This Go Mi Nam was becoming an even bigger headache than Tae Kyung could have anticipated. He hadn’t wanted a new member in the first place – why in the world did they need one? He saw no reason to upset a carefully cultivated balance. Shin Woo, Jeremy and himself were doing perfectly fine – no, they were doing very well, actually. And it wasn’t like they lacked someone to fill a certain position, they had the instruments they needed and they were all different types of people, with different public personas.
It wasn’t like they were one of those big groups that everyone knew would get a new member every now and then either. They were a small, close-knit, efficient group and Tae Kyung simply did not see the need for an additional member. He really hadn’t had anything personal against Mi Nam at first; he was more annoyed at President Ahn than anyone else when he dragged Mi Nam to the recording studio. He’d hoped to reason with Ahn if, like he’d suspected, Mi Nam didn’t live up to the hype his voice had gotten. He didn’t know whether to be annoyed he couldn’t use that excuse or relieved that at least Mi Nam wouldn’t be a total deadweight.
Really, he would have gotten over most of his annoyance and vague dislike towards Mi Nam a day or two after his announcement; he would even have gotten over the bidet incident within that time – that is, if it hadn’t been for the… incident during the night.
Tae Kyung couldn’t fathom why someone would get that drunk on their first day as a proper member of the group in the first place. Wouldn’t he want to make a good impression on his colleagues and employers? Didn’t he realise there were reporters present and he should act with that in mind? Did he know nothing? Was he a complete moron?
After finding him in his room uninvited for the second time within 24 hours, Tae Kyung was rather starting to think that was really the case.
He was still completely pissed about being vomited on by someone he didn’t want around in the first place when Mi Nam had entered his room. Furthermore he was so disgusted with the thought of the whole thing that he had to tense his muscles to keep from shaking and feared he might have to throw up a bit himself. He’d had a therapist as a kid who’d mentioned the possibility of mysophobia, but since no-one had never bother getting him a psychiatrist, he’d figured it was what it was and he’d just have to deal with it. The point was that he was not dealing well with the incident. Mi Nam really couldn’t have chosen a worse time.
He was in the shower now and annoyed beyond belief at Mi Nam. He decided that he would not forgive him easily and that Mi Nam was a gross, useless person he’d do well to avoid.
And yet… On some level he did realise Mi Nam was trying. Maybe the drinking had been from nervousness. Maybe the awful way his apology had come across had been more about bad timing and awkwardness that anything else. Maybe Tae Kyung was being too hard on him.
But then, Tae Kyung didn’t really care. Mi Nam had been nothing but trouble so far, no matter his intensions. He would have to do better.
That conclusion was solidified by what met him as he exited the bathroom. You couldn’t leave this guy alone for two seconds, could you?!
Okay so maybe he did feel a bit bad about all of his fangirls going after Mi Nam, but what could he do? He hadn’t set them up to it. Sure, he hadn’t pretended to like Mi Nam, but he hadn’t been that open about his dislike. It was not his fault and therefore not his problem.
It was especially not his problem when Mi Nam started looking through his things what the actual hell.
He couldn’t deal with this anymore.
And of course he had to run into his mother too. Of course. What was the universe punishing him for?
Tae Kyung couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He really couldn’t. Was this for real? This was Mi Nam at that. Wasn’t he the youngest of them? He was definitely the shyest. Tae Kyung waited in horrified anticipation to see if this really was leading up to Mi Nam getting a blowjob from a woman several years older than him or if there was actually some sense left in the world and he had just misunderstood their conversation.
One of them was holding up… a small ball…
Tae Kyung hadn’t believed it to be possible, but he was even more confused now.
“It’s okay now,” said Mi Nam on the screen. “It’s been placed nicely.”
Placed… in his pants? Stylist Wang had been trying to open his pants… but why…
She wanted to sew it in? What were they trying to achieve here? Was Mi Nam very insecure about his penis size, but not enough so that he wouldn’t ask stylist Wang for help…?
“I should probably just get a packer…” Mi Nam said. “It would be more convincing.”
“I don’t know, I think it might jump around as much as these…” Stylist Wang said.
Tae Kyung didn’t know what a packer was, but purely from context…
“How’s your chest?” Stylist Wang asked.
“It’s okay, I know my limits, “ Mi Nam said and fiddled a bit with the edges of something under his shirt. “I’ll let them get some air once I’m back in my room.”
Was he… Tae Kyung couldn’t believe it; was Mi Nam a girl?!
Perhaps hugging Mi Nam was a risky move with the rumors Tae Kyung already had floating around about his sexuality – as much as he wanted to expose Mi Nam’s secret, he preferred his own well kept – but he figured that with all the talks of rivalry between them, it wouldn’t be taken in such a way. Not by anyone but the fangirls who were convinced he was sleeping with every other male celebrity he had ever interacted with, at least. He made a grimace at the thought that Mi Nam could actually be such a fangirl. It seemed ridiculous, but wasn’t a girl joining a boy group in disguise ridiculous too? Tae Kyung was completely aware of how avid some of their fans were.
It didn’t occur to him until later how little sense his theory made when compared to Mi Nam’s behavior, just like it didn’t occur to him until later how creepy a move the hug had been.
“You’ve been discovered.”
He’d be lying if he said he wasn’t satisfied with himself as he said those words.
“What do you mean?” Mi Nam said while doing a poor attempt at hiding her fear.
“I know you’re a girl,” Tae Kyung said.
“I’m not,” Mi Nam said just a little too fast and forcefully.
“You’ve just all but confirmed it,” Tae Kyung said.
Mi Nam was frowning, clearly in thought.
“Look, I don’t know why you thought this was a good idea, but you’ve had your fun,” he said. “You’re done.”
Mi Nam was biting her lip in addition to frowning now. He looked at her expectantly. She looked away.
“If you don’t go talk to president Ahn, I will,” Tae Kyung said.
