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Did You Want This Back?

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The club’s bass pounded hard enough to shake the glasses perched precariously close to the edge of the tables by intoxicated hands that cared much more for dancing than cup-safety.

Seonghwa moved through the crowds with ease, smirking at each man or woman who trailed their eyes up and down him- curious and willing.

Well, he should hope so, given how hard he had worked to put together his outfit of leather pants that hugged his hips and ass perfectly, a billowing button up that was slightly sheer and gave only a hint of what was underneath, and dark eyes he had carefully lined  peeking out from under artfully, sex-mussed hair.

One woman approached, the scent of alcohol overpowering whatever fruity perfume she had doused herself in. Her hair was everywhere, but thrown over her shoulder in a provocative gesture as she ran a suggestive hand over Seonghwa’s shoulder, making him pause his trek.

“You came here alone, sweetheart?” she slurred, eyes glossy and dark. Hot fingers gripped at the back of his neck. “Interested in leaving with someone?” she whispered, leaning up and pressing her gloss-sticky lips to his ear.

Seonghwa simply smiled, taking her hand from around his neck and using it to spin her until her back was pressed to his chest and he could whisper in her ear. “Sorry,” he said, just loud enough for her to hear over the booming music that pounded against them. “I just got here. I’m still looking for a little more fun.”

She tilted her head back, lips tracing his neck. “I could show you fun,” she promised.

Seonghwa let go, guiding her away, lips quirked as she made a disappointed groan, giving him a glare that was accented with her cherry-red lips pushing out in a pout that he supposed was supposed to be persuasive.

Seonghwa nodded to her, continuing towards the bar, and dodging other hands that grabbed at him possessively. He was only here for one person.

The music of the club was almost background noise, easily ignored as he wink at one man whose eyes lingered just a little too long on his ass as he passed. He stopped at one end of the bar, ordering something fruity, and taking it with a charming nod to the bartender as he made his way down the line of barstools. It was that easy to find one woman sitting along a row of drunk people slumped over the bar or making out with each other. She sat alone, chin resting on her hand, a deep blue dress clinging to her like a second skin.

Her hair was pulled away from her face, but allowed to fall freely down her back, and Seonghwa tugged on it gently as he slid up beside her. She glanced around, frowning, and found him smiling at her. “Evening,” He greeted, sliding the drink to her. She glanced at it, considering it and then him for a moment, weighing attraction, drunkenness, and a desire to do what everyone came to a bar to do.

“Hey, stranger,” she greeted, leaning towards him. Her eyes were unfocused with intoxication, but her words did not slur. “You don’t look like any of the other guys who come through here…” She tilted the cup, sipping it quietly.

He chuckled, leaning against the bar. “And what do most guys who come through here look like?”

“Boring and disgusting,” she sighed, as if she had been sleighted in the worst way. She lifted a curious eyebrow. “I’ll make this quicker for both of us: how into getting… experimental are you?” she questioned, her eyes interested as they trailed over the single popped button at his throat.

Seonghwa laughed, and he saw her respond well to the sound, lips curling up as if she had won a lottery. He leaned in, grin wicked as his nose brushed hers. “Let me put it this way to you,” he murmured in a low voice that made her visibly shiver, “I could have fun in ways you haven’t even imagined yet.”

She giggled, looking excited as she slid arms around his neck, pulling him closer and searching his face hungrily. “I’d love for you to show me.”

Seonghwa laid a hand on her waist, leaning forward until he could kiss her exposed shoulder. “I like a woman who knows what she wants,” he chuckled. “You seem like a very interesting woman.”

“I can be whatever type of woman you want,” she laughed, warm lips pressing to his cheek.

“I like a smart woman,” he whispered.

She leaned her head away, exposing her neck. “Should we play teacher?” she laughed. “You wanna ask me questions? Each one I get right, I’ll get a reward, ‘kay?”

“And each wrong-” He nibbled at the warm skin of her neck, making her giggle- “Maybe you’ll be punished.”

“Oh, I am so down for that,” she hissed, sharp nails digging into his shoulders through his thin shirt.

Seonghwa grinned. Bingo. “I’ll start,” he said, hand trailing behind her to splay across her back. “First question: What is 3 x 5?”

She laughed excitedly. “I thought they would be hard. Fifteen… Is that right, sir?”

Seonghwa nodded. “What sort of reward should I give?”

The woman answered by grabbing the collar of his shirt, pulling him into a wet kiss that had no coordination as she leaned against him. Seonghwa allowed her to do as she pleased, counting down until she pulled away. “Next question?” she panted against his lips. “Make it harder this time.” She punctuated the statement by shift her knee to press gently against his crotch.

Seonghwa chuckled, satisfied with himself. “Second question: Do you know what hostage negotiation is?”

The woman surprised him as she suddenly pulled away, face twisted in amused confusion as she held onto his shoulders, laughing darkly. “Am I being pranked?”she asked.

Seonghwa’s composure did not break. “Why would you say that?” he questioned, still running a hand along her back.

She tilted her head. “Then is this like a new kink out on the market or something?” She leaned back, taking a hand off of him to pick up her drink and take a long sip.

“What do you mean?” he inquired carefully.

She finished, shaking the bitter taste of alcohol from her tongue. “You’re the second guy to ask me about hostages and stuff,” she said, frowning. “I mean, the other guy was great- it didn’t kill the mood at all- but it’s weird, don’t you think?”

Seonghwa straightened, anger bubbling gently in his veins. “Who was the other guy?” he asked cordially, voice even. “Is he still here?”

The woman shrugged, looking passed him. “I don’t know, some guy I’ve seen around a couple times before…” She squinted to see through the dim lighting. “Um… yeah, he’s still here, he’s right there.” She pointed over Seonghwa’s shoulder. “At those tables over there.”

Seonghwa turned quickly, mentally begging for her to be mistaken-

At the tables, half-hidden in the shadows but clearly visible for someone who was looking for him, Seonghwa saw a man already watching him, grinning over the rim of his cup filled with dark liquid.

Seonghwa’s expression hardened as he pulled away from the woman. He would get nothing useful out of her. “Hey!” she cried over the bass. “Where are you going? We weren’t-”

Her voice was lost to the music as Seonghwa pushed his way the short distance to the tables, not even sparing the man a glance as he grabbed him by the arm, dragging his slim body up out of the booth and dragging him through the bar, practically shoving people aside, grip tight enough to bruise the man’s arm.

“Wow, Seonghwa, you know how much I like it rough.”

“For the love of God, if you say a word, I will end you,” he snapped, turning back to glare as he shoved the door to outside open and yanked him along. Frustration and anger coursed through his blood as he practically threw the lighter man towards the wall of the club. He barely stumbled, catching himself and turning towards him extravagantly

Hongjoong smirked dangerously with all the finesse of a cat whose mouth was covered in cream. He cocked a hip, one hand with daintily painted nails coming to rest on it as he looked Seonghwa up and down. “Are you actually going to push me against this wall or will you leave me in suspense?”

Seonghwa’s hand twitched, wishing for his gun to still be at his hip. Hongjoong laughed at the movement, loud and enthralled. “You can’t shoot me, Seonghwa,” he reminded him. “What sort of chaos would that cause among your people?”

“I can still strangle you,” Seonghwa reminded him darkly.

“Ah, but you know that I’m into that-”

Seonghwa’s hand gripped Hongjoong’s collar and jerked him forward, eyes deadly as his nails dug crescents into his hand. Hongjoong smiled at him, unbothered. “Are you finally going to take me against a wall? I’m down for hate sex.”

It never stopped with Hongjoong. He always had to have the last laugh, always had to slip in the final word-

“I’m not the bad guy, remember, Seonghwa?” Hongjoong reminded him, reaching up to pat his cheek tauntingly. Seonghwa jerked away, glaring daggers. “We’re on the same side.”

“Then you know my agency gave me clearance for that woman a week ago!” Seonghwa snapped, voice carefully low but loud enough to show his anger. The dark alleyway they had stumbled into echoed slightly, but no one was around to hear it.

Hongjoong shrugged, lifting a delicate hand and trailing his fingers along Seonghwa’s wrist  gently. “I got clearance too. I just got to her first.”

“I’ve been clear for days, tracking her. If you got clearance, you could have gotten to her days ago,” Seonghwa hissed. “You waited for me- you waited just to fuck me over.”

“Oh, Seonghwa, we both know how much I would love to fuck you ov-”

Seonghwa shoved him away, scoffing with disgust as Hongjoong caught himself and shook his head, straightening a shirt that made Seonghwa’s seem prudish in comparison. “Rude,” He sighed, flicking nonexistent dirt off of his pants that must have been spray painted on. He lifted a carefully sculpted eyebrow among his thin, impish face when Seonghwa could only glare at him and just want to destroy everything that came along with Kim Hongjoong.

Hongjoong was Seonghwa’s worst nightmare and most persistent irritant.

Hongjoong was elegant. And Seonghwa was hesitant to apply the word to anyone but old Joseon leaders, but he was. He walked and held himself as if the entire world was beneath him and he was here to own it. Every flick of his wrist, every cock of his eyebrows, they were purposeful and carefully placed and regal.

“Staring a little too long, Seonghwa,” Hongjoong reminded him, turning slightly and giving a view of the curve of his ass and the leather stretching across it. “Interested in something?”

Seonghwa wanted to hit him. Clothes clung and cinched at a tiny waist with hips that were sinful the moment a beat was heard. Or without it.

One of the most common places to meet Hongjoong was at sex-joints like these. Mingled among the bodies that threw themselves over each other, pressed between a body and a wall, smoky eyes and curled lips drawing out secret after secret like he had nothing to lose. That was Hongjoong’s specialty. Maybe it was just an added bonus that he fit the scene so well.

Flamboyant movements and fun-loving eyes with eyebrows that danced with innuendo as he grinded on whatever body he chose. A long, pale neck that was exposed as he threw his head back in laughter, in dance. Sheer clothing and barely-teased skin exposed just enough to distract and allure whatever party he was interested in gaining information from.

