"Choi Yoon, Choi Yoon, wake up!"
Hwa Pyung shakes Choi Yoon gently. Choi Yoon is sweating like crazy and is mumbling strangely in his sleep. The strange, eerie mumbling turns into a series of incoherent words and cries and Hwa Pyung hears things like suicide, die, dark, blade and he doesn't want Choi Yoon to be in pain anymore. To be honest, he can't bear to hear these words from Choi Yoon either. Choi Yoon has been through enough.
Gentle shaking doesn't help, Hwa Pyung shakes Choi Yoon like a crazy man and soon enough he is up. His face is open for the first time, he looks tired, lost, upset and scared. His eyes are red and his breathing is hard and his hair is unkempt, stuck to his neck and forehead.
He is the opposite of put together.
A series of emotions pass through Yoon's eyes and finally, it is blank, he takes a deep breath and calms himself down. "Why are you here?" Hwa Pyung can still hear the light tremor, nobody would be able to notice it. But Hwa Pyung isn't nobody when it comes to Choi Yoon.
Hwa Pyung knows this behavior. Choi Yoon doesn't want him to witness him coming undone, doesn't want him to see his weak side. Hwa Pyung doesn't want to scare Choi Yoon away further. Choi Yoon isn't someone who shows his weakness openly, he doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve. He prefers to hide behind a blank, poker face.
"I couldn't sleep on my own." He makes himself vulnerable instead. Because Choi Yoon seems to be so scared of doing so. So scared of accepting comfort, so scared of opening up even after everything they have been through, everything they have shared, their past, their present, it is all a tangled web, they are tangled together, the two of them till the end of time, whether they like it or not.
Hwa Pyung knows, the nightmare is probably because of the cursed prophecy, because of Park Il Do. He knows about Choi Yoon's suicide attempt when he was young, when he was all alone in the orphanage, scared, traumatized, unable to speak literally and emotionally.
The evil spirits, they have a way of using a person's worst fear against them, they are so cheap like that, so disgusting, so shameless.
Choi Yoon hesitates. He wants help, Hwa Pyung can see but he hasn't let anyone get close to him, physically or emotionally, in years.
Hwa Pyung smiles softly. He gently looks at Choi Yoon and pushes his fringe away. "It is OK, don't worry about me. Worry about yourself."
Choi Yoon struggles to not move away. He stills, ceases all movements, so that he doesn't slap away Hwa Pyung's hands accidentally or due to reflex.
"Can I stay close?"
Choi Yoon bites his lips and nods after a long, long pause.
Hwa Pyung gently pushes Choi Yoon so that he is lying on the bed and settles next to him. He waits and gives sometime for Choi Yoon to change his mind but when he doesn't, he makes himself more comfortable.
He wants to ask, "Do you want to talk about it?" But he doesn't.
Instead, he speaks about his nightmares and how he deals with them. He speaks about his attempts in tracing Park Il Do, his fears, his possession and things like that. He speaks about his insomnia.
Hwa Pyung smiles lightly as Choi Yoon's nods and hmms slowly fade away into soft snores. Choi Yoon, who normally has no trouble staying awake, who normally has to struggle to doze off, is actually sound asleep. And if it is because of Hwa Pyung, who is he to deny that to Choi Yoon?
Hwa Pyung feels his own mouth opening for an involuntary yawn. Apparently the magic works both ways. He is on the receiving end too. He snuggles closer to Choi Yoon's warmth, under the blankets without even realizing his movements and soon drifts off to dreamland.
The sunlight makes Hwa Pyung groan in protest. It has been a long time since he has had such a good rest. He wants nothing more than to bury under the covers further. As he shifts, he feels a soft mop of hair on his chest. He ceases all movements immediately.
Choi Yoon is still asleep, tucked under his arms and it feels so adorable, a word that really shouldn't be associated with Choi Yoon, with the cold, distant and guarded way he behaves most of the time when he is awake. He gently cards his fingers through Choi Yoon's dark locks and smiles in satisfaction as Choi Yoon snuggles closer to him in his sleepy daze. Somehow, Hwa Pyung finds Choi Yoon cute.
This time Hwa Pyung wakes up to Choi Yoon's words.
"Father Yang helped me when I was in the orphanage, when I was lost. I haven't had a good night's rest in a long time."
