeonghan’s whole… presence, that made Mingyu wonder what exactly made someone beautiful on the outside. That, because the older male was usually snippy and sarcastic and overall a very sneaky person that couldn’t really be considered beautiful on the inside too when he was angry, or bored or just short.

“Jeonghan-hyung, shhh!” Mingyu hissed, nervous, looking around discretely.

“Oh please, they have read my twitter, kakao and line conversations, AND have bugged our building. They know I’m like this.” He huffed, playful “and even if they don’t, but they do so shut up, it’s a perfectly reasonable complain in this god forsaken weather!”

Mingyu snorted, trying not to be amused.

“You have no filter. Somehow I wonder how did you get to your position without pissing off any generals in the way”

“Oh I did piss off some admirals alright. But they loved my charm all the same. Watch and learn Mingyu, no one is going to like you enough to promote you if you don’t have snark as ready as your guns. People love being told off by someone charming” He provided, smirking down at the ballistic glass in front of them. On the other side, a poor secretary who was about to fall asleep on her feet, tried to regain consciousness, or at least fake it enough to be acceptable. That was a signal the meeting was already over, or at least reaching its end.

Mingyu readied himself and straightened his wool coat, feeling the ballistic vest he was wearing underneath and felt around his communicator. He had worn his best suit, as per Jeonghan's pressing, and his best coat. He was already mourning their loss.

“Officer J. LT. Kim Mingyu ready in line. Do you copy, Woozi-hyung? Joshua-hyung?”

On the other side, the annoyed voice of their head Tech sounded raspy, probably heavy with sleep.

“Loud and clear, J. Lt. Kim Mingyu. Head Tech Officer Woozi here. I’ll leave you to Joshua now. Don’t fuck this up or I’m going to send Thughao after your sorry ass and THEN Cheol will have something to cry about” he warned and the characteristically cringy noise of a headset being transferred to one person to another hurt his ear slightly, but he didn’t have the heart to complain to Jisoo about it.

He noted Jeonghan was doing the same, setting himself up to be linked up for communications, but not announcing himself in line. He never did. Mingyu didn’t know if it was because he was a tech and deemed it unnecessary - I mean, Jisoo could know they were linked without anyone announcing himself in the comm, and the very reason they connected in the first place was to have a safety link to a back up unit in case things went south - or because he didn’t want to be seen talking to himself like a crazy person - and let’s be honest, Jeonghan’s vanity wasn’t going to let him live that down.

“Good night, gentlemen. Joshua here to report traffic is smooth and there’s no suspicious activity in your immediate surroundings. Let’s have a quiet, clean operation and return home safely, would you?” Greeted by their cyber intelligence officer, voice smooth and beautiful, just as he himself was. Mingyu always liked having him on the comm, at least he didn’t try to fuck everything up by making him laugh as Seungkwan and Seokmin did on a daily basis “I re-checked our driver , just to be sure, and he is clean as any middle aged human can be. Some minor incidents here and there and he might be running into early alcohol addiction, but nothing we can’t manage right now. Luckily for us, he isn’t as suspicious as the fishy cop that’s monitoring the high way, so keep that in mind. I’ll brief you about it in just a second, let’s focus on connecting Jeonghan’s pad to the main server…”

Just as they were settling down and fixing some minor issues regarding their communication system, two men walked out of a meeting room on the far right side of the lobby. One was caucasian, not very tall and clearly Adon Franklin, while the other was korean, and probably a diplomat or a minor member of the embassy’s staff, they couldn’t tell. And they didn’t need to, honestly. That was Jisoo’s job to figure out. They were smiling pleasantly and exchanging some last words of encouragement, he supposed.

“Ok. Target in position. Mission is about to start. Go grab a cup of coffee, my lovely Joshua. You are in for a very boring car ride.” Muttered Jeonghan, lips barely moving and posture tense.

Mingyu just could sigh in agreement.

 

[Saturday 20th of December, 21:12. S.V.T HQ. Seoul, South Korea]

 

Soonyoung enjoyed down time as much as any other, don’t get him wrong. But his adrenaline levels were so steep, the tension inside his soul was far too high strung to be comfortable. He knew, rationally, he hadn’t failed his mission; there’s nothing else that could have done better in the circumstances they were. But the bitter feeling of having lost a chance to really make a difference in their situation just left him trying to go over and over every little thing he had done when in North Korea. He knew it was unhealthy to think like that, specially when life went on and they had to be up and operative to face their job in the next few days, but he couldn’t help his brain. That’s why he was sitting down in the middle of their training room, willing his body to be awake for just a few more hours, to beat himself up and then go on with his life. It wasn’t unusual so no one really paid attention to his quirks, he has had them for as long his memory reach and Seungcheol, as their leader, had learnt to leave the spy to crash on his own and pick of the pieces afterwards. No one really tried to keep him from crashing.

Well.

No one except Jihoon.

“You useless lump of crap, get up and lets go to bed” point in case, that right moment.

“Jihoonniiieeieeiee” he whined from the floor, not making a move to follow his friends lead.

“Do not “Jihoonie” me, Kwon Soonyoung. I’m pissed with you and I don’t have time for your whinning. I’m far too tired to fight anymore, so you are going to stand up and go to your room right this second, or god help me, I’m going to make you regret it”

Sighing, Soonyounng looked up to his friend and grimaced.

“I just need a bit more time, Jihoonnie. Just a little bit more time, please? I don’t want to go to sleep just to be awaken by another nightmare”

“And you have the gall to call ME neurotic…” defeated, Jihoon collapsed right by Soonyoung and sighed “…that bad?”

Soonyoung bit down the inside of his cheek and nodded.

“I’m afraid will have to go back and to be honest, and that means training a whole ‘nother team for the job. Out identities are compromised and I don’t want to put more strain on Junnie’s shoulders. What we saw there…. I mean, we didn’t see the new facilities, but I saw a glimpse of the new machinery. That technology is made to kill, Jihoonnie. This motherfuckers waited till the war was officially over to begin their counterattack. That’s a dick move of a dick move. That’s the mother of all dick moves! And…”

Jihoon listened quietly to his friend’s rant, trying hard not to scowl at the underlying dramatic edge Soonyoung usually gave when he was feeling stressed. It wasn’t ideal how much their team had to deal with; they were, for lack of a better word, understaffed and severely overworked. Jihoon never quite understood why there were units such as his working on the underbelly of the world when, in reality, everyone who mattered knew they existed and viceversa. The regular public was just too stupid and too complacent to scratch the surface and see what really was going on behind the curtains. But they existed, they got paid enough to keep up such grueling hours and would be retired before they reached forty with a pension anyone else would dream of. That sadly didn’t mean they really could focus on anything but their job and doing it correctly, because any mistakes could mean prison without any benefits, or death.

“…I know I.M. is going to support me when I tell him about this and we will be able to sort this out with them and the Astros but I can’t help but to think this is going to go downhill too fast, faster that our recuperation ratio. You saw the SHINee’s after…. After Jonghyun-hyung’s death. I don’t want that to happen to us, Jihoonnie…”

Jihoon sighed softly and, albeit hesitant, let his hand go to his friend’s shoulder and squeezed. When Soonyoung grabbed his hand, his over Jihoon’s, the shorter male didn’t do anything that indicated he wanted to be let go.

“I know. But don’t think about that right now. We have piles and piles of work we have to attend to and we have time before shit hits the fan. Try to cheer up, Soonyoung. If not for you, for everyone else. They need you to be happy and energetic.” He provided, uncomfortable

Soonyoung granted him a lopsided smile. Not quite pretty, not quite sad.

“Thank you thought. For caring. For listening…”

“We have been teammates since the beginning of time, Soonyoung. Of course I know when you need to vent to someone who’s not going to coddle you like a porcelain baby. Now, grow a pair and lets go. I’m exhausted and I won’t be able to sleep knowing you are here freezing your ass into early hemorroids and THEN you’ll be officially put out of the mission.”

Soonyoung all but snorted, graceless.

 

[Saturday, 20th of December, 21:30 P.M., Seoul Metropolitan Area, Highway to Incheon International Airport, South Korea]

 

“So let me get this straight. You guys are all under thirty and already are that high in the hierarchy? You must be geniuses!” Adon Franklin gushed, pleased with himself because he was being protected by such important people, or so Jeonghan assumed. Diplomats and business men were always like that: they thought they were oh so impressive and that everything revolved around them because of course their work was so important please suck my dick I’m God’s greatest creation.

What a load of bull, if you asked him.

The beautiful officer knew the only reason Seungcheol assigned him to these kind of ground missions was because he was a great liar. Any other member would have scowled so hard their faces would have never recovered from such trauma. In his case, he would smile and engage in stupid conversations just to please their targets to make them feel good and comfortable enough, enough to give a good review to their superiors, and enough to let their tongues get loose and reveal something they shouldn’t have to. That last part was mostly to Jeonghan’s own enjoyment and own database. Any small detail, any word out of place was material for him and Joshua to hang to an investigate potential threats; for all his soft, polite looks, Joshua was one hell of an cyber intelligence officer, and Jeonghan was a great telecommunications one. After he left the army and joined the S.V.T. program, both noticed each other and became almost inseparable, mostly cause both of them knew how capable the other was. Even if Seungcheol didn’t know it, and Jihoon didn’t care about it, they have been building their own database and correlations between every single mission they have had been assigned to, and had dirt on mostly anyone. Anyone who mattered, of course.

Sadly, that meant that Jeonghan had to keep doing this ground assignments for the time being.

“I don’t know about geniuses, sir, but we are indeed very good at our jobs. That being said, we stress our capabilities on reaching the airport safely. Mingyu here is excellent at repelling threats and I myself am great at detecting them..” He provided, smiling brightly and charmingly. Mingyu, on the other hand, tried to keep his face squared up and his eyes focused on the road before him. He tried his hardest not to show how fed up he was with their target, specially because the man was not specially pleasant to be around, at how he eyed them. So he looked outside, happy he could take the passenger seat besides the driver and not fake interest in the man more than the occasional hum or the curt nod. He kinda felt bad for Jeonghan. Kinda.

“Oh. I’m so happy about it, you have no idea. Here between us, I’ve been…. worried, since I arrived in Korea. I know it’s nothing really, but I feel much more protected with you here. So thank you. Thank you very much.”

Mingyu tried not to grimace at the saccharine words, but a pointed look from Jeonghan made him understand he had failed. Lucky for them, Franklin didn’t see or didn’t care, as he just kept talking about food and sightseeing he had done in his time in their country. The telecommunications officer had their map open on their tablet, tracing the route and sending it straight to the driver’s GPS system. They had to work in situ, because traffic and any for of congestion could mean their attackers had an opening. Even if the car was armored and ready for action, it didn’t mean that having them so close was ideal. So they worked alongside Joshua, profiling any cars that followed them for more than ten minutes in the same road. That meant Joshua was growing increasingly occupied, but not enough to not concentrate on the really dangerous situations they could be faced with.

They kept listening to their protegee for a while, before Joshua made an appearance in their ear communicators.

“Folks, we are reaching the point where the shady cop is. His name is So Kyubok. 35. He worked in narcotics for a while but was downgraded to street patrol after people in the area connected him to the jopok. The following investigation lead to nothing, but for the peace of mind of the police chief in his quadrant, he was put on street patrol duty with a partner, Muk Youngil. Coincidentally enough, his partner is down with a stomach bug, so he is alone in the car. Jeonghan-ah, let me know if he starts moving… Still no sight of Ru Hyunjuk…”

Mingyu tensed in his seat, his hand unconsciously going for the button of his suit jacket. It was easier to access his gun if the jacket was open. Jeonghan on the other hand looked up at him for a second and the larger male got the message.

‘Talk to the guy’

“So… sir? I have a question…” started Mingyu unsure. The man perked up and looked straight at him.

“Yes, Kim-ssi?” He asked, trying to sound polite but his pronunciation was atrocious. It was better if he talked in English…

“I… I want to know if you visited Hanok Village. Is very beautiful…” he said, voice rather small and unsure of his abilities to communicate. Jeonghan was far a better conversationalist in English that he was, that’s for sure.

“Oh! It’s absolutely marvelous! So quaint and traditional…!”

From the corner of his eyes, Mingyu saw the flashing lights of a cop. Usually, they could just pass them and that was it, but then the constant reminder of the lights crept behind them, still not making any sounds. The driver looked over at Mingyu for a second, but the man mouthed him a ‘keep driving’, while trying to understand what the Israelite was telling him. Touching his ear, he sent a signal to Joshua, who in return huffed inside his ear.

“Yeah, I saw it. Jeonghan, try to see if his secure transmission can be breached. We need to know if he is reporting this”

Jeonghan suppressed a snort and kept tapping on his tablet without making any noise. Mingyu hated that about the older. He never shared his work or what he was doing, and that was a navy thing alright. Those guys never shared anything if they weren’t ordered to. Jeonghan had learnt a lot of quirks from his time in the navy and that was one of them… well, that and his love for big spaces because life inside a ship was absolute hell if you asked him. Both Mingyu and Joshua knew he was breaching into the cops secured net even before their Tech asked him too, but a bit of communication was always welcomed.

From outside the cop car ran his siren and Mingyu and Jeonghan shared a look.

“What’s going on?” Asked their protegee, somewhat worried.

“They found us. Brace yourself sir, and remain calm. You are indeed in good hands” answered Jeonghan cheekily “now, dear driver, please turn right in the next ten 200 meters, we need to loose him”

 

 

[Saturday 20th of December, 21:57. S.V.T HQ. Seoul, South Korea]

 

Wonwoo was an introvert. That was an understatement. His quarters were filled to the brim with novels and video games, and he could be found practicing his alone time with regularity. That didn’t mean he was a solitary man or that he had no friends. He had at least twelve friends he lived with, and with whom he had shared some of the most stressful times in his life, so that must count as human interaction. Daily at that. Anyways, the point was he knew when alone time was needed, and when he had to share with his coworkers. Specially when said coworkers were sick as dogs. Case in point: Wen Junhui. The man was so stubborn and whiny, that anyone BUT Wonwoo would have stuffed him with a pillow long ago, and their coworkers made sure to use said circumstance without mercy.

What circumstance, you may ask? Well… it’s no secret that Wonwoo thought Jun was very attractive the first time he saw him standing proud and straight in the briefing that announced his involvement with the unit. He was tall, his features very symmetric and had a soft and polite disposition to everything. All things Wonwoo found very endearing and desirable in a fellow soldier. Jun was unlike him in many aspects, specially when comparing specialities and hobbies, but that didn’t mean Wonwoo hadn’t developed a tiny soft spot for the Chinese soldier.

Direct consecuentes? Sitting besides the miserable man while nursing his cold. He had been trying to read the same paragraph for at least twenty minutes, but the constant whining and groans coming from his comrade were very… distracting.

“Jun, go to sleep. You are high on medicine…” complained the fox faced man taking his glasses off.

“Dun’ wanna. I’m bored. I’ve been in bed the whole day and dinner doesn’t count. I was mostly out of it” retorted the ill man, fighting with the covers “and it’s too hot in here…”

“That’s to make you sweat this cold off. Come on… is it that hard to fall asleep again? You have to be exhausted…!”

Jun pouted and groaned again.

“I am tired. Tired of being on this bed Wonu-ah. My limbs ache too. I hate trekking in mountain ranges…”

“Never did that back on China?” Asked Wonwoo, a tad cautious. Jun wasn’t as reserved as Minghao, but he still disliked talking about his time in the People’s Liberation Army, mostly because they were in a very weird position and lacked proper support if worst came to worst.

“Of course I did. Doesn’t mean I liked it. Did you? You know… enjoy going on marches like that?” Asked Jun, looking up at Wonwoo with big doe eyes and a soft smile. Something inside Wonwoo stirred.

