The scratch on his knee was still bleeding as Jaebeom limped towards the slide. He tried to keep a straight face until he reached the gap between the slide and the steps and curled up there, tears brimming his eyes. He was surely going to get a scolding for jumping off the swings mid-air, something his mother had told him not to do about a thousand times.
“Hey, are you okay?” a voice said, causing Jaebeom to jump and crawl backwards.
Another boy was standing by the slide, watching him with curious eyes. He was smartly dressed, even though his shorts and socks had mud stains all over them.
“I’m fine.” Jaebeom sniffed.
“You were crying.”
“Then why were you hiding in there?” the boy asked as Jaebeom crawled out of his hiding place, wiping his nose with his sleeve.
“Because I wanted to.”
The other boy followed him, pointing down at his knee.
Jaebeom stopped to look at it, as if he had forgotten it was there.
“Ah, yes. It’s alright. Doesn’t hurt.”
Raising an eyebrow, the boy searched his pockets and produced a little superhero band-aid that he handed to Jaebeom with both hands.
“There,” he said. “Even though it doesn’t hurt, it’ll help.”
Hesitantly, Jaebeom took the band-aid and put it over the scratch on his knee.
“So that’s why you were crying.”
“I wasn’t!” Jaebeom exclaimed with a pout, stomping on the ground.
“Yeah, okay. My name is Park Jinyoung, by the way! I just moved into this neighbourhood.” The other beamed. “What’s your name?”
“Im Jaebeom,” he answered with a bow. “How old are you?”
“I’ll be turning nine in September, and you?”
“I turned nine in January.” Jaebeom smiled softly. “So I’m older than you.”
Jinyoung rolled his eyes in a very adult-like way before reaching out and tugging at Jaebeom’s hand.
“Wanna play with us? We need a goalkeeper,” he suggested, nodding towards a group of three children that were chasing each other by the swings. “Come on!”
Jaebeom looked down at his scratched knee, Jinyoung’s mud-stained shorts and then glanced up, smiling sheepishly.
“Okay,” he agreed.
He could play some harmless football, since he was getting scolded later anyway. Couldn’t get any worse, could it?
He followed Jinyoung and joined the game. They played and played and by the time Jaebeom looked up at the sky, it was already getting dark. He rested his hands on his knees, catching his breath, and watched as Jinyoung approached with a big grin on his face and grass stains on his cheek.
“I need to go,” Jaebeom mumbled, straightening up, “it must be late, and my parents will probably be waiting for me.”
“Yeah, so do I,” Jinyoung nodded. “Where do you live?”
“Over there,” Jaebeom said, pointing backwards. When he outstretched his arm, the too long sleeve of his hoodie covered his entire hand.
“Oh, me too! Let’s go together.”
They were walking up the street when suddenly Jinyoung shot off, only giving Jaebeom a light pat on the shoulder.
“Race you to that tree up the hill!” he called over his shoulder, already sprinting towards it.
Jaebeom only needed a second to process what was going on before he started running after Jinyoung, although he wasn’t as fast because of his knee.
“That’s unfair!” he yelled, “you started too early!”
Jinyoung laughed loudly, black strands of hair blowing off his forehead as he ran.
“Come on, Beomie, you’re so slow!”
Jaebeom was caught off guard. No one had ever called him Beomie before, not even his parents. Still, he kept running until they reached the tree.
They parted ways there after agreeing to meet at the park again the next day. Jinyoung lived just down the street, in a big fancy house with a garden full of flowers and an expensive-looking car parked outside.
“See you tomorrow!” Jinyoung said cheerfully. He and Jaebeom waved goodbye to each other before crossing the fences to their respective homes.
Four years later
“I’ll be going to another school,” Jinyoung murmured as they sat by the river, absently throwing little rocks at the waves.
The ripples the stone had formed on the surface became so wide that they eventually disappeared, reaching the shore and reflecting the weak winter sunlight. Jaebeom turned to his friend with an alarmed look on his face.
“What? Why? When?”
“Remember the incident with Mrs Kim’s hair, the hairspray and the lighter?” Jinyoung said, unable to repress a chuckle into the palm of his hand.
“Don’t laugh. That was terrible,” Jaebeom half-heartedly scolded him, laughing as well.
“It was absolutely genius, but my parents apparently cannot appreciate my sense of humour, so they’re sending me off to a boarding school.”
“What the hell? A boarding school? Off the bat?”
“Not technically off the bat, you know, because according to my dad, this was ‘the last straw’,” Jinyoung quoted with his fingers, rolling his eyes. “But yeah, they’re sending me to an all-boys boarding school outside of the city and I’ll be starting there after the summer.” Jaebeom sighed. “I’m sorry to tell you like this, but I just found out yesterday.”
“It’s alright,” Jaebeom said. “Will I be able to visit you?”
Jinyoung shrugged, popping a piece of bubble gum in his mouth. He didn’t seem bothered at all.
“Dunno yet. They say the school is pretty strict. I’ll definitely come back home for holidays like new year, chuseok, summer. Plus, we can always text and email.”
“It’s not the same, though.”
“Aww, little Beomie misses me already?” Jinyoung pinched his cheek, but Jaebeom immediately pushed him away.
“Of course not. I’m just worried whose ass I’m going to beat in Street Fighter now.”
“You could invite the new kid over. The shy one with the cute glasses. What was his name?”
“Jackson?” Jaebeom raised his eyebrows. Jackson Wang was the new student in their class, but they didn’t know much about him because he was always quietly sitting by himself and seemed very shy. “He doesn’t look the type to play video games…”
“It’ll make you miss me less, though.” Jinyoung winked at him, moving to his feet and dusting off his trousers.
With a small smile, Jaebeom grabbed Jinyoung’s outstretched hand and pulled himself up.
“I’ll admit I might miss you. A little bit.”
“I didn’t expect any less.”
They headed home together, as they had done every day for over four years, and Jaebeom’s heart felt heavier with each step he took. The thought of not seeing Jinyoung as often and not spending time together was becoming more and more dreadful as he realised just how fond he was of his best friend and how much he needed him.
