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It all went as smooth as it could.

San takes the place next to Song Mingi and immediately makes himself comfortable by half-lying on the chair and taking off his jacket, Yeosang and Minnie take seats in front of them, and Shuhua is seated on the row to the right, so she has a clear view on the entertaining scene of four grown people knocked out. Half an hour into the trip Mingi starts dozing off and falls asleep on his own—this was the thing their entire plan depended on, but just in case San had a bottle of water that Shuhua mixed with somniacin. So, when San makes sure Mingi is asleep well enough, he pulls out one of PASIV tubes out of his bag, carefully takes his exposed arm and, with absolutely no hesitation in a honed movement, injects the needle into the medial cubital vein, tapping it down with a bandaid.

“Oh god, I nearly fell asleep on my own,” Yeosang complains, taking both his and Minnie’s needles passed to them.

“You going?” San turns to Shuhua, holding two tubes—one of them is his.

Shuhua pouts and angles her eyebrows. “Isn’t that one level labyrinth? Do you need me?”

“There’s only one level and it should be enough,” Yeosang replies instead. “Just watch over us and turn PASIV off in an hour. Let’s go, Minnie is already blacked out.”

San looks at Song Mingi for absolutely no reason before inserting the needle in his own inner elbow and gets comfortable for his nap.

 

 

Song Mingi, son of a Song Electronics’ CEO based in Gwangju, currently is getting his neurosurgeon degree in Seoul. His father died three months ago in May—this was all over the news, actually, because the company is pretty big, and San can even distinctly recognize their target’s face. Mingi’s uncle married a divorced woman from China and moved to Beijing where he opened a company way too similar to his brother’s. This had obviously made Mingi’s father mad enough to state publicly that he would come back from the dead if he even dares to think of inheriting the company after his death. Mingi’s uncle haven’t showed any signs of planning to inherit it, but he had a step-daughter to whom he passed his company on—Song Yuqi, an ambitious young woman, same age as the other heir, who immediately announced that she would like to put Jeon Soyeon on the CEO chair instead of Mingi. Jeon Soyeon is already an employee at Mingi’s father’s company, so it can happen simply if Mingi declines his inheritance rights. Then the company would pass on Mingi’s uncle, and he would pass it on Yuqi, who in her turn would merge the companies, put her trusted person to rule and they would fully control the market. It has been the last thing said in this conflict—Mingi has yet to reply whether he will accept the CEO position or not. It’s all delivered to them by Miyeon within ten minutes while their client, Jeong Yunho, arrives at their office after his first call.

“There should be no problems,” Yunho explains, “you don’t even have to make a complicated labyrinth like that american guy did a few years ago.”

Minnie nods. “Yeah, this is similar. There were three levels, ten hour sleep and an actual fucking brain maze with a Minotaur, Theseus and Ariadne.”

“I know the guy, the thought is already here, no inception needed.”

“You know him well enough to know this,” Yeosang takes a look in the papers that Miyeon brought, searching if Yunho ever was mentioned there too, but then raises his head to face him. “Why would you want this done to him? We’re literally going to break into his brain and rearrange everything there.”

Yunho sighs and smiles. “I also know him well enough to predict what would happen. When he gets asked his final decision, he would think to himself that he owes his father so much and it’s enough of him avoiding his fate, and accepts the company. In a few months, he’ll get manipulated and torn apart by fellow business sharks, leading the company into a total disaster. Yuqi has been a CEO for half a year, Soyeon has a management degree and personality. Mingi likes cuddling a pillow to sleep and holding hands. Just look at him.”

San picks up the papers from Yeosang to check out the ID photo. Doesn’t really look like a guy who cuddles a pillow to sleep and likes holding hands—the face features are too sharp and he’s frowning into the camera—but at some point San starts seeing it.

“He’s cute,” he says, shoving Yeosang with his elbow to show the pic to him.

“I have a boyfriend,” he cuts him off, not even looking in his direction.

“Okay, lettucehead,” San rolls his eyes and puts the papers on the table. Shuhua snorts.

“We’re taking the mission, but I hope you’re aware it’s not a cheap service,” Miyeon puts her hands on the table and makes her serious spy boss expression to indicate she’s not getting paid in six digit numbers.

“Of course,” Yunho pulls a paper out of the inner pocket of his jacket and slides it over to the center of the table, revealing a multiple tens of million won written down there.

“Holy shit,” Shuhua comments really loudly in the accidental silence.

 

 

It went as smoothly as it could, even with an architect such as Yeosang, a genius of two flaws—he finds joy in making San’s life as hard as possible while keeping the mission completable and sometimes unintentionally misses out the leaks in the walls separating his own thoughts and feelings, letting a projection of Wooyoung sneak in. The main door of the building exists, but is locked, and there’s a second floor window opened mockingly, waving tulle at him, as if begging to climb the fire escape ladder. It’s so obviously tinted with the Kang Yeosang Trademark Type of Obstacle, it hurts. San would climb it with no problem, but it would be way more convenient if he would just enter it like a normal person through the door. Now he has to enter through a cafeteria.

As soon as he reaches the windowsill with his hands and pulls himself up, he meets the target face to face, nearly bumping into him. Mingi takes one surprised step back while San throws his legs over the edge of the window, and just stares with his mouth open.

“Oh my god, an angel,” Mingi gasps and grabs his heart.

“Be not afraid, sexy,” San announces in a deliberately deep voice and jumps down on the floor. “I’m your guardian angel.”

“Word,” Mingi stares at him with some strange fond expression. “What’s your name?”

“San…niel,” he quickly angelificates his name and coughs. Shit, that wasn’t a part of the plan. “Saniel.”

“That’s so dope,” Mingi starts smiling, “why are you here, Saniel?”

San inhales deeply, like he’s about to dive in—it’s when the fun starts.

“I’m here to warn you, my dear.”

 

 

If there were architect awards, San would get drunk and fight a bunch of suit dressed old men for Yeosang to get crowned as the best architect every year. Miyeon did a thorough research, watching over the entire country, hoping to see a spark of genius in at least one university senior, and there were at least five before him that San witnessed—she at first played it off like a real estate kind of job, saying she needs a great architect to build something, and then would dismiss without explaining a reason—all of them lacked this insane type of imagination dreamsharing needs. Yeosang wasn’t even bothered enough to reach out first, and it might have also been a thing that played a big role in Miyeon picking him out of the noisy crowd in the corner working on Victorian church columns. Miyeon would later say that him getting snarky, saying he’s not interested in building houses for her, was the moment she realized that he’s the person she’s searching for—someone who doesn’t want to be trapped in laws of physics applicable in reality. And she hit the bull’s eye—Yeosang was capable of building a simple one-level labyrinth skeleton and running multiple tests two-three work days-work nights spent at the office, something that would take twice longer, was it anybody else. Then he would let the striving for perfectionism take over and refine every single detail, creating a perfect lucid dream, so vivid and lively it would make San wish he was the one getting his brain perpetrated.

For this mission they request Yunho to provide building plans—Shuhua suggests to pass it as a reflecting dream that can normally occur if you think about something a lot, and Mingi totally has to think about this problem a lot. Skyscraper of an older type with only twenty levels, Mingi is at his father’s office when Minnie, disguised as Yunho, enters and gives him a little talk on how he needs to decide already. Then San enters in a very dramatic manner—he was allowed to have artistic freedom here—and announces himself as his guardian angel who is here to pass him the God’s message about what’s his real purpose in life and other nonsense. The biggest trick is that San would be playing with fire here—this is a series of dice rolls for luck, and if he rolls something less than 20, the dream would collapse. The risk is so high the task nearly becomes impossible. But Miyeon has a talent for finding the brightest gems, no doubt about it. It’s the way everyone is a master that gets them through the toughest missions, but San would secretly think to himself that his and Minnie’s acting skills would take them nowhere, wouldn’t it be Yeosang’s ability to make impossible real.

San stumbles over a stair step and suddenly realizes he’s been getting up in circles like a total idiot. “Alright, turn it off. He’s bored.”

The main culprit is already seated on the bed, stretching his back and arms and scrunching his nose like a cat—San is watching while still lying down on the couch. “You’re such a killjoy. Paradoxes are fun. Can I keep these Penrose stairs just in case he would try to escape?”

“And how am I supposed to enter the building?” San laughs—his voice is still hoarse from a nap.

Yeosang smirks at him, eyes glistening with some weird excitement.

 

 

San is kind of obsessed with forging especially because of his own inability to do so. Minnie would make perfect impersonations in reality, always cheering up the mood, and within the dream it would become her job—to play with your subconscious, convincing your perception, feeding it a beautiful seamless lie. She would spend the brainstorming nights in front of a mirror, talking to herself, creating a new persona, an absolute copy of someone else. She would pick up someone’s nonverbal language traits and mannerisms over one long conversation. A real Minnie dissipates in this copy, even her slight accent slowly blending into a clear native Korean, and it would make him question everything even in reality—how she was once able to copy him speaking in satoori. It’s amusing to see how Minnie enters the room as a woman, but the more he stares at her face, the more he can see short cut hair, high cheekbones, broken nose, taller and broader frame and a suit instead of a sundress. It’s simultaneously Minnie and Yunho, but the more you try to figure who exactly it is the more you get confused.

“Are you leaving already?” Her voice is confusing too—San would swear he heard her actual feminine voice talking but as he tries to recollect it, it’s an exact copy of Yunho’s voice. She’s holding two paper coffee cups, still steaming.

San, to make it more believable, passes right in front of Minnie, who does her best to look straight through him, which gets him a shocked expression from Mingi.

“What is it?” Minnie turns around, imitating confusion and ignoring San right here.

“Oh, uh, hm. Nothing.” Mingi scratches his head. “What did you want?”

Minnie gestures him to the empty table next to them and puts their coffee cups there. San feels a bit hot, so he takes his jacket off, leaving it on the windowsill where he also climbs on himself and gives Mingi a gently encouraging smile. He also takes a quick look around—the time on the clock says only 11AM, so it’s almost empty, three unfamiliar female projections at the table in the corner, two guys on the couch, one of them feeding another one a chip, and then another one projection enters—San slowly recognizes Wooyoung and can’t hold back a smile.

