Chapter 1: Chapter 1
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.”
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
“Who are your mommy and daddy?”
It was the earliest memory Tony had. A police officer held him in her arms and looked down at him sadly. “Who are your mommy and daddy?” She asked, not really expecting an answer because he had no way to give her one.
It couldn’t really be a memory though, Tony was still an infant at the time. Maybe it was something he had made up in his dreams and had come to believe really happened. Or maybe as a baby, Tony understood the importance of the moment he had been found and it had stuck with him.
Maybe it was a memory after all.
“Who are your mommy and daddy?”
He didn’t know. He still didn’t know. But, he was close to finding out.
“Have you met my mother?” Tony asked.
Kang Ta looked up from his breakfast. “What?”
“Have you ever met my mother?” Tony asked again, a little more loudly though he had Kang Ta’s full attention.
Kang Ta shook his head. “I haven’t ever met her. Mom...Mom doesn’t like her, so...” He shrugged.
Tony nodded and went back to eating his own breakfast. He was sure not to mention to his Aunt that his mother was the main reason he even moved to South Korea. Kang Ta wouldn’t be able to help him, and so now he would have to go to his Aunt Ahn to find his mother after all. She really did hate her though, Tony wasn’t sure his aunt would even help him.
“Mom’s told me a few things about her though.” Kang Ta offered suddenly.
Tony’s heart sped up and he could do nothing but nod again for Kang Ta to go on.
Kang Ta set his chop sticks down to give Tony his undivided attention. “She was back in Korea when they found you. I know she went to prison for a while, but I’m not sure how long. She got married when she got out.”
Tony must have looked startled because Kang Ta stopped talking abruptly.
“She’s married? To who? My father?” He asked quickly.
Kang Ta shook his head. “I don’t know, my mom just mentioned it.” He looked hesitant then and Tony knew to prepare himself for what he would say next. “Mom also said she has another son with him.”
Tony’s mouth went dry.
He had a brother.
“I don’t know how old he would be.” Kang Ta said absently ticking off numbers in his head. “It would depend on when she got out of prison I guess, and when she met her husband, if it isn’t your dad. That’s all I know, I’m sorry.”
“Thank you.” Tony said softly. He looked back down at his food but suddenly wasn’t hungry anymore. “Do you think your mom will help me?” He asked after a long silence.
“I don’t know.” Kang Ta admitted. “Just tell her how much it means to you, I’m sure she’ll understand. If nothing else, I’m sure she’ll want you to meet your brother.”
Tony had gone from having no real family to a cousin, aunt, and now soon parents and a brother? It should have made him happy. Not just happy, but over joyed. But it didn’t. He felt angry.
Why did his mother leave him behind only to have another son later? What was wrong with Tony? What could he have done before he was even old enough to sit up on his own?
Tony’s desk was immaculate. It had no reason not to be though, seeing as how he hadn’t gotten the chance to use it, but he took a moment out to make sure it was ordered and clean anyway. His first client was coming in at any time.
Tony found himself lucky enough to get a job as a stylist in South Korea like he had in America. He wasn’t too sure if his job actually existed in Korea. Tony thought LA always seemed a little over board with it’s fashion consciousness, even as a stylist, but it seemed like people were as concerned with fashion anywhere in the world. With a good resume and references he could, and did, land a great job. He was able to secure it even before he could get his visa.
It was almost as important to have the job than it was to have his family here. At least the job was something he was secure with, something he knew he could handle. And it was familiar. As the days went on, though there were only few so far, Tony longed for familiarity with his new home. It hadn’t occurred to him how important it was to know where things were and how to interact with strangers. If he could just make it to work without getting lost he would be happy.
When Jang Woo Hyuk walked into his office, Tony found something else he found familiar. Gorgeous men. This man gave Tony’s clients in LA a run for their money, though he had a very unpolished style. But then, that’s why he was in Tony’s office in the first place.
“Jang Woo Hyuk,” Tony said, getting himself to his feet. “I’m An Tony. Please sit down.” He said gesturing to the seat in front of his desk.
Woo Hyuk seated himself without returning the greeting verbally.
So he was kind of aloof, that was also sexy, albeit unpolished.
“Why don’t we get started with you telling me what you are looking for.” Tony suggested, pulling out a pen to take notes.
“I’m not really sure how this works, why don’t we start with that.” Woo Hyuk suggested instead.
Tony set his pen back down to display patients. Not that he was intimidated, but his boss, Kim Chang Ryul, was friends with this man and had given Tony instructions to do his best work with him. “You tell me what your personal style and professional style is, and I’ll help you create a new, more evolved, look for you. If you want to look more professional, we’ll do that. If you want to be more trendy, we’ll do that. I’m here to assist you.”
“Alright, I need to look trustworthy and mature.” Woo Hyuk said. “I want to walk in a room and have bankers say ‘You know who I would like to throw money at? That guy.’”
Tony quickly pretended to scratch his cheek to cover his smile. “We can do that.” He picked his pen back and up and started jotting down notes.
Short Black hair
“Tell me about how you usually dress and accessorize.” He asked.
“I wear whatever is clean and sometimes, to spice it up, I wear a base ball cap.” Woo Hyuk offered dryly, then smiled.
Tony added a few notes.
“Would you want casual clothes or just outfits for work?” Tony asked.
“I work at a gym giving hip hop classes, so I got my style covered for that.” He gestured to his clothes. “I’m trying to open a dance school so I need a look that will let the banks let me in their doors.”
“I get it.” Tony said, adding that to his notes. “You have two options.” He informed him. “I can take you shopping and I’ll teach you how to form a style for yourself, or I can bring outfits into my office and you can try them here.”
“I don’t need a lesson on shopping.” Woo Hyuk told him. “If you could just get me one thing to wear when I go begging for money, I’ll be happy.”
“We’ll go with the latter option then.” Tony smiled though he felt uneasy inside. This guy really didn’t seem on board with the idea of being there. “Let me get your measurements and I’ll let you go.”
“That’s it?” Woo Hyuk asked, sitting up a little straighter.
Tony smiled. “I have nothing to show you right now. Actually,” He stopped, feeling unprepared, “I would usually have some things for you to try, but I really haven’t gotten set up here. But, when I see you next time I’ll have a lot for you to try on, consider yourself lucky this time.” He stood and motioned for Woo Hyuk to join him. “I’ll just take your measurements.” He said again.
Woo Hyuk stood, looking completely unsure of himself, and Tony noted that look didn’t seem to suit him and doubted he looked that way often. Though he shouldn’t have, Tony felt pleased he got to see him vulnerable.
“Let’s do your arms first.” Tony suggested, setting his notebook on the edge of his desk and pulling the measuring tape out to measure Woo Hyuk.
Woo Hyuk spread his arms and waited stiffly while Tony jotted down his measurements. “Waist.” Tony said as he wrapped the measuring tape around Woo Hyuk’s waist. “Your inseam.” Tony mumbled when he knelt in front of him, but ran into a problem. Woo Hyuk’s pants were over sized to the point were the crotch of his jeans were almost to his knees.
Tony fought the urge to ask him to remove his pants all together. “Can you lift your pants as far as possible so I can measure you?”
Woo Hyuk nodded and balled the sides of his jeans in either hand and yanked them up tightly. Tony noted he could pull them up quite a ways, meaning he had long legs and that his butt did not, in fact, start as his calves. He wouldn’t have minded double checking though.
“Got it.” Tony said, reaching over to jot down the measurements.
In an attempt not to notice Woo Hyuk being so deliciously close to him, Tony hadn’t noticed how intrusively close he had become, until he spoke.
“What does my sexy smile have to do with my clothes?” Woo Hyuk asked, reading Tony’s notes over his shoulder.
Tony flipped the notebook over before he realized how useless that was. “Oh God.” He muttered, mortified. When he turned around Woo Hyuk was smiling for him. It only made him more embarrassed.
“My hygiene is fine by the way.”
“I am so sorry.” Tony quickly apologized. “I shouldn’t have-“
Woo Hyuk cut him off by raising his hand. “It’s alright. I just hope my sexy smile makes up for my bad smell.”
“I never said you smelled bad.” Tony quickly said.
“So I smell good?”
Tony fought the urge to ‘Oh my God’ again.
“I’ll schedule the next appointment with the receptionist.” Woo Hyuk said as he let himself out.
Next appointment with who? Tony thought. Because I am so getting fired.
“Little kids!” Hee Jun cheered as he entered the classroom, seeing all the little children seated on the floor while Ho Bak sat at the front of the room with a story book in her hands.
She looked so cute and nurturing. Soon he would too, he was sure.
“Class, you remember Moon Hee Jun, the music teacher.”
The class “Yes”ed in as close to unison as such young kids could get.
“Did you all miss me?” Hee Jun asked.
That got him a much less confident “Yes” from the students. He didn’t expect them to really remember him anyway. At their age he could hardly even remember who his mother was. It took him until he was a teenager to figure out his sister belonged in the house and wasn’t just visiting.
“Hee Jun?” Ho Bak asked in a tone that indicated this wasn’t the first time she had said it.
“Huh? Yes?” He asked, coming back down to Earth.
Ho Bak nodded toward one of the children with their hands up. Hee Jun pointed at him to speak.
“How come your hair is black?” The little boy asked.
Hee Jun raised his hand to touch his hair, as if he could feel the color. “I was trying to be more professional since I got a new job. Do you not like it?”
The few children that didn’t recognize him before finally seemed to remember him. He was the man with the red hair.
“No.” Most of the children answered.
“Alright, I’ll dye it again. What color should I dye it?” When they all started shouting over him Hee Jun motioned for them to be quiet. “Let’s take a vote.”
“You are suppose to be teaching music, not colors and democracy.” Ho Bak quietly pointed out.
“What’s music but color of the soul? And what’s more diplomatic than the power of rock?”
Ho Bak gave him a ‘You have got to be kidding’ look.
“See how serious I am?” Hee Jun said, his grin almost painfully big. “I’m so put together. I bet you’re so glad you got me a job with you.”
Ho Bak smiled painfully.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Woo Hyuk was looking forward to seeing his personal stylist. What could be better than having someone there only to assist you, let alone one that was as cute and easily flustered as Tony. It made failing in getting a loan thus far almost worth it.
Well, not almost, but at least it wasn’t a total wash.
Despite his unease of becoming a Barbie doll, it was nice to find he was set up with someone so good looking. It made him feel better about being objectified if he could objectify in return. If he didn’t know better, he would think Chang Ryul was a matchmaker. He did know better though, that guy was the least likely person to hook Woo Hyuk up with anyone.
Upon Woo Hyuk’s second visit, he found the waiting room actually looked like one. Not only that, he even got announced by a secretary. In only a few days it seemed like their tiny operation was becoming a well oiled machine. It gave Woo Hyuk hope for this little adventure.
“Hello.” Tony said as soon as Woo Hyuk entered his office.
“Hello.” Woo Hyuk greeted cooly. “Are you ready to make me presentable?”
Tony blushed self consciously. “You are presentable. I’ll make you look respectable.” He jabbed, then looked suddenly solemn. “I wanted to apologize for the last time. I was totally unprofessional.” He said, coming around his desk to face Woo Hyuk.
“You don’t need to apologize.” Woo Hyuk assured. “My hygiene is sometimes questionable and I’m glad you made a note of how sexy I am. I wouldn’t want to have to remind you every time we meet.” Tony blushed and Woo Hyuk enjoyed it too much to let Tony ruin it by talking. “You have some clothes for me, let’s see them.” He said firmly.
“I’ll take you to the dressing room.” Tony said, motioning to the door but leading him out.
The dressing room was bigger then Tony’s office. One wall was lined in mirrors and the only thing in it was a portable clothes rack and a changing screen. The room itself wasn’t intimidating, but the clothes on the rack were. Woo Hyuk could already picture how badly he would look in them.
“Did I mention I wasn’t working for a gang?” Woo Hyuk asked, lifting the sleeve of a sports coat.
“Then it’s a good thing you’re here. I’m sure you get mistaken for a gang member a lot in those ghetto clothes.” Tony said, nodding to Woo Hyuk’s clothes.
Woo Hyuk looked down at himself. “This is FUBU, it’s too expensive to be ghetto.”
“Let’s give these a shot, okay?” Tony suggested. “You don’t have to like everything, or anything, we’re just trying things out.”
Woo Hyuk spread his arms in invitation to begin and Tony handed him a suit. Not attempting to hide his distaste, Woo Hyuk handed it back and started to take his shirt off.
“Wait, you can use the screen.” Tony said quickly, pointing to it.
“We’re both grown men.” Woo Hyuk pointed out, keeping his eyes on Tony to catch his reaction. He wasn’t as red faced as Woo Hyuk had hoped he would have been. Changing men’s clothes was his job though, so Woo Hyuk didn’t see it as a failure.
Once he had gotten the suit on, Woo Hyuk looked at Tony for his feedback but Tony detoured him to the mirrors.
“What do you think?” Tony asked him
Woo Hyuk looked himself over. “I look like a bum wearing a suit.”
“That can be solved with a hair cut. Look at the way your body looks in it and how it feels.” Woo Hyuk met his eyes in the mirror and smiled, finally getting a full blush out of him. “Let’s try another one.” Tony suggested quickly.
He tried everything but the sweater vest on, that just wasn’t happening. A lot of it sucked, but a few things worked. Woo Hyuk wasn’t so stubborn he couldn’t admit that.
“I’ll make a few adjustments in the outfits you picked and you’ll be all set. Is there anything in specific you liked that I can get more of for you to try?”
“I’ll just take these.” Woo Hyuk gestured to the clothes. “I only plan on sticking with this look long enough to get my money.”
“You were starting a business, right?” Tony asked.
“A dance school.” Woo Hyuk specified.
“How long have you tried to get a loan?”
He didn’t want to actually do the math, so he guessed. “A few months. It’s a real buzz kill.”
Tony nodded thoughtfully. “Maybe you should re-work your business plan.”
Tony smiled as if responding to a joke, then quickly dropped it when he discovered Woo Hyuk wasn’t kidding. “You don’t have a business plan?” He asked.
“Do you just walk into the bank and ask for money?”
Woo Hyuk scowled. “Yes.” Was that so insane?
Tony bit his lip.
“Spit it out.” Woo Hyuk snapped. “You are obviously thinking I’m a moron.”
“No, no.” Tony said quickly. “I-You should just really have a business plan to present when you are asking for money. No ones just going to just hand out a loan to anyone who wanders into their office. If you like, I can help you make one.” He offered.
“Is this part of our work here, or would this be freelance?” Woo Hyuk asked.
“A business plan is definitely part of your new professional style, so I guess it would be a little bit of both.” Tony said, smiling up at him.
“It has nothing to do with how sexy I am?” Woo Hyuk asked.
Tony sighed heavily. “You aren’t going to let that go, are you?”
“Well seeing as how you haven’t been saying it or making note of it anymore, I just wanted to remind you.”
“As If I could forget.” Tony said playfully.
And there was Woo Hyuk’s invitation. “Since I don’t plan on paying you for your help on my business plan, why don’t I make you dinner sometime later this week?”
“I would like that.” Tony said, grinning.
Living with Tony was a reminder of what it was like to have to share his home. Kang Ta found himself thinking about Hye Sung more and more in the few days Tony was there than he did in the last few years.
Kang Ta and Hye Sung would argue about chores and meals, and they would argue about what to watch on TV. They argued a lot, but for some reason Kang Ta didn’t remember those things until now. Seeing Tony pick up things Kang Ta left on the floor reminded him of Hye Sung. Watching Tony prepare meals also reminded him of Hye Sung, though usually Kang Ta was the one who did that. The things that used to annoy him so much when Hye Sung was alive seemed funny to him now. He wished he had Hye Sung around to reminisce about it with, and that was the saddest part.
And although Kang Ta was worried about being sad, it didn’t actually bother him that much. Hye Sung’s dying had brought mostly fear to Kang Ta than anything else, and that made him feel guilty. Where he should have been mourning and grief stricken, he felt scared of mourning and being grief stricken.
He had expected the full weight of the situation to crash down on him as he found himself alone, realizing Hye Sung wasn’t coming back, but it didn’t. Kang Ta still kept that fear, waiting to be crushed under the weight of his loss, but for some reason having Tony living with him made him understand that wouldn’t happen. He had lived through the worst part of his lover’s death.
Seeing Hye Sung slowly die while there was nothing he could do to stop it, or even make it easier, was the worst pain Kang Ta could have gone through, nothing that followed would ever measure up to that.