It reminds Hwa Pyung that Choi Yoon has lost both of his father figures sadly.
Hwa Pyung can't stop himself from saying, "You are afraid of your demons more than the ones you exorcise."
True that. Yesterday's nightmare was all about Choi Yoon. His suicidal past, the devil forcing him to kill himself, showing him an easy way out.
Choi Yoon whispers and Hwa Pyung struggles to hear the words, "At least those demons, I can exorcise and get rid of after a long battle." How can he get rid of his fears, his past, his darkness? He cannot exorcise his own demons, literal or otherwise.
Hwa Pyung softly places his hand on Choi Yoon's. Choi Yoon doesn't pull away, to Hwa Pyung's surprise.
Hwa Pyung can help only so much, int he end Choi Yoon has to try. He has been running away, maybe he should stop and face them as he is not alone anymore.
Hwa Pyung grabs Choi Yoon's collars and shakes him like a mad man. Choi Yoon slaps away Hwa Pyung's hands, harshly. Hwa Pyung ignores the sting and grabs Choi Yoon's hands again. He jerks Choi Yoon so that they are face to face, eye to eye.
He slaps Choi Yoon and hisses, "Are you an idiot? Are you trying to kill yourself?"
Choi Yoon's anger flares. "I am trying to save lives here!"
"At the expense of your own?"
Choi Yoon slaps away Hwa Pyung's hands for the second time. "Didn't you call me a coward when I told you that I was going to quit after Father Han's death? Weren't you the one who wanted me to save others?"
"Not by sacrificing yourself. I didn't know better at that time. I didn't know how much dangerous this can be. I didn't know how much it takes out of you. Don't throw my own words back at me, that was in the past."
Choi Yoon takes a deep breath to calm himself down, "Park Il Do is gone, I am not in imminent danger of death because of the prophecy."
"Park Il Do can come back anytime. My lost eye and the fact that I am alive means he isn't gone completely. This is temporary. And this is not because of the prophecy. You are pushing yourself against the wall. You are cornering yourself. You are going insane!"
Who made me?
"Why are you following in Father Han's footsteps? Why don't you give yourself a break?"
"There are not many exorcist priests out there!"
"Why are you hell bent on saving everyone in the world? Don't take everything on yourself! You can't save everyone. You will wear yourself out for real."
Hypocrite. Choi Yoon has failed to save a lot of people, his father, his brother, the shaman, Father Han, Father Yang. He couldn't save himself. He couldn't save Hwa Pyung. He wants to change that.
"You would have sacrificed yourself to kill Park Il Do too, right? You were planning to seal him inside you and kill yourself along with him. How is this different? Both of us want revenge on him and to save people!"
"I wanted to protect you and others."
"You just wanted revenge. And I don't need to be protected, I can take care of myself."
"You can take care of yourself very well but there was the prophecy, you would have died if you had tried to freaking exorcise me! I would rather die than let you die because of me."
Choi Yoon glares at Hwa Pyung. "Don't you think I would prefer the same? To die rather than let you die because of me? To not even try, to give up on you without doing anything?" Who do you think is going to stay back with the guilt? Living after losing someone important isn't easy. Choi Yoon has lost enough people.
"I won't do that if you ask me to. I realize this now, I won't do it anymore. Will you do the same?"
Hwa Pyung punches the wall in frustration. "I am not lying. You are angry and upset that I almost killed myself right? I understand. That's why I am asking you to stop because I don't want you to do the same thing. What do you want me to do to prove to you?"
"Even if Park Il Do comes back to take you?"
Hwa Pyung yells, "Especially when he comes back to take me. The prophecy will hold true again! You will die."
"So it is either you or me, only one of us can stay alive?"
"Choi Yoon ah, it is a big what if." He wants both of them to stay alive. He doesn't want himself to die and leave Choi Yoon alone or vice versa.
Choi Yoon wants to yell at Hwa Pyung for calling him informally, as Choi Yoon ah, but he holds back. A part of him ignores it, doesn't want to face it and a part of him craves it. This isn't the time for such thoughts, for someone who has been craving for friendship, recognition, some peace, this isn't the time for such things. It is hard, hiding, but he is used to it. He has mastered it over the years.
Choi Yoon snorts, "He is powerful enough to come back." His eyes are dark and closed, unreadable.
"We will see when it happens."