“The thing is,” Minnie starts with a sour sigh. “Mingi, it’s been three months. I understand it’s hard for you but it’s time for you to decide already.”

Mingi stirs his coffee with a plastic spoon but doesn’t touch it yet. “I know. It’s just… Please, you know this.”

“Of course I do. You’re my friend,” Minnie leans on the table and starts talking quieter. “But the company is in shambles now. There’s no one to formally control and rule the work process for the past three months. Too many new résumés from our workers on the internet. People see no future and get ready for the worst—that nobody will inherit the company and it just closes. This would totally be the last thing your father would’ve wanted.”

Mingi looks down and hunches a bit under the weight of the realization. “Wow. If you’re lecturing me out of all people, then I guess I’m really way too late.”

Minnie reaches to pat his shoulder. “I’m sorry, bro, but it really is. I’m just worried for you too. You’re gonna feel much more free when you’re done with this stuff. Anyways, see you later.”

She leaves the cafeteria with her coffee cup, now revealing Mingi staring into his untouched coffee with a hopeless expression. And now, the last and the most important part.

“Hey, Mingi,” San sits up on the table and leans on it to get closer to him. “What do you think you should do?”

“You know it already,” Mingi sighs deeply and leans back on the chair. “The company was precious to dad. I should take it and fulfill his dream even though he can’t see it now. That’s what he wanted from me.”

“Mingi, sweetheart. It’s your life, you know that?” San smiles as soft as he could, “you should be a surgeon like you wanted to, not a puny businessman because your father was like that. Do you truly think you can handle being a CEO?”

Mingi looks down and shakes his head. “I think Yuqi would be better in my place. Should I really refuse and give the company to her?”

San would spend brainstorming nights reading plays and poems to Shuhua who’s stuck in the lab making a horse-killing amount of drugs for the tests and the task itself, entertaining her and honing his own acting skills. Sometimes he would play with Minnie for everyone during a break. Nights before the mission are the most fun.

San is a crazy actor—he trusts himself to fuck every single target over, manipulate them into finding out the info they came here for, picking a lock so carefully the person wakes up unnoticed. Case of the Cobbs was the first thing San learned from Miyeon on dreamsharing—she wanted them to know all the risks before it would be too late. To pull off inception it’s needed to reach so deep in the person’s brain it would be a step away from the shared subconscious of everyone inside the dream, and put the idea in a form of a seed—later blooming in an actual normal thought, the person convinced they came up with this themselves.

Now he can try a non-hardcore version of that fraud—like pulling out weeds around a little flower and watering it.

“I am your guardian angel, and I came here to your dream to warn you,” he starts with a soft smile in a gentle voice, and Mingi raises his sad eyes on him. No reaction upon hearing it was a dream. “I can’t give you all the details, but if you inherit the company, you will walk away too far from your true self. It would end in tears. You will end up with nothing eventually, neither mortal possessions nor happiness.”

With each new word Mingi looks more and more inspired, leaning closer and closer to him, absorbing every single word—San barely holds back from screaming, happy they succeeded. Or because he’s kinda cute.

San reaches out his hand and cups his cheek. “Do not betray yourself, Mingi. God prepared a different path for you.”

 

 

Yeosang slaps him over his face, waking him up.

“What the fuck, mate!” San raises up on his seat and tries to hit him back but misses, too disoriented from his sleep.

Shuhua picks his bag up, closely inspects still sleeping Mingi and signals for them to leave closer to the entrance. San waits for the doors to open so he can grab Yeosang in a chokehold, drag him outside and whack him properly to revenge for this harsh awakening, but as soon as the bus stops, Yeosang jolts out so fast like he’s being followed by a biblical archangel covered in flames and a billion of eyes. San doesn’t even dare to try catching him—he probably could but he’s too tired from the mission and doesn’t want to move for the next week.

When they catch up with Yeosang near the fencing around the station territory, Minnie takes out her phone and calls Miyeon, telling them they’re done with the task and would come back to office in an hour if she needs—she hears they’re in Anyang and tells them all to just go home and rest until Monday.

“I love you! I’m so fucking tired! Now I can sleep for twelve hours straight!” San leans to Minnie’s face and yells so Miyeon can hear it.

“You just slept,” Shuhua laughs.

“I was working.”

They walk to the train station in silence for absolutely no reason, only Shuhua once starts a small talk about the ride that dies slowly—San personally is thinking about their mission. It’s how he usually would spend a few hours after it, worrying if he succeeded—if they failed, it’s always the extractor's fault. It was a hilariously easy quest, though, it’s now them against the Lord or something—either Mingi listens to this bullshit prophecy, which has the biggest probability of happening, or they hit that incredibly small possibility of Mingi striving only further away from giving up on the CEO path. San was speaking directly to his subconscious, deep enough that it probably won’t even be remembered when he wakes up, but you always need to prepare for the worst. The probability someone knows the dreamsharers got involved is also incredibly low, they’re using secret military inventions after all, but they’re also one Miyeon’s call to Cobol office away from getting fake passports and a shelter overseas. Hopefully, because Cobol have a history of abandoning their failed workers, but Miyeon says this was a part of her agreement. Even if they don’t, there’s always Shuhua and Minnie who can come up with something and help them all leave the country. Oh no, he’s thinking about bad stuff again. They’ve succeeded, he had seen Mingi’s expression, this fool will wake up and break apart the company right at the bus station.

Yeosang is buying the train ticket first and takes embarrassingly long for some reason, and three of them just stand there, staring at his back.

“You let Wooyoung in again,” San says.

Yeosang looks closely at his card and doesn’t rush to reply. “...I didn’t. I know when he sneaks in but this time he didn’t.”

“I’ve seen him too,” Minnie looks over his shoulder, putting her chin on it. “Turn it around, I wanna see the security code.”

Yeosang shoves her off his shoulder and puts his card back into an inner pocket of his jacket. San looks at this and feels something off, but can’t figure out what exactly, so he just goes to buy a ticket. “I said he didn’t. There were six projections and all of them were from Song Mingi’s brain. I’m serious.”

“I think San got confused,” Shuhua says thoughtfully. “This was someone who looks similar. We’ve never met him, how could you be sure it was him?”

“Right,” Yeosang puts his hands on his hips and looks at San who turns around, letting Shuhua buy a ticket in her turn. “You’re so obsessed with my fiancé that you start seeing him in random people?”

San sighs and rolls his eyes.

The train arrives in five minutes from now on, and everyone waits in silence again. San starts thinking about the insides of his fridge and the delivery services that would run faster to him during the rush hour when he gets home, something like kimchi jjigae and dumplings should work. Yeosang is probably going to come back for his chef househusband and doesn’t have to think about it. San has to show up at his porch someday uninvited and try out his legendary traditional Korean cuisine. Why the hell does this asshole always flaunt his fiancé to them and then never lets them meet him? He even runs away for his birthdays to Pohang, they have never celebrated it together.

Shuhua comes over to Yeosang and starts dusting off his jacket with a perplexed expression.

Jacket...

San suddenly gets hit by the realization. “Fuck!”

All three of them look at him, crouched down in the middle of the railway platform, hiding his face in his hands.

“I left my two thousand won jacket in the bus.”

The train arrives.

 

***

 

“I had a weird dream today when I napped on the bus.”

Hongjoong gives him a sour look while tossing a bag of cookies into their shopping cart. “Please, don’t tell me what I was doing with Seonghwa there. I can’t look at him since you told be about that dream with pirates.”

“That sounds like a you problem,” Mingi is unable to hold back a wide bright smile, “My subconscious just opened your eyes, you’ve been bottling that up for ages.”

Hongjoong gives him a look so sour it actually should be considered acidic and then changes their direction to the fridge with beer. Mingi is about to burst out in delight at the realization he won an argument.

The rest of the grocery store journey goes without any arguments—partially because Mingi is feeling too guilty to bother Hongjoong. Another part of it is that Mingi just feels uneasy after that whole trip and even the joy of this little win wears off too quickly to make him feel cheered up for a longer time. A weird dream of Yunho telling him off, a guardian angel visiting him and telling him to give away the company to Yuqi. Mingi never was the one to believe in superstitions, prophetic dreams, guardian angels, even gods, but there’s a very important detail that makes Mingi sure it was a real angel—a jacket. The angel jumped over his windowsill, wearing a denim jacket with two metallic pins, a bee and a sun, and when Mingi woke up from his nap at the bus, his seatmate already had left, but the very same jacket was still on the seat. Mingi wanted to leave it there, thinking the driver would probably bring it to the station and then the guy will come back to pick it up, but something made him take the jacket. There’s literally nothing in the pockets besides a crumpled 1000 won banknote that Mingi, like a regular university student, pockets to himself. He might be a CEO’s heir, but a free 1000 won is a free 1000 won.

The alarm goes off and Hongjoong literally runs to the freezer to take the beer out of it.

Mingi cracks the can open and waits for the bubbles popping sound to quiet down. “I’m gonna say it anyway. You were feeding Seonghwa chips.”

“Oh god.” Hongjoong takes a big sip and turns on the TV, leaving it at some idol variety running after a music show.

“Like literally, he was laying on your shoulder being on his phone and you fed him chips. Like a baby bird.”

“Shut up already, Mingi, I’m begging you,” he says, not looking away from the screen.

“Also I think I met my guardian angel today.”

Hongjoong turns around to face him. “That’s way more interesting. Go on.”

Mingi takes a pause to drink and gather his thoughts. “His bone structure… I might fall in love if I meet him again.”

“That’s cute,” Hongjoong’s voice is absolutely emotionless but he pays all the attention to him.

“I sat next to him on the bus and then dreamed of him telling me God has a different path for me. I will be a famous surgeon or something,” he smiles and drinks again, “also he took off his jacket in my dream and then when I woke up I saw it there too. Strange, right?”

“I was just about to tell you this shit is fucking ugly,” Hongjoong points at the jacket in question thrown over the chair. “If it’s his, this was a demon who got kicked out from Heaven for having a horrible fashion sense.”