That got her to look at him. She opened her mouth several times as if to talk, but nothing got out. Tae Kyung lifted an eyebrow and turned around on his heel.
“Wait!” Mi Nam yelled. Tae Kyung reluctantly turned back around. He was struck with how determined Mi Nam looked all of a sudden.
“I really am not a girl,” Mi Nam said. “I may… I may have a “girl’s body” but I’m not… I’m not.”
Mi Nam looked at the edge of crying.
Tae Kyung opened his mouth then closed it again. He had not anticipated this. At all.
It wasn’t that he didn’t know about trans people, he did, vaguely, but somehow that possibility had completely slipped his mind. He didn’t know much about them, but he had met a few trans women around Itaewon. His conversations with them had never been more than casual and brief, though, the kind of conversation you have when a drunk friend you barely know introduces you to some of his casual friends. Still, he felt guilty for assuming…. And more than a bit ridiculous for the explanation he’d come up with.
Tae Kyung had been too lost in thoughts to notice that Mi Nam really had begun crying and he was still too dumbstruck to know what to do about it.
“…I see. I won’t talk to president Ahn or bother you anymore,” he said too quickly. “Goodnight.”
He could hear Mi Nam’s crying as he left.
Preemptively rescuing him from a swamp of fangirls at the train station was the first time he really interacted with Mi Nam after the confrontation. Tae Kyung kept his distance from Mi Nam after that. He still didn’t like him, but then again, there were few people Tae Kyung could say he honestly liked. He had no desire to throw Mi Name out of A.N.JELL, though, and he would have been content with just keeping on ignoring him if he hadn’t been so… so infuriatingly bad at being famous!
Sure, Mi Nam was new to it, but running around at a public transport station, making no effort to hide his identity at all? That was just asking for trouble!
Apparently, it wasn’t the only trouble Mi Nam was in.
“This picture… it’s me and my dad,” he told Tae Kyung. “Some woman came here to give it to me, but she left before I could talk to her… I have to talk to her. She might know about my mom.”
“Your mom?” Tae Kyung said.
“Yeah… I have no idea what happened. Dad died, and I was raised in a cloister… as for mom… I have no idea,” Mi Nam explained, a melancholic expression on his face as he talked. “That’s why… I need to talk to this woman. Even if it’s not my mother, if she just has some information that I don’t…”
Tae Kyung privately thought that mothers weren’t necessarily that great, so Mi Nam shouldn’t expect too much, but he didn’t say any of that. Another thought seemed more pressing.
“Are you sure she’s not trying to blackmail you?” He asked.
Mi Nam looked at him uncomprehendingly. “What?”
“You’re so naïve…” Tae Kyung said and tsk’ed. “Showing up with a picture of you in pigtails… isn’t that a threat?”
Mi Nam stared at him for a bit longer before averting his eyes.
“Ma… maybe…” he said.
“Don’t meet with her. None of us need that kind of trouble.”
“But…!” Mi Nam protested. “She might… she might have information! I have to find out! Hyung-nim, what if it’s my mom?!”
“Mi Nam.” Tae Kyung said impatiently. “Leave it. Nothing good will come of it. If it’s really your mom, she’ll contact you again.”
Mi Nam didn’t look convinced, but didn’t voice any protests either. For now, that was good enough for Tae Kyung.
this might be the most self-indulgent thing i've ever...
i mean to rewrite most of the series with trans!mi nam and gay!tae kyung but i have no schedule on it
Tae Kyung would be lying if he said waiting while Mi Nam did the same thing five times over wasn’t annoying. He hated working with newbies. Sure, sure, you needed some practice before it became easy, that was probably the case, but honestly, how could it be so difficult that they needed to do that amount of takes?! Really?!
Well, maybe Mi Nam was extra nervous because they were in water and he was afraid that would be revealing, but the way Tae Kyung saw it, Mi Nam had lucked out when it came to his outfit. If he’d been wearing what Jeremy was wearing, his binder would definitely be visible by now.
That was apparently what it was called, that thing Mi Nam wore. Tae Kyung had googled a few things since he found out. He’d also learned Mi Nam wasn’t supposed to be wearing it as much as Tae Kyung figured he had been doing since arriving here. If something happened to his rips, he’d definitely be exposed…
The end of the photoshoot came as a blessing for Tae Kyung. He liked being in A. N. JELL He liked singing and writing songs… but photoshoots? Not so much. And most definitely not swimming pool ones. Whose idea had that been?! Argh, Tae Kyung really resented having to spend so much time in cold water and wet clothes…!
His attention was brought back to Mi Nam when he seemed shocked at the prospect that he had to change clothes. Surely he must have expected this? Wouldn’t he plan for something like this? Tae Kyung was sure he must have. He stopped thinking about Mi Nam and went with the others to the changing room, eager to get out of his wet clothes.
When the others started talking about Mi Nam though…. Tae Kyung felt a bit worried despite himself. He did NOT like Mi Nam, he was an annoying inconvenience, but still… something made Tae Kyung go looking for him.
When he saw the bobbles in the water, he took a short moment to internally curse at having to get his new dry clothes wet just because Mi Nam was an unprepared fool, before jumping in after him.
He couldn’t remember much after getting to Mi Nam, other than a shove and a sharp intake of breath that became an intake of way too much water. Next thing he knew, Mi Nam was calling out for him while holding his hand, and while he wasn’t even wholly sure whether what was happening was real or not, he knew that 1) this was definitely Mi Nam’s fault and 2) the rumors would flare up again if any pictures of Mi Nam holding his hand made it to the press.
He weakly removed Mi Nam’s hand from his own, before everything went black again.
“Hyung-nim, you’re back!”
Tae Kyung just rolled his eyes, proceeded to lie to Shin Woo for Mi Nam’s sake, and then left the common area. He wanted to be alone. He’d mostly been alone at the hospital, of course, but being alone in a public place and being alone in your own personal room were two very different things. He really just wanted to listen to music and not think for a while. Argh, Mi Nam was such a headache…!
