(she dreams. dan smiles at her, tender, loving, and she allows herself to-- to soften . live a little. fantasize. about him and her and their future. together. he leans in, gentle eyes fixed on her lips and--
she blinks away sleep, senses fuzzy with the warmth of her dream, stares up at the ceiling for a moment, orienting herself, before rolling over, burying her face in her pillow.
let’s dream a little while longer,
she whispers, forcing her eyelids closed.
but any further dreams of the future escape her. the present calls.)
It’s the run of a man with everything to lose.
He stumbles into the kitchen, gasping for breath, his heart going a thousand miles faster than the rest of him. And Yeon Seo’s there, and she’s smiling, and everything stills for a moment, his world centers ( she’s alright , he thinks dumbly, as if she’d been in any danger at all).
“You’re here,” she says. “Let’s eat breakfast. It’s better than yesterday.”
But he’s still frozen to the stop, leaning heavily on the chair, and he’s sure if the chair moved, he’d collapse right then and there.
He sees it all too clearly: Mi Ok on all fours, screaming and sobbing as if her heart had been ripped from her chest. Her husband, the angel, like Dan, gone, crumbled to ash, to dust in the air. Sunbae’s cold, cold face. Mi Ok collapsing. And then-- silence. Choking, suffocating silence.
It’s easy to draw parallels between them and him and Yeon Seo. Even easier to picture Yeon Seo wracked with vicious sobs, holding herself as if she would break, as if she would shatter and scatter to the wind.
“Did you go out this early to run?” She asks, strangely hesitant. Maybe she can see the look in his eyes. “Do you want water?”
There’s a pause.
He knows what he should do. What’s best for them, best for her : break her heart a little now so she won’t be shattered later. Cold. Pragmatic. Cruel. But she’s strong, stronger than anyone else, and she’ll heal. He knows. He hopes.
And yet. And yet. There’s breakfast on the table, clumsily made, yes, but it’s breakfast, and Yeon Seo -- Yeon Seo is smiling at him, the warmest he’s ever seen her, that he ever remembers seeing her, and there’s a glimmer of some careful, fragile hope in her eyes. His heart stutters-- just a little -- at the sight. And he’s Dan, Angel Dan, but right now, he’s utterly, helplessly human, and like all humans, he wants . Just a second, just this one moment they can share as Lee Yeon Seo and Kim Dan, just one moment they can be ( in love , his heart whispers) something.
Perhaps it’s selfish. But he wants nevertheless.
He swallows back cruel kindnesses, necessary lies, tells himself it’s one breakfast, tells himself, I don’t want that smile to fade , tells himself, it’ll be okay, somehow, I won’t let her hurt like that, I can’t , and shakily returns Yeon Seo’s smile.
He sits. They eat. It’s dangerously normal.
“What’s this,” Dan asks after they’re both a few bites into the sandwiches, “is our Young Lady actually good at something other than dancing? Where were these skills last night, hm?”
“Shut your mouth,” she replies without looking up, but he can tell from the way the corners of her lips tilt up that she’s pleased. He smiles around his next mouthful.
They settle into a comfortable silence. He steals glances at her over his sandwich, each more lingering than the next. This, he decides, he wants to remember, no matter what happens: sunlight shafting across her face, setting the edges of her hair ablaze, the warm smell of toast and eggs, her face, for once not set and cold, but relaxed content, at peace.
This, he thinks, he could grow used to. He wants to grow used to.
Yeon Seo inspects the last bite of crust of her sandwich, deems it unworthy of eating, and glances over at him. Their gazes collide, and a brief flush of embarrassment washes over him-- she's caught him staring-- but he doesn't break eye contact. Neither does she.
He’d like to think if she blushed, she would be blushing right about now. Instead, her slender finger taps against the edge of her plate.
Impulsively, he reaches for her. Her fingers still under his, and he waits; a silent question. She turns her hand under his, their palms brush, and slowly, she intertwines their fingers. Her thumb grazes across the back of his hand, and she lets out a breath.
“Kim Dan,” she begins, and stops, the words catching in her throat. I don’t know why, she wants to say, but I had the strangest feeling when you came in. I thought you were going to run away.
“What is it, Young Lady?” He tips his head, leans a little closer to her. She shifts in her seat.
“Just-- next time you go for a run, let’s go together, alright?”
He smiles again, nods.
“Of course, Young Lady.”
(what she means is, don’t leave me. what he means is, I won’t go. )
“Let’s take the day off,” she says, and smiles a little. “It’ll be our secret from Ms. Jung. And Director Ji.”
“Only if you’re the one to call Director Ji!” He replies quickly with a grin. “That man hates me.”
She scoffs a little.
“No he doesn’t.”
“He does! ” Dan insists, but there’s a playful sparkle in his eyes. “Did I ever tell you about the time he attacked me on the bridge? He made us both fall into the water!”
“He did not ,” she replies, hitting him on the shoulder, but his grin only widens until she can’t help but smile back.
“He did ,” Dan says after a long, long moment. “What a psycho.”
You’re one to talk , she almost says back, but they’ve done nothing but smile at each other for the past few minutes, so she supposes she’s not one to talk, either.
Director Ji doesn’t pick up. He can tell from the way Yeon Seo’s eyes narrow, after it seems like the phone’s been ringing for quite a while.
“I’ll practice at home today. Don’t call me back.”
She tosses her phone to one side, lets out a long breath, then looks back up at him with a mischievous little grin.
“If he calls back, I’ll let you answer. Pay him back for dumping you into the river, alright?”
“Yes, ma’am,” he intones, grinning back.
