Kun shakes his head with a small laugh. “I’m sorry, I’m not sure I heard you right.”
The director sits back in his seat and folds his hands over his knee with a sigh. “Look, Agent Qian. You’re one of my best, alright? I’m sure you’ve heard plenty of horror stories about Agent Lee in the past, but I have faith that someone as talented as you may be able to keep him under control.”
Kun blinks back at him. “Sir, they aren’t just horror stories, he’s sabotaged missions before, has he not? I feel like that’s putting more people at risk than necessary. Can’t I do it alone?”
“In good conscience, I cannot allow you to complete this mission by yourself,” the director says lowly. “This is an incredibly dangerous job. If you fail to complete it in time, nothing good will come of it, for any of us.”
Kun sighs heavily. The contract is on the table, waiting for his signature. Right above his line, a stupid scribble of his partner’s signature. He can feel Director Kim’s eyes on him as he taps his pen against the palm of his hand. With a sigh, he leans forward and rushes his signature, tossing the pen on top of the paper before sliding it across the table. The director smiles up at him.
“Thank you, Kun. You will become a hero once you complete this mission, you know.”
“ If I complete this mission, you mean,” he grumbles. He stands and pulls his jacket on. “I expect I should meet with him now?
“Yes. The mission starts in three days.” The director stands to shake his hand. “I beg of you, try to get along with him. Spend these next three days together so you can warm up, alright?”
Kun closes his eyes and takes a deep breath as he takes the director’s hand. “Of course, Sir. I’ll do my best.”
“You know where to find him, correct?”
“I’m sure I’ll be able to figure it out, Sir.” Kun adjusts his tie and turns toward the door. “I’ll be taking my leave now.”
Kun punches the air as soon as the door closes behind him. The secretary at the front desk snickers behind his papers and Kun glares at him through the forms. He makes his way toward the desk and rests his elbows on the wood.
“Secretary Xiao, you wouldn’t happen to know where Agent Lee is, do you?”
He looks up at him, unamused. “One day, you’re going to stop asking me that question and just make me tell you where people are. You all have trackers on you, so yes, I do know where he is.”
Kun shakes his head, a sheepish smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. “I don’t want to seem rude by making a demand.”
“Just ask me where he is, not if I happen to know.” Dejun taps away at his keyboard for a moment and Kun watches the screen flash in the reflection of his glasses. “He’s in the canteen.”
“Thank you, Secretary Xiao,” Kun says, stepping away from the desk.
“Please stop calling me that.”
Kun leaves without offering Dejun any reassurance and steps into the closing doors of an empty elevator, swiping his card and thumbing at the button for the canteen. He can feel his palms begin to sweat as he moves down and he fiddles with a loose thread on his sleeve. He should have asked Dejun for some scissors.
The elevator dings pleasantly and Kun steps out with a heavy sigh. The canteen is packed with people, but it’s still quiet, only a quiet murmur blanketing the room as people converse amongst themselves in hushed voices. Kun begins moving between the tables, squinting his eyes for any sign of Ten. He silently curses at himself for having left his glasses at his desk when the director called him to his office. Thankfully, however, a loud thump and a laugh makes him all too easy to find as everyone turns to see what all the noise is about.
He’s sitting at a nearly empty table, hunched over his tray as he laughs, and Kun has to clear his throat twice before he’s able to get his attention. Johnny looks up at him as well, wiping at his eyes and smiling widely.
“Hey, man! What’s up?”
“Nothing much,” Kun replies, smiling tightly. “Agent Lee, may I speak with you?”
“Uh.” He looks between Kun, Johnny, and his food. “Now? Can we just talk here?”
“I’m afraid not.”
Ten remains seated for a moment, as though he’s contemplating before he stands and pushes his tray across the table. “Don’t let Guanhee eat this, please.”
“Sorry for stealing him away, Mister. Seo,” Kun bows his head. “It will just be a moment.”
“Don’t worry about it!” He smiles and dunks a roll of kimbap into the sauce on Ten’s tray. “You can call me Johnny, you know.”
Kun smiles again, uncomfortable. “Sorry, I prefer to keep things formal.”
Johnny shrugs and stuffs far too large a bite into his mouth, mumbling something that Kun is unable to decipher. He begins walking toward a conference room near the elevator, Ten trailing behind him silently. Kun beckons him inside and shuts the door, moving to pull a chair out.
“So,” Ten hops onto the table right beside Kun’s chair. “What do you need that’s so secret that even Johnny can’t know about it.”
“Will you sit in a chair, please?”
Kun sighs and rubs at the bridge of his nose. “I’m sure Director Kim has let you know a few things about the mission, correct? I’m your partner.”
“You’re kidding, right?” Ten asks, leaning forward. “Director Kim didn’t tell me anything about this mission he assigned me. He had the back of a contract delivered to me and I was told to sign it. He didn’t even tell me I would have a partner!”
“I’m sure he didn’t just give you the back of the contract. That’s against the agency policy. You should have read through it to get a better grip on this job.” Ten shrugs and Kun takes a deep breath. “Believe me, I tried talking him out of making you my partner, to no avail.”
“You realise that’s offensive, right?” Ten huffs. “What is the mission?”
Kun pulls his phone out of his pocket and pulls up the document that’s been forwarded to him. “I’ll send you the document later tonight. But for now, all we know is that there is a conspiracy involving a new drug that’s been created in east Germany. Someone working with the agency in the country has sent us an invitation to a party being held by the man himself. Director Kim is flying us out in a couple of days. We need to get in there and pull any information from this guy that we can. There are rumours that it’s been tested on several people, all with negative outcomes.”
“Holy shit,” Ten breaths, ducking his head to look at Kun’s phone. “What’s this guy’s name?”
“Roland Neumark,” Kun says, locking his phone and sliding it back into his pocket. “Director Kim wants the two of us to spend these next few days of training together, in order to adjust and set some rules between the two of us.”
Ten laughs, leaning back on his hands. “How much time? Am I sleeping with you from now on? Should we shower together?”
Kun feels his face begin to heat up and he clears his throat, straightening in his seat. “I’m sure we aren’t meant to spend that much time together. But we must work out plans before we depart.”
“Alright.” Ten nods. “Well, that’s really exciting! I haven’t worked with you before. This should be fun.”
Kun attempts to smile. “As much as I’m sure you’re looking forward to this, you must remain serious, Agent Lee. Four deaths have been rumoured as a result of this drug. This isn’t a simple mission like stealing a few files from a corrupt company. Lives are at stake, including our own.”
“You are no fun, Qian Kun.” Ten hops down from the table. “Are you ever going to call me by my name?”
“I don’t think I will, no.”
Ten remains quiet for a moment, his eyes scanning Kun’s face. Kun squirms ever so slightly in his seat, and as if he can sense his discomfort, Ten takes a step back and sighs. “Well, if that’s all you need from me for the time being, may I return to my lunch?”
Kun stands and adjusts his tie. “Yes, you may. I’m going to go to the training room tomorrow at o-five hundred hours for some combat training. Will you be joining me?”
“I might join a little bit later. I would prefer to get more than four hours of sleep.”
They leave the conference room and part ways with awkward bows. Kun watches Ten skip back to his table and rolls his neck. He pushes a button for the elevator and checks his watch while he waits. He hasn’t eaten since dinner the night before. As if for emphasis, his stomach grumbles insistently, but the elevator dings, and instead of getting himself something to eat, Kun steps in and swipes his card for his floor. As the doors are beginning to close, he sees Johnny running toward him, waving his arm. Sighing, he presses at a button to open the doors again and Johnny slips through, breathing out a thanks.
It’s quiet after Johnny swipes his own card and they begin their ascent, but Johnny inhales sharply and turns his body toward Kun. “Do you… not like Ten?”
Kun shakes his head, frowning. “It’s not that I don’t like him. He’s just known to be a very difficult person to work with, so I feel some anxiety about him being my partner for such an important mission.”
“What’s the mission?” Kun gives him a look and Johnny laughs awkwardly, scratching at the back of his neck. “Right, it’s probably confidential, isn’t it?”
“It is. Please don’t ask Agent Lee about it either, I feel he’ll have a harder time keeping his mouth shut about it.”
Johnny frowns. “He really isn’t that bad you know. Obviously, I’ve never been on a mission with him because I work in Communications, but he is a really pleasant person to be around. I think that whatever your teammates have been telling you isn’t exactly–”
“Being a pleasant person is one thing.” The elevator dings and the doors slide open on Kun’s floor. He steps off. “Not taking missions seriously and putting other people at risk is a completely different thing.” Kun smiles politely and bows. “Have a good rest of your day, Mister Seo.”
The doors shut, leaving the image of the shocked look on Johnny’s face burning in Kun’s mind. He rubs at his eyes as he makes his way toward his desk and slumps into his seat, banging his head quietly on the table. Taeyong slides out from his cubicle with furrowed brows.
“What’s got you so angsty?”
“I’ve been partnered with Ten Lee for a very critical mission, according to the director.”
The surrounding cubicles go quiet and heads peek into Kun’s space, curious. Taeyong sucks a breath through his teeth. “Really? Why would the director do that? He knows how much of a train wreck Ten can be. Putting him on an important mission is…”
“I don’t know,” Kun groans. He puts on his glasses and turns on his computer. “But he’s flying us to Germany in a few days and he’s expecting me to keep him under control all while saving the planet.”
“Is it really that serious?” Yina gasps, a hand coming up to cover her mouth. “The world is at stake?”
“An exaggeration.” Kun half-lies and pulls the mission document back onto his screen, sighing. “I need to spend the next couple of days forming some sort of relationship with him. I asked him to come to combat training with me tomorrow morning and he said he would rather sleep in.”
Taeyong snickers. “Can you blame him, though? You get up before the sun rises most of the time. I’d sleep in too.”
Kun glares across the divider. “I’m looking at confidential files now. I would appreciate it if you would all return to your work.”
The looming heads disappear and a murmur falls over the group as they continue to gossip. Taeyong clicks his tongue and rolls his chair back into its respective place, and Kun finally hears him begin to tap away at his keyboard. He can feel his stomach turning, begging for something to eat, but he ignores the rumble and focuses his attention on the document in front of him.
ROLAND NEUMARK is a German biochemist who graduated from Heidelberg University in 1998. Since then, he’s begun and gone through with a number of experiments, including, but not limited to new drugs, device implants, and advanced artificial intelligence. Recently, information was leaked to the press that he was working on a new drug similar to LSD, and those who participated in the test had negative side effects each time they were injected. The side effects consisted of violence toward the self and others, hallucinations, hysteria, and suicidal ideation. DIE WELT attempted to get interviews with Mister Neumark several times but was unable. A supposed investigation with the Berlin Police returned inconclusive, deeming Neumark clear of any suspicions. Rumours died down quickly after information was released by the police, but we have reason to believe that Neumark has the police working with him in this situation. As of right now, there are four rumoured deaths of test subjects.
Recently, Neumark has made a public statement that a new drug he has created is being prepared for public release. He described the drug as a “non-addictive stimulant” to help people feel more energetic throughout the day. However, we are led to believe that this is the drug that caused such a stir just months prior. LIU YANGYANG, an on-site agent under Kwon & Lee Agencies , has delivered two invitations for QIAN KUN and TEN LEE to attend a party being held in Neumark’s honour.
