It is a typical Friday night. Bright lights from different establishments color the streets in every direction while people walk on the pavements or drive their cars to restaurants or bars to unwind after a stressful week. However, just like in movies, something is bound to happen in some parts of a city like Seoul.
An expensive black Porsche is driving along the busy streets of Apgujeong at an average speed. Unfortunately, the driver misses the red light and doesn't see a person crossing the pedestrian. Eyes wide, Hyunchul hits the break as his bumper collides with a teenage boy, causing him to roll over the car’s windshield and down the asphalted road. Shock takes over Hyunchul’s body. His eyes focus straight ahead. He stays where he is until a police officer knocks on his window and tells him to step out of his car. After taking a breath alcohol test and attempting to explain himself, the police officer leaves Hyunchul for a couple of minutes and walks to the direction of the medics who are carrying the unconscious boy towards the ambulance.
Another police officer walks towards Hyunchul, and says, “You need to come with us to the station, Mr. Park.”
Hyunchul turns away from the closing ambulance and faces the police officer. “Why? I thought you already confirmed that I’m not drunk?” he asks, confused.
The police officer snickers, and replies, “That’s true. But you still hit that boy with your car.” Glancing at the wrecked windshield of his Porsche, Hyunchul thinks, ‘I don’t need this right now.’ However, knowing he has no way out of the situation, Hyunchul gives in. “Can I just call my manager first?” he asks, defeated.
“You can do that on the way to the station,” the police officer tells him as he leads Hyunchul at one of the police patrol cars surrounding the area.
The house is dark. His mother is still at the market, selling fruits and vegetables while his younger brother is just on his way home from his baseball practice. Thus, Suhoon is certain he is totally on his own. ‘Is that my phone ringing?’ he asks himself as he turns off the shower to focus on his surroundings and hears the faint sound of his phone. Quickly, Suhoon grabs his towel and wraps it around his waist to step out of the shower, not bothering to wipe the water off his body.
Picking up the phone that is on top of their living room table, Suhoon checks the phone screen and reads an unregistered number. “Hello?” he answers, tentatively.
“Good evening, is this Lee Suhoon?” a female voice asks.
“Yes, ma’am,” Suhoon says, curious.
“Mr. Lee, my name Lim Sehwa. I’m a nurse at Seoul Central Hospital,” the woman tells Suhoon, making him nervous all of a sudden, “we just want to inform you that your younger brother, Lee Injoon, had been brought here ten minutes ago.”
Panicking, Suhoon asks, “What? Why?”
“He was hit by a car at approximately 7 PM at the Apgujeong area,” the nurse explains as clearly as she can.
“I understand, I’ll be on my way,” Suhoon tells her as he tries to calm himself, “thank you very much.”
“What happened here?”
Hyunchul looks up at the voice of his older brother and stands up from his seat. “Jaejoong-hyung,” he calls as Jaejoong stands before him together with a slightly shorter man who happens to be Hyunchul’s manager, Mr. Hong.
“We’ll explain, Mr. Kim,” the police officer tells Jaejoong, “please sit down.”
Jaejoong sits beside Hyunchul while Mr. Hong sits opposite them and listens to the police officer’s narration of the accident that happened and the state of the victim.
“I see...we’re sorry for what happened,” Jaejoong says, glancing at the boy sitting beside him, “what would be Hyunchul’s punishment? Is there any way we can talk around that? I mean, you said it yourself, he isn’t drunk. So, it was just really an accident...a very horrible one.”
“That's right, we have decided three months of community service, four hours a day, will be enough,” the police officer tells Jaejoong, having considered Hyunchul’s status already, “and suspend of his driving license for a year.”
Hyunchul turns to the police officer sharply, and exclaims, “No way! You can’t make me stop driving!”
Jaejoong rolls his eyes and tries to calm Hyunchul down, “Hyunchul -”
“Eight months of community service, six hours a day!” Hyunchul bargains, leaning forward the police officer’s desk, “Just don’t take my driving license.”
The police officer rubs his temple as his current headache gets much worse. There are a lot of press people outside the police station from the moment they brought Hyunchul in and his men are having a hard time controlling them. He cannot blame them since this is a huge scoop, especially since South Korea loves to talk about the ice prince of the acting world Park Hyunchul. Knowing that he will not win this argument against the young man without causing further scenes the press will love, the police officer says, “Fine. You'll have your community service from Monday to Friday, 12 NN to 6 PM, for eight months. I expect you to fulfil your word or else I will revoke your license for good.”
“Deal,” Hyunchul replies, grinning in victory.
“You shouldn’t be too happy yet,” the police officer tells him, totally annoyed at Hyunchul’s cocky attitude, “we haven’t talked to the victim’s family yet, we don’t if they’re going to press any charges or not.”
Wanting to put a stop at Hyunchul’s arrogant show, Jaejoong pulls his younger brother back and says, “We’ll talk to them and negotiate with them ourselves. Can we go now?”
‘Damn celebrities,’ the police officer thinks as he shrugs and says, “Of course, let me just finish his paperwork.”
“We’ll take care of everything,” Jaejoong says, looking at Mrs. Lee and Suhoon, “from the hospital bills, medicines, treatments, rehabilitation...everything.”
Mrs. Lee squeezes his son’s hand on her shoulder, and says, “We still have our pride, Mr. Kim. But since we cannot afford all those, for now, we’ll accept your assistance. I hope you’ll keep your word. We trust you.”
Suhoon rolls his eyes, and says, “Just like umma said, we don’t have any money so you’re lucky or else we’ll file a lawsuit against your brother.”
Hyunchul, who is leaning by the door, looks up and glares at Suhoon. “We said we’re sorry, okay?” he snaps as his manager tries to calm him down.
Scoffing, Suhoon replies, “No, you didn’t. Well, your brother did. You weren’t saying anything until now.”
“Fine, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hit your brother,” Hyunchul says, stepping forward, “do you want me to hire a lawyer for you so that you can sue me?”
Running his palm on his face, Jaejoong warns, “Hyunchul, that’s enough.”
“You know what, you’re something,” Suhoon tells Hyunchul, ignoring his mother’s pleas for him to step back, “you’re the one who was not paying attention on the road and sent my brother to hospital, yet you’re the one who’s acting as if we owe you something?” he adds, angrily, “You didn’t just break bones here! You also ruined his future! His only ticket to college is to become a baseball varsity player. Thanks to you, that’s not going to happen!”
“Fine! Are you worried about his education? I’ll pay for it!” Hyunchul answers back, “Tell me where he’s going to study and I’ll give you money regardless of what amount! I’ll take care of his allowance, his accommodations if he has to live far. Everything! Just shut your damn mouth!”
Suhoon is about to retaliate, but Hyunchul bolts out of the room, fuming.
Jaejoong sighs and bows down before Mrs. Lee. “I’m very sorry for that, Mrs. Lee,” he says.
“It’s okay, Mr. Kim,” Mrs. Lee replies, giving a small smile, “we’re sorry too.”
“Umma,” Suhoon groans.
“Stop it, Suhoon,” Mrs. Lee snaps at his son.
“I think we should go now,” Jaejoong says, slipping his hand into his pocket to grab his wallet and takes out a business card, “if there’s anything you need, please don’t hesitate to call,” he adds, handing the card to Suhoon.
Jaejoong and Mr. Hong bow to the Lees and politely step out of the room. They are waiting at the elevator when Jaejoong says, “That boy is something. Don’t you think, Mr. Hong?”
Mr. Hong looks at Jaejoong, and replies, “Yeah. I’m really sorry, Jaejoong, but Hyunchul was way out of line there. That was plain rude.”
Jaejoong chuckles, and says, “I’m not talking about Hyunchul, Mr. Hong. Hyunchul being rude isn't new anymore.”
“Oh, so you’re talking about Lee Suhoon?” Mr. Hong asks.
“Yes. I mean, I don’t think I can ever talk to Hyunchul that way,” Jaejoong says, shaking his head, “that boy got me wrapped around his little finger even though he never really likes me that much.”