“Oh my god. Fuck you,” Mingi hides his eyes with his palm and sighs. “He was really cute. I hope he comes back, you know, like Cinderella.”

“M-hm,” he only hums to himself and leans back on the chair, turning back to the TV screen.

The evening ends up being so uneventful that he goes to sleep too early for a summer break day, though Hongjoong still stays up, saying he has articles to write. Mingi takes angel’s jacket to his room and hangs it on the chair next to his bed, for no clear reason—then he starts thinking about what he has still to do when he comes back to Gwangju again and feels so uneasy he hopes his guardian Saniel visited and consoled him again.

He dreams of an empty cafeteria, the tulle barely moving in the morning breeze. Saniel watches him with a smile from the windowsill, but doesn’t approach—when Mingi gets up, he wakes up again.

 

***

 

“Two thousand won! Damn!” San throws himself back on the chair and kicks the wall to roll away in the middle of the room. Minnie shoots him a short look and comes back to playing Solitaire on her laptop or pulling out tarot in a randomizer website to get herself a reading.

“Shut. The fuck. Up. Already. It’s been five days.” The annoyance in Yeosang’s voice makes it drop a few tones lower than usual. San sneaks a look—a pair of eyes filled with primal bloodthirst behind a stack of books and papers, left from their mission preparations.

“You don’t understand. That jacket costs two thousand. I’m fucked,” San carefully explains—it’s not like he would actually kill him. Hopefully. Only force him to climb a wall in their next mission again.

“If you say another goddamn thing, I will ask Shuhua to inject you some pure somniacin.”

“I will not!” Shuhua shows up in the doorway, ridiculously posing to show off her knee-length boots. “I’m here to ridicule him too so he can shut up and stop complaining.”

“You don’t understand,” San whines. “Two thousand won are still money…”

“San, you just got paid hundred and a half thousands as prepayment and will get sixty million won next week,” Minnie looks at him with a tired expression over the edge of her laptop, softly lighting her face up with greens—so it’s a Solitaire round. “You can buy yourself thirty Gucci jackets or whatever designer’s shit you’re into.”

“It had a bee pin…” He pouts and turns around on his chair.

“Oh my god. Shit is real, he lost his bee pin,” Shuhua rolls her eyes. “Please, don’t cry, Cancer baby.”

“Yo, we’re all Cancers here, watch your mouth,” Minnie frowns at her. “Silence, triple Capricorn.”

Shuhua flips her hair and poses again.

“I’m a Gemini, actually,” Yeosang says and immediately knocks over one of the book stocks. “This is your fault, San.”

San pushes the floor with his leg, riding closer to Yeosang’s table and deliberately hits it with the back of the chair so another stock of books gets knocked over.

“You’re a Cancer moon,” Minnie explains to him after he stops cursing. “Like me. We’re all the same crustacean blood against a sea goat, holding up on pure respect for each other and Miyeon’s Scorpio moon.”

“Amazing. They truly say you’re learning new every day,” Yeosang says in a disinterested voice as he picks up a book from the floor and puts it in its place at the shelf.

The rest of the workday passes at what seems to be the normal speed, but when San thinks he’s done with the job, he realizes the day almost has passed. He had spent it updating a reference blog on his dreamsharing antics, shoved far deep in the darkweb at a forum with an address only known to fellow Cobol workers, something used as a big list of references and ways to share news between the offices in different cities and countries. San opened a little blog to share his experience in a form of little advice and real mission parts to show youngsters how to deal with some obstacles he had stumbled upon when he was a novice too.

Minnie leaves first, and after that he can hear Shuhua closing her laboratory too; Yeosang is still busy stapling together all the plans he had drawn for the mission, and there’s a literal lightbulb blazing up in San’s head.

When he’s done, even Miyeon has left. San follows Yeosang in the corridor to the elevator in absolute silence, at the first floor synchronically telling bye to the security, stands with him outside the building, and then walks to the unknown direction right behind his back.

This is when Yeosang finally notices.

“What the hell are you doing here?” He turns around with a phone in his hand and looks at him with an expression of mixed confusion and annoyance.

“Me? Enjoying my daily afterwork walk,” San smiles innocently. “Yo. You wanna hear a crazy story I’ve read today at the forum?”

San notices the fear of a trapped animal in Yeosang’s eyes and barely holds back evil laughter—he can read him like an open book. He really wants him to leave, but he can’t tell him directly—he knows San would still follow him to his house. He knows that if he tells him he’s going to meet with Wooyoung, San totally would follow him to his house. He realizes he fell right into San’s trap that he led him into at the moment when he stayed at work for too long.

He is very much aware he’s being a real invasive asshole hight now, but the problem here is that his job literally requires him to be invasive and the forbidden fruit is sweet, not in a homewrecking way but in a way that every time Yeosang threatens to shoot his leg if he ever again asks to meet Wooyoung and it only lights up the interest more. He’s been keeping his private and work lives too separate for San’s liking, while still tiptoeing around, constantly flaunting about how cool Wooyoung is and letting his projection sneak in into the labyrinths. But the projection is but a flat uncolored outline of a real character that can’t even keep up a conversation, and the stories are not satisfying enough when you can’t match them to a memory of a real person. Miyeon also refuses to dig up any information out of solidarity and respect, so it’s every man for himself now. The girls are going to be really mad when they find out San won the race.

San loses and lets his innocent idiot smile warp into a carnivorous snarl, and it triggers fight or flight response in Yeosang, in which he picks the first option and steps closer to him.

“I am speaking directly to you, Choi San,” he grabs him by his shoulders and talks right in his face. “This is the love of my life and if you ruin it for me, I will literally kill you. This time I’m threatening you for real.”

“That’s so cute,” San grins, “Don’t worry, he will love me. I’m halfway his best friend, we’ve met in the dreams so many times because you yearn so hard.”

“San, I’m serious,” he shakes him a few times to make sure he gets it. “He thinks I work in a real estate agency. Act like a normal person for once in your life.”

“Wait, you’ve been dating for two years, you’re literally engaged since this Valentine's Day and you were doing this for two years too and you still didn’t tell him?” He raises his eyebrows in shock. That’s so ridiculous he’s not sure he heard it right and can comprehend it within a minute—he needs an hour at least.

Yeosang lets him go and sighs deeply, pinching his nose bridge. “San, are you stupid? What I was supposed to tell him? That I model imaginary city districts, take hard drugs and ruin people’s careers?”

San opens his mouth to disagree but then realizes he kind of has a point. That might be the worst Tinder bio he can think of. Choi San, 24, I take hard drugs and steal CEOs’ dreams. Swipe right if you hate capitalism. Actually, no, that sounds kind of intriguing, he would swipe right.

For some reason he wonders whether Mingi would swipe right or not. On one side, he’s a son of a capitalist pig, therefore a capitalist pig by blood, but on the other side, according to Yunho, wasn’t that much eager to inherit the company. He probably would. Especially if they succeeded. Wait, why is he even thinking about him again?

He stops zoning out when he realizes someone is approaching them, and everything immediately stops mattering to him besides this moment—he needs to perceive this legend with every sense he has, because this would be the first and last time he meets him. He’s not even sure he would live past tomorrow’s morning—as soon as he enters the office, it’s either Yeosang grabbing him in a chokehold and injecting him a poison he mixed at Shuhua’s lab as a revenge, or Shuhua herself would inject some cooler poison out of jealousy. Damn, you never know what will happen when you piss off your friend, especially if the friend is a criminal.

“Oh wow, am I finally about to meet your friend?” Wooyoung exclaims in a voice too loud for a public place, and Yeosang looks like he wants the ground to swallow him whole right here. This is going to be so fun. “So you talk to other people… I can’t breathe, y’all.”

San fakes absolute shock and pats Wooyoung’s shoulder. “Oh my god, you’re actually real!”

Wooyoung makes a sly expression and reaches for a handshake. “I might be, unfortunately for everyone. Nice to meet you, San.”

San glances at Yeosang and gasps. “So you’re talking about us to him too… See, we’re halfway best friends, we just needed to formally meet. At the end of this date we’re gonna be amicus ad aras or something.”

Wooyoung starts searching for his phone in his pockets—Yeosang makes sure he’s not looking and mouths ‘I will fucking kill you tomorrow’ to San. Wooyoung meanwhile already puts his phone back after looking at the time shortly and says, “I suppose a change of plans. It’s 6PM, time for a coffee?”

Yeosang shortly inhales and shoots him a shaken awkward smile. “Yes, honey.”

Wooyoung gives him a confused look and raises his eyebrow.

“Aw, you had plans,” San coos in the most annoying way possible—after learning that Wooyoung wanted to meet them all too he decided to be the most annoying version of himself he could. “Sorry for disrupting.”

“Don’t apologize. I live with this gremlin, so we have all the time in the world,” he turns to Yeosang, “right?”

“Yeah,” Yeosang’s voice sounds very strained and choked, and San nearly starts laughing.

They pick a small cafe on the opposite street from the university—it’s not that far away from their office building; San would also visit it after work himself frequently for their pastries, so he agrees that this place is great to have a little talk even though it would be a bit noisy at this time of the day. Then San remembers this is the university Yeosang graduated from and wonders if this place has some special meaning to them—maybe two years ago they had a little not-quite-a date here.

“They have crazy cheesecakes here,” San recommends immediately, pointing at the chalkboard menu at the wall near the table they got seated on.

“Do they have traditional desserts here?” Wooyoung leans on the table and squints to read, and then turns around to Yeosang with a smile. “Or shall we listen to San’s advice?”

“I don’t know, whatever you want, I’ll have it too.” Yeosang genuinely looks terrified answering the question.

Wooyoung’s smile immediately withers. “Babe. Is everything okay? Say something mean, please, I feel uncomfortable when you are nice, quiet and agree with me on everything.”

Yeosang stares at him in panic. “What?”

“I don’t know, tell me to not order traditional Korean desserts because I would start complaining they don’t know how to bake it or something. I’m feeling like you were replaced by the government today.”

San bursts out laughing and unsuccessfully tries to mask it as a cough.

“I’ll think of something mean, promise,” Yeosang grins awkwardly and starts tapping the table with his nails.