It hadn’t occurred to Kang Ta that Tony had even been thinking about Hye Sung, until he brought him up one night.
“Do you miss him?” Tony asked suddenly. “Hye Sung I mean.”
Kang Ta thought about lying, but decided against it. “Not really. I missed him more when he was with me than I did after he died.”
Tony nodded like he understood, but he couldn’t have.
“Do you ever miss your mom?” Kang Ta asked.
Tony looked a little confused. “I’ve never met her, how would I miss her?”
“I heard that twins that are separated at birth still feel a sense of longing for each other, I thought it might be the same with a child and their parents.”
Tony shook his head, but then seemed to take it into consideration. “I see what you mean, but no, I never missed her. Twins are close in the womb, they care for each other and depend on each other. They are a part of each other. I don’t think my mother ever considered me a part of herself or she wouldn’t have done what she did to me.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to...” Kang Ta tried to find words, but couldn’t.
“I know, it’s okay. I’m not as bothered by it as I seem.” He laughed and Kang Ta wasn’t sure if he was making a joke or not, but laughed with him anyway.
Hee Jun beamed down at the kids as they once again faltered over the song he was trying to beat into him. It was his job to make sure they had something to present at parents day but the dumb faces they would get when they couldn’t remember the words was so funny. Even if their presentation sucked, maybe the parents would get a good laugh out of it.
“How about snacks?” Hee Jun suggested and ignored the look Ho Bak shot him as the kids cheered
She was so stingy. It was a wonder these kids didn’t starve to death without him.
“They liked me until you got here.” Ho Bak informed him.
“They still love you Ho Bak, they just love food more. You can’t blame them, you really can’t.”
“Speaking of which, when are you buying me dinner?” She asked sweetly. “I’m free tonight.”
“I have work tonight, washing dishes remember?”
Ho Bak straightened in surprise. “Why are you still working there?”
Hee Jun spread his hands. “This doesn’t pay enough for me to quit that job. But this is much nicer than pumping gas. I’m like a God to these kids.” He laughed
“A God? Why don’t you ask these kids what they like better, you or candy.”
“I would rather not...” Hee Jun admitted.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
A claw had taken Tony’s stomach and he couldn’t seem to loosen it. If he was this worried about talking to his Aunt, how would he be when he finally met his Mom?
If he ever did...
It had taken Tony the whole morning to make his way to his Aunt’s place. Not only did he have to find it, he had to get the courage to speak to her. It didn’t help that she was so happy to see him when he got there. She ushered him inside as soon as she opened the front door.
“Tony! I didn’t know you were coming over. Have you eaten yet? I’ll make you something.” She said, already heading the kitchen.
“I have lunch plans later, I’ll be fine.” Tony said, following her. “I actually just wanted to ask you some questions, if that’s okay?” He asked.
She turned to him looking a bit surprise. “Of course. Is everything okay at Kang Ta’s? Has he been making room for you?”
Tony nodded. “Yes, it’s fine. Kang Ta and I are coexisting just fine. Let’s sit down, okay?” He asked.
His Aunt Ahn looked at him questionably but seated herself, and he followed.
“I know you don’t want me speaking to her, but I would like to meet my mother.” Tony said, diving right in.
Her eyes darkened. “Don’t. I told you many times you don’t need to have anything to do with her.” She warned.
“She’s my mother,” Tony urged.
“No, she isn’t!” His Aunt yelled, slapping her hand firmly down on the table, startling him. “She isn’t anything to you. She isn’t human. She isn’t worth your time! After what she did to you, how could you want to speak with her? Huh?”
“She must have had a reason.” Tony offered weakly.
“What reason? What reason would possibly justify-“ She cut herself off, taking a deep breath then continuing on in a calmer tone. “No. You have me, you have Kang Ta. We are your family, you don’t need her. Just forget about it.”
“Please.” Tony said firmly. “I am a grown man, it is my right to decide this for myself. I love you, and I thank you for caring for me when no one else would, but I need this.”
“Why?” She asked sharply.
“Because.” Tony stopped himself as his voice caught in his throat. “Because I want to know why she did it. Why she left me, and why she would have another son.”
Her body tensed as he said it, but it didn’t take long for her to speak again. “How did you know that?” She asked softly.
“Kang Ta told me.”
“That boy..” She huffed. “This isn’t his business anyway... So you know she has another son now. Don’t you see? She doesn’t deserve you, what kind of women would do that?”
“Then for my brother.” Tony said quickly. “Please, let me find my brother.” He moved toward her, taking her hands in his and all but crushing them. “Please, I came this far to be with my family, let me at least know the brother I never met. He didn’t do anything to hurt me. Please Auntie.” He begged.
It was obvious she wanted to say no, that she wanted to wretch her hands from him, but she didn’t. Instead she leaned forward and hugged him tightly.
“Fine.” She sighed. “But don’t let her hurt you again. You don’t deserve that.”
Tony hugged her back. “Thank you so much.”
Tony shouldn’t have gone to his Aunt’s before meeting with Woo Hyuk, he wasn’t in the right state of mind for it. He knew it wouldn’t be easy to convince his Aunt he should meet his mother, although Tony found it was easier then he feared. Kang Ta was right, she did feel empathy toward him wanting to meet his brother. That didn’t mean he wasn’t still stressed over it, and sitting in his car outside of Woo Hyuk’s house didn’t make him feel any more relaxed.
Tony was sitting there, staring out his window, fretting like a damn girl. He was there to help Woo Hyuk with his business plan, there was no reason to be checking his hair, but he couldn’t help it. Besides, it wasn’t just the business plan, right? Woo Hyuk had flirted with him, that was obvious. At least, Tony hoped he had flirted with him.
Whatever. He was there now and would feel foolish to call and cancel. Maybe being stressed over Woo Hyuk would distract Tony about being stressed over his mother. But even as he made it to the door and rang the bell, the thought of ‘I have my mother’s address, this could be me at her house now’ went through his head.
It was obvious this wasn’t his mother’s house when Woo Hyuk opened the door though. He was far from a middle aged women. He was so hot...
“You’re late.” Woo Hyuk noted instead of greeting Tony.
“How late?” Tony asked.
“Late enough to hurt my feelings. You’ll have to make it up to me.” He moved aside to let Tony in.
Tony hesitantly walked inside, not asking what he meant by that.
The place wasn’t what Tony had thought it would be. He expected to find a frat house or at least some cliche bachelor pad. It was pretty clean, even if he did have a few things laying around, like at Kang Ta’s place. Tony was making great strides in not being annoyed by that. It was now almost second nature to live in a surface cleaned home.
“I got that stuff you asked for.” Woo Hyuk told him, walking into the living room as if he expected Tony to follow him without in invitation.
Which he did.
“The financial stuff?” Tony asked and was answered by the nod of the back of Woo Hyuk’s head.
They sat down and Woo Hyuk presented him with a stack of papers he had printed out. Tony flipped through it and nodded.
“That’s good. I made an example of a business plan for you to follow.” He pulled his example from his bag and set it up for Woo Hyuk to see. It was propped on a little stand Tony had make-shifted and was open to the cover page.
“You made this as an example?” Woo Hyuk asked, eyeing it like it might bite him.
“You are such a geek.” He laughed. Tony must have looked as hurt as he felt because he quickly corrected himself, “That isn’t a bad thing. I need a geek.”
Tony let that slide. “You’ll be using your financial projections a little later.” He said, patting the papers Woo Hyuk had given him. “But first you need to explain your business. You have to show them what you want to do, how quickly you’ll do it. You have to tell them you’ll be making tons of money off of it, even if you aren’t sure. They’ll want to know how much money will go to what. If you’ll be building your school or if you’re renting, what you’ll have to do to actually turn it into what you want. You’ll have to give them an estimation on how many clients you’ll get, and you should base that off of what you have now. If you have some ideas for advertisement, you should add those.” Tony stopped talking as he noticed the was Woo Hyuk was looking at him, disgusted.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me.” He muttered. “I don’t even remember the first thing you said.”
Trying to look encouraging, Tony went to his business plan example. “I’ll walk you through it. It’s not as hard as it seems, you just have to take it a step at a time.”
He did take it a step at a time, explaining it to Woo Hyuk, then back tracked and took it a step at a time again. A stack of notes Woo Hyuk had taken and a few annoyed looks from him later, Tony felt Woo Hyuk was suitably versed in the art of business plans.
“You don’t have to worry that much, really.” Tony assured him. “You just have to convince them you are serious about this. If they see it means a lot to you and you are willing to put effort into it, they’ll trust you.”
Woo Hyuk shrugged. It was obvious he didn’t take compliments or kind comments well, Tony was sure it was because it was hard to respond to them with sharp comments. He always found a way though.
“So,” Woo Hyuk said. “I guess I didn’t need to bother with the new clothes after all.”
“It wont hurt. I still think we should get your hair cut too.” Tony told him, but his heart wasn’t in it. He would rather not have seen Woo Hyuk change at all.
“I’ll wear a hat.”
“Please don’t.” Tony said quickly, too quickly.
Woo Hyuk laughed. “You hungry? I don’t have anything to make dinner with now, but I can take you to a restaurant.”
“I would like that.” Tony answered eagerly.
“I’ll get my keys.” Woo Hyuk said, getting to his feet.
No sooner was he out of the room that Tony’s cell phone rang. At first he wasn’t sure it was his. He didn’t get many calls since he moved, he didn’t really know anyone in Korea. The caller ID showed Kang Ta’s name though, so he answered it.
“My mom called me.” Kang Ta told him. “She’s, uh, well she’s not happy but she said she gave you your mom’s address. That’s great. Have you seen her yet?”
Tony was silent, a sudden sickness settling in his stomach. He hadn’t thought of her since he had gotten inside Woo Hyuk’s home, it seemed like he hadn’t even gone to see his Aunt earlier that day, it seemed like it was at least a week ago.
That was bitter sweet. Although it was nice to spend the time with Woo Hyuk, flirting and showing off his mind for business, that isn’t why he moved to Korea. He came to find his mother, now to meet his brother, and he was only a drive away.
“Tony?” Kang Ta asked.
“Sorry. Ya, I mean no. I haven’t seen her yet. I don’t know when I’m going to.”
“If you don’t want to go alone, I can go with you.” Kang Ta offered.
“No, that’s fine. I’ll be alright. I’ll see you later.”
When he hung up, Tony was startled by seeing Woo Hyuk in the door way. He didn’t have that controlled cool look anymore, he looked concerned. Tony realized he must have over heard some of his conversation, but quickly recalled he didn’t say anything telling.
“I’ll have to take a rain check, I need to go somewhere.” Tony excused himself, getting to his feet. He just wanted to go home right now. He wanted to be able to think, and apparently Woo Hyuk was too distracting.
“Is everything okay?” Woo Hyuk asked, coming in to help Tony pack his things.
“Ya, everything is fine. I’m sorry to be running out on you, but at least we got your stuff done, that’s all that mattered.”
Woo Hyuk caught his wrist suddenly as he went for his bag and Tony could do nothing but slowly look up at him. His eyes were smoldering and Tony found himself mesmerized.
“I was more looking forward to taking you out then doing the business plan.” Woo Hyuk told him. “So promise me you’ll still let me cook you dinner.”
Tony dumbly nodded and for some reason, that made Woo Hyuk laugh. He leaned forward and kissed Tony. It was soft and quick, and yet Tony felt like his heart was going to burst when he pulled away.
All Tony could think was, God, this man is distracting.
“I’ll walk you out.” Woo Hyuk said, taking the bag from Tony.
Tony followed him, knowing at that point, he would follow Woo Hyuk anywhere.
Hee Jun was on the top of the world. There was nothing he liked better than being on stage. The club was overcrowded, the din of shouting was almost too loud to hear Hee Jun singing into the mic, and it was stuffy and smelled worse and worse each week, but there was no where Hee Jun would rather be. If he could stay up there forever, maybe install a toilet and have a pillow, he would. Luckily, he was doing a double set. His band had played and now he was finishing up with Bloody Cookie, Ho Bak’s band.
“Bloody Cookie’s CDs are on sale now!” Hee Jun announced. “Buy at least one you guys, you’ve been getting the music for free!” That was convincing enough Hee Jun thought.
Before he could hop off the stage to join Jae Won, Ho Bak caught his arm.
“You have a fan.” She said as quietly as the noisy club would allow.
“Aw, thanks Ho Bak.”
“Not me.” She snapped, then nodded toward the crowd. “This guy out there has been watching you the whole time like you’re a gift from God.”
Hee Jun quickly scanned the crowd. “Where, where?” He asked.
“There.” She said, pointing. “The guy heading to the bar, the one wearing-oh, the only one here who doesn’t have their hair dyed.”
“Got him!” Hee Jun said, then jumped off stage. He dashed past people to his new fan. “Hey dude.” He said once he was close enough and grabbed his arm.
The man turned around and... “Oh, you are so pretty!” Hee Jun told him. “Really cute. I recognize you though...”
The man looked like he was facing a predator or something. Hee Jun didn’t have time to assure him he wouldn’t hurt a fly, he was too busy trying to remember who the hell this guy was. It was no wonder he remembered him, he was as pretty as a women.
“Seriously, do I know you?” Hee Jun asked.
“I come here a lot.” The man admitted.
“Really? I don’t remember seeing you here...I remember you like...” He took the man by the shoulders and pushed him down until he was almost on his knees, making him inevitably fall to them. “This is the angle I remember you from. Oh! I must have pumped your gas!”
“Hee Jun, you can’t do those things here.” Jae Won said, appearing through the crowd.
“Huh?” Hee Jun asked, then looked back down at Kang Ta, still on his knees in front of him. “Oh!” He pulled him back up, laughing so hard he almost fell into him. “I’m sorry, that looked bad.”
“That’s fine.” The man squeaked.
“You are so cute. Isn’t he cute Jae Won?”
“I think you are embarrassing him.” Jae Won gave Kang Ta an apologetic smile.
“I’m sorry.” Hee Jun apologized. “Hey, I don’t have that job at the gas station anymore, I got a new one. I got my first pay check today, would you like to have dinner with me?”
The man’s jaw dropped open. “Are you serious?”
“Ya, why not? It’s such a good day, I might as well share it. What’s your name?”
“Kang Ta.” He answered.
“That’s got to be the best name ever. Want to go out with me Kang Ta?”
Kang Ta opened his mouth but didn’t say anything. After a few attempts he nodded vigorously and said, “Yes, please.”
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God...
Oh my GOD!
What in the Hell happened?!
One minute Kang Ta had been going to buy a drink and the next he was being accosted by the very man he dreamed of getting accosted by. For the longest time Kang Ta was sure he was in some sort of dream until some girl ran into him, jabbing him with her elbow, and he knew he was awake. That hurt too bad to be a dream.
Hee Jun led the way out of the club SuckStuff and Kang Ta blindly followed, as if on a cloud. He would have walked right into traffic if Hee Jun had done so, luckily he wasn’t as far gone with excitement as Kang Ta was.
“Here.” Hee Jun said, thrusting odeng from a street vender into Kang Ta’s hand. “I’ll buy you one.”
“Thanks.” Kang Ta gripped the stick so tightly it almost snapped.
Moon Hee Jun just bought him odeng, on their date together. He was on a date with Hee Jun.
“Don’t want it?” Hee Jun asked.
Kang Ta blinked down at him, realizing Hee Jun had been staring at him while Kang Ta was looking longingly at his snack.
“No, I do!” Kang Ta assured him. “Thank you.” He stuck the end in his mouth. It tasted wonderful. It was much better when you ate it on a date. It tasted...romantic.
Hee Jun laughed. “I wont steal it from you, don’t choke.”
“I wont.” Kang Ta said, then accidentally choked.
“Poor thing.” Hee Jun cooed then rose up to kiss him on the lips. Which would have been more romantic if he didn’t still have the odeng in his mouth.
None the less, Kang Ta’s knees almost buckled.
Hee Jun took his arm and led them down the street. Or it was a street, but suddenly Kang Ta felt like they were frolicking through a field. That was the only thing that would be more ridiculous to Kang Ta than what was really happening.
“You don’t talk a lot, huh?” Hee Jun asked him.
“I don’t know, I guess not. I don’t know what to say.”
“You like music, right?”
Kang Ta nodded, then realized Hee Jun wasn’t looking at him, but straight in front of him like he was heading somewhere in particular. “Ya, I do.” He answered belatedly.
“What are your favorite rock bands?”
Oh, no. “Oh, you know, the usual ones.” Kang Ta poorly lied. “Your’s is my favorite though.”
