Chapter 1: My Roommate from Another Star
Empty. There were no thoughts the flittered through his head at the moment. There were no emotions swirling about his heart. His eyes were tearless as he looked about his empty bedroom of his childhood home. And he turned out the lights. He didn’t want to see the emptiness anymore.
“Sunggyu-yah,” his mother called to him as softly as her feet pattered against the hardwood. She put a hand on his shoulder, lightly pulling him away from the dark room. “It’s time to go.”
Sunggyu let out a deep sigh as he nodded and bent down to pick up his last box of things, filled with the remainders of his adolescence: old report cards, school awards (maybe even an athletic one), children’s books, old CDs, outdated audio tapes, a photo album from high school, his first cell phone, and an old tattered stuffed dog that he refused to part with. These things may be junk, should have been junk and tossed out with the trash and dust bunnies, but to Sunggyu, these were things that made up his Home.
And now his Home wasn’t his anymore. His mother had sold it to some strangers. But nothing would be as strange as walking through the halls of his Home, like he had thousands upon thousands times, with everything completely empty. Everything was so exposed. Sunggyu hated it. The whole Home seemed to be shouting at him to get out and pushing him like his mother was pushing him out the door now.
“You better get on the road so it’s still daylight when you get to Seoul,” she told him. Both of them were outside now, and Sunggyu’s mother was busying herself with the lock on the front door, shutting in all of those memories inside.
“Okay, Mom,” Sunggyu grumbled as he fumbled with his own set of keys, trying to unlock his car and get the Hell out of here. Eventually, he accepted the fact that he’d actually have to put down the box in order to open the car up.
Which gave his mother enough time to catch up. As soon as he straightened up and unlocked his car, his mother appeared in front of him and began tidying up his strands of hair that fell out of place. “It’s been a hard weekend for you,” her tone was still soft and full of concern. She was walking on eggshells waiting for her son to crack. “First the wedding in Busan, moving me out of Jeonju, and now going back to Seoul? I bet it’s tiring. I wish that your special friend could help you.”
Sunggyu groaned at that (and because his back was sore from moving). Special friend, his father had coined that phrase years back, when he had rightly suspected that Sunggyu’s friend was more than just a friend. And it stuck, even now when his father was no longer around. Sunggyu wasn’t quite sure if he was more aggravated at his mother (playfully) clinging onto the nickname or the fact that his special friend had left him alone to deal with perhaps one of the most difficult weekends of his adult life. Or maybe it was really because of the pain in his back. The groan dissolved into a whimper. His mother caught on and began rubbing his sore back.
“He’s busy,” Sunggyu reminded his mother and himself. “The market never closes when you’re dealing with clients from around the world.”
“I wish the both of you would stop working so hard,” she chided as she kept kneading her son’s back. “You two will make all of this money, but for what? Send each other to an early grave? Fine! The money will line your coffins. That’s the only way you’ll get any use out of it.”
Sunggyu rolled his eyes and moved away from his mother’s hands. “So that we can retire early and take care of you,” he tried to distract his mother with a false show of filial piety. “The three of us could finally make that trip to Greece that you’ve always wanted to take.” He turned his back towards her as he spoke and loaded the last box into his overstuffed Sonata. He had to hold the box upright until the door was closed shut so that it didn’t fall out. He smiled at the small victory of fitting everything into such a tight space.
“Ha!” his mother snorted. Sunggyu whipped his head to look at her and pouted. “You’ve got too much of your father in you. You’ll never retire,” she continued. “He overworked himself too and now look at him.” He was six feet under, dead from a heart attack.
“Mom,” Sunggyu spoke with a slight whine. He was sick of hearing this. “He had a pre-existing heart condition.”
“Which got worse because he never relaxed,” she immediately retorted. Sunggyu drug a hand down his face. Why did he even bother? No man ever wins against his own mother.
“Jus promise me one thing,” his mother begged. She was in front of him again with both of her hands on his cheeks, caressing them under the pads of her thumb.
“What?” Sunggyu muttered through pursed lips as his mother continued to play with his cheeks. “If it’s about school or work, I don’t wanna—“
“Be happy,” her words cut him off. “If you’re happy studying or working, then I’ll be happy for you. If you’re happy with him, then I’m ecstatic. But right now…” she halted to let out a deep sigh and smile sadly. “But now you don’t seem happy.”
Sunggyu glanced back at his Home behind him, that he’ll have to leave behind forever in a few short minutes. “That’s because I’m losing my Home today,” he replied.
“You can always visit me at your sister’s,” his mother offered as if it were some consolation. It was true. He’d always have a place to stay at in Jeonju, but…
“It’s not the same.”
That weekend had brought a flurry of changes. For one, he was Home-less. Yes, he had a place to live in Seoul, but he always considered Seoul to be the place where he worked and studied, never the place where he lived. He prided himself on being a man from Jeonju, but could he even say that anymore now? He would anyways regardless. Sunggyu couldn’t deal with that many changes at once, which is how he got stuck in his current predicament.
“Hyung, do you need any help finding a new roommate? I know that I said I’d help with the rent until you found a new one, but I don’t want to be sending my first kid off to school and still paying rent on that shitty apartment,” Howon partially threatened. Sunggyu had just handed over the groom an envelope full of money, and Howon was bringing up financial issues. And Sunggyu was the one who drove all the way from Seoul to Busan to attend Howon’s wedding.
“It’s not shitty,” was all Sunggyu could think of to respond back. They had lived there together happily for two years. They were both medical students, and their schedules and habits aligned perfectly. Howon had been the ideal roommate, which made finding a replacement all the more difficult. The groom had set the bar high and had to ruin everything by finding the love of his life and marrying her. Sunggyu found it incredibly rude (and incredibly fortunate for Howon).
The groom patted his friend on the shoulder. “I know,” he assured him. “Just find one okay? Or I’ll post an ad on an internet forum and you’ll end up with a complete weirdo.”
“Alright, I’ll find one,” Sunggyu snapped back. “Congratulations on your wedding. Now I’m going to suck the open bar dry.” Which he then tried to do to the best of his abilities, but failed miserably. He gave up after only having two drinks and retired to his hotel room, feeling sleepy. Once showered and in bed, he tried giving his boyfriend a call to wish him goodnight, but he ended up saying his wishes to the voice mail and hanging up with a heavy heart.
And so he ended the shitty weekend with a shitty three-hour drive back to Seoul to his shitty apartment, which seemed even shittier after Sunggyu placed his boxes from Home in it. He just sighed, falling into bed and clutching his old stuffed dog to his chest. Maybe tomorrow all of this shit would smell like roses.
Desperation drives people to do the unthinkable, and for Sunggyu, the unthinkable was this. It was one (teensy) step up from Howon finding a complete stranger and weirdo off of the internet to live with Sunggyu. Sunggyu posted a notice for his apartment on one of the University’s message boards, littered about campus. Yes, Sunggyu was even considering living with an undergraduate. But they should both be students and at least have their studies in common. Sunggyu just hoped to find someone who’d respect his privacy and keep quiet.
“Please,” Sunggyu prayed under his breath to any deity that could be hearing. He put one last staple into his notice on the message board. “Please just a normal, human being.” He finished his prayer and posting the sign. He took a step back and sighed, slightly disappointed in himself that things had come to this.
And just as he turned his back…
“Looking for an apartment?” someone read his notice aloud. “YES!” the man exclaimed happily. “Where? Where? Where?” he mumbled under his breath.
Sunggyu whipped his head around, surprised that he already had a fish biting on his line. The man reading his notice, well, he looked normal enough, save for the bright purple hair, but what young man in this day and age of idols had normal hair. Even Kim Sunggyu had dyed his black hair a safe shade of brown. This kid was more of a risk taker. The hair should have been the first red flag for Sunggyu, warning him that this was a bad idea. But he ignored it.
“Are you interested?” Sunggyu asked, returning to his notice and stepping closer to the man.
“Eung,” the other grunted cheerfully with a grin plastered across his face. He then stabbed the paper with his thumb, pointing at a string of numbers typed across the bottom of the page. “What’s this? The coordinates?”
Sunggyu forced out a laugh. This man had a strange sense of humor. “My phone number,” he mumbled under his breath. That was the second red flag.
“Phone number?” the man repeated slowly. Then he slapped his head. “Aish! I’m being silly. Sorry, my brain is a bit slow. I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night,” he ended with a yawn that looked slightly forced (him watching Sunggyu’s reaction to it didn’t make it anymore convincing), but Sunggyu bought it anyways.
“It happens to the best of us,” Sunggyu spoke. He didn’t know exactly how to proceed from here, and so he decided just to leave. “So you have my number. Call me if you’re interested.” He then gave a short bow and turned to leave.
Sunggyu didn’t make it very far down the sidewalk when his phone began to ring. He checked the caller ID and saw that it was coming from an unknown phone number. “No way,” Sunggyu muttered under his breath. He looked behind him only to see the man with a phone to his ear and gesturing over to Sunggyu to pick his own phone up. Sunggyu scoffed and answered, “I take it that you want the room.”
“It depends,” Sunggyu could hear the man shouting at him from down the sidewalk and in the earpiece. He winced and pulled the phone away from his ear. “When can I move in?”
Sunggyu shrugged. “You could probably move in today if you want.”
“Okay. Call!” The third red flag, and perhaps the fourth and the fifth, a whole sea of red flags waving at him, telling Sunggyu to stay far, far away.
Maybe it was the desperation that made Sunggyu ignore all those warnings, or perhaps he saw them and didn’t care, or maybe it was the captivating way that the man smiled, lulling Sunggyu into a false sense of security. He had Sunggyu, hook, line, and sinker. “Okay, call,” Sunggyu repeated into the phone. He then hung up and shouted to the other, “Yah! Do you want to come with me to see it?”
“Yes!” the other exclaimed and jogged up to meet his new roommate.
Once the other reached him, Sunggyu clicked his tongue. “You should at least see an apartment before you agree to move in.”
“Should I?” the man asked.
Sunggyu nodded. “Of course!” he exclaimed, and the other nodded along. “I didn’t even tell you how much rent was. And for all you know, I could be a complete weirdo.”
“You don’t seem like one,” the other immediately spat back. “Besides,” he began and smiled sheepishly. “I’m desperate.”
Sunggyu sighed. “So am I.”
Sunggyu’s new roommate was named Nam Woohyun. He moved in that very day with nothing more than a few bags to his name. Sunggyu could relate. It was like the spitting image of himself when he first came up from Jeonju, with only a few bags in his hands but a heart full of dreams. Woohyun appeared to be the same. He was a film major at the University…or at least Sunggyu suspected that Woohyun was a film major. The boy spent most of his days pent up inside of the apartment watching dramas and movies, taking detailed notes. It was obvious that he was not just watching them, but he was studying them, carefully. Woohyun appeared to be a serious college student, dressed not for fashion but for comfort, eating instant food because cooking real food would tear him away from his studying. Once again, Sunggyu could relate. It was surprising that Sunggyu had made any friends during his undergrad, let alone make a very special friend. His priority at that time had been studying. The second was living like a human being.
And perhaps all of the similarities were the reason why Sunggyu had been so lenient to Woohyun in the beginning, why he forgave Woohyun’s…strangeness. But after a while, the instances began piling up and grew into a pile so large that Sunggyu could no longer ignore it.
Nam Woohyun was a complete weirdo…maybe even a psychopath.
And it all began with a small stuffed dog, the one Sunggyu had brought from his old Home. He had come back from a long night at the library, made a bee-line for his bed, and flopped right down on it. He then pulled the dog to his chest about to hug it, but then he noticed something strange. Its eyes were missing.
Sunggyu bolted upwards. “Nurungie! What happened?” he lamented, looking closely at the frayed, cut threads that used to hold the button eyes. “Who did this to you?”
As if on cue, an exploding sound came from the living room. Nam Woohyun was watching American action movies again. Sunggyu sighed, rolling off the bed with Nurungie still in his hands. He then dragged his feet to his door and yelled from the doorway into the living room, “Yah! Woohyun-ah, turn it down! Hyung’s trying to sleep!” As if his seniority ever made a difference in their relationship thus far. Woohyun had only ever called him…
“Oh, Gyu! Sorry,” Woohyun shouted right back, turning down the volume. He used no honorific. Hell, he didn’t even call Sunggyu by his entire name. But it was always ‘Gyu,’ as if they were long-time friends and not roommates for barely a month. Kids these days. They believed in equality and breaking ‘archaic’ traditions, whenever it suited them. But the time will come when they’d invoke their own seniority to get their way, and sing the praises of doing everything the traditional way. After all, traditions are what make a Korean a Korean. But Sunggyu was starting to think that Woohyun was from abroad. He had to be from some place very far away, like America, because he didn’t seem Korean at all in spite of his looks.
“Just keep it down,” Sunggyu warned the other raising his hand with Nurungie in it. He waved without a care. “Good night.”
Sunggyu looked blankly at Woohyun, who was baring his teeth and at the stuffed toy in his hands and back to his roommate again. “Did you just growl?” Sunggyu couldn’t believe the question that he was asking.
“I don’t like the way that dog looks at me…never blinking,” Woohyun grumbled turning his attention back to the movie and his note-taking. He smirked. “But I guess he can’t see anymore.”
“D-did you b-blind my Nurungie?” Sunggyu didn’t mean to stammer so much, but he was so unsure of himself that the words stumbled from his lips. There was no way that man possibly could have.
“Gyu, do you think I would?” Woohyun turned the question around. He looked at Sunggyu with wide and innocent eyes.
No…maybe? Sunggyu shook his head. He was too tired to deal with all of this. He wagered that his roommate was tired too, judging by all that growling. “Go to bed, Woohyun-ah. You’re not making any sense.”
Nam Woohyun never made sense, though. And it only got worse as the days progressed. One day Sunggyu was walking back from a lecture and going to pick up his usual caffeine fix, but then he saw it. The bouncing purple hair, shining brightly under the sunlight. It was strange. Sunggyu was starting to think that Woohyun was nocturnal or a hermit because this was the first time Sunggyu had seen Woohyun step outside the apartment since their first meeting. He thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. Sunggyu forgot all about the coffee and followed the purple light. When he caught it, he was sure that his eyes were playing tricks on him.
It was his Nam Woohyun, with his long purple hair flopping around as he jumped and jumped…to catch the bubbles floating out of the bubble machine in front of a toy store…with his mouth. Sunggyu watched for a bit in amazement. Surely, Woohyun wasn’t trying to eat the bubbles. Maybe he was just acting cute to catch the attention of the clerk who worked at the toy store. Yes, that must be it. Guys do crazy things to catch girls’ attention. If he was trying to eat the bubbles, well, that was just plain crazy.
Then Woohyun finally caught one in his mouth. “Ugh gross!” he immediately retched and spat several times onto the ground, trying to rid the taste from his mouth.
“What do you expect?” Sunggyu chided him, finally speaking out loud. Woohyun turned to look at him, wiping the spit from his lips. “It’s just soap.”
“Eung,” Sunggyu assented. “Yah, what are you doing?”
“Feeling regretful,” Woohyun answered honestly. “Ugh, how can something so pretty taste so bad?”
“Even roses have thorns. Not everything that’s pretty is good, you know that,” Sunggyu tried to remind him.
Woohyun nodded along, and Sunggyu felt slightly relieved. Woohyun still appeared to be insane. “Right because you’re ugly, but you’re still good.”
“Yah!” Sunggyu yelled, stepping closer to the other with his fist raised threateningly. Woohyun grinned as he stepped backwards and ran into the pole behind him, somehow managing to knock it over, which caused the entire awning of the store to collapse unto the ground, bringing down the bubble machine along with it.
And that’s when Sunggyu first learned that Woohyun had a knack for destroying things.
After that, Sunggyu noticed that things around the apartment were inexplicably broken. Pots were missing handles. Several DVDs were jammed into the player. Some of his favorite CDs were scratched and rendered unplayable. Light bulbs were randomly broken inside of their lamps. Doors and cupboard doors were off their hinges. There was even a hole through the tv one day.
Sunggyu didn’t even know whether to mind them or not. Later everything would be fixed. A new bulb would be put into the lamps. Doors would be back on their hinges. Handles were punched back onto the pots (literally punched through the pots, which didn’t seem possible). And those things that couldn’t be fixed were brand new. Their tv now had a bigger screen, and how could Sunggyu be upset with that.
But some things were never fixed, like Nurungie. And some things couldn’t be replaced, like Sunggyu’s time or reputation.
For a solid week, Sunggyu could not find any of his left shoes. He still had all of his right ones, lined up neatly by the door. “Nam Woohyun,” he grumbled as he pulled on two mismatched, right shoes onto his feet. Yes, he was fully aware that his roommate was to blame for all of this, but he had already lost too much time looking for his missing shoes. He had no time left to chew his roommate out. And so he had run out of his apartment and run off to classes, leaving him with an incredibly sore left foot by the end of the week. Woohyun must’ve finally felt pity for Sunggyu, constantly rubbing his foot and applying bandages on it because the next Monday, all of his left shoes reappeared again…but now all the right ones were gone.
And it was with two right shoes on his feet, when he walked into a situation that he desperately wanted to walk right back out of. Running in Nam Woohyun outside of the apartment was never a good thing. The first time, his roommate ruined the storefront of the toy store. The second time, well, Sunggyu had witnessed Woohyun accidentally walking into a car, leaving a large dent in the side, and casually walking away. Sunggyu had considered reporting it as a hit and run, but considering that it was more of a hit and walk away and the fact that the car was parked in a loading zone anyways, Sunggyu let it go. This time was different from the others. He wasn’t alone. He was with a group of people, people who Sunggyu liked to call “no good ruffians that would make their mothers’ cry.” However Woohyun was loudly greeting them as “friends,” which made Sunggyu’s stomach drop. If these kids were actually Woohyun’s friends, then they may come over to the apartment. And if they came over to the apartment, there probably would be a party. And not a nice, sophisticated grown-up party with wine and casual conversation, but a party with booze, loud music, destruction of his property, and…”Drugs,” Sunggyu muttered out loud. Sunggyu was 65% sure that these ‘friends’ were drug dealers. He had to get Woohyun out of there.
“Uh, uh,” Woohyun grunted along with the beat that his ‘friend’ was laying down. Ah shit, Sunggyu thought and winced as he approached the group. He’s going to rap.
“NWH, chyea. N for the ‘Nam.’ W for the ‘Woo.’ H for the ‘Hyun.’ Chyea! NWH!” Woohyun spat out those lines. And now Sunggyu wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to save his roommate any more. The thugs could have him. He didn’t want people to know that he knew the guy who just killed hip-hop.
But the thugs didn’t even lay a hand on him. They all laughed as they were watching Woohyun trying to breakdance, do a handstand, fall over, and get back up in a spin as if he had meant to almost fall flat on his face the entire time. However the laughter didn’t last for long, one of the stockier kids walked up to Woohyun and grabbed him by the collar. He then drew his fist back, aiming for Woohyun’s face.
The punch missed Woohyun by miles. It was always going to be fake punch, but Woohyun was still there, pretending to be hurt with all of his teeth punched out. The throng started to laugh at the peculiar man again. Sunggyu closed his eyes and sighed. Now he was really going to act like he didn’t know Woohyun.
But Sunggyu’s yell earlier already revealed that he did. “Oh Gyu!” Woohyun exclaimed, still pretending to not have teeth. He waved furiously at the med student. He then smiled, showing all of his teeth. “I want you to meet my new friends.”
This time, Sunggyu was the one to grab Woohyun by the collar. He dragged him away from the other men. “They aren’t your friends,” he grumbled under his breath.
Woohyun twisted himself out of the other’s grip. He step then fell in with his. “Hm? They said they were,” he has slightly confused. Then he suddenly turned around and waved to the so-called thugs. “Bye guys! My roommate, Kim Sunggyu…” the med student cringed at the other revealing his full name. “…wants to hang out. So I’ll meet up with you guys tomorrow!”
Sunggyu grabbed him by the collar again and spun Woohyun back around. “No, you won’t,” he growled.
“Because…” Sunggyu quickly glanced back to the gangsters, making sure that they were out of ear-shot, before he continued. “They aren’t good guys.”
“Really?” Woohyun cocked his head. He then stopped in the middle of the street and dug through the pocket of his tracksuit. “But they gave me this,” he said, pulling out a Ziploc baggie filled generously with a white powder. “And they said it was really good. And that it was pure or something.”
“Y-yah!” Sunggyu stammered and lunged forward. He arrested the baggie from the other and hid in underneath his coat. He could feel the plastic bag press against his chest, where his heart was beating wildly. “D-do y-you,” Sunggyu still stuttered over his words. He was breathing heavily and getting closer and closer to Woohyun as his voice dropped lower. “Do you even know what this is?”
“No,” Woohyun gave him the answer that he was hoping for. “But for what I had to pay, it better be good. What are you supposed to do with…”
“YOU BOUGHT THIS!” Sunggyu accidentally yelled out loud. He groaned, closing his eyes tight. He hoped this was all a dream, a terrible nightmare. It felt like one. He was sweating, his heart was racing faster and faster, and all he wanted to do was wake up. He opened his eyes only to see his roommate with an uneasy smile on his face. He almost looked apologetic. At least Woohyun was slowly realizing that they were in deep shit.
“You really don’t know, do you?” Sunggyu asked softly.
Woohyun’s face suddenly hardened. The ends of his hair seemed to have stiffened. “Don’t know what?” he combatted.
“Who are you?”
“FREEZE! HANDS IN THE AIR AND PUT THE COCAINE ON THE GROUND!”
Sunggyu gulped and did immediately as he was told. He slowly turned around to see a bevy of cops, some of them restraining Woohyun’s ‘friends’ in handcuffs. Kim Sunggyu just found himself smack dab in the middle of a drug bust. And worst of all, his eyes glanced up to the watch on his wrist. He winced. He had an exam in 30 minutes, and he hardly reckoned that he could bust out of jail in that short amount of time. He was f***ed.
“Oh cool guns! Can I see one?”
“Not now,” Sunggyu barked back at Woohyun and nudged his roommate with his foot until his hands were back up in the air. Roommate? Maybe not any longer. They were going to be cellmates now.
Or fortunately not for Sunggyu. Woohyun had told the cops some cockamamie story about being from the countryside and unfamiliar with the strange new world that was the metropolis of Seoul. And that the only drugs that he knew of were the Advils his grandfather would take to ease his arthritis. A part of Sunggyu wanted to believe that these were lies that Woohyun had taken from dramas. But there was often a look in Woohyun’s eyes, some kind of wonderment, like he was seeing things for the first time and it rocked his world. A small “wow” would fall from his lips. He was even astounded by the handcuffs on his wrists, not like it was just a novelty but a interesting invention in itself. He was studying them closely, with watchful eyes (as Sunggyu was studying him). All of the was enough to convince the cops that Woohyun was telling the truth, but not for Sunggyu.
While some things did seem to fall more into place, like Woohyun’s aversion of going out into apartment unless necessary, his ‘comfort’ clothes, and unfamiliarity with the world around him (Sunggyu even had to tell him how to work their shower). Not everything coincided with Woohyun’s story. Almost from the very beginning, Sunggyu had suspected that his roommate wasn’t Korean. It wasn’t just the honorifics. Woohyun couldn’t eat kimchi. He claimed that it was too spicy. He once asked Sunggyu if there really were two Koreas and why they were split. Woohyun couldn’t even name a single member of SNSD, and even Sunggyu’s own mother knew the names of all of them.
Woohyun was American…or Canadian…or born from the far reaches of Antarctica. Only that would explain his behavior.
“Maybe he’s an alien.”
Sunggyu almost spat out his soup. “Myungsoo-yah,” he chided with a giggle, wiping his mouth. “You’re going to be a lawyer. You can’t be illogical.”
“But…” Howon challenged, raising an eyebrow. Sunggyu scoffed. He wondered why Myungsoo was in law school and not Howon, who really loved to argue more. “He’ll have to spit out garbage sometimes. Not all of Myungsoo’s clients will be innocent.”
“No, it’s not illogical to begin with,” Myungsoo insisted. “We live in an ever-expanding universe with infinite possibilities. And you’re telling me that there’s not something else living out there?” After he finished, he grinned smugly and swallowed a spoon full of rice. For a man who was mostly quiet and somewhat spacy, Myungsoo could sure become eloquent whenever he became passionate about something. And mostly he was passionate about proving Sunggyu wrong, and aliens apparently.
“I didn’t say that,” Sunggyu barked back. Why did their lunches always end up like this? In silly debates? (probably because secretly the three of them thought it was fun) “I just don’t think that my roommate is one.”
“Let’s look at the facts,” Myungsoo proposed, shifting in his seat and propping his elbows onto the table. A wide grin crept onto Howon’s face. Myungsoo was going into lawyer mode. “You’re roommate obviously isn’t a Seoul citizen, and from what you told me, I concur that he’s not a citizen of Korea either. But the question now is where is he a citizen?” he proposed the question as if it were profound.
“Canada,” Sunggyu proposed as he rolled his food around in his mouth (there was nothing against eating an arguing at the same time).
“But Brian isn’t like that,” Howon interjected, referring to their fellow med student, who was from Toronto and other than slipping over a few words and his English name, there was nothing else to indicate that he was a foreigner.
“Then he was raised by bears, I don’t know,” Sunggyu groaned. This argument was getting less and less fun as it progressed (although being raised by bears would explain Woohyun’s disposition towards destruction).
Myungsoo smirked. “Now that just sounds silly.”
“And aliens doesn’t?” Sunggyu raised.
Myungsoo shrugged and leaned back into his chair, thereby leaving the debate as it was. He chuckled to himself. “Instead of My Love from Another Star, it’s My Roommate from Another Star,” he revealed his source of his laughter.
“At least Do Manager had some useful powers. All Nam Woohyun can do is act clueless and make Sunggyu fall in the standings,” Howon, however, kept debating. Sunggyu groaned after being reminded of his missed exam. He was allowed to make it up, but at the cost of his number one standing amongst the med students, and in the hearts of their teachers. Not to mention that Sunggyu had his very own file lodged in the local police department now. Howon then let out a short chuckle. “But I guess that was useful for me because I’m number one now,” he bragged holding up one finger in the air. He immediately put it down after noticing that Sunggyu was glaring at him. “Sorry.”
