(Originally posted 7 Dec 2014 on tumblr)
Hyo-shin collapsed in the Yoon’s guest room and slept through the night, morning, and better part of Friday afternoon. When he woke up, he was disoriented, hungry, needed to use the bathroom, and had missed taking his morning medication. He had set alarms on his new phone to remind him to take them, but he had forgotten to turn his phone on before he fell asleep. It wasn’t too late for him to take his afternoon dose, so he downed that before heading into the bathroom.
He felt marginally more human after showering and shaving, though his reflection clearly showed just how exhausted he was. It was going to be difficult to put on a smiling face at the Mega Entertainment event tonight. At least he could console himself with the knowledge that after it was over, he could spend the rest of the weekend sleeping.
“I’m available this weekend, if you have the courage to text me with your new number.”
Hyo-shin groaned. No, he couldn’t. Besides dealing with Rachel, he also had to check his email to see which, if any, of his teachers would allow him to turn in his homework late, and there was the next week’s homework he needed to get started on as well, not to mention all of the people he still hadn’t given his new number to—
Food. He needed to eat first, and then he could sort out what to do after that. Letting the weight of his tasks paralyze him now would just make things worse later. He needed to spend his energy on the things that were most important. Getting himself food and surviving the event were his top priorities.
He dug around in his suitcase until he found a decent pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt before he wandered into the main part of the Yoon’s home. The apartment was quiet enough that Hyo-shin had almost convinced himself he was alone until he stepped into the kitchen.
Chan-young looked up from the textbook he was reading. “You’re alive,” he said, and his smile was gentle, like it always was. Half of the kitchen table was covered with books and papers, which was odd. Chan-young usually preferred to study on campus.
He usually didn’t have a new person living in his home.
“For now,” Hyo-shin said.
“Are you hungry?”
“Yeah. Is there something I can heat up? I’m not picky.”
Chan-young stood up. “Have a seat, sunbae. I’ll get you something.”
“You don’t have to. I can do it.”
“Please, sit,” said Yoon Jae-ho from the entrance to the kitchen. He was dressed in a suit and carried a briefcase in one hand. “It would be rude for us to make a guest cook for himself.”
Chan-young looked as surprised as Hyo-shin felt to see his father home already. “You’re home early. Everything okay?”
“Everything’s fine. I went out to meet President Kim at the airport, and he sent me home afterwards. I’ll be meeting with him tomorrow morning to fill him in on some things that happened while he was away.” Jae-ho set his briefcase down on an empty chair and slipped off his suit coat jacket. He folded it neatly and slung it over the back of the same chair. “Tan said he would be coming to the event tonight, and he wanted me to tell Hyo-shin to turn on his phone.”
There was humor tucked away in those words, as if this wasn’t the first time Jae-ho had played messenger for Tan. Jae-ho smiled when he caught Hyo-shin’s sour expression. “Tan was also annoyed that I didn’t immediately agree to send you over to him.”
Hyo-shin wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so he gave up and took the seat next to Jae-ho’s briefcase. Chan-young handed his father an apron, and once they were both properly attired for cooking, they got to work. This wasn’t the first time Hyo-shin had seen the easy camaraderie between Chan-young and Jae-ho—the Yoons frequently hosted movie night—nor was it the first time he had ever envied their relationship.
But today was the first time it hurt to watch it play out in front of him. He wondered if it would hurt as much the next time he went to Eun-sang’s house and watched her and her mother together.
It took a lot more willpower than he expected to stay in the kitchen. Neither Jae-ho nor Chan-young tried to draw him into conversation after their first gentle probes were met with curt answers, and it was a relief to have some space to fortify himself for the conversation he wouldn’t be able to avoid when the food was ready.
Chan-young eventually broke away from cooking to clear off the table and put away his father’s things. Jae-ho refused Hyo-shin’s offer to help set the table, and it didn’t take long before a delicious array of food was spread out in front of him.
“Thank you,” Hyo-shin said when the Yoons sat across from him. Both of them were eating with him, even though it was a little early for dinner.
“It’s nothing,” Jae-ho returned. “We’re glad to have you with us.”
Hyo-shin wasn’t certain about that, but he just nodded and dug into his food. The Yoons were excellent cooks, and he was able to ease into conversation by complimenting their skills. That, in turn, led into a discussion of Hyo-shin’s work on A Daughter’s Revenge and the welcome news from Chan-young that the show had officially broken 40% ratings in its final episode.
He was feeling more and more confident in his ability to make it through the night, until Jae-ho changed the subject. “How is your room? Is there anything you need?”
Hyo-shin shook his head, even though he hadn’t had the time to actually unpack or explore. “I’m fine. And I’m sorry, I wasn’t able to discuss this with you earlier, but I wanted to talk to you about paying rent.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Jae-ho cut in smoothly.
“I can match the monthly rent I was paying at my previous apartment. It would make me feel more comfortable here if I could pay for inconveniencing you.”
“You’re not an inconvenience, Hyo-shin. This is an opportunity for me to repay you for the kindness you showed my son when you were in high school.”
Hyo-shin set his chopsticks down harder than he should have. “It wasn’t kindness, sir. It was selfishness.”
“Regardless of how you see it, the fact of the matter is that you saved my son a great deal of harassment when he was in school.” Jae-ho’s pleasant expression never wavered. “I owe you a debt of gratitude for that. You’re welcome to stay here as long as you like.”