“I already talked to my boss,” Seunghyun tells Suhoon, who is waiting for him at the farthest table of an empty club, “we don’t need another staff right now, but he said he'd give you a chance.”
Suhoon smiles at his cousin and says, “Thanks, Seunghyun.”
Seunghyun pats Suhoon at the back, and adds, “He has one condition though.”
“What is it?” Suhoon asks.
Sighing, Seunghyun answers, “He’s just giving you one night. If you messed up, I wouldn’t be able to help you anymore.”
“I understand,” Suhoon replies.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Seunghyun asks as he leads Suhoon at the locker rooms to lend him a uniform.
“Yes, I don’t have a choice anyway,” Suhoon says as he starts changing his clothes, “my supermarket job isn't going to be enough, I have to find a way to get additional income.”
Seunghyun nods in understanding. He learned about what happened to Injoon the night before when Suhoon called him if he can help him find another job. He wished he can suggest other places, but he was not able to look around much. “No offence, Suhoon, but you know that you’re bad at dealing with crowds, right?” he asks, worried.
“Well, I guess I just have to learn how to deal with it for Injoon’s sake,” he answers as he neatly folds his clothes.
Taking the clothes from Suhoon, Seunghyun places them inside his locker then scratches his head in confusion. “I don’t get it though. Why bother, Suhoon?” he asks, closing his locker, “Kim Jaejoong promised that they’re going to take care of everything that Injoon will need. Even his bratty brother told you that he'd pay for Injoon’s college.”
“That’s the point,” Suhoon replies, crossing his arms across his chest, “I don’t want to rely on their money, especially the money that will be coming out of Park Hyunchul’s pocket.”
Though still confused, Seunghyun shrugs and drops the subject. Unfortunately for Suhoon, Seunghyun was right - working with crowds is not up to his alley. After fifteen broken bottles and more than twenty complaints from customers, the club’s manager had enough.
Seunghyun enters the locker room and finds his cousin sitting on one of the benches, and says, “I hate to say this but...”
“You told me so,” Suhoon finishes, smiling defeatedly at him.
Seunghyun nods and sits beside him as Suhoon sighs. “You know what,” Seunghyun begins, cautiously, “if you want a good job, why don’t you call Kim Jaejoong?”
“No,” Suhoon snaps at Seunghyun, “I’m not going to ask them for help.”
Seunghyun shakes his head, and says, “This is not the time to put your pride in front, Suhoon. Tell me, what good job can you get when you only finished high school? Don’t think I don’t understand you because I didn’t get to step into college too. If I were able to, I wouldn’t be here. I didn’t find this job overnight, Suhoon, and I know that you also got lucky when you found the job you have at the supermarket.”
“But that would mean that the money I would earn would still come from them,” Suhoon says, almost whining, “I don’t want to owe them anything.”
Chuckling, Seunghyun replies, “You’re so stupid. How would you owe them anything when they were the ones who almost killed Injoon? You won’t owe them anything, Suhoon. They’re the ones who owe you.”
Suhoon looks around Jaejoong’s office as he sits on a sofa and waits for him. He sees a tall shelf full of trophies and plaques and remembers that Jaejoong is an award-winning actor after all. Then on the small shelf behind Jaejoong’s swivel chair are mostly photos of a baby, which Suhoon assumes as Hyunchul, and the rest of the are Jaejoong and Hyunchul. Suhoon notices that there are no solo pictures of Jaejoong aside from the massive portrait of him on the wall beside the door. It makes Suhoon realize how Jaejoong’s world revolves around his younger brother. ‘Lucky brat,’ he thinks.
“I’m so sorry for making you wait,” Jaejoong says as he enters his office in a rush with his secretary.
Standing up to say that it does not matter, Suhoon stays quiet as Jaejoong puts his bag on his table, hangs his coat at the back of his swivel chair, and instructs his secretary to bring in two beverages.
“Please, sit down,” Jaejoong tells him as his secretary leaves the office.
Suhoon nods and sits back down the sofa as Jaejoong takes the other couch opposite him. “Okay, let’s get down to business, I don’t want to waste more of your time,” Jaejoong says as his secretary reemerges into the office with two cans of cold soda, which she places on the center table, and leaves once again, “did something happen? I told the doctors to notify me if something happens, but I didn’t receive any call.”
“Oh no, Mr. Kim, nothing’s wrong,” Suhoon quickly assures him, “Injoon’s doing well.”
Confused, Jaejoong replies, “I see...then what brought you here?”
Suhoon shifts uncomfortably on his seat and begins, “Ummm...the assistance you're providing is more than enough, but I don’t want to rely on it alone...”
“What do you mean?” Jaejoong asks.
Biting his lip, Suhoon answers, “Please don’t take this the wrong way, Mr. Kim. I just came here to...I was hoping that maybe...you can help me look for a job.”
“A job?” Jaejoong asks, surprised.
Suhoon nods, and explains, “Umma has a small place at the market. She sells fruits and vegetables. Then, I work at a supermarket. Our combined earnings aren't big, but it’s enough to afford umma’s medication and Injoon’s school allowance. But...after what happened to Injoon...I thought that we'd need an extra source of income. I tried to enter my cousin’s job at some club but...the night wasn’t even in full swing yet, and I already broke a full bottle crate...”
Jaejoong chuckles at Suhoon’s story, and says, “You know what, I like you. You’re a very nice kid. You and your mother are both very nice people, and I’m sure Injoon as well so I didn’t hesitate to help you.”
Smiling, Suhoon replies, “Thank you.”
“So, tell me, what did you take in college? Or are you still studying?” Jaejoong asks.
Suhoon looks down at the floor, and answers, “I only finished high school. Appa died months before my graduation with my cousin’s parents. They got involved in an accident in a ski resort where they used to work.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jaejoong replies, frowning.
“It’s okay, Mr. Kim,” Suhoon quickly tells him.
Leaning back on his seat, Jaejoong says, “If that’s the case, you’re very aware of your limitations.”
“Don’t worry, though. I know a job that might be able to help you,” Jaejoong tells him, grinning.
“Really?” Suhoon asks, hopeful.
“In the entertainment industry, being a personal assistant doesn’t need a college diploma,” Jaejoong began, crossing his legs, “but they earn huge money,” he adds, beaming at Suhoon, “do you think you can handle that? It’s not hard, just tiring. You don’t have to deal with people too because that’s the manager’s job. You can
quit your job at the supermarket too. What do you say?”
“Sounds manageable,” Suhoon admits.
“Great!” Jaejoong exclaims as he claps his hands together, “then I’m hiring you as Hyunchul’s PA.”
Suhoon cannot help but widen his eyes in disbelief.
Hyunchul grumbles as he pads along his living room to answer the door. It is 10 AM already and, usually, he will have some scheduled trips to studios, offices or salons but his brother thought it would be better if he focuses on his community service for the first week to get him used to it. ‘Eight months is a long time,’ Jaejoong puts it.
Looking through the peephole, Hyunchul sees his brother and sighs, knowing that he should not have been surprised. “What are you doing here?” he asks the moment he opens the door, looking sharply at Jaejoong.
“Are you ready for your first of community service?” Jaejoong asks, too enthusiastic for Hyunchul’s liking. Hyunchul rolls his eyes and catches the sight of the boy he argued with at the hospital last Friday.
“What’s he doing here?” he asks, narrowing his eyes at Suhoon’s direction.
“Mind letting us in?” Jaejoong suggests, smiling, “I’ll tell you everything inside.”
Huffing, Hyunchul leaves the door and walks back to the kitchen where he is eating his breakfast.
“Suhoon’s going to be your new PA,” Jaejoong informs Hyunchul, excitedly, as he and Suhoon walk inside the furnished flat.
Hyunchul looks at his brother incredulously and shakes his head. “You’re already tracking me through my phone and my cars, now you want to follow me around through a human GPS?” he says, annoyed.
“A human GPS? Excuse me, but -” Suhoon butts in the conversation but Jaejoong lifts a hand in front of him to tell him to stop.
“Let me handle this, Suhoon,” Jaejoong tells him, making Hyunchul roll his eyes. Turning back to his younger brother, he says, “I just thought that I need to take more precautionary measures.”