“Whatever,” Sunggyu dismissed, putting down his spoon and patting his full belly. This meal was over and so was the discussion. “I got to go home and see what new mess Woohyun made.”
“Hyung,” Myungsoo called out to Sunggyu as the three of them were getting ready to leave. “Why haven’t you kicked him out yet? You can. Your name is the only one on the lease.”
Sunggyu sighed. He had asked himself the say question every day, often multiple times in one day. But he always came to the same conclusion: “Because I don’t think he has anywhere else to go.”
On his way back home from lunch, Sunggyu began to wonder what his life would be like without Nam Woohyun. He’d still be the top student in his program. Nurungie would still have its eyes. He’d have no record at the police station. He’d have peace. Sunggyu didn’t realize that fact until he noticed his heartbeating faster with every step he took closer to home. He hadn’t felt at peace since Woohyun arrived.
“Is there someone up there? Oh my god! There is!”
“Someone call the police! He’s going to jump!”
Sunggyu looked up to see a crowd slowly forming in front of his building. They were all staring up at the rooftop, and Sunggyu’s eyes followed theirs. Nam Woohyun must’ve also been thinking of what the world would be like without him because there he was, standing at the ledge of the building, toes hanging over the edge. Sunggyu broke out into a sprint until he reached the crowd. He then pushed his way to the front.
“Yah! Nam Woohyun!” Sunggyu yelled up to him. But it didn’t look like the other could hear him. “NAM! WOO! HYUN!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, feeling his voice rip through his throat.
He heard it. Woohyun heard him shouting. He looked right at Sunggyu and waved. He smiled, and he waved. Woohyun then lowered his hands to fiddle with an odd apparatus around his waist. Sunggyu sighed after realizing what it was, a parachute, a homemade one by the looks of it. His roommate wasn’t trying to commit suicide. He was f***ing base jumping, which is still an awful idea in itself and Sunggyu still had to stop it at all costs.
But he was already too late. With a running start, Woohyun leapt off the building, screaming the name of the ancient city as he did so. Lord knows why. Sunggyu wasn’t even going to try to begin to figure out how his roommate’s mind worked. But all Sunggyu could do now was watch Woohyun glide through the air, his purple hair whipping in the wind. Woohyun did manage to deploy his parachute, but as ‘parachute’ flew open, Sunggyu noticed the familiar pattern on it. The ‘parachute’ was made out his flannel bed sheets and wholly unsuitable for extreme sports. Unable to withstand the tension, the sheets ripped, and Woohyun began to fall. He hit the ground.
The crowd began to swarm around him, but luckily Sunggyu was still at the front of it. He rushed to Woohyun’s side and began to assess the situation. His roommate was laying there, lifeless. Sunggyu hated himself for thinking, Well, I guess that solves my problem. Especially after seeing Woohyun’s leg twitch. That’s when Sunggyu noticed a peculiar absence of blood, and Woohyun’s body wasn’t a crumpled heap. No, it was still very much Woohyun-like. As was the laugh that cut through the silence.
Woohyun rolled over onto his back, groaning. Sunggyu knelt down by his side. “Hey? You alive?” it was a silly question. The answer was right in front of him, no matter how unbelievable it was.
“Yea, I think so,” Woohyun responded in a strained voice. He shifted on the ground.
Sunggyu looked the other up and down. Nothing, nothing appeared to be broken or lacerated. The only thing that looked rumpled was Woohyun’s hair and tracksuit.
Woohyun only laughed as his answer, his eyes full of regret (and Sunggyu accepted it as one).
Much to everyone’s surprise (and with a little support from Sunggyu), Woohyun managed to get back onto his feet only minutes after he fell flat on his face from a few stories. And now, Sunggyu had laid him down on their couch and was bringing him painkillers (because something in Woohyun had to be hurting, even if it didn’t look like it). He carefully watched his roommate swallow the pills.
“Why would you do something so stupid? You’re smarter than this. You knew that sheet couldn’t hold you,” Sunggyu began to lecture the other. In spite of everything Woohyun had done so far, and in spite of what Howon may believe, Woohyun wasn’t clueless. He was smart, smart enough to fix the things that he’d broken and even fixed things that Sunggyu himself had broken, like when his computer caught a virus, Woohyun eradicated it within minutes, like it was nothing. Woohyun wasn’t dumb, but why did he do such dumb things?
“Because it was a bad idea,” Woohyun answered. Sunggyu looked up at him, confused. “Because it was a bad idea, I had to do it,” Woohyun repeated.
A bad idea? It sounded like something was awry with Woohyun’s decision-making process. And to an aspiring doctor, there was normally one answer for that. He thought back to the few milliseconds before Woohyun hit the ground. He never braced for the landing. If he had, his wrists, knees, ankles, or more might’ve shattered. “Are you drunk?” Sunggyu asked. From what he’d learned, drunks could survive such falls and even car crashes because they don’t fight against the impact.
“No,” Woohyun answered with a shake of his head.
“Are you really just that dumb?” Sunggyu spat out, feeling slightly irritated that he couldn’t understand a single thing. Woohyun nodded enthusiastically to the question. Sunggyu sputtered into a laugh and hit Woohyun gently at his knee. “Get up! Come on. Let’s go.”
Woohyun sat up on the couch. “Where?”
“You ruined my sheets. So you’re buying me new ones.”
It didn’t really dawn on Sunggyu until he walked out of the apartment building with Woohyun at his side. He had run into Woohyun several times outside, but this was the first time that they went out together. Sunggyu side eyed his roommate. This didn’t mean that they were friends, right? They were just running errands. Woohyun caught Sunggyu’s gaze and gave him a smile. Reflexively, Sunggyu returned it; however his smile was more nervous and apprehensive. It was more of a show of teeth than anything. He then looked away, eyes locked on the street. Sunggyu needed to be more careful or else Woohyun might actually start liking him. And if that happened, Woohyun might never move out.
Eventually, they made it to the department store, and judging by Woohyun’s “wows,” this must’ve been his first time in one, or at least in one so large. Sunggyu had to start pushing him towards the bedding section. “Come one,” Sunggyu grumbled. “Let’s get them and get out.”
“But Gyu, there’s so much stuff,” Woohyun argued. And instead of Sunggyu’s push nudging him in the right direction, it launched Woohyun off like a rocket. Sunggyu groaned. His friends ‘thought’ that Woohyun was an extra-terrestrial, but he was ‘extra’ alright. He was more like an extra-hyperactive child, and Sunggyu all of the sudden wished that they made leashes for adults.
After chasing him around in a few sections, Sunggyu finally caught up with his roommates as he was trying on hats. He wasn’t even trying on the snapbacks more appropriate for his age, but the old man bucket-style hats that swallowed his small head whole.
“Gyu! Look! It covers my ears!” he exclaimed as he fiddled with the brim.
Sunggyu tore it right off his head. “Stop trying on hats or you’ll get lice,” he warned. And you’ll die from fashion suicide if you wear this one…but it kinda did match his track suit. Sunggyu shook his head and placed the hat back on the rack.
“Yea and your head will get all itchy and then they’ll be all over the apartment. Nasty little bugs,” Sunggyu grumbled as he walked towards the bedding section. Surprisingly Woohyun was following him.
“Oh,” Woohyun muttered. Sunggyu glanced back at him, and his roommate had his head bowed, looking low, even his hair looked less fluffy. Sunggyu cocked his head, wondering what in particular he had said to make Woohyun feel that way. But, of course, Woohyun was like a tempest, unpredictable and ever-changing. He raised his gaze and saw the display beds lining the section. “Beds!” he exclaimed, and then he broke out into a sprint, jumped, and landed in one of the beds.
Sunggyu slowly approached the bed as Woohyun was rolling around in it. “Yah, get out,” he commanded, tapping Woohyun on the shoulder. “You’re not supposed to…”
Woohyun rolled over onto his side, staring straight at the other, and cut him off, “How do you know if it’s any good if you don’t try it out?”
“I was just going to…” Sunggyu paused. Well, he was going to buy the cheapest sheets in the store. But then he remembered that he wasn’t the one actually paying for the sheets, and that Woohyun was a pretty generous spender. A large smile spread across his face. He deserved nice, luxurious sheets after all that his roommate put him through. And so at the end of a stressful day of school and oddness, Sunggyu could at least get a comfortable night’s sleep. “Yea let’s test it out!” he agreed, pushing Woohyun over so that he could lay down too.
Although they had gotten several reprimanding stares from unlookers and employees, the two roommates still tried out several displays and rubbed several sheets against their faces, testing for softness. It was far more fun than Sunggyu thought that you could ever have while shopping for bed sheets, and definitely more fun than he thought that he’d ever have with Woohyun. They actually got along. Sure, they lived together, but it was more like two beings just being in the same place at the same time. It wasn’t making jokes with each other, or talking about preferences, actually getting to know each other. Not like they were doing now. The more time he’d spent with Woohyun, the more ‘not bad’ his roommate seemed.
After picking out an expensive 1000 thread count sheets, they headed to the cash register. Woohyun pulled out his wallet and proceeded to pay the full amount in cash and even had several bills left over in his wallet.
“Wah!” Sunggyu gasped after walking away from the register. “Do you always walk around with that much cash in your wallet?”
“Don’t you?” Woohyun asked in all serious as he stuffed the wallet back into his pocket.
Sunggyu shook his head. “I don’t think that I have that much in my bank account.”
“Really?” Woohyun looked concerned as he felt the fat wallet through the pocket in his pants. He then glanced up at the other. “You want some?”
Sunggyu stopped in his tracks and stared at the man in disbelief. “Are you a chaebol’s son or grandson or something?” he asked.
Woohyun cocked his head. “Chaebol?” He then shook his head and chuckled, “No. I don’t even have a dad. Not really.”
“Oh,” Sunggyu muttered and the two continued to walk out of the store. Just like he’d thought, Woohyun had lied about his background at the police station. However, being right didn’t give Sunggyu the satisfaction that it normally did. It only affirmed the other thought he had before: Woohyun truly had nowhere else to go. Pity started to rise in him, twisting his gut. No, no. He had to stay strong. He then sniffed and looked over at Woohyun, extending out his palm. “I’ll take some.”
As long as Woohyun was offering, he might as well take advantage of it.
The next morning, the pity came again. It was stronger this time. Sunggyu walked out into the living room. Maybe if he caught Woohyun wrecking some of his things or hiding his shoes again, the pity would go away. But Woohyun wasn’t there. Sunggyu pouted. Woohyun was always up around this time watching dramas or movies, taking his meticulous notes. Then a dark thought pricked the back of Sunggyu’s mind. Last night. What if Woohyun was finally starting to feel the after effects from the fall, whiplash, tender bruises, all of that. The pity grew and drove Sunggyu to knock on his roommate’s door. “Woohyun?” he called out softly as he knocked. But there was no answer. “Woohyun are you in there? Are you awake?” he asked, a little more loudly this time. He was still met with silence. Sunggyu’s frown deepened. Woohyun was always home. He had to be in there, but why wasn’t he answering?
Sunggyu twisted the handle. The door was unlocked. “Woohyun-ah?” Sunggyu called out for the other as he stepped inside the bedroom. “Hm?” he gasped as he surveyed the room. Woohyun wasn’t in his bed, or at his desk. He wasn’t anywhere. But what was there was…strange. Sunggyu had never been in the other’s room before, and he thought that Woohyun wouldn’t have much because he only came into the apartment with a few bags. But the room was chockfull of knick-knacks and devices. Strange things that Woohyun must’ve gathered because they interested him, like the bubble-machine was perched high in the corner of his room. Also there were the things that Woohyun had broken, but was hoarding in his room, like kid trying to hide away his mistakes. His desk wasn’t covered in books, movies, or notebooks, like Sunggyu would’ve expected from a film major, but there was this large device. The top corner of it had been melted and destroyed. Tools were littered about it, as if Woohyun was in the middle of repairing it. Just as Sunggyu was stepping closer to the desk to get a better look, he hears a rustle behind him.
“Huh?” Sunggyu turned around to see Woohyun crawling out from underneath his bed, hair in disarray, rubbing his drooping eyes.
Sunggyu forgot all about the device and walked up to his roommate, crouching down next to him. “Hey what are you doing under there? You’re supposed to sleep on the bed,” he joked quietly.
“It’s too bright,” Woohyun grumbled, leaving his hands over his eyes.
“Hm?” Sunggyu looked about the room. It was bright. Woohyun had a large window in his room and the sun was shining directly on his bed, with nothing to block it. “That’s because you have no curtains,” he reasoned.
“Curtains?” Woohyun repeated. He lowered his hands. His pupils were so large that his whole eye was almost entirely black. Woohyun blinked hard, several times until they shrunk back down to its normal size. He looked over at the window and mumbled, “Oh right.”
“How are you feeling?” Sunggyu asked as he watched the other carefully for any signs of distress.
“Fine,” Woohyun responded. Then his hand flew up to his hair, and he began scratching furiously. “Except my head has been itching like crazy.” His other hand soon joined his other in scratching.
“Itching?” Sunggyu repeated. That wasn’t a symptom that he was familiar with from a traumatic fall. What would cause so much itching?
“Aw shit! Woohyun-ah!”
Woohyun had lice. Which meant that their apartment had lice, and if Sunggyu wasn’t careful, he could contract it too. He sat Woohyun in the middle of the living room floor, with a surgical cap on his head. Sunggyu went around, gathering everything Woohyun had touched in a garbage bag. After that was done, he went to the store to buy some medicated shampoo. He was delightfully surprised to see that Woohyun stayed in the same spot were he’d left him almost an hour ago. It was surprising to see his roommate show any kind of restraint. Sunggyu felt…almost proud.
Unfortunately, Sunggyu’s job wasn’t done after that. Now, it was the worst, most disgusting part. Sunggyu grimaced as he sat behind Woohyun, who was still on the floor. He had rubber gloves that went up to his elbows, but he felt no more protected. Carefully with a comb and a pair of tweezers, he was picking the dead lice from Woohyun’s hair, one by one.
“This is disgusting!” he retched, plucking off an other dead lice and placing it in a bag. The head in front of him began to shake as Woohyun chuckled. “What?”
“You want to be a doctor. You’ll see worse,” Woohyun reminded him.
True, he had a point, especially since Sunggyu wanted to be a surgeon. He had deft enough hands to treat even the most delicate of organs. He was even taking out the lice with rapidity. But still…“But…bugs,” he lamely argued. He plucked out another from behind Woohyun’s ear. “Ew!” After placing that one in the bag, Sunggyu returned to searching the area around Woohyun’s ear. With his tweezers, he kept trying to move aside this patch of hair by his ear, but it wouldn’t budge. It took him a few seconds and a few more pokes to realize that the hair was attached to the back of Woohyun’s ear, like a coat of fur. He hadn’t noticed it before because Woohyun’s long, purple hair covered the backs of his ears (and the fur was surprisingly purple as well). Sunggyu knew that people grew fur-like patches due to medical reasons, like hypertrichosis or downy hair growth from being underweight. Sunggyu bit his lip in thought, pondering over which of the two his roommate may have that would’ve caused this. His finger stretched forward as he touched the fur. Although it he was still wearing gloves, it seemed soft. He stroked it again. Woohyun’s head instinctively leaned into the touch. But he almost immediately leaned away and turned his head around to face Sunggyu. The med student raised both hands in the air as if he was just caught with his hand in a cookie jar.
“Are you almost done?” Woohyun asked, ignoring what the other had just done.
Sunggyu grabbed the other’s head and twisted it back around. “Just a little bit more,” he promised. All he had to do was give the head one last look to make sure it was lice-free.
Woohyun tilted his head back and grinned up at the other, who was still searching through his hair. “This is why I like you, Gyu,” he blurted out.
“W-what?” Sunggyu stuttered as he dropped his hands. Wasn’t this what he was afraid of? Woohyun getting attached to him?
“You help me,” Woohyun explained as he lowered his head back down. “You tell me what things are.”
“I do?” Sunggyu asked. He began pulling off the gloves with a sharp snap. It was like a sharp slap, calling Sunggyu back into reality and showing him the truth behind their relationship. He had been helping Woohyun, especially in his most dire situations.
“Eung,” Woohyun grunted. “Like the shower…bubbles…drugs…last night…now.” He then hung his head low, resting his chin on his knees. “I know that I’m not the easiest roommate...”
“You’re not bad,” Sunggyu cut him off. He didn’t like seeing Woohyun being hard on himself, even if it was warranted.
“HUH?!” Woohyun’s reaction was a bit more dramatic than Sunggyu had expected. The roommate whipped his whole body around and looked at the other with wide eyes.
“You’re not bad?” Sunggyu repeated lowly.
Woohyun flashed him the greatest grin that Sunggyu had ever seen from him. “Thank you,” he spoke sincerely to the other while resting his hand on Sunggyu’s knee. Sunggyu looked at the hand resting on him, not knowing exactly what to do with it. “Hey. Are you done now?” Woohyun asked excitedly, giving the knee a gentle squeeze.
“Yea. Why? Can’t sit still?” Sunggyu guessed as the other bolted straight up after the word “yea” was uttered. He laughed.
“Yes,” Woohyun answered regardless, even though his actions already spoke for him. He was already at the other side of the room, walking up to Sunggyu’s keyboard. He quickly sat down, and his fingers brushed against the keys.
“Hey! That’s mine!” Sunggyu yelled at the other. He got up from the couch and stomped over. He really didn’t like it when people used his things without his permission, especially playing around with one that cost him several paychecks (and especially being touched by Woohyun’s destructive paws). “Do you even know how to…” His angry shouts were drowned out by a flurry of notes as Woohyun played The Flight of the Bumblebee with ease, and then quickly transitioned to one of Beethoven’s pieces. “…okay, I guess you do,” he murmured and stood there in amazement as Woohyun’s fingers danced across the board.
But like everything else, a song only held Woohyun’s attention for a few seconds. After playing a few classical songs that Sunggyu could recognize, Woohyun began playing something that he didn’t. Sunggyu tilted his head, as if having his ear closer to the keyboard would suddenly give him the answer. Eventually he gave up.“What song is that?”
“You,” Woohyun answered. He played the melody just looking at the other, not even minding the keys. The song was light as soft, almost like waves coming onto the shore. “You seem calm. But then you flare up!” The sound waves began to build up and crash down like tsuenamis. Sunggyu narrowed his eyes on the other, which made Woohyun only smile even more. Sunggyu scoffed at that. The song suddenly slowed down, softening back to the serene waves. “Then…you’re calm again. You never stay angry for long. Like right now.”
Sunggyu was stunned. Since when had he been like that? “That’s because I have a soft heart,” he suggested, his voice distracted and his mind searching.
“Hm,” Woohyun hummed in thought. “I guess you do look squishy.”
“Yah!” Sunggyu yelled. The music then picked up speed, growing dark as Woohyun’s hand moved down the keyboard. Sunggyu glared at him. “Are you really?” his voice was rising. Now Woohyun was only using the lowest keys, matching the notes with Sunggyu’s angry panting. He was. Woohyun was making a soundtrack to everything that was going on. “Stop it!” Sunggyu commanded. “Stop making a soundtrack to…”
“Then the music suddenly grew lighter, loftier even though Sunggyu’s mood hadn’t changed. Woohyun was also not looking at him anymore. Something else had caught his attention. “Huh?” Sunggyu mumbled, glancing about the room, searching for Woohyun’s new inspiration.
The other pointed out the window and mumbled, “Butterfly.”
Nam Woohyun was weird. There was no denying that, but he was weird for a reason. And Sunggyu believed that he was slowly encroaching on the answer. Woohyun seemed to have a bevy of health problems. A part from the abnormal hair, Woohyun appeared to be sensitive to light and sound, to the whole world. Sunggyu guessed that he was probably susceptible to migraines. And Woohyun was smart, but socially unaware, like a savant. Because of all of these things, and maybe more (his tendency to wreck things didn’t help), Woohyun probably lived an isolated life. Even now, he was always on his own, stuck in the apartment. The only ‘friends’ Sunggyu had ever seen him with were those drug dealers. And well, Sunggyu thought that Woohyun was a little too nice and not bad to be left alone 24/7.
So Sunggyu was going to take him out, in the daytime, where everyone can see them, and he was going to introduce his roommate to his friends. Okay, so Myungsoo’s constant goading and questioning about Woohyun might’ve also prompted Sunggyu’s decision, but Sunggyu would like to think that he was doing it purely out of the kindness of his heart and not to shut Myungsoo up.
When Sunggyu walked into the living room, Woohyun wasn’t watching a drama or a movie, but a soccer match. However, he seemed to be more into it than anything. His notebook was on the ground. His eyes were following the ball intently on the screen, and he gradually leaned forward as if it got him closer to the action. And so obviously, the best way to get his attention was to stand in front of the screen.
“Move,” Woohyun commanded as soon as Sunggyu blocked his vision.
Sunggyu didn’t budge, but planted his feet in the ground and crossed his arms over his chest. “Woohyun, do you have any friends? Real ones? Ones that don’t sell you drugs?” he asked.
“No. Can you move? Please?” Woohyun was practically begging now and his head was almost on the floor, trying to peak around Sunggyu to see the screen.
“Why not?” Sunggyu still pursued the subject.
Woohyun sat up straight and huffed, after having realized that the best way to deal with Kim Sunggyu was to indulge him a little. “I like being alone. It’s safe,” he replied curtly. “Can I watch the game now?” His head began to droop lower and lower again.
“Come out with me,” Sunggyu suggested. Woohyun perked up and stared at him, confused. “I’m going out with friends. They…they want to meet you.” ‘Meet’ wasn’t exactly the proper word. It was more like ‘investigate,’ but Woohyun didn’t need to know about how curious his friends were. It would be a friendly interrogation.
Sunggyu scratched the back of his head. “Well,” he held off telling his roommate the truth for a bit. “I told them about you.”
Woohyun flinched and almost looked like he was going to fall over. “Y-you told them about me?” he stammered, his eyes wide in…fright?
“You’re my roommate,” Sunggyu defended himself loudly, as if the louder his voice was, the more right he was. Woohyun brought his knees to his chest and looked away. “Should I not have?” Sunggyu dropped his voice.
Woohyun faced him, but his gaze was still fixed on the floor. “Eh, um, it’s fine,” the tone of his voice showed that it really wasn’t.
Sunggyu was beginning to wonder if this was all a bad idea, forcing Woohyun into a social situation, thrusting friendship on him. It wasn’t like Woohyun ever looked sad alone. Only Sunggyu thought that being with others, having friends, was always better than being a loner. He step aside from the tv, and the smile returned to Woohyun’s face. Sunggyu chewed on his lip, pondering it over before he asked again, just to make sure, “So do you want to come?”
And to his surprise, Woohyun answered, “Okay.”
Myungsoo and Howon stared at Woohyun in amazement as the roommate slid into a seat next to Sunggyu. And Sunggyu knew exactly what they were thinking: But he looks normal. Now they probably understood how Sunggyu was initially deceived by Woohyun. He made a good first impression. Eventually, they got over the initial shock and introduced themselves.
It wasn’t as awkward as Sunggyu thought it would be. Woohyun knew how to carry a conversation, and after he found dramas as a common ground between him and Myungsoo, those two got along very well. Although Myungsoo geared the conversation mostly around My Love From Another Star and its alien lead, Woohyun still answered every question politely. Even when Myungsoo asked, ‘Do you think there are such things as aliens,’ Woohyun responded almost immediately with, ‘Of course,’ which Myungsoo seemed to take as proof of Woohyun’s other-worldliness.
Howon, on the other hand, was more observant of the roommate. He watched Woohyun’s every move and asked more pointed questions. Why didn’t he eat the kimchi? It was too spicy. Why didn’t he drink beer? Woohyun didn’t like the bubbles. Bubbles weren’t for ingesting (Sunggyu sniggered at that response, knowing the cause of it). What did he think of the latest soccer match? Well, that one Woohyun answered with more than a few sentences, and it launched Howon and Woohyun in a debate about the match and the best players on each side.
It was so normal that at one point in time, when Woohyun and Myungsoo were talking about Hana Kimi, Howon pointed at the roommate and mouthed, “Nam Woohyun?” Sunggyu nodded and took a long drink from his beer. Howon’s eyes widened in surprise and nodded.
Sunggyu could understand the surprise perfectly well. He was surprised too, pleasantly so. It was like when Woohyun hadn’t moved an inch from his spot in the living room the other day. Sunggyu began to feel proud again, as if he had something to do with it.
But in the end, Nam Woohyun was Nam Woohyun, and he almost set the whole restaurant on fire starting with Sunggyu’s sleeve of his (favorite) hoodie, which he then tried to put out with alcohol. Sunggyu had known that they shouldn’t have gone out for barbecue.
And if Sunggyu thought being set on fire by Woohyun was the worst that his roommate could do, he was wrong. Dead wrong. It all started on a Wednesday, when Sunggyu returned home from a long study session at the library and was about to take a well deserved nap in his bed, or on the couch, or on the floor in the entryway. He was exhausted. But the sight that greeted him inside of the apartment woke him right up.
“Oh my God!” Sunggyu shouted. He marched straight up to the television and turned the porn right off. “Don’t you have any sense of decency? Watch it in your bedroom on your laptop like every one else!”
“But I’m studying. I need to learn,” Woohyun argued. He waved to the screen with his pen. “I need the screen to be big enough so I can see all the details.”
“Details?” Sunggyu repeated, glaring at the other. He scoffed. “You’re a sick bastard, did you know that?”
“No,” Woohyun replied, shaking his head. He then jotted something down in his notebook.
“Were you taking notes on this?” Sunggyu asked in disbelief. He walked over and looked at the notes on the coffee table. He couldn’t believe what he was reading. It was almost scientifically detailed.
Woohyun then covered the notes with his arms. “Yea. Like I said. I’m studying,” he explained.
Sunggyu blinked a few times at Woohyun. It was hard to take him seriously in that grandpa bucket hat. Who even wears hats when they…that wasn’t the question Sunggyu needed to be asking. “What kind of film major are you?”
