That’s all that Renjun can feel sitting in front of Kun as his boss expresses his thorough disappointment. Kun, nicer than most people (definitely nicer than Renjun himself), goes easy on him. Renjun is critical enough of himself for the both of them.
“It’s not that you aren’t doing a good job,” Kun reassures, “It’s just that the stakes are higher. We are zeroing in on a suspect, and we need all hands on deck.This may be a serial we are dealing with here,” Kun explains.
Renjun nods his head blankly, detective brain already analyzing and picking apart the situation. If he had done better, Lee Donghyuck would not be dead. If he had solved the first murder (a very high profile murder, mind you) sooner, he wouldn’t be in this position.
“I understand your concern, Chief, I really do. But I work best alone, you know that. I’ve made so much progress in the past couple of months, and I don’t want some new kid to come in and mess that up,” Renjun argues back.
Kun clicks his tongue, like he already knew that Renjun would make things difficult. He probably did already know, given that he served as the city’s best detective for ten years before accepting the position of Chief of Police. Kun can read anybody, even someone as reserved and closed off as Renjun.
“This is not just some kid. He may be a rookie, but he was recommended by Ten himself, and is one of the brightest additions we’ve had to the force since… well you,” Kun tries to reason with him.
A recommendation from Ten would be very hard to argue against. He’s the head of the homicide department, and has solved some of the most high profile murders in the country’s history. He has the fame and recognition that Renjun aspires to have, but is just short of. That, and Kun has a massive crush on him that influences all interactions with the Thai boy.
“But he’s a rookie,” Renjun replies, trying a different angle. If he can’t fight natural talent, he’ll try the inexperience argument. “Do we really want to take a gamble on someone so inexperienced when it’s such a famous case? Every news station in Korea is reporting on the Starlet Sweetheart murders. If something goes wrong, it’s going to reflect the entire department, and everyone in the country is going to know about it.”
Kun looks at him skeptically, “Have you ever considered dropping the detective gig and going to law school?” he asks, half serious. “Because you sure know how to argue.”
Renjun smirks, “So does that mean that you agree with me? Have I convinced you to let me finish my work alone?” he asks smugly, trying not to sound cocky.
Kun pretends to think about it for a moment, before shaking his head. “Nope!” he replies jolily. “I actually think working with someone might be good for you. I worry about you sometimes. You’re a great detective Renjun, one of the best in the city. But I think you get too in your head sometimes. I think having someone to share the burden might relieve some of the pressure you feel.”
Renjun immediately starts shaking his head, “It’s not a burden to me! I love this job. I promise I can handle it. I want to prove to you that I’m worthy of this case, this job,” he pleads, voice highlighting the underlying layer of insecurity that sneaks up on him from time to time.
“I know that, Renjun. Trust me when I say I already think that you’re plenty worthy. But even the best need to learn to work with others. Besides, you’re still going to be the senior detective on this case. That means you can boss Jeno around and show him the ropes. Maybe act as a bit of a mentor to him,” Kun tries to convince him.
The truth is, nothing Kun says could convince Renjun that this is a good idea. However, whether Renjun approves of Kun’s choice or not, it doesn’t matter. It is simply not his decision to make.
So Renjun spitefully, bitterly, aggressively, hesitatingly, agrees to Kun’s order on one condition: If Lee Jeno is going to join on to the case, he is going to do things Renjun’s way.
When Renjun first meets Jeno, he is slightly taken aback. He expected the boy to be younger, though he looks to be about the same age as Renjun himself. He also wasn’t expecting the boy to be so handsome, but Renjun supposes that isn’t something he usually prepares for.
Though Renjun is a little bit frazzled upon first impressions, he keeps his cool. He’s dealt with people a lot more dangerous than Lee Jeno, and he learned early on not to show any signs of weakness. Some people are trained in manipulation, and are practically sniffing for blood to pounce on. Renjun refuses to take the bait. He stays calm and collected even in the most dire of situations. That’s part of the reason he is such a good detective.
“Hello,” Jeno stands up immediately, walking towards Renjun to greet him. He has a big smile on his face as he reaches out a hand to shake (which Renjun squeezes just a bit too hard as a show of dominance.)
“I couldn’t believe it when Ten said I would be working with you,” Jeno admits bashfully. “You’re like, the best detective in the city. I’ll work hard. It really is a wonderful opportunity and I promise not to let you down,” he promises.
Renjun isn’t sure what the expression on his face is at that moment, staring at Lee Jeno who is much too eager to please (especially for a goddamn cop!), though if he had to guess he probably looks thoroughly unimpressed.
“I can’t say I am as enthusiastic as you are, I’m afraid,” Renjun replies honestly. The way Jeno’s face immediately falls makes Renjun almost feel bad, but to be honest, Renjun isn’t particularly concerned with feelings.
“I’m used to working alone, you see,” Renjun admits, “And while I am great at psychoanalyzing people, I can’t say I am the easiest person to get along with. I’ve already got a rhythm going with this case, so I’m hoping you’re willing to go along with my process and not disrupt me.”
Jeno nods quickly, still smiling despite how condescending Renjun is acting towards him. “I’m sure I could learn a lot from your methods, Detective Huang. It’s an honor to work alongside you, and learn from you,” Jeno responds.
Renjun, a little shocked at how kind and gracious Jeno is acting towards him, makes the decision to skip the pleasantries and the small talk (at least for now) and move on to the facts of the case.
“So how familiar are you with the case?” Renjun asks. He isn’t sure how much Jeno has been briefed on the case, and he doesn’t want to waste too much time on details of the case that Jeno could learn from a simple internet search.
“I reckon I know quite a lot given that it’s all the news is talking about these days. The Starlet Sweetheart murders are already legendary. I think someone will write a screenplay about them eventually,” Jeno smirks, much to Renjun’s annoyance. There are two things he can’t stand: cockiness, and men who are pretty enough to get away with anything. Renjun can already tell Jeno possesses both qualities.
“Can’t have a Whodunit Hollywood production without finding out who… you know...done it?” Renjun responds, trying to knock Jeno down a peg. As a detective used to interrogations where he controls all of the cards, it’s where he feels most comfortable in a conversation.
“Oh we’ll solve this case in no time,” Jeno says confidently. “I have a lot of faith in us!” he says, though Renjun remains unconvinced.
“Anyways,” Renjun begins, not even bothering to dignify Jeno with a proper response, “Na Jaemin, up and coming actor, was killed in the home he shared with his long time boyfriend, famous idol Lee Donghyuck on New Year’s Eve. The two were throwing a party, and there were over 100 people in attendance.”
“Jesus,” Jeno whistles, “I don’t think I know 100 people, much less well enough to invite them to a party.”
Renjun rolls his eyes. “It doesn’t matter if Jaemin knows them or not. These parties aren’t about having fun with friends, they’re about showing off. To create the illusion that anyone who is anyone is in attendance,” he explains as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world.
“Now obviously because there were more than 100 people in the house when Jaemin was murdered, it was hard to narrow down a suspect. That all changed this past weekend when Jaemin’s boyfriend Donghyuck was also killed,” Renjun continues.
“I’m going to be honest, I don’t know too many details of Donghyuck’s murder yet,” Jeno confesses. “It hasn’t made the news yet, and Ten and Kun have been pretty tight-lipped about it.” Renjun tries not to look annoyed upon the realization that he is going to have to practically everything when it comes to informing Jeno.
“Donghyuck was having a dinner party on Friday night. There were 30 guests, and out of all of them, 14 were also present on New Year’s Eve. This has greatly narrowed down our list of suspects to these people. Whoever killed them had to be present at both events,” Renjun explains.
“And you’re sure it’s a serial?” Jeno asks, taking Renjun by surprise. He figured it was obvious, given that the most famous queer couple in the entire country was murdered within months of each other.
“I mean, we’ll have to officially wait for Donghyuck’s autopsy report, which could take a couple of days. But that’s what it’s looking like,” Renjun clarifies.
“Fourteen is still a lot of suspects,” Jeno muses, and Renjun has to agree on that. And this is just the first round of leads, too. It’s quite possible that they may stumble upon information that could lead to other suspects.
“We have to start broad, and then eventually narrow it down based on the information we receive. It’ll become clear that many of the people we talk to are not murderers, and were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’ll stay diligent and do our jobs and hopefully the truth will be revealed easily,” Renjun resolves.
“Well we need a motive, don’t we. Why would someone, especially someone close to the couple, want to kill them?” Jeno asks, as if he is speaking more to himself than Renjun.
“That’s the first thing you’ll need to learn if you’ll be working with me, kid,” Renjun begins seriously.
“Everybody has a motive.”
As soon as Renjun makes it home for the day, he pours himself a glass of whiskey and plops down on his couch. He'd never admit it, but this case is really draining him.
No one ever talks about it, how absolutely exhausting it can be to be surrounded by death, and violence, and inhumanity. And Renjun can’t even complain about it because he chose this life for himself. It’s his own fault that he has trouble handling it sometimes.
Renjun always had a hard time letting people get close to him, and how could he not? He knows better than anyone that the people who are trusted the most are the ones who cut the deepest, harshest, cruelest. Na Jaemin was not killed by a stranger, he was killed by someone he trusted enough to bring into his house, to celebrate with.
When Renjun first started his job, he thought that it took a very specific type of person to resort to such unthinkable violence. As time went on, however, he realized that it’s something everyone has within them. How could he get close to someone without being afraid of waking the monster that lives within them? How could he get close to someone without knowing that he could become a monster himself?
It’s these thoughts that haunt him, keeping him up late at night until he shows up to work the next day, dark circles prominent under his eyes. He loves his job, frankly more than anything, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t get really heavy. Not only that, he also has to deal with the worries that come from any other job. The pressure to succeed looming over him like an unwanted shadow.
Kun put him on this case because he trusted him, he believed that Renjun could solve it all on his own. Such a high profile case like this could make his entire career, and Renjun can’t help but feel like he is blowing his chance at success.
Donghyuck’s death was a really low blow. Not only because it meant that Renjun had failed, unable to stop another unnecessary casualty, but also because the two of them had struck up a bit of a friendship.
Donghyuck was immensely helpful with assisting Renjun with whatever he needed to, and was always willing to provide whatever details Renjun was after. In most cases, the lover is always the first person that Renjun suspects (mostly because it usually is the lover) but not in this case. It was clear to Renjun upon first meeting that Donghyuck was deeply in love with Jaemin, and in turn, was struggling with the aftermath of his death.
Even murderers can feel remorse for their actions, but there is a special kind of sadness that comes from unexpected loss. Donghyuck had never expected Jaemin to die that night, and it was obvious by the way he carried himself blankly, as if in permanent shock. So Renjun’s motive with Donghyuck changed; he wanted to speak to him, not as a suspect, but as an informant. And Donghyuck had plenty of answers, and some ideas of his own too.
The problem is, with over 100 party guests, it was very difficult to narrow down potential suspects, even with additional help. Renjun felt like every lead he had was a deadend, to the point where he started to wonder if he was really cut out for this. Donghyuck’s death only strengthened his fears.
The addition of Jeno only made Renjun more insecure. Would he ruin things for Renjun, making the case impossible to solve? Would he figure things out immediately, completely upstaging him? Renjun couldn’t know for sure.
The one thing he did know was that for this whole arrangement to work, he had to get to know Jeno better, figure him out. And if there is one thing Renjun is good at, it’s detective work.
Jeno looks at Renjun’s conspiracy board in shock. Renjun can’t blame him, it’s the biggest one he has ever created, with over fifty faces, and different colored strings connecting various people.
“How long did this even take?” Jeno asks in awe, eyes moving over the board carefully, as if he is trying to take every detail in (not that he could with a single glance.)
Renjun rolls his eyes in response, “I didn’t make this in one sitting, obviously. I’ve been working on this case since New Year’s Eve. As more details come in, and more suspects get ruled out, I change the board,” he explains condescendingly.
Jeno either doesn’t notice Renjun’s patronizing tone, or chooses not to comment on it. Instead he smiles widely at him, “Your mind is both fascinating and terrifying,” he smirks, causing Renjun to blush. He wasn’t expecting a comment like that from Jeno, but then again, he knows better than to put expectations on people. As a detective, he knows that people aren’t always as they seem.
“Let’s go over the basic facts of the case again,” Renjun begins again, totally ignoring Jeno’s comment. He prefers investigative analysis to banter anyway. Jeno nods along, though he seems like the type who doesn’t mind pleasantries.
“Date: New Year’s Eve, location: Donghyuck and Jaemin’s house. The couple was having a New Year’s Eve party with approximately 115 guests. At 1:30am, Donghyuck noticed that Jaemin was missing, and found him stabbed in the abdomen at approximately 1:54am. He was DOA,” Renjun explains easily.
“Last Friday, Donghyuck hosted a dinner party, and was reported missing by his best friend Mark Lee at 7:45pm. He was also found stabbed in the abdomen at 8:04pm. Like his boyfriend, he was also dead on arrival. We need to figure out who killed them,” Renjun finishes.
“Well, duh,” Jeno chuckles, “Why else would we be here? Have you narrowed down any suspects?” he questions, to which Renjun scoffs.
“Of course I have,” Renjun explains. “Everyone with a red thread connected to Jaemin and Donghyuck is someone I have been meaning to interview about Jaemin’s death, who were also at Donghyuck’s dinner party. The ones who are connected in blue thread are every other person who was at both the dinner party and the New Year’s Eve party. These 14 people are our primary suspects.”
Jeno nods contemplatively. “Let’s start with the red thread suspects, since they were already on your radar. Then, if we aren’t getting anywhere, we move on to the blue thread suspects,” he muses.
Renjun is quick to agree, given that the suggestion was his original plan as well. It seems as though Jeno has at least some semblance of what he is doing. It’s reassuring, if only a little.
“So, who are our first suspects?” Jeno asks, eyes jumping from picture to picture, zeroing in on the five images with red thread.
“We are going to focus on Nakamoto Yuta, Kim Jungwoo, Park Jisung, Suh Johnny, and Jung Jaehyun. I think we should interview Jisung first. He was Jaemin’s personal assistant, and probably can provide us with information for the rest of them,” Renjun reasons. “What do you say, should we pay him a visit?”
Jeno nods eagerly, standing up immediately. “I can’t wait to see you out in the field. You’re so in your element when you get in detective mode, it’s breathtaking to watch,” Jeno gleams, eyes turning into crescents as he smiles wide.
Renjun leaves the room, not bothering with a response, careful not to let his partner catch sight of his flushed face and shaky hands.
Suspect: Park Jisung:
Relationship to Victim: Personal Assistant
Possible Motive: Unhappy work environment, possibly money conflicts?
Park Jisung is noticeably shy when he talks to Renjun and Jeno, though that isn’t necessarily suspicious. Renjun thinks that Jisung is anxious by nature, and would be hesitant regardless of whether he was being questioned in relation to the murder of his boss. Still, he feels the need to console the boy.
“Don’t worry, Jisung,” Renjun says softly, “We are just going to ask you a couple of questions. We know that as Jaemin’s assistant, you must have worked closely with him and his associates. That makes you very valuable to us. Are you willing to cooperate?” he asks, voice soothing and calm.
Jisung nods slowly, though he still seems slightly shaky. Renjun makes a mental note of it, though it probably doesn’t mean anything. A lot of people don’t trust the police, understandably so.
“How long have you worked for Jaemin?” Jeno steps in, speaking for the first time since they got here. Renjun was planning on easing them into the questioning, hoping to loosen Jisung up a little, though Jeno doesn’t seem to have the same concern.
(If Renjun is being honest, Jeno’s presence is already starting to annoy him. He’s worked alone for so long, so used to doing things his way, that when things don’t go exactly according to his plan he blanks.)
“I’ve worked for Jaemin for three years, but I’ve known him since I was young. We were neighbors growing up. He was practically like a brother to me…” Jisung trails off.
There is pain in his voice, though that doesn’t mean much. Even murderers can miss the people that they killed. Humans are multidimensional like that, contradictory to a point that annoys Renjuns to no end. Still, Renjun sees no indication that Jisung murdered his boss, at least yet.
“So you guys were quite close, would you say? Like more than boss but employer, but also friends? Family even?” Renjun continues the questioning, piggy-backing on Jeno’s previous inquiry.
