”And Changmin, I told you yesterday right. I’ll be expecting you to turn up at my house at 8 o’clock sharp on Sunday. You’ll take my wife to the charity event first and then come back for me and take me to the golf course.”
“Yes sir,” Changmin answered his boss, glaring after a colleague that had dropped an empty coffee cup on his desk while walking by. The offending dirty cup had made a loud clanking noise, as if it was mocking the junior police officer with its unannounced appearance. Changmin poked the cup sullenly.
“Oh, you’re going to drink more coffee?” the superintendent asked absent-mindedly. “Do bring me a cup as well, we aren’t getting out of here any time soon, lots of work today.”
Changmin repressed a sigh; the superintendent should have known all too well he didn't even drink coffee.
“Yes sir,” he answered again, standing up and sending a dirty look in the direction of the colleague who had dropped him the cup. The man was already sitting back at his own desk, explicitly pretending not to notice Changmin’s glare. Suddenly there were a handful of other eager coffee-drinkers, and Changmin was soon loaded with a dozen coffee cups he struggled not to drop as he walked into the break room.
A senior female officer nursing a teacup chuckled as Changmin entered the room with his load. Sighing, he dropped his load into the sink and started washing.
“They could at least get me a dishwasher, cheap-asses,” he grumbled, and the woman chuckled again.
“Chin up, Changmin,” she said, “it’ll go on only until you’re promoted to a senior officer.”
She walked towards Changmin and patted his shoulder in sympathy as she passed him.
“Which in your case shouldn’t take any longer than 20 years…if you’re lucky,” she laughed and walked out of the room.
Changmin sighed. She was his only real friend at the station, and as much as he knew she just loved teasing him, there was a bitter truth behind her words.
He washed all of the cups, filling them with instant coffee powder and hot water. Walking back, he made rounds around the office room, feeling like the least graceful waiter ever as he served his colleagues and bosses their cups of cheap coffee. One would think that he would have gotten better at it after all the serving he had been made to do during the last few years, but Changmin was still as bad at serving coffee as ever.
“You did wash this before filling this again, right?” It was a peer from the same class in the Police University, one whom Changmin hated particularly much. Changmin didn’t even bother to answer him, rolling his eyes and looking away when he heard the superintendent calling him again.
“Changmin! Hawkers. On the alleyway next to the middle school.”
The colleague that Changmin had just rolled his eyes at, glanced at Changmin and snorted.
“Go now, dear Changmin-ssi, for you have important matters to attend to. Don’t worry about my coffee cup, I was going to pour this shit down the drain anyway.”
Changmin felt the heat rise inside him, but he just took one deep breath and turned around on his heels. Knowing very well that he’d only get into more trouble if he opened his mouth right now, he marched towards the front door, curtly bowing in the general direction of the superintendent before making his way out of the room.
He was so close to blowing up lately. Too close. He knew that it was only a question of time before he blew up in front of the superintendent and got himself into real trouble. At least now, they still let him work – he got the shittiest jobs, yes, but they still let him work.
If serving coffee all-day and chasing after illegal hawkers could even be called the work of a policeman. Fuck.
Changmin straightened out his uniform with a violent tug and started walking towards the alleyway with long strides. He was familiar with the way, as it was one of the few areas they let him actually patrol.
By the time he arrived at the middle school, his tips of his poor shoes were scratched from all the kicking he had done, and there was steam coming out of his ears.
He eyed the line of hippy young art students selling their crafts and foreigners selling their cheap jewellery and idol merchandise, their goods spread out next to each other in perfect harmony. Changmin huffed, eyeing all the pirated goods he would have to confiscate and take to the station. He could already see himself spending the whole afternoon gathering them up.
Most of the hawkers were well-known to him, the same people returning to the place time after time despite his best effort to drive the illegal vendors away from the street. There was a middle-aged man with thick side-burns who spoke broken Korean alongside a bunch of other languages. (In some twisted way Changmin had always felt envious of him. Changmin had always felt pride in his education, and indeed, he had topped his class in the Police University, but for some reason he had always struggled with English, though his Japanese was much better.)
There was a scatter-brained girl that made hair accessories and brooches from tiny, sparkly pieces of plastic and vintage toys, and sometimes forgot to collect money from her customers but still never seemed to give up her doomed business.
And then there was the most annoying of them all, a young man with bleached hair and a slew of earrings dangling off his ears, way too many to Changmin’s taste. The man sell bracelets made of seashells, smaller and bigger, and Changmin would get sick just looking at them. Who on earth would ever waste their time and money on practising such a thing? Changmin understood that some people resorted to such manners of earning money due to inescapable circumstances, but surely the man could have done better. Indeed, the man himself, god, Changmin found him utterly infuriating. He had proved his intelligence by escaping Changmin a few good times, never left any of his goods behind him, and to top it all he was hiding a gem behind tasteless beanies and long hair. The man was better looking than any of the actors and idol boys, whose faces were spread over the street in the shape of notebooks, and paper fans, and posters, and other completely useless goods sold to gullible fan girls.