Wooyoung gives him a doubtful look but doesn’t say anything. This pause lasts uncomfortably long; San is sitting here, feeling awkward, as these two stare at each other in different emotions—genuine confusion and worry from one side and terror of a lie getting cracked from the other. Maybe actually this wasn’t a great idea and he should’ve come up with another way to meet Wooyoung than straight up barging on their date. Like, without thirdwheeling, first of all, they’re nauseatingly sweet in a way that he wants to call them gross for just looking at each other. But he did it to himself, if he complains, Yeosang would just use this as an excuse to finally kick him out.

The waitress comes over to their table with a tray.

“You’re a chef, right?” San blurts out.

Wooyoung hums, agreeing, and helps the waitress to put their coffee cups on the table, smiling at her and thanking. “I own a small restaurant in XX-dong. See me there sometime.” Then he suddenly frowns in fake fury and moves his eyes on Yeosang, “so you told him what I do in life but never tell me what your friends do in life?!”

“I’m a psychologist. I wrote my thesis on sleeping, so I mostly work with sleep disorders,” San laughs nervously, but then chokes on air and coughs because Yeosang kicks his shin under the table with his massive thick-platformed expensive Doc Martens that he got specifically to kick San all the time. “You sleep well?”

“I do, thank you,” Wooyoung smiles politely and leans on the table. “Yeosang doesn’t.”

Yeosang blinks in shock and opens his mouth, thinking of what to say. “Don’t do that. I’m fine.”

Wooyoung looks at him with a frown, raises an eyebrow with some worry in his look—Yeosang only shakes his head in a negative answer—so he sighs and turns back to San. “Anyway. Besides him, I have a friend who has a sleep problem. Would you mind helping him? Sorry for using you within the first hour of our meeting, but you kinda asked it yourself.”

“Nah, it’s fine,” San smiles and gets another kick on the shin. There’s gonna be a bruise for sure. “I’m free nowadays, he can see me anytime. What is it?”

San isn’t lying that much—he’s an actual psychologist and really wrote a thesis on sleep patterns and REM phase brain activity. If he had a license, he could be a practicing therapist and actually talk people through insomnia. So he supposes he can give Wooyoung’s friend a little talk, maybe even for free—they got the prepayment and will get even more as soon as Song Mingi personally says he has no interest in inheriting the company. They probably won’t have much stuff to do again—corporate espionage is not a busy business.

Wooyoung scratches his cheek and side-eyes Yeosang for a second. “It’s not a serious problem yet, but better do something before it gets serious, right? He says he keeps seeing the same dream for the past five days. An angel visits him or something. The thing is that he bought an ugly jacket at the thrift shop but is convinced this angel had given it to him in his dream. Confusing reality and dreams, maybe? Your division, what do you think?”

San feels his face cramp in the same smile he was having before he heard that.

 

***

 

On day six of the recurring angel dream, Mingi finally gets up from his table and carefully walks to the windowsill with his guardian angel seated there, knee up to his chest and a hand thrown over it in a casual manner—like he’s just resting here after a long day of flying around and protecting him.

“Saniel?”

The angel turns around, and a blow of a wind hides his face behind a tulle for a second. “Hello, my dear.”

Mingi is afraid to get closer—what if he makes one step too soon and it ends again? He doesn’t want this to end. He wants to talk to him again, for way longer than the last time—he needs reassurement again, he needs a lot of advice about other things in his life, he’s intrigued and he just wants to know everything about him—why did he decide to protect him, why did he become a guardian angel, how is it living in Heaven.

He needs to know if it’s a sin to fall in love with an angel.

Saniel gets down off the windowsill himself and walks over to him—Mingi just notices he’s wearing that denim jacket with pins he had forgotten that time—he looks at him with a gentle protective smile.

“We don’t have much time again, right?” Mingi says for some reason, bitter and sad.

“We don’t.”

The tulle blows behind Saniel’s back, and his hair gets brushed over his eyes—he doesn’t move it away from his face. Mingi forgets or just can’t say anything, staring at his angel, trying to remember every feature better in hope of running into him again. Again, if he is actually real—he’s not sure now that he saw him in the bus when he was awake. By an evil fate’s joke he just can’t focus on anything to make out his actual face neither now nor when he’s awake—he sees all these sharp bones, fox eyes, three moles on the left side of his face, neck covered in pale freckles, ridiculous shoulder to waist ratio. No wings or a halo or any other classic angel trait, but something about him still screams celestial being—graceful movements and otherworldly beauty.

Maybe Mingi just dreamed about him this whole time. That would be so heartbreaking—to love someone who you have no chance with simply because they don't even exist.

Saniel holds his face in his hands and smiles fondly.

“But we will meet again.”

 

***

 

Officially the world ends on Thursday afternoon, exactly a week after the successful completion of the mission. Or at least San wishes the world ended right now, because if there’s anything worse than what is happening to him, it’s an asteroid, kaiju attack or alien invasion.

The situation gets even worse when San recognizes the campus of the university he himself had graduated two years ago. This means he could’ve met Song Mingi before in his life when they both were studying for their bachelors, which has a really low probability but it still for some reason stresses San out. He has no idea why this little fact is making this situation worse but it does and he doesn’t like how he’s feeling.

“There’s only one thing,” Wooyoung looks down at his phone and rolls his eyes. “Oh my god. Anyway, can you please promise you will not tell anyone who exactly you are treating? This dude is kind of a small circle celebrity, so he would prefer to keep it away from the news.”

San swallows dry. “Hippocratic oath, man. What kind of celebrity? Underground rapper?”

Wooyoung snorts. “No, just a chaebol. Can we take a second, I think Yeosang is about to blow my phone telepathically if I don't reply.”

“Aw, you two are making me sick,” San smiles and for a bit even stops wishing an asteroid hit the Earth right now. The world can’t end, Wooyoung and Yeosang are in love, that would be unfair.

The mortifying horror of being alive comes back after a minute of Wooyoung’s silent typing when he hears a raspy voice calling his name, and San in absolute terror realizes he had heard it exactly a week ago. Here it is, his personal apocalypse.

San’s last hope is holding on the last three things: Song Mingi has enough conscience to keep all the guesses to himself, Song Mingi’s brain can’t recognize faces in the dreams clearly so he won’t recognize him, and that San is a good actor and a con artist. As Mingi hurriedly closes the distance between them in half a minute, San finishes a rough draft of his legend: we only see the faces of the people we have met in our dreams, Mingi couldn’t see the face clearly to be sure it was San, therefore it was just a dream and he has neurosis. If Mingi never mentions it, then he doesn’t even have to say anything.

A big inhale, San fixes the collar of his shirt and turns around with a polite smile right in time when Mingi walks up to them.

The smile vanishes from his face when he realizes he has to look up to an entire head above him.

The thing is, during the mission San never actually compared Mingi’s height to his own—in the bus they were seated, at the first part of the dream they had met face to face but Mingi immediately walked away and San was too busy to pay attention, then Mingi sat on the table with Minnie again. He’s pretty sure Yunho provided his height and weight for Shuhua to calculate the concentration of somniacin that will work for him. He did figure Mingi was tall but didn’t really realize he was that tall as in almost a head above them both.

“This is Mingi,” Wooyoung introduces, pointing at him with his hand.

“Choi San,” San for some reason blurts out his government name and regrets it immediately. How many Choi Sans there are in the country? After this he’s calling Miyeon and asking her to make him a new passport.

“Formality,” Mingi snorts and holds out his hand. San feels a bit terrified under the brooding stare of this giant but shakes his hand, trying to maintain a polite neutral expression. He can do this, actually.

Mingi’s hand is warm and soft and San doesn’t really want it to go. Okay, maybe this would be harder than he expects.

“I’m a professional, I have to be formal,” San smiles like nothing is happening. Hopefully—he can’t see himself from the outside but he trusts his acting. “Shall we sit somewhere and have a proper talk when we can meet privately? I would need you to be completely prepared and detailed when we have a discussion next time.”

“Oh, uh. Yeah, I guess,” Mingi grins sheepishly at him. “I guess I need to think about it properly. Wooyoung just forced me to meet you, so I’m kinda all over the place. Sorry.”

“I did it for your own good,” Wooyoung smacks him on the back and points out the table at the terrace of the campus cafeteria. He opens his mouth and then suddenly groans—San figures it’s another message from Yeosang. This is totally a revenge for that ruined date. “Pick a spot, I’ll call my idiot rabbit fiancé before he dies from loneliness.”

San watches Wooyoung dial a number and walk away in angry steps to a safe distance where they can’t hear his family drama, feeling like the will to live is leaving his body with him. Now he is on his own and there’s literally no way to predict what’s going to happen—even though he literally was in Mingi’s head, he has no idea what’s happening here now.

Unfortunately, when he turns around, he meets eye to eye (roughly) with the most intrigued expression he had ever seen.

“So we really did meet again,” Mingi breathes out. “My guardian angel.”

San hopes an earthquake that would separate Eurasia again is coming up.

 

***

 

This is literally the first time in his life to have feelings for a target. Mostly because the majority of the targets were old annoying rich men and he would go for them only for their money—which was unnecessary since they paid them for the work anyway. The other little part were MILFs, so he, as a MILF hunter somewhat, would participate in a discussion with a fellow MILF hunter Yeh Shuhua, but this obsession would pass after the conversation. But that was just a simple MILF appreciation conversation. Now he has to admit he has a little potential crush on Song Mingi, mostly because he’s cute and tall, but he also looks forward to seeing him and discussing literally anything but this stupid dream.

They meet the next day at the same campus cafeteria and awkwardly stare at each other in silence after saying hi—personally, San is just mortified to do anything even though he was just thinking about how he would love to have a talk—he finally fully realized they’re most likely are going to only discuss Mingi’s stupid dream and he will eventually get caught.

Where did the mission go wrong? Was it a miscalculation or just a mean joke of fate? Can this happen actually? Did any of the other targets have recognized a thief in their dreams again? Can he blame this on Yeosang somehow?

Should he blame it on himself?

“So, uh… do I go to some office or at your home or… my home…” Mingi fumbles nervously and avoids looking him right in the eye.