Jinyoung, always so observant, gave him a reassuring smile as he wrapped an arm around his shoulders.
“I’m going to miss you too.” He nuzzled Jaebeom’s temple. “Let’s eat dinner at mine and play some Street Fighter.”
Five years later
It was 8 am sharp when Jaebeom headed out, slipping the earbuds into his ears as he stepped out into the cool morning air. Taking a deep breath, he stretched and warmed up a bit at the doorstep before jogging down the street, lightly bouncing on his feet.
It had already been five years since Jinyoung had been transferred to the boarding school, although things had luckily not been as difficult as they had imagined. He went back home for chuseok, the new year, every bank and national holiday, and of course, in summer. They usually spent it glued to each other, catching up on all the lost time.
That year, however, since it had been the last one before university, Jinyoung had only returned home to celebrate the new year and had spent the rest of his time at school, studying hard for his exams. Jaebeom had been swamped with schoolwork, too, but he had felt Jinyoung’s absence more than anything else, so he’d been over the moon upon getting a text from his friend a few days earlier.
ParkJY: hey loser I’ll be back home on Sunday
ParkJY: you better have missed me
It was Saturday and Jaebeom was doing his daily thirty-minute jog around the neighbourhood, although his mood had improved so much that even his mother had asked him if Jinyoung was coming back soon.
“Yes, tomorrow!” Jaebeom had replied upon heading out.
“Go pick him up at the station, he’ll be glad to see you!” his mother had suggested.
Jaebeom frowned slightly as he jogged; he actually hadn’t thought about that. The station wasn’t far off and he only needed to figure out when Jinyoung’s train would be arriving.
He turned a corner and arrived at the neighbourhood park where he and Jinyoung had met all those years ago. Smiling fondly, he approached the slide and ducked to see the space underneath the stairs. That place was so full of happy memories, it was as if a little Jinyoung was about to come out and say--
“Going down memory lane, Beomie?”
Jaebeom jumped and bumped his head against the slide, startled.
“Shit!” he cursed, whipping around to see a grinning Jinyoung, much taller and more handsome than the last time he’d seen him. “You little--you said you were coming home on Sunday!!”
Jinyoung laughed heartily, little wrinkles forming in the corners of his eyes.
“I wanted to surprise you, but I can always go back…”
“No,” Jaebeom found himself grinning, shaking his head quickly. “I’m--damn, Jinyoung, it’s so good to see you.”
Unable to help himself, he pulled Jinyoung into a tight hug. The bag Jinyoung was carrying fell to the floor and a pair of strong arms returned Jaebeom’s embrace.
“I’ve missed you,” Jinyoung whispered into his shoulder. “So fucking much.”
They walked back to Jinyoung’s house, where they were greeted by Soyoung, one of his older sisters.
“Little brother! Did you manage to surprise--oh, hi, Jaebeom!” she said, stopping herself with a giggle.
Jaebeom bowed in response.
“Of course I surprised him,” Jinyoung said with a mischievous little smile. “He always falls for my pranks.”
They went up to Jinyoung’s room and he flung his bag aside, making a run for the bed and plopping down on it.
“So how have you been?” he said, grabbing one of the pillows and cuddling it as Jaebeom sat on the edge of the mattress.
“Um, good,” the other replied, scratching the back of his head. He had thought about all that he’d wanted to tell Jinyoung once he saw him, and now nothing of it would come out. “Pretty busy.”
“Busy with what? School? Girls? Both?”
Jaebeom let out a soft laugh, feeling more at ease.
“Don’t have time for girls, so school.”
“Really, now?” Jinyoung sat up. “What kind of uni are you planning to go to if you’re so busy?”
Jaebeom shook his head.
“I won’t go to uni. I want to get into the police.”
“What?!” Jinyoung inched closer. “Im Jaebeom in a police uniform? Sign me the fuck up.”
“You’re such a pervert,” he said, shoving Jinyoung aside. “What about you, though? Where will you go, Yonsei?”
“Ah, that’s a surprise!” Jinyoung beamed, rolling onto his stomach and leaning over the edge of the bed to retrieve something from underneath. “I’ll tell you soon enough. But look what I have here.”
He passed the box to Jaebeom, who opened it and curiously peered inside. There were stacks of envelopes, postcards and polaroids jumbled up, all belonging to both of them. They were all the postcards and letters Jaebeom had sent him over the years and all the pictures they had exchanged or taken together while on holiday.
“Wow,” Jaebeom mumbled, completely amazed. “These are--are they all of them?”
“Yup, I’ve kept every single one.” Jinyoung picked up the first letter Jaebeom had sent him when they were thirteen. It was easily recognisable because there was a doodle of a sleeping kitten on the envelope. “Remember this?”
“No way.” Jaebeom snatched it from Jinyoung’s hands. “I thought you’d have thrown it away!”
“I’d never do such a thing. I would always like to remember how badly you missed having someone to play football and video games with.” Jinyoung clutched the letter to his chest.
“Ahhh, you’re terrible.”
Jinyoung sat cross-legged, propping his chin on one hand.
“I’m thinking of having a party,” he said. “Would you come?”
Jaebeom raised an eyebrow.
“What kind of party?”
“Just your usual house party, I guess. With lots of people, alcohol, beer pong, nice music, strip poker…”
It was Jaebeom who rolled his eyes this time.
“So that’s what you guys get up to in your super high-status school?”
“Don’t tell anyone.” Jinyoung winked. “How about next Saturday? I’d really like you to come.”
Jaebeom sighed, knowing he could never say no to Jinyoung.
“Then I’ll be there.”
“And what did his parents say?” Jackson said, slurping his iced green tea.
“Do you think he asked them?” Jaebeom replied with a chuckle, slipping his hands into the pockets of his hoodie. “They’re going to be out for the weekend, so the house is available.”
“Right.” Jackson jumped off the railing he’d been sitting on. “And why do I have to tag along? He only invited you.”
“I asked him if I could bring anyone and he said no problem.”
