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Questions answered

Questions Answered
TaeHa has questions. So does Taewoon. Thankfully, the questions are the same, but for different people.
Writer's Notes: I'm sorry, I thought I'd posted this! This follows Irritating Elves, and is almost the last fic in the group.
Warnings: none

"Who was that?" TaeHa asked that night, repeating his question from just after Yunseo had gone.

In the dark of their shared bedroom, YooHwan couldn't see his expression, couldn't hear anything more than curiosity in his voice. Something seemed off, however, although he couldn't figure it out.

"Why?" YooHwan asked.

"You looked... conflicted while you were talking to her," TaeHa told him.

YooHwan lifted an eyebrow. "You said you couldn't read me when you started to work with us."

"It's been awhile since them, not to mention the months of rooming together," TaeHa pointed out. "My job depends on observation as well, to some extent."

YooHwan had to give him that. He laced his fingers together and tucked them behind his head. "She was..." he started, and then stopped, trying to figure out how to describe Yunseo. "She's been a friend of mine for years," he finally said.

"Decades?" TaeHa asked, with less personal and more professional curiosity. "Centuries?"

YooHwan laughed. "I'm not that old. Decades."

"Huh," TaeHa said. "She looked like she expected more... intimacy."

"We were heading that way," YooHwan said, glancing over. He still couldn't see more than a light blob where he knew TaeHa's pillow was. "She could have been something closer. But then my father stepped in and tried to force the issue."

TaeHa sat up and looked at him. "You have a father?"

YooHwan laughed. "Elves don't spring out of trees fully grown, you know," he teased.

TaeHa huffed. "I didn't know," he said, and sighed. "I guess... you don't get along with him?"

YooHwan moved his hands from behind his head to lay across his chest. "Understatement," he said. "I might have stayed and married her, if he hadn't insisted on it."

TaeHa didn't say anymore, and when YooHwan looked at him, he'd lain down again and turned to face the wall. "Is something wrong?" YooHwan asked.

"No," TaeHa said, his voice muffled. "Absolutely nothing."

YooHwan lay there for a long time, trying to figure out what sounded so wrong, and he finally realized it by the time his friend had fallen asleep. It made him frown. TaeHa had never lied to him before.


That evening introduced a new and uncomfortable dynamic in the house. YooHwan didn't think he was the only one who noticed how TaeHa avoided him. Not always, but often enough he would go into a room, and TaeHa would make some sort of excuse and leave.

Three days later, that supposition was proved true. YooHwan walked into the kitchen to ask about dinner. TaeHa got up from the stool at the bar, waved at them both, and went to the basement. As soon as the door closed behind him, Jungwoo looked at YooHwan. "What's up with TaeHa?" he asked.

"I have no idea," YooHwan said, sitting down across the bar from Jungwoo, on the stool TaeHa had just left. "It started a couple of days ago, though."

Jungwoo frowned, stirring something that smelled delicious. "What happened a couple of days ago?" he asked, looking over at YooHwan.

"Yunseo. I think."

"Your... friend?"

YooHwan straightened up. "Why the hesitation?" he asked.

Jungwoo shrugged. "I don't know. I just got the impression that you were closer, once, than you acted when she came to visit."

YooHwan sighed gustily. "How could you tell?"

"You've been around us for a while," Jungwoo said. "You're not as much of a mystery as you used to be. And she looked like she expected something more than she got. Grab some bowls, will you? It's about done."

"I don't understand why she would have caused this change with TaeHa," YooHwan said, getting up to get into the cupboard.

"Well, how good a friend was she?" Jungwoo asked.

"Is," YooHwan said. "Good enough that if my father hadn't pushed it, we would have married eventually."

Jungwoo froze, then turned to look at him, eyes unreadable. "You would have?"

"Yes," YooHwan said, and turned to set the table. "You all seem so surprised by that."

"It never crossed our minds," Jungwoo said, and got a trivet. He set the soup pot in the middle of the table on it. "I'll get everyone, if you'll finish setting the table." He left the room before YooHwan could respond.

Setting the spoons on, YooHwan thought over the conversation, and got the impression he'd missed something important. He just didn't know what.


