Moonsoo trudges into his house, sinking onto the couch as he stretches his legs across the armrest. He lets out a sigh, his muscles relaxing into the cushions.
He thinks back to this morning, how he grabbed his breakfast and ran out the door, only to be drenched in the rain because he forgot his umbrella and he was already running late for work. His boss would be furious if he showed up any later. Moonsoo provides customer service to magical beings, but they can be really gruesome and awful to him, and this day was no different than any other. He sighs again, pushing those thoughts aside. If he dwelled on that even more, he’d get into a bad mood.
Greta will be home soon, and he smiles at the thought of having dinner with his wife. Today has been long and tiring and Greta makes everything so much better. Moonsoo pushes himself off of the couch to go fix something for dinner, until he feels his hairs stand on end. He freezes in place, sensing a pair of eyes watching his every movement. He slowly turns his head around and sees the nightmare from his childhood dreams.
“Moonsoo,” the creature screeches in its grating voice, “It’s me. Myungsoo.” Moonsoo barely holds back his scream, and frantically looks around to grab the nearest object he can throw at the hideous creature. There’s no way this monster is related to him. He finds a floral vase, something his mother-in-law had given as a gift, and decides she can forgive him for trying to defend himself. He chucks it at the creature, but it smashes onto the wall instead, sending bits and pieces flying everywhere. He curses, grabbing a chair next. He’s about to hurl it at the monster until the front door opens and Greta walks in.
“Soo, I’m ho- what happened?!” she says, the groceries she’s carrying almost dropping to the floor. Her shoulders slump in the way they normally do when she’s exhausted and Moonsoo keeps wondering how she’s not losing her mind that a six-foot-tall, thousand-toothed, tentacle-bearing creature is in their home.
“Oh, Greta, thank goodne-” the creature begins, but is stopped when he gets knocked down by the chair.
“Moonsoo, what are you doing ?” Greta screams, actually dropping the groceries now and running over to the monster. He sees the tentacles grip her waist and Moonsoo almost explodes.
“Let her go!” He runs forward, ripping apart the tentacles from his wife’s abdomen, but it feels like he’s grabbing at air. “Greta, get away from him, he’s nothing but a monster!”
Greta looks at him as if he’s grown a second head. “How could you say that? He’s your BROTHER!” she says, appalled. “Look at what you’ve done, his head is bleeding. Call your parents.”
Moonsoo, now kneeled down on the ground, stays there, trembling and not knowing what to do. He still sees the slimy tentacles, the never-ending chasm of teeth, and the scales covering the creature’s skin, and he can’t imagine having a brother who looks like this. He can’t imagine having once lived with this… this thing .
“What are you doing just sitting there, call them now! He’ll die soon if you don’t.”
He stays frozen in place, not even making a sound. And he thinks something horrible, something that he’d never say to his own family, but as he’s staring at the gruesome being in front of him, he can’t help but say it out loud. Ever so softly, he speaks.
“Can’t we let him?”
Myungsoo can sense the cold in the room, and it’s mostly his fault, he knows it is. His mood greatly affects his surroundings, and whenever the topic of his younger brother comes up, he starts to feel tired and sluggish and just very, very cold. He doesn’t think it’s normal to feel that way, but maybe his brother is also somewhat magical in the sense that he can feel when something is not as it seems.
This cold feeling seems to be directed towards Myungsoo himself, though, and it doesn’t make him feel any better. Maybe coming to see his brother after all these years wasn’t such a good idea after all. His head still throbs from the chair thrown at him earlier, and the fairy potions that Sungyeol gave him haven’t kicked in quite yet.
“So you’re telling me that he’s got tentacles growing out of his back? And that he’s got over a thousand teeth?” Myungsoo can hear Greta from across the room, even if she’s speaking quietly. Greta sounds a bit angry, probably still upset over Moonsoo destroying the furniture earlier.
Myungsoo wants to cry. He wants to leave. It wasn’t the right choice to come here, even after all these years. He should’ve just stayed away and let himself be forgotten. That would have been so much better than actually facing his brother and having him call him a monster straight up to his face.
“Let’s go meet him.”