“Nah, but I hated them less than sea survival…”

“Yeah, you hate water. I remember…” countered Jun, shuffling closer to Wonwoo. The youngest sighed and closed his book “In Shenzhen the sea is very dirty… we never trained there…” he murmured, snuggling into the covers, his accent coming through his sniffling “… agh, I hate being sick…”

Wonwoo just gave his head a soft pat.

“If you are a good boy, and stay in bed, you’ll heal in no time” Wonwoo reminded him, trying to coax him to sleep by caressing his slightly sweaty hair with his fingers. It should have been groos, but lets be honest… he’s had worst human bodily fluids over him before, and not even the fun kind.

Jun hummed quietly and looked up again.

“I never got this sick back in China. This is probably the air here. Is different…”

“How so? We are not that far away you know…” teased Wonwoo “are you getting homesick?”

“Korea is my home too. Can’t get homesick if I’m home, right?” Retorted the spy “but I’m being serious here, never got this sick after a mission there… well… I never did so many skin changes there either… ”

Jun was used to call his “acting” skin changing. It wasn’t really because he meant it literally, of course, but because the kind of work he did in their unit required him to actually fit in less than ideal situations and endear himself into whoever is in charge good’s side. He was great at it, but that meant that everything about him had to change really fast and accommodate itself to the circumstances. For example, in his time on North Korea, his hair had gone back to black, cut very short and appropriate to the circumstances and had to lose a lot of body mass to look thinner and less… soldier-y. Wonwoo always thought those unhealthy methods were the reason he got sick so often nowadays, but if everything went right, they’ll have some time to wait before they had to go back to “skin changing”.

“Well, now to get well you have to eat healthily. The group was not the same without your constant nagging, mom…” he joked, smiling.

“Aish, oppa. You know how to charm your way into my bed.”

“Please shut up and go the fuck to sleep”

Yes. Wonwoo was really, really endeared by Wen Junhui.

 

[Saturday, 21th of December, 00:30 P.M.,Highway to Incheon International Airport, South Korea]

 

“Did you lose it? The car? Where are we?” Asked Franklin for the nth’ time. Mingyu was starting to get pissed.

“Yes we did, and we are going to reach the airport from behind…” informed Jeonghan, looking down at his tablet following the map in one window, while the side of his tablet he had a tab open were Joshua was providing him with every communication they could interfere with or any pin they got from cellphone towers around in real time. How they had created such a software, Mingyu didn’t know, but their tech unit was impressive at it is without it, so right now he was very inclined to consider them fucking frightening.

“But am I safe? We should reschedule the flight. This is crazy…!” Muttered the man, his hands gripping at his cellphone in fear. It was off, so it wouldn’t interfere with Jeonghan’s work.

“You are in good hands. We are going to get you to that flight safely…” assured Mingyu, smiling.

“Exactly sir. So please calm down and trust us” provided Jeonghan, while he touched his ear communicator and started talking in korean “Joshua, I need you to contact the gates. ETA minus 10 minutes. No security check ups. We need to be at that terminal in T minus twenty.”

“On it, Hannie” replied the man

Mingyu looked back at Jeonghan.

“Do you think we’ll need to secure every entrance?”

“No time. We need to be fast and that’s going to gather too much attention. We need the media out of this”

“What are you saying? Why are you talking in korean? Is there something wrong?” Interrupted the diplomat, unnerved.

“Nothing is wrong sir. We are going over security protocols and courses of action in case anything is needed” answered Jeonghan, curt and cold “but we need you to follow our lead at every time. We need you on that plane safely and for that, you’ll have to trust Kim’s judgement. He is the best safeguard in our unit and he’ll make sure you arrive safely, but you need to follow our lead or this is going to fail, ok?”

The man simply nodded, still tense and trembling. Mingyu felt bad for him.

They got through the gates without objection, the security guard besides it giving them the nasty eye while they passed. The winding road was surrounded by land as barren and lonely as a desert, but the occasional half assed greenery assured them they still were in Korea. The only lights were the airport ones, far away in the distance.

“Ok. We’ll have to be swift. Mister Franklin, Kim’s going to get out first and then I’m going out. We are going to shield you in the ten steps to the entrance, but I doubt they’ll be so desperate to attack us in such a populated area. They main issue is going to be after we go through security and into the international terminal. We’ve yet to see our main suspect, so it’s safe to asume he is going to be waiting for us there…”

Both Franklin and Mingyu nodded.

“Everything’s going to be alright” added Mingyu, smiling softly. The israelite smiled back at him.

“Thank you. I feel very protected right now.”

Reaching the airport was easy as they assumed it would be. Getting out of the car was too. The inside of the airport was still bustling with people, buzzing with their voices and the echo of such a large place being filled with noise and little else.

Joshua spoke once again.

“I’m connecting to the security cameras right now. I’m going to send you just the images you’ll need. When you go through security, activate the bug juuuuust before you walk in and don’t make it inconspicuous. Leave watches and anything visible. Mingyu, your gun is under your sweater right? Make sure you unzip it just as you get back your shoes. You too Jeonghan. There’s a lot of people with masks on and no one is acting that weird just yet. That if you don’t count the kid that’s clearly getting high in the second floor’s bathroom…”

International police was always such a drag. They had to almost undress to go through a security check they weren’t really going to use to fly anywhere and they’ll have to accept being given the nasty eye just for existing. They could use their military ranks and special passports to go without being really looked at, but that would catch too much attention. They needed to act like regular citizens for the time being. Taking off their shoes and helping the Diplomat with his bag Jeonghan was the first to go through the metal detector, without even flinching. He was smooth like that. Then went Franklin, nervous and fidgety, but nothing happened. And then came clumsy Mingyu. He hated this part of missions, specially because he always got too nervous and made too many tiny mistakes that could make everything go to shit. He was used to breaking things in the dorms, and usually punching someone without meaning too - most usually, poor Seungkwan - and he absolutely hated security checks because of it. He hated having to use the signal interference device just in the right moment, because that’s something he COULD fuck up really badly.

Luckily for them, he didn’t. Yet the bulge of the gun on his side was still very suspicious, and he noticed a guard looking over at him weirdly. He hoped worst didn’t come to worst and he’ll have to take down airport security and some jopok gorillas… or well, at least one jopok gorilla. Hopefully he’ll have to fight neither if he was honest, but he had shitty luck and God hated him so, he was going to have to fight jopok gorillas and airport security.

“We are through. Do you see anything?” Asked Mingyu, Jeonghan shrugged.

“Just airport soul-sucking life. Let’s go.” He got in front of the formation and Mingyu went behind. Aton Franklin looked around nervously.

“I never knew this job was going to put me in this position. This happens like… to ambassadors or bigger fish. I’m just a a nobody in the foreign office!” He complained and Jeonghan didn’t believe a word. His tone was far too high pitched and his words were too rushed, like he was trying to sound nervous on purpose.

“Don’t worry sir. You’ll be on that plane in no time. Please concentrate on reaching your destination and we’ll do the rest” he assured.

 

[Saturday 20th of December, 22:37. S.V.T HQ. Seoul, South Korea]

 

“Excuse me?” Asked Seungkwan, sleepy and trying to suppress a tick on his left brow. Besides him, Hansol gave his shoulder a squeeze.

“Do not sass me, Seungkwan. I’m serious.” Warned Seungcheol, tired and hair properly disheveled due to his hands running through it in frustration “new assignment. I need you three on it in the next few weeks.”

Seungkwan, Hansol and Chan looked at each other, sharing a confused look.

“I thought we were to focus on the smuggling case…. And that Chan had still a week to recover from the last mission…” said Hansol, tentatively. Seungkwan crossed his arms, openly annoyed and Chan just sighed.

“Yeah, I know, but this is from high up. High, high up. So high up we have to shut up and take it and I need you guys on it because you work well together as a team.”

Chan sighed again and smiled. Seungcheol returned the smile slightly, but it was more of a grimace, like all will to live had been taken out of his body.

“Ok, hyung. I’m in. What was it exactly we’ve got to do?”

Seungcheol sighed and turned his laptop around. On the screen, there was a satellite picture of a neighborhood. It wasn’t really a bad neighborhood, Seungkwan noted. It was just outside Gangwon, probably filled with factory workers or fishers. And the Combat training center. He could work with that.

“Three weeks ago five recruits were arrested because they were consuming stimulants associated with a new performance drug. We still don’t know what it contains, but one of these recruits died due to side effects. His fellow soldiers confessed to have bought it from a kid on the streets just outside of the KCTC. That would have been a thing, but then, less than a week ago, another three recruits faced the same fate and two are in ICU as we speak. Then, the commanding officer in charge was found with a large dose of that same drug. There’s a a formal investigation on going right now, but they need us to search for proof in the underbelly. Seungkwan, Hansol and Chan, we need you three there. You must pass off as new recruits. You are the youngest, and might look fresh out of college.”

Hansol nodded slowly, thinking it through.

“Wouldn’t it be more effective to go outside the grid? Like, Seungkwan iand me inside, and Chan outside? Or me outside? I mean… My looks are an issue, either way, but I trained in California. I know about drugs and traffic issues. I’ve studied their conducts quite a lot and I’m not really intimidating. But Chan’s the trained spy… so…”

Seungcheol pondered about it, trying to keep focus.

“Right now I just want to accept the mission. We can start planning in the morning. I still have to go supervise Joshua. The poor guy’s been alone for hours with Mingyu and Jeonghan.”

Seungkwan chuckled and nodded.

“Ok hyung. I’m in”

“Me too”

Chan shrugged.

“I already said I’m in too.”

“Ok. Operation Healing is underway then. Go to sleep kids, tomorrow’s going to be a day full of meetings.”

The three of them groaned in protest, but one look from Seungcheol quiet them down.

 

[Saturday, 21th of December, 02:19 P.M., Incheon International Airport, South Korea]

 

Things were great, actually. They could travel to the proper terminal without delay, no suspicious activity, and Franklin had actually relaxed a lot, not babbling and actually helpful in reacting accordingly. Jeonghan was actually thinking they could get the diplomat inside the plane before anyone could attack them…

And then they heard the soft footsteps behind him and the rustling of metal against a jacket.

Mingyu reacted quickly, turning around with his police baton ready to go, startling their potential attacker, quickly jumped to get the gun out of his hands. He failed, but managed to get the guy into one of the all night cafes from one well placed push. In the same breath, Jeonghan grabbed Franklin’s hand and tossed him right into the space between the rows of chairs. The man yelped, confused, but didn’t make a move when Jeonghan appeared besides him with a gun in his right hand and the tablet on the left. Ru Hyunjuk, snorted, his bald head glistening in the harsh airport lights. People gasped around them and Mingyu was painfully aware of the people looking at them, worried. There were at least five people in the same seats Jeonghan was crouching by and more than a dozen in the immediate surroundings, including the late night cafe staff.

“Don’t do this, Ru-ssi. Not here.” Warned Mingyu, voice commanding, but the man just kept his eyes fixed on him. The man had the gun down, and Mingyu had his hand on his. Of course he knew talking to attackers didn’t do shit, and in reality was quite cheesy to try and coax them out of attacking by talking and dissuading with kind, understanding words. If a man had a gun in his hands, and had the background Ru Hyunjuk did, he was there to kill. Airport security had to know this was going on and it wouldn’t be long before the whole airport went into full lock down.

Jeonghan cocked his gun and whispered to Franklin:

“Let’s go back slowly. We need to get you inside that plane and we’ll figure out the rest” he told the man. Just a second later, people started docking under the chairs and the murmur of sobs and calls to the emergency services. And then, Ru Hyunjuk flinched his hands slightly up and Mingyu was all over him again “CLOSE THE BLINDS!” Shouted Jeonghan at one cafeteria employee who was still paralyzed “CLOSE THE BLINDS, YOU NUMB-FUCK!” Shouted again, and the man almost woke up from his trance, and hit the button.

Mingyu used his body mass to push the jopok back to a wall, chairs knocked down in loud thuds. Outside, people started running out of the airport, while Jeonghan held Franklins hand, leading him to their terminal.

“Jeonghan, I have a flight attendant ready to receive Franklin. I need you to hurry up before they are forced to close. They have orders from the captain, but they might not stay if they are in danger” said Joshua, his voice distorted because of his movement.

Jeonghan began running.

Mingyu got a punch to the liver and wheezed, but didn’t relent on the hold he had on the other man hand. He held his ground and with one powerful wing of his hip, his knee connected straight to the man’s stomach, knocking out his breath. He was sure he could knock out the guy before he could run away, but then the dull sound on the metal door crashing into a table distracted him, and the man shoved him, and slid down the space between the door and the table, going back to the hall.

“Shit” cursed the soldier, and went right after him, touching his ear communicator, he grunted “Jeonghan, he is right after you!! Dodge!!”

Jeonghan had just shoved both him and Franklin to the ground but a second before he heard the sound of a gunshot. Franklin stilled besides him, covering his head with his hands. Jeonghan noted he was very well trained to be “just a diplomat”, but the snark died just on the back of his throat. The entrance to the plane was just right there and airport security had to be arriving soon. The poor stewardess was crouching behind the counter, trembling like a leaf.

“Ok, mister Franklin. Lay down on your stomach” he instructed and cocked his gun, ready to act if needed.

But he didn’t need to use it. Mingyu, in all his leg range glory - bless his stupidity long legs, seriously - tackled the guy again, gun skipping down the hallway. The sickening rack of the man’s jaw told Mingyu he probably was going to be out of commission for a long while, but just to be sure, he took his gun out and put it right against the man’s skull. The man froze right down under him, and Mingyu used that second to punch him right on his left temple, knocking him out, whole body going lax under him. Standing up fast, he went for the gun while pocketing his own.

“Clear!” He shouted, and Jeonghan stood up.

“Took you a while!” He sneered, grabbing Franklin by the back of his jacket and making him stand up in one swift motion. Franklin’s legs weren’t trembling at all “now sir, go inside the plane. I’m sure that poor woman just wants this to be over”

The man just nodded, clearly stressed and dumbfounded, but he had steel behind his eyes, the kind of steel you manage to get when you’ve been through similar situations. He walked up to the woman behind the counter, nodded at her, and walked straight up the tunnel, without saying goodbye.

Jeonghan was about to shout something nasty, but Joshua’s voice resonated inside his ear.

“Code red. The shady cop’s trying to get in from underneath the plane! I repeat! Code red!”

Jeonghan had no time to react. Before he could try bolting down the corridor after Franklin to warn him, He heard the sound of a gun and shattering glass. He covered his eyes, and felt Mingyu go straight to the window, gun in hand.

“FOR FUCK’S SAKE, MINGYU!” shrieked Jeonghan, clearly over the whole situation.

Two gun shots after, Joshua spoke again.

“Suspect down. Also… just so you know… Seungcheol is forking pissed.”

“I should have never let you see The Good Place, goddamnit!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 4/ Gladiolus

 

[Tuesday, 29th of December, 12:11, S.V.T. HQ, Seoul, South Korea]

 

After a week, Seungcheol could finally breath. The airport disaster had become an administrative nightmare, and all the paperwork he had to fill, and the meetings he had to endure, had left him drained and with a present headache. It had been stablished that Mingyu couldn’t have reacted any better, and neither suspect was dead, so that was a plus for the investigation, but the witnesses and the damage to property had to be dealt with in a proper manner. While the people inside the airport had been informed that the whole incident was a fight between different mob gangs, and that the jopok was to blame. All airport footage was to be intervened so neither Aton Franklin’s, nor Mingyu’s or Jeonghan’s face could be seen, but that meant both Seokmin and Jihoon had to go through the whole security camera footage and erase/blur/whatever the fuck is that techs made every time some kind of face could be seen. Jihoon’s nasty glare was not as frightening if compared with Jeonghan’s anger because of the whole fiasco.