How could anyone ever have so little ambition as to get stuck on the street, selling subpar crafts? The young blonde man and his way of walking around the street, hands behind his back, singing to himself as he looked through the works of his fellow vendors in good spirits, it all represented to Changmin something entirely incomprehensible and ridiculous. Changmin wanted to take the young man, give his irritatingly handsome face a nice slap and then lecture him on the blisses of education and filial piety.
Changmin huffed again. The vendors of the street had yet to notice him, but he knew the moment his presence would come to their attention, there would be chaos. As Changmin stared at the people crowding the street his anger heated up even more. Why did he have to be stuck with such a menial job as to chase after harmless street vendors, and how was it possible that he wasn’t able to get rid of even them? Glaring at the crowd, he stepped forward, yelling out in a loud voice.
“Street vending is a crime punishable by fine! If repeated, the offender may face even harsher punishments! Everyone is required to come with me and register at the station!”
For a second, the crowd stilled.
“Cops!” shouted someone, and in a split second most of the vendors were already up and gone, some of them hurriedly gathering their goods while other just started running, leaving behind everything.
No matter how many times Changmin had done this, he’s always get overwhelmed by the chaos for a moment. It might have been the adrenaline from his continuous anger speeding up his senses, but this time he got hold of his senses faster than ever, and wasting no time he sped after his favourite one to chase. Today he’d finally catch the bastard, and he’d prove his boss he was capable of something much better than patrolling the streets looking for hawkers, and he’d get away from his stupid peers and classmate, he’d be the greatest police officer and detective of their time—
Right past the slightly chubby middle-aged man with thick sideburns, past the slight girl who sold hair accessories and ran surprisingly slowly, Changmin ran after the young man with bleached hair and a pleasing face as fast as he could.
The man kept glancing back at him, to see if Changmin was still following. And hell, he was. He was going to follow this through, for once, he was going to show the guy and his earrings, and he was going to show those bastards back at the police station, the damn superintendent and especially that one damn class mate!
“Fuck it,” the man running in front of him yelled, out of breath. “Are you, uhh, shit— Are you going to follow me back to my house? Not that I really mind such a handsome stalker, but… What are you gonna do, arrest me? Huh?”
Changmin gritted his teeth and continued running. The young man was a bit closer to him already, visibly slowing down.
“Come— come on man, let’s talk about it! Uhh, I’ll give you one, one of my bracelets and you let me off, how’s that— how’s that sound?”
Changmin scoffed, not bothering to answer with even one word. To man kept glancing at him, and suddenly he turned around waving at Changmin and then bending down to rest his palms against his knees. Changmin slowed down, staring at the man suspiciously as he jogged closer.
“They give you, man, they give you physical tests at the police force? Right?” the man wheezed and glanced up at Changmin who was now standing next to him. The blonde grinned and the coughed a fit when his breath got stuck.
“Damn, I guess I gotta take up exercising again. How does one get a body like yours again.” The man squeezed his other arm with a dissatisfied look on his face. “What are you gonna do about the others though? No fine for them?”
Changmin stared at the young man’s face, but he was looking pointedly beside Changmin, at something or someone behind him. When Changmin turned around, in a blink of an eye, he heard someone bolt again. His feet started moving before he had even turned his head back to look after the blonde man, and it ended up being the reason for his doom. Changmin toppled over, tumbling over his own feet. He managed to lift his face up fast enough to see the young man disappear into a crowd.
Changmin let his face fall back down, pressing his nose against the harsh asphalt as he tried to control his breathing. He closed his eyes.
And then he slammed his hands against the ground, pushing himself up. He wasn’t going to give up just yet.
Changmin had come by the young man’s place once before. It was another chase, one that ended with the young man running in right through the door and slamming it close after himself.
The house was one up those hills, white concrete staircases and small brick houses with a separate room for renting on the rooftop. A house perfectly identical to the surrounding ones, several cracked pots with withered plants on the doorstep and a bent bicycle thrown carelessly to the side. But even so, for some reason, Changmin remembered clearly which house it was that the blonde man with earrings resided in.
He knocked on the door, the first touch to the metal door tentative but soon growing in volume.
“Open up please, it’s the police,” he announced in his official voice, and soon enough a shuffle and a clicked was heard before an old face appeared in the crack.
“Oh dear,” the old woman breathed out, “oh dear. Darling, it’s the police!” she turned around to yell inside the house. “How can I help you sir?”
She looked nervous, her eyes darting about Changmin’s face. He cleared his throat.
“It’s about the young man residing in this house.”
“I knew it! Of course it’s about Kim Jaejoong… I’ve seen you before, haven’t I, young man,” she sighed. A man of her age appeared behind her in the doorway, a scowl on his face.
“Are you the officer that chased after him once before,” he asked Changmin. “I told you, blond hair on boys! It’s no good,” he huffed at his wife who shook her head.
“Yes sir, I am,” Changmin answered him. “Is he here now?”
“He isn’t here,” the old man snapped. “That damn kid! I say it’s time we kick him out! Blonde hair and bracelets, I say…”
“Oh dear, oh dear,” the woman repeated. “We want no trouble sir, you’d better take it up with Jaejoong himself.”
Changmin looked inside over the old man’s head, not having to even crane his neck.