"You've got problems," Chaerin said to Taewoon as they watched TaeHa practically run downstairs, his footsteps loud on the wooden steps until the door closed behind him. YooHwan stopped, one hand half-raised to snag TaeHa's sleeve, then he sighed and turned to leave again.

Taewoon looked after YooHwan, who appeared much more ruffled than he'd ever seen him, then back at Chaerin. "I don't have them," he said, and grinned at her. "He does, apparently."

"You take no responsibility for them?" Chaerin teased him.

"Nope. Not even a little bit. SungMin's my only responsibility. YooHwan's old enough to take care of himself, and so is TaeHa, even if he doesn't act it half the time."

"Only half the time?" Chaerin asked.

Taewoon laughed. He liked that about her: she made him laugh. "About," he said. "Get him working on something and he's serious. Every other time, he acts younger than SungMin."

She smiled and leaned on him. "You all seem in good shape, after that run in with the other white tiger," she said.

Taewoon smiled. "SeJoon took about a week to recover his energy, and then everything seemed to snap back together," he said. "They went camping for a weekend, and came back thoroughly energized and drove us all crazy."

"They're cute," Chaerin said. "You were really lucky, you know. To find them, to get them back to health, and to have them join you."

"I know," Taewoon said. "I've been lucky all the way around. With YooHwan, with Hakyeon, DooJoon, Jungwoo, TaeHa, SungMin... you, too, actually. JongKook won't let anyone else near SeJoon when he's hurt. I'm not sure I would, either," he added. "I know he won't hurt you. I'm not sure about anyone else."

Chaerin smiled. "I like working with them. They aren't too unreasonable, unlike some I've met."

"Unreasonable tigers?" Taewoon asked. "What a surprise."

Chaerin snickered and smacked his knee. "Be nice."

Taewoon grinned at her. "That is nice. If they're anything like SeJoon, they're a huge pain when they're not feeling well."

She laughed again, her hand resting on his knee. He covered it with his. She looked at him, a fond (he hoped he could call it fond) smile on her face. He realized they'd have to talk if things were going to go the way he hoped - and find out if she were interested in things going that way, too.


With a frustrated huff, TaeHa leaned back from the pile of spell components, resting on his hands, his legs still crossed in front of him. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply, the lingering smell of burnt herbs making the air aromatic. It didn't help him calm down, however, and he let his head fall back in frustration. He didn't have time for this confusion!

The door opened and sunlight fell across his face. "You look upset."

Cue more confusion. Startled, TaeHa straightened up and looked toward the doorway. Sunlight fell across YooHwan's dark hair, making it hard to see his face. Maybe coming out here wasn't such a good idea after all. Nature and elves did tend to go hand in hand. "What?"

"You look upset," YooHwan repeated. He leaned against the edge of the doorway to the shed, arms crossed. Slowly, TaeHa's eyes adjusted and he could see YooHwan's face come into focus.

"I can't concentrate, and Taewoon needs this done." He gestured to the spell components laid out in front of him. "If I can't concentrate, I will mess it up worse."

YooHwan stepped into the shed and closed the door, cutting off the light - and blinding TaeHa almost completely (again) in the near darkness of the shed. "What's got your concentration shot?" YooHwan asked.

TaeHa looked back at the pile of spell components, taking one feather out and setting back on the shelf where he'd gotten it as soon as he could see it again. "I can't explain it," he said. Especially not to you. He didn't say that out loud.

YooHwan didn't say anything for a while. "Does it have to do with the way you leave a room every time I come in, if you possibly can? Or why Jungwoo keeps looking at me like I'm the densest person in the world?" he asked, leaning against the door jamb.

TaeHa bit his tongue to keep from swearing. He couldn't escape. "I don't know about Jungwoo," he said after a moment. "I suppose it could. Anything's possible with him."

YooHwan laughed softly, and TaeHa stifled a sigh when his stomach fluttered. He had to get over this. "But you know about you," YooHwan said.

"Yes, I do. I think. Sometimes I wonder." TaeHa bit his tongue again, to make himself stop babbling.

YooHwan's huff sounded very much like TaeHa's just a few minutes ago. "Who can I ask if you don't know?"

TaeHa blinked. "Why do you want to ask?"

"Because I feel like I've done something to offend you, and I don't know how to fix it. I don't even know what I've done."

