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even if our love can't come true

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Tonight, the stars are falling as i think of you, alone

I feel sentimental-- would you know?

 

Dan is doomed from the minute she steps out the gate, ethereal in white, more angelic than any angel he’s ever known.

His heart, stupid, stupid, human thing it is, trips, stumbles in his chest, and before he knows what exactly he’s doing (he lied to her, he left her, he’s trying to make Director Ji hers), he’s pushing Director Ji away, because even if she hates him now, he-- well, something instinctual tells him the space beside her, within arm’s reach of her, that space is hers for him, and him alone.

 

She addresses him first. She looks to him before agreeing to ride with Director Ji.

(Small victories to his treacherous heart.)

 

They ride in relative silence. Director Ji-- the Rib , he thinks resentfully-- tries to make conversation, but Yeon Seo barely replies, her eyes fixed firmly on the road.

(Dan sneaks looks at her, cold and still and somehow more beautiful than ever before, and tries to ignore the way his heart clenches when she doesn’t spare him a single look back.)

 

He trails behind her and Director Ji as they board the yacht. A small part of him chafes at the sight of the other man at her side, but he shoves it down. He doesn’t have time for his own trivial jealousy, not now, when Yeon Seo’s stepped into a minefield.

Ms. Jung’s words echo in his ears as they approach Yeon Seo’s family and their guests. Think about it. Scary things keep happening to her.

The car crash. The chandelier falling. Now, her aunt greeting her with a bright, bright smile.

Then there’s the matter of the Japanese donor. Mr. Seiji? Dan doesn’t quite remember his name. It doesn’t quite matter. Until he touches Yeon Seo for a long, lingering moment, with that look in his eyes ( greedy, greedy, lustful eyes )

Dan watches and thinks, Yeon Seo could have you flat on the ground in a second.

He thinks, Yeon Seo could take your hand off for that.

He tries not to think about the new tension in her shoulders, the way she stiffens when her aunt grabs for her arm, says, “Why don’t you escort Mr. Seiji?” in false bright tones, because if she’d needed him, she would’ve said something, would’ve turned to him or even to Director Ji, and he trusts in her temper, trusts in her steely eyes and sharp tongue, he does, he does , even if his hands are curled into fists at his sides.

He only relaxes when she throws off her aunt’s arm, giving her a stare that promises death, when Director Ji finally slides into the space between Yeon Seo and that Mr. Seiji.

Losing ground, Yeon Seo’s aunt sidles close to Yeon Seo and tries to whisper daggers in her ear. It’s her mistake. As if Yeon Seo could lose at trading barbs , he thinks, surprising himself with how fondly the thought settles in his brain.

 

Director Ji leaves, and it’s just the two of them for a moment. He offers his arm by instinct, and she turns it down flatly.

He supposes he should get used to the dismissal in her eyes when she looks at him, but his heart still settles, relieved, when she takes his arm as he offers it for the second time.

Then she’s seated, and he’s nothing more than her faithful sentry, glancing around and around the room, and surely, surely there’s nothing that could fall on her, because he’d protect her if it came down to it, but if he exposes his wings in front of this many people-- well, it’d be nothing short of a problem. Sunbae would be mad, he allows himself to think, and smile internally.

But that Mr. Seiji is here, making to sit next to Yeon Seo. He hasn’t learned his lesson. He reaches for Yeon Seo, and Dan wants to slap him, to take his wandering hands and break them, to take him by the collar and shake him until his eyes lose that greedy, disgusting gleam, but he settles for just shaking the table. A warning, to that Seiji. A reassurance, he hopes, to Yeon Seo.

Mr. Seiji glares at him. Or at least tries to. Dan meets his gaze, and if looks could kill, Seiji’d be six feet under. Possibly since Yeon Seo first laid eyes on him.

 

Dan doesn’t move from her side until Director Ji returns.

(It’s only then that Yeon Seo allows herself to glance back at him, at his retreating back. She wishes (briefly, selfishly) he’d stay.)

 

The night drags on as Dan scours the deck for suspicious characters, and he knows he promised Ms. Jung, promised himself that he’d protect Yeon Seo, but if he’s being honest with himself, he’s terrible at this. He doesn’t like suspecting people, thinking the worst of them, making assumptions. After all, he’d like to believe humans, like the deity, are fundamentally good.

And so, he believes the man when he says he needs a smoke. (This, he will regret more than anything else that night.)

He catches the waiter who’s beyond a doubt suspicious, slams him to the ground with satisfaction and no shortage of triumph: he’s done it, he’s protected Yeon Seo. It all fades away in an instant, though, (“What are you doing?” she hisses at him, “Just leave before everyone stares at you,” Director Ji orders) and in its place, shame creeps in. He rakes a hand through his hair, glances around, at the scene he’s caused, the people who will not meet his eyes, at the man on the ground, the man who surely will have lost his job before the night is over, and stumbles away, feeling like a scolded puppy.

