"I'm not dead," Gaon groaned. His eyelids felt like they were stuck together with superglue and his entire body ached something terrible. Death did not felt this uncomfortable.
"Don't sound so disappointed. How are you feeling?"
Gaon recognized Yohan's voice from the foot of his bed and his entire body relaxed. Like a plant seeking out the sunlight, all of Gaon's senses turned to Yohan as he approached Gaon's bedside.
"Like I've been in an explosion." Gaon forced opened an eye grudgingly, his need to make sure Yohan was okay outweighed his desire to go back to sleep. Or unconsciousness. Gaon would welcome either one right now. "You're not hurt…" Gaon lifted one hand despite the twinge of pain and traced a finger on Yohan's forehead. "You were hurt."
"You were the one who got shot," Yohan pointed out, raising an eyebrow.
"Ah…" That was right. He got shot this time. Now that Yohan had mentioned that, he could feel how all the pain seemed centred in his abdomen. Moving was a bad idea as Gaon had discovered the hard way.
"I wouldn't push it if I were you," Yohan said, walking out of the room nonchalantly.
Gaon watched Yohan's retreating back until the door closed behind him and only then Gaon took stock of the surrounding.
It was his bedroom, with all the dust sheets still covering the furniture. Gaon smiled and pulled the blanket higher. Sure, he might be hooked up to a heart rate monitor and there was an IV line attached to the back of his hand but he was home.
Gaon's last thought before he fell asleep was maybe he should send Jung Sunah a flower basket to thank her for shooting him.
Killing people with kindness was definitely Ms Ji's motto in life, Gaon decided after taking another bite of the porridge she had brought for him. It was black and bitter and full of nutrition. Gaon thought some poisons tasted better than it.
"I see you've finished eating," Yohan said, entering his room without knocking. He headed straight to the chaise lounge, reclining on it with his legs crossed.
Gaon ignored him, taking huge gulps of water to try to wash away the taste in his mouth.
"Will you tell me who has enough grudge against you that they wanted to put a bullet in you?" Yohan asked, all his intention on Gaon.
Gaon put the glass down and considered the question. Yohan had phrased it in a way that allowed Gaon a way out. He knew he could just say 'no' and Yohan would drop the question. But Gaon was tired of hiding things from Yohan. So he put down a card on the table.
Yohan raised an eyebrow. "Seo Junghak's secretary? Isn't a bit too much to shoot you just for refusing a dance with her?"
"I refused more than just a dance with her," Gaon said, taking a deep breath. This would not go down well with Yohan. "You don't think it's a mere coincidence that I was selected to be your associate judge, do you? I, a newly appointed judge who is the split image of your brother, Isaac."
Yohan moved before Gaon could continue, crouching over Gaon on the bed, his hand wrapped around Gaon's neck. "How did you know about Isaac?!"
"She put me next to you… To be your Judas… Your weakness… I refused to play her game…" Gaon said, his voice mingled with the beeping of the heart rate monitor.
Yohan's hand tightened around his neck and Gaon's breath hitched. "Why should I believe you? What is stopping me from killing you right now, right here?"
"You told me to never lie to you… I'm more useful to you alive than dead…" Gaon choked out. He did not doubt that Yohan could kill him and Gaon would not stop him. After all, Gaon had killed Yohan once, it was only fair for Yohan to take a shot at him. Even now with Yohan's hand cutting off his air, Gaon believed him. Because despite the anger on Yohan's voice, he was careful not to put any pressure on Gaon's wound and his eyes were full of hurt.
Yohan looked at Gaon's hand around his wrist and his eyes widened. Gaon's tattoo that he had taken care to hide was there and side by side, there was no mistaking it, it was identical to the cross hanging on Yohan's wrist.
Yohan jumped away from Gaon as if he was burned, so many emotions flashing through his eyes that Gaon could not tell what he was feeling right now.
"Chief…" Gaon reached out and Yohan looked at his hand like it was a snake. Before Gaon could say anything else, Yohan left the room, the door slamming shut behind him.
