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    “Dr. Han.”

    He turned at his call. Jin leaned against the wall with his arms crossed.

    “I couldn’t respond earlier because you fainted.”

    It was hard to recall the moment just before fainting. It felt like every night, he fell asleep at some point without knowing when.

    “It’s already too late.”

    Jin chuckled. Then, he waved his hand gently, indicating he wouldn’t approach any further. It was fortunate that he didn’t offer to accompany him. He briefly remembered what he had said last night. A dog dashed out between the closing doors. Jin quickly caught Nari, who was running toward Han Naeyung.

    Clang, clang, clang! Nari barked so loudly that it seemed complaints would come from the neighboring houses. Jin seemed unconcerned about the loud barking, resonating through his body.

    “Good job, Nari.”

    He even patted Nari’s head approvingly. He shouldn’t get too involved. Despite Jin’s affectionate smile, he reminded himself not to be swayed, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave.

    ⋆. ݁⭒

    Except for Nari, who was circling the dining table excitedly, the atmosphere remained calm throughout. Jin placed a bowl of seaweed soup in front of Han Naeyung. Jin wore white gloves. Seeing the gloves he had given him were clean as new, it seemed he had bought new ones.

    Han Naeyung scooped up some soup with a spoon.

    “The dumplings…”

    Three frozen dumplings had swelled up. They looked like they might burst the moment they were pierced.

    “Do you not like dumplings?”

    “No.” Han Naeyung shook his head. It was merely a comment about the unfamiliar dumplings in the soup. The well-seasoned seaweed soup eased the dryness in his throat. He sipped the broth effortlessly, but he had no intention of putting dumplings or rice in his mouth.

    “Are they not tasty?”

    “They’re delicious.”

    “If there’s any food you like, let me know. I’m good at cooking.”

    Han Naeyung scooped up some soup and looked at Jin. When Nari tried to jump onto the chair, he scolded him sternly.

    “It hasn’t been long since I brought him here, but this guy was jumping onto the table. He ate side dishes like a ravenous beast. I thought he’d stopped getting excited during meals, but he ended up vomiting because I gave him too much food.”

    Jin paused, with a dumpling halfway to his mouth.

    “I’m sorry for bringing this up during the meal.”

    “It’s okay.”

    Jin was unchanged from yesterday. His cheerful demeanor and laughter lines around his eyes were still there. Han Naeyung wanted to avoid him. He understood the meaning behind his last words. Yet here he was, sitting at this table. He hadn’t formed deep relationships with anyone since that day. Contacting others itself was a challenge.

    But his kiss had been warm, and he had even had sex. It was like some kind of adventure. If it had been someone other than Jin, he might have had a seizure during sex.

    “You seemed very tired yesterday.”

    Jin said as he poured another bowl of soup.

    “The sign in front of the house… it was too bright.”

    Han Naeyung looked at the dumplings filling Jin’s bowl and added,

    “So I had trouble sleeping a bit.”

    “If it’s disturbing your sleep, why not file a complaint?”

    “I’m a bit sensitive.”

    “Do you usually have trouble sleeping?”


    “Was the medicine you took that day not vitamins?”

    Jin glanced up at Han Naeyung.


    “I forgot to pay my hospital bill and had to go back. I took some medicine then.”

    The day when he deliberately ignored him, Han Naeyung remembered too.

    “That’s… a sleep inducer.”

    Jin looked at him awkwardly. It was a moment of hesitation, whether to speak or not.

    Even while changing into clean clothes stained with dirt from the ordeal, Jin didn’t touch Han Naeyung with his bare hands. It seemed like his eyes would open wide at the slightest touch of his skin.

    Then he noticed faint scars still remaining on his back. There were old wounds scattered across his back. While there were hardly any rough patches that indicated scar removal surgery, the marks were distinct. Jin knew well how such wounds were inflicted.

    It was far from scars resulting from accidental events like a traffic accident. The possibility of abuse was high. It was a natural consequence related to Han Naeyung’s agoraphobia.

    “Are both of your parents alive?”


    Han Naeyung replied casually.

    “Do you have a good relationship with them?”


    The dumplings were disintegrating in the lukewarm soup. Although Han Naeyung felt like leaving, he spooned some into his mouth.