Some guardian angel you are, he thinks resentfully. Gureum would be less of an embarrassment to Yeon Seo than you are right now.

(Yeon Seo watches him go. Somehow, it feels like she’s always watching him fade into the distance.

Later, she’ll realize he was trying to protect her. Later, she’ll wish, like all times, that he’d stayed-- and so will he.)

 

Get a grip, Dan tells the mirror in the privacy of the bathroom. His reflection doesn’t care to respond. He takes a deep breath, and then another, waits thirty more seconds, then deems himself composed enough to resume his patrols.

He emerges from the bathroom and smacks into a waiter. Oh God, he thinks, because if nothing else, the waitstaff will hate him after the night’s over.

The waiter’s eyes flicker to his for the briefest of seconds (is that recognition in his eyes? Dan wonders) but the man keeps walking, as if he had a purpose, as if he wasn’t out of place at all. Dan freezes ( where, where has he seen that face before? ) and then it clicks.

He’s too late.

Yeon Seo’s raised voice echoes in the still night air, and he’s rushing in its direction, because he should’ve never left her, he should’ve been there for her--

 

He forces his way through the crowd, only to stop dead in his tracks.

He doesn’t know whether to laugh or scream, because really , a tongue-lashing, no, divine retribution from a goddess is no less than what these bastards deserve.

(And is she not a goddess, something beautiful and terrible, and oh-so-angry, to be looked upon and trembled before?)

It’s a pity he can’t stand and watch-- he knows better, knows that this small satisfaction won’t mean a thing when Yeon Seo’s family uses it to tear her reputation to shreds, when they use it to steal the smile from her face.

He tries to stop her, but he’s lost in the crush of the crowd, nearly bowled over by another man. And before he can move, before he can do something, anything , she’s torn out of everyone’s grasp.

“Music,” she cries, throwing an arm wide, exultant, untamed, “cue!”

He winces. But try as he might, he can’t look away.

 

She staggers, spins, trips across the deck, and anyone would hardly call it dancing, but he sees it, that same grin on her face, and he knows she’s not drunk, that there’s some foul play afoot, but in that moment, she is wild and passionate and free, and it’s still the prettiest thing he’s ever seen.

She stumbles against the railing, catches herself, just barely, and before he knows it, he’s across the deck, steadying her in his arms.

“It's you again?” Yeon Seo murmurs, voice hovering between a whisper and a slur, and there's a world in her hazy eyes, caught between wet lashes, and he. he wants, a single burning desire unlike anything else--

he wants to be her love. he wants to be hers.

--but he bites it back, swallows down the fire, and manages a shaky smile.

“Yes, it's me,” he says, and what he means is it'll always be me.

“It's always you. You idiot.”

Something tender trembles along the edge of her mouth, and her eyes are on his and her gaze is so soft and fragile, her hair like silk under his fingers, and for a moment, that’s all that matters.

And then she collapses against him, and the rest of the world comes rushing back.

( 'I hate receiving love,’ he remembers, 'it makes me want to become weak.’ )

 

He fends off the rest of the party guests. Somehow.

He thinks Director Ji says something to him. Hands reach for Yeon Seo, light as a feather in his arms, but he shoulders them away, brushes off the director’s insistences that he can drive, that he can take care of her.

Gradually, it all fades away, and it’s just him and her, in the backseat of a taxi, her head nestled against his shoulder.

 

He tries not to think.

He fails.

He wonders, how did it come to this? He wonders, why couldn’t I protect her?

 

(He wonders, why does my heart still hurt? )

 

Ms. Jung takes one look at his expression, another at Yeon Seo, and bustles the both of them to Yeon Seo’s room.

“Don’t say anything,” she says firmly but not unkindly when Dan opens his mouth, ready to explain, apologize, anything. “I’m just glad you’re back in one piece.”

It doesn’t make him feel much better.

Maybe Ms.Jung can tell: she shakes her head a little before shooing him away.

He slumps down outside the room, and allows himself a single deep breath. He’s up again in a moment when Ms. Jung slips out the door, finger to her lips.

“Don’t worry,” she says, “the young lady should be fine by morning.”

He doesn’t respond.

She shakes her head again, but leaves him to go back in, to stand over Yeon Seo’s sleeping form and smooth the hair from her face and ignore the ever-present ache in his heart.

 

.

.

.

Yeon Seo dreams.

She dreams of a boy with a bright smile who disappears like the summer breeze, who laughs and grins and cries and is so full of light and life until he’s gone, just like that, a dream within a dream.

“Don’t go,” she whispers, a plea into the night. “Don’t go.”

 

(Her fingers clutch hard at Dan’s, small and slender but not weak in the slightest, and he stays.)