"He won't leave any of us alone or alive. Shouldn't we be searching other ways to be ready to destroy him?
"Will you stop exorcising temporarily and spend time with me on finding alternatives?"
"You can work without me. We work efficiently on our own, don't we? Than together." Choi Yoon rolls his eyes.
Hwa Pyung whispers, "We work efficiently together, Choi Yoon. Let us try. Give me a chance."
Choi Yoon takes a deep breath and leans back and Hwa Pyung knows that he is this close to having Choi Yoon to accept the conditions, at least for the time being.
"You like me, don't you?"
Choi Yoon startles, "I will pretend I didn't hear that."
"You are not good at lying or deflecting things, huh?"
Silence. "I don't know what you are talking about." Choi Yoon is hell bent on not accepting anything.
Hwa Pyung smirks, "That wasn't rhetorical."
Choi Yoon pauses, his face betraying no emotions but Hwa Pyung can detect a slight unease.
Hwa Pyung's smirk drops. He asks softly, "Is it because you are a priest?"
It is open ended. Is it because you are a priest that you aren't a good liar or is it because you are a priest that you can't accept that you like me or accept my like for you? Is it even like between them in the traditional sense?
All Hwa Pyung knows is that he wants to kiss Choi Yoon senseless, to make him react strongly, to change his poker face, make him pant and no, not in a spiteful way. He wants to embarrass Choi Yoon, he wants to see different sides of him. He wants Choi Yoon to open up for him. He wants to own Choi Yoon.
Instead, he lets go. He doesn't push further. Hwa Pyung lets go.
He ignores the grateful sigh of relief from Choi Yoon.
"Your prayer isn't working."
Why is Hwa Pyung stating the obvious? The possessed is not someone as bad as Park Il Do, Choi Yoon shouldn't be having an issue, this is cake walk for Choi Yoon considering he has exorcised far stronger and worse spirits when Park Il Do was in Hwa Pyung's grandfather's body.
"I am trying." Choi Yoon grits his teeth.
Why is Hwa Pyung pushing him and his buttons? He is being an ass because he wanted Choi Yoon to stop exorcising, to stop putting himself in danger and Choi Yoon point blank refuse. They argue about it almost every day. Doesn't Hwa Pyung realize that this might put Choi Yoon in danger too, in a different way?
"Stop being a distraction!" Choi Yoon snaps.
Hwa Pyung huffs and turns away but stays close by in order to help. He knows he can't do much but damn, he is not going to let Choi Yoon be alone even if the possessed demon isn't dangerous at Park Il Do's level. Even low level demons are dangerous in their own way. One should never let their guard down.
"This won't work. You aren't pure. You love a human." The demon's voice gives them the creeps.
Choi Yoon struggles to continue, "In the name of Saint Michael, in the name of the Lord..."
A strong cackle followed by ruthless hissing. "The two of you are disgusting, impure. How can you use the name of the God? Do you think that will actually work?"
"I command you to leave this body..." Choi Yoon makes the cross symbol on the forehead of the woman who is possessed.
"It won't work... it won't work, it won't work..." Gleeful, sinister mocking.
Does Choi Yoon doubt their feelings for each other? Hwa Pyung knows now isn't the time to think of things like these but he can't help it. This isn't new. This also has been a topic and source of misunderstanding between them other than Choi Yoon's adamance to continue exorcism.
Choi Yoon wants to yell at the demon that God is made in the name of love. That it is people who create things like prejudice and judgement and label things as forbidden. Choi Yoon loves God. Loving someone isn't impure. Choi Yoon loves someone else too. He isn't going to let the demon tarnish his love for God or for Hwa Pyung. It fuels his determination.
Choi Yoon growls, "Shut up, this isn't helping! Let me finish."
He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath and starts from first and something changes about his demeanor and the cackling stops. He resumes and things are finished within minutes.
Choi Yoon takes a deep breath and sags, almost stumbling in relief and falling. Hwa Pyung rushes forward to support him and ignores the uneasiness in his chest. Choi Yoon is trembling, sweating like crazy. He looks pale and sick and he shouldn't be in this state because of a minor demon. He really shouldn't be.
"Choi Yoon, please don't do this to yourself."
He whispers, "Not now, Hwa Pyung, please." before passing out in Hwa Pyung's waiting and comfortable arms.
