„Hello I’m Yeon Sang-won. This is my daughter, Ina. and she disappeared a month ago. I really want to find her, please help.“
Kyung-hoon looked up from his food when he heard the words.
The man on the TV screen seemed sincerely shaken and helpless. It was a report about a missing girl and despite the heartbreaking opening with the father showing how worked up he was due to his loss the rest of the show was a farce painful to watch for Kyung-hoon.
Fulfilling the people’s needs to have someone to blame they put it all on the father, Yeon Sang-won.
First the police officer stated matter of factly that he was in no good terms with his daughter, then a zoom in on pills on the cupboard, the doctor talking about them being used to treat mental illness and them might causing overlapping symptoms. A colleague who told the TV crew the father was fixating on work all the time (subtly showing that he was not at home much for daughter) and looked nervous and anxious after not having been at work for a month.
Kyung-hoon played with his fingers, absentmindedly feeling over the scars on them and rubbing over the newest healed one.
It was a tick he had, like a tingle in his finger that he had to rub, it always showed when he could feel a case coming his way. Especially cases connected to the one from 1998.
He took another bite of his food and listened to the media doing a very good job at placing the idea of the father having killed his own daughter in the peoples heads and then asking them for clues.
Kyung-hoon scoffed at their typical inciting behavior and took out his phone to call the number.
It was way too easy to get Yeon Sang-won’s contact information, it should be illegal really, what if a real psycho just went there.
To make matters worse after ringing the doorbell Kyung-hoon noticed the door was not locked. Imagine what a psycho killer or and angry mob would do!
Taking the unlocked door as an invite, the exorcist went inside the house.
After all he had to hurry, the real cable man was already on the road, Kyung-hoon had passed him when he was turning down a crossroad a little earlier to get to another customer first.
Kyung-hoon took off his shoes and stepped on the wooden floor.
The house was enormous.
But something about the atmosphere was…off.
Curious the exorcist, disguised as a cable man, gazed around.
„Who are you?“
Oh, he showed up fast.
Without letting himself get irritated, Kyung-hoon kept searching around while talking about being a technician and anything else that came to his mind to avoid the other asking all kinds of questions that came to his mind, not even giving the other man time to answer them.
Just keep going don’t let them get the possibility to say something, the best distraction of all.
Unfortunately, Yeon Sang-won was getting annoyed really quickly. Well at least he did still stay decent, Kyung-hoon had worse before.
„Could you just fix the internet problem?“ Yeon Sang-won clearly wanted him out of the house but Kyung-hoon ignored the subtle undertone and explained that there were connection problems all out in the country he wanted to babble something about having to find them but interrupted himself when his EMF sensor started beeping loudly.
I knew it!
He followed the beeping that would not stop again and turned around, almost bumping into Yeon Sang-won who asked him if he could fix the internet.
A rush of excitement about his findings, that promised to be something big he grinned at the other man and nodded to the stairs, completely ignoring his question.
Yeon Sang-won sighed and said „Sure.“
Kyung-hoon gave him another broad smile, unable not to with his discovery and sprinted up the stairs, heart beating faster, and eager to find the source.
The detector unmistakably led the exorcist to the room on the left and Yeon Sang-won slowly getting suspicious was asking for his card but it did not matter. Kyung-hoon just brushed him off, he was almost there.
When the doorbell chimed he was already inside the room and his EMF was beeping vividly.
Smirking Kyung-hoon took off his glasses and looked at the closet.
There you are.
His feeling of triumph did not last very long because the next moment Yeon Sang-won stormed into the room and grabbed him by the front. Kyung-hoon gasped when the other man was into his face and their noses almost touched.
The exorcist swallowed hard „I guess the real cable guy showed up?“
Yeon Sang-won tightened his grip and their noses touched for a short second and Kyung-hoon having no filter said the first thing that came to his mind. „You know up this close you really have nice eyes.“
While that was a nice comment, Yeon Sang-won only blinked startled and then his brows furrowed and he dragged Kyung-hoon out of the room and down the stairs. Yeon Sang-won allowed him to put on his shoes and Kyung-hoon was hoping they could talk but the other instantly had him in a tight hold again once he was done.