Seonghwa could fit in with any crowd- it just happened that club scenes were easy to emulate, but they always made him unsettled, compared to acting like he belonged within certain office buildings or apartment buildings to sneak his way around. Hongjoong, though...

His entire body screamed sex and club music and climbing men and women alike as if he owned them. High laughter and a body that seemed to be made to fit between others.

It made Seonghwa sick. It made him angry. Because Hongjoong could never leave that side of him behind. It followed after him, stuck to his skin so close until Seonghwa couldn’t be sure he ever lost it.

“The next time I see you meddling with my targets, I am shooting you,” Seonghwa warned as Hongjoong finally stopped presenting himself, frowning. “I don’t care what side you claim to be on, if you’re messing up my missions, you’re obstructing my goal, which means you are on the opposing side.”

Hongjoong simply rolled his eyes. “You really need to get laid,” he sighed. “Seriously, all that talk you put on at the club, but there is something wedged so firmly up your ass. Take the stick out and replace it with something more pleasant alright?”

“Is there anything that can ever come out of your mouth that isn’t vulgar innuendos?” Seonghwa hissed.

“Well, I have a lot more things coming in my mouth, rather than out-”

Seonghwa turned on his heel and marched away, sleek boots clicking on the sidewalk as he walked out of the alley. Tonight was a complete waste of time, just because Hongjoong had to try and fuck with him-

“Absolute dick,” Seonghwa cursed, coming out onto the mostly empty street with only a few tipsy stragglers trying to get home.

Seonghwa had no issues with whatever lifestyle Hongjoong chose to live. If he wanted a different stranger in his bed every night, fine. If he didn’t care what was between their legs, fine. If he wanted to utilize his sex drive to get information out of whatever target he was given, fine .

But Seonghwa could not stand his flipancy. The Hongjoong that treated all this like a game. As if he could get underneath Seonghwa’s feet and just laugh because it was fun to do so.

As if they didn’t play with and hold people’s lives on a daily basis.

Seonghwa took his job seriously. If the mission required him to have sex with some stranger to gain whatever they needed, he would do it. And Hongjoong sitting there, acting as if Seonghwa’s dedication to saving lives was something tedious and boring-

He wanted to rip his hair out. And then Hongjoong’s- his stupid, long, mullet  hair that was always unkempt from people’s (and his own) hands dragging through it.

Seonghwa found his car at the end of the street, parked and waiting, and opened the door, slamming it shut as he started the ignition. He should go to the agency and report, but he was so irritated, he just started driving towards home.

He was currently holding himself back from grabbing the gun in his glove compartment and following through on his threat to Hongjoong, ethics be damned.

After a few minutes of silence and the irritation fading none, he jabbed his finger at the touch screen on the dash, scrolling through his contacts and hitting Yeosang’s name a little too hard. The phone rang once. Twice. Th-

“Oh no,” was what he was greeted with, voice muffled by the car speakers. “It’s only ten o’clock. What happened? Why are you already calling?”

Seonghwa’s hands flexed on his steering wheel as he glared out the windshield. “I need you to make a report for me and turn it in to Eden.”

A short silence. “You’re done already? Why aren’t you coming in to do it?”

Seonghwa sighed sharply, hitting his head back against the headrest. “I’m currently a little too pissed to make an accurate report. I’ll either just write one big ‘fuck ’ across the page, or go off about it in person to Eden’s face, and I don’t feel like being reprimanded for either.”

He could practically see Yeosang frowning. “You’re pissed? Did it not go well? Did you-” He cut himself off, and there was a low sigh. “Please tell me Hongjoong wasn’t th-”

“Yes, Hongjoong was there!” Seonghwa snapped, taking one hand from the wheel to run through his hair, ruining the hair spray perfection. “He fucking waited until I was supposed to go in, and got the woman to talk before I ever got there! And then has the audacity to flirt with me as I’m trying to fucking yell at him!”

“Hongjoong always has the audacity,” Yeosang muttered before speaking louder. “He didn’t share whatever he found out?”

“He never does,” Seonghwa scoff, leaning back in his seat, coming to a halt at a red light and hitting his head against the wheel. “Yeosang, I swear to God, I’m going to rip off his dick so he can never fuck another thing ever again. Then he’ll be useless and finally go away.”

There was a silence that Yeosang didn’t know how to fill, and Seonghwa just breathed out angry breaths until he moved forward again, only ten minutes from his apartment. “So… what am I supposed to write in the report? ‘Send hit after Kim Hongjoong as per request?’”

Seonghwa wished. God, did he wish he could get the okay to take out that fucker. But he sighed. “No. Open it with saying the mission was a failure. Say what I told you-”

“In less colorful terms,” Yeosang agreed.

“-And just… just turn it in and tell Eden I’m sorry for fucking it up. I can try another suspect who supposedly spoke with the woman I was supposed to be getting info from. Try and arrange for Wooyoung to track him down.”

“Yessir, Boss,” Yeosang said sarcastically. “You’re heading home?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay. Be careful. It’s always a little riskier when missions don’t go so well…”

Hongjoong had never once attempted to harm Seonghwa. Well, never underhandedly harm him. The two of them, despite their head butting, were both on the proper side of the law. That meant they left their homes and families and friends out of it.

(That did not stop them from pulling guns and firing bullets when one of them stepped a little too far outside their lines.)

(That also did not stop reminders that both of them knew where the other lived, though they would never and had never taken advantage of that knowledge. Hongjoong played dirty but not with his personal life, for some reason.)

“I will,” Seonghwa assured him, blinking hard. “Goodb- Oh, Yeosang,” he broke back in.

“What’s up?”

“Do me another favor: talk to Wooyoung about tracking Hongjoong’s next move.”

“Hyung, you can’t start another game of one upping each other. Eden will have a field day.”

Seonghwa rolled his eyes. “I’m not one upping him,” he stated firmly. “I’m ensuring that he understands what he did tonight. This was important information that we needed, Yeosang. And he fucked it up just because he could.”

Silence. A quiet sigh. “I’ll talk to him,” he promised. “But he’s working with Yunho on other stuff, he might not be available to satisfy your little revenge crush.”

“It is not a cru-”

“I’ll see you tomorrow, Hyung, sorry it went badly, bye-” He cut himself off with hanging up the phone, and Seonghwa swore he would add Yeosang’s name to his list, just below Hongjoong’s.

The list only consisted of Hongjoong’s name, but it meant that much more that Yeosang was the second name to be added. He drove in silence, trying to quell the anger in his gut but it was so damn hard when Hongjoong was involved.

He pulled up to his apartment building, parking in his usual spot (so glad that the asshol in 3B hadn’t decided to steal it for the third day in a row) and turned off the car. He took a moment, resting his head against the steering wheel.

Hongjoong had swept the rug out from under him. Which meant he knew when Seonghwa planned on being at that club. Which meant someone was feeding him information.

Most likely Eden.

Eden was a good man, a better agent, and the best at being a bridge between two agencies that tended to step on each other’s toes. Without him, they would have torn each other apart a long time ago. But as amazing at his job that he was, he was interested in keeping close, good relations with the opposing agency, and that meant having little meetings and updates on what their agents were up to.

Seonghwa pushed his car door open, but only rested his legs outside it, pulling out his phone and clicking on an app hidden in the back of one of his folders.

The camera feed from his apartment pulled up, showing a view of outside his door, barren and silent at such an hour. He clicked the screen.

Living room. Bedroom. Kitchen. Bathrooms. Closet. All vacant.

Slipping his phone into his pocket, Seonghwa hauled himself out of the car, the scent of alcohol still clinging to his clothes even after so short a time. His hair felt gross with the spray. He had a headache threatening. He walked up to the second floor (high enough to protect from ground threats, low enough to escape from above threats) and pushed his key in tiredly. He shoved the door open with his shoulder, stepping into the silent, pristine apartment.

He never went home except to sleep, really, save for the weekends when he had more time to himself, but any mess he made was promptly cleaned up. He stood in the doorway for a moment, reconfirming that he heard nothing moving around.

He tossed his keys onto the kitchen counter, already stripping out of his shirt, flicking on lights and glancing around out of instinct than any real concern for there being someone present.He went to his medicine cabinet and grabbed some pain killers, popping two into his mouth to ward off the headache.  

He moved to his room, tossing the shirt into his laundry basket and sending his pants following. He gathered pajamas, stepping into the bathroom and turning the water on hot. He slid in without testing the water, immediately scrubbing the annoying hairspray from his head.

Hongjoong got there first. Which meant he now knew who had organized that Detective Kim be the hostage negotiator that got ten people killed too easily. And he would never give that information up. Which meant Seonghwa was screwed unless the woman actually did talk to another man and spilled what she knew as a police secretary.

He leaned his head against the tile wall. The anger had faded to annoyance, but now it was just exhaustion. He had already spent the entire day in meetings and assuring that nothing would go wrong. Now, he was sitting here, a failure under the pressure of a ticking time bomb.

What if Detective Kim was assigned to another life or death situation? How many more would die?

Seonghwa turned the spray  off quickly, stepping off and drying himself perhaps a bit too roughly.

Hongjoong treated it all as a game. Did he truly not care that ten people were dead? Was he truly only focused on being a thorn in Seonghwa’s side just to giggle about it?

He dressed, turning off the lights and sliding into his bed, staring at the ceiling. He stuck a hand under his pillow, feeling the cold metal resting beneath it and curled his fingers around the gun handle, simply ensuring that it was still there, and rolled over.

Of course, he didn’t sleep. But he closed his eyes, which was better than having them open and staring at paperwork. He glanced over and watched the clock tick later and later and then earlier and earlier, broken by fitful sleep that never lasted longer than an hour.

His alarm rang at 6 o’clock sharp, and Seonghwa silenced it, rolling out of bed with a groan and already dreading the mess he was going to have to clean up today.