“I understand,” he said. “Good day.”
The door was promptly shut in front of him, and immediately he could hear the old lady’s voice rise as she started nagging at her husband, much angrier that she’d sounded a moment before.
That day, Changmin didn’t get further, but he wasn’t even close to giving up. The very next day, he had sneaked up to the peddlers once again, and chased his favourite blonde criminal until he lost sight of the man again. He even went back to his house, but feeling too awkward to knock on the door for a second time, he settled on pacing the street in front of it for a while. For the whole time, he felt like someone was watching him, and once he even managed to catch a glimpse of the short grandmother in the window. He never saw Jaejoong though; and after 20 minutes, he decided to try again the next day.
The next day was a horrible day. The superintendent gave him a grave speech on the tasks he was given at the police office and how badly he had performed on fulfilling them. Changmin just gritted his teeth and said nothing during the scolding. They couldn’t have possibly thought that one man would be able to clear away illegal vendors in the whole administrative area. A full-scale project hadn’t been able to succeed for God’s sake! And everyone knew he had specialised in very different things indeed during his study.
No one seemed to give a shit though, as Changmin walked through the office, feeling the eyes of his peers on his back. He could almost hear the sneers of his delighted rival, the one that got to assist the superintendent on bribery and other white-collar crime. Damn it. The damn bastard! Changmin had topped in his grades in every single class in college, and this what was he would get in reward?
What made it all worse, was the reminder he would have to spend his whole Sunday driving his idiotic boss and the boss’s annoying wife around the whole day, carry their stuff and wait at their hand and feet. Changmin was so done with being the slave of the station! He kicked over a rubbish bin on his way to the usual patrol area. He was so ready for a nice chase. He had to admit, chasing the young, irritatingly pretty man around Jogno was the best way to release some built-up aggression he could have imagined.
What Changmin hadn’t expected though, was the lack of the lively young man on the street. When he arrived, he was able to see the man with the thick sideburns and a crooked but warm smile, and the scatter-brained art student, but he could find no familiar mob of blonde hair bouncing up and down as the man sung to himself and tapped his foot.
Coming to a sudden stop, Changmin stared at the street before turning on his heels, letting his feet lead him towards the house he knew the young man lived in. He was going to arrest someone today, damnit, he was going to show the whole damn station he could do this shitty job if he wanted to, and he would start with the most annoying creature to ever grace the earth!
After walking up countless stairs along Seoul’s steeps alleyways, Changmin reached the small house. Without hesitation, he walked up to the door, knocking on it determinedly.
“Police!” he yelled. “Come out, I’m arresting you for illegal vending of pirated goods on the streets!”
Not that Changmin had ever seen the man sell anything pirated. But he was pissed and it sounded cooler than just plain illegal street vending to him.
It took barely 20 seconds before the door was opened, and the old grandmother could be seen standing in the doorway.
“Mister police officer!” she announced nervously. “I promise you we got rid of that rowdy young man! Only lawful citizens living in this address from now on, sir.”
Changmin stared at her, raising one of his brows.
“Got rid of him?”
“Yes, kicked him right out of here earlier today, sir. My husband did, that is, but it was me who told him to finally do it. Nice kid he was at first, that Kim Jaejoong, would help me prepare the meals sometimes. I told him to dye his hair back to black so many times. But did he listen to me? No he didn’t! And all the earrings… A police officer coming knocking on our door? What would the neighbours think if this went on any longer! We needed the money but there is no way we could let a tenant like that stay at…”
“I understand, madam,” Changmin disrupted the old lady’s word vomit. “I quite understand. Thank you for your co-operation so far. I won’t bother you any further.”
Bowing down respectfully, Changmin turned around and left the house as quickly as he had come. Damn it! There went his last chance of proving anyone anything.
Changmin was lost in his thought for quite a while, walking aimlessly around the hilly neighbourhood, climbing up and down stairs and studying the intricate details of house gates. He felt no desire whatsoever to return to the station, and for once he wished they would thought his presence so insignificant no-one would even realise he hadn’t come back.
There was nothing to do but to wonder pointless, alternately feeling angry, sorry for himself, and put off by the unexpected situation. With every step, he felt his heart sink a little bit more.
He wondered if the man had managed to grab all his stuff with him when the elderly couple had kicked him out, whether he had been notified of his fate beforehand, or if they had just suddenly thrown him out of the door. What angered him the most was his failure to catch the man earlier. He had had a perfectly good chance of showing off at the station with a small win, and now he’d lost it. At least, that’s what he kept telling himself. Somewhere, deep in his stomach, he knew it wasn’t the failure to show off that was bothering him.
It took him a few hours, but then he found what he had been looking for the whole day. It was completely accidental, a total coincidence, and he was so surprised he stopped in his tracks, gaping at the sight before him.
There he was. The young man, sitting on the kerb, head leaning heavily against his knees, arms around them. He had a ragged backpack lying on the road next to him alongside with the familiar purple bundle of fabric, one that he used to carry his hand-made seashell jewellery around with. Changmin could hear a deep sigh, and the man lifted his head from his knees, frowning as he glanced at the bundle by his side and poked it with a displeased expression on his face.
