Tony got an unexpected greeting as he got off the air plane at Incheon International Airport. He saw Kang Ta as soon as he entered baggage claim, and at first it seemed so odd to see him there, in the flesh, where as before Tony had only seen him in photos or over the webcam. Not only that, it was the first moment that really felt...real. He had really left home, and he had actually come to South Korea. But that wasn’t the unexpected part. Tony assumed only his cousin, Kang Ta, was going to meet him, but his Aunt Ahn was there too.
He couldn’t help but be relieved that was all who showed up.
Maybe a little disappointed too.
Kang Ta got his mother’s attention and led her to meet Tony half way. “How was your flight?” He asked.
“Fine.” Tony answered quickly, then kissed his aunt. “Hello Antie, how are you?”
She hugged him firmly, and for a long moment just held him. The sentiment wasn’t lost on Tony, and he was touched. Finally she said, “I’m fine.” And pulled him into motion to get his luggage. “I came along to help you move in.”
Kang Ta shot him a ‘I don’t know either’ look but patted him on the back in greeting.
Tony wasn’t expecting his Aunt to come, but he thought he knew why she had. She was excited for him to have moved to Seoul, after being in the states his whole life, and wanted to be a part of it. Although he had been in America, an ocean away, thus far in his life, she had made sure to stay in touch with him, and make sure he and Kang Ta knew each other. As far as she was concerned, they were the only family Tony had left.
Tony’s Aunt Ahn asked him about his flight while they got his things and headed to Kang Ta’s car. The whole situation was very warm actually, even as rushed as it was. They really were the only family Tony had ever known, and up until then, he had only talked to them over the phone or computer. It was odd to finally be with them in person, but it also seemed to be comforting.
They really were his family. He really did have a family. Finally.
“I almost have your room cleaned out.” Aunt Ahn was saying from the back of the car. “Kang Ta should have had it cleaned out already, it’s a good thing I came over early.”
Tony looked to Kang Ta, but he pretended to ignore the comment and concentrated on pulling out of the airport parking lot.
“It’s alright if the room isn’t ready, I don’t necessarily need it right away.” Tony assured her.
“No.” She said firmly. “Kang Ta offered you his spare bedroom and you’ll have it. Like I said, I almost have it cleaned.”
Kang Ta had told Tony privately in a phone conversation that his mother suggested they roommate for a while. At first Tony was worried Kang Ta would ask that they not, Tony was hesitant as it was moving to a new country and all, but Kang Ta agreed it would be a good idea. He didn’t mention it at the time, but Tony knew that he used to share the place with his lover. Tony still knew very little about the relationship, but he wasn’t going to pry.
The conversation in the car died down and suddenly Kang Ta hit the brakes. Tony grabbed the dash board and looked back to see if his aunt was alright but caught Kang Ta leaning forward to stare out the opposite window.
“What happened? Did you hit something?” Aunt Ahn asked, righting herself in the back seat.
“No.” Kang Ta said quickly, starting to drive again. His eyes were still intent on the window beside Tony. When Tony looked out though, he couldn’t see anything unusual. There was only a gas station.
“What happened?” Kang Ta’s mother insisted.
“Nothing. I’m sorry, are you okay?”
She said she was and that was the end of it. Kang Ta didn’t say much for the rest of the ride. He didn’t actually say much at all until his mother had seen Tony’s room adequately cleaned and set off for home.
“So.” Kang Ta said awkwardly as he and Tony stood in his-or their, rather- living room. “This is it.”
Tony tried not to laugh, but couldn’t help himself, he was too uncomfortable. Kang Ta quickly joining him, laughing harder then was necessary to dispel his tension.
“It’s weird seeing you face to face.” Kang Ta admitted.
“I know, it seems like I’m meeting a stranger with your voice and face.” Tony said.
“That’s it exactly.” Kang Ta agreed. “I really was going to have your room ready for you, but mom showed up at seven in the morning.”
“It’s fine. I’m not really that fussy, I could have slept out here until the room was ready. If you need to store anything in the room still, you can.”