TEN LEE and QIAN KUN will be required to attend the party under aliases, which will be later provided by the agency, in order to avoid suspicions at the hands of Neumark. Agent Liu is working under the alias VIKTOR ENGEL. Once at the party, Agent Liu will offer a map of the hall, providing Agents Lee and Qian means of entrance to Neumark’s lab, as well as three escape routes. One in the lab, the agents will need to procure a sample of the drug to bring back to Korea. From there, it will be tested, confirmed, and results will be anonymously sent to the press.
It is crucial that this drug is stopped before it even begins to dip its toes into the pharmaceutical market. Do not get caught. Do not get killed. Above all else, bring us a sample.
Kun sits back in his seat and lets his eyes skim over the document one more time. He wasn’t aware it was something like this. Defusing a bomb would be easier than stealing a sample of a drug from a lab while the man himself is in the same building. Kun runs his hands down his face and sighs heavily, bringing his left hand out to click through the rest of the document. There are several images of Neumark, most of them being from security footage, too small and grainy to really make out his features. But there is one clear picture that Kun takes a moment to squint at. He’s younger than he would have expected, maybe ten, fifteen years older than himself. His beard is beginning to grey ever so slightly, but his eyes maintain a youth that the wrinkles on his face take away. A wide nose, large ears that stick out, green eyes. He supposes he won’t be that difficult to pick out of a crowd.
Taeyong’s head pokes out from behind the divider and his eyes fall on Kun’s screen. “Whoa, who’s that?”
Kun quickly turns off his monitor, huffing. “Someone you are supposed to know nothing about, Agent Lee. Please, warn me before you come into my space so I can hide anything confidential.”
Taeyong sighs. “Kun, you’ve known me for eighteen years, will you please drop the formalities? We got hired here together, for Christ’s sake.”
“I prefer to keep things formal in the workplace,” Kun says, wondering how many more times he’s going to say that before the day is over. “Now, what did you need? Unless you just wanted to chat.”
“You realise we live in this facility, right? We are always in the workplace.”
“What did you need, Agent Lee?”
Taeyong chews at the inside of his cheek. “Well, I was wondering if you wanted to get dinner with me,” he begins. “And outside of the building. I’ve been craving barbecue lately, and I haven’t heard you say my name in ages.”
“I don’t know… I have so much I need to do in preparation for this mission. I need to brush up on my German, I haven’t been there since the Orion mission–”
“Kun.” He stops talking, looking at Taeyong. “It will take an hour, two hours max. Please, just come have a meal with me. I miss talking to my best friend like that’s actually what we are. We aren’t just acquaintances.”
His tone makes something stir uncomfortably in Kun’s stomach. When he thinks about it, he hasn’t gone out with Taeyong in almost two years. The realisation makes his heart drop. He’s been so focused on his job that he hadn’t even thought about how it might be affecting Taeyong. He nods.
“Alright, let’s go get dinner,” he says, standing and patting at his pockets for his wallet. “I’ll pay. We should order drinks as well.”
Taeyong lights up, jumping from his seat and pulling his jacket on. “Are you serious right now? We’re gonna go get dinner? And drinks? You and me?”
Kun smiles and squeezes Taeyong’s shoulder. “I’ll even call you by your first name.”
Yina pops up as well, her eyes wide. “Kun, you’re going out? May we tag along?” A small group of people stand from their seats as well, looking at him expectantly.
“I’m going to have dinner with my best friend for the first time in two years,” Taeyong says, steering Kun toward the door. “I would prefer if you guys did not join us tonight.”
Everyone’s shoulders slump just slightly, and they all retake their seats, returning to their work. Kun huffs out a breath as Taeyong pushes the button for the elevator. “Do you think everyone is craving barbecue lately? Should we see about bringing some back for them?”
Taeyong laughs as they step into the elevator. “Oh, Qian Kun. You have no idea how popular you are, do you?”
“Everyone on our floor has had a crush on you at least once, may it be romantic or platonic,” Taeyong sighs, checking his watch before putting his hands in his pockets. “When Qian Kun is doing something other than working, everyone wants to tag along to get a peek of what he’s really like.”
Kun frowns. “I’m not that different out of work, am I?”
“Just a little bit.”
Kun doesn’t say anything, stepping into the corner when the elevator stops on another floor. He bows politely to the man and woman that get on and eyes Taeyong from the other side of the elevator as he strikes up a conversation with them. He tries to recall how he acted before he was hired, but he only draws blanks. He can’t even remember the last time he left the facility. He had to have gone shopping for something at some point, right?
The elevator doors open and the couple steps out first, and Kun quickly gathers his wits and steps out with Taeyong. It’s cold outside, and Kun briefly wonders if he has a winter coat he should start using. Who knows what the weather will be like in Germany, anyway. Taeyong bumps his shoulder, shooting him a small smile.
“It’s been a while, hasn’t it Kun?”
He knows what he’s asking for. He can feel the plea radiating off of him like heat, so Kun offers his own smile, awkward as it may be, and speaks.
“It had been a while, Taeyong. I’m sorry I made you wait so long.”
He knows Taeyong will get emotional, so he says nothing else. Regardless, Taeyong wraps an arm around Kun’s shoulder and pulls him close enough to knock their heads together, a laugh escaping his mouth in a cloud of fog.
“You don’t have to apologise to me, you know,” he begins. “Yeah, it made me kind of sad, but this is something that you’ve talked about doing for as long as I’ve known you. I have no right in getting upset with you for losing yourself in something you love.”
“Thank you,” Kun says. “I feel guilty though, no matter what you tell me. It’s not something a best friend should do–put their career over their relationship.”
“Shut up, Qian Kun.” Kun’s eyes go wide and he turns his head to look at Taeyong. “I just told you I’m not upset with you, okay? So don’t go moping around feeling like an asshole when I was never offended by you to begin with.”
Taeyong pulls open the door to the restaurant and ushers Kun in without giving him a chance to respond. They take a table by the window and Kun blows into his hands to get some warmth back in his fingers once they take their seats. A young woman comes with a bottle of soju and some water, eyeing Kun curiously.
“Hi, Taeyong,” she says, still looking at Kun as she sets the drinks down. “Who’s this?”
Taeyong laughs when Kun gives him a panicked look across the table. “This is my best friend, Kun.”
Mina’s eyes widen immediately, a hand coming to cover her mouth as she bows in apology. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry.” When she straightens, her cheeks are flushed. “I’ve heard a lot about you, but never got the chance to see you. Please forgive me for staring.”
Kun lets himself laugh and bows his head just slightly. “It’s nothing to worry about. It’s my own fault for never showing my face here.”
Mina gnaws on her lip, eyes darting between Kun and Taeyong. Kun clears his throat, uncomfortable, and it snaps Taeyong out of whatever trance he’d been in.
“Sorry, Mina. Can we get the regular?”
“Yes, of course.” She bows one more time in Kun’s direction. “I’m sorry again.”
Kun waves his hands. “Please, don’t apologise. I’m not offended in the slightest.”
Mina leaves and Taeyong grins at him from across the table. “You’re already so different.”
“When was the last time I heard you laugh?” Taeyong marvels to himself, his eyes wandering around the restaurant. “God… it must have been my birthday last year. Remember, Dongshik slipped on some whipped cream and even the ever-stoic Qian Kun couldn’t help but laugh.” He sighs happily. “Of course, you helped him up immediately, and Agent Qian was back.”
Kun bites the inside of his cheek as he watches Taeyong unscrew the soju cap. “I don’t even remember that,” he mumbles. “God, where has my mind been all this time?”
Taeyong shrugs, pouring the two of them a drink. “On saving the world or something, I don’t know.” He hands Kun his glass. “But what matters is that I’m finally having a drink with you after two years.”
Kun attempts to smile before knocking his drink back, sputtering at the taste. “Fuck, I haven’t had anything more than a beer in forever.”
Taeyong throws his head back and laughs. “You’ve never been much of a drinker, anyway. You should take it easy, I can’t be dragging you back to the facility. Plus, you’re getting up early to begin your training, aren’t you?”
Kun nods and pours himself another drink. “I’ll be fine, though. Nothing some hangover medicine won’t fix.”
Taeyong watches Kun fondly as he takes his second shot. “I’ve missed you, Kun.”
Kun fidgets in his seat and sips from his glass of water. “I know you have. I won’t apologise anymore, but I’ll say that I’ve missed you too.” He nods his head when Mina returns with their food. “I think I really needed this.”
Taeyong lights the stove and begins placing meat onto the pan. “Let’s pretend we don’t have a job to get back to in the morning, yeah? We’re college students all over again, just for tonight.”
Kun smiles. “Just for tonight.”
There is a lingering feeling of regret when Kun wakes up in the morning, emphasised by the pounding in his head and the sick feeling in his stomach. He can hardly remember making it back to the building, but when he looks at his bedside table, his phone is plugged in and there’s medicine waiting for him, with a note from Taeyong. He smiles and folds the slip of paper once he’s read it, placing it into the drawer of his table before cracking open the medicine and swallowing it down. It makes him shiver and gag just slightly when he gets it down, but he wastes no more time and pulls on his training clothes and leaves his room.
The lights in the hall are dim, but bright enough to make Kun’s head throb more in discontent. He squints as he makes his way to the elevator and toward the basement. He prays to any god out there that the medicine kicks in before Ten joins him.
However, much to his dismay, Ten is already in the training room when Kun arrives. He’s sitting on the mats, bending his top half over his legs. Kun fights the urge to turn around and leave before he’s noticed, but he can hear the countdown ticking away in his head, so he shuffles farther into the room and slips off his shoes. At the noise, Ten lifts his head and smiles up at him.
“Hey there, stranger. You look like shit.”
“I’m older than you, you know,” Kun says, sitting down across from him and beginning to stretch as well. “You told me you were going to come down later.”
“Yeah, well.” Ten stands with a groan and bends to touch his toes. “I do actually care about this mission. I’m not going to slack off, contrary to popular belief.”
Kun feels his jaw clench instinctually. “Alright. I was thinking we should do combat training, but we should focus more heavily on disarming.”
Ten smiles. “Disarming is my favourite!”
“...Right.” Kun stands and stretches his arms behind his head. “We don’t know what kinds of weapons they’ll be carrying, but I think it may be safe to assume that most of them will be carrying some sort of gun with them at all times. We should work on disarming blades as well since those are easier for someone to hide and pull out quickly.”
“I managed to figure out what security is like.” Kun eyes him curiously. “Every guard is carrying a SIG-Sauer P229. Disarming them will be easy, considering it’s what we train with here at the agency. According to Yangyang, Neumark is always carrying a single-action revolver. Yangyang isn’t sure of the dimensions, but it’s Neumark’s pride and joy. In case we get caught while fleeing the premises, they’ve got 408 CheyTacs lining the roof of the building that the party is being held at. They’ve got distance and speed, so we need to be sure to get out without being seen if we want to increase our chances of surviving.”
“Wait, I’m sorry,” Kun interrupts. “How do you know this?”
“Like I said, I’m taking this seriously. While you were at dinner with Taeyong, I did some research.” He taps a notebook beside him with his foot and Kun feels guilt ping in his chest. “Stop worrying about it, I know you are. I can’t let you do all the work.”
Kun swallows thickly and walks to the weapons wall. “Is there anything else?”