He needed to try again.
So he started talking about the changes his daughter very likely went through. Told Yeon Sang-won about the case his mother was working on and gave him his business card.
Kyung-hoon clearly saw that he got him hooked and took out his file, giving him a sly smile. Uncertain what to do the father stood before him looking at the file and back up at Kyung-hoon he combed through his hair, sighed, and took it.
„Come back inside with me.“
They let the cable guy work downstairs while Yeong Sang-won was skipping through the file, Kyung hoon was observing him closely and saw that he reacted to the drawings of the girl as if he had seen them before.
Then Kyung-hoon showed him the video of the exorcism from 1998, observing how Yeon Sang-won reacted to the face of the exorcist. The father had obviously recognized her during watching and Kyung-hoon told him it was his mother who tried to warn him. After his mother, Kyung-hoon paused the video at the face of the ghost, deliberately leaving out the part where his mother cut her own throat.
Yeong Sang-won took a deep breath and Kyung-hoon knew he would protest, he sighed internally, waiting for the other to finish his annoyed speech about everything he told him being ridiculous.
Will it ever be easy and work without them first declining?
Whatever, Kyung-hoon had not played all of his cards, yet.
„Everyone thinks you killed her.“
People not believing his customers were always his best argument, quite sad because it was not his accomplishment but who was he to complain when it got him money and he could rid the world of another dangerous ghost or demon.
„If it’s delayed any longer, she’ll be lost forever.“
The second best means to get a customer was time, unfortunately that was also something that put pressure on him, especially in this matter, where at least one month had already passed.
Kyung-hoon packed his bag and stormed out as dramatically as he could manage, knowing from experience he got the other hooked already.
Still, the exorcist was a little disappointed that he made it outside the house and almost to his car before Yeong Sang-won stopped him, Am I losing my touch?
Well, not to dwell on it longer, Kyung-hoon got what he needed.
This guy did know nothing about modern culture.
First he did not know Along with the gods, which was very ironic because he could have been Gang-rim’s brother, really. And if someone could tell that it was Kyung-hoon because he may or may not had been a little obsessed with Gang-rim - that luckily died down a little because otherwise his not existent filter would definitely have caused him to stare and confess stupid things to Yeon Sang-won.
The father also did not know about BTS which was a talent in this times.
Did the man not watch any TV or listen to the radio, hell, news, did he even avoid news?
But then he also knew nothing about his daughter and he had lived with her - for, how old was she? 11? - for 11 years.
Workaholic. the colleague in the report had already mentioned that.
Still, he seemed to be honestly worried about his daughter and wanted her to come back.
Kyung-hoon had noticed the quite fair amount of puppets and teddy bears in Ina’s room already the first time.
Trying to compensate his absence with presents to lower his guilt. Only that is not how it worked.
Despite the clear signs of abandonment, Kyung-hoon could not really see a bad father in him, more someone who was lost and overwhelmed by the turns his life had taken.
Kyung-hoon had researched a little about Yeon Sang-won and found out that a few months ago, he had been in an accident where his wife had died.
It explained quite a lot.
She was looking after their girl while her husband was at work, the girl was happy, because even though her father was not at home during the week, at least her mother was.
Then the accident happened and now it was only father and daughter, the burden of having lost his wife and who knows what else a person is bothered with that has been hit by a truck and lost their significant other due to that. Whatever else there was, the amount of pills told Kyung-hoon that it was a lot.
Yeon Sang-won was still adjusting and trying to find his footing again and while being vulnerable like that the demonic ghost used its chance.
Kyung-hoon knew this guy was different to a lot of the other parents connected to the case of the missing children and it was not only because he generally liked him, no, the exorcist somehow had already known the moment he saw him on TV.
The way he reacted when Kyung-hoon deduced that he knew nothing about his daughter confirmed the exorcist's gut. Yeon Sung-Won was not angry or tried to defend himself and blame everyone else, but looked sad.
I hurt him and instead of stopping I kept talking.
Kyung-hoon felt bad suddenly (he had not with most of the other parents before), he knew his rambling went too far sometimes and it did right know, this man had lost his wife, then his daughter went missing, a tv show hinted he killed her and now a stranger accused him of being a bad father.