Choi Yoon whispers, it breaks Hwa Pyung's heart to hear this tone from Choi Yoon. Hwa Pyung gently lets go of Choi Yoon's collar, smooths his black shirt and steps back. If Choi Yoon doesn't want it, Hwa Pyung isn't going to force him. He respects Choi Yoon's wishes. Consent is extremely important.
Choi Yoon growls and yanks Hwa Pyung back. Seems like Hwa Pyung has misunderstood. Hwa Pyung stumbles and falls, his arms automatically falling to the couch to brace himself. Choi Yoon and Hwa Pyung's faces are so close, noses almost touching.
Hwa Pyung backs away again but the whine in Choi Yoon's throat stops him.
He becomes confused. Did he misunderstand? Choi Yoon wanted him to stop, right? He didn't want Hwa Pyung to continue right? He didn't want Hwa Pyung to kiss, to touch him, right?
"Choi Yoon ah?"
Choi Yoon grabs Hwa Pyung and pulls him aggressively, smashing their lips together. Hwa Pyung's hands automatically go to Choi Yoon's silky dark locks. He caresses them softly, contrasting Choi Yoon's harsh, impatient touch.
Choi Yoon is demanding and Hwa Pyung wants to give it all to him. But what if Choi Yoon regrets it later?
Hwa Pyung agrees immediately and lets his hand roam beneath Choi Yoon's shirt, over his back, chest, stomach and eats up Choi Yoon's moans and pants.
"Stop... being... a tease!"
Hwa Pyung smiles as his lips ghost over Choi Yoon's neck and Adam's apple.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. Stop talking" Choi Yoon makes it more difficult for Hwa Pyung to go slow by nearly ripping apart his shirt button in a haste to have skin contact.
If this is what Choi Yoon wants, who is Hwa Pyung to deny this?
"What are you doing? Seriously, Yoon Hwa Pyung!"
Hwa Pyung hisses, "Stop struggling!"
"Let me go."
Hwa Pyung is trying to unbutton Choi Yoon's shirt with all his might and he isn't letting him. Choi Yoon slaps Hwa Pyung's hands away. "Stop it!"
Hwa Pyung grabs Choi Yoon's collar. "What was that?"
Hwa Pyung really wants to respect Choi Yoon's privacy but he is extremely worried about his health and safety than his privacy. Choi Yoon is a private person and Hwa Pyung understand that but now circumstances are different and really important and desperate. He really deeply respects Choi Yoon but this is really dangerous. And Choi Yoon has a tendency to hide things, things that could hurt him.
Hwa Pyung growls low in his throat and pushes Choi Yoon against the wall and rips his shirt.
Choi Yoon punches Hwa Pyung without any hesitation and turns away but Hwa Pyung has seen what he wanted to verify.
He wipes away the blood and glares at Choi Yoon. "Why didn't you tell me? Why aren't those scars fully gone? You got them because of the prophecy but Park Il Do is gone. So why aren't those scars gone? Is something still wrong with your body? Are you sick? Are you still in pain every night? Is that why you are not letting me stay over? Is that why you are not letting me close to you?"
Choi Yoon sighs. It is no use in trying to hide his chest with another shirt anymore. "I just wanted to wait till they are fully gone, till they are full healed. Didn't want you to jump to conclusions."
"Why? You acting suspicious isn't really helping!
Hwa Pyung does notice that the scars are not red or violet. They are faded, less in number. They don't look painful. They look like they are healing and he takes a deep breath.
"Is the healing process a bit painful?"
Choi Yoon hesitates, "The memory stays." It really isn't as painful as it was when Park Il Do was there but it does hurt occasionally, causing discomfort and pain and nightmares.
Hwa Pyung lets out a sigh of relief and walks towards Choi Yoon. He hesitates and Choi Yoon nods, a barely there nod and Hwa Pyung gently cards his hands through Choi Yoon's dark locks before both of them can change their mind. He awkwardly hugs Choi Yoon from behind and murmurs, "I am sorry."
He takes one of Choi Yoon's shirt from the closet and hands it to him before walking towards the door so that Choi Yoon can change. He hears Choi Yoon's whisper, "It is OK, you don't have to step out."
Hwa Pyung smiles and still steps out anyway. This is enough. He shouldn't push Choi Yoon against the wall, shouldn't demand a lot from the priest, Hwa Pyung can wait even if Choi Yoon can never give him what he wants.