Jisung’s eyes well with tears, and Renjun can tell already that the boy is crier. “Jaemin always told me that if he had a little brother, he wanted it to be me. He used to talk about how cute I was and how much he loved me. It annoyed me at the time but… I would do anything to have his loving nagging back. I would never complain again,” he cuts himself off, as the tears run down his face.
“We’re sorry for your loss,” Renjun says sincerely, “And I’m sure the mysterious circumstances surrounding his death has made it very hard to move on. It may be hard to talk about, especially given that the wound is so fresh, but the quicker we solve this, the quicker you can begin to heal,” he voices. Jisung nods again, calming himself down.
“You were at the New Year’s Party that night right? Did you notice anything off about Jaemin? Did he argue with anyone? Did anyone else seem kind of strange to you?” Jeno asks firmly. “Any information you have, could really help us.”
“Jaemin was his typical loving self the entire night. He kept kissing everyone on the cheek, saying he wanted to make sure everyone got a New Year’s kiss. He also stuck close to Donghyuck the entire night. They couldn’t keep their hands off of each other,” Jisung explains.
“You were with the two of them a lot, right? What was the relationship between Donghyuck and Jaemin like? Did they ever fight?” Jeno continues. Renjun doesn’t know where this is going, but chooses not to intervene.
Jisung shakes his head vehemently. “They were like, couple goals. Both of them are very affectionate and love skinship, so they were always hanging off of each other. But more than that, they got along with each other so well. They were in tune with each other’s wants and needs in a way I could only describe as soulmates…” he trails off though he looks like he wants to continue. One pointed look from Renjun has him continuing.
“Please don’t take this the wrong way, but part of me thinks that Donghyuck also being killed was a testament to their bond. Like the universe couldn’t bear for the two of them to be apart for too long,” Jisung says meekly.
Renjun nods sympathetically. He may not admit it, but deep down he’s a hopeless romantic. And while he has long given up on the prospect of love for himself, it doesn’t mean he isn’t endeared by the love that others get to experience.
“Did anyone ever try to interfere with their relationship? Any jealous exes? Or drunken advances?” Renjun questions, watching as Jisung wracks his brain for information.
“There was someone, I guess. It was kind of a misunderstanding. Before Jaemin and Donghyuck got together, Jaemin slept with Kim Jungwoo. Jungwoo is very open about his sexuality and brought up his… um… relations with Jaemin on multiple occasions. He even proposed a threesome between the three of them,” Jisung blushes, clearly shy with talking about the subject matter.
“Donghyuck seemed kind of uncomfortable by the entire thing, but Jungwoo didn’t seem to notice. He was always pretty high every time he came around if I’m being honest,” Jisung finishes.
Jeno and Renjun look at each other once, quickly nodding. They both know how they want to proceed.
“You wouldn’t happen to have Jungwoo’s contact information, would you?” Jeno asks, pleased when Jisung reaches for his phone immediately.
He is just finishing transferring over Jungwoo’s address and phone number (which they could easily obtain through the legal system, though it’s easier this way) when something odd happens. A second phone starts ringing.
Jisung looks up at them, absolutely stricken before stuttering, “That’s uh… that’s my… I can explain,” he says, though he offers no further explanation. He quickly walks towards the mantle of his fireplace, before pulling out a small flip phone that was strategically hidden behind a video game console.
It’s so obviously a burner phone that Jisung can’t even find a proper excuse for it. He just opens it to stop the ringing, a message popping up, causing the younger boy to close it quickly (though not quick enough; Renjun still manages to catch a glimpse.)
are the detectives there? b careful and dont b suspicious
“What the hell was that?” Jeno questions once they are back in their squad car. “Why would the kid need a burner phone?” he asks. “I don’t know about you, but he just jumped straight to the number one suspect on my list,” he says exasperated by what he just encountered.
“I don’t think he did it,” Renjun replies. “He isn’t capable of it, I don’t think. He’s too sensitive. But he is definitely hiding something. And we need to figure out what that is if we want to truly rule him out as a suspect,” Renjun explains, thinking aloud.
“Should we get a warrant?” Jeno suggests, looking at Renjun briefly before turning his eyes back to the road.
“It’s too soon for that, we don’t have enough evidence. For now let’s talk to Jungwoo and see if we can get anything out of him. He might have some valuable information for us,” Renjun says pointedly, making the decision for the both of them.
(While Renjun doesn’t think that Jisung is a murderer, it’s too soon to weed him out entirely. Renjun’s gut is telling him to move on with the suspects however, (and his gut is rarely wrong) so they continue.
Suspect: Kim Jungwoo:
Relationship to Victim: Former Sexual Partner, Friend
Motive: Jealousy? Drug-related?
Kim Jungwoo is surprisingly easy to get a hold of, and unlike Jisung, he doesn’t seem phased by Jeno and Renjun’s presence. Jungwoo has a special kind of confidence in him that shows Renjun that very little scares him, including the consequences of his own actions.
Jungwoo is also famous (a rich socialite), and runs in similar circles as Jaemin and Donghyuck, hence how they ended up meeting. The biggest difference, however, is that Jungwoo is a well known party boy, while Jaemin and Donghyuck were mostly homebodys.
They don’t even have to ask about his drug use, sexual escapades, or thrill-seeking lifestyle, that’s all information that he offers willingly to the press whenever he opens his mouth. He has very little shame, and even less tact, meaning that everybody already knows his business.
Still, there has to be something Renjun can prod out of him. Some sort of revelation that can give their case some semblance of direction.
“Jungwoo,” Renjun begins, after listening to the man in question give a fifteen minute rant about how he lost $15k betting on horse races, “What do you remember about New Year’s Eve? The night of Jaemin’s murder,” he clarifies.
Jungwoo shrugs nonchalantly, “Nothing,” he replies simply, not bothering to elaborate.
“What do you mean nothing?” Jeno prods, confused by the brazen way Jungwoo conducts himself, as well as how chill he is about being questioned by the police. Jisung’s reaction, though skittish and terrified, is to be expected. There is something deeply unsettling (and frankly suspicious) about the way Jungwoo simply seems to not give a fuck about anything.
“I genuinely can’t remember anything from that night. I was high as a kite. I don’t even know how I got to the party, or how I got home. All I know is that I woke up the next morning at home with a goat in my apartment and a tattoo that I don’t remember getting,” he replies casually.
Jeno and Renjun share a look at absolute disbelief. A goat? What is up with this kid?
“Well, uh… we heard that you used to be in a sexual relationship with Jaemin. Is this true?” Renjun prods, changing the direction of the interview. Since Jungwoo clearly can’t provide information from the night of the murder, maybe there is other information he could offer.
“I’ve slept with a lot of people, to be honest. I wouldn’t call any of them relationships though. The only reason I even remember that I sex with Jaemin is because Donghyuck was like, really jealous about it. He would get possessive whenever I was around. I don’t think he liked me very much to be honest,” Jungwoo explains.
“If Donghyuck was jealous of you, why would he invite you to his dinner party last week?” Jeno asks, impressing Renjun. The question had been on his mind as well.
Jungwoo gives them a look that makes them think the answer is obvious, as if the two of them should have been able to figure it out without explanation, especially since they were both detectives.
“I am extremely open about my drug use. Donghyuck recently lost the love of his life and was grieving and miserable. He wanted to forget about the world for a little bit. Do the math,” Jungwoo explains bluntly.
Renjun’s eyebrows furrow for a moment, blurting out, “Are you saying Donghyuck was high the night of his death?” This feels like important information.
“Uh, yeah. Don’t you have an autopsy report that’ll tell you that?” Jungwoo questions, looking confused. Renjun is a little surprised that he knows what an autopsy is, but chooses not to question it.
They continue the interview, but gain very little information after that. Regardless of what Jungwoo states, he isn’t exactly a reliable witness considering his drug use. They part ways after that, Renjun and Jeno heading back to their car for the debrief.
“I got really weird vibes from him. Two of his friends just died, and he didn’t even seem upset about it? Is it just me?” Jeno questions in disbelief.
Renjun sighs, turning to look at Jeno seriously. “The man was drugged up on so much cocaine, it’s probably impossible for him to feel anything but elation in this moment. My guess is that he is grieving, and the only way he knows how to process it is through drugs,” Renjun explains simply.
Jeno contemplates for a second before replying, “Wow… that’s actually kind of sad. I know Jungwoo has this air of nonchalance about him, but part of me feels sorry for him. I feel like he has demons deep down.” Renjun nods, starting up his car before responding easily,
“Don’t we all?”
(Jeno and Renjun call around a couple tattoo shops in the city and find out that Jungwoo was at Neo City Tattoo Parlor from approximately 1:00am-3:30am on New Years Day, giving him an alibi for the time of Jaemin’s death. They choose to rule him out as a suspect, narrowing down their list, if only slightly.)
Renjun looks at Jeno in quiet disgust as his partner shoves an entire sandwich into his mouth gracelessly. Renjun can be quite delicate with his actions, especially eating, but Jeno eats like a bear. For some reason, he finds it endearing, though he keeps that opinion to himself.
“What's the plan now?” Jeno asks, mouth full of bread and mayonnaise. “Who is next on the agenda?” Renjun tries not to visibly cringe at the sight of chewed up bread that Jeno so graciously shows off to him.
“We have one more person to talk to today,” Renjun explains, “Nakamoto Yuta. He was Jaemin’s personal trainer, and got fired a month or two before Jaemin’s death. He was rehired by Donghyuck after the murder when Donghyuck wanted to try yoga to relieve his stress and center himself.”
“I’m sure Donghyuck must have been really stressed by what happened,” Jeno remarks sympathetically.
“I mean, imagine the love of your life being killed by someone you trusted enough to let into your home. He was suspicious of everyone, and didn't trust a single soul. He even slept with a knife under his bed,” Renjun explains. Jeno nods sympathetically.
“Why was Yuta fired?” Jeno asks curiously, the tidbit of information sparking his interest. Renjun can’t lie and say that he wasn’t also curious by the revelation. If there were some grievances about the way that Jaemin and Yuta parted ways, that would explain a motive.
“Let’s find out, shall we?” Renjun asks, standing up and heading towards the door.
“Wait a minute!” Jeno calls out, “I’m not done eating yet.” Renjun pretends not to hear and keeps walking.
Suspect: Nakamoto Yuta
Relationship to Victim: Personal Trainer
Motive: Was fired
Renjun and Jeno catch Yuta at his gym, taking a quick break between celebrity clients. Yuta works exclusively with famous people because it makes him feel important. Renjun can’t really judge; they’re all trying to find recognition in some form or another, in whatever way they can get it.
Yuta agrees to meet with them, shockingly naive, as if he doesn’t realize that he would ever be considered a suspect. A lot of people are like that, they don’t think they could ever kill someone and assume everyone else believes that about them too.
Because Yuta doesn’t realize he is a suspect, he answers questions easily, neither with timid nervousness or overzealous confidence. It’s a nice break after meeting with Jisung and Jungwoo, who were on opposite extremes of the interviewee spectrum.
“You and Jaemin must have been close, right? Didn’t you work together for a few years?” Renjun questions, voice calm and casual as to not alert his suspect.
“Yeah, we started working together right as Jaemin was making his acting debut. He was really nervous about taking proper care of his image. And then when he booked a big role where he would be shirtless, we upped our training sessions. Overall, I met with him quite frequently and hung out sometimes. He was a good guy, Donghyuck too. It really is a shame man, I can hardly believe what happened,” Yuta says in a way that is suspiciously earnest.
(As a detective, Renjun finds everyone suspicious, to the point that someone not being suspicious makes them suspicious.)
“Did you see them often up until recently, before their deaths of course. I know that Jaemin had stopped going to you…” Jeno asks, trailing off, looking at Renjun for reassurance, which he gives, offering a gentle nod.
Yuta shook his head, frowning slightly. “Unfortunately not, Jaemin was taking a break from training because his next film project was going to require him to lose weight. He didn’t need the muscular look at all. We were going to resume when filming wrapped but…. we never got the chance,” Yuta explains, biting his lip.
Renjun had heard of Jaemin’s project, only to find that after his death, he had consequently been recast by his brother. He knew the movie was a historical drama about someone trying to survive a famine. The story totally checks out, and Renjun is starting to feel like he came all the way over to Yuta’s gym for nothing.
“Well at least you still got to spend some time with them. Did anything seem off on New Year’s Eve? Or last week with Donghyuck? Anything suspicious?” Renjun asks, looking for something that will make this trip worthwhile.
Yuta frowns again, “I wish I could be more help, but I left early both nights. I left before midnight on New Year’s to meet my girlfriend at her cousin’s party. And the night of the dinner party I had to go pick my little brother Shotaro up from his dance practice. I mean other than the fight Jaemin had that night, I don’t think there was really anything out of the ordinary…” Yuta trails off, stopping Jeno and Renjun in their tracks.
“A fight?” Renjun asks, raising an eyebrow. This is the first time he has heard anything about a fight, and he is very curious.
“Didn’t you hear about the fight? I figured someone would have mentioned it, given how loud it was. I know I wasn’t the only one who heard it,” Yuta answers.
“Do you know who he was fighting with?” Jeno questions, hoping Yuta can deliver.
Unfortunately, Yuta did not recognize the voice that night, other than confirming that it belonged to a man, and was not too high nor too low.
After this piece of news gets dropped on them, Renjun and Jeno are practically itching to get back to the office to investigate this revelation further, and theorize some more.
“I know I wasn’t too helpful, but I hope you guys are able to figure this out. It’s such a tragedy, I hope justice can be served.” Yuta offers sincerely, walking them both to the door. He sticks out a hand, shaking both of their hands, before going back inside to prepare for his next client.
Little does Yuta know, he just provided a major piece of information for the case. Someone was angry with Jaemin that night, and Renjun is determined to figure out who.
Jeno and Renjun find themselves back in the office, in front of the conspiracy board once more. Renjun stares at the board blankly, feeling lost already. The interviews were mostly dead ends, and while he wants to blame Jeno for his lack of progress, he knows deep down he is equally to blame.
“Why couldn’t they just have had cameras like normal rich people? What kind of rich people don’t have cameras, it’s like they are asking to be robbed,” Jeno moans, leaning back in his chair in defeat. It seems as though he is also a little jaded right now.
“First of all, it makes sense. The only people who know that they don’t have cameras in their house are people they are close to and trust with that information. Second of all, don’t you know about the hacking? It was all over the gossip forums and celebrity news sites,” Renjun explains, only to be met with a blank stare in response.
“I don’t really keep up with celebrity news to be honest,” Jeno confesses, “It’s just not really my thing. To be honest, I hardly knew who Donghyuck and Jaemin were before I took this case on,” he admits sheepishly.
Renjun wishes that he could be one of the cool people, who had a life so interesting that they didn’t need to rely on nameless celebrities to feel some excitement. Sadly though, he’s slightly addicted to the trash scandals that come up every now and again.
“Jaemin and Donghyuck were outed when their cameras were hacked. Someone released a video of them together and...well...let’s just say that it made it very obvious that the two of them were together. It was a wild invasion of privacy, and both were very anxious about technology after that,” Renjun clarifies.
And really, it explains a lot. The two of them have their cameras taped on their phones, computers, and all other devices. Each of them have a phone dedicated exclusively to taking videos and pictures for their instagram, so they don’t have to worry about their personal devices being corrupted. It’s sad the lengths people will go to to get to their favorite people. It’s almost as if the people who worship them see them not as people, but circus monkeys who must perform for them in whatever way they see fit.
Jeno nods sympathetically as Renjun describes the origin of Donghyuck and Jaemin’s relationship going public, and how it drastically changed the course of their careers. At first it was damaging, the two of them finding it very hard to shed the image that the public projected on them. However, through talent, authenticity, and a whole lot of market strategy, the two had risen from the ashes to become the biggest power couple in the country.
(As a gay man who spent most of his adolsecence absolutely hating who he was, Renjun finds their story incredibly inspiring. Working on the case, he learned just how aspirational their relationship was, and how desperately he wanted something like that for himself as well.)
“Anyway, we should go over our notes. I think it’s safe to say we can rule out both Jungwoo and Yuta as suspects. I mean they both have alibis and I don’t see a strong enough motive for either of them to kill either Jaemin or Donghyuck,” Renjun argues, getting back to the topic at hand.