Hee Jun ‘psh’ed. “Sure. What do you do for a living?”
He lied once already...Kang Ta contemplated doing it again, but he didn’t want to get caught, so he went with the truth for this one. “I’m a procurement clerk. It’s as interesting as it sounds.”
“I’m not even sure what that is.” Hee Jun admitted.
“It’s, I don’t know, I don’t do much. I usually surf the internet all day.”
Hee Jun laughed and Kang Ta nervously joined him. If he thought Kang Ta was making a joke, he wasn’t.
“You said you got a new job though?” Kang Ta asked him. “What do you do now?”
“Ah,” Hee Jun sobered. “I teach music in a day care center. It’s a lot of fun. I still have my part time jobs though. I don’t so much mind not having electricity, but every few days I really get the urge to eat something.”
“You should try to get a record deal.” Kang Ta suggested. “I think that you’re really good.”
Hee Jun stopped abruptly, startling Kang Ta. He turned to him in a melodramatic fashion and took Kang Ta’s face in his hands.
“You are so sweet.” Hee Jun said cutely, squeezing Kang Ta’s cheeks. “How did I luck out on getting the sweetest and hottest guy in Korea out with me tonight? Come on!” Hee Jun said, taking his arm again. “We should do something fun, what would you like to do?”
“Whatever you want to do.” For the first time in his life, Kang Ta actually meant that. He could do anything right now and be happy.
“Let’s karaoke!” Hee Jun cheered.
Tony hadn’t seen his mother. For some reason, when he was safely in America it seemed like the only thing standing in his way was an ocean, but now that he actually had the means to meet her, she seemed a world away. He wanted to go when the time was right. But that could be never, and most likely would be.
It didn’t help that every moment of self reflection Tony had, his mind would drift off to Woo Hyuk. It wasn’t his fault though, it only made sense that when one had something stressful to think about, he would derail his thoughts to something good. Something hot. Something that had the sweetest lips he had ever kissed...
That settled it. He needed to make a plan. He needed to man up and do what he came to Korea to do... Right after his dinner with Woo Hyuk.
It might have not been the best meal, but it was Woo Hyuk’s best effort. Tony better have been appreciative too, he was getting star treatment. He deserved it though. He had worked his ass off on that business plan for Woo Hyuk, and had spent a lot of time helping him figure it out.
It had hurt Woo Hyuk’s feelings to have him run out so fast though, but he was more concerned with why. He hadn’t been able to tell anything from the bit of Tony’s conversation he had over heard, having only Tony’s end to go by, but he looked...kind of sick. He didn’t seem quite as well adjusted as usual. It wasn’t as if Woo Hyuk really knew Tony, but it had startled him. Tony was a grown man though, he was more then able to deal with his problems. He didn’t need to explain himself.
He should have though. How rude.
Despite Tony’s rushed exit and his own bruised feelings, Woo Hyuk had managed a kiss off him. He would have aimed for more, given the time, but that wasn’t a bad start. Tony’s reaction had shown promise too. As hard as it was to pull away from the kiss, Woo Hyuk found Tony leaning toward him as if unwilling to end it either. That image had stayed with Woo Hyuk, constantly popping up. He wouldn’t leave Tony wanting again, not if he didn’t run out again.
Woo Hyuk couldn’t stop himself from feeling nervous as the time for their date approached. He hadn’t felt so flustered in a long time, but he hadn’t met someone he liked as much as Tony before. He was beautiful, and yet handsome. His bright and intelligent eyes seemed to hex Woo Hyuk every time he looked at them. Aside from his looks, he was just so much fun. It was hard to find a grown man that wasn’t jaded, or had a lot of baggage he swung around. Tony seemed so innocent but educated, and cultured, and smart. Woo Hyuk was transfixed, and was feeling himself quickly being taken with the man even at the thought of him.
When Tony finally did arrive, this time on time, Woo Hyuk did his best to appear cool and collected, but couldn’t keep a stupid grin from his face when he opened the door. Tony was staring back up at him with those clear eyes, a stupid smile of his own on his face.
“You aren’t late.” Woo Hyuk noted. “I assumed you were always really late so I’m not ready for you. Can you wait outside?” He waited until Tony actually seemed to believe him before he backed up. “Come inside.” Woo Hyuk told him.
He was, in fact, all ready for him, and showed Tony to the kitchen immediately.
“I hope you aren’t tired of eating Korean food.” Woo Hyuk said, then waited for Tony to reply.
“Because I didn’t make any.” He finished. “I made spaghetti.”
Tony laughed, seating himself and waited for Woo Hyuk to serve him. How forward of him, he must have felt comfortable. So far so good.
Woo Hyuk set the table then sat across from him, motioning for Tony to begin.
“So, how long have you been in Korea?” Woo Hyuk asked.
“A few weeks. You lived here your whole life?” Tony asked in return.
“Yep. I always wanted to visit America though, did you like living there?”
“Yes, this is my first time out of the US.”
“Why did you move here?”
Tony hesitated and got that same sick look on his face. It was odd, why would this question have hit a sore spot for him?
“I came to be with my family. I don’t have any in America.” Tony answered, concentrating on his food.
That’s not where Woo Hyuk wanted his attention. “Do you like it here?” He asked, trying to ease out of the subject of America.
“Ya, I do. It was little disorienting at first, but I really like it. I enjoy being with family, It’s something that I didn’t know I was missing out on. And I’ve gotten to meet some great people.”
“Any in specific you find particularly great?” Woo Hyuk asked, unable to keep the grin off his face.
“You never get tired of me stroking your ego, do you?” Tony laughed.
Woo Hyuk had to bite his tongue before he could respond how he wanted.
I would never get tired of you stroking my anything.
Ya, that was too soon. Wait until after dinner.
Tony insisted on helping wash dishes, it was a polite thing to do. Woo Hyuk agreed, then told him it was only fair Tony do them on his own since Woo Hyuk had cooked the meal. It might have annoyed Tony if Woo Hyuk hadn’t then hopped up on the counter to watch him do it. It was intimidating but funny, and for some reason kind of sexy. Why? Who knows... Maybe deep down, Tony liked being fucked with.
And now he was blushing.
“You are so good at that.” Woo Hyuk said as Tony finished and dried his hands. “I think I’ll keep you around.”
“If you want me to keep working, you’ll have to work a lot better on your cooking skills.” Tony jabbed, he figured he was due one.
Woo Hyuk looked at him in mock offense as he hopped down from the counter, placing himself achingly close to Tony.
“I’m sorry.” Woo Hyuk said sadly, dripping with sarcasm. “I’ve offended my house guest... What can I do to make it up to you?” He asked, slowly leaning into Tony. “What to do, what to do.” He said, each time softer and leaning in closer. When he was only a breath away from Tony’s lips he whispered, “What shall I do?”
Tony was dying for him to kiss him, but he just stood there, barely touching him, breathing sweetly onto his mouth. Desperately, Tony leaned forward, taking his mouth a little more forcefully then he meant to. Woo Hyuk wrapped his arms around Tony tightly, probing his mouth suggestively.
Just as Tony felt like he was going to go insane with lust, Woo Hyuk pulled away just enough to break their kiss, extracting a whine from Tony.
“Did you bring your pajamas?” Woo Hyuk asked, breathless.
“No, why?” Tony asked, not understanding, and not to sure he would have been able to comprehend anything right that moment.
“I guess you’ll have to sleep in the nude.” Woo Hyuk said right before he went back to kissing Tony.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Within minutes of Hee Jun’s sudden urge to karaoke with Kang Ta, they were doing it. Or rather, Hee Jun was karaokeing while Kang Ta looked on. They were in a private room while Hee Jun sang ‘Champion’ by Psy as if his life depended on it and all Kang Ta could think was ‘Oh my God, are you seeing this?’
“Your turn.” Hee Jun told him, thrusting the mic at him. “Sing.”
“You’re the singer.” Kang Ta said sheepishly.
“You should know.” Hee Jun laughed. “You were watching me tonight at SuckStuff, right?” Hee Jun asked and Kang Ta felt his heart stop. “Ho Bak told me you were staring at me so I wanted to see if you were cute. I had no idea you would be so pretty. I’m lucky, aren’t I?”
“You-uh,” Kang Ta stuttered. “Don’t think I’m weird, I’m just a fan. Do you really think I’m pretty?” He asked quickly.
“So pretty!” Hee Jun said playfully, stroking his cheek. “But you should sing now.” He insisted. “Come on, what’s a karaoke for anyway?”
Kang Ta took the mic and contemplated trying a rock song to show off for Hee Jun, but he didn’t know any. Instead, he sang Yoo Young Jin’s Ji Ae Agape. At the end of it, Hee Jun clapped enthusiastically for him.
“You sing so well! Do you have a band?” He asked.
“Oh, no. I don’t think I could do what you do. I would rather write songs.”
“Do you write songs?” Hee Jun asked, leaning forward so far he was almost out of his chair.
“Ah, ya, a little.” Kang Ta admitted.
“That’s awesome! You should bring some for me to read on our next date.”
“Our next date?” Kang Ta asked, near gasping.
“Do you not want to go on another one with me?” Hee Jun asked, not hurt but honestly curious.
“No, I do. I really do.” Kang Ta said quickly.
“I-“ Kang Ta cut himself off. Was he just going to say ‘I do’ again? “I would love that.” He corrected himself.
Woo Hyuk ran his fingers along Tony’s side and hip, petting him slowly. Tony shivered involuntarily, feeling himself melt. Woo Hyuk had been constantly touching him since they first kissed, even after they first had sex and were both too tired to get out of bed. He constantly touched him, as if to memorize every texture and contour of his body. It made Tony ache with need and he never wanted to stop feeling Woo Hyuk’s hands on him.
He couldn’t live there though, as much as he wanted to.
“I have to go to work in the morning.” Tony said hesitantly into Woo Hyuk’s neck.
“No you don’t.” Woo Hyuk told him.
“I really do.” Tony was telling himself now.
Woo Hyuk lowered one of his hands, cupping Tony’s groin firmly and kissed his throat. “Let’s call in sick.” He suggested.
Tony let the subject drop then, or rather, he had to. He couldn’t speak as Woo Hyuk stoked him, both with his hand on Tony’s penis and with his tongue on his neck. He couldn’t think with Woo Hyuk touching him, let alone speak.
Tony felt Woo Hyuk smile against his throat when he ran his hands down Woo Hyuk’s body and arched into his touch. “That’s better.” Woo Hyuk whispered.
Woo Hyuk made love much like he acted. Everything he did was deliberate and he rarely showed any sort of sensitivity unless Tony had first. And his teasing was relentless. Woo Hyuk would tease Tony physically much like he had teased him verbally. He got a literal rise out of seeing Tony helpless to him.
“You really aren’t going to let me leave, are you?” Tony asked when he got enough air in his lungs.
“You figured that out so quickly.” Woo Hyuk said. “Do you really want to leave anyway?” He asked, stroking Tony faster.
“No.” Tony all but moaned.
“Maybe you are looking forward to your clients today. Am I not the only one you seduced?”
Tony would have been offended by that but it was hard when Woo Hyuk was doing this to him. He got that feeling that Woo Hyuk’s general presence could keep Tony from ever becoming angry with him. That wasn’t good.
“No then?” Woo Hyuk asked him, leaning up to look into Tony’s eyes, his hands still administering to him. “Maybe I should check your notes anyway. See if any of your other clients are sexy with bad hygiene?”
Before Tony could respond, Woo Hyuk leaned down to kiss him, mimicking the movements of his hand in Tony’s mouth.
Tony came in the door at around four in the morning. He obviously didn’t expect Kang Ta to be up, because when he came in and saw him on the couch, he jumped.
“Where have you been?” Kang Ta asked sleepily.
“What are you doing up?” Tony asked instead of answering.
“I had the best night ever!” Kang Ta told him. “I went on a date and it was so great that I’m afraid if I go to bed, I’ll wake up to find out it was a dream.”
“So are you never going to bed?” Tony asked.
“I guess I’ll take a nap at work.” Kang Ta shrugged. “You’re usually in bed early.” It then hit him. “The walk of shame then? Did you hook up with someone?”
Tony’s blush confirmed it. “It’s not the walk of shame.” He told Kang Ta. “I had to come home, I have work this morning so I need to get clothes, and other stuff.” His voice trailed off and he tried to walk quickly to his room.
“So you did hook up with someone!” Kang Ta felt a second wind hit him with the great news. “Do I get to hear about it?”
“No.” Tony threw over his shoulder.
“Why, was it that bad?”
“It was that good.” Tony said before he shut the door.
“All I got was a kiss.” Kang Ta sighed.
The shock had worn off, so did the awe, and Kang Ta found himself still just as mesmerized by Hee Jun as he was before. It was all real, Kang Ta realized that now. He had gone on a date with Hee Jun, he had spent the night with him singing and eating and talking. Not only that, Hee Jun had asked him on another date, and there they were. Albeit the date was at SuckStuff.
Once reality had hit and Kang Ta could actually speak to Hee Jun, he had to hope more than his good looks were what interested Hee Jun, because Kang Ta wanted a third date. And then a forth. Maybe they would move in together, adopt some kids.
“I’m actually surprised you made it today.” Hee Jun told him suddenly.
“Why is that?” Kang Ta asked.
“You must have had to cancel another date. I assume you have them booked years in advance.” He sighed dramatically.
It was so hard to tell if Hee Jun was mocking him or complimenting him. It didn’t help that he smiled no matter what he said. ‘I bought a puppy’ Smile. ‘My grandmother was shot in the head’ Smile.
“I...no?” Was Kang Ta’s witty reply.
“No? You didn’t have a date today?” Hee Jun said. Smile.
“I haven’t had a date in ye-a long time.” Kang Ta stopped himself before he could say ‘years’. That would just be a loser red flag right?
“Why not?” Hee Jun asked seriously, but Kang Ta still couldn’t help but think he might be teasing him.
Kang Ta’s chest filled with pressure. He wasn’t going to cry, no, he wasn’t sad. He just felt trapped. He always felt trapped by Hye Sung’s death, felt like he was stuck in some sort of limbo because of it, and having to admit it out loud would make it real. It would make it all the more clear to Kang Ta that he had put his own life on hold for...nothing. And yet he couldn’t bring himself to move past it, or at least not until he met Hee Jun.
“My last relationship ended badly.” He finally said. Whether it was the emotions behind it, or his own inferiority complex to Hee Jun, he involuntarily hung his head.
Before he even realized how pathetic he must have seemed, he felt Hee Jun lean toward him and wrap his arms around him. Hee Jun didn’t pat his back, or mess his hair, he just held him as if he really wanted to comfort Kang Ta, even though he had no idea why he needed it.
Not in as long as Kang Ta could remember, maybe not ever, had he felt so unconditionally cared for. Hee Jun didn’t know anything about Kang Ta, and yet he wanted to go out with him, wanted to see his songs, comforted him without digging for information or one upping his misfortune.
This is what Kang Ta wanted. He wanted to always feel like this, and always be in Hee Jun’s arms. He wanted to love and be loved without fear. Without fear that soon it would be taken from him like it had with Hye Sung. Kang Ta finally felt he might be able to try that, with Hee Jun.
When Hee Jun pulled back and smiled at him, it didn’t seem like he was teasing him anymore. Kang Ta finally saw the smile for what it was, actual interest in him.
“Thank you.” Kang Ta said when he found his voice.
“My pleasure, trust me.” Hee Jun laughed. “Now, why don’t you show me your songs?”
Kang Ta used the bit of confidence he just built and got them out for Hee Jun. He waited patiently as Hee Jun read through them and felt his confidence fade away in the silence.
“Your stuff is so good.” Hee Jun told him, setting the copies of Kang Ta’s songs down. “Really, it’s great!” He said emphatically. “Have you put music to any of these?”
Kang Ta shook his head. “No, I don’t know how to write music.”
“I’m sure you could do it. This is the best place for inspiration too.” Hee Jun said, waving around himself at the SkunkStuff basement. Not Kang Ta’s first choice for a date spot, but it would do. “Would you mind helping me with some songs?” Hee Jun asked.
“Really? Sure, I would love to.” Kang Ta jumped at the chance.
“You said you play the piano right?” Hee Jun asked him. “We don’t have a piano down here, obviously, but we have a key board, you’ve got to play me something.”