Why, you ask, did Jeonghan blame HIM, of all people on the issue?

That’s a modern mystery, if we ever seen one. But most of it could be traced to the fact that he was forced to do field work at all. He was good, but no one could deny that he was better when faced with a chair and a computer. Either way, Seungcheol wouldn’t have trusted the younger males with such an operation yet. Maybe Jihoon, but only if there wasn’t any other option.

He wasn’t comfortable exposing their best tech

So, the week had been long, the different briefings and review of protocols had left all of them drained enough to be silent. But there wasn’t time to rest, as the Maknae-line was infiltrating the Gangwon Training Center and they still had to deal with the smuggling case.

Thank God Soonyoung was being cooperative after all, and not working himself to the bone just to evade the issues at hand. It was no wonder that, in the event something happened to Seungcheol, Code Name: Hoshi was the next in line to take over the whole operation. He knew how to deal with most ropings inside the hierarchy and understood how to work alongside other teams, in coordination with the main office. He understood the team needs as a whole, and always fought for his team resourced passionately. In a way, Seungcheol sometimes wanted to let go and leave Soonyoung in charge for a few days, so he could decompress, but he knew he was chosen to be the leader of the whole Unit because he was good under pressure, and he was even better at coordinating.

Right now, however, he was just thankful their resident hamster was being helpful with planing and briefing.

“Hyung, I think we need to approach the facility’s clear lack of proper leadership first. The only reason those parts were stolen was because the commander officer in charge was being a little bitch and focusing more on coercing his secretary to sex…” the younger man trailed off, looking vaguely disgusted, but managing to maintain his professionalism after a few seconds “Right now we can’t possibly manage to infiltrate when we don’t have one of ours at the head of the administration. As far as we are be concerned, anyone and everyone are in the deal, and we can’t trust neither officers nor soldiers.”

Seungcheol nodded.

“We need someone older, sadly. I’m going to request someone from the Junior’s to help us… who do you think might be in shape to work alongside us?”

“I believe Lieutenant Colonel Shin Donghee would be the best option, but he is right now at Higher Operations, coordinating the EXO’s. If he isn’t available, I think our best next bet might be Lt. C. Kim Jongwoon. He is scary, though…”

“I agree. But I would pass Lt. C. Shin in favor of Lt. C. Kim. As far as I know Kim Jongwoon worked on logistic and field intelligence before. He might be stern but he surely would get along with both Minghao and Jun. We also need someone that can keep Seokmin in check, if he gets too nervous with everything. Jeonghan will be on support too”

“I don’t know why you don’t let me go…” complained Soonyoung, trying hard not to pout.

“I need you on base with Jihoon. You need to go over the data you recollected and actually do something with it. I’m sending both Wonwoo and Mingyu as supports for the China-line, so don’t worry. They will be well protected…”

“I know. I trust all four of them on the field, but I’m going to go insane if I have to keep doing desk work…”

“That’s the problem with being an officer, Soonie. All work and no fun” reprimanded Seungcheol, giving his subordinate a pat on the back “Both you and Jihoon work really well together when you are planing. I need you to come up with something so we can start acting soon. The more time we spend here, the more time they have to their advantage. I have to coordinate all the operations we have on going, and don’t get me started on all the work I’m going to push into Jisoo because of this.

Soonyoung sighed, biting his lower lip, before releasing it and going over the installations blueprint once again.

“There’s clearly some structural checking we have to do. These Blueprints must be inaccurate, so I suggest having Minghao’s drones ready to do a full infrastructure scan in the building and uploading it to Jeonghan’s system. The sooner, the better” he signaled a side shed “The first parts they smuggled came out of this shed, so I wouldn’t focus too much on it. This one, however…” he pointed a second shed, just a few meters from the first one “…is actually my main concern. From a spy’s stand point, if I wanted to take out something from the first one, I would use this alley here to move. Is too narrow and has no visibility from the main building, and the angle is very unfortunate for cameras. What was this used before it was a sensitive supplies collection center?”

Seungcheol reviewed his notes for a few seconds, before sighing.

“Just a shed for minor supplies and old vehicles. They refurbished it in 2013 and it’s been a Humanitarian Demining Unit ever since. I’m going to contact C. O. Shownu. Maybe some of our missing parts are already in the Middle East. It’s something we must take into account”

Soonyoung nodded.

“Or South America. Either or and. Who do we have down there?”

“Right now? No one from PLEDIS or STARS. As far as I know, the only ones who might be anywhere close to America are the BTS and they are on their own mission. And you know how hard those dudes are to come in contact with…”

“Maybe we can do an official, inter unit request? From PLEDIS upstairs to BIG HIT. Just on the side. I’m sure they will be annoyed but they need to be aware, and not just for the sake of our own mission, but theirs as well. Unaccounted for antipersonnel mines in the Arizona desert are just as bad as antipersonnel mines down in Colombia or in Syria”

Seungcheol snorted.

“Thanks for volunteering to write that shit”

“Hey!! I’m not!!” Protested Soonyoung.

 

[Saturday the 2nd of January, 20:12 KCTC, Gangwon, South Korea]

 

“These installations are shit” stated Seungkwan not two seconds of going inside their assigned operations base. Hansol wanted to laugh, but he was so tired from the amount of travel they had to do, that honestly? He was ready to crash on the floor.

The trip was hell, mostly because Chan was driving. And even if he wasn’t a bad driver per se, the heavy winds and cold, added to the cramped space inside their SUV, was just a mean reminder that they will have to deal with drugged recruits for the next few weeks. Seungkwan complains about having to work on New Years was also thinning his will to live, and Chan’s snarky remarks weren’t funny anymore. But alas, they were in Gangwon. And they had to set everything up before Midnight.

Chan, for someone who was trekking down the mountains a few weeks prior, looked fresh and ready to fight. Somehow all the GIT’s functioned like a hyperactive bunch of crazy ants, and while they weren’t really the brunt force fo the whole operation, surely whey made up for it in motivation. Taking out duffle bags filled to the brim with electronic equipment and setting them close to Seungkwan, he was efficient, while Hansol stood there, still too out of it to be useful.

“Shit as they might be, you have to be creative and start building your work station. You can’t work from your laptop”

“I can’t set this up before I test the signal interference these walls have. If they gave us a crappy building with poor wifi access I’m going to complain to the higher ups…”

“Again…” mumbled Hansol, and Seungkwan sent him a nasty glare.

“Kwannie, you work with satellite direct access, for fuck’s sake…” complained Chan “You don’t need wifi”

“That you say now, but I need to have the best position to ensure this isn’t going to blow. I’m being a sensitive, professional tech here”

Hansol sighed.

“I’m going to work on our beds for tonight. Call me when you need stuff to be moved or some shit… yeah…”

Chan grunted something back, but wasn’t loud enough for Hansol to understand the rumpled words spoken under a very huffy breath. Chan was a charming kid most of the time, but being the youngest put a pressure over his shoulders that one one else could really relate to. He was an overachiever at best, and a complete lunatic at worst, so whenever Seungkwan complained just for the sake of it, it drove the GIT mad and then Hansol just stood in the middle of very nasty bickering. Over the years he had learn’t to read between lines, and not take everything any of them said seriously. At least not when it came to each other. Seungkwan would kill for Chan, and that’s not something to take lightly, given the carefree, humanitarian nature of the hacker. And Chan trusted Seungkwan, trusted his instinct and his care.

And Hansol? He was the chillest of the chill. Sure, he was a SEU, and that meant that technically he was the first line of defense in any given situation, specially given his dextecitry in weapon handling and field flexibility, but the real fighter was Chan. And because of that, Hansol had to be extra careful in his job, working with and against Chan’s strength and mediating between his and Seungkwan’s wills. That’s why they worked well together in the end, specially in situations like this, when Chan’s ability to blend in, and Hansol’s charm had to go hand in hand towards a common goal, with Seungkwan’s guidance and overview.

That being said, it was also true that whenever they had a new mission, Seungkwan took the longest to aclimate and get himself in the zone, and that was why he rarely did undercover missions. He just wasn’t as good an actor as Chan was, nor had he the flexibility Hansol required in his job. He was a tech and he was bold and that was the basic knowledge you should have about Boo Seungkwan.

“Do you really think this is just a case of stupid recruits getting fucked up on synthetic drugs?” Asked Chan, surprising Hansol slightly.

“Eh… I guess. We have to think the obvious before going into any other theories. Might be nothing more than a dangerous fun as fuck trip” shrugged Hansol, trying to sound nonchalant enough, but Chan frowned.

“You don’t give this kind of job to an elite unit if you aren’t sure there’s more than meets the eye, Hansol.”

“When you hear barking, think dogs first, Chan. Then wolves or coyotes, depending where you are. That’s American basic training at least”

“Yeah I know. We were trained the same way. But take it from me, this is weird.”

“And take it from me, don’t be biased, specially in drug cases. If it got to an army base without being detected with the usual Dog Unit’s searches, it most likely mean that it’s strong enough to be addictive in a short period of consumption. If we find proof of anything else, then we’ll have to go down the line of possibility. Drugs are not corporate spying or anything like that. The MO is totally different.”

Chan grumbled, a bit miffed and Hansol chuckled.

“I was in the Anti-drug brigade before being transferred to Korea, Channie. Sure, just as an officer in training, but I saw a lot. 8 out of 10 times it was just basic corruption and addiction, and both issues are hard to deal with from a human standpoint”

“Yeah. It’s just… it just smells fishy and it isn’t just Seungkwan-hyung”

“I heard that, you annoying brat!!!” Shouted Seungkwan, from his spot in front of a dinner table trying to establish his work station “Make yourself useful and help me with this. And you Hansol-ah, go get us dinner. I’m not going to start working without a proper dinner. We have a lot of briefing to do, still”

Hansol chuckled tiredly, while Chan skipped right into Seungkwan’s space and started picking stuff up he shouldn’t move, just to rile the tech up. The GEU was very thankful of being put into dinner retrieving mission.

 

[Tuesday, 2nd of January, 02:14, S.V.T. HQ, Seoul, South Korea]

 

Jun and Minghao spent a lot of time together. People usually assumed it was just because they were the only Chinese officers in their unit. They hadn’t trained together, and to be fair, Junhui had spent much more time training under Korean guidance when Minghao had joined their unit, abruptly. Even if their teammates called them the “China-line” affectionally, almost blending both together in one single being. And even after both of them had stablished their individuality, it seemed their nationality was a big factor in their relationship. It might have been so, in the beginning, but as time went on, both found comfort in knowing the other was different enough to provide valuable insight into their problems. Whereas Minghao was stern, hard working and slightly reserved and was raised in a less privileged environment than many, Jun appeared as frivolous and light hearted, caring and open minded. The truth was the, in any other circumstances, probably both would have been attracted to each other in less than platonic ways.

And sadly, that was not the case.

Sadly for Minghao, that is. Because well, he had a crush in his direct commanding officer. And said Commanding Officer was the oblivious, thick headed hyperactive rodent Kwon Soonyoung.

When he had confessed said crush to Jun, the older male had laughed in Cantonese for a whole fucking month, and when he got over it, laughed some more just for pretense value. It didn’t even matter that Minghao had his own dirty on Junhui, because the skin changer was, all in all, very confident and secure in the stage of his not-there-but-getting-there relationship with the resident sniper, Jeon Wonwoo.

And that relentless teasing was the current situation Minghao was sadly facing, and everything because Soonyoung was being an evil creature and had the confidence of walking top half naked around the dorm.

“Go there and offer him your towel, HaoHao. Maybe then you’ll be able to actually smell him without being a total creep in our training drills~~~~” muttered Jun in perfect mandarin, and Minghao sputtered indignantly, resisting the impulse of hitting Jun across the head. If Soonyoung noticed such conduct, surely he was going to get closer and Minghao was not going to be able to handle closer.

“Go suck Wonwoo’s dick and leave me alone with my suffering. Why is he like this? Why?” Whined Minghao, still laying across the couch and voice deadpan, not betraying any emotion.

“I first need my Wonu to realize he wants his dick to be sucked by me, dear. So, for now, this is much more entertaining. But I still don’t truly get it… your attraction…”

Minghao pouted slightly. It was easy to misunderstand his crush and push meaning to things that, all in all, didn’t have much meaning to begin with. He didn’t find Soonyoung attractive for the longest time, and started by being mostly annoyed at his loud ass. He couldn’t believe someone so apparently unprofessional was his commanding officer, and he was sure no one like Soonyoung could have climbed so high in China having such a personality and boisterous attitude. Still, he found himself being slowly endeared by their team antics. Sure, they were thirteen in the overall unit, but the GITs were close knit, and needed to be for the sake of their missions. Sure, Techs had to trust each others abilities and work coordinated, and the GEU was close knit and very friendly to begin with, because all of it’s members where mild mannered, easy going people in their core. But the GITs had to be close because most of their operations heavily relied on the other being able to lie to everyone - even their own team members - and still keep the underlying loyalty intact.

Most people nowadays find the idea of old spionage outdated and un useful, and infiltration was surely much more complicated than it was forty, fifty years before. But that didn’t mean that traditional spionage was dead, far from it, when you knew were to look. The only difference was that intelligence and spionage weren’t one in the same, but any country, or organized paramilitar group, understood the value of analog means of sharing information in our day and age. And as such, the GITs were a vital part of any operation, and, as such, they had to at least trust each other.

So when friendship got deeper, late night talks and secrets were shared, and long comforting hugs were given to cracked souls, Minghao found himself feeling safe with Kwon Soonyoung over any other member of their unit. And it wasn’t like their liver did anything truly special, it wasn’t like a big moment of realization, nor was it that one day, Minghao found himself looking at his face, smitten. No, it was more like a slow process of thinking “hey, maybe I don’t mind spending the rest of my life with this fella”.

And so, his nightmare began.

“I don’t know” answered finally Minghao, his eyes trailing the soft roundness of Soonyoung shoulders when he finally approached them with a beaming smile “it just is”

 

_______

 

Jihoon was by far the crabbiest member of the unit and he was sure to present himself as such to anyone and everyone that dared to interject with his routine. Even if the people were not physically present, and was just a small icon on the left side of his monitor.

SUGA
Woozi-ah
Woozi
Annoying copy
Kid.
Kiddo.
Brat.
Are you really going to do this?

CHANYEOL
Woozi~ please make him stop spamming and answer

SUGA
This is work related you prick.
I need to ask you some shit.

CHANYEOL
W
O
O
O
O
O
O
O
O
O
O
O
O
O

WOOZI
Stop.

CHANYEOL
O
Oh.
Zi.
Hi. How are you, kiddo?

WOOZI
Fuck off.
What now, Suga-hyung?

SUGA
Your CO contacted ours.
You need some shit with some explosives and V has some dirt.

WOOZI
That’s awfully fast

SUGA
We are the best, duh.

CHANYEOL
Im lost.

WOOZI
Just some SVT and BTS business, hyung.

CHANYEOL
Then why are we on the common chat?

SUGA
Because you EXO’s should also be aware of the shit storm
And get ready to be fucked royally

WOOZI
1 to Dog shit, how bad?

SUGA
Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua bad.

CHANYEOL
Oh.

WOOZI
Crap

SUGA
Yeah.
I’m sending you guys some footage.
V was doing some reckon work in the frontier when he came across this run down van.

Jihoon frowned slightly and activated his comm right away, waiting for Seungcheol and Soonyoung to answer. But even before any of them could say anything, he just growled a “Come here” before tossing the comm away. His eyes were focused on the satellite images in front of him

SUGA
At first V thought that might be just an illegal immigrant vehicle.
We see a lot of them here.
But then, his ass got scared because he could smell the danger
So he comm-d Jin, Jimin and I
LSS it was a trap.
Watch the second picture

Both Seungcheol and Soonyoung arrived fast, both slightly out of breath, but silent enough for Jihoon to just signaling them the conversation in the side bar and its correlation to the images. The second image was of the van. A light blue, slightly rusted, 1967 Ford Econoline was hidden just between a rocky gravel road, but what was interesting were the almost undetectable round patches a few feet away from the van.