    “They seem like good people.”

    Jin paused his meal and stared intently at Han Naeyung.

    “The hospital I’m running now… my parents helped me with that.”

    “Is that some sort of settlement money?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “I’m asking if one of your parents harassed Dr. Han.”

    Han Naeyung also looked up.

    “They wouldn’t do such a thing.”

    Their gazes met. Han Naeyung didn’t avoid Jin’s eyes. Jin stopped his usual behavior of quietly staring and pursed his lips.

    “This is actually one of my bad habits.”

    While the habit of distinguishing between truth and lies was helpful in his profession, it was unnecessary at times like this.

    “Do you know what the typical behavior of liars is?”

    “…I’m not sure.”

    “Usually, people think they’ll avoid eye contact, but that’s not always the case. Some people lie while looking directly into your eyes. They might seem confident for about 3 seconds, but then gradually show signs of nervousness. The expression ‘their pupils are shaking’ is quite fitting.”

    “Did I do that?”

    “No. You didn’t seem relieved at all.”


    “I just changed the subject, didn’t I? I’m saying there was no sign of relief on Dr. Han’s face.”

    It’s difficult to hide a relieved expression when transitioning smoothly to the next topic while lying. Then maybe it wasn’t parental abuse. Jin eliminated one hypothesis.

    Perhaps it was some kind of special accident. He had undergone scar removal surgery, after all.

    Han Naeyung, who mechanically moved only his utensils, picked up a cup. After swallowing the water, as if he had something to say, he took a deep breath. But before he could speak, Nari suddenly jumped onto the chair.

    Nari confidently placed his front paws on Han Naeyung’s thigh. Han Naeyung petted Nari, who was asking to be touched. Perhaps because he suddenly lowered his head, he felt as if his body seated on the chair was swaying like a buoy.

    The hangover that had been suppressed surged up to his throat. He drank more water to dilute the residual alcohol in his stomach. Jin’s white gloves came into view.

    “If you’re in pain, please tell me.”

    Jin knelt in front of him, keeping a certain distance, showing concern.

    “…I’m okay.”

    Han Naeyung replied sincerely.

    “Let’s finish our meal.”

    As Han Naeyung lifted his spoon again, Jin stood up from his seat, still unable to dispel his worries.

    He knew it wasn’t easy to adjust himself to others. Until a moment ago, he, who was wearing gloves, missed his chopsticks several times. It was because he wasn’t used to the slippery fabric. Each time that happened, Jin would smile slightly.

    Inside the house, there was a scent of fabric softener reminiscent of flower fragrance. The subtle scent permeated as naturally as yesterday’s kiss.

    A man dining together with warmth radiating from Nari on his lap. It was a normal moment that he had never thought he could have in his lifetime.

    “Are you comfortable?”

    Han Naeyung flinched and looked at him.

    “About that… It’s him.”

    As Jin finished his meal and drank water, he pointed to Nari. Nari was sleeping on Han Naeyung’s thigh. When Han Naeyung looked uncomfortable, Jin moved Nari to the adjacent chair. Nari seemed to find this position comfortable.

    “Prosecutor Jin.”

    Han Naeyung covered Nari’s ears with his hand. And then, he brought up what he couldn’t say earlier due to Nari’s interference.

    “In the future… I’ll introduce you to a different… animal hospital. You should use that place from now on.”

    “Okay, let’s do that.”

    Jin interrupted. Han Naeyung lowered his head and fell silent for a moment. The emotion that suddenly dug into him after Jin’s response was…

    “Can I take Nari without any excuses from now on?”

    He bit his lip inwardly. When he released the pressed lips, a reddish hue spread again over the pale small flesh.

    “Why are you making that face?”


    “You seemed disappointed by what I just said. But why did you say that?”


    It wasn’t disappointment but rather a sense of loss. If he hadn’t had it in the first place, there wouldn’t be anything to lose. Having something was inherently frightening. With Jin, he might be able to live as an ordinary Han Naeyung. But even if he obtained such a life, he would eventually be anxious about losing it.

    Moreover, his existence would be poisonous to Jin too. So he had to separate himself.

    “You asked if I was abused.”

    Jin paused while pouring water. The water in the glass trembled.