“Sure. Since when are you a party animal, again?” Jackson smiled. “I’ve got lots of revising to do, though, so I’ll probably go home early.”
“I’m not a party animal and you know it. You and me both have got tons of work if we want to get into the police,” Jaebeom said, wrapping an arm around Jackson’s shoulders, “but a little party never killed nobody.”
“Alright, alright, but you owe me a whole meal. Also, I haven’t seen Jinyoung in over a year and I want to see if he still has pimples on his forehead so I can tease him about it.”
“You can save that. His face is clear of pimples.”
“Shit, I hate him.”
Saturday afternoon came around eventually, and Jaebeom was unsure of what to wear for the party. He usually stuck to comfortable things like hoodies and trainers, but Jackson had insisted that this was a special occasion and was now raiding his wardrobe.
“Why the hell do you have a cape?”
“It was for a Halloween costume,” Jaebeom answered, sitting on the bed and looking at his phone.
“It’s fucking hideous.” He heard Jackson sigh. “Seriously, don’t you have a decent pair of jeans?”
“I do have jeans!”
“They look like they’ve been chewed by a rabid poodle.” Jackson produced a pair of jeans and unfolded them, revealing the huge rips on the knees.
“I like them, what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that you have zero fashion sense, Jaebeom.” The other returned to the wardrobe with a roll of his eyes and kept searching. “Wait, you might still have some hope after all.”
Jaebeom got up from the bed and peered over Jackson’s shoulder.
“Why? What did you find?”
The music that was booming inside the house was so loud that even the ground beneath their feet was trembling slightly. Jackson raised his eyebrows.
“Well, that’s an impressive party, gotta give him that.”
Jaebeom shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He was wearing a simple white shirt, his dad’s old leather jacket and a pair of (quite tight, he must admit) black jeans that he hadn’t worn in over four years after he got over his emo phase. Jackson had personally styled his hair, pushing it back and away from his forehead.
“I didn’t think there’d be this many people,” he replied as they stood awkwardly on the doorstep.
“We can still change our minds,” Jackson replied.
“Fuck no, styling your hair took me way too long to let it go to waste.”
Before Jaebeom could stop him, Jackson reached out and rang the doorbell. A girl dressed in a short black dress opened it and immediately ushered them inside, pushing them into the crowd that was gathered in the hall. It wasn’t difficult to move, at least they had some space, but Jaebeom wasn’t used to that kind of environment and found it suffocating.
“Sorry,” he turned to ask the girl, “do you know where Jinyoung is?”
“Jinyoung? I think I saw him in the kitchen not too long ago,” she said, smiling softly. “May I take your jacket?”
“Oh, no, thanks, I’m fine.”
“I’m Jackson, by the way!” Jackson said, butting in between them and making the girl laugh.
“See you later, boys.”
Jackson watched her leave before turning to Jaebeom and smacking him on the chest.
“You scared her off!” he protested.
“Sorry, me? Who was the one that screamed his name right in her face?”
“Maybe she was too flustered.”
Jaebeom rolled his eyes so hard he could almost see his brain. A tall figure approached them and wrapped his arms around their shoulders.
“Well, well, if it isn’t Jackson and Jaebeom! It’s been too long, guys.”
“Namjoon!” Jackson exclaimed, turning to give him a tight hug.
“It’s good to see you,” Jaebeom added, nodding his head.
“You too, man. How come you’re here? I never see you guys at any party!” Namjoon sipped his drink, a bright red liquid.
“Jinyoung invited us,” Jaebeom replied simply. “By the way, I’m going to look for him and say hi.”
Jackson stayed with Namjoon and they waved him off before going back to their conversation. Jaebeom turned around and pushed through the crowd, the music booming in his ears. It was uncomfortable, yeah, but he had come to see his friend and wouldn’t leave before doing so. Besides, he’d promised Jinyoung he would come and he always kept his promises.
The house was pretty big, so getting to the kitchen was a true challenge. Someone almost spilled their drink all over his shoes had he not been quick enough to dodge it and take another route. When he finally entered the kitchen, though, Jaebeom was glad to see it was fairly empty save for a little group of people. Jinyoung was among them, clad in a pair of dark jeans, converse and a simple black t-shirt. He was laughing at something one of the other guys had said when he spotted Jaebeom in the doorway.
“Beomie, you’re here!” he said happily, pushing off the counter to walk towards Jaebeom. He had a bottle of beer in his hand. “You came.”
“Of course I did,” Jaebeom replied as Jinyoung wrapped his arms around him in a hug. He was warm. “I promised, didn’t I?”
“A man of his word.” Jinyoung grinned. “Beer?”
A cool beer bottle was pushed into his hand and before long his cheeks and the tips of his ears were pink, a permanent smile on his lips as he chatted to Jinyoung and his group of friends from boarding school. They all looked like your typical gang of posh kids that always got whatever they wanted whenever they wanted, but Jaebeom didn’t really mind the company as long as he was with Jinyoung.
He was on his third bottle when he felt a hand squeezing his upper arm.
“Let’s step out for a bit,” Jinyoung suggested, taking the drink from him and setting it aside.
“You’re red as a fucking beetroot.”
Jinyoung dragged him to the back yard, which was a lot less crowded and noisy. They both giggled as they watched someone jump head-first into the flowerbeds.
“Mum’s going to be in hysterics,” Jinyoung said with a laugh. “Thank you for coming, Beomie.”
“I told you I’d come. And stop calling me that, we’re not ten anymore.”
“I’ll always call you that. We’ll be 80, old and grey and toothless and I’ll still be calling you Beomie.” Jinyoung’s grin looked different in the moonlight. “You having fun? Told you it’d be a big party.”
“Well, yeah. And your friends seem, uh, nice.”
“They’re a bunch of jerks.”
“Why do you hang out with them, then?” Jaebeom raised an eyebrow.
“Because it gets me places.” Jinyoung shrugged. “Like, I do stuff for them and they do it for me. There’s no such thing as real friendship in that shithole of a place. At least not like the one you and I know.”
“And here I was thinking you’d made new friends and forgotten all about me.”