San thinks of a handgun lying on the shelf in the living room, a box of bullets in the bathroom on the soap holder, a fridge with a bottle of mixed somniacin and a pack of instant noodles there for an unknown reason, and nervously laughs. “Your place, I guess? If you feel comfortable.”

“I do, I just have a roommate who can come home and that would be a fun situation,” Mingi glances at him and scratches his neck.

“Ah, okay. I don’t mind it.”

They look at each other for a minute in silence again, but this time San’s behavior is justified by the fact he has no idea where Mingi lives.

“Are we going anywhere?” San finally gives up after another minute of staring.

“Yeah,” Mingi nods and rocks on his feet awkwardly. “Let’s go then.”

Please can this end quickly so I can die after this, San thinks to himself and hurriedly follows Mingi who walks away too fast.

It’s a disappointingly basic apartment that really screams university students live here—cheap furniture that doesn’t match, lack of carpet in the living room, illusion of order, too obvious Mingi was running around yesterday, trying to get rid of the mess but giving up halfway, realizing it would take him at least a year.

Mingi walks him into the room and plumps on his bed. “Here’s your jacket, by the way,” he points at the chair.

San freezes.

His precious two thousand won sapphire treasure of thrift hunt is here, hung on a chair, both pins at the place where they were. The moral dilemma is that if he accepts it, he admits he actually was in the bus, therefore he is Mingi’s guardian angel from the dream, therefore has some stuff to explain.

But he would literally die if he leaves this apartment without his jacket.

“What?” He decides to play dumb to test the waters.

“You left this jacket in the bus last week. Gwangju-Seoul. You got off in Anyang,” Mingi tells him in a slightly annoyed tone. Okay, he realized San is just pretending. But he won’t stop anyway, there’s a chance.

“I never was in Gwangju in my life,” he babbles out.

Mingi sighs. “Your loss. Will you take it back or not?”

San grabs the jacket like it would fly away when it notices him looking in its direction.

“So you were in Gwangju,” Mingi laughs. “Are you from Gwangju perhaps?”

“Namhae.” He bites his tongue immediately—no, now he totally has to ask Miyeon for a fake passport. How many there are Choi Sans from Namhae?

“That’s some tiny place,” Mingi says thoughtfully as he lays down on his bed facing the ceiling and folds his hands on his stomach.

San forces a laugh, then grabs that chair where his jacket was hanging on and sits on it backwards. “Why are you the one asking me questions when I’m your therapist?”

“Dude, I was trying to be friendly,” he rolls his eyes. “Besides, the problem was that I supposedly had no idea where I got this jacket from.”

“I thought you keep seeing the same strange dream?”

Mingi suddenly turns his head to him. “It doesn’t bother me. You wanna hear it?”

San has never had an opportunity to listen to how the forged dreams are perceived by the target, and it’s not like he ever cared enough—what mattered more is the information he got. He was kind of curious when he just started but figured that there’s no way to find out; they even tried to pull an experiment on him so he can feel it himself but failed because San already knew he’s getting his dream perpetrated and it was too unstable. So he just used his knowledge and tried to guess: a normal vivid dream that you probably would remember detailed, the one that makes you write it down somewhere just because it was really cool and you wish you could rewatch it.

San leans with his chin on his arms lying on the chair's back. “If you are fine with me hearing it out.”

“I am. Because it was about you.”

“This can’t be me,” San says, trying his best to make his voice sound normal. He succeeds.

“In the bus I have dreamed of an angel,” Mingi says, turning to the ceiling. “He told me God has a different path for me. After that I kept seeing him every night, but he would be just watching me from afar. Yesterday he told me we will meet again and I’ve met you.”

“That’s a fun coincidence,” this time San’s voice shakes. He’s not sure what’s the reason for this jittery feeling—is it Mingi’s dreamy expression that he has while talking about his dream or him being dangerously close to getting his entire team in jail. “But we don’t see faces in our dreams. It’s always just a guess.”

“Right,” Mingi turns his face to him again and gives him a small smile. “Actually, maybe it's really just a weird coincidence, but I think he looks like you.”

“Maybe I am your guardian angel,” San suddenly breaks into a smile back and immediately screams at himself in his head. What the hell is he doing? Flirting? Sharing a cell with Yeosang is going to be a nightmare.

“I think you might be,” Mingi’s smile grows bigger. “We’ll see when I do a thing that you told me in my dream.”

San starts grinning like a complete fool, both from getting called an angel and from the fact that the mission was successful. Why is he always so overdramatic and panics too early? Everything is always working out well, they’re a team of geniuses who can make impossible the reality.

“You have to be my guardian angel. I met you at a very strange time in my life,” Mingi continues thoughtfully, turning to the ceiling.

“When it’s not strange?” San still feels like smiling—like all this foam in his chest is tickling him. Damn, it’s been a long time since he has felt this way that he even forgets he is supposed to choke it up before it grows into something serious.

Mingi still looks at the ceiling and ignores the question. “I don’t believe in this spiritual nonsense, but it’s like a sign.”

“Then I’ll keep protecting you in reality too,” San jokes and holds out a hand.

Mingi notices it pretty late, but immediately goes for a high-five.

“Thank you.”

 

***

 

It’s all over the economics news—Song Mingi’s gloomy expression with which he announces he drops all the claims on his father’s company, only asking to keep his share of his money. In an hour these news are followed by Jeon Soyeon’s cheetah-like smug smile with which she confirms to the journalists that she, indeed, was chosen by new heir Song Yuqi as a rightful CEO instead of Mingi, not forgetting to add that everything was consensual and nobody had threatened Song Mingi into this. When San gets on the subway, Miyeon texts in their group chat.

Mom 8:56AM
They transferred all the money to us. Apparently, that number was the price without prepayment, or Song Yuqi was just too happy to finally get her hands on that company.

San stares at his reflection in the train window for the whole ride and thinks. It feels shallow to be happy about that now because he knows Mingi. It feels like he just used him even though they formally met after the mission. He should think of something to make it up to him, quietly, without Mingi even noticing—just to feel a little bit better of himself. To feel worthy of this guardian angel title. Maybe treating him to a cafe would work.

He also totally forgets he was supposed to flex to Shuhua and Minnie that he finally met Wooyoung in person—in the context of the entire situation it feels wrong and he just wants to forget this nightmare.

“You’re right in time,” Miyeon passes by, fanning herself with a stack of papers and shakes her head. “Talk to him, man to man.”

San raises his eyebrows in confusion, sighs and enters the office.

Miyeon’s tone implied there’s an actual fire and tears spilled, but he’s met by terrifying silence—Minnie is reading something at her laptop with a very bored expression, jalousie’s quiet rustle in the wind, the architecting table, covered in papers pressed down by a handgun, and in front of it Yeosang is slowly spinning on a chair while staring at the ceiling.

“Who is bothering you today, king?” San asks him mockingly as he walks up to the table and leaves his bag on the floor next to it.

“You, actually. You’re the bane of my existence, Choi San,” he replies and turns with his back to him.

“I’m aware of that and it’s intentional. And why did Miyeon thank me for coming like you were threatening to shave off your eyebrows and set the office on fire?”

Yeosang stays silent, still facing the wall.

“He said he wants to quit,” Minnie replies instead and, closing her laptop, gets off her seat to leave the room.

“What?” San grabs his chest and makes sad eyes. “How can you abandon us! We’re a family! And we have a fuckton of blackmail on you, but I’ll be nice and pretend I never saw you in my life when I get questioned by the police.”

“I’m serious,” Yeosang finally turns around but he’s staring at his boots—these very exact Doc Martens he bought to kick him. San is contemplating on whether to tell him he’s gonna miss getting kicked by it. “I’ve had enough of this teenage heist manic dream.”

“Is this because of Mingi?” San drags the chair from his own table and sits in front of him. “C’mon, that’s not a problem. He didn't even question the fact I was in his dream.”

“It’s not just that,” Yeosang raises his head again and throws it back to face the ceiling with a somber expression. “I’ve been thinking a lot about this. It just made me realise some stuff. A lot of stuff, actually. There would be one day when Wooyoung will see me all over the news, ‘The notorious gang of Cobol spies gets caught: no more chaebol companies’ existences spoiled’. Or one day some crazy rich man would threaten Wooyoung because I was a reason for his failure. Would be nice to do something that doesn’t involve getting into people’s heads and ruining their lives.”

“I distinctly remember you saying this sounds fun exactly because it’s unethical when you signed a contract with Miyeon,” San scratches his eyebrow and sighs deeply. Great, this is a rock bottom for their office. They’re still dangerously close to getting caught and their best worker is having a midlife crisis at 24.

Yeosang laughs shortly. “I don’t give a shit about ethics.”

“Then what?”

“When I was signing the contract, I didn’t have anyone I cared about. Now I do. In fact, it’s someone I care about too much. I would find myself wondering whether I’m dreaming or not, even though I just can’t fucking see normal dreams anymore and can’t fall asleep without pills. Do you know what happened to that american woman who invented the inception technique? She killed herself because she thought she was sleeping. It’s just how all of us will end up, San, and I’ll be the first, because I run from ten to twenty five tests for every job. I don’t wanna kill myself out of confusion or end up in jail. I wanna marry Wooyoung and live with him at some cute house in the countryside overseas because I’ve had enough of chaebol beef.”

San has to agree he didn’t really take him seriously at first, but with each new word, bleeding with fear and pain, he realizes—there are more points that he would like to admit. It’s something he would simply ignore—that he also can’t sleep, sees no dreams, and sometimes gets scared he’s stuck in a dream, spinning that stupid top in the middle of the night, holding a loaded handgun, ready to free himself if it won’t fall over in a minute. It was way more fun when they were 22, obsessed with taking capitalism down only to end up as tools of it. When using secret military inventions was exciting, before it started fucking with their brains.

There’s nothing he can do about this except to support his friend.

“Did you talk to him?” He asks, leading him away from the original topic.