“Yes.” Ten picks up the notebook beside him and flips through the pages. “All of the guards working for Neumark have been trained in Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Muay Lao. We only know Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, so we need to be very careful about what we don’t know. I suggest we work on basics in Muay Lao before we leave.” He snaps the notebook shut with a sigh. “In terms of knives, Yangyang says they don’t all have one certain type of knife. They have close-range weapons most suited to each individual, so we will need to be careful about that as well.”
Kun shifts his weight on his feet. “So, we need to get information on Muay Lao and practice with several types of knives, correct.”
Ten hums. “We still should practice what we already know. We can’t be rusty in getting people onto their backs.”
Kun feels pleasantly surprised about the information he’s been given, but maybe it’s his headache disappearing that’s putting him in a good mood. “You’re right. Let’s brush up on pinning before we get to the more complicated things.”
Before Kun can even begin to form his next thought, Ten is twisting his arm behind his back, pulling him away from the table, and slamming him into the mats. Kun gasps for air when his back makes contact with the mats, and Ten crawls on top of him, straddling his chest and pinning Kun’s arms on either side of his head.
“You need…to warn me…before you do something like that,” Kun says, still struggling to bring air into his lungs.
Ten grins. “No one is going to warn you before pinning you down when we’re on this mission. You should be on high alert at all times, starting now.”
Kun glares up at him for a moment before ripping his arms out of Ten’s grasp and flipping them over, now straddling Ten’s chest and pressing his thumbs into his hand valley points. Ten cries out, looking up at Kun in shock.
“Then, you should know to keep contact with enemy pressure points to ensure that they don’t do what I’ve just done to you.”
Ten’s nostrils flare as he continues to look up at Kun in annoyance, breathing heavily to keep from making another noise. Kun can see his jaw tensing every couple of seconds, and Kun smiles, satisfied.
“Do you want me to get off of you?”
Ten huffs out a laugh. “Honestly, I’m kind of enjoying this.”
Kun slides off of Ten in a matter of seconds, scooting several feet away. Ten laughs as he sits up and begins massaging his hands. “You’re right, though. I couldn’t have flipped you back with you pressing into my hands like that.” He stands up, flexes his fingers. “I never thought to make use of pressure points, I’ll make sure to keep that in mind.”
Kun stands as well, clearing his throat awkwardly. “They can be very useful when you’re in a pinch.” Ten looks at him with a silent smile. Kun clears his throat again. “Shall we practice a little more combat, then begin working on Muay Lao?”
“Sounds good to me.”
They work on form and quick attacks for a little while longer, and Kun is sure to slide off of Ten quickly after pinning him. Ten must have noticed, because his smile gets wider and more amused each time. When they begin Muay Lao, they run out of energy very quickly. Ten minutes in, they’re laying on the mats, panting up at the ceiling.
“Maybe we should just give up if they start using this on us,” Ten wheezes, pushing his hair away from his forehead. “This is… really fucking hard.”
“Language,” Kun says, swallowing on a dry throat as he moves into a sitting position. He unsticks his shirt from his chest and fans at the back of his neck. “We just need to know the basics. If things go smoothly, we will not need to experience full-blown combat.”
Ten nods. “Yeah, yeah, whatever.” He sits up. “But we can’t assume that things are going to go swimmingly, either.”
“I never said that,” Kun bites. “I’m simply insinuating–”
“Whatever,” Ten interrupts, standing and stretching one more time. “Let’s just get this finished before breakfast.”
For some reason, Ten’s reaction makes Kun uncomfortable. He rocks back and forth on his heels and watches as Ten makes his way to the tablet sitting open on the table to look more into the correct footing.
“Agent Lee, can I ask you a question?”
“Ask away, Agent Qian,” he says, keeping his back turned.
“Why do people say you’re so difficult to work with?”
Kun can see the way Ten’s shoulders tense from across the mat. He locks the tablet and sets it down, finally turning to face Kun. His mouth is set in a straight line as he looks Kun straight on.
“You’re really telling me that you don’t know?”
Kun’s eyebrows draw together and he takes a step forward. “I’m sorry if I’m supposed to know, but all I know is that people have never enjoyed being on missions with you.”
Ten laughs. “I guess I’m not entirely surprised, considering how you care more about work than you care about your personal life.”
That hurts. “Agent Lee.”
“Apologies.” Ten sits down, crossing his legs. Slowly, Kun makes his way over and sits across from him. “I guess in a way I can be a little bit annoying at times. I always get so excited when I’m given an assignment, I can forget that this is actually a serious job.”
“You’ve seemed helpful enough so far.”
“Thank you,” he says, bowing his head slightly. “But everyone I’ve worked with hasn’t been annoyed by that. They just use that as an excuse when…” He shakes his head, looking down at his hands. “We don’t need to be having this conversation right now.”
Kun tilts his head, confused. “What?”
“Kun, please.” Ten looks up at him through his hair. “I do have shame about some things, you know. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Why are you even asking me?”
“Well, Mister Seo got onto the elevator with me yesterday.” Ten’s eyebrows raise in question. “He tried telling me that I needed to be a little more open-minded with you. That you aren’t as bad as people say.”
“Ugh, he said that?” Ten grimaces. “God, that’s so embarrassing.”
“I’d heard that you sabotaged missions, and when I brought it up to him, he looked so shocked,” Kun continues, fiddling with his fingers. “I thought it was because he didn’t know that about you.”
“No, Kun, I do not sabotage missions. I would not have this job anymore if I did that even once.” Ten runs his hands down his face and groans. “I swear to god, for someone so serious and observant, you’re too gullible for your own good.”
“I suppose I’m aware of that now, and I apologise.”
“It’s fine,” he says, finally looking Kun in the eyes. “I would simply prefer it if you did not make those kinds of assumptions about me from this day forward.”
Kun nods. “I won’t.”
“Good.” Ten gnaws at the inside of his cheek for a moment before standing up and checking his watch. “The canteen is open now. I think we should get something to eat, and while we digest, we can study Muay Lao a bit more and do some light training.” He holds his hand out to help Kun up. “I found some fighting videos that look helpful.”
Kun lets Ten pull him up and nods. “I think I’ll skip breakfast.”
“Are you going to stay here?”
“No,” he moves to gather his things. “I have a couple of questions for Secretary Xiao.”
He can feel Ten’s eyes burning into his back. “Alright, well. You should still eat something. I can’t have you fainting on me while we’re training.”
“You don’t need to worry about that,” Kun assures, offering a small smile. “I’ll be leaving first.”
He hears a faint goodbye as he turns to make his way to the elevator, but then he stops, gnawing on his lip. He turns back and watches Ten gather his things for a moment before clearing his throat. Ten jumps slightly, looking at Kun with wide eyes.
“Do you think that someday in the future,” Kun swallows, nervous. “You might tell me?”
“About what happened to you?”
Ten straightens slowly, his grip on his bag strap loose. Kun can feel him analysing him and it makes him sweat. “The problem with you,” he begins, “is that I can never tell when you’re being serious.”
“I’m not one to joke.” Kun squirms. “Especially about something that is clearly distressing to you.”
Ten looks at him in silence long enough to make Kun anxious. When he finally opens his mouth, he lets out a sigh.
“Maybe I could tell you, one day,” he says. “When I have enough reason to trust you.”
“What does that mean?”
“You have a Xiao Dejun to meet and I have a breakfast to eat.” Ten turns away from him, crouching down to shove his last few things into his bag.
“I will do my best to give you faith in me,” Kun says, nodding. “I’m not sure how I can do that, but I will find a way.”
Ten’s movements pause ever so slightly, but he zips his bag as if it never happened, and Kun thinks he looks like he’s just glitched. “Okay, Kun.”
Kun takes that as his cue to leave, so he turns and continues his trail to the elevator. His trip up is quick, with no interruptions, and he does his best to wipe as much sweat from his face and neck as he can before he arrives on the director’s floor. Dejun is sitting at his desk on his phone, and the smile he gives Kun fades quickly.
“Can I get some information from you?”
“Maybe?” He half-answers. “I don’t know, it really depends on the information you’re hoping to receive.”
“Do you have the names of the agents that have worked with Agent Lee?”
“Agent Lee as in your partner, I’m assuming?” Kun nods, and Dejun frowns. “I thought you’d know their names, what with everything they like to say about Agent Lee. However, if you don’t already know, and he won’t tell you himself, I’m afraid I can’t offer you that information.”
Kun chews on the inside of his cheek. “Then can I know what happened on all of those missions?”
“I think you already know the answer to that question, Kun.”
His tone makes Kun uneasy. “Is the director in a meeting?”
“No, but–” Kun turns on his heel and makes his way toward the director’s door, and Dejun jumps up. “Wait, he may not be busy, but you shouldn’t just barge into his office!”
“I’m not going to barge in,” Kun says, rapping his knuckles on the wood. “I prefer to keep things professional in the workplace.”
Dejun sighs and falls back into his seat. There’s a muffled answer from the director’s office and Kun enters, closing the door behind him. The director is spreading cream cheese across a bagel, and he smiles at Kun, gesturing to the chair across from him with his knife.
“Good morning, Kun. What a pleasant surprise. Please, have a seat.”
“I’m sorry Director, I won’t be staying for long,” Kun says, bowing slightly. “I just had a question regarding Agent Lee.”
The director stops, setting his food down to give Kun his attention. “Has a problem occurred already?”
“Yes, but he isn’t the problem.” The director cocks an eyebrow. “I was wondering if I could know the names of his previous mission partners.”
The director sighs heavily and picks his knife back up. “Is that all you needed to know?” Kun nods. “I’m assuming you’ve already asked Dejun for this information, and he said he couldn’t, correct?”
“Correct, Sir. But–”
“Then you know the rules.” The director sniffs. “If that’s all, I would like to enjoy your breakfast. I would suggest you go eat something as well. Training can be exhausting.”
Kun’s jaw locks and he bows stiffly. “Yes, Sir. Enjoy your breakfast.”
The director says nothing, so Kun turns and leaves without another word. Dejun looks at him warily over his monitor as he breezes past and punches the button for the elevator.
“He wouldn’t tell me their names.” Kun says simply, stepping into the elevator and swiping his card.
Dejun sighs, looking at Kun pitifully. “I’m sorry Kun. I told you, though.”
“Yes, I’m aware.”
The doors close and Kun slumps against the wall. His heart is pounding uncomfortably in his chest and he closes his eyes, taking a deep breath through his nose. When the doors open into the canteen, he bakes a beeline for the table Johnny and Ten had been sitting at the day before. Sure enough, they’re in the same place, giggling to themselves. Johnny notices Kun first and his smile drops as he nods his head toward him. Ten smiles up at Kun briefly, until he notices the look on his face. It gives Kun deja vu.
“Whoa, what happened to you? It’s been less than ten minutes.”
Kun takes a seat beside Johnny, who stiffens immediately, and folds his hands on the table. “Will you give me the names of the people you’ve worked with in the past?”
Ten stops chewing. “Is that why you went to see him?” Kun nods. “Fuck’s sake, Kun. Why would you do that?”
“What’s going on?” Johnny asks.
Kun ignores him. “I didn’t want to ask you in case you became uncomfortable, so I thought I would go to the director before I came to you.”
Ten massages his temples, his eyebrows drawn together. “Jesus, Kun, I didn’t want to tell you anything for a reason. This is a moment when you just need to leave well enough alone. If you don’t know the names of the people that have worked with me, then you don’t need to know them.”