“Sure.” Kang Ta felt his palms sweat. He really wanted to impress Hee Jun. He really needed him to be impressed. He really needed to not ruin this relationship before it even got out of the gate.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Kang Ta met Hee Jun at his place. It was much like Kang Ta assumed it would be, just like Hee Jun. It was colorful and sporadic. Everything seemed to be placed just so, but on the whole it was messy. It had organized clutter, Kang Ta smiled as he thought that must be just how is brain was laid out.
“Welcome to my hovel.” Hee Jun had greeted him and then handed him a blanket. “It’s a bit cold right now.” He laughed, so Kang Ta joined him, not getting the joke. He soon found it wasn’t a joke
“I brought lunch.” Kang Ta said, raising the bag in his hand. “My mom brought it over to my place, so I thought I would share. It’s kimchi.”
“Perfect.” Hee Jun took the bag from him and set it out for them at the table. Kang Ta expected Hee Jun to sit across from him, but he sat down beside him. Even through the blankets Kang Ta imagined feeling the heat of Hee Jun’s skin. He couldn’t really though, there was no warmth in the whole place, at least temperature wise.
Hee Jun helped himself to the kimchi and muttered his compliments to the chef while leaning into Kang Ta. “Your mom is a good cook. The three of us should move in together.” He joked.
Blood rushed to Kang Ta’s face and he finally felt warm. They exchanged a few more words while eating before Kang Ta felt bold enough to be bunt with him.
“You’re a lot different than you were last time.” Kang Ta pointed out hesitantly. “You were so hyper, and now you’re really calm, down to Earth.”
“Oh, I get hyper when I do shows or if I’m at SuckStuff.” Hee Jun explained. “I guess that guy is more fun, right? I’ll try not to bore you.”
“No, no, you are okay like this. Less scary.” Kang Ta’s mouth gaped open then as if he couldn’t believe he had said that.
“I scare you?” Hee Jun laughed. “Actually, you did seem sort of scared...”
“Not scary.” Kang Ta corrected himself. “Just intimidating.”
“I don’t want to intimidate you either.” Hee Jun playfully whined. “I wanted to seduce you.” Kang Ta’s face went as red as a tomato. “Is it working?” Hee Jun asked, not even trying to hide his laugh.
“I can’t believe you like me.” Kang Ta admitted. “I never thought you would. I’ve had the biggest crush on you for a while.”
Hee Jun swelled, his ego to the bursting point. “You should have hit on me, I’m really easy.”
Kang Ta pretended to gather his courage by taking a deep breath. “Okay, Hee Jun, would you like to go out with me?”
“I would love to.” Hee Jun pretended to hold back tears then clutched Kang Ta to him. “This is my dream come true.”
They both laughed and went back to eating, but Kang Ta noticed Hee Jun looking at him from the corner of his eye. He seemed as if he was about to say something, but was keeping it to himself. It made Kang Ta anxious.
Finally, Hee Jun spoke up. “If you don’t want to talk about it,” he began, “it’s fine. But, what happened in your last relationship you mentioned before?”
Kang Ta’s mouth suddenly went dry and he had to force the kimchi still in his mouth down his throat. Did he want to tell Hee Jun about Hye Sung? No. Should he?
Should he... Now that was the question. If Kang Ta really wanted to re-enter life and try having a relationship with Hee Jun, yes, he should tell him about Hye Sung. But is that what he wanted? Was he prepared for that?
“You don’t have to tell me about it, I shouldn’t have asked.” Hee Jun apologized.
“No, I’d like t tell you about it.” Kang Ta said, surprising himself. He took a deep breath and decided let his mouth lead the way, since it was already ahead of him. “I met this guy, Shin Hye Sung, in college and we hooked up pretty quickly. He was my first boyfriend and he meant a lot to me. We fought a lot, and we had tons of problems, but I couldn’t see myself with anyone else.
“I think eventually we just became comfortable with each other, like a married couple, and knew we would always be together no matter what. Whether we liked it or not. Then he was diagnosed with leukemia.” Kang Ta had to stop then, feeling himself grow hot despite the cold room.
Hee Jun took his hand and waited silently for Kang Ta to continue on.
“That was really hard.” Kang Ta said softly. “Suddenly all our differences disappeared and we concentrated on his illness. Before long, that’s what our lives became, his leukemia. There wasn’t one thing I did that didn’t some how relate to it, or one thought. We were both consumed with it, and I watched the man that I loved slowly waste away. He used to seem to much bigger than me, bigger even than life. He was who I looked up to and tried to emulate and he was dying right before me and there was nothing I could do.” Kang Ta’s voice broke then and he used his free hand to scrub his tears away.
“He died almost three years ago, and you are the first guy I’ve dated since.”
Hee Jun smiled self consciously at that and Kang Ta laughed uncomfortably. Maybe he shouldn’t have admitted that...
“I’m still getting over Hye Sung’s death.” Kang Ta admitted. “It still effects me all the time. I’m terrified of hospitals, I can’t deal with being sick. I can’t even deal with anyone else being sick. I don’t even see my mother when she gets a cold.” And saying all this out loud made him realize what a loser he was. “I’m pathetic, I’m sorry.”
“You aren’t pathetic.” Hee Jun smiled at him, but it was obviously forced.
Did Kang Ta freak him out? He must have. Of course he did. Kang Ta was the king of ruining his own life.
“You are really brave.” Hee Jun told him, breaking Kang Ta from his self loathing thoughts. “To stay with him until the end, knowing there was no hope. You need to give yourself more credit. First you tell me you aren’t talented, then you show me these beautiful songs you wrote. Now you call yourself pathetic when you went through something that would have broken me. You walk around with your head down when you are the most gorgeous man I’ve ever met. You were too self conscious to ask me out, but you are totally out of my league Kang Ta. You aren’t pathetic at all.”
Kang Ta opened his mouth to deny what he had said, or to thank him. He didn’t know, but it didn’t matter anyway, because he had begun to cry too hard to say anything at all. Kang Ta leaned forward, putting himself against Hee Jun and cried. Hee Jun wrapped his arms around him and laid his head on Kang Ta’s.
Kang Ta closed his eyes tightly, trying to gather his dignity and stop crying. The feel of Hee Jun around him, and the smell of him so close seemed to seep into him and he couldn’t help but give in. He pressed himself tightly into Hee Jun and cried.
Woo Hyuk’s breath stopped in his lungs when Tony entered the room. He quickly recovered, concentrating on his class, but felt bad for not acknowledging him. He might have though, but Chang Ryul, Tony’s boss, was in his class. Woo Hyuk didn’t want to tip him off to anything, he didn’t know if it would get Tony in trouble or not.
Why was Tony at his gym anyway? They were suppose to meet for lunch. Having Tony in the back of the room watching him was distracting. Even though Woo Hyuk wasn’t looking at him, he could feel Tony’s eyes on him and that was enough to make him trip over his own feet.
Woo Hyuk never got flustered after a hook up, so why now?
Because Tony had imbedded himself into Woo Hyuk’s mind ever since. Woo Hyuk couldn’t brush his teeth or drive to work without thinking about Tony, then he inevitably thought of that night they spent together. He couldn’t do that now. All he needed was to get an erection now, that would just be perfect.
Woo Hyuk cut the class short and hoped Tony would stay hidden in the back, but he left his corner to greet Chang Ryul.
“What are you doing here Tony?” Chang Ryul asked in surprise.
“I came to check on Woo Hyuk.” Tony glanced at Woo Hyuk when he said it, giving him a small smile.
Woo Hyuk took that as an invitation and joined them.
“You are dedicated.” Chang Ryul laughed, patting Tony on the shoulder. “But I hope these aren’t the clothes you picked out for him.” He gestured to Woo Hyuk’s outfit.
“Tony’s work was stickily for business meetings.” Woo Hyuk answered for him. “I don’t need to be wearing ties while I work out.”
“I wouldn’t have made you wear a tie-“ Tony cut himself off when he realized Woo Hyuk was joking and blushed.
Woo Hyuk reached out suddenly to touch his cheek before he remembered Chang Ryul was still there and patted Tony hard on the back instead. A little too hard it seemed, because Tony ‘whooph’ed.
“Have you gotten a loan yet?” Chang Ryul asked Woo Hyuk.
“No, not yet. Actually, Tony has been doing some extra credit with me.” Woo Hyuk noted Tony’s warning look out of the corner of his eye. “He’s helping me make a business plan. So, I haven’t gotten back at it yet.”
“You didn’t even have a business plan?” Chang Ryul laughed, then turned to Tony. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have given Woo Hyuk to you as your first client. I didn’t think he would be so much trouble. Seriously though, thank you for helping him, he’s a good friend of mine.”
“Of course.” Tony smiled at him. “Woo Hyuk is a little ruff around the edges,” Woo Hyuk glared at him then, “but he’s sincere. I know he’s going to go really far.”
“See,” Chang Ryul said to Woo Hyuk, “I told you I would put you in good hands. I’ll see you later. And you at work.” He nodded to Tony and left.
Woo Hyuk and Tony stood silently until he was out of the room. As soon the door clicked shut, Woo Hyuk whirled on Tony.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“You aren’t happy to see me I guess.” Tony joked but was obviously apprehensive.
“Too happy, that’s the problem.” Woo Hyuk told him. “What kind of teacher would I be if in the middle of class I jumped someone as soon as they came in the door? This is an upstanding establishment.” Woo Hyuk took Tony’s face in his hands and kissed him slowly.
Tony wrapped his arms around Woo Hyuk at the same time he pulled out of the kiss. “I like your class, you looked really cool up there. Maybe I’ll sign up.”
“No.” Woo Hyuk said firmly. “I cant have you staring at me while I’m trying to teach, I’ll end up ripping your clothes off. I’ll give you private classes though.”
“I’ll hold you to it.” Tony laughed, giving him a quick kiss on the side of his mouth. “Did you bring your business plan for me to look over?”
“No, I didn’t think you would be coming here, I thought we were meeting after.”
“I wanted to surprise you.”
“Besides,” Woo Hyuk continued, “I figured it would be a good excuse to go back to my place.” He leaned down into Tony’s mouth again. “I don’t know if I can make it now though.”
Tony pulled away from him but took his arm. “As tempting as that is, not as long as Chang Ryul is around. Let’s just drive fast.”
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Tony’s Aunt Ahn’s husband left her and she had to raise Kang Ta alone. That alone was hard enough, but then she learned about Tony. She told Tony many times she wanted to fly to America and get him, raise him herself, but she couldn’t. She told him that repeatedly, hoping he would understand. He did. She couldn’t raise him even if she could have brought him to Korea, it wasn’t her fault.
Still, Tony would day dream about what it would be like to move in with her, be raised with his cousin like they were brothers. It was the more practical dream next to his mom returning to take him home with her where they would start over. But as unpractical as that was, it was a wish Tony kept in his heart for a very long time.
When Tony got older, his aunt invited him to come to Korea but Tony decided to stay in America. It’s the home he knew, even if he had no family there. He had made friends, had roots, so to speak. His poor Korean skills were even a reason. The truth, though, was that he was scared.
Tony had dreamed so long of what it would be like to be with his Aunt and cousin, or with his mom, that he didn’t want to ruin that dream. If he stayed in America, no matter how bad it got, he could tell himself he always had an option of going to Korea. Things would be better then, he told himself, I’ll have people to support and love me then. It was always his back up plan, his safety net.
When he packed his things and bought a plane ticket, that dream went up in smoke. Not because of anything that had happened, or didn’t happen. Even as he got on the plane he knew his dreams were just that, dreams.. If he went to Korea, he would still have problems, only they would be different. He wasn’t choosing the better path, only the different one. Tony only hoped the different one would hurt less.
Tony had no intentions of rushing into things with Woo Hyuk. No matter how Tony wanted the first date with Woo Hyuk to go, the actually ‘go’ing of it was fine with him. He hadn’t expected to sleep with him, but what’s the use in a slow courting now a’ days? Going from having no date in months in America to being in bed with someone within weeks of being Korea was good for Tony’s self esteem, but having it be the sexiest man’s bed Tony had ever met didn’t hurt either.
The practical part of Tony told him he shouldn’t have jumped in head first into things with Woo Hyuk. He didn’t need a complication like a romantic relationship, especially one so intoxicating, while he had important matters to take care of. That was about the only part of him that was against it though, because as he laid in Woo Hyuk’s arms, every part of Tony seemed to melt. He couldn’t help but give in. To make it up to that small nagging part of himself, he made a promise then that he would bite the bullet.
Tony took the swell of courage and confidence that Woo Hyuk had given him and took charge. He went to his mother’s house. If he was going to be brave in one area of his life, he could be brave in them all. He was tired of being held down by his past, it was time to start over.
The women that opened the door could have been anyone Tony had passed on the streets since he got to Korea. She didn’t look any different then any women her age, and yet she was very different. She was his mother. Even if he wasn’t positive she would be the one opening the door, he was sure this was her.
Maybe because if this wasn’t her, if he somehow got the wrong address, he wouldn’t try again, so it HAD to be her. Making it this far had almost sucked all the life out of him.
“Can I help you?” The women asked when Tony didn’t speak.
“Are you An Choi Hee?”
“Yes.” She answered him hesitantly. She seemed uneasy about him but obviously didn’t know who he really was.
“I’m An Tony.” It didn’t seem to make any sense to her. But then, he guessed it wouldn’t, she didn’t name him. “I’m your son.” He clarified.
If he was expecting an outburst, he didn’t get it. She just narrowed her eyes at him as if he was trying to play a trick on her.
“My aunt, Ahn Eun Kyung, gave me your address.” He clarified.
That seemed to have some effect on her. Her whole body tensed and she seemed like she was about to slam the door in his face. She didn’t though, thankfully.
“What’s going on?” She demanded.
Tony couldn’t help it, he felt frustrated. He was standing face to face with his mother and she didn’t have the decency to be shocked, or sad, or happy. She didn’t seem to be anything but put out.
“I’m your son.” He said again, sharply this time. “Don’t you remember? In America, 1978, you sold your baby? You must remember. You went to prison for it.”
“Shut up.” She snapped quickly, eyes gone wide, then looked around to see if anyone was around to over hear. “What do you want with me?” She asked after she found they were alone. She almost sounded scared.
“I want to talk to you. Wont you let me in?”
She looked him up and down slowly. Was she trying to decide if she should let him in? If he was going to rob or kill her or something? He was her son. Even if she deserved it, he wouldn’t have done that. He was a decent man, no thanks to her.
For the first time in a long time, Tony found himself boiling with anger at her. He had tried to be optimistic when finally making the plans to move to Korea. Who knew what he would find? He shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that she was a despicable human being, one that would sell their own child. But he seemed to have had it right all along.
“Fine, we’ll talk here in public.” Tony said more loudly then he needed.
“Come inside.” She abruptly stepped back.
My warm welcome into my mother’s home, Tony thought as he came inside.
That was about as warm as it would get too it seemed, because she stood there against the closed door staring at him. What was she thinking? Was she ever going to say anything?
“Don’t you have anything to say to me?” Tony asked.
“Are you here to hurt me?” She asked softly.
“Hurt you?” He sputtered. “I’m not here for anything more than to find out why you abandoned me.”
“You wouldn’t understand.” She dismissed him. “I’m sorry, if that makes it better, I really am. I shouldn’t have...Well, I shouldn’t have done a lot of the things I did.”
“You can try to explain it to me, you owe me that at least.” Tony said with a patients he had to reach deep down to find.
“That’ll make it better for you?” She asked. “Even if you knew my life history it wouldn’t change anything. I don’t want to know anything about you.” She told him, so easily it made his blood run cold. “I don’t need to know because it wont change anything. You’re a grown man, you aren’t my responsibility anymore.”
“Are you kidding me?!” He snapped, making her jump. “When I was your responsibility you sold me. You sold your own baby! What is the matter with you? What on Earth...”
She waited until it was obvious he wouldn’t go on then stood up to her full height. “If I didn’t sell you, you would have been laying next to my dead body on the street as you starved to death. Is that any better?”
He refused to answer her, and for some reason, that worked.
“My boyfriend left me as soon as I found out I was pregnant.” She told him. “He went back to Korea and left me with no money. I couldn’t speak any English and I didn’t have a job. I did whatever I could until you were born. I couldn’t even get to a hospital, I had you in a hotel room, I thought we were both going to die. It took only a few days before I realized if I couldn’t support myself, I couldn’t support you either. So, yes, I sold you. I sold you to a man who was going to sell you to an infertile couple in exchange for a ticket back to South Korea. That was your gift to me, you were the reason I could come home.”
Tony was baffled. Her story hardly brought any tears to his eyes, it only seemed to raise more questions.
