She hovers about like a moth in moonless, starless night, nowhere to go, nothing to draw her away. Nothing more powerful than the need to be where she is. She should be in the Lawless office, raking through books, phone records, emails, old newspapers, anything that Cha Moon Sook has ever touched or breathed or smiled at.
Instead, she sits on the engine-warm hood of Sang Pil’s car, staring at Sang Pil’s prison, holding Sang Pil’s favorite black gel pen in her hand, rolling it back and forth between the tips of her fingers. She doesn’t know why she is holding it. Doesn’t know why Sang Pil claims to love it so much, but once, during Woo Hyung-man’s case, she tried to borrow it to sign some papers regarding evidence, and he playfully snatched it from her grasp and held it high above her head.
“Aish, I thought you were a good office manager,” Sang Pil had said, lips scrunching to one side in barely repressed laughter, eyes glittering with childish mischief.
(no one could act so childish as he, nor anyone so sincere—his blood ran young and old and every year between)
“If you don’t have any pens at your desk, order us some more. Or run to the corner store.”
Jae Yi hadn’t taken the bait then, didn’t leap in the air like an acrobat, trying to snatch the pen back, but she glared at him and from then on always made a point of using the pen for anything that a keyboard did not suffice for. Sang Pil never failed to complain loudly, even as he handed her coffee Americano or leaned over her shoulder, ignoring the elbow Jae Yi jabbed into his side, warning him to back away before Manager Tae and the rest of the Guem Gang could imagine an altering of their relationship.
Tonight, Jae Yi’s shoulder feels cold, and she stops playing with the pen and closes her eyes. She wonders if Sang Pil sleeps, or if he is yet speechless, if he has dropped his fey, frost-bite bitter smile. She wonders if he weeps.
She thinks back to the wood swing under the red heart, the line of rainbow numbers strung out one through nine though zero, and long, slender hands softly cupping her face, gentle fingers ghosting over her cheeks, touching just long enough to wipe the tears from her eyes.
Yes, if Sang Pil is not sleeping, worn out from utter exhaustion, he will be weeping. Sang Pil is the kind of man who fights like a demon and loves like an angel, purely and wholeheartedly. And Sang Pil loved his uncle. Jae Yi knows this, knows him, and stark anger burns through her veins, a fire sudden and suffocating.
Whoever tied Choi Dae-woong to that rooftop, whoever ordered that rope severed, whether it was Ahn Oh Ju or Cha Moon Sook—they wanted to press a knife to Sang Pil’s veins and bleed him dry and name him murderer.
Jae Yi almost cannot breathe for the cruelty so precise and deadly, a scorpion’s sting, but that is what forces her to open her eyes, to stand up.
Sang Pil aches away in that prison, and Jae Yi cannot go to him. Not yet. But she is a defense lawyer, a healer, if you will, who takes the patients no other doctor will treat, the lost causes, the ones with data and precedence piled against them.
(in every profession, it is always the one with the most to lose who fights the hardest)
Jae Yi slips her hair behind her ears, smooths her rumpled suit.
The night is dark and the prison is a darker silhouette, but somewhere inside is a soul who illuminates Jae Yi’s life, casts sunlight and heart-fluttering smiles upon her skin, warming her eyes, waking her laughter from long slumber.
Sang Pil’s car smells like him, after-shave and too much cologne, espresso, and new suits forest-green, crimson, and blue. Jae Yi sinks into the leather.
She has declared it already to Manager Tae and to the rest of Guem Gang, and she declares it now for herself.
“I will save you, Sang Pil.”
Tomorrow, she will look Sang Pil in the eye, desperately, willfully blind to the plain prison garment so ill-fitted about his slender frame, blind to his limp hair, blind to his dark dark irises cracked through with hopelessness and grief, and she will repeat her promise with the confidence of a prophecy.
“I will save you, Sang Pil.”
She will save him, for he has saved her.
Later, after Sang Pil is free but before they achieve their final victory, Jae Yi wakes from a cold nightmare empty not only of her resurrected mother but also of Sang Pil. She lies on top of her blankets, shivering though she drips with sweat, and she cannot stop her hands from shaking.