Changmin stared at the blonde man’s frustrated face, his wrinkled nose, and then he cleared his throat. Loudly. The man gave a start, his head whipping around as he stared at Changmin with an open mouth and surprised eyes. His expression, however, changed in a matter of a millisecond as he recognised Changmin.
“Oh, fuck me,” the young man exclaimed dramatically, sighing and looking at the sky exasperatedly. “Just my luck. Nothing to see here, sir, off you go!”
Changmin stared at him for a bit longer, before walking silently towards the man. He looked away, feeling the blonde man’s curious eyes on him, as he sat down on kerb next to the man.
“I’m not selling anything, I’m just sitting here and feeling sorry for myself,” the man probed when Changmin remained silent for a moment. He lifted up the purple bundle of cloth. “See, all packed up, I promise not to commit any crime tonight, so you can just leave.”
When Changmin still didn’t respond, leaning his chin on palm and staring forward, the man seemed to get annoyed.
“See, me sitting here, without a roof to sleep under tonight, it’s kinda all your fault, so I’m not particularly fond of the idea of sitting here next to you right now. I’ll be your sitting-on-the-street buddy all you want, for example, next Monday, but for now – could you maybe just scram?!”
There was agitation in the man’s voice, and Changmin turned slightly to look at him, directly in the eyes. The man was staring back, looking still as displeased as ever. Changmin felt an unfamiliar feeling in his chest, discomfort, maybe it was something close to guilt. He’d never admit it aloud though.
“You are such an irritating idiot, and I don’t even know you, but I know enough to know that much,” Changmin let out before he could help himself. The blonde youth looked properly shocked, his eyes dilating. Changmin could see him holding back his initial reaction. It seemed a lot like it would have been a violent one.
“You are not so pleasant yourself,” the man snapped, standing up quickly. “Fine, you sit here, I’ll leave. Hope we never meet again. Was so awfully nice knowing you. Rot in hell.”
“Sit down,” Changmin snapped back, taking hold of the man’s pants before he could step away, and yanked him back down. The young man staggered, and half-fell on his bum.
“You fucker!” he yelled, and smacked Changmin’s shoulder. It barely hurt, Changmin had been trained in various martial arts and his body was hard and resistant. Strangely, it didn’t really bring out an urge to fight either. Blocking the next incoming slap with his arms, Changmin grabbed the man’s forearm to restrict him.
“You fucking life ruiner!” the young man shouted, struggling to escape the hold, but Changmin wasn’t letting up. “To think I was once willing to give you one of my bracelets! You are such a pain in the ass! I’d never, ever give you one of my bracelets!”
“You’re the pain in the ass here,” Changmin huffed trying to hold the man in place. “I’ll have you know chasing you has been the absolute slump in my career, and I’m ready to never see your irritating face again.”
“Just shut up already!” the man shouted. Changmin blinked, unsure if it was just an illusion, or if the man’s eyes had started to glimmer with moisture dangerously. “Just let me go and you’ll never have to! I swear I’d rather eat shit than see your face ever again.”
“But,” Changmin continued, “but since you seem to think that the consequences you’ve had to face because of living unlawfully are my fault, I thought I’d show you an example of how civil, lawful citizens act like and let you sleep at my place for a night.”
“Fuck you,” Jaejoong said surprised, quieting down, clearly having not expected that. “Aren’t you charitable. I wouldn’t stay at your place for a million won. Maybe you’re a murderer. Who says policemen can’t be murderers? Or who knows what kind of pervert you are. There are a lot of perverted police officers you know. I’ve met a few. Wouldn’t be the first time someone tries to help poor, little, homeless Jaejoong by putting their hands on my poor, little, homeless ass. ”
Changmin stared at the huffing man, seeing it all too vividly before his eyes. He could name a few people from his station on the top of his head. Those slimy bastards were just a bit too fond of their status of authority.
“Well I will have you know I’m not like that!” he snapped. “And as for my rather generous offer, if I say so myself, you can take it or leave it.”
“Yeah, not taking!” Jaejoong exclaimed. Changmin let his arm go and stood up.
“Suit yourself,” he said, and bent down to pick up Jaejoong’s purple bundle of cloth. “I’m confiscating your junk though.”
He started walking away, but Jaejoong was soon woken up from his stupor.
“You can’t do that!” he shouted and stood up, quickly following Changmin.
“Yes I can, I am suspecting you of illegal street vending,” Changmin answered stubbornly.
“Well, excuse me, mister…” Jaejoong quickened his steps to walk next to Changmin, searching his uniform for a badge with his name on it.
“Shim Changmin,” Changmin answered him quickly.
“…mister Shim Changmin, but I am not parting with my bracelets. Give them back. Now!”
“Too bad,” Changmin exclaimed. “That’s not happening, so I guess you’d better just follow them home.”
Jaejoong eyed him, then made a quick grab at the bundle, but Changmin predicted his moves, stepping aside.
“Just follow me,” he said, tired of fighting. He almost surprised himself when he realised his feeling. He never got tired of fighting.