 

~~~~~

 

“Morning, hyung,” Yeosang greeted without looking up from his screen. “Reports from yesterday came in, there’s a file of potential locations of that suspect you wanted on your desk, and Yunho made coffee.” He accented it with a toast with his own mug of milk flavored with a splash of coffee.

Seonghwa took the cup that was lifted into the air and took a swig (ignoring the disgustingly sweet flavor and just chasing the hope to obtain a quick shot of caffeine).

“Hyung!” Yeosang gasped, snatching it back quickly and glaring, clutching it protectively against his chest. “Get your own! I had to fight Wooyoung for the last of the cream!”

A couple of people at their cubicles glanced over at his loud voice, but ignored him quickly, minding their own business and filling the office with rapid typing. Seonghwa managed a smile despite his exhaustion.

“Thanks for the update,” he said, heading towards the little kitchenette on their floor.

“One more thing!” Yeosang called, making Seonghwa turn and cock an eyebrow. He took a quick sip of cream-coffee. “Eden wants to talk to you.”

Seonghwa nodded calmly, but his stomach flipped. “Why?” he questioned carefully.

Yeosang shrugged, looking uncaring as he turned back to his screen. “He just said to make sure you headed straight there when you got here.”

Seonghwa sighed, already imagining a hundred different ways he would have his ass verbally handed to himself for his fuck up yesterday. “Well, it was nice knowing you, Yeosang,” he sighed. “I doubt I will see you again until you join me on the other side.”

Yeosang hummed, lifting his cup once more, as if in farewell. He still did not look away from his screen, though. Seonghwa put a little star next to  Yeosang’s name on his list. “If you see Wooyoung, tell him he owes me more cream, though,” Yeosang added.

“Yeosang, I have a gun on me.”

“And I have coffee.” Another valiant lift of his cup. “But no more cream.”

Seonghwa sighed, turning away without a word.

“Thank you, hyung!”

He swung by the kitchenette anyway, pouring a quick cup of black coffee into a little styrofoam cup and heading for the elevator. He was too well trained to be truly nervous, and he knew that no actual punishment would come from the lapse.

But damned if it didn’t feel like a shit storm when Eden looked at you so disappointed. He felt like a kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar.

The elevator dinged, and he stepped out, automatically brushing his hand over the gun at his hip (instinct when entering an open area). He strode down the hall, nodding to vaguely recognizable coworkers he didn’t know the names of.

Aside from Yunho, Wooyoung, Yeosang, and Eden, he never had much use to interact with anyone at the agency- save to grab a file from them or request something be sent to him for a mission. Oh, no, there was Soobin on the first floor, he remembered. Soobin made copies for him when he needed it. (He only knew his name because the younger man stared at him angrily before demanding to know if Seonghwa knew his name. When Seonghwa said he didn’t, he made him learn it. He still was not sure why it was important.)

At the end of the hall, Eden’s office stood, the door half-ajar, and Seonghwa knocked lightly as he pushed it open, sticking his head in.

Eden was young, for his position. Seonghwa didn’t know his exact age, but compared to the greying, hunched men he worked with, Seonghwa didn’t think he was much older than himself.

Eden glanced up from his computer, not smiling, not frowning, a completely neutral expression that could have been amused or stoic. His eyes (an odd light of either tired or bored, as usual) trailing over the coffee in Seonghwa’s hand, and he began to lean more towards amusement.

“I thought I asked you to come straight here?”

Seonghwa took a sip, shrugging. “I likely wouldn’t have made it here if I hadn’t put some amount of caffeine in my system.”

Eden simply rolled his eyes gently, almost imperceptibly. “Well, I’m glad you’re awake, because we have a couple of things to discuss.”

He pushed a file across his desk towards Seonghwa who stepped forward. “I swear,” he said quickly, “I had no reason to believe Hongjoong would attempt to interfere like that.”

Eden lifted an eyebrow, ever-calm and collected. “Yes, Yeosang told  me about your… unfortunate encounter.”

Seonghwa couldn’t help the frown that pinched his forehead. “When will you give me sanction to shoot him?” He wasn’t entirely serious.

“When you can prove him to be involved with terror,” Eden said, pushing the folder further. “Now, sit and let’s talk.”

Seonghwa sighed, sitting heavily in the chair and pulling the manila file closer. He braced himself for a long list of consequences that had spawned or perhaps paperwork to fill out in regard to how conspicuously he dragged Hongjoong out of the club. That was sure to draw some attention.

But when he flipped open the file, he only saw a profile page staring back at him.

Name: Lee Donghyun

Weight: 72.5 kg

Height: 170.6 cm

Age: 68

Blood Type: B Pos

Occupation: Korean-British Ambassador

Seonghwa frowned, already having memorized the slightly wrinkled face, greying hair, sharp crease from the curve of his nose to the corner of his mouth, small eyes. He knew Lee Donghyun. Anyone interested in politics did.

He was rumored to be accepting large sums of money from the British. For what, they weren’t sure, since he had yet to make a drastic move that could potentially benefit the British more than their own country, but it put him smack on their radar to keep an eye on. Lately, he had been quiet, as far as Seonghwa knew. The only appearance he made in the news of to discourage this new wave of isolation-craze that had seized the nation since the most recent news of their Western allies attacking increasingly defenseless countries and states.

People were disgusted with the world, and a little too quick to excuse their own actions, demanding that South Korean simply withdraw and keep to itself, copying their neighbors to the north.

Donghyun, as an ambassador with the British, was of course in the front of demands to keep in contact with their outside neighbors. Strength in unity and unity across distances, he fought.

There was a bill attempting to be passed, to isolate them, first, from most of the Americas, and then Europe. The reaction was a free for all, and no one could tell which side had the potential majority vote. But Seonghwa knew that if they cut themselves off from the world, they were screwing themselves over. North Korea didn’t care if South Korea was its practical brother. Some of the only things  keeping their attacks at bay were threats from countries larger and more violent than their own. Losing that protection would quarantine them with a disease that was already among them, and they had just closed and locked their one door out.

Donghyun and a select few politicians understood this and were fighting the bill.

It won him no favor, and no one was quick to trust a man rumored to being bribed by the British. His social standing among ordinary citizens plummeted rapidly. However, despite his questionable money gains, he was one of the few people opposing the ridiculous notion to recede from the world. Which meant they needed him to keep doing what he was doing.  

Seonghwa shifted the page, looking at blueprints tucked behind it. Commercial Center Outline.

“Why… does this seem like the type of information we’re given for infiltration and removal?” he asked slowly, a heavy stone settling in his stomach.

If the agency told him to kill Donghyun… Well, Seonghwa wasn’t a robot only programmed to obey, but ultimately, he could understand there must be reason. But Donghyun was on their side, technically, regardless of how he stood with the law. None of them wanted to cut themselves off from the rest of the world. The agency was adamant about how much this action would open them up to anger and violence from around the world. Would killing Donghyun really be necessary?

But Eden shook his head quickly. “It is not infiltration and removal,” he assured him. “It’s protection.”

“Protection,” Seonghwa repeated, glancing up. “As in security detail?”

It was far from Seonghwa’s expertise, but he wasn’t lacking in the skill either. Eden nodded. “You and a small team of four others will be at his next speech. You will be on stage with him. The others will be along the bottom. If you’ll look, there’s a page on positions.”

Seonghwa flipped to it, scanning the little dots scattered across the diagram of a stage in a parking lot. “Isn’t this a little… overt for our usual dealings?”

They worked in the shadows. Small influencers with big results.

He shrugged. “My people tell me they want my best agents working to in the front lines for this event. They’re using regular law enforcement as well, but they won’t be anywhere near the man.” Eden leveled him with a serious look. “I want you to think about how serious that makes this. How important it is that this man stay alive .”

It was unusual. It was strange. If Seonghwa did work security detail, it was from the shadows, not standing next to the man on a stage. But, regardless, he went where they told him to.  “What are these extra X’s?” he questioned, pointing to another five along with their own at the stage.

“Other special security,” Eden said, leaning back. “Don’t worry about them, but you’ll be working together directly with Lee. The other fluff filler men will be out by the crowds and perimeter.”

Seonghwa simply nodded, flipping to the last page. Paragraphs covered it with tiny font to fit it all on one page. He squinted at it. “What’s this?”

“Lee’s speech. Read through it, understand what sort of reaction it might encite, and he prepared to counter that if need be.”

This truly was not Seonghwa’s area of control. He was intelligence. He gathered intel (occasionally needing to silence someone here or there for their own sake) but he stuck to the non-explicit and the persuasive. He could operate in the middle of a firefight, but he didn’t want to.

But he nodded, turning to the front page again and staring at Donghyun. “When is the speech?”

“Tomorrow.” Seonghwa glared at Eden who lifted his hands placatingly. “You weren’t supposed to even be a part of this. I planned on having you deal with the aftermath of last night. But I got a call that said to put my most reliable negotiator and guard on the team, and that’s you, Seonghwa.”

Things like that had stopped bringing pride to him long ago. He simply sighed, rubbing at tired eyes and taking another long drink of coffee that burned too hot in his throat.

“Look, I’m sorry to throw this at you last second, but there are people higher than me pulling this thing together and they don’t want anything going wrong. And nothing should go wrong. Most people there will likely be supporters. But I need you prepared.”

Seonghwa nodded. “It’s fine,” he said, a blatant lie but one that Eden didn’t call out. “I take it I’m no longer going after that secondary source for last night?”

“I already had Yunho transfer the documents you would need to Wonho. He’ll take care of it while you focus on this. I want your full attention here, Seonghwa.” His eyes flashed from light to heavy. “Donghyun may be one of the last remaining people fighting this isolation bill. We need to keep him on our side and alive.”

Seonghwa’s objective was always the same, regardless of his mission: keep as many lives untouched as possible. Keep people alive, keep people unaware, keep people safe.

“Then, I would like to get started on reviewing all of this,” he said, closing the file. “I’ll report to you before I leave on everything I come up with.”

Eden nodded, and Seonghwa stood, draining the last of his coffee and already planning how to space out the six more he would need. He nodded, turning towards the door. “Seonghwa.” He turned back. Eden stared at him levelly. “Remember… There is our side and their side. We have to work together and protect our own side. Regardless of how much we may disagree with those we work with.”

And Seonghwa was not an idiot. He knew what Eden was talking about. “I am not really the one who needs to hear that,” he said shortly. “I’m not going around snatching Hongjoong’s informants, defiling his evidence, ruining his missions. He is the one who can’t seem to understand we’re on the same team.”

“You threatened to shoot him.”

“He took my intel! He risked human lives just to laugh at annoying me!” Seonghwa said, perhaps a bit too sharply for someone so high above him, but Eden had always been lenient with stuff like that. But he reined in his anger and swallowed it. He respected Eden too much to continue to yell. “I am willing to work with whomever I need to, in order to save whatever lives we can,” he said firmly. “I’m professional enough to set aside those kinds of refusals. I just want to keep people safe.”

Eden nodded slowly, eyes appraising. “I’m glad we both understand that,” he said. “Now, go get started and report back what you think of it all.”

Seonghwa inclined his head, leaving with a wave of his empty coffee cup.

He stared at the file. It was a slightly terrifying situation, but Seonghwa was nothing if not adaptive. This was not his usual scene, but he would take care of it as he always did.

 

The speech was… slightly radical, at least it would be viewed as such.

It did not use strong language, but the language it did use could very easily be twisted by the media. It talked of relying on allies, of making friends, not just war buddies. It highlighted all the things Korea relied on its Western allies for, and while it was all true and all valid, people would have a field day with it, thinking he was saying Korea could not survive on its own.

It was nothing Eden didn’t already know when he called to speak with him quickly. It was good, if the crowd was mostly supportive. But if many opposers showed up, Seonghwa and his people might have a couple of issues with them.

Their first priority was Donghyun. Keeping him alive and safe, regardless of how the crowd reacted.

Seonghwa reviewed the blueprints until he knew them by heart- all the exits, entrances, paths, places where people should be, where they shouldn’t be. By the time the speech happened, Seonghwa would be ready to run their escape routes with his eyes closed.

He returned home to his empty apartment and spent a good majority of the night memorizing the speech, noting which phrases would likely spark action so he could be prepared when they came around. Eventually, his eyes were tired enough to close, but he barely slept, as usual. And when he woke up to light streaming through his window and his work clothes still on with a migraine building from sleeping at his desk, he knew this was shaping up to be a shitty day.

No shittier than any other day, he supposed, though. At least there was no Hongjoong this time to fuck it over.

 