“What about Jisung though? He is definitely suspicious. I don’t think we can rule him out just yet, I mean why the hell would the kid need a burner phone? Something is up with him,” Jeno counters, though Renjun agrees quickly.
He can’t envision Jisung as a murderer just yet, though he has a lot of unanswered questions. They need to figure out why he has a phone, and more importantly, who warned him about the cops. Renjun definitely isn’t done with Park Jisung just yet.
“We’ll keep Jisung on our radar, but for now let’s move on to the last two people who were on the original Jaemin suspect list: Johnny Suh, and Jung Jaehyun,” Renjun suggests. Out of his entire list, these were the two people that Renjun had wanted to zero in on intinitally, though they were much harder to get a hold of.
“Johnny the agent and Jaehyun the brother right?” Jeno questions, lifting his head to meet Renjun’s gaze with curious eyes. “That information alone makes me want to make them our #1 suspects. I mean, agents can be so greedy and disgusting, and everyone knows that Jaehyun and Jaemin had some sort of sibling rivalry,” he finishes.
Renjun wants to make a comment about how Jeno said he wasn’t interested in celebrity gossip, but knows details of the two starlets' very public feud. However, he chooses to bite his tongue. He wants to save his energy for the questioning, and not waste it on useless banter with Jeno.
They prepare their interview questions in relative silence, both going over their notes before Jeno interrupts Renjun, startling him as he sorts through a stack of papers.
“What made you want to be a detective?” Jeno asks abruptly, a question that no one has asked him before surprisingly. Renjun almost doesn’t have an answer, though deep down he knows the truth.
“My older brother Sicheng said I would be good at it,” he admits sheepishly, somehow embarrassed by the revelation. Renjun’s worried that he looks like a pushover, or someone who can’t make his own decisions, but Jeno smiles at him widely.
“Well he was right!” Jeno replies, reaching out and patting Renjun on the head (a gesture that makes his face burn). “You sure owe him a lot, then,” Jeno replies casually, only it’s not just a simple conversation to Renjun.
Renjun respects Sicheng and his opinion more than anyone. He is the only one who stood by him when he came out, who took care of him, and loved him unconditionally. Without him, Renjun doesn’t know where he would be, or even if he would be alive.
“Yes,” Renjun says thickly, “I do.” He takes a breath to center himself again before continuing, “What about you?” Renjun can practically hear the answer already, predicting that Jeno is going to say something noble and brave about how-
“I just want to help people,” Jeno smiles, genuinely and earnestly. There it is, the thing Renjun had known all along, from the second he laid eyes on Jeno. The way the boy is inherently good, working intensively to try to make the world a better place. It makes Renjun feel inadequate in comparison.
“Though I have to admit, sometimes I am afraid I made the wrong choice,” Jeno adds, surprising Renjun. “When I see how natural you are at your job, I can’t help but think I’m not much in comparison.”
Renjun never does this, never has heart-to-hearts when he is paired with another detective. But something about Jeno makes Renjun want to open up a little, to stop holding his cards to his chest, against his cold, barely-beating heart.
“You are,” Renjun concedes, something he never thought he’d admit to. Renjun was initially planning on searching for Jeno’s flaws and exploiting them until he could get him kicked off the case, but he is secretly enjoying working with him.
“You are so good, Jeno.”
Jeno and Renjun have a meeting with Johnny Suh, though when they arrive at his office, they are told to wait in the lobby. From what he’s heard, Johnny takes random phone calls throughout the day, and does not care about who he keeps waiting.
(This is important to Renjun, as it indicated an innate selfishness, as if Johnny views his own time as more valuable than those around him. Does that selfishness transcend all aspects of his life? Where does he draw the line when it comes to getting what he wants?)
When they finally are allowed in, it’s been 20 minutes and Renjun is already feeling restless. The modern design of the building feels cold and unwelcoming to Renjun, who prefers classic, eclectic art styles. Johnny’s office is white, clean, and pristine, though it has no character to it. It’s almost as if Johnny means business in all aspects of his life, and doesn’t have time for the trivial things like art, and literature and general creativity.
Johnny is the first person they’ve interviewed together who has a lawyer present. This tells Renjun nothing except for the fact that Johnny is smart. Smart people always find lawyers, regardless of whether they are innocent or guilty.
Renjun learns quickly that the lawyer’s presence doesn’t matter because Johnny calls all of the shots. Other than brief introductions and the occasional interjection (which Johnny repeatedly ignores), he stays mostly silent.
As Johnny sits in front of them, in his posh Downtown office, Renjun accesses him. His expensive suit, trendy haircut, Rolex watch that is purely for aesthetic purposes rather than functional. It all drives an image of a person to Renjun, one that he doesn’t like very much. But what kind of suspect would he be? That is what he is dying to know.
Suspect: Johnny Suh
Relationship to Victim: Agent
Motive: Unhappy with contract
Johnny starts off by explaining to them the logistical details, like how long he’s worked with Jaemin (about 3 years), what kind of relationship they had (“He owes me big! I got him every one of those god damn roles,”), and how much money he was making (“The kid was giving me 10%? Are you kidding me? When I’m finding you roles that are making you a fucking movie star? I deserved at least 20%”.)
But once the real interrogation starts, Johnny starts playing the blame game. Jeno looks at Renjun with lost eyes, and he knows right away that he is going to be the one who tries to handle Johnny. And from what he can tell, Johnny doesn’t like being handled so much.
“I’m telling you, I don’t know why you’re even talkin’ to me. Or anyone who is close to Jaemin. It was Donghyuck that knew all of the shady people, trust me. I was not a fan of that kid. I wouldn’t trust him as far as I could throw him,” Johnny explains casually, leaning back into his chair and digging his elbows in.
“What makes you say that?” Renjun asks bewildered. This is the first time he has heard about Donghyuck being shady at all. I mean the kid is compared to the fucking sun more than anything. Not really the type of guy who you’d expect to have some shady secret.
“The kid was too trusting. Every person he met, he’d try to be friends with them. It’s naive, most people are inherently kind of assholes,” Johnny explains. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone he befriended was a fucking psychopath, he’d invite anyone into his house.”
Renjun frowns despite himself. If anything, he is kind of offended that Donghyuck would befriend just anyone, given that he himself thought that they had become close before his death.
“Trust me, people like me, we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Twice. How unbelievable is that? And now due to this goddamn luck, I’m spending my morning with a lawyer and two detectives instead of making some money,” Johnny rolls his eyes.
If Johnny has made one thing clear, it’s that he cares a lot about money, more than probably anything. It isn’t shocking the lengths people go to for their own greed.
Renjun can see the scene clearly in his head. Johnny argues with Jaemin over money, taking it too far and killing him. Donghyuck suspected something fishy was happening and became a target too. It made sense, but did it actually happen?
“So it’s safe to say that you didn’t approve of Donghyuck and Jaemin together?” Renjun questions, though the answer is obvious. He just wants to keep Johnny talking, to see if he’ll reveal something interesting, damning even.
“Of course not! When they got outed, I thought for sure Jaemin’s career was over. Everyone wanted a heartthrob, that’s what sells movie tickets. Not some schmuck who got wifed up by a twink pop star,” Johnny remarks bluntly.
“Anyways,” he continues, before Renjun can get a word in edgewise, “I have a meeting with Spielburg in 20 so I’m going to need you scram. Any other questions you have for me can be sent via my lawyer.”
Jeno and Renjun send each other matching exasperated looks before heading out. Johnny was not a nice person, but was he a murderer? Renjun wasn’t sure, but he knows already that Johnny is staying on their suspect list.
The meeting with Johnny left Renjun feeling annoyed, tired, and so sick of people. He could hardly imagine how his last interrogation of the day is going to go. He decides he’ll take a step back and let Jeno take the reins, though he’d never admit it. Sometimes he needs a break from the emotional hardships of this job.
Suspect: Jung Jaehyun
Relationship to Victim: Brother
Motive: Lifelong feud turned deadly
Jaehyun is not what he expected. He’s shy, and let’s his lawyer do most of the talking. The story plays out much like a Hollywood script in one of the movies the boy has starred in recently.
Jaemin and Jaehyun have the same father but different mothers. They each took their mothers’ surname, wanting nothing to do with their worthless father, but people in the press found out they were related immediately anyway. It’s hard to miss their matching smiles, talent, and mannerisms. They were immediately pit against each other.
But more than the press, the people who made them compete the most were their mothers. Both of them were bitter about the other’s existence and the way the man they loved couldn’t stay faithful, and decided to express that frustration via their children.
Jaemin and Jaehyun were never close, but they were civil at the beginning of their careers. However, the pressure from their respective mothers to outdo the other was too much and things escalated quickly. They would steal roles from each other, badmouth one another to the press, and once even got into a physical altercation at an award show.
Jaehyun claims that everything changed six months prior to Jaemin’s murder, when their father died. Their last connection to each other had faded from existence, and just as easily, the two of them could have let go of each other as well. However, the loss of their father reminded them that they have a perfectly good family member right in front of them that they didn’t want to lose as well.
“No one really knew that we were working on mending our relationship. We didn’t want the media finding out and ruining the progress we had made,” Jaehyun explains.
Renjun has wanted fame for a long time, to go down in history as one of the greatest detectives of all time, though sometimes he forgets the downsides of being in the spotlight. Jaehyun stands in front of him, a broken man, and Renjun can’t help but feel for all he has had to endure.
“What did your mothers think about the reunion?” Jeno asks, an excellent question Renjun’s brain supplies. He sends him a small smile of encouragement, just to be kind. (What is wrong with him? Why is he being nice all of a sudden?)
“They weren’t happy. At all. Jaemin’s mother didn’t even attend his funeral,” Jaehyun reveals, surprising both of them. “She was in the Bahamas and claimed she had more important things to do. I don’t know what’s more important than the death of your son, but whatever. She didn’t really care about him, it was all about the money and fame for her. For both of them actually,” Jaehyun says, angry for the first time since they’ve been there.
“And my mother practically cheered when he died. It was absolutely sick. I’ve cut her off since then, but it’s hard. I don't really have any family left at this point…” Jaehyun trails off.
Jeno can feel the conversation shifting off-topic and makes the choice to redirect it back to the subject at hand. Renjun is impressed by his instincts.
“We had one source who didn’t think that Jaemin and Donghyuck were good together. In the short time you spent with them, did anything seem off? Did you think Donghyuck was a bad influence on Jaemin?” Jeno asks firmly.
Jaehyun’s eyebrows furrow, mouth turning into a pout as he shakes his head vehemently. “Absolutely not. Donghyuck made Jaemin happy. He was practically the only thing that made him happy. I don’t know who would say that, but I find that kind of suspicious. Anyone close to them would tell you the same thing,” Jaehyun answers in practically one breath.
Jaehyun’s lawyer asks him if he needs a break to gather himself, but Renjun and Jeno insist there is no need. At this time, they have gotten everything they’ve needed from Jaehyun. They leave quickly, not wanting to stick around long enough to see their favorite movie star break down in front of them.
Jaehyun has had a hard life, an inexplicably lonely one despite being beloved by so many people. Renjun can relate in a way, can see the loneliness he often feels reflected on the older man’s face. Right now, Renjun’s instinct is telling him Jaehyun is innocent, at least in this moment.
Jeno looks about as tired as Renjun feels as they drive back to the precinct. “You know what, let’s call it in early today,” Renjun suggests gently. “We can go home and brainstorm on our own, and regroup tomorrow. Sounds good?” he inquires. Jeno just nods, smiling at him gratefully. Somedays this job can become exhausting in more ways than one. Taking breaks is the only way to prevent burnout, though Renjun supposes his work follows him everywhere regardless.
Renjun swears he plans to go home and go over his case notes, he really does. His best friends however, seem to have other plans for him. That’s how he ends up in a seedy cowboy bar, not even thinking about the work he is supposed to be doing.
Renjun admittedly doesn’t get out much. He is married to his work, and is often too invested in a case to make time for leisure. He isn’t a total recluse, however, and every once in a while his friends are able to bring him out for a night on the town.
He keeps his circle tight, finding it hard to bring new people into his life. But the people he does let himself get close to, he keeps very close to his heart and holds onto them. The only friends who have truly stood the test of time are Xiaojun, Hendery, and Yangyang.
“I’m glad you came out,” Xiaojun smirks, taking a pull from his beer. “I was getting worried about you, always spending so much time at the office.” Renjun knows his friends worry, and for valid reasons. He isn’t the best at taking care of himself when he’s knee deep in a case but he’s kept himself alive so far, so he counts it as a win.
“You seem tired,” Yangyang notes, “How’s the case going? I’m sure things must be tough since… you know…” he trails off.
Renjun knows exactly what he is referring to, of course he does. It’s been sort of a forbidden topic between them, though it’s always the elephant in the room. His friends are the only ones who actually knew how close Renjun became to Donghyuck while working on the case. Therefore, they are the only ones who understand the depth of his grief.
Renjun hadn’t talked about it, not ever. Donghyuck’s death had traumatized him in a way that changed the course of his life forever. He was surrounded by death, being a major aspect of his career, but it’s never been personal. It’s never been friendly.
Renjun’s friendship with Donghyuck started professionally, it definitely did. Donghyuck helped Renjun make some serious progress on Jaemin’s case. But over time, they started incorporating other topics into their conversations. They were two lonely people, who found the one thing they needed most in each other: companionship.
To make a long story short, in just a couple of months, Donghyuck became one of his only friends. And just as quickly as he came into Renjun’s life, he was gone.
The night of Donghyuck’s death, Renjun left the crime scene and immediately drove to Xiaojun and Yangyang’s apartment and broke down. He explained what Donghyuck had brought into his life, and in turn, what he had lost so suddenly.
“It’s been fine,” Renjun says passively, not wanting to expand upon the topic any further. “They’ve assigned a new detective onto the case with me. His name is Jeno.”
He’s ready to move on again, and talk about something, anything other than work, but his friends have other plans for him.
“Jeno? What’s he like? Is he nice? Do you like working with him?” Hendery asks, mouth moving a mile a minute. Renjun guesses he can’t blame him, it’s probably the most exciting development in his life as of late.
“He’s… fine. He’s actually pretty okay. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be if I’m being honest,” Renjun admits, though reluctantly.
“Oh my god, you like him!” Xiaojun exclaims, catching Renjun by surprise and making him blush. “Don’t deny it, it’s so obvious.”
Renjun blubbers at the absurd statement like a fish out of water. He doesn't like Jeno, he barely even knows the guy for crying out loud. “What? How did you even come to that conclusion? I said 8 words about the guy!”
“Yeah,” Yangyang goads, “But none of them were negative. That’s huge for you Renjun, you hate everyone.”
“I do not!” Renjun immediately protests before stopping himself. Honestly, deep down, they are probably right. Renjun doesn’t get along well with others, always a bit too short-tempered, a bit too impatient. “OK fine, I can be a bit...prickly sometimes. But Jeno is easy to get along with.”
“Oh my god, another compliment. You’ve only complimented me twice in our entire friendship and I’ve known you for years,” Hendery argues, bewildered at Renjun’s behavior.
Just then a waiter comes by, asking if they want anything else, to which Renjun promptly orders 2 shots of whiskey. “Ok enough, if I wanted to think about work I would have stayed in tonight and reorganized my conspiracy board. Let’s talk about something more interesting, like why Hendery has a hickey on his neck,” Renjun smirks.
Chaos ensues as soon as the words leave his mouth, but at least it draws attention away from himself. Renjun doesn’t want to think about his job, his co-worker, or his non-existent feelings for the rest of the night.
Renjun really should have called in sick today. He knows as soon as he wakes up that today is going to be an off-day and not just because he is feeling hungover. An anxious feeling that he can’t pinpoint clouds over him, making it hard to focus.
Still, he is an adult with responsibilities so he hauls himself out of bed, gets ready and goes into the office. Jeno looks calm and well-rested, and it’s a stark contrast between his own haphazardly made up appearance. Jeno doesn’t comment, however, and for that Renjun is grateful.
They go over their case notes together, piecing together the information they have and shifting the conspiracy board with each advancement they make.