TaeHa couldn't stop the laugh that burst out of him. "You didn't do anything," he said. "Don't worry about it."

YooHwan nodded, but he didn't look like he believed him.

The door opened again, and YooHwan staggered backward. TaeHa covered his eyes to save his sight - both from the sunlight and from the sight of YooHwan. "There you are," Taewoon said. "Come on." He pulled him out of the doorway, and closed the door again.

TaeHa sighed, braced his elbows on his thighs, and tried to figure out exactly how he was going to do what Taewoon wanted him to, firmly not thinking about YooHwan.


Taewoon pulled YooHwan - uncomplaining, which seemed off - up to the porch and sat him down at the table. "You're not helping," he said mildly, sitting down across from him. "What's going on?"

YooHwan sank back into the chair. "I have no idea," he said. "I can't... I can't talk to TaeHa, and I thought we were friends."

Taewoon lifted an eyebrow. That came about as close as YooHwan ever got to whining. "You are friends," he said.

"Then why is he acting so... weird?"

"Define weird."

YooHwan sighed and started to talk. "He leaves a room as soon as I walk in. He's asleep or pretending to be if I come into the bedroom later than he does; if he comes in later, it's late enough that he tells me he needs to sleep. He can't concentrate on anything."

Taewoon stifled a smile, surprised at the litany of symptoms his friend listed. This really did bother him. "Pretending to be asleep?" he asked, unable to hide his amusement.

"Yeah," YooHwan said. "Call me paranoid if you like, but I'm pretty sure he's avoiding me. And he's lied to me, at least once, and he doesn't do that." Taewoon lifted an eyebrow, and YooHwan scowled at him. "Don't even start," he said.

Taewoon leaned back in his chair and watched him for a moment, just to see if he could make YooHwan squirm. To his surprise, it worked. "Okay. You are the smartest person - elf - I know...."

"I'm the only elf you know," YooHwan snapped.

"... and yet you are so dense that even Jungwoo knows what's going on," Taewoon continued, ignoring his interruption.

"TaeHa has talked to Jungwoo recently," YooHwan pointed out, sounding even more put out.

"True," Taewoon said, "but he knew before TaeHa talked to him."

YooHwan glared at him. "Are you going to help, or just make me feel stupid?"

"Since the chance to make you feel stupid only comes once in a blue moon or less often, and you do it to me all the time, I'm going to do both," Taewoon said with a smirk, then sobered. "Let me ask you this. When did his weird behavior start?"

"When Yunseo came by. That night."

"What exactly happened that night?"

YooHwan looked mutinous for a moment, then shrugged. "He asked me who she was, and I explained that I would have married her if my father hadn't insisted on it."

Taewoon nodded slowly. He knew how much YooHwan and his father didn't get along, but he hadn't realized how much YooHwan had left out. "So, you have no idea how much TaeHa likes you."

YooHwan stared at him, his face a study in incomprehension. "I know he likes me. We're friends. But what...."

Taewoon held up a hand to stop him. "Take that information, and add in what you said about Yunseo," he said. "Try to see it from his point of view."

YooHwan shook his head. "I swear, you people are the most illogical--"

"Wait," Taewoon interrupted. "You're still not seeing it all. Consider... if JongKook and SeJoon had met, and after weeks of dating JongKook found out SeJoon had a girl he might have married."

"That's totally different!" YooHwan protested.

"No, not really," Taewoon said. "I mean, he would have reacted better, maybe. Maybe worse, when you think about where they met. Either way, he would have been embarrassed."

YooHwan stared at him, incomprehension clear in his eyes. "I don't see what SeJoon and JongKook have...." He sat straight up, understanding flooding his expression, followed closely by disbelief. "You mean it's that?" he asked.

"Yes," Taewoon said. "It's that."

"But that didn't.... I didn't mean.... I mean....."

"You don't know what you mean," Taewoon said, smirking. He didn't get to see YooHwan thrown like this often, and he would enjoy it while he could. "I suggest you figure it out, and talk to TaeHa before something comes up that he doesn't have time to mess around with."

YooHwan slumped back in his chair, looking like he'd been hit between the eyes with a 2X4. "Yeah," he said, his voice soft and strangled. "I'll do that."

