Sometimes he wants to mention it, the knowledge locked away in the vault of his mind. Manila folders and files with her entire past written out in emotionless clerical black ink, transcribed on the back of his eyelids like braille. She had been his first real assignment, and he had devoted himself to memorizing her from the moment Rika placed her information in his hands. There was no way he could forget the history scrawled dispassionately across those crisp pages, and yet…he could find no traces of it in her when he finally met her. There was no sign of the torment she’d lived through; the veritable hell she’d been born into. When she would smile that unselfconscious smile, radiating something like sunlight from every pore, his lips would twitch with the desire to shout at her. Ask why she didn’t portray her suffering the way he did, why she didn’t bear the marks that he did, why she remained so pure and loving despite it all. Without fail Saeyoung would be there, golden eyes suddenly sharp with warning as if simply knowing what Saeran wanted to say, a rare dark downward twist to his lips that swore Saeran to silence on the spot every single time.
Even in his rebellious fits, when his Savior’s methods dug their talons back into his mind until he lashed out, violent and hateful, Saeran never brought himself to do it. He never threw that harmful information back in her face. Instead he would focus on the soft thrum of her melodic voice, drawing him away from the panic attacks that always came after the outbursts. He would focus on the way she would ramble with the undertone of her vocals, never pressuring him, always allowing him to take his time coming back to himself.
Instead she would speak about whatever came to her mind; criticizing the plot of a new show she had started watching, contemplating what to make for dinner, musing over whether or not she would look good with short hair. Saeran lifted his eyes to the ends of her long brown hair, incapable of meeting her eyes after the things he’d said to her in his fit of rage. Things Saeyoung was not there to protect her from, this time, though she had more than enough experience to deal with Saeran’s breakdowns alone by now.
“I…think you look good with long hair,” he mumbled softly, and her voice petered out softly, as respectful as always to make sure he never felt self-conscious when he finally spoke. It was the only apology he could manage so soon after his attack, but he knew she was too forgiving to hold it against him. As he lifted his eyes further, Saeran was greeted by that same radiant smile that he could never understand, her small, delicate hands lifting to run over the ends of her hair. Something shy and flustered danced across the pink of her cheeks, and she ducked her head even as her grin stretched further across her pretty face. A warm ball squirmed pleasantly in Saeran’s stomach to see her so bashful and pleased because of something he’d said. Maybe it fixed a little bit of the hurt he caused her during his reversion.
“Thank you Saeran,” she uttered sweetly, lifting her mesmerizing golden eyes to his own green. Tentatively he lifted a hand to touch the ends of her hair, locks like silk slipping over his knuckles until the last strand had fallen away from his fingers. Throughout the motion she only sat there, gazing at him, too soft and patient for a word like ‘staring’. Trusting when she should not be, just as she should never have trusted him when he had messaged her the first time. Completely fearless. As if she was so sure Saeran would never hurt her that it was as reliable as bedrock beneath her feet. Even when she had seen and experienced firsthand what men like him could do to a person. It astounded him, that kind of trust, and he still didn’t understand why she continued to trust him even during his violent outbursts. Surely that was difficult for her to see, with her past?
Still he could not ask it of her. Instead, he turned his hands to look down at his upturned palms, recalling all the pain he’d caused with them.
“Why do you trust me so much?” Saeran whispered, eyes purposefully shadowed by his pale hair to avoid whatever myriad of emotions may cross her gentle face. Instead he jolted as she immediately but slowly placed both her hands in his palms, and he stared at the difference between them. Her hands were so small and delicate, he couldn’t help but fold his thumbs over to rub at the soft skin on the backs of her hands, amazed by how his hands encompassed hers so entirely. Her soft giggle reminded him of what he was doing, and his cheeks flushed a little but he didn’t release her hands as he peered at her from beneath his bangs.
She smiled softly at him, not a single hard edge about her in moments like these. She was such a perfect mirror; funny and charming with Saeyoung, witty and childlike with Yoosung, mature and wise with Jumin, comforting and sharp with Jaehee, patient and forgiving with Jihyun. She astounded him.
“You’d never hurt me, Saeran,” she said softly, golden eyes warm like the summer sun. “Even when you hurt, you never really say anything that would upset you. You never touch me until you feel safe and sure of yourself, and when you do…” her hands traced down his palms, slipping through his loose grasp until just their fingertips lay against each other.
“You’re always gentle. I’m not afraid of you Saeran. Rika may have hurt you and tried to change you, but I think you’ve always been gentle inside. That’s why we were able to reach you.”
Saeran clenched his eyes shut against the emotions those words summoned in his chest. The answer to a question he’d hidden behind his teeth for so many months. It hurt, but it was a good kind of hurt. Like cleansing fire. He gripped her hands firmly, and brought their joined fingers up to his face, pressing her warm palms to his wet cheeks. Her sad sigh was understanding, and she shuffled to her knees and gently stroked his tears away as his shoulders shook, his own hands never leaving where they covered hers.
“How are you so good? How? What did I do to deserve you?” he cried lowly against her hands, those heavenly hands that had raised him like Lazarus from the depths of his grave. She was the only angel he ever needed. The only religion he’d ever follow. Saeyoung had his rosary, his faith, his texts. Saeran only needed her. For surely heaven existed in the creases of the palms that touched his cheeks and swept away his tears with gentle persistence.
“You have always deserved goodness, Saeran,” she comforted quietly, in the space between them. “If I can give that to you, then my life has more meaning.” And Saeran clenched her hands tighter, upset that she didn’t understand what she meant but unwilling to ask when her words were like stitches for his shattered heart. He needed them, and so he would not try and ask more. Not yet.
When Saeyoung walked through the door that evening, laden with groceries, he found Saeran with his head cradled on the brunette’s lap, her hands gently carding through his hair as he slept. She may have hissed and swatted at him playfully as he took photos, but her smile was one of relief and hope.