“Let’s go over what needs further review from what we’ve gathered over the last couple of days,” Renjun suggests after a while, shifting the conversation back to their suspects.
“Well, Jisung definitely needs to be investigated further. I mean, why the hell did he have a burner phone? Who contacted him? The kid clearly is hiding something, and even if he’s not a murderer he could be involved in some other shady shit,” Jeno explains. Renjun writes down a quick summary on a sticky-note and places it next to Jisung’s face on the board before moving on.
“I also think we should look into Johnny more. I didn’t get to ask him all of the questions I wanted, he was kind of an asshole, and he shifted the blame a lot. He also seemed very upset with his contract with Jaemin, and didn’t like Hyuck very much either. That gives us a motive,” Renjun explains. He feels as though he is making perfect sense, but Jeno’s puzzled look tells him otherwise.
Renjun eyes him questioningly before Jeno shakes his head slightly. “Sorry, it’s just… you called Donghyuck ‘Hyuck’ and it caught me off guard. Almost seemed like the two of you were friends or something,” Jeno laughs, turning his attention back to Renjun, who stands frozen in front of him.
Renjun turns to the board, taking in what a mess the board is, and how hopeless this all feels. He hears the nickname that used to slip off his tongue so easily now being repeated back to him, only this time it hurts. It hurts to be reminded.
Suddenly Renjun can’t breathe. He needs to get out of here, needs to go outside or something. The air in the room feels thin, like he can’t breathe in enough of it. It’s all too much all of a sudden, and Renjun finds himself staggering out the room, down the stairs and out the emergency exit, leaving behind a bewildered Jeno.
He’s in the middle of an anxiety attack (something he hasn’t experienced since the night Donghyuck died) when he feels someone approaching him. His senses are dulled, too focused on panicking to register the voice coaching him, telling him to breathe. There is something placed on his shoulder, firm enough to ground him, while simultaneously being as light as a feather.
He listens to the voice and follows the breathing pattern as directed. Renjun doesn’t know how long he stands there catching his breath, whether it be minutes or hours, but after a while he is able to come back to himself. When he looks up, he is greeted with Jeno, looking impossibly worried.
“Hey,” Jeno says once their eyes meet for the first time, “Everything good?” to which Renjun nods weakly. “Want to talk about it?” He offers, and it’s so fucking kind that Renjun almost feels like a dick for how vehemently he opposed working with Jeno. Jeno hasn’t contributed much to the case so far, but at the very least he is Renjun’s last stitch to his sanity and for that he is grateful.
“It’s just a lot, you know,” Renjun begins, voice hoarse and rough sounding. “I looked at the board and all of a sudden it hit me. How much work we have left to do, how far we are from the truth. I’m failing. I’m failing everyone. I’m not a good enough detective to solve this case, and I should have never been put on this case-” he blubbers, only to be cut off by Jeno forcefully disagreeing.
“Renjun we are dealing with a complicated case that even the best detectives would have trouble solving. You aren’t giving yourself enough credit. We just need a little bit more time, that’s all. We’ll figure it all out, I promise,” Jeno says pulling him in for a hug.
All of his instincts are telling him to pull away, to not make things awkward, but Renjun practically melts against Jeno. He hadn’t realized how desperately he had needed to be held, nor how Jeno picked up on it instantly without clarification.
He lets himself revel in the moment as he calms himself down even more, Jeno whispering sweet nothings into his ear about how proud of him he is, and how much he looks up to the older boy.
Once Renjun gathers himself, he takes a deep breath and finally pulls away. Breaking down is never fun, but sometimes it’s the perfect reset button. As embarrassing as it was for him to be seen in such a vulnerable state, he feels ready to get back to work.
“Feeling better?” Jeno asks kindly, to which Renjun nods mutely. “Good. Because we have a meeting with Kun and Ten in five minutes.” Just like that, the anxiety is back.
Renjun doesn’t mind meeting with Kun, or with Ten, but the two of them together make him nervous, like he is a child getting a reprimanding from his parents. His bosses don’t look disappointed, but they don’t look thrilled either.
Jeno’s presence comforts him strangely. There is something comforting about having someone to share the blame with, though he would never admit it. If things start to go horribly wrong, he can always blame it on Jeno.
Kun and Ten are always good cop and bad cop, though neither of them stay in one role for long. Whenever Kun is more strict, Ten will take a softer approach and vice versa. Renjun can’t help but note how well they work together. It would be nice to have someone like that, he thinks. Someone who dots all of his I’s and crosses all of his T’s.
Renjun and Jeno explain what has happened since they started working together, and all of the evidence they’ve gathered. They’ve included every suspicion, every alibi, every interview. Kun seems relatively pleased with their progress, while Ten pushes for more.
“You’ve done a great job so far,” Ten offers at first, more than likely to soften the blow he is about to deliver. “But I think you need to interview the rest of the suspects before you can really narrow in on any leads. Once you know for sure who to focus on, it’ll be easier.”
“You only have a few people left right? The rest of the people who were at Donghyuck’s dinner party? I agree with Ten, maybe knock them out of the way and then you can shrink your suspect list accordingly. I think some of the people will have some valuable information regardless of whether they are personally involved,” Kun lectures.
Jeno and Renjun nod along like schoolchildren agreeing with their teacher. In some ways, they are just young pupils trying to learn what they can from the people they admire most.
“How is it working together?” Ten questions suddenly. “You guys haven’t had any major conflict yet, have you?” Renjun opens his mouth to answer, but Jeno beats him to it.
“Renjun’s doing a great job leading me on this case. I couldn’t ask for a better partner on this one, he really is a brilliant guy,” Jeno remarks sincerely, leaving Renjun speechless.
“I’m learning a lot from him, and I can really tell that we are making progress. We have some great leads, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to solve this case in a timely manner,” Jeno finishes.
Ten and Kun look at him expectantly, but Renjun has never been good at expressing his feelings, and he blubbers for a bit before sputtering out, “L-likewise.” Kun smirks at him, which Renjun promptly ignores. He knows that he made a fuss when he found out he had to work with Jeno, and also realizes how quickly he changed his mind without much fanfare.
“We won’t waste anymore of your time then,” Ten says, dismissing them back to their office. Renjun and Jeno immediately go back to their drawing board and start preparing the first set of interview questions. Afterall, their work has just begun.
Suspect: Mark Lee
Relationship to Victim: Best Friend
Motive: Clashed with Jaemin
Renjun decides they are going to start their next batch of interrogations (aka Donghyuck’s colleagues) with Mark Lee, Donghyuck’s childhood best friend. More than anyone (other than Jaemin of course, though he isn’t much help six feet under), Mark knows Donghyuck and the in’s and out’s of all of his interpersonal relationships. It isn’t a surprise that after 11 years of friendship, Mark is taking the death of his best friend incredibly hard.
It’s obvious that Mark hasn’t been taking proper care of himself. His cheeks are sunken in, his hair is greasy, and his fingernails are bitten raw. His voice is hoarse, like he hasn’t used it for much other than to sob into his pillow at night.
“You need to find the person who did this, you need to find who killed him,” Mark pleads, not even bothering to let the detectives ask him any questions. “I’ll do anything to help, just, I need to know. I need to make sure there is justice for my best friend.”
Mark sounds desperate, bordering hysterical but Renjun can’t blame him. Grief can come at you so strongly, so furiously that it knocks you down in a single blow. He would never judge someone for how they deal with immeasurable loss.
“Ok, let’s start with New Year’s Eve,” Renjun begins, careful not to trigger Mark. “Did you notice anything strange that night? What were you doing that night?” he questions.
Mark has a deer-in-the-headlights look to him, and Renjun can’t tell if he is naturally aloof looking, or if he is uncomfortable by the questioning. Either way Mark answers right away.
“Uh… well, I kind of was just...partying? You know? I don’t know. I was drinking, talking to people. I really just stuck by Donghyuck’s side for a lot of the night…” he explains, trailing off. Mark is not quite articulate but he gets his point across nonetheless.
“Okay, was anything off with Donghyuck that night? Did he seem upset in any way? Was he enjoying himself?” Jeno prods, looking at Mark intently.
Mark shakes his head, then nods, then shakes his head again, like he can’t figure out what the appropriate facial expression would be for the set of questions. “He seemed fine, to be honest. There was nothing that seemed out of the ordinary to me. He was his usual happy-go-lucky self. He only really got upset when...well… when the body was found,” he shivers.
Renjun nods understandably, and continues his questioning. He has a good feeling about Mark, like he could be an asset to the case. In his gut, something is telling him that Mark holds valuable information that could help find a murderer, an ally to Renjun much like his deceased best friend.
“And what about Jaemin? We heard that he was arguing with someone that night? Did you hear anything? We need to know if someone was angry with Jaemin that night,” Renjun continues.
Mark looks a little stricken before shaking his head once more. “I mean… I wasn’t really close to Jaemin?” he states, almost as if it’s a question he himself does not know the answer to. “I mean, I was mostly Donghyuck’s friend, so I don’t really know what would be happening in Jaemin’s life?” he finishes.
Jeno sends Renjun a quick, confused look before taking over. “You weren’t close to him? Wasn’t he dating your best friend? They had been together for years at this point, no?” Jeno asks.
“W-well,” Mark stutters, looking for an answer. He’s gotten more nervous as the interview has gone on, though nothing he has said is inherently suspicious or criminalizing. “I knew Donghyuck since I was a kid, and I’ve only known- well, knew I guess-Jaemin for a few years. Besides, I spent a lot of time with Donghyuck when Jaemin was away. He didn’t like to be alone so I would come stay with him when Jaemin had a shoot or something….” he explains.
It makes sense, Renjun concludes. Just because Mark was best friends with Donghyuck didn’t mean that he was necessarily close with Jaemin as well. He moves on to the second murder, careful not to trigger Mark, who already seems quite fragile.
“Thank you for sharing that Mark. Now let’s move on to the night of Donghyuck’s death,” Renjun says carefully, noticing the way Mark flinches at his words. “Anything strange happen that night?”
Mark nods instantly, surprising both of them. “I remember Donghyuck disappeared for a bit. I went to go look for him, and I heard him in his office talking to someone. I was confused though, because it was a voice I couldn’t recognize. It didn’t sound like anyone at the dinner party, though it could have been. I wasn’t really close with a lot of people there to be honest,” Mark answers earnestly. It would be almost cute, how eager Mark was to help, if only the circumstances weren’t so devastating.
“Did you see who it was?” Jeno questions, but Mark just shakes his head. “I left to give him some privacy, but I shouldn’t have. I should’ve gone to him and if I did, maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Maybe he would still be here,” he sniffs, before he is crying again.
Renjun knows the blame you can feel for someone’s death. Renjun feels it for Donghyuck as well. If he would have figured out who killed Jaemin sooner, Donghyuck’s life could have been spared. It’s an endless cycle of regret and blame, and guilt. Renjun tries to push it down, and focuses on comforting Mark instead.
The interview with Mark went relatively well. They got some more information from him, and have been able to start putting together a timeline of what happened that night.
“What did you think of him? He seemed kind of fragile, don’t you think? He seemed really upset over Donghyuck’s death. And he didn’t seem to like Jaemin that much. I wonder what the story is there,” Jeno trails off once they are back in the squad car.
“There might not even be a story there,” Renjun supplies. “Some people just simply aren’t friends. We can ask later though, I think he might be someone who can help us later on.”
“There’s another thing I wanted to talk to you about. When Mark said that he heard someone, but that the voice was unfamiliar. Do you think it’s possible that someone who wasn’t invited to the dinner party came? Could there be an outside suspect that we aren’t looking at?” Jeno asks.
Renjun sighs, biting his lip and taking a minute to answer. “It’s definitely possible, but I think we should focus on the suspects we are already looking at first. I mean, opening the door up to an outsider could mean thatanyone could have killed him. That makes it seem like we’ll never solve this damn case,” he grumbles.
“I suppose you’re right,” Jeno clicks his tongue. “I guess that’s why you’re the boss man. Anyway, we better get going. We’re meeting our next suspect in 20 minutes.”
Suspect: Zhong Chenle
Relationship to Victim: Personal Assistant
Zhong Chenle is very cute, though Renjun tries not to let that fool him. He can tell by the gleam in his eye that Chenle is smart too. Cute and cunning can be a deadly combination.
They go over the basics, and it’s relatively boring. Chenle started working with Donghyuck after he blew up in the music scene, and has been working for him ever since. They were close friends more than employer and employee, and he was very upset by his death (as they all were.)
“I’m curious about something,” Renjun begins, once introductions are out of the way. “How did you meet Donghyuck? I get that you started working for him a couple of years ago, but how did he come to hire you?”
Chenle hesitates. “Well, we met when we were trainees. We were in the same company, and were meant to debut together, but he ended up becoming a solo artist and… it didn’t end up working out for me,” he admits. Renjun can tell that it’s an extremely sore subject, which is why he feels guilty for pressing it.
“Whatever happened to your idol dreams?” Jeno butts in. “Did they ever go away?”
Chenle looked down shaking his head. “It’s not like I wanted to be a personal assistant forever, it’s just the only choice I had. If I didn’t have a job, my visa would have expired and I would have had to go back to China. But Donghyuck was helping me pursue my dreams on the side. He hired me a vocal coach, and even booked studio time for me. He wanted to help me promote myself as an independent artist. I was really excited about it but...I guess that was taken away from me too,” he cuts himself off, tears welling in his eyes.
“I’m sure this must be hard for you to relive old memories that might not be the most pleasant, but we really would like to get the bottom of this,” Renjun says calmly, voice steady. “You want justice right? For your friend?”
Chenle nods fiercely. “I’ll do anything to help. It’s just hard. It’s still so fresh, I’m finding it hard to process it all. But I’ll try. I owe it to Donghyuck to at least try, after everything he’s done for me,” he replies, steadying his voice. He seems strong, despite the heartbreak he must be feeling.
“As his assistant, did anything strange happen in the months preceding his death? Any meetings setup that were unusual? Any noticeable changes in behavior?” Renjun asks.
Chenle thinks for a second, before biting his lip. “Well, there was one thing,” Chenle offers, Renjun and Jeno nodding in encouragement. “Donghyuck had his will changed a few months ago, right after Jaemin died. Though I’m sure that may be because he was planning on leaving everything to Jaemin, and obviously that wasn’t necessary anymore,” he explains.
They continue speaking, going over events and timelines, though nothing much comes out of it. Not until Jeno mentions what Mark had told them, about hearing Donghyuck speaking with an unfamiliar voice.
“Oh yeah, I thought I might’ve heard someone come in later, after the party, but I didn’t see who. It could have been someone leaving the party early too. I didn’t think anything of it, Donghyuck always has people coming and going. He hates being alone. You don’t think it was someone with bad intent do you?” he questions looking stricken.
“Okay first let me ask you where you were when you heard someone come in? Were you not with the rest of the guests?” Renjun questions, and Chenle immediately freezes up.
“I don’t remember,” he finally answers, and Renjun knows immediately that it’s a lie. “Maybe I was getting a glass of water or something from the kitchen?” he asks more of a question of believability than an actual statement. Chenle has Renjun curious now, though he let’s it go for a second to ask something more important.
“Is there anyone suspicious who you think might have wanted to hurt Donghyuck? Someone we aren’t looking at?” Renjun asks pointedly, staring Chenle down, though he doesn’t mean to.
“I mean… could it be Lucas?” he asks, eyes going wide and fearful.
“Lucas?” Jeno questions, an unfamiliar name to them.
Chenle looks stricken, and curses himself for not saying anything earlier. “Donghyuck had a stalker. His name was Lucas. Well, Huang Xuxi, but he went by Lucas. He seemed harmless, just an obsessed fan, but, I don’t know. I didn’t realize that maybe he could have-” he cuts himself off, choking on his words a bit.
“We’ll look into it,” Jeno promises before switching topics once more, trying to see if Chenle might be able to answer another question they are trying to answer. “Did you ever work with Park Jisung? I’m just curious since he was Jaemin’s assistant. Maybe you might have worked together or something,” he remarks curiously.
Chenle is surprised by the question, and sputters a bit. “Um no, not really. We rarely coordinated and worked mostly with our own bosses,” he answers. “I hardly know him,” and it would be believable if Jisung didn’t barge through the front door the very next second.