„I absolutely hate silence.“ Kyung-hoon started, trying to explain himself, „I actually hate being talkative.“,because I keep rambling and saying a lot of stupid things, „but I talk a lot because I hate silence more.“ I’m sorry.
Sang-won seemed to understand parts of what Kyung-hoon wanted to tell him and his face softened a little. Kyung-hoon’s heart fluttered relieved.
The exorcist tried to break the silence with a little less harsh questions,„So How should I address you?“
„Whatever you feel like.“
Yeong Sang-won had no clue what possibilities he had just opened. But Kyung-hoon did and he would take them.
„Hmm Daddy Yeon?“
Sang-won suddenly coughed violently and looked at him with wide eyes, and Kyung-hoon grinned sheepishly, enjoying the other’s shocked expression.
„Yeon is fine. Or even Sang-won. Please don’t call me daddy.“ Sang-won croaked, still trying to clear his throat.
Kyung-hoon only laughed and patted his back. Too bad though.
When Sang-won was finally able to breathe normally again he asked the same „What should I call you?“
Kyung-hoon spit one of the shells of his snack in the waste bowl and stated „General manager Heo, GM’s work the hardest.“ he smiled at Sang-won and the other actually laughed and Kyung-hoon choked on his snacks, with the sudden air he had to suck in because it got him off guard that this grumpy looking sad man was able to smile about him being him.
His heart made a quick jump and he needed to get out of the room. Now.
„I’m thirsty, I’ll raid your fridge, I could use a bear.“
As soon as he was outside the door he leaned against it and closed his eyes, his heart beating fast.
Oh no, not again. Stupid heart we said we don’t fall for clients anymore. After last time went so awfully…
Kyung-hoon closed his eyes and leaned back and against the wood, cursing about the fact that he fell in love so easily. He could see Yeon Sang-won smile again.
Calm down it was a simple smile nothing to lose your head or heart about.
Yeon Sang-won fit this type perfectly.
A strong, determined character who was able to see his own mistakes and try to make up for them while still being able to show his vulnerability about the loss of his daughter and was not afraid to accept help. Additionally with a cute smile. Not to mention that Kyung-hoon just knew he would feel very safe when those arms would wrap around him after a day of fighting the supernatural.
„I’m not falling for him, I was just choking on a sunflower seed. I’m not falling for him. I’m not-„
He kept mumbling to himself all along the way to the kitchen and back upstairs but at some point he lost a word and was chanting: „I’m falling for him.“
The exorcist groaned about his weak and stupid heart, infiltrating his brain too.
Kyung-hoon decided to sit on the couch instead of next to Sang-won and prove himself that he did not want to be close to him because he was not starting to feel something for him.
The couch was surprisingly comfortable or it was his sleepless nights combined with the calming presence of the other man.
Whatever it was Kyung-hoon was deep asleep the moment he closed his eyes.
The feeling of cold water hitting his face instantly ripped him out of his sleep and he hit the ground hard Kyung-hoon, when he reached for his face he was perfectly dry.
Confused he looked around himself, right, he was at Sang-won’s house and tried to help him track the ghosts.
Yeon Sang-won. Panicking Kyung-hoon looked for the man, already knowing he was not here.
Hastily Kyung-hoon got up, fell over his own legs, reached for the desk and just caught himself in time to run around it and see Sang-won being screamed at by one of the ghosts.
„Close your eyes!“
Kyung-hoon told himself to calm down, to not let Sang-won hear how stressed he was. The only way to get him out was to guide him calmly and he had to keep his cool. The exorcist took a deep breath and managed to guide Kyung-hoon halfway out of the room but unfortunately the demon ghosts were more intelligent than the thought.
The screen went blank and Kyung-hoon jumped up to run to Sang-won and help him but stopped in his tracks when he saw her.
The ghost girl.
Just like his mother Kyung-hoon stood no chance against her.
She stopped the knife he was throwing at her without effort and that was when he saw her face and recognized her.
Myung-jin, the first girl that vanished.
And then everything went downhill. She was so strong, his rhymes and hand signs had no effect at all. No matter what he tried she overpowered him easily.
