“You’re only making this harder on yourself, Johnny,” Bora, Johnny’s lawyer who had been specially appointed by his family, told him with a small sigh, shaking her head. Johnny only took a sip of the coffee she had brought him, wincing a little at the harsh taste. He had never really been a fan of black coffee but would take it, considering that it would probably be some of the last sips he’ll ever take of the drink.
Bora said that a lot. Said that he was making everything harder than it had to be, that he was making her job more difficult with his stubbornness. Part of him felt a little bad but it wasn’t enough to get him to budge. It never would be and Johnny wasn’t going to change his mind anytime soon.
These last couple of weeks had been pretty hard for him. Ever since being separated from Taeyong back in Fukuoka, there hadn’t been a single moment where he wasn’t struggling with something. Whether it be the relentless media hounding him, asking why he had murdered her older brother, the pain that came with not having Taeyong anywhere near him or the guards who were assigned to keep him safe in protective custody but went out of their ways to do the exact opposite Johnny hadn’t been given a single break since the moment he had been shoved into the back of that cramped police car, neck straining because apparently, Japanese authoritative vehicles weren’t built for someone of his stature.
He had last seen Taeyong in court only a few days ago. To be blunt, Taeyong looked like shit, but Johnny still thought that he was easily the prettiest person in the room. His jumpsuit didn’t fit him quite right but his hair had gotten a little longer since the last time Johnny had seen him and it really did suit him. Johnny didn’t really like his own and desperately needed a cut but Taeyong? He looked fucking ethereal, even with those dark circles underneath his huge eyes and almost deathly pale skin. Taeyong had blinked over at him and frowned a little for a reason that Johnny didn’t know but his face almost immediately softened once he had smiled over at him. The bailiff had made it a point to step in between the both of them after noticing the small interaction, growling underneath his breath at Taeyong, voice too low for Johnny to make out what he had said.
He saw Bora once or twice a week to talk about his case. She always brought him coffee and some kind of a breakfast sandwich for him along with her which Johnny appreciated. The food in prison wasn’t as terrible as everyone tried to make it out to be but Johnny still preferred the outside food Bora gave him more. While Johnny was extremely thankful for Bora and all she was doing for him —between her food deliveries and how much of herself she was putting into his case—there wasn’t even a small part of him that was ready to do what she wanted him to.
“You’ve said that, like, twelve times already,” Johnny mumbled, placing down his cup of now–lukewarm coffee.
“I keep saying it because I’m hoping you’ll finally decide to listen to me,” Bora quipped in response, sighing as she started to rustle through the stack of files in front of her. “I’m sure he’s somewhere with his lawyer right now ready to blame everything on you.”
Johnny truly did doubt that. Taeyong wasn’t the type of person to flip everything on another person to save himself. He could have done that when they were still together and hadn’t. In fact, Johnny was the one who had been fully prepared to hand Taeyong over to save face and make it out without being caught by the police. He hadn’t gone through with it but the point still remained. He was the narc, not Taeyong.
“If this is some kind of a tactic to get me to break, it’s not gonna work,” Johnny said simply.
“I didn’t think that it would,” Bora muttered, shaking her head. She blinked up at Johnny behind the thick lenses of her clear glasses, her gaze lingering a moment before she was frowning softly. “They’re still beating you?”
It took Johnny a moment to understand what Bora was referring to. When he finally did, he raised a hand to the ugly, purpling bruise that had taken up almost the entire lower half of his face and let out a small laugh, shaking his head. Those were old. They still hurt to touch but old nonetheless.
“Not since last week,” Johnny shrugged, lowering his hand back down to grab hold of the cup of coffee in front of him, stopping to take a sip. “Think they might have finally lost interest in me.”
Johnny had said that with confidence but wasn’t really sure. In all honesty, everyday that those men didn’t storm into his cell and beat him stupid he only felt more and more nervous. He liked it better knowing when and where they would strike. Them not doing anything over the past couple of days left Johnny completely in the dark which he didn’t like. His anxiety about it had actually gotten so bad that he was starting to have trouble sleeping at night.
“They would stop hitting you if you just said that you didn’t kill your brother, Johnny,” Bora told him softly.
“But I did,” Johnny responded, his voice coming out a little bit sharper than he had intended it to. He cleared his throat, looking away from Bora’s wide eyes. “I don’t know what to tell you, Bora. I did it. I’m not gonna lie about it.”
“The prosecution team is trying to give you a death sentence,” Bora said bluntly. Hearing that didn’t surprise Johnny all that much. He knew from the beginning that his sentence would be harsh due to the sole fact that people wanted justice for Matthew’s death. The media was painting him as the jealous, overzealous little brother who had wanted to bring down Matthew’s empire since as far back as a year ago when he had broken into his company building turned murderer. They wanted him to suffer, to get what they felt that he deserved. This being said, he didn’t think that they would decide on death. That seemed a little harsh.