~~~~~

 

No !”

Hongjoong grinned at Seonghwa, fixing his earpiece into place. “You don’t sound all that happy to see me,” he said, looking so fucking pleased with himself.

Seonghwa was going to kill Eden. There was no way he didn’t know that the other five would be Hongjoong and his team. Likely, he kept it from him because he knew if Seonghwa found out, he would refuse to be here.

And he was right.

“How the fuck does someone like you get assigned to a security detail?” he demanded.

Hongjoong finally dropped the wire, shrugging elegantly, as if it bothered him exactly none that Seonghwa looked ready to rip his head off. “I simply go where I’m ordered. My boss said jump, I asked how high.”

How the hell was Hongjoong qualified to protect someone? Clearly, he must be good at fighting- there was no way he would be in these agencies if he wasn’t- but his expertise was definitely not useful here. He doubted any rioters could be seduced into calming.

Seonghwa wanted to keep pushing Hongjoong until they reached a cliff, but he had about one minute to get to Donghyun and arrange all the routes he should be prepared to take. “Whatever,” he sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Just… do not fuck shit up, Hongjoong. Donghyun is one of the only things standing between this entire country and a catastrophic mistake.”

“Seonghwa, I am a trained professional, the same as you,” he reminded him, offended.

Seonghwa glared. “ I never used that training to fuck someone else over, though. Unlike some, I don’t get a kick out of endangering lives.” He pointed towards the stage. “Now, get your men in position and meet me in Lee’s waiting room.”

Hongjoong grinned, saluting sarcastically. “I like it when you’re authoritative,” he chuckled, walking off with much too much sway to his hips, touching his earpiece to call him men into position.

If Hongjoong fucked this up… Seonghwa would not be able to stop himself from ending him. He didn’t care where the lines were drawn. If Hongjoong pulled something, he would basically doom the country, and Seonghwa could make a pretty strong case for being involved with terror if he did that.

Donghyun sat in a conference room at the Commercial Center, one of the few rooms that did not have any windows and only one point of entry. He nodded to the regular government men stationed at the door and entered.

Lee Donghyun sat at a conference table built for twenty, looking nervous, but only betraying it with rapid tapping against the table. He looked up sharply at the door opening, relaxing as Seonghwa nodded to him. “Ah, you must be the Park agent they told me about,” he said, standing with a little difficulty, but that seemed to be mostly due to his age, rather than any real issue. He extended a hand and Seonghwa took it.

“Park Seonghwa. I’m in charge of most of the security surrounding you on stage.”

“And Kim Hongjoong.” A hand slid Seonghwa’s out of the way as Hongjoong appeared next to him, shaking Donghyun’s hand with a grin. “In charge of the other half of security.”

Seonghwa resisted the urge to smack him, too aware of the man frowning in confusion at Hongjoong. “Uh… a pleasure to meet you both,” he said.

Seonghwa took Donghyun over to the table, laying out the carefully drawn routes they had planned. Hongjoong, thankfully, remained mostly silent throughout it, only breaking in to reiterate something Seonghwa said.

They finished the explanation just in time for a woman in a business suit to come in and tell Lee to get ready, he was on in five.

The stage was out in the open air, in the parking lot, with police tape marking it off. People cheered when Hongjoong and Seonghwa brought out Donghyun, standing on either side of him and scanning the two or three hundred people gathered there.

Donghyun stepped up to the podium and Hongjoong and Seonghwa took their places on either side of it.

Seonghwa followed Donghyun’s speech, tensed and prepared to move. Certain things sparked a little movement of distress or confusion from the crowd, but no one made any attempt to come forward. Even the most dangerous parts of his speech that claimed they needed outside allies was only met with frowns and whispers.

The sun was hot in the middle of the day, baking them in their black suits. Seonghwa wanted to glance at Hongjoong, see if he was even paying attention, but he refused to break his concentration. Donghyun began to wrap up his speech.

“-In conclusion, I believe that we as a nation, as a people, and as a civilization, cannot fall victim to this dangerous mindset that we are invincible against all, and convince ourselves we have no need of anyone’s aid. Thank you.”

There was clapping. Some people cheered. Seonghwa turned, gesturing for Donghyun to step down from his little microphone stand, ready to get him inside and-

The familiar sound of a gunshot ripped through the air,  and Seonghwa went on autopilot, only having two thoughts: one- get to Donghyun. Two: where the fuck did someone get a gun? He lunged forward as Donghyun was already flinching-

The familiar sensation of bullet tearing flesh racing through him, his shoulder lighting on fire, but Seonghwa only stumbled, lifting his head and blinking against the pain as Hongjoong forced Donghyun to the ground behind the podium, holding him there with his, admittedly tiny, body.

“-Find whoever the fuck that was!” he was yelling into his earpiece. “Song, Choi, I need you both here now, we have an agent who’s been hit- Someone-”

Another gunshot and Seonghwa dropped to the ground, crawling to Hongjoong. Adrenaline forced the pain away, but he would regret all this movement later. “Let’s go,” he hissed, grabbing Donghyun’s arm. He was trembling like a leaf, and Seonghwa prayed he wouldn’t have to try and carry him. “We need off this stage now .”

“Where were you hit?” Hongjoong demanded, getting off of holding Donghyun down, glancing behind the pulpit and gesturing to someone.

“Not somewhere important,” was all Seonghwa said, pulling his own gun from his hip. “How the fuck did someone get a gun? How the fuck did any weapon-”

“You’re clear!” Taehyun yelled in Seonghwa’s earpiece. “Get him out of there!”

Seonghwa didn’t wait to speculate, dragging Donghyun to his feet whether he was willing or not. He stumbled, but Hongjoong rose, taking his other arm. They bent him forward, leading him along at a sprint. Seonghwa spared only one glance back, as they were reaching the stairs of the stage.

The crowd was in chaos, policemen directing people and searching for wherever the shot had come from-

Seonghwa’s eyes, maybe accidentally, noticed one man. Like a bush in a cartoon that was obviously colored different- something telling you to pay attention to it.

He dressed in jeans, a red, nondescript t-shirt, white sneakers. Hands stuffed into a brown leather jacket despite the heat of the day. Sunglasses hid his younger-seeming face, hair cropped short, like a military cut. Maybe 5’8”, slim, but not bony-

The man stared back at him.

Seonghwa’s foot slipped, not realizing they had reached the first step, and the three of them almost stumbled, Seonghwa cursing violently as he caught himself, Hongjoong glaring at him and urging Donghyun faster.

They dragged Donghyun down the stairs. Ran to the Commercial Center. Got him in the conference room, locked the door behind them, both Hongjoong and Seonghwa redrawing their guns and aiming them at the door. Seonghwa’s ankle ached from where it rolled at his misstep, but that was the least of his problems.

“What the fuck was that?” Hongjoong demanded, side eyeing Seonghwa but not looking away from the door. “You try and come at me about fucking things up, and then you trip going down the sta-”

Seonghwa was already pressing his earpiece. “Donghyun is secured,” he reported, voice like ice. “Jisung, there’s a man in that crowd, I need you to secure him and do not let him go. Red shirt, blue jeans-”

He rattled off the information until Jisung barked an affirmative, the line between them falling dead. “Fucking hell,” Seonghwa bit, glancing behind them at Donghyun sitting at the table, forehead pressed to it. He almost looked like he was praying.