He felt her ice-cold grip around his neck and then she screamed and somehow he managed to get up and charged at her when she dropped him to the floor but before he reached her a sharp pain in his abdomen stopped him. Kyung-hoon choked, and reached for his side pressing down around the blade of the knife that was stuck there to the hilt.
Kyung-hoon coughed and a sharp pain went through his body, he looked up at Myung-jin whose black dead eyes were gazing at him. She reached her hand out and he was sure that he would soon be at his mother’s side again, thanks to having made the big mistake of underestimating the situation and getting careless.
Careless again, you know why, only that this time you will pay for it. Better than him.
Kyung-hoon closed his eyes ready to die but then there was a knock at the door and the girl looked at it and just vanished. Kyung-hoon forced himself on his legs and crouched over to the door, his bloody hands slipping over the doorknob at first.
When the door finally opened he fell into Sang-won’s arms.
„That was embarrassing.“ he croaked and then everything went blurry.
Had he told Yeon Sang-won that it was Myung-jin or was it a dream? Was Yeon Sang-won even there at the hospital by his side? He had no real reason to stay with him. But the thought was nice. But that surely meant he was dreaming. Did that mean he had died?
His thoughts got more quiet and a dull, nothingness lulled him in.
Kyung-hoon’s mother was dying cutting her own throat with the ritual knife, looking at him choking on her own blood, her lips were moving and while he knew they made no sound, he still heard her voice as clear as day. „Kyung-hoon!“
„Kyung-hoon, he’s in danger!“
Kyung-hoon sat up abruptly, his body should have been aching from hitting the wall, fighting a ghost and being operated on but instead he was bursting with energy and he felt odd as if his mind and body were not fully connected.
„You need to hurry.“
The reminder was all he needed to get into action.
The doctors and nurses tried to hold him back but he just fought them off and used the moment of surprise, because none of them would have thought that a freshly operated patient was able to jump up, grab his stuff and storm out of the hospital.
Really, no one.
As soon as he was outside he jumped into the taxi, that luckily was standing there and urged the driver to put his foot on the petal and go south.
„Uhm Mr. Kim?“
„Hm Yes, yes I’m mister Kim.“
The taxi driver was very confused about the changed address when Kyung-hoon told him where to go but got quiet when he handed him enough money for his fair.
The money had not been in his purse before he got stabbed.
I can wonder about that later.
Ignoring the uncomfortable look the taxi driver gave him, Kyung-hoon got out of the hospital gown and dressed, into a turtleneck pullover that was not his own.
Once done he leaned back into the seat and wrapped the turtleneck over his face, taking in the familiar scent on it.
It’s his, he left me one of his pullover.
His heart started rapidly beating again and he smiled behind the fabric.
The macabre hanging dolls, plastered in the woods around were a sure sign he was at the right place, he still remembered when he got here last time, the dolls had almost doubled since then. Somehow Kyung-hoon knew exactly what scene would await him inside the shack, had it clearly in front of his eyes before he even opened the door, storming inside the exorcist cut his finger open and pressed his bloody thumb against the forehead of Myung-jin’s father.
His eyes flickered at Sang-won’s chest, needing the reassurance that he was still breathing and felt a heavy weight fall from his shoulders when he was taking in greedy gulps of air and blinking back up at him with watery eyes.
Both watched Myung-jin’s father being sucked into the closet, his scream echoing still when he was already out of sight. They turned to each other contemplating what just had happened and Kyung-hoon suppressed the urge to pull the other into his arms and hold him.
Instead he offered his hand and helped him up. Sang-won, knees gave in and was tumbling forward, he put his hand on Kyung-hoon’s shoulder to steady himself. The exorcist grabbed his arms and held him. His eyes fell on his neck where he would surely have angry red marks soon.
For a moment he saw someone else, empty eyes looking up at Kyung-hoon accusingly and a red pool forming around their head so perfectly even that for a moment it seemed like a macabre kind of halo.
Kyung-hoon flinched back as if burned and Sang-won’s eyes met his confused, the exorcist thought to also have seen hurt in them but brushed it off as follow up of the panic attack he just clearly had.