Losing his appetite, Hyunchul takes his bowl of cereals from the counter and dumps it into the sink. “Fine, it’s not like I have any say on anything anyway,” he says, walking out of the kitchen, “help yourselves, I’m just going to prepare for this oh-so-glorious day.”
Sighing, Jaejoong watches Hyunchul disappear inside his bedroom. “I’m so sorry about that,” he says, turning to Suhoon.
“It’s alright, Mr. Kim,” Suhoon replies, shrugging, “ I don’t know if I can stand being around him for one whole day. He’s difficult.”
Jaejoong smiles and says, “I know. That’s why...I’m asking you to be patient with him. I may be his brother but, honestly, I have no idea how to reach out to him...it’s like there’s this very thick wall between the two of us. I'm so close to giving up...”
Suhoon narrows his eyes at Jaejoong, and says, “You don’t want me to be his PA.”
Shaking his head, Jaejoong cannot help but feel amazed at how fast Suhoon realized his agenda. Sighing, Jaejoong nods his head, and explains, “I’m sorry if I’m asking something like this from you. This should be just between Hyunchul and me after all...it’s just...I don’t know...I just have this feeling that you can somehow tear down the walls that he put around him even just a little...”
“What if he’s just like that?” Suhoon asks, looking around Hyunchul’s flat and noting the lack of photos and any personal touches, “Because I think he’s just like that.”
“Then...I’m just going to leave him alone...” Jaejoong answers, sitting down on one of the couches, “just tell me if you really can’t take it, and I’ll give you another job but, for now, please?”
“Yeah...sure,” Suhoon says, frowning at the sight of expensive paintings, sophisticated furniture, plain beige walls, and spotless floor. He cannot help but compare Hyunchul’s flat to Jaejoong’s office. He feels a powerful urge to shake his head as he cannot help but think that Jaejoong’s office screams more of home than Hyunchul’s flat when, ironically, it is a place where Jaejoong works.
“Will you stop staring at me?” Hyunchul snaps at Suhoon as he speeds up to beat the red light.
Suhoon shakes his head and says, “You shouldn’t be allowed to drive.”
“Shut up,” Hyunchul retorts as he tries his best to ignore the other boy, who is sitting on the passenger’s seat.
Shrugging, Suhoon crosses his arms and asks, “By the way, what happened to your other car? They said a black Porsche hit Injoon, but this is a red convertible BMW - not perfect for the coming winter.”
Irritated, Hyunchul replies, “You do know that the accident took place last Friday night, right? Do you think that an auto repair shop can fix everything for just two days?”
“Will it take as long as my brother’s?” Suhoon asks, nonchalantly.
Cursing under his breath, Hyunchul pulls over to the side of the road before they cross a bridge.
“What are you doing?” Suhoon exclaims, “You’re going to be late! It’s already 11 AM!”
“I don’t care! Just shut up!” Hyunchul snaps, looking directly at Suhoon, “I know what I did to your brother, okay? You don’t have to rub it to my face every second of my life!”
“Not until you feel truly sorry for it,” Suhoon mutters, looking away.
Shaking his head, Hyunchul decides to ignore Suhoon and goes back to driving. The two of them arrive at the place for Hyunchul’s community service in time. However, it would not have been possible if Hyunchul did not drive at an unacceptable speed. Nevertheless, Suhoon just kept his mouth shut throughout the rest of their journey and clung tightly on his seatbelt.
The police handling Hyunchul’s case decided to assign the young actor to a retirement home near the sea. Suhoon breathes in the fresh air while Hyunchul listens intently to the woman in charge of the whole facility. “I know this can be difficult but just try to be patient and gentle with them,” Mrs. Jang tells Hyunchul with a pleasant smile, “they can be endearing at times too.”
Suhoon glances at Hyunchul and wonders how the other boy will try to be patient and gentle because he does not think that Hyunchul has any soft spot for the elderly.
“No problem,” Hyunchul replies.
“Since this is your first day, we’ll just show you around and teach you the things that you’ll be doing for the next eight months,” Mrs. Jang informs him.
Hyunchul purses his lips and replies, “I don’t think that’ll be necessary, but if that’s how things work around here, then so be it.”
Suhoon cannot help but roll his eyes at Hyunchul’s response.
“Very well then, I’m just going to get one of our nurses who can assist you,” Mrs. Jang says as she excuses herself and leaves Hyunchul and Suhoon at the lobby.
Walking towards Hyunchul, Suhoon whispers, “Is that how you really talk?”
Hyunchul glares at Suhoon, and says, “If I remember correctly, your job is only to follow me around and to make sure I get to all my schedule then report everything to my brother. How did my talking become your business?”
“I know it’s not but trying to be nice, especially in a place like this won’t hurt, you know,” Suhoon tells him, dropping the subject.
“Whatever,” Hyunchul mutters as Mrs. Jang returns with a young female nurse with her.
Suhoon notices how the young nurse is trying very hard to keep a straight face upon seeing Hyunchul. ‘Fangirls,’ Suhoon thinks as he wonders how many of the nurses in the retirement home were thrilled when they found out that Hyunchul will be serving his community service with them. Knowing that most of them do not even care why Hyunchul ended up here, Suhoon shakes his head in disgust.
Suhoon has to admit that Hyunchul did well on his first day. He was terrified that the young actor might offend one or more elders in the retirement home, so he was on his toes the whole day, watching Hyunchul’s every move and listening to his every word. However, Hyunchul did everything he was told. Not once did he question anything. Suhoon thinks that it might be just the calm before the storm, but after one day, one week, one month, nothing happened. Therefore, Suhoon decides to loosen up slowly. ‘At least
he knows the concept of respect,’ he tells himself. Their relationship, on the other hand, is entirely a different story. They still treat each other coldly as much as possible. Though their bickerings have lessened, they never learned to get along. All they learned is how to coexist and how to tolerate each other’s presence.
It has been seven months since Hyunchul hit Injoon with his car. It was autumn of October at that time. Then, Suhoon had to watch his younger brother suffer the cold of winter. The temperature caused Injoon’s leg to go numb, making Injoon cry of pain. Those were the times when Suhoon would have to control himself around Hyunchul because he would always think of lashing out on the young actor. Thankfully, winter turned to spring, and Injoon had gotten better. Also, Hyunchul’s community service is almost over. Suhoon has gotten used to following Hyunchul around - starting from his flat to the retirement home to some photoshoots, interviews or shootings sometimes. It was overwhelming at first, but Mr. Hong told him to relax and to stay out of the way. “You just need to move when you see Hyunchul as if he needs something,” he told him on his second week of his job when he found himself in the middle of a chaotic movie set.
Suhoon resented the idea at first. Every day, he sees other actors and actresses ordering their PAs around to get the food or drinks or some other things. The thought of doing the same stuff for Hyunchul made him want to throw up. However, he soon realized that he does not have to worry about it because, despite his rude personality, Hyunchul seems to always get anything he needs by himself. Unfortunately, the more he realizes that he is just standing at the back most of the time eventually unnerved him. Thus, one day, he went to Hyunchul to ask if he needs anything.
Hyunchul smirked, and said, “Didn’t hyung told you that you’re my first ever PA?”
Suhoon shook his head dumbly. He remembered Jaejoong using the term “new” when he hired him, so he assumed that Hyunchul had others before him but decided to quit because Hyunchul is hard to handle.
“Then now you know,” Hyunchul told him as he went to a vending machine, “you should be thankful I’m not like the others who order people around, they make me sick,” he admits, surprising Suhoon, “but if it really bothers you, I’ll get you if there’s something I really need.”
Suhoon found himself nodding as Hyunchul drank his coffee and he hated it.
Fortunately, Mr. Hong noticed his restlessness and would always ask him to run some easy errands. However, Suhoon should have known that what Hyunchul really needs is neither coffee or food or anything trivial like those.