"Did you fight with Yohan?"
Elijah's voice snapped Gaon from his contemplation of the tattoo on his wrist. Gaon never asked Yohan what the cross meant to him but Gaon had caught the look on Yohan's face when he touched it. Sometimes, Gaon found himself hypnotized by the cross swinging when Yohan moved his hand. For Gaon, there was nothing that symbolized Yohan more than the cross.
Gaon put his right hand under the blanket, hiding it from Elijah. "Elijah? Why are you still awake?"
"Yohan is not home. He rushed out earlier after talking to you and he's still not home."
Gaon remembered another time when Yohan had spent the night away from the mansion.
I was with a rough lady. Do you want to hear all about it? She grabbed me by the hair and kissed-
"Maybe he's with his girlfriend," Gaon said in a tight voice.
"But you're here."
"Eli- Elijah! Yohan and I are not together!"
"Are you that stupid or had Yohan been secretly dating you without your knowledge?"
Gaon had a light bulb moment at her words. Suddenly, he was seeing the events from the past three weeks in a new light. The small touches, the way Yohan looked at him. In Gaon's defence, it was not that different from before his death but he did not want to think about what that meant. That way laid madness and it would be hard to explain to Elijah if he started crying.
"Both," Gaon said, rubbing his face to hide the growing smile.
"Wow. You two are certainly made for each other." Elijah sighed. "You didn't see how he looked after you got shot." She avoided Gaon's eyes, hugging her teddy bear tighter.
"Murderous. Like if you weren't bleeding to death in his arms, he would go hunt the shooter himself."
That sounded like Yohan. He was terrible at comforting people but Gaon could always rely on him to get revenge.
"Get rid of that creepy smile on your face," Elijah said, scowling.
Gaon tried to keep a blank face but his lips kept twitching up. Finally, he gave up and changed the topic. "So what do you want to do while we wait for Yohan?"
Gaon tried to stay awake with Elijah but his medicine kicked in and he fell asleep in the middle of their fifth card game. Gaon did not know when did Elijah left but he woke up with an ace of spade card stuck on his forehead.
And a Kang Yohan sitting on the bed next to him, building a card tower on Gaon's bedside table.
"You're awake," Yohan said, placing the two last cards on his tower.
"Good morning." Gaon pulled the card off his forehead and offered it to Yohan.
Yohan took it, smirking. "The death card. Are you my ace, Judge Kim?" Yohan asked, lifting Gaon's chin with the card. "Jung Sunah seems to think you were hers."
"You met her?"
"I received an invitation. It'll be rude to refuse, don't you think so?"
"I don't think you care about being rude. I think you thrive on being rude and getting away with it. But meeting Jung Sunah alone was stupid and you know it."
Yohan shrugged. "I'll admit, I was curious. Why would she go so far as to plant you next to me and then shoot you in front of me? What is her plan?" Yohan flipped the card in his hand. "And it turned out I already knew her a long time ago. Right here in this mansion. But you already knew all this, don't you?"
"Yes," Gaon answered.
"But you were not supposed to know that. Neither were you supposed to go against her from the first time you met me. That was not a part of her plan. And she had made it very clear that she is willing to get rid of you in any way possible."
"I figured that out myself when she put a bullet in me," Gaon said, pressing a hand on his abdomen.
"What is it that you want that you'll risk your life, Judge Kim?"
"I want to be on the winning side. Your side. No matter how many laws I need to break, I'll stay by your side to the end."
Once upon a time, Yohan put his hand on Gaon's nape, asking Gaon to choose between him and Soohyun. Back then, Gaon had lost himself in Kang Yohan's goal and it scared him. It scared him enough that he chose Soohyun over Yohan and ended up losing both of the people he loved.
This time Gaon put his right hand on Yohan's nape, forcing Yohan to kneel on the bed next to him, a hairbreadth space between their faces. Looking into Yohan's eyes, his voice was steady as he said, "I choose you."
