Hyukjae almost doesn’t recognize him, across the bar. He’s leaning against the bar, eyes lined with a pretty pink, and chasing a straw in his drink with his tongue. He laughs, leaning back with the force of the laughter.
He’s wearing skinny jeans, skinnier than Hyukjae’s ever seen him fit into, platform shoes- no, boots. He’s wearing platform combat boots and a loose t-shirt that’s too big on him, the sleeves hanging past his wrists and nearly covering the black-stained nails filed into pretty points.
For a minute, he looks away from whoever he’s with, and their eyes meet across the room, Hyukjae almost flinches at the bright, vibrant blue of his contact lenses, the ones he’s always worn. Hyukjae looks away first.
“I didn’t know he’d be here,” Kyuhyun says, apologetic, but Hyukjae just waves his hand, waves him off, and buys them both beers.
“It’s fine. It’s been years, you know?” Hyukjae says, shrugging it off. “Like, six, at least, since I’ve seen him. It’s no big deal, if we’re in the same damn-”
“He’s coming,” Donghae hisses, sliding into the seat next to Kyuhyun. “He’s coming over here.” Hyukjae has enough time to set his beer down, to give Donghae a cold look, before black-stained nails tap the table in a slow rhythm.
“Lee Hyukjae. It’s good to see you,” Kim Jongwoon’s voice is the same as it’s always been, low and warm and gravely and Hyukjae resists the urge to shudder. He looks up at Jongwoon, cocks his eyebrow, and smirks. He smirks, like the world doesn’t feel like it’s collapsing around him, like the box isn’t tightening in his chest until he can barely breathe.
“Jongwoon. Hi,” Hyukjae says, as though he’s surprised. As though he hadn’t seen Jongwoon the second they walked in. “You look- the same.” Jongwoon stares at him for a long while. Hyukjae resists the urge to shudder or break their eye contact.
The last time Hyukjae had seen Jongwoon, his eyes were hidden behind thick-rimmed glasses, and he was huddled in hoodies and ripped, loose jeans he’d stolen from Hyukjae’s closet, over textbooks and notebooks, furiously scribbling notes into the margins. His hair was black and just slightly too long, overgrown from lack of care, and his skin was oily, like Jongwoon had forgotten about his skincare routine he was so strict about.
The last time Hyukjae had seen Jongwoon, he was still certain about his career choice, speaking constantly about his wants, his dreams. “I’ll stay in academia,” Jongwoon had said, smiling widely when asked, his hands flapping in the hoodie, slightly too small for him with the sleeves barely reaching his thin wrists. “I want to study medieval art and calligraphy.”
“Is there a market for that?” Their other roommate, a man pretty enough to be a girl, who they never saw, asked with a snort, and Jongwoon had launched into a ten-minute explanation on his niche interests and Hyukjae had just chuckled and turned his attention back to his own textbook.
Heechul had left soon enough, and Jongwoon had sprawled back out on the couch. He didn’t move, even when Hyukjae poked him with a sock-covered toe, and then stretched his legs out over Jongwoon’s lap.
“So did you join the police force? Like you wanted to?” Jongwoon’s voice brings Hyukjae back to the present, and he nods vaguely and gestures at the other two at the booth with him. Jongwoon doesn’t even turn to look at them, just narrows his eyes critically at Hyukjae.
“I won’t bother you anymore,” Jongwoon says finally, and walks back to where he was before, by the bar. Kyuhyun turns in his seat, watching him.
“Hm,” Donghae vocalizes and Kyuhyun echoes it, nodding as well. “Sounds like he missed you, Hyuk.”
“Bullshit,” Hyukjae replies, and for good measure, balls up a napkin and throws it at Donghae. “What were you saying about Eunbi, before?”
Jongwoon is leaning against the brick wall next to his building when Hyukjae gets there. “You’re funny,” Hyukjae says dryly. He doesn’t stop Jongwoon when the older man follows him inside, though, doesn’t even remark on it when Jongwoon stops to unlace his boots at the door.
“You know,” Jongwoon says quietly, following him still, into the kitchen.
“Of course I know,” Hyukjae snaps, temper hitting him like a cold flash. When he turns on Jongwoon, the elder is leaning against the counter, watching him. Not wary, not even when Hyukjae’s hand falls by his side, where his holster should be.
“How?” Jongwoon asks. Rather than answer verbally, Hyukjae steps into his space and reaches up. He traces, first, the raindrop tattoo under Jongwoon’s left eye. He flicks the spade earring, dangling from his left ear, and trails his hand down, fingertips trailing against the fabric of Jongwoon’s shirt, over the leather belt, down to his jeans. Hyukjae traces the outline of where Jongwoon’s tattoo is.
“I was with you when you got these,” Hyukjae says in a low voice. Jongwoon watches him, silent, electric blue tracking over Hyukjae’s face, as though reading him, each line and pore, each little detail of his skin.
“Will you arrest me?” Jongwoon asks in the same tone, low and gravely. Hyukjae doesn’t answer.
He steps back and turns away to his fridge, pulling a water bottle out from inside. Jongwoon watches him still, tracking his every movement. “No,” Hyukjae says finally, the word breaking the silence like a hammer through a glass window. Jongwoon’s shoulders drop, almost in disappointment, and he cocks his head to the side, watching him, still, with the unnaturally-colored eyes.
“There’s not enough evidence to lock you away,” Hyukjae continues and Jongwoon’s lips spread in a small, slow smile. “But I will find it. I will find it, and I will make sure you go away for good.”
“So you’ll always know where I am,” Jongwoon practically purrs, leaning forwards. Hyukjae sets his jaw and doesn’t look at him. “Hyuk, you’ll always know where to find me. And I’ll always know how to find you. My pretty detective.”
Jongwoon leaves soon after. Hyukjae doesn’t watch him go.
He dreams of university dormitories, of nights spent curled up against Jongwoon, watching him devolve slowly, his excitement and inspiration and fixations pulled away thread by thread, until Jongwoon’s eyes go dark whenever Hyukjae says his name, until he walks into the dorms to find Jongwoon staring blankly at a wall, his clothes covered in blood. “Jongwoon?” Hyukjae whispers, and he wakes up with a start, to the sound of his phone ringing.
“Hit me,” Hyukjae says blearily.
“There’s another body,” Donghae says, on the other end. “The same MO. A rose left, a raindrop drawn onto their face in eyeliner. There’s a difference, though.”
“The drop is pink,” Hyukjae guesses and rubs at his eyes, padding into his bathroom to brush his teeth. It isn’t until he makes it out, to his kitchen, that he catches sight of the paper.
My darling, Hyuk,
Catch me if you can.