Before Heirs: Becoming Transparent

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(Originally posted 3 Dec 13 on tumblr)

The sound of his father’s raised voice that night sends Hyo-shin rushing to his bathroom to vomit up the dinner he barely touched. He waits long past when the house goes quiet and dark, but his father never charges down the hallway to yell about how much Hyo-shin has disappointed him.

It would be unnecessary in any case. Hyo-shin has that lecture memorized already, along with all its kin.

The next morning his mother waits at the dining room table for him. She stands without a word to hand him a glass of water and his morning bottle of pills. But after he finishes the water, she grabs him by the chin. Their gazes lock, and Hyo-shin is startled by how bloodshot her eyes are.

“Open your mouth.”

She makes him lift his tongue and pull his cheeks away from his gums to prove that he hasn’t tried to hide the pill. The humiliation makes his face burn, but it’s nothing compared to what she says when she finally lets go of him.

“I’ll be in the PTA meeting room after your final class with your afternoon medication and a schedule for your trial appointments with new therapists.”

“You’re going to do this to me at school, too?”

Her eyes narrow at the desperation in his voice. “I wouldn’t have to if you had acted your age.”

She leaves him reeling at the breakfast table and wishing he could simply stop existing before he has to see her again.


Hyo-shin skips lunch and heads to the roof in order to escape the weight of everyone’s eyes. (Logically he knows the only person who could spread rumors about him won’t do it. Young-do is vicious, but he wields his power like a sledgehammer, and he undoubtedly believes Hyo-shin will strike back just as hard with the secret he knows.

Hyo-shin shouldn’t be keeping this kind of secret. Something like this shouldn’t be a weapon or a shield, only this is Jeguk High, so of course it is.)

He rests his forearms on the wall and peers out over the edge of the building. A fall from this height wouldn’t be guaranteed to kill someone instantly (it’s not even half as high as where the jumper flung himself from) but there are some injuries no one can walk away from. Just looking over the edge, imagining that fall, guessing how many seconds it would take to hit the ground (he could calculate that if he really wanted to), envisioning what his body would look like afterwards—all of that is enough to make Hyo-shin’s heart race, half in fear, half in anticipation.

The autumn wind tugs at his hair and the collar of his shirt, and it slowly, slowly pulls him upright and away from the wall. His fear is still greater than his depleted courage or his desperation.


The afternoon dose of medication is worse than he predicted.

Once he pulls himself back together—just by threads and the remnants of his pride—Hyo-shin texts Bo-na that he has family unexpectedly in town, so he will be in and out the next few weeks. She will need to handle the broadcasting club for him.

You’d better not be quitting the club! she texts back. There’s an assortment of very angry emoticons at the end.

Don’t worry, he texts back, I won’t be ambiguous about leaving.


Kim Tan leaves a private message on his SNS two days later: Hey. You still alive, sunbae?

I think so, Hyo-shin writes back once Hyun-joo is gone. I may also be undead. Things have been rough lately.

Good enough for me.


Hyo-shin rushes from school to a new therapist to Hyun-joo, over and over, each day stretching him thinner and thinner until he is fragile and transparent. By the ninth therapist, he has no energy left. He can’t even bring himself to read the questions on the intake survey—they’re all just variations on how likely do you think it is that you’ll kill yourself today? or how hopeless do you feel about your future? anyway—so he just fills in the circles at random.

That’s how it starts out, at least, but by the end, Hyo-shin has made a shape from the filled-in circles. He connects the dots with crisp, short lines to finish off the crime scene silhouette.

“Lee Hyo-shin?”

He looks up at the sound of his name and sees a man in his early thirties peering around the waiting room. The man wears black-rimmed glasses, khaki slacks, and a green sweater. He is just unremarkable enough to be entirely forgettable, except for the two pairs of earrings he has in each ear.

Hyo-shin gets up from his chair. The therapist—Kang Jae-sung, he remembers from the schedule his mother gave him—extends a hand in greeting. “It’s nice to meet you.”

“Same here,” Hyo-shin lies during their brief handshake. Then he hands over the clipboard with his ruined survey.

Jae-sung glances down at it—and breaks into a smile. “If you’d follow me, we can get started,” is all he says.


The session is awkward and uncomfortable, just like all the other ones were. Jae-sung’s attempts to put him at ease just make Hyo-shin hyper aware of how wound up and wrung out he is. Hyo-shin answers all of the questions the therapist asks him, but in the shortest and most superficial ways possible. He hasn’t really talked about his suicide attempt to anyone, and the idea of baring all the secrets of his heart and mind to someone he might never see again is as impossible to him as a future doing what he loves.

Hyo-shin doesn’t miss the fact that Jae-sung smiles a little every time he glances at the clipboard and the mess of a survey on it. It makes him uneasy that he can’t interpret what those looks mean. “Is what I did to my survey really that amusing?” he finally asks to break their latest bout of silence.

It’s the first time he’s asked a question all session long.

“Not precisely.” Jae-sung picks the clipboard off the table and spins it around so Hyo-shin can see the silhouette he built from filled-in circles and lines. “It’s one of the more pleasant ones I’ve gotten today, actually. Normally it takes a few sessions before the patients get annoyed with the survey. It’s a stupid clinic policy, but we all have to follow it. Most of my patients detest it as much as I do.”

“I wasn’t annoyed. Just…”

Jae-sung sets the clipboard down. His smile softens so much that Hyo-shin has to look away. “Well,” the therapist says, “an outline of a dead body is a change of pace from being cussed at or flipped off, at least.”


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4 thoughts on “Before Heirs: Becoming Transparent

  1. I don’t think it hit me the first time, how many therapists it takes for Hyo-Shin to get one he likes. That’s at least an hour for each intake. No wonder he’s nearly climbing the walls and looking for a window to jump out of. Those surveys are ridiculous, too. And nontransferable. But he needs a therapist. The longer he internalizes all of his anxiety, the worse it is going to get, and he is not allowed to die!

    • Audrey says:

      Yeah, the poor kid was looking for forever, but he finally found one that suited him! And will suit him for years to come. No promises.

  2. I just wondered about something. Can suicide ideation be a negative coping mechanism? He has no control over his medication much less his future rn. He goes to the roof as an escape and thinks of jumping to his death as a last act to exercise any autonomy he has left. Its obviously an unhealthy habit like self-cutting, it just seems like he takes comfort in the fact that it’s always a choice he can make with his life if nothing else.

    Well he does get to choose his therapist, at least, and that goes a long way.

    • Audrey says:

      Good question! In this fic, for this character, it is–Hyo-shin is grasping at whatever choices he can make, both good and bad right now. It doesn’t matter to him much either way, just so long as he HAS one. His therapist is one of his best choices in this series. 🙂

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