“What’s the new schedule for today?” Dan asks, leaning forward, eyes bright. “I’m assuming you have a plan, Young Lady, since you canceled everything, you know?”
She frowns. In truth, she’d canceled everything on a whim, but he doesn’t need to know that. Doesn’t need to know how much she just wants to be with him right now and do nothing else.
“Well,” she begins instead. “What do you like to do for fun, Dan?”
She nods. He blinks again.
“Ah,” she says, “I forgot you have no hobbies. Except your cult.”
“Hey,” he responds, “I bet you’re the one with no real ideas here, not me.”
She scoffs and whacks him lightly on the shoulder.
“Hey,” she says as he grins, “I asked you first, Kim Dan.”
He lifts the same shoulder in a half-shrug.
“Whatever you say, Young Lady.”
“Don’t call me that.” The words slip out before she can stop them. “It’s just us, so,” she swallows, because his gaze is on hers, warm and steady and utterly distracting , and she’s sure he’s leaned at least a centimeter closer, and he definitely knows what he’s doing, but--
“So?” He prompts, dimpling. She smiles back, lets her fingers brush his.
“Just call me Yeon Seo, alright?”
(two can play at this game.)
When Ms. Jung comes to take Yeon Seo to practice, they both hide in a closet, forcing down laughter.
“She’ll find us!” Yeon Seo hisses after Dan makes an undignified choking noise at Ms. Jung’s cursing.
“She’ll hear you first!” He mouthes back at her, barely visible in the dim light. They both glare at each other for a second. But then the front door slams, a sure sign Ms. Jung’s given up on her search, and they collapse into a fit of giggles.
“Did you see the look on her face?” Dan asks between gasps of breath. “She’s gonna kill you later.”
“I’ll just tell her it was because of my secretary’s bad influence,” she replies with a smirk, reaching up to flick him on the forehead. He takes the blow with a resigned smile, gazing down at her with eyes she can’t quite describe, that make her heart more than a little weak.
“Kim Dan,” she begins, or tries to begin, and then stops. Don’t ruin this, she tells herself. Let him be the one to talk first.
He tilts his head at her, waiting for her to finish.
There’s a long pause.
“Did you decide on what you want to do?” She finally asks, hoping he won’t notice the new stiffness in her voice.
He’s silent for a moment before grinning mischievously.
“Since we’re already playing, how about staying here and continuing our game of hide and seek?”
“Be serious.” She frowns.
“I am!” He protests, but he’s still grinning. “If you don’t like it, you think of something, hm?”
Somehow, they finally decide on something to do and somewhere to go. Dan’s not quite sure how. But they’re strolling through a busy street fair, the scent of burnt sugar in the air, her hand nearly brushing his, and when he looks down at her, she’s staring back up at him, and the fading sunlight and city lights and rising stars are all swirling together in her eyes. The moment’s almost too perfect.
“Dan-ah,” she begins, soft, vulnerable. His mind stops, starts again, goes into panic mode. This is it, his all-too-human heart whispers. This is where she confesses, and you say yes, and you live happily ever after.
He knows it’s true. He can see the expectant look in her eyes, can feel the spark between them, the warmth in the air around them, and he wants her to continue, more than anything else in the world, he wants her to be happy, wants to have this one, small thing. (wants to see her smile, just for him)
But , and there’s always this ‘but’-- it’s been hanging between them since the morning, since he saw another angel, someone like him, crumble to dust before his eyes, since he saw Mi Ok, someone like her , sob as if all the light had left her world.
“Let’s go over there,” he says before she can finish, pointing to another set of stalls. “I’ll get us both something sweet, alright?”
Her eyes harden, and she moves her hand away from his. The moment is over.
“Alright,” she says, and follows him into the crowd.
Yeon Seo watches as he surveys the stalls, then chooses one with a shorter line. She follows him to the queue, and waits. and waits.
He won’t meet her eyes.
“Do you like me,” she blurts when she can’t take it anymore, and he freezes from where he’s buying the both of them cotton candy.
“I know what you said to me that night,” she says, addressing his stiff back. “You said you couldn’t stay by my side forever.”
She takes a step toward him, her voice dropping.
“You said you couldn’t like me.”
Another step, and she’s right behind him, close enough that she could wrap her arms around him, make sure he won’t vanish ever again.
“You said, how can I not like you ,” she says, voice barely a whisper. “It-- it wasn’t a lie, was it? Tell me. ”
He doesn’t move, but she thinks he swallows, his jaw muscles tightening.
“Young Lady,” he says without turning, and she catches one of his hands between two of hers.
“Yeon Seo,” she corrects, though it’s more of a plea than anything else.
“Yeon Seo,” he begins again, softer, her name like a prayer on his lips ( screw fate , he thinks), “I can’t lie to you.”
He turns then, one hand still clutched between hers, the other holding aloft a cloud of spun sugar, his eyes firmly fixed on hers.
“I love you. I love you, Lee Yeon Seo.”
And then they’re kissing before she can ask, why haven’t you kissed me again, Kim Dan, before she can say, I love you, too and she isn’t sure who moved first, but his hands are cupping her cheeks, hers cradling the back of his neck, and the candy’s somewhere on the ground, but it doesn’t matter, he’s sweeter than any sugar, and he’s hers, his lips on hers, her fingers curling through his hair.
He kisses her, and it’s like coming home, her smile against his, her breath warm on his face, their hearts beating as one.
“I love you,” she murmurs back finally, for him and him alone.
(this is a dream isn't it. she demands, but dan is silent, smiling, frozen. with a blink, he disappears. she covers her tearstained face with her pillow and tries to dream herself back into a happier universe.
this time, it works.)