It is the middle of May - Hyunchul’s seventh month in the community service - and Hyunchul is told they have a new patient. Hyunchul nods his head in understanding, but Suhoon can see that he does not care. At 3 PM, Hyunchul will distribute afternoon snack to everyone with Suhoon following him behind. It irritates Hyunchul as he prefers to do his job without Suhoon watching him every time. However, Suhoon insisted he wants to make sure that everything will be alright.
Hyunchul knocks and enters the room of the retirement home’s new patient, an elderly woman. Suhoon hears Hyunchul greets her with the amount of fake enthusiasm he can muster. He cannot help but think that Hyunchul is such a terrible actor whenever he witnesses it.
“It’s toasted bread and coco jam today, Mrs. Han,” Hyunchul tells the old woman as Suhoon cringes at the tone of Hyunchul’s voice.
Mrs. Han turns to Hyunchul as he removes the lid of the coco jam.
“I know you!” Mrs. Han says with wide eyes.
Suhoon, who is leaning on the door frame, straightens himself up. Not everyone in the retirement home - except for the nurses - know who Hyunchul is. Those who do will always be giddy and will start rambling happily about Hyunchul’s father, who was an actor himself back in the days, and sometimes Jaejoong. However, Suhoon notices the venomous tone the old lady used as she sits in front of Hyunchul, and he knows that something terrible is going to happen.
Hyunchul seems to have felt it too as he looks up at Mrs. Han cautiously. Usually, he will reply “You do?” to patients who recognize him, but something tells him that it will not be the right response to use right now.
“Your mother is a slut!” Mrs. Han yells, causing Hyunchul to step back, “She’s a homewrecker!”
Panicking, Suhoon runs down the hallway to call for help.
“I..I don’t know what you’re talking about, Mrs. Han,” Hyunchul says, hoping he can calm the old lady.
“Liar!” she hollers, throwing the tray towards Hyunchul’s direction.
“Stop!” Suhoon exclaims as he shields Hyunchul from further attacks.
“Please step out of the room,” Mrs. Jang tells the two boys as she enters the room with two nurses.
Following Mrs. Jang’s instructions, Suhoon guides the shocked Hyunchul out of the room.
“His mother is a whore! She ruined a perfect family!” Mrs. Han keeps on shouting from her room, calling the attention of other patients on the floor. However, Suhoon and Hyunchul only ignore the murmurs that are starting to grow. “You should burn in hell! Children like you don’t deserve to live!” Mrs. Han adds and Suhoon has enough of it. Thus, he puts his hands on both sides of Hyunchul’s head in an attempt to cover his ears and leads him to the lobby.
Suhoon helps Hyunchul sit on one of the couches and quickly gets him a glass of water. He has to admit that he is rattled deep inside. This is the first time he has seen Hyunchul so shaken up in the seven months he had known him. “Here, drink some water,” Suhoon tells Hyunchul in the most gentle voice he has used on him as he hands him a glass of water, “do you need anything else?”
Hyunchul shakes his head as he drinks.
“Are you okay?” Suhoon asks, genuinely worried.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Hyunchul answers as he hands the glass back to Suhoon.
However, Suhoon does not believe him. “Be honest,” he says, firmly, “do you want to get out of here?”
Hyunchul looks up to him, hopeful. “Can I?”
Unconsciously, Suhoon caresses Hyunchul’s hair and tucks it behind his ear, and says, “I’ll talk to them.”
Slightly startled, Hyunchul brings his hand to his ear and feels the hair Suhoon tucked behind it as Suhoon walks out of the lobby.
Suhoon is about to head upstairs when Mrs. Jang appears in front of him, asking, “How is he?”
“He’s pretty shook up, Mrs. Jang,” Suhoon answers as Mrs. Jang covers his mouth with a hand in worry, “I was hoping if he can leave early just for today. If he has to make up for the remaining hours, then he will.”
Mrs. Jang nods in understanding and says, “Actually, I would like to talk to him about something.”
“What about it, Mrs. Jang?” Suhoon asks.
“I wanted to tell him before you two leave...I already gave my endorsement to the police,” Mrs. Jang tells him, “Hyunchul performed his duties diligently, so I suggested ending his community service as early as now.”
"Wow, thank you," Suhoon says, smiling.
“Why don’t you wait for me in the common room,” Mrs. Jang tells the younger boy, “I’ll just get the papers he needs to sign.”
After several apologies, brief conversations, and quick signing of documents, Suhoon and Hyunchul step out of the retirement home. Suhoon watches Hyunchul in the corner of his eye and contemplates if he should drive instead so he can take Hyunchul away from the facility as fast as he can. However, Suhoon is sure that Hyunchul will not allow him. Fortunately, Hyunchul seems to have the same intention as he drives the car away from the retirement home in blazing speed. Suhoon can see that they are overspeeding and if they are not careful, traffic officers will be tailing them soon. However, Suhoon cannot bring himself to worry about traffic rules right now as he takes glances at Hyunchul from time to time to make sure that he is okay.
Unfortunately, all Suhoon can see is a blank expression on Hyunchul’s face. Though it is normal for Hyunchul to remain expressionless, it makes Suhoon’s uncomfortable. Suhoon will give anything right now to see even just a slight sign of emotion from Hyunchul - a quiver of the lips or a look of hurt from the eyes - because it is what other people will do after experiencing what Hyunchul went through just a while ago.
Defeated, Suhoon turns back to the road and notices that Hyunchul is no longer driving at the right side of the road and a truck is quickly approaching them from a distance, blowing its horns at them.
“Hyunchul!” Suhoon hollers as he jumps on the steering wheel and turns it to bring them back to the right side.
Breaking away from his trance, Hyunchul realizes what almost happened to them as the truck drives past them. Deciding that he has to calm himself down for awhile, Hyunchul regains the control of the car and pulls over to the side of the road.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Suhoon asks, rubbing his chest to calm his rapid heartbeat, “You just finished your community service and here you are driving to another accident,” he adds in an attempt to lighten up the tensed atmosphere.
Biting his lip, Hyunchul grips the steering wheel tighter and leans his forehead on it. “I’m sorry...” he whispers, surprising Suhoon.
Suhoon stares at Hyunchul for a moment and ponders if he should pat him on the back to tell him everything’s okay. However, when he has finally decided on what he should do, Hyunchul straightens up and rubs his eyes. Suhoon is about to ask if he is crying when
Hyunchul suddenly speaks up.
“Tell them to cancel my remaining schedule for the rest of the day,” Hyunchul instructs Suhoon, “I don’t think I’ll be able to work properly right now.”
“Sure, I’ll let them know,” Suhoon replies, taking out his phone without any intention to use it as he still focuses on Hyunchul, “Is there anything else?”
Hyunchul shakes his head, and says, “I need to go somewhere. I want to drop you off, but I need to get there now. So, I have to drag you with me.”
Suhoon just finds himself nodding, and asks, “Sure, I won’t mind. But can you drive?”
“Yes,” Hyunchul tells him as he drives back to the road, “I would have already given you the wheel if I couldn’t.”
Hyunchul finally parks his car after a twenty-minute drive and Suhoon finds himself staring at a two-storey villa before him. Questions start to fill his head when he realizes that Hyunchul has gotten out of the car already. “Make yourself feel at home,” he says as he climbs up to the front door, “there’s TV and a laptop in the living room and food and drinks in the fridge,” he continues as he enters the villa, leaving the front door open for Suhoon.
Throwing his questions behind him, Suhoon gets off the car as well and follows Hyunchul inside. Suhoon is greeted with a familiar unpleasant feeling as he steps inside the neat living room. Expensive paintings of landscapes and sophisticated black furniture decorate the whitewashed walls and brown wooden floor. It reminds of Hyunchul’s flat; however, unlike before, it is already starting to bother him. The house Suhoon lives in with his mother and brother may be small and almost empty because they only have enough furniture for the three of them. However, several medals, faded certificates, colorful photos and messy drawings decorate the place - it gives the small house a sign that people live in it and, to Suhoon, it is how a home should be.
Suhoon frowns and remembers when Jaejoong told him that he feels that there is a wall between him and his brother. ‘What if I’m past the wall already?’ Suhoon asks himself as he looks around the villa. Scared, he cannot help but feel that he has just entered an area that Hyunchul keeps off-limits from people. Taking a sit on one the black sofa, Suhoon dials Jaejoong number to tell him that Hyunchul wants to cancel all his schedule for the day.