Yohan wrapped his hand around Gaon's, his thumb brushing on the tattoo and Gaon expected to be pushed away.
"So be it," Yohan said, closing his eyes and leaned in.
With Yohan's thumb on Gaon's tattoo and Gaon's on Yohan's pulse, they shared their first kiss.
It was soft and gentle and sweet, nothing at all like Gaon had imagined. When Gaon thought about kissing Yohan, probably when he finally lost his mind from the time travel and Yohan, always Yohan, he imagined it to be rough and explosive, like many of their interactions. Gaon did not know that Yohan was capable of this much gentleness, did not expected this much from himself either.
When they broke apart, Gaon was crying. Yohan cupped his face and leaned their forehead together.
"Am I that much of a bad kisser that I made you cry?" Yohan teased, wiping the tears away.
"No… I'm just… Overwhelmed," Gaon said.
"Will you share your pain with me?"
Gaon gave him a sad smile, still holding onto Yohan's nape. "One day. One day I'll tell you everything."
Yohan pressed his lips on Gaon's tattoo.
At that moment, Gaon knew.
One day, Yohan would know everything. And he would stay.
That was his promise.
"What was your plan if I refuse you?" Yohan asked suddenly, startling Gaon. He had been curled up next to Gaon, holding onto Gaon's right wrist, his robe on the floor, the scar on his back exposed for Gaon to see. He had told Gaon about the church fire and it took a lot out of him. It was hard to listen to even for Gaon who was hearing it for the second time.
Gaon gently caressed Yohan's scar, thinking. "I'll keep doing what I was doing. Working around your plan, taking out obstacles before you even see them."
"So basically, you don't have a plan," Yohan said, his lips curling up against Gaon's inner wrist.
"Isn't that what's you are here for? You're the brain in this relationship, Chief. I'm just the pretty face."
"You are pretty," Yohan said and Gaon just had to kiss him for that. Gaon always believed in positive reinforcement.
The door opened without warning and Yohan walked in, already dressed for work. "I've warned off Ms Ji from cooking for you."
Gaon blinked groggily for a moment before his brain came online. "Thank you," Gaon said with relief, pushing himself into a sitting position. "Come here," Gaon called, making grabby hands at Yohan.
Yohan approached him warily and Gaon pulled him down into a kiss. "Are you going to kiss me every time I do something nice for you?" Yohan asked, a small smile on his lips.
"You caught on fast." Gaon's smile turned contemplative. "About Lee Youngmin's trial..."
Yohan sighed. "I can only postpone the trial for a week at most so you better healed up enough to be on the bench."
"Promise. I will do nothing but stay in bed for the entire week."
And that was how Gaon's week of mind-numbing boredom started.
Yohan strode into Gaon's bedroom without knocking again, Gaon's phone in his hand. "You need to call off your guard dog," he said without a preamble.
"What guard dog?" Gaon asked, putting down the book he was reading. He had managed to cajole Elijah into bringing books for him before he went mad from boredom. Alas, the book she brought could probably send him into madness anyway with their dry languages and dead authors.
"Lieutenant Yoon Soohyun. She had been coming to the court looking for you."
"She must have been worried because she couldn't contact me." Gaon reached for the phone but Yohan flipped it away.
"I don't share." That statement came out of nowhere that it took Gaon to understand what Yohan was talking about.
"Me neither," Gaon replied, biting his lips to stop himself from grinning.
Gaon waited until Yohan left the room before calling Soohyun. She picked up on the first ring.
"My ear, Soohyun," Gaon complained playfully.
"Sorry," she said sheepishly. "Where are you? You didn't answer your phone and you were not at home or the court. I thought you were dead in a ditch somewhere."
"You're right. I'm dead. You are talking to my ghost right now." Gaon laughed at his own joke.
"Don't even joke about that, Kim Gaon. Where are you?"
"I'm just taking a vacation," Gaon lied.
"Right before an important trial?"