Jaejoong stared at him for a moment longer, but seemed to come to some kind of conclusion. He sighed and his shoulders slouched. He sped up to walk by Changmin’s side again, grabbing the bundle, but not trying to wrench it out of his hands.
“Be careful with that, you bastard, they’re made of seashells! You know, that stuff breaks easily.”
Changmin chose to ignore his word, and tuned out of Jaejoong’s shatter as he started guiding them towards his small flat.
Changmin unlocked the door, pushing it open. He toed his shoes off, turning back to see Jaejoong standing in the doorway, looking at him. He had put his hands behind his back again, as he tried to sneak a glance beside Changmin, into his small room.
“Just come in,” Changmin grunted, walking inside, not wanting to look at Jaejoong’s face any more.
He heard the man close the door carefully behind him, so he continued, walking over to the small sofa to leave Jaejoong’s bundle of jewellery there. Walking over to his small kitchen area, he turned to glance at Jaejoong again, only to find him standing in front of his huge television – with his shoes still on.
“That’s one big-ass screen,” Jaejoong marvelled, reaching out to touch the glass with his fingertips. He seemed to have forgotten all about being mad, but now it was Changmin’s turn for that.
“You are such a…!” he seethed, rushing over and pushing Jaejoong’s shoulders. The man was startled, looking at Changmin, his eyes narrowing as he seemed to remember where he was, and with whom. “Shoes inside? Really?!”
Jaejoong stared at him – and then hit him. Grabbing Changmin’s shoulder with his other hand, he hit his back with the flat of his palm.
“That was for pushing me,” he huffed, “and I’m taking the shoes off, alright.” He walked back over to the entrance.
Changmin looked after him suspiciously, but seeing the man was really taking off his boots, Changmin went back to his small kitchenette. His home was small, two small rooms, and the kitchen part of it was extremely simple. Not that Changmin really minded. He mostly ate take-out or ordered in anyway, when he wasn’t having dinner out with his friends. His cupboards were mostly filled with ramyeon, rice, and instant coffee, and the last time he had looked into his fridge, he had found only kimchi, water, and beer in there. His mother would sometimes send him packaged side dishes, but Changmin usually devoured those in a matter of a few days.
Changmin took out three packages of instant noodles and a pan, setting about making them a meal. Changmin wasn’t the worst cook there could be, and he did have utmost confidence he could make a tasty cup of ramyeon.
Jaejoong appeared by his side, now without his boots and jacket. He looked at the boiling water curiously, before glancing at the rice cooker on the table.
“Not making rice?”
“You want rice?” Changmin asked absent-mindedly.
“Then make it yourself,” Cangmin told him. Jaejoong gave his arm a firm slap before opening all his cupboards in search for rice.
How fast he had accepted his situation, Changmin mused. It wasn’t 20 minutes before that the man had absolutely refused to come with him, and now he was making dinner with Changmin like it was nothing out of ordinary. Changmin had truly never seen such a person before.
The ramyeon was ready in a few minutes, and ended up being even more enjoyable than Changmin had expected – Jaejoong had shown up with eggs and chilli paste from his backpack and taken over Changmin’s pan. Without asking Changmin, he took the pan out and put it on the low table in front of Changmin’s tiny sofa, planting his butt on the floor in front of it. Changmin gave him a pair of chopsticks, bringing a cup as well. After turning on the television at Jaejoong’s request, he was forced to eat out of the cup himself, sitting neatly on the sofa, while Jaejoong monopolized the pan, slurping noodles right out of it.
He stared at the back of Jaejoong’s neck slightly displeased, as the man shook on the floor, staring at the TV with delight.
“I swear I’ve never seen a screen this big at someone’s home before!” Jaejoong gushed, laughing loudly at the slapstick comedy playing out on the screen. His laugh was breathy and pleasant.
“I play games,” Changmin huffed. “I think the rice’s done.”
Without a word, Jaejoong got up from his place on the floor, but his walk over to the rice cooker took a long time. Reluctant to tear his eyes away from the TV, he walked backwards, a spoon in his mouth and the pan in his hand, stopping every now and then to laugh at the comedians.
When he finally arrived at the rice cooker, he unceremoniously scooped up all the rice into the pan, mixing it with the remaining ramyeon soup. Taking with him a container of kimchi laying on top of the fridge, he walked back over, slumping back onto the floor.
“Rice?” he asked, blindly reaching his hand backwards for Changmin’s cup. Changmin gave it to him, and got back a huge serving.
Changmin ate in silence, reminiscing on the nostalgic taste of rice and ramyeon soup, listening to Jaejoong’s continuous laughter. Suddenly, he felt something lean against his leg. Looking down, it was Jaejoong’s mob of blonde hair, shaking every now and then as the man spooned more rice in his mouth and chuckled at the television.
It took Changmin a while before he realised the laughter had stopped. When he leaned over, peering at Jaejoong’s face that was half hidden against the trouser leg of his uniform, he was faced with closed eyes and an open mouth. Jaejoong’s hand was still holding onto the spoon.
The day must have been harder on Jaejoong than Changmin had thought.
