(Originally posted 12 Feb 2014 on tumblr)
The café Bo-na rents out for her party is chic and modern and one of the newer additions in Gangnam. It is packed with Jeguk students—most of them first year—and the bottom level is now a dance floor.
Hyo-shin works his way through the dancers and to the nearest staircase. It’s a little less crowded on the second floor, both because there’s less space to pack (the second floor is really just a balcony that overlooks the main level) and because he is late and most people have already gotten their fill of the food and drinks that line the walls.
(His mother refused to let him leave the house until he took the evening dose of his new medication under her watchful eye.)
He spots Bo-na and Chan-young in one of the quieter corners, sitting together at a small table. They are taking turns feeding each other cake. The way Chan-young’s hand bobs and weaves with the fork means either he is enjoying teasing Bo-na or else that Myung-soo has already spiked the drinks.
They don’t notice when he gets close, so Hyo-shin raps his knuckles on the table to get their attention. “Congratulations,” he tells them over the music.
Bo-na turns her head at exactly the wrong moment and ends up with pink frosting smeared across her upper lip. “You made it!”
Chan-young reaches out to clumsily thumb the frosting away.
Myung-soo certainly worked quickly, Hyo-shin decides. Out loud he says, “I’m wounded you think I’d treat your invitation so lightly.”
“I didn’t mean that! I respect you a lot, sunbae. You know that, right? Why do you think I keep the other girls in the club from trying to flirt with you?” Bo-na slaps her hand on the table to emphasize her words. “You deserve so much better than them.”
For a moment, Hyo-shin doesn’t know what to say. He didn’t notice anyone in the broadcasting club paying him any undue attention, though with how wrapped up in his own head he has been, it isn’t surprising that he missed things.
What else in his life has gone by without him any the wiser?
He retreats from that unsettling thought and parries with humor because that is what most people still expect from him. “Is that what you call it nowadays? I thought you were just maintaining your fishing grounds.”
He winks at Chan-young, who chokes back a laugh. Bo-na wails and makes a desperate grab for Chan-young’s wrist. Hyo-shin leaves her to proclaim how Chan-young is the only fish in the entire world for her and goes to get himself something to eat.
By the time Hyo-shin piles his plate high with food he is doubtful he’ll be able to keep down, Myung-soo is leaning suspiciously over the newly filled punch bowl. He is just tipsy enough and the music just loud enough that he doesn’t realize Hyo-shin is standing beside him until Hyo-shin clears his throat.
Myung-soo yelps and spins around, failing miserably at hiding a bottle behind his back. “S-sunbae! Hi. I didn’t know you were here.”
“Obviously.” Hyo-shin holds out his empty hand expectantly.
Myung-soo caves after a few seconds and hands over the opened bottle of alcohol. Hyo-shin examines the label. “You’re using this to spike the drinks? That’s a waste.”
It takes a bit of juggling for him to snatch an empty cup as well, but he manages to take everything to an unoccupied table. He is barely settled when Myung-soo, sulky and challenging, plops into the seat across from him. Hyo-shin gives the glass Myung-soo brought along a significant glance.
“I’m not going to endure a lecture from my parents about stealing that,” Myung-soo says as he folds his arms, “without getting to drink any of it.”
Hyo-shin smiles a little at the offended-cat routine. “Did I say you couldn’t drink with me?”
Myung-soo eyes him distrustfully for a moment before he takes the bottle and pours them both a drink. Hyo-shin is content to eat in silence, letting the pulse of the music do its best to drown out his thoughts. Myung-soo relaxes more and more with every gulp of alcohol, until he is shimmying in his chair to the beat of a song Hyo-shin barely recognizes.
Myung-soo looks like he’s having the time of his life.
A wave of envy hits him hard enough that his stomach churns. Hyo-shin sets down his glass and takes deep breaths through his nose to try to handle the nausea.
He has never really given much thought to Myung-soo—he’s a year younger, dead last in every class ranking, a boy who spends his life taking pictures and clubbing. But both of his parents are among the best lawyers in Seoul, and the two of them head the biggest law firm in all of Korea. Myung-soo should have the same kind of birthright as Hyo-shin. But by Jeguk standards, Myung-soo is almost as much out of place as the social welfare kids: he has no future laid out for him. He carries no expectations.
In that moment, Hyo-shin hates him as he has never hated anyone else.
Myung-soo twists in his seat to grab the bottle to pour himself a third glass, but he pauses when he catches sight of Hyo-shin. “Are you all right?”
He gives Myung-soo a tight smile. “I’ll be fine,” he lies as he gets up from the table. “Go ahead and finish without me.”
Hyo-shin curses himself silently on his way to the nearest restroom. The alcohol sloshes around his stomach as if it is determined to become a storm at sea. He brushes past Bo-na in conversation with a girl he doesn’t recognize, ignores Chan-young carrying two plates of food, and weaves through Young-do’s lackeys in his single-minded pursuit. He bursts into the first bathroom stall just in time to empty the contents of his stomach.
Distantly, over the sound of his heaving, the background beat of the music gets interrupted by a roar he’s too preoccupied to identify. Hyo-shin retches over and over until he can’t even bring up bile. The sour smell of his vomit clings to his face and hair and clothes.
Eventually Hyo-shin gets to his feet despite the weakness in his legs. He spits a few times into the toilet bowl before flushing it.
He is in the middle of rinsing out his mouth when the bathroom door swings open and a red-faced Chan-young walks in. He freezes when he spots Hyo-shin in the mirror.
Chan-young’s shirt is smeared with what probably used to be food.
Hyo-shin spits out his last mouthful of water and shuts off his faucet. “What happened to you?”
“Nothing important.” Chan-young steps up to one of the sinks, but he keeps his eyes straight ahead, as if the conversation isn’t worth any but the smallest portion of his attention. His hands tremble as he unbuttons his shirt. “It’s just time for tryouts again.”
“Tryouts for what?”
His smile is brittle. “For Choi Young-do’s new friend.”