Taewoon got to his feet, thinking he needed to have the same sort of conversation with Chaerin before too long. He went inside and went in search of his phone. It was time to do something, even if he fell on his face. She'd know where he stood - and he'd hopefully know where she stood.


It had, honestly, never crossed YooHwan's mind. A lot of things made sense - sort of - now. Not completely, but he'd have to talk to TaeHa to get those things straightened out. With some answers, he could back off and let TaeHa concentrate, leave him alone. He could wait patiently, could afford to let TaeHa relax. He'd talk to him after.

He stayed out of the way, careful not to look so much like he chased TaeHa through the house. He got a couple of strange (well, stranger than normal) looks from Jungwoo, some understanding looks from JongKook and SeJoon - great, they knew, too? - and Taewoon and SungMin seemed wrapped up in their own lives. Something certainly had Taewoon distracted, and YooHwan didn't try to bring him out of it. It probably had something to do with Chaerin.

TaeHa looked spooked for a couple of days, then he seemed to settle down and get back to normal, and it took him less than a week to finish that project up. YooHwan didn't know the specifics and didn't really need to. He gave TaeHa a couple more days to relax, and then decided he'd waited long enough. He came down the stairs to find him, and met SeJoon and JongKook by the front door. JongKook took one look at him and nudged SeJoon. Within minutes - YooHwan didn't know how they did it, but they did - everyone had said good-bye except TaeHa. "He's on the back porch," JongKook told him, and then shut the door.

Silence fell. YooHwan decided he'd never understand humans. Still. Not one to lose an opportunity handed to him on a platter, he went to the back porch. TaeHa sat at the table, staring off toward the trees in the back of the yard. He didn't seem to be aware of anything at all. YooHwan opened the door and sat down across from him. TaeHa didn't react. "Are you done avoiding me yet?" YooHwan asked softly.

TaeHa jumped and looked toward him, eyes wide. "What?" he asked, and looked away again, focusing on his hands in his lap.

YooHwan didn't answer.

TaeHa gulped a breath and shrugged, relaxing a little. "Yeah. Sorry about that. Got a bit distracted, but I'm okay now."

"Which is why you look like a deer in headlights," YooHwan said. A strangely apt comparison. He tilted his head. "I won't bite you."

TaeHa made a soft sound, almost like he choked on a laugh. "No," he said after a moment, getting himself back under control. "I know you won't."

YooHwan watched him for a moment. "Unless that's what you want?"

TaeHa stared at him, then scowled. "No, I'm not actually into that. What's going on?"

"Apparently, I'm a complete idiot when it comes to humans. Still."

"Yes, but...." TaeHa sighed and slumped back against his chair. "Who told you?" he asked, sounding... strange.

YooHwan didn't know how to interpret his tone, so he didn't try. "I got a few hints from various people, but Taewoon had to spell it out."

TaeHa groaned and closed his eyes. "I asked Jungwoo not to say anything, but I didn't think about Taewoon."

"Why would you do that?" YooHwan asked, even more confused.

TaeHa sighed. "I will get over this eventually," he said. "Everything will go back to being normal, and it would have been easier if you didn't know." He opened his eyes and met YooHwan's gaze for the first time since the conversation after Yunseo had visited. "Just... don't let how I feel scare you off. I promise not to do anything to make you feel uncomfortable. On purpose, at least."

YooHwan knew he'd missed something, but he didn't know what. "I don't think I understand."

"What's not to understand?" TaeHa asked. "I'm attracted to you. Which is a problem, if you'd planned to get married to an admittedly beautiful woman. Just... I need time to adjust."

Understand crashed in on YooHwan, and he sat up straight. "You think that because I love her, I can't love you, too?"

"Isn't that how it works?" TaeHa asked. YooHwan's heart clenched at the old pain he heard in those words. Someday, he'd have to ask. "Besides, if you love her, why would you look anywhere else?" It sounded so logical. Human logic made too much sense.

"Because the love I have for her is not..." YooHwan stopped to gather his thoughts. "Is not like the love you see between SeJoon and JongKook." He groped for words, something he hadn't had to do in forever. "It's more like.... it's like the love between Taewoon and SungMin. We're good friends, we depend on each other. Depended," he added self-consciously. "It might become a different love, given time and without pressure from my father, but it's not like that right now."