SUGA
Jin can attest to those being your lost AP’s
Shitty thing is that, as far as we know, those bitches are far too close to ground for comfort and we can’t get close enough to deactivate them securely, so we will have to detonate them once we secure the perim.
But the fun stuff starts now.
Chanyeol, just a few miles away, we found some of your shit around.
They are stealing your tech dude.

CHANYEOL
How sure?

SUGAThird picture. I need you to Identify them

Seungcheol, Jihoon and Soonyoung looked at each other, their hearts slowly beating inside their chests.

CHANYEOL
Sure as hell.
Those are DO’s.
We were handling that internally.

SUGA
I feared so.
This is framing.
They wanted a diplomatic nightmare

WOOZI
Thanks Suga-hyung.

CHANYEOL
Yeah. Thanks. Suho and Sehun are otw

WOOZI
SCoups and Hoshi are here

SUGA
Hi, kids.
Ok, I’m logging off.
I just needed to inform you
Shit is bad. It’s not just this APB
Gbty when I have more intel.

WOOZI
I’m out too

CHANYEOL
See ya.

“This is nuts” muttered Seungcheol, after Jihoon closed the chat tab and watched the circling pictures on the monitor attentively “Stealing from the EXO’s?”

Jihoon bit his lower lip, worrying over the pictures, arms crossed and fingers compulsively tapping on his forearm.

“This MO isn’t something we are used to. Weren’t the BTS there…”

“We also can’t dismiss the chance this is exactly what they wanted” muttered Soonyoung, getting closer to the monitor, face unreadable

“What do you mean, Soon?” Asked Seungcheol.

Soonyoung frowned bitterly, and Jihoon just had seen that face once before in his face. His blood ran cold.

“I know this MO. It’s a NK tactic on the frontier. And see that sticker there? On the windshield? Yeah. I would recognize that anywhere. This is NK, Seungcheol-hyung. They are provoking us after they detected our escape.”

Jihoon closed his eyes and let his head fall backwards over the edge of his seat.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5/ Begonia

 

[Tuesday, 2nd of January, 03:12. S.V.T HQ. Seoul, South Korea]

“The tech the EXO’s were developing was part of the new renovation program, right?” Asked Seungcheol giving his forehead a good massage, while Soonyoung started to set up an improvised meeting board. Jihoon kept working, back hunched and eyes fixed on his monitors.

“Yeah,” replied Jihoon, almost in a whisper “Part of the “Growl Project,” going along with the Americans development of laser tech. The EXO were away two years for this thing and now…”

“Captain Suho and the others are more than capable of dealing with that…” He moved his hand, dismissing that branch of the topic before it could develop “…but we have to expect that they reverse-engineered the fuck out of that piece of artillery. Any thoughts, Soonyoung? You were up there.” Prompted Seungcheol.

The GIT’s leader pondered for a bit, oddly still, and sighed.

“We didn’t get to see much. Our mission was to do reckon. We got proof that they were doing something, but not what that something entailed… and now this…” running a hand through his hair, Soonyoung deflated slightly.

“Ok. Stop Soonyoung,” warned Jihoon, grumbling, “not the time for that. Now, what’s your opinion on the sticker? Is that a message for you? For Jun? We need you to recall stuff that could prove important to this.”

“Does it matter? It might as well be for Seungcheol-hyung here. We are only one Team, Jihoonnie.”

“Focus.” Ordered Seungcheol, fearing the bickering between his friends could get out of hand if he didn’t press for order. Both males stilled and sighed, “good, now. Any chance this might come to bite us in our asses given our current circumstances? Do you think this might be connected to both the smuggling case or the drug case? Or maybe both? What about the Franklin’s case?”

Soonyoung frowned.

“I don’t want to give a definitive answer, hyung, specially when this is involving so many other teams…” He sighed “but… I do think there is a chance… fuck”

Jihoon sighed.

“I still have Jeonghan and Jisoo to use, don’t I?” He asked, typing away on his computer.

“Yes, but I wanted Jisoo to coordinate both missions and brief me on their progress.”

“Well, now you’ll have to monitor your own progress because I need both Jeonghan and Jisoo on this. Jisoo is our best intelligence officer, and Jeonghan is still in touch with Lee Minhyuk from the Monsta X unit and we need them to be aware of what’s going on too. But under the radar…”

Seungcheol frowned.

“This has to go to the upper officers, Jihoon”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“Jihoon…”

“Don’t use that tone with me hyung. I know you suspect it too.”

Seungcheol sighed, and Soonyoung frowned, solemn. Jihoon rotated his chair and stared at them, just as serious, sharp eyes going from his commanding officer to his fellow antiquity officer. Seungcheol inhaled sharply, and he felt Soonyoung shuffling besides him, sitting on the table and resting his head on his hands. Then, Jihoon proceeded:

“This is an insiders job, and under our autonomy act, we can conduct this investigation on our own, given the sensible nature of the issue. Soonyoung, you are with me in this, aren’t you?”

The spy tensed and tried hard to steel his face, but for the trained eye, the way his jaw tensed, and how his left brow lifted slightly, betrayed the emotion behind his eyes, making them as clear as a summer day.

“Yes. I do believe so.”

 

[Saturday the 6th of January, 09:00. Sangnam Ri, South Korea]

 

Minghao straightened himself trying to keep his officer uniform from crumpling too much. They had been on a helicopter for a few hours and there was nothing he could do with those folds, but at least he wanted to look presentable for his superior officer. Kim Jongwoon was somewhat of a legend among the special units, mostly because so little was known about him; everyone knew he was a tech in his early beginnings, but soon enough was transferred to ground work as well. The Super Juniors, as they were called once, had been a new generation of special units focused on recruiting officers and working internationally.

Sure, many before them had done it, and had paved the way for the next step in the Asian Operations in the International Concert, but the ‘Juniors’ were the first unit who had stepped up the game and had been involved in some of the more complex, high stakes operations they department had seen. Kim Jongwoon had been a part of that process, under the code name: Yesung. And even if the group still worked together in bigger, more public stuff nowadays - let’s be honest, there was no human being in Korea or elsewhere in Asia who hadn’t seen one or two of officer Kim Heechul’s stupid shenanigans - they were focused on leading operations of other teams if needed.

Kim Jongwoon was a tall man, lean bodied with a pretty face, with straight hair slightly longer than it should be allowed for a commanding officer, and his uniform was pristine. His eyes were sharp, focused on everything and nothing at the same time, and he had a soothing voice. Minghao felt slightly uncomfortable not knowing much about the man, but if Seungcheol and Soonyoung had asked for his support in this, then the man was going to be of use, whether they knew how, or not.

“So, we have a sniper,” he pointed at Wonwoo, “… a ground officer with a track record.” he pointed at Mingyu, who winced, “a drone expert,” he pointed at Minghao, “an accomplished spy,” he pointed at Junhui, “and a hacker,” he finally pointed at Seokmin, who nodded along. The man looked at them for a second, before nodding himself, almost in disbelieve, “Good, we will be enough to sort this shit out then. Heaven knows those fuckers are important enough to need this many units…” he said, cursing under his breath “Officer Seokmin, start the briefing.”

Seokmin’s cheeks turned a slight pink tone, and Minghao wanted to give him some kind of reassurance, but he abstained, knowing the formality of the situation - despite his superior’s officer cursing - would make such interaction something to be frowned upon.

“Yes, sir… two months a-”

“No sir here, I’m not up for that shit,” Jongwoon interrupted, eyes sharp “We have to be truthful and trust each other because we are heading straight for the fucking lion’s den. And Officer Choi Siwon is going to oversee and embellish this report anyways, so let’s keep this professionally casual, for the sake of our brains. Proceed.”

Seokmin got even pinker.

“Y-yes sir! I mean. Yes. Just yes…” Minghao had to suppress a snort, and he saw that Wonwoo to his left was facing similar issues, “Two months ago, three sets of Antipersonnel Mines were smuggled out of this facility…” he used his pointer to show a point a spot the map they were using, “we have intel suggesting those APM were smuggled through the mountains into North Korea. The former commanding officer of the facility, L. C. Chae Minkyung, is currently under martial arrest waiting for trial. He is accused of sexual harassment, sexual assault and neglect of his duties; the main office is in charge of his interrogation. Right now, most of the unit is considered a threat for security, and every member has undergone a thorough background check, but nothing has come up. The blueprints of the facility are precariously outdated and the secured interconnected platform has been bugged. We are working against time, as Captain Choi Seungcheol has given this top priority.”

Minghao watched as their commanding officer glared at the map, face unreadable, before he sighed and nodded.

“Tell your captain not to be a brat, or I’m going to ask Heechul to go and wreck havoc at your dorm. He’ll be more than happy to fuck shit up if our dongsaeng gets too anxious.”

Seokmin bit his lip, and Wonwoo snickered under his breath, while Mingyu tried to sit straight, even if he also wanted to laugh. Minghao felt the need to laugh as well, but something in the man’s posture told him that this might have been a test, so he kept as still as he could. Beside him, Jun must have thought the same, because even if he was light spirited most of the time, he also remained calm.

“Sit down, Lee-ssi. Ok, kids. I need ideas.” He said, looking over, “you, Wen-ssi. As a spy, what’s the best course of action?”

Jun seemed to stir, pondering over the question for a little while, before answering, slowly:

“I think that most soldiers might have an economic or security incentive, as it’s obvious in these cases. That being said, I’m positive there are undercover agents that might be antagonistic to our work, and will be already clear that our involvement mean their operation is threatened…” he trailed off, before regaining his composure and proceeding: “…that’s, if the operation is still undergoing. As far as we know the ones who remain, who were heavily involved, might just be waiting for future instructions in new posts. We might have to do a counter intelligence operation, and that’s not even for damage control, I don’t know if we have the means to even start one.”

Mingyu frowned slightly.

“May I disagree?”

Jongwoon nodded.

“Proceed.”

“Even if what Junhui says is true, I do believe it’s possible they are still trying to cover their tracks around here. Even if our reaction has been slow, there’s no way the involved people had the time to cover every lead and run into different posts. I wouldn’t be that pessimistic.”

Minghao sighed, but before he could say anything else, or Junhui for that matter, Wonwoo took the word with a raised hand.

“That’s cute and all, but we haven’t faced the biggest issue here: we don’t know how much has been smuggled. There’s no records, no anything. Everything has been handled in a pantomime of bureaucratic nightmare while we run around like headless chickens. It would be bold of us to assume they are stupid, but before we know the scale we are dealing with in terms of the material damage they have caused, we are dead anyways”

“But Wonwoo…” Coughed Jun, “That’s not the point, the point is that if those guys are not around anymore, anything we do in order to expose them would fall into something we should have done yesterday.”

“And we already didn’t do it yesterday so we have to take a look at the concrete numbers before we go around trying to keep this from happening in other facilities. We literally are blind as bats…”

“Bats are not truly that blind you know…?” Mumbled Seokmin.

“They are,” retorted Wonwoo, snappy, “but have other better senses and that’s exactly what we have. We don’t have to bring those fuckers to the light, we have to follow them close enough and then strike”

“And how are we supposed to do that if we don’t project their next move, dumbass?” Snapped Minghao.

“Everything leave tracks online, even in secured servers…” Pointed Seokmin, sounding calm and firm, and Minghao felt he was getting as fed up as him with the tangent their conversation had went, “Anything they don’t think can be traced or reconstructed, can and will be. I can isolate most interactions made during a period of time and filtered by certain topics…”

“And isolate what? Past actions? Future actions? If we don’t agree on what we are trying to look for, the less able we will be to chose filters!” Protested Mingyu, “We need to agree on what level their operation is or we are going to run in circles all night.”

“And the most logical conclusion is that they are already gone!!” Exclaimed Minghao

“Analytical bias!” Clapped Wonwoo, “You don’t know that! We need to gather information before we even jump into those conclusions!!”

“And we will! But assuming their operation is already done, or at least on stand by, will give us the freedom to look into other branches of the problem instead on focusing on this godforsaken unit!!” Retorted Junhui, clearly annoyed.

“And they will still be stealing under our noses like the idiots we are!” Replied Wonwoo, his neck veins starting to protrude.

“You are being a narrow sighted, smelly footed, prick!” Bit Jun back.

“What do my feet have to do with this conversation, you dumbass????”

Suddenly, the tabled shook with a hard slap, and all almost jumped out of their skins. Minghao felt his fight or flight instinct kick in and was almost ready to take his gun out of the halter, but when analyzing the origin of the noise, he realized Kim Jongwon had hit the table with his indoor left shoe, and was smiling at them. A predatory smile.

“Are you kids done? Ok, good. Crazy fuckers, you almost as bad as Eunhyuk and Donghae together and here I thought that was humanly impossible. You all have points to be taken into account but don’t forget this ain’t a democracy and is never going to be one. That means no matter how much you motherfuckers fight among yourselves, the last call is still mine. So, chill out and let’s go over your ideas and actually work, or I’m going to make you run laps while holding each other bridal style around the building and I’m going to laugh about it.”

Mingyu almost pouted, and Minghao wanted to slap him across the face, but held back given the current attitude of their commanding officer. Seokmin was eerily still besides him, still a bit shaken from the sudden outburst. Both Wonwoo and Junhui glared at each other lightly, before looking at their commanding officer back, and nodding in unison. Minghao wanted to roll his eyes at their syncronization, but Jongwoon interrupted his inner bitterness with a click of his tongue.

“I agree the smuggling operation is mostly done. There’s no way they are not seeing this coming if te smuggling is at the size we fear it is, so kudos to you, Wen-ssi. But, and it’s a big butt, maybe the size of…” he trailed off, and suppressed a grin by coughing, shaking his head lightly “…ok. Not going there. Point is… I don’t believe they had the time of taken the people out. Not the front action line at least. So, this is what we are going to do: I’m going to give you brats fifteen minutes to cool off inside this room, you are going to come up with a plan based on your abilities and I’m going to come up with my own ideas. I will analyze your proposition and then I’m going to chose the way our own operation is going to unfold… Jesus Christ being a commanding officer is tiring” he mumbled and got up, going straight for the door while running a hand through his hair.

Silence engulfed the SVT members, still shellshocked by the blunt approach of Kim Jongwoon. With his handsome face and delicate features, it had looked at first like he could be a more serious and straight-laced man, but less than an hour in his presence had confirmed Minghao’s suspicions that the man wasn’t all that met the eye.

Seokmin was the first to talk.

“Well, that went decent enough. Seungcheol-hyung would be proud, I think.”

Wonwoo snorted, and looked side-eyed at Junhui.

“Sorry for being aggressive…”

“No, it isn’t your fault…” Dismissed Jun fast enough, and Minghao could see the glint in his eyes, that mischievous glint that he was not going to stand by at the moment, so before Junhui could say something inappropriate, he interjected.

“Seungcheol-hyung would skin us alive and then would kill himself in shame. So, let’s get this over with. I’m going to scan the grounds and I’m going to need both Seokmin, Wonwoo and Jun for that. We need current blueprints of the facility.” He requested, turning his tablet on and giving the pictures of the facility a quick glance, trying to asses how much time it would take to cover the whole thing.

“And not me? Why not me?” Whined Mingyu.

“You are clumsy and a big dumb baby. You won’t be useful scurrying around without breaking something or being suspicious as fuck.”

“Hey, I was trained just as anyone on stealth techniques and I was as good at them as any of you.”