“Aren’t you supposed to be doing everything you can to get my sentence lowered?” Johnny pointed out, raising an eyebrow.
“I am,” Bora defended. “You have to admit that it’s a little hard for me to do that when you won’t budge on this kid who you barely even know."
“He’s my Omega,” Johnny hissed, a little tired of Bora trying to undermine his relationship with Taeyong.
“The court doesn’t care about that, Johnny,” Bora snapped harshly. “All they care about is getting justice for what both of you did to what they think is an innocent man. I don’t get why that’s so hard for you to understand.”
It wasn’t hard for him to understand. Johnny got that everyone wanted justice and that reason alone was why he was being thrown under the bus. It still didn’t mean that he was going to drag Taeyong down with him. Taeyong was young and stupid and didn’t deserve to spend the rest of his life in prison because of a couple of mistakes he had made. Johnny had known what he was doing when he had done it. That was the clear difference between the two of them.
“You think you could bring me iced coffee next time?” Johnny asked, shaking his coffee for emphasis.
Bora blinked at him for a long moment, clearly debating on whether or not she was going to keep pushing him to do what she needed him to. She must choose against it in the end, as she was sighing for what had to be the fiftieth time before nodding slowly, running a hand through her dark, short hair.
“Caramel or vanilla?” Bora questioned and Johnny took some time to think about it.
“Caramel,” Johnny finally decided, sitting his coffee back down.
“Caramel it is then,” Bora said, starting to look through all her (Johnny’s) files again with somewhat of a defeated look on her face. Johnny would have to remember to suggest to his parents to start paying her more than what she currently got the next time that they visited. She at least deserved that much.
Taeyong hadn’t slept at all last night. So many different possibilities of what could happen to both him and Johnny ran through his head from the darkest hours of the night to the moment that the sun started showing face through the tiny window on the furthest wall of his cell. While happy that he no longer had to be seperated from Johnny, Taeyong couldn’t help but be even more anxious knowing that anything could happen to him and that there would ultimately be nothing that he could do about it. If Johnny had been hurt sometime during the night, he wouldn’t know a thing about it until he made his way into the cafeteria for breakfast and heard another inmate gossiping about what had happened.
It was that and the mere fact that Taeyong now feared for his own safety. He knew that Johnny had promised him that he would protect him but Taeyong wondered how much he could really do. If someone decided to take him out when Johnny wasn’t around—which would be often, seeing that they were in prison after all—there wouldn’t be a thing that Johnny could do about it. It was that Johnny didn’t trust Johnny’s intentions, he just knew that there were limitations on what all he could do for him and that was what scared Taeyong the most.
Fortunately, as dawn came and a loud, familiar shriek of a bell rang throughout the air, Taeyong was able to come to the conclusion that nothing would probably happen to him. Sangwon had made a comment about Taeyong looking a little bit more chipper now that his mate was back around and Hongsuk had grunted in response while rolling up his mat. Taeyong had only blinked at the both of them, not at all in the mood to defend himself from their inability to mind their own business.
Soon enough, they were pushed out of their cell and told to move along for breakfast which Taeyong couldn’t have been more eager for. He walked a little faster than normal and was almost immediately chastised by a nearby guard who warned him to slow down or face getting a shot. Taeyong’s jaw had clenched a bit at the man’s harsh tone but forced himself to walk alongside all of the other inmates on their way to the cafeteria nonetheless. Getting himself into trouble over something as small as talking back to a guard was the very last thing Taeyong needed right now.
When he got into the cafeteria and retrieved his tray, Taeyong didn’t see Johnny. He sat down at a faraway table in the very corner of the spacious room and looked around, chewing on the inside of his mouth and bouncing his leg out of nervous habit. It looked like almost everyone was there but Johnny was still nowhere to be seen. Had he gotten in trouble sometime during the night? Even worse, had something happened to him? Taeyong scanned the cafeteria again only to find absolutely nothing, cursing sharply underneath his breath.
He noticed the man who had been staring at him not too far away from him, taking a sip from the cup of water they all were given after getting their trays. The sleeves of his jumpsuit had been pushed up past his forearms, revealing a whole new plethora of tattoos that Taeyong hadn’t noticed the day before. There was something about him that was inherently threatening. Taeyong couldn’t put his finger on exactly what. Either way, he didn’t like this man. Something about him was off.
“Am I gonna have to beg you to eat again?” Taeyong’s head shot up from where he had been staring at the man eat to see Johnny standing above him, holding a tray of his own. His body immediately sagged with relief at the sight of Johnny and he shot up from his seat, ready to embrace the older. Strangely enough, before he could even touch him, Johnny was pushing him away.
“What the fuck?” Taeyong said, allowing Johnny to guide him back down into his seat.
“Not here,” Johnny responded quietly.