“Are you mad at me? I was just joking when I said I like Sungchan more than you-” Jisung begins before immediately shutting himself up after noticing the detectives sitting in front of him.
Chenle and Jisung look at each other, before immediately turning away, neither saying anything.
Oh, Renjun thinks to himself.This is interesting. This is very interesting.
Chenle has class, so they don’t have an opportunity to press any further questions, though Jeno and Renjun now have a million more they would like to ask. However, they leave with a promise to meet with the both of them together, to find out what is going on. Renjun isn’t worried about them bailing, he’ll find them if they do.
They instead choose to focus their attention on someone new, someone they hadn’t planned to talk to today. However, the day is still young and this is their Hail Mary attempt at figuring out what really happened the night of the murders.
Lucas is surprisingly easy to find, and available to talk to, though he sounds exhausted at the prospect. Renjun can tell by looking at him that he is carrying a lot of weight on his perfectly toned shoulders.
Suspect: Huang Xuxi “Lucas”
Relationship to Victim:
“I know why you’re here,” Lucas says right away, “And I was reluctant to speak to you, though I know you won’t leave me alone until I do so I am here. Can we make this quick?” he asks, almost like their conversation is a business transaction. He’ll answer questions if it’ll mean they will leave him alone afterwards.
“Well, there have been allegations that you were Donghyuck’s stalker is that correct?” Jeno asks, and Lucas immediately tenses.
“Yeah, I’m his ‘stalker’ . That's the story they’ve been telling for a long time, even though it’s not true. I never did anything that female fans of his didn’t also do, but suddenly I am the only one who is a dangerous murder subject,” he scoffs, voice seeping with a bitterness he wasn’t expecting.
“You don’t understand, my life was torn apart from these rumors. I got death threats from people. I was just a fan of Donghyuck, just a normal fan of his, but because I was a boy who liked another boy they said it was wrong. They demonized me and started rumors. I had to leave the fandom because Donghyuck listened and became scared of me. I was \traumatized,” he explained.
“And I’m just trying to rebuild my life again after all of this and he fucking dies. I can’t even grieve him as a fan because everyone hates me so much. And now I’m a fucking suspect for something I would have never done,” he says, and Renjun immediately feels empathy for him, can hear the hurt and pain in his voice and understands the lasting affects of the homophobia he has experienced.
“So before you ask questions and we all waste our time, I will tell you now I have an alibi. For both nights. I was in Hong Kong visiting family over the holidays, and I was on a date with my boyfriend Hendery the night of Donghyuck’s death. We got dinner and went bowling and were out till 1am,” Lucas explains, and Renjun pauses for a second.
“Wait a minute, did you say Hendery? Huang Guanhang? From Macau? Kind of short, but looks like Prince Eric?” Renjun questions, Jeno turning to him with a bewildered look.
Lucas is also confused but nods anyway. “You know him?” he questions, before frowning immediately. “Don’t tell me he’s a suspect too. I’m not going to let him get caught up in this bullshit as well,” he starts, getting visibly angry.
“No, no,” Renjun rushes to explain. “He’s a friend of mine. I’ve known him for years. Honestly, I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to let you know that you are not a suspect in this case. I’m sorry for wasting your time, and I hope that we can meet again, with Hendery next time, and put this behind us,” he offers, sticking out a hand which Lucas cautiously shakes.
“I’d like that, I think,” Lucas replies, and with that Jeno and Renjun go to leave. Lucas’s story left them both a little shaken, and their one new lead turned out to be another dead end. At this point, they need a break.
What Renjun is not expecting is for Jeno to immediately break down the second they walk outside. Renjun reacts quickly, grabbing on to him, and guiding him towards their squad car. He doesn’t know why, but he slides them both into the back of the car and clings to him.
Renjun has never seen Jeno vulnerable before, but all of his protective instincts are telling him to hold onto him and not let him go until he feels better, so that’s what he does.
It takes a couple minutes before Jeno is able to gather himself enough to stop crying. Still, he doesn’t pull away from Renjun, instead burying his face into his neck while he tries to steady his breathing.
“It’s just so sad,” Jeno finally whines, “How we are treated in this world,” and it’s an admission that breaks Renjun’s heart. He often wonders it too, how the world can be so cruel, how so many people despise people like them, simply for being themselves.
“We don’t deserve this,” Jeno declares, pulling away from Renjun to look into his eyes. He is impossibly close, and Renjun gulps at how easy it would be to lean in. But what Jeno is saying is much more important than his primal desires, so he shakes the thought away as if it were never there.
“We see so much fucked up shit everyday in this job. The world is a disgusting place. Why aren’t we celebrating love? Why are we torn apart for loving when it’s the only piece of solace that we have here?” Jeno continues, ranting with passion and dignity. Renjun tries to reply, tries to put all he is feeling into words, but he simply cannot express the extent of his agreement. It seems Jeno recognizes it anyway, and for that he is grateful.
“What makes Lucas different from all of those girls? The same ones who dedicate their time and money to idols? Why was he singled out? That could have been us, Renjun. Sometimes I forget what it’s like living with a target on my back. The fear and uncertainty of not knowing who is going to see the target and want to shoot. It’s terrifying and I don’t always know how to deal with it,” Jeno finishes, panting as he tries to catch his breath for a second time in a short span on time.
Renjun, luckily, regains his thoughts and finally lets his emotions out as well, though certainly not as intensely or articulately. “We deal with it by living our lives anyway. By being ourselves in the face of hatred. By showing them that their ignorance and intolerance will never deter us from showing the world who we are. It’s all we can do,” Renjun says calmly, reaching out to tuck a piece of hair away from Jeno’s face, an action that embarasses them both, though neither comment on it.
“I just want to be accepted,” Jeno admits, voice barely above a whisper as he refuses to meet Renjun’s eyes.
“You’ll never be accepted by everyone, no matter who you are. It’s about finding the right people, and allowing them into your life. Those are the people whose tolerance matters. And it might not mean much, but I accept you as you are. Every part of you,” Renjun says softly, even though it’s nerve wracking to put his feelings on the line like this.
Jeno is looking at him intensely, so intensely that it sends shivers down Renjun’s spine, fingers aching to reach out and grab something, anything, to ground him. “It means so much,” Jeno responds hoarsely, and just like that he’s leaning in. Renjun knows he should pull away, remove himself from this deeply unprofessional situation, but he finds himself drawn to Jeno like a magnet.
He moves slowly, inching closer and closer to Jeno until he’s a hair’s width away from him. He’s just about to lean in and close the gap when a phone rings, interrupting them. Renjun pulls away, cheeks on fire, as he scrambles to answer the phone, trying to sound as normal as he can, despite the fact that his heart is racing a mile a minute.
“Hey,” the voice on the other line says, Ten, his horny monkey brain supplies, “You gotta get back here immediately. You’ve got a big day tomorrow and you should probably start preparing,” he barks (though a gentle bark, more like a chihuahua than a pitbull).
“What? Why?” Renjun questions, turning to Jeno who looks positively confused.
“We just got a call,” Ten explains. “It’s happening. The will reading is finally happening.”
Jeno has never been to a will reading before, which means he asks a million questions the entire way to Donghyuck and Jaemin’s home. The place where both of them were killed, and the place where someone close to them will inherit a fortune. Renjun’s grateful for Jeno’s curiosity, because it means they don’t have to talk about what happened (well almost happened) in the back seat yesterday.
According to Ten, Lee Taeyong was the executor of Donghyuck’s estate. This raised some questions of ethics by some concerned parties (the greedy ones) who were worried that he would take advantage of this role to ensure that he is taken care of. Taeyong is married to Doyoung, Donghyuck’s brother, meaning he has a lot to gain from whatever is listed on the incredibly important legal document.
Renjun is surprised both by who is present at the reading, and also who is absent. Chenle and Jisung are both present (meaning they haven’t skipped town or anything) but that’s also because they are both still working at the home, as far as Renjun is aware. They are finalizing the final aspects of Jaemin and Donghyuck life schedules before they will seek new employment.
Johnny is there as well, and he is talking with a man Renjun and Jeno have not yet met, but both know a lot about. Moon Taeil, Donghyuck’s vocal mentor. They were planning on talking to him soon anyway, and he hopes they can catch him for a quick word once this whole thing is over.
Other than that, it’s just Doyoung and Taeyong, who they also want to talk to. Both men look clean-cut and professional, but Renjun can see the sadness that haunts deep past their eyes and into their souls.
Surprisingly, two people who they thought would be there for sure are absent. Mark Lee and Jung Jaehyun hadn’t not bothered to attend. Renjun supposes that the wound might still be too fresh for both of them, and it may be hard to be back where it all happened.
(Besides, Chenle explained to them the day prior that Mark specifically told Donghyuck not to leave him anything. He claimed the only thing he wanted from the boy was his friendship, but Renjun suggests there is something more to the story than that.)
Once everyone has gathered, Renjun and Jeno hover in the back, taking mental notes of every detail they are about to witness. Taeyong greets them all, explains procedural aspects, before finally moving on to the moment everyone is waiting for.
The will is simple enough. Jaemin left everything to Donghyuck, and Donghyuck divided his assets quite straightforwardly. It read as follows:
All investment properties were to be sold with the profits donated to various LGBT+ charities.
Their house was to be sold, and profits were to be split evenly between Park Jisung and Zhong Chenle. Their cars were also to be given to the boys, to do with what they saw fit. Donghyuck’s personal recording system was also to be given to Chenle.
All other material assets, including all of the money in their combined bank accounts (a whopping $100 million dollars) were to be divided between Doyoung and Jaehyun, with Doyoung receiving 75% and Jaehyun receiving 25%.
It shocked everyone how much wealth Jaemin and Donghyuck actually had (both having got lucky on some extremely lucrative investments), and in turn, how rich people had just become in that moment. More shocking to some though, was how much they missed out on.
“This is bullshit! After everything I did for that son-of-a-bitch, and this is how he repays me? Really?” Johnny says before storming out of the house. Renjun always knew he was a greedy one.
Meanwhile, Taeil is marching towards Doyoung and Taeyong and pointing a finger at them. He turns towards Renjun and Jeno surprisingly, before arguing to them, “Aren’t you the detectives on this case? Well here you go, you found the murderers. They are right here, basking in all of the fucking money they just scored themselves,” he remarks bitterly.
Doyoung opens his mouth to defend himself, but Taeyong stops him before he can, advising him to keep quiet. Renjun sees the opportunity to talk to Taeil and he grabs it immediately. The man clearly has a lot to say, and Renjun is certainly ready to listen.
Suspect: Moon Taeil
Relationship to Victim: Mentor
Motive: Creative differences? Money?
Renjun and Jeno drag Taeil out to Donghyuck and Jaemin’s front garden, where they listen to him rant for 45 minutes before either of them are able to get a word in. He is playing the blame game, much like Johnny did, and he is convinced that Doyoung and Taeyong are behind that. Renjun too thinks that may be the case, though Taeil offers no proof or evidence.
What surprised him most, is how eerily similar this interview with Taeil is with his interview with Johnny. He worked with Donghyuck for a long time, and according to him, was the reason behind all of the success he had. He also claims he was criminally underpaid, and didn’t support Donghyuck’s relationship with Jaemin. When Renjun realizes the comparison, he questions Taeil on his relationship with Johnny.
“Johnny and I have known each other for years. In fact, we’re planning on going into business together. I’m working on having all of my clients get contracts with Johnny. It’s mutually beneficial because he gets the best vocalists in the music industry under his agency, and he gets them all gigs and proper promotional activities. It’s a win-win. We do business extremely similarly,” Taeil brags, though Renjun does not see that as something to celebrate.
It makes Renjun curious, what else they could’ve worked together on. Could the two of them come together for purposes more nefarious than what Taeil had already laid out? Both seem to have ill will towards their clients, and neither seem like good, ethical people. Something in Renjun’s gut is telling him that these two are out for blood.
They don’t get much else out of Taeil during the interview, but Renjun isn’t concerned. He isn’t done with him yet.
From there, Renjun and Jeno set up a meeting with Taeyong and Doyoung. Renjun has to admit, it is suspicious. The murders, the timely changing of the will, the fact that they just inherited a fortune. It’s too much to be clearly coincidental, though improbable things happen daily.
Suspect: Kim Doyoung, Lee Taeyong
Relationship to Victim: Brother, Brother-in-Law
Taeyong is very professional and answers most of the questions for them. He clearly is rehearsed in his practice and knows exactly what he is doing. Doyoung butts in occasionally, though it’s mostly to say the same thing.
“I love Donghyuck so much. Other than Taeyong, he was my everything. And Jaemin was family as well. All we want is for this to finish quickly so that we can grieve properly and start honoring their legacy,” Doyoung says hollowly.
Renjun can’t say that he doesn’t respect the sentiment, but something is off about Doyoung and the way he is speaking. He sounds, not as though he is speaking from the heart, but from a script.
It would just be too easy. Taeyong, a lawyer who has seen dozens of criminal cases before him, who probably knows the ins and outs of what can convict a murderer and what can’t.
That, paired with Doyoung who sees an opportunity for immeasurable wealth, is a deadly combination. Renjun doesn’t doubt that they loved Donghyuck and Jaemin, but he has to wonder if that love was able to trump their own personal greed.
Because when Renjun looks at them, he can see it so clearly. How much the two of them value wealth, status, desirability. From their perfectly coiffed hair to the designer coats they are wearing. It’s obvious that they have a specific image they wish to portray to the world, and that image is only possible with lots of money.
They go over more questioning, Taeyong offers lukewarm testimony, Doyoung sitting silently, staring off as if he is barely even paying attention. It’s a sharp contrast from the loud and eventful interrogation they had with Taeil several days prior.
They are almost done, but Renjun has one more question for them. Something he is dying to know about, that could change the course of the investigation.
“Why do you think Donghyuck changed his will? Why do you think he decided to leave you guys so much money?” Renjun asked, interlocking his fingers, and resting his chin on his hands.
Doyoung and Taeyong turn to each other, communicating only with their eyes. It’s unnerving to Renjun how the two of them know each other in a way that they can communicate without words. It means it will be a lot harder to catch them in a lie.
Surprisingly to Renjun and Jeno (and Taeyong himself), Doyoung is the one who speaks up. Taeyong sends his husband a warning look, but it’s promptly ignored.
“We told Donghyuck a couple of months ago that we were expecting a baby. We have a surrogate who is 7 months pregnant. I think that’s why he did it. I think he wanted our baby to have the best future it possibly could. He would’ve been the best damn uncle in the entire world, Jaemin too,” Doyoung sniffles.
It makes sense why Donghyuck would leave all that money to his brother, if he wanted to ensure a good future for their future children. But it also makes sense why they would stoop to murder. The love for a child is deep, intense. Many parents would do anything for their child, but how far would they take it? Would Doyoung really kill his brother so that he could have a baby without having to sacrifice part of their current lifestyle?
Taeyong may be a lawyer, but Doyoung is still in school, getting his doctorate. He wants to be a professor, which is a stable career, though the money won’t come in for several more years. Long enough for them to feel the economic impact of a baby and a mortgage and all the other expenses that come simply from living in this world as an adult. There’s a lot to think about here.
Time to go back to the drawing board.
The next few days are rather uneventful, as Jeno and Renjun go over the case of the facts trying to find something, anything, to drive the case forward a little bit. Luckily, their wishes were granted in the form of a very important document: Donghyuck’s autopsy report.
Renjun reads it over, going over the words again and again until they no longer make sense. His brain picks up on the important parts, trauma to the head, stabbing wounds to the chest. He barely registers when Jeno begins speaking to him.
“This is odd isn’t it?” Jeno questions, causing Renjun to look up abruptly, confusion written over his face. “I mean there are a lot of differences between this report and Jaemin’s report. A different style of knife was clearly used, he was stabbed in different places, how his body was found was different. It’s all different. It’s almost like someone else killed him…” he trails off.
Renjun takes a deep breath before asking seriously “Do you think we have a copycat on our hands?” This could change everything.
“Hear me out,” Jeno begins, standing up in front of him as he begins to talk through his thoughts, “What if we are dealing with a team. Someone who knew the details and could do a general killing like their partner instructed. Get it close, but not perfect. The specific details weren’t made known to the public, the copycat would have had to be told what to do,” he explains.