Yeosang spins in his chair again and stops, facing the window. “I would when I officially quit. Like, if he hates my job, then I already quit it. I just hope he won’t hate me for lying to him for years. If he breaks up with me, I’m totally quitting this, his projection would haunt me and sabotage every single operation. And I’m a shit actor, I can’t do anything besides architecting, so I can’t pull a Dom Cobb.”

San pushes the papers and the handgun to the side and sits on the table. A pencil rolls down on the floor—he’s probably gonna complain for at least an hour when he finds out it’s cracked now. “Hey, Yeosang.”

Yeosang turns on the chair and looks at him—expression completely hopeless.

“I’ve met him like two times and I can tell he’s still head over heels for you like an embarrassing teenager. I saw how he looks at you like you’re his fucking universe and I think he would blow stars up if you suddenly decide to break up with him. He would fight for your relationship. Just communicate, for god’s sake.”

Yeosang listens to him closely, takes a pause to think and then suddenly hides his face in his hands.

“Dude, being in love is the dumbest shit ever,” he groans and throws his head back on the chair.

“Well, don’t you think you have more than enough money now to organize the wedding and move out of the country?” San smiles and nods at him. Yeosang doesn’t seem to get cheered up at this and only continues biting his lips.

“This is even more stressful,” he sighs really deeply and whines again. “Alright, whatever. I’m gonna just… think about it all again. I don’t know what was that. It’s because I literally never deal with anything like a normal person and bottle it up and then have an overdramatic breakdown. Sorry, this was embarrassing.”

“No, that’s fine. You are right, but you only see negatives,” he says carefully.

Yeosang huffs. “Are there positives?”

“There are always positives.”

Yeosang shakes his head but takes a pause before replying. “You’re truly a guardian angel.”

The day passes slowly and in absolute silence; San leaves the office in the evening with a hollow feeling in his chest. He struggles to fall asleep, at first hoping Yeosang feels more at ease by now, but then slowly straying in his thoughts to Mingi—would he forgive him if he knew San had literally been in his head to manipulate him into giving up on the company? It feels less unethical than if he was ordered to steal a secret—during these missions San sometimes would find some unpleasant or crude memories by accident while searching for necessary information, this usually would’ve made him feel gross for a few days; but this time he hadn’t touched anything that wasn’t his and haven’t dealt any damage that wasn’t there . Maybe it’s Mingi thinking of him as an actual angel that makes San feel guilty—he’s too far from it. San wants to make it up to him and live up to his guardian title.

He starts the chain of their conversation and sends the first message.

You 1:23AM
hope you had a tolerable weekend and a better day. goodnight

When he finally falls asleep, he doesn’t see dreams.

 

***

 

Mingi dreams of the same cafeteria again, same morning with a weak breeze blowing the tulle, 11AM again, but this time there’s no one else but him—he looks around and doesn’t see Wooyoung on the counter picking a drink, no Seonghwa and Hongjoong feeding each other chips, no Minji, Bora and Siyeon chatting on the table over a dessert.

And no Saniel—San.

The wind blows the tulle again, covering an empty windowsill, and he can hear leaves rustling on the trees outside. A bird starts chirping.

He wakes up.

 

***

 

Mingi gets into San’s routine slowly but steadily—once again, corporate espionage is not a busy business, so to entertain himself he starts texting him during the day, first to ask if Mingi sleeps well, then ask about how the day is going, then whatever direction the conversation flows to. Getting to know each other as adults is weird, were they teenagers, he’d be asking him about his favorite songs and cartoons, and he even types out a question if he’d seen Steven Universe, but then some inner voice reminds him he’s 24. To be quite honest, he’s not even sure if he knows how adults flirt, because last time he courted someone was during his sophomore year in university. San catches himself on a thought that Mingi deserves corny dates and a knight instead of a guardian angel—maybe he’s still thinking about what Yunho said about him liking cuddling to sleep and holding hands. Oh god, he’s worried that Mingi would make fun of him for watching Steven Universe at his big age when he probably also binged it, maybe instead of studying for exams this spring. He kind of does have a personality of someone who would binge child cartoons about friendship at night and bawl his eyes over someone working through their feelings. San, on the other side, totally doesn’t look like that with his criminal crustacean shell, so that’s why Mingi is hesitating to ask him who is his favorite crystal gem. All in all, he just doesn’t take Mingi out again and texts him about the most boring shit possible.

What he’s certain about is that he would never ask Yeosang for dating advice. Probably.

“Hey, Yeosang,” San calls him when the clock says 4:26PM and he’s tired of reading random articles on the internet. When he gets a hum acknowledging his existence, he continues. “How did you court Wooyoung?”

Yeosang sighs deeply and loudly. “We met on fucking Tinder. I really didn’t have to do anything.”

“Wow. I would’ve never thought such a beautiful love would bloom in such a gutter like this app,” Minnie inserts herself in the conversation.

“Me neither.”

“And you never ever took him on a date to win his heart?” San even pouts. That’s so genuinely upsetting to think—he would’ve rather believed they had an incredibly cheesy first half a year, with a bunch of flowers, seaside walks and last row movie nights, at least considering they got engaged on Valentine’s day.

“Why are you suddenly in our business?” Yeosang throws the eraser he’s been holding into a cup for pencils and turns on his chair to face him. “You need dating advice or what?”

“Me? Never,” San huffs and snorts. “If I didn’t know you have a boyfriend, I’d think you’re a fucking virgin.”

“Choi San, I have a gun here on my table and it’s loaded. I’m a crazy person,” Yeosang tells him in a very serious tone.

“Can you deal with this stuff outside, I don’t wanna be a witness,” Minnie complains and fights a yawn. “San, try fishing.”

“Very funny.”

“I’m serious. I thought men like fishing?” She tilts her head in confusion. “Garage night?”

San opens his mouth to complain he doesn’t even have a car and neither does Mingi, but suddenly Miyeon opens the door and peeks in with a very pleased expression.

“We have a new job. Meeting hall in ten minutes,” she announces and disappears again, probably to call Shuhua.

Minnie throws her hands in the air, grinning, and on the opposite side of the room Yeosang groans in annoyance.

“Can I have a midlife crisis in peace? This is my last fucking mission,” he whines and throws himself on the back of his chair.

San doesn’t really feel excited, still thinking about how the mission with Mingi turned out into such a huge mess, but as he makes it to the meeting hall, he gets reminded the majority of their targets are annoying old men or MILFs, so there’s nothing to be worried about. Even though the idea of seeing a MILF doesn’t excite him anymore.

In the meeting hall they see an unsettlingly serious Miyeon, Shuhua with an idiot smile, and an actual damn vixen who, San figures, is their client. A posture of a real office shark, woman in a suit, full red lips and fluffy eyelashes glued on, it’s the way she’s seated here makes him wonder what such a femme fatale would need from them.

“Good morning,” the woman smiles really softly and says this in a warm gentle quiet voice, giving them a nod when they all sit in their places at the table. San nearly bursts out laughing at the difference between her appearance and persona. “My name is Seo Soojin. I’m an ex-dreamsharer, my office closed a year ago, so nowadays I’m just a security expert at one company. The task is extremely simple, all I need from you is your PASIV, some somniacin and an architect.”

Yeosang immediately groans and leans on the chair, holding his head in his hands. “God, why me?!”

Soojin obviously gets taken aback, but her expression looks terrified rather than simply confused. Shuhua lets out a very fake and very loud laugh. “Ignore him. Please continue.”

“I… Uh… Yeah,” she coughs and fixes her hair. “The task doesn’t require anything complicated and I have all the measurements to calculate the dose. I’m building simple protection for someone, so model something peaceful and quiet.”

“That’s very sweet of you,” Shuhua grins. San giggles to himself—seeing her acting like this is funny.

“All of you are getting paid for testing the labyrinth, so don’t worry,” Soojin pulls out a thick envelope out of her jacket’s inner pocket and slides it across the table to Miyeon. “Here’s prepayment. I will pay after we try the labyrinth on the target.”

As Miyeon counts the money with her swift accountant movements, Minnie and Yeosang both look over her shoulder with great interest; San sees it perfectly but loses the count because Shuhua falls on him, trying to reach and see too.

“Alright,” Miyeon puts the money back in the envelope and folds it, then gets up from the chair. Soojin follows her move. “We will contact you when we’re done with the planning stage.”

When Soojin and Miyeon leave the room together, Shuhua immediately leans on the table, looking at San. “She’s super MILFy.”

“Goddammit,” Minnie rolls her eyes and leans back on her chair.

“I wasn’t talking to you. Ground control? MILF alert!” Shuhua waves a hand in front of San’s face.

He nods unenthusiastically. “Yeah, she’s cool.”

“That’s serious, San,” Yeosang comments as he gets up from his chair. “If you stopped liking MILFs, then you’re deep in your feelings for Mingi.”

Shuhua and Minnie gasp and scream simultaneously and run to him, yelling incoherent questions into both of his ears.

 

***

 

And then, the preparation days begin, and San even forgets about everything that was bothering him—even though the task was uncommon and Yeosang had to be involved the most, he still had a lot of stuff to do, so they can finish faster. Shuhua steals him to the lab to help her with the calculations and preparations, while Minnie is forced to help Yeosang with building the labyrinth layout. Shuhua talks about Seo Soojin at least five times over the whole day, and San supports the conversation unenthusiastically; at lunch Minnie complains Yeosang wouldn’t shut up for an hour because of a cracked pencil and San immediately starts appreciating his situation more.

They’re done with a simple labyrinth and test injections in two days—a record, though not surprising, considering all Seo Soojin needed was a simple labyrinth.

It’s almost 8PM when San on his way home finds Yeosang lying on the table connected to PASIV, sleeping with his cheek on his free hand, right on all these labyrinth plans, still holding a pencil. It’s a common view at the nights before missions, but usually he would just proceed with going wherever he was going. This time the curiosity wins, so he sits on the other chair, inserts a needle in his arm and leans back comfortably, ready for a nap.

It’s a park with a working fountain, vivid greens and bright sun; birds chirping but no living creature in sight, except for Yeosang standing in the middle of the stone square in the center.

“Hi,” he turns around and waves at him.

“It’s pretty,” San says as he walks closer. “Is this a real place?”