Although Taeyong didn’t initially understand why Johnny didn’t want to have any contact with him, he hesitated only a moment before nodding slowly, tucking his legs back underneath the table. Johnny did the same and went to crack open his carton of milk, laughing a little and causing the milk to sputter up around his lips at the sight of Taeyong’s frown.
“What?” Johnny asked, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Milk is gross,” Taeyong muttered.
“You don’t drink milk?” Johnny questioned and Taeyong shook his head. He had never liked milk and never would. The whole concept of it was disgusting. Johnny chuckled lowly to himself and took another sip before sitting the carton back down on his tray. “That’s why you’re so short now.”
Taeyong immediately smacked Johnny’s arm with the back of his hand, causing Johnny to wince loudly in pain and pull away from him. How loud he was caused a couple of people to glance over in their direction including a guard or two but nobody said anything.
“Fuck you,” Taeyong snapped and Johnny couldn’t help but smile at that, a particuarly big one where his eyes would turn into little half–crescents and these lines would appear on his cheeks. Taeyong would never dare to admit it but he really did think that Johnny looked the cutest when he smiled like that.
“I didn’t realize how much I missed hearing you say that,” Johnny sighed, moving to pick up an orange from his plate. Taeyong glanced down at his own, realizing that he hadn’t grabbed one. All he had was a small scoop of rice, some soup and his own container of milk.
It was nice to hear that Johnny had missed him, mostly because Taeyong had been slightly worried that Johnny had forgotten all about him or was frustrated with him in some way, shape or form but Taeyong couldn’t help but feel like he didn’t have room to be happy about that right now. He found himself glancing back over at the table that man was at, his gaze lingering for a moment before focusing back in on Johnny.
“We need to talk,” Taeyong said and Johnny blinked at him, both cheeks packed with rice like a squirrel. It would have been enough to make Taeyong smile if he wasn’t so anxious.
“Not here,” Johnny responded after swallowing, shaking his head slowly. He looked over at the man’s table and stared for a moment before diving back into his rice.
“Then where, Johnny?” Taeyong hissed, a little tired of how suspicious Johnny was acting. He didn’t get to hold back on things if Taeyong’s life was in danger. It wasn’t fair. “You don’t get to put the idea that I’m three seconds away from being killed in my head and then not fucking tell me why.”
Johnny swallowed again, looking back over at that man’s table once more before turning his attention over to Taeyong. He seemed very visibly irritated with how loud Taeyong’s voice had gotten although it looked like no one had heard him through the general chatter of all the inmates in the enclosed room. Taeyong didn’t care regardless. He wanted to know. As a matter of fact, he needed to know, for both Johnny’s sake and his own.
“You gotta keep it down,” Johnny said as quietly as possible. Taeyong immediately rolled his eyes in response because a large part of him just knew that Johnny was going to say that exact thing to him. He looked around the room again. “Listen, I’m only not telling you to keep the both of us safe, okay?”
“When are you planning on telling me then?” Taeyong countered. “We’re in fucking prison, Johnny. We don’t have privacy anymore.”
“I know that,” Johnny retorted sharply before inhaling quietly through his mouth, exhaling shortly thereafter as he ran a hand through his hair. He was obviously very stressed about something and Taeyong would bet good money that it had something to do with their situation which is why he didn’t understand why Johnny wouldn’t just tell him and get some of the load off of himself. He was sure that the two of them would be able to think of some sort of a solution together. “Can you just—Taeyong, I just need you to trust me.”
And Taeyong did trust Johnny, to a certain extent. There was part of him, though, that couldn’t trust Johnny completely. Johnny often had the right intentions but didn’t know how to execute it without everything turning to shit and that was what made Taeyong uncertain. He knew that Johnny couldn’t figure everything out by himself. He just wasn’t built that way.
“I do trust you, Johnny,” Taeyong said, a little softer this time. “I’m just scared, alright? You came here out of nowhere when I wasn’t even supposed to ever see you again and tell me that the fucking dude that was killed still has goons in here and it’s—John, it’s a lot. Even for me.”
“I know,” Johnny sighed. “And I’m sorry about that but you really have to trust me when I say that I’ve got shit handled.”
Johnny having shit handled seemed very far from the truth. Or maybe it was the truth, but it was Johnny’s truth. His perception of having shit handled was definitely much different from Taeyong’s own. Still, Taeyong blinked back at Johnny for a long couple of seconds before ultimately giving in with a small, defeated exhale, nodding slowly.
“Okay,” Taeyong said, not because he fully believed Johnny, but because he didn’t know what else he could do in this particular situation. It seemed like his only choice was to sit back and hope that everything didn’t go to shit even more than it already had.
Johnny looked down at Taeyong’s tray again, reaching over to pick up his small container of soybean sprouts and pour it into the bowl of rice. Taeyong watched him as he did so, already more than aware of what Johnny was going to bring up next.