“Weren’t you worried what would happen to me? If that man was really going to give me to a family or if I would have been killed? Do you know what happens to kids like me? Some get sold for organ transplants, some are sex slaves. What would make you take that risk?”
“You would have died with me.” She pointed out again. “Better for you to live. Better for both of us to live.”
“Did you think that when they arrested you?” She was tracked down after the police had arrested the smuggler. She had gotten herself back home, to safety, only to be thrown into prison.
“Of course. I would rather live in prison then die alone in a strange place.”
“Did you not ever try to find me? Did you not want to know what happened to me?” Tony asked, grasping at any part of humanity he could find in her.
“No. I would rather have believed you were well then know if you weren’t. I wanted to believe you understood I did the right thing, I now see that I was wrong.”
She was a child. She was self centered and immature. She wasn’t fit to be a mother...and yet...she was.
“Did you marry my father?”
“God, no.” She said quickly. “I never saw him again. I married someone better.”
“And you have a son with him.”
She finally looked shocked. “Who told you? -Right, Eun Kyung...How dare she.” She snapped. “That isn’t her business to tell you that.”
“Because, it doesn’t matter. You live your life, and we’ll live ours. We’re in different families now.”
“He’s my brother, I want to meet him.” Tony said firmly. Now more than ever he wanted to meet him. His mother was... She didn’t matter to him. He wanted to know his brother, know if he could find a family in him. Tony deserved it.
“No.” She said. “You don’t need to be ruining his image of me. He’s the only son I have left, give me that.”
“He’s my brother, it’s my right to know him.” Before she could refuse him he used the only thing he thought would stir her honor. “You said my gift to you was giving you a way home. It’s your turn to return the favor. Let me meet my brother. After that, we’re even. You wont see me again.”
She was quiet, searching his eyes. Tony stood still, holding his breath.
“I’m not the same person I was when I had you.” She said softly. “That was a different life time to me, I’m trying to atone for my sins now. My family means the world to me, I don’t want them knowing who I used to be.”
“Please.” Tony begged, feeling immediately bad for it. “Do this for me. I’m your son too, and all I’m asking is this one thing.”
“This is surreal...” She muttered. “Let me think about this, please. I’ll meet you again and we’ll talk, I’ll give you my answer then.”
Tony swallowed hard and nodded. He would take any hope he had left. “Fine.” He agreed. “Think about it. But please know this is really important to me. This is,” what I’ve waited my life for and you broke my hopes and lived up to all my fears, “important to me.” He finished.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
After Tony had met his mother, he got in his car to go home, but sat in silence instead. The whole thing seemed surreal. He had no idea how it would really go, but he never expected such apathy out of her. How could a women who sold her own baby act so uncaring about it.
But then, how could anyone sell a baby in the first place?
She didn’t seem to realize that the man standing in front of her was the baby that had grown inside of her, that she tossed away. Shouldn’t she have felt...something? Even if she did consider that a different life from what she had now, wouldn’t she feel anything at all?
The whole situation left Tony shaken. He wanted to talk to someone, but who? Not Kang Ta, he wouldn’t understand. Not Woo Hyuk, he wasn’t going to throw him into his problems. Not his aunt, she would only tell him he shouldn’t have gone, and refuse to let him meet her again. But he had to. He had to meet his brother.
That had become more important to him above anything else. Who was this man-boy?-that had taken his place? What was it about him that made him worth saving when Tony wasn’t? Regardless of what situation his-their- mother was in when Tony was born... There were places to go. Women had lots of options. She could have gone to a shelter, a hospital. Even if she didn’t speak any English, or had any money, a homeless woman with a child would be taken care of. So why didn’t she try? She just took the first opportunity to get rid of him and run back home.
Back home to have another son.
It was no doubt that Tony had hostility toward his brother, it was hard not to. That wasn’t all of what he felt though. He felt...longing. Much like he had for his mother when he was a child, when he thought she was innocent. His brother really was innocent. He didn’t know Tony, so there was no blaming him for anything. All Tony wanted now was to meet him.
Tony felt defeated after speaking to his mother. He felt beat down and worthless. The only hope he had left was for his brother. Maybe he and Tony could form a bond, could be family to each other. Maybe his brother could fill that part of him that had been empty since he was an infant.
And for that reason alone, Tony met his mother a second time. He would put up with anything she said, all her dismissive attitudes toward him, to be able to meet his brother. Once again Tony’s fate was in her hands.
When they met the second time, she refused to let it be at her home. They agreed to a restaurant.
Tony went early, knowing he would chicken out if he waited at home, thinking about it. He chose a seat where he could watch the door easily, to see the moment she came inside. He had bouts of nervousness, not knowing whether she would come alone or decide to let Tony meet his brother then.
When she did come, she was alone. The moment she sat down she began speaking as if their conversation from the day before had never ended.
“One condition.” She said. “I’ll let you meet him under one condition. You don’t tell him who you are. You come to dinner and I introduce you as my friend’s son.”
A pain hit him so suddenly, Tony felt as if he would hit the ground, crippled. After all she had done, she would do this to him? The only thing he asked of her was to meet his brother and she wouldn’t claim him as her own? Wouldn’t even allow him to tell his brother that he was his own blood?
“I ruined your life, okay, I understand that. I ruined it because you lost your mother.” She said quickly. “But don’t take my son’s mother from him too. Let him believe I’m still the same person. Don’t let him be ashamed of me as you are.”
Tony’s mouth fell open. What could he say to her? How could he even take that?
There was no talking to her. There was no understanding her. The only thing he could do was take whatever he was given, and work from there.
Fine. Let her do what she liked. He would be a man and take what small victories given him.
“Fine.” He said finally. “Tell me the day.”
Jae Won sat quietly on the swing beside Hee Jun. Unlike Hee Jun, he wasn’t swinging back and forth in it, but sitting in it as if it was a straight backed chair. He had no sense inner child in him anymore.
“Go home if you're bored.” Hee Jun told him.
“I’m not that bored.” Jae Won said without looking over at him.
“Ah, but you admit you are bored.” Hee Jun pointed out. “You are a good friend for spending time with me, but it’s cold, I can’t even feel my feet anymore. You should go home.”
“Then you should go home too.”
Hee Jun didn’t answer him, only pushed himself for a further swing. Afterward, he tucked his legs under him and let the himself swing back to near stillness.
“The swings don’t make me as happy as they used to when I was a kid.” Hee Jun sighed. “Nothing makes me as happy as when I was a kid.”
“Because you didn’t have to worry about anything when you were a kid.” Jae Won told him.
“That isn’t true. I think I worried about more when I was a kid. I didn’t understand anything then, so I constantly worried. If my parents fought, I wouldn’t understand why, and I would worry. I worried even when they stopped, because I didn’t know if it would start up again. If my sister would cry, I wouldn’t know what to do, so I would worry. There is a lot to worry about when you are a kid because you have no control over it. The only thing I have to worry about now is what I’ll fuck up next.”
“You didn’t fuck up.” Jae Won turned to him finally but Hee Jun didn’t meet his eyes.
“The common denominator in every single one of my problems is myself.” Hee Jun began swinging again.
“That’s stupid. How would one of your own problems not involve you?” Jae Won asked.
“So you agree I’m the problem.” Hee Jun said, laughing. He didn’t have to look at Jae Won to know he was being glared at. “What am I suppose to do? What can I say to Kang Ta?”
“You don’t have to tell him anything.” Jae Won suggested.
“I have to. How can I not be truthful with him when he was so open with me? I can’t just pretend everything is fine, because eventually he’ll find out, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle him getting scared and running off. I like him more and more each time I see him. If I wait anymore, it would really hurt to have him be scared of me. It would hurt now...”
“You're over reacting.” Jae Won told him. “It can’t be that bad.”
“His boyfriend died.” Hee Jun sighed. “He said he’s terrified of people being sick, of hospitals. What is he going to think of me when he knows I’m sick?”
“You aren’t dying.” Jae Won said firmly. It was obvious he wanted Hee Jun to stop swinging and meet him eye to eye. He wasn’t going to though.
“No, I’m not dying.” Hee Jun agreed. “But I can’t deny I’m sick. I have hepatitis, and that’s definitely something I’m going to have to disclose to him. He wont be able to handle that.” Hee Jun sighed loudly in an attempt not to scream. “I shouldn’t have asked him out. Why did you let me do that?”
“You never do anything I tell you to!” Jae Won exclaimed. “Besides, how was I suppose to know he had some phobia? Really, Hee Jun, it’s not that big of a deal.”
“He’s not going to want to date me after I tell him.”
“Then don’t tell him.”
“I have to.” Hee Jun stressed.
“Then break up with him. You hardly know him anyway, it wont be much of a loss. Come on, let’s go get something to eat.” He hopped off the swing and waited for Hee Jun to follow, but he kept swinging.
“You go ahead. I’m going to stay out here.”
“For how long?” Jae Won asked, aggravated.
“As long as it takes to make a decision.”
Jae Won sighed. “Have fun.”
Hee Jun waited until he couldn’t see Jae Won anymore before he stopped swinging.
He could just break up with Kang Ta.
Well, that was an option. Whether he actually had the ability to do it was another question. Even visualizing how he would do it was impossible. Hee Jun hated hurting other people and would do just about anything so no one was ever mad at him. This was quite the conundrum for him.
Besides Kang Ta’s feelings though, there was his own. Hee Jun really did like him. Kang Ta was all of the best qualities wrapped up in a self conscious package. It was intriguing, and seeing Kang Ta slowly come out of his shell was enchanting. Hee Jun wanted to be there to see every moment of confidence or bravery Kang Ta had. He wanted to hold him in between those moments, when he needed support. He wanted to always see that yearning and awe in Kang Ta’s eyes when he looked at Hee Jun.
And all those things would be hard to do if Kang Ta was terrified of him because he was sick.
The thought of seeing his mother again made Tony feel overwhelmed. He didn’t think she would be able to break his heart but the more he thought of their meetings, the more he felt disgusting. No matter how absurd it was for him to feel that way, he couldn’t help it. She made him feel unworthy and worthless.
It was almost enough to make Tony back out of the arranged lunch they agreed upon. The only thing that kept him from not attending was the knowledge that if he didn’t go then, he would miss his chance at ever meeting his brother.
When he got to his mother’s home she didn’t remind him of their terms like he thought she might. She just gave him a pointed look and that was all. Apparently that was his warning.
Inside, he followed her and watched her transform into a kind smiling women when she was in view of her family. Tony’s eyes went directly to his brother, stopping him in his tracks. He didn’t breath until his mother confirmed what he saw for himself.
“This is my friend’s son Tony. Tony, this is my husband and son, Woo Hyuk.”
Tony turned on his heel and ran from the house.
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
It had been a day since Woo Hyuk had seen Tony, and already he was trying to come up with a good reason to see him. His business plan was all done expect for a few corrections, and Woo Hyuk’s over all presentation, but besides that, he didn’t want to keep using that excuse. He also didn’t want to just ask Tony out. That was really the problem with hooking up with someone so fast, you skip over the formalities and thus made them more difficult and over thought.
Woo Hyuk would have much rathered show up at Tony’s work and tell him to buy Woo Hyuk lunch, or “run” into him somewhere and insist that Tony was following him. Maybe call Tony, saying he hit the wrong number, but since they were on the phone anyway, Tony should come over to save his minutes.
It didn’t matter, Woo Hyuk just didn’t want to call him and ask him out. It was so awkward, and it was so risky. If he did call and Tony was busy, Woo Hyuk had no easy way of coasting out of it. “Oh ya, I’m busy too.” Just wouldn’t work.
He didn’t want Tony to know how much he really did want to see him. Not because Tony might not feel the same, because how could he not? But because Woo Hyuk wasn’t too excited about being this excited about someone. All of his other relationships had some measure of apathy on Woo Hyuk’s part. There was none of that with Tony.
Woo Hyuk wanted to know where he was at all times, what he was thinking about. Hell, what he thought about Woo Hyuk was all that mattered, though he hoped Tony’s thoughts were plagued by Woo Hyuk. He wanted Tony to be desperately taken with him, that way his own obsession wouldn’t be so...crazy? Unrealistic? Unjustified? Whatever.
There was nothing much Woo Hyuk could do but give in and let his mind be over taken with Tony. He needed all his strength to make sure it didn’t show on the outside because he would be damned if he was going to turn into some love sick fool. Or at least let anyone know he was.
When his mother had invited, or told him he was coming, to lunch, he took it as a welcome break. He wasn’t normally excited about having lunch with his parents, he didn’t know many people who would be, but it was something to get his mind off...things. And it was a free meal.
When Woo Hyuk watched Tony burst through the front door, he thought he might be seeing things. That brought on a sudden terror that he had truly lost it with that guy, but then his mother introduced him and he realized Tony really was there.
It was shocking, and would have been more so, but Woo Hyuk didn’t have time to react.. Tony looked horrified when he saw him. As if he had seen a ghost, maybe his own ghost. Before Woo Hyuk had time to process his face, Tony was out the door.
When Woo Hyuk got to his feet to follow him his mother pushed him back down.
“Don’t worry about him.” She said, turning back to look at Tony who was now long gone.
“What happened?” Woo Hyuk asked, turning to his mother.
She had her back to him, but when she turned back around she seemed just as confused.
“I don’t know what that was about, doesn’t matter, let’s eat.”
She was like that about most things, if she didn’t understand or like something, she shrugged it off. It made their relationship distant, but he never needed a close relationship to her. She had come into his life a little late to make much of an impression on him, seeing as she was his step mother.
“How do you know Tony?” Woo Hyuk asked, when it finally dawned on him his mother had invited him over.
“You know him?” His father asked him.
“I’ve met him.” Woo Hyuk said vaguely. He didn’t want to admit to his father he went to a stylist. He hardly wanted to admit it to himself.
“He's one of my friend's son. Doesn’t matter, he’s gone now.” His mother told them, and the issue was dropped.
Tony was a son of one of his mother’s friends? Those odds were low, but Woo Hyuk guessed it was possible. There was no reason for him to run off like he was on fire. It was weird, and it didn’t seem like Tony at all.
“I’m going to use the bathroom.” Woo Hyuk excused himself.
He went for the front door, but Tony would have been long gone by then if he was in that much of a rush. Woo Hyuk checked anyway though, but he wasn’t outside. His car wasn’t around either, if he had brought it.
Woo Hyuk went back inside and into the bathroom to call Tony, but he didn’t pick up. When the voice mail came on he didn’t know what to say. “Tony, are you alright? I didn’t expect to see you today, I also didn’t expect you to run off on me.” He paused, not wanting to seem dramatic, but he was worried. “Call me back, you freaked me out.”
What was wrong with him? What had Tony done to deserve this? Why was everything in his life so...fucking shitty?!
Woo Hyuk was his brother.
How could this happen?
What was he going to do?
What had he DONE?!
Tony couldn’t think straight, he couldn’t think at all. Whenever he did, he would picture Woo Hyuk staring back at him with surprise as their mother introduced him. THEIR mother.
Oh God, what was wrong with Tony?
The perfect guy he just had to sleep with was his brother.
Tony had rushed straight home and into his bedroom. It had seemed like a safe haven when he was driving from his mother’s house, but when he finally got there, he found it wasn’t. He felt even more trapped in his room, in Korea.
Woo Hyuk had called and left a message, but Tony couldn’t even bring himself to listen to it, he ripped the battery out and threw it into his closet. He couldn’t talk to Woo Hyuk now, maybe not ever.
Tony wanted to go home. He wanted to be back in LA where things weren’t complicated and his mother wasn’t much more then a figment of his imagination. He wanted to take it all back, to not have met his mother, Woo Hyuk, come to Korea at all.
He felt sick. Physically and mentally and spiritually. There was nothing he could do to get out of this either. He couldn’t take back having sex with his own brother.
Kang Ta walked into SuckStuff with more confidence than he ever had before. The place was intimidating for a guy who didn’t have any tattoos, or dyed his hair, a guy who had his jeans pressed. He stood out like a sore thumb, but finally he belonged there. He was there with Hee Jun.
Or, he was going to be when he found him.
Hee Jun’s band had a show that day, so Kang Ta went early to see him before he played. That would have made Kang Ta break out into a fit of gleeful laughter weeks before, but he had changed a lot since then. Hee Jun wasn’t the rock star anymore, he was the silly, sweet, loving guy that made Kang Ta feel happy for the first time in years.
That description sounded overly dramatic, but it was true. Kang Ta found himself smiling at nothing or laughing easily all the time now. At first he felt foolish, but then he remembered that’s what he used to be like.