Renjun thinks it over, and it makes a lot of sense. They have a lot of options too. “Taeyong and Doyoung, Johnny and Yuta, Jisung and Chenle,” Renjun replies. “Those are all people who could have definitely worked together on this,” he offers, liking the way Jeno is thinking.
“Exactly!” Jeno replies enthusiastically, “I think we need to move forward thinking in pairings. We need to treat this like there is more than one suspect.”
Renjun thinks it over, nodding softly. Jeno beams at him, and Renjun can’t help but smile in turn too. “You’ve done well, Jeno. Really well.”
Renjun doesn’t know how it happened, how he let this happen, but Renjun is home brainstorming and Jeno is with him. He has never, and I mean never, invited a work colleague to his home. But this is a special case, one that requires special attention. Besides, his apartment is more comfortable than the office anyways.
“Let’s start with Jisung and Chenle,” Renjun says, cracking open two beers, handing one to Jeno. It may be a little unprofessional to be drinking while working, but neither plan on getting drunk. Unwinding a little bit might help the both of them loosen up and unwind.
“Well they lied to us. They clearly know each other very well, even if they pretended not to. And they have a secret mode of communication. They were sneaking around, that much is obvious,” Jeno replies, taking a long pull from his beer.
“They also worked in the same house, and had a lot of opportunities to meet and plan things out. They also knew Jaemin and Donghyuck’s schedules better than anyone given that they’ve planned them. They know the layout of the house, how to get in and out, where knives we stored…” Renjun expands jotting down barely coherent notes as quickly as he speaks.
“And the unknown person coming into the house, it was Chenle who said he heard that right? That could have been a rouse to throw us off. Because it doesn’t make sense that a random person would have shown up and gotten in,” Jeno offers and Renjun has to agree. It doesn’t make much sense, he’s afraid.
“And they knew about the will being changed, and that they were getting a substantial amount of money from it,” Renjun finishes they thought, “Meaning they have a clear motive.”
“But what about Taeyong and Doyoung?” Jeno asks. “They inherited even more money. And Taeyong was the one who oversaw everything with the wills, meaning they were some of the only people who knew just how rich the two of them were.”
“And money is important to the both of them. They enjoy the finer things in life, it’s evident by their lifestyle. And they have a major disruption about to occur in their lives, that’ll impact everything, including their finances,” Renjun continues making a note.
“But money isn’t as important to anyone as it is to Johnny and Taeil. And they aren’t just greedy, they are angry too. They felt like they weren’t given what they deserved in terms of salary and recognition,” Jeno counters.
“They also hated Jaemin and Donghyuck together. Neither seemed to approve of their relationship and didn’t want them to be together,” Renjun jumbles.
They keep talking, for hours, going over every single fact of the case that they know. Renjun’s apartment is littered with notes, with increasing incoherence as time went on.
The exhaustion hits them both and before they know it (and Renjun can fight it) they succumb to sleep, cramped together in Renjun’s tiny living room.
When Renjun wakes up the next morning he realizes two things. 1. He is in his living room and not in his bed, like usual. 2. His back doesn’t hurt like it normally does when he spends the night on the couch. That’s when Renjun realizes it.
He is not uncomfortable because he himself is not laying on the couch. He is instead lying on top of Jeno, who is on the couch. The realization makes him panic.
He was so stupid for inviting Jeno back to his apartment. He was dumb for crossing boundaries like this, for treating him like anything other than a work colleague. What will Jeno say when he wakes up? Will he be annoyed that Renjun let him spend the night instead waking him up so he could go home? Would he laugh it off? Would he be uncomfortable that Renjun cuddled up to him like they were more than coworkers...almost like they were-
No. Renjun cuts off his intrusive thought train. He is not going to think about being in a relationship with Jeno, because he doesn’t like Jeno like that. Or, more importantly, Jeno would never like him like that. Because Jeno is kind, beautiful, and smart. He could have anyone in the world, and Renjun doubts he would settle for a lonely, grumpy detective who cares more about work than practically anything (or anyone) else.
He worries about what he is going to do (get up and go to his room? But what if Jeno wakes up at the movement? Stay on the couch and pretend to sleep? But what if Jeno wakes up?) when the decision is made for him. His worry tires himself out, and he falls asleep before he can make a choice.
When he wakes up again, it’s hours later and the smell of bacon is in the air. He wanders to the kitchen where he finds Jeno showered and in his clothes (ones that are baggy on Renjun but fit seemingly perfect on him) cooking them breakfast. He doesn’t know why, but the sight makes him blush.
“Oh, you’re up!” Jeno smiles when Renjun enters the kitchen. “I made us breakfast!” and he’s so enthusiastic that it does something to Renjun. It’s almost as if his heart had been frozen and the warmth of Jeno’s smile is causing it to thaw, bit by bit.
“I see that. I hope you slept okay. I’m sorry for not waking you, I fell asleep too. I know my couch can be kind of uncomfortable, so I hope your back isn’t hurting you too much…” Renjun rambles. He doesn’t know why he’s nervous, but he is blabbing on and on like he does only when he is trying to avoid something, namely feelings and awkward silences.
Jeno doesn’t pick up on it, however, and turns back to the stovetop where he is frying the bacon. “I slept great! You’re really warm, Renjun,” he offers, voice filled with mirth. “Made me feel comforted and safe, even if you were kind of heavy,” he jokes causing Renjun to scoff.
“You can’t make fun of me for being tiny only to then complain that I’m heavy,” Renjun argues and Jeno has to admit he got him there.
Renjun doesn’t know why he was worried in the first place. Things with Jeno are easy, like they always are. Renjun doesn’t know what he would do if Kun and Ten had assigned another detective to work on the case with him. He’d probably be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. But with Jeno, nothing is overwhelming, nothing is too much. It’s like they complete each other in their own convoluted way.
They have the day off today, and Renjun fully expects Jeno to go home as soon as they finish breakfast. However, surprisingly to Renjun, he stays. They spend the entire day talking, and for once, they don’t mention the case at all. It’s just the two of them, drinking coffee (tea in Renjun’s case) and getting to know each other. Renjun thinks he is loving everything he is learning about the boy in front of him, even if it’s hard to admit.
When Renjun goes to the station the next day, there is a hop in his step. He feels giddy to be at work, to see Jeno again, even if they’ve only been apart for 12 hours. They spent their entire day off together, and Renjun doesn’t even want to think of the implications of why Renjun wants to spend the very little free time he has with Jeno. (He already spends all day everyday with him, but it doesn’t feel too much. If anything, Renjun craves Jeno even when they are apart.)
Renjun walks into his office, expecting to see Jeno, face already contouring into a shy smile in preparation. However, the figure in his office is not who he expected.
“Mark?” Renjun questions, curious of the boy sitting in front of him. He looks… not well, fidgeting, eye red-rimmed and anxious.
“Hi,” Mark looks up at Renjun expectedly. “There was an officer who met with me and told me I could wait for you here? I have some information about the case. I remembered something that might be significant.”
Renjun nods understandably. “I appreciate your help,” he says as he takes off his coat and makes his way towards his desk. “Let me get settled, and then I would love to help.” Just like Renjun thought, Mark is acting as an ally in their investigation.
“Donghyuck was my best friend in the world. I want to help. I want to figure out what happened for him. He deserves justice, we need to give him the justice he deserves,” Mark mutters desperately. Renjun nods sympathetically.
Renjun fiddles with his things for a minute before he settles, notepad and pen in hand ready to hear whatever bombshell Mark is planning on dropping on him. He tells him to go ahead and the news is not shocking. It doesn’t mean it isn’t significant.
“I didn’t think anything of it when it happened, but now I can’t stop thinking about it, the details of what happened that night. They swirl in my head on repeat trying to work out everything I remember. On both nights when Jaemin and Donghyuck, you know… d-died I saw Jisung and Chenle sneak off. And it wasn’t that strange to me but I was thinking about the will and everything and how much money they made and it’s just- I’m suspicious. Neither were present at the time of the murders.” Mark explains.
Renjun sighs, closing his notebook and reaching for his phone. He needs to call Jeno. They have a long day ahead of them.
Renjun really doesn’t want to do this, especially when Jisung has cooperated so far. But desperate times call for desperate measures and everyday that passes without them inquiring about the burner phone and the lies and the will is another day that Jisung has to destroy evidence. So he gets a warrant.
Jisung watches as they practically tear his apartment apart, sobbing. They go through room after room before he seems to reach his breaking point. “Here!” he cries reaching into a potted plant and pulling out the burner phone in question. “Here it is, I’m sorry,” he starts hyperventilating. “Arrest me! I admit it, arrest me.”
Renjun and Jeno are able to calm Jisung down enough for him to talk to them, both preparing themselves for a confession. Renjun is anxious, so close to a life-changing moment he can feel it. He just needs to do his job and not fuck anything up.
However, instead of admitting to murder, Jisung opens an entirely different can of worms. “I am Jungwoo’s dealer. That’s why I have the phone. If you look at messages, they are all from him, his friends, and my upline. I’m sorry, I know it was wrong. You can arrest me,” he cries, dropping his head down in shame.
Renjun and Jeno share mirroring looks of disbelief at the revelation. Of all of the outcomes they expected from Jisung, this was not one of them. It just goes to show people are not what they seem. Jisung, an innocent looking college king, was pedaling thousands worth of drugs weekly.
“Why?” Jeno questions, and the simple question has all of the implications they need.
“I wanted to help Chenle. He’s wanted to be a singer since he was young, but he’s too proud to ask for anything. I was trying to make enough money to fund a fully produced album for him. I wanted to help him catch his big break. But I swear he wasn’t involved in this at all! He thought I had the phone so we could meet up secretly,” Jisung confesses.
“Why did you need to meet up secretly?” Renjun questions.
“Because we’re dating.”
The story unravels from there.
Jisung and Chenle met when working as assistants. They fell in love quickly, though part of their contracts included a clause that prohibited them from dating anyone affiliated with Jaemin or Donghyuck’s employees or business associates. They didn’t want to jeopardize the best job either of them have ever had.
(This clause was added after people they hired would use them to get close to famous celebrities in an attempt to date them. It was designed to deter people from flirting with their colleagues.)
Deep down, they both knew that Jaemin and Donghyuck would not be upset about their relationship, but sneaking around became like a game to them. How much can we get away with? How far can we push the envelope before their employers realize what is going on?
They kept it a secret, even after the murders, because they thought it made them look suspicious. Renjun doesn’t get why suspects do this. Unsavory facts are always better than untrustworthy lies.
Over time, Jisung learned about Chenle’s passion and desperately wanted to help. Drugs are in abundance at the type of celebrity parties Jaemin was occasionally invited to, and it became all too easy to get mixed in with that crowd. The extra money he made was to be set aside, to help the love of his life.
Renjun sighs, before making a choice. He doesn’t know if it’s what he should be doing as a detective, but it feels like the right thing. “What are you going to do? Now that you inherited so much? Are you going to quit?” he asks.
Jisung nods furiously. “I’ve already shut down business. Even before Donghyuck died, I didn’t want to be involved with anything shady because I knew you were investigating so I stopped. I didn’t want Chenle wrapped up in any of it,” he confesses.
“Then it’s not relevant to the case,” Renjun says simply. “As long as you are done, we won’t be doing anything with this information.” Jeno looks shocked, but nods ultimately. Neither of them wanted to ruin this kid’s future, especially when his motives were so pure.
It isn’t long before Chenle shows up and they ask them both about their whereabouts the night of both murders. They separate them (so they can’t corroborate each other’s stories before hearing them) but both give the same answer: they snuck away to a love motel approximately five minutes from Donghyuck and Jaemin’s house.
Apparently, it’s close enough that the two of them can sneak off for a steamy makeout session, and be back without raising any suspicions. It only added to the thrill.
CCTV later proves their timeline, and both are cleared from the case. Before they leave, Renjun pulls Jisung aside and has a quick pep talk with him.
“You’ve been given a major blessing. Make something of yourselves and don’t do anything stupid. This is your one free pass, you understand?” he lectures. To his surprise, Jisung hugs him tightly in response, thanking him profusely.
“I won’t let you down, I promise Detective Huang!” Jisung chirps and his smile is not unlike Renjun’s own when he was that age.
Jisung and Chenle are just young, dumb, and in love. And being in love isn’t a crime, Renjun thinks, Even if it feels wrong sometimes.
If Renjun is being honest with himself, he is feeling pretty fucking good about how things are going. He has cleared Chenle and Jisung (which he had figured early on he would do, but it’s nice to have solid proof) and prepped his case notes for his second interview with Johnny and Taeil. So, he decides to let loose.
He’s at the same shitty cowboy bar his friends dragged him out to earlier in the case, only this time, he’s 4 shots in and it’s only been an hour since they’ve arrived.
“So when are we going to meet this mysterious Jeno?” Xiaojun asks, Yangyang nodding along. Hendery has a date tonight, and Renjun is slightly glad for his absence. He doesn’t know if he is ready to meet Lucas after their first unsavory interaction, at least yet. He wants to give the older boy some time to heal.
Renjun, already drunk with an inability to make rational decisions, simply shrugs and answers “How about now?” And before anyone can stop him, he’s pulling out his phone and making a call.
“Hello?” Jeno picks up right away, voice soft and questioning. They rarely call each other outside of work hours, even with how close they have grown throughout the case.
“Jenooooooo!” Renjun croons drunkenly, “Come out! Let’s paaaaarty!”
“Are you drunk right now?” Jeno asks incredulously, not familiar to this side of Renjun. Afterall, he is used to his colleague keeping up a calm and professional disposition.
“Yeah and you need to come out right now too. This is an order from your senior. You need to fucking lighten up. Murder is such a drag, seriously. I think it would do us good to let loose and celebrate. We’re getting close, big boy!”
Jeno sighs deeply as if he is thinking it over. “Text me the address,” he finally replies. Renjun tries not to think about how easy it is to win Jeno over.
Jeno arrives half an hour later, and Renjun has already finished another mixed drink. He introduces him to Xiaojun and Yangyang who insist that Jeno has some catching up to do. They order him 3 shots and Jeno downs them in quick succession, not even needing a chaser. The kid is hardcore.
Jeno, though a little shy and awkward, gets along swimmingly with his friends, especially with a little liquid courage. It almost feels like it was always meant to be this way, like Jeno was always meant to be here, right by his side.
At the moment, it doesn’t feel like they are detectives, trying to solve one of the most high profile cases in the history of the country. Instead, they feel like regular people, hanging out with friends and laughing without worrying about the stress of what is to come. With Jeno, everything is easy.
It’s Yangyang who drags them all to the dancefloor, and Renjun is too drunk to protest. He feels energized, like he needs to flail his limbs a little before he would even consider calming down a bit. He’s expecting Jeno to be awkward, the type of person to stand on the outskirts, swaying side to side with no sense of rhythm.
Jeno is the opposite. He is confident and experienced, moving his hips like he knows exactly what he is doing. Renjun has a million and one thoughts rushing through his mind but only one threatens to consume him whole: Jeno is so fucking attractive.
Without even processing what he is doing, he finds himself inching slowly towards Jeno, unable to take his eyes off of him. The lights are flashing and the disco ball hanging overhead reflects light so prettily onto his cheekbones.
He is an arm's length away when he feels Jeno reaching out, pulling him until they are flush against each other. Jeno keeps moving his hips as if their proximity is nothing out of the ordinary, and Renjun follows suit based on instinct alone. There is a voice in his head telling him that this is wrong, that this is dangerous, but he doesn’t care. The bass vibrating throughout the club is enough to drown out all of his existential thoughts.
Jeno’s hands rest on Renjun’s hips, holding him firmly, keeping him in place. Renjun’s own are clutching on to Jeno’s cotton grey t-shirt, trying to find something, anything, that will ground him in reality. His eyes dart everywhere, from the mole on Jeno’s cheekbones, to the perfect bridge of his nose, to his pretty sparkling eyes, before finally drifting down to his cherry red lips.
He doesn’t know who leans in first, or if it’s even a matter of leaning in in the first place. Jeno and Renjun seem to be attracted to each other like magnets, and no matter how much they try to stay apart, they are sprung back together by an uncontrollable force, as if there is no agency for either of them. They kiss just as intensely.