Carefully Changmin reached for the pan, placing it on his lap. First things first, he mused as he estimated the amount of the remaining rice. Jaejoong had barely managed to eat half of it before falling asleep. Eating the remains contentedly, Changmin then pondered on what to do next. He had a few spare blankets in the closet, and he had intended to lay out a nice bedding for his sudden guest to sleep on, but waking Jaejoong up didn’t seem worth it.
Carefully, Changmin managed to move Jaejoong’s head from his knee onto the floor, helping the slumbering man to lie down. He took their dishes and the kimchi container to the kitchen to clean the place up a bit, then folded the small table up and placing it against the wall. He finished with fetching the blanket he had intended to give Jaejoong, laying it on top of the sleeping man, and placed the thin mattress on the floor in case the man woke up uncomfortable at some point.
Changmin’s body had retired into his bedroom, but his mind sure seemed to still be in the living room with his special guest.
Changmin turned around again, sighing aloud when he thought about the situation he had managed to get himself into. He couldn’t possibly go to work in the morning, not with his house left in the care of a complete stranger. Then again, he couldn’t possibly drive Jaejoong away either after practically forcing the other to come with him.
Jaejoong… what reason did Changmin have not to trust the other though. Sure, he seemed to be quite poor, and wouldn’t probably mind the money one could, say, earn from selling Changmin’s enormous TV, his most valuable possessions. Then again, Jaejoong didn’t really look like he had the strength to drag the huge thing out by himself.
Besides, in the end, the man had come to his home without much complaining (save for a few curse words along the way), and had just fallen asleep on the floor seemingly without a worry in the world.
Just how stupid could one be. Though Changmin reckoned it could also be called trusting.
Sighing once again, Changmin gave up on sleep, deciding to get himself a glass of water in the kitchen. When he exited the bedroom, he found Jaejoong sleeping on the floor in front of the sofa, in the same spot Changmin had left him in. He had cocooned himself in his blanket while he slept, but the mattress was still folded on the floor next to him.
Changmin poured himself the glass of water before going to sit on the sofa. Jaejoong was lying at his feet, seemingly unaware of the world around him. Why was Jaejoong able to sleep so peacefully, on the hard floor, when Changmin had to twist and turn in his bed to no end and could still not reach his rest?
Changmin wanted to look at the man’s face, but it was half hidden in the blanket. He found it all so awfully unfair. In all fairness, Jaejoong should have been the one worrying himself sick over his current situation, his homelessness, and his future, for God’s sake! The man didn’t even have a proper job, and Changmin had his doubts about his education.
When he looked at Jaejoong again, the other had dug his face out of the blanket, drooling away on the floor. Changmin looked at him feeling his heart soften at the hopeless sight. How could someone look so helpless, yet so disgusting at the same time?
Taking one last swig of his water, Chagmin placed the glass on the floor and carefully kicked Jaejoong’s side.
“Yah, Kim Jaejoong,” he exclaimed, “stop drooling on my floor.”
Jaejoong sprung up, disoriented, looking around him rather confused, until his eyes fell on Changmin.
“And who goes to sleep without washing anyway, so disgusting,” Changmin mumbled, taking hold of Jaejoong shoulders the pull the shorter man on the sofa beside him. Jaejoong smiled sloppily, rubbing his eyes in order to make out what was happening to him at the moment.
“I always meant to ask you, before your TV proved more interesting than talking to you,” Jaejoong asked with his voice even huskier than before, “how old is this tall little fucker anyway…”
Jaejoong's head fell on Changmin’s shoulder, and before Changmin had time to react he seemed to have fallen back to sleep, his mouth hanging open once again.
“Yah!” Changmin shook Jaejoong’s shoulder softly. “Wake up idiot! Talk with me and I’ll prove I’m a great conversationist.”
“You’re an asshole, that’s what you are,” Jaejoong grumbled, shaking his head to wake himself up.
“A person can’t be tall and little at the same time,” Changmin told Jaejoong who seemed unwilling to stop leaning against Changmin’s shoulder. The shaking of his head felt weird, the tips of his bleached hair brushing against Changmin’s neck.
Jaejoong stopped to contemplate on his words for a moment. When Changmin realised what he was doing, his face turned flaming red as he scampered to give Jaejoong’s forehead a firm flick. As he had planned, the man’s eyes moved away from his lap as Jaejoong sat up straight, holding his forehead.
“A certified asshole,” he confirmed, pouting at Changmin.
“And I’m still pretty sure that I’m older than you, so you should totally call me Jaejoong hyung.”
“Not happening in a million years,” Changmin scoffed, leaning against the back of his sofa, staring at the ceiling.
“Jaejoong hyung!” Jaejoong demanded, crawling closer to Changmin on the sofa, a gleam in his eyes.
“Dream on,” Changmin answered dismissively, eyes still peacefully closed.
“Jeez, Changmin, I have never met anyone with a bigger stick up their ass, God, seems more like a log to me… You’re really one huge asshole, no wonder no one likes you.”
Changmin tensed up, his chin snapping down to look at Jaejoong.
“And why do you think no one likes me?” he inquired.
Jaejoong smiled at him, tilting his head.