He’d thought so long before Mi Nam almost poisoned him, but now…! Well of course Mi Nam didn’t mean to, but that information was all over the web! If he was going to cook for Tae Kyung, couldn’t he have checked?! Besides, Tae Kyung was just tired of Mi Nam right now… as well as tired in general.
Still, he should probably…
“Mi Nam, wait…” He said and Mi Nam, who was almost at the door, turned around towards him with a questioning look in his eyes.
“You can’t grap onto me like that,” he said. “In fact, don’t come near me at all.”
“Hyu-hyung-nim!” Mi Nam protested. „Do you think I have a contagious illness for you to say that?“
“Argh, do I really have too…” Tae Kyung sighed. “There are rumors about me, rumors I don’t want any fire added to.”
Tae Kyung was beginning to fear for his eyes, with the amount he was rolling them lately.
“Yes,” he said. “I know you’re not used to it, but for a guy to act like that to another guy…”
Mi Nam frowned and Tae Kyung almost feared he’d have to spell it out even more, but that was apparently not what the frown was about.
“Not used to it, huh?” He said, clearly displeased. “I get it… I’ll stay away.”
He left with no prompting after that, and Tae Kyung finally had the peace he’d been craving.
Odd how his thoughts kept striving to Mi Nam long after he left, when he was the last thing Tae Kyung had wanted to think about since he arrived…
In all the annoyance he’d felt at Mi Nam since he arrived, Tae Kyung had almost forgotten how annoying Jeremy could be. Almost.
Then Jeremy began bugging him about girls. Well, one unpleasant girl in particular, which didn’t make it better, but it could have been most any girl, and all Tae Kyung would have been able to tell would be whether her face was aesthetically pleasing. He supposed he should be faking it a bit better, but he really couldn’t be bothered. He was sure Jeremy would just write it up to his personality, anyway. Shin Woo… as much as Tae Kyung didn’t want to think so, Shin Woo might already suspect. He was far too perceptive, that one.
As he often did, he just tuned Jeremy out, and turned his thoughts to their upcoming performance. They’d been doing a lot of practicing lately, and it was good. There’d been no real issues, only the minor issues one could expect when bringing a new member in. Tae Kyung wasn’t 100% certain of the set list and was trying to see how much he could recall, when he got distracted by Go Mi Nam.
Well, not by Mi Nam himself – who, while pretty, Tae Kyung wasn’t sure he could find himself attracted to – but rather by the mess around his mouth. Tae Kyung really couldn’t take such things, it was giving him chills.
“Go Mi Nam,” he said. “Your mouth is dirty… it’s bothering me, clean it up.”
To his relief – but not his surprise, Mi Nam usually did what he said, even if he often caused trouble – Mi Nam did as he said. God, it really did make him feel queasy just looking at such a mess…
Next time Mi Nam bothered him was about his terrible autograph, and while Tae Kying initially felt flattered and smug to be approached on such a matter, by the end of the matter, he completely regretted ever having gotten involved.
Laying there in the dark, being unable to see anything and with no-one to help him… it had been scary, Tae Kyung couldn’t deny that. It wasn’t the only thing that had freaked him out that night, though. Mi Nam had been lying on top of him, and despite himself, Tae Kyung had felt… somewhat attracted to him. He thought. Maybe. Well, he couldn’t really explain what else it was, but it didn’t make any sense… him, Hwang Tae Kyung, being attracted to a fool like Go Mi Nam?!
He supposed Mi Nam might be flattered to know Tae Kyung’s body considered him male… well, of course then Mi Nam would have to know that Tae Kyung actually was gay… What was this line of thought?!
Tae Kyung shut it down right there and went to bed instead, reciting sheet music in his mind to drive out any other thoughts.
Tae Kyung could strangle Mi Nam, he really could…
He’d come running for Tae Kyung one the day of their first performance after Mi Nam had joined the group just to tell him what Tae Kyung had already predicted: that woman was blackmailing him. And Mi Nam, being Mi Nam, had probably let her in and once when she asked for him...! Why couldn’t he just listen to people who knew better than him?!
“She said she’d go to the press if I don’t give her… a lot of money….” Mi Nam told him, his expressive face twisted to reveal how troubled this made him feel. “What do I do, I don’t have the kind of money she’s asking for…”
“You can’t let her blackmail you,” Tae Kyung said. “If you do, she’ll just keep coming back. She’ll be a leech on you for the rest of your life.”
“Then… what do I…”
God help him, Mi Nam looked ready to cry.
“This is why I said you should have let it be…!”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. He was really at his wit’s end…
“Where is she right now?” Tae Kyung asked.
“She went home, but…” Mi Nam hesitated. “It sounded like she might show up at the venue later.”
Tae Kyung sighed and shook his head.
Go Mi Nam will be my death… why am I helping him again?
Tae Kyung kept an eye on Mi Nam the rest of the day. It wasn’t that he was fond of Mi Nam now, definitely not! He just didn’t want anything to cause trouble for the show tonight, that was all! Mi Nam clearly couldn’t be trusted to solve issues sensibly by himself, so of course Tae Kyung had to be there for it…
Sure enough, after they got off their bus, a woman yelled for Mi Nam and he immediately went to walk towards her. Tae Kyung stopped him with an arm. Mi Nam looked at him questioningly, and Jeremy and Shin Woo, who were exiting the bus now, seemed confused as well.
Tae Kyung began walking toward Mi Nam’s aunt.
“Hyung-nim, what are you going to…”
“Shut up. You’ll see.”
“I said shut it.”
Mi Nam pouted, which Tae Kyung couldn’t help but notice was cute, despite real effort to avoid doing so.
“Mi Nam’s aunt,” he said when he stood face to face with her. “Please come with me.”
She looked about to protest, but Tae Kyung just kept going as if he hadn’t noticed.
“Mi Nam, stay here. If you’d come this way…”
He led the woman a bit away from the others, before stopping and giving her a calculating look.