“Can you clear something up for me?” Woohyun quickly changed the subject, looking up at the other. He looked entirely perplexed. His eyebrows met at the middle.
“Sex,” Woohyun said aloud with no shame. Sunggyu could feel his face grow warm at the word alone…and Woohyun wasn’t even done yet. “I’m kind of getting mixed messages about it.” Sunggyu scoffed. Don’t we all. Woohyun continued, “In dramas, you do it with someone you love, or to get revenge on someone, or because you’re not getting enough attention from the person you normally have sex with so you have it with someone else. Then the Church says you can only have sex with someone you’re married to, or you go to Hell. And here…the man ordered pizza but the woman couldn’t pay with money, so they had sex….Also I’ve heard of one night stands, when people talk about sex. But how is that related? Aren’t you just standing for a whole night? AH! Can you do it while standing?” He finished, staring at Sunggyu, awaiting an answer. But Sunggyu had none to give. He was flabbergasted. His face and mind were blank. Woohyun smirked. “I’m right, aren’t I?” He began writing again in his notebook.
Sunggyu fell down into the couch as Woohyun was furiously writing. “You…you’re not normal,” he stammered.
“No, I’m not. But I’m trying,” Woohyun retorted. He put down his pen and grinned up at Sunggyu, who just continued to stare at him. There was something about Woohyun that Sunggyu was starting to see. It was an innocent curiosity. He truly meant nothing dirty with his words. There were no hidden innuendos, even when he tugged at Sunggyu’s pant leg and begged, “What about sex?”
“Huh?” Sunggyu was still taken a back by the question. But as the man who always ‘helped’ Woohyun, he supposed that one more time wouldn’t hurt. “Oh…I guess it’s different for everybody.” As Sunggyu went on he grew more excited; his voice was louder. He spoke faster, “It really depends on the person’s personality. Like if you’re shy and self-conscious, it’d be hard to be all…naked in front of someone. But then there are people who are more open and free, and they might be able to do it more easily. But’s not just about being an introvert or an extrovert. Some people are romantic and believe in love. Some don’t. Other people see it as fun, or a necessity. It really just depends.” He ended by letting out a great sigh. He didn’t expect to become so worked up, but maybe there was a reason.
Woohyun soaked in the information slowly and tapped his pen against the table. “But the end goal is to make a baby, right?” he suddenly asked.
“NO!” Sunggyu exclaimed through his sudden burst of laughter. After it abated, he seriously answered, “There are ways around that. And some couples can’t have babies…you should know that.”
It was obvious that Woohyun, indeed, didn’t know. “Yea, I do,” he lied and averted his gaze.
“You know because of infertility…or they’re…homosexual,” Sunggyu slowly gave the reason.
Woohyun hit the side of his head and muttered under his breath, “Ah! Right!” He then returned to his notes and drew giant stars next to, “man and woman make baby.” Sunggyu began to chuckle. How was Woohyun this naïve and was college age? Has his isolation helped maintain his innocence. It was almost…cute. “What about you, hyung? What’s sex for you?” Well, it was cute before that question. Now Woohyun’s curiosity was annoying.
“Non-existent,” Sunggyu truthfully replied nonetheless.
“Ah!” Woohyun uttered and nodded his head. He then turned his attention back to his notebook. Sunggyu leaned forward to see what he was writing. “Kim Sunggyu is asexual”
Sunggyu pulled the notebook away from the other and hit him over the head with it. “No, I’m not. Don’t write that down!” he yelled.
Woohyun was chuckling, covering his head with his arms, trying to fend off Sunggyu’s blows. “But you said…”
“It was a joke,” Sunggyu tried to explain himself.
Woohyun pulled away, laying down on the ground and his hat fell off his head. He was now too far away from Sunggyu’s reach to get hit again. “I was joking too,” he insisted with that usual smile on his face.
Sunggyu threw the notebook back onto the table. “Yea whatever,” he grumbled.
“I think I get it now,” Woohyun announced as he slowly got back up. “It’s different where I’m from. There, it’s a meeting with souls that are in the same rhythm.” He stopped briefly to put his hand over his heart and closed his eyes. He took in a deep breath before continuing, “Everything becomes one. Then back to two. And then three, a baby.” He opened up his eyes again and cocked his head. “But you can’t do it with just anyone. It’s not that easy for souls to be in synch.”
“What religion is that?” Sunggyu asked.
“Mine,” the other quickly answered as he picked up his notebook and stood up. He then smiled at Sunggyu and said, “And it’s not a religion. It’s a truth.” He walked away, heading for his bedroom.
“Woohyun?” Sunggyu called out to him before Woohyun reached the doorway to the bedroom. “Who are you?”
The roommate turned around and spoke dark words with a cheery smile on his face, “I’d tell you…but then I’d have to kill you.” He then waved at the other. “Night, Gyu!”
“Night,” Sunggyu wished lifelessly back.
On Friday, Sunggyu was on a high. That night was one of the rare nights that he got to spend with his special friend. They were able to meet up around once a week. Of course, Sunggyu wished that it was more often than that, but Sunggyu was a med student. He had tests and labs. And his boyfriend was an investment banker, spending late nights and early mornings in the office. However, they worked around their busy schedules. They usually met up on Sundays, eating brunch together and talking about their weeks. They spent the whole day eating and talking. But Sunggyu preferred nights like these, the random midnight trysts. The promise of something more than food and conversation. The hope of spending the night at the other’s place (and away from bizarre roommates). It had been so long since they’ve acted like a true couple.
But like every meeting they had, it started with food. They met at a late-night restaurant to have chicken and beer. It wasn’t the most romantic of places, but it suited them. Chimaek was tried and true as they were. It was a classic.
And just as Sunggyu clinked his second glass of beer against his boyfriend’s, a sudden knock on the window almost caused him to spill it all over. Please, please don’t let it be…he prayed in his mind. He screwed his eyes tight, refusing to even glance over at the window.
“Hey,” his boyfriend whispered in his ear. He tapped Sunggyu’s shoulder and pointed at the window. “Do you know him?”
Sunggyu gulped and slowly turned his head towards the window. Woohyun was pressing his nose against the surface, his breath fogging up the glass, and his hair matted against the window. Sunggyu’s eyes met his. “No,” he said both to his boyfriend and to Woohyun.
But it was a rare occasion when Woohyun listened to him. He nodded his head and headed on over to the store’s entrance. Sunggyu groaned as he buried his head in his hands. He felt his boyfriend’s grip tighten around his shoulders.
“Gyu-yah, who’s this?” he asked. Sunggyu looked up and saw Woohyun standing right in front of them. He then slid into the booth, right across from them.
Sunggyu ran his hand through his hair, clutching it tightly, getting ready to tear it from the roots. “This kid…aish…he’s…” he blubbered unable to answer. Why? Well, because Sunggyu hadn’t gotten the chance to tell his boyfriend about Woohyun yet. Sunggyu was a little preoccupied with other thoughts whenever they met (and his boyfriend mostly monopolized the conversation), and he also wanted to forget all about Nam Woohyun.
“Woohyun, his roommate,” his roommate answered in his stead. “Who are you?”
“Yooseokie…” Sunggyu began in a gentle tone, trying to prematurely soothe his boyfriend, but he was too late. Yooseok was already looking at him with hurt eyes.
“I thought that you were living with Busan,” Yooseok’s tone was already accusing.
Sunggyu sighed but tried his best to maintain his calm. “He got married, remember?”
“Who are you?” Woohyun interrupted and began to chip away at Sunggyu’s patience.
“Ah, right the wedding in Busan. Of course,” Yooseok muttered lowly. He then removed his arm away from Sunggyu’s shoulder and crossed his arms across his chest. Sunggyu wasn’t quite sure what he had done, but it surely pissed his boyfriend off. “You could have told me that you wanted a roommate. I would’ve moved in with you,” Yooseok grumbled. Oh that, Sunggyu thought and dropped his gaze to his own lap.
Woohyun reached over the table and tapped Sunggyu on the shoulder. “Who is he?” he whispered loudly, pointing at Yooseok.
Sunggyu slapped away his roommate’s hand and faced Yooseok. “I live too far away from your office. You get little sleep as it is,” he reasoned.
“Then you could’ve…” Yooseok began but then he was cut off by someone who was tired of being ignored.
“Who are you?” Woohyun asked, almost shouting.
“Damn it, Woohyun!” Sunggyu cursed, slamming his glass down on the table. The entire night was crumbling right before his eyes.
“I’m Yooseok,” his boyfriend introduced himself, in a tone deeper than usual. He extended his hand to Woohyun. “Sunggyu’s boyfriend.”
Woohyun looked at the hand for a second and then shook it tentatively. Afterwards, his gaze quickly went to Sunggyu as he exclaimed, returning to his chipper self, “AH! So you really aren’t asexual. You didn’t lie.”
“Asexual?” Yooseok was now intrigued and even chuckled as he repeated that word.
“Just ignore him,” Sunggyu brushed it off, or at least tried to. “It was a weird assumption to make in the first place.”
“Not weird,” Woohyun argued. “You said that sex was non-existent for you. It’s a logical conclusion. But…” He then cocked his head, crossed his arms over his chest and looked Yooseok up and down. “…if you have a lover, aren’t you supposed to make love?”
“Woohyun!” Sunggyu whined, letting his head fall against the table. He should have never said that to Woohyun. He should never say things to Woohyun again. His roommate was too much of a loose cannon, and the only thing that was predictable about him was that Woohyun was going to mess up everything for Sunggyu.
“Are you shy?” Woohyun whispered loudly again. He then pointed to Yooseok. “Is he shy?” He clapped his hands together and exclaimed, “Ah! Is this a religious thing?”
Yooseok then turned his entire body towards his boyfriend, almost cornering Sunggyu against the window. “Sunggyu, why were you talking to this stranger about our sex life?” his voice was eerily calm.
“I didn’t!” Sunggyu insisted, waving his hands in the air.
“He did,” Woohyun interjected and Sunggyu shot him a nasty glare.
Sunggyu then let out a deep breath and faced his boyfriend again. “I mean…I didn’t mean to?” he hoped that was an acceptable answer.
And it wasn’t. “What else does he know? What else did you tell him?” Yooseok demanded.
This time Woohyun answered for him, “A male and a female make babies.”
The boyfriends stared blankly at the man across from them. Sunggyu shook his head and broke the silence, “Nothing else. I swear!”
“Nothing?” Yooseok repeated. His eyebrows furrowed as the gears were meshing in his brain, processing the answer. He then faced forward again and matched his eyes with the roommate’s. “Woohyun-ssi, has Sunggyu ever told you about me?” Sunggyu winced at the question.
“Yooseok, please,” Sunggyu begged, tugging on the other’s sleeve, trying to get him to look over. He didn’t. “I’ve known him for only a month. I didn’t want to scare him off. Some people get weirded out at the idea of living with…you know, someone that could be attracted to them,” Sunggyu tried to explain himself.
“I’m not,” Woohyun adamantly denied. “It’s not weird.”
Yooseok snorted and broke out into a short chuckle that made Sunggyu chill to the bone. “Exactly. It’s not weird at all…unless…” Yooseok finally looked over at Sunggyu. “Unless you’re actually attracted to him.”
This time Sunggyu laughed. It sounded a little forced, but the notion was still laughable to Sunggyu, preposterous. “Yooseok, come on. Don’t be ridiculous,” he said lightly and tapped the other on the shoulder.
But that still didn’t answer Yooseok’s question. “Well, are you?”
“Yea, are you?” Woohyun interjected once again. He was grinning from ear to ear. “People say that I’m good looking.” He put his hand underneath his chin in a shape of a V, framing his jawline.
“Wh-what? You have to be kidding me,” Sunggyu was taken aback by all of this. “Of course not,” he denied. “Woohyun is just…” his voice caught in his throat as he glanced over at Woohyun. His head was hanging low, and his lips pouted deeply. Sunggyu couldn’t even see the other’s eyes because his head was so low, but he knew full well what they would’ve looked like, like a sad puppy that had been caught in the rain with no where to go.
“Oh, I see. They were lying,” Woohyun mumbled, his finger dragging across the table.
“Woohyun-ah! Don’t do this to me,” Sunggyu begged. This wasn’t making the situation any better. Sunggyu knew Woohyun. He knew him well. Woohyun was just upset because his pride had taken a hit. He probably wanted to be seen as attractive by everybody, and for some unknown reason, he valued Sunggyu’s opinion a lot. You tell me what things are, Sunggyu recalled. Shit. He probably really doesn’t think he’s handsome just because I…When they were home, Sunggyu would have to make amends. But not now. If he did that now, someone would get the wrong idea.
“He looks a little too sad.” Crap. It was too late. Yooseok had already noticed. He had noticed and was already formulating all of the wrong ideas.
Sunggyu laughed loudly, treating all of this like it were a joke, just like his life was right now. “He’s faking it, right Woohyun?” He leaned over the table and tapped Woohyun’s hand.
“No,” Woohyun retorted and retracted his hand, placing both of them in his lap. “I’m ugly.”
Sunggyu cursed underneath his breath. He had to come entirely clean to Yooseok. Even though it was probably rude to reveal this without Woohyun’s consent, and definitely rude to reveal in his presence, Sunggyu was going to tell Yooseok everything that he knew about Woohyun and about how he might be socially disabled. He leaned over and spoke lowly into his boyfriend’s ear, “Yooseok, Woohyun is actually not well, he’s…”
Yooseok shrugged his boyfriend off and asked, “Woohyun-ssi, do you like Sunggyu?”
Sunggyu braced himself for Woohyun’s inevitable answer. “Of course!”
Yooseok cast one last hurt look to Sunggyu and got up from the table. “I can’t believe this,” he muttered.
“Yooseok! where are you?” Sunggyu called after him, but it was too late. He had already left thr restaurant. “Aish!” Sunggyu cursed and chased after his boyfriend. Luckily, Yooseok was only a few paces away from the door, like he wanted to be caught up by the other, which meant Sunggyu still had a chance of salvaging the night and everything. “Yah! What’s your problem?” That might’ve not been the best way to start the conversation, but Sunggyu’s blood was still boiling.
“My problem? Well let’s see, my boyfriend chose to live with some other guy than even think of living with me,” Yooseok answered.
“I did!” Sunggyu insisted. “I did think about it. And this is better.”
Yooseok scrunched his face, puzzled. “Living with Woohyun is better?” he combatted.
“Yah! Don’t twist my words!” Sunggyu retorted, waving a finger at the other. “You know it. You’re closer to work. I’m closer to school. It’ll only be until I graduate then…”
Yooseok cut him off, “Then it’ll be until your residency is over because you’re closer to the hospital. Then after that, God I don’t know. The moon looks better from your apartment than mine, or some shit like that.”
Sunggyu scoffed, “Don’t exaggerate.”
His boyfriend shook his head, chuckling sadly to himself. “I’m not wrong though,” he fought back. “You’d rather live with that weird kid than with me.”
“That’s not true,” Sunggyu denied, walking up to him and rested an hand on his shoulder. Yooseok let him. Embolding by that, Sunggyu let his hand travel down the other’s arm and grabbed his hand.
And Yooseok’s gaze was fixed on those intertwined hands as he muttered, “He likes you.”
“Woohyun didn’t mean it like that,” Sunggyu dismissed it.
Yooseok looked up at the other and raised an eyebrow. “He looked like he did,” he challenged. Sunggyu let go of the other’s hands and put both of them into the pockets of his hoodie. “What?”
“You’re acting weird,” Sunggyu pointed out, looking the other up and down.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are!” Sunggyu shouted. “You’re trying to pick a fight!”
“Woohyun-ssi wasn’t lying,” Yooseok said firmly, as if he knew something Sunggyu didn’t
“I told you,” Sunggyu groaned while stamping his foot. He was growing tired of repeating himself. “He doesn’t like me like that.”
“No, I didn’t mean that,” Yooseok denied with a shake of his head. Sunggyu looked at him curiously. “Lovers should make love, and we haven’t done that in a long time,” Yooseok elaborated.
That was what tonight was for, was on the tip of Sunggyu’s tongue, but he didn’t want to be presumptuous, especially after what had just happened and with Yooseok’s oddly combative and agitated mood. “We’re busy,” Sunggyu reasoned, and that was always their reason. How many times had Yooseok said that to Sunggyu? ‘I’m busy. I can’t go with you to the wedding.’ or ‘I’m busy. I can’t make it to dinner tonight.’ How many times had Sunggyu accepted it as a legitimate answer?
But it wasn’t ever the right one. Yooseok shook his head. “We’re not in love anymore,” that was the real reason, but the both of them had refused to accept it.
Sunggyu especially. “Yooseokkie,” he begged the other, reaching for his hand again.
“Also the sex isn’t non-existent for me.”
Sunggyu let his hand drop back to his side. “You-you cheated?”
“Are we even together anymore?” Yooseok challenged. “I see my clients more than I see you.” He then sighed and avoided Sunggyu’s gaze, opting to look down the street instead. “This has been over for awhile.”
“Since when?” Sunggyu couldn’t stop his voice from cracking.
“Since we graduated and you lived with Busan instead of me,” Yooseok answered plainly.
Sunggyu caught the other’s gaze. “We’re both med students. It made sense. You live with other investment people,” he pointed out.
Yooseok shook his head and laughed again. It didn’t sound sad this time. It was condescending. “No it doesn’t make sense. We should want to live together, even if it’s hard.” Sunggyu didn’t know what hurt more: the laughing or those words.
“Why are you making me the bad guy when you’re the one who cheated?” he growled, his hand turning into fists.
“Who do you think made me bad?”
Sunggyu punched Yooseok in the face.
With a bruised fist (maybe he shouldn’t have aimed at the jaw) and a freshly broken heart, Sunggyu dragged his feet back to the table, where Woohyun was still there and munching on the remaining chicken. Sunggyu didn’t know what exactly led him back to the table. But then it caught his eye. Ah yes, the beer, his amber draught from the River of Lethe that will make him forget everything this evening. Especially the man still sitting across from him. Sunggyu was going to drink until he forgot Woohyun’s name.
“So the eldest pays in this culture, right hyung?” What perfect timing that Woohyun chose to finally abide by Korean custom. Sunggyu growled. He would’ve hit Woohyun too, but his hand still kind of hurt. “Okay okay,” Woohyun tried to defuse the other’s anger and smiled apologetically.
“For tonight, I’m older. Imo! Another glass of beer please!”
Woohyun was right: lovers should make love. But Yooseok was right too: lovers should want to live together, even if it was hard. However, Sunggyu never really wanted to live with Yooseok. He was a light sleeper, and Sunggyu studied until late and was naturally loud. Yooseok would’ve woken up, and after awhile that would lead to a fight. Sunggyu was also messy, and Yooseok was a bit of a neat freak. Even though they loved each other, Sunggyu would get eventually yelled at for never washing the dishes. And when he did wash them, he’d get reprimanded that he didn’t do it correctly. Every situation Sunggyu could think of, he saw it as another opportunity for them to fight. Picking out furniture, they would argue over prices and affordability. Making dinner, they would fight over whose turn it was or who was the most tired. At every turn, a fight.
Living apart was supposed to save their relationship, give time for Sunggyu to grow neater and quieter and enjoy cooking. But it didn’t. It only caused the rift between them to grow wider. Yooseok never even knew Howon’s name, only meeting him once or twice, and always referred to him as ‘Busan.’ But Sunggyu had never minded before because he didn’t even know who Yooseok lived with either.
But that was all too rational for Sunggyu to think of right now. Now he was shit-faced and being lugged back to his apartment by Woohyun. No, the reason for their break-up wasn’t that they’d drifted apart. It was because of Nam Woohyun and his big mouth. If Woohyun hadn’t shown up, everything would’ve been fine. Yes, Yooseok was still a cheater, but Sunggyu would’ve still been in the dark. He would’ve been sober. He would’ve been happy. Hell, he might’ve even got laid, but Nam Woohyun had to destroy his relationship just like he ruined everything else that he owned.
“You!” Sunggyu slapped Woohyun on the cheek and dragged it down his face. He was now being dragged up the stairs, with an arm tossed around his roommate’s shoulders. But Sunggyu still kept slapping his sober buddy’s cheek nevertheless. “Tomorrow, you’re gone. I don’t wanna see you. Mmmmove out!” he slurred.
“Gyu…” Woohyun looked over at him. He looked more hurt than when Sunggyu implied that he wasn’t handsome.
Sunggyu had to stop him from talking. He was sick and tired of Woohyun being pitful and making him feel guilty. “No. No talking,” Sunggyu demanded. He then leaned closer to put a hand over the other’s mouth. But then, Woohyun could still speak to him through those sad eyes. Sunggyu had to cover those too. But what about those furry ears? Looking at them made Sunggyu feel bad too. He needed to cover those up as well. Hell, he’ll just cover Woohyun’s entire face, and Sunggyu would never feel pity again.
But since Woohyun couldn’t speak, see, nor hear, he stumbled backwards. He was also pushed back by Sunggyu throwing all of his weight on the other. The two of them began to fall backwards.
But they never fell down the stairs. Something stopped them. Sunggyu opened his eyes and wondered how drunk he actually was. Woohyun suddenly had four arms. Two were circled around Sunggyu’s waist, preventing him from falling down. And the other two gripped at the railing, holding the both of them in place. But that wasn’t all. His ears, they grew longer and…floppier? Like a dog or a bunny or a cross between the two. And two long antennae sprouted from the top of his purple mop.
Sunggyu’s eyes grew wider as the realization slowly dawned on him: his roommate was an alien.
Chapter 2: How To Train Your Alien
Occam’s razor, in Latin it’s called lex parsimoniae, the law of parsimony: “Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” And as a scientist, Sunggyu had assumed too much. His assumptions were rooted in his reality. And in his reality, Woohyun had multiple health conditions, which led him to led an extremely sheltered life in the countryside. He was socially inept and naïve because of it. And he was clumsy, incredibly clumsy, just because. However, as recent events would show, Sunggyu’s reality wasn’t real. His assumptions were complicated, untestable, and just plain wrong. The truth lied in the simplest explanation: his roommate, Nam Woohyun, was an alien.
Well, it was the simplest explanation, and Sunggyu was now facing irrefutable proof of it: Woohyun with long, floppy ears, antennae, and four (f***ing FOUR!) arms. Two of those arms were throwing a stunned Sunggyu over the alien’s shoulder. The other two wrapped around the back of his knees, stopping the drunken man from kicking him. And Sunggyu, he’d probably should’ve fought back more, but…those ears. Those long, purple ears were real, astonishingly real, brushing against his face real, tickling his face, making him want to…”ACHOO!”
“EW!” Woohyun retched as he kicked their apartment door open, forgoing the passcode. He then dropped his roommate onto the ground. Both of his right hands flew to his ear, wiping away the other’s germs. “That’s gross. Why did you do that?”
Sunggyu, on the other hand, wasn’t so concerned about the other’s ears, he was fearing too much for his own life. Woohyun’s dark words from the other night rang through his head, like a morbid bell tolling just for him: I’d tell you…but then I’d have to kill you. Sunggyu fell onto the floor where Woohyun had dropped him and curled up into the fetal position. “Please don’t kill me,” he begged. His hands tightened around his precious neck. Nam Woohyun had already taken away the one that he loved. Would he take away his very life as well this sad night? Tears began welling up in his eyes at that thought. These were his last precious tears, his last precious thoughts, his last moments. “Please don’t.”
“Huh?” Sunggyu sniffed as he slowly raised his head. Woohyun had crouched down at the other’s side. His lips quirked up in what Sunggyu supposed was a harmless smile. But those ears and antennae were twitching like mad, and Sunggyu wasn’t quite sure what that meant.
“You still don’t know who I am. You just know what I’m not,” Woohyun clarified.
Sunggyu got out of his position and sat his butt on the floor. “You’re an alien,” he spoke in a small voice as he wiped away his tears. He was acting like a child and not the adult that he should be, but his fear had belittled him, made him small and defenseless. Made him like a child. And his fear also made his roommate appear larger and more threatening than ever before. Even the smile on Woohyun’s face sent shivers down his spine.
“Yup,” Woohyun responded, plopping onto his behind as well. Two of his hands gripped his knees as he rocked back and forth, and the other two remained folded in his lap. “But I’m not the only one,” Woohyun revealed, doing little to decrease his friend’s fear. His words only added to it. “The whole universe is full of them.” Sunggyu’s heart felt like it was about to explode. A whole universe full of Nam Woohyuns? Who allowed this to happen? Woohyun continued, “Not all are so good looking.” Two hands lifted from his lap to frame his face.
“Pbft!” Sunggyu sputtered. And Woohyun’s face fell, like it did back at the restaurant. His ears drooped too, lowly, framing his jawline, making Sunggyu laugh even louder. Why was he laughing? He didn’t know himself. Nam Woohyun was alien, cockily boasting of his looks. There were even more of him somewhere out there (probably just as cocky). And (god damn) Myungsoo was right. What wasn’t funny about this? “But…some are better, I’ll admit,” Woohyun finished glumly, all hands in his lap.
“Whew!” Sunggyu exhaled as he came down from his high. “I need a drink,” he concluded. He was too sober to deal with any of this.
“That’s a good idea. I’ll go get you something,” Woohyun offered, jumping up from his seat. Sunggyu grumbled a ‘thank you’ as he rolled off the floor and crawled onto the couch. He then shut his eyes tightly, pinching the folds between his eyes and rubbing them furiously. His head was foggy, wobbly jumping from thought to thought. Maybe he didn’t need a drink. Maybe what he really needed to do was to wake up from this drunken dream. Because that was all this was, an alcohol induced dream. Woohyun was still a weirdo, but a weirdo from Earth. Yes, that was his reality.
And apparently in his reality, Woohyun the weirdo throws water at his face.
“YAH!” Sunggyu shouted as he wiped the ice cold water from his eyes. He could see clearly now. Woohyun the alien was in front of him with two glasses in his hands. One now empty.
