Changmin was lying on the couch in his pyjamas when Yunho came back. The TV was off though. Yunho came to stand in front of the couch after having hidden the folder in his room.
“What are you doing?”
Changmin turned his head to look at him. “I was contemplating the whiteness of the ceiling until you interrupted.”
“Ah, is that so?” Yunho said uncertainly.
Changmin’s lips broke into a grin. “Stupid. The TV program I was watching just finished so I was resting my eyes for a few seconds when you came in.”
Yunho smiled back. “I see.” And after a few seconds of hesitation, he asked: “Can I sit down?”
Changmin’s face showed surprise with a dash of apprehension but he nonetheless sat up and patted the spot next to him.
Yunho sat down, careful in letting enough space between the two of them.
“You came home quite late,” Changmin remarked.
Yunho froze. “Oh, you know, a meeting that went long past its scheduled time.”
“Is that so? You weren’t too bored?” Changmin looked at his lap where his hands were grasped together. “I’m sorry I’m not doing my share of the work.”
“Don’t be silly.” Yunho’s tone was sharp, the one he used for business when he was fed up with hearing nonsense.
Changmin looked at him with wide eyes. “But—”
“No buts.” Yunho’s voice turned softer and started chattering, “let’s watch a film. I kind of wanted to see Architecture 101 and one of the make-up artists just happened to have it. I had to do some really embarrassing aegyo but she finally lent it to me.”
Changmin smiled at Yunho’s attempt at distracting him. “What kind of aegyo? You aren’t cute at all.”
Yunho faked a look of outrage before putting his hands together underneath his jaw, framing the lower part of his face. Pouting, he protested: “I’m always cute, aren’t I?”
“Ugh. Stop using this voice. It feels disgusting.”
“Not until you agree to watch the film with me,” Yunho answered with a syrupy voice.
“I surrender,” Changmin said while hugging a pillow.
Halfway through the film, when Yunho was grumbling for Seo Yeon to make her mind, Changmin’s head had come to rest on Yunho’s shoulder. Yunho didn’t dare turn to look at him but he heard Changmin’s breathing even out.
Carefully, Yunho led Changmin’s sleeping form in a more comfortable position, his head lying on Yunho’s lap. He gently stroked Changmin’s hair.
“What am I going to do with you?” Yunho murmured. He resumed watching the film.
Changmin woke up to a blanket and an empty spot next to him. Yunho was gone. He looked at the digital clock next to the TV.
Yunho was nowhere to be found and his phone was disconnected. Changmin felt panic rise, his pulse quickening.
It only took a few rings before a cranky voice answered.
“It’s 2 in the morning. This better be good or there will be deaths. Whoever you are, you have five seconds.”
“Yoochun… I don’t have time to explain but if something were to happen…”
“Yunho? What’s happening? What…?”
“Just take care of Chang—”
A hand had grabbed his phone and he watched helplessly how the charger was taken out and was pocketed by Yoon Hee. He threw her a mean glare as she gave him a different phone.
“No time for social calls. This is to call me if there is any trouble. There won’t be though.” Yunho could see the faint tremors than ran through her hands. “Ok. Let’s do this.”
“This is crazy. We’re crazy. There’s still time to stop this.” Yunho could still feel Changmin’s warmth on his shoulder.
“Stop muttering and come help me with the equipment.”
Yunho remembered how Changmin had twitched in his sleep, how his eyebrows had furrowed until Yunho had stroked his hair and muttered nonsense in a soothing voice.
His resolve hardened. He took several pieces of equipment Yoon Hee had deemed essential –a camera, a torch light and a knife– and he put them into the pockets of his black vest.
Yoon Hee closed the trunk of the rented car. “One last thing before we go.”
“Wha—” Yunho froze when he saw the gun in her hand.
“Do you know how to use one?”
Yunho’s words escaped him.
“I thought so. But don’t worry, it’s just a precaution,” she smiled at him, “better safe than sorry.”
Yunho wondered how a weapon could be considered as something safe.
“Yunho, are you listening? Look, you just have to take the safety off,” which Yoon Hee did as the clicking sound indicated, “then you aim and shoot.”
After putting the safety back on, Yoon Hee took advantage of Yunho’s daze to push the gun into his hand. “You won’t need any reload so just think safety off, aim, shoot.”
The heavy weight in his hands felt at the same time very similar and yet completely different to the guns he had handled for dramas. This one could actually hurt someone.
“Ok. Let’s go.”
Yunho nodded and they both pulled their hood over their faces. It was also part of the ‘better safe than sorry’ policy.
Yunho was surprised to find that the building they were going to break into was actually ordinary-looking. There were no big electrified fences and guards with fancy weaponry or big dangerous dogs. It was just a small three-story building in the outskirts of Seoul, looking like any other business building.
They entered by a back door that Yoon Hee unlocked, with some difficulties but still.
“I don’t want to know why you know how to do that.”
They entered the building. From the looks of it, they had landed in the kitchen, which explained the lack of extensive security.