The Kang Ta pre-Hye Sung’s death was happy all the time. He used to smile constantly and laugh at almost everyone’s jokes, just for the sake of laughing. It was an innocent Kang Ta, for sure, one that Kang Ta didn’t want to become again, but he found a good medium. Kang Ta could be the mature, he hoped, man he had become and still be happy. He could be more than a one dimensional person.
And he had Hee Jun to thank for that.
It wasn’t long before Kang Ta spotted Hee Jun. For many reasons, he was hard to miss.
“Oh, hi Kang Ta.” His friend Jae Won said as Kang Ta approached behind them.
Hee Jun turned around skeptically, as if he thought Jae Won might be playing with him. He smiled when he saw Kang Ta standing before him, but it was weak. It wasn’t what Kang Ta expected, he was so used to Hee Jun’s exuberant hello’s that this felt like the equivalent of him flipping Kang Ta off.
“Hi.” Kang Ta said, trying to be nonchalant. “I didn’t mean to disturb you guys, if you're busy.”
Hee Jun laughed. “When am I ever busy?” His usual smile returned then and he pulled Kang Ta into a tight hug.
Despite Kang Ta’s relief, he didn’t miss Jae Won’s look. It was guarded, but he seemed concerned about something. Maybe they had been talking about something serious before Kang Ta had interrupted them?
“I’d kiss you too,” Hee Jun said as he pulled back, “But I-” He stopped talking abruptly as if he was about to say something he shouldn’t.
“He’s sick.” Jae Won finished for him, ignoring Hee Jun’s sharp look. “He stayed out all night and now he has a cold.”
Kang Ta smiled and felt the familiar burning on the back of his neck and anxiousness to wipe his hands on his pants. He really did hate other people’s illnesses, even more so when he got sick. He wasn’t going to let that control him anymore though, he was ready to get past that. And he sure wasn’t going to let that fear get in the way of spending time with Hee Jun.
“I’m fine.” Hee Jun assured him. He then looked at Jae Won and repeated himself firmly, “I’m fine.”
Kang Ta reached up and touched Hee Jun’s forehead, surprising them both.
“I think you have a temperature.” Kang Ta noted, taking his hand back. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m fine.” Hee Jun said a third time. “I just wont go running through the streets naked after the show.”
“But that’s tradition.” Jae Won said dryly.
A Smile slowly grew on Hee Jun’s face. “Jae Won made a joke.” He teased
Jae Won glared at him and that seemed to be the conclusion of the conversation of Hee Jun being sick. They continued on as if nothing was wrong and when Hee Jun got on stage, he performed with as much gusto as ever. It had made Kang Ta wholly forget Hee Jun had even felt warm, but as soon as he got off stage Kang Ta had to note how pale he looked. And pale for Hee Jun was VERY pale.
“I’m going to go home early.” Hee Jun told him privately. “I don’t feel very well. I’m sorry about Jae Won, I didn’t want him to tell you I got sick, I know it makes you uncomfortable.”
“I’m fine.” Kang Ta said quickly, and he was fine. Hee Jun being sick worried Kang Ta, but that made him happy. He was worried. Not scared or panicked. He was concerned. “Get some rest, I’ll see you soon.” Kang Ta pushed aside his creeping anxiety and kissed him on the cheek.
Hee Jun patted his cheek in return. “Have a good time without me.” He sighed, and then winked as if to make sure Kang Ta knew he was kidding.
He left SuckStuff and it was less then a minute that Kang Ta decided to go home himself. Without Hee Jun there, he didn’t belong again. He was now the guy with pressed jeans again.
“Say that again.” Woo Hyuk demanded.
“I said, I would like to give you a loan.” The loan officer told him slowly.
Woo Hyuk was floored. This was the first bank he had gone to today and he got a loan? This had to be a dream...
“Are you sure?” Woo Hyuk asked, but quickly took it back, “Never mind. Don’t take it back. Thank you so much. You have no idea what this means to me.” Woo Hyuk shook the man’s hand and tried to listen as the man walked him through his paper work.
Tony’s clothes had worked.
The fucked up little imitation of Tony’s business plan had worked.
On his own, Woo Hyuk got turned down time and time again, and on the first time out after Tony’s help, he got his loan. It was a miracle. He had to tell Tony right away.
The joy was suddenly wiped away.
He couldn’t tell Tony. He couldn’t even contact Tony. His phone had been turned off, Woo Hyuk didn’t know where he lived, his mother wouldn’t talk to him about him, and Tony hadn’t been to work since Woo Hyuk had last seen him. It was like he disappeared off the face of the Earth.
If it was any other guy, Woo Hyuk would have washed his hands of him, but for some reason, he couldn’t with Tony. He missed him. It was odd, because he hadn’t even known the guy that long and yet he really felt the loss of him in his life. He wanted to share with Tony his triumph more than anything, because he owed him the credit.
More than that though, seeing Tony so freaked out for no reason was haunting him. Woo Hyuk had to find out what was wrong with him.
Woo Hyuk had tried not to let Tony’s freak out and vanishing act effect him, but it did. He couldn’t sleep wondering what had happened. He went through the scene in his head over and over and over again. Tony’s face, drained of blood, then suddenly the back of him dashing from the room. If Woo Hyuk had just gone after him then, he might have been able to find out what happened. But he hadn’t. He acted like he didn’t know Tony because he didn’t want his parents to see him run after him like some melodramatic knight.
Now he was stuck, having no options but to wait. And that sucked. Woo Hyuk hated having to wait, especially at the whims of others. What could it have possibly have been that freaked Tony out so much? What could have happened that Tony drop of the face of the Earth so suddenly? Nothing could justify that.
Whatever it was, Woo Hyuk was going to find out. If he had to chain himself to Tony’s office, water board his mother, even admit to Chang Ryul they had been sleeping together, he would. If Tony didn’t want to see him again, he at least owed Woo Hyuk an explanation.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
Woo Hyuk’s step mother knew he was standing there watching her, and yet she continued to wash dishes and act as if he wasn’t there. That was the clearest sign to Woo Hyuk that she knew something was wrong. His step mother always treated problems like they were invisible, it was one of the biggest reasons Woo Hyuk hadn’t ever gotten close to her.
It was infuriating, going from a somewhat normal life alone with his father to a whole new foreign one with a women who had sever emotional problems. She seemed to think that because Woo Hyuk didn’t have a mom, she could step in and be one for him. She thought she had the right to do or say anything she wanted to him, since he was now her son.
Woo Hyuk had never been the type to take well to criticism, but his teenaged years were the worst. It didn’t help that that was the time his father had sprung the marriage on him and up turned his life. It also didn’t help that this strange women was all of a sudden telling him what to do. She thought that Woo Hyuk would automatically take to her, be happy to have a mother. She was crazy. What was worse, she took over his discipline, and instead of getting hit for his small fuck ups, she would play mind games with him. If he did something she didn’t like, he would pretend he wasn’t there. Even if that meant not preparing meals for him.
Woo Hyuk found it was best to ignore her if she got like that though, it was the only revenge she understood. She ignored problems, so if she was being ignored, she must be a problem. She didn’t like being a problem.
That wasn’t an option just then though. Woo Hyuk couldn’t wait until she broke down and came to tell him what was going on. He had to confront her before Tony disappeared so well that Woo Hyuk wouldn’t even have any options of tracking him down.
“Mom.” Woo Hyuk said to her back. She didn’t act as if she heard him so he repeated himself. “Mom.”
“What are you doing here, Woo Hyuk?” She asked easily. “Are you staying for dinner?”
“No. I want to talk to you.”
Ya, she knew something. There was no use in pussy footing around it, she could bob and weave like a pro.
“How do you know Tony?” He asked.
“Who?” She asked as if she was baffled by the name but Woo Hyuk could see her back tighten.
“Your friend’s son, right? That’s what you said. You remember him, he ran out of our house like he was on fire, it’s hard to forget that.” She didn’t answer and Woo Hyuk had to plant his feet before he went over to her and screamed. She always had a way of driving him insane withing seconds of speaking to her. “Tell me how you know him, now.” He demanded.
“Why do you care?” She snapped.
“He’s my boyfriend.”
The plate in her hand crashed to the floor and she grabbed the counter for support. For a long few seconds, Woo Hyuk stood in silence, stunned. When he got his wits about him he rushed over to see if she was okay.
“What’s wrong?” He asked, looking her over. She seemed fine, aside from her pale face.
“What do you mean he’s your boyfriend?” Her eyes darted to meet his, jumping with what looked a lot like terror.
“What’s the matter with you?” He asked. A sickening fear was crawling up his stomach, clenching his heart in a fist. She was too upset, something was really wrong here.
“You’re lying. Why would you do that?” She demanded. “That’s sick.”
What was the matter with her? It couldn’t be because Tony was a guy, Woo Hyuk had been bringing guys home as long as she knew him. If she was going to have some moral dilemma about it, now wasn’t the time.
“You’re starting to piss me off.” Woo Hyuk replaced ‘scare the shit out of me’ with ‘piss me off’ for pride’s sake. “What is the matter?”
“He’s my son.” She blurted, then looked as if she didn’t expect that to come out. She clamped a hand over her mouth and began to tremble.
Woo Hyuk took either of her shoulders and held her firmly in place. “What do you mean?” He demanded. Surely she meant to say he was her friend’s son?
“Oh my God.” She cried. “Tell me you’re lying to me Woo Hyuk.” She begged. “Tell me you are lying.”
“I don’t lie.”
“How could you do this?!”
Woo Hyuk fought the urge to throw her against the wall.
“I don’t even know what the fuck is going on.” He said a lot louder then he had meant to and she flinched. “Tell me what the hell is going on. How do you know Tony? Why did he run off? Why have I not been able to find him since?"
“He’s my son!” She said again. “My own son. He must have run away because he found out he’s dating his brother!”
Woo Hyuk stepped back from her, feeling like someone punched him in the chest.
“You don’t have any kids.” He said slowly. “How could he be your son?”
She turned from him and he thought she might run, but she stepped over the broken plate and sat down hard. She was crying hard now, gasping for breath but didn’t attempt to even brush her tears away.
Woo Hyuk moved toward her and tried to listen to what she was saying. He couldn’t understand through her sobs though, but it sounded as if she wasn’t really saying anything at all. Maybe just repeating a mantra. Woo Hyuk wasn’t in the mood to let her get away with an emotional break down to end the conversation just then. She would never tell him anything if he gave her the chance.
“Tell me how Tony is your son.” Woo Hyuk said firmly, keeping his voice calm.
“No, no, no.” She repeated, shaking her head. “How could this happen?”
“If you don’t answer me, I’m asking dad.”
“No.” She came to attention at that, suddenly sober, and turned to look up at him. “Oh God, Woo Hyuk” Seeing him seemed to bring fresh tears to her eyes. “Don’t think badly of me.”
Badly of her? When Woo Hyuk thought of her at all it was usually with annoyance. Sometimes disgust. Was that badly? If she meant don’t think any worse of her, maybe he could manage that.
“I wont.” He lied, not missing the irony of just having told her he never lied. “Just tell me, please.”
“I had him when I was in America, years ago.” She admitted.
“He really is your son? You gave birth to him?” Woo Hyuk clarified.
She nodded and didn’t offer any more information.
“Why-Where has he been all this time?”
“In America. I didn’t know he was here. I thought he was still in America.” Where I left him was left unsaid.
Woo Hyuk sighed in frustration. “Why wasn’t he with you all these years? Why have I just now found out he’s your son?!”
“I’m not telling you that.”
“You have to.” Woo Hyuk insisted, knowing it was probably futile.
“I don’t have to do anything you tell me to. I’m your mother.” She said with some amount of indignity, her tears all but dried up now.
“No. You are my step mother. Your Tony’s mother, and apparently that didn’t pan out.” Woo Hyuk opened his mouth to say more, but what could he say? She was no use at all, she never had been.
He had to find Tony now more than ever. He had to think. He had to get the hell away from her before he hurt her.
“Where are you going?” She demanded as he headed for the door.
“It’s none of your business.” He snapped. “Maybe you should check in on your real son, see if he’s in the last country you saw him in.” He stopped then, turning around to face her. “Do you know where Tony is?”
“No, why would I know that?” She snapped.
Woo Hyuk quickly dismissed giving her the long list of reasons she should know where he was, or at least care, and left her before he did something he regretted.
Tony had locked himself in his room and wouldn’t come out. He wouldn’t tell Kang Ta what was going on, but it had to be bad. Kang Ta never saw him even come out to eat or use the bathroom, but he must have. It wasn’t possible to quit either of those things, no matter how upset you were. It was starting to really make Kang Ta worry, but short of breaking down the door, there was nothing he could do. Kang Ta made sure food was in the refrigerator and decided to wait it out, hoping Tony would eventually break down and talk to him.
It had occurred to Kang Ta that Tony might have seen his mother. That could be a good reason he was so upset, especially if it went badly. He wished there was something he could do for Tony, but what?
Aside from that, Hee Jun had been on his mind. He was sick the last Kang Ta had seen him, and that was a few days ago. He hadn’t heard from him since and started to feel a bit of anxiety. He knew it was unfounded fear he was feeling, but old habits die hard, and this one was nagging him hard. Kang Ta decided the best thing he could do would be to face his fear and go see Hee Jun, make sure he was okay. To see that he was, in fact, not dead.
It took a lot of courage to even knock on Hee Jun’s door, but when Kang Ta finally did, nothing happened. It would figure that when Kang Ta finally was able to get there, Hee Jun would be out.
For good measure though, Kang Ta knocked a few more times before giving up.
Right at his last knock he heard a voice call that it was open. It didn’t sound like Hee Jun, but then again, it didn’t seem like it wasn’t Hee Jun either. Kang Ta opened the door anyway and found no one there.
“Jae Won?” Hee Jun called.
“Uh, no.” Kang Ta called back, trying to follow his voice. It lead him into the open bathroom where Hee Jun, looking startled to see him, was sitting next to the toilet.
He looked terrible. He was pale and sweating, he had deep circles under his eyes and he seemed to sway a little as he watched Kang Ta come in.
The image immediately struck Kang Ta deep down. He froze, faced with his greatest fear, seeing someone he cared about sick.
“Are you okay?” Kang Ta asked hesitantly.
Hee Jun looked at him oddly, seemingly apprehensively. “I have the flu.” He seemed to reassess the situation, then sat up a little straighter. “What are you doing here?”
Kang Ta opened his mouth to answer, but couldn’t.
Stop it, he told himself, why are you scared? He has the flu. You’ve had the flu, it isn’t scary. God, pull it together.
“I wanted to make sure you were okay. Can I...Can I get you something?” Kang Ta asked.
“Water.” Hee Jun said quickly. “I haven’t been able to get out of the bathroom for hours, and I can’t drink from the toilet. I’m not that sick yet.”
Kang Ta quickly fetched him water, feeling more sure of himself now that he had a task. “Here you go.” Kang Ta said, handing it to him.
“Thanks.” Hee Jun said, snatching it. He chugged the water as Kang Ta looked on, knowing that wasn’t the best move. As soon as it his Hee Jun’s stomach, he was over the toilet, throwing it up alone with stomach acid.
Kang Ta felt sick watching him. His whole body ached with tension and he felt scared. If he didn’t already feel like shit, he would have run for it, but he refused to do that. He had to face his fears, he had to own it. He couldn’t let Hye Sung’s death haunt him forever. He couldn’t leave Hee Jun there on the bathroom floor.
Hee Jun gagged until nothing but drool ran from his mouth then he slumped back against the wall. He sat there silently, eyes closed, for so long Kang Ta thought Hee Jun might have forgotten he was there. But suddenly he opened his eyes and looked directly at Kang Ta.
“I’m sorry, that was rude.” He said weakly.
Before Kang Ta could respond, Hee Jun’s head lolled back and he blacked out. That put the breaks on anything Kang Ta would have to say.
He didn’t know he was moving until his back hit the wall. He felt trapped and hot and knew he was shaking, or else they were having an Earth quake. This wasn’t how it should have gone. Kang Ta was suppose to come over and see Hee Jun was doing just fine. Hee Jun wasn’t suppose to be dying, passing out right before Kang Ta, forcing sickening images of Hye Sung back into his mind.
He had no choice though, he couldn’t abandon Hee Jun. He had to be a man and be responsible.
Kang Ta pulled himself together and called 119.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Hee Jun felt shitty. Shitty wasn’t even the right word for it, but at that point he wasn’t in the mood to think of any others. He had been hugging his toilet for who knows how long when Kang Ta suddenly appeared. Honestly, Hee Jun thought he might have been seeing things, but went with it anyway.
