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Balance

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The weather wasn’t beautiful that day. At least it wasn’t good for your first day of work. Jeno’s shoes got dirtier with every step he took, and he kept splashing water on his socks. He regretted not waking up even earlier to find a better place to park. It was the first time he ever drove to that building, so noted. He had to leave the house at 5:45 instead of 6, even more in rainy days. After sighing in annoyance, he walked in. Being honest, he thought of himself as polite and kind, so he wanted to make a good first impression. He smiled at the lady standing in front of him, who was like 5’0 feet tall and looked just about 10 years older than him, but very youthful and pretty.

 

 

“You must be the new guy, Lee Jeno”. She smiled back and he nodded, awkwardly. “I’m glad Jaemin finally has a new partner, somebody needs to get him back on track because he’s the best guy we have” she got closer to him to whisper the last part, with a worried expression, “but he’s not at his best right now. I’ll introduce you to all of our team then you can go meet him. He’s always in his office so he won’t come out to greet you”.

 

 

Jeno was a detective. Well, finally. It took quite a while to get his dream job since he didn’t come from a wealthy family or was one of those students who built connections quick. During his school days, he was book-smart, very, always at the top of his class and getting praises from his fellow classmates from not having any margin of error in exams. But, on the other side, he never caught teachers’ attention. He knew he had a lot to learn, he had to get better at real life problems if he really wanted to stand out and get his seniors to think he had potential. Once he graduated, he still didn’t have a job related to what he had studied. Instead, he was an employee at a bakery supplies shop which felt awful -don’t get him wrong, he loved the owners of the shop and all the bakery related products- but when he compared himself to his other classmates, who once praised him for being “smart”, he felt like a failure. He felt like he had disappointed others and had killed all the aspirations he had for himself. He developed a lot of self esteem issues, that sometimes he even doubted if he was good at anything at all. Until Karina came to his life. It was cheesy, he knew. It was horribly cheesy. Just by thinking about it, he felt cringe. But he would always thank her for reminding him he was a human living, or well, not living, wasting his twenties being swallowed by his insecurities. He knew he wouldn’t get rid of all his doubts with romance, but her presence definitely helped him to function again.

 

 

He didn’t notice a woman standing in front of him, who looked around his age and had very big cat-like eyes and dark hair. “I’m Hyunjin. If you’re as unlikable and weird as Jaemin I will quit this job”. She looked dead serious, and Jeno felt a bit intimidated. He stared at her a few seconds before she laughed very loudly and he heard the lady at the entrance (Yubin), and other unknown people laugh along, so he smiled awkwardly. “Sorry, I just hate Jaemin’s guts because he stole my best friend from me. And he’s such a nuisance, the most annoying person to work with. I actually will make an altar for you in my house for saving me from being his temporary partner, I was really, really, really about to go crazy. Lunatic. So close to real insanity. And we don’t need two crazy people”. She smiled, this time in a warmer way. “I still will keep an eye on you, though. I don’t trust handsome guys”. He felt some heat creep through his ears, because even though he was handsome, he didn’t like to brag about it. Or acknowledge it at all. It always took him by surprise when somebody pointed it out.

 

 

“I’m your Sangho hyung. Address me casually but not informally, we’re a big family here”. A man in his 40s was next in line to Hyunjin, and he seemed very kind. He bowed and Jeno reciprocated immediately. “You can say I’m the boss”.

 

 

“He’s the boss” Another guy showed up, peaking through the boss’ shoulder. He spoke playfully. He had dark brown hair, big expressive eyes, and was very handsome. “I’m Mark. We look around the same age so you can trust me if you need help or anything, I was once in your place as the newbie, even before Hyunjin and Jaemin”.

 

 

“That was three. Three months before I started working here. And I saved your ass several times, Lee”. Hyunjin rolled her eyes at his dramaticisms and Jeno couldn’t help but smile. Sangho excused himself after he got a call and started walking away from them.