“Something just doesn’t seem right. If I could find a way to–”
“Kun, I’m sorry, but if this is your way of trying to get me to trust you so I tell you what happened, you’re doing this for nothing.” Ten stabs at an egg roll. “If anything, you’re just making things worse.”
Kun frowns. “My apologies. I don’t like making you uncomfortable, but I don’t want other people making you uncomfortable either.”
Johnny looks between the two of them nervously, and Ten looks at Kun, unimpressed. “Drop it, Kun.”
“I will. I’m sorry again.”
It’s awkward now, and Kun begins picking at his cuticles, avoiding Ten’s eyes. Johnny squirms beside him, and it transfers to him, making him shiver. The conversations around them continue, and Kun is briefly thankful that no one had decided to listen in. He stands, pats his shorts down, and bows his head slightly.
“I’m sorry, I’m going to go.” He bows his head. “I think we should take a break from training for the rest of the day,” he says to Ten as he begins stepping away. “Let’s focus on brushing up on our German for now. Tomorrow we can continue combat.”
Ten furrows his eyebrows but nods anyway. “Alright, I guess we can do that.” He sets his chopsticks down. “I’m sorry for snapping at you, Kun. Can we meet later tonight, though? Just to talk.”
Kun hesitates. “Um, sure.”
He turns and leaves before Ten can answer, speed walking toward the elevator. He’s huffing by the time he presses at the button, and a man shuffles in beside him, swiping his own card and pressing the button for his floor. He rushes into his room and takes what would barely constitute a shower, before getting dressed and making his way back to the elevator. He punches the button for his office floor and spends the entire ascent drumming his fingers against his thighs. When the doors open he slips through a group of people and reaches his desk in ten seconds, pulling his chair out and falling into it. A few people look up from their work to eye him warily. Taeyong slides out and nods his head in question.
“You didn’t even dry your hair. Did you oversleep?”
Kun shakes his head and turns on his computer. “I’ve already trained with Agent Lee.”
Taeyong hums. “Ah, so is that why you look so freaked out? Was it horrible?”
Kun can feel several pairs of eyes on him now as they wait for his answer. He resists the urge to roll his eyes. “Agent Lee has been wonderful, actually,” he begins. “One of the most helpful and capable partners I’ve had so far.”
The small area erupts in whispers and murmurs, and Taeyong regards him with suspicious eyes. “I don’t believe you.”
“I’m being serious.” Kun brings up his email, not offering the people around him any reaction. “He…” He pauses. “I think the people that have complained after working with him are full of shit.”
The murmurs turn into loud exclaims that Kun finds very hard to ignore. Taeyong grabs at his shoulder, shaking him. “What the hell, dude? You felt completely opposed to him less than twenty-four hours ago. Is he brainwashing you or something?”
Kun rolls his shoulders to remove Taeyong’s hand. “I don’t feel at all obligated to answer your questions. It’s not anyone’s business.” He gives Taeyong a sharp look. “I’m sorry Agent Lee, but I really need to continue my preparations for this mission. May I remind you that it is confidential.”
Taeyong peeks at his screen and cocks an eyebrow. “An email to the director’s secretary is confidential and crucial to your mission?” Kun glares. “Alright, alright.” He raises his hands in surrender and rolls back into his cubicle.
Kun sighs and types out an email, reading it over once before pressing send.
Apologies for the way I acted earlier. I realise that something of this nature is not any of my business. If I was meant to know anything, the knowledge would have been granted to me before. I hope you can forgive my attitude towards you earlier.
He gets a response almost immediately, assuring him that he has nothing to be sorry for. Kun leans back in his chair and sighs in relief. He feels restless and scatter-brained, but he gathers his phone and glasses and makes his way to the library to begin his studies. Taeyong gives him a look as Kun is pushing in his chair, and in a moment of weakness and guilt, Kun offers him a small smile and nods his head in acknowledgment. Taeyong smiles back, but his eyebrains remain drawn together in concern. All though he itches to question him, Kun decides not to read into it too much and heads for the elevator, pulling his jacket over his shoulders.
Ten nearly sends Kun flying out of his seat when he drops a textbook on the table in front of him. The few people also in the library give him a dirty look and he bows in apology before taking a seat and smiling across the table at Kun. He swallows a reprimand and nods in greeting.
“I thought we weren’t meeting until tonight.”
Ten laughs, eyes wide in shock. “Kun, it’s six o’clock. How long have you been here?”
Kun shakes his head. “It’s not six,” he denies, checking his watch. “Oh.”
“Have you eaten at all today?” Kun takes a moment to think, then shakes his head again. “Oh my god, come on. We’re getting dinner. Up.”
Kun stands from his seat and gathers his things, frazzles. “Where are we going?”
Kun gives him a curious look. “The canteen? Unless you want to go out somewhere. I know a really good ramen place a couple of blocks away.”
Kun hesitates. “I went out last night.”
“So? It’s normal to go outside two days in a row. Sometimes, people go out even more than that. Every day, even.”
“Well, I don’t have a coat and it’s cold outside.”
Ten rolls his eyes. “I have a few jackets, one of them should fit you.” He must notice the look of panic on Kun’s face, because he laughs. “You’re going to be fine, alright? Now, come with me.”
Kun can’t think of another excuse, so he follows behind Ten miserably, hugging his books and notebook to his chest. He’s surprised to find that Ten’s room is in the same wing as his, and just a few doors down. He doesn't say anything, however, and stands awkwardly at the door as Ten shuffles through a closet of jackets.
"Ah, here we are," he says, pulling something out. "This should suit you, I think."
It does suit Kun, actually. It's a long, beige trenchcoat that, when Kun pulls it on, falls to his knees. It's a tight around the shoulders, so he keeps it unbuttoned and smooths the front down. "This is lovely, thank you."
"Anytime." Ten grins. "It looks good on you. You should keep it."
Kun feels himself grow warm. "Oh, no. I couldn't..."
"If I keep it, I'm never going to wear it," Ten says. "It's a bit too big on me, and it’s not really my style. Just keep it."
Kun clears his throat. "Alright. Thank you."
Ten hums in acknowledgment and then breezes past Kun, shutting the door behind him. "Now, I know I said there was a nice ramen place a few blocks away, but there's also a really nice barbecue place, too."
For whatever reason, Kun doesn't mention that he was just there the night before. "I'll go wherever you take me."
Ten's face scrunches up as he thinks, tapping his chin for a moment. "Let's do barbecue."
Kun nods. "Okay."
"You're far too complaisant," Ten huffs as they make their way back to the elevator. "Do you ever take the reins, or do you just sit around and wait for someone to make decisions for you?"
"I tried to tell you I didn't want to come."
"No you didn't. If you didn't want to come, you would have said directly. I know that you are, at the very least, honest."
Kun feels himself pout ever so slightly. He shoves his hands in his pockets and stops short. "I don't have my wallet."
"I'll pay." Kun makes a pained face, and Ten rolls his eyes. "It's fine, for the love of god. I don't spend much money, anyway."
The walk to the restaurant is fairly quiet, mainly because the two of them spend it with their faces in the collars of their coats, trying to keep warm. The crowd in the street is large tonight, and Kun bumps into three people's shoulders and loses Ten twice before Ten loops his arm through Kun's and pulls him closer. Neither of them say anything.
The restaurant is equally as busy as the streets, and there are only free tables in the middle of the restaurant. They find their seats and pull their coats off, throwing them around the backs of their chairs, and Ten shouts for water and beer. Kun sees a familiar face and immediately ducks his head, eyes wide. Ten looks at him curiously.
"Oh! Wait, weren't you here just yesterday?" Mina places their drinks down and smiles at Ten before turning her attention back to Kun. "Who's this?"
"My name is Ten," he answers for Kun, giving him a look across the table. "We work together."
"Oh, lovely to meet you!" She bows. “What should I bring for the two of you?”
“Bulgogi and pork belly? Kimchi? Rice?” Ten suggests, asking Kun with his eyes. He nods.
She turns on her heel and retreats into the kitchen, and Kun barely manages to slide off his chair in embarrassment. Ten watches him with a grin as he opens their beers.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed about, Kun.” He slides Kun drink across the table, drinking from his own. “But I am curious, why didn’t you tell me that you were just here the night before? We could have gone for ramen instead.”
Kun shrugs. “I don’t know… you seemed to want barbecue.”
“But what about you?”
“I don’t mind either way. We tend to be served the same things at the canteen, anyway.”
“But that’s the point of eating out!” Ten exclaims, banging his open palm on the table. Kun flinches, looking around the restaurant, but everyone is continuing with their meals, speaking loudly over their grills. “You need variety, Qian Kun, not the same meal every day!”
Kun takes a sip from his beer. “I’ll have been working with the agency for eight years next month. It’s something you get used to with time.”
“Well, I’ve been here for six years, and I still haven’t gotten used to it.” Ten rests his elbows on the table and cups his chin in his hands. “Anyway, since we’re not in the workplace–”
“What?! Why not?” Ten moans, kicking his feet against Kun’s shoulders. “Why are you so against calling me by my name? Are you really going to call me Agent Lee while I’m buying you dinner?”
“I have no reason to call you by anything while we are at dinner,” Kun says stubbornly. “We’re just having a meal.”
Ten grumbles under his breath, but Mina returns with platters of meats and lettuce before he can say anything, telling them to enjoy their meal before disappearing again. Kun turns on the gas for the grill and flicks water onto it until it’s hot enough. Ten lays the meat down and they begin eating. Ten sneaks glances at Kun throughout the meal, and Kun gets progressively more and more bothered.
“Is there something on my face?”
“You keep looking at me, and I’m wondering if there’s something on my face that you’re waiting for me to notice,” Kun says. “So, is there?”
Ten giggles and knocks back the rest of his beer. “ Do you think you’re well-oiled for our trip to Germany? ”
The sudden switch in language and subject startles Kun. “ Yes, I think my time in the library was useful. ” He switches back to Korean. “Now will you answer my question?”
Ten inspects a piece of meat on the grill, humming. “I think I might need a little more practice, but Neumark can’t be upset with an Asian man for not knowing a European language, can he?”
Kun sighs and concedes. “No, I don’t think he can.”
Ten pulls his wallet out of his coat pocket and rakes through a few bills, tossing them on the table and then pointing to the last piece of meat. “You want it?”
Ten finishes off the rest of their food as Kun finishes his beer and stands up, pulling his jacket on. Ten follows quickly behind him as he makes his way to the door and grabs a toothpick for himself. Ten shouts his thanks as they leave and they hear an unintelligible response.
“Mm, that was good,” Ten sighs happily, his toothpick dangling between his lips. “I haven’t had some good barbecue in a while.”
Kun nods. “While I had it yesterday, it was still quite good. Thank you for paying.”
“Bah, it’s nothing.” Ten waves his hand dismissively, smiling. “I am a little disappointed, though.”
“You’re just as much of a bore outside of the agency as you are in,” he complains. “Maybe you’re a little more awkward, because you’ve forgotten how to speak to normal people, but you’re not much better at work”
Kun makes a face. “I can be fun. Taeyong knows this about me.”
“Oh, so you’ll call him by his name while he isn’t even here, but you still won’t say mine ?”
“He’s my best friend.”