The next thing he knew, he was surrounded by people who were lifting him on to a stretcher. He tried to tell them he was feeling a lot better, but when he opened his mouth he had dry heaves.
It didn’t take long at the hospital before he was informed he had the flu and dehydration. Hee Jun could have told them that himself, they didn’t need to do all those tests. Tests he couldn’t afford just then.
He was given an IV and told to rest. Apparently, that rest was going to be a long one, because the solution was dripping painfully slow into the line and then nurse mentioned that when it was done she would get another.
So, Jae Won was right. It wasn’t good to stay out all night in the freezing cold playing on the swings. It was like a childhood fantasy fulfilled though, despite the whole reason he was doing it was depression.
Hee Jun hadn’t seen Kang Ta since he had been dragged from his bathroom. He tried not to think about it, but Kang Ta must have been really freaked out. This was probably a lot worse then if Hee Jun had just told him he had hepatitis. Even if he was still around to tell anymore, that on top of this was surely going to be his breaking point.
It might have been fate though. Maybe the whole reason Hee Jun had gotten the flu and entered a coma in front of Kang Ta was to scare him off before Hee Jun could tell him the truth. It was a lot easier to think that Kang Ta ran off scared because he caught a bug. If Hee Jun had to remember him running off because of his hepatitis...that would suck. And it would put a damper on any of Hee Jun’s future relationships.
Not that he was thinking any romantic thoughts just then. Still, he wished he could take back this day. Maybe he could tell Kang Ta he just wanted to be friends and he could still spend time with him without having to worry about coming clean about anything. But even then, Hee Jun would feel guilty. He didn’t want to keep things from his friends any more then he did from someone he had feelings for. And he had a lot of feelings for Kang Ta. In many places of his body.
Hee Jun jumped at the sound of Kang Ta’s voice, then jumped again when he saw him passing between the curtains.
“Are you okay?” Kang Ta asked hesitantly.
“Ya, I’m just dehydrated.”
“I meant are you okay because you keep jumping.” Kang Ta clarified.
Oh, right. “Ya, I’m fine. I just thought you had gone home.” Hee Jun admitted.
“No. I was in the waiting room. I had to drive over, and I hit every red light so I got here a little late, so they made me wait. They said I couldn’t go in if I wasn’t family.”
“Next time tell them you are my sister, they’ll buy it.”
Kang Ta smiled and came to stand by Hee Jun’s side. Hee Jun watched him glance at the equipment with trepidation, even the ones that weren’t hooked up to him.
“You don’t have to be here.” Hee Jun told him. “I know you hate hospitals.”
Kang Ta smiled as if he had just told a joke but then agreed, “Like you wouldn’t believe. I’m fine though. You’re fine. Everything is fine.” He reached down and squeezed Hee Jun’s hand.
See? Everything is fine, Hee Jun thought, but swore it was in Jae Won’s voice.
No, it wasn’t quite fine. Aside from the fact Hee Jun still felt like shit, he wasn’t fine.
Kang Ta surprised him thus far. He had called an ambulance for Hee Jun, then he even went to the hospital to check in on him. It obviously was hard for him, and yet he was there. Hee Jun couldn’t accept that from him and then not be truthful with him.
But, how could he tell him? When?
Now might be the best time. The settling was appropriate at least.
“Kang Ta I need to tell you something.” Hee Jun found himself saying. Kang Ta didn’t say anything but his eye brows lifted. “I like you a lot, you know that. And because of that, I would love nothing more then for the two of us to run off into the sun set together, or maybe just start with a few more dates. But there is a problem between us, and I think I should come clean to you about it.”
Kang Ta still didn’t say anything but he was looking more and more confused. He also looked a little scared.
“I have hepatitis.” Hee Jun told him, and then seemed to hold his breath.
Kang Ta waited but apparently that was it. The way Hee Jun was talking and the look on his face made Kang Ta think... Well, he didn’t know what to think. Maybe that Hee Jun was a mass murderer, or was married.
The relief was brief when Kang Ta realized what Hee Jun was telling him and why. He was scared of Kang Ta being scared. And it wasn’t an unfounded fear. In fact, it was pretty dead on.
Seeing Hee Jun black out in front of him and turned Kang Ta ice cold with fear. He remained ice cold as he waited with him, trying to wake him up, and then when the EMTs got there. Even on the drive to the hospital and in the waiting room.
That cold was the past pressing down upon him and fear for the future. Kang Ta wasn’t afraid of illness or hospitals because of what it could do to him, but what it would do to people around him. He didn’t want to stand by, helpless, while people around him died. He had done that once, and had gained a phobia over the fear it would happen again.
But as Kang Ta waited for a nurse to tell him he was allowed to see Hee Jun, he realized that he was more then ready to stop being scared.
He wanted to run back home as soon as he had found Hee Jun sick, but he hadn’t. Not at any point did he run away, no matter how much he wanted to. And why? Because if he pushed every person out of his life with problems, he wouldn’t have anyone at all. Everyone was going to die, and Kang Ta would most likely still be alive after many of them.
He wouldn’t take back any of the time he had with Hye Sung, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to miss out on any time he might have with Hee Jun.
“Thank you for telling me.” Kang Ta smiled down at him. “It means a lot to me that you thought it was important enough for me to know. That I’m important enough for you to tell me.”
“You’re okay with it?” Hee Jun asked hesitantly.
“No. But I’m more than okay with you, and I’ll take whatever comes with you.” Kang Ta reached out to take Hee Jun’s hand again and held it tightly. “I’m a lot of trouble, and I have a lot of problems, I know. And I’m trying to work on that. But I really like you and I’m going to try really hard not to mess this up. If you will give me a chance and be patient, I would love to,” he tried to remember what Hee Jun had said earlier, “run into the sun set with you, or at least go on a few more dates first.”
Hee Jun laughed. “You know, you don’t have as many problems as you think you do. You never cease to surprise me.”
Kang Ta smiled, deciding to accept the compliment. “So, would you like to go out with me once you feel better?”
“I’ll go out with you now and until you realize I’m not as big as a catch as you think I am.”
Kang Ta laughed and leaned down to kiss him, but Hee Jun caught his face in his hands.
“Don’t kiss me, I have the flu, remember?” Hee Jun reminded him.
Kang Ta detoured and kissed him on the forehead instead.
Tony quit, the receptionist had told Woo Hyuk. As soon as he heard that, he went to find Chang Ryul. He didn’t want to bring him into it, but what options did he have? Woo Hyuk’s step mother was no help, and Tony really wouldn’t be coming to work anymore, the only person that could help him was Chang Ryul.
And Chang Ryul was making him wait.
Woo Hyuk was his friend for fuck’s sake. Well, maybe acquaintance. Still, Chang Ryul should have told his secretary to let him in as soon as he showed up at the office. It wasn’t as if Woo Hyuk ever stopped by, he should have known it was important.
As soon as Chang Ryul’s office door opened, Woo Hyuk was on his feet. A few men filed out and Woo Hyuk pressed past them into the office. Chang Ryul looked up at him with a bit of humor when he came inside.
“Yes, Woo Hyuk, please come in.” He teased. “What is it I can do for you?”
“Why did Tony quit?” Woo Hyuk asked.
Chang Ryul’s humor drained. “He called me and told me he was moving back to America.”
Woo Hyuk felt his stomach drop. “He didn’t yet, right?”
“Is there something wrong Woo Hyuk?” Chang Ryul asked cautiously. “You seem really upset about this.”
“I am!” Woo Hyuk snapped and then caught himself. He didn’t need to be yelling at Chang Ryul. He was his last hope. “Look, I’m sorry.” He apologized. “I’m just really worried about him. I need to see him. Do you know where he’s at right now?”
Chang Ryul shook his head. “No, I’m sorry, I don’t. I doubt he’s in America yet though, he only quit this morning.”
“Can I have his address?” Woo Hyuk asked.
“I can’t give out his address, Woo Hyuk.” Chang Ryul said apologetically. “If you want to talk to him, I can call him and ask-”
“No.” Woo Hyuk cut him off. “He wont want to talk to me. Chang Ryul, please, I can’t tell you what’s going on but I really need to see him. I need to talk to him. You know me, you can trust me.”
Chang Ryul looked hesitant. “I know I can, that isn’t the point. I don’t want to give Tony’s address out without his permission. And you said yourself he doesn’t want to speak with you. If you would just tell me what’s going on,”
“I can’t!” Woo Hyuk said helplessly. How could he tell Chang Ryul what was going on? He didn’t need to know, and Tony wouldn’t want him to, that much Woo Hyuk was sure. “Please Chang Ryul, just trust me on this? I just want to see Tony once, and if he doesn’t want to see me, I wont contact him again. You are my only option left. What do you want me to do? Get on my knees?”
“Fine.” Chang Ryul sighed, then went to his computer. “I’ll give you the address, but you better be telling me the truth. If Tony doesn’t want to see you, leave him alone. I don’t want to be to blame for anything.”
“I promise.” Woo Hyuk said, feeling a wash of relief.
The chances were good that Tony wouldn’t even want to see him, but Woo Hyuk had to talk to him none the less. If Tony heard him out and still didn’t want anything to do with him, then he would keep his promise and leave him alone.
And then kill his step mother.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
No one answered the door, or appeared to be home. Woo Hyuk was sure the address was right, but if not, what other option did he have? This was the only place he could try. Eventually someone had to show up. If Tony didn’t live there, someone else would, and they could send him on his way.
Woo Hyuk sat down against the door and settled down for a long wait, and that’s what he got. He watched the sky get darker and hunched himself deeper into his coat to keep out the cold. Every so often he would reach up and bang on the door in frustration. It never did anything but make his knuckles hurt.
He must have fallen asleep, because one minute he was cursing the cold and the next someone was touching his shoulder.
“Can I help you?” Asked the man cautiously.
“Do you live here?” Woo Hyuk asked, startled awake, but had to repeat himself when he couldn’t even understand his own sleepy voice.
“Yes...” The man answered slowly. “Do I know you?”
“I’m looking for Tony, do you know him?”
He looked Woo Hyuk over then, as if judging what answer he wanted to give him. Woo Hyuk automatically got to his feet to appear less like a guy who would sleep against a random door. Whether he pulled it off or not, he had no idea.
“Who are you?” The man asked.
“I’m Woo Hyuk, I-”
The Man cut him off with a look of utter shock. “You’re Tony’s brother!”
Well, this guy obviously knew Tony... That brought the up question of who this guy was. And why he was at Tony’s place.
“And who are you to him?” Woo Hyuk asked sharply.
“I’m Kang Ta.” He said as if that said it all, then added belatedly, “His cousin. Oh, your cousin too I guess.”
Woo Hyuk relaxed at that, but was none too happy with being related to this guy.
“I need to talk to Tony, it’s important.”
“You’ve met him? Oh...” Kang Ta got a far off look then he nodded to himself. “I guess that’s why he’s been so upset. You can come in, but you wont be able to see him. I haven’t seen him for days. He’s locked himself in his room.”
“Are you sure he’s in there?” What did he mean he hadn’t seen him for days?! Tony could have starved to death by then. Maybe not. He sure as hell could have died of dehydration though. Well, maybe not that either. But, didn’t this dude care?
“I leave him food and it keeps disappearing so I know he’s coming out sometime. Must be when I’m at work or sleeping.” The man shrugged, then admitted, “I’ve also heard him through the door. He wont talk to me, but he cries sometimes.”
Woo Hyuk felt his stomach drop. “Let me in.” He tried to make it sound like a suggestion or a request.
“Sure. See if you can talk to him.” Kang Ta said as he opened the door. “He doesn’t answer me no matter what I say. His room is over there.” Kang Ta said pointing to the bedroom door and watched Woo Hyuk as if he expected him to do something miraculous. He soon found he was wrong. “You aren’t going to knock or anything?”
“I’m going to wait for him to come out. I don’t want...” Him to know I’m here. He’ll never come out then. “I just think that it would be best if I wait.” He finished.
Kang Ta shrugged. “Enjoy the wait. You can sleep on the couch, the fridge is yours.” He stopped by Tony’s door and knocked on it. “Goodnight Tony.” He called through the door, then headed into his own room.
Woo Hyuk took off his jacket and settled into the couch.
This wait was much more comfortable than the one outside. And at least he knew he was in the right place this time.
Kang Ta left that morning after preparing lunch for Tony and Woo Hyuk and putting it in the fridge. Woo Hyuk told him not to bother, but Kang Ta informed him the lunches were in there if he needed them on his way out. Woo Hyuk’s first impression of him, and maybe his second as well, wasn’t good, but he really was a good guy. If Tony was going to lock himself up somewhere, Woo Hyuk glad it was with Kang Ta, if not himself.
Tony hadn’t come out the whole night, Woo Hyuk stayed up the whole time to make sure he didn’t miss him. Or make sure Tony didn’t see him sleeping there in his living room and bolt.
It wasn’t long after Kang Ta had left that Woo Hyuk heard movement from Tony’s bedroom though. Before the door began to open, he got to his feet and moved out of Tony’s sight, or he hoped he did.
The door swung open and Tony silently came out and headed straight for the kitchen. Even if Woo Hyuk had stayed on the couch he might not have been seen. Even with the stress of being up all night, waiting for Tony, wondering what he had been going through those past few days, Woo Hyuk couldn’t help but want to laugh. Tony must have worked out Kang Ta’s schedule so well that he knew right when to come out to get food, not getting caught once. It was as if he was haunting the place.
With that thought, Woo Hyuk’s humor dissipated.
He waited until he heard Tony open the fridge before he moved, deciding on the best place to confront Tony without getting run away from. Again.
Tony had no idea how many days he had been hold up in his room. In the beginning, he didn’t surface from his bed’s covers for even air, let alone food. Eventually that was out of the question and he snuck out for food when he was sure it was night.
Through Tony’s door, Kang Ta had begged him to come out and tell him what was wrong. At first, it was just back ground noise to his own screaming thoughts and cries. But, eventually, he took comfort in Kang Ta’s presence and discovered he was completely reliant on him. Unless Kang Ta wished him a good night or morning, he didn’t know what day it was. Unless he prepared food for him, Tony would have been starving.
As much as Tony wanted to come out and thank him, he couldn’t. As much as he wanted to run out into his arms and tell him what had happened. He couldn’t. Tony’s sins were to great for even him to bare. The thought of what he had done bared down on him so fiercely, he felt physical pain from it. If he had to say out loud what had happened, he knew he would die.
Things his mother had said to him ran through his mind over and over, as a constant reminder of why this was all his fault. She didn’t want him. Didn’t he get that from the fact she had left him in America? Not only left, but sold him. It was his own insecurities that brought him to Korea, everyone was fine without him. No one was to blame but himself. And the burden was more then he could bare.
Memories of Woo Hyuk played through his mind too. Not even always intimate memories, those being the ones that obviously made him feel worse, but the mundane ones. Looks Woo Hyuk would give him, or jokes he had made. All those things that made his heart beat faster, his stomach flutter.
What disgusted him most, was those memories still had the same effect. Not even with the knowledge that Woo Hyuk was his brother did he stop feeling the desire to be with him. Be encircled by his arms, or be the butt of his jokes.
There was nothing he could do to stop himself from feeling that way. He was disgusting.
Yesterday morning, Tony decided there was no way he could re-enter his life in Korea. He couldn’t return to his job, not where he might see Woo Hyuk. He couldn’t see his family, the only people who had ever stayed with him, even with the distance between them. He couldn’t look them in the eyes when he knew the things he had done.
How he was going to get back to America, along with his stuff, find a place, get his job back, he didn’t know. His only goal was to get through another day just then. Eventually Tony knew he would have to emerge from his den of iniquity and face Kang Ta. He would have to tell him he was leaving. That’s not something he could even think about just then though, so he waited until he was sure Kang Ta was gone and went to get himself something to eat.
Once he had gotten the food, still not confident enough to eat out in the open even though he knew Kang Ta was at work, he carried the food Kang Ta had prepared for him back into his room. He got the door closed before he noticed someone sitting on his bed, and dropped his food.
At first, Tony swore he was seeing things. That he had entered a whole new state of insanity and self abuse, but Woo Hyuk stood and Tony realized he was really there. Tony wasn’t imaginative enough to make something so real.
“Tony,” Woo Hyuk began but Tony turned to the door, clawing for the handle. He had to get out of the room. He had to get away from Woo Hyuk.