“I would never.” Jinyoung looked almost offended.
“Oh, here you are!” A voice interrupted their conversation and Jaebeom turned to see the girl who had opened the door for him earlier. “I’ve been looking for you, Jinyoungie.”
“Yebin, hi! Oh, Jaebeom, this is Yebin, she’s the daughter of my dad’s best friend.” Jinyoung introduced them and Jaebeom bowed his head lightly at the same time as Yebin.
“We’ve met before,” she said playfully.
“I opened the door for him.”
“Oh, well that’s nice,” Jinyoung said with a smile. “Can I help you with anything, though?”
“I’ve come to reclaim my dance,” Yebin said, grabbing Jinyoung’s wrist, “because you promised we’d dance at least once.”
“But I can’t dance--”
“Yes you can!”
Jaebeom watched them go back inside and start dancing. With a sigh, he turned away and spent the next hour and a half wandering about, eating chips, drinking beer and soju and running away from a rather drunk Jackson who was trying to get him to dance as well.
“For the last time, Jackson, I’m not doing a fucking slut squat!”
Jackson howled with laughter, almost spilling his drink on Jaebeom.
“It’s called a slut drop, you idiot! Namjoon taught me. Watch.”
He immediately dropped to his knees, sticking out his butt in a way that was probably supposed to look sexy but to Jaebeom was plain embarrassing. He grabbed Jackson and pulled him right up.
“What the heck are you doing?”
“A slut drop.” Jackson giggled. “You liked it?”
“You looked like a dizzy chicken, so no,” Jaebeom replied, unable to repress a chuckle.
Jackson pouted and smacked his chest.
“You liked it, admit it.”
“I’m pretty sure I’ll have nightmares about this.” Jaebeom shuddered. “I’m going to the loo. Don’t get too drunk because I refuse to drag you home.”
He made his way upstairs, hoping for some quiet. It was close to 2 am already and he hadn’t seen Jinyoung since he’d gone off to dance with Yebin. Jaebeom was trying his best not to think about it, but he was actually somehow pissed. No matter how logically he tried to approach the subject, he ended up admitting to himself that seeing Jinyoung dancing with his hands on Yebin’s waist had made him feel a sudden surge of jealousy he’d never felt before. And since he’d never felt it before, he would deal with it in his own way: by avoiding it. He’d go to the loo, find some excuse to leave and then go home. Many people had already left anyway, Jinyoung surely wouldn’t notice.
He’d just finished washing his hands when he heard a knock on the door.
Jaebeom instantly knew who it was. He dried his hands and opened the door, finding Jinyoung leaning against the doorway. His hair was messy and his cheeks had a deep red tinge, as well as his lips. He looked both trashed and beautiful.
“What, you done dancing with your friend?” Jaebeom snapped, which made Jinyoung frown, even in his state.
“She had to leave. Been looking for you.”
“Right.” Jaebeom pushed past him, trying to ignore the look in Jinyoung’s dark eyes. “Have you seen Jackson? I gotta leave too.”
Before he could walk away, a strong hand grabbed his wrist and pulled him back. Jaebeom gasped as he was pressed against the toilet door.
“You can’t leave,” Jinyoung slurred. Jaebeom tried to push him off, to no avail.
“You can’t leave because I’m going off to the US for university in September and I’m fucking scared.”
That caught Jaebeom right off guard.
Jinyoung had his eyes trained on him, looking all over his face to gauge his reaction.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Jaebeom continued. “Tell me it’s a joke, Jinyoung.”
“It’s not. I’m really going abroad.”
“For how long?”
“However long it takes for me to finish my studies.” Jinyoung sighed, anxiously running his hands through his own hair. “Four years, maybe six. Maybe even longer, if I get a job. I don’t fucking know.”
Jaebeom watched him. Jinyoung looked so distressed that he didn’t even look like himself. His eyes were red-rimmed, as if he were about to burst into tears. For the first time since they had met, Jinyoung looked vulnerable.
“So I won’t be seeing you in six years? And that’s it?” Jaebeom murmured. “Not even in summer?”
“No, we can keep contact,” Jinyoung insisted, stepping closer until their chests touched. “I want to keep the contact. I’ll try to come home as often as possible, but right now I don’t--I don’t know how things will be. I don’t know anything.”
It was hard to be suddenly faced with the fact that he was going to lose Jinyoung again. Jaebeom tried to come to terms with it, even though he couldn’t think straight with Jinyoung so close. His mind felt clouded and he didn’t realise he’d been leaning in until his lips caught Jinyoung’s in a kiss. Jinyoung kissed back after a pause, their mouths fitting together perfectly as their hands gripped at each other and brought each other closer desperately.
“Stay the night?” Jinyoung murmured when they parted for air, lips red and glistening.
Jaebeom could never say no to him, so he just nodded. It was already way past his curfew anyway.
A million thoughts swam through his head as Jinyoung led them to his room, leaving the noisy party behind. The door shut behind them and they were all over each other again, which made the feeling of uneasiness in Jaebeom’s chest disappear completely.
They still had three months. They would figure out a way to stay together no matter what. Now that he had Jinyoung he wasn’t going to let him go so easily.
“We could go on a road trip this summer,” Jinyoung suggested when they were cuddled up in his bed, running his fingers through Jaebeom’s hair. “Just you and me.”
Jaebeom sighed, burying his face into Jinyoung’s chest.
“We have no car.”
“My sister will let us borrow hers.”
“I guess.” Jinyoung grinned. “I want to be with you for as long as possible.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving sooner?” Jaebeom wanted to know.
Jinyoung took a moment to reply.
“I suppose I didn’t want to give you up,” he said. “And telling you felt like I was abandoning you. Still feels like that, somehow.”
On the nightstand, Jaebeom’s phone vibrated a few times. He sat up, pecked Jinyoung’s lips and grabbed it.
“You’re not abandoning me. This isn’t forever,” he said, although it felt like he was reassuring himself instead of Jinyoung. “We’ll find a way.”
He rested his head back on Jinyoung’s chest as he checked the unanswered messages he had from Jackson.