Kang Ta shook his head. “No, that’s fine. It’s your room. This is half your place now, so...” He shifted from one foot to the other. “Let’s eat something before it’s anymore evident how nervous I am.” He suggested.
Tony laughed, but agreed.
Kant Ta pulled up to the gas station, keeping his eyes wide open for what made him almost kill himself and his family earlier that day. Moon Hee Jun. It wasn’t hard to miss the man, he dyed his hair such a bright red that he could be spotted from miles away. It was his hair that Kang Ta had first noticed about him.
Kang Ta got Tony settled, or as settled as possible, and rushed out to see if Hee Jun was still at the gas station. And sure enough, he was still there, waiting with a gas pump over his head.
Trying to stifle his excitement, Kang Ta parked next to him and slowly lowered his side window, trying to appear much cooler then he felt.
“Hi, can I help you?” Hee Jun asked leaning down to meet Kang Ta’s eyes and smiled.
Kang Ta’s heart fluttered. “Fill it up.” He said.
Hee Jun nodded and went to work. He didn’t recognize Kang Ta at all, not that Kang Ta expected him to. He hadn’t actually ever met the man formally. Hee Jun played every weekend at a local rock club called SuckStuff and Kang Ta was there for every show since the first time he saw him.
At first, when his co-worker had dragged Kang Ta along to the club six months ago, he was desperate to leave. Rock music wasn’t his thing and he sure didn’t fit in with anyone else in the club. But right before Kang Ta was about to make a break for it, Hee Jun had gotten on stage and blown him away. Men in uniforms were hot, but rock stars put them to shame. Not that Hee Jun was really a rock star, but by the way the regular patrons cheered him on you would have thought he was.
Watching Hee Jun on stage fluttered to life the part of Kang Ta that admired the bravery and talent it took to be on stage and command the crowd as he did. The lonely part of him yearned to be one of the many people Hee Jun talked and joked with so easily, finding the man’s smile and laugh so honest and contagious. The REALLY lonely part of him that was hollowing his heart after being without an intimate relationship, even of the one night variety, pumped fire into his veins even when he anticipated seeing Hee Jun.
Hee Jun had immediately found a new fan in Kang Ta. A fan, and a bit of a stalker. Kang Ta never introduced himself to Hee Jun but made it a point to sit close to him when his set was over, always seating himself out of sight. He would watch Hee Jun chat up his friends and fans and pretend Hee Jun was talking to him instead.
It was childish. Kang Ta was a grown man, he should have been able to talk to whomever he liked. But he couldn’t. He justified it by the death of his partner. Kang Ta wasn’t over it yet, it was too soon, so it was okay if he followed Hee Jun around like a swooning school girl, right?
Maybe. If only Shin Hye Sung hadn’t died two years ago.
Or was it three?
“Sir?” Hee Jun asked, leaning further toward Kang Ta’s window to get his attention.
Kang Ta flushed and hurried to get the money he owed.
So, Hee Jun worked here pumping gas. Now Kang Ta knew where he was on the week days as well as the weekends. He could find him any day of the week.
This wasn’t stalking, no. It was damn good luck.
“How is your business venture going?” Kim Chang Ryul asked Woo Hyuk, sitting opposite him in their diner booth.
Woo Hyuk huffed a reply.
“That bad, huh?” Chang Ryul smiled.
Chang Ryul was Woo Hyuk’s student, but he was also a successful business owner and so Woo Hyuk had struck up a bit of a friendship with him to ask his for his guidance. Their businesses couldn’t be more different, but business was business as far as Woo Hyuk was concerned. It was all over his head.
For years, Woo Hyuk had been teaching dance at a private gym, now he felt he was ready to start a dance school. It had been his dream for years and it seemed within his grasp. That is, until he actually started the paperwork. It was hard to get loans for as much money as he wanted, nay, needed. Chang Ryul had pointed him in the right direction and Woo Hyuk had found himself falling flat on his face. It was embarrassing.
“I don’t think anyone takes me seriously.” Woo Hyuk admitted.