In the moment, nothing matters. Not the case, the grief, the guilt, the implications of kissing his colleague drunkenly the night before another interview. All that matters is how perfect Jeno is, pressed right against him, kissing the living daylights out of him.
Everyday Renjun witnesses horrible, despicable things. He had almost forgotten that there was good left in the world, beautiful things to celebrate, to worship, to praise. Jeno is all of it. He is everything.
The next day at work is awkward to say the least. Jeno and Renjun haven’t been this stunted in their conversations with each other since they first met. Renjun is already starting to miss the casual intimacy of their usual banter, but he purposefully does not want to discuss what happened the night prior.
It was a bad idea to kiss Jeno. Although it felt good (really fucking good), it wasn’t worth pursuing. Because now Renjun knows exactly what it feels like, the fireworks exploding in his chest, and it’s really hard knowing it’s not his to keep. Jeno is not his to keep.
Jeno was drunk, looking for a good time and to let loose. Renjun was there and willing. It probably meant nothing to him, making it painfully embarrassing when Renjun recognizes just how much it means to him. From now on, he is keeping it professional. They have a case to solve afterall, and any budding flirtationship could distract them from achieving their shared goal.
It isn’t hard to avoid each other, given that they are each spending the day doing their own research. They are zero-ing in on Johnny and Taeil and there is a lot to uncover. They both have a feeling that there is more to lying underneath the surface.
They end up splitting up this time, Renjun going to meet with Taeil and Johnny once more, while Jeno stays back to do research. Weeks ago, Renjun would have killed for the opportunity to be working alone again, but Jeno’s missing presence haunts him like a phantom limb. He’s gotten used to him, and all of his little quirks from his eye smile to the way he sticks his tongue out when he is concentrating.
The meeting goes by relatively unsuccessfully, with Johnny and Taeil’s lawyers answering most questions while the two suspects barely pay attention. There is one revelation, however, that is kind of shocking: Johnny and Taeil are contesting the will.
“We helped them get everything, I know for a fact that us being left out is a giant mistake. Maybe they were influenced or something? I don’t trust any of these people, especially that Doyoung guy. I bet you more than anything his lawyer boyfriend messed with documents to grant them everything,” Johnny argues, much to his lawyer’s quiet dismay.
“We just want to take what is rightfully ours,” Taeil concludes, as if he is owed money simply for existing. They are so scummy, both of them, that Renjun can hardly stand it. They are so bitter, so hateful. It’s all about money for them, and Renjun has no doubt that the two of them would do anything to get ahead financially, even if it means killing Jaemin and Donghyuck.
Donghyuck and Jaemin made them both a lot of money, but their contracts were expiring. It’s very likely that the two of them conspired to seek revenge, and milk them for every penny they could get on their way out.
He begrudgingly leaves the meeting, having gained relatively nothing, and goes back to the office. He is going to need a deep dive into Taeil and Johnny to find out what is really going on. When he gets there, however, he finds that Jeno is already on it.
“Renjun!” Jeno practically yells when he enters the door, startling the smaller boy. “Come here, I found something you’re going to want to take a look at.”
Renjun walks up to Jeno’s computer only to see an old newspaper article from a couple years back. The contents are pretty bare bones, but it states that a popular agent (re: Johnny) and famous vocal trainer (re: Taeil) are teaming up to produce a musical. The catch? It’s been years in production, and there is no script, no cast, no nothing. However, it is still slated in development.
“A movie project with no movie?” Renjun asks speculatively. “Are you thinking what I am thinking?”
“It’s a front. They aren’t making a movie, they are laundering money and this is their smokescreen. All of that money is coming in from ‘investors’, but they aren’t developing anything. They are pocketing it. Renjun, if this is true, this could be the biggest scandal in the entertainment industry in a long time,” Jeno replies, speaking a mile a minute.
Unable to think of the right words to say, Renjun pulls Jeno in for a hug, not even thinking about. He promised himself he would pull away, and he will, but not before he tells Jeno how proud of him he is.
“You’re brilliant,” Renjun whispers in his ear. “You just unlocked something big here, Jeno. We’re gonna get them! We are so close, I can feel it.”
The new theory is this: Johnny and Taeil got involved in a plethora of financial crimes and, given the close proximity between talent and staff, Jaemin caught wind of it. In order to stop their crimes from being exposed they killed him, and then tried to take his money on the way out. Now they just have to prove it. And it’s very challenging with the presence of an annoying wannabe detective who keeps popping up.
“You again,” Renjun says, not exactly thrilled to be seeing the boy standing in front of him. If he is being completely honest, Mark Lee is starting to get on his nerves. He understands that the boy is grieving, but his constant interruptions are a headache to Renjun’s process. Mark helped him once, but he’s visited twice again since then, and hasn’t provided any meaningful information to them.
“I’m still thinking about the argument I overheard Donghyuck having that night, the voice I heard. We need to figure out who that was if we want to solve this case,” Mark explains to him. (If I want to solve this case, Renjun corrects in his head.)
“We are working on it, Mark,” Renjun explains for the millionth time. “We are getting close, I need you to trust me and let me do my job.”
“I’m not just going to sit around and wait for you to finally get your shit together, I want to help. I will find out who killed Donghyuck, or I will die trying,” Mark utters, voice deathly serious. Renjun feels sorry for him, Mark is getting more unstable as time goes on. He is not handling grief well.
He’s going to figure this out. So they can all move on, and grieve properly. Sitting in the pain, stewing in it as it poisons the heart is not good for any of them. If he works just a little bit harder, a little bit quicker, they can solve this. The answer is almost there, dangling right in front of him, Renjun’s instincts telling him to look closer because it’s there. And he knows better than anyone that his instincts are never wrong.
In the meantime, between the revelation with Taeil and Johnny (which Jeno is still investigating and finding more proof for every hour), Mark’s visit, and Renjun pointedly ignoring his growing infatuation for Jeno, he meets with Doyoung and Taeyong once more.
What he isn’t expecting is for Doyoung to be so cold and robotic. Taeyong answers the majority of the questions Renjun asks, grey-rocking hard. The only emotion Renjun gets from either of them is the utter look of disgust Doyoung has on his face for him.
“And about your relationship with-” Renjun begins, trying to gain something, anything, from this conversation before promptly being cut off.
“Taeyong can answer the rest of these questions, I’m leaving,” Doyoung answers full of contempt. Taeyong looks at his husband worriedly, and Renjun doesn’t know if it’s because his behavior looks bad, or because he is genuinely concerned for Doyoung’s mental health. It’s probably a mix of both.
“Excuse me?” Renjun squeaks, even though he shouldn’t. There are no legal orders keeping Doyoung there, and as his lawyer, Taeyong is more than able to answer (or avoid) any questions that Renjun might have.
“You’re so goddamn insensitive,” Doyoung spits, taking Renjun aback, “We are trying to heal from the tragic deaths of my brother and his partner and you just waltz in and ask us the same questions over and over with no care as to how traumatic it is for us. Maybe if you did your job right and found out who killed them, we wouldn’t be sitting here dancing in circles around the same four questions. You’re no fucking Sherlock Holmes. I bet any other detective could have figured this out by now,” he growls, before storming out of the room.
Taeyong stutters through an apology, no doubt stressed about how Doyoung’s outburst made him look (cold, temperamental, short-tempered), but Renjun can barely make out a word he is saying. Instead, the scene he just witnessed plays over and over again, more intrusive than even his darkest thoughts. He has to get out of there.
Renjun leaves abruptly, with a promise to email Taeyong with any questions he still has unless it is absolutely necessary that they meet again. For now, Renjun needs to get out of there.
Renjun shoots a quick message to Jeno that he is taking the rest of the day off instead of going back to the office, and heads to his apartment. He can barely see the road in front of him as he drives, hands gripped tightly to the steering wheel and eyes blinded by tears. Doyoung just affirmed what he had known all along: he is a failure.
When he gets to his apartment, he barely opens the door before he finally succumbs to the panic attack that overtakes him, more severe than he has ever had. It’s too much, the guilt, the pain, the inability to do his job correctly. He doesn’t even realize he left the door open until he feels someone reaching for him, trying to calm him down.
Renjun, in his panicked state, cannot recognize who it is, which makes him panic more. The thought of being alone in this state terrifies him, but the thought of someone, anyone being with him in this time of extreme vulnerability doesn’t sit well with him either. He thrashes, cries, claws at his own skin, before strong arms wrap around him, protecting him from himself.
It isn’t until Renjun has no choice that he actually listens to the voice that he recognizes the sweet honey drip of a voice that he misses so much. Donghyuck.
He doesn’t stop crying, shaking his head as he hears the things that are being whispered to him. You’re okay. You’re stronger than I think. You can figure this out. I forgive you. Be brave.
It’s all words Renjun desperately needs to hear, but coming from his friend, who is dead, and who he misses so fucking much, is too much. The combination of the lack of oxygen and Donghyuck’s words swirling through his brain overwhelm him as he slowly loses consciousness.
When he comes to, he is most definitely being held by someone, but it is not the ghost of Donghyuck like his panic-induced mind conjured up. Jeno is terrified, staring at Renjun with the saddest look he has ever seen, effectively breaking his heart even more.
It’s pretty obvious to Renjun that he hallucilated the interaction with Donghyuck, which is potentially even more worrisome than if Renjun had actually seen a ghost. He is losing himself, slipping into a dark place in his mind that he doesn’t recognize. One where the only semblance of reality he can hold on to is his utter distaste for himself.
Instead of saying anything, Jeno holds out a glass of water, which Renjun graciously takes and chugs. Jeno’s moves are slow and deliberate, as if he is walking on eggshells to not disturb Renjun more than he already is. The fact of the matter is, Renjun is already deeply disturbed.
After a few minutes of silence, Jeno moves tentatively towards Renjun, sitting down next to him where he is resting on the couch (How did he get here? Did Jeno carry him?). Finally, Jeno speaks, and his voice is hoarse, as if he’s spent the last hour screaming. “Renjun… What happened just now? I-I’ve never seen anything like that? Did the meeting go… that badly?”
Renjun sighs deeply, eyes welling with tears at the memory of Doyoung’s outbursts. On most days, Renjun has a pretty thick skin. But some days, days like today, he is weaker than normal, and the slightest dig can cause him to crack. Doyoung’s words caused something to crumble in Renjun’s chest, and Renjun doesn’t know how he could possibly explain something like that to someone as confident as Jeno.
Still he tries, because something about the way Jeno looks at him makes him want to bare his soul to him, despite his normally reserved nature. Something in Jeno makes Renjun feel accepted, even when he struggles to find any self worth in himself.
“It was just the same as normal, and then- then Doyoung just blew up on me. He told me I was a shitty detective, and that anyone else could have solved this case by now. And he’s right-” Renjun continues before Jeno cuts him off, looking angrier than he’s seen him (He’s getting a lot of emotions from Jeno today, he notes. Somehow his face looks handsome regardless of his expression).
“No,” Jeno says firmly, voice grave and serious. “He absolutely is not right. Renjun, you’ve taken an incredibly difficult case, with hundreds of suspects, no witnesses and hardly any evidence and gotten closer to the truth than most people could. Doyoung is a dumbass who is grieving; his judgement on this matter is not worth listening to.”
Renjun laughs bitterly, “It’s not just Doyoung, it’s me. And Kun and Ten, and half of our suspects, and,” he swallows the lump in his throat, “and Donghyuck.” Jeno immediately pulls him in for a hug.
“Not me,” Jeno responds into his neck. “Renjun, I’ve said it before, but you’re absolutely brilliant. You light up the world with your intelligence, wit, and beauty, and I can’t even imagine how someone who inspires me Every. Fucking. Day. could be so hard on themselves,” he cuts off, voice breaking.
Renjun pulls away, searching for Jeno’s eyes, and shocked to see that they are in fact, stained with tears. Renjun can’t understand why Jeno would be affected by seeing Renjun like that. How much pain it brings him. When he questions that larger boy on it, Jeno’s response is instantaneous.
“I don’t like seeing you hurt,” Jeno replies, voice barely above a whisper. “Renjun seeing you happy and in your element, it makes me so fucking happy too,” he admits, eyes flickering down to his lips. And the force between them is there once more, pulling them together. For the second time, Renjun finds himself kissing Jeno, and it’s just as euphoric as the first time.
Only this time a couple of things are different: 1. They are both sober, and 2. Renjun does not regret it, not even a little bit.
Something has obviously shifted between Jeno and Renjun, though neither address it. They don’t feel the need to at this time, knowing that this is enough for them, at least for now. Besides, it’s time for them to get back to work. The need to solve this case is becoming more and more desperate as they cross off subjects and find more nefarious evidence. They could be on the cusp finding the one piece of evidence that leads them to all of the answers.
So they go back to the crime scene. It’s unlikely that they will find anything new, but retracing the steps is an important part of the process regardless. Besides, Jeno has only been to the house once or twice, and is not as familiar with the layout of the crime scene as Renjun as. They need all hands on deck now, and Renjun wants no weak spots on their team.
They start in the parlor, where Jaemin’s body was found. It’s on the first floor of the house, just a couple doors down from the ballroom where the majority of their party guests were. It was shocking that something so gruesome happened so close to a room where over 100 people were celebrating, all of them none the wiser.
They take in the details, nothing out of place from the moment the body was found, as if the room was a time capsule of Jaemin’s final moments. Renjun supposes that will change soon, when Jisung and Chenle get the house ready to sell.
The desk is off-center, as if someone pushed it out of the way in a hurry to get out of the room. The carpet is stained red with blood, not a spatter, but one that showed a slow, imminent death. One painting was slightly askew, but Renjun didn’t know what that was about. The two of them take everything in, before moving upstairs
Off of Donghyuck’s study, was a wide balcony, where his body was ultimately found. Unlike Jaemin, there was nothing amiss in the room, which led them to believe the initial conflict didn’t get deadly until he stepped onto the balcony that night. Donghyuck’s blood had been cleaned up already as well, meaning there was not much evidence left in the room.
They wander around the room for a little bit, checking everything, looking for the simplest of details that could cue them in on what really happened. Renjun finds himself skimming over the pile of records Donghyuck had collected over the years, ranging from classical to hip hop and everything in between. Jeno is more preoccupied with the contents on Donghyuck’s desk. His glittery pen collection, framed pictures of Jaemin, and various other nicknacks. His eyes stop on something shiny, that mirrors his reflection as he stares at it.
“What do you think it is?” Jeno asks, holding up the metal ball, that is miraculously heavier than he thought it would be.
“That’s a paper weight,” Renjun replies simply. “Heavy, isn’t it?” he asks before moving on. He then walks out onto the balcony, where the sun has just begun to set. He feels a pair of arms wrap around him tightly, burying his head into his neck.
Despite their location, it’s oddly romantic to be standing here with Jeno as the sun sets above him. Life has a funny way of making beautiful moments out of even the darkest of tragedies. And sometimes, that’s enough to heal.
There really are so many questions left to answer that neither know where to begin. First of all, who was Jaemin arguing with on the night of his death, and was it the same person that argued with Donghyuck? Was Donghyuck’s murderer someone from the party, or an outsider? And who hacked their video cameras years ago, outing them to the world? Is that connected? And is there one killer or multiple? Is this a serial, where the murderer will strike again? Could Donghyuck’s death just be a copycat?
“Hey, Jeno?” Renjun asks one morning, staring at his conspiracy board. “Do you think it’s possible that Donghyuck killed Jaemin? Or arranged for that to happen?” he asks, because he has to explore every option before he rules it out.
“At this point Injunnie, I think anything is possible.”
The next day, Renjun truly snaps for the first time in a while, and it is all because of an annoying pest that won’t let Renjun do his job. Mark Lee, who pops up every ten minutes, playing pseudo-detective and pissing Renjun off. Renjun thought he was doing Jeno a favor by handling Mark when he visits, but Renjun is this close at throwing the boy to the wolves, no matter how cute he is.
“What is it now, Mark?” Renjun asks, so tired of the man in front of him that he can’t be bothered to be nice anymore.