Apparently, Mi Nam’s aunt wasn’t a woman who could take silence for very long, because when he didn’t, she quickly broke the silence.
“You’re Hwang Tae Kyung, right?” She said. “You seem like you’re very kind to my nephew, but I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, of course, I’d just rather speak to Mi Nam. He’s my family, after all!”
“Is that why you’re blackmailing him?” Tae Kyung asked calmly.
The woman laughed in a way that was more obviously fake than she seemed to realise.
“Blackmai-? Oh, you must have misunderstood Mi Nam, of course!” She laughed again. “No, no see I just came to see him because I haven’t seen him for many years! It’s true that I asked if he could spare a bit of money, but that just because he’s the last family I have back to rely on!”
Tae Kyung listened to all of this with a sceptic expression, which didn’t seem to discourage Mi Nam’s aunt in the slightest. Mi Nam couldn’t have known her much at all, he wasn’t similar to her in any way.
“I know everything,” he said. “In fact, the whole band and even much of the company knows.”
It was a gamble, but not one Mi Nam’s aunt seemed smart enough to call him on.
“If you go ahead and talk to a reporter about Mi Nam, the company will deny everything and sue you for libel,” Tae Kyung said, nothing in his face betraying the fact that he knew none of that would occur. “So you see, you have nothing to gain from this.”
Mi Nam’s aunt looked at him a bit before his words seemed to convince her.
“Well, I’m still not entirely sure what you’re referring to…”
Tae Kyung rolled his eyes.
“But of course I will only do something that will have good consequences.”
“Hand over everything you have on Mi Nam and we will pay you,” Tae Kyung said. He could practically see Won signs in her eyes when he said it. “Not as much as you asked for, but I’m sure we can settle on something. Deal?”
Mi Nam’s aunt hesitated for a short moment.
“Oh, and before you make yourself scarce… About Mi Nam’s mother…?”
The concert went amazingly. Tae Kyung didn’t like admitting it, but Mi Nam actually brought something to the group. It hadn’t been as evident in practice, but on stage, it was clear that their energy had changed and that Mi Nam was the reason.
Tae Kyung always enjoyed their concerts, of course, he’d always enjoyed singing for an audience, even if he didn’t enjoy an audience for much else. He’d feared the difference having Mi Nam along would create, but it was… good different. He supposed. Well, it wasn’t bad, at least. Mi Nam was doing adequately.
There was no doubt in Tae Kyung’s mind that telling Mi Nam about his mother before the concert would have made it impossible for him to perform, but he still felt a bit guilty. Mi Nam had asked, of course, but he’d lied and said the aunt didn’t know anything at all. He would have preferred it if he could have avoided a direct lie - misdirection always suited him better, he found - but there was little to be done in the moment.
Still, the moment passed. The concert was done. Tae Kyung didn’t feel he could justify his deception a moment longer and so the moment they’d had their picture taken, he led Mi Nam away from the group and out on a balcony where he hoped they might enjoy some amount of privacy.
“I’m sorry,” Tae Kyung said and Mi Nam looked as if he’d just sprouted wings and started flying around. “Your mother… she’s left this world.”
Mi Nam just looked at him for a moment. Then he started blinking. The blinking turned more and more rapid. Then he was crying.
“No…” he mumbled and let himself fall to the ground. “You said… you said she didn’t know anything…”
He was well and truly sobbing now. Without thinking, Tae Kyung crouched down next to his bandmate, putting a hand on his shoulder, struggling to stop himself from embracing Mi Nam.
“I didn’t want you to go on scene right after finding out,” he said.
Mi Nam nodded distantly. Tae Kyung wondered if he’d even heard.
“My mom… “ He looked up at Tae Kyung with his wet eyes and red face. “I won’t get to see her…”
Tae Kyung only noticed that he was, indeed, embracing Mi Nam now after he’d already moved to do it. He didn’t know what to say, but… maybe this was okay. Maybe he could allow this sort of closeness, for once. Mi Nam seemed like the sort of person that appreciated physical affection, too. He kept mumbling about his mom, senseless things, grief for what could have been, for his dreams, pouring out of him while Tae Kyung just held on.
When Tae Kyung heard another voice, it took all his willpower not to jump away from Mi Nam as if burned the moment. Tae Kyung hadn’t noticed his hands running through Mi Nam’s hair gently till the moment every part of his body felt on alert, watched. Now he wondered what had prompted him to do so.
“What’s wrong with Mi Nam?”
It was Jeremy because of course it was. Tae Kyung relaxed a fraction; Jeremy was about as perceptive as a broken spyglass.
“His mom…” Tae Kyung began, which seemed to spur Mi Nam’s sobbing on. “She’s dead.”
Jeremy’s jaw dropped as he stared from one to the other. He spluttered something incomprehensible before regaining the ability to make words.
“Right now? Has she been sick?”
Tae Kyung hesitated. He was so used to lying that sticking to the truth seemed a somewhat strange option, but he realised there was no reason to keep any of this hidden. Well, not unless Mi Nam wanted to, he supposed, but Mi Nam was a pretty honest person, so…
“Mi Nam never knew his mother. He didn’t know anything till just now.”
Jeremy was at a loss for words, and before he could gather himself enough to form more, the rest of the core team showed up on the balcony. A familiar surge of panic ran through Tae Kyung as more perceptive people found him showing a boy affection, but surely none would see it as more than consoling a bandmate? That was all it was, after all. When none of them gave any indication that they thought anything more of his actions, Tae Kyung began to relax.
Stop worrying, he chastised himself, it’s not as if they found you kissing.
He’d relaxed too soon, though. After Mi Nam was hurried away by his stylist, Shin Woo gave Tae Kyung a long and hard look that brought his silent panic right back into full alarm mode. Jeremy, as usual, was clueless, but Shin Woo… Shin Woo knew… something . And he didn’t like it. Not that Tae Kyung would expect him too, Shin Woo was rather the more… traditional of the three of them.