“Good! You’re sober now,” Woohyun stated as he sat himself down on the coffee table across from Sunggyu. He placed the glasses besides him. He folded two of his hands under his chin, the other two were on his knee. The cheerful glint in his eyes were now gone, and his face was as cold as the water still dripping from Sunggyu’s chin. “Look,” Woohyun began in a serious tone. “I need your help. You need to keep this a secret.”
“Like I’m going to help you,” Sunggyu retorted, dabbing his face with a pillow before throwing it at the other.
Woohyun easily caught it. “You’re not?” he asked with a pout, his small head peaking over the wet pillow.
Sunggyu looked away from that sad face, fixing his eyes onto the keyboard on the side of the room, something real (or at least normal and inanimate). “Why should I?” he tried to say it as calmly as he could.
“Well, let’s think about this rationally,” when Woohyun had said that, Sunggyu tried his best to keep his laughter inside. What was reason anymore? Well, Woohyun was about to dish it out to him, “Who’s going to believe that your roommate is an alien? Hm?” Myungsoo would believe him. Myungsoo had (jokingly) come up with the theory in the first place. Howon wouldn’t believe it, not without proof. Sunggyu’s hand flew to his pocket. Maybe if he took a picture, it would be proof. No, no. Sunggyu remembered. People doctor photos all the time. It wouldn’t be proof enough. “That’s right. No one,” Woohyun answered his own question with a smug grin on his face. “That’s why I picked this planet to hide on. Earth is too homogenous for other worldly species to live on. Anything strange sticks out like a sore thumb. And you guys aren’t too welcoming of creatures either. Doing experiments on them. Sending them to a weird warehouse in the middle of the desert.” Woohyun’s whole body shivered at the idea, and he clicked his tongue, chiding. “Earth creatures are like white blood cells. They kill whatever is foreign to the body. But look like a white blood cell, act like a white blood cell, and you stay alive.”
That’s what he’s studying, that revelation struck through Sunggyu’s mind like lightening. All of those dramas and movies, he wasn’t studying how to make them; he was learning how to assimilate into a strange world. Small things begun to fall into place. Woohyun’s ‘background story’ had been ripped from dramas. His innocent wonderment at things was because he was seeing them for the first time. All of his extraneous and complicated theories were being cut away by the razor, and the simplest explanation sunk deeper and deeper in Sunggyu’s mind until it finally stuck. He sighed as he resigned himself to the fact: his roommate was an extraterrestrial. His roommate was E.T., but less wrinkly and furrier and without the glowing finger business.
“Are there more of you here? On Earth?” Sunggyu croaked.
“More of me? No,” Woohyun replied with squeaking laughter as if it was a ridiculous question. Sunggyu felt a smile break out on his face, and his heart began to beat regularly again. “But yea, there are other ‘aliens’ here.”
Woohyun threw the second glass of water at Sunggyu’s face. “You looked like you were about to faint,” he explained
“Thank you,” Sunggyu spoke sarcastically, dragging a hand down his face.
“You’re welcome,” Woohyun chirped, taking the words seriously.
Sunggyu sighed. He felt his hand shaking in his lap. It’s from the cold, he swore to himself. But who really knew anymore? However, Sunggyu had one last question for the other: “Why are you hiding?”
“Ah!” Woohyun exclaimed. He was grinning more widely now than ever before. “If I tell you that, then I’d have to kill you.”
Only Nam Woohyun could deliver such a threat while looking so happy and harmless. Sunggyu shook his head, at everything. “Good to know.”
Sunggyu slept that night. It wasn’t a fitful sleep, but it wasn’t peaceful either. It was just sleep. And he woke up feeling just barely rested. Maybe it was because he was furiously hung over with vague memories of the night before, which he thought might’ve all been a ridiculous dream. Had he and Yooseok really broken up? Was his roommate…No, he wouldn’t let his mind complete that thought. It hurt too much. His heart and his head hurt.
So Sunggyu stumbled into the living room, on the hunt for pain killers and answers. He got one of those as he opened up his droopy eyes.
“Holy sh—” It…it wasn’t a dream.
Woohyun was sitting in the middle of the floor. His own eyes narrowed on the plush dog in front of him. Two hands gripped the sides of the toy tightly, as the other two carefully stitched the button eyes back onto Nurungie. His antennae were swinging like a metronome, matching the speed of his hands. His ears twitched and moved to find the source of the cry. Once they did, his eyes followed and widened as they fell on his roommate.
“Oh Gyu!” Woohyun called out to the other. He quickly turned his attention back to the dog in his hands and bit off the loose thread near the eye. Afterwards, he held it up proudly. “Look I fixed it…sort of,” he admitted the last part with a small chuckle as he brought the plushie back down. He fiddled with the eyes and knotted the thread with deft hands. “I sewed the eyes upside down. So it can still see, but not be able to tell what I’m doing.” After that confession, Woohyun tossed Nurungie to his roommate, who was too stunned to react and just let the plushie hit him and fall onto the floor (which made Woohyun chuckle even more). “Sorry for making your boyfriend break-up with you,” the alien tried to seriously apologize, biting his lips to stifling his bubbling laughter.
There it was. The answer to his second question, and it seemed to have snapped Sunggyu back into reality. His heart broke again as his last, flickering glimmer of hope had been snuffed out. He bent down and picked up his Nurungie. He replied as he wiped off the dust from his toy, “It’s okay. He’s a jerk.” Yooseok’s words from the previous night rang clearly through his mind. Sunggyu sighed and tried to shake that voice from his head. “He’s a cheater.”
“What? Like when you played games?” Woohyun asked. “That’s not very nice.”
Sunggyu chuckled. He didn’t know if Woohyun was joking or being naïve, but either way, it would still bring a smile to his face. “No, he’s not nice at all,” he agreed, hugging the dog to his chest. “Especially when he decided to sleep with other men,” Sunggyu revealed just in case the other wasn’t joking.
“Oh right,” Woohyun muttered. “That’s cheating too.” He then looked up at Sunggyu with defiant eyes. “He’s a no-good, dirty, rotten bastard.”
It somehow had the effect on Sunggyu like a child cursing because it sounded like a line his roommate had gleaned from a drama, when the heroine curses out her cheating husband. And so Sunggyu burst out laughing. “Yes, he is,” he spoke between breaths.
He needed that, a good laugh. His breaking heart stopped crumbling as soon as his sides began shaking in laughter, jostling all of the pieces back into place. Woohyun, although he might’ve been the impetus for the break up, was at least providing a remedy along with the illness.
Sunggyu walked over to the couch and sat down. And the laughter died down. “So are you going to stay like this forever?” he asked.
Woohyun nodded as he spun himself around on the floor to look at the other face-to-face. “But only in the apartment,” he answered. “Does it bother you?”
“No,” Sunggyu replied, but it didn’t sound the least bit convincing, especially since he wasn’t meeting the other’s eyes and his voice quivered. “It’ll just take awhile to get used to. That’s all,” he added.
“Good because I was feeling cramped before,” Woohyun responded with a groan as he stretched out all of the limbs. Sunggyu’s eyes finally fell onto the other again, watching the alien carefully as he stretched. Woohyun was unlike all of the other fictional aliens that Sunggyu had seen before. Even in his alien form, he still looked human, but a human melded with random parts of animals scattered throughout the galaxy and stitched together, just like the plush dog in his hands. Woohyun looked more like a stuffed animal than an extraterrestrial. But maybe, just maybe, he’d still act like one. Unconsciously, Sunggyu stretched out his arm, extending his pointer finger to the other. Woohyun opened his eyes and crossed them as they fixed on the finger between his eyes. “What?”
“Touch it,” Sunggyu demanded. And Woohyun did so, clasping one of his hands around the finger. “No not like that,” Sunggyu complained. He took Woohyun’s hand off of his finger, positioned the alien’s hand so that his hand was in a fist except for a finger, and then touched both of their pointer fingers together. Just like the movie. “Like this!”
Woohyun stared at their connected fingers for a second. “What’s supposed to happen?” he whispered, too afraid to move lest he do something wrong again. “Is this a human custom?”
Sunggyu stared at their fingers too, slightly disappointed that nothing more had happened. “No, I saw it in a movie,” he muttered under his breath. Maybe if they held it for a bit longer, Woohyun’s finger would glow. Woohyun did weird things all the time. Couldn’t he do one weird thing when Sunggyu actually wanted him to?
But he wouldn’t. Woohyun dropped his hand and rubbed it against his pant leg. “Which movie?”
Sunggyu made an event of watching E.T. because how often can you watch that movie with an actual extraterrestrial. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and Sunggyu wanted to do it right. Once they had popcorn and drinks, they watched the movie. Or Sunggyu watched Woohyun watch the movie. His eyes couldn’t help but to drift over and see the other’s reactions to some parts. And Woohyun’s reactions were interesting to say the least. He laughed at some pretty inappropriate parts and was stone-faced at amusing scenes. Even when E.T. spoke his famous line “E.T. phone home,” Woohyun was silent.
And so Sunggyu broke that silence with a joke, “Do you need to phone home? I could get the phone.”
Woohyun fervently shook his head. “I don’t have one,” he admitted in a low voice.
“Oh,” Sunggyu’s voice was monotone as this wasn’t exactly a shock or unexpected. He always had that feeling that Woohyun had nowhere else to go, but his heart still sunk further into pity once he finally heard that confession.
That pity was probably what had Sunggyu on the couch, sitting next to the alien and watching a family friendly film. This wasn’t what Sunggyu should be doing. As a man of science and a good citizen, Sunggyu should’ve turned his roommate into the authorities and offered up Woohyun’s body to dissection. Imagine the things that they could learn! Woohyun was a humanoid. It might be possible that things inside of Woohyun could help advance Earth’s technology and medicine. Hell, Woohyun had jumped from the top of a building and walked away unharmed. But…Sunggyu couldn’t have that done to Woohyun. His roommate was (mostly) harmless and (sort of) nice. He didn’t deserve that kind of fate.
Well there was the pity and also Woohyun’s imminent threat of death if Sunggyu did anything to cross him. That might also have something to do with it.
“You know,” Woohyun interrupted the silence now. His gaze quickly fell on the other and darted away, unlike Sunggyu’s whose eyes remained fixed on the alien. “This is actually the longest that I’ve stayed in one place before.”
“Really?” Sunggyu replied, wondering why the other was acting so…shy.
“Yea,” Woohyun answered with a short nod. He chewed on his lower lip before asking, “Does that make this my Home?”
“Home?” Sunggyu repeated in disbelief. Woohyun finally faced him and nodded. Sunggyu was dumbfounded as he watched the antennae sway on the other’s head. Home, that was what Woohyun was silently thinking about this entire movie. It wasn’t what Sunggyu had intended the other to get from it. Actually Sunggyu didn’t know what he wanted Woohyun to get out of the movie, but surely not that. But after he watched the movie this time, Sunggyu was second guessing his childhood dream of having an alien friend, now that it was close to becoming a reality. Sure he pitied the alien. However pity and friendship were two different things. And a Home was something entirely different. How close did he want to be to Woohyun?
“I don’t know,” Sunggyu answered honestly. “A Home is a bit more complicated than that. It’s more than a place that you stay for a really long time. It’s…” He paused to think, resting his head on the back of the couch. He could feel Woohyun’s curious eyes study him. The alien had always looked toward him for answers, but Sunggyu wasn’t even sure of this one. He tried to answer it anyways, “A Home where you feel like you belong. Like me. My Home is in Jeonju.” Sunggyu’s throat tightened at the last word, remembering that his Home there was no more. He was just as Homeless as the creature sitting next to him.
“Oh. I don’t think I have one,” Woohyun mumbled, and his gaze fell down to his twiddling thumbs in his lap. “I don’t know if I can.”
“One day,” Sunggyu said as he reached over and patted the other’s back. “One day you will.”
And maybe one day I will too.
“You can’t tell anybody,” Sunggyu whispered into the phone as he shut his bedroom door tightly. He wasn’t sure how well Woohyun could hear with those big ears of his. But Sunggyu had to tell someone. He had this secret festering inside of him for 24 whole hours. Sunggyu was never the best at keeping secrets, and this was the largest one that he’d ever held. He couldn’t hold it inside much longer. It had been threatening to slip out for the last 20 hours (it truly was a wonder that he hadn’t told the entire country about his roommate yet).
“Hyung what is it? You’re making me nervous,” Myungsoo cut his serious comment with a chuckle at the end. But the law student had every reason to be nervous. Sunggyu had suddenly called him at 2 in the morning and was talking in only vague whispers.
“You can’t tell anybody, okay?” Sunggyu repeated with a low growl. “Promise me.”
“I promise. I promise,” Myungsoo insisted on the other line of the phone. “Just tell me, hyung.”
Sunggyu first hurried over to the other side of the room, as far away from the door as he possibly could. He hid behind his bed, cupping the receiver on the phone. “You were right,” he whispered.
“You were right,” Sunggyu raised his voice a little. “About my roommate.”
“What do you mean?” Myungsoo asked. “You can’t mean…”
“I do,” Sunggyu cut him off. If Woohyun could hear through the walls, they better keep this conversation as vague as possible.
Silence. All that Sunggyu could hear was Myungsoo’s light breaths on the other end as the information slowly soaked into his friend. If Myungsoo wouldn’t believe him, then Sunggyu truly had no one to turn to. No one else would think he’s sane. And he’d spend the rest of his days preaching of the existence of aliens to the psychiatrists that his mother hired to talk some sense back into him. So Sunggyu held his breath in anticipation.
“I knew it! I’m coming over,” Myungsoo finally answered, excitement lacing his voice.
“Yes! I mean, no don’t,” Sunggyu retracted. He was overjoyed that Myungsoo believed him, but the last thing he needed was for Myungsoo to barge into his apartment with a camera. That would be a sure-fire sign that Sunggyu had tattled about his roommate’s true nature. And Sunggyu wasn’t ready to die just yet. He wanted to at least finish his studies first. Woohyun could kill him after he became a doctor.
“It’s late, Myungsoo. Go back to bed,” Sunggyu commanded in a tired voice.
“But hyung!” Myungsoo argued. “I have to—”
“Later,” Sunggyu interrupted. “You can see him later. He won’t fly away.”
Myungsoo was silent for a few seconds before finally giving in, “You promise?”
“I promise,” Sunggyu responded, climbing up onto his bed. “Oh and Myungsoo.”
Sunggyu smiled slightly as he closed his eyes. He’d be able to sleep better tonight after knowing this: “Thank you for believing me.”
“Of course, hyung,” Myungsoo chirped, as if it was a natural to believe his hyung in this sort of situation. “Thank you for telling me. We don’t keep secrets from each other, right?”
The smile fell from his face. Unrest sunk back into his heart. “Right,” Sunggyu mumbled back. “Night.”
Looking back on the past few days, Sunggyu was making poor decisions with his life. The first was not reporting Woohyun to whatever authority would take him away. The second was telling Myungsoo that his roommate was an alien (hopefully he was better at keeping secrets than Sunggyu was). The third horrible decision was this: invading Woohyun’s room, searching for a movie to take his mind off of things.
There were several far better things that Sunggyu could be doing. For one, getting a brain scan. Two, preparing for his internship that was starting in a few days. Three, talking with Myungsoo about what to do with an alien roommate. Four, easing Howon into this madness. Five, starting a stamp collection because literally anything would have been better than this.
But Sunggyu had figured that he already knew all of Woohyun’s secrets. Sunggyu had thought that nothing could be worse about Woohyun than him being an alien. But he was wrong. Dead wrong, because Woohyun was going to kill him for sure now.
Sunggyu went inside of Woohyun’s room to raid his DVD collection, but he became distracted from his goal. The room all of the sudden looked different. Sunggyu was now seeing everything from a fresh (and more accurate) perspective. Woohyun’s collection of random knick-knacks littered about was truly a collection of what he found fascinating about this planet. And that destroyed piece of machinery on Woohyun’s desk, that might not be from this world but from his. Sunggyu touched it with tentative fingers. Well, it felt like metal from Earth, cold, slick, uninteresting. He frowned. He didn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t that.
His hand then traveled down to the handle of the desk drawers. His eyes were still studying the device as he pulled the drawer open. “Ugh,” Sunggyu grunted. The drawer stuck. It had gotten caught on something. He looked down. “What the—”
Sunggyu’s jaw fell as he caught a glimpse of the familiar edges of colorful bills. Won. Hundreds of thousands of them, stuffed so tightly in this drawer that Sunggyu couldn’t open it easily without tugging. Which he did. He kept tugging until the drawer was open wide and his hand could run down the several stacks of money.
Woohyun had money. He’d forgotten all about that. Woohyun had too much money for an alien , Sunggyu figured(or how much do they make these days). Before he’d assumed that his roommate was some eccentric grandson of a chaebol, but now. Now he knew better. Now he knew that he really didn’t know anything at all.
He ripped the next drawer open. “Gold,” he whispered. Sunggyu had never seen a gold nugget before, but now he was facing an entire drawer full of them. He also never owned a gold nugget before. So he placed a few into his pocket. Woohyun had a lot of them. He wouldn’t miss these few.
It was when he opened the bottom drawer that he realized that he should’ve stopped when he was ahead. It was empty, save for one piece of paper. Sunggyu couldn’t read it. The runes on it were none like he’d ever seen before, but he supposed that these types of posters were the same all over the galaxy. It was a wanted poster, with a mug shot of Woohyun in his alien glory on the center of it. Sunggyu pulled it from the drawer with a shaking hand. He’d really gone and done it now. Now he was done for.
The door slammed. Sunggyu jumped and dropped the poster onto the floor, grabbing his racing heart and yelping.
Woohyun was there in the room now, with his bucket hat pulled over his ears. His eyes were fixed on the paper on the floor. “Great,” he groaned, tearing the hat from his head. His ears grew longer, antennae sprouted. Arms unfolded from his sides. Sunggyu’s heart leapt into his throat. “Now I have to kill you.”
“I can’t even read this!” Sunggyu blurted out, pointing at the paper on the floor, staring up at the other with wide and beseeching eyes.
“Wait,” Woohyun muttered as he stopped in his tracks. A small smile cracked on his face, relief. “You can’t?”
Sunggyu shook his head so hard that his neck hurt. “No.”
“Awesome!” the alien exclaimed as he fell onto his bed. He bounced up and down for a few seconds. His arms reached for pillows to hold as he smiled brightly.
Sunggyu swallowed his heart back down harshly. He’d narrowly escaped danger. He’d pacified the beast. His lips awkwardly twitched up into a tenuous smile. “So what are you some kind of space pirate?” he joked.
Woohyun froze. Panic took over his face. “I thought you said you couldn’t read it?!” he shouted, throwing one of the pillows at the other.
“Shit,” Sunggyu cursed, catching the pillow and putting it between him and the other like a shield (a pathetic one, but it was better than nothing). “It was just a guess…I was joking…I…I’m sorry?” he stammered from behind his defense.
“Ung,” Woohyun groaned. It was followed by a soft thump. Sunggyu lowered the pillow slightly and peered over it. Woohyun was now lying down on the bed, tossing, turning, and flailing his legs. A tantrum. It was a tantrum shaking the entire bed and the walls of the room. Sunggyu now used his ‘shield’ as a helmet, clamping it tightly over his head. “I can’t kill you,” Woohyun whined. “I’m already in some deep shit. I don’t need it to get worse.”
“Thank God,” Sunggyu let out along with a sigh. Once he opened his eyes again, he realized that the shaking had stopped. Woohyun propped himself onto his elbows, staring at the other with a cocked eyebrow. “I mean…” Sunggyu tried to remedy, clearing his throat. “Geez. That sucks,” he said with as much sympathy as he could muster.
Thump. Woohyun fell back onto the bed. This time he laid still, listless, resigned, depressed. “It’s my fault,” he spoke glumly. He flipped over onto his side so that he could face the other. But he still couldn’t match Sunggyu’s gaze. His eyes followed his fingers that were playing with the edges of his sheets. “If you hadn’t noticed, I tend to make a mess of things,” he confessed.
“No. Really?” Sunggyu bit back his lips after saying that. Now wasn’t the time for his dry, sarcastic humor. Not when his life was at risk (his mother had always said that his tongue would be the death of him. Now she appeared to be right).
Woohyun lifted his eyes to meet the other’s. He was confused, and as always, he searched for the answer in the other. Woohyun didn’t appreciate the one he found. His ears drooped. “Sarcasm, right?” he concluded with a sigh. He had finally gotten the hang of sarcasm. It was easy for him to learn because Sunggyu was dripping with it. Woohyun dug his cheek into the pillow. “It’s not like I want to,” he quietly admitted. “I just can’t help myself. And then I try to fix it…but I just make it worse.”
It was happening again. Woohyun was making Sunggyu feel…things he’d rather not feel. Sunggyu couldn’t really place a name to this feeling, which irritated him. Woohyun was dangerous. Sunggyu knew it well. Woohyun threatened to kill him and he had the power to do so. Sunggyu knew that too. But Sunggyu was learning something else: Woohyun wouldn’t. Sunggyu didn’t know why. Maybe it was because Woohyun didn’t want to get in any more trouble than he already was, like he’d said. But, looking at Woohyun now, how the alien was utterly despondent and still in his bed. Sunggyu suspected that Woohyun’s reason wasn’t the entire answer. And Sunggyu wouldn’t be quick to make assumptions again.
But this feeling, it had him crawling over to Woohyun and patting his head, stroking those ears that he’d been so fascinated by. Woohyun closed his eyes, accepting it all with a grimace on his face. “At least you try,” Sunggyu offered softly. “We have a saying here on Earth: it’s the thought that counts.”
Woohyun opened his eyes again, and Sunggyu tried to offer him a warm smile. But maybe it wasn’t as warm as he intended because Woohyun’s smile was crooked and sad. “But sometimes even those aren’t good,” he whispered, barely opening his mouth.
“Hey,” Sunggyu spoke in a jovial tone, poking at the other’s cheek. “You didn’t kill me, so that’s one thing you got right.”
There it was, the bright grin. His ear perked up as well. “Yea! I guess I did!”
Sunggyu was making bad decisions, but the worst of them all was this one: “You know,” Sunggyu began, getting carried away with this feeling. “I can teach you how to be normal. How to be good.”
Woohyun bolted upright. “Really?!”
Regret was already setting in. “Eung,” Sunggyu grunted as he was mentally cursing at himself for offering. But along with those curses, were also thoughts of encouragement. False, foolish thoughts, such as: how hard could it be?
How hard could it be to train an alien how to be human?
Sunggyu had raised a dog once. Okay so not really. He had a childhood friend who owned a dog that he would pet sometimes when it was nice and asleep so that it wouldn’t bite off his hand. But he had gotten the general gist of dog training from a psychology course that he took while he was an undergrad. Classical conditioning. A little positive reinforcement (pats on the head). A little negative reinforcement (a water gun that he’d picked up from the toy store). And Woohyun should be acting like an Earthling by the end of the week, in theory anyway.
Lesson One, teaching Woohyun manners.
“Hey Gyu—” Squirt. “Woah! What was that for?” Woohyun complained as he shook the water from his head, sending droplets to fly all across the room.
Sunggyu held up the water gun, pointing it at the alien. “Sunggyu-hyung,” he spoke in a loud and authoritative tone. He was the alpha here.
Woohyun rolled his eyes. “But Gyu. I just—” Sunggyu shot at him again. This time he held down the trigger for longer and let go only when the pressure died down and Woohyun was soaked. “Stop it! Stop!” Woohyun begged as he tried and failed to use a pillow to block the water.
“Not until you address me properly,” Sunggyu declared, glowering at the other as he pumped the water gun again, building up the pressure in the chamber and readying himself for another strike. “It’s time you learn some manners.” He raised the gun again and pointed it at Woohyun’s forehead. “Call me hyung.”
“Gy…” Woohyun stopped and swallowed, changing his words as soon as he saw his roommate’s trigger finger twitch. “Gyu-hyung. Sunggyu-hyung! Sunggyu-hyung-nim! Kim Sung…” The words caught in his throat. Sunggyu had lowered his water gun and stepped closer to pat the alien gently on the head.
“Good job,” Sunggyu praised with a warm smile. “Just like that. Respect your elders,” he cooed.
Woohyun was now grinning brightly, his eyes disappearing behind his round cheeks. His ears moved aside to accept the pats better. “Hyung,” he called out to the other.
Sunggyu was now ruffling his hair, thinking that the alien wanted more praise. “Good! Good!” he cheered.
“Hyung,” Woohyun repeated. “I wanna try.”
Sunggyu really needed to learn to keep a better eye on all four of Woohyun’s hands, and especially learn how to be wary of the alien’s aegyo, which had a tendency to lull him into a false sense of security. The water gun had found its way into Woohyun’s hands. The alien took a step back as he pointed the gun at Sunggyu’s head. There was a snarl on his face, reminiscent of the criminal shows that he’d been watching as of late.
“Wash the dishes,” Woohyun growled.
“B-but—” Sunggyu began to object, but Woohyun shot a stream of water into that open mouth. Sunggyu spat the water out and began coughing.
“I always wash the dishes,” Woohyun declared, his voice strong and forceful like Sunggyu’s tone earlier. “It’s hyung’s turn now.”
“But I—” Woohyun washed away Sunggyu’s objection with a shot of water. Sunggyu then tried to run away from the water bullets, but Woohyun kept chasing and firing at him. The barrage ceased once Sunggyu, now soaking wet, had been chased into the kitchen and Woohyun had run out of ammunition.
Sunggyu gave in and thrust both of his hands in the sink, grabbing at the dirty dishes that he’d left there that morning. “I don’t get why I have to do this,” he grumbled as he began scrubbing. “You have four arms. I only have two. It’s easier for you. It isn’t fair.” However his grumbling stopped and he dropped a bowl into the sink once he felt a gentle hand stroking his head.
“Good job,” Woohyun praised as he continued to pat the elder’s head. “Good hyung.”
Sunggyu stopped what he was doing to look at the other, incredulously. But Woohyun only responded with a chuckle and a proud smile. Sunggyu, on the other hand, frowned and slapped the other’s hand away. “I’m not a dog,” he muttered annoyed.