“You were decent at best, Gyu-ah” countered Wonwoo, snorting, “but I think you would be more useful gathering ground intel. You are approachable and personable, something we three…” He signaled Minghao, Jun and himself, “… aren’t. And Seokmin COULD accompany you, and it would be wise, but we need him rendering the blueprints as we work. He can be focused on human interaction… what if a pretty soldier comes around? We loose him then and there!”

“You are mean, Wonu-hyung” pouted Seokmin, before laughing, “I get your point, but I can render stuff and gather intel while you guys do your spy shit.”

“Yeah but I don’t want you running around looking like a recruit fresh out of training with a tablet working on some digital blueprints dude. Too suspicious.”

“You underestimate my acting abilities!”

“Can we focus for three minutes, please?” Begged Junhui “You guys are going to give me a headache with all this banter.”

Minghao shrugged.

“We are sorting details out…”

“Unimportant ones!”

“Ok, back here people, back!” Requested Mingyu, “I’m with Seokmin in this. He would be more useful up here, trying to scan phones or other devices. I can be his cover. We still don’t know who we are posing as, so anything we talk about here is going to be as sterile as Wonwoo’s humor, “At that, Wonwoo slapped the back of Mingyu’s head. “Auch! That hurt…” he pouted, “Where was I? Ah, yes! I don’t think Dokyeom-ah would be useful inside a room for hours on end when we can cover more ground together”

Seokmin beamed at Mingyu, nodding along. Junhui chuckled slightly and sighed, looking at Minghao for input. And the weird part, was that Minghao actually thought the giant puppy had a point, but admitting it to his face? Impossible.

Luckily, Wonwoo took that dive for him.

“Ok, your barking has been noted and is reasonable. So that would leave us three to go and do reckon? And then what?”

“You can go around flirting with some female soldiers. Girls always fall for the dark, mysterious ones faster.” Proposed Mingyu, and Wonwoo gifted him such an unimpressed glare, that the poor guy cowered, smiling like the little shit everyone knew he was.

“I thought they liked boys next door better, I mean, you scream “boyfriend material”. Maybe you should go around looking if every female there has a dress on their purse or whatever…”

“Can this conversation get anything more misogynistic…?” Pondered Minghao, rubbing his temple.

“Ok, you are right. We love women here… just…” Wonwoo shrugged, “barrack’s humor is hard to strip away…”

“We need to drink to that. Barrack humor was awful…” shuddered Seokmin.

“All those homophobic dick jokes….”

“Agreed.” Nodded Junhui, and Minghao wanted to bang his head against the nearest wall.

“Ok, so we know our initial movements. Then what? We just propose we wing it?” Sighed Wonwoo, sensing the drift from their main topic, and was suddenly very aware of the struggles poor old Choi Seungcheol faced every single day of his life.

“Isn’t that what we always do anyways? Wouldn’t it be a waste of breath to plan something we are not going to follow anyways?” Questioned Mingyu, oddly relaxed.

“Tell that to Kim Jongwoon-ssi and that shoe is going to end against your forehead” deadpanned Minghao, resting his head on his hand. Seokmin gave him a reassuring pat on the back.

“Hao-ah, relax. We are trained to work well together. Even if we don’t have a clear idea on what we are going to do or how, we are going to be able to do everything mostly okay-ish”

“I hate that ‘mostly okay-ish’ is our standard of success. Why can’t it be ‘almost not a disaster’? Or even better ‘just short of a war’!” Proposed Jun.

“Because we wouldn’t be able to cross any foreign borders with that kind of language, Jun. That’s almost as bad as shouting “BOMB!” At a North American airport. And you know what happened when someone started singing “Cherry Bomb” the last time we were at JFK’s,” retorted Wonwoo, eyeing a beaming Seokmin, who lightened up at the mention of that particular event.

Minghao snorted, fond of the memory even if it was almost as bad as it sounded. One moment Seungkwan was quietly singing to himself and the next him and Seokmin had started shouting the lyrics out loud like the crazy bastards they were. Of course, Soonyoung had joined in.

Let’s just say poor old Seungcheol almost had a stroke when airport security had rounded the three up, and started asking questions. That was the last time they had any kind of training outside the country, because of course they couldn’t be trusted.

And that’s not even the worst thing they had done in airports, Mingyu’s impasse not to be counted.

“At least it wasn’t “Love Bomb”. The moment we do that, we are fucking deported…” provided Seokmin, shameless as always.

Mingyu and Wonwoo snorted, and Junhui just laughed again.

That’s the moment Kim Jongwoon chose to make his entrance again, a cup of coffee in his hand.

He stared at them for half a second, before sighing deeply.

“Ok, you know what? I’m not going to ask. Wing it, it is…”

Mingyu, Jun and Seokmin started laughing like hyenas, while Minghao wondered why he had left China to work with this mess of a team when he could have kept a pretty good position at the Red Army anyways.

 

[Monday the 8th of January, 06:54 KCTC, Gangwon, South Korea.]

 

“…So I told him ‘duuuuuuudeeee, we need more lube or these babies aren’t going to run smoothly! The shaft is dry as fuck!’”

Hansol let out a dead laugh, while the rest of the table roared in laughter at the dick-gun correlation. Sometimes he wondered if military men were that sexually repressed that their humor only could revolve around their own dicks, but the answer to that question was really self explanatory. Even so, even if he had faced the same kind of training and had lived in the barracks as a trainee, he never had enjoyed that kind of penis-centered humor, as pretentious as it sounded to his fellow comrades.

Or maybe it was the one telling the joke was the problem, because dick jokes inside his own unit were very much welcomed in the safety of their dorm. But here? Surrounded by potential drug addicts and targets? Nah, dick jokes weren’t as welcome.

“Hey, Kim-hyung” one of the recruits that went by Jaesun nodded at him, “…you are mixed, right? How are the girls any better in America? Surely they go nuts for the uniform there, right?”

Hansol wanted to sigh out loud, and just tell the other to fuck off, but really, he needed to create a bond with these dudes and act like one of them, at least for a while. He so missed being back home were no one really questioned his looks…

“Yeah, specially country girls. A man in uniform is equal to early marriage and the such. Very easy to charm women, some have the dream of being army wives and living in the base. It’s not as normalized there, not every man wants or has to serve his country” he answered, trying to sound chirpier, but it ended up sounding flat.

“Man, aren’t you lucky, you should have chosen the American nationality dude. You can never serve there if you are a man of another army now! You can’t marry a pretty blue eyed bimbo this way! Just boring Korean girls…”

Hansol considered himself pretty chill, pretty light hearted, and prided in almost never getting angry at insensitivity, but fuck, these guys were making that shit difficult. And the sad part was that these monkey men were just a fraction of the whole unit, and he would have much preferred to sit with the chill more wholesome kids on the other side of the mess hall. But work was work and these stereotypical assholes were his ticket into drug information, if their physique was anything to get by.

“Oh wow, such pricks, hang in there Vernonie!! I can send them unsolicited gay porn to their phones or instagram accounts whenever you ask~~” sing-sang Seungkwan his voice resounding from the communicator inside his ear, and he had to suppress a smile. Their tech was always the light of a crappy day.

“I so wanna sleep with a foreigner some day…” One of the guys, who went by Intak, sighed dreamily.

“Dude, a vagina is a vagina even if the package is different…” another one, named Ilsung, snorted “You sound like such a virgin. Maybe you are. How old did you say you were, brat?”

Hansol tuned out the rest of the conversation, because Chan entered the mess hall. He was assigned to shadow the lieutenant in charge of training the new recruits, and he looked oddly serene. Chan just looked “oddly serene” or “unusually calm” when he was uncomfortable, so that meant that he found something out. He resorted to scratch at his ear, to give Seungkwan a signal.

“Got it. Dino-ah, Vernon is requesting a meeting point. I can give you guys an opening at 09:10 when the Lieutenant goes to a meeting with the other commanding officers. Go to the third floor meeting room, I’ll take care of the rest.”

Dino scratched his ear back, and Hansol smiled to himself, fitting his reaction in the mood of the conversation happening around him. Even if the GIT’s were all experts at non verbal communication, sign language, and had a very intricate set of codes they used on the field, he usually resorted to more simple codes when working the rest of their group. Seungcheol used basic army-codes and thought as unnecessary, given the nature of their sub-unit work, to learn more intricate coding. That being said, Hansol found the non verbal communication a very useful tool and maybe he should start applying himself at learning a bit more about it.

The rest of the morning consisted in some physical workouts and marching practice. Hansol didn’t miss his trainee days, that was for sure. He was almost jealous of Chan’s work, but then was reminded that while he was a decent intelligence officer, Chan was the real deal. And if worst came to worst, Hansol knew he could take a drugged up gorilla without resorting to any lethal force, whereas Chan was not really trained for such ordeals.

And he could see the effects of some kind of performance drug on some of the recruits. Heavy pespiration, dilated pupils, weird involuntary muscle spasms and inflamed muscle tissue. But none of the effects were that noticeable to the naked eye - not if you had been trained to notice those slight changes in a person -, and shouldn’t be a dangerous dosage of the drug if the side effects weren’t as apparent. But that was their main issue: performance drugs weren’t uncommon in recruits aiming to be officers. It was kind of accepted if it wasn’t a used without the proper decorum. For years commanding officers turned a blind eye and recruits didn’t abuse them, and it was a relationship that worked in the inner layers of what was being a military man meant. Don’t overdo it, and we will let it slide or handle it internally.

But this drug was new and deemed dangerous enough to have put members of their unit to work and find out what was going on. That was something unusual and Hansol would be caught dead before underestimating the inner workings of such a present problem.

When the clock struck 09:03, Seungkwan opened communications again.

“Besides an admin vortex worth of organizational issues, you guys are clear. I’m intervening the cameras in 3, 2….1!”

Hansol took a deep breath and got up, excusing himself from the rest of his team who were currently heading to the classrooms for some medical classes. Hansol still didn’t know his schedule completely, but he didn’t care much about it. Walking relaxedly up the stairs he passed some older recruits and greeted them accordingly, filing away their faces if it ever came to be useful. He climbed the stairs faster once he made sure he was alone, and bolted for the meeting room.

Chan was already there when he arrived, reading away on his phone and didn’t greet him right away.

“From 1 to Mingyu-hyung’s clumsiness, how bad?” He asked, instead.

“Nah, just a short Jeonghan’s sexual harassment. Nothing we can’t manage. But still could develop into something worth of Wonwoo’s rage when Hoshi-hyung get’s too clingy.” He answered not looking up.

“Ok… Boo-ah? You copy?”

“Loud and clear, Vernonnie~~”

“Good, I need a background check on the two older recruits I passed before”

“Huh? Why?” The tech asked, but the faint sound of typing told Vernon he was already working on his request.

“Gut feeling.”

“Good enough.”

Chan snorted.

“Ok, sorry. I had to check some facts. So, while shadowing this Lt. I found out some of the components of the anabolic these kids are using-…”

“- kids?? They are older than you!!” Seungkwan pointed out.

“…You, by the cheap seats, shut it.” Chastised Chan, not losing the sharpness of his words even as Seungkwan protested, “Anyways. Some of the symptoms are not consistent with normal anabolics. It’s like they are mixing stimulants and some form of Andro. That cocktail surely would kill a cow…” he trailed off, looking intently at his phone. After a few seconds, he proceeded, “The main issue here is that some of the more prominent side effects of Andro are being controlled by this stimulant. Like, I haven’t seen many big breasts around here, nor that much of severe acne. Most of them are closer to The8-hyung’s body type, as far as I’m concerned. And they are using some kind of inhibitor that can’t be detected by traditional health checks. This drug is very sophisticated and even the preliminar investigation can’t come up with a complete idea of its composition…”

Vernon bit his lower lip, considering that information.

“But there’s a way to detect it, right?”

“The autopsy on the recruits who died before can give us some light, but that is going to take months. The problem is that this drug isn’t really improving the ‘looks’, so we have to discard anyone who looks terribly bulky. If they are using anything, it is not what we need to find.”

“That’s actually pretty smart, maknae,” praised Seungkwan mockingly “I didn’t know googling the Mayo Clinic gave you the expertise to diagnose people.”

“Shut it. I’m trying to be helpful whereas you haven’t provided anything but unuseful commentary since we got here!”

“Hey! I’ve been making projections on probable places where transactions are made and background checks, and that’s besides infiltrating the security system of the facility AND keeping you both in check” protested their tech and Vernon smiled.

“Thanks for your good work, Kwannie.”

Chan cringed.

“Gross. Anyways. Back to the problem at hand: detecting who is the target consumer of this crap is going to be harder if we go by looks. They can look literally like anything but fat or overly muscular, and that’s basically any Korean around…”

“That’s not exactly true, given what you have said,” pointed Vernon, crossing his arms “we need high stamina, aggressive, lithe men with deep voices and shrunken testicles.”

“Good luck checking that one out dude” snickered Chan

“I was thinking you should install some cameras in the showers and let Kwannie check them on line while we do ground work…”

Seungkwan sputtered indignantly.

“THAT’s a great idea, my dear Vernon. That’s why I love you this much!”

“I’m NOT checking any testicles!!!”

Chapter Text

Chapter 6/ Red Dahlia

 

[Wednesday, the 10th of January, 07:30. Sangnam Ri, South Korea]

 

People tended to avoid questioning Wonwoo on anything in correlation to his training and first series of deployments, and with good reason. In a way, being a member of SVT for him has been part of a punishment after a very unfortunate time in Afghanistan, and if it wasn’t for his sharp eye and strong sense of duty, he would have been dishonorably discharged within the first three years of active duty. Wonwoo was a particularly good sniper, mind you, having a 97% success correlation between bullet and target, and his slight frame made him the perfect unassuming scout. But he had one fatal issue: he disliked murder.

And “disliked” can’t be underestimated when your job is to kill targets on sight

The thing with being a sniper is that you can’t fool your brain into thinking the death of your target isn’t your direct fault. A normal foot soldier on a battlefield? The shot could have been anyone’s; The artillery officer on a shielded vehicle? Any deaths could be collateral from a shot he made against any particular target, like a building. But snipers had to live with the knowledge that their bullet was the sole reason for someone’s death. And soldiers aren’t, for the most part, blood thirsty beast ready to handle a gun; most of them are starry eyed kids who want to protect people, who want to make a difference and, in some cases, don’t have the income to pay for regular access to upper education. Wonwoo at first fitted in that category.

It shouldn’t have been hard, just serve the minimum required time and they would pay for a handsome engineering degree you would have to pay back for them, but after that? Free to work at any big company who needed someone with hands-on experience. Piece of cake.

Wrong.

Wonwoo pretty soon into his training realized he had a knack for handling guns and his nimble fingers could recharge his weapons of choice with alarming easiness. His bad eyesight could have been an issue to push him into active duty, but his commanding officer at the time pressed him to have corrective eye surgery and get into top notch condition. He agreed, and to that day, he still wore his glasses for comfort, because those glasses reminded him of less brutal times.

And then the nightmare began.

Shaking his head, Wonwoo came back to reality and kept scouting the grounds walking like any regular transferred foot soldier, taking in every small detail his brain could grasp and indexing it in his own brain data base. He was posing as a grounded soldier that was taken off active duty because of a nasty injury, and given his aloof, detached demeanor, it was easy to look appropriately traumatized, if not a little bit distant. It was the perfect role for him to play - specially because he kinda was that person to begin with, if you could ignore he was then recruited for a special unit that didn’t require his murder skills as often - and gifted him the ability to harvest sympathy from other soldiers.

Military folk could be a lot of things, but they were compassionate people, specially with their own. They didn’t ask questions, they offered support, and they went out of their way if they saw you struggling. It was easy for Wonwoo, Junhui and Mingyu to milk that disposition to their advantage, no matter how morally ambiguous the action itself was. It was part of the deal, when you worked for an intelligence agency: your most dangerous enemies were always insiders to some extent.