“Did something happen?” Jaejoong asks.
Heaving a sigh, Suhoon recounts what happened. However, he does not tell Jaejoong where they are for the meantime.
“I understand,” Jaejoong replies, “please, tell him to get some rest, I’ll take care of everything. Thank you, Suhoon.”
After the call, Suhoon places his phone on the table and sees Hyunchul’s laptop. Remembering that Hyunchul permitted him to use it, Suhoon opens it and waits for it to boot. He opens a browser so he can pass the time by reading some stuff on the Internet. However, he is surprised when a specific webpage greets him. Curious, Suhoon reads the title of the article and realizes that it is a review of Hyunchul’s movie from last autumn. Wondering why Hyunchul would dwell on a review article published seven months ago, Suhoon reads the article carefully and frowns. Negative criticisms about Hyunchul’s acting skills - or lack of as the writer put it - filled the review. Suhoon has never watched any of Hyunchul’s dramas or movies since he is not into showbiz that much, so he cannot judge if Hyunchul is doing a good job or not.
However, Suhoon remembers how affected Hyunchul was when Mrs. Han lashed out of him a while ago. He suddenly realizes that even though Hyunchul does not show much emotions, he is a sensitive person. Thus, it won't be surprising if Hyunchul got hurt by the words from this article. Shaking his head, Suhoon changes his mind and decides just to close the laptop to look for other things to do when he catches the published date
of the article.
‘October 19?’ Suhoon asks himself, furrowing his eyebrows, ‘That was when the accident took place.’ Finally closing the laptop, Suhoon leans back on the sofa and stares at the chandelier at the ceiling. The look of Hyunchul’s face when he was driving a while ago from the retirement home come back to his vision as he sighs. Suddenly, he can almost see where Hyunchul is coming from. Being criticized and compared to his brother and father must have been the reasons why Hyunchul decided to distance himself from Jaejoong. However, Suhoon still feels that something is still amiss. ‘He can shut himself from Jaejoong, but to shut himself from the rest of the world?’ he muses as he leaves the comfort of the sofa.
Walking around the villa to look for Hyunchul, Suhoon finds an open door by the dining area that leads to the veranda. Stepping out of the house, Suhoon sees a breathtaking view of the beach. He would love to admire the blue sea if he did not have something else in mind, which is currently more important. He surveys the sea and the shore and finds Hyunchul sitting under one of the cottages, staring at the waves of the water. He, then, carefully walks down the steps leading to the beach. Before reaching Hyunchul’s spot, Suhoon tries his best to act as casual as he can.
“Hey,” Suhoon calls as he leans against the table in the middle of the cottage.
Hyunchul briefly turns to him before looking back at the beach.
Sighing, Suhoon says, “I know we had a very terrible start but...you can talk to me, you know.”
Hyunchul smirks and replies, “Why would I do that?”
“Because...it looks like you need someone to talk to,” Suhoon answers, frankly, as he looks at the other boy intently, “I know I’m not the right person, and I don’t know who is, but no one else is with you right now except for me...” he continues, nervous, “so, you actually have no choice.”
“I do...” Hyunchul says, turning to Suhoon, “I can just stay quiet and just look at the beach,” he adds, raising an eyebrow, “it’s what I’ve been doing before you came down here. Besides, I’m not desperate. Yes, I’m not okay, but I can handle things on my own. Thank you very much.”
“Until when?” Suhoon asks.
Hyunchul thinks that he sees pity in Suhoon’s eyes and he hates it. “Don’t you dare feel sorry for me,” he warns, glaring at Suhoon.
“I can’t help it.,” Suhoon admits, shrugging. Turning back to the beach, Hyunchul brings his knees towards his chest and hugs them tightly. Rolling his eyes in frustration, Suhoon sits in front of Hyunchul, saying, “Hyunchul, please...”
“What do you want to hear?” Hyunchul yells, looking at Suhoon once again, “That the old woman a while ago was right? That my mother is a good-for-nothing whore, who ruined Jaejoong-hyung’s perfect family? Well, tell you what, that’s true!” he rants, exasperated, “Appa was married to Jaejoong-hyung’s mother, living peacefully, until umma entered the picture as a young aspiring actress and ruined everything. All of a sudden, they were sneaking out to meet each other and got pregnant with me. It was a perfect scandal.”
Speechless, Suhoon finds himself unable to do anything aside from watching Hyunchul wipes his tears.
“Appa took umma to New Jersey to get away and left his real family behind,” Hyunchul continues as he breathes deeply, “people love Jaejoong-hyung and his mother so much and they hate umma...and me...even though I have nothing to do with it. Until now, I’m still asking if people have the right to hate me. It’s not like I told my parents to do what they did,” he says, desperately looking at Suhoon, “umma left appa when I was five just because she felt appa couldn’t give her the life she wanted...whatever that is...I don’t know where she is now and I don’t care. Why should I, anyway? She has no right to leave me! I hate them for bringing me into this world the way they did but at least appa stayed with me until his very last breath...”
Clinging into his knees more tightly, Hyunchul goes on, “I was fifteen when appa died from cancer...people didn’t know what to do with me. Well, appa left me enough money to sustain myself for the rest of my life but...I was still fifteen. They couldn’t find umma and her relatives don’t want anything to do with her or with me. Then, Jaejoong-hyung arrived and brought me here. No questions asked. His mother argued with him about me, but he didn’t listen to her. Just like that, I found myself in the middle of a set of one of his movies that time with the cameras rolling and lights directed at me. He decided that I should be an actor without asking me if I want to or not. I hate him for that. He knows people hate me, but I guess it's his way of punishing me with what my mother did to his family. Well, congratulations to him because he is successfully doing it. All the constant negative comments left and right...they hurt so bad. But I know I can’t let it affect me, so I tried to be strong. I tell myself I shouldn’t feel anything, but it still doesn’t work...”
Still not knowing what he should do, Suhoon hesitantly puts his hand over Hyunchul’s arm. However, Hyunchul quickly pushes Suhoon’s gesture away and looks at him with scared eyes as he remembers how Suhoon just tucked his hair behind his ear back in the retirement home.
“I...I’m sorry,” Suhoon says, studying Hyunchul carefully.
Hyunchul narrows his eyes at Suhoon and says, “You didn’t need to hear all that. You don’t need to do anything. I don’t need you or anything from you, so don’t start pitying me. It’s not part of your job.”
Looking down the floor, Suhoon says, “You’re right, but I’m not pitying you. Why would I? You carried the weight of the world on your shoulders, and you’re still here. Breathing. I can never do something like that. So, putting my hand on yours like this is not pity.”
Watching Suhoon’s hands grabbing his, Hyunchul asks, “What is it, then?”
“It’s my way of telling you that everything’s okay even though things are pretty messed up,” Suhoon answers as he gives Hyunchul’s hand a comforting squeeze, “I know this is
not normal for us because we don’t like each other but...”
“Where are you going with this?” Hyunchul cuts in, nervously.
Shifting his position to fully face Hyunchul, Suhoon explains, “After seven months, this is the first time that I was able to understand you. You’re right, Hyunchul. I didn’t need to hear all that, but you need someone who’ll listen. I don’t need to do anything but you want someone to do something. You don’t need me, but you need someone. Admit it, Hyunchul. You don’t want to be on your own right now. It doesn’t have to be me. I’m sure you have other people who can be with you right now. Tell you what, you can call them and, once they're here, I’ll leave.”
“I don’t understand...” Hyunchul mutters, confused.
“You need a friend right now,” Suhoon tells him as he removes his hand from Hyunchul’s and stands up, “don’t hide here by yourself, it’ll never take away the pain.”
“But I don’t have any...” Hyunchul whispers, peering at Suhoon.
“You should have at least one,” Suhoon replies in disbelief.