And neither was Woohyun. Classical conditioning wouldn’t work. Woohyun was too advanced for it, and too vindictive. Sunggyu would have to find another way to train his alien.
But at least he’d gotten one thing from all of this, Woohyun finally called him ‘hyung’ regularly.
They say that the best way to learn about a culture is to immerse oneself in it. “Do as the Romans do,” as the saying goes. Sunggyu figured that this might be Woohyun’s best chance to learn Earth and Korean customs properly. There was only so much that he could learn about the real world through dramas and movies. The alien needed to learn how to separate fiction from fact, which only became more evident when Woohyun pointed to the television screen and asked Sunggyu to take him there.
“Woohyun,” Sunggyu said with a groan. “That’s Choseon.”
“What? Is it far away?” Woohyun asked as he turned his attention back to the historical drama that he was watching (which also had ghosts and other mystical, unreal things).
“It isn’t a place. It’s an era,” Sunggyu explained. “It’s in the past.”
“So,” Woohyun retorted. “Can’t we just take a time machine and go there? I saw one in another show.”
Sunggyu began rubbing the temples on the side of his head. He’d have to monitor more closely what his roommate watches, or put blocks on the television. “Time machines don’t exist,” Sunggyu answered.
“Oh,” Woohyun mumbled and his ears drooped. They perked back up after having another thought. “What about time turners? Harry Potter had one!”
Sunggyu groaned and fell onto a pillow, which smothered his curses. Woohyun, indeed, needed a heavy dose of reality. One so large that Sunggyu couldn’t administer it on his own. He needed help.
Lesson Two, getting Woohyun to make friends.
“Now go out there and make some friends,” Sunggyu ordered as he pushed Woohyun out of their apartment. “Some one around your age, with a job, and who doesn’t try to sell you things.”
“But hyung,” the alien whined, his hands gripping onto the doorway like an anchor as the med student was trying to push him out. “It’s dangerous. And I don’t know how!”
“You, ugh,” Sunggyu began and stopped as he was now pushing Woohyun with all of his might. “You can….and…you WILL!” With one last shove, the alien came tumbling out of the apartment and into the hallway. Sunggyu panted, out of breath, as he looked down at his roommate, “Just…be yourself.” He immediately regretted saying that because Woohyun’s ears were growing longer and the antennae were slowly poking through his fluffy hair. “Ah! No! NO! Not your alien self!” Sunggyu immediately corrected himself. “Like how you were with me!”
“How we became friends?” Woohyun asked getting up from the floor, dusting himself off. “Like that?”
Friends? That title, Sunggyu had been fighting against it tooth and nail for a while. Why? Sunggyu questioned himself. What’s so wrong about being friends with Woohyun? The social stigma of being associated with a Class A weirdo? But he’s more than that, Sunggyu concluded. Woohyun was more than just a weirdo and more than just a friend (with the way he’d been devoted to training the alien, he was more like a pet).
“Yea, like how we became friends,” Sunggyu responded with a nervous smile.
Woohyun grinned back. “I think I can do that.” He then ran down the hall, off to make new friends.
Sunggyu was in the midst of studying in the living room (finally having some peace and quiet to do so), and his phone vibrated against the coffee table. It was a message from Woohyun.
E.T. : Hyung! I made a friend. His name is Jang Dongwoo. He has a job, and he hasn’t tried to sell me drugs yet!
That was the caption attached to the photo of Woohyun with his arm slung around the neck of a smiling but slightly confused fellow. Sunggyu was shocked. Woohyun had only left about a half an hour before. “How could he?” Sunggyu mumbled under his breath as he stared at the photo.
The other man looked familiar, really familiar. But Sunggyu couldn’t place his face anywhere. Did they go to the same school? Did they have mutual friends? Or was he just one of the many people that Sunggyu passed by everyday on the streets? Then Sunggyu’s eyes fixed onto the man’s khaki collar. It was a uniform, almost as familiar as the man’s face.
“Aish! Nam Woohyun!” Sunggyu yelled as everything clicked in his mind. Sunggyu does walk past this man every single day, not on the streets but to get to the streets. “That’s our security guard not a friend!”
It now was a little wonder how Woohyun was able to ‘meet’ a friend so quickly. The naïve alien hadn’t even gone past the apartment complex. Dongwoo probably gave Woohyun the usual greeting that he gives to everyone who walked past, and Woohyun latched onto it. Now it was Sunggyu’s job to add another amendment onto his instructions on how to make friends: “Just because they say ‘hi,’ it doesn’t mean that you are friends.” He closed his book shut and quickly ran down to the security desk in just his slippers. He wanted to get down there before Dongwoo lost his patience with his roommate. Sunggyu judged that he only had minutes before that happened.
But once he reached the security desk, Sunggyu was surprised by what he saw, pleasantly surprised. Woohyun was sitting on top of the desk as he was eating snacks with the security guard and was joking around with him. And Dongwoo seemed to be enjoying it all. He was laughing so hard that he was clutching his sides and tears were brimming in his eyes. A proud smile broke across Sunggyu’s face as he watched the scene unfold. “I’ll be damned. E.T. made a friend,” he spoke lowly in amazement. “I guess I can go back and study.” He then backed away slowly, casting final glances at the unlikely friendship blossoming.
“Did you know that Sunggyu-hyung talks in his sleep?” Woohyun asked, raising his voice over his new friend’s laughter. Sunggyu stopped in his tracks. “And last night he said the weirdest thing about a bike and the moon and…”
“Yah!” Sunggyu turned around and shouted at the top of his lungs.
“Oh, Sunggyu-hyung! Come over and meet my new friend!”
Dongwoo turned around to see the stunned student behind him. “Oh, that’s the one who still sleeps with a stuffed dog?” the security guard asked with a widening grin.
Woohyun nodded. “Yea, and he gets really sensitive if you touch it.”
“Hey! That’s only because you…” Sunggyu held back, grinding his teeth as he fought back the words from getting out. It’s probably better that Dongwoo didn’t find out so early Woohyun’s tendency for stuffed animal mutilation. “I’m going back up to study,” he barked to the duo as he stomped his way back down the hallway.
“He’s weird,” Dongwoo remarked as they watched Sunggyu enter the elevator to go back up to his room.
“Yea,” Woohyun agreed. “But at least he’s nice. He’s a bit dirty. I’m trying to train him to be cleaner.”
“Interesting,” Dongwoo spoke as he jotted down a note in the notebook opened up in front of him. “Now, what did you do yesterday? In as much detail as you can,” Dongwoo emphasized the last part with an innocent smile on his face.
“Well, I woke up under my bed and then…”
It took a few days for Sunggyu to realize that Woohyun’s friendship with Dongwoo wasn’t exactly leading the alien down the path of being a ‘normal’ human being. It became very evident when Dongwoo showed up in their apartment for dinner, bringing his thick notebook along. The security guard wrote in it all night long and was snooping around the apartment whenever his pen wasn’t to paper. And when Sunggyu jokingly asked if Dongwoo was performing a surprise health inspection, Dongwoo shook his head. “No. Just a status report.” Woohyun nodded in acknowledgment, which only worried Sunggyu even further. Those two understood each other too well. Woohyun didn’t think the obsessive note-taking was bizarre, and Dongwoo didn’t bat an eyelash whenever Woohyun did something out of the ordinary (he had accidentally ripped the refrigerator’s door off of its hinges that night). It made Sunggyu break out into a nervous sweat. Woohyun had told him that there were more aliens living on Earth. Was it possible that Woohyun had found one? Sunggyu didn’t know if he could deal with two aliens. He could barely deal with one.
So Dongwoo wouldn’t help to teach his roommate to be normal. Sunggyu had to come up with a different idea. But time was slipping through his hands. He couldn’t devote that much effort into the training as he should. His internship at the hospital had started and was in full swing. He was making rounds with a general surgeon the following day and needed to brush up on rudimentary G.I. procedures. So the plan for the day was self-study.
Lesson Three, making Woohyun study from non-fiction books.
Sunggyu lead Woohyun into the University’s library. As they scanned their student IDs to enter the study rooms, Sunggyu caught a glimpse of Woohyun’s ID. It was obvious, even from that brief glance. The person in the photo wasn’t Woohyun. The face was too large and round. Woohyun noticed the other’s roving eye and quickly stuffed the card back into his pocket.
“I, uh, stole it,” he admitted even though he hid the evidence away.
Sunggyu tried to take the information in stride, after all it wasn’t new news that Woohyun was a thief. The alien was more than that. He was a pirate, a criminal wanted by officials in space, which all the sudden made a stolen ID card on Earth seem very, very small. “Oh,” Sunggyu muttered with false coolness. “From who?”
Sunggyu stopped and stared blankly at the alien next to him. It felt like he was meeting the other for the first time. It wasn’t a simple jacked card. It was identity theft. His roommate wasn’t Nam Woohyun. Nam Woohyun was the fat guy on the ID card. But who was this? This man in front of him? Sunggyu didn’t know anymore.
“Can I go over there?” the alien asked as he pointed over to the shelves of books marked as ‘History.’ “I wanna read more about that Choseon place.”
“Era,” Sunggyu corrected the other based on instinct. He then shook his head sharply, tossing out all of the doubts he had. He needed to clear his mind and fill it with information about intestines and diseases. Things he’d rather think about than this. Things that he could actually know and understand. “Eung. Go,” he spoke curtly.
His roommate narrowed his eyes on the other, confused. “Okay,” the alien drawled out before turning around and went to explore the shelves.
Once the alien disappeared behind the shelves, Sunggyu puffed out his cheeks and let out a long sigh. He then dragged his feet to a study table and plopped his book bag on top of it with a thud. He had a feeling that this afternoon was going to be a struggle between him and the text.
And it was a struggle that he gave up fighting after two hours. And in that time, he only read a handful of pages and learned nothing. He couldn’t concentrate. There was unrest in his mind and heart, which only grew the longer he sat there and hadn’t seen his roommate. Whenever Sunggyu lifted his gaze from the text and his eyes traveled towards the history section, he saw nothing. Even the motion-sensor lights had turned off. No one had traveled down that aisle in awhile. That alien never let him be at peace. It was frustrating.
So Sunggyu packed up his bag and set out to find his extraterrestrial.
“Woohyun?” Sunggyu whispered down the dark aisle. Would he even answer to that? Sunggyu found himself thinking. No, he always answers to it. “Woohyun-ah!” Sunggyu whispered more harshly down the next set of shelves. “Nam Woohyun!”
“Over here hyung!” a loud whisper called back to him.
“Where?” Sunggyu asked in a normal voice, only to get dirty looks from the students around him. Sunggyu bowed in apology to them, his face hot and his heart racing. He still couldn’t find the voice.
“Ancient Medicine!” Woohyun shouted back.
There were much more glares, but Sunggyu ignored them and headed to the Ancient Medicine section. “Woah!” he gasped as the lights turned on as he walked down the aisle. At the end of the aisle, the shelves were cleared. And at the very end, alongside of the wall, there was a small fort built from those missing books. There was a dark opening facing Sunggyu. A purple head poked through it.
“Come on,” Woohyun urged the other. “Come inside. It’s too bright out there.” He then retreated back into the dark fort.
Sunggyu slung off his book bag before getting down onto his hands and knees, crawling into the fort. It was dumb of him. His eyes couldn’t adjust to the darkness, and Sunggyu had just learned that he didn’t even know the basics of his roommate. What if he’d literally just crawled into a trap? What if Woohyun was finally going to go through his threat of killing him?
Sunggyu flinched as he felt a hand grab at his knee. Noticing the other’s reaction, Woohyun let his hand drop and chuckled softly, not knowing what he did wrong. “Isn’t this more comfortable?” Woohyun suggested.
“It’s dark,” Sunggyu honestly responded. “Are you nocturnal or something?” He meant it as a joke, but then again, the alien always had a hard time reading his humor.
“Partially,” Woohyun answered. Slowly, Sunggyu’s eyes adjusted to the scant light filtering into the fort. Woohyun’s eyes were glowing slightly in the dark, like a wild animal. His grin glowed too, his canines flashing menacingly. However, he was seated Indian-style with a large book in his lap. His ears were hanging low and framing his face. It was like an image from a fantasy novel. The chesire cat, casually reading from a book larger than his lap. “I was just made that way.”
“Why?” Sunggyu dug deeper. “Is your planet dark? Do you live underground? Underwater?”
Woohyun laughed genuinely this time. “No,” he replied. “I told you. I don’t have a Home. I don’t have a planet.”
“Huh?” Sunggyu brought his knees closer to his chest, guarding himself (and distancing himself as much as he could from the other). “What do you mean? You’re an alien. You have to be from somewhere.”
“Hm,” Woohyun hummed in thought as he snapped the book shut in his lap (causing Sunggyu to flinch again and for him to laugh awkwardly). “A test tube then? From a laboratory in a space station? It’s a small Home. I don’t fit in it anymore,” he joked.
“B…but,” Sunggyu stammered as he looked everywhere but the other. “You said that you were an alien!”
“I still am,” he defended himself. “I’m still foreign to this planet. I’m foreign to every planet.” He then scooted closer to the other, and Sunggyu did his best to remain still. This time his eyes never left Woohyun. He watched the alien’s every move with hawk-like precision. Soon their bodies were touching, their sides flushed against each other. Woohyun rolled the edge of his sweatshirt’s sleeve, revealing his forearm. “I was an experiment,” he explained as he rolled up the sleeve. “I actually don’t have a name, only a number. 626.” He pointed to a dark spot on his white arm. It took awhile for Sunggyu to make it out in the dim light, but soon he could read it easily. 626 was etched into Woohyun’s arm like a tattoo. Like a brand. Unconsciously, Sunggyu’s fingers went to trace the numbers, feeling the raised skin, an old scar. Woohyun shivered, shaking off the other’s fingertips and rolled his sleeve back down to cover the mark over again. His real identity.
Sunggyu cleared his throat and averted his gaze. “What kind of experiment?” he asked as his finger now traced the bindings of the books that made the walls.
“I was designed to only do one thing,” Woohyun declared. He then nudged the other and grinned. “I bet you can guess what it is.”
Sunggyu looked back at Woohyun, at those twinkling eyes almost covered by his too long bangs. “Be cute and fluffy?” Sunggyu joked, mostly to mask the fact that he didn’t have the faintest clue.
Woohyun’s smile faltered, but it picked back up, smaller and weaker. “No,” he denied. His eyes then dropped to his lap, as did his voice, “To destroy.” Sunggyu sighed at that. Of course, Woohyun had a black thumb, destructing everything that he came across, but it had never even crossed Sunggyu’s mind that the other was made for that purpose. Woohyun was too, for lack of better terms, ‘cute and fluffy’ to be a monster. And yet, Woohyun was. “I mess up everything. You know that.”
“Yea, you do,” Sunggyu didn’t even miss a beat. He raised his hand and patted the alien’s shoulder, comforting him before his words sunk in. “But you always try to make amends afterwards. So it’s okay. You’re sorry.”
Woohyun shook his head and scoffed, “I’m a failure. I even f**k up destroying things.”
The hand on the alien’s shoulder stilled and tightened. “Hyun, that’s not a bad thing,” Sunggyu assured him and dropped his hand from the other.
“But if it’s my only purpose…if that’s why I was made,” Woohyun murmured as he lifted his gaze to the other. “Isn’t it a bad thing?”
Sunggyu shook head. “Not at all. You can find your own purpose…a better one.”
“I hope so,” Woohyun breathed out like a sigh. He flashed the other a smile, but it was gone in a blink of an eye. And so was Woohyun from Sunggyu’s side. The alien crawled back to his original spot, where the book still lied. He sat down again, with one leg crossed over the other, and opened the book. And now they were back to how they were before, in all but one way. It was comfortable now between them. Sunggyu’s mind had grown quiet, peaceful. He knew Woohyun again (or should he call him 626 now?). Sunggyu could think clearly again without all of these worries cluttering his thoughts. Sure, Woohyun was a monster bent on havoc and destruction, but luckily for Sunggyu and the rest of the universe, Woohyun wasn’t good at his job. The intern laughed at that joke, which caused Woohyun to perk up and fix his attention on the other. “What are you laughing at?”
“You,” Sunggyu answered honestly. He felt like he had nothing to hide from the other any more.
Woohyun narrowed his eyes on the other and then focused on his book again, licking the tips of his fingers before turning the page. “You know this is all my creator’s fault,” he remarked.
Sunggyu cocked his head. There was something about the tone of Woohyun’s voice that he didn’t quite like. It sounded almost regretful. He wondered exactly what the other had meant. “For making you?” he guessed. “Eh. Don’t say that.”
“Hm? No,” Woohyun dismissed with a quick shake of his head. “It’s his fault that I’m bad at destroying things. He gave me too much care,” he explained and turned another page, acting as if this was everyday conversation. But Sunggyu could tell that Woohyun wasn’t even reading the book. His eyes always remained fixed at the center. “He wanted to add just enough so that I didn’t kill him and I would listen to him. But then he gave me too much.”
Sunggyu sputtered into a chuckle. Once again, the alien looked up at him with a confused pout, which only made Sunggyu laugh even more. “Is there a such thing as caring too much?” he challenged.
Woohyun’s expression remained fixed in that frown. “I don’t know. Do you still care for Yooseok?” he retorted.
Sunggyu’s throat tightened, choking down what laughter he had left. Yooseok, to be honest, Sunggyu hadn’t thought of his ex in awhile, only at night and sometimes in the morning, especially lazy ones, and every time he saw a couple passing by. So that would mean he thought about Yooseok just about every single day. And with each thought, his heartache never dulled. The wound was still fresh. Sunggyu still cared. And there was no reason for him to care, Woohyun was right. Woohyun, who didn’t know much about this world, at least knew that. “Good point,” Sunggyu admitted, slightly strained. “Good point.”
“I think,” Woohyun began. He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the book, gripping the edges and giving up the pretense of reading. “Things would be better if I was heartless—”
“Woohyun, don’t say that,” Sunggyu cut him off sharply.
“No it would,” Woohyun was adamant. “I wouldn’t be living everyday feeling guilty…” He swallowed hard before continuing. He tightened his grip on the book and the fragile pages threatened to rip. “…and regretful.”
This time, Sunggyu crawled closer to the other, which was no more than a small scoot in the small fort. He tore off Woohyun’s two hands from the book, not allowing the alien to tear and ruin it, to keep him away from fulfilling his purpose, and held them within his own. “Making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad person…or creature,” Sunggyu clarified. That’s all Woohyun has done. He only made mistakes because he never meant to cause harm. That was the crucial difference. “Doing things with ill intent makes you bad. And I don’t think you have an evil thought in you…mostly because I don’t think you have any thoughts,” Sunggyu teased at the end because the atmosphere had become too serious, too sensitive, and the attentive look in Woohyun’s eyes was overwhelming.
But that look was gone in a flash as they were downcast again. “I can be pretty thoughtless,” Woohyun grumbled.
“I didn’t mean…” Sunggyu stopped himself and let out a deep breath. He had done what he’d meant to do. One lash from his sarcastic tongue, and that serious atmosphere had dissipated. Now it was just sad. He had to set it right again. He ran his thumbs over the backs of Woohyun’s hands. “You just need to think a bit more before you act,” he tried to give the other encouragement, hope. “Just a bit. A tiny bit. An itty bitty tiny bit,” he said, raising his voice higher every time.
There it was. A smile cracked at the corners of the alien’s mouth. “Just a little bit?” Woohyun asked.
“Just a quark,” Sunggyu replied.
Woohyun raised his hand to stroke his chin, mimicking a serious face, but breaking almost immediately. “Then I think,” he emphasized and paused dramatically as he ‘thought’ over his next course of action (and Sunggyu hoped that this wouldn’t happen every time before the alien did something). Woohyun then snapped his finger, arriving at his conclusion. “I think I’ll take a nap. All of this reading made me sleepy.”
Sunggyu grinned as he watched the other yawn and set the book down from his lap. “That’s a good decision.”
Who do you think made me bad? Yooseok’s last words repeated over and over again in Sunggyu’s mind. Who do you think made me bad? Yooseok had essentially claimed that Sunggyu drove him to cheating, that before Sunggyu, he had been good and faithful, which Sunggyu knew to be complete and utter crap now. But for a moment (or a week or two) he had believed that to be true, that he had made Yooseok bad.
But then there was Nam Woohyun, Experiment 626, whose creator literally made him to be bad. However, Sunggyu didn’t believe that the creature had a bad bone in his body. Woohyun was innately good. Now Sunggyu didn’t have much to prove this other than his gut feeling and the fact that Woohyun never seemed to want these things to happen. Destruction just followed in his wake. It was in his nature.
So can someone make another bad or evil? Or was it a personal choice?
Sunggyu wagered that this was more a job for philosophers than an aspiring doctor. He had more pertinent things to worry about, like his rounds tomorrow with the general surgeons. And now with Woohyun at his side, asleep and in his sight, Sunggyu could finally focus on his studying.
Sunggyu figured that he tried to “immerse” Woohyun into Earth culture the completely wrong way. It was like the alien was a baby bird, and Sunggyu had just kicked him out of the nest, expecting him to fly perfectly well on his own. Dongwoo, in spite of his own eccentricities, appeared to be a good influence on Woohyun (particularly educating the alien on what was illegal and what wasn’t but still frowned upon, like burping in public). Yet, Sunggyu wasn’t prepared to call the security guard a ‘good influence,’ not when Dongwoo also taught Woohyun how to shoot spitballs (and Sunggyu had been reaping the ‘benefits’ of that lesson). This time, Sunggyu was going to introduce Woohyun to the right people, namely Myungsoo and Howon, people who wouldn’t shoot paper wads at their beloved hyung.
Also Myungsoo hadn’t stopped pestering Sunggyu for weeks to meet Woohyun in all of his alien glory. And Howon was just as curious, or perhaps disbelieving was a better word. The alien roommate was something Howon had to see in person before he could fully believe it.
So the four of them met up again at the barbecue restaurant. And all of them kept a watchful eye on Woohyun, keeping him as far away from the grill as possible.
“So is it true?” Howon got the ball-rolling as they sat down.
Myungsoo was staring at Woohyun excitedly. “Yea, can you prove it?” he challenged. “That you’re an alien?”
Woohyun shot a glance over to Sunggyu, who promptly shook his head. “Not in public,” Woohyun answered. He then took off his hat and turned his head to the side, parting his hair with his fingers. “But my ears…”
Myungsoo got up from his seat and leaned over the table. “Wah,” he exclaimed under his breath. He reached forward to touch the purple coat on the backs of Woohyun’s ear. “It’s furry.”
The alien giggled. “That’s tickles.”
“Oh, sorry.” Myungsoo quickly withdrew his hand and sat back down. His eyes, however, still sparkled in amazement. A childlike excitement emanated from his aura. “So it’s true.”
“I don’t buy it,” Howon remained as skeptical as ever. “It could just be…”
“Hypertrichosis, I know,” Sunggyu finished the other’s thought.
Howon smirked. “Or make-up. “ He then leaned across the table and whispered lowly to Sunggyu,“This could all be a prank.” His eyes darted quickly over to Woohyun sitting in the corner of the booth. “How do you know he’s not making this all up?”
“Trust me. I know,” Sunggyu declared and pulled away from Howon to turn and face Woohyun, who now had his chopsticks tucked underneath his upper lip, hanging down like walrus tusks. Sunggyu sighed and pulled the chopsticks down and out with a hard yank. “Trust me. He’s not making this up,” he said with a tired voice. “Yah!” he shouted as he lightly rapt the chopsticks against his roommate’s head. “These are to help you eat.”
“I know,” Woohyun growled back. It was obvious that he didn’t like being treated like a small child by the other. He frowned and pointed across the table. “But Myungsoo was doing it too, and it looked like fun.” And sure enough when Sunggyu’s eyes followed Woohyun’s finger, they were led to a Myungsoo with ‘tusks,’ grinning proudly.
“What?” Myungsoo retorted as he pulled his own chopsticks from underneath his lips. “You told us that you wanted us to teach him things.”
“How to be normal,” Sunggyu clarified. “Not this! Not weird!”
“Then you shouldn’t have asked Myungsoo for help,” Howon teased. He had a point. None of them were actually qualified to teach someone else how to behave normally. Myungsoo was smart and had good looks, but it came with a 4-D personality which seemed to contradict the first two. And Howon, well, he was awkward and had a sharp tongue. His ad-libs were hard to get used too at first, but they had slowly grown on Sunggyu, and he occasionally laughed at them. Did Sunggyu really want Woohyun to go around spouting lame jokes and acting like he had a split personality?
But worst of all was Sunggyu. He himself knew that he was least qualified for this job. He was a workaholic, who had a tendency to put those he loved on a back burner, putting his ambition as a priority. He could also be cold and callous at a drop of a hat. He was demanding and a nagger. He was particular. He was strange in his own right, and Sunggyu didn’t want his roommate to adopt any of his bad habits.
But who could train Woohyun properly? The more Sunggyu looked around, the stranger his own world had become. Was there a such thing as normal anymore?
“Yah,” Howon broke into Sunggyu’s reverie. “Does Yooseok know?” he hissed lowly so that the other two wouldn’t hear (Myungsoo was too busy teaching Woohyun how to make a paper crane out of their napkins anyway).
“He knows about Woohyun,” Sunggyu responded quickly, trying to fight back memories of the night the met. “But not the alien thing.”
Howon studied the other carefully, knowing that something was amiss. “Why not? Why isn’t he here?”
“He won’t be around anymore,” Sunggyu answered as vaguely as he could, hoping that his friend would pick up the hint. Howon did and whistled lowly.
“I’m sorry, man,” Howon offered condolences as best he could (clumsily).
“It’s okay,” Sunggyu brushed it off quickly, noticing that the other two were paying attention to their conversation.
“It was kinda funny, actually.” No, Woohyun. You won’t do this again!
“No,” Sunggyu spoke through gritted teeth. “No it wasn’t.” He then glowered at his roommate, just barely moving his lips to mouth at the other, ‘Don’t. Stop.’
“What’s funny?” Myungsoo asked. No, no, Woohyun had gone and ruined everything again with his big mouth. Or maybe not quite yet. Sunggyu could still fix this.