Just as he gripped the door handle, Woo Hyuk grabbed him from behind, yanking him so suddenly Tony didn’t have time to resist. They tumbled backward and onto the floor, landing in what was to be Tony’s lunch.
Woo Hyuk bared his weight down on him, and Tony felt like he was suffocating. Not just by the force of Woo Hyuk holding him down, but by everything. Before he could control it, he was overwhelmed by panic and he screamed.
At the sound of it, Woo Hyuk loosened his grip and moved as if he thought he might have hurt him. Still, he pinned him down and Tony didn’t have the strength to fight him. He was too tired. He was too miserable. He was too done with it.
“Please go away.” Tony begged.
“You need to give me a chance here.” Woo Hyuk said patiently, as if he wasn’t pinning Tony to the floor while they laid in food. “I’ve busted my ass trying to find you and every time you see me lately you run away.”
If he knew what Tony did, he would have run too. But Tony couldn’t tell him. If he couldn’t tell Kang Ta, he sure as hell couldn’t tell Woo Hyuk.
Woo Hyuk, remember how we’ve been dating? Remember all those times we’ve slept together? Well, I’m your brother.
Tony felt nauseous all of a sudden, and with that, a new found desperation to get away from Woo Hyuk. He sat up, throwing Woo Hyuk from him and dove for the door. He got the door open and could hear Woo Hyuk scrambling after him, making his body move all the more faster.
“Tony, stop!” Woo Hyuk yelled. “I need to talk to you! I know who your mother is!”
Tony’s knees buckled.
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Tony was propelling himself to the front door, desperately trying to get away from Woo Hyuk.
“Tony, stop!” Woo Hyuk yelled. “I need to talk to you! I know who your mother is!”
Tony’s knees buckled.
“This is the third time you’ve run from me.” Woo Hyuk said as he hefted Tony to his feet. “You do it again, and I’ll break your knee caps.”
Tony turned to face him, not registering anything Woo Hyuk said. “You know?” He asked softly.
Woo Hyuk nodded. “I asked her how she knew you, and she told me.”
Her being their mother, Tony assumed.
He had to sit down.
Woo Hyuk followed him as he went to the couch. Tony knew it wasn’t for fear he would collapse, but from fear he would run. There was no reason to anymore though. He couldn’t hide, he couldn’t run. It didn’t matter what he did, or what part of the world he was in, his problems never stopped nagging at him. Why would this one?
“That’s all she would tell me.” Woo Hyuk added. “Tony, I know this is upsetting to you, but we didn’t do anything wrong.”
Tony chocked. “Are you kidding me?”
“She isn’t my real mother. I’ve never considered her as my real mother. I hardly consider her my step mother.”
“Say that again.” Tony said over the sound of blood rushing in his ears.
“She isn’t my real mother. She’s my step mother.” Woo Hyuk told him slowly.
“You aren’t her son? You aren’t her son by birth? She didn’t give birth to you?” Tony scrambled over his own words
“No, No. God, no.” Woo Hyuk quickly dismissed.
Tony laughed at that, half in hysterics. He buried his face in his hands and let his laugh become a ragged cry. This was too much for him. He couldn’t deal with this. For the past...who knows how long, month maybe, he had locked himself in his room believing he had slept with his flesh and blood brother. But he hadn’t.
Thank you, God.
“Are you okay?” Woo Hyuk asked softly, resting his hand gently on Tony’s back.
“I feel like I’m going crazy.” Tony cried, trying to form words while his mind was a blur. “I don’t what I’m doing anymore. I don’t know what’s going on. I wish I hadn’t ever come here.”
He heard Woo Hyuk sigh beside him, but didn’t look to see what reaction he had gotten. Woo Hyuk pulled him into his arms and Tony went to him willingly.
Eventually Tony got tired of crying. Even with all the crying he had done lately, he was never finished, but he was tired of it. Every time he took a breath, he would get a sharp pain from the head ache he had grown, that was as far as he wanted it to go. He knew if he cried for too much longer he would make himself sick.
Tony pulled back from Woo Hyuk’s arms and looked at him. He wanted to say something, or ask something, but he didn’t know what. Every time he tried to form a complete sentence in his head, the thought that Woo Hyuk wasn’t his brother came to him, muting all other thoughts. Knowing that truth was enough though. Tony could go his whole life not completing another thought as long as he knew he hadn’t...done what he thought he had done.
“Are you okay to talk about it?” Woo Hyuk asked.
Woo Hyuk’s eye brows raised. “What happened?”
“I don’t know what to tell you.” Tony admitted. “I met her, my mother, and she didn’t want to see me. Kang Ta told me she had a son so I asked to meet him-you. She agreed as long as I didn’t tell you who I was. She didn’t want you to know what she had done.”
Woo Hyuk’s eyes grew dark and Tony would normally have felt uncomfortable under that look, but his body wasn’t ready for any such sudden reactions. He really just wanted to go to sleep.
“She’s a bitch.” Woo Hyuk told him. Tony couldn’t help but agree. “I’m sorry Tony, you don’t deserve to have put up with her shit.”
“I don’t even care about her.” Tony said quickly. “I just wanted to have my family. Have some family. I got what I wanted, and then fucked myself over by making the mistake of sleeping with you.”
Woo Hyuk tensed when he said that, feeling as if he had been kicked in the chest.
“I didn’t mean,” Tony started to say, but Woo Hyuk cut him off.
“We didn’t do anything wrong.” Woo Hyuk reminded him. “I’m sorry for what happened. Not that we got together, but that we had all this misunderstanding. I wish I weren’t her step son, I wished that from the beginning, even before you came along. She’s been nothing but a bitch to me, and it hurts me to know that she could treat you so badly, her real son. I’ve always hated her, but now I have a good reason. Still, I’m thankful that she gave birth to you, because if she hadn’t, we wouldn’t have met.” Woo Hyuk found himself rambling, and stopped himself as soon as he heard his own words. If Tony was going to chock their relationship up as one of his life’s mistakes, why should Woo Hyuk go out on a limb to try and change his mind?
Because Woo Hyuk didn’t have enough pride at this point to stop himself. Tony was important to him, and he was going to be with Woo Hyuk. They were suppose to be together. Why else would Woo Hyuk put up with all the bull shit stress of worrying over him and trying to find him? There were no coincidences, the last few months had taught him that.
He had failed over and over in attempting to start his own dance school, and as soon as Tony entered his life, he became successful. He had put up with his step mother’s shit for years, never having anything to show for it. But she was the reason Tony was alive, even if that was all he could be thankful for, he was just that, thankful. Woo Hyuk would have put up with twice as much shit from her if it meant having Tony in his life. How could that all be coincidental?
“If you are upset, be upset.” Woo Hyuk told Tony. “If you are mad, be mad. Be sad, frustrated, confused, anything. But don’t regret being with me. And don’t write me off because of who my father married. I need you Tony, so take whatever time you need, but give me a chance in the end. We can start over from where we should have. From the beginning. You can know everything about me, and I’ll know everything about you, and there wont be anymore surprises.”
Tony watched him silently for a moment, making Woo Hyuk feel unnaturally uncomfortable.
“I can’t deny that I like you.” Tony said.
Woo Hyuk felt his frustration bubble up at Tony’s tired and dismissive tone. “Don’t write me off.” He insisted again. “I’m putting myself on the line here. I don’t do that.”
“Woo Hyuk,” Tony said patently. “I fell for you when all I had to base my opinions and feelings on was the short time we spent together. Then I became horrified by the thought of you when I thought you were my brother. Every decision I’ve made about you has been made a snap decision. I’ve gotten myself into too much trouble doing that, so I’m not going to promise you anything. I’m not going to put myself through anymore pain, and I’m not going to take you for granted by promising you something when I might not be able to keep it.”
“Then don’t promise anything. Just don’t leave.” Woo Hyuk insisted. “You said you wanted family, but you don’t need a mother or a brother, what about Kang Ta? He’s your own flesh and blood, and by the way he was making your lunch you would have thought he gave birth to you. That guy treats you better then anyone I’ve ever been related to treats me. You have your family already Tony, forget about your mother, forget that she has any ties to me.”
Tony swallowed hard and Woo Hyuk felt a spark of hope that he was getting his point made, but then Tony’s eyes cleared and he opened his mouth.
“You-” The first syllable already sounded stubborn.
Woo Hyuk grabbed either side of his face. “Don’t. You said you didn’t want to make snap decisions, so don’t. Sit in your room and wallow some more if that’s what you want, but take some time to think before you decide to leave, or decide what you have here isn’t enough, or is too painful to face. But I’m still going to be here, and I’ll be here until you are ready to show your face in the day light again.”
Tony sat patiently, face squashed between Woo Hyuk’s hands as he made his speech. When he was obviously done, Tony took his wrists and pulled Woo Hyuk’s hands down.
“I was going to say, you’re right.”
“Oh.” Woo Hyuk mumbled. His face suddenly felt hot.
“Before, I wanted to thank you for giving me courage to meet my mother. That was before that...lunch happened, of course. I tried so hard to avoid you after, but you somehow tracked me down. I want to thank you for that. If you hadn’t, I would run off to America and never would have known I had no reason to be ashamed. I would have run away from my sins, just like my mother did.”
Tony paused as his voice cracked and he took a deep breathy before continuing in a steady tone. “I’m not going to repay you by being untruthful to you. I care about you so much. Even when I thought you were my brother, I couldn’t stop caring about you. I wished that I hadn’t ever found out we shared a mother, so we could be together, ignorant. I wanted to be with you, and that hasn’t changed. But I can’t today. And I don’t think I can tomorrow. If nothing else, this whole thing has taught me that I need to get my life in order before I press forward. There is things I need to do first. I need to get my job back,”
“I can get you your job back.” Woo Hyuk interrupted.
“I need to talk to my aunt, apologize to her.” Tony continued over him. “I need to make Kang Ta dinner. I need to make him a lot of meals to pay him back.” He laughed slightly as his voice trailed off.
“Fine.” Woo Hyuk agreed. “Take care of everything you need to. I’ll wait.”
He leaned down, intending to give Tony a chaste kiss, but he deepened it unintentionally. Tony returned it and Woo Hyuk took as much of the invitation as he felt he should, given the situation.
When he pulled back, Woo Hyuk smiled, noting the color in Tony’s cheeks.
“I know something else you need to do.” He said.
“What?” Tony asked.
“Shower. You smell like shit.”
Chapter 15: Epilogue
Woo Hyuk took great pride in locking the door of his own building.
Locking his door.
Of his own building.
With his key.
It was all sitting idol right now, not having been officially opened, but it was all his none the less. He had put enough blood sweat and tears into it, that he surely owned it heart and soul. And monetarily. More money had gone into it than the blood sweat and tears put together.
But, it was worth it, because the next day his dream would come to fruition. Woo Hyuk would be able to open the doors and welcome in his students. And their money. Which would go right into paying off his new found debt.
With one last look at his pride and joy, Woo Hyuk headed to his car. It looked pathetic in comparison. Still, something unexpected was on the hood, and caused him to pause at the sight. It was a gift bag.
Woo Hyuk pulled the card off before looking inside. It was from Tony, that was obvious from the hand writing. Woo Hyuk had become familiar with it as Tony had written him many notes and instructions when he was trying to get permits and licenses.
Woo Hyuk took a look around but didn’t find Tony anywhere. Not that he really expected to. Tony obviously wanted not to present the gift personally, and Tony always was a good planner. He was lucky no one stole the bag though.
On that note, Woo Hyuk glanced inside to find clothes. Then he decided he might as well read the card.
I’ll buy you dinner tonight, since you are still unemployed. Tomorrow you will be an entrepreneur, so it will be your treat from now on.
He added an address but didn’t sign it.
Woo Hyuk looked back in the bag with some amount of trepidation.
The kids weren’t the most talented, but they made up for it in exuberance. Hee Jun had been working hard to come up with a great presentation for parents day at his day care, and it showed. Kang Ta found himself more entertained then he had ever been at an opera or symphony.
It seemed that the parents in the audience around him felt the same. But then, they weren’t watching the show, but their own children. It was so sweet. But Kang Ta wasn’t much different, he couldn’t help but watch Hee Jun and he stood off to the side, trying to conduct the kids.
As the last curtain call came to and end, and the children took their bows, Hee Jun looked out into the audience until he met Kang Ta’s eyes.
Kang Ta began to raise his hand to wave, but Hee Jun suddenly stuck his finger in his nose and smiled back at him.
Kang Ta quickly forgot what he was raising his arm to do.
It wasn’t until Hee Jun was done making pleasantries with most of the parents that Kang Ta could speak to him privately.
“Did you like it?” Hee Jun asked, bounding over to him.
“It was wonderful. The kids did a great job.” Kang Ta told him.
“I know, right?”
“Why did you pick your nose?” Kang Ta asked suddenly.
Hee Jun blinked back at him as if he had no idea what Kang Ta was talking about, but soon a smile broke out on his face.
“Don’t you remember our signals?”
Yes, Kang Ta thought, but that wasn’t one of them.
Hee Jun had decided it would be fun to make signals that they could communicate to each other while he was on stage. He said they could be easily cracked if they were obvious, so they should mean the opposite of what they seem.
One example was, if Hee Jun grabbed his throat as if he was chocking, it meant he was feeling fine. If he gave a thumbs up, he had been poisoned or shot.
“What’s the opposite of picking your nose?” Kang Ta asked, unable to crack the code.
“That I love you, of course.” He laughed and pulled Kang Ta toward him for a kiss.
Tony restlessly watched the door. He was lucky enough to get a table with a clear view of the entry hall or he would be even more anxious. There always was a chance that Woo Hyuk wouldn’t get his invitation, or would be busy. He shouldn’t be though. With all the help Tony had given him for his business, Tony should be the first and last thing on his mind. And every thing else in between.
When Woo Hyuk finally did enter, Tony had used every force within him to look pleasant and aloof, but he couldn’t help but laughing. Woo Hyuk, who was obviously trying to look cool, immediately frowned.
“That’s my welcome?” He mumbled as he seated himself across from Tony.
“I didn’t think you would wear it.” Tony said, trying to stop smiling.
Woo Hyuk looked down at the clothes Tony had left for him then back up. “Why did you...If you didn’t want me to wear-” His tone was raising with each word, but Tony cut him off.
“The clothes were a gift, the sweater vest was a joke. You hate those.”
“I was trying to be nice.” Woo Hyuk grumbled, then quickly stripped himself of the sweater vest and threw it at Tony. “That’s the last time.”
“Seeing you wear it was worth having to put up with your bad attitude the rest of my life.”
Woo Hyuk smiled at that before Tony realized how it sounded. Luckily, Woo Hyuk let it slide without making him uncomfortable.
Woo Hyuk had, in fact, done a wonderful job of not making Tony uncomfortable a lot lately. It was strange, seeing as Woo Hyuk took pride in seeing others floundering verbally and emotionally. He had taken great care to not push Tony into any commitment or covenant, to which Tony was eternally grateful.
Tony hadn’t given Woo Hyuk enough credit. He hadn’t assumed Woo Hyuk really wouldn’t keep his word and wait on Tony to be ready to date him, but he had been.
Tony also didn’t give his family enough credit. His aunt hadn’t been mad at him or angry about his meeting with his mother, or the drama that followed. She was upset, granted, but it was obviously because she cared for Tony. Since then, she had become his mother. Even more so than Kang Ta, who still insisted on making breakfast for him.
Maybe he didn’t have his birth mother or father, and maybe he couldn’t claim Woo Hyuk as his brother, but Tony had come to Korea to get a family, and that’s precisely what he got. An aunt and mother, a cousin and brother/sometimes mother. Even a sister in law. Or, that’s what Hee Jun insisted Tony call him.
“So what do I owe the honor of getting a free meal out of you?” Woo Hyuk asked.
“It isn’t obvious? Tomorrow is a big day for you.”
Woo Hyuk smiled coyly. “Oh, you remember that do you? Are you signing up for one of my classes?”
Tony took a moment before answering, and hoped that appeared he was thinking on the idea playfully. “You once told me I can’t come to your classes.” He pointed out. “You offered to give me private lessons.”
Woo Hyuk’s smile became less coy and he looked back at Tony with obvious understanding. “Is that what I offered?” He asked in a guarded tone.
“If the offer is still open, I would like to take you up on it.”
Woo Hyuk smiled softly back at him. “The offer has always been and will always be open.” He paused before adding, “If you don’t mind taking lessons from someone with bad hygiene.”
“Oh God, will you ever let that go?!” Tony asked pitifully.