“Is that what it takes?” Ten asks, but doesn’t give him time to answer. “You know, you won’t be able to call me Agent Lee on our mission. You’ll have to use my name while we’re out.”
“I’ll be using your alias name, not your real one.”
Ten whines. “You’re the worst.” Kun stops at the crosswalk, but Ten keeps moving, continuing to complain loudly.
“Um, Agent Lee,” Kun calls quietly. A couple beside him are watching on with concern. Kun looks to his left. “It isn’t our turn to cross, and there’s a car coming.”
“It’s not that hard!” Ten cries, turning around and spreading his arms. Kun’s fingers twitch. “Try it! Ten Lee.”
“Get out of the road, please,” Kun shouts. “There are cars coming.” The couple beside him are speaking too, giving Kun looks as they call Ten’s name.
Ten smiles. “See, they can do it!”
“Are you insane?” Kun pulls at his hair. “Get out of the fucking road before you die!”
“Sir, just do what he wants, or get him out of the road yourself,” the woman beside him says, her grip on her boyfriend’s jacket sleeve tight. “Don’t just let him get hit.”
“Jesus,” Kun huffs. “Ten, get out of the fucking road.”
“Now, was that so hard?” Ten begins walking back toward the sidewalk, slowly.
There’s the honking of a horn and Kun leans forward without thinking, yanking Ten out of the road with enough force to cause the both of them to stumble back. A car zooms past, the driver yelling expletives at them as they pass, and Kun straightens, glaring down at Ten. He smiles up at him, still pressed against him.
“Don’t fucking do that,” he hisses. “Get off of me, we need to get back.”
“You’re kind of sexy when you swear,” Ten says, stepping back and raising his shoulders to his ears, shivering.
“Are you hurt?”
“Not really,” Ten begins, looking down at his legs. “I think you might have sprained my ankle pulling me so hard, but other than that, I’m perfectly splendid.” He grins. “I got you to say my name.”
Kun rolls his eyes. He’s still trying to get his heart to return to normal, but it continues to thump so loud enough against his ribs that he can hear his blood in his ears. “Let’s go.”
Ten is nearly skipping the entire way back, and it only succeeds in pissing Kun off more. So much for the sprained ankle , he thinks. They step into the elevator and with no reason for Ten to skip, the space is charged enough to make even him fidget uncomfortably. The doors open on their floor and Kun follows Ten off, making him look behind him curiously.
“I know I freaked you out, but you don’t have to walk me to my room.”
“I’m not walking you,” Kun deadpans. “We room on the same floor.”
The light returns to Ten’s eyes immediately. “Really? What room?”
Kun closes his eyes and sighs. “409.”
“No way!” He bounces. “I’m 412!”
“Yes, Agent Lee, I’m aware. I visited your room earlier.” Ten pouts and Kun stops in front of his door. “I’ll see you in the morning. Make sure you ice your ankle. We have training to do tomorrow.”
“Fine. Goodnight, Qian Kun!”
Kun closes the door behind him and bangs his forehead against the wood. He pulls off his jacket and tosses it onto his chair and turns on the lamp beside it. He stands still for a moment looking at the jacket. Why on earth would he get himself a jacket that clearly doesn’t fit him? He shakes his head and begins undressing. He doesn’t care enough for it to keep him up.
Aliases have been created for Qian Kun and Ten Lee. Qian Kun is Kong Kaiyao. Ten Lee is Lang Tiaorou. The agents will be posing as a couple from Hangzhou. The flight to Berlin, Germany leaves the ground at 0640 tomorrow, November 20. Agents are expected to be fully prepared in linguistics and combat.
Kun squints at the screen with a scowl on his face. Ten is leaning over his shoulder, breathing heavily into his ear.
“They made me a fucking chick ?” Ten cries, moving away and collapsing onto the mat. “Why? Do they think I just happen to have clothes that a woman would wear? Why do we have to be a couple? Why am I the woman?!”
Kun sighs and locks the tablet, setting it on the table before sitting on the mat beside Ten. “Well, you are closer to the height of a woman.”
Ten turns his head and glares at him. “That doesn’t change the fact that they’re making me a woman for virtually no reason. We could’ve been gay! And why are we meant to pretend we’re in a relationship when we can just be colleagues or old friends?!”
“A couple is more solid and genuine when in a situation like this. Old friends or colleagues can seem suspicious to a suspicious person.”
“You’re far too calm about this,” Ten accuses, moving into a sitting position. “Do you want to date me or something?”
“No,” Kun says. “I’ve been in fake relationships with both men and women while on missions. This is nothing new to me.”
“Huh.” Ten frowns for a moment but lets a smile twitch at the corners of his mouth. “Does this mean we have to kiss?”
Kun swallows. “I have never had to kiss a fake partner.”
“But, we should practice, right?” Ten scoots closer, his smile growing. “You know, just in case.”
Kun scoots away, shaking his head. “I don’t think that will be necessary. We have far more important things to be training for.” Ten kicks his feet in protest, groaning when Kun stands and picks the tablet back up. “We’re leaving for Berlin in less than twenty-four hours. We need to make sure we know the basics here.”
“I feel like we know the basics well enough,” Ten tries as he gets to his feet. “We know how to block, we know how to throw a few punches, give a few kicks…”
Kun sighs and looks at Ten through his bangs. “Is this you telling me that you want to get breakfast?”
“I’m in desperate need of a coffee.”
“Fine,” Kun says. “Breakfast and coffee, but straight back here. We may have figured out the basics for Muay Lao, but we have not trained with knives at all. Throwing knives are a concern of mine with these people.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Ten hums, already gathering his things and stomping into his shoes. “Let’s go before they run out of coffee. The first time that happened to me, I cried.”
Kun slips his shoes on and follows Ten into the elevator, stretching his arms above his head as they begin their ascent. Ten wrinkles his nose.
Kun drops his arms. “Of course I stink. I’m sure you do too.”
“You are the least fun person to hang out with.” Kun raises his eyebrows in question. “I can’t even tease you, because you take it too seriously and then just end up hurting my feelings instead.”
“Did I hurt your feelings by saying you stink?” Kun asks. “I’m sorry. I can’t actually smell you.”
Ten looks up at him blankly for a moment before huffing out a laugh, rolling his eyes as he turns his gaze to the opening doors of the elevator. “I give up.”
Kun follows Ten to the food bar quietly, feeling confused, but he doesn’t say anything and fills his tray. He waits for Ten to get his coffee and trails behind him as he makes his way to his table with Johnny. Ten slows halfway and turns to look at Kun, furrowing his eyebrows.
“Are you eating with me?”
“Am I not allowed to?”
Ten turns back around and continues toward the table. Johnny notices them and smiles, bowing in Kun’s direction. “No, you’re allowed to, but I thought you’d be eating with Taeyong or something.”
Kun sits down beside Johnny. “Agent Lee doesn’t eat breakfast. He prefers to sleep in and then get straight to work.” He stabs his chopsticks into his rice. “I normally eat my meals at my desk.”
Ten and Johnny both frown at him. “That’s kind of sad, Kun,” Ten says, stirring sugar into his coffee. “You’re welcome to eat with us anytime. Right, Johnny?”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Johnny says. “I just thought you like, didn’t like me, or something. So I was wondering why you kept coming and sitting next to me.”
“I think you’re perfectly lovely,” Kun denies. “I apologise for coming off as rude before, I never really learned to interact with people in the workplace.”
“Were you this boring in college too?”
“No, it’s fine.” Kun swallows down a spoonful of soup and wipes his mouth on a napkin before continuing. “If you ask Agent Lee, I was a lot of fun in college. I don’t remember much, unfortunately, I feel like it breezed past me and suddenly I was moving into the agency and starting my first mission.”
“Did you go to a lot of parties?” Ten asks, sipping from his coffee. “I bet you had a lot of one night stands.” He grunts when Johnny steps on his foot below the table.
Kun laughs uncomfortably. “I did go to my fair share of get-togethers, from what I can remember, but I didn’t just sleep with anyone.” He thinks for a moment. “I was only in two relationships through all of college, but neither of them lasted very long.”
Ten leans forward. “Really? What happened?”
Kun clears his throat. “Um, I don’t think this is something we should be talking about at work.”
“Come on, we’re practically off the clock right now. Plus, aren’t we supposed to get to know each other before this mission starts tomorrow?”
“Ten, if he doesn’t want to talk about it, don’t push it,” Johnny says sharply. “I’m sorry about him.”
“No, it’s okay,” Kun assures. “I’m sure it’s something I should talk about with more than just Agent Lee.” Ten grins and sets down his utensils. “I dated two girls, one my second year of university, and the other in my last year.”
“Did they dump you? Were you bad in bed? Emotionally distant?”
“I was gay, actually.” Ten and Johnny both choke on their coffee. “My first girlfriend broke up with me for being distant. I was uncomfortable when it came to holding her hand and kissing her. I broke up with my second girlfriend because I realised why I felt so strange about all of it.”
Ten hums and sits back in his seat, crossing his arms over his chest. “Well, this is certainly unexpected.” His gaze flickers to Johnny. “I was expecting you to be a straight virgin, and that was why you were so uptight.”
“I’m neither of those things.” Johnny chokes again. “However, I don’t understand what that has to do with my attitude.”
Ten throws his head back and laughs loudly. “This might be the best conversation I’ve had in my life.” He wipes at his eyes. “You really are the most interesting man alive, aren’t you?”
Kun is confused, so he doesn’t say anything, choosing to continue eating. Ten waits for a moment, in case Kun does have anything to say, before sighing and picking up his spoon. Eventually, Johnny continues his meal as well. Ten knocks his foot into Kun’s shin, making him drop his rice, and when he glares up at Ten, he has a smile on his face.
“Are you nearly finished?” Kun asks once he’s swallowed down his last mouthful of soup. “We should finish up training and begin packing for tomorrow. I believe we should begin speaking to each other in German starting later today as well.”
“Why not now?”
“I’m not fluent enough in German to talk about combat training in-depth,” Kun says, standing from his seat. “If you aren’t finished, I’ll meet you in the training room.”
“Wait, wait, I’m coming,” Ten chugs the rest of his coffee and stands, picking up his tray and following behind Kun. “I’ll see you later, Johnny!”
Kun sends an apologetic smile Johnny’s way, and Ten tugs on the back of his shirt as he passes him, sending him a look that tells him to hurry up. So Kun turns back and starts for the elevator, placing his tray in a bin by the kitchen. Ten is waiting for him, his hands in his pockets, and he hops into the elevator as soon as Kun is close enough.
“So,” he begins as soon as the elevator doors close. “You’re not a virgin?”
“Can we not talk about this, maybe?” Kun asks, feeling his neck grow hot. “I’m not entirely sure how you even managed to pull that one out of me, it’s really none of your business.”
“Was it a girl?”
“Agent Lee.” Kun glares down at Ten. “Forget about our breakfast conversation now. We have training to do.”
Ten groans and steps out of the elevator. “I feel like I’m suffering as your partner more than you’re suffering as mine.”
Kun ignores him. “Will you grab a couple of switchblades and boot knives?” He walks to the weapon wall and pulls four throwing knives from the mounds. “I’m sure these will be the basics.”
Ten drags his feet as he moves to join Kun at the wall. “No tomahawks?” He jokes. Kun gives him a look. “Alright, never mind.” He pulls the knives from the wall. “Are you going to throw knives at me?”