„We need to go back.“, the exorcist stammered, „I know who we are dealing with.“
The car ride back he did it again, he hurt Sang-won by telling him that he abandoned his daughter but it was necessary the father would understand if he wanted to get his daughter back.
Even though it meant the other would hate Kyung-hoon, he would be gone after he fulfilled - or not fulfilled, he did not even want to think about it- his job.
„So it was me who sent her away.“ the way Sang-won said that, the sadness in his eyes made Kyung-hoon’s heart sink.
„Yes, you made a mistake, but you were overwhelmed, your life was falling apart and you both needed help, you just as much as her. I’m sure you tried your best.“
„I did not. I left her with a nanny that I knew at first sight was awful just to go back to my job.“ Sang-won grabbed the file in his hands hard and the cardboard was bending underneath his grip.
„Because your job was the last thing left of your old life. Yes, you were doing the completely wrong thing, but at least you can see that now.“ Kyung-hoon tried to sooth him, something he was not good at because he just did not sooth people.
„That does not change what I did and that she is gone.“ Sang-won held even tighter onto the poor object in his hands and Kyung-hoon reached out for his hands, to stop him breaking his possessions of course, no other reason.
„We can’t change the past but I will try my best to help you get her back.“
Sang-won let go of the cardboard when Kyung-hoon wrapped his fingers around his hands and without the material in between the other was holding on to his hand instead. Not painfully but very soft or more unsure instead.
For probably the third time in his whole life, Sang-won had no urge to fill the silence.
However, when Sang-won turned his hand around and held it in his left while tracing his right thumb and fingertips over the scarred skin of Kyung-hoon’s palm and fingers, all he could think about was the same words over and over again accompanied by the rapid beating of his heart.
„I’m not in love. I’m not in love. I’m not in love.“
The words could not calm it down again, how should they, when Sang-won’s thumb would just not stop caressing the ugliest scar that went right through the middle of Kyung-hoon’s palm. He had cut there over and over again until a doctor told him that the skin would not heal properly anymore if he kept doing that.
By the time they passed a tunnel his mantra had turned too „I’m in love“ and he quickly stopped the car to release his bladder, at least he pretended it was the reason.
Sang-won got out too and took a smoke, leaving him some privacy before he came over.
Kyung-hoon could not help himself but keep glancing at him and he must have sent the wrong signals because the other walked over before he was done.
Kyung-hoon would have laughed at his flustered ‚holy crap‘ if the others face would not have been so earnest, the exorcist felt like he knew already where this was going thanks to the conversation they had about Sang-won being in sync with the ghost girl.
„I can see her and enter their realm?“ Sang-won asked him and Kyung-hoon was swarmed with images he tried to forget.
A body crashing through a window, screaming and the distant shatter of glass and something heavy hitting the ground below.
He avoided Sang-won’s eyes and stared at the distance opposing what he said but deep within he already knew it would be fruitless. The other man had made up his mind.
In the end he gave in. By helping him, Kyung-hoon could at least protect him all through the way, because Sang-won would not hesitate to go into the ghost realm with or without Kyung-hoon’s help. Ready to give his life for his daughter, that’s why he was different from the rest of them and that was why Kyung-hoon had fallen for him so easily.
Please let this end differently.
Nervously Kyung-hoon checked on Sang-won after he took the pills to induce the panic attack on purpose.
„I’m bringing my daughter back.“ Sang-won’s voice was not wavering and his eyes determined, he would do it or else he would…
Kyung-hoon swallowed and looked at the floor, not wanting the other to see the fear in his eyes.
„Stay alive…“ the exorcist tried to get his expression under control and lifted his face again, a slight smirk playing around his lips, „…and paid me for my service, got it?“
There was the smile again that made Kyung-hoon’s heart beat faster instantly and Sang-won answered, „Depends on your performance.“
He walked to the door but Kyung-hoon reached out for his hand and stopped him. Sang-won turned his head to him questioningly.
Kyung-hoon opened his mouth to say something but closed it again and settled with brushing his thumb over Sang-won’s hand.
„Let’s get your daughter back.“ Sang-won nodded at him with a sly smile and Kyung-hoon squeezed his hand before he let go and followed him out of the room.