Jackson: hey bro where u at
Jackson: did you pass out
Jackson: im not going home without you
Jackson: nvm namjoon is walking me home see you tmr :*
Jinyoung read them over his shoulder and chuckled.
“Did you leave him all alone out there? With Namjoon?”
“What’s the problem?” Jaebeom smiled. “They get along just fine. Besides, he’s a big boy, he can take care of himself.” He briefly remembered the slut drop and cringed. “Or not.”
“I like him very much.” Jinyoung absently massaged his scalp with his fingertips. “He kept you happy and was a friend to you whenever I couldn’t.”
“Yeah,” Jaebeom murmured, “but you were always there. Even if not physically, you were always present.”
“You too, you know. Back in the school, I always looked forward to receiving your letters and emails. I liked when you just rambled and told me about your day and how much you wanted to get a cat but couldn’t because of your dad’s allergy.” Jinyoung grinned up at the ceiling.
Jaebeom smiled as well, his cheek pressed to Jinyoung’s chest. He could hear the sound of his steady heartbeat and it was soothing.
They spent that summer stuck to each other, almost literally. Jinyoung’s sister didn’t let them borrow her car, but they rented one and went on a road trip for three whole weeks in July.
They were the best three weeks in Jaebeom’s life. He fell even more in love with Jinyoung than he thought he’d been, and most importantly, he felt what it was like to be loved in return. They gave themselves to each other entirely, in soul and body, and it was on the last night of their trip that Jaebeom finally thought it was time to say it.
“I love you,” he said to Jinyoung as they lay together in bed.
Jinyoung was quiet for a few seconds, enough for Jaebeom to panic a little bit. Had he said it too soon?
“I don’t love you,” Jinyoung then replied, sitting up to look into his eyes. “I adore you.”
They kissed again, as if sealing a promise.
“It won’t matter if I’m here, the US or any other place. Wherever I am, I’ll always be with you,” Jinyoung said. “We’ll always be together.”
And Jaebeom believed him.
They didn’t know how wrong they were.
i posted 4 chapters in a row because why the hell not |･ω･)
the action and the main plot point will start developing in the upcoming chapters, so please look forward to that! thank you for reading ☆
Seven and a half years later
Jaebeom’s breath came out in white puffs as he jogged through the park. It was barely 7 am, but the riverside was already full of people walking their dogs or going for their morning run as well.
It had turned into a routine for him to jog through the park by the Han river every single morning, even on weekends. It was nice to keep himself in good shape both physically and mentally. The day was starting beautifully; the sun rising beyond the horizon as Jaebeom observed it from afar, a hand coming up to shield his squinting eyes. He allowed himself a moment of pause before turning around and heading back to his apartment. There was a sense of uneasiness in his chest that he couldn’t shake off.
Nora acknowledged him with a lazy mewl from her spot on the sofa when he walked in. Jaebeom scratched behind her ears tenderly and took a quick shower, although the uncomfortable feeling didn’t go away after that either. He filled her food bowl, ate breakfast and left for work.
The police station was quiet and nearly empty when he arrived, pushing the door open and greeting Jackson with a nod.
“Hey,” Jackson said, eyes widening slightly, “is that coffee for me?”
“It’s green tea, actually, but yes.” Jaebeom placed the cup on the desk, grinning. “Where’s Hyunjin?”
“I sent him to make copies of the reports.”
“Jackson, don’t be mean to the kids. We’re supposed to teach him like our superiors did with us back in the day.”
Jackson took a sip of tea and cursed at how hot it was.
“Yeah, okay, but I actually needed those copies and he offered!” he said, holding up his hands just as Hyunjin walked into the room with a thick stack of papers and a huge grin on his face.
“Good morning, Jaebeom hyung!” he greeted cheerfully. “Jackson hyung, here are the copies.”
“Thanks, kid,” Jackson said with a smile.
“Next time he can make the copies himself,” Jaebeom told Hyunjin.
“You’d better stop whining and help me with these,” Jackson urged, putting on his glasses. “Looks like it’s going to be a long morning.”
Jaebeom sat down with him. He had only started going through some official documents and reports when the radio went off suddenly, the voice of Inspector Kim echoing through the room.
“Code eight at 67 Sejong-daero, Jung-gu,” he called. There were police sirens going off in the background. “I repeat, code eight. Requesting for backup from all stations. Over.”
Code eight meant there were officers in danger. Jaebeom had never moved so fast in his life.
“That’s the Bank of Korea,” Jackson told him as they fastened their bulletproof vests. He turned to the office, where everybody was getting ready as well. “Get the cars!”
Jaebeom picked up the radio.
“Officer Im Jaebeom. On the way with code three from Mapo Police Station. Over and out,” he replied quickly, then proceeded to grab the car keys.
A couple of officers stayed in the station with the arrestees, but the rest of them left for the scene in two cars. Jackson slid onto the passenger seat and immediately connected the sound equipment, the sirens going off. Hyunjin and another young officer sat on the backseat and Jaebeom caught a glimpse of his hands trembling slightly as he adjusted the bulletproof vest over his chest.
“Get your guns ready,” Jaebeom told them as he drove off, speeding towards the main road, “just in case.”
Jackson picked up the radio.
“What’s the situation, Inspector? Over,” he asked. The reply came right away.
“Three unidentified gunmen are inside the building. We haven’t been able to get in, the security system’s been hacked,” he explained, his breathing quick. “Presumed robbery. They have hostages, we still don’t know how many. Over.”
Hyunjin gulped audibly in the backseat.
“Is the crisis negotiation team there already? Over,” Jackson asked, voice steady.
Jaebeom kept his eyes glued to the road, steeling himself. They were less than five minutes away and he could already see other police cars and ambulances rushing to the scene, the sirens loud in the streets. Apparently it was a big deal.
“Just got here. Shots were fired inside the building a few minutes ago and we think there might be injured people, so hurry. Over and out,” the Inspector said.
“Those motherfuckers,” Jackson swore, pulling out his gun and checking it was loaded.
“Calm down,” Jaebeom said, his jaw tight. “We need to keep our minds clear.”