In the end, none of them said anything.
“You should get home,” Tae Kyung told Mi Nam when he entered the changing room.
“But the interview…” Mi Nam said tonelessly. “I don’t want to disappoint people…”
“People will be more disappointed if you’re quiet and sad at the interview than if you’re not there. Just go home, Mi Nam.”
Mi Nam held Tae Kyung’s eyes for a long moment. He was clearly still shaken, his eyes empty and still a bit wet.
“Tae Kyung’s right,” Stylist Wang said. “I’ll need to disguise you, though…”
They were in a changing room. That oughtn’t be a problem. Stylist Wang mumbled to herself while she figured the disguise out, regarding different pieces of clothes in turn. Tae Kyung decided to check if the coast was clear while he waited, and so he stepped out of the changing room.
The coast, as it turned out, was not, in fact, clear.
A paparazzi. Just what they needed.
Tae Kyung suppressed a sigh as he returned to the changing room instead of answering any of the man’s questions.
“We’ll have to be quick,” Tae Kyung said. “There’s a paparazzi here.”
Stylist Wang mumbled something that sounded suspiciously like swearing as she went to dig out a pastel blue wig. When she’d put it on Mi Nam, Tae Kyung took his wrist and lead him towards the door.
“Remember, be fast,” he said.
The result of Tae Kyung running from a paparazzi with some pretty boy were... entirely predictable.
It was not the first time Tae Kyung had had to discuss his “image” with president Ahn, but Ahn seemed more uncomfortable than he had been last time. He supposed that was why he hadn’t asked Tae Kyung to dispute the paparazzi’s story: at this point, he feared it wasn’t a story at all. Showed what Ahn knew - even had it been true that Tae Kyung had some sort of secret boyfriend, he would never have admitted to it.
In the end it was decided that they needed to change Tae Kyung’s style, which was how he found himself in the same waiting area as He Yi and acidentially waking her by saving her phone.
“Hwang Tae Kyung!” He Yi exclaimed. “What are you doing?!”
He tossed He Yi her phone. Tsk. She was so ungrateful.
“Didn’t you steal a glance at me when I was sleeping?”
“There is nothing to look at,” Tae Kyung responded with a grin. “Look in the mirror.”
He Yi really got on his nerves. She needed to be taken down a peck. Or several.
His dig didn’t seem to have worked, however, as He Yi made no move to look in her mirror, but merely smiled in that poisonously sweet way of her’s.
“Oh, that’s right…” He Yi said. “That reporter did mention…”
It took only a moment for Tae Kyung to take her meaning and for his heart to start hammering away. Though it made him feel anything but calm to know she had heard of it, he kept up an uncaring facade.
“What did he mention?”
“You, with some boy…” she said, her smile still in place. “My, how scandalous…”
“Certainly,” Tae Kyung said, turning a page in the magazine he was pretending to be looking in. “Most celebrity gossip is.”
“That’s how you want it?” He Yi said. “Then, who was that boy? The one who ran with you from your changing room?”
Tae Kyung just smiled at her as he got up.
“I hope your hair turns out beautifully, National Fairy.”
Things were finally starting to calm down a bit for Tae Kyung when suddenly - as always, when the timing was most inconvenient for him - Tae Kyung’s mother showed up. She had never wanted him, wouldn’t even acknowledge him, so what was the point? Couldn’t she just leave him alone? But no, it seemed she couldn’t. Tae Kyung couldn’t even say any of what he really wanted to say, not with President Ahn there, too.
And then… shrimp.
Of course. Of course his mother would offer him a dish with shrimp.
It wasn’t as if she knew anything else about him, why should she know this one thing?
This one thing that countless of strangers knew about him.
But then, wasn’t she a stranger, too?
What? Why was Mi Nam here?
“Hyung-nim, are you sick?”
Tae Kyung just coughed again before walking past him. He needed to get out of here. Mi Nam followed him, as he’d half expected him to and soon enough they were outside and his breathing was back to normal.
“Did you eat shrimp, by any chance?”
Of course. Mi Nam knew. Everyone knew. Everyone but his own mother.
Ugh, it didn’t matter. That woman didn’t deserve thinking about.
Apparently Mi Nam had been with Shin Woo when he stumbled upon Tae Kyung. That in and of itself was normal enough; unlike Tae Kyung, Shin Woo enjoyed playing the supportive big brother. No, what was weird was the theme park thing. What was Shin Woo playing at?
“Normally people go with their girlfriends,” Tae Kyung pointed out.
It really was a boyfriend-girlfriend thing. Not that Tae Kyung had ever dated a guy long enough for that sort of thing, but he couldn’t really imagine going there with just a guy. Groups or straight couples were fine, but two guys? People didn’t do that.
“I think he has a girlfriend,” Mi Nam told him.
Really? Shin Woo? The most straightlaced of them all? He’d have expected this from Jeremy, but Shin Woo? Odd.
So maybe it had been a bit silly of Tae Kyung to insist on finding his own way back instead of taking a taxi or asking for help, but he felt he was entitled to being stubborn after the day he’d had. He needed the distraction to keep from thinking about… her.
“I like your new hairstyle,” Mi Nam told him when they’d finally found their way back.
Really? He was only now noticing? Tsk. Tae Kyung deserved more recognition than that.
“Why did you change it?”
Tae Kyung made an annoyed sound.
“It’s your fault I had to,” he told Mi Nam.
“Mine? How can it be?”
“Because a reporter has a picture of us running away from that changing room,” Tae Kyung explained.
“How does that affect your hair?”
Tae Kyung sighed heavily. Had Mi Nam really never heard of thinking for yourself?
“The rumors, dummy,” he told him and rolled his eyes.
While Mi Nam nodded and stopped asking questions, it didn’t look like he really got it. Tae Kyung supposed he didn’t really either. If the story was going to get out there, what would his hairstyle matter? But things were as they were, he couldn’t change that.