“It’s nothing,” he dismissed. “We should really put our order in now.” He tried his best to change the subject. He turned around to wave down a waiter.
But Woohyun, stupid Woohyun, that destructive specimen, took it upon himself to explain, "It's funny because Sunggyu thought he was in a sex-less relationship, but Yooseok was boinking people the whole time.” He chuckled to himself, even when he was looking right at Sunggyu’s paled face. "Is it not funny?" Sunggyu shook his head. Woohyun then shook his head too as he inhaled sharply. "I'm still getting used to the humor here. Where I'm from, that's hysterical,” he broke down into laughter again at the end.
He was the only one. The remaining three were frozen stiff. Only Howon’s eyes moved as they darted about, scanning the faces of everyone seated at the table. Slowly, they saw Myungsoo’s jaw open wider and wider until he could finally speak. His words came out one by one as the gears meshed in his brain, “Wait. Why would you and Yooseok…why would you…” It clicked, finally. And everything came crashing down. “No,” Myungsoo muttered in shock.
“Yes?” Woohyun responded uncertainly, not quite grasping the situation.
Sunggyu finally moved, burying his face into his hands and groaning, “Shit.”
“You guys are friends. Best friends. That’s it,” Myungsoo insisted. “Aren't you?
Woohyun shook his hands. “Boyfriends,” he corrected. “Or at least they were, right?” He cast a nervous glance at the man breaking down next to him. But even when questioned, Sunggyu remained speechless.
Myungsoo stood up and threw his napkin onto the table. “I can't believe it,” he hissed like a curse. He then pushed his way over Howon and out of the booth. His steps echoed throughout the room as he stomped out.
Those angry steps finally pulled Sunggyu out of his shock. “Yah! Myungsoo-yah!” he shouted, but it was too late. The door slammed, shaking in its frame. Customers began to whisper to each other harshly at the scene unfolding. But Sunggyu couldn’t have cared less. There was only one worry on his mind right now: Myungsoo. He turned towards Woohyun as he stood up from his seat. “Aish! Just f***ing once, just close your mouth!” he cursed at his roommate before setting off after his friend. “I'm getting really sick of chasing after people,” he grumbled as he stormed out of the restaurant, following Myungsoo’s wake. Luckily, his friend was stopped at the crosswalk. Sunggyu pulled the other back onto the sidewalk. “Let’s talk,” he tried to say as gently as he could, but his teeth were gnashing.
“Boyfriends,” Myungsoo spat. “F***ing boyfriends. You two are dating. Ah,” at that, he threw his head back to throw back down the feeling building up in him.
Sunggyu took in a deep breath. He had to tread lightly. He wasn’t just walking on egg shells. He was traveling through a forest of daggers all pointed at him. “This is why I didn't want to tell you,” Sunggyu resumed his calm tone. “Because you'd freak out. Like you are now,” he said the last part just above a whisper, hoping to have it go unheard (although the best would’ve been not to say it at all).
“Hah! Freak out? Do you even know why I’m freaking out?” Myungsoo was practically cackling now, and that was scaring Sunggyu. So the elder could only respond with a short shake of his head. “I’m freaking out because you thought I’d freak out!” he exclaimed, stabbing his finger into the other’s chest, causing Sunggyu to stumble backwards.
Sunggyu had been caught off-guard. Myungsoo had never laid a finger on his before, let alone dug one like that into his chest. He’d never seen the younger so angry before. Sunggyu didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know what to say. All that was coming out of his mouth was a stuttering mess of words, just a bunch of nonsense that he didn’t expect Myungsoo to understand. But he couldn’t explain himself.
Why didn’t he tell Myungsoo? Because, to Sunggyu, Myungsoo was still the kid he’d met years behind him in high school. That innocent kid who read sunjung manhwa in secret, dreamed of having a pure love like the ones in dramas, and had put Sunggyu up impossibly high on a pedestal. And Sunggyu didn’t want to tumble down from it. He didn’t want to admit to the other about his love that some would think to be impure, immoral. Sunggyu didn’t want to taint the image that Myungsoo had of him. He didn’t want to taint Myungsoo.
But Myungsoo, at some point in time, had grown up. He could think for himself. And now probably not only thought that Sunggyu was an ass, but he was beginning to put things together. The law student smacked his forehead and let his hand remain there, trying to rub away the pain. “Oh my god! Hoya knew too didn’t he?” Myungsoo asked.
“Well, he sort of…caught us,” Sunggyu admitted with a shy chuckle.
Myungsoo lowered his hand, and Sunggyu could now see the dark and stormy look in his eyes. “And you both kept it from me,” he hissed. “Why? Did you think I wouldn’t like it? Did you think I’d hate it? That I’d hate you? Why?” The storm worsened. Tears brimmed and rolled over and down his cheeks. It wasn’t that Myungsoo was sad. It was far worse than that. He felt everything all at once, but most of all, he felt betrayed. Sunggyu could console a sad and crying Myungsoo, but he couldn’t deal with this.
“I-I don’t know,” Sunggyu stammered. His hands were thrust deep into his pockets, and his shoulders were high and tense. He just stood there as he watched the storm cloud that was Myungsoo rain down on the sidewalk.
“I would’ve been happy for you, hyung,” Myungsoo sputtered. “I always thought that you were alone. I thought we held no secrets from each other, but now…I’m pissed. I’m so…mad at you,” he had a hard time saying these things. It was foreign to him. Hating Sunggyu was an alien concept that was now festering inside. But what he said next came a little too easily, “You’re an asshole.” He then turned around and headed down the crosswalk.
“Myungsoo-yah! Sorry!” Sunggyu shouted after him, not letting the other leave until he heard that. “If it’s any consolation, he cheated! A lot!”
“Good!” Myungsoo barked back, not even sparing the other a glance.
Sunggyu deserved it. He deserved all of it. He’d rather tell Myungsoo that he was living with an extraterrestrial, something so unbelievable and insane, than tell him that his hyung was gay. And now Sunggyu somehow managed to tear to shreds an unbreakable trust. Maybe he was a monster just like Woohyun.
No, he was worse.
When he came back to the restaurant, the table was still empty. They hadn’t ordered anything yet. And there was something else empty. The spot next to Sunggyu’s was clear. The alien had left, not even leaving a trace (or crop circle) behind him.
Howon got up from his spot and began putting on his coat. “He left shortly after you did,” he revealed.
“Really?” Sunggyu whined as he stamped his foot. “I have to chase down one more person?”
But it wasn’t hard to figure out where his roommate went. Luckily there were very few places that Woohyun could go. Sunggyu didn’t even have to think twice. He headed straight for their apartment and into Woohyun’s bedroom. Once inside, Sunggyu scanned the room. There were no signs of life, but that didn’t mean Woohyun wasn’t there. He dropped down unto his knees and looked under the bed. And there was Woohyun, pushed as far to the other side as he could, hiding in the darkest shadows surrounded by a nest of blankets.
Sunggyu smiled faintly and crawled under the bed to join the other. Woohyun didn’t seem to sense that the other was there. Even though Sunggyu was only inches away, breathing heavily, Woohyun didn’t move. So it was up to Sunggyu to make the first one. “Wow! It’s really clean under here,” he broke the silence. And it spooked the crap out of Woohyun. The alien flinched violently and whipped his head around. Once their gazes met, Sunggyu tried to put on his best smile, but it was forced, unsure, and reminiscent of a killer clown. Woohyun only turned back around and lifted his blankets over his head. “Are you really going to ignore me?” Sunggyu pressed as he poked the other in the back, trying to get him to turn around again. “Are you really never going to talk again?” He open palm was now pressing against the other’s back, gently. Nothing, Sunggyu got no response. Sunggyu faked a sigh, “That’s a relief.…Aish!” He winced as he slapped himself in the head. “That was a joke,” he amended. “Why did I say that? Of course I want to hear you yammering. It’s music to my ears…That sounded sarcastic, didn’t it? Aish,” he cursed. This was Sunggyu’s ultimate problem in relationships and in life. He feigned honesty. He appeared to be trustworthy, but then he kept so many secrets bottled up inside. And then whenever the atmosphere got warm, whenever he was finally breaking through his shell and was honest, he quickly dismantled the situation with a slip of his tongue. Like it was self-preservation. Face preservation.
But the solution to this problem was also what got him into this mess: talking, but while having an honest heart-to-heart conversation. And for Woohyun, he had to do this for him. He wanted the other to know how to go about human relationships the right way. And that made what he was about to say a lot easier. “Woohyun…Woohyun-ah, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that back at the restaurant. You didn’t…what did you say?” his apology was broken off by the alien’s grumbling, muffled by his layer of blankets.
Woohyun lowered the blanket, allowing his purple head to break through. “You don’t need to apologize. You aren’t wrong,” he confessed in a small but clear voice. “I talk too much. I talk too much and ruin things.”
Sunggyu narrowed his eyes on that purple tuft of hair. Woohyun accepted the blame so readily, like he was used to being the culprit. Okay so more often than not, Woohyun was. But not this time. So why was Woohyun acting this way? Why did he carry this burden and act so…remorseful?
I wouldn’t be living everyday feeling guilty…and regretful.
Woohyun’s words in the fort echoed throughout his mind. That was why he was feeling guilty. He always did. He always assumed that he did something wrong. And now, Sunggyu has always heard of people wanting to go hide and die in a corner, but this was the first time he’d ever seen someone try.
How many times? Sunggyu thought. How many times has Woohyun been like this? He didn’t want to think about it. It made him feel guilty for not knowing. But he could try to put an end to it.
“Yah, yah. Is this what you were talking about before? The guilt?” he chided. Sunggyu didn’t expect Woohyun to answer. It was obvious anyway. Sunggyu just scooted closer to the other until his chest hit the other’s back. He lifted his arms and embraced Woohyun, pulling him in tight. Sunggyu’s hand slowly glided over to Woohyun’s heart (or where it theoretically should be). He felt it. He felt the racing heartbeat press against his palm, as if the heart was trying to jump out of his chest and run away. Sunggyu didn’t know much about Woohyun’s anatomy, how his body worked, but this couldn’t have been normal. It felt…painful.
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Sunggyu murmured. He then felt Woohyun recoil a little and inhale sharply. Woohyun was about to speak, but Sunggyu raised his hand from the chest and laid it over the alien’s mouth, stopping him. “Don’t argue,” his voice a bit sharper than it should be. “I did wrong. I did a great wrong by not telling Myungsoo the truth and for thinking little of him. And…I did a greater wrong for blaming you. I’m the guilty one. I should be the only one to feel guilty,” his tone grew softer and lower as he went along. His hand drifted back down to Woohyun’s chest, stroking the racing heart until he could feel it slow down. Sunggyu smirked. It was working. Woohyun was relaxing in his arms already. The tension in his body was melting away. “So don’t feel bad,” Sunggyu urged him. “You’re not the only one who destroys things, okay? I mess up too. We all f**k up.”
Nothing. Still nothing. Now Sunggyu found it odd. Seriously, after all of that he can’t even say ‘Thank you’?
“Woohyun? Hyunnie?” Sunggyu called out to the other as he slowly lifted his head up. “Tch,” Sunggyu scoffed. “Figures.” Woohyun had fallen asleep. There was a faint smile on his face though. And Sunggyu had gotten him relaxed enough to fall asleep, so he guessed that he did what he set out to do (that or Woohyun tired himself out from worrying too much). “Did you even hear any of that?” Sunggyu whispered as he poked his roommate in the cheek. Once again, he got nothing. Sunggyu frowned and proceeded to crawl out from under the bed so that he could go to sleep himself.
So in the end, Woohyun did manage to ruin one thing that night: a perfectly good apology.
It probably took Sunggyu ages too long to come to this conclusion, but after last night, he finally realized that Woohyun can’t destroy things and acted completely normal while he’s asleep. A sleeping Woohyun was a good Woohyun. Well, Sunggyu couldn’t have Woohyun worry himself into a slumber every night. But there was another way to tucker his alien out.
Lesson Four, exercising your alien.
His roommate was laying down on the couch watching some strange documentary about ancient aliens orchestrating major events in history. Woohyun was entirely immersed in it and barely spared the other a glance when he answered back, “What?”
“You like soccer, right?” Sunggyu was slowly putting the first phase of his plan into action.
And suddenly, Sunggyu had the alien’s full attention. Woohyun popped up and grabbed the remote. “Yea. Why? Is there a game?” the questions came out like rapid-fire.
Sunggyu stepped closer. “Woohyun, how would you like to play soccer?” he asked as casually as he could because he knew…
“I can play soccer? Is that a thing I can do? This isn’t like Choseon, right? Or like Jurassic Park? I can actually do this? I can actually play?” Sunggyu knew that Woohyun would freak out, like he was doing right now. The alien was jumping up and down on the couch now. He’d probably fall and break something soon, either himself or one of Sunggyu’s things. But for now, the excitement was endearing. Not to mention, he’d wear himself out even faster if he kept it up.
Sunggyu chuckled as he watched the other jump off the couch and run around the room with his arms spread as if he’d just shot a goal. “Yea, I called Howon up and Dongwoo. We’re playing at the park in a bit.”
“Let me get my shoes,” Woohyun yelled as he shot of into his room.
“And mine too! I know you hid them again!” Sunggyu shouted after him.
“Hahaha, oh yea. Okay!”
Sunggyu couldn’t remember the last time Woohyun was this excited or genuinely happy. A good game of soccer was what they all needed to let out some of their stress and anxiety. Not only had Woohyun been stressed out, but Dongwoo had a rough week at work. There was a thief in their building, which turned out to be an elderly woman with dementia, who kept thinking that the packages left outside of other people’s doors were meant for her. That was a delicate situation to deal with, especially since she swore that they were from her deceased sister living in Hong Kong. Then there was Howon. He and his wife were falling out of their Honeymoon phase and into the realities of marriage, which meant arguing was becoming a regular thing for them as they tried to adapt to each other. Also, thanks to Sunggyu’s blunder and Woohyun’s loose lips, Myungsoo was also freezing him out because Howon knew about Sunggyu and Yooseok and didn’t tell him. He was an accomplice to the lie and bore part of the blame (in Myungsoo’s mind, because Howon was pretty sure that this was ALL Sunggyu’s fault).
Soccer, the world’s favorite sport, the one thing that can bring the world together, was going to solves their ills by helping them work out some of their frustration.
Now the last time Sunggyu had played soccer, he was in middle school. He used to be fast and carefree. But now he was older, out-of-shape, and hated to sweat. So he had low expectations coming into this pick-up soccer game, especially going up against Howon who ran everyday, Dongwoo who at least looked athletic, and Woohyun who was made to beat him up. But it ended up being a lot of fun. He was the worst out of all of them, but that was expected. So he relished whenever he was able to steal the ball from another or juke them (which wasn’t often but it did happen).
The best out of them all was Woohyun, who must’ve learned soccer through osmosis or some equivalent. He’d learned the basics from the games he’d watched and could easily dribble and juggle the ball. That too was expected from someone with superhuman capabilities.
However, Woohyun was still Woohyun. He slipped up. As he was trying to juggle the ball on his thigh, his head was down too close and the ball smacked him in the face. “Argh!” he cried as his hand flew to his face.
“Woohyun!” The other three gathered around him. “Are you alright?” Dongwoo was the first to ask, looking at the alien from below in order to see beneath the hands.
“I’m fine,” Woohyun insisted in a nasally voice. “Come on. Let’s play.” He lowered his hands and bent down to pick up the ball. But when he rose back up, Woohyun was surprised to see the three of them looking at him with jaws unhinged. “What?”
Fortunately, Woohyun bleed as red as a human would, so his alienness wasn’t revealed just yet to Dongwoo. Unfortunately, he was still spewing out blood from his nose, putting their game on hold until it stopped. And that was Sunggyu’s job. The both of them were in the public bathroom in the park. Woohyun was seated on top of the countertop, and Sunggyu was pinching the alien’s nose and titling his head back. “I think that the number one thing that you were made to destroy...is yourself,” Sunggyu joked.
“I guess it's some kind of self-destruct button that my creator put in. OW!” Woohyun yelped in pain as Sunggyu hit him on the thigh.
“Don't say that,” Sunggyu commanded. Even though it was a joke, Sunggyu didn’t find it funny because there was the slightest chance that Woohyun might’ve believed that. And Sunggyu still took it as his job to train such inclinations out of him. “Here on Earth, we call it being clumsy. That's all you are. Just...clumsy,” he amended.
Woohyun gazed down at the other and snorted (which probably wasn’t the best for his nose). “That's just a nice way to say 'destructive.'”
“Maybe,” Sunggyu admitted. He then carefully let go of the other’s nose. It seemed to have stopped bleeding. However, there was still dried blood caked on the alien’s face. Sunggyu grimaced and started to wet a paper towel. “But...it's like you said, you don't mean to,” he said as he began to dab the mess away.
“I don’t,” Woohyun agreed, finally realizing his good intentions, only to undercut it, “But I also can't get out of my own way.”
Sunggyu lowered his hand from the other’s face, clenching the towel tightly in his fist. He huffed, “Woohyun-ah...”
Warm. Wet. Maybe even wonderful. Those were the feelings that came when Woohyun pressed his lips against Sunggyu’s, ensnaring the elder in a kiss. But it was also short. Woohyun pulled away shortly after and offered a sad smile as an apology. “See, I ruin everything, Even a perfectly good moment...and friendship,” he mumbled the last part lowly as he slid off the countertop and made his way to the door.
But he didn’t make it very far. Maybe Sunggyu had joined Woohyun too many times when he binged watched dramas, because he had grabbed his roommate’s wrist and pulled him back inside. But he soon let go, only to take Woohyun’s cheeks into his hands, and Sunggyu kissed him back.
How come? How come whenever Sunggyu broke out of his shell, acted honestly, Woohyun would respond with nothing? The alien remained there, still. Sunggyu hated it. He couldn’t take it. So he kissed the other again, harder so that Woohyun couldn’t ignore it this time. And he didn’t. Two arms gripped at Sunggyu’s upper arms. Another two took his waist. And Woohyun was kissing him back. Safe and steady. Sunggyu never felt more secure than he had at this moment, which was odd because he had lowered his walls and was in the hands of fun-sized Godzilla. But it never felt more right…or short.
Woohyun pulled Sunggyu off of him. “I think,” he began and stared at the floor for one…two…three seconds. “This is a bad idea.” With eyes still downcast, he walked out of the bathroom.
Was it a bad idea? For the life of him, Sunggyu couldn’t figure out why. Sure, they were in a bathroom filled with all kinds of bacteria and viruses. And yea, it was a public one, so anyone could’ve walked in at any time, which would’ve been bad because not only they were two men kissing but one had four arms! And going off of that four-arms-thing, he and Woohyun were probably of two different species (if Woohyun even had one). What if Woohyun was really like Do Minjoon, and would get sick from swapping spit? What if Sunggyu got sick? What if he died because on top of everything else, Woohyun had poison seeping out of his lips?
There were thousands upon thousands of reasons why it was a bad idea. But Sunggyu still couldn’t figure out why.
The kiss had felt right. So what was wrong about it?
Lesson Five, Woohyun was a smart being who could think on his own. Let him figure it out on his own.
The training session is now complete.
There are some things in life that you just can’t fix, Woohyun knew that. He had destroyed enough things in his life to know that was true. He also tried to fix just as many things, like Nurungie and the showerhead that Sunggyu didn’t know he had pulled out of the wall yet (the water was really cold). He was successful at stitching some thing back together, almost like new, and for some things that he couldn’t fix, he could just replace. However, there were some things that he couldn’t fix or replace. Luckily, the console for his spaceship wasn’t one of them.
It was finally lighting up again and whirring back to life. Woohyun sighed as he sat back in his chair, head dangling over the back of his chair. He could feel his ears flop back. Two of his hands ran down his face as the other two folded over his stomach. Once his hands passed his face, a small, tight-lipped smile was revealed. He could finally move on and fix the rest of his spaceship now.
His eyes darted over to one of the several digital clocks hanging on his wall. Sunggyu wouldn’t be home; he’d still be at his internship. Woohyun sighed in relief. He’d been avoiding his roommate ever since the soccer match a couple of days ago. And it was easy because Sunggyu was avoiding him as well (or at least it felt like it to Woohyun). They weren’t even two ships passing in the night; they were traveling by two completely different seas. It was for the best though. Woohyun could focus on fixing his console, a task that he’d been neglecting for a long while now.
He had grown complacent here, drawn in by the wonders that were in the Earthling city, tied down by the friendships that he made. It wasn’t part of his original plan, to grow attached to his surroundings. He was supposed to stay for a week or two and move on, rolling to his next spot, and keep rolling, rolling, rolling all over the Earth (and once his ship was fixed, the galaxy). That was the life he’d come to know.
But when he adopted the name Nam Woohyun, he must’ve also picked up the traits relating to that name. Just like a namu, a tree, he grew roots. But he also flourished. He felt himself blossom into a new being, with a heart as beautiful as the cherry blossoms. However, he must be reaching the autumn in this identity. He was losing that beauty, that vitality, and soon he’d be just another dead tree once winter comes. Woohyun closed his eyes. He didn’t want to imagine what destruction that he could create in his winter. He should leave while his leaves were still changing.
Woohyun got up from his chair and took the console into his hands. With his free hands, he put on a bookbag full of tools that he’d need to fix his ship. He opened up the door to the living room, and almost dropped the newly fixed console in surprise. Sunggyu was there, sleeping on the couch. Woohyun’s eyes flew to the living room window. It was pitch-black outside. He sighed. He’d gotten AM and PM mixed up again. And Sunggyu had fallen asleep while watching the television. Woohyun put the console down and walked over in order to turn off the television. Once he did, he turned around and stared at his sleeping roommate, who was drooling on the pillow with his mouth hanging wide-open. His work and studies were taking a toll on him and wearing him down. And Woohyun wasn’t making the situation any better.
The alien walked carefully back to the console and picked it up, trying not to disturb the other. He then tiptoed out of the apartment.
There were a lot of things that he could fix and replace, but Sunggyu wasn’t one of them.
Woohyun had hidden his ship on a side of a mountain without a trail nearby so that humans wouldn’t stumble upon it accidentally. It also wasn’t so much of a ship as it was an escape pod, small and cramped. It wasn’t built for long journeys. But it was also difficult to detect because of its size. In it, he was just a quark in the vast cloud of space. For him, it was perfect, if only it weren’t broken.
The alien put down the console and rolled his shoulders, cracking his neck, before getting to work. However, he was slowed on his repairs by his distracted mind. Lately, he’d been trying to think before he acted, trying not to be so impulsive. And now, he’d have to plan his next step out carefully. If he were to stay on Earth, he’d have to go as far away from Sunggyu as possibly could. But the place would have to be either well populated so that he could be absorbed into the mass or so little populate that his only neighbors would be penguins or polar bears. If he were to eject himself out into the galaxy again, he’d have to keep up this nomadic, tiresome lifestyle. And he would more likely to land in hot water once again, having to learn the new customs of new cultures, changing his identity, maybe even running into the intergalactic police. Then, there was always the option of running back to his creator, who would most likely put him down like the troublesome, rabid dog he was.
No matter which way he looked, every path looked grim and, quite frankly, terrifying. Yes, although Woohyun was one of the most dangerous things out there, he was growing increasingly scared by his future.
The alien sighed and tried to knock the thoughts out of his head with a few good thumps with his wrench. Thinking was troublesome. It would be better just to focus on the task at hand.
And focus he did, until the sun’s rays peaked over the mountainside. Woohyun didn’t stop until he felt the rays beating against his back. He turned around and was blinded by the brightness of the morning sun. It was time for him to go back, and with any luck, Sunggyu would’ve already left for work.
Woohyun should’ve known that his creator didn’t give him a lucky bone in his body. When he got back, Sunggyu was awake and in the kitchen, pouring himself a travel mug full of coffee. Woohyun tried to casually walk into his room, but the ships were finally in the same sea now and were heading for a collision. Sunggyu peered at the other out of the corner of his eye. “You, come home earlier,” he chided the alien. Woohyun groaned and threw his bookbag down before walking into the kitchen, ready to face off. But when he finally met with the other, face-to-face for the first time in days, Woohyun lost all resolve. Sunggyu’s eyes softened and a warm smile spread across his face as he joked, “I was about to put up flyers.” He leaned against the counter and took a sip from his mug before continuing. “Missing Alien: short, purple hair, answers to Nam Woohyun, loves dramas and bubbles, thinks that everything is food.”
“Well, I’m here, so you don’t have to bother with that,” Woohyun replied with a scoff, which he did to cover up the laughter rising up in him. He then grabbed a banana off the counter and proceeded to eat it. “And I don’t think everything is food,” he retorted with his mouth full.
Sunggyu smirked and put down his mug. He then took up a banana into his hand and made a show of peeling it before taking a large bite out of it. Woohyun quickly glanced down at the fruit in his own hands, noticing that he’d been eating it with the peel. Stupid Earth and its stupid ways. You can’t eat a banana with the peel? But you do that with an apple! What? Are you supposed to peel oranges too? Woohyun thought as he removed the peel from the entire banana and tossed it aside. He then took a large bite out of remaining fruit. Huh, that actually tastes better and is less chewy. Not bad. I should peel more things.
He then raised his gaze back up to his roommate and saw Sunggyu’s warm smile fall down. Wooohyun lowered his gaze back down. What did he do wrong this time? He looked about him and saw the banana peel on the ground. That could be dangerous. He then picked it up and threw it into the trashcan. And while his back was turned, Sunggyu began speaking to him again, “Woohyun, are you worried about bothering me again?” Woohyun slowly turned back to face the other, and now Sunggyu was the one averting his gaze, playing with the lid of his travel mug. “I know that I have a short temper, and I yell a lot. But you’re never a bother to me. I mean it,” Sunggyu confessed.
Woohyun cocked his head to the side, and he felt his antennae fall to the side as well. Sunggyu, he felt guilty; that was why he stopped smiling. It hadn’t been because of anything Woohyun had done. You’re not the only one who destroys things, okay? I mess up too. We all f**k up, Sunggyu had told him that before, but it was still a truth that 626 wasn’t used to. But still, even if that were true, the problem at hand had grown larger than just being a nuisance to Kim Sunggyu. It was about being a nuisance to everyone around him. It was about fleeing for everyone’s safety, including his own. “I’m not thinking that,” Woohyun partially lied.