TaeHa nodded, but his expression didn't change. "I see," he said. "I don't want to lose our friendship because of the way I was acting."

YooHwan frowned. He didn't understand how they kept talking around each other. He got up, and TaeHa shrank in on himself, looking (unbelievably) more miserable than he had before the conversation started. "Our friendship is not in jeopardy," YooHwan said, walking around the table to crouch down in front of TaeHa. "Just because I love her and might marry her someday, doesn't mean I don't have room in my heart, in my life, for you."

TaeHa watched him, straightening a little when he crouched down. "I don't want to be...." He trailed off and managed a shaky smile. "I don't want to be a place holder, a... something to do because you can't--"

YooHwan touched his lips with a finger and watched him for a moment. "You are not a place holder," he said. "Or even a proxy for her. You are my friend, and I already love you. I'm willing to give this a shot if you are. Love is love. Why don't we see if we can go from friends to lovers? And if not, well... the friendship is there and will stay there forever."

TaeHa took a deep breath and let it out. "I'd like that," he said. "I don't... I'm sort of already past the crush stage, but I can wait for you to catch up, if it happens."

YooHwan smiled, stood up, and kissed him gently. "That sounds like a plan."


Taewoon split off from the others as soon as they all left the house and headed for Chaerin's clinic. He didn't know if she had time to talk, but he could ask, and maybe take her to dinner if she couldn't get free now. All previous attempts to get together had not worked out for various reasons, some hers and some his, and he would try again.

Or something.

He counted three people and their pets in the waiting room, and stood against the wall by the door to watch. He caught sight of her once. She raised a hand to wave at him, and then disappeared again.

A few minutes later, she came out from behind the desk and smiled at him. "Your timing is perfect," she said. "What can I help you with?"

"Lunch?" Taewoon asked, and gestured at the three waiting. "Unless you need to see these people?"

Chaerin smiled. "They have appointments with the other doctor," she said. "Lunch sounds wonderful."

Taewoon straightened and offered his arm. "Pick a place? I don't know this area."

She led him to a quiet place nearby, not too busy, and filled with smells that made his stomach remind him he hadn't eaten much that morning. They were seated in a circular booth. Taewoon took advantage of it to scoot closer to her than he might have been able to anywhere else. To his relief, she scooted closer too.

They ordered in an awkwardness he hadn't felt between them in forever. He hoped - quite a bit - that she wanted to talk to him, too. With luck, about the same thing.

"You're not usually out at this time," Chaerin said. "Unless you're on a case."

Taewoon smiled. "JongKook and SeJoon decided YooHwan and TaeHa needed some time to talk, and emptied the house," he said.

Chaerin lifted an eyebrow. "What brought that on?" she asked.

"A few things," Taewoon said. "Part of it was YooHwan finally understanding why TaeHa was...." He stopped. "You don't have the whole story," he said. It took only a few minutes to recount Yunseo's visit, and TaeHa's odd reaction. Or, odd in YooHwan's eyes. "He backed off enough to let TaeHa finish what he needed to do. JongKook and SeJoon must have seen him ready to talk, and they cleared us all out. So, here I am."

Chaerin laughed. "You guys don't have a calm life, do you?" she asked.

"Nope," Taewoon said, and opened his mouth to go on. Instead, the waiter returned with their food, and set it down. He glanced at Chaerin when the waiter left, and then picked up his chopsticks. "I think we like it interesting."

She laughed. "I can imagine," she said. "Your tiger and his boyfriend seem to be doing well."

"More than well," Taewoon said between bites. "I think they're actually flourishing. Not to mention the rest of them. SungMin is as interested as ever, and he's even started taking some of his more pertinent classes more seriously. He's talking about doing something in forensics - like crime scene stuff - in college."

"That would help," Chaerin said. "I take it you're encouraging him?"

"Absolutely. Whatever he wants to be," he said. "I think TaeHa's still a little sad about him not deciding to be Drag Queen, but he's mostly gotten over it."

Chaerin laughed. "That would be so funny," she said.

"I don't know how well he'd do, but it would be fun to see," Taewoon agreed. "Thanks for all your care with SeJoon and JongKook," he added.

Chaerin smiled. "I'm glad to help. They're good boys, and they do what I ask. Too many don't."