Kun shakes his head. “I won’t just be throwing them at you. And you’ll be doing the same to me.” Ten’s face scrunches. “I know what I’m doing, and as an employee of this agency, you should know what you’re doing as well.” He moves toward the closet across the room. “We’ll be wearing gear, so the only way we’ll get hurt is if we knick each other’s arms.”
“Knick?” Ten gawks. “Kun, throwing a knife at someone doesn’t result in a little cut. There’s a reason we’re practicing with them.”
“You’re being annoying.” Kun clips his vest shut. “Come get your gear.”
Ten grumbles, but pulls a vest from the closet as well, slipping it over his shoulders. “Please, do not aim at my head.”
“You can get a helmet too, if that will make you feel more secure.”
Ten glares. “I feel like you’re looking down on me.”
Kun shrugs, throws a knife up and catches it. “I don’t think I’m doing anything of the sort, but I’m sorry you feel that way.”
“The ever-courteous Qian Kun makes an appearance, ladies and gentlemen,” Ten says, shaking his fingers in Kun’s direction. “Who will he woo this time? The subject of his words himself? We’ll find out.” He rolls his eyes and drops his hands back at his sides. “I’m getting sick of you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t.” Ten fastens a strap around his ankle and slides a boot knife against his leg. “Let’s get this done.”
As soon as Ten straightens, Kun is throwing a knife his way. He watches Ten’s eyes widen just slightly and he just barely twists out of the way, turning back to gape at Kun when the knife clatters to the ground. Kun readies another knife and Ten puts his hands out.
“Hold on, Agent Qian,” he bites. Kun stops. “Don’t pull some bullshit like that, alright? And don’t say that I always need to be alert, because of course I’m going to be alert when I’m in actual combat, but you need to give me a fucking heads up while we are training. ”
Kun shifts, lowers his arm. “I’m sorry.”
“Seriously, how robotic are you?” Ten asks, turning to pick up the knife and slide it back over to Kun. “I understand that this is a serious mission, but unless you want to do it without a partner, you need to make sure I’m ready for you to attack me. Now, I’m going to go. Are you ready?”
Kun closes his knife and sticks it into his pocket, nodding. “Yes, whenever you are.”
Ten charges him then, zigzagging as he crosses the room, and Kun’s eyes widen. He jumps out of the way just in time, slipping on the mat but scrambling back to his feet when Ten turns and approaches him again. It’s almost scary, the look on Ten’s face, but Kun focuses on his hands instead, watching for a reach toward his ankle. But instead, a hand slips around to his back and before Kun can process, there’s a switchblade in Ten’s hand and he’s flicking it open. Kun widens his stance and plants himself into the mat, now looking at Ten’s feet. There’s a lag in his left leg, and when he’s close enough, Kun takes advantage of it, ducking down and swiping his leg under Ten’s, knocking him to the ground. Ten gasps as Kun climbs on top of him and twists his arm until he drops the blade, closing it and holding the handle against his throat. Ten smiles up at him, still panting.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting that,” he says, nodding his head just barely in acknowledgment. “You noticed my leg, didn’t you?” He slides his leg up until his knee is pressing against Kun’s ribs.
“I did notice.” Kun tosses the blade away and yanks Ten’s arm from his ankle, pinning both of his hands above his head. “I also noticed that,” he says, pulling the boot knife from the band around Ten’s ankle and tossing that away as well.
Ten pouts. “And here I was, thinking I was better with knives than you were.”
Kun loosens his grip on Ten’s wrists and sits back. “I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
“You have.” Ten gestures to Kun’s arm. “Have you noticed that, though?”
Confused, Kun looks down at his arm. “Oh.” There’s a fairly long cut on his forearm, not deep enough to alarm him, but deep enough to draw a fair amount of blood. He finally notices the sting and hisses sharply.
Ten gets to his feet. “Come with me.” Kun follows him to the med bay and sits down on the examination table, pressing his hand into the cut. He watches Ten gather a few things. “It’s a good thing you’ll be wearing a jacket at the party,” he says. “Imagine explaining this to Neumark without sounding suspicious.”
He rolls a tray over to the table and sits down on a stool, slapping his gloves against his wrists. “Take your hand off of there.” He flicks Kun’s finger, then begins peeling open a packet of cotton pads. “You’re going to stain your hand like that.”
Kun removes his hand and wipes it on the paper covering the examination table. The blood smears unceremoniously and doesn’t do much of a job at cleaning Kun’s hand. Ten is dunking a cotton pad into some alcohol, humming to himself, and Kun feels himself tense, preparing for the pain. Ten looks up at him, smiling.
“You can handle being cut open, but you can’t handle a little bit of disinfecting?” He asks. Kun shakes his head and Ten laughs, a short exhale through his nose. He picks up Kun’s arm, turning it in his hand. “Bite down on your shirt if you need to.”
Kun brings the collar of his shirt into his mouth and hisses through it when Ten begins dabbing the pad onto the cut. Ten’s thumb is rubbing against his skin ever so slightly, offering Kun some reassurance as he drops the bloodied cotton pad onto the tray and picks up another. He looks up at Kun.
Kun nods, closing his eyes. He flinches when the cotton pad touches him, but he opens his eyes and watches Ten wipe it down gently. When he drops that pad back onto the tray and picks up another, Kun braces himself, and Ten grins.
“No more alcohol, you baby,” he says, letting go of Kun’s arm to squirt some water onto the pad. “Just wiping you down, now.”
Kun releases his shirt from between his teeth as Ten takes his arm again and wipes any residual blood from the cut. He tears open a bandage and rubs a cream into it, pressing it into the wound and holding it there while he fumbles with the wound wrap.
“I don’t think you need to wrap it,” Kun begins, frowning as Ten continues to struggle. “Just tape the bandage and it’ll be fine.”
“Shut up, Qian,” Ten says, eventually grabbing the end of the wrap with his teeth and pulling it away from the roll like that. He wraps Kun’s arm and pats it when he’s finished, smiling as he peels his gloves off. “There you go, spick and span.” He rolls the tray closer and drops a few more bandages and a package of cream into Kun’s lap. “Switch out the bandaging tomorrow morning before we leave for the airport.”
Kun nods and slips off the table. “Thank you.” He bows his head. “Shall we continue training?”
Ten sputters, pausing his clean-up. “Are you being serious right now? No, we’re going to take a break. I know you’re trying not to act like it, but your arm hurts right now, doesn’t it?” Hesitantly, Kun nods. “Alrighty, then we’re going to take a break.”
“But I didn’t get to–”
“Ah!” Ten presses a finger to his lips, shaking his head sharply. “We’re taking a break.”
Kun rolls his eyes and shuffles out of the room, dropping the bandages and cream onto the table by the tablet. Ten comes out a minute later, flicking water off of his hands. He catches sight of the look on Kun’s face and laughs.
“Stop moping, will you? I think it’s clear that we are going to be fine if anyone comes at us with a knife.”
“We don’t know that.” Ten gives him a look. “Fine, I’ll stop talking about it.”
Ten smiles. “Lovely. Thank you.”
When Kun opens his door later that night as he’s packing, Ten and Taeyong are standing side by side, looking awkward. It makes Kun want to shut the door on them and go back to folding his pants, but he steps out of the way and invites them in. Taeyong enters first and sits on the only available chair, leaving Ten to stand awkwardly by the door. Kun sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose.
“You can sit on the bed.” Ten shuffles past him and crawls onto the bed, pressing himself against the wall and crossing his legs. “Can I ask why you two are here, and why you–” he points at Ten “–are not currently packing?”
Ten rolls his eyes. “I already finished packing, Dad. I was just bored. Ran into him on the way over.”
Kun looks over at Taeyong, who’s picking at his cuticles. “I just wanted to see you before you left tomorrow. You’re leaving early. I won’t be up.”
“Well, what do you want to do?” Kun asks, pressing a pair of pants to his chest and folding them over his arm. “I can’t really go anywhere. I need to finish packing and get straight to bed.” He raises an eyebrow at Ten. “And you need to go to bed at the same time as me.”
“Can I sleep here?”
Ten huffs, crossing his arms over his chest with a pout. Taeyong gives him a disgruntled look before looking back at Kun. “I don’t know. I was perfectly content with just spending time with you. Alone .”
Ten gapes at him. “Dude, what the hell.” He looks at Kun. “Are you gonna let him talk to me like that?”
Kun sighs. “Listen, Agent Lee. We are going to be stuck to each other starting tomorrow. Maybe it would be best to allow the other Agent Lee some time with me.” Taeyong sticks his tongue out at Ten and Kun throws a pair of socks at him. “Don’t be childish.”
Taeyong slumps back into the seat, a smug smile still on his face. Ten kicks his feet stubbornly but slides off the bed, making sure to glare at Taeyong. He rests a hand on Kun’s shoulder and presses his lips to his cheek. “I’ll see you in the morning, dear.”
Kun swallows thickly, shaking Ten off of him. “Go bother Mister Seo.”
Ten leaves with a groan, closing the door behind him with more force than necessary. Kun rolls his neck and picks up another shirt, looking over at Taeyong. “What?”
“What the hell is going on with you two?” Taeyong asks, standing up and taking his place on Kun’s bed. “First you go out to dinner with him with less hesitation than you did your own best friend, and now he’s kissing you and calling you dear?” He leans forward, eyes wide. “Did you fuck him?”
Kun sputters, throwing the shirt at Taeyong’s face. “No, I did not do any such thing with him.” He catches the shirt when Taeyong throws it back and refolds it. “We have to be a couple on this mission to reduce suspicion. He’s my wife… or girlfriend.”
Taeyong knocks his head back and laughs. “They assigned him as a woman?” He shrieks, slapping his thighs. “Why didn’t they just keep him a guy and have you two be gay?”
Kun shrugs, tossing the shirt into his bag and walking into the bathroom to grab his toiletry carrier. “I don’t know, he asked the same thing.”
“Well, either way,” Taeyong pouts. “You’ve become real buddy-buddy with him these last two days.”
Kun zips his bag shut and sets it in the chair. “Well, I don’t mind Agent Lee’s company, if I’m being honest.”
Taeyong grimaces. “Don’t tell me he’s replacing me as your best friend,” he whines. “I don’t have any other friends in this place!”
“I don’t have any other friends, either,” Kun points out. “He’s simply an acquaintance, anyway. I’m friendly with him, but he isn’t capable of erasing eighteen years of friendship off the plate.”
“Good,” Taeyong says smugly. “I don’t like him.”
“There isn’t any reason for you to dislike him.”
Taeyong huffs. “There is, though. Even if you don’t think he’s all that bad, I don’t have a good feeling about him. I think he’s trying to get in your pants.”
Kun goes red. “You came to that conclusion based off of the one interaction you’ve seen between us?” Taeyong nods as if it’s obvious. “I’m sorry, but I think Agent Lee might dislike me more than I originally disliked him. He gets frustrated with me far too easily.”
“That’s because you’re dumb, Kun,” Taeyong says. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re a genius, but when people flirt with you…”
“He isn’t flirting with me. He stabbed me earlier.”
Well.” Kun pulls up his sleeve and shows the bandage to Taeyong. “He didn’t stab me. The knife got me while I was disarming him. He’s the one who dressed my wound.”
Taeyong groans, hitting his head against the wall. “Okay, so. He isn’t flirting with you because he stabbed you. Except he didn’t stab you, it was an accident, and then he took care of it for you.”