Wonwoo sighed deeply, staring at a very odd camera on the right, placed just above the railing of the barracks building. The odd thing about it, is that it should have been directed at the main patio, where everyone was required to form every morning, and for the untrained passerby, sure it looked like it. But such cameras, with their black coverage to conceal the real direction it was actually pointing, should not be letting a tiny light peak through.

“The8, Dokyeom,” he muttered under his breath, “we have a Camera Interference on the east side of the barracks.”

He could hear Minghao’s grunt on the other side of the comm as an affirmation, but Seokmin was probably interacting with someone and had his comm mike off. The good thing about letting good old Seokmin pose as a civilian health officer, was that he has access to soldiers that tended to keep to themselves inside the ranks, and his personable approach to other people made him perfect to appeal to the softer, more humane side of anyone he targeted. It helped he had some training as a health officer on his back, mostly out of need in his own failed, or at least complicated, deployments. And well… everyone needed to see a doctor, even for the most mundane of reasons. Also, the last doctor was on “forced vacations” at HQ being interrogated, so there is that.

As far as they were concerned at the moment, looking for any criminal activity to be prevented was not a priority; rather, they had to focus on finding proof of any wrong doings in the past, and retrace steps in order to figure out any valuable information that could potentially lead them to the stolen Antipersonnel mines. His secondary role - as a sniper - was just going to be useful in case the operation they suspected was long over, wasn’t in reality. Wonwoo dreaded the idea to shoot inside a friendly compound; dreaded the idea of having to use his rifle again for the sole purpose of killing again.

“I checked the camera in the interconnected system, there’s no apparent issue,” muttered Junhui and Wonwoo sighed deeply.

“There is clearly a secondary transmission being broadcasted, or at least a second camera placed inside. Check again, please.” He requested, taking a corner to the left, and going straight for the main building. Junhui was placed as a low recruit on janitorial duties, so he had keys to almost every part of the building, including the security room. Inside, albeit he did not had free access to every single nook and crany, as security officers were still on duty, he also could go around as he pleased. He had enough security clearance given by Kim Jongwoon anyways. And given the fact all the footage was being downloaded straight into Seokmin’s and Minghao’s tablets, his work was keeping an eye on everyone in those posts without attracting attention on himself.

“Roger that. Where are you now?”

“Main building,” Wonwoo replied, tersely. There were some people around, and he greeted them accordingly.

“Good. Mingyu is in the Mess Hall and Minghao is inside the offices doing some ‘paper work’, if you will,” Junhui chuckled, almost in a purr, and Wonwoo felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up, “I think it would be useful if you checked the main roof… do you need support for that?”

Wonwoo grunted lowly, because he couldn’t possibly give Junhui a verbal answer when there were people around. Being the new guy always attracted some unnecessary attention, but it was useful that he wasn’t a particularly handsome guy, if he was compared to Jun, Mingyu or even Minghao himself. He was just a regular Joe.

A regular Joe who had to check the roof in order to attest to its usefulness for concealing him in the slim chance he was forced to act. The moisture inside his mouth was mostly non existent, and he could feel his tongue glued to the roof of his mouth. He often felt parched when thinking about doing sniper work. He still smelt the stench of dust and ruin in his nose. But this was humid, and suburban. More like a drill. Wonwoo had to force himself to think about this as a drill, because the chance of action was slim to none.

“No, but thanks, Jun,” he replied, “this is just a drill…” he muttered under his breath.

For him, the breach between drills and training - no matter how realistic the images and the simulators where - was hard to close. His brain knew everything could be as brutal as the training suggested, and he was aware of how high the stakes of his job were, but he just could not close the gap, even if he had tasted the dirt on his tongue and had been afraid of too-real-training-situations before his initial deployment. Nothing prepared him for being there, under the clouds and over the ruins, waiting with his gun ready to fire at the first man who was his target. He still felt he wasn’t ready, despite his success, to shoot a living man on sight.

Shuddering at the memory, Wonwoo kept walking around, hands on his pockets, and tried to forget for a second that he was supposed to look for a good place to perch himself if worse came to worst.

 

[Saturday, the 10th of January, 9:15. S.V.T HQ. Seoul, South Korea]

 

“So, what do you think about this assignment, Jeonghan, my dear?”

That question in itself was unnecessary, Jeonghan knew it was. Out of everyone in the team, Jisoo knew him best and had the most insight into the works of his mind. Probably, he knew him better than anyone Jeonghan had ever crossed paths with, and that in itself was both exciting and worrisome; Jisoo looked soft and pretty, with big doe eyes, soft voice and a thin, unassuming body… yet Jeonghan had still not met someone more dangerous than Jisoo in his life. Sure, they worked with some of the best prepared, roughed up men and women in the whole security business, but “Joshua” was an enigma. And enigmas got you killed in that line of business.

Jisoo knew too much about a lot of people. Knew too much about Jeonghan.

He was just lucky Joshua had chosen to be besides him, instead of against.

Giving Jisoo a side glance, Jeonghan pondered a proper answer, but nothing came to mind right away. Of course he felt worry, this was a mess no matter what kind of perspective he tried to look at the problem from; on one hand, he was sure Jihoon’s paranoia had a lot to do with the way he was approaching the investigation, but, on the other, he was also a firm believer in how improbable coincidences are in such situations. In any case, he was not really mad at poking the bear a bit. He has been waiting for such a chance for years.

So, what did he feel about being the sole coordinator between teams in a, allegedly, insiders job?

“… Elated. This is the most fun we’ve had since we hit base.” He replied, stretching his fingers in an attempt to look relaxed and unperturbed, even if it was more likely than not, that Jisoo could read right through him, “and you?”

Jisoo smiled for a bit, before tapping twice on his keyboard without actually pressing any keys. Jeonghan knew this action by heart. Their intelligence officer was as unsure as he was deep inside.

“Well, we haven’t been told much. That’s always a turn off, specially if our asses are the ones in the first line of operation at the moment…” he stated, turning to look at Jeonghan’s fully, “… that being said, I do agree with you. This is way more interesting than the menial jobs we have been given since… wow. Since we went abroad.”

Jeonghan nodded, and sighed softly.

“I’m pretty sure Seungcheollie has more doubts that he lets on, thought.”

“Seungcheol-ah always have more doubts that he lets on, Hannie”

Snorting, Jeonghan let his head fall back on his seat for a bit, before cracking a kink on his neck.

“This is our chance, anyways…” he muttered softly, letting his had turn to the side, and getting a full sight of his teammate. Jisoo hummed in agreement, biting his lower lip before releasing a soft whistle between his teeth.

“Is it really? Jihoon-ah is not giving us any autonomy, not really,” he answered, voice slightly unsure, “and yet, I’m pretty sure he still isn’t aware of how much of this has been brewing for decades.”

Shifting his eyes from Jisoo to his monitor, he sighed deeply.

“Minhyuk hasn’t replied. Maybe I should try Kihyun’s direct line.”

“Kihyun has always been more attentive to those things. Maybe try Hyungwon’s too. He has been in contact with BTS’s Jung Hoseok in the last 8 hours,” Jisoo said, clicking away in his computer. His nimble fingers kept opening tabs and closing them faster than he was able to get a good look at them.

That was what fascinated Jeonghan so much about Jisoo: without any proper training, at least not at the level any of the other SVT members had - Xu Minghao being an exception and one enigma in himself - he was able to trace the untraceable.

“Pretty sure Suga-ssi won’t be happy you are hacking into his secure system, my dear.”

“Oh he knows. He IS Suga-ssi after all. But we are all in this together right now, and he lets me see what he wants me to see anyways. I’m not about to start a hacking war with him over something this dumb,” teased Jisoo, side glancing Jeonghan with heavy lids.

“Who knows, you are pretty unpredictable,” purred Jeonghan back, and Jisoo gifted him one of those coy smiles anyone else would have fell for ages ago. That smile that had Seungcheol so fooled and kept him fooled to their agenda.

“One of us has to be, Cheonsa. Specially when this is what we were waiting for. Now be a dear and check the GIT’s footage again?”

 

[Saturday, the 10th of January, 23:46, KCTC, Gangwon, South Korea.

 

Chan was, arguably, the most multifaceted member of the team, if he had to say so himself. He wasn’t just a fully trained soldier, a decent hacker and even better as an actor, no. He was all that and one of the best strategists the team had. Sure, his age and lack of experience in many life fields contributed on him being pretty much underestimated half of the time and dismissed the other hand before he ever made into SVT. But just as Seungcheol was good at coordinating all of them and keeping them safe, he was good at working from the bottom to do exactly the same thing.

That was why working with both Hansol and Seungkwan could get tedious when the missions had to be built as time went on and no one was above them to shut them up. Sure, Hansol was great at fighting, and was great at the technical side of things - the man could hack a door in record time if he found enough motivation to do it fast - but he was far too aloof to get information from people around him without it being awkward. In Seungkwan’s case, the main issue came from the fact that their personalities belonged to opposite sides of the spectrum. That meant, planning had them both tugging at each others heads like little children and Hansol just stood there, half dumbfounded, half amused.

It pissed Chan’s off.

Sure, when it came to his own Unit, he still was the baby, and he still had a lot to fight against - with Jun’s shy nature, Minghao’s teasing and Soonyoung’s unbearable amount of energy -, but nothing could have prepared him to deal with being the Maknae around other Maknae’s and having to deal with Seungkwan’s constant input on how shit had to be done. And of course, because Hansol wanted to tap that, clearly, he sided with him most of the time.

That’s why he felt pressured to work alone.

It’s not like he didn’t trust his teammates. Probably, he trusted them more than they trusted him, truth be told, but the amount of time it was taking them to get a lead, any lead even, was ridiculous. Seungkwan was very averse to risk by nature, and wanted to have everything logged into his computer before he even told them to make their next move. Sadly, spionage, specially when on site, had to be carried out swiftly if the mission was to be short and pretty. Long-ass assignments meant months of building a reputation, months of gaining trusts to be broken. It took believing in what you lied about, even in the shortest amount; it meant falling into familiarity with your surroundings and blending into the background with much unnoticeable intent.

Chan knew about long missions. He had been doing those for years, given the fact his own parents were former intelligence officers too. He had grown being raised to believe one thing, to think as one reality to be his own, being lied to by his own parents and told the truth by the people he was supposed to get information from. He was raised among enemies, and he wasn’t aware of it. Eight years he spent believing his life was normal, and then his parents made their last report: his neighbors, his own godfather, was in the business of trafficking human beings. Had been since even before Chan himself was born.

The whole scandal had shaped Chan. It took him a while to forgive his parents lies, but he was also made aware of the reasons behind them: children are not good at faking their relationships. If Chan’s interactions with those people remained pure, his own parents range of movement expanded significantly, and as such, could gather more evidence and end it all sooner.

That’s when he chose to become a soldier. Sure, his parents were adamantly against it, talking against the lies and coldness behind military life - the same they had experienced themselves for years - but Chan was going to make sure no mission of his lasted eight years. Or a year even, if he so could help it.

And therefore, he had to take matters into his own hands and do what he did best: sneak around.

Suiting up for such actions was a bit of a drag. He had to make sure he blended in with the shadow and light. He had to look like he belonged, but not enough to incite conversation if he was spotted. Taking a deep breath, he put on his smaller uniform - closer to his body, forgave a lot more movement than baggy clothing could in such missions - and he took a radio with him. Even if he had his ear-comm on, he made sure to always carry a walkie-talkie around, just to be sure. Modern technology had nothing on old one on a pinch anyways. He took a knife and a baton, but guns were far too loud for his purpose that night. Also, guns could be traced, army knives and batons? Not so much.

Leaving his quarters was easy. Most recruits were just tired-as-fuck young men that treasured any sleeping hours they could get in cramped barracks. The problem started on the way out, where cameras had to be avoided, and Seungkwan’s needed to remain non the wiser to his movements. That was a challenge, because the man was good, very good. But not as good as Jeonghan, and Chan escaped Jeonghan before.

Cameras usually had pre programmed timers between shots, so the amount of information stored could be optimized. It wasn’t more than a few seconds between each shot, but that was enough for Chan to jump from one blind spot to the other. The amount of days they had been in that blasted building had given him enough insight into the inner workings of the cameras and the many blind spots. Surely, in higher security facilities, such obsolete technology wasn’t the norm, but in a basic recruits training ground? Where most of the crimes were petty theft, some violence between overly sensitive males and the occasional problematic circumstance - like, the one they were investigating right there at the moment -? There was no need for such investment.

With light feet, he glided throughout the main floor and right into the back courtyard, where the second storage building was situated. One thing all of them could agree on, was that all transactions had to be done in any place between the second and third storage building and the gym: just two functioning cameras were situated there, and the other four remained broken since a few months ago. They were sure the dealers were aware of the situation, and exploited it for their transactions. It was easy to make deals when the only barrier between the base and the outside world was a precarious metal mesh wall that went from one side of the courtyard to the other, and all posted soldiers who roamed around were far too young and far too inexperienced to catch any clever and addicted recruit, let alone a seasoned spy like Chan.

He felt a soft tingle of interference in his ear-comm, so surely Seungkwan had the mike on. He had t keep his breathing even and his steps as soft as he could as he make a run from the side of the main building to the back of the second storage building. The armed guard was so out of it, probably tired as any other senior recruit, that he didn’t even flinch when Chan skipped just behind his back.

Trailing the side of the building, his gloved hand just touching the wall for any weird indentation, he halted his movements just to listen. To take in any sound that didn’t quite belong, any silence far too prolonged. Patterns were often overlooked by most people, but even all jobs involved a routine, and all routines involved patterns. Chan knew enough to be able to pick up things most people wasn’t able to, he was sensitive enough to changes in the atmosphere and his immediate surroundings, to catch anything that didn’t play a part on the whole act in the night.

What was weird was that no noises could be heard, not errant lights could be seen, so he kept moving, just about to turn right to go into the storage building when something caught his eye: a slight torn in the metal wire that composed the fence. Taking a deep breath, he kneeled right in front of it and noticed that the wire was carefully unwrapped on parts, making something akin to a dog door. The job was meticulous, and by daylight, it surely was secured well enough that no one would have been able to see the difference.

Carefully, he went through the small gap, and faced the small forest that surrounded the facility for a few meters in every way. They were close to a neighborhood anyways, but their little tree gathering provided enough shadows for illegal transactions. It made sense; at first they had theorized the transactions were made outside, it was the obvious route, but soldier were checked thoroughly every time they came back to base since the first incident, and such gap in the wire had not been noticed. Chan had been there during the day. This was a very polished job for just one dumb group of drug dealers.

Making his way between the trees, he tried to find any footprints, any indications that anything illegal had been done in the death of the night, but if proof had been visible, this job would not have been hard enough for special forces to take it, he mused. He smelled the earth, and caught the humid stench of melted snow on the ground, but something caught his eye on the ground. Even if the snow killed grass and other plants, this patch was unusually bare, far too bare for trees and people to trail around it. The earth was smooth to touch, too. That was odd.

As he stood up, however, something shifted on the air around him.

And then he dodged.

He could faintly hear Seungkwan’s concerned quack inside his ear, because his body collided against a tree in an attempt to dodge his attacker. In front of him, an older recruit, Jeon Eunjung, was heaving.

The man didn’t wait for Chan to gather his bearings, however, as he went straight to him once again. The tree shook under the sheer force of that man’s punch, and Chan took out his knife to try and reduce him. His eyes were bloodshot, and his mouth was salivating enough for droll to roll down his chin. He was on boxers and a shirt, despite the cold, and Chan mussed the drug must make his sensitivity quite low. That meant no direct attack was going to reduce the man, so he had to go for joints and crush his ability to move.