“I’m not hungry,” Taeyong spoke up before Johnny could say anything.
“You’re really fucking small, Yong,” Johnny said, picking up Taeyong’s spoon and placing it inside the bowl.
“I’ve always been really fucking small,” Taeyong grumbled, pushing the bowl away from him. It wasn’t that he was trying to be difficult but ever since entering prison, Taeyong genuinely hadn’t had much of an appetite. It might have had something to do with the fact that he was barely sleeping at night and now had worsened with the lingering threat of someone bringing harm upon him or Johnny but either way, Taeyong wasn’t in the mood.
“I’m telling you to eat,” Johnny said, his voice going an octave lower in a way that made Taeyong flinch a little in response. He pushed the bowl back in front of Taeyong and picked up the spoon, handing it to him.
And Taeyong knew that Johnny was using his stupid fucking Alpha voice on him, knowing that he would ultimately be left with no other choice than to give in. He grimaced to himself but took the spoon from Johnny nonetheless, forcing himself to dig to poor excuse for metal into his bowl and take a bite. It definitely wasn’t all that bad going in but Taeyong still didn’t feel like eating. There were so many more important things for him to be worried about at the moment and none included sitting down and enjoying a meal in the cafeteria. Besides, it wasn’t like he wasn’t eating at all.
“Nobody has bothered you since you’ve been here?” Johnny spoke up, watching as Taeyong went in for another bite of his stiff rice.
“I already told you they haven’t,” Taeyong spoke with his mouth full, shrugging a little. “Why?”
“Because I wasn’t even here for five minutes and somebody already tried to start shit with me,” Johnny muttered, glancing around the room for a moment. Taeyong watched him as he did, still holding his spoon. Johnny was different. He couldn’t figure out how or in what way but something about him had changed since Taeyong had last seen him and Taeyong wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. Johnny’s gaze finally landed on him and Taeyong could tell that he was searching him for any sign of injury. “It doesn’t make sense.”
“Shouldn’t we be glad about that?” Taeyong questioned. “I mean, not getting my ass beat isn’t really the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Johnny opened his mouth to respond to Taeyong but stopped himself, his gaze shooting up behind Taeyong. Taeyong noticed quickly and turned, only to see the man who had been staring at the both of them yesterday standing right in front of him. His entire body went stiff almost immediately and Johnny was quick to pull him closer to him on the bench they were sharing, fitting an arm around his waist.
“Whoa,” the man said, smiling and showing off two dimples on either cheek. “Aren’t you two cute?”
“Fuck off,” Taeyong hissed sharply. He felt Johnny’s hold on him go a bit tighter with his bluntness but Taeyong didn’t care. If this was one of people who Johnny feared would try and mess with him then he needed to let him know that he wasn’t going to deal with the bullshit.
The man seemed a bit taken aback by Taeyong’s harsh response, clicking his tongue in defense, still smiling. Taeyong could feel Johnny’s breath fanning over his neck. This guy felt like trouble.
“I’m not here to start any trouble,” the man promised and Johnny scoffed from behind Taeyong almost immediately.
“Oh, bullshit,” Johnny seethed. “I’m not fucking stupid, Jung. I know who you are.”
Taeyong frowned at that but didn’t move or say anything, waiting for the man—or Jung, apparently—to respond to what Johnny had snapped at him. He glanced at the table that Jung had come from and saw that a couple of the men were turned around watching all three of them. What the fuck was going on?
“I didn’t think you remembered me,” Jung said, still grinning. He ran a hand through his dark hair and Taeyong couldn’t help but notice the two bold eyes tattooed over the back of his large hand. “How come you didn’t come and say hi, man?”
Johnny didn’t say anything in response to that. Taeyong could tell that he was becoming more and more frustrated with Jung’s presence and the fact that he seemed to be so unbothered and entertained by what was going on in front of him. He wanted to turn around and tell him to calm down a little, that it wasn’t worth getting into trouble over but also didn’t want to look away from this strange man in front of him.
Seeing that Johnny was refusing to say anything, Jung sighed in defeat before turning his attention over to Taeyong. “You’re all anyone can talk about lately,” he said and Taeyong snorted in response.
“I’ve been here over three months and haven’t seen anyone show any interest in me,” Taeyong quipped. It wasn’t that he wanted the attention, more that he wasn’t stupid enough to fall for whatever trick Jung was trying to pull on him.
“Really?” Jung asked, tilting his head a bit to his left. Taeyong kept his mouth firmly shut. “Weird.”
“Is there anything that we can help you with?” Taeyong questioned because this whole interaction seemed wrong and he wanted it to end as quickly as possible not only for his sake but Johnny’s too, especially considering how tense he had gotten behind him.