Tae Kyung was good at his job. His main job, as he saw it: singing and songwriting. He could come up with new songs quite easily if he put his mind to it and perfecting them was only a matter of time. Right now, though, it was more than his base competence and professionalism that was pushing him forward; ideas for a specific melody had been kicking around in his head all day and now he finally had the chance to write and play it out, figure out exactly how it should work. He enjoyed music a lot in general, but this, working based on pure inspiration, this was his favourite thing.
So of course he was interrupted. By He Yi of all people, too. Probably the last person he wanted to see. Well, apart from his mother.
She wanted him to open the door for her? Not a chance. Tae Kyung didn’t have time for it and, more importantly, he didn’t want to.He Yi was annoyingly persistent as always, though. Now she was banging on the window and pointing to where she’d written:
I know your secret.
Pfft. As if he had only one. As if it mattered whether she knew, so long as she couldn’t proof anything. She’d made a spelling mistake, though, and so he saw his chance to get rid of her and back to his song. He made a face as she left and then went back into the state of deep concentration he always found himself in when composing.
Later that day, while they were eating lunch, President Ahn announced that Mi Nam’s single was scheduled to be released before the band’s 6th main album and that Mi Nam would be singing Tae Kyung’s new song. Tae Kyung didn’t mind much either way - Mi Nam had a nice voice, after all - but Mi Nam seemed surprised.
“Oh, I didn’t… so soon…! Oh wow, I don’t...“ he rambled, somewhere between anxious and excited.
“You’ll have our support,” Shin Woo said.
“Since you’ll be singing my song, we’ll make sure you don’t mess it up,” Tae Kyung added.
Shin Woo shot him an unimpressed look, but Mi Nam didn’t seem to mind the threatening nature of his reassurance.
“Of course, Hyung-nim,” he just said and laughed.
Tae Kyung felt something stir in him at the sound, but decided not to think about it. Tae Kyung was good at that; deciding what he should and should not let himself think.
As they broke from lunch, Tae Kyung noticed Mi Nam trailing after him. What now? He had songs to compose. The one Tae Kyung suspect President Ahn wanted for Mi Nam’s single still had a few kinks to work out. When would Mi Nam learn to solve his own problems?
“Hyung-nim!” Mi Nam sad as he came up on the side of Tae Kyung. “Could you tell me about the song for the single?”
“You’ll hear it soon, so wait till then,” Tae Kyung just said.
“Ah, but Hyung-nim, I’m nervous, and I think if I knew about the song…”
“I don’t even know which one Presiden Ahn meant,” Tae Kyung said. “I have composed several songs we haven’t released yet, you know.”
“Mi Nam, stop it,” Tae Kyung said and actually stopped walking himself. “If you can’t figure out how to handle your nerves yourself, maybe you’re in the wrong industry.”
Tae Kyung and Mi Nam just stared at each other for a long moment after that. Finally, Mi Nam broke eye contact and asked:
“Do you know if Myungdong Cathedral is near here?”
“Myungdong Cathedral,” Mi Nam repeated. “The Reverend Mother who raised me is in Seoul currently, I wanted to visit.”
“It’s not far…” Tae Kyung said.
The church wasn’t Tae Kyung’s favourite thing and he had a hard time fathoming Mi Nam’s continued relationship with it. Not that Tae Kyung was from a Christian background, but Christians spoke the loudest on certain issues. Did this reverend mother know about Mi Nam…? Did she call Mi Nam by that name?
“Okay, then I’ll just get going,” Mi Nam said and turned to do just that.
Images of Mi Nam swarmed by fans immediately flashed before Tae Kyung’s eyes.
“Stop it,” he said.
Mi Nam turned to look at him, puzzled.
“I’ll drive you,” he told him. “You can’t go in that, though. We both need to change. Meet me by my car in 10 minutes.”
There was something off about Mi Nam once they’d gotten to the car. He looked just a little bit different from how he normally looked and Tae Kyung couldn’t put his finger on it at first. Then he realised that some of Mi Nam’s chest was showing under his loose-fitting clothes, and that said clothes were some of the most feminine clothes he owned. He didn’t look male or female, exactly, but he looked less masculine than he usually did.
“Why do you look like that?” Tae Kyung asked once they were driving.
“Hm?” Mi Nam asked. “Oh, I… well, the Reverend Mother doesn’t know, so…”
Tae Kyung sank something. Well, this was a topic he could relate to, if nothing else.
“I see,” he said, sounding a bit too neutral to his own ear. He didn’t know what he was supposed to sound like in this situation.
“I’ll tell her once I look like a man,” he said.
“Don’t you now?” Tae Kyung asked. Mi Nam did, after all, have most of South Korea convinced at the moment.
Mi Nam smiled melancholically.
“You know what I mean,” he just said.
Tae Kyung got the idea, but didn’t really know that he knew what Mi Nam meant. What did transgender individuals do? There were surgeries, right? And hormones? What was Mi Nam’s plan? When were all these things meant to happen? Had he expected that no-one would notice, once the entire country’s attention was on him?
“One day, when I look how I want to,” Mi Nam said. “I’ll put on a suit and a nice tie and I’ll go find the Reverend Mother and tell her who I am.”
“You don’t have any nice ties,” Tae Kyung commented, for lack of anything better to say.
“I’ll have to buy one,” Mi Nam said with a laugh.
Tae Kyung’s chest did that thing again, that thing he’d been electing not to think about.
After dropping Mi Nam off, Tae Kyung drove around a bit. He considered looking at clothes or shoes, but he had a whole team of stylists, so it seemed rather pointless, and definitely not worth getting recognised and chased around over.
Before Tae Kyung could decide what to do, he got a call.
He hung up the minute he heard who it was.
It rang again.
“Why did you call me?”
“Why did I call you?” He Yi repeated, smugly.
Tae Kyung rolled his eyes.
“I’m hanging up again.”
“I have pictures of you with a man!” He Yi yelled.
Tae Kyung almost froze on the spot, but remembered himself enough to keep attention on his driving.