The whiteness of the corridor was blinding. A few doors presented themselves but only one had a high level of security. Typing an access code into a keypad seemed to be the key to unlock it.
“Now what?” Yunho asked.
“Now, as planned, we look through those rooms to find incriminating stuff while we search for the code.”
Yunho stared at her. Yoon Hee winced. “I know it’s not the best plan ever, but let’s try,” she whispered. “I take the first and second doors, you take the third and fourth.”
The third room was the host of a lot of measuring and science-related equipment. Everything was squeaky clean.
The fourth room had already the lights on when Yunho entered it. He realised too late that a figure was hunched over a table, scribbling in a small notebook.
Yunho ducked under a table. His heartbeat sped up. He felt like everyone in the building would be able to hear his heartbeat. He had to warn Yoon Hee but he would make too much noise if he tried to send her a text. His hold on the gun tightened. He just had to wait for the person to leave.
It probably would have worked if it hadn’t been for the pen that the person had dropped. The person bent down to retrieve it and, for a brief second, Yunho made eye-contact with him.
Both abruptly stood up and Yunho pointed his gun at the man. The man slowly raised his hands in a signal of surrender.
He was wearing a lab coat. A scientist working here had to have the access code. Well, the damage was already done.
“Open the locked door or you’re dead,” Yunho waved his gun towards the door, trying to hide his shaking and appear threatening.
The man looked torn but the click of the safety being taken off made him move towards the door. They left the room, once again in the white corridor, and Yunho saw that the second door was slightly open. He hoped Yoon Hee was safe.
The scientist slowly typed the code. The door unlocked and he looked back at Yunho hesitatingly. Yunho waved the gun again towards the door. The scientist entered and Yunho followed.
A shiver ran down his spine as he saw many test tubes and jars of formaldehyde lined up in cupboards. He tried not to look at the suspicious shapes that resided in those jars.
He suddenly thought of the camera and decided to take some pictures. He threw a glance at the scientist, his gun still pointed at him, and took out his camera.
It was a bit awkward but he still managed to take pictures with one hand. He took an overall picture of the room but decided that he had to do close-up of the jars.
Brains, hands, hearts made his stomach lurch but when the eyes of patient 0, as labelled on the jar, looked back at him, he stumbled back.
The scientist sized this chance to plunge towards him, a syringe in his hand. They struggled for a bit before Yunho dropped his gun and the syringe pierced his skin.
Something cold went up and down his arm. It went on to freeze his chest and then everywhere. His heart felt as if it would stop. He fell on his knees, clutching his head.
The scientist took a few steps back and pressed a red button. An alarm started to ring, making Yunho’s headache worse.
Through the blinding pain, Yunho saw that his gun that had slid underneath a table. He threw himself underneath it, his hands closed on the gun and he quickly stood up at the other side of the table. His legs felt like jelly but he managed to stabilise himself by putting one hand on the table.
He aimed at the scientist but he found himself unable to shoot. Both were breathing heavily, staring into each other’s eyes. The man let the syringe fall, breaking his concentration, as a guard rushed into the room aiming at Yunho.
He shut his eyes tightly as he heard a gun being fired, anticipating the pain, but he only felt a hand closing onto his arm and dragging him away.
“Come on! Yunho! Help me save you.”
The white corridor was now blinking red as they dashed towards the kitchen. Yoon Hee locked the door behind them and finally fresh air hit them as they exited the building.
It didn’t mean they were safe yet. They were running towards the car when Yunho felt a bullet grazing his side.
Yoon Hee was the quickest and threw herself into the car. She started the engine and was already stepping on the gas when Yunho managed to climb into the car.
“Are you ok? Did you get anything?” Yoon Hee asked, breathlessly as she stepped on the accelerator.
Yunho’s vision swam. He took off his hood.
“I got pictures of strange jars.” Yunho patted himself but the pocket in which the camera was supposed to be was empty.
He had dropped the camera when the scientist attacked him.
“Yoon Hee… I’m sorry,” Yunho stumbled on the words, “I think I dropped the camera.”
Yoon Hee made a sudden turn and stopped when they arrived in the back of a small alley. Yunho was sweating a lot and he could smell blood in the air.
He was pretty sure he hadn’t been shot though. Through the haze that had invaded his mind, he looked at Yoon Hee.
She was resting, leaning back on her seat, her eyes tightly closed. She had let her hood fall on her knees and she looked in pain.
Yunho’s gaze travelled down and he could see how hard she was clutching her leg. Blood flowed through her fingers. Its dark tinge was definitely a bad sign.
“Yoon Hee!” Yunho grabbed his phone and dialled the emergency service. “Where are we?”
“Dongja-dong street,” she muttered. “Don’t fret too much. It looks worse than what it really is.”
The ambulance would take only a few minutes to get there. They would be fine, Yunho convinced himself.
She let escape a gasp and Yunho moved closer. He lifted his hand to wipe the sweat off her forehead but instead something flashed in his mind.
“No! Don’t!” He was shouting, or was he? Thin fingers reached towards the man that stood on the ledge of the building. “We can fix this,” he said.