“You still slipped going down the stairs,” Hongjoong muttered, and Seonghwa was pretty sure this entire event was the only time he wouldn’t describe Hongjoong’s voice as “flirtatious” or “playful”. His eyes were hard, hands steady on his gun that was trained on the door.

“That man was watching me,” Seonghwa said lowly. “He wasn’t running with the others. He’s involved, he has to be.”

“Still slipped.”

Hongjoong-

“Can you keep an eye on the door while I check your shoulder?” Hongjoong broke in. “There’s a bunch of blood back there, but not enough to mean you got hit somewhere you’ve got minutes to live.”

Seonghwa wanted to say to hell with whatever had gotten shot. He was still riding adrenaline, but not the life-or-death kind and he could feel the fire begin to ignite along his skin again. He side eyed Hongjoong darkly. “Have you even ever seen a bullet wound before?”

Hongjoong smiled sarcastically, dropping his gun’s aim. “Just watch the door.” He stepped behind Seonghwa who sighed. He felt Hongjoong touching his shirt, shifting it, and waiting for some sort of comment about needing to take it off, but there was only silence.

“Well?” he demanded.

“Well, I’ll say you’re the luckiest son of a bitch I’ve ever seen.” Hongjoong stepped back beside him. “The blood’s everywhere, but the wound itself is just a deep gouge in your shoulder blade. If you hadn’t been facing sideways, it probably would have gone through your heart. It’ll hurt like a bitch- it probably caught the bone- but there’s no bullet, and the bleeding is slow enough, you’ll live until someone comes for him.” He jerked his head at Donghyun.

The pain was sort of everywhere on his arm, so Seonghwa couldn’t quite pinpoint the exact location of the wound, and as much as he hated to trust Hongjoong’s judgement, he didn’t really have a choice.

Minutes passed in silence. Donghyun continued to lean over the table.

Seonghwa’s earpiece crackled to life. “All clear,” Jisung’s voice came through. “The crowds are gone. The shooter got away. We found no man with a red t-shirt. Police are searching the area and reinforcements are being called in. A car if waiting in the back entrance of the West Wing of the Center. Two of Hongjoong’s men are heading over to help you escort Lee.”

Seonghwa bit back a curse. This week was just going fucking fabulous - “Copy,” he sighed. “Was anyone injured?”

“The shooter fired two rounds and then disappeared. Aside from you, not even a bruise to tell of.”

That, at least, was a comfort. “Alright, contact Eden and start reporting everything that happened. We’re going to need more people involved in this.”

“Roger that, sir.”

Hongjoong lowered his own hand from his earpiece. “Song and Choi are on their way,” he said. “A car’s waiting.”

“Yeah,” Seonghwa said darkly. “Alright, Mr. Lee, we’re going to move you to a car that’s going to take you somewhere safer.” He nodded to Hongjoong. “Watch the door.”

It took some persuading and coaxing to get Donghyun to raise his head, to stand, to move, but Seonghwa made him, and held onto one arm. He would be lucky if the man wasn’t having a heart attack from all this, at his age.

Two rapid knocks on the door. Seonghwa stepped out of the line of the door with Donghyun as Hongjoong threw it open, weapon raised, before his shoulders dropped. “Song. Choi,” he greeted, jerking his head at Seonghwa. “Let’s go.”

Donghyun whimpered and flinched the whole time, Song and Choi guarding their backs, while Hongjoong and Seonghwa checked the front. It was entirely too easy to reach the back, find the car, and push Donghyun inside where three men in black suits and guns were already waiting. The men nodded to Seonghwa who jerked his head in return.

The door closed.

The car drove off.

Seonghwa felt like he was going to pass out.

“Sir, that’s quite a bit of blood.” Seonghwa was pretty sure that was Choi.

“I know,” Hongjoong muttered darkly. “Did anyone call for an ambulance?”

“On its way, sir, one of his men called it.”

Hongjoong gazed at him, sharp, cold, and focused. “You’re still good to walk out there?”

Seonghwa scoffed. “Does it look like my legs got hit?”

“I mean blood loss, asshole, but keep bitching at me, I guess.” Hongjoong gestured his two men to go on, stepping after them. Seonghwa followed, the pain slowly building in his shoulder. There was a single pinprick of white-hot fire, and Seonghwa swore if something was broken, he was going to lose it.

They walked back through the Commercial Center. Seonghwa bit back hisses as each beat of his heart sent a throb through his shoulder and arm.

Well, this whole plan had gone to shit. His only consolation through the disappointment and pain was that Donghyun was secure, no one was injured, and he was not going to bleed out. Hongjoong ignored Seonghwa- probably for the first time in his life- but Seonghwa needed to say something or else he was going to get too distracted by the pain building with each step.

“Did you at least use the information you snatch from me?” he posed through gritted teeth.

Hongjoong glanced back, clearly confused for a second, before the serious demeanor faded and Seonghwa was left staring at the familiar smirk and glint in his eyes. Oh, fuck him. “I sent it to all the right people,” he assured him, clearly in a better mood at the memory. “Don’t you worry, I’m not looking to have any sort of death of the masses on my conscience.”

“Do you even have a conscience?”

Hongjoong’s grin only widened. “Didn’t you see how concerned I was for you back there? When you got shot?” He pressed a hand to his heart. “You should know, Seonghwa, if you were to die, I would be devastated.”

“By losing your favorite plaything?” Seonghwa supplied.

Hongjoong chuckled.”Oh, please, you don’t know me at all, if you think that’s using you as a plaything.” He glanced at Seongha through his lashes. “I could show you how you could really be a plaything?” he offered, eyes sultry.  

Seonghwa wrinkled his nose as he pushed the door to outside open, blinking against the harsh sunlight. “Is there ever a moment you’re not thinking about sex?”

“When I’m having sex,” Hongjoong told him readily, nodding. “Or, when the person I’m talking to is a total bore.” He made a vague gesture, and Song and Choi ran off to do something. He heard the distant cry of sirens. Probably the ambulance.

“Then why the hell do you keep talking about it to me?” Seonghwa demanded, coming to a halt.

Hongjoong stared at him for a moment, confused, before he burst out laughing, as if they were not special agents, one of which had a bullet wound. Seonghwa simply rolled his eyes, waiting for the laughter to subside as policemen glanced their way. “ Seonghwa ,” Hongjoong gasped around the last dregs of amusement. “ Please , talking to you is the farthest thing from boring.” He grinned, and something about it was different, something was a little less sarcastic and a little more genuine. “You are the most interesting person I have had the pleasure of speaking to in years .”

Seonghwa wasn’t sure what the hell that meant, considering every conversation of theirs went the same way, time and time again, as if they were following a script. Seonghwa insulted him, Hongjoong made jokes about having sex, Seonghwa threatened him, Hongjoong turned it into some sort of innuendo, Seonghwa stormed off before he committed a murder most foul.

What about that was interesting?

Hongjoong, however, was finished sharing, clicking finger guns at Seonghwa. “The ambulance is about to turn in. Make sure you don’t die of some sort of infection.” He turned, beginning to walk away with a casual flutter of his still-paints fingers.

“You’re an actual dick, you know that?” Seonghwa called, fists clenching, but it hurt his shoulder, so he stopped.

Hongjoong glanced over his shoulder. “I’d turn that one around on you, but it’d be too obvious.” He smirked broadly. “Nice working with you!” He saluted, sauntering off, and Seonghwa really was about to chase him down and pound him into the ground.

(Hongjoong would probably like to turn that one around on him as well.)

The ambulance pulled up, and paramedics ushered him in, asking questions about everything. Seonghwa just went through the motions, staring off with a pinched brow.

Somehow, Hongjoong had not fucked things up, and had even been useful. Seonghwa knew he couldn’t be just someone who had sex for information, but there certainly was another side to him.

The cold eyes he had seen before. The grin that was always ready to drip innuendoes.

Which was the real him? Why did Seonghwa care? Whichever, he was still an asshole and an idiot. It was just a question of which part of him was great at acting.

But he didn’t want to think about that anymore. Right now, he needed to focus on what the hell he was going to tell Eden about two missions going to shit in as many days.