“What do you mean?” he asked as evenly as he could manage.
“You know exactly what,” He Yi said.
“On the contrary, I have no clue.”
“You’ve been to Itaewon, haven’t you?” He Yi asked in her fakest sugary sweet voice. “Have fun, did you? It looks like it.”
Tae Kyung hadn’t been to Itaewon in almost a year, how had she… She must be lying. She had to be. She was just trying to scare him. To what end, he didn’t know, but she had to be. Who would have a picture? If they had, why would it only have gotten into the hands of someone who’d use it now? What was the odds of a picture like that being clear enough that you could definitely tell it was Tae Kyung?
“Am I?” He Yi laughed. “Well, we’ll just have to see if the reporters think I am, too, once I show them this picture…”
Tae Kyung bit his lip to hold back a sigh. So this was with had come to. Blackmailed by a nasty actress. What did she even stand to gain from this? If he took this seriously, it was just confirm whatever He Yi knew, but if he didn’t and she did have a picture…
“Where are you?”
He Yi was looking smug as ever when he walked up to her. It was beneath a thin veneer of sweetness, of course, as all the truth of her character was, but Tae Kyung had always seen through her. She reminded him of his mother, in some ways.
“Show me this picture,” he told her.
He Yi just smiled.
“My, you must be quite worried,” she said, “coming all this way yourself… of course, who else could you send, given the nature of your secret?”
Tae Kyung gritted his teeth.
“Just show it to me.”
He Yi got out her phone and obliged with a smug smile. And there it was. It was unclear on such small a screen, but it was Tae Kyung kissing a guy in darkened night club and his likeness was capture well enough that it would at the very least get paparazzi to go digging...
He Yi laughed that fake sugary sweet laugh of her’s.
“Do you honestly think this is the only copy?” she asked.
“Delete all of them,” he told her.
She laughed again.
“Did you think I would? Is that why you came running?”
Tae Kyung took a deep breath to avoid losing his temper.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“Why, you, of course,” He Yi said. “Hwang Tae Kyung, I want you to be my boyfriend.”
Tae Kyung just stared at her.
“You heard me.”
“I can’t be,” he protested.
This was ludicrous. He wanted to protect his reputation, yes, but a beard? A beard he didn’t like, at that? Who was blackmailing him into it?
“You will be, or I will share this picture with the press,” He Yi said, “okay, oppa?”
Tae Kyung had no choice but to accept.
Tae Kyung ended up late picking Mi Nam up. He Yi had wanted them to get spotted immediately and had dragged him around to get “accidentally” spotted together. Tae Kyung’s phone was already blowing up with messages from his agent, President Ahn, Jeremy and others. Mi Nam had called him, too, and he had come up with some silly excuse about traffic. Ugh, this was such a bother. Still, He Yi did let him go, in the end, and he drove to the Cathedral to check if Mi Nam was still hanging around waiting for him. As it turned out, he was, only now he was covered in shopping bags.
“Hyung-nim!” Mi Nam called when he spotted Tae Kyung.
Tae Kyung, who was at this point in a very poor mood, just lifted his hand in a half wave in response.
Mi Nam started loading his bags into the backseat as Tae Kyung watched.
“You bought a lot of things,” he commented.
“Well, uhm, I've never had this kind of money before…” Mi Nam confessed.
“What did you buy?”
“Mostly clothes, but some stuff for my room, as well.”
Mi Nam dug through one of the bags and showed him a plush fish.
“Isn't it cute?”
Tae Kyung made some non-committal sound as he took in Mi Nam with the plushy.
“You still look wrong,” he commented.
Mi Nam looked down himself and made a face.
“Yeah. I'll quickly change in the car before we go.”
Soon enough, Mi Nam was back to himself and they were driving off towards the A. N. Jell building.
“You could have told me you were going to see He Yi,” Mi Nam said. “I know how to keep a secret, hyung-nim.”
Tae Kyung chuckled, but for none of the reasons Mi Nam might imagine he would.
“It wasn’t planned,” Tae Kyung just said.
The less he could talk about He Yi, the better. He knew he’d be in for it once they got back, as well.
“Was it good to see the Reverend Mother?” he asked instead.
Mi Nam nodded.
“I couldn’t tell her much, but just seeing her helped,” he said and Tae Kyung felt his eyes on him. “She told me to trust you.”
Tae Kyung took his eyes of the road for a few seconds.
“Yes,” Mi Nam said. “She said I should trust in your song to make sure my first single does well.”
Tae Kyung smirked.
“That’s right, you should trust my composing, Go Mi Nam.”
Mi Nam did a quick bow and exclaimed:
“Then I put my trust in you, hyung-nim!”
And Tae Kyung was finding it harder and harder not to think about it, think about that thing he should never allow himself to think about. Especially not now.
Predictably, they came back to a shitstorm. The minute they were back, Tae Kyung got whisked away by Presiden Ahn, who actually seemed pleased by the whole thing. Sure, this was a scandal, but this type of dating scandal was a good thing that raised interest in both involved parties, and in this specific case, it would be sure to silence those pesky rumors that kept popping up… Tae Kyung wondered how Ahn would react if he knew just how true that was. Shocked at the National Fairy, of course, but beyond that? If Tae Kyung had asked him, he had no doubt he would have wanted him to do this.
Not that he could blame him. Tae Kyung had no interest in bringing genuine scandal to the band.
He Yi showed up too, because of course she did, and almost forced him to kiss her where the paparazzi could see. She wanted this to come off as a heated forbidden romance like the ones in her movies. She’d been living too long getting what she wanted from everyone around her, and now Tae Kyung, too, must play his part to please her. It was vile. He was constantly racking his brain for a way out, but he didn’t know where she had the picture saved and as long as she had that… Tae Kyung didn’t know what he could do.
What he did know was that he didn’t want this mess celebrated .