“It was the nice thing to do after hurting me.”
Taeyong puts his head in his hands. “Jesus Christ.”
Kun sits down on the bed, leaning against the wall beside Taeyong. “I’m sorry. I think he hates me, actually.”
“And what makes you say that?” Taeyong asks desperately.
“He gets very defensive and frustrated with me at random times,” he starts. “Earlier today, while we were training, I apologised to him because I was worried I’d hurt his feelings. And he only got more upset with me and said some strange things.”
Kun squeezes his eyes shut, remembering. “He said… something about me being ever-courteous and making someone else fall in love with me.” Taeyong hums, eyebrows raising. “What?”
“Maybe he actually has a crush on you.”
“We’ve never spoken before the other day.”
Taeyong pats Kun’s thigh. “My friend, remember what I told you? You’re oblivious. Lots of people that you’ve never talked to have experienced some wishful thinking.”
“I don’t understand how that’s possible. They don’t know anything about me.”
“They know that you work hard, and you take your job very seriously,” Taeyong lists. “There’s something attractive about a man dedicated to his work. But mostly, you’re hot.”
Kun laughs, shy. “I don’t know about that.”
“Oh my god, you’re insufferable,” Taeyong moans. “I think I’m beginning to understand why Ten gets annoyed by you so often.”
Kun stiffens. “Do you… have a crush on me?”
“Me?” Taeyong sputters, eyes wide. “Oh my god, no, of course not. Ew, what? Wait, that was kind of mean. But no, I can assure you I do not have a crush on you. Nor will I ever.”
Kun sags. “Okay. I don’t know what I would have done.”
Taeyong laughs. “You probably would have been very honest with me.”
“You’re right. I don’t want to date you.”
“Okay, I know I just said I don’t have a crush on you, but that still hurt,” Taeyong whines, his hand coming up to grab at his chest. “You could’ve at least been a little gentler with your letdown.”
“I think you’re very handsome,” Kun says, thinking hard. “But I’ve seen you in too many compromising situations to ever think that I could have a relationship with you. But you’re very handsome.”
“Yeah, you said that already,” Taeyong says dully. “Whatever, you tried.”
“I don’t know what you want from me.”
“My point is,” Taeyong says, steering the subject back. “Maybe he’s always getting annoyed with you because he’s trying to flirt with you, but you take everything too seriously.” Kun opens his mouth to speak, but Taeyong shakes his head. “Your rooms are on the same floor. You’ve probably trained at the same time. There are many potential instances that he could have admired you from afar.”
Kun shakes his head. “I know what flirting is. He doesn’t do that.”
“You may know what one kind of flirting is, but there are many. Maybe he’s more of the teasing kind.”
“Why would someone make fun of me to show me that they like me?”
“I give up.” Taeyong slides off the bed, stretching his arms above his head. “I’m going to let you get some sleep.” He leans down and kisses Kun’s head. “Please be safe, alright? I know this isn’t a safe mission, so please come back unscathed.”
Kun smiles. “I’ll do my best. Goodnight, Taeyong.”
Taeyong freezes, his eyes widening the smallest amount. He smiles back, eventually, bringing a hand up to ruffle Kun’s hair. “Make sure you dry your hair properly before you go to bed.”
Kun hums in acknowledgment. Taeyong sends him one more look over his shoulder before leaving the room, closing the door quietly behind him. With his room suddenly quiet, Kun presses his head against the wall and stares up at the ceiling. He plays with a loose thread on the end of his sleep shorts, twisting it around his finger until the tip of it goes purple before unwinding it and starting again on another finger. He looks toward the clock on his nightstand. If he went to sleep now, he could get a solid nine hours. Kun stands to turn off his lamp and crawls under the covers, setting an alarm on his phone. He plugs his phone in and moves to slide it under his pillow, but hesitates. After a moment, he pulls his phone back out and sets a timer for one hour. He feels himself flush at the simple idea of doing such a thing, but he opens Safari anyway.
What are the different types of flirting?
Kun had ignored his timer for bed. He fell into a hole of WikiHows, Cosmopolitan articles, and quizzes, desperate to know anything he may have missed about flirting. According to his research, Taeyong was right, and Ten does have a crush on him.
He’s high-strung on the car ride to the airport, with Ten slumping against him and snoring softly. He tries to push him away, gently, but Ten’s head always finds its way back to his shoulder. He sighs and rests his head against the window, looking out onto the streets miserably. It’s pitch black and cold when they arrive and Ten wraps his jacket tighter around himself, yawning and burying his face into the fur of his hood. Kun is wide awake, and it pisses him off. He must have gotten half the sleep that Ten did.
Director Kim steps out of a separate car and Kun stiffens, jabbing Ten in the side. Ten tenses beside him, stepping closer and grabbing at the sleeve of Kun’s jacket. Director Kim smiles at the two of them.
“Good morning Agent Qian, Agent Lee,” he says, nodding to the two of them. “I just have a few things to say before you set off.” He pulls something from his pocket and places it in Kun’s hand. “This is a flash drive for you to obtain any information possible. I worry that simply providing a sample of this drug will not be enough, so I ask that you attempt to pull any information about human experimentation that you can find.”
Kun nods and slides the USB into his pocket. The director turns his attention to Ten. “There will be clothes delivered to you at the hotel shortly before the party, among other things. I expect that you will behave, correct?”
Ten opens his mouth to respond, but Kun interjects, confused. “I don’t think we will need to worry about that, Sir. He’s been working just as hard as I have.”
The director looks at Kun with wide eyes, before he lets himself laugh and shake his head. “Agent Lee, you never fail to surprise me, you know.” Kun only feels more confused. The director looks back at Ten, his smile fading. “Play your part and play it quietly.”
Ten nods. “Yes, Sir.”
“Lovely.” Director Kim claps his hands together and gestures to the plane. “It looks like you’ve got a ride waiting for you. Good luck, you two. And no matter what, bring something back to me.”
Kun picks up his bag with a nod and turns toward the plane without another word, making his way up the stairs and shoving his things into one of the overhead compartments. He falls into a seat and rubs at his face, listening to Ten shuffle around before sitting beside him.
“I think you nearly gave the director a heart attack,” he says, shrugging his jacket off and laying it over his legs. “You just might be the last person he’d ever expect to talk back to him.”
“Do you have a crush on me?”
Ten’s eyes bug and he leans back, frowning. “What?”
Kun feels himself grow hot. “I… I mean–”
“No, Kun, I do not have a crush on you,” Ten sighs. “I don’t know where you got that idea. You piss me off.”
Kun fidgets. “Taeyong told me. I even looked it up.”
Ten laughs and buckles his seatbelt. “Is that where you get all of your information? That’s a little silly of you, don’t you think?” He nods at Kun’s arm. “Did you make sure to switch your bandage this morning?”
“Yes, I did.” He pulls his arm out of his sleeve, showing Ten. “I don’t think I did as good of a job as you, though.”
Ten barks a laugh. “No, you definitely did not.” His fingers run over the area gingerly. “When we get to the hotel I’ll redress it, yeah?”
Kun gulps, watching Ten’s fingers. “Yes, that works.”
Ten retracts his hand and Kun puts his arm back into his jacket. “Jesus, I’m so tired,” he groans. He looks at Kun. “If I sleep on you, are you going to read too much into everything I do again?”
Kun blushes and shakes his head. “I’m sorry for saying that.”
Ten waves his hand dismissively and rests his head on Kun’s shoulder, scooting until the top of his head is pressed against his neck. “I don’t care. Just, don’t rely on your gossipy best friend and the internet for those kinds of things. I’m certain you thought nothing of how I treated you until he said something.”
“Well, if you get that feeling again at any point, just ask me. Don’t run to Google for answers again. That was kind of dumb of you.”
“Did you want me to knock on your door last night and ask you?” Kun asks genuinely.
Ten shrugs. “Maybe. I was feeling a little lonely.” Kun doesn’t know what to say, but Ten speaks again. “Plus, you kicked me out so rudely, my feelings were a tad hurt.”
“My feelings weren’t actually hurt, Kun.”
He gives up, relaxing his shoulders and pulling the shade over the window. He half-listens to the woman as she explains their actions in case of an emergency, and orders a water for himself and Ten when she asks. Ten is already asleep, and Kun can feel his breath against his skin every with every exhale of his. Gently, he rearranges Ten, turning his head out farther so he isn’t breathing into Kun’s neck. He takes the waters with a murmur of thanks when the woman returns and sets them on the table in front of them.
The plan starts along the runway and Kun leans his head back against the seat, closing his eyes and bracing himself for the takeoff. Ten stirs slightly, wakes, and looks at Kun blearily.
“You okay? D’you hate flying?”
Kun shakes his head. “I don’t like the getting into the air part, is all.”
Ten hums and lays an open palm on Kun’s thigh, resting his head back on his shoulder. “Hold my hand, just until we’re up.” Kun hesitates. “Stop being weird and hold my damn hand before I change my mind.”
So Kun takes his hand and Ten interlocks their fingers, squeezing tightly before Kun even thinks to do so. He falls back asleep quickly, before the wheels ever leave the ground. When the plane finally begins to lift off, Kun’s grip on his hand tightens painfully. He screws his eyes shut and takes deep breaths as he waits for the pressure in his head to stop. When it does, Kun opens his eyes with a sigh.
He loosens his grip on Ten’s hand, but doesn’t pull it away completely. The stress of the ascent has heightened his exhaustion and he sags, dropping his head onto Ten’s and letting his eyes fall shut again. He yawns, and his ears pop. He dreams that he’s on a plane made of clouds, and when it rains, Kun falls to the ground in droplets.
He’s shaken awake by the wheels of the plane hitting the ground and he shoots up, blinking hard and running a hand through his hair. He looks at Ten, who’s reading something on his phone, then looks at the table in front of him. Both water cups are empty.
“Did you drink my water?” He croaks. Ten nods.
“You were sleeping like the dead. My arm went completely numb, you know.” He nods in the direction of the cups. “I figured my payback could be drinking your water.” He calls for an attendant, asking for a refill before they get off the plane.
As Kun drinks, Ten begins running him through the plans he missed while he was asleep. “There’s already a car waiting for us. It’s still the middle of the night here, so we can go straight to the hotel and get some more sleep. Yangyang will come at three to deliver our invitations and my things. A car will fetch us at six forty. The party starts at seven o’clock.”
Kun nods, his brain working hard to make sense of everything that’s been said. “Car, sleep, party at seven.”
“That’s about it, yeah.”
Kun chugs the rest of his water and stands up, stretching as Ten pulls his bag from the overhead. He hands Kun his own bag and makes his way off the plane, leaving Kun to finish gathering his bearings. When he finally manages to smooth down his hair, he puts on his mask and leaves the plane, bowing in thanks at the pilot and the flight attendant. Ten is speaking with someone by the car, and he tugs Kun closer to him when he’s within tugging distance, bowing at the man as he turns to leave.
“Christ, it’s fucking cold,” he says, his teeth chattering. “This car better have fantastic heating.”
“Can we get in?”
“Technically, yes. But we should put our bags in the trunk, first.”
Kun pulls away from Ten with a frown. “Why in the world are we standing here, then? I would like to get some more sleep.”
He pops open the trunk and shoves his bag in, taking Ten’s and doing the same. When he closes the trunk, Ten is grinning at him.