    Han Naeyung guessed why he brought up his parents. Probably because he saw the scars from changing clothes. That’s why he carefully chose his words.

    “It wasn’t my parents. But the reason I have agoraphobia is because of that.”

    Anger flickered in Jin’s eyes. Once again, Han Naeyung could see that Jin was angry not at him, but at whoever had abused him. Before Jin could say anything, Han Naeyung spoke.

    “Prosecutor Jin, I’m not… someone suitable to be with anyone.”

    The smile that always lingered around his lips was nowhere to be seen.

    Jin unconsciously searched for cigarettes before wiping his face. Han Naeyung once again placed the sleeping dog on the adjacent chair. The words were over, so it was time to leave. Fortunately, Jin didn’t stop him.

    When he put the dishes and utensils in the sink, he heard the sound of the chair moving backward.

    “Dr. Han.”

    “I’ll leave now. I’ll leave my clothes at the security office.”

    Han Naeyung stepped back first. Jin couldn’t catch up with Han Naeyung walking towards the entrance. Jin’s attention lingered entirely on Han Naeyung’s back. When the front door opened, Nari dashed out, but it was already too late.

    ⋆. ݁⭒

    Bang! The harsh honk washed away the long-gone past.

    Han Naeyung belatedly snapped out of his daze. Bang, the horn sounded again. Standing in the middle of the crosswalk, Han Naeyung looked at the red light.

    The crosswalk with traffic lights installed on the second lane was a recent addition. Han Naeyung opened the car window and lowered his head to the driver who was raising his voice. After quickly crossing the road and stepping onto the sidewalk, he walked slower than usual.

    Occasionally, when the dull pain rang, the actions from last night became vividly realistic. What did I do…? From the one he touched, he felt a missed breath. Afraid it would melt away too quickly, he tucked the candy under the cheek like a little breath of a child. It was the first time he smelled that scent from an adult.

    He wouldn’t console himself by saying it was a mistake because of being drunk. He clearly used his favoritism.

    The signboard in front of the house blinked fiercely even though it was morning. He decided not to visit the hospital and went straight up to the second floor. The house, empty for a day, felt eerily desolate.

    Han Naeyung, taking off his shoes and going inside, stood in front of the tightly closed door. Then, he found the keys in the ceramic vase on the display shelf. Upon opening the door, the room, without heating, was filled with a faint breath of frost.

    Han Naeyung closed the cabinet, leaned back, and sat down.

    Closing the cabinet and resting against it, he thought, ‘Prosecutor Jin, I also have a younger brother. A brother with a steady breath like mine, so similar to me. Now, no one remembers him but me, and he only exists in the hippocampus in my head…’

    It was too sad, too longing, that he held onto him. He knew he shouldn’t.

    The truths he couldn’t tell Jin echoed inside.

    Han Naeyung raised his numb gaze and looked at the dark wallpaper. Before he knew it, the gloomy room had turned into a mold-covered prison. It was a large cage. It was a grille that forcibly removed the wings and locked two small birds.

    With gloved hands, Han Naeyung pressed his eyes tightly against the memories that came like hallucinations. When he removed his hand, two children were drawing something on the floor with crayons.

    Jaemin’s handwriting was crooked.

    The floor was covered with countless writings, making it difficult to discern what they were. However, even without seeing or speaking, Jaemin and Han Naeyung understood each other’s hearts. Han Naeyung also had the same dream. It was the same dream as Jaemin’s. The faceless parents took only Jaemin out of this place.

    No matter how much he cried out in despair, they didn’t take him with them, but on the other hand, he felt relieved. If Jaemin could leave, he was okay with being left alone. When he woke up, he knew it was just a dream, but he felt despair.

    Jaemin, holding the crayon, grinned broadly.

    Han Naeyung reached out to the two children in front of him.

    Thunk! In an instant, the two young figures disappeared, and his knees harshly hit the floor. Now all he could see was the dark wallpaper. Tears streamed down along the rounded contours of his cheeks.

    As he hunched over, a faint scent lingered at the tip of his nose. It was Jin’s scent emanating from the clothes he was wearing. He knew he had to strip it all off and put on new clothes.

    But Han Naeyung didn’t move. He remained still for a while, buried in the clothes.

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