A sigh. “Listen, Soo. I understand you’re upset by this. I hear that you’re very overwhelmed by this creature suddenly showing up and telling you that he’s your brother, Myungsoo. It’s scary. Especially since you haven’t seen him before. But I promise you, he’s the sweetest brother ever. You’ve heard stories about him, haven’t you? Like how he saved your parents from that one boar attack?”
“And when he had to nurse your mom back to health. She was in so much pain and he stayed by her side and came up with all different kinds of healing potions so she could feel better.”
“Yeah,” Moonsoo says, softer this time. Myungsoo didn’t know how heavy his heart could feel inside his chest.
“Now he’s here, trying to make amends. Can’t you give this a chance? Give him a chance. Give yourself a chance. If not for him, do it for yourself. You deserve to be at peace.”
A long silence stretches out, and Myungsoo doesn’t realize he’s holding his breath until he hears Moonsoo give the faintest, “Okay”.
Myungsoo looks over as the door opens, and Greta comes out first, with Moonsoo following behind. He’s still terrified of coming too close, and Myungsoo sees him shaking, even from the long distance between them. Greta is holding his hand, pulling him closer to the bed that Myungsoo is resting on.
“I’m sorry, Moonsoo,” Myungsoo croaks out. His voice sounds gravelly and he tries to clear it, but he can see Moonsoo wince whenever he speaks.
Greta nudges Moonsoo with her elbow. In a hushed tone, she urges him to apologize too.
“No, it’s my fault. I’m sorry,” Myungsoo says again, and sees Moonsoo cup his hands against his ears. Myungsoo stretches his hand out for Greta, and thankfully she understands and comes over to him.
A few minutes later, Greta comes back with a notepad and a pen, handing it over to Myungsoo so that Moonsoo and him can have a better time communicating with each other.
I was the one who caused this.
“What do you mean?” Greta asks. Moonsoo doesn’t say a word. He’s still too scared to come over. Myungsoo feels miserable. He scribbles onto the notepad some more.
It’s my fault he sees me like a monster.
This time, Moonsoo speaks up. “How?” He flinches when Myungsoo looks at him.
I put a spell on you by accident. I didn’t mean to, but I was upset and ended up placing a hex on you instead.
“So you’re a witch?” Moonsoo says, his brows furrowing. “What do you really look like?”
Myungsoo hesitates, then scribbles onto the notepad.
Mom says I look handsome and charming.
Moonsoo barks out a short laugh, and Myungsoo’s heart lurches forward. This is a first. He hasn’t heard Moonsoo’s laugh in years. It’s not much, but it’s so much more than Myungsoo could ever ask for. He wants to embed Moonsoo’s laugh into his memory for the rest of his life.
“That doesn’t count, it’s mom,” he says. “She’s said the same to me.”
Myungsoo frowns. Whatever.
When it gets too quiet and the silence kind of drags on, Myungsoo writes something down again.
Thank you. For giving me a chance.
Moonsoo just nods quietly, the traces of his smile vanished from his face. He looks at Myungsoo with a blank face now, but the fear is still there in his eyes.
“Can I - can I hold your hand?” Myungsoo says nervously, hoping Moonsoo will agree to it. His palms feel clammy, but that’s probably the least of his concerns. He doesn’t know what Moonsoo sees in him, but maybe if Moonsoo just holds his hand, he’ll feel better knowing it’s an actual hand he’s feeling instead of the tentacles he sees.
Moonsoo cringes at his voice again. “Maybe another time,” he says, eyes darting around the room, anywhere but at Myungsoo. “I’m not… I’m not ready yet.”
Myungsoo nods. He lifts himself off the bed, wincing when his head throbs again. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Moonsoo flinch again. This entire time, Greta has stayed in front of him like a barrier, protecting him. Something that Myungsoo can’t do anymore.
“Thank you, Greta,” Myungsoo says. And with a bow, he gives a farewell to them both, disappearing into the walls of the room and appearing back in his dark, empty room.
It’s not much. It’s really not. But his heart feels lifted from meeting his little brother. Maybe they won’t be as close as they were when they were younger, but Myungsoo is determined to reconnect with him, no matter how long it takes.
After all, it’s determination that got him to where he is today.