“Yeah. Some park in Incheon,” Yeosang puts his hands on his hips and frowns. “Is it really pretty? I feel like something is wrong. I modeled it by Google Maps pictures… It’s just… ugh, I don’t like it.”

“I’m serious. I think you need to add some wind, animals and projections, and it’s perfect,” he says this with all the honesty.

Yeosang worries his lip in thought and then suddenly groans. “I think I’m just in a bad mood. And also I just hate making open spaces.”

“Why?”

“Because, like… rooms have walls. You can just cheat and make a flat sky behind the windows, and that’s enough.” He raises his hands to his face level and shows two parallel walls with his palms. “I can’t do that in open spaces.”

San laughs. “Why not? Just make flat walls with park imagery. When projections walk into it, it just makes them flat too. Like, put GIF images over the walls.”

Yeosang looks at him with an unreadable expression but then finally comprehends and opens his mouth in shock. “You’re a genius.”

 

San wakes up and sees that Yeosang has already disconnected them both, he’s holding his head with one hand and hurriedly drawing with another, so San just tells him bye and leaves the meeting hall. This five minute nap made him feel a bit confused about reality, so he takes a walk to clear his head—already dark outside and the chilly evening August wind is getting under his jacket, inside the shirt’s collar, but he feels way better after fifteen minutes of walking to the second nearest subway station. He thinks about Mingi and wonders if he’s having a good day—because of work, he had no time to text him at all. As if Mingi felt he was thinking of him, when San stands at the crosswalk, waiting for the street light to turn green and let him finally get on the subway, his phone buzzes in his pocket.

Song Mingi 8:46PM
hey san.. there’s something dream related i guess i need to share

You 8:46PM
oh sure what is it

Song Mingi 8:47PM
have u ever heard of dreamsharing?

San misses the street light turning to green and freezes in the middle of a sidewalk.

 

***

 

This is totally some kind of a sick joke, San thinks, arriving at the Song Tech office in Seoul, holding two cups of too sweet iced latte for himself and for Yeosang who’s carrying their PASIV.

“I literally cannot fucking believe this,” San whines at the porch of the building when Yeosang is dialing Soojin.

“Shut up, I’m really on my fucking edge and can kill you with my bare hands,” he grits in response and immediately starts awkwardly smiling to no one—Soojin picks the phone up. He nods a few times and mutters weakly in agreement, and as soon as she hangs up, he starts frowning in rage again. “This is your fault, motherfucker. I am a man of the seashore just like you and we will deal with it at the beach tonight, man to man. I will drown you and feed to the sea bottom animals. Your body will be too bloated up and gnawed on by the oysters to be recognized when the waves bring you back to the shore.”

“This is an unhealthy way to cope with emotions, are you aware of that?” San replies and nonchalantly takes a sip of one of the coffees—he’s not even sure it’s his.

Yeosang takes the cup he assumes was untouched from him and also takes a sip. “Are you aware of BOFA?”

“You’re too old for this,” San scrunches his nose and looks around for no reason. “Besides, you can’t claim your saltwater origin anymore, because you literally told me you forgot how to speak satoori back when I still was talking like a villager. You, my comrade, are demoted to a basic Seoulite thot.”

Yeosang opens his mouth to defend himself but then the entrance to the building opens, and Soojin shows up.

She escorts them inside the building by the security, and San is looking around like an absolute barbarian—to be honest, he never had an opportunity to see a high-class office building from inside in real life, and for some reason he now feels accomplished in life. On their way up Soojin greets multiple people, including Jeon Soyeon at the hall with the elevators—Soyeon asks if it’s “Yuqi’s request”, to which Soojin nods and for now ignores both San and Yeosang’s confused looks. When Soyeon leaves to the elevator, she explains to them in a very quiet voice, nearly whispering:

“You’re working in Yuqi’s interests now. She asked me to build the protection for her step-cousin so nobody can manipulate him into suing her and getting the company back, or just in general can’t steal anything. You’re probably aware that Song Mingi turned down the CEO position.”

“Oh, well. Yeah, we’re aware,” San laughs nervously. “I was the one who got into his head to tell him he has to give up on it.”

Soojin stares at him with an open mouth and ignores the elevator’s arrival.

“Yeah! Cool coincidence, right?” Yeosang says too loud in this unintentional awkward silence and walks into the elevator first. Soojin blinks in confusion but follows him, and San joins them last. “Pray tell, are we the only office in the entire city or you just only know about us?”

Soojin visibly panics and hits the button of one of the highest floors with a shaky hand. “I… Yuqi recommended you to me. She didn’t say she had already used your services.”

“You are at fault too. Usually you give information about the target,” Yeosang clicks his tongue and stares in annoyance at her.

San smacks him with his free hand on the shoulder and grits through his teeth. “Can you stop complaining? I hate it here too.” Then he turns to Soojin and smiles. “I’m so sorry queen, he’s just a woman hater.”

Yeosang kicks San on the shin with the side of his Doc Martens’ massive platform while Soojin thinks of what to say. At this very moment the elevator door opens, and, as San turns around, he meets face to face with Jeong Yunho.

“Isn’t it incredible how Seoul has nearly ten million people but I’ve already accidentally met the seventh person I know and about to meet the eighth?” San tells him in a cheerful voice to hide the fact he’s on the verge of having a mental breakdown.

“What are you doing here?!” Yunho shushes him and looks around in panic.

“Ask your boss. Or miss Soojin,” Yeosang says, walking around San who’s still standing in front of the elevator entrance.

“Let’s talk later. Pretend you don’t know them,” Soojin gives him a small smile and pats his shoulder as she passes him.

The hallway feels too long—with each new step San starts feeling more and more like he’s walking to a scaffold. It feels like the entire floor is empty, making the atmosphere even more upsetting, and somewhere five meters away from the big matte glass door leading to the resting area San genuinely starts panicking.

“Hey, uh, maybe I’ll join you later?” He grins in terror at Soojin.

Yeosang grabs the back of his collar and shakes him. “No. You will face this for all the humiliation you’ve put me through.”

“Man, what humiliation?!” San whines. “One ruined date? It’s not me who didn’t sign your resignation papers, it was Miyeon.”

“Shut the fuck up and let’s go,” he drags him instead of a reply, following Soojin who opens the door to the resting area.

The building itself is huge, and this hall is probably bigger than it supposed to be. Glass windows at the size of the wall, transparent tables and rows of dark soft couches, a set of three different vending machines, a fridge, and a coffee maker. In the opposite corner there’s a figure of a man sitting on a sofa, who notices them walking up—even from this distance San recognizes Mingi, who immediately picks him out with his eyes.

 

 

The sun is way hotter than it was when they were running the test—San decides to forgive Yeosang for this one, understanding of his mental state. It doesn’t bother him much anyway—he’s close to that fountain and the humid air makes it easier to breathe. The park is still empty, though he sees Soojin and Yeosang himself far inside the park seated on a bench, hiding from the heat under a tree. He can see two white doves resting on the marble border, looking like they’re cuddled to each other, and a bug passes him by, buzzing obnoxiously loudly.

He feels an urge to turn around and sees Mingi behind him, near the fountain too—not on the opposite side, but still, behind the haze of water dust, sparkles of rainbow colors in the air.

“Hi,” San tells him without thinking much. He doesn’t know what to say—he kind of expected Yeosang to actually spare him so he wouldn't be forced to talk with Mingi inside his dream. Though he probably should.

“Hi.”

It’s silent—the leaves are rustling, the water in the fountain is flowing, but there are no people to talk over and disrupt their not yet started conversation.

“Hey, celestial messenger,” Mingi walks a bit closer and starts talking first. “Is it a sin to fall in love with an angel?”

San feels jittery, and this tickly emotion is drawing a giggle out of him. He doesn’t think he can confidently say he has it deep too, but the potential is there—in a few weeks he might fall in love too. It’s not like Mingi feels something more serious than a crush either—the subconscious is hyperbolized and overdramatic.

“Do you still think I’m an angel?”

“To be honest, I kinda hope you’re a shameless demon,” Mingi blurts out and then adds after a brief silence. “This should’ve stayed inside my head.”

San bursts out laughing, and Mingi nervously chuckles too. “We are inside your head now.”

“Oh. Do you like it here?” Mingi looks around and examines the surroundings closely. “You spend a lot of time here.”

“I do. I hope I can stay for a longer time.”

Mingi beams at him widely, and San finds it impossible to not smile back.

 

 

San wakes up on his own, with Mingi next to him, eyes still closed. Yeosang’s fingers brush over the inner elbow skin as he carefully slips the needle out of the vein—San notices Mingi is already disconnected. Soojin is getting disconnected next, and San turns back to watch Mingi, now only by sounds guessing Yeosang is packing PASIV and helping Soojin to get up as they leave the hall.

“Hey, princess,” San pats Mingi’s thigh lightly, trying to softly wake him up.

Mingi in response only whines, not opening his eyes, and nuzzles closer to him, resting his head on his shoulder. San feels more content with this than he probably should.

 

***

 

Soojin pays a bit late, instead of the evening after the mission she does it in the morning, she explains it as her wish to tip Yeosang, motivated by her feeling of guilt towards him—San guesses they talked in the dream that time. She also mentions she’s on her way to start working with Mingi, and San gives himself a mental note to text him in the evening.

After a moment Miyeon adds another part of the plan—they all deserve a break after two missions in a row within one month, so she’s closing the office for a month now. Shuhua buys tickets to Taipei right in the meeting hall and shrieks proudly as she succeeds to get a flight tonight, disrupting Miyeon giving Yeosang a little talk—she’s trying to convince him to think everything through again, not forgetting to remind him they’re understaffed. San misses out everything, thinking about Mingi.

He finds himself stranding away from the way to the subway station to the cafe in front of the university, thinking about cheesecakes they have there and through the haze of different thoughts decides that he totally should get some and eat at home today. But as he enters, he notices a familiar figure in the very corner of the cafe—Yeosang hovered over the table in a crestfallen manner.

“Pick your head up, king, your Naruto headband is falling,” San whacks him on the shoulder and sits on the sofa next to him.

Yeosang slowly raises his head to look at him and comes back to stirring his cappuccino with a plastic straw. “Hi.”