“I think I’m either going to shit myself or pass out. Or both,” Hyunjin said after a beat.
“Well, don’t do it in the car,” Jaebeom replied, offering him a small smile. “Just stick close to us and follow our orders. Got it?”
The main entrance to the building of the Bank of Korea was surrounded by a large number of police cars, a police cordon keeping all passers-by at a safe distance from what was happening. Jaebeom slowed down and pulled up next to the first car he saw, then gave his men a nod before exiting.
“Stay back, madam,” an officer was telling a woman at the cordon. She seemed distressed.
“But my husband’s in there!” she screamed, tears running down her face. “Please, do something!”
Inspector Kim was speaking to an officer from the crisis negotiation team when Jaebeom spotted him. The rest of officers from Mapo followed close.
“Any news?” Jaebeom asked.
“Yes. The negotiation team have managed to communicate with the robbers,” the Inspector replied, a deep frown on his face. “They confirmed there are two injured.”
“Then they must let the paramedics in,” Jackson pointed out.
“They won’t let anyone in through the door,” the other officer said. He was a tall young man with dark brown hair and sharp features. The nameplate on his chest said ‘Mark Tuan’. “They said if we come any closer they’ll kill every hostage.”
“Then what do they want? Are they going to let those two people die?” Jaebeom asked.
“If you let me finish,” Mark continued, clicking his tongue, “I was going to say they agreed to have a medical helicopter take the two injured if we agree to clear the way for them to leave.”
“We’re working on that second part,” Inspector Kim grumbled.
“The injured are our priority, though,” Jackson insisted. “Let’s call for a medical helicopter and then we’ll try to get in and take them down.”
“You can’t, think. The security system has been hacked and all doors are locked, we must know what we’re dealing with here,” Mark said, slightly annoyed.
Jaebeom’s jaw tightened. There had to be a way to get in while the robbers were busy letting the injured out, maybe they wanted a helicopter because—
His gaze stopped at the top of the building. The rooftop. Something clicked in his head.
“I have a plan.”
istg i'm going to become an expert in police slang by the time this au is done lmao
thank you to everyone who has read the fic, left a comment or kudos so far, it means a lot!! hope you enjoy this chapter and see y'all in the next one ♡♡
Jackson followed his gaze and frowned.
“You can’t possibly be serious with this.”
“Sir, I’ll need at least six officers,” Jaebeom told inspector Kim.
“Wait, what’s your plan?” the other wanted to know.
“We can go up to the rooftop of the adjoining building,” Jaebeom explained, pointing at it with his finger, “it’s close enough. We wait until the medical helicopter takes the injured, and once they’re safe, we take action against the robbers and get the rest of hostages out.”
“That’s too risky,” Mark pointed out. “My team and I will try more negotiation tactics—”
“There’s no time for that,” Jaebeom cut him off. “People are injured in there, we don’t know how severe it is.”
There was a brief pause.
“I’m in,” Jackson said.
“Me too,” Hyunjin added, nodding firmly.
“You could get injured,” Inspector Kim said, “but you’re right, there’s no time. Take six men with you and be careful, they’re armed.”
Jaebeom turned to Jackson and Hyunjin, and together they picked four more people to go up to the rooftop with them.
“Remember, these people won’t hesitate to shoot you, so don’t give them the chance,” Jackson was saying as they went up the stairs, his voice tight. “Shoot first.”
“I’ve never shot anyone,” Hyunjin admitted.
“Let’s hope you won’t have to today, either,” Jaebeom told him. “Be alert at all times and run for cover at the slightest false move.”
“We’ll wait until the helicopter arrives,” Jackson instructed when they reached the door, unlocking it with a key but keeping it closed. “As soon as the injured are safe, we’ll go out there and take the robbers down. If you must shoot, try not to kill, just disarm.”
Everyone nodded their agreement and waited for what felt like an eternity, although it was probably just a few minutes. When they heard the helicopter getting close to the bank’s rooftop, Jaebeom turned to the rest of officers.
“Guns at the ready.”
The clicking sound of the safety of their guns echoed in the small space and then silence fell again.
“The helicopter must be landing. Let’s get out now and hide before they come out,” Jaebeom said, and Jackson opened the door.
The six officers went out onto the rooftop, quickly spreading out and crouching behind every air vent and fire escape to avoid being spotted. Jaebeom stayed the closest to the stone railing, which was thankfully high enough to cover his crouched form. Hyunjin was somewhere to his right and Jackson was right beside him.
“I’m going to take a peek,” he murmured, then gestured for everyone to stay put as he carefully stretched his neck and looked over the railing.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, apparently. On the bank’s rooftop, the medical helicopter was landing, the blades still in motion as the door opened and one of the robbers walked out, face covered with a mask and rifle in hand. He was preceded by two other young men who looked absolutely terrified—the slightly taller one had a big gash on his cheek and the other’s hand seemed to be hurt. Other than that and a few bruises here and there, they seemed to be okay.
Jaebeom ducked again. He took the intercom and informed the rest.
“Those two must be the hostages. Don’t focus on them, focus on the robber,” he said.
“They said it was three, though,” Jackson replied. “Three robbers.”
“The other two must be inside,” Jaebeom muttered, “keeping an eye on the police.” He paused for a moment, checking his gun again. He could feel his heartbeat in his throat, his ears ringing. “Now, guys. On the count of three, we disarm the robber and make sure the hostages get to the helicopter safely. Aim for his hand, knees or feet. Once he’s down, we jump, get him and go down to the bank for the other two. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” everyone agreed.
“One,” Jaebeom began.
Hyunjin, swallowing thickly, dared to peek over the air vent. His blood froze at what he saw.
Hyunjin’s warning was cut off by a gunshot and he fell backwards, clutching his shoulder. Jaebeom’s eyes widened, alarms going off inside his head. He quickly whipped around and looked up at the other rooftop.
The hostages had pulled out two more rifles from the medical helicopter and were firing them indiscriminately at them. Jaebeom couldn’t see much, since he could only get a vague glimpse of the robber and the helicopter’s pilot loading some bags onto the helicopter before he had to duck again.