“Do you take me for a fool?” he snorted. “I’ve watched you patrol that same area for three years now, and don’t think I don’t know it’s the shittiest job a police officer could be given. I’m pretty sure you aren’t exactly your boss’s favourite.”
Changmin closed his eyes, the broadness of his shoulder suddenly diminishing as he thought of his unfortunate situation at the station.
“Oops…” Jaejoong said slowly, atypically at loss for short moment. Then he made his position comfortable, leaning his head against Changmin’s shoulder again.
“Do you maybe… do you want to talk about it?” Jaejoong inquired carefully, watching Changmin for his reaction.
“Not going to make you, just, you know, in case…”
Changmin shook his head, looking down on his lap.
Jaejoong fell silent too, and after a while Changmin wasn’t sure anymore if the man was already sleeping again. For some reason, he didn’t really want Jaejoong to sleep. He wanted Jaejoong to stay awake, lean against his shoulder, and maybe, just maybe, maybe he wanted Jaejoong to listen to him.
The worst of it all was that Changmin knew he had dug his own grave. Who told him too be obnoxious and loud, after all. When he first came, no one at the station had appreciated his total lack of respect for social hierarchy, his need to point out every single point that could be improved in their plans, or his overbearing need to assert his school book wisdom at every turn.
All in all, it had only taken his colleagues a month of teeth gritting before they had named Changmin the worst smart ass to ever step inside the police station of Jongno 3-ga. He had laughed at the honour, and continued on with the same arrogance as before, but at some point, it had blatantly turned against him.
Changmin didn’t really mind being made to make everyone’s coffee, or to drive their boss around on Sundays. He didn’t mind they had appointed him as the unofficial entertainment of all work dinners, spending all his time singing, too busy to down more than one beer, while every one else was busy getting drunk off their asses – or were even able to avoid the unpleasant, hierarchy re-establishing gatherings altogether.
What really bugged him was the fact he wasn’t been let on cases anymore. The entire staff of the station, seniors and peers all the same, seemed intent on dumping on him not only their coffee cups but all the paperwork of the whole station as well. And when he was let on cases, they always chose the most trivial ones they could find, or the ones that were technically impossible to solve.
They would never let him on anything, where he could try his best and prove himself.
When Changmin opened his eyes, he saw that Jaejoong was still staring at his face, head leant against his shoulder. When their eyes met, Jaejoong smiled slightly, raising his hand to gently touch Changmin’s cheek. The touch was so soft Changmin could barely feel it, but it still made his stomach turn weirdly upside down.
“Ah, my colleagues are all just a bunch of simple bastards who don’t know what’s great even if it’s staring them in the face,” Changmin grumbled moodily, desperately trying to hide the reaction he was feeling from Jaejoong’s touch. “Especially my boss. I think he’s senile already.”
Jaejoong smiled shortly.
“You know… maybe you should just try get along with your colleagues a bit more, I mean, even I think you’re pretty irritating.”
Changmin caught only the end of his words.
“Even me,” Jaejoong confirmed. “I mean, I am a pretty superficial bastard, and above all I just find you ridiculously good-looking. And tall. But you’re also kind of irritating, and you did get me kicked out of my home, though you did feed me, although I guess it was more like I fed you…”
Changmin rolled his eyes, his stomach doing flip-flops once again, but he hadn’t been praised for his poker face for nothing.
“Shut up,” he scoffed. “It’s not about being nice. You know I topped every class in university? It’s only right they include me properly, think of all the good results they would get with me helping instead of that devious, annoying classmate of mi—”
“Ahhh,” Jaejoong sighed over-dramatically. “I always knew you were going to be typical, but goddamn, you’re a living stereotype. Education this, studying that, and tell me, where did that get you? Huh? A miserable office worker whose main job is to chase after me, that’s what you became. You don’t even know how boring that sounds.”
“So it’s better to be on the chased end?”
“Come one, you gotta give it to me. Huh?” Jaejoong smiled, pleased with himself. “There has got to be something interesting about me if people are ready to run after me day after day.”
Changmin didn’t want to give in, but his poor brain was turning into mush at a very quick speed. Helplessly, he took hold of one of Jaejoong’s earrings and tugged it.
“You have too many earrings. You look ridiculous.”
Jaejoong didn’t answer, just smirked right back up at him, shaking his head slightly to make his earrings clink against each other. Changmin stared at him, thinking it might be a good idea to just go to sleep. He’d help Jaejoong to lay out his mattress, and then he’d sleep so well, he’d sleep like a damn log and wouldn’t remember any confusing things. Until it was morning again, at least.
“Thought you’d never ask!” Jaejoong moaned painfully, already rolling over to crawl over Changmin’s lap. “God, men in uniforms are so damn sexy!”
Changmin was stupefied. He didn’t really know what to do with the blonde man suddenly sitting on his lap. Jaejoong didn’t give him much time to think though, taking his hands and placing them on his waist, smiling lopsidedly.
“You really think way too much,” he whispered, leaning closer to press a kiss on Changmin’s flaming cheek, right next to his cutely protruding ear. Changmin’s head still didn’t know what to do, but his hands and his lips did seem to know.