The man turned around. He smiled. “No, we can’t Yoon Hee.”
He turned back and Yoon Hee ran to him but her fingers were too late. They only grazed the shirt as the man jumped.
The fall was short and the thickening thump resounded in his brain. Yoon Hee closed her eyes and everything turned black.
“I wish this hadn’t happened.”
Yunho opened his eyes and jerked his hands away. Yoon Hee looked at him.
“Who are you?”
He blinked in surprise. “It’s me Yunho.”
“I don’t know you.” Yoon Hee closed her eyes. “I’m sleepy.”
Sirens rang in his ears. He turned the car lights, gave a quick kiss to Yoon Hee’s cheek and stumbled out of the car. It had started to rain at some point.
When Yunho opened the door, he was welcomed by a very angry Changmin.
“It’s 10am. I’ve been searching for you everywhere and then, 5 hours ago, there was this announcement on TV about this woman being shot and—” Changmin finally took Yunho’s appearance in. “Why are you dripping wet?”
Changmin gulped, his hands hovering near Yunho’s. “Why do you have blood on your cuffs? What have you done?”
Yunho’s lips tightened into a thin line and pushed past Changmin to lock himself into the bathroom.
He turned on the shower and went in without taking his clothes off.
Nothing made sense. The man jumping off the ledge flashed through his mind. He was part of Yoon Hee’s memories. He had been seeing her memories; the reason why she had wanted to do everything. And then... she had been wishing to forget everything.
Who are you? She had asked Yunho.
Yunho looked at his arm, at the tiny red dot that the syringe had left. It should not, could not, be possible but he had been the one that had said ok. He had wanted to help Yoon Hee.
He had erased her memories.
Yunho closed his eyes and let the water wash away his sweat and her blood.
Once dry and changed –his soiled clothes put into a big bag that he would throw away later– he still didn’t feel any cleaner. He stepped out of the bathroom and went to the living room. Changmin sat on the couch, watching TV.
The woman had been saved. They were searching for witnesses. She didn’t remember anything that happened to her, nothing before her husband’s suicide. Specialists were arguing about trauma and self-harm, explaining the lack of witnesses.
Yunho looked at his hands. He walked to Changmin.
Changmin jerked back, fear in his eyes. Yunho saw the knife resting on the couch next to Changmin’s hand.
“Yunho… You are Yunho, right?” Changmin gripped the knife.
It’s for the best, Yunho thought. He could save him too.
He smiled at Changmin. “Of course.”
The gentle smile seemed to relax Changmin somewhat. “They say that she tried to kill herself.”
“The woman. On TV. She was found in a rented car,” Changmin said nervously.
“Was she? That’s terrible.” Yunho sat next to Changmin, who tensed.
“What were you doing? Why did you leave the flat?”
“I had some photoshoot to do. You know, the ones where you have to look cool, at night, in the middle of Seoul, under the rain. Fans love wet white shirts.”
Changmin’s grip on the knife tightened. “And the blood?”
“It wasn’t blood. I just happened to touch fresh paint before coming. I managed to wash my hands but not the shirt. Satisfied?”
Changmin nodded after a few seconds. Yunho smiled warmly, “Can I have the knife then?”
Changmin blushed. “Ah, sorry for that. It’s just…”
“It’s ok.” Yunho’s fingers closed on Changmin’s and the storage room flashed in his mind.
“I wish this hadn’t happened.”
He could protect himself. He could protect Changmin. Maybe instead of erasing, he could modify it a bit.
“Changmin? Changmin?” Yunho turned off the TV.
“Huh,” Changmin looked at him, confused.
“We were going to eat breakfast until you started spacing out.”
“Was I?” Changmin stood up.
“Yes, what were you thinking about?” Yunho had to hide the small wobble as he also stood up.
Changmin shrugged. “Well, I don’t remember. It mustn’t have been important.” Changmin paused, frowned.“Oh! Remind me to go to the bank tomorrow.”
Yunho’s hand froze over the rice cooker. “Why?”
Changmin turned the coffee maker on. “Well, I meant to go to the bank right before I fell ill. Don’t you remember?”
Yunho started to fill Changmin’s bowl with rice. “I had our manager take care of it while you were resting at the hospital. Here, your rice.”
Changmin took the bowl and set it down on the table. “Ah, I’m so sorry for the trouble I caused. To get pneumonia during promotion time...”
Yunho sat down with his own bowl. “Don’t worry about it.”
He thanked Changmin for the coffee pot Changmin had put on the table. “Anyway, you’re all fine now, aren’t you?
“Yes, I feel great if a bit tired. Ah, before I forget.”
Changmin went to the living room and came back with Yunho’s phone. “It kept ringing while you were in the shower. I didn’t recognise the number so I didn’t answer.”
Yunho took the phone. 3 missed calls from 02-213-7546. Yoochun. His hand rubbed the red dot on his arm. He could finally fix everything, maybe.
Changmin sat down. “Anyway, I’m sooooo hungry!”
Changmin smiled at him as he stuffed his face with rice. Yunho smiled back.