 

 

Mark waited for Sangho to go back to his office and once he closed the door, he pulled his middle finger at the Hyunjin, playfully. “And I was saying, I remember being so scared. I was the only kid in a field of pros, so the mere thought of messing up was terrifying. I’m serious, you can ask me anything, as stupid as you might think it is. It never is”. Jeno bowed and smiled at the man, who smiled back warmly.

 

 

“I’ll keep that in mind. But I’ll try not to be a nuisance”. He replied politely.

 

 

“I have to go, nice to meet you Jeno Lee!” Mark yelled as he was walking back to his place.

 

 

“Well, we’re a bit busy right now so we’ll be heading back to work. You’re going to share an office with Jaemin right now, because he needs human interaction, and we need to rearrange a space for you as it’s been a while since we’ve had a new one. But if he stresses you too much, you can always ask us to hurry and give you your own cubicle”. Yubin laughed guiding him towards what it seemed to be Jaemin’s office.

 

 

“Is that all your team?” Jeno asked her.

 

 

“For the most part. There’s other employees in this department but these are all the detectives. And ugh, that little punk-“

 

 

A guy suddenly ran inside the building with a folder in his hands, splashing water and dirtying the floor with mud. “Sorry Yubin-nim. Sorry again. I didn’t oversleep, I swear! There was so much traffic with this rain, and I got stuck in a car accident. I almost even got questioned because someone died and I was in the car behind them, I’m so sorry. If it happens next time, you’re allowed to report me to my university and I’ll leave for good. Oh, f-, freaking hell! The folder is wet! The folder got wet! Miss Yubin. Yubin-nim. The folder. All the information Jaemin hyung asked me to dig about his case is here. If it gets wet, I’m freaking dead. Yubin-nim. I really feel like crying right now”. The guy was in so much distress Jeno felt bad for him. He looked younger than Jeno, and as he had listened, it seemed like he was in an internship. He had cute eyes, pretty much every feature of his was cute, including the shape of his lips; his face was quite balanced, and he had some sort of orange-y pink hair that made him easy to spot anywhere.

 

 

“Him. That’s Jisung. He probably won’t be here for much longer but he’s very cute. He cries easily and he lets us grab him by his cheeks. It’s so rare for us to get such a cute maknae”. Jeno laughed at Yubin referring to him as a maknae. They were truly a team.

 

 

“Yubin-nim” The boy cried out. “I can’t seem to do anything right. What do I do?” Jisung was so stressed out he didn’t even notice Jeno’s presence.

 

 

Jeno grabbed the folder from his hands, Jisung looking terrified. It seemed like he got scared easily. “Maybe next time you can use a USB instead. Or email him”. Jeno spoke, as he opened the folder and saw the sheets were dry. He smiled at the younger man in distress, who let out a sigh of relief.

 

 

“I’m alive, for another day”. He still cried. Of happiness, Yubin explained. The distress suddenly came back to him after he stared blankly at Jeno for a few seconds. He opened his eyes widely. “I don’t know you. I don’t-”. It suddenly hit him, and Jeno smiled fondly. “I really don’t know who you are”. He closed his eyes in regret. “I’m so impolite, Yubin-nim” He cried out again.

 

 

“Don’t worry, seriously”. Jeno moved his hands in front of his face trying to make him go back to his calm state that lasted like 10 seconds. “Just as they are the most beautiful, rainy days are even more stressful when you’re an adult”. Jeno smiled at him. “I’m Jeno, the new guy. If we’re working together, I’ll try not to make you this miserable, I promise. But you have to promise me you will have a backup on some device if your folder gets wet”. Jisung smiled back at him and bowed.

 

 

“I’m sorry again, Jeno-nim. I’m Park Jisung, like the football player. I’ll work hard to not stress you out”. He replied in a professional tone and Jeno felt so much fondness he silently promised himself he would protect him as long as they were both working there.

 

 

“Well, Park Jisung like the football player, call me hyung”.

 

 

“I’ll leave both of you to Jaemin. You were just heading to his office, so, have fun”. Yubin said (clearly) ironically before the sound of her heels echoed through the hall and disappeared.

 

 

“Jisung. I have one question before we get inside. Well, two questions”. Jisung nodded.