The man attacked like a raging bear, but was coherent enough to not make erratic movements. Chan, however, didn’t have a hard time dodging. What he lacked in height and body mass, he compensated with muscle built to rival any ground officer and unparalleled precision in his attack.

With a light tap to his ear, he activated the mic.

“I’m on attack right now! Send reinforcements!” He hissed before dodging a full body slam to the side. With one swift twirl, he was now behind Eunjung, and he could place his first stab, right on the hip. He man howled in pain, and Chan was afraid the whole sneaking aspect of the operation was going to go down the drain, but that also meant they had a live, conscious enough subject to question.

Sidestepping to dodge another blunt attack, Chan changed his knife from his right hand to his left, and skidded to the right side of the man, and stabbed the back of his knee. Sadly, the wound didn’t quite land in the joint, and much more on the muscle. Blood was painting the floor and the GIT was sure people were on his way.

Before he was able to hear Seungkwan reassuring him Hansol was on his way, he felt a sharp punch to the back of his head, and the last thing he saw was Jeon Eunjung charging against him once again.

 

[Saturday, the 10th of January, 21:58. S.V.T HQ. Seoul, South Korea]

 

Soonyoung was feeling down. He was feeling like he was stepping into a field he didn’t play well in. Surely, he was a damn good intelligence officer, and even a better fighter, but this whole thing escaped any realm of possibility for him. Jihoon’s proposition was making him doubt everything he knew, and even if he trusted the man’s judgement, this was far too close to home.

“There is no way Jonghyun-hyung’s death is involved in this. I won’t call Key-hyung. This is far too much, Jihoon-ah!” He protested, making sure no one could listen to them.

Jihoon, in a very Jihoon fashion however, frowned deeply and took a sip from his coffee.

“You think I like that possibility either? But think about it: Jonghyun-hyung’s death coincides right before you guys were sent northbound. It just right after the EXO’s faced that attack in which they got that tech stolen, and juuuuust before his team was to be disbanded. They know we are close, Soon-ah. They know we look after each other, and they know more that anything, that both the EXO’s and you had a close relationship with them,” he stated, his eyes hard and cold. But Soonyoung could be just as ruthless, and before he could counter Jihoon’s logic, the tech proceeded: “The Junior’s could do shit, because even if they are high up the hierarchy, they were actually powerless at that point, and isn’t it weird that it was ruled an accidental death? And all details considered reserved? Even I haven’t been able to crack that database. I just think you should call Key-hyung and have a conversation with him and gauge the possibility with him. Right now is the only senior we potentially can have on our side.”

Soonyoung seethed.

“That’s stepping a line, Jihoonnie. You are asking me to open an unhealed wound even deeper. What makes you believe this even??” He asked, agitated. Jihoon softened his gaze, and pursed his lips in a grimace.

“I always thought his death was a weird occurrence, but what gave me the idea was the fact that it all happened when he was alone ready to be sent in a diplomatic mission north. His death was blamed on a car accident, Soonyoung. A car accident when he was going to be the head escort on one of the most important diplomatic missions in the Peninsula. And then, this happens.”

Soonyoung felt like his skin prickled and tugged right underneath the surface, like, his muscles could not be be asked to do any work at the moment, and as if his lungs contracted right inside his ribcage, ready to collapse.

“It would not make sense for our superiors to kill Kim Jonghyun anyways. Why aren’t we discussing this with S.Coups-hyung anyways?”

“Seungcheol would take their side too, Soonyoung. Look,” he starts, but then closes his mouth, and Soonyoung almost could see his brain trying to piece everything together, “look, I’m not keen on this either, but it is a possibility. And… you also stated your doubts at the time. I don’t know why now it’s so hard to believe…”

Soonyoung tensed, and he felt his knuckles strain against his skin, before collapsing into Jihoon’s bed, head right on his hands.

“I can’t ask that much of Key-hyung, Jihoonnie. I can’t do that to him, not when healing has been so hard…”

“Would you rather not know the reason I died and believe it was a senseless accident?” Asked Jihoon in turn, and Soonyoung felt the bile in his stomach turn.

“That is a low blow, Jihoonnie.”

Jihoon winced, but kept pressing, changing his position from his desk chair right into the bed, besides Soonyoung.

“Key-sunbaenim is everything but fragile, he is made of steel. I’m sure he has his own theory about this, and I’m sure Taemin-sunbaenim does too. We are just trying to piece a picture together and make sense of this mess. Right now… right now is the only lead I can think of, without relying on the whole team. This is a Hoshi-Woozi thing…”

Soonyoung shook his head, and it took a while for him to speak. Jihoon granted him as much.

“When we were up there, Jihoon… Peace, or our own definition of peace more likely, wasn’t in their agenda. I can tell as much. They want peace, but not a peace we can accept. It would make sense, to kill the one escort the president trusted… but Jihoon… what if it was just an accident? You should know that senseless death is not uncommon.”

Jihoon took a sharp breath in, and Soonyoung wondered for a second if he had taken it too far himself, but Jihoon shook his head, before grasping his shoulder firmly.

“Right now, we are all scattered around. We can’t trust the team just yet with this. Not without proof. It might be just nothing, as you say… But Key-sunbaenim trusts you, Soonyounggie. And having them on our side would help with gathering any older officer into this. This is bigger than we thought, Soonie…”

With a big sigh, Soonyoung forced his muscles to relax, and put a hand over Jihoon’s. The shorter male gave him a squeeze back.

“What if this tears us apart? The mistrust. We were months up there, and now we are back in the game on our own missions again. What if this is all connected, and still we just fail?”

Jihoon sighed, and let his head fall into Soonyoung’s shoulder.

“I can’t assure you it’s going to work out. But… I’m scared too. And right now this is the only connection I can think of. All leads to that week, Soonyoung. One year ago, almost. It’s far too coincidental…”

Soonyoung nodded slightly, and looked at Jihoon.

“I trust you. I’ve trusted you for almost ten years now, and I’m not going to stop to do so, even if I think this is insane,” he stated, even if he felt the energy drain from his body, “ok. I’m going to call Key-hyung.”

“Thanks, Soonyoung…”

They stayed for a while in silence, comforting each other in the only way they knew. Soonyoung knew Jihoon wouldn’t be proposing such a thing if he wasn’t a 110% sure this might be a possibility. Jihoon was not an asshole, and was not insensitive. If that idea had solidified inside his head, it was because Jihoon knew more than he was letting on, and Soonyoung had to trust him with that too.

They didn’t know how much time it had passed, but then their comms went off.

“CODE: RED. CODE: RED. CODE: RED. EMERGENCY 00-3434. CODE: RED. CODE: RED. CODE: RED.”

Both looked at each other and blanched.

00-3434.

Kidnapping.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7/ Chamomile

 

[Thursday, the 11th of January, 00:32. Sangnam Ri, South Korea]

 

Mingyu could not sleep. The whole day had been slow and tedious, gathering information that still didn’t feel as if was useful, or even going to be useful. It wasn’t like him to rush things, being by far the most methodical member of the team, even above the stoic and particular Choi Seungcheol. And yet, he was restless, him body high strung and senses far too perceptive to the smallest of movements. He felt the whole room spin with the world, and the rotation of earth was perceivable, in a slow motion that was about to make him dizzy. The room he was in, he shared with other three officers, one of them being Minghao, so he knew he was not going to be able to just… go out for a walk. Surely, the spy was going to wake up and follow him around.

It wasn’t like he disliked Minghao, quite the opposite truly. He considered the spy a very good friend and confidant, but he also could be blunt and judgmental when it came to his teammates and less than rational actions. He often chastised their friends for insecurities he deemed as “stupid” or “incoherent”, and was, all in all, a constant reminder to be somewhat of a functional human being. That being said, Minghao could be gentle in his approach, but not when he was tired. Oh no, when Minghao was tired, the only being around who could get a soft reaction out of him was good old Soonyoung. So, in the eventuality that Mingyu chose to stand up and move around, Minghao, as tired as he surely would be in that scenario, would surely give him a piece of his mind.

He also wasn’t allowed to have a phone, not even a fake one, to distract himself. More so if he was posing as the health officer on the base, a new one at that. He had to keep a lower profile if he did want to keep his reputation and character intact for the duration of the mission. Life was hard, when you were a lower regular officer in base.

Thankfully, his comm opened at that point.

“Junior Lieutenant Kim Mingyu, attention. J. Lt. Kim Mingyu, are you awake?” Jeonghan’s soft voice asked, and Mingyu felt like his whole bod just got goosebumps. That kind of effect had Jeonghan on people.

Or maybe just on him

He tapped his ear comm two times in confirmation.

“Oh, cool. I…” he could hear Jeonghan hesitate, it was unusual for their second intelligence officer in command to be reluctant in sharing information or asking for something, “I need your help.”

Mingyu tapped his ear comm two times again.

“Great. Are you able to get out into the field? I don’t want you to be seen or heard.”

Mingyu sighed softly through his nose, and double tapped for a third time. He slowly got up from his bed, weariness settling on his bones. If Jeonghan needed assistance, in form of something that needed his direct input, it meant that it could be a delicate situation. Mingyu was not good with delicate, so this is desperation. He made sure to be as quiet as possible, but even with his best efforts, he felt Minghao’s attentive eyes on him when his feet hit the floor.

“What’s going on?” The man asked without moving from his spot in bed, in a soft, barely audible vibration. Mingyu didn’t even glance at him. He was sure Minghao was able to feel the tension in the air, even if nothing about his body language was betraying such emotion. They were just trained to be that good.

“Jeonghan needs me,” he simply stated, before putting on his boots, tying them up neatly.

Minghao made no sound, but he could feel the stare on the back of his head.

“Why?”

“Beats me.”

Mingyu knew that Minghao wanted to come with him. But he also knew Minghao if anything, was a dutiful person and his post was right there on that bed. Mingyu knew the answer to his own statement… ‘Please keep me posted’.

And he would, if the circumstances so helped them.

So he went out of the room, and started the long walk down the hallway, trying to appear as inconspicuous as he could. He knew Jun was on camera duty, so he could feel safe about the people cleaning his tracks. Tapping his intercom two times again, he felt the soft breath of Jeonghan’s fill his ears.

“Ok, you out?”

Double tap.

“Good. I’m going to interfere with the cameras for a bit. A+¡s far as I can see, there is no patrol on the western side, you can just go out through that side door.”

Double tapping again, Mingyu got out to the hallway and went down the long corridor filled with officer room’s doors. Mingyu vaguely remembered the motivation he once felt to get to that stage in his career, to get a smaller but more private room, and be able to lead and be both a commander and a support for his soldiers. That dream seemed too far gone at that point, too buried in the ashes of reality to be even plausible anymore. Even if he was to succeed and go up the ladder, he was aware of how far fetched the possibility was for someone like him.

Going through the doors was easy, and such lack of would have been alarming if it wasn’t benefitting him directly. Still, it was something to take into consideration for further examination. If the security was so underwhelming at night, it was no wonder they had failed to see the smuggling in the first place.

“I can sense your thoughts through here, Mingyu-ah. Calm down…” he heard Jeonghan mumble in his communicator, and he struggled not to snort in response.

“Easier said that done” he gritted through his teeth, and heard Jeonghan laugh softly in return.

Once he reached the outside, he crouched right in between two containers and breathed in deep.

“Ok, what’s going on?” He asked, not stern, but not quite relaxed either. Jeonghan softly sighed and he could picture him nodding softly, even if no one was around to see.

“I need your assistance with something, but the rest of the gang can’t know yet.”

Mingyu frowned. He was aware that Jeonghan tended to work outside the grid more often than what was safe and proper for a government agent, but also it always paid off in their favor, or at least as far as he was aware of. Even if he felt oddly flattered by Jeonghan’s interest of using him, he was very weirded out by the fact that Jeonghan actually wanted to use him.

“Why me? Jun might be more useful in that department.”

Jeonghan, in turn, groaned.

“You don’t even know what I wanna ask!” The tech exclaimed, “I promise it’s mutually beneficial and this will also help Hoshi and Woozi in the long run.”

That. That got Mingyu attention.

“Why them? What are you planning Jeonghan?”

“I need you to get close to Kim Jongwoon.”

 

[Thursday, the 11th of January, 02:40., S.V.T HQ. Seoul, South Korea]

 

“Who the fuck gave Dino the idea to go on his own??” Demanded Soonyoung as soon as went inside the briefing room with Jihoon and Jisoo on his toes. Seungcheol was resting his head on his hands, while both Vernon and Seungkwan looked very tense on the screen.

“No one,” replied Vernon, tersely, “that’s what we are trying to figure out. Also, goodnight to you too, Soonyoung-hyung”

Taking a seat at his designated spot, Soonyoung was boiling in worry, that much could Seungcheol notice without the man even stating the obvious. Jihoon and Jisoo had their tablets ready and were most likely linking to Seungkwan’s system at that very moment.

“Now that everybody is here, we need a quick run down of the last few hours. Seungkwan, please?” Requested Seungcheol, massaging his brow.

“At about 00:20 hours today, my comm went off to the sound os a struggle from Chan’s. I will replay the recording, before going on the rest of the rundown.”

Inhaling deeply, Seungcheol concentrated his stare on one fixated point in the room. At first, the comm sounded still, just the soft sound of rustling that, to be completely fair, could be anything from sheets to leaves, because in-ear comms weren’t really sophisticated in their sound quality, and Chan’s even breath was the loudest sound anyways. But then, a swift moment of silence and the interference turned deafening. Seungkwan’s undignified quack almost took Seungcheol out of his zone, but the deep growl that the comm managed to catch was worrying enough to keep any of Seungkwan’s random sounds unfunny.

“I’m on attack right now! Send reinforcements!”

In a way, it was almost funny how Chan had worded the sentence. But if the attack was as fast and lethal as it seemed by the sound of it, he couldn’t fault him for the incorrect use of his words. The transmission ended in a crash, and the line went dead. Looking up at his team, he could see Vernon and Seungkwan’s worried stares at the screen, Jihoon’s confused glare, Jisoo’s calm demeanor and Soonyoung’s icy and wandering gaze.

“So… yeah. I sent Vernon straight to the site,” a map came up on the side of the screen, it was the digital blue print of the facility, and the route Vernon had taken, “if you see here, that’s the last place Chan’s comm pinned. Vernon found the remains of his comm about 20 to 30 feet away from that spot.”

Vernon nodded.

“When I arrived on site, it was clear that someone significantly heavier and taller than Chan had ambushed him. Chan’s footprints are pretty meticulous and steady till about the middle of that small forest. But then, from the east, a set of heavier boots approach him. I can tell whoever attacked him, was hidden in between the trees, and pounced. What’s strange, is that a second pair of boots appear right out of nowhere, and then both leave into the paved road. The boots are standard recruit boots and the person who attacked Chan is probably between the 170, to 200 pounds. I’m sending you guys all the pictures I took…”

“I’m on it,” replied Jihoon, without batting an eyelash, “I’ll have his approximate measurements in a while.”

Seungkwan sighed, massaging his temples rather violently.

“He never gave us any indication that he wanted to go on his own. We don’t know what compelled him to go outside. As far as we know, the only lead we have is that the people that show symptoms of drug usage are members of a same group. That was what we have gathered so far. Still no real leads…”

Seungcheol nodded, frustrated, and looked over at Soonyoung. He knew that he had to proceed with caution when it came to the passionate GIT leader, specially when his nose flared as hard as it was flaring at that moment.

“Anything you want to ask?”

Soonyoung took a second to recollect himself, and shook his head.

“No. We have to use this chance.”

Seungcheol had to suppress an urge to gasp. Jihoon, on the other hand, let his tablet fall into the table.

“What do you mean, Soonyoung?” He asked, cautiously.