“Shit!” Jackson said, ducking and avoiding what would have surely been a shot to the face. “They were all together in this, there were no injured hostages!”
Jaebeom spoke into the intercom.
“We’ve been ambushed, Hyunjin’s been hurt,” he said. “The pilot is in it, too. They’re loading the loot onto the helicopter, we need backup!” He turned to two of his men and pointed at Hyunjin. “Get him out of here!”
“They’re going to escape,” Jackson said between gritted teeth, moving to squat behind a nearby vent and just barely managing to not get shot again. “What the fuck do we do?”
“Fire!” Jaebeom ordered to the remaining officers. “Fire at will, they’re all robbers!”
Thankfully, the officers were also skilled with their weapons, even though the robbers’ were more advanced rifles and they clearly knew how to use them. There were a total four of them and Jaebeom only had Jackson and one more officer, so they were outnumbered, but he was still going to try his luck.
Inspector Kim was yelling into his ear through the intercom, but he was unable to register the words. He needed to focus solely on preventing the robbers’ imminent escape, and he had already risked Hyunjin’s life by doing so, so he might as well push it a bit more. Taking a deep breath, he crawled to the railing and quickly stood up, firing at the first target he could spot—the pilot. The man ducked, although the bullet did at least graze his arm, given the pained scream he let out. The masked guy who was helping him with the bags stopped short and quickly pushed him back into the helicopter, yelling something Jaebeom couldn’t decipher. The remaining two, who had been posing as hostages, were still firing their rifles so Jaebeom had to duck again.
The blades of the helicopter started moving. Fuck, this was bad. Jackson tried aiming his gun at them, but the bullet only rebounded. He cursed upon noticing he’d run out of ammunition.
“Stop the fire,” Jaebeom ordered, “and stay put!”
“But they’re getting away!” Jackson protested.
The rifles stopped eventually. Jaebeom took his chance and stood up again, aiming his gun at the last robber, who was still boarding the helicopter as it took off. He fired a total of three shots, but the guy was faster than expected and managed to avoid them all. It was the masked guy; he seemed to be the leader.
As the machine flew up into the sky and out of their reach, he took off his mask and gave Jaebeom a smirk.
Jaebeom lowered his gun.
He’d seen that face before, but… where?
I AM BACK FROM THE WRITERS' VOID I'M SORRY I TOOK SO LONG ㅠㅠ
it's been such a long time since i published something here on ao3 that i almost forgot how to do it. as you might know if you follow me on twitter, i'm battling a huge writer's block but i think i'm slowly getting over it since i managed to pull through this entire chapter out of sheer force of will 💪
i hope you enjoy this chapter! it was so fun to write, my hands were even shaking as i typed. thank you all for reading and being so patient with my updates, ily <33
Hyunjin had been rushed to the hospital as soon as possible. The bullet had gone right through his left shoulder, but thankfully no vital organs seemed to be damaged. He was barely just beginning to regain consciousness while Jaebeom nervously tapped his foot against the floor, chewing on his lip.
“He’ll be alright, won’t he?” Jackson asked, watching from afar as the nurses tended to the young man.
“Yeah. He’s tougher than he looks.”
Jackson placed a comforting hand on Jaebeom’s shoulder, squeezing softly to get his attention.
“Stop it. You’re the best team leader any officer could ask for.”
“It’s my fault he’s there, though.”
“I said, stop it.”
Jackson stood before him, blocking the view of Hyunjin in the hospital bed. They were in the hallway outside his room, but the door was open and they could see everything. Hyunjin’s parents were on their way, Inspector Kim himself had phoned to tell them about what happened.
“Do you want to step out for a bit of fresh air?” Jackson said.
The hallway was full of police officers. Even that Mark Tuan from the crisis negotiation team was there, talking to a few of his team members.
“I want to leave,” Jaebeom admitted, “but we can’t. We’ll have to testify.”
“We’ll do that at the station later. I’m talking about now. What do you need?” Jackson asked, reaching out to grab Jaebeom’s fist and pry it open with his hands. “If you keep clenching your jaw like that, you’ll break your teeth. The doctor said Hyunjin is stable and fine, so please, do yourself a favour and relax.”
Jaebeom forced himself to take a deep breath through his nose, then released it slowly. Jackson did the same, syncing their breaths until Jaebeom’s shoulders dropped a little.
“Officer Im,” Inspector Kim said, approaching them, “officer Hwang is asking for you.”
“Hyunjin?” Jaebeom asked. “Is he okay?”
“Yes, he’s fine. Just, you know, groggy and in quite a bit of pain. There’s no major damage, fortunately.”
“May I go see him?”
“Yes. He said he wants to speak to y—” the Inspector began, but Jaebeom was already saluting and rushing into Hyunjin’s room.
“Hey,” he murmured, closing the door.
The multiple machines to which Hyunjin was attached kept beeping every two seconds, but the smile the young officer gave him put him at ease.
“Hello, hyung.” His voice was hoarse, probably because of the tubes. He’d just woken up from surgery. “Good to see you.”
Jaebeom sat down by the bed.
“You were very brave back there,” he murmured. “I’m sorry I put you at risk. I shouldn’t have been so reckless.”
Hyunjin shook his head slowly.
“You didn’t. I went up with you because I wanted to.” He reached out and weakly patted Jaebeom’s hand. “And hey, it didn’t turn out so badly. Now I can say I’ve been shot and I survived.”
Jaebeom laughed softly despite himself.
“Don’t you dare joke about that, you punk.”
“Just wanted to lighten up the mood,” Hyunjin said with a small wince of pain as he shifted on the bed. “They really played us, huh.”
“Yeah. I feel stupid for not even considering the possibility of it all being a lie.”
“You’re a good person, hyung,” Hyunjin murmured, “that’s why it didn’t occur to you.”
“Did it occur to you?”
The young officer shook his head again.
“Not at all, to be honest. I just thought about the hostages and injured people and how we had to save them. At least nobody was severely hurt.”