His stomach curdled at the man’s misplaced gratitude, but it shouldn’t have surprised him that Jae-ho would interpret his actions seven years ago any differently than Chan-young had. Jae-ho would probably give the wrong answer, too, if Hyo-shin asked him the same question he had asked Chan-young back then.
Hyo-shin almost choked on his thanks; somehow, he managed to say it. Jae-ho easily directed the conversation away to safer waters, but the exchange weighed on him for the rest of the evening.
Eun-sang preferred walking down the Mega Entertainment red carpet with an escort, but Tan hadn’t been an option since they broke up, and with the love triangle scandal still fresh in everyone’s minds, she wasn’t about to ask Hyo-shin to walk with her. She couldn’t skip it and sneak in through a back door, either, not when she was wearing a sponsored dress. Hyo-shin had always been good at distracting her from the obnoxious camera flashes and awkward posing by poking fun at the photographers and reporters or by telling her bits of gossip he’d picked up from whatever drama he had been working on. Sometimes he made the gossip up on the spot.
So Eun-sang walked through the gauntlet of reporters on her own, smiling and waving and posing in her lovely green dress that really wasn’t quite warm enough for the evening. By the time she got inside the building and to where the party was, she was glad to be done with that particular price of admission.
The main event room in the Mega Entertainment building was packed with actors, idols, directors, writers, stockholders, and other wealthy, famous, and powerful people. This winter event was exclusively for people connected to the company, and it was a way for Mega Entertainment to honor people for their contributions. No awards were ever given out, but prizes and thank-you gifts were common. Between the food and the entertainment and the opportunity to network, no one in the entertainment industry ever turned down an invitation if they could help it.
Eun-sang spotted Tan and Hyo-shin at the table Bo-na usually assigned them. Both men looked like they needed more sleep than what they had gotten, but they still smiled and waved her over.
“You look beautiful,” Tan said. He was wearing a new black suit, likely purchased in Hong Kong, with a dark blue tie and a matching pocket square.
Hyo-shin, for his part, wore one of his favorite gray suits and a burgundy tie. “The second-most beautiful woman here.”
“I can’t outshine Bo-na when it’s her party, can I?” She grinned at their flattery and took a seat between them. “Sunbae, shouldn’t you be networking?”
It could have been a dangerous question, but Hyo-shin gave Tan a mock glare. “He’s been too clingy for me to leave.”
“It’s been an entire week since I last saw your face. Of course I’ve missed you.” Tan signaled for a server; one materialized in seconds, and Eun-sang took a flute of champagne with a quiet thanks. “My brother is not as patient with my complaints as you are.”
“Maybe you should stop driving an imported car with a custom paint job. Maybe then you wouldn’t have to wait ages for it to get repaired.”
Tan couldn’t have been in the country for more than a couple hours. He shouldn’t have had time to damage his car. Eun-sang gave him a disbelieving look. “What happened?”
“Someone keyed Tan’s car,” Hyo-shin said. “Whoever it was had a rather colorful vocabulary.”
Eun-sang hid her smile behind her drink.
Hyo-shin was about to say something else, but he suddenly set down his champagne. His eyes were fixed on someone past Eun-sang’s shoulder. “If you don’t mind babysitting Tan, there is someone I’d like to talk to.”
“Escape while you can,” Eun-sang advised, and something eased in her chest when Hyo-shin gave her another smile and made a break for it. She didn’t know how he was really doing right now, but he had made the effort to come to this event and even joked around a little with her. He could have been in a much worse mood.
Tan eventually lost sight of Hyo-shin and turned his attention to Eun-sang. The humor had left him as quickly as Hyo-shin had left the table. “How’s he doing?”
“This is the first time I’ve seen him since Monday night,” Eun-sang confessed. “He didn’t text me at all while he was on set. Chan-young said he slept most of today, but that’s all I know.”
“I’ve been trying to get him to come to my house, but he hasn’t given me a straight answer.”
“Then drop it for now. Chan-young and his father have enough space for him. If it doesn’t work out, you can make another offer then.”
Tan shook his head, and she recognized the stubborn set of his jaw. He leaned in close and pitched his voice low. “Help me persuade him, Eun-sang. He listens to you. Please?”
“Because the Yoons live on the tenth floor of their apartment building.”
She gripped the stem of her champagne flute tighter.
“He promised me once that he’d never try it again,” Tan went on. “I want to believe him, but I just—the first time, I had no idea anything was even wrong, not until I found him.”
That memory was a fear that Tan always seemed to hold close, and Eun-sang never knew whether to comfort him for it or point out that Hyo-shin’s problems were not his responsibility. As much as Tan might want to be, he couldn’t spend his life being Hyo-shin’s safety net. As much as they all might wish he could be.
Eun-sang was saved from finding the right response by a flurry of whispers and muted conversation that broke out in the nearby crowd. She and Tan both straightened up to see what was going on. The last time there had been a disruption at one of Bo-na’s parties, the tabloids had been given fodder for a month.
For several moments, Eun-sang couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary besides a crowd of well-dressed people. But when the crowd parted, she saw precisely what it was that had caused the commotion:
Choi Young-do and Ryu Ha-sun, walking arm in arm. Ha-sun was wearing a stunning red cocktail dress that showed her waist and legs to her advantage, and she wore black pearls at her wrist, throat, and ears. The color scheme was reversed on Young-do, so black was his dominant color, accented only by a matching tie and pocket square.
There was no mistaking that they were anything but a couple. Their red carpet photos were probably already on the internet by now, and by morning everyone in the country would have heard about the two of them showing up together at this party.
Choi Young-do had accepted Ryu Ha-sun’s offer.