“If Dino went of his own, then he is on his own for now,” replied Soonyoung, “he knows more than anyone the dangers of acting without his team, and he did anyways. That means one of two things: he knew this was a dangerous endeavor and had calculated the risks and chose to take it anyways, or he went boldly because he underestimated them. Whichever the case, Dino gave us an opening, and we have to honor that chance and retrieve him while you guys finish the mission.”

Seungcheol nodded softly, pondering over his friends words.

“What about the information compromised in this? Chan might crack before we get to him.”

Soonyoung snorted in return.

“Please, hyung. This sloppy of a kidnapping? Probably they just got to him without a plan. We all are better than that. Chan certainly is… he won’t crack.”

Jisoo sighed and with a swift flick of his forefinger, put a map of the city on the screen.

“Seungcheol, I think you need to go to Gangwon,” he stated, while circling the training grounds on the map and then creating a line pointing to some of the closest highways, “I’m tracing all the road cameras that are active in the general vicinity of the facility. That being said, Chan’s disappearance is going to be noted by the recruits, and therefore, both Vernon and Seungkwan have their hands tied. They don’t have enough freedom of movement. Jihoon, Soonyoung, Jeonghan and I need to be here and take care of both the Sagnam Ri and the NK cases. Right now, even if you are our coordinator, you are the only one ready to get up and actually go into action.”

Soonyoung buffed, annoyed, but didn’t say anything to go against Jisoo’s reasoning. Jihoon grunted in response.

“Jisoo-hyung is right, as much as it pains me to say,” he conceded, before looking over at Seungkwan on the screen, “Seungkwan-ah, I need you to have ready a document with the schedules of every person in that facility and their timetables. If they took a shit, I wanna know.”

“On it, boss.” Chirped the hacker, lowering his gaze into his keyboard.

Vernon frowned.

“So, you are asking us to be on standby while Chan is compromised?”

“No,” replied Seungcheol, licking his lips, “I’m asking you to hike up the speed of your operation a bit. Get them restless…” he looked over at Soonyoung, who in return nodded, “make them desperate.”

Vernon nodded, a soft cloud going over his eyes before it steeled.

“Should I provoke them?”

“That’s your call to make, Vernonnie~,” tutted Soonyoung, and Seungcheol snorted.

“If it doesn’t get YOU compromised, then do your worst. We need to push a few buttons.” The leader stated, and Vernon just smiled back, more delighted than anyone should have been in that situation. He swore he was surrounded by psychopaths.

Seungkwan squealed, interrupting the conversation.

“I might have a lead!”

[Thursday, the 11th of January, 14:50. Sangnam Ri, South Korea]

 

Whoever claims that Death can be poetic, has never given It a helping hand.

Such truth is something that Jun believed with his whole being. Even if people searched for meaning in death, meaning in tragedy, such idealistic outlook wasn’t part of him. In more ways than he was comfortable sharing, he had been forced to see Death in the face, and every Death looked just like everyone else did: like a man with blown eyes and a slack jaw, breathing their lasts. Since coming to Korea, interaction with death had been less frequent in his life; yet still, once you’ve helped Death, you never quite part ways with it.

And it’s not like he despised the idea of killing someone for the greater good - his line of work stood on the premise that such actions could and were justified by his own sense of morality and gubernamental support - but there was a deep cynicism attached to it nonetheless. The current mission was an example of said relationship: even if their orders weren’t quite explicit in the lethal department, it wasn’t like him or Wonwoo would be able to argue against a well placed gunshot if the situation required it. Jun knew both of them were ready to do as much.

“You are spacing out,” bluntly stated Minghao, who was walking besides him, down the corridor straight into the Mess Hall. They were alone, and for anyone looking in the security footage, it was just an officer walking besides a janitor.

“Just thinking about the mission,” he replied tersely, coating his voice in velvet, “Mingyu went out last night, were you saying?”

Minghao nodded.

“Jeonghan needed his help. Private affair of some sort. Thats as far as I know.”

“We don’t have private affairs,” Jun pouted, “you know how this looks right?”

“I’m pretty sure even he knows how it looks. He was very tense when he came back.”

Jun hummed back, thinking deeply. Trust was inherent to their group, because that alone was the reason they had lasted for as long as they had; and yet, there was an underlying need for doubt that coated every action. Great units had disbanded for private affairs before. Whole operations had sunk under the weight of personal agendas.

“Jeonghan is smart,” Minghao continued, “and Mingyu is trustworthy. You are overthinking this.”

“I’m not… am I?” He asked, suddenly unsure.

“You have been tense since we came back.”

Jun nodded at that.

“Maybe you should request to accompany Mingyu, I need to go over some stuff with Wonwoo before tonight.”

Minghao sighed, but nodded, while straightening up his uniform. Korean colors still looked weird on him, Jun pondered, specially when they still had their Red Army uniforms back home, ready to be worn.

They bid their farewells, and both went their separate ways: Minghao to the Mess Hall to get lunch, and Jun to the side door that went into the kitchen. It was a very mundane kind of action, go in, take the big unused boxes that most kitchens that cater to such a large amount of people had, go out the back were he knew there was close to no vigilance and was often used to smoke on the job by some of the most desperate recruits, and take the janitor jacket off. Then, it was smooth sailing between putting a slightly different one on - one often used by repairmen who worked outside the main facility - and going to the side of the building to get a good look at the camera that was being interfered with. He also took a hat for good measure, a utility belt and went on his merry way.

“Jeon Wonwoo, Jeon Wonwoo, Jun speaking. I need you on the “infestation” we discussed yesterday.”

There was a small interference and then, Wonwoo’s deep voice broke through the silence. Jun shivered.

“On my way.”

Always such a bad talker, but it was some of the things Jun found endearing about the sharp man. We was such a softy inside, and quite easy to get along with despite his outer layer of unapproachability, and he was easy to tease, even with how good at banter he could be. It was just a type of innocence Jun wasn’t used to. Or maybe innocence had no part to play, but in any case, he was enjoying having fun with his little, awkward self.

And awkward he was, he pondered while watching the man walking towards him in that stiff step he always tried to mask with nonchalance. He has a water bottle on one hand and a cup of coffee on the other. Without saying a word, he nodded towards the camera in question. Looking up, Jun immediately noticed what Wonwoo was saying the day before. A barely noticeable red light peaked through the black coated plastic.

“Secondary camera connected to the main feed?” He murmured under his breath, loud enough for Wonwoo to hear.

“That, or one fairy light. I wouldn’t put pass these assholes to prank someone like this. You know what I heard in the Mess Hall today…?” He rambled, sounding disgusted.

“Let me guess: an inappropriate dick joke? Or was an inappropriate pussy joke?” Mussed Jun, walking straight to the maintenance shed a fed meters from where they stood. Wonwoo followed, unconcerned.

“Worst, fake moaning. Straight men should not be allowed to make jokes like that,” he complained, “I suffer in silence for any woman who will have to deal with their sorry asses.”

“You truly hate Barrack Humor.”

Wonwoo grunted and nodded.

“I was in Afghanistan remember? I was stationed with Americans. Never again. I refuse. I still cringe when Hoshi and DK joke in the showers.”

Jun laughed at that, and got inside the shed to take a folded stair set out. For him, physical bonding had never been an issue, and was very cuddly and prone to give one or two dick taps if the situation presented itself, but he knew that much was inspired by Soonyoung’s confidence and openness and the need to lighten up the mood. Wonwoo had not such luck, when all of his team building exercises were composed of chill music and laying on the couch for hours on end. They headed back.

“Is DK on Camera duty?”

Wonwoo nodded.

“That’s why I’m here. I’ll bring the bug to him for analysis. I also have another lead.”

Jun hummed impressed.

“You are fast.”

“Nothing like that,” Wonwoo replied, a tad pink at the praise, “the former health officer cracked. He didn’t name names, but we have a quadrant to check. I want to go with you.”

Jun perked up at that, and gave Wonwoo one long side look.

“You think we are going to have to act?”

“We can’t leave the facility unattended and The8 has his own surveillance mission. Mingyu is clearly the only one qualified to take care of an emergency here if a direct attack is enacted, and Dk is going to be our tech. If, and that’s a big if, we are forced to engage, we need to be quick, quiet and lethal. Mingyu might be quick and lethal, but quiet is not one of his charms. And we can’t take Minghao out of here, he is literally the only eyes we have in this god forsaken place.”

Jun sighed and nodded, forcing himself to smile.

“Well, what’s a friendship without a bit of vigilante justice.”

Wonwoo snorted.

“Jun, for the last time, I won’t let you do a superhero jump!”

 

[Thursday, 11th of January, ????, ?????. ?????]

 

The first thing Chan noticed was the acute taste of blood.

The next thing he noticed was a humid, almost pungent smell.

And at last, he noticed he was unable to move his arms or legs. Probably thick plastic Zip ties, as the circulation on his hands was quite compromised. Whoever restrained him had not enough experience, because tying hands too tightly was one of the first rookie mistakes one can do. Without opening his eyes or moving his head, which has thrown back instead of resting over his chest as one normally would have if someone had left him alone, he tried to make sense of his surroundings. He struggled to pick up any noise, maybe because his head hurt so much, but he could hear cars in the distance, probably through a small window somewhere in the immediate surroundings. He also felt a chill, so the place he was in clearly was not exposed to direct sunlight. That, added to the humidity and closed off smell, made him realize he was probably underground.

Huh. So probably a basement. So fucking cliché.

He tested his hands slowly, trying to get the circulation going even if the zip ties - he was aware of at least two of them - were not letting up. The movements were not really noticed by anyone in the room, if there was someone even in there to begin with, so he opened his eyes slightly, struggling to keep his head in the same position as it was for the time being. If cameras were around, it was in his best interests no to alert them just yet.

The ceiling he faced was pretty low for a regular basement, and even in the dark, he could see a lone lightbulb in just in front of him. He was not going to be able to make much else up without moving his head around, as the whole place was actually pretty big. But even with eyes open, no one was around, and he didn’t hear footsteps around. Moving his head slowly, to get his vertebrae in place without pulling anything - God it hurt, his neck was killing him just as much as his head and ribs - he scanned the room.

Given the poor illumination, the first thing he noticed was a small window to his left; it had been painted black, but the hint of light still peaked through the thinner sections where the paint job had been sloppy. Maybe he was farther away from a road than he thought, given that the noise he was hearing clearly came from that window. Still, not properly sealed. That meant that when he got his hands out of the restraints, he was going to be able to use that window as an escape route, if nothing pointed to immediate danger. The next thing he noticed was that the room was ample and had it fair amount of shit laying around. He could see something that looked like rolled up carpets, but bigger than the standard one, laying just underneath the window, and some pipes, probably metal as they faintly glinted in the dark. Some boxes, and cement sacks were littered around too, and a great amount of plastic chairs - just as the one he was sitting on, probably - stacked one over the other. On the right, resting on the wall, were big rectangles, and more metal pipes of some sort, and more carpet-like rolls thrown around without much care. He had to be in a storage unit of some sorts, and given the type of shit he was surrounded by, it was clearly for a restaurant, or any type of business that required a great deal of chairs.

He tested the chair, despite the pain. Low quality metal, a bit cushioned, but not in the best way, overused. It clearly would give up under a great deal of abuse, but it wasn’t as flimsy as plastic chairs, or as breakable as wood ones. Now, the big question was whether the person who held him hostage was aware of such fact, or was just lucky.

He couldn’t make out any kind of light besides the window, so if he was being filmed, the cameras were sophisticated enough to not have a red indicator when recording. Given his current situation, he didn’t want to speculate or be overly confident or overly paranoid. He just didn’t have enough information to fill the gaps just yet, but speculation gave birth to mistakes in critical situations. So, he took a deep breath and then tested his wrists again. He felt them strain against one of the chairs back support pipes.

So, most likely a bunch of amateurs.

He tried to slide his hands up and down the pipe, but he had no luck. Cleary would do more damage that was worth at the moment. Getting out was still not worth flayed skin and more damage to hands he clearly still needed to, at least, survive that one fiasco.

His ears picked up the noise of steps coming from somewhere in front of him, and hushed voices approached. Chan kept his muscles as relaxed as he could, and his head decently lowered. And, of course, the dramatic opening of the door told him everything he needed to know about his captors.

“So the rat’s awake, ain’t he?” A man rasped, his voice deep, maybe unnaturally so given how abused it sounded. Maybe a side effect of the drug?

He could see their shoes and legs. The sloppy fuckers didn’t have the decency to change their regulation slacks or boots, and as far as Chan could notice, there were three of them in front of him and two by the door. Far too many people for just one hostage, but that took overpowering them by hand to hand combat.

“Maybe Jeon fucked up his head,” a second one stated.

One of the men approached him, and tipped his head up with a gun. Regulation, Daewoo 9x19 Parabellum. He met eyes with the man and realized he didn’t know him. He wasn’t a recruit or an officer at the base, nor was he high up in the hierarchy to be easily recognizable. But he was thinner than Jeon Eunjung, and probably in less drugs, if in any. He was, by all standards, a regular officer.

“Do you have a name?” The man asked.

Chan didn’t move his head, but he skipped eye contact, trying to seem more nervous that he actually felt. He could freak himself out alright if the situation asked for it, but for the time being he had to asume these guys at least knew he was good at his job.

“My hands are tied too tight,” he answered, instead.

The man made no move to check on them, nor did he scowl at him.

“Bold of you to request something when you are at a disadvantage.”

So, also stupid. Clearly the only experience he had on interrogations was from Hallmark movies. How was he taken by someone who thought Hallmark movies were a great source of interrogation training? He was getting rusty, that was for sure.

“I’m not requesting anything. I just made a-“

The jolt he received on his leg gave his whole body a shock and he did nothing to stop the pained cry that left his mouth. One of the other men had a sort of electric rod. Not something Chan had seen before. He gritted his teeth and looked up at the man in front of him, who looked awfully smug for someone who was going to be dead meat as soon as he got out of there.

“He ain’t gonna talk boss,” said a man with a clear Busan drawl, and Chan could not help but to remember Jihoon and his own satoori.

“He will,” he stated, moving to put his gun inside his holster, “Minhyuk, loosen up his arms. We don’t need this poor fucker dying of gangrene just yet.”

A man in his twenties, whose hands trembled slightly, came into Chan’s side and got behind him. He tensed his arms slightly, and didn’t suppress the moan of relief that came up after the tightest zip tie was cut free. The second one was left intact, as the man put his hands together and zipped him back in, repeating the motion with the second one. From what Chan could see, the man was lean, but he smelled acutely of sweat, and had a bad case of acne scars on his cheeks. Did the drug also fuck with their pulse?

“So, tell me kid, who told you to shadow us?” Asked a second man, who hid in the shadows. He sounded older, and Chan tried hard not to scowl at him, or at least at his general direction.

“Human Resources, who else? You clearly have a whole health hazard going on here.”

The man in front of his scoffed.

“Spare us the lies, if you want to keep yourself from suffering.”

“I’m not lying, man. I was assigned by HR to look into this and make a report. Was expecting a few recruits dealing with drugs and that. Wanted to bust the transaction,” he lied, trying to sound nonchalant, “wasn’t planing on getting kidnapped for this shit.”

“Hyung, we can’t hold him for long,” Minhyuk, still with trembling hands, stated nervously.

“Shut up, and get out of here,” the officer in front of him ordered and Minhyuk made his way out, fast, “you are lying, kid. We know your name isn’t Lee Sunghoon as your files state. But we can’t find you anywhere else. You had an ear comm, far too sophisticated for a lowly HR officer.”

“Dude, what do you know about resources? The government take this drug shit more seriously than other crap. Not my fault that you got right into the crime korean’s hate the most!” Protested Chan, trying to sound agitated.

The man in front of him sighed, and looked to the guy with the electric rod.

“Bring the towel and warm water.”

Chan shivered, and cursed inside his head.