"It's an easy case."
Soohyun sighed on the other end of the line. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm better than okay," Gaon answered honestly as Yohan appeared in front of his door, carrying two instant meals.
"Take this," Elijah said, pushing a box into Gaon's arms. He had no choice but to take it, especially with that look in Elijah's eyes.
"What is this?" Gaon asked, opening the box warily.
"It's a bulletproof vest."
"Are you worried about me?" Gaon smiled.
"I just don't want you to die. Yohan would be impossible to live with and I still need him as a guardian for the next four years," Elijah huffed, heading to the elevator.
"Thank you, Elijah," Gaon called out just as Yohan appeared, carrying both his briefcase and Gaon's backpack.
"I see she finally gave you the vest."
"You know about this?"
Yohan's lips twitched up. "I received a bill of almost one million won for it so yes, I know."
Gaon almost dropped the vest in surprise. "I cannot take this."
"I dare you to give it back to her."
"What are you waiting for? Put it on," Yohan said.
"Now? We're still at home."
"You were shot in front of the mansion," Yohan pointed out. "Do you need help to put it on?"
As it turned out, Gaon did need help putting it on. And Yohan enjoyed dressing Gaon up far too much that they were almost late to work.
It took Gaon ten minutes into Lee Youngmin's trial to regret his decision not to take his pain medication. Gaon knew how long the trial would take from his past life but when he was sitting on the bench, pretending that he did not have a hole in his abdomen that was throbbing with pain, it felt like an eternity.
Judge Oh, the only other person in the court who knew about Gaon's injury, kept giving him worried looks and Gaon tried to smile reassuring at her. She just looked more worried every time Gaon did that.
Meanwhile, Yohan, the man who spent the night in Gaon's bed did not spare him a single glance throughout the trial. But Gaon could tell that Yohan was rushing it. Gaon had watched this trial once with Yohan in full showman mode and knew the differences.
By the end of the trial where Yohan trapped the prosecutor into modifying the indictment into habitual assault, Gaon was pale and sweating. Only his bulletproof vest underneath the judge robe was keeping him from slouching in his seat.
When the lights and cameras were finally turned off, Yohan grabbed his hand, squeezing gently. "Can you make it to my office?"
Gaon wanted to groan and lay on the floor but he could never say no to Yohan. It was a character flaw, Gaon decided as he nodded and forced himself to follow the Chief.
The hallway to Yohan's office had never felt this long and Gaon gritted his teeth with every step. When Yohan closed the door behind him, Gaon sagged against the bookshelves and would have ended up on the floor if it wasn't for Yohan. Yohan half carried, half dragged Gaon across the room, pushing him into Yohan's chair behind the desk.
"Take this," Yohan ordered, giving Gaon his pills. Gaon was never so happy to take his medicine, swallowing them dry as Yohan was taking too long to open the water bottle for him.
"Let's not do this again," Gaon finally managed, his eyes closed, leaning back on Yohan's chair.
Yohan raised an eyebrow, leaning on the desk next to Gaon. "Getting shot? I agree. Try not to taunt anyone who has displayed a murderous tendency, will you?"
Gaon thought about the flower basket of tansies with a thank you note that he had ordered to be delivered to Jung Sunah right on time for the live show and decided what Yohan didn't know would not hurt him.
"What did you do?" Yohan asked with fond resignation, rubbing his temples. Gaon was feeling a bit insulted, he did not cause enough trouble to warrant that tone.
"It's better if you don't know about it, " Gaon said.
"You're bad for my health, Judge Kim."
"Don't blame me for your old age, Chief."
"I'll show you old man." Yohan spun the chair around, caging Gaon with both hands on the desk, smirking that devilish smile that Gaon loved.
With his white robe covering Gaon's black one and his hand on the back of Gaon's neck, Yohan kissed him like a hunter and Gaon his prey.
That day Gaon discovered something new about himself. He would never see the white judge robe the same way ever again.
The next live court show would be awkward.