 

~~~~~

 

“Again,” Eden ordered, frowning over laced fingers.

“I glanced back as we were running to the stairs, checking our surroundings,” Seonghwa replied rotely. “Everyone was running around, people were screaming, but there was one man matching the description I already gave you standing there, already watching me. He didn’t appear to be carrying a weapon. There’s no way he would be the shooter, standing there calmly and drawing attention to himself after what he pulled. But he was looking at me- at least, from what I could see with his sunglasses, he was. Jisung reports that there was no one they found matching that.”

Eden closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, letting it go slowly.

Seonghwa waited patiently, his shoulder stiff with the bandage still there.

“You’re lucky,” the doctor said. “It didn’t damage the bone, but it did bruise it. You’ll be aching for a couple of weeks, but you’re free to move as much as you need after the cut has healed. Your shoulder blade is only missing a chunk of skin. You’re one lucky son of a bitch, Mr. Park.”

“You do understand how concerning that is, right?” Eden finally sighed. “An apparent psychopath in a crowd shooting, staring at one of my agents?”

Seonghwa nodded. It was eerie, and he had spent the passed two days checking over his shoulder, his hair raising on end. He checked every room of his apartment more thoroughly, gun drawn just in case.

“What about the police?” Seonghwa asked when Eden paused. “How did they let someone slip in with a weapon? How did a citizen get a gun ?”

Guns were the worst in the hands of ordinary people. Because more likely, they got it from highly twisted, illegal means, which meant there would be no trail anywhere to follow and trace it with.

Eden sighed, shaking his head and throwing his hands in front of him helplessly. “We’re interviewing them and some of the witnesses. All of them claim no one set off any sort of warnings. They say they checked every person with a metal detector.”

Seonghwa’s lips twisted. “So either one of them is lying-”

“Or there’s someone who worked with him from the inside,” Eden finished heavily. “Yeah. And that creates a lot more problems.”

Seonghwa hesitated, but went ahead anyway: “Any way it could be connected to Detective Kim?”

He sighed, resting a hand against his forehead. “We’re looking into it. But it seems a pretty bold risk, given how close he’s already under scrutiny for that hostage situation. We’re not ruling him out, but he’s not a prime suspect.”

Seonghwa nodded along as Eden started listing names, people who were most violent and open about their outrage with Donghyun, and Seonghwa listened, but all his attention wasn’t there. “You’re sure you saw nothing of the shooter? Not even someone acting suspicious?” Eden questioned.

Seonghwa had spent the passed two days doing nothing but replaying the whole event over and over inside his head. And he just kept coming up to the same conclusion. “I didn’t see anyone,” he said regretfully.

Eden sighed. “This is going to be such a-”

“But…” Eden stopped, lifting an eyebrow, and Seonghwa frowned, replaying the scene one last time and he just kept coming to the same conclusion. “I’d like to present the possibility… that… perhaps, Lee was not the target.” His stomach turned slightly as he said it, nerves whizzing through his veins.

Eden stared at him for a full minute, before slowly looking disbelieving. “A gunshot… at Lee’s rally… aimed at Lee’s stage… at a time when Lee is one of the most threatened men in the country… and you don’t think he was the target?”

Replay. Repeat. The same thing.

“I don’t think the shot was aiming for him.”

He was the one up there when the shot fired,” Eden reminded him firmly, clearly thinking Seonghwa had rattled something loose in his brain.

“I stood beside Lee, on his left. Hongjoong on his right,” Seonghwa said quickly before he could lose his resolve. It sounded so ridiculous, even to his half-asleep mind, even to his awake mind. But it made no sense, it didn’t add up. “A few feet away, not more than twice my arm’s length.” He positioned his hands apart to diagram. “The gunshot went off. I moved to my right towards Lee. The bullet caught me in my left shoulder blade that was facing the crowd, after I had already moved forward some.”

Eden was silent, not giving any sort of hint as to what he thought of it. He didn’t tell Seonghwa to get the hell out of his office, though.

“I had already moved towards Lee. But the bullet caught me in the furthest possible area of my body it could. The part of my body furthest from Lee. Hongjoong and the doctor both pointed out the same fact…” He swallowed. “If I had not moved, the bullet would have hit me directly in my chest. My chest, that was a good five feet from Lee.”

Eden’s lips thinned.

Seonghwa spread his hand. “Maybe we’re dealing with a truly shitty shooter, who couldn’t make a shot that clear in the open. But, aiming to hit someone else’s chest by accident ? That doesn’t add up… So that means… ”

He stopped.

Eden didn’t shift.

“You think the shooter was aiming for you?”

Replay. Repeat. Same results.

Seonghwa nodded stiffly. “Maybe not. Maybe he was just a shit shot. Maybe it was a random citizen who got caught up in the wrong side. But if there’s an officer on the inside who could get him in, he’s got to be more than that.” He wet his lips. “And there’s that man who was staring at me…”

“Why would someone try and kill you at a political rally?” Eden posed darkly.

Seonghwa didn’t know either. And he said as much.

He operated from the shadows. Select, unlawful people may know his face- recognize it from the grapevine they followed. But there should not be any sort of ordinary citizen, unrelated to illegal works or the government who knew his face from past events. Which meant the shooter either wasn’t aiming for him (unlikely), wasn’t a citizen (possible), or didn’t know who he was and was just given orders (probably the most concerning).

Any and all ideas he currently had were not good.

Seonghwa had needed to go into hiding before- not often, but once or twice, after things went terribly wrong (usually unrelated to his own actions). He had to sit in safe houses until it blew over, until things were cleared and certain people put away, and then he returned to normal life.

He had yet to have someone so blatantly attempt to end his life, in such an… odd setting.

Eden was silent as well, until he shook his head. “Enough,” he sighed, waving a tired hand. “We have no proof of anything, and we can’t get any until questioning is done. I want you to watch your back- or have someone else watch it for you- and then just… wait a couple of days until we can see what’s really going on, alright?”

Seonghwa nodded.

“Are you confident enough to go home?” Eden asked, frowning. “I can order one of the other agents to take you there, or stay with you, if you think there’s a need.”

Logically? No, there was no need. He had already gone two days of looking over his shoulder, and nothing had happened. Perhaps, emotionally? Seonghwa was sort of set on edge about the whole thing, ever since Eden mentioned that he would be on security detail. But Seonghwa got paranoid easily, and it was one of his very distinct traits that people made fun of. (See: him almost pulling his gun when a lady at the bus stop grabbed his arm, but she was just asking if he knew which stop went by the bakery.)

So, he shook his head. “No. I’ll be careful and call someone when I’ve made it home, but there’s no need for a full entourage.”

Eden leveled him with a stern gaze, but nodded. “Alright,” he relinquished. “But don’t do anything stupid until we figure this out, alright? And that includes midnight coffee runs.”

Seonghwa cracked a smile. “I thought you said you were going to stop monitoring your agents’ home lives.”

“I did. And then I got word on reports of a man who always came into the local coffeehouse and ordered straight espresso at one AM.” Eden gestured towards the door. “Go finish up whatever paperwork you have left for this whole thing, and then go home. I’ll message you the moment we hear anything.”

Seonghwa nodded, standing and walking towards the door.

“And tell Yeosang, if he doesn’t stop using so much cream, he’s going to start bringing his own!” He called just as Seonghwa shut the door. He sighed, smirking in amusement, but nursing the racing of his heart. Seonghwa could deal with direct confrontation for his actions. Usually, if someone found out the man trying to sleep with them was a government agent, they shot first and never asked any questions.

But this sort of back alley, cloak and dagger, stalker feeling? It set his teeth on edge.

He got another coffee (number five? Did he finish that third one? Was it six?) and settled at his desk, pulling up the forms for agents injured in the line of duty, for targets almost lost, for collaborations outside of your immediate team… He could feel eyes on the side of his head, but rather than making his skin crawl, these were familiar.

Seonghwa did not look over.

“I know you can feel me looking at you,” Wooyoung said firmly, glaring.

“Yep.”

“Hyung, look at me!” he begged, and Seonghwa sighed, glancing his way. He sat backwards in his chair, resting his chin on the backrest as his legs fell through the gap at the back. Wooyoung’s face pulled into something like concern. “You got shot?”

Seonghwa was the only field agent out of those few people he knew the names of here. The others worked behind the scenes, and that meant they weren’t quite as desensitized as he was to things like being shot at and getting hit.

“It’s just a graze,” he assured him, turning back to his work. “It’s already healed, it’s just bruised.” He paused. “Tell Yeosang that Eden says he’s going to have to start buying his own creamer soon.”

“He’s been saying that for months,” Wooyoung waved off. “Your target wasn’t even hit, though, is what everyone is saying. Right?”

“No, Donghyun is fine. There’s been no further action against him.” Which only added to Seonghwa’s suspicions and fears. “They’re planning on having him lay low.”

Wooyoung nodded. “Yeah, Yunho is already working with the British government to arrange for him to take a little break over there.” He leaned his cheek against the back of the chair. “Yeosang’s currently playing go-between with the media who are trying to rip everything apart.”

“Is that why you’re here?” Seonghwa asked, pausing to think of another word for ‘shitstorm.’ “Because he’s too busy to entertain you?”

No ,” Wooyoung burst quickly. “I don’t need him to entertain me,” he assured Seonghwa. “And besides, even if I did, I’d just bribe him into taking a break with some coffee.”

“What he drinks is not coffee.”

“And that’s why you’re not on his good side, because you invalidate his life choices.”

“Didn’t you just recently call him a ‘shitty nerd’ for majoring in public relations and communication?” Seonghwa glanced at Wooyoung, who looked unapologetic.

“That’s different. That’s true. He’s good at using tech and shit, and that makes him a nerd,” Wooyoung explained. “But he’s talking to people all day. And that makes him a shitty nerd. Nerds don’t talk to people.”

“I’m going to go back to ignoring you now,” Seonghwa said, typing quickly in hopes of drowning out Wooyoung’s complaints. He just wanted to get this done and go home and… well, not sleep. But at least rest. Think of explanations, try and draw conclusions for why the bullet was coming for him so directly. Maybe make a few calls to people who knew those men and women who opposed Donghyun so vehemently. He needed to try and think of what their next move might be.

Speaking of next moves.

“Why haven’t you contacted me about Hongjoong’s agenda?” He demanded, turning to Wooyoung again.

The younger shrugged. “Eden told me not to. He said he didn’t want company resources used for personal vendettas against our own side.”

Seonghwa rolled his eyes, adding just one more thing to his growing lists of shit. Well, at least he knew that Hongjoong was going to be too occupied with taking care of their aftermath to cause him any trouble.

Seonghwa hadn’t even noticed Wooyoung getting bored and returning to his own work. But without the distraction, he was able to focus on getting everything take care of. It was only 7:43 when he sent off the documents to Eden and the different departments that needed them, switching off his computer and standing, gathering his wallet and keys.

Wooyoung tilted his head back curiously. “You’re leaving?”

Seonghwa nodded, waving. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t stay too late just because Yeosang does.”

Wooyoung lifted a hand, most likely to give him a giant middle finger, but Seonghwa was already turning away, grinning. He stepped into the elevator, taking it down, and headed out to his car in the parking lot.

The moment he stepped outside, his amusement faded a little.

It was already dark, though the outside was lit with street lamps and lights attached to the outside of the building. Still, there were a lot of dark corners to get through.

He kept a hand on his gun, even if he didn’t really think he would have to draw it. He walked, not looking around like a madman, but glancing around, making sure nothing was waiting out of the corner of his eye. He made it to his car (unsurprisingly) without being murdered, and his drive home was filled with static-y radio set low, just to fill the silence.

He checked his cameras. Clear. Once again, his hand remained on his gun as he entered his apartment building. Clear. He checked all his rooms thoroughly. Clear.

He changed out of his work clothes, letting dress pants and a black turtleneck fall to the ground. He picked his most comfortable pajamas, flicking on the bedside table lamp as he sat on the mattress heavily.

Was he actually a target? If he was, why? He had done so many things that could result in the wrong type of people coming after him. Which one had spawned it? Was the man the one with the grudge or was he acting under orders?

The questions swirled around his head until he felt dizzy.

Groaning, he flopped down on the pillow, staring at the ceiling and wishing that his tired limbs could take over his overactive mind and just let him sleep through the night. He closed his eyes, not falling unconscious, but just drifting.

Like always, he came back to only a few hours later, just past midnight.

He sighed, rolling over and grabbing his phone off the nightstand, the light still on. He remained laying in bed, but scrolling through media outlets and finding video footage of the rally. He had already watched it, already seen himself move and get hit a hundred times.

He also saw Hongjoong, which he hadn’t really noticed before, reacting just as fast as Seonghwa to the gunshot sound, grabbing Donghyun and forcing him down.

Hongjoong had undoubtedly pissed off more people than Seonghwa ever could. Where was his attempted murder?

He ignored the headlines that came with the videos, talking of radicals and ‘well, he deserved it’ and ‘this is what we get for trying to keep relations.’ The usual bullshit that made Seonghwa want to find these authors and smack them until their idiotic brains stopped spewing garbage.

He let his phone fall onto his chest, rubbing at his eyes. God, he was tired. He wished he had some sleeping pills to take. Maybe he could see if those teas would help any-

His hair stood on end, and Seonghwa bolted upright,  heart leaping as his hand automatically snaking under his pillow to snatch, cock, and aim his gun around his empty room.

His blood roared in his ears as he got up from the bed, grabbing his phone, muscles tense as he looked to the window, the closet, the door to the hall… He opened his phone, pressing the first number there.

Only a single ring passed before a groggy voice answered. “Hyung?” Yeosang’s voice was a mixture of sleep from the hour of the call and concern from the hour of the call. “Why’re you calling me at two AM?” Slightly more aware. “Did something happen?”

“Hang on,” he whispered, not even shifting. What made him move? He listened and heard nothing but Yeosang breathing gently on the line. At least if someone attacked, he would know. He went to the door, checking the hall. He tore the closet open and found only his wardrobe staring back. He turned to the window, approaching slowly and pulling the curtains back only enough to peer out of.

Distantly, the city lights shone. Below, only the parking lot of his building. A couple of street lamps showed the cars, but no people. Not even a cat roaming around. At the end of the main road, there was a car driving away slowly. He squinted, but couldn’t make out the plates. It was small, probably some sort of old car that hadn’t been made in twenty years. It was too far away to be something that carried someone suspicious.

His eyes narrowed. What… Had it felt like someone was watching him? He hadn’t heard anything…

God, he really was losing his mind.

“Sorry, Yeosang,” he said quietly, slowly lowering his weapon. “False alarm.”

A quiet sigh. “Hyung, don’t do that to me,” he breathed. “You gave me a heart attack. Where are you? I tracked your phone, it says you’re at home.”

“I am at home.”

“Was there someone at your house?” Yeosang demanded, more awake. “Do I need to contact Eden? Are you-”

“There’s nothing,” Seonghwa assured him, forcing his heart rate to calm as he checked everything one more time. “I think I might have been dreaming and didn’t realize I had stopped.”

“Hyung, you don’t sleep enough to dream,” Yeosang said, as if reminding him in case he forgot.

Seonghwa knew that. “I’ve been paranoid for days now,” he reassured him, using the words as his own reassurances. “Every since I got shot. I’m sure I’m just jittery.”

“Do you want me to come over?” Yeosang offered. “Or you can sleep on my couch.”

“Are you sure Wooyoung won’t mind I take his spot?” Seonghwa joked.

“Hyung, I’m serious. If you don’t feel safe-”

“I feel fine,” Seonghwa assured him. “But I want to take a shower before I try and sleep again. Sorry I woke you.”

A short pause. “Alright,” he relinquished. “But be careful, hyung. Call me or one of the others if something happens, alright?”

“Will do,” Seonghwa promised, waiting to hear Yeosang muttering about midnight heart attacks before hanging up. Seonghwa let the adrenaline fade, his hands shaking only a little in the aftermath as he checked his entire apartment one more time, before falling back into bed.

Paranoia was fucking annoying. And Seonghwa pointed ignored the hair that raised as if someone was watching. (Save for a peek every now and then. He wasn’t stupid.)

All in all, his week had been shit. Kim fucking Hongjoong, getting shot, the constant feeling that someone was following him despite him finding no evidence that anyone was… He just wanted to sleep.

Maybe he should try sleeping pills again.

He pressed his palms to his eyes. He truly was getting desperate, wasn’t he?

He rolled over, burying his head under his pillow and just begging to actually sleep. He drifted in and out, as he usually did, but never more than a light nap that he jerked out of at random moments.

Sunlight peeked through his windows as he lifted his head, always with just enough sleep to operate but never enough to feel good about it.

Seonghwa threw his covers off, slid out of bed, and prepared to face another day of looking over his shoulder.

 