Jeremy, he could forgive. Jeremy was genuinely happy for him, he could tell. Jeremy was always genuine. Shin Woo was as hard to read for him as ever, but he could swear there was something mocking about his smile. And Mi Nam…. Mi Nam, who practically knew that this wasn’t what he wanted… how could he celebrate this?!
Later that night, he found Mi Nam drunk under a piano. Because of course he did. Where else would Mi Nam be? After some pointless arguing that seemed to mostly be a result of Mi Nam’s inebriated state, Tae Kyung finally got him to shut up and get it together by playing him the song he would be singing for his single.
When he looked again, Mi Nam was sleeping. Typical. Tae Kyung sighed. Well, he couldn’t leave him here, could he?
“Come on, Mi Nam,” he said as he dragged him up.
Mi Nam mumbled incoherently, but went along with it, and soon they were stumbling up the stairs, Mi Nam holding on to Tae Kyung for support as he was still halfway asleep.
“Hyung-nim, I’m your fan… I’m your fan, hyung-nim,” Mi Nam mumbled. How much had his bandmates have to drink, exactly?!
“I told you, you’re not,” Tae Kyung said. “You’re my bandmate, not my fan.”
Mi Nam didn’t seem to have heard. He just snuggled into Tae Kyung and mumbled “Hyung-nim..” and Tae Kyung had to swallow something.
He Yi kept demanding his presence for so many things that he barely had time to help Mi Nam with his single. It was staged date after staged dated after photoshoot, and then there was that damned premiere. Now she wanted even more?
“I’ve done everything you asked the last couple of days. Isn’t it enough for today?”
When Tae Kyung heard where Mi Nam was headed, he decided it would have to be, regardless of what He Yi thought about it. He was not letting Mi Nam go to his father’s tomb all on his own. Well, he wouldn’t be all on his own, he supposed, his agent would have been there with him, but…
Tae Kyung should go. That was that.
Mi Nam was, predictably, sort of annoying to drive long distances with. Somehow he ended up having to change clothes on the way and ended up looking horrendous. He was supposed to be a star, wasn’t he? He couldn’t look like this! Argh, but it was for Mi Nam’s trip, so maybe it was okay…
Apparently Mi Nam had never been here before. Hadn’t even known his dad’s hometown, before. With his aunt’s name and the few things she’d told him before the blackmailing kicked in, Mi Nam had managed to figure out where his dad was from. Now it was just a matter of getting a local to tell him where the tomb was.
“You’re really Go Jae Hyun’s son?” One of the older women in the village asked Mi Nam. “I can’t believe it!”
“I knew him, both before and after he came back… he wasn’t here a lot in life, but he was buried here.”
“Yes, I’ve come to visit his tomb, after all these years…” Mi Nam said.
“Of course, a son should do so for his father,” the older woman said, nodding while she talked. Then she called for her son, a tall man around Tae Kyung’s age, and instructed him to show them the way.
“Thank you so much,” Mi Nam told her.
They drove a little while, but then came to the hill the tomb was on and was told they’d have to walk the rest of the way.
“If it’s okay, I think I should do this by myself…” Mi Nam said.
“Of course,” Tae Kyung said. “I’ll wait with the car.”
Tae Kyung did wait with the car for a little bit. The thing was… that got boring. And the nature was so nice here. After Mi Nam had dragged him all the way out here, he really ought to get to enjoy it, right?
After finding himself chased so far away that he no longer had any idea where he was, Tae Kyung sorely regretted ever leaving his car. It wouldn’t have been a problem if his phone had just been working, but it’d lost all battery somewhere between him listening to music and his wild escape from that loose pig. While nature could be nice, it could also be disgusting, and Tae Kyung couldn’t stand filth, which was how he found himself stopping by a stream to was off before he could even begin to try to figure out how to get back to his car or to the village.
Luckily, Mi Nam found him before he had to do anything of the sort. It was so sweet how he’d brought everything he thought Tae Kyung might need… was that the sort of thing they taught you in a convent? Or was that all Mi Nam? At any rate, Tae Kyung was beyond relieved to get back in his own clothes.
It turned out he really had gotten himself quite far away from the village. It had gotten dark once they were starting to get near it, and Tae Kyung could hardly see anymore. He grabbed onto Mi Nam as they walked and as soon as he thought he spotted a bench, he sat down.
“It’s so beautiful,” Mi Nam said, “there are so many stars!”
Tae Kyung, not for the first time, cursed his night blindness. He could, as Mi Nam pointed out, at least see the moon. Mi Nam, though his knowledge about basic astrophysics turned out severely lacking, was right so far; it was pretty.
“Maybe I’m a parasite on you like the moon is a parasite on the sun,” Mi Nam said.
It was, perhaps, the most heartbreaking thing Tae Kyung had heard him say.
“The moon isn’t useless,” he started. “Even if there are many stars, the moon is all I can see.”
“I, too, can only see one special star.”
Tae Kyung frowned.
“I thought you said there were many stars out.”
“Yes,” Mi Nam said with emotion,”but one star is so bright... that it keeps me from seeing any other.”
That didn’t make any sense.
Was there a star like that?
Oh, surely not?
Mi Nam was flirting?!
It all made sense, suddenly. Mi Nam’s state after the news about Tae Kyung and He Yi broke, how he’d kept saying he was Tae Kyung’s fan, the way he’d been looking at him this whole trip… Tae Kyung had been so busy denying his own feelings that there had been nothing left to notice Mi Nam’s. But now… he saw it, and with everything inside him screaming at him: “What if you’re wrong?”, Tae Kyung turned and kissed Mi Nam.
Mi Nam kissed back for only a moment, but then turned away from him. Then there was light.
“Oppa!” the voice he least wanted to hear yelled.
What in the world was He Yi doing here? Had she seen?
“I called her, back before I left to look for you…” Mi Nam told him. “I thought your girlfriend should know… I didn’t think she’d come all this way.”
Tae Kyung laughed bitterly and got up.
“Thanks for being bothersome once again, Mi Nam.”