It takes her three long minutes to text Sang Pil.
Are you awake? I can’t sleep
The message is frought with fragility, a lace-thin wave of ice reaching out for something—and in the hour of midnight Jae Yi feels she does not know who she is or what she deserves. She had failed to trust Sang Pil, and though he should not have concealed the truth about her mother from her, she should not have said so many great and hurtful things as she did.
I’m busy down in the office...FIGHTING!
There is an emoji of a fist, and a great deal too many smiley faces for Jae Yi’s taste. The right amount of smiley faces for her to soften, to understand that she is no longer suffering from dreams of lonely fears, that Sang Pil has forgiven and forgotten the accusations she once shot at him.
She dresses quickly, hails a taxi, and not nearly quickly enough finds herself outside the Lawless building. A light is on in an upper window, and Jae Yi smiles.
The summer weather is hot, and it begins to rain just as she slips in the front door. Then she goes up the stairs, steadily, as she ever goes, excepting that one horrid instance, and then she is at the grated door. A dim lamp lights a corner of the office, all the way back by Sang Pil’s desk, but he is not seated in his leather chair.
Jae Yi slides the door back, surprised but grateful for its silence. Manager Tae must have ordered one of the Guem Gang to oil it down.
She is half-way across the room before she notices a pair of expensive dark shoes jutting out from behind Sang Pil’s desk, and in those shoes the feet of Sang Pil himself. She smiles, tiptoes the rest of the way, and leans over the desk to see her Lawless Lawyer lying fast asleep atop a pile of loose-leaf papers.
All of them are documents marked up extensively, and Jae Yi recognizes a certain gel pen resting in Sang Pil’s relaxed hand. She smiles, steps around the desk, and transfers the pen to a place of safety. Then she pushes the papers aside, kneels next to Sang Pil, just looking at him.
The office windows are cracked open, and outside the rain patters down in a soothing steady manner.
Sang Pil asleep on his side, undignified and unaware, one arm crushed underneath him, his cheek pressed to the floor and his hair hanging straight down over his eyes, covering his forehead, like it did when he was in prison, is almost too much for Jae Yi.
She reaches out impulsively, brushes the hair to the side.
Innocent. He is innocent and good still, though his mother was murdered before him, though he grew up as a thug, though he has gone to prison now three times, though the man he loved like a father was sacrificed as a victim to tear him into useless vicious shreds.
Jae Yi takes off her shoes and sets them to the side. She lays down on her side next to Sang Pil.
His hand, the one that held the pen, lies on the floor close to her heart. She turns it over, traces her finger over his knuckles, over the letters of his tattoos. L I G H T, the letters spell.
Jae Yi kisses each letter, each knuckle, her soft lips lingering on calloused skin.
She looks up, and Sang Pil is smiling at her, his beautiful soft smile that pulls too much in one direction. He blinks slowly, then inches his whole body closer to her.
He raises his hand, wraps it softly behind her head and threads his fingers into her silky hair.
Light surrounds her, knows her, loves her—kisses her. Sang Pil presses his warm lips to her forehead, and she smiles. He presses them to her own lips, and she falls into him, taking his delicate, iron-steel hands in her own, both Light and Dark. When she takes a breath, she lifts her head momentarily, studying his hair, his ears, his jawline sharp even in his softest, most vulnerable moments, and finally his gaze. He offers it all to her.
Everything he is, is hers.
She wants to give him all of herself as well. It is the only thing to be done.
She does what she wanted to do before, and kisses his forehead. He lies there on the floor, atop some document Jae Yi failed to remove, and smiles at her.
“I thought you were a good manager,” he says. “You’re an even better lawyer. It’s because you are a good person. Good people stay with good employers.”
Jae Yi is also smiling now, but she waits.
“Promise me you’ll stay? In case I need someone to save me again?”
Jae Yi’s voice is as soft and light as Sang Pil’s breath. “You should give me a raise,” she says, but before he can smirk, or give her one of his signature retorts, she reassures him. “I promise.”
Sang Pil must have been sure of her answer. He has gone back to kissing her.