~~~~~

 

“-eonghwa!”

He blinked, not even realizing his eyes had stopped focusing on the screen in front of him. He glanced to his right, finding Yeosang standing by his chair, hand resting on the back of it with a concerned frown.

“Yes?” He answered casually, as if Yeosang hadn’t probably been calling his name since he entered the room.

Yeosang leaned against Seonghwa’s desk, arms crossing. “Did you sleep at all last night after everything?”

Seonghwa nodded.

Yeosang narrowed his eyes.

Seonghwa looked back to his computer. “Yeosang, I never sleep. My call to you last night had nothing to do with it.”

“Hyung-“

“You know I’m always paranoid,” Seonghwa reminded him, turning his chair towards him. “Don’t take me so seriously.”

“You’ve never been paranoid to the point of thinking someone was in your apartment !” Yeosang crossed his arms. “Listen, Hyung, I think you need to take a couple days off or something. Get your head back on straight after everything.”

Seonghwa scoffed, shaking his head. “That’s ridiculous,” he said firmly. “I don’t need a break, I’m just trying to shake it off.”

“Hyung-“

“I appreciate you being worried,” Seonghwa said quickly, giving a stern look. “But you don’t know what’s going on inside my head. I’m fine, Yeosang. One panicked call in the middle of the night doesn’t mean I’m going insane.”

Yeosang’s brow furrowed. “No one said anything about you being insane, hyung.”

Seonghwa turned back to his computer. “Good. Because I’m not.”

And he saw Yeosang press his lips together, weighing what he wanted to say and what he needed to do. After several long seconds, he sighed, walking off, leaving the room.

Probably to go track down Wooyoung and complain to him about Seonghwa being paranoid and stubborn. A dangerous combination if you asked anyone.

Yunho came by around lunch, delivering a small USB flash drive into his hand. “What’s this?” He asked, frowning at it.

Yunho smiled sympathetically. “Every person who was at that rally, and their history.”

Seonghwa stared. “Yang wants me to go through all of it?” The Head of the Intel Department must be out of his mind.

“Not all. Most of them have been vetted at this point. There’s a file of people with our potential interest. He wants you to go through those.”

Seonghwa sighed, but nodded, sticking it into his computer. “Thanks.”

“You sound more like you wanna strangle me than thank me,” Yunho chuckled. “Is this related to what Yeosang was talking about?”

Seonghwa dropped his head heavily onto his desk with a loud thump, making Yunho jump and people in their cubicles glance over. “Is he seriously ranting to the whole building?” He demanded.

Yunho shrugged. “I just heard him talking to Wooyoung in the break room. He was talking about having Wooyoung hack the cameras in your apartment complex to see if there was anyone who wasn’t supposed to be there.”

Seonghwa closed his eyes. Yeosang meant nothing but the best of intentions but Seonghwa underlined his name on the list.

“I think he was also wanting to talk to Eden about-“

“Seonghwa!”

He turned quickly, seeing an agent he didn’t know the name of (Dae? Dong? Not important.) standing in the doorway, a laptop under her arm. “The boss wants to see you,” she called, jerking a thumb over her shoulder. “In his office. As soon as possible.”

Seonghwa stomach dropped out. “Yeosang didn’t actually go to Eden about giving me a break, did he?”

Yunho shrugged, looking at him with sympathetic concern. “I was just with him, and it sounded like he hadn’t talked to him yet.”

Seonghwa stood quickly, walking to Eden’s office. Good intentions be damned, if Yeosang actually went behind Seonghwa’s back, he was going to kill him. Seonghwa didn’t need a break. He needed to figure out who the fuck shot at him, if they were even shooting at him, and why they would choose him over literally one of the most pivotal men in the country.

Eden’s door was wide open when he entered, not even knocking. Eden glanced up from his computer, holding up a single finger, asking Seonghwa to wait a moment as he finished typing whatever he was working on before. Seonghwa tapped his foot silently, lips pressing together as Eden finally shifted his mouse and clicked something, nodding, and turning to Seonghwa.

“Good morning,” He greeted, gesturing for him to sit.

Seonghwa didn’t. “Did Yeosang talk to you this morning?”

Eden blinked, neutral eyes colored light with surprise. “Not unless I somehow blacked out for a period of time.”

“So he didn’t badger you about making me take time off?” Seonghwa clarified, feeling relief in his veins.

Eden frowned. “Well, Yeosang wasn’t the one telling me to give you time off, but the topic seems to be a popular one this morning.”

He blinked. “What?”

Eden sighed, turning his chair and picking up a single piece of paper and sliding it across his desk. “I got this this morning,” he said, lacing his fingers. He almost looked regretful. “I already called and talked to Director Gong, and he says it’s necessary.”

Seonghwa stepped forward, sitting down and sliding the paper closer. He got as far as the “Mental Health Leave Form” written across the top before he looked up sharply. “They’re making me take off for mental health ?” he demanded. “There’s nothing wrong with  my mental health!”

Especially since no one that high up should know about anything that had gone on with Seonghwa personally the past couple of days. Not even his call to Yeosang last night.