When the panic attack started and Sang-won was breathing hard, eyes full of fear glancing up at Kyung-hoon he almost would have pulled him back out and stopped this madness. Only the simple fact that the other would hate him for doing so held him back.
I promised to help and I will.
He started to beat the drums steadily and chanted the rhymes. It was all he could do, keep the flame up, keep drumming, keep chanting.
When Kyung-hoon noticed the flames were subsiding he quickly pushed a talisman onto the straw puppet he started muttering the rhymes as fast as he could, he pressed his hand down, ignoring the heat of the still warm iron pot and the ash in it.
Suddenly his hand was engulfed in heat and a big flame was flaring up while at the same time most of the candles around him went out.
A loud bone-wrenching scream sounded and the closet doors started to rattle, the movement threatening to break the talisman. Crows crashed against the windows that shattered with the force of their bodies hitting them.
Kyung-hoon ran over to the closet doors and pressed against them.
He could not let anyone go through, if they got to him, Yeon Sang-won and Ina would not find their way back but be lost in the other realm forever.
Kyung-hoon held onto the doors, arms were gripping for him and he was using all the strength he could muster to resist them, to hold the door with his own body and not let them through. Out of intuition he broke his bracelet that should protect him from the spirits and the pearls clattered to the floor.
Kyung-hoon started chanting again, and that’s when he felt it another presence within him.
„Let me talk to her.“
Her voice was weak and she was tearing on his energy but Kyung-hoon offered it freely, knowing she was the only one to stop Myung-jin and give her peace.
Kyung-hoon started to chant again and was wondering if she had been with him all the time since he had accompanied his mother for the exorcism. He took the bracelet from his mother’s dying hands back then had it held her captive inside of him just like it held off other ghosts from controlling him?
Mother did you know?
Kyung-hoon fell to the ground weakly, when the connection to the ghost of Myung-jin’s mother broke with her being reconnected to her daughter and the closet doors fell shut, his limbs feeling too heavy to move but he forced himself up. He had to keep drumming to keep the gate open, to let Yeon Sang-won know where to go.
„Please come back.“
The drum slipped out of his hand and Kyung-hoon shifted forward on his knees to pick it up again. He could not feel his hands anymore but kept drumming unwaveringlydo-dong do-dong do-dong just like his heart kept thudding do-dong do-dong do-dong
When he thought he could not keep himself up any longer the closet doors swung open and Sang-won breached through them, falling to the floor, twisting sidewards to not crash his daughter under his body.
With a new rush of energy Kyung-hoon jumped up and was next to him, his sight got blurred with the tears of relive that filled them and he reached his hand out and hesitated.
Sang-won was shaking and gazed at Kyung-hoon's hand and then at his eyes, he gave him a small nod, maybe it was just meant as an accomplishment for his service but it was enough to break the exorcist’s resistance.
Kyung-hoon lay his hand in Sang-won’s neck and pulled him close, he took in a deep breath when their lips touched and the other’s pressed back as his. The exorcist sighed and tilted his head making their noses brush against each other then a hand in his hair drew him closer. Not even the strange taste of rotten wood on Sang-won’s lips could throw Kyung-hoon off. He simply licked it away and dove his tongue into the other’s mouth, tasting a mix of smoke, something undefined, probably simply Sang-won and his head was swimming.
A soft gasp reminded him that they were not alone and that even though he needed this kiss badly and there was much more that he also needed badly from Sang-won, it was not the right time and place to continue.
Both, breathing unsteadily, they leaned back and smiled. Until Kyung-hoo’s smile turned into a smirk and a soft laugh. Sang-won joined in and the exorcist could not help himself but break the silence.
„By the gods or whatever else is out there I love your smile.“
„You’ll have to revise this. I’ll just ignore it.“
Sang-won was about to walk around the car to get into the driver seat but Kyung-hoon grabbed his arm and stepped close.
Lips almost touching the others ear he whispered.
„With you I also accept payment in rates and…“ He leaned back again, pulled down his glasses and smiled teasingly. „Special services.“
Sang-won took in a harsh breath and Kyung-hoon pushed his sunglasses properly up his nose again, laughed and got into the car.
The payment for this job turned out to be the best and most long lasting that he ever received.