Hyunchul chuckles as he straightens himself. “You spent your last seven months with me, have you seen me hang out with anyone?” he asks, sighing, “There’s just always me everyday with Jaejoong-hyung and Mr. Hong...sometimes, there are the other actors and actresses, the staff and fans but they’re just like blurry colored shadows to me...I don’t even remember spending so much time with other people like I did with you.”
Suhoon stares at Hyunchul, speechless once again. He thought the reason why Hyunchul has not spent time with other people was because of his community service. He assumed Hyunchul spends time with his friends when they are not together because it seems to be the most sensible thing to do. He never imagined Hyunchul spending his free time in the confines of his flat or of this villa. Suddenly, Suhoon feels guilty. He does not expect that the person he labeled rude is lonely, misjudged, helpless and broken.
“You should ignore those stupid detractors of yours, you know,” Suhoon says out of the blue, starling Hyunchul, “you’re a good actor...I don’t think your brother can do what you do.”
“What are you talking about?” Hyunchul asks, confused.
“This is the real you,” Suhoon answers, eyeing Hyunchul from head to foot, “the Park Hyunchul they know is just a character created and directed by you,” he explains, smiling sadly, “you get into this role the moment you step into the crowd. You made everyone believe - including your brother - that you're everything but this.”
Hyunchul looks aways from Suhoon’s piercing gaze as he realizes how much he had exposed his true self to Suhoon. Fear began to take over his body as he feels his heart starts to beat faster than ever rapidly, and his hands become colder than they were in winter.
“Let’s start over,” Suhoon says, holding his hand to Hyunchul, “my name is Lee Suhoon, what’s yours?”
Hyunchul stares at the hand Suhoon is offering him and frowns. He knows Suhoon is not just offering his hand but something more. “I’m sorry,” Hyunchul replies, standing up, “but I don’t think I can do this.”
“Why?” Suhoon asks, still holding his hand to Hyunchul.
“Because I don’t know how this thing called friendship works,” Hyunchul answers, feeling sorry for himself, “I don’t know how a family works either since I have a pretty messed up one...I don’t know a lot of things.”
“What do you know?” Suhoon replies.
“Living alone?” Hyunchul tells him, staring at Suhoon’s hand, “protecting myself from people...pushing people away...”
“Don’t you want to learn other things?” Suhoon responds, still not giving up.
Looking up to Suhoon, Hyunchul says, “I don’t know...”
Suhoon then decides to drop his hand to his side, and says, “Think about it. You can’t live like this forever...”
"Did you find him?" Jaejoong asks Suhoon from the phone.
"Not yet, Mr. Kim," Suhoon answers as he sits on the pavement. It is already 1:30 AM and Hyunchul has been missing for 24 hours now - at least that is what they know.
Suhoon accompanied Hyunchul the day before. The young actor had a press con, a movie premier, and an after-party that they left at 12:25 AM. Hyunchul had been off the whole day because some reporter thought it was nice to use the press con to ask him about the accident and his community service that ended two weeks prior. He answered all the questions as professional as he could, but Suhoon could see, as he watched from the side, that the emotions had started swirling inside Hyunchul. It was already too much, but another reporter had to mention Jaejoong and his clean record as an actor and Suhoon wished he could march on the stage to hide Hyunchul from those people.
"Please help me find him, Suhoon," Jaejoong pleads desperately.
"I will, Mr. Kim," Suhoon assures him as he stands up once again, "I'll call you right away if I find him."
"Thank you," Jaejoong replies as he ends the call.
Suhoon sighs in desperation. He has run out of ideas on where to find Hyunchul. When Suhoon went to Hyunchul's flat at 6 AM to pick him up for a meeting, Hyunchul was already gone. He quickly called Hyunchul's phone to ask where he is but the phone was buried under the pillows. To make things worse, Hyunchul did not drive any of his cars. After telling Jaejoong what happened, Suhoon headed to the villa, but it was also empty.
Running his hands on his face to fight sleepiness and exhaustion out of his eyes, Suhoon feels his phone ringing in his hands again. Thinking it might be Jaejoong once again, he answers the call without checking the caller's name.
"Mr. Kim?" he asks, eager. However, a different voice came from the other line.
"I need your help here," Seunghyun says.
"Seunghyun?" Suhoon replies, somewhat disappointed because the only call he wants right now is a call that will tell him that Hyunchul has been found, "What is it? I'm in a middle of something important though..."
"Ah, yes," Seunghyun drawls out, "auntie told me you're still at work..."
"Yes, I don't know what time I'll finish, besides you know what happened the first and last time I helped there," Suhoon tells his cousin as he remembers how embarrassing it was.
"I see...but what work are you doing if you're not even with Park Hyunchul?" Seunghyun asks, smirking.
Suhoon freezes in his spot, confused. "How did you...?" he tries to ask his cousin how he knows that Hyunchul is not with him right now. Mr. Hong made sure that no one from the press will find out that the young actor is missing, so the only people who know about it are him, Jaejoong and Mr. Hong.
"He's here, Suhoon," Seunghyun tells him, smiling, "but he's drunk and completely knocked out."
"Oh my God!" Suhoon gasps, relieved, "Thank you so much!"
Seunghyun laughs and says, "You mean you are actually looking for him?"
"You have no idea," Suhoon says as he hails a cab, "please look after him for a while, I'm on my way."
The club where Seunghyun is working is thirty minutes away from where Suhoon is, so he uses this time to tell Jaejoong he has already found his brother. He hears Jaejoong cry in relief and tells him that he will meet them in Hyunchul's flat. When Suhoon arrives at the club, he tells the cab to wait for him and walks past the security and heads to the bar. A bouncer catches him and is about to throw him out, but Seunghyun is already there to explain the situation. Understanding the circumstances, the bouncer volunteers to carry the unconscious Hyunchul out of the club and gently put him at the backseat of the cab. After a quick thank you, Suhoon instructs the driver to head to Hyunchul's place.
Finally relaxing after the exhausting day, Suhoon turns to Hyunchul and gently pulls him towards him. 'I told you that you could talk to me, right?' he thinks as he places Hyunchul's head on his lap, 'you don't have to deal with everything on your own.'
Suhoon and Hyunchul have never brought up what they talked about at the villa two weeks ago. However, both of them cannot act that it did not happen. While Suhoon waits for an opportunity to talk about it again with Hyunchul, he noticed that their ridiculous arguments have vanished. To Suhoon, it was both an improvement and an unwelcomed change because he senses that Hyunchul doubles his guard up whenever they are together, making him miss their stupid banters. Now, Suhoon knows he can no longer torment Hyunchul because he will no longer give the response that he used to.
'Starting a friendship is not supposed to be complicated, Hyunchul...if you only knew...' Suhoon thinks as he stares at the sleeping boy.
The bright rays of the sun are the first thing Hyunchul sees the instance he opens his eyes. He can feel his head throbbing so bad, making him remember that he went to a club last night to drink. He knows his brother will scold him for it, but, at that moment, he does not care. All he wanted at that time was to forget everything, even for just a while.
Shifting in his position, Hyunchul turns to the darker side of his room and finds Suhoon asleep on his couch. He frowns because it is now clear to him that Suhoon is the one who took him home last night. 'Why do you always find me every time I don't want to be found?' he asks in his head. For two weeks, Hyunchul wished that he could bury himself from all the awkwardness that is evident between him and Suhoon. He cannot ignore that Suhoon had become nicer and more understanding towards him after their conversation at the villa, making him uncomfortable. He got so used to people judging him or looking down on him that he does not know how he should react towards the person who is being genuinely kind to him. Truthfully, he wants it to stop, but a part
of him makes him feel warm, thankful and...happy.
Just then, Suhoon stirs and wakes up. "You're awake," he says, sitting up, "you must be having the worst hangover of your life."
"It might've been worse," Hyunchul replies, burying himself with his blanket.
"That's true," Suhoon comments, grinning, "good thing you passed out."
Hyunchul groans. "What time is it?" he asks, "Is the whole country talking about me because of last night?"
"No," Jaejoong answers as he steps inside the room, "no one knows about your escapade yesterday."
Hyunchul stares at Jaejoong and prepares himself for a long tirade about being careless. However, if it is up to him, he will ask him to shut up right away because he does not want to hear any of it.