“Did you not sleep much? Were you too busy searching the web for answers of my feelings for you?” Kun ducks his head, embarrassed, and Ten’s smile falters. “You’re kidding me.”
“Can we just get in the car, please?” Kun asks, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “I’m tired.”
Ten shakes his head with a small, bewildered laugh and opens the car door, slipping in. Kun clambers in behind him, humphing quietly as he settles into the seat and pulls his seatbelt over his shoulder. Ten is slumped against the window, his eyes already beginning to droop, and Kun nudges him, leaning over and clicking his seatbelt into place.
“You need to be buckled, Agent Lee.”
Ten grunts. “I’m buckled now, aren’t I? Don’t scold me.”
Kun sighs and presses his head against his own window, lurching slightly as the car begins to move. He’s exhausted, but he’s gotten to thinking about the mission, and his heart has already begun fluttering in his chest. He sticks his hand into his pocket and pulls out the USB, turning it over and inspecting it. It doesn’t look too incriminating, and it’s small enough that it could easily go unnoticed. He puts it back in his pocket and pokes at Ten again, making him open his eyes and glare up at him.
“We need to be in character before we get to the hotel.”
Ten sits up. “What I’m hearing is that you’re going to say my name.”
Kun frowns, shaking his head. “It isn’t your real name. I feel like we’ve been over this more than once.”
Ten rolls his eyes and settles back down. “Whatever. What were they again?”
Kun opens his phone and clicks through his email. “My name is Kong Kaiyao. Yours is Lang Tiaorou.”
Ten nods, closing his eyes again. “Kong Kaiyao, Lang Tiaorou. Got it, got it. I’ll make sure to remember that.”
Kun locks his phone and rests it on his thigh. “I would certainly hope you’d remember that. We can’t have our cover blown.”
Ten reaches over and smacks at Kun’s leg, eyes still closed. “Please stop talking,” he says. “I want to sleep.”
Kun looks out the window. “But we’re already at the hotel.”
“Jesus, alright,” Ten groans, straightening and rubbing his eyes. “I call the bed nearest to the window.”
Kun steps out of the car and takes his back from the driver with a bow, watching Ten zip his jacket up to his chin before taking his own bag. They step inside and the man at the front desk stands, offering them a small smile.
“ Hello, and welcome to Meininger Hotel. Can I get you a room this evening? ”
It takes Kun a moment to process what he’s said, nearly having forgotten where he is. He shakes his head and offers a small smile. “ We have a reservation. Kong Kaiyao and Lang Tiaorou? ”
The man’s face hardens almost immediately and he nods, leaning over to type something into his computer. He reaches into the drawer at his hip and hands the two of them keycards, bowing his head.
“Welcome to Berlin, Agents.”
Kun’s eyes furrow and he slips his keycard into his pocket, nodding in thanks and following Ten to the elevator. As they wait, Ten presses up to Kun’s ear.
“ Do you think he knows who we are? ”
Kun sighs and steps into the elevator, pressing the button for their floor. “ Yes, Tiaorou, I’m quite certain he knows who we are. ”
“ Listen, you can never be too sure, ” Ten yawns and shakes his bangs out of his eyes. “ He must be on our side, then? Do you think he feels really special because he’s in on this? ”
“ I don’t know. ” Kun picks up his bag as the elevator doors open and steps out, looking toward both ends of the hall. “ There’s a chance he’s a Berlin agent that’s been posted here to keep us guarded. ”
Ten hums. “ We’re this way, ” he says, tugging at Kun’s sleeve and pulling him to the right. “ Room 607? ”
He sticks his hard into the reader and pushes the door open with a huff. They walk into the room and Kun fumbles against the wall, looking for a lightswitch. When he finds it and flicks on the lights, he and Ten freeze.
“Where’s the other bed?”
Kun drops his bag on the floor and sits on the bed, cradling his head in his hands. “Okay,” he whispers to himself, lifting his head and raking his fingers down his cheeks. “Okay. Let’s just go to sleep. We can talk to the front desk tomorrow, but right now, we just need to get some sleep.”
Ten pauses halfway through taking his coat off. “Wait, let me redress your arm.”
Kun shucks off his own jacket and carefully rolls up the sleeve of his sweatshirt while Ten rummages through his suitcase. He takes a seat in the desk chair and Ten perches himself on the desk, turning Kun’s arm over in his hands and unwrapping the wound.
“Eugh, did you even clean this?” Kun shakes his head. “That’s how it gets infected.”
“I had all of my toiletries packed already.”
“You see how it’s red and inflamed a little bit here?” His fingers trace around the cut, and Kun’s toes curl in his shoes. “That’s what happens when you don’t take care of it properly. It may not seem like a big deal to you, but this could get really bad if it became infected.”
Ten sighs. “For someone so uptight about literally everything else, you really don’t care much about yourself.” Kun doesn’t say anything, so Ten finishes redressing the wound and pats over the bandage when he’s done, sliding off of the desk. “You’re all done. Let’s get some sleep and see about switching our room when we get up.”
He tosses the trash into the bin beside them and finally takes off his jacket, letting it drop to the floor before he kicks off his shoes and crawls onto the bed. He wiggles under the covers and looks at Kun with raised eyebrows, so he stands and moves his jacket off the bed, resting it on the chair by the window. He hears Ten scoff as he takes a seat and unties his shoes before slipping them off his feet. He contemplates silently whether he should change into new sleep clothes, but decides against it and moves across the room to turn off the light and get into bed. Ten turns onto his side to look at him.
“Are you always so…” he waves his hand, “...so tidy? Putting your little shoes by the window with your jacket.”
Kun takes a deep breath and turns his head toward the ceiling, folding his hands over his stomach. “I don’t want my shoes to crease, nor do I want my jacket to get wrinkled.”
Ten snorts and rolls onto his back as well. In his peripheral, Kun can see that Ten is still looking at him, observing like he’s something fascinating; he closes his eyes and pretends he can’t feel his eyes on him.
“ You’re ridiculous, Kong Kaiyou. ” The language switch startles Kun for a second, but he instead opens his eyes and looks back at Ten.
“ At least my clothes aren’t wrinkled. ”
Ten reaches over and smacks his arm a little bit too hard. Kun resists the temptation to rub at the spot to soothe the sting. “Your clothes are going to get wrinkled while you sleep, doesn’t that bother you?”
“Sleep clothes aren’t meant to look perfect,” Kun says with a yawn. “Even someone like me knows that.”
“Alright, alright, sorry,” Ten surrenders. “Sleep, then a new room. Sleep and a new room.” He giggles to himself. “I kick in my sleep, will that bother you?”
Kun suppresses a groan. “Not at all.” He turns onto his side and shoves one of his hands under his pillow. “Goodnight.”
A few seconds of silence go by before Ten speaks again. “Actually...” Kun feels like crying. “I was wondering if you wanted to hear about what happened with those old partners of mine.”
Kun is wide awake again, and he turns around to face Ten with wide eyes. “I don’t think I’ve done much to earn your trust.”
Ten laughs quietly. “ I don’t think someone who still uses Google to find out if someone has a crush on them at the age of thirty-two is very capable of causing me much harm.”
Kun feels himself flush. “Again, can we please stop talking about that?”
“Fine.” Ten’s smile fades slowly. “Promise you won’t freak out?”
Ten bites his lip. “I never sabotaged any of my missions. I told you the other day, I wouldn’t have a job if I’d even thought of doing something like that. My partners disliked me for other reasons.”
“What were they?” Ten goes quiet for a moment. “You don’t have to tell me.”
“They didn’t like me because I wouldn’t put out for them.”
“They wanted to have sex with me, Kun.” Kun feels himself tense. “They wanted to have sex with me and I said no, even when all of them threatened to say awful things about me to everyone back at the facility.”
“I-I’m sorry,” Kun says. “I’m not entirely sure what to say.”
“You don’t really need to say anything.” Ten hides his face under the blankets. “I feel ashamed, though.”
“Why?” Kun tugs the blanket down to look Ten in the eye. “There is no reason for you to feel that way. If anything, they are the ones who should be ashamed. You did nothing wrong in protecting yourself.”
Ten is quiet for a moment. “It’s funny, you’re the only one besides Johnny who’s told me that.”
“Who else have you told?”
“That’s not important.” Ten knocks his foot against Kun’s shin. “We need to get some sleep. You, especially.”
Kun sighs. “You’re right.” He turns onto his back. “Goodnight, Ten.”
“Goodnight, Kun.” He can hear the smile in his voice.
Kun doesn’t fall asleep, even long after Ten has, his forehead pressed against Kun’s shoulder. He stares up at the ceiling, his mind still working to wrap around what he’d just been told. He turns his head to look down at Ten for a moment before he slips out of bed and walks toward the bathroom, pulling his phone out of his coat pocket on his way.
He closes the door behind him and flicks on the light, squinting at its intensity. He dials Dejun’s number and sits down on the edge of the tub as it rings, rubbing his eyes.
“Xiao Dejun speaking, how may I help you?”
“Good morning Mister Xiao,” Kun whispers. “Is the director available?”
Dejun hums, and Kun can hear him tapping at his keyboard. “He has a phone meeting in fifteen minutes. Is it urgent or can I take a message?”
“It’s urgent.” Dejun doesn’t say anything. “But it won’t take long, I’m sure.”
“...Let me transfer you to him.” There’s a click, static, and one more click.
“Kim Doyoung speaking.”
“Hello, Director,” Kun greets. “My apologies, I know you must be busy, but I have a question regarding Agent Lee.”
He can hear the director sigh. “If this is about the other day, I’m sorry, but I won’t–”
“Were you aware that Agent Lee has been sexually assaulted by every single one of his previous partners?” It’s silent on the other line. “Sir?”
“Is that all, Kun? I’m very busy, as you said.”
Kun frowns. “So you knew?”
“Yes, I am aware that Agent Lee has left a few people… frustrated on more than one occasion.”
“But this isn’t about him ,” Kun insists. “This is about the people that assaulted him and then made up false allegations to ruin his reputation. Why haven’t they been fired?” The director doesn’t say anything. “Instead, you’re letting them spread these horrible things about them? I was under the impression that he was going to be a very difficult person to work with because of what even you told me about him, and I’m only now finding out the truth. Why is that?”
“This isn’t any of your concern, Agent Qian.” The formality startles Kun. “If that’s all you wanted to speak with me about, I’m going to ask you to go back to your mission and let me enjoy my breakfast before this meeting.”
“All due respect, Director Kim, but this most certainly is my concern. As the man running this agency, you should not be permitting the spread of such rumours about one of your employees, especially one that hasn’t done anything–”
“Agent Qian.” Kun can hear him bang his fist against his desk. There’s a clatter of silverware and a mutter of expletives. “You’ve made me spill my coffee.” He sighs heavily. “Do not push your luck with me right now. If you want to keep this mission and your job, I suggest you continue on quietly and keep Agent Lee under your control. Do you understand what I’m trying to say to you?”
Kun inhales sharply through his teeth. “You… you want me to sleep with him.”
The director takes a deep breath and Kun hears him rap his knuckles against his desk. “I’m saying, do what you must.”
He hangs up without another word and Kun is left alone in silence. He drops his phone into his lap and picks at his lip, his eyes focusing and unfocusing on a chip in the paint of the counter. Above him, the light flickers.