“Just came for an update,” Mark asks. “I’ve been doing some investigating of my own, but I want to know how close you guys are. This investigation has taken a bit longer than expected,” he mutters, and it triggers something in Renjun.
“What investigation could you possibly be doing, Mark? You aren’t a detective, you need to leave this to the experts,” Jeno butts in, clearly annoyed. If anyone is going to unravel Renjun’s plans, Renjun is sure it’s going to be Mark.
“I want to figure out who I heard Donghyuck arguing with. So I’ve been meeting with the people who were at the dinner party, to try to hear their voices, and try to connect it,” Mark replies, and Jeno laughs in his face.
“Well thank you for your service,” Jeno replies sarcastically, “But we have actual detective work to get to, so we’ll be going now,” he turns towards the door, intent on leaving their intruder behind, but Mark’s next words stop them both in their tracks.
“If Renjun had done his job and solved Jaemin’s murder, Donghyuck would still be alive, and none of us would have to be going through this shit. You’re horrible, Renjun,” Mark bites back, clearly not interested in being patronized.
Jeno looks at Renjun worriedly, expecting him to break down. What he isn’t expecting is for Renjun to get angry, to spit pure venom at the boy in front of them.
“You don’t know anything, Mark Lee. You think you can waltz in and take over this investigation like you’re fucking Nancy Drew and criticize the hard work Jeno and I have been doing for months. Don’t come back here, or I will have you escorted from the premises,” and with that he turns and walks out of the room.
Mark looks positively shocked at Renjun’s outburst, like he can’t believe a detective would speak to him like that. Jeno turns to him, growling, “Don’t you ever speak to him like that again,” before he leaves to follow Renjun.
Jeno finds Renjun outside, around the corner from the station, smoking a cigarette (which confuses Jeno because he is 99% sure that the boy doesn’t normally smoke.) He walks up to Renjun cautiously, before reaching around his waist to pull him in closely. Renjun shoves him off, much to his surprise.
“Don’t touch me,” Renjun barks at Jeno, refusing to meet his eye. Jeno scoffs in response, folding his arms as he stares at Renjun with a disappointed expression.
“What, so now you’re mad at me? After I just defended you back there? After what we’ve been through together?” Jeno replies bitterly. He understands Renjun’s anger, Mark was way out of line, but to take his anger out on him is uncalled for, especially after the way they’ve comforted each other over the last couple of months.
“I don’t need you to defend me, Jeno. I can handle myself without my coworker butting in all of the time,” Renjun barks, and Jeno steps back like he’s been slapped. Renjun half expects him to turn away after that, but Jeno stands firm. Renjun doesn’t want to think about the implications of how Jeno has refused to give up on him thus far.
“Coworker? How could you say that? You know we passed coworker a long time ago. We are so much more than that, Renjun,” Jeno says desperately. Renjun doesn’t want to hurt him, that isn’t his intention. But he can’t let someone like Jeno, someone so kind, and earnest, and good, be with someone like him.
“I can’t be what you want me to be, Jeno. I would love to be the perfect person for you, and for us to live a happy, normal life together, but that isn’t ever going to happen,” Renjun responds, voice growing more desperate as each word comes out of his mouth, “Mark was right, Jeno, I am horrible.”
“Nothing you could ever say or do would make me think that you’re horrible,” Jeno says softly.
“You don’t know anything about me.”
“I know that you killed Donghyuck. I’ve known for days, and I haven’t said or done anything about it. I know what you did, and guess what Renjun? I am still in love with you anyway,” Jeno finishes, practically panting with the weight of his confession.
Renjun looks at Jeno shocked, before looking around, making sure that no one is around to hear what the boy in front of him hysterically uttered moments prior. “Let’s go back to the office. And when the work day is done, you’ll come back to my apartment, and we’ll talk this all out,” he replies evenly. Jeno follows without a word.
Jeno speaks first, as he sits across from Renjun at the boy’s tiny kitchen table, explaining his side of things. “I had suspicions about your involvement, given how much guilt you had every time you spoke about Donghyuck. You also knew things about the case that weren't in the case file and had never been confirmed, almost like you were there,” Jeno explains.
“But it wasn’t until we went back to the crime scene and you talked about the paperweight and how heavy it was that I knew for sure. Donghyuck had a head injury, unrelated to the stab wounds. But we hadn’t paid much attention to that, which I’m sure was your doing,” Jeno explains.
“You killed him with the paperweight and then covered it up with the stab wounds. You knew enough about the case to mimic what had happened to Jaemin, but it wasn’t precise, enough that the autopsy almost suggested a copycat rather than a serial,” Jeno lays it all out on the table. He half expects Renjun to deny it, but instead he shakes his head, a small smile appearing on his face.
“You know, I really underestimated you, Jeno. When they assigned you to this case, I was annoyed. I thought this newbie detective was going to derail everything. But you are a damn good detective. And you figured it out, so well that I can’t even deny it,” Renjun replies, and Jeno preens at the praise.
“I guess you’re looking for my side of the story, now,” Renjun begins, to which Jeno nods along. He is ready to lie it all out on the table, so that there are no more secrets left between them. So that they can finally trust each other wholly, completely, absolutely.
“Donghyuck’s dinner party triggered him. It was the first event since Jaemin’s death and he wasn’t ready for it. We had been friends and he called me to talk it out. But it didn’t go as planned. In fact, he got quite angry with me. I now realize that a lot of his aggression may have come from the drugs Jungwoo gave him,” Renjun explains, Jeno nodding on encouragingly.
“I know a couple of our suspects suggested that someone could have broken in, but despite Donghyuck’s distaste for security cameras, his house was still well locked up and protected. He was a famous idol, after all. He let me, and I went upstairs with him. I knew that nobody had seen us, and that he was the only person in the house that knew I was there,” he continues.
“He started out just talking about his feelings, but things got more hostile. He started blaming me for not solving Jaemin’s death, and for making it hard for him to move on. That’s why-,” he stops to pause for a moment, “that’s why I get so upset when someone questions my detective skills. It brings me back to that night,” he finishes tears finally pouring.
Jeno reaches across to pull the boy into a hug. They hold each other, neither saying anything until Renjun calms down enough to continue.
“He took his pen holder and threw it at me, and I threw the paperweight at him back. I was angry, I am very prideful about my work, but I never wanted to kill him, or even hurt him. I didn’t think it would actually hit him, let alone forcefully enough to severely hurt him, maybe even kill him,” Renjun cries into Jeno’s chest.
“But it hit him in his head so forcefully, and he just collapsed. I tried feeling for a pulse and I couldn’t find one, and I panicked. Even if he wasn’t dead, I would lose my job, maybe be convicted or something. I would lose everything, Jeno,” he explained. “So I acted on instinct.”
It makes sense, when Renjun explains it. No one knew he was there, and if he acted quick, he could leave without anyone figuring anything out. Renjun snuck into Donghyuck’s bedroom, taking the knife he kept under his bed for protection, and mimicked Jaemin’s death as quickly and accurately as we could.
He heard footsteps coming as soon as he finished, so went out the balcony, scaling down the side of the house and running as far from the house as he could before he finally collapsed in a park a mile and a half from Donghyuck’s place.
He then composed himself and went home, until he got the call that Lee Donghyuck had died. And until now, he had gotten away with it.
“But what was your plan? Were you going to frame Jaemin’s murderer for Donghyuck’s death too?” Jeno asks cautiously. Renjun shakes his head furiously.
“I was going to work my hardest to figure out who killed Jaemin, to finally solve it for Donghyuck. I had to finish this, to bring justice to this for him. And then, once it was all settled and figured out, I was going to confess,” Renjun hangs his head in shame. Jeno can see the guilt across Renjun’s face, and he wants to wash away.
Because Renjun made a mistake, a horrible, deadly mistake. But deep down, the good within him outweighs the bad. Jeno still loves Renjun, despite everything. It’s scary how unconditional what he feels for Renjun is.
“I won’t have to come to that,” Jeno promises, rubbing Renjun’s back softly. “We’ll figure something out, I promise. I’m not going to let anything bad happen to you, I promise,” he whispers into his ear.
Renjun pulls away, “You’re so good to me,” he murmurs, “I don’t deserve it.”
“You deserve it all, Renjun. I love you, so fucking much,” Jeno replies nervously. Because despite his initial confession earlier, Renjun has yet to respond. And to be honest, despite everything, Jeno prepares himself for rejection.
Instead, Renjun gives him the sweetest words he’s ever heard come out of his mouth, “I love you, too,” he says quietly, and that’s all Jeno needs to surge forward and kiss him intensely.
He doesn’t pull away until both of them are gasping for breath, panting against each other. “We’ll figure this all out. Together.”
From there, they throw themselves into the investigation. Jeno continues his investigation into Taeil and Johnny, while Renjun goes back to a question that will be easy to solve. Who hacked the cameras all those years ago? It may not lead them to Jaemin’s murderer, but it could be a game-changing clue.
Renjun goes directly to the source, the shady tabloid that posted the images of Jaemin and Donghyuck together in the first place. At first, they brush him off, but once they realize that Renjun is a detective in charge of a murder investigation, they start talking. And luckily for him, they bring him directly to the person who had first published the video all those years ago..
The man in front of him is just as greasy and scummy as you would expect from a man who posted other people’s sex tape without their consent. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have many answers.
“I can’t tell you anything about the guy who dropped them off,” he provides. “I would if I had something concrete to give you, but I don’t. He wore a hat and a mask, I barely saw his face at all,” he explains.
“Surely there must be something, about his eyes or maybe his build? Was he wearing something that you remember? This is a matter of life or death, sir. If we don’t solve this case, another person could die,” Renjun says gravely.
“I’m sorry, I don’t think-” the man cuts himself off. “Actually there was one thing that I recalled. The man had the weirdest eyebrows. It was like they were little seagulls on the top of his face.”
Suddenly, it all clicks into place for Renjun.
Renjun is just about how to head back to the station and tell Jeno the news, when he gets a text message that completely changes his course of action. He quickly messages Jeno, telling him where he is headed, and drives to the place where it all started.
Unsurprisingly, Mark Lee is waiting for him on Donghyuck’s balcony, at the very spot where Donghyuck had been killed. There is pure venom in his eyes.
“It was you. I recognized your voice when you yelled at me in the office the other day. You were the one in the office with Donghyuck that night. You were the one who killed him. World-class detective Huang Renjun is a murderer,” he spits. Renjun doesn’t back down.
“Takes one to know one, Mark Lee,” Renjun matches, and Mark immediately pales at the allegation. Much like Renjun, however, he doesn’t deny it. Renjun keeps talking.
“I should have known. You kept telling me that you needed to find out who killed him. Not them, him. You didn’t want me to figure out who killed Jaemin, because you already knew. It was you all along,” Renjun explains. Mark gulps in response.
“I-I didn’t mean to-” he begins to defend himself, but Renjun cuts him off.
“But you couldn’t help yourself. Because you were in love with Donghyuck. You couldn’t stand that he was happy with someone else. That he never saw you like that. You even went as far as to release videos of them together to try to break them up,” Renjun continues.
Mark is crying now, tears streaming down his cheeks. “You don’t know what it’s like, to love someone so wholly and have them not even look at you. Donghyuck never noticed, he was too busy obsessing over Jaemin,” he sobs.
“But Jaemin noticed. That’s what you guys were fighting about on New Year’s Eve. He found out about your feelings and wanted you to back off. And the fight escalated until you couldn’t help yourself. You killed him, and then spent months comforting Donghyuck as if you weren’t the one who broke his heart.”
“I’ve loved him all my life,” Mark sobs, “I tried to be happy for him, but it was so hard. It felt like Jaemin was the only obstacle in the way, the only thing that was keeping me from Donghyuck. And without him in the way, I thought that we could finally be together. I never expected Donghyuck to die too. I never thought someone else would kill him.”
“And you thought you’d just get away with it? Tell me, Mark, what was your plan? Report me to the police and then what? You’ll just get to go on living your merry little life?” Renjun questions.
Mark scoffs. “You don’t understand, I have nothing left anymore. The last of me died when I found Donghyuck’s body. The only thing I care about now is justice for him. You’re going to pay for what you did to him,” and with that he lunges at Renjun.
Renjun knows Mark has a lot of advantages over him. He is stronger, faster, and more agile. That doesn’t mean that Renjun isn’t going to fight like hell. They go back and forth for a while, and Renjun tries his best to hold his ground, to not let Mark gain advantage over him. He’s been trained for situations like this, but the fact that he is in a small space with someone much larger than him with no backup is doing him absolutely no favors.
Renjun isn’t sure how much time passes, but Mark finally gains on him. He’s got both of Renjun’s arms in his hands, and he’s looking down on him with a wicked, vengeful grin. “If I go down for this, you’re going down with me.”
Renjun closes his eyes, bracing himself for whatever gruesome thing is about to happen to him. Deep down he is sure he deserves whatever is coming to him. But instead of feeling a fist to the face, a knife to the chest, a gunshot to the head, he feels Mark being ripped off of him.
He opens his eyes to see Jeno standing over Mark, growling and ready to fight, like a territorial wolf. Mark and Jeno are a much more even fight than Renjun and Mark, but Mark is tired, having lost a lot of energy with restraining Renjun. Plus, Jeno has something to fight for, the most important thing in the world to him.
“You’ll go down alone,” Jeno spits as he finally gains hold of the older boy, and with one final push, Mark is falling off the balcony and onto the thick concrete below.
At approximately 5:37pm, Mark Lee is pronounced dead. Renjun’s deepest secret dies with him.
The story they tell Kun, Ten, the press core, and anyone who will listen is this: Mark Lee was a jealous man in love with his best friend Lee Donghyuck. He tried several things to break up Jaemin and Donghyuck, escalating from turning Moon Taeil against Jaemin, to releasing explicit videos of the couple together, to murdering Jaemin.
Donghyuck eventually pieced everything together, and in an argument, Mark Lee ended up killing the love of his life, in order to protect himself. The trauma of losing Donghyuck made him go crazy and only escalated from there. It ended in a struggle with budding detectives Renjun and Jeno who had figured everything out. Mark put up a fight, trying to get away, which led to a scuffle, ultimately causing Mark to fall from the balcony and lose his life.
Once it’s official, everyone begins to move on.
The FBI takes over the investigation into Taeil and Johnny, and eventually endict them on more than a dozen financial crimes each. Neither of them may have been murderers, but a jail cell had been waiting for the both of them regardless.
Chenle finally debuted, and Jisung worked closely with him producing the tracks on his debut album. His first single titled “Dear Dream,” a beautiful tribute to his close friends who gave him so much and lost everything in return, had topped the charts for 100 weeks straight, certifying his place in the industry as the next big thing.
Doyoung and Taeyong’s surrogate gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby boy, who’s eyes sparkled brighter than the sun, and who brought happiness into their once dark world. When Doyoung laid eyes on his son, he was reminded of when he was just four years old and laid eyes on his baby brother for the very first time. He remembers the nickname he used to call him, as he smiled at him brightly and sang for everyone in their neighborhood. Full Sun.
It’s a no-brainer for Doyoung, and Taeyong agrees immediately. They introduce their son to their friends and family, “Welcome our newest addition, ‘Lee Haechan.’” Though he is just an infant, it’s obvious that he was a bright, beautiful spirit. Everyone thinks the name is perfect.
As for Jeno and Renjun, the Starlet Sweetheart Murders case launched both of them into international stardom. They became the most famous detectives in the country, and were given every high profile case their precinct came across.
Finding out that they were dating, only increased their popularity in the eyes of the media. After the initial case, both refused to work with anyone but each other, and given their success, Kun was not going to deny them.
Renjun can’t believe he had ever been upset about the prospect of working with Jeno. The other boy completes him in so many ways, he can’t ever imagine being apart from him now. While Renjun lost a part of himself in this case, a major part he will never get back, he found something greater, something to remind him of the good in the world, the good in himself. He loves Jeno after all, and whether he deserves it or not, Jeno loves him just as much.
After several more high-brow cases, they start publishing books about how exactly they were able to solve each of the cases. They become instant best-sellers, allowing both of them to live extremely comfortable lives.
There is a book for every headline-making case they work on, with the exception of one. They don’t write about the origin of their time together, the infamous Starlet Sweetheart Murders. That is a story the two of them will take with them to the grave.