Jaejoong turns to Suhoon and says, "I prepared breakfast, Suhoon. Why don't you eat first? Then you can go home. I'm sure your mother is very worried about you even though you talked to her yesterday. Take a rest too, yesterday was very exhausting."
Though Suhoon does not want to really leave yet because he wants to be where Hyunchul is in case the young actor decides to finally open up, he nods and leaves the room. He tells himself that if ever Hyunchul should open up to someone, it should be to the person who cares about him the most - his brother.
"How are you feeling?" Jaejoong asks his brother as Suhoon closes the door.
"Good," Hyunchul answers, shutting his eyes, not wanting to deal with his brother right now.
"You don't look like it," Jaejoong says, sitting on Hyunchul's bed, "you look really bad when Suhoon brought you back here. Since when clubbing and drinking became your thing anyway?" Hyunchul chooses to ignore that question, and asks, "Did he really looked for me the whole day?"
Jaejoong nods. "He was the one who went around the city while Mr. Hong and I talked to people to explain your absence and to make sure that the press won't make a huge deal of it. You did have a full schedule yesterday, Hyunchul," he explains.
Frowning, Hyunchul replies, "Sorry. I'm not going to do it again."
"What's the problem?" Jaejoong asks, worried, "Please tell me. I want to help you, but I won't be able to do that if you don't tell me anything."
Hyunchul grips his blanket and stays quiet.
"I know I haven't been a good brother..." Jaejoong starts, "I failed you in so many ways. All I wanted is to give you a good life because the whole world has been unfair to you..." he continues, taking Hyunchul's hand, "when appa died, you're the first person I thought of...I wanted to take you in even though umma was against that, but I had made up my mind back then, so there's nothing she could do...but I don't know, most of the time, I feel like I just made things worse..."
"You did..." Hyunchul mutters, looking up at Jaejoong, "you know how people hate me, but you put me out in the open where everyone is free to judge me...it's not fair because I didn't ask for it, but you thought it would be good for me...well, you thought wrong!"
Jaejoong grips Hyunchul's hand tightly, saying, "I'm so sorry...I didn't know..."
"I'm tired of being compared to you when I never wanted to act in the first place," Hyunchul adds, tears falling from his eyes, "I'm sick of people saying that I'm just this cute doll that doesn't know how to do anything...this isn't for me but I don't know what to do but, right now, I don't care anymore...I want it to stop...I don't want to do this anymore..."
Wiping Hyunchul's tears, Jaejoong says, "When I went to New Jersey and took you, I promised I'll take care of you. I meant that, Hyunchul. I love you, but I was stupid. I realized I had no idea how I should look after you, so I thought it'll be nice to make you always come with me when I have work. I had no idea it was causing you so much pain...I'm very sorry..."
"I should've talked to you, huh?" Hyunchul asks.
Nodding, Jaejoong answers, "But I should've known."
"Can I stop?" Hyunchul replies, hopeful.
"If that's what you really want," Jaejoong tells him, "if you have something else in mind, just tell me...I'll do anything..."
Hyunchul smiles and says, "Can I ask you a favor, then?"
"Like I said," Jaejoong replies, "anything."
Injun sits on his wheelchair by himself at 10 AM. His next therapy session will not start until 1 PM, so he entertains himself by playing games on the iPad his brother bought him for his birthday. He is in the middle of a Temple Run game when a knock distracts him, causing him to lose.
“I’m sorry, Injoon,” the nurse says, smiling, as she sees the groan on the boy’s face, “but you have a visitor.”
“Who is it, Hana-noona?” Injoon asks as he maneuvers his wheelchair to face the door, placing the iPad on his lap. It is too early for him to have visitors because his mother is still in the market, and Suhoon is wherever Hyunchul is at that moment. Moreover, they do not seek any assistance from the nurses since they know where his room is. The only person who does that is his cousin, but Injoon is sure that he is still asleep.
The nurse steps aside and ushers Injoon’s visitor to come in. Injoon gasps and widens his eyes as he cannot believe that he is looking at Park Hyunchul at that moment. “Oh my God! It’s you!” he exclaims as the nurse excuses herself.
“Hi,” Hyunchul says, nervously, “I believe this is the first time we met.”
“It is! It is!” Injoon replies, excited, “I was at the OR when you were here the last time,” he adds, removing some of his stuff from one of the chairs, “have a sit, Hyunchul-shi.”
Hyunchul smiles, realizing that the boy is not angry at him at all. “Hyunchul- hyung is fine,” he tells Injoon as he sits on the chair the boy cleared for him.
“Okay, Hyunchul...hyung,” Injoon practices the name on his lips then facing the door, “is Suhoon-hyung with you?”
Hyunchul shakes his head, saying, “No, I went here by myself.”
“Why?” Injoon asks, confused.
“I need to talk to you about something important,” Hyunchul answers.
“What is it, hyung?” Injoon replies, curious.
Hyunchul takes a deep breath and starts, “Last October, when I was here, I told your mother and brother I’ll take care of your education. I’m serious about that. I’ll take care of everything financially. You don’t have to worry about anything. It doesn’t matter what school or degree you want, just promise me that you’ll do your best and finish school. Can you promise me that?”
“Promise,” Injoon says, nodding.
Smiling, Hyunchul takes out an envelope from his bag and gives it to Injoon. “Everything you’ll need is in there,” he tells the younger boy, “I opened a bank account. I'll deposit there the money you’ll need if ever you decide to study at the most expensive school in this country to take up the most expensive undergraduate degree. If ever you want to pursue further studies, just let me know, and I won’t hesitate to help.”
Injoon skims at the documents inside the folder, overwhelmed. “This is too much, hyung,” he says, looking up at Hyunchul.
Shaking his head, Hyunchul says, “What I did - even though it was an accident - could’ve killed you. Apologies will never be enough to compensate for that. So, helping you live and continue your life is the least I can do.”
“Thank you very much, Hyunchul-hyung,” Injoon replies, smiling, as he brings himself closer to the young actor and reaches out to hug him.
Suhoon listens to Jaejoong’s plans as they sit on the sofas in his office. He told him he is going to open a talent agency for young actors and actresses next year and would need hardworking people he can trust. He invited Suhoon to be a part of it and promised a much bigger salary. The idea sounds good in Suhoon’s ears. After working for Hyunchul for almost eight months, he had become interested in the inner workings in the entertainment industry that most people do not understand. He admits they were tiring but, at the same time, fun and somewhat fulfilling.
“By the way, Suhoon, I’ve been thinking about this since I hired you,” Jaejoong adds as he twirls his pen between his fingers, “don’t you want to go to college?”
Suhoon stares at Jaejoong, and answers, “The idea crossed my mind, but I haven’t thought about it thoroughly. I’m focusing on Injoon’s recovery for now.”
Jaejoong nods in understanding, and says, “I understand. But Injoon’s doing good, right? I talk to this doctors every day and they said that he’s showing good signs of being able to walk again sooner than expected. Also, Hyunchul is going to cover his education, so you don’t have to worry about that.”
“About that, Mr. Kim,” Suhoon starts.
“No,” Jaejoong cuts in, smiling, “you can’t talk him out of it, and I won’t help you to do that. He promised to do it, so he should fulfill that,” he says, leaning back on the sofa, “so, are you willing to accept my offer? That includes the going-to-college part. If you want, we can deduct your would-be tuition from your salary so you won’t feel bad.”
Sighing, Suhoon replies, “It’s a good offer, and I like it but...what about Hyunchul? Who’s going to go around with him if I accept this? I mean, you’re going to need me with you every single minute of the day, right?”
Jaejoong grins, and says, “Wow, I never thought you would get along with him eventually. I thought you would be thrilled the moment this time comes, but I guess people change and I’m wrong most of the time.”
Suhoon looks away and feels his cheeks go red.
“But to answer your question, I guess he’ll have to talk to you about that,” Jaejoong tells him, still grinning.