Jung cleared his throat before reaching out a hand in Taeyong’s direction. Taeyong blinked down at his tattoo but didn’t take his hand, eventually looking back up at Jung. “I’m Jay,” he introduced, his hand still outstretched. Taeyong glanced back down at the eyes etched in permanent ink against his tanned skin and it didn’t take too long for Jay to notice where his attention had flickered down to. “It’s from the Great Gatsby. Dr. TJ Eckleburg,” he explained, finally pulling his hand back to get a closer look at the design. “It’s supposed to represent God and how he’s always watching us. Judging us for all the shit we’ve done, you know?”
“I don’t believe in God,” Taeyong back quickly, causing Jay to raise a brow in amusement. He blinked at Taeyong for a moment or two before breaking out into a soft smile.
“Well,” Jay said, still grinning down at Taeyong. “To each their own, right?”
“You need to go,” Johnny finally spoke up, his voice low and threatening.
Jay’s gaze switched behind Taeyong to look at Johnny. His smile faltered a little but never once fell. He hesitated for a slight moment before nodding, fitting both hands behind his back. Taeyong felt Johnny dig into his waist even tighter than before and had to swallow down a small wince, keeping quiet nonetheless.
“That’s alright,” Jay said. “We’ll talk later, John.”
Taeyong watched as Jay reached over to give Johnny’s arm a friendly pat. After pulling back, he offered Taeyong yet another smile before turning around and walking back to his table. When he made it back to the men he had been sitting with, someone threw him an apple and he caught it, causing the table to cheer loudly until a nearby guard shouted at them to quiet down.
The entire interaction had been so strange. Jay hadn’t said anything that was even slightly threatening but Taeyong couldn’t get past the idea that he was up to no good. After all, why else would Johnny be so tense? He spoke to Jay with such hatred and venom in his voice. Taeyong didn’t understand it.
“Hey,” Taeyong muttered, turning around to grab hold of both of Johnny’s hands. “Calm down.”
“I’m calm,” Johnny said darkly, clearly lying. His eyes were still focused on the table that Jay had gone back to.
“Hey,” Taeyong repeated, a little sharper this time around to get Johnny’s attention. Johnny blinked over at him. “I don’t give a shit about any problem you have with him. Don’t fucking get in trouble.”
Johnny stared at him for a long moment before sighing, deflating with the exhale of air. He definitely didn’t look any less tense but Taeyong could tell that he was at least trying to calm himself down. Jesus Christ. What had Jay done to Johnny that the mere sight of him got him this worked up?
“I really can’t fucking be in here,” Johnny mumbled, shaking his head.
Taeyong didn’t know how to respond to that. He didn’t want to be in prison either. There was virtually nothing that he could do about what was happening to the both of them. It sucked and Taeyong had no doubt that it all was so much worse for Johnny. Unfortunately, he’s never been all that good with words and couldn’t even begin to think of something that might have made Johnny feel even the littlest bit better.
“Who is he?” Taeyong decided to ask.
“Used to fucking work for Matthew,” Johnny answered, glancing back over at Jay’s table again. “Was one of his top men until he got arrested for some Ponzi scheme.” He forced himself to exhale slowly again. “Matthew was part of it too but him and, like, six other men had more means to defend themselves so Jay ended up having to take the fall.”
Taeyong wasn’t really surprised by that. Hearing that Matthew had fucked over yet another person. After his death, Taeyong found out a lot about Matthew that he hadn’t known before. His attorney told him about all the rumors and gossip that surrounded the entrepreneur since he had started to peak back in 2019. All the people he had apparently ruined and scammed. It only made Taeyong feel even less guilty—if that was even fucking possible—about his involvement in Matthew’s death, though he’d never say that out loud.
He still didn’t quite understand why Johnny had been so wary of Jay’s presence. It was true that Jay was a definite douchebag and Taeyong didn’t trust him as far as he could throw him but that was as far as it went. After all, why would Jay give a shit about either of them? There was no reason for him to try and enact his revenge—not when Matthew had basically ruined his life and got away with it. As a matter of fact, Taeyong didn’t doubt that Jay hated the man as much as he and Johnny did.
“Matthew fucked him over,” Taeyong pointed out quietly. “Why would he still have any loyalty to him?”
Johnny paused for a moment, seeming to take what Taeyong had said into consideration. He sighed once again, pulling away from Taeyong to run a hand through his hair. “I don’t know,” Johnny admitted, biting the inside of his mouth. “I just—Something’s not right here, Yong.”
“Stop expecting disaster to come for us at any second,” Taeyong said. “We’re together again, yeah? This is literally the best thing that could have happened to us.”
Johnny looked like he wanted to say something but was interrupted by a guard approaching their table. Taeyong looked up at the man, frowning at how he had come up to the both of them. His heart started to beat a little faster. Was this it? Was this the moment that someone came to him and told him that he had been requested for a transfer? Wouldn’t that be fucking ironic?
“Inmate,” the man said in a stiff voice, very obviously directing his attention over at Taeyong. “You’re wanted in the warden’s office.”