Two years later
Changmin looked around warily, glancing at the superintendent that seemed to be about to fall asleep on his desk, his head nodding as he dozed off. It was just about time for the new rookie at their station to come back from his patrol, and Changmin had a hunch of the news the young mans would bring.
Changmin played with the sleeve of his uniform, slipping it up to twiddle with the delicate bracelet hidden underneath. It was made with the tiniest of shells, white and purple ones, fragile and hard at the same time. Changmin smiled. It sure reminded him of the maker himself.
Just at that moment, a young man, fresh out of Police University raced inside, his face red with his excitement.
“The hawkers near the middle school!” he shouted, the sudden noise surprising their sleepy superintendent. The poor old man started violently, losing his balance in his hurry to straighten his back, ending up crashing on the floor when his chair lost its balance.
“Superintendent, sir!” the young man shrieked loudly, running to his side. His teardrop-shaped eyes were wide as he scrambled to help the disoriented man up from the floor.
“I guess I should go, I am the best acquainted with the hawkers of this area and their ways after all,” Changmin announced to no one in general, watching as half of the office fussed over the superintendent, the remaining half staring at the scene from their seats.
“I’ll be going now… Yes,” Changmin continued his one-sided conversation and then, slipping on his coat, he stood up and slipped out of the door.
His feet felt light on the way. It was a fine day, sky blue and not too hot either. Changmin was really looking forward to the short holiday he would have in a month’s time. But before that, he would most probably have a few more days like the very day that he could use to slip away from the station to enjoy the day.
He arrived at the familiar alley, still as filled with hawkers as it had been any given day. Most of them were the exact same ones that had been selling their goods on the street two years earlier too. Only some of the students had changed. Changmin hoped that the ones that had disappeared had managed to move on with their lives, graduate and get good jobs. He still love the idea of education after all.
It wasn’t hard to spot, the mob of blonde hair that flitted through the maze of hawkers, the owner of said hair singing aloud as he walked around, saying his hellos to his fellow vendors.
Changmin stalked closer, not bothering to announce his presence. Jaejoong had good eyes and a keen sixth sense, to be quite honest Changmin could never quite figure out how the man always managed to spot him before he made his presence known.
As sure as always, Jaejoong did notice him, the man’s eyes widening as he took in Changmin’s formidable form approaching him on the street. Jaejoong made a turn so sharp Changmin could swear he heard his earrings play out a whole symphony as they swayed with his abrupt movements.
Jaejoong had already started jogging, making a beeline for his bracelets. When he reached them, he grabbed the cloth and the jewellery as fast as he could, bundling it up and bolting up the alley. Changmin sped up also, running now with all his might after Jaejoong in a familiar chase that took them through crowded streets.
Jaejoong had gotten sloppy lately, Changmin thought as he ran. Back in the old days, the man would always manage to lose him, either in a crowd, or by tricking him. Now, he was able to follow the man’s familiar wide shoulders and blonde hair with his eyes the whole time, not once losing sight of him. Jaejoong did take a few sudden turns and corners, but his attempts at getting rid of his chaser seemed rather half-assed to Changmin.
The man’s speed, however, was as great as ever, and Changmin was sincerely out of breath when he finally saw Jaejoong run through a door, entering a block of flats. Changmin sped up as much as he could with the remaining of his strength, he didn’t want to lose sight of Jaejoong at the last moment.
Running right through the doorway himself, Changmin got in just in time to see the other man disappearing up a flight of stairs. Not willing to lose, Changmin aimed for the stairs as well, hopping up two stairs at the time. If something, he had longer legs than Jaejoong, so he might be able to catch up a bit if he hurried.
Short of breath, he arrived on the fourth floor. Jaejoong had just gotten the door unlocked, glancing back only to see Changmin charging after him with all his might. Jaejoong yelped, yanking the door wide open and trying to close it after himself, but Changmin managed to get his shoe on the way just in time. The collision of the door hurt his foot, but the worked-up expression on Jaejoong’s face was well worth it. Changmin took hold of the edge of the door and jerked the door open, Jaejoong’s fingers slipping away from the handle as he scampered to run inside the flat.
Changmin stared at Jaejoong’s feet still clad with shoes, clicking his tongue as he toed his own shoes off messily before following the man into the flat. He stopped at the doorway to his bedroom, looking at Jaejoong who had backed himself to the very end of the room, panting softly, his back against the corner. Changmin smirked, walking in slowly.
“Yah, yah, yah,” he said, “caught you finally, I guess.”
Jaejoong looked at him accusingly, his lips about to form a pout.
“I got home, but you followed me in,” he said. “Trespasser. I’m calling the police.”
Changmin snorted, walking towards Jaejoong who had lifted the bundle of purple cloth up as if to protect himself with it. Changmin took it from him carefully, setting it aside as his hands gravitated towards Jaejoong’s shoulders. The blonde man smiled at him, his own arms winding around Changmin’s thin waist, hands settling in the back pockets of Changmin’s neat, grey uniform, squeezing his ass appreciatively.
“It’s not trespassing if it’s my home too,” Changmin said and leant down to give Jaejoong’s plump lips a short kiss. “And you’re welcome to call me anytime.”