"It's all JongKook," Taewoon said. "You have to see it to believe it, but he bullies SeJoon sometimes."

"I can believe it," Chaerin said.

He couldn't come up with neat transition from that, so he didn't try. "What would you think about dating me?"

She looked at him, an expression he couldn't quite interpret. "Me?"

"Yes," Taewoon said.

She set her chopsticks down and folded her hands on the table, pushing her plate away a little. "I'd like to," she said, and smiled. "It's crossed my mind a few times, and every time it does, you're too busy to take time out."

Taewoon set his own chopsticks down. "That's not going to change too much, not any time soon," he said. "I can't promise that."

" I know," Chaerin said. "That's not a problem right now. I'm busy, too."

"So... what do we do?"

Chaerin grinned. "I think you should kiss me. Then we finish lunch, and go on to our jobs, and you come to my house for dinner tonight."

Taewoon smiled, leaned over, and kissed her.

When he got home, JongKook and SeJoon sat on the porch, grinning far too big. "I take it things worked out," Taewoon said, pausing in front of them.

"Yes," SeJoon said. "They're cute."

"Why are you waiting out here?" Taewoon asked.

JongKook grinned. "We wondered how things went with Chaerin."

Taewoon managed - barely - not to drop his jaw. "Chaerin?"

"You went to see her, right?" SeJoon asked, with a knowing look.

"Yeah, I did."

"And?" JongKook said.

"And... I have dinner with her tonight," Taewoon said. "Why are you so interested?"

"Just making sure we weren't going to lose the only vet we trust," JongKook said.

Taewoon stared at him. "I wouldn't do that," he said. "And she wouldn't either. She likes you, for whatever possible reason."

SeJoon laughed and got to his feet. "Because we do what she tells us."

"Only because JongKook makes you," Taewoon said as SeJoon pulled JongKook to his feet.

"He's right," JongKook said, and then staggered when SeJoon let him go. Taewoon caught him, laughing.

"Humph," SeJoon said, and turned to go into the house.

JongKook snickered. "He only does that when I'm right," he said, and followed his boyfriend inside.

Taewoon followed him, chuckling softly. It would take a lot to dim their spirits - and his. Things were going well.

Maybe too well. "I'm being transferred," DooJoon told him a couple of days later, sitting in the newly dark blue front room. It still smelled faintly of paint.

Taewoon stared at him. "To where?" he asked.

DooJoon smiled wryly. "Incheon," he said. "Just out of the district."

"Who will take your place?" Taewoon asked.

DooJoon shook his head. "No one would tell me," he said.

Not too surprising. DooJoon was a good man, but he'd done exactly what his superior had said, and many of the cases Taewoon had found had gone uninvestigated by the police because of that. He had only hearsay, but he kept it all in a file, all the "reasons" DooJoon had said his superior had given against him taking each case. The file was set to go as soon as he heard anything from Hakyeon. It might not be worth anything, but it was better than nothing. He didn't have a whole lot of direct interaction with DooJoon's superior.

"When do you go?" Taewoon asked.

"I've got one open case that will probably be taken care of tomorrow, and then I go," DooJoon said.

"It's been good to work with you," Taewoon said, standing up.

"It was a joy to work with you and your group," DooJoon said, standing as well. "I'm sorry I couldn't help with more of the things on. I hope the person they get to replace me is willing to work with you. You add a lot to our department."

"I hope so, too," Taewoon said. He closed the door and walked back into the kitchen, dialing his phone. "Hey, Chaerin. Just a quick update. Detective Yoon DooJoon is transferred, and at the moment, we don't have any liaison with the police. I'm not sure what that means, but it might mean more time on my side of things. Call when you get a minute?" He hung up and leaned on the counter.

They'd do fine without the liaison, but he preferred to work with the police. Irrationally, he hoped Hakyeon would be back, and he hoped this change meant something good, for all of them.

Comments

svtstarlight
Aug. 16th, 2016 06:36 pm (UTC)
Yay! I really like this story even tho I have no idea who most of these guys are. LOL (I'm on YM whenever you are, tho no idea how long I'll be there for...)
Impatient (as usual) for more LOL <3
andersenmom
Aug. 17th, 2016 12:52 am (UTC)
The next part still has work. I'll get it up as soon as I can.

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