“Why?” Taeyong asked, frowning.
“Because I fucking said so,” the guard growled, reaching down to snatch Taeyong out of his seat. Taeyong made a shocked noise in the back of his throat, stumbling to keep himself from falling. Johnny shot up the second that Taeyong had been grabbed but stopped moving altogether once the guard moved a hand down onto the baton on his waist.
Johnny looked over at Taeyong whose face had gone scarlet with anger. He didn’t even have to say anything for Taeyong to understand what he was silently telling him. Don’t get in trouble. We can’t help each other if we get in trouble. It’ll be okay.
With that in mind, Taeyong straightened up a bit and exhaled quietly before turning back to the guard. The man looked at him with clear amusement on his face before gesturing for Taeyong to start walking in the opposite direction. Taeyong glanced at Johnny for one last time before following the officer’s command, unable to swallow down the dread that had built up in his throat. The warden? He had been in this prison for almost half a year and had never interacted with the man in charge even once. So why now? What had changed?
As the guard got in front of him and started to direct him out of the cafeteria, Taeyong couldn’t help but look back over at Jay’s table, only to find that Jay was looking directly back at him. It was almost like he had been waiting for him to turn around, waiting for him to catch his eye. Taeyong only blinked back at him for a second before turning back around, keeping his focus ahead of him.
“You want a cigarette?”
Warden Lee was an older man. He was probably in his early fifties with short, salt–and–pepper hair. The lines on his face were many but gave him a kinder, more trusting look. This was the first time that Taeyong was seeing him. For some reason, he had been expecting him to look mean and intimidating, someone who would make him shrink into his seat once he got too close. It was relieving to see that the man in charge didn’t look much different than his grandfather.
Taeyong was sat down in the chair across from the warden’s desk, his hands placed carefully in his lap. He hadn’t been in there for too long. The guard had led him into the room and gestured for him to sit down in the plush seat before disappearing and Warden Lee had come in not too long after, offering him a small smile as he sat down across from him.
He blinked at the pack of cigarettes that Warden Lee was holding out towards him, unsure of what to do. He had smoked before and found himself missing that sensation no matter how unhealthy it might be but didn’t trust the man’s kindness. No matter how friendly he may have looked, Taeyong knew that the man had to be some kind of a hardass if he was in charge of an entire fucking prison. Taeyong kept his hands clasped together in his lap, deciding not to reach out for the pack.
“Go on,” Warden Lee encouraged, shaking the pack.
“What’s the catch?” Taeyong finally asked, raising an eyebrow.
“None,” Warden Lee promised. “I’m not your enemy, Taeyong. I’m just here to make sure that everything stays in order.”
It was clear that the man wasn’t going to let it go until Taeyong did what he wanted him to so without hesitating any longer, Taeyong reached over and took the pack from him. He popped it open and pulled out a cigarette before handing the carton back over to Warden Lee, placing the long stick in between his lips. He stood from his chair and leaned forward to let Warden Lee ignite the end of it with a lighter he had pulled out from his pocket.
Taeyong sighed a little when the first rush of smoke entered in his lungs, breathing it out slowly. This really was what he needed, especially after the last couple of days. It obviously wasn’t enough to take the load off of him completely but still let him breathe a little bit easier.
“I don’t me and you have met before and I apologize for that,” Warden Lee said, sitting back down in his chair. “I’m sure you know that you coming to this prison brought a lot of publicity.”
Taeyong didn’t doubt that. There had been a lot of publicity going around from the very moment that he was arrested and even while first going into the prison, Taeyong had seen a couple of lingering reporters and journalists all wanting their money–garnering shots of what would probably be the final images of the man who had evaded the police for over three months. However, he had never once considered all of the trouble he had probably brought to the people in charge.
He didn’t respond to that, only took another drag of his cigarette. At the moment, Taeyong didn’t quite care about anything this man had to deal with because of him being there. The only thing he cared about was why he had been called in after all this time and for some reason, he just wasn’t able to believe that Warden Lee had made him come all the way down there to his office because he wanted to meet him.
“It’s a good thing that only a few people know about your little partner being here,” Warden Lee continued, shaking his head. “If this got out, you wouldn’t even able to see me right now, I’d be so drowned in paperwork.”
Taeyong didn’t really care about that either. It wasn’t like Warden Lee didn’t have a choice in allowing Johnny to transfer over to his prison. He had done it out a greed and if it did somehow get leaked to the media, the man deserved all that was coming to him. This all being said, Taeyong couldn’t help the way that his heart sped up with the mention of Johnny. He still didn’t understand why he had been called there in the first place and was nervous as to what the end result of it all would be.
“I mean, I could get into a lot of trouble, Taeyong, accepting a bribe,” Warden Lee explained softly. “Especially when it was explicitly written out for the both of you that you were strictly forbidden to have any sort of contact with one another until you were finished serving your sentences and seeing that Mr. Suh’s ruling is for life, the overall decision was that neither of you would be allowed to see each other ever again.”