 

 

“Why does Jaemin have an office and the rest of them, all his seniors, don’t?” Jeno asked, and he proceeded to gulp. “And how is he like? Everyone seems scared of him somehow”.

 

 

“There are theories on why. One is that since his father is our superior, as in, one of the higher ups in the country, he gets all these privileges. Another one is that the boss received complaints from multiple people because he’s a bit… odd. So, he decided to keep him in a different space than the rest. And the last is that he works better like this, the explanation he told me himself”. Jisung explained listing the different theories with his fingers. “And well, he’s unique. People don’t seem to understand him right away, some never do. He seems very cold sometimes, almost unapproachable, but then he comes and speaks cutely and calls me his Jisungie. I noticed he only does that to me though, so that’s a side they don’t get to see”. Jisung said, pointing at the hall towards the rest of the team. “He’s kind. Very kind. Not to disrespect the rest of my seniors, but he’s been the one who’s treated me the best. He’s always so caring, he asks me if I’ve eaten, we eat takeout every day, and he pays! I keep arguing to him that yes, I’m broke, but I should contribute at least, but all he tells me is to bring snacks. That’s why I’m learning how to bake. I want to bring him cookies every day. He’s taught me so much about this job, I’m very thankful to him. So I feel sad for him because he’s often misunderstood. I feel the need to protect him sometimes, even though he’s my hyung”. The youngest looked at the door a few feet from him with a smile. “He’s a good person. Behind that façade. And he's going through a hard time right now, so I hope you’re not too hard on him”.

 

 

“I’ll do my best, I mean, I plan to work here for a long time, so I have to get along with my partner”. Jeno shrugged, honest. He was never too hard to deal with or a messy person.

 

 

“I sincerely hope you do”. Jisung whispered. They finally arrived to Jaemin's office and opened the door to find another guy, around Jeno's age, standing in the middle looking annoyed. He had pretty features, and blond hair. He turned and scanned Jeno for a few seconds. “Oh, he’s waiting for you”. He proceeded to smile at Jisung. “Jisungie. I heard you’re baking recently. Do you have any cookies right now? Share with me too, or I’ll get sulky”. Jisung laughed briefly and nodded.

 

 

“Fuck off, Renjun. He won’t give you any information. And neither will Jeno so don’t try to seduce this new guy”. A voice from inside resonated in Jeno’s ears. It was low and rigid. Whoever this Renjun guy was, Jaemin didn’t seem to be on the best terms with him.

 

 

“Are you jealous? You haven’t even seen how handsome Jeno is”. He heard Jaemin scoff and footsteps, as Renjun was happily opening the little bag of cookies Jisung had brought that day. A hand snatched the bag from him from behind and Renjun turned around to fight back. “You’re so childish Jaem, it’s sickening. One cookie taken from you won’t kill you, for fuck’s sake”.

 

 

Jeno raised his vision from the cookie that was causing the argument, to the man in front of him. He felt his throat go dry. He knew those eyes, and that awfully big smile after doing something slightly evil was still the same. But the man in front of him was too handsome, all jaw and big round eyes, and sharp nose, and small head, and- well, that was enough. He was very handsome to the point he could’ve been an idol, or an actor, or a model, or just anything that required people admiring his face. “No way”. Jeno said out loud.

 

 

Renjun turned his head back to Jeno. “Jaemin is handsome but not handsome enough to get this sort of reaction, new guy”.

 

 

“Shut up, Renjun. I really should call Mark to get you out of this building. He’s the only person who can put up with you”. Jaemin rolled his eyes trying to hide a fond gaze. Jeno noticed but tried to brush that off, because why was he already trying to read this man like he was the same kid he knew back then? He knew nothing about this whole new Jaemin in front of him, and even Jisung, who seemed to be the closest person to him at his workplace, still introduced him as a man that was quite hard to understand. Jeno wondered if he could ever read him like he used to. Jaemin’s low voice got him out of his thoughts. “Lee Jeno, long time no see”. The youngest waved his hand, smiling brightly, and certainly not shocked at all. Jeno had a lot to ask him.