“What’s up?”

“I found you a new architect. Choi Jongho,” he raises his head to talk with him properly. “He was one year below me and we were roommates in his first year. He’s a great architect and also reliable.”

“But is he a genius like you?”

Yeosang smiles bitterly. “I’m not a genius, San. It’s all practice.”

“Okay,” San sighs and leans on the table. “You’ve decided you’re leaving and you found us a new architect. Why the melancholic mood?”

He looks down again and stays quiet for a few seconds. “I talked to Wooyoung.”

San connects this dot with his obviously low mood and panics. “Are you guys okay?”

Yeosang looks at him, notices his expression and laughs. “Yes! He told me that was the coolest shit possible about me. Like that I became twice more fun than I already am. Also I told him about these plans and he said he will let me drag him through Hell if it means he could hold my hand, or something.”

San pouts and leans on the table with his elbows. “Yeosang, that’s real shit. He’s quoting Bring Me The Horizon to you. This is a once in a lifetime love.”

“I know,” he sighs with so much sadness and desperation that San wouldn’t believe it was out of a positive emotion. “It’s just… I don’t know, maybe I just feel horrible for lying for so long when he didn’t make a huge deal out of it.”

“Hey, I mean, it was stupid but you had valid reasons.”

Yeosang glances up at him and San shoots him a short thin-lipped smile. “I guess. He just… cares about me a lot already and I really didn’t want to make him worried even more. For serious reasons this time, like, that I’m a criminal and take these elephant doses of somniacin.”

“Well, that clearly didn’t work,” San laughs shortly. “He wanted you to talk to me when I said I’m a psychiatrist.”

Yeosang nods. “Honestly, thinking about it now, it was so obvious. I mean, he didn’t think it was because of my job, but I literally never was hiding that I take sleeping pills because I can’t fall asleep normally. I don’t know why I was thinking it would look normal. I didn’t really notice I got addicted.”

San sighs. To be quite honest he didn’t expect empathy to ruin his mood when he just walked in here, he just wanted a cheesecake. But he’s not a total asshole, yes, nobody likes to get emotionally involved, but damn him if he would not do his best to help his friend when he needs it the most.

“Well, at the very least the prognosis is great,” San gives him an encouraging small smile. “Insomnia and sleep medication addictions are curable.”

“I know,” Yeosang nods again and rocks on his seat nervously. “I’m not going back anyway, so it’s only going up from here.”

San sighs again but he has to accept it. Yes, he’s going to miss literally living with him in the office and getting kicked by these Doc Martens, but it’s a selfish thought.

“Minnie’s uncle or grandfather’s brother’s son, I forgot… Not the point,” he continues, scratching his neck. “She has a relative who owns a real estate agency, real one. And her grandma’s sister’s granddaughter is a wife of King’s grandson. She said if I ask for it, she will pull some strings and boom, we have a villa in Koh Samui and permanent residency.”

San just listens with his mouth open.

“Can I live with you?” He says and blinks a few times, already imagining a perfect beautiful little seaside house. “I can be instead of a dog.”

“M-m, sure,” Yeosang, still with a troubled expression, puts the plastic straw into his coffee. “But you have to know Wooyoung is super loud and our neighbors hate us. You’re gonna regret it.”

“Dude, you know I’m talkative too, I…” He suddenly stops and opens his eyes wide in shock. “Why did you tell me that!”

Yeosang laughs obnoxiously while San is hitting the table with his forehead, whining and closing his ears with his hands.

“I’m just a kid and life is a nightmare.”

“You’re 24.”

“Whatever. I still think sex is not real.” San raises his head and props it on his hands. “Let’s talk later after I refresh my knowledge. I believe you’re here for another reason.”

Yeosang nods, not even questioning the fact San just assigned himself as his therapist. “I’m planning to meet up with Jongho and give him a little interview. If you’re staying, you can watch over us.”

San jumps up in his seat. “Yo! I wanna join too, what the fuck! I need to see if your teaching skills are as genius as architecting!”

Yeosang rolls his eyes. “Okay. I got all the staff here anyway. That lady with guns is my high school classmate. Gahyeon.”

San picks out a young woman with dark braided hair serving a drink to someone with a huge smile, wearing a tight t-shirt under the apron, obviously highlighting her body and muscular arms. On the counter there’s a man with a way too brooding expression and furrowed eyebrows for a service worker, but as soon as a middle aged female customer approaches him, a sweet kind smile blooms on his face.

“The guy is Seonghwa. He’s Wooyoung’s friend,” Yeosang turns back to him and finally drinks his coffee for the first time they’re here. “They’re gonna avert security’s attention while we’re passed out, but I don’t think they will notice if we have a seven minute nap.”

“Seven? You think you need an hour and a half, prodigy?” San acts surprised, but mostly to tease him.

Yeosang frowns at him, and San just raises his hands in front of himself, sighing.

 

 

“I don’t get it,” Jongho scratches his head with a perplexed expression. “You force someone to dream of you and give you the information. They can dream of fake information too.”

“Not if you come up with all the saves and chests within the entire dream,” San grins and leans on the table with his crossed arms. “Not only the saves where the information is stored, but all the insides of the buildings and landscape outside the window.”

“How can you come up with a dream and force someone to dream it?” Jongho shakes his head. “That’s nonsense.”

“Jongho, why are we outside?” Yeosang talks over him and leans on the table.

“We… uh…” He stops because of a loud rumble in the sky—all of them look up to see it covered in dark blueish clouds.

“Exactly, you don’t remember walking out. Also this cafe is located in Pohang,” Yeosang continues with an excited smirk. San feels compassion biting him—it’s a pity he still enjoys dreamsharing, and nothing worse than giving up on your passion because of something that is out of your control.

The raindrops start hitting the tent over them, and Jongho gets distracted again.

“Jongho, we’re sleeping,” San says sternly. Then he realizes something and looks around. “Wait, why didn't it collapse?”

Yeosang slaps his forehead and groans. “Obviously because I’m architecting it, not him?”

“I thought we got into his dream and you’re gonna make him do something crazy so he gets intrigued and agrees?!” A blow of the wind moves the tent and the water already gathered there gets poured right on his head. “Bitch.”

“Guys, I’m still here,” Jongho coughs to get attention to himself. Yeosang turns to him and opens his mouth to say something, but Jongho starts talking first, with a sudden change in his expression, now more curious than skeptical. “Can you do something crazy with the layout, like, that you can’t do in reality? I don’t know, like, walking on the walls or jumping super high.”

Yeosang turns around lazily and frowns his eyebrows, staring at the road the cafe is located at. There’s an audible crack of the pavement, and the street literally bends in half, none of the people or vehicles bothered by a sudden change of the placement—it’s not that he tore out a piece of the ground, he only changed the shape of the Earth and its rules of physics.

Jongho just stares in shock as his mouth slowly opens wider and wider while Yeosang telepathically puts the street perpendicularly to the part of it they’re placed at—the buildings up here block the rain and drop a deeper shadow despite the sky being covered in clouds.

“He’s showing off,” San shakes his head and clicks his tongue. “He could’ve simply changed the gravity stats to Moon’s or changed atmosphere pressure.”

Jongho, still slack-jawed, turns to him and blinks a few times—San can see his eyes sparkle in bewilderment, but he’s clearly excited. Mission success.

 

“That was… dope,” as soon as they wake up, Jongho laughs in delight. “I’m in.”

San looks over to Yeosang—he raises his eyebrows with a confident smile—and reaches for a high-five.

 

***

 

Choi San starts his new life on another Monday morning.

Minnie says Virgo season is the best time to get your shit together, but he fails at it miserably—first by waking up at 1PM, second by repeating literally every single step of his old routine he would follow for the past two years during his free days. He makes himself instant coffee and drinks it in silence, thinking that he probably should’ve made some breakfast, but he’s too unused to eating right after waking up. Then he sends money to his parents, to Haneul, to grandparents, and calls them all in this order, spending an hour and a half on stupid awkward talks—it makes him feel even worse than he was when he woke up, so he makes another point in his to-do list to catch up on everyone and close the distance that grew since he moved to Seoul.

He picks the box of bullets from the soap holder and the gun from the shelf in the living room and hides it in the drawer next to his bed. The bottle of somniacin will return to the laboratory either today or tomorrow—probably tomorrow, today he’s too unmotivated by the late awakening. But he needs to buy groceries for sure.

In the grocery store he gets a huge bag of chips and a bottle of Pepsi and decides to return tomorrow morning—it would be less crowded and he won’t have to spend half an hour in the queue. As soon as he returns home, he changes to pajamas at 7PM and spends the rest of the evening in his bed, first just mindlessly scrolling social media, then texts Mingi, asking him how’s the day, and turns on the TV at some kids channel, watching silly cartoons for the rest of the evening.

Miyeon is the greatest boss that a dreamsharing office could have—she gave them a lot of vacations, mostly as they never had a lot of tasks, but also being mindful of her employees’ health. San has been dangerously close to getting all the side effects too several times in the past year, but it was easily fixed by taking a break and approximately two days of disordered sleeping. Even Yeosang will be able to come back to work after therapy, but he probably wouldn’t—he definitely had decided already. San thinks of himself and thoroughly dismantles his already low mood by realizing that someday he too will lose the passion for what he can do the best. It feels like he can’t do anything besides stealing, even though he has a degree. But he never tried. Maybe he should also think of his future and refresh his knowledge to get a license.

Maybe Mingi will be the first step to a new life. Who is the guardian angel now?

Song Mingi 0:07AM
sorry i was busy….. binge watched cardcaptor sakura…. do u wanna meet tomorrow…. i’m sorry i’m really sleepy now i will pass out in the middle of a conversation

Just like he thought—he should’ve asked Mingi about his favorite cartoons long ago. Why did he hesitate so much when he had a feeling he’s also a kid inside like him? Even if he wasn’t, why should’ve he lied about some fundamental part of his personality?

You 0:08AM
it’s fine let’s talk tomorrow and meet up please sleep now

San suddenly thinks of something, laughs to himself and quickly sends another message.

You 0:07AM
dream of me <3