Taeyong knew that. It was why he hadn’t understood how Johnny had managed to get himself a spot in the same prison as him in the first place. He didn’t get why Warden Lee was telling him all of this but then again, part of him had an idea. Was this building up into some kind of a threat or even worse, the man informing him that he was going to be transferred to another prison far away from Johnny? His stomach went tight at the thought. What the fuck was he going to do?
“Is there any reason why I’m here?” Taeyong finally asked, wanting to get it all wrapped up. If he was going to be moved, he didn’t want it to be dragged out any longer.
“Of course,” Warden Lee said, smiling again. He reached underneath his desk and pulled out a small tan file, placing it down in front of him. Taeyong felt like he could vomit. This was it. This was what he had been waiting for. And to think he had thought the outcome would be any different because this asshole had given him a cheap cigarette. “I wanted to offer you a job, Taeyong.”
Taeyong blinked back at Warden Lee, then down at the file that he had opened up on his desk. He could barely read it with how small the text had been printed but it was obvious that any sort of document about a transfer would look a lot more official than what was in front of the man. What the fuck? There was no fucking way that Warden Lee had summoned him all the way down to his office for a job offer. It didn’t make any sense.
“What?” Taeyong finally asked, frowning. “You’re not—I mean, you’re not gonna transfer me?”
“I didn’t have that in mind, no,” Warden Lee shrugged. “Did you want to be transferred?”
“No,” Taeyong said, a little sharper than he had intended. That was the very last thing he wanted and he didn’t want Warden Lee to think that it was what he had on mind. “It’s just—I’m just confused is all.”
“Confused about what?” Warden Lee questioned, tilting his head a bit to the side. “It’s as simple as it sounds, Taeyong. I’m offering you a job.”
Taeyong could have questioned why. Sangwon had told him not too long ago that only people who had been in the prison for a long while or had certain connections to those in charge were able to land jobs. He had only been there for a couple of months and had no link to anyone who had the power to give him one. So why him? Why him out of all those other people who actually had the means to get it? He didn’t understand.
The thing was that he didn’t want to. He didn’t want Warden Lee to think that his suspicion towards his offer ultimately meant that he was turning him down. From what Sangwon had told him, working in the prison was one of the best things that one could do for themselves. It would give him relationships that would be helpful for him in the future and could prevent any upcoming conflict that was set to happening for both him and Johnny due to what they had done. This was it. This was how Taeyong could help them stay out of trouble.
“A job where?” Taeyong asked, completely having forgotten about the still–lit cigarette in his hand. “Doing what?”
“You’ll be everyone’s personal librarian,” Warden Lee said simply. “Every other afternoon, you’ll be required to get up and go around each cellblock with the book cart and help inmates check out whatever they need to check out.”
Taeyong snorted a little, shaking his head. “Are you kidding?” he said incredulously. “I’ve been here over five months and I haven’t seen a single person pick up a book.”
“That’s because you’re in the younger cellblock,” Warden Lee responded, completely unaffected by Taeyong’s blatant disbelief of the system. “You’d be surprised how many people are itching to get their hands on a book in A and C.”
Taeyong really wasn’t sure if he believed that but wouldn’t argue about it any further. He looked down at his cigarette before lifting up his foot and putting it out against his boot, plucking it into the trash to the right of Warden Lee’s desk. This whole thing was strange. Was he getting special treatment because of what he had done? Was this some kind of respect thing? No, that couldn’t have been it. Nobody respected him in that place.
“What’s the catch?” Taeyong asked again, reminiscent of when his conversation with Warden Lee had first started. “I mean, there has to be some kind of a catch.”
“There’s no catch as far as I know,” Warden Lee said. “If you agree, you’ll be expected to do your rounds as scheduled and the money you earn will either be deposited to your commissary account or to your bank account outside of here. That’ll be your choice, of course.”
“Are you offering the same thing to Johnny?” Taeyong questioned bluntly.
“Well, that wouldn’t make too much sense, would it?” Warden Lee retorted, raising an eyebrow. “I’m sure you know that Mr. Suh isn’t really all that popular. There are a lot of people that aren’t exactly happy that he’s here.” He picked up a pen from a cup on the left side of his neat desk, clicking the nib out. “I’m trying to get my inmates their books, not start a riot in one of my cellblocks.”
Taeyong hated that. He knew that people disliked Johnny a lot more than they did him and whether it was because of the fact that Johnny was an Alpha and he was an Omega and they felt threatened by that or or because it was widely believed that Johnny was the sole person who had killed Matthew it still didn’t feel fair. Johnny didn’t deserve all the shit that he got. That thought was more of a reason for Taeyong to take the job, though. If he did all that he needed to do, maybe he could stop people from fucking with him.