“Then why are you avoiding me?” Sunggyu barked back. “Was it because of…” Sunggyu paused to put the mug down. He crossed his arms over his chest, guarding himself and his heart. His frown deepened. And Woohyun could guarantee, if Sunggyu had floppy ears like he did, they would be pulled back and flat against his head. Everything about him screamed ‘defensive,’ including his raised voice: “Did you not like it? Did you change your mind? You said it was a bad idea. Why?”
Woohyun sighed and relaxed his posture, unlike the other who was stiffer than a board. “You mean other than you being a human and me being a dangerous, experimental creature genetically encoded for destruction?” the alien pointed out to the other.
Sunggyu fixed his gaze on the floor and rubbed the back of his neck. “Yea…” he yielded.
Woohyun’s ears perked up. That doesn’t bother you? That I’m like this? Woohyun took in another deep breath, calming himself down. He ran his fingers through his hair and pushed his ears back down. No, I made up my mind. It was bad. He opened his eyes again, seeing Sunggyu staring straight back at him. There was an obvious fear in the human’s eyes, but a fear of what? Woohyun decided not to ask about that, fighting down his impulses, but he pressed on with the issue at hand: “In what way would it be a good idea?”
“Well…I liked it. Didn’t you?”
“I did,” Woohyun couldn’t deny that. He knew that he liked it. He also knew that he liked it a little too much. It filled him with a feeling that he had never felt before, that he couldn’t put a name to, and it scared him. His eyes probably looked much like Sunggyu’s right now, terrified.
But then the fear left, at least in Sunggyu’s eyes. A twinkle flickered dimly in them like a candle in the dark night. And faint smile was pulled tightly across his face as he nodded. “Then…we both liked it, so it’s good,” Sunggyu concluded.
Woohyun started laughing. He wasn’t sure at what. Maybe it was the so-called ‘butterflies’ in his stomach tickling him. “Okay,” Woohyun muttered, wanting to put an end to the conversation (and hopefully this feeling along with it. He was growing panicked because of it). “Don’t you have to go to work?”
Sunggyu glanced down at his watch, and the fear returned again in his eyes. “Oh shit! Thanks.” Sunggyu then stepped closer to Woohyun, and the alien fought the urge to step back, afraid of it happening again (but at the same time, wanting it to happen). But luckily(?) it didn’t. Sunggyu raised his hand and petted his head, fixing the other’s hair after he had messed it up. “See, you aren’t a bother at all. Bye!” the human said waving with both of his hands. Sunggyu then grabbed his mug and left the kitchen and almost left the apartment entirely, if it weren’t for one thing holding him back. “Damn it. Woohyun! My shoes! Where are my shoes?” he yelled from the doorway.
“Under the couch,” Woohyun yelled back. He laughed to himself and shook his head. He couldn’t help but to cause mischief. “Yea, I gotta go.”
Sunggyu scanned the living room of the apartment, and his gaze lingered on his roommate who finally resumed watching his dramas and taking notes (or just drawing in his notebook with a distracted mind). Sunggyu was glad that things were back to normal between them, or somewhat normal. Maybe even better than normal. Woohyun had confessed that he’d liked the kiss, and that made Sunggyu very pleased with himself.
He smirked as there was a fluttering in his chest. When was the last time that he felt like this? Actually, never. Sunggyu had never felt like this towards someone before. It was more than just a fluttering in his chest. He felt like he was composed and falling apart at the same time. It probably had to do with his conflicting feelings towards the other. Woohyun was his roommate, his friend, his pet, his…alien. And Sunggyu liked his alien a lot.
Sunggyu thought that he had burned this bridge that day in the bathroom, but he didn’t. He managed to salvage it and refurbish it until it was better than new. Unfortunately, he had another bridge in danger of falling into ruin.
“Woohyun,” Sunggyu called to his roommate. The alien raised his gaze from the drawings in his notebook. “I have to make a phone call, okay?”
“Okay,” Woohyun replied and returned to his drawings.
Right, things were better between him and Woohyun. The alien was also starting to learn boundaries and didn’t even ask who Sunggyu was calling, why he was calling, and whatever question his 5-D mind could think of. Sunggyu sat up and then leaned over, ruffling his roommate’s hair before leaving. Woohyun was acting so mild-mannered lately; it made Sunggyu proud, and he couldn’t help but to ‘reward’ the alien like so.
After he closed the door to the bedroom, he dialed the number into his phone. He had been sending Myungsoo messages to call him or to meet with him, even messages that apologized for everything. But Myungsoo never responded to any of them. He only read them and left Sunggyu hanging. And so after several days of silence, Sunggyu needed to hear his dongsaeng’s voice and called him for the first time since the fight.
However, he was surprised to hear Myungsoo answer after the first ring. “Hey hyung,” it was cold and annoyed.
“Oh, you picked up,” Sunggyu responded, chuckling softly. He wasn’t used to having such thick tension between them. “You weren’t answering my messages.”
“You didn’t call,” Myungsoo answered curtly.
Sunggyu bit back his lips, trying his best not to laugh, especially not laugh at Myungsoo because that would only make the situation worse. This kid was waiting for me to call him. Indeed, Kim Myungsoo knew Sunggyu well, well enough to what Sunggyu would do when he reached the end of his rope. “Can we go somewhere and talk? I’ll buy,” Sunggyu offered.
“If you’re buying…okay. But just because of that,” Myungsoo responded before hanging up, still feigning disinterest, but the law student gave himself away already when he answered the call within the first ring.
Regardless, Myungsoo still maintained that front when they met at the coffee shop near the younger’s apartment (Sunggyu made sure that he chose a place without much food so that the younger wouldn’t focus solely on the food). Myungsoo sat there with arms tightly crossed over his chest and avoided Sunggyu’s gaze, opting to look out the window instead. Yes, he was still acting like he was angry with the elder. But every-so-often, Myungsoo would quickly look at Sunggyu out of the corner of his eye, making sure that he was still there. Myungsoo still might’ve been harboring resentment against the other, but he still missed Sunggyu all the same.
Sunggyu leaned forward, against the table. “Myungsoo-yah, I’m sorry,” he began. Myungsoo now faced forward, staring the other down with a flat expression. “I’m a bad hyung who didn’t trust his dongsaeng. It’s not that I thought you’d hate me for it. It’s that…I didn’t want you to act differently around me,” Sunggyu tried to phrase it as delicately as he could as to not hurt the other’s feelings.
But he still did. The corner of Myungsoo’s mouth twitched downwards in annoyance. “Why would I?” the younger challenged.
“Because people do,” Sunggyu snapped back. “Once they know that I’m, aish…” he couldn’t finish that statement, not in a crowded and quiet place like this, where it was possible for strangers to overhear. Sunggyu buried his hot face in his hands.
“Gay,” Myungsoo finished for him in a low but matter-of-fact tone.
“Yes, hehe,” Sunggyu tried to cover up the other’s statement with his nervous laughter. He then cleared his throat before continuing, “Um, they act as if I’d be attracted to them or go overboard to show that they’re okay with it. Howon was like that for a while. It makes things uncomfortable. I didn’t want to have that with you. You’re like my little brother, like family.”
A smile cracked across Myungsoo’s ice-cold face, his whole expression warming up. “Okay. Go on,” he urged the other with a wave of his hand.
Sunggyu cocked his head in confusion, but then he noted the hint of mischievousness hidden in the corner of Myungsoo’s lips. “There’s some thing that you want,” the elder concluded. Myungsoo nodded happily. “What is it?”
“You know,” the law student replied.
And Sunggyu did. It wasn’t a difficult thing to figure out. “You want to talk to Woohyun.”
Myungsoo pouted. “Howon-hyung got to play soccer with him. It’s not fair,” he grumbled. “Just a little interview. There are some things that I’m curious about. I promise that I’ll be very gentle with him,” he practically begged the other.
And Sunggyu was in no condition to turn him down, even though he had reservations about it. “Okay, just don’t interrogate him like he’s on the witness stand,” he laid out the conditions.
Myungsoo scoffed. “But that’s no fun.”
“Kim Myungsoo,” Sunggyu said his name in a warning tone and narrowed his gaze on the other.
Myungsoo put his hands up in the air, admitting defeat. “Okay, okay,” he relented. He finally unfolded his arms and took a sip out of the mug in front of him. Once he was done, he placed the mug down and looked up at the other. “Hyung, thanks for calling,” he said and then grinned.
“Of course,” Sunggyu responded with a curt nod. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Myungsoo replied without a second thought and said nothing else, not qualifying how he loved the elder, not adding a ‘no-homo.’ It was just ‘I love you too.’ That was it.
It was as if the bridge between Myungsoo and Sunggyu had been in any danger at all. They survived the fire, intact and just as strong as before.
Before the interview was held, Sunggyu laid down more specifications, since he wasn’t going to be there to keep Woohyun in check. First, the interview was to take place in their apartment, at the kitchen table. Second, there was absolutely no video or audio recording allowed. It’s not that he didn’t trust Myungsoo with whatever recordings that would come from the interview. He didn’t trust Woohyun who was easily fascinated by human mechanizations. He’d probably tear apart whatever tape recorder or camera that Myungsoo had brought. And then Myungsoo would be sad. And it was a problem that Sunggyu would rather not have. Third, neither of them were to invade each other’s personal bubbles, and they were to keep their hands to themselves. Even though he was studying law and crime, Myungsoo still had a naïve streak in him and was too trusting. And Woohyun could abuse that trust and do who-knows-what with the other. Sunggyu had images of Woohyun easily turning the tables and putting Myungsoo under the microscope, literally…mostly because he had asked Sunggyu if he could examine him once or twice so that he could study the human body up close. And Sunggyu kindly responded by throwing his heavy anatomy books at the other (and Woohyun did mutter ‘thanks’ under that pile of books).
In short, there were a lot of things that could go wrong with this ‘friendly’ inquisition. And no matter how many times Myungsoo had told him not to worry, Sunggyu’s nerves only grew. Now he was chewing on the pad of his thumb as he stared at the clock, waiting for his shift to be over so that he could go home and put an end to it. But time was slowly ticking by, and Myungsoo’s close-up encounter with the alien was finally beginning.
Woohyun opened up the door only to find Myungsoo on the other side, dressed sharply in a suit and holding a briefcase at his side. With his free hand, the law student gave as slight wave, and with a composed smile on his face he asked, “Good afternoon, Woohyun-ssi. Is Sunggyu-ssi around?”
“No,” Woohyun answered.
Myungsoo’s smile grew wider and crooked. “Good. No interference. Let’s get started,” he urged the other, patting the alien on the shoulder as he brushed past him and entered the apartment. Well, rule number three had just flown out the window, violated within the first minute of their meeting. Woohyun smirked as he followed the other to the kitchen table. Myungsoo had broken the rule first, which meant that he wasn’t culpable. And it would only be fair if Woohyun got to touch the other and even the score. But where should he touch? Woohyun scanned the law student who was busying himself with the papers from his briefcase, completely unaware of Woohyun’s plotting. And then Woohyun saw it. His eyes fixed on his target: a curious depression in Myungsoo’s cheek. What was that? Sunggyu didn’t have one. Sunggyu’s cheeks were full and squishy like pudding. But this, this little sunken spot on Myungsoo’s cheek was just begging for Woohyun to dig his finger into there. Then Myungsoo raised his head, and the cheek smoothed out, as if the depression had never been there at all.
“Where did it go?” Woohyun muttered under his breath, blinking quickly.
Myungsoo hadn’t heard the alien’s musing and instead began his own line of questioning: “What planet are you from, Woohyun-ssi?”
Woohyun then forgot all about Myungsoo’s cheek and answered, “I’m not from any planet. I was an experiment.” He was straight-forward, as he had nothing more to hide from the other, except his spaceship. Myungsoo looked like he’d be a poor pilot.
The aspiring lawyer’s eyes twinkled with delight at that answer. “Interesting,” he praised. He then turned his attention to the stack of papers in front of him, flipping through several pages. “One moment please,” he begged. “That series of questions dealt with your home planet.” He shuffled through several more pages before his mouth fell open. “Oh, here we go,” he said gleefully. And it came back! The little divot in his cheek. Woohyun lifted himself out of his chair a little, hovering. He slowly leaned over the table, his index finger extended and ready to poke. But Myungsoo raised his head before the alien could satisfy his curiosity. They gazed at each other for a few seconds like that, completely frozen. Myungsoo was the first to thaw and pressed the pad of his index finger against Woohyun’s. “Hoi!” he exclaimed and broke out to a chuckle afterwards. He dropped his finger, and Woohyun dropped back down into his seat, confused. “Did hyung make you watch Doolly?”
“Doodly? No, we didn’t watch that,” Woohyun answered and flexed his finger. Why did humans have such a strange fixation on alien’s fingertips? Nothing seemed special about it to Woohyun, maybe a bit dirty, but nothing special.
However, Myungsoo wasn’t about to let that tangent skew him from his line of questioning. “Woohyun-ssi, when we were at the restaurant, you showed us that the backs of your ears were furry, why is that?” he asked.
Woohyun’s hands flew to his ears, and he rubbed them gently. “I’m not sure. But this isn’t how I really look,” he admitted.
Myungsoo quirked his head. “How do you really look?”
“Like this.” Woohyun dropped his hands and wiggled in his seat until his other two arms snuck out from under his sweatshirt. He then shook his head until his ears grew long and his antennae cropped out from his nest of hair.
“Daebak,” the law student muttered, mouth hanging wide out of shock. But then he tried to recover his professional composure. He cleared his throat and shuffled the papers in front of him. “Um, er, um,” he struggled to find something coherent to say. But only one thought flew across his mind again and again: “You have four arms.”
“Yes, I do!” Woohyun said proudly. “I think they make me a better dancer. Look at this.” He got up from his seat and proceeded to do some dance moves that he’d seen from the music shows. Popping. Locking. A moonwalk. A four-armed wave. “No one can do a wave like this,” he boasted. Myungsoo laughed at the other’s show and tried to do a wave himself from where he was sitting. Woohyun grinned smugly as he sat back down. “See you can’t do it.”
“True,” Myungsoo admitted. He then pushed his papers aside and folded his hands, bringing them up to his lips as he stared intently at Woohyun, pondering his next question. His eyes narrowed as it came to him. “So, you said that you’re an experiment. What are you? Or better yet, what are you supposed to be?” he asked.
“Me? Um…” Woohyun was caught off guard by this question. For some reason, the alien didn’t think that they’d breech the topic of his true identity. But, what Woohyun had learn from dramas was that lawyers could be astute and clever, sometimes in dangerous ways. He could confess his past to Sunggyu, but Sunggyu was Sunggyu. He was different. Then again, it was Sunggyu who agreed to this interview, so it should be okay. Woohyun took in a deep breath before answering, “I think that I was a failed experiment, but I’m supposed to—”
Woohyun head and ears snapped over to the doorway where his security officer was now standing with the door flung wide-open. As quickly as he could, Woohyun curled up into a ball and returned back to his human form before unfolding again. “Dongwoo? What are you doing here?” Woohyun muttered, getting up from his seat to greet his friend.
Dongwoo, however, walked right past Woohyun and right up to Myungsoo. The officer put his hands on his hips and clicked his tongue. “I see that you’re speaking to my client without his lawyer present,” he chided the student.
“Lawyer?” Woohyun repeated as he came back into the kitchen table.
“Yes, me. Jang Dongwoo, esquire,” the officer introduced himself, adding a new title to his name. He then turned back to Myungsoo and extended his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
The student got up from his chair and shook Dongwoo’s hand warmly. “Kim Myungsoo. Nice to meet you, Dongwoo-ssi. Shall we proceed with the deposition then?” he asked and gestured to the chair at the other side of the table.
“No. My client refrains. I don’t think that it’s in his best interest,” Dongwoo replied curtly and with as stern of a face as Woohyun had ever seen. It was scary to see the usually cheerful officer so serious. “If you want him to talk, get a subpoena.”
Myungsoo smirked. “Oh, I will,” he assured the other ‘lawyer.’ He then gathered up his belongings, stuffing them into his suitcase. Before he left, he spoke a few words to the alien, “Woohyun-ssi, we’ll continue this discussion later.” He patted Woohyun on the shoulder again, and the alien finally took the opportunity to poke at the depression in Myungsoo’s smiling cheek. It was just as satisfying as he thought it would be. They both then giggled. But Myungsoo’s face fell, and Woohyun’s finger fell from his cheek. The student had his eyes on the officer. “Dongwoo-ssi,” he spoke in a grave tone before giving him a short bow and leaving.
“Bye bye,” Woohyun bid farewell to the other, waving with both of his hands. Myungsoo laughed again and waved back before shutting the door behind him. And once he was gone, Woohyun faced his friend. “Why are you here?” he asked, disgruntled that his interview had been cut short.
“To rescue you,” Dongwoo replied as he went over to the fridge and opened it up, putting his head deep inside.
“From what? I don’t mind telling Myungsoo about me,” Woohyun argued.
Dongwoo sighed and pulled his head back out, along with two cans fit snuggly in his hand. He offered one to Woohyun. “That’s why I’m here. To rescue you from yourself,” he explained. Dongwoo then popped the tab of his drink, took a swig from it, and gestured towards the door. “Can you trust him?”
Woohyun guessed that Dongwoo was talking about Myungsoo and not the door (he had mixed feelings about that door. The bathroom door he liked, but the front door rubbed him the wrong way). “Sunggyu does,” the alien answered and tried to open up his own drink like Dongwoo had. But the tab came right off without opening the can. Woohyun frowned and stared at the can for a few seconds before deciding to punch a hole through the top with his thumb. Close enough.
“And that’s good enough for you?” Dongwoo challenged.
“Yes, it is,” Woohyun answered without a pause. “Hyung has good judgment.”
Dongwoo sucked in a breath harshly. “That may be so, but let me vet him first so that I can have peace of mind,” the officer begged.
Woohyun didn’t see the problem. “He already knows about me, sort of,” he pointed out.
“Both you and I know that you’re more than just an alien,” Dongwoo returned his point with another. “We don’t want the wrong people to get their hands on you.”
“Right,” Woohyun muttered under his breath, hanging his head and placing the drink on the counter. But then his ears twitched, replaying what Dongwoo had said again. He raised his head slowly. “Wait. You know that I’m an alien?!”
“Uh…Sunggyu-ssi told me. Yea, he did. He told Howon and Myungsoo. Why not me!” Dongwoo blubbered. He then took a long drink from the can, eyes rolling back as he did so, as if he were literally trying to see the answer in his mind. After he finished his drink, Dongwoo slammed it back down on the counter. “And he told me the rest…to explain any damages done to your apartment. Yes, yes. I’ll just turn a blind eye to the fact you caused a power outage to the entire building,” he answered everything fully.
“That was one time!” Woohyun argued, folding his arms across his chest with a huff. “I didn’t think it’d overload that easily.”
“Now you do!” Dongwoo said, patting the other on the back. “Hey, do you wanna patrol around the building with me? I’ll let you hold the flashlight,” he offered, pulling his flashlight out of his utility belt and handing it over to the other.
“Okay,” the alien agreed, taking the flashlight from the other.
“Just don’t put it in your mouth this time, okay? It’s not food,” Dongwoo joked as the two of them began to walk out of the apartment.
“I don’t think everything is food!”
“A birthday party?” Sunggyu repeated into the receiver. His eyes drifted over to his roommate who was sitting next to him on the couch. Woohyun had asked Sunggyu about what ‘Doodly’ was, and so Sunggyu put on a couple episodes of Doolly for them to watch. However, Woohyun had lost interest in the dancing, green dinosaur quickly. He was writing in his notebook, writing about who knows what. Every time Sunggyu leaned over to sneak a peek, Woohyun would scoot away. The alien was on the extreme end of the couch, almost hanging off as he wrote in his notebook over the armrest. It only made Sunggyu all the more curious. Maybe when he’s asleep.
“Yes, I want to host a party for your birthday,” a woman’s voice spoke on the other side of the line.
Sunggyu’s attention snapped back to the conversation. The offer was quite unexpected. The phone call in general was unexpected. He had no idea that Howon’s wife, Mimi, had his phone number to begin with, and now she was inviting their whole gang for none other than his birthday. Of course, his birthday was just an excuse. What they really would be celebrating was their reconciliation. Mimi confessed that the split in their tight-knit group had been weighing on Howon’s mind, a lot. He’d been staying home more often and sullen, ever since the fight with Myungsoo. And so his wife wanted to celebrate the return of Howon’s smile.
And underlying all of that was the fact that Sunggyu no longer had someone special to celebrate his birthday with. He’d broken up, and his family was still hours away. Or at least Howon thought that Sunggyu didn’t have anyone special. His eyes flickered again towards the alien nearly falling off the edge of the couch. Sunggyu didn’t just have someone special; he had someone who was one of a kind.
“Can Woohyun come?” he asked her. Sunggyu felt the cushions underneath him shift. Woohyun was moving closer to his roommate at the mention of his name. The alien’s long furry ear was standing straight on its end as Woohyun pressed his cheek against the backside of Sunggyu’s phone, trying to listen into the conversation.
“Oh, that’s your roommate, right? Sure,” Mimi responded back happily. “I’ll be making more than enough food anyway. Tell him to bring his appetite.”
Sunggyu pulled away from the other and gave him a slight shove. Woohyun’s ear fell down as he frowned, or at least tried to. He was holding a pen tightly in his mouth, so he lips just pulled into a straight line. It looked weird. If he wants to pout, he might as well do it properly. Sunggyu reached over, and with a couple of tugs (Woohyun wasn’t letting go of it easily) he pulled the pen out of the alien’s fangs. Sunggyu sighed as he looked at the pen, tooth marks decorated its sides. “Oh he will,” he mumbled. “Thanks for doing this. We’ll see you then,” he said to Mimi before hanging up.
He then looked over at the one next to him. He rapt the top of Woohyun’s head with the chewed pen. “Yah. Stop it,” he chided. “You have four arms. Why do you keep holding things in your mouth?”
“My hands are busy,” Woohyun answered casually. Busy? Two of his hands were stuffed in the front pocket of his hoodie, and the other two were gripping tightly onto his notebook. What’s in there? Woohyun was guarding it so dearly. Why won’t he let me see it? I thought we didn’t keep secrets from each other anymore.
“Whatever,” Sunggyu grumbled as he furiously shook his head, knocking those troublesome thoughts right out. “In any case, we’re going to Howon’s for my birthday. Only put food in your mouth then, okay? His wife still doesn’t know about you.”
“Okay, but…” Woohyun began and placed the notebook on top of the coffee table. Sunggyu’s gaze followed the notebook. If he was quick, really really quick, maybe he could…“Hyung, what’s a birthday?”
Sunggyu’s eyes were ripped away from the notebook and fell on Woohyun. “A birthday?” he repeated quietly. It had been so long since the other had asked questions like this. Sunggyu had almost forgotten that Woohyun wouldn’t be familiar with something like a birthday. In spite of the extra set of arms and cute, dog-like ears, he’d almost forgotten that Woohyun wasn’t like him.
Sunggyu shook his head again, pushing those thoughts, feelings, into the deep recesses of his mind. He closed his eyes tightly as he did so. He could think about all that stuff later, now Woohyun needed an answer. “It’s exactly what it sounds like: it’s the day on which a person was born,” Sunggyu replied, slowly opening his eyes. “You celebrate it every year with family and friends. They celebrate you and show that they are grateful that you’re alive and in their lives. They give you gifts, buy you dinner, and bake you cakes. Last year, I got three cakes,” he bragged, holding up three fingers for emphasis. Woohyun’s jaw dropped. “Yea, people like me that much,” Sunggyu added, nodding proudly. Then he clapped his hands, suddenly remembering something else, “Oh! And there’s candles on the cakes, and when you blow them out, you make a wish.”
“I want that!” Woohyun exclaimed as he jumped forward onto the couch, on all six. “I want cakes and wishes! Can I have one?” he asked desperately.
“Sure. When were you born?” Sunggyu asked, turning towards the other. He wouldn’t mind celebrating Woohyun, not at all. They could throw him a birthday party easily.
“That’s what I want, a birthday,” Woohyun clarified, pulling himself up straight again, ears flat against his head. “I don’t have one of those.”
“You don’t?” Sunggyu asked. His grew to twice their size. That was right. Woohyun wasn’t like him in the slightest. “Well, when were you…created?” Sunggyu rephrased.
“I was a part of a series of experiments. 626 was just an iteration of that, but in the process, I was born and died several times, so…when did it stick?” Woohyun answered. His voice drifted off and his eyes rolled back as he tried to find a fixed date in his mind.
Sunggyu waved his hands, dismissing all of that. “Let’s just pick a new date, okay? That’s too complicated,” he declared. Sunggyu then got up from the couch and fetched the calendar hanging on the wall before returning to his spot. He then offered it to Woohyun and pointed at the date circled in red, April 28th. “Just don’t pick any day around this one. That’s my birthday,” he ordered.
“Got it,” Woohyun mumbled as he began flipping through the calendar. He then huffed, flipping back and forth between pages. “There are a lot of days to choose from.”
“Yup. Over 300,” Sunggyu answered back with a slight laugh. Then a brilliant idea came to his mind: “626. How about June 26th? That would be cool. It’s your name and your birthdate.”
Woohyun lowered the calendar to his lap and glowered at the other. “That’s not my name,” he sneered. His hair bristled. “My name is Nam Woohyun. That’s just…a stupid number.” The alien took up the calendar again and resumed his search. “I don’t like it,” he grumbled under his breath.
A grin pulled across Sunggyu’s face. Woohyun wasn’t like him, but the alien was trying, trying to become like a human. The effort touched Sunggyu; his heart swelled with pride. That’s right. You can be whatever you want to be. “What number do you like?” Sunggyu asked, scooting closer to help the other, but Woohyun didn’t seem to need it anymore. He stopped flipping awhile ago. The page for February remained open.