“Why is that?” Chang Ryul asked.
Woo Hyuk looked down at himself. “I look immature.”
Chang Ryul’s smile brightened. “I know why you asked for my help then.”
At first Woo Hyuk wasn’t sure what he meant, then it dawned on him. Chang Ryul owned a stylist business.
“I wasn’t asking for free tips.” Woo Hyuk said quickly, not wanting to seem like he was asking for hand outs. “I was just going to wash, rinse, and repeat.”
Chang Ryul waved aside his modestly and lame joke. “Let me help. In exchange, you can wave my fee for your class, alright?”
It was a lot of money to give him a pass on. “For a few months.” He offered.
“Sure. And if things work out really well, a life time of free classes.” Chang Ryul pulled out a business card and scribbled something down on it. “I just hired a new guy that moved from America. You can break him in, give me some feedback on him. It’ll kill two birds with one stone.”
Woo Hyuk took the card from him. “And if this goes really badly, you are going to pay me back for the classes with interest?”
Chang Ryul laughed. “It’ll be fine, trust me. You’ll have everyone thinking you are a life long entrepreneur in no time. Just ask for Tony An.”
“Ho Bak!” Hee Jun yelled, seeing her come in the door. Jae Won, his best friend, beside him jumped at the outburst, but went back to watching TV.
Ho Bak quickly made her way down the stairs to the little basement they had under the rock club, SuckStuff, it was the space the owner rented out to the bands to practice in. Hee Jun’s band, at the moment, didn’t need it, but Hee Jun took it upon himself to keep an eye on it while it wasn’t in use. Jae Won was there as back up incase some major shit went down.
Hee Jun glanced at Jae Won as he thought that and couldn’t help but laugh out loud. Jae Won glared at him but didn’t ask why he was laughing. He was used to it.
“Good news!” Ho Bak announced, plopping down besides Hee Jun. “I got you a job!”
Hee Jun threw his arms around her and crushed her into his chest. “You rock! I owe you so much!”
Being hard pressed for money, Hee Jun was pumping gas during week days and washing dishes at a restaurant on week nights. The shows on the weekends hardly covered what it cost to keep his lights on in his place. He needed money. He needed a job that a grown man might have. He was getting tired of his co-workers asking him when he was going to graduate High School.
Ho Bak worked at a day care center and was able to get Hee Jun in a few times to teach music when the regular music teacher was sick. She got him an interview to be a regular facet, but Hee Jun had little hope it would work.
Luckily, it seemed like he was wrong for once!
“I begged and begged, and they gave in.” Ho Bak said, pulling back to reach around Hee Jun and slap Jae Won on the leg. “Aren’t you going to congratulate Hee Jun?”
Jae Won glanced between the two. “Congrats Hee Jun.” He finally said. “What’s going on?”
Ho Bak huffed a sigh but Hee Jun laughed. “I got a job at Ho Bak’s school, pay attention.”
“Oh, well then, congratulations!” Jae Won said, patting him on the back.
“What do I owe you?” Hee Jun asked, turning back to Ho Bak. She was a nice girl, but even the nicest girls don’t do anything for free. Hee Jun knew enough of them to testify to that.
“I want you to buy me dinner when you get your first pay check. And...Perform with me next weekend.”
She said it so quickly, Hee Jun almost didn’t understand her. Ho Bak was a great bass player, she was pretty good at guitar too. She had always played with the same band though, unlike Hee Jun’s, who saw more members come in and out of their band than a Mc Donald’s drive through. She had never seemed interested in performing with anyone else.
“Me and the guys made some CDs,” Ho Bak explained. “We’re going to start selling them next weekend after our set so I was hoping you would do a song with us and maybe entice your groupies to buy some of our CDs.”
“Sure!” Hee Jun happily agreed. “I don’t know if I’ll help though, I can hardly get anyone to buy me a drink. Jae Won will buy one though, wont you dude?” When he didn’t get an answer he turned around. “Dude?”
Jae Won made belated eye contact. “Ya, congratulations Hee Jun.”