“Fine,” Taeyong finally said, huffing. Warden Lee grinned at him before leaning over his desk and handing him the pen, pushing the file in front of Taeyong.
“Just sign on the line on the bottom and you’re all set,” Warden Lee told him, Taeyong swiftly doing as he was told. He gave both the pen and the file back to the man, sitting back down in his seat.
“Is that it?” Taeyong asked, his arms folded across his chest. Despite his agreement, he still didn’t trust what was going on. He simply couldn’t grasp why Warden Lee was giving him a job. It wasn’t like this was some kind of reward for him because he had managed to stay out of trouble for the entire time he had been there. There had to be something more behind it, something that he would have to figure out later.
“Yep,” Warden Lee said easily. “Just report to the library after lunch on Wednesday and Kim will be happy to get you all set up.”
Taeyong nodded before pushing himself up out of his seat, taking one last glance at the man behind the huge mahogany desk before walking out of the room. The door shut with a slam once he was out, causing him to flinch a bit. The guard who had escorted him down to the office was no longer there. Taeyong hesitated for a moment before walking out the same way that he had come from, uncertainty growing with each step.
The cafeteria was empty once Taeyong came back around but he could hear the familiar sound of commotion coming from the common area. He almost never went in there, preferring to spend most of his time in his cell by himself but wanted to look for Johnny and knew that the first place to find him would probably be in there.
The room was crowded with people. Some were at the metal tables, playing cards or talking amongst themselves. Others were in chairs in front of the TV, arguing about what to watch while a guard stood not too far away from them, silently warning them not to go too far. Taeyong didn’t see Johnny which caused him to frown. Where was he? Why would he have left without knowing what had happened to him?
He turned around to go look for Johnny in another room but was stopped by a guard who moved in front of the entrance. Taeyong stared back at the man, his face going a bit hot with irritation before forcing himself to turn back around. He would have to go and find Johnny later.
Taeyong hadn’t made it too far into the room when someone called out for him. He looked over to see Jay sitting there, surrounded by some of the same men as earlier. Taeyong hesitated, uncertain about following the man’s call. If Johnny was around, there was no doubt that he would have told him to keep walking. But Johnny wasn’t there and Taeyong didn’t want to call more attention on himself by not answering.
“Come on, Yi, move,” Jay said once Taeyong had approached, shooing the man in front of him out of the spot. Yi glanced behind him at Taeyong before sighing, placing down the stack of cards he had been holding before getting up out of the seat. Once he was gone, Jay gestured to the empty spot. “Sit down.”
“I’m good,” Taeyong shook his head in response, not seeing any reason why he should have to sit down.
“Suit yourself,” Jay shrugged, placing down a card in the pile in front of him. He turned to the man to his left who stared at his own stack before putting one down himself, humming quietly. “How’d your meeting with Warden Lee go?”
Taeyong wasn’t at all surprised to hear that Jay knew that he had gone to visit the warden. He seemed like the type that knew what all was going on in the prison. Taeyong wasn’t sure what kind of power Jay had within the facility but knew that it had to be something of substance, especially with how easily that man had gotten up and left when instructed.
“Fine,” Taeyong said. “Is there something that you need?”
“Just wanted to welcome you to the club,” Jay responded, smiling up at him. Taeyong frowned at that. The club? What the fuck did that mean? “You’re welcome for the job, by the way. Pulled a lot of strings to get you that.”
Jay had gotten him the job. That was how he had gotten it. That was why he had been randomly offered the position as apposed to all these other people. Taeyong blinked back at Jay, watching him put down another card—a queen of spades. It still didn’t make any sense. Why had Jay picked him out of everyone else? What could he do for him? Why not Johnny who could offer much more for him as a person?
“Don’t worry,” Jay reassured him quietly. “We take good care of each other here.”
And something about that didn’t feel good to Taeyong. He couldn’t quite grasp it but Taeyong didn’t like it. It wasn’t right.
“We’re doing a sweep!” a guard shouted, the sound of his voice causing everyone to stand and spring into action, the men in front of him at Jay’s table groaning before all doing the same. “Everyone back to your cells!”
Jay made sure to scoop up all the cards before standing up himself, tucking them into the side pocket of his jumpsuit. He noticed Taeyong still standing there and came around to put a hand on his shoulder, not seeming to be at all bothered by the way Taeyong flinched at the sudden contact. He smiled down at Taeyong, exuding the pure scent of an Alpha that Taeyong hadn’t noticed until now.
“I’ll make sure you’re all taken care of,” Jay reassured him softly, giving him a shoulder one last pat before walking off, disappearing into the crowd of the men.
Taeyong didn’t know what that meant. He didn’t know what that was going to entail or why Jay had gone out of his way to recruit him. All he knew was that he stood there for a couple more seconds before a guard was redirecting him the opposite way, hissing at him to keep it moving before he got a shot.