“I really like this number. Can it be this instead?” Woohyun begged, pointing to a date early in the month.
“February 8th? It’s already passed, but okay,” Sunggyu replied. He picked up the chewed pen and took the calendar away from the alien. Carefully, he wrote ‘Woohyunnie’s Birthday ^^’ in letters so big that it spilled over onto the 9th and 15th. Sunggyu then proudly showed his handiwork to the other. “We’ll celebrate it starting next year. How is that?”
Woohyun shifted side to side. “Eung,” he grunted as his eyes darted away from the calendar and around the room. Sunggyu screwed his face in confusion and tried to follow where the other was looking. But he couldn’t see anything so far. “I won’t be here.”
“Huh?” It was barely audible, but Sunggyu could’ve sworn that he heard Woohyun imply that he’d be gone. Sunggyu swallowed harshly before asking with a shaky voice, “What did you say?”
“Uh…I want beer,” it was an obvious lie. Woohyun wouldn’t meet his gaze.
“Really? I thought you didn’t like it,” Sunggyu argued.
Woohyun’s head snapped up. He was looking at the other head-on, a little to strongly. “Now I do,” he insisted.
“Alright, if that’s what you really want,” Sunggyu said in disbelief. His eyes remained fixed on Woohyun as much as possible as he went to go fetch the alien a beer. Woohyun was acting suspicious. I could’ve sworn that I heard him say…Sunggyu sighed abandoning that thought again. Woohyun wouldn’t. Woohyun couldn’t leave him now. Where would he go? Woohyun had nowhere else he belonged. And things were good between them, right? Better than ever?
Sunggyu walked back to the couch. Woohyun was fixated on the game again. Sunggyu pressed the cool can against the other’s cheek and laughed when the alien jumped up in shock. And he’s supposed to be some dangerous monster. “Here,” Sunggyu offered with a laugh and sat down next to him. He carefully watched Woohyun pop the tab and take a swig.
“Ugh, that’s gross,” he immediately retched, pouring most of the amber liquid from his mouth back into the can. Sunggyu’s laugh grew into a roar. “That’s gross, and you’re gross for drinking it,” Woohyun barked. He then quickly got up from his seat to go rinse his mouth out.
The laughter finally died down once the alien was out of sight. This was the time to strike, to find out what his roommate had been hiding from him. Sunggyu’s eyes slowly turned towards the coffee table. “Damn,” he cursed. The notebook was gone. And that only seemed to be further evidence that Woohyun was hiding something from him. Sunggyu turned around and saw the alien guzzling down water in the kitchen.
I thought we didn’t keep secrets from each other anymore.
The next day, Sunggyu left for his internship. Woohyun had stayed out all night again. Sunggyu was growing more and more worried by the other’s behavior, but at the same time, he didn’t know what to do about it. Was Woohyun still concerned about the kiss? Or was there a new worry plaguing the alien’s mind? Sunggyu scoured through his mind, searching for all the possibilities and coming up dry. His eyes lingered on the door as he did so. But then something else caught his eyes. Those gleaming, golden numbers decorating his door: 208. Sunggyu laughed to himself. “It can’t be,” he muttered. 208, February 8th. Woohyun had made their room number his birthday. “E.T. is so cheesy,” Sunggyu whispered as he tapped his fingers against those numbers. His heart felt calm again before leaving.
No matter what Woohyun was hiding from him, there was one thing that the alien couldn’t hide: his fondness for Sunggyu and their apartment. And Sunggyu was growing fond of both himself.
“Come on, in!” Mimi ushered the roommates inside as soon as she opened the door. “I made a lot of your favorites,” she told Sunggyu, the birthday boy, directly.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Sunggyu responded. Mimi smirked. Of course she had to. It was Kim Sunggyu’s birthday, and Kim Sunggyu would’ve caused a fuss if he disliked one dish on the table.
“I did. You’re like a brother to oppa,” she gave another excuse. It was Sunggyu’s birthday after all, so she should go easy on him. She then pointed to Woohyun who was standing closely next to Sunggyu with a hood pulled over his head. “So it this your roommate?” Mimi asked.
“Uh yes,” Sunggyu blubbered. He then nudged his roommate. “Introduce yourself,” he whispered harshly.
Woohyun stood up straight, as stiff as a board and introduced himself just as stiffly, “I’m Nam Woohyun, his roommate. I study…” Sunggyu whispered the answer to him. “FILM!” Woohyun exclaimed a little too loudly. Sunggyu sighed, dragging a hand down his face.
Mimi eyed the newcomer strangely, but then forced a warm smile on her face. “It’s nice to meet you,” she said. She then began to lead them further into the house. Soon, they were outside the dining room. “Well, take a seat. Oppa and Myungsoo-ssi are in there already, drinking,” Mimi pointed out. And sure enough, those two were already inside, drinking beer and joking with each other. Woohyun darted inside and sat down next to Myungsoo. Sunggyu smiled to himself. It was good that those two got along so well.
“Sunggyu-ssi, I didn’t realize that your roommate was so young. An undergraduate?” Mimi stated as her eyes fixed on Woohyun.
“Eung. But he’s, um, mature for his age,” Sunggyu stammered out a response.
Mimi snorted. “If you say so.”
Sunggyu looked over in the direction that Mimi was, and he groaned as soon as he caught sight of his roommate with hoodie pulled tight and his hoodie strings tied in a bow underneath his chin. And now Woohyun was pulling over Myungsoo’s hoodie and tying it too. Sunggyu looked at Mimi out of the corner of his eye. “Myungsoo is doing the same thing,” he huffed under his breath. He then stepped inside and took his own seat. “You guys got started without me. Aren’t I the guest of honor?” he chided Myungsoo and Howon.
“You were late and we were hungry,” Howon replied before taking a drink.
Sunggyu lifted his hand and pointed next to him, at Woohyun. “It’s not my fault. This kid couldn’t figure out what to wear,” he grumbled. Woohyun kept trying to walk out of their apartment with his silly bucket hat. Sunggyu kept insisting that he’d been fine without a hat, that Mimi wouldn’t notice his ears. But in the end, they went with a hoodie. Sure, Woohyun looked like a ruffian now, but at least he was comfortable.
“I’ve never been to a birthday party before,” Woohyun chirped, bouncing in his seat.
“They don’t have birthdays where you’re from?” Mimi quickly joked in response. For all she knew, Woohyun was a country boy just like Howon told her. But the three other humans turned and stared at her with blank expressions. “It was a joke,” she defended herself. “You all need to get girlfriends so that I can have somebody to connect with.” Then all of the men turned away from Mimi and stared at Sunggyu. “Well, except for you of course,” Mimi said to Sunggyu, growing flustered by the second. She slunk over next to her husband and sat down. “I’m just going to not say anything for a while,” she grumbled.
Howon wrapped his arm around her shoulder, trying to console her. “I’m sorry. I have difficult friends,” he apologized.
“Hey,” Sunggyu objected between stuffing his face with food.
“It’s true,” Howon retorted. He then gestured around the table. “We are all from different parts of the country. It’s no wonder why we’re all on different pages. Some of us are reading completely different books,” he ended, eyes falling on Woohyun.
Woohyun took the other seriously. “I’m reading a book about a man who turns into a bug,” he chimed in.
“Kafka. Kafka,” Sunggyu clarified before taking a swig from his drink.
“See,” Howon responded, quirking an eyebrow. “Completely different books.”
“What are you reading?” Woohyun asked, still taking Howon’s metaphor seriously.
But this time, Howon answered just as seriously, “Me? Recently, nothing but case studies.”
“I’ve been the same, but with law,” Myungsoo added. He then groaned, untying the strings under his chin and pulling his hood down so that he rub his temples. “So much reading. I feel like my head is spinning.”
“That might be the beer,” Howon teased, pointing out the fact that Myungsoo’s drink was already empty.
“Right,” Myungsoo said with a small grin as he turned the glass in his hands. He then put it down. “Let’s not talk about work. What I do all day long is just talk and talk about law. Let’s talk about something else,” he suggested.
“Like what?” Sunggyu retorted with a laugh. “We have nothing else going on in our lives.”
“Well…” Myungsoo let that drift into the open air as his eyes fell on the alien besides him. It would seem that the aspiring lawyer was not done with his interrogation yet.
No, Sunggyu wouldn’t risk Woohyun’s identity getting exposed when they all had promised Howon to leave Mimi in the dark about it. Howon claimed that it would be ‘safer’ that way, probably saving his wife from having a mental breakdown. Sunggyu quickly changed the topic. “How about we go around the table, and everyone talk about how grateful they are that I’m here? Let’s go,” he suggested. His two friends just scoffed and continue eating. So Sunggyu tapped his hand on the table jokingly. “Hurry up,” he demanded.
“I’m grateful that you get my husband out of the house,” Mimi joked again, this time at Howon’s expense. Her husband narrowed his eyes on her. She laughed and clarified before giving him a kiss on the cheek, “He needs a good friend to complain about me to.”
Her husband then picked up from there. “I’m grateful that you got into the same internship as I did, so I can continue to kick your butt,” Howon teased with a wolfish smirk on his face. But then he dropped it as he quickly added. “And because, you know, I like you.” He then took a drink as if he didn’t say anything heartwarming at all.
Sunggyu grinned at that and then turned his attention to his loving dongsaeng. He reached behind Woohyun and grabbed at Myungsoo’s shoulders. “What about you?” Sunggyu asked him.
“Are we really doing this?” Myungsoo was growing flustered and rubbing the back of his neck. Sunggyu slid in over into the seat directly next to Myungsoo because the younger was talking quietly. He wanted to hear this. “I’m grateful for hyung because, uh…why are you looking at me like that?” Myungsoo stopped whatever he was saying and looked up at Sunggyu, who looked too expectant. Sunggyu shrugged and gestured for the other to continue. And Myungsoo did. “Because we accept each other.”
“We do,” Sunggyu agreed as he gave Myungsoo a one-armed hug. He then looked over to his other side. “And what about…” his voice caught in his throat. “Huh? Where did he go?” Woohyun wasn’t there. Sunggyu was now sitting where the alien was, should’ve been. And he didn’t even notice that his roommate had slunk away. Sunggyu got up from the table. He gulped before calling out the other’s name nervously, “Woohyun?”
“Maybe he went to the bathroom,” Myungsoo guessed.
That didn’t make Sunggyu feel any better. He was still uneasy. “Maybe,” he muttered as he began to sat back down. But before his butt hit the chair, he bolted upright again at a clatter coming from the kitchen. Sunggyu slowly turned in the direction of the noise, dreading it. His heart sank as he saw white clouds of smoke billowing out of the room.
“Oops,” the alien’s voice echoed in the silence.
“MY HOUSE!” Mimi screamed as she leapt out of her chair. But Howon was a step faster than she was. He held her back from going into the kitchen.
“Stay,” he urged her, forcing her back down in the chair. “I’ll go check it out.” Then, after taking a deep breath, he entered the smoke-filled room, yelling, “Yah! Woohyun-ah! Stop!” The smoke began to clear a bit. Woohyun had contained the fire and was slowly killing it, but not fast enough for Howon. Sunggyu could hear him shouting. “What are you doing? You’re ruining everything!” Sunggyu clenched his fist, shaking, and entered into the kitchen too.
It was hard to see anything in there. Sunggyu’s eyes were watering, but he could see a purple-headed blur cowering. “I didn’t mean to,” he heard Woohyun mumble before breaking out into a cough.
“The hell you did,” that was Howon. Sunggyu saw a second blur rising from the ground, fire extinguisher in his hands. “Why are you like this? Do you get some sick pleasure out of it?” Howon challenged. The smoke by now had almost entirely dissipated, and the scene was quite clear. The gas range had caught aflame. Everything around it was scorched. And Sunggyu’s birthday cake was laying in a crumpled heap on the floor, a sad victim amidst all of this chaos. “I thought Sunggyu was joking when he said that you destroyed everything that you touched. But you really do,” Howon spoke darkly to the other and then nodded in the direction of the door. “Leave.“
Sunggyu felt an anger rising inside of him. Woohyun can’t help it. He gnashed his teeth as the fire raged inside of him. He was ready to scorch everything around him too. “Yah! Lee Howon. What do you think you’re doing?” he yelled as he gripped his friend’s shoulder and forced him to turn towards him.
“Me? What am I doing? Shouldn’t you be asking him that?” Howon challenged and pointed behind himself. But when the two of them looked in the direction of his finger, no one was there. Once again, Woohyun had vanished. Howon’s head swung around as he scanned the kitchen, even searching the ceiling for any sign of the alien. “Huh, where did he go?”
“He left like you told him to,” Sunggyu growled. “And I’m going with him,” he announced about to leave the kitchen.
“Gyu! Wait!” Howon called after him and grabbed him by the shoulder, pulling his friend back to his side. “You should be careful around Woohyun,” he warned in a low voice.
Sunggyu turned to face him. “Why?” he challenged.
Howon fiddled with the extinguisher in his hands as his eyes kept searching the room. “There's something about him that I don't like. Don’t you think he does it on purpose?” he suggested.
“What? Destroy things?” he asked. Howon met his gaze and nodded slowly, still afraid that Woohyun would pop up out of somewhere. His knuckles were white as he clutched the extinguisher more tightly. Sunggyu cocked his head. Since when was Howon so scared of Woohyun? It had never showed before. But then again, when an alien almost destroys your home, maybe you reserve the right to be afraid. Sunggyu ran his fingers through his hair in frustration, wondering how much he should divulge to the other. “No, he doesn't. He's just...like that.”
“Really? Because to me, it seems like a call for attention. Like he can't stand you having someone else or even something else,” Howon argued.
Sunggyu waved his hand. “You're looking too much into it,” he dismissed his friend’s concerns.
“Am I?” Howon asked, pointing to himself. He was shocked. But he restrained himself, tucking his lips in as he set the extinguisher down. “Fine. You know the way out.”
It didn’t take long for Sunggyu to catch up with Woohyun. The alien wasn’t walking straight. He was slowly going step by step, and by the looks of it, Woohyun was heading straight for a pole. Sunggyu jogged up to him and grabbed his arm, pulling Woohyun back towards the middle of the sidewalk. Sunggyu sniggered once he saw the reason for Woohyun’s ‘drunken’ walking. He had pulled the hood so low that it covered his eyes. Sunggyu let go of his arm and pulled the hood back a little. He caught a glimpse of Woohyun’s shining and red eyes before the alien pulled the hood back down.
“Howon doesn’t like me, does he?” Woohyun mumbled. He then snorted, not even waiting for Sunggyu to answer. “Of course he wouldn’t. And you…” he paused, chewing on his lip. “I ruined your birthday party. I’m sorry.” He began walking away again. “Don’t worry about me. Go have fun with your friends.”
“I can’t. I was kicked out too!”
Woohyun stopped and turned around. “Huh?”
“I…” Sunggyu stopped because he was laughing too hard. “I was kicked out of my own birthday party,” he wheezed.
Woohyun walked back to the other, eyeing him curiously. “I don’t get it. How is it funny?” he asked.
“I…I don’t know,” Sunggyu sputtered. He then took in a few deep breaths, regaining his composure. He smiled at the other. “I’ve never been kicked out of anything,” he explained. “Let alone by Lee Howon. That guy might look tough, but he’s as vicious as a teddy bear.”
“Teddy bears are scary. You don’t know what they’ve seen,” Woohyun stated gravely, which sent Sunggyu into another peal of laughter.
“You’re funny,” Sunggyu remarked, wagging a finger at the alien. “Alright,” he urged the both of them as he wrapped an arm around the other’s shoulders. “Let’s have our own birthday party.”
Woohyun pulled up the rim of his hoodie and eyed the other skeptically. “You sure?”
“Eung. Let’s go,” he said as he began pulling the other with him down the street. “And don’t worry about Howon. He doesn’t understand you. He was like that with me once. I’m sure he’ll come around for you. He did for me,” he tried to assure the other.
“I really didn’t mean to ruin things. Please tell him that,” Woohyun begged. He then pulled his arms tightly across his chest. “It’s just that Mimi-ssi was getting suspicious. She wouldn’t stop staring at me. I didn’t know what was wrong, until I noticed that no one else was peeling off the skin of their mandu,” he explained. Sunggyu sniggered at that, which only made Woohyun winced. He sighed heavily before continuing. “I left, so she wouldn’t catch on that I was…different. I went to go see the cake, but then I noticed there weren’t candles. So I tried to…make…them,” he admitted the last part slowly as if it pained him to say. And it probably did. Sunggyu tightened his hold around Woohyun, his hand sliding over the alien’s chest. And like he thought, Woohyun’s heart was beating quickly and erratically. Sunggyu began soothing it like he had before, rubbing his thumb over the racing heart.
He also tried to make light of the situation. It wasn’t hard to. Lately, Sunggyu had been finding everything funny. “Make them?” he repeated, chuckling.
“Eung,” Woohyun grunted. He then stopped in his tracks, causing Sunggyu to stop besides him. The alien looked the other straight in the eye. “I really really didn’t mean to ruin things. I just wanted to help. I wanted to make sure that you got your wish.”
This kid…The chuckle fell away and all that was left was a surprised grin. Woohyun really was given too much care by his creator. “I know. I know that you didn’t mean to,” Sunggyu finally replied after a moment’s pause.
Woohyun smiled brightly. His chesire-like smile gleaming under his pink eyes. “You understand me,” the alien remarked.
Sunggyu nodded proudly. “Probably more than anyone,” he bragged. “I understand you so well that I probably even know what you’re going to think before you think it.”
“Really?” Woohyun scoffed. “What am I going to think in five minutes?”
Well, he’d gone and done it, him and his big mouth. Sunggyu didn’t have any ground for that boast. Woohyun’s mind thought too quickly; it was too impulsive for him to guess at. So Sunggyu did what he always did in these kinds of situations and turned it into a joke: “That I’m handsome?” He laughed nervously and dropped his arm from around the other as he confessed, “I don’t know.”
Woohyun laughed along with him. “You lie a lot,” he pointed out.
“Yea, I do,” Sunggyu admitted. He glanced at the other out of the corner of his eye. “Does it bother you?”
Woohyun shook his head. “No. It’s fun. Lying can be fun,” he replied.
Sunggyu snorted. “I’m not doing a good job of teaching how to be a good human, am I?” he posed to the other.
Woohyun shrugged. “Probably not.” He then faced the other as he revealed, “But I did learn something good.”
“What?” Sunggyu was surprised that he could impart anything good on the other lately. The only thing that he’d successfully done was get Woohyun to consistently call him ‘hyung.’
“On the annual celebration for the birth of someone special to you…”
“Birthday of a friend?” Sunggyu interrupted to clarify.
Woohyun raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t that what I said?” he asked. “Anyways, you give a gift.”
“You have a gift? For me?” Sunggyu questioned as he scanned the other. And sure enough, Woohyun was clutching a messenger bag by his side.
“Did I have a choice?” Woohyun asked with a smirk as he opened the bag.
“Nope! Gimme! Gimme!” Sunggyu demanded, his hand grabbing at the empty air until they had something to hold onto. Woohyun plopped his gift right into the other’s hands. Bright blue tennis shoes. Sunggyu glanced up at the alien. “Shoes?”
Woohyun nodded and then placed a hand over his heart. “I promise to never hide this pair of shoes,” he swore.
Sunggyu smirked. “But you’ll still hide all of the others?” he pointed out.
Sunggyu looked back down at the shoes. They were a little bright for his tastes, but…his thumbs ran across the sides of the shoes…but they were going to be his favorite pair of shoes. “At least I’ll have one pair to wear,” he responded. He then lifted the tongue of the shoes in order to check out the label. “Oh, It’s the wrong size. I’ll have to take them back,” he stated.
“WHAT?!” Woohyun gasped. Sunggyu looked over, and the alien appeared to be devastated. His ears were twitching like mad.
“I have to exchange them?” Sunggyu spoke slowly and tentatively. He didn’t want the other to get upset and change on the spot.
Woohyun reached for the shoes. “If you don’t like them, then just give them back,” he grumbled.
“NO! No, I like them,” Sunggyu exclaimed, turning away from the other, guarding the shoes. He glared back at the alien “I do. They’re just too small. I’ll get the exact same ones, just a different size.”
Woohyun cocked an eyebrow. “The exact same?”
Woohyun sputtered into a laugh. “Dummy. They won’t be the exact same if the sizes are different,” he stated. He side-eyed the other, clicking his tongue. “And you’re going to be a doctor.”
“Yah!” Sunggyu snapped at him. “It’s my birthday. Be nice,” he mumbled, pouting.
“Okay,” Woohyun agreed. He then paused, just gazing at the other for a few seconds. Sunggyu began to feel self-conscious and fidgeted with the shoes. The alien sighed and pulled his gaze up to the stars as he walked away. “You might be dumb, but you were right.”
“I’m always right,” Sunggyu retorted. He joined the other’s side again. “But what was I right about this time? Birthdays?”
“About what I’d think,” he admitted before darting off.
“Wait…what?” Sunggyu stammered as he tried to search his mind, sousing out what Woohyun meant. What he’d think. What he’d think…I’m handsome? Is that it? A wide grin spread across his face. “Yah Nam Woohyun!” Sunggyu tried to call after the other as he chased him. But Sunggyu gave up almost as soon as he started. Panting, he slowed his step. Woohyun was already a spec in the dark night. “Damn, E.T. is fast.” Sunggyu knew where the other was going anyway. He’d meet him at the apartment soon enough. So Sunggyu walked leisurely back. It was a nice night for a walk anyway.
Once he returned, he saw that the alien was already dressed in his pajamas and carrying snacks from the kitchen to the living room using all of his hands. “It must be nice to have all of those arms,” Sunggyu commented as he took his shoes off at the door.
Woohyun looked over at him. “It’s convenient,” he admitted.
“See, being an alien is better than a useless human like me or Howon,” Sunggyu pointed out. He walked over to Woohyun and only took a bag of chips and a drink from his hands. “I can only carry this much,” he demonstrated to the other. He then nodded towards the kitchen. “Go bring some more snacks.”
Woohyun pouted as he reached for the chips. “Those were mine,” he argued.
Sunggyu guarded them and jumped onto the couch and away from the other. “But it’s my birthday. This is how it works,” he explained, clutching the chip bag to his chest.
Woohyun gave a half-smile and yielded. “Okay,” he mumbled as he shuffled off into the kitchen.
Sunggyu grinned. That was easier than he thought that would be. He undid the cap of the drink as he muttered to himself, “We should order some chicken.”
“Call!” Woohyun shouted from the kitchen.
“Daebak,” Sunggyu whispered in shock. He craned his neck back searching for the other. “I barely said that. You have great hearing. As I thought, being an alien is better,” he reiterated, facing forward once again.
“Hyung,” Woohyun was by his side again with practically the entire contents of their fridge in his arms. “What are you doing?” he mumbled, eyeing the other suspiciously.
Sunggyu gulped his drink down harshly. He’d been caught. In case Woohyun had still been feeling down on himself for what happened earlier, Sunggyu was trying to lift his spirits up, showing that being an alien (being Nam Woohyun) came with some pretty neat advantages. But judging by the expression on Woohyun’s face, he wasn’t buying it. Sunggyu put down the drink and tried harder. “You’ve never really showed me all you could do. Can you lift that?” he asked pointing over to the easy chair with several of Sunggyu’s heavy medical texts laying on top of it.
“That?” Woohyun repeated. He grinned. “That’s easy. Look,” he commanded as he walked over to the chair and easily picked it up as if it were just a pillow.
“Wow!” Sunggyu exclaimed, clapping his hands together. “What else can you do?”
That question led to Woohyun doing a full display of his talents, some that Sunggyu didn’t even know a machine for destruction would be endowed with. For example, Sunggyu knew that Woohyun was musically inclined, but he didn’t know that alien would have a voice of an angel…or that he’d be able to play a vinyl record with his fingernail as the needle. Indeed, Woohyun was full of surprises.
By the end of the night, Woohyun’s mood had visibly lifted as did the corner of his mouth, which picked up to a nearly permanent smile for the night. Sunggyu smiled in return. However, there was one last thing that he knew the alien would be better at than humans (he’d already experienced it once before). “Come here,” he said, pulling Woohyun back down onto the couch who was still trying to show Sunggyu all of the dance moves that he claimed to be better at than the average human.
Woohyun obliged and sat down, panting slightly. “What is it? Huh?” he gasped as Sunggyu grabbed two of the other’s arms and wrapped them around his waist. He then took the other two and wrapped them slightly above the others. Sunggyu then hugged the alien tightly.
“Aliens can do even this better,” he mumbled sleepily.
Woohyun leaned back onto the couch. He raised two of his arms higher on the other, making it more comfortable for the both of them. “It helps when you have this many arms,” he responded.
Sunggyu yawned, “Maybe.” He smacked his lips as he nuzzled against the other. “This was the best birthday that I’ve had in a long long long time. Thank you, Woohyunnie.” Even though there was no cake, no party, no wishes, it was still the best. It was the first time in recent memory that he felt like his birthday was actually his day. His ex was never like this. Yooseok forgot some years until later that night, claiming that he’d been too busy and that it just slipped his mind. He’d argue that it didn’t really matter because they still celebrated, even if it was a few minutes before midnight sometimes. Sunggyu had believed that, and he’d done the same to the other for his birthday.
Why did he think that they cared for each other again?
But from start to end, Woohyun wished the other a happy birthday, even though Sunggyu said that saying it once was enough. And now, seconds before midnight struck on the clock, Woohyun tapped his fingers against the human’s back and wished him, “Happy Birthday.” Woohyun cared. And Sunggyu reminded himself to return the favor once February rolled around. It was the last thought he had before falling asleep.
And when he woke up, he had expected himself to be still on the couch in Woohyun’s tight embrace, but Sunggyu was in his own bed, with the sheets tucked tightly on all sides, holding him down. Yes, there were several things that the alien was better at than humans.
“Woohyun-ah! Come in and let me out!”
“It’s from Woohyun,” Sunggyu said as he offered a thick envelope to his friend. It had taken him all day to track down Howon in the