Just then, the door bursts open without any warning and Hyunchul enters the room. Seven months ago, Suhoon would have rolled his eyes and said something about rudeness and knocking on doors. However, things have changed and, just like Jaejoong said, people too. Thus, all he can do is stare at Hyunchul and wait for what he is going to say.
“Is this meeting done?” Hyunchul asks, looking at his brother.
Jaejoong purses his lips, and answers, “Not quite. He hasn’t told me if he’s going to accept my offer.”
Rolling his eyes, Hyunchul turns to Suhoon. “Don’t be so dramatic,” he says, sharply, “just say ‘yes’ and everyone will be happy. You don’t have any choice anyway.”
“He still has, Hyunchul,” Jaejoong tells his younger brother, shaking his head.
“No, he doesn’t, because that’s already the best option he can ever get,” Hyunchul snaps, impatient, “a high-paying stable job and a shot to go back to school, what else could he ask for?”
‘More time with you?’ Suhoon answers in his head. He did not know when it started but, one day, Suhoon found himself looking forward to spending a stressful, headache-filled day with Hyunchul. “Fine, I’ll take it,” he says as he avoids the looks that Jaejoong and Hyunchul are giving him.
“Great!” Hyunchul exclaims, grinning, “Now get up there because I need you to come with me. You can talk about the rest of the details tomorrow because tomorrow’s going to be your first day with him.”
Suhoon turns to Jaejoong in confusion, but the man just waves a hand at them as they leave his office.
“Where are we going?” Suhoon asks for the nth time as he sits on the passenger’s seat of Hyunchul’s red convertible. Unfortunately, Hyunchul still does not answer and just continues to drive, making Suhoon nervous. It does not help that Hyunchul seems to be driving beyond the allowable speed.
However, when they get to the bridge that they used to pass when Hyunchul is doing his community service, the young actor says, “We’re going to the villa.”
Suhoon glances at Hyunchul, confused. However, he notices that the boy looks relaxed and, if he is not mistaken, this is the first time he sees Hyunchul like this. It is like all of Hyunchul’s worries had vanished and Suhoon wonders if alcohol is really that effective but erases the thought right away. When they reach the villa, Hyunchul parks the car and get off the driver’s seat to run to Suhoon’s side. “Hurry up! I don’t have all day!” he says as he pulls Suhoon out of the car.
Shrugging, Suhoon allows Hyunchul to drag him inside the villa. Hyunchul takes his shoes off and makes Suhoon take his off as well before they run to the back where the beach is. It is almost summer, and the water seems to be very inviting. Hyunchul appears to be thinking the same thing as he brings the two of them straight to the water to meet its waves. At that moment, Hyunchul lets go of Suhoon’s wrist and starts splashing salty water at him.
Coughing out the water that he accidentally drank as Hyunchul giggles, Suhoon looks incredulously at Hyunchul and asks, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Nothing, I just feel happy today,” Hyunchul tells him, turning to the direction of the endless see ahead of him, “it’s been a long time, and I think I have already forgotten how...am I doing it right?”
Suhoon gazes at Hyunchul’s damp black hair down to his submerged feet. He also looks at the boy’s wet shirt and soaked jeans and the smile on his face. “People have different
ways to express themselves,” he tells Hyunchul, smiling at him, “so, if your way of being happy is running straight to the beach in your shirt and jeans with a clueless friend, then so be it.”
“Friend?” Hyunchul asks, turning to Suhoon.
“Oh right,” Suhoon mutters, looking down at his own feet that are sinking on the squishy sand, “you’re personal assistant, I mean.”
“Which you aren’t anymore as well,” Hyunchul says, walking a few steps back to the shallower part of the water. Suhoon notices that the boy is thinking very deeply as he sits down with the water surrounding him - they were still a bit farther from the shore anyway. Ignoring the fact that he does not have any extra clothes with him, Suhoon sits beside Hyunchul, and says, “I’m sorry.”
“Friendship is a two-way relationship, right?” Hyunchul asks, looking at the horizon, “you can’t be friends with someone who can’t return the friendship...it’s just like love.”
“I thought you don’t know anything about this stuff?” Suhoon replies, amused.
Hyunchul smirks, and says, “You’re right, I don’t. But, yesterday, I went over the scripts of all the movies I did, and I read something along those lines, and I couldn’t help but agree.”
“I see...well you’re right,” Suhoon replies.
“Which is why as much as I want to accept the friendship you’re offering, it won’t be fair because I don’t think I’ll be able to be a friend to you,” Hyunchul explains, smiling sadly, “but I hope that the offer will still be valid in two or three years because I would like to accept it...I just want to make sure that I can be able to give something in return.”
Looking at Hyunchul, Suhoon says, “You sound as if you’re leaving.”
Hyunchul returns the gaze and replies, “I am.”
“Why?” Suhoon asks, feeling his chest tightens.
“I can’t stay here anymore...at least, for now,” Hyunchul answers, breathing deeply, “I want to start anew and find myself and all that crap...I want to know what I really want to do with my life on my own...acting’s not for me...this whole showbiz thing isn't for me...it’s suffocating...” he continues as he bites his lip, “I’m going back to New Jersey, get a job or something, and go back to school to study something interesting. It’s not yet definite, but it’s a plan in a way...don’t worry about Injoon, I took care of everything already.”
Suhoon sighs. “Two or three years...will you really come back?” he asks, uncertain.
“Well...if there’s really a reason to come back here, then I will,” he answers, blushing, “Jaejoong-hyung isn't enough of a reason since he can visit me anytime.”
Suhoon chuckles as he understands what Hyunchul is implying. “Two years is a long time, I don’t think I can wait for your friendship for that long,” he says, looking at Hyunchul mischievously, “I think I deserve something greater than that if that’s the case.”
Cocking his head to the side curiously, Hyunchul asks, “Which is?”
“This,” Suhoon replies as he scoots closer to Hyunchul.
Confused as to what Suhoon is talking about, Hyunchul searches Suhoon’s eyes for any clue that he does not notice Suhoon placing a finger under his chin to tilt his head upward and capture his lips with a kiss. Hyunchul has kissed a lot of lips before. He is - was - an actor anyway, it cannot be helped. However, with Suhoon’s lips on his, as he sits in his favorite place, Hyunchul feels as if he just had his first kiss. Closing his eyes, Hyunchul leans forward and kisses back. He knows he should not because if he cannot
give something like friendship, how can he give something as huge as love? However, Hyunchul wants to take this moment with him to New Jersey to continually remind him that coming back to Seoul is not just a mere option for him in the future but a place he
must go back to.
“Friendship is a two-way relationship just like love,” Suhoon repeats as he presses his forehead on Hyunchul’s, “I’ll be just right here, waiting for you...” he says, “do what you have to do, don’t worry about anything...call me if you need someone to talk to, alright?”
Hyunchul nods as he returns the embrace and kisses his lips once again. As an actor, he can say all the right things because he has scripts. However, in real life, he is utterly clueless with words, and he hopes Suhoon will figure out what he wants to say through his kiss. He wants Suhoon to know that he will definitely come back and that he will miss him so much. Tears start to fall to his cheeks and Suhoon slips his hand under Hyunchul’s shirt and comforts him by making small circles on his back, telling Hyunchul that he is going to wait and that he will be the one who is going to look for him if he decides not to come back.
“You said you don’t have all day, what time would you be leaving?” Suhoon asks softly in Hyunchul’s ear. “10PM,” Hyunchul answers, leaning on Suhoon’s shoulder, “will you take me to the airport?”
Suhoon smiles, and says, “I would love to but I don’t know how with these clothes.”
“I have clothes inside, you can borrow them,” Hyunchul assures him as he pulls away from Suhoon’s embrace, “also...could you look after this place while I’m gone? This is the only thing umma left for me...and bring the convertible with you after you drop me off, it may not seem obvious, but I value it a lot...it’s from Jaejoong-hyung.”
“Yes, and yes,” Suhoon answers, caressing Hyunchul’s cheek with his sand-covered palm, “I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too,” Hyunchul replies, smiling, “let’s take a shower and dry up...I have a plane to catch.”
Suhoon nods, standing up and taking Hyunchul’s hand to help him up and lead both of them inside the villa.