“Except for you.” Jaebeom sighed.
Hyunjin clicked his tongue.
“I’ll be fine. I’m sure Jackson hyung already gave you one of his talks.”
They shared a small smile.
“I promise you, Hyunjin,” Jaebeom said after a beat, “I’ll catch those motherfuckers. I’ll catch them and make them pay for everything they’ve done.”
“I know it’s pointless to try and talk you out of it,” Hyunjin replied with a soft laugh, “but let me just say you need to rest first. No offence, but you look like shit.”
“Wow, thanks.” Jaebeom got up with a soft chuckle. He was still wearing his uniform and everything, since they’d rushed straight to the hospital after making sure everyone at the bank was safe and okay.
The robbers had clearly planned it out carefully. According to some of the testimonies, they had worn masks that covered their whole faces, which had made them impossible to recognise. Besides, one of them had hacked into the building’s security system to disable all the cameras and locked doors, and then they had emptied the most valuable vaults, stolen billions of wons and managed to escape in a stolen medical helicopter, pretending to be injured hostages.
They were true professionals. At least Jaebeom had to give that to them.
The blurry face of the robber who had taken off his mask and smiled at him from the helicopter came back to the forefront of his mind and made him shiver as he exited Hyunjin’s room. Inspector Kim and Jackson quickly approached him to ask about the youngest, and he reassured them he was fine.
“Officer Im,” Inspector Kim said a while later, as they walked out of the hospital and towards the police cars, “may I have a word?”
“Of course, sir.” Jaebeom stepped before him and took off his cap. Bad idea; it had just started raining lightly.
Jackson saluted and went back to the car without another word, but he’d wait for Jaebeom. They still had to go back to headquarters and carry on with the investigation—gathering testimonies, searching for possible suspects, working with other teams to get the photofit portraits ready, and so on.
“I know you and officer Hwang are quite close,” the Inspector said, “aren’t you?”
“Yes, sir. He’s like a brother to me,” Jaebeom explained. “I’ve been training him since day one.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“What’s the matter, sir?”
“Officer Im, I think it’s best if you withdraw from this case.”
Jaebeom blinked a few times.
“I beg your pardon?”
“You heard me, officer.”
“But sir, I cannot—”
“You are too partial,” the Inspector cut him off, “which puts you at a greater risk of acting recklessly. I don’t want more injured police officers in my unit.”
Jaebeom felt his chest tightening with rage. He’d promised Hyunjin he’d take care of those criminals, and he wasn’t one to break his promises.
“You’re going to take some time off. That’s an order,” Inspector Kim continued, his tone hardening when he saw Jaebeom was about to interrupt him again. “Then, you will be transferred to another department while we work on solving this case, is that clear?” There was a pause. “I’m sorry, but this is the best thing for everyone right now.”
Jaebeom’s jaw clenched. He nodded once.
“Good. You may leave now.”
Jaebeom saluted and returned to the car, where Jackson was waiting.
“You knew already, didn’t you?”
The question lingered in the air between them, thickening it until it felt suffocating.
“Inspector Kim told me while you were inside with Hyunjin,” Jackson admitted. His hands were clenching the steering wheel so hard that it looked like they could break it into a million pieces. “I’m sorry, Jaebeom, I should have said something—”
“Yes, you probably should have,” Jaebeom cut him off, then took a deep breath and released it through his nose. “But it’s not your fault.”
“Want me to drive you home?”
“No. Let’s just go to the station, I’ve got to pick up my stuff and do some paperwork.” Jaebeom tried his best to keep his eyes focused on the road ahead, wishing he were the one driving so he could at least distract himself from his thoughts. Amid the mess and jumble in his mind, the image of the robber taking off his mask and shooting him a smile made an appearance yet again.
He’d definitely seen that face before. He just couldn’t remember where or when, and it was so frustrating he wanted to punch something.
It was way past 2 am when Jaebeom was finally allowed to leave. He had picked up his stuff, testified about the day’s events and surprisingly omitted the fact that he’d seemed to recognise one of the robbers. He’d intended to say it, but ultimately decided against it. What use would it be, if he couldn’t remember who it was?
That didn’t mean, however, he wasn’t going to try and find out for himself.
After a tight hug and a ‘call me if you need anything’ from Jackson, he got in his car and drove back home, where a very hungry and desperate Nora was waiting. Jaebeom fed her, then showered and ate some food himself; he hadn’t eaten anything during the day. He tried to watch TV, read a book, listen to his favourite music—anything to keep his mind from going back to that particular moment. Why was his brain so persistent and fixed on finding out who that person was?
Jaebeom had searched his mental archives over and over a thousand times by the time he decided to slip into bed, but nothing had come out of it.
Maybe it was just some random person he’d passed on the street? Someone who happened to look like a celebrity he’d seen on TV?
The tightening in his gut wasn’t the kind of tightening you get when you remember someone you’ve passed on the street, though.
Jaebeom didn’t know how long it had been since he’d fallen asleep (maybe five hours, maybe just five minutes), but when he woke with a start, he knew.
Drenched in cold sweat, he rolled off the bed and moved to his feet, his whole body shaking with adrenaline. He walked to his closet, slid the door open so hard it made a little crack on the wall, and searched desperately until he found it.
A simple shoebox, the one in which his old favourite sneakers had come in. With trembling hands, he opened the lid and rummaged through the piles of postcards and letters marked with a neat, beautiful handwriting until he pulled out a polaroid picture. In black and white, two young men on a road trip laughed together at some stupid joke.
One of them had the exact same smile. Jaebeom’s heart was hammering against his ribs as realisation hit him like a bucket of ice water.
He knew who it was.
and just like that I AM BACK yet again after a long period of not posting anything ;_; i went back to uni this year for another MA and real life responsibilities keep piling up so writing doesn't happen as often as i'd like it to, but i hope those of you who are still there are enjoying the story! i know this chapter was short but intense, so i hope you enjoyed it nonetheless uwu. thank you so much for reading ♡♡
ps. i'm somewhat more active on my twitter so feel free to talk to me over there if you want! ^^