Eden looked at him helplessly, spreading his hands. “I don’t think there is, either. I think you got shot at, you shook it off, and you’re going through the normal process of being a little jittery after that. I’ve known you a long time, and I think by now I can tell when you’re edging near the deep end.” He gestured to the paper. “But it’s Director Gong, so my hands are tied, Seonghwa. He seems to think that the event was traumatic enough that it warrants this. He said he’s gotten reports from people at the company who say you’ve been a little shaken since it happened.”

Seonghwa’s mouth snapped open, but Eden cut him off.

“No one on your team made a report,” he assured him quickly. “But even if they had, there’s still nothing I can do, Seonghwa, I’m sorry.”

Seonghwa’s teeth ground together as he looked at the paper more fully. “Irritable symptoms,’” he muttered, eyes scanning. “‘Paranoia, tendency to snap-’ I’m always like this!” he sighed harshly. “‘Recommended leave time of 10 days?’” he demanded, looking at Eden. “This is insane, Eden! They’re not even demanding I see a therapist or anything, they just want me out of here!”

And Seonghwa felt bad because Eden had as much choice in the matter as he did. And really, Seonghwa wasn’t someone whose only joy in life was their job (he painted on the weekends, sometimes) but he was dedicated, and he was in the middle of investigating someone who may have tried to shoot him. This was not the time to be sitting on his ass at home.

Eden simply shook his head, shrugging. “I can’t do anything for you, Seonghwa. Per the request, you’re out of work for ten days. It’s mental health leave, so you’re leaving work here. You’re not to work on anything related to these cases or contact anyone here for any information on what’s been going on. At the end of the ten days, you’ll come back and we can keep going, okay? Just think of it as a vacation.”

“A vacation in the middle of me trying to help find a shooter?” Seonghwa demanded.

Eden just stared, already having said everything he could. Anything else would just be redundant.

Seonghwa stared at the paper and wondered how much good it would do if he just tore it up. He sighed harshly, snatching it up. “Fine,” he snapped, standing. “When is it effective?”

“Immediately.”

“Yunho just gave me a list of suspects to go through!”

“Well, I’ll transfer those over to Youngjae, then,” Eden assured him. “We’ll get everything sorted out.”

Seonghwa was frustrated and he wanted to keep fighting it, but it would be useless. Neither of them could do anything. Maybe he should just go home and scream into a pillow until he passed out.

“Fine,” he said, a little less sharply. “Then I guess I’ll pack up and head home.” He turned to the door swiftly.

“I will contact you if we have anything major come up,” Eden promised. “But don’t hold your breath for that.”

Seonghwa simply hummed in affirmation, taking the elevator and getting back to his desk. He switched off the monitor, grabbed his keys, wallet, and phone, and started walking out.

“Seonghwa!” He glanced back at Wooyoung’s confused face. “Where are you going? It’s hardly noon.”

“Home,” He said stiffly. “I’m on mental health leave for the next ten days. Let the others know, will you?”

“Mental health? For what-”

Seonghwa just shook his head, turning and marching out of the building. It was weird to leave while the sun was still up, but he went to his car, slamming the door hard and starting it. He was really getting tired of how fucking shitty his week was going. And given the next ten days would be filled with… what? Boredom? Drama reruns? All while there was someone walking around with a gun and an unknown motivation…

He checked home. He searched every room. He laid in bed, only one o’clock in the afternoon, staring at the ceiling. He got up. He cleaned his already clean kitchen and living room. He reorganized his movie collection (pitiful as it was).

He glanced at the clock. 3:23 PM.

He grabbed the nearest couch pillow and screamed until he felt like he really might pass out.

He glanced at the clock.

3:25 PM.

This was going to be the shittiest fucking week of his life.

 

~~~~~

 

Day 1 he spent cooking. It had been a while since he could actually take the time and make something that took a long time to make properly, so that was… nice, he guessed. While his steaks were roasting in the oven, he cleaned up, listening to some drama play in the background. (Even though he really didn’t give a shit if Euntak fell in love or not.)

Day 2 he had officially gone stir crazy and went out. He walked up and down the streets, grabbing some coffee from the corner store and sipping it as he passed by shops and houses.

(He looked over his shoulder the whole time. He swore his hair was standing on edge, but there was nothing ever there. This was getting ridiculous even for him. His walk only lasted until noon when his senses would no longer let him stay out in the open. He may still have his gun on him, but that didn’t mean he wanted to have to use it againsts a threat that apparently didn’t fucking exist.)

Wooyoung called on Day 2, assured him he wasn’t going to tell him anything about what was going on at work, and simply inquired about what he had been up to. He painted a horrible picture of his living room, just to pass the time, and wound up getting frustrated, blacking it all out with mixed paint of every color.

Day 3, he decided he no longer had any desire to look at the inside of his apartment, and went out to the shopping district. It was 8 AM on a Tuesday, so it was virtually empty as he walked by, smiling and talking to all the old ladies who tried to sell him things he didn’t need or want. This was a little better than aimless walking. He usually avoided this area like the plague for one simple reason.

He turned towards the North, looking down a side street he knew would end over near the small park. If he crossed through that park and down one more side street, he would come to an apartment complex with green window panes and blue flowers lining each building.

If he went up two flights of stairs in the 3rd building, and found room 38, he would find Hongjoong.

Hongjoong knew how to find him too. It was just another hand they held in their game of cards, but Seonghwa had never actually been to his apartments, and Hongjoong had never been to his. It was just a smoke screen tactic they used in their little tete-a-tete.

But he ignored that side street, looking at some cute buttons. The likelihood of running into Hongjoong here was slim. But, then again, he might even welcome it to put an end to his abhorrent boredom.

He ate a few things that looked good and the ladies pressed hard enough to get him to try it. He seriously contemplated buying one cheap plastic plant, just to give his apartment more color, but he would never be home after these next seven days, so he decided against it.

He was examining some pretty hair pins that the lady assured him would impress any girl he chose, when a shiver ran down his spine for the first time that day.

Casually, he placed the pin down as he thanked the woman, and passed his eyes inconspicuously over his surroundings as he turned. People milled back and forth. Cars moved down the street.

Nothing.

He moved stiffly, deciding that he was not in the mood to feel like this. He should go somewhere more closed in. Maybe he should go get lunch at a restaurant or something. He began to walk the couple of blocks between him and his car. The air around him felt stagnant, as if things had slowed down. He walked calmly, not drawing attention to himself.

His phone rang. He answered on the third ring.

“Yeosang,” he greeted.

“Hyung,” came a harsh whisper. “I am in no way supposed to be telling you this, but there’s no way I could wait until you got back.” Seonghwa opened his mouth to respond, frowning at his tone, but Yeosang didn’t pause for a moment. “Wooyoung finally got around to checking the cameras in your apartment complex, from that night when you called me? You said no one was there, and you can’t see it all too well, but there was definitely a really old, black car parked, facing your window, and a guy got out at one point, looking at the second floor windows. He stopped at yours, hyung. Then got back in his car and drove off, right around the time you called me.”

Yeosang swallowed audibly. “Hyung, I think someone may actually be following you.”

Seonghwa paused at the crosswalk to get across the road, his face neutral and calm, despite the slow-build racing of his heart. “Well, I know I’m not insane, then. Thanks for letting me know, Yeosang. I’ll-”

He stopped.  

A large catering truck blocked his view across the street for a moment, and when it moved, as the little green man appeared that signaled Seonghwa to cross, he saw a man sitting at a cafe table across the street, sunglasses in place and a cap pulled down over what looked like military cropped hair.

The man stared back at him.

And Seonghwa didn’t know- had no fucking clue- what part of him told him to move, but his eyes made contact with the man and Seonghwa dropped to the ground like a stone.

A gunshot rang out.

People around him screamed, running or dropping to the ground. Moms grabbing their kids, and people walking alone looking around to see what they should do.

The shot came from behind him. Seonghwa ran in that direction to the nearest shelter- a small alleyway, barely wide enough for him to fit. He risked a glance back.

The sunglasses man was gone.

Another gunshot and pieces of brick from his alleyway shattered and splintered in front of him. He jerked away, drawing his gun and stepping further into the alley. Engage or run? That second shot came from in front of where Seonghwa had been. Across the street he had been prepared to cross.

Multiple shooters?

“Hyung!” he heard Yeosang’s tinny phone voice yelling. “Hyung, if you don’t fucking start talking to me-”

He couldn’t take multiple shooters on alone with only a handgun. He ran further into the alley, pressing his phone to his ear. “Yeosang,” he said quickly. “I’ve got possible multiple shooters after me at the Beauty Shopping District near the river.”

“They’re after you ?” Yeosang demanded, and he could hear muffled orders being yelling away from the phone. “Were you hit?”

“No, but the man I described to Eden was here too,” he said, reaching the far end of the alley and swallowing. What did he do? Where did he go? “I’m on the run right now.”

“Hyung, don’t go home,” Yeosang said sharply. “They’re probably involved with the guy who at your apartment. They have to know where you live.”

Seonghwa guessed as much, but where did he go? His car was back in the direction of the gunshots, his apartment was off limits. He could try and find a safe house, but the closest one was thirty minutes on foot.

So where the fuck did he-

Another gunshot, but there was no chipping of brick or sound of a ricochet. Another shot, more distant, clearly not anywhere near his hiding spot. Were they just toying with him now?

Where did he go? He needed to get out now, he needed cover, he needed someone who could fucking help, someone who-

Oh, fucking hell.

Seonghwa growled, punching the brick with his phone hand, and cursed under his breath. “Fuck all of this,” he snapped, leaning out, checking his surroundings, and sprinting out of the alley and across the street. If he turned, he would be heading North towards a side street.

Yeosang ,” he snapped angry and pissed and frustrated and ready to just let the fucking shooters take him, his legs pumping rapidly. Another shot. He saw a hole pierce through a wooden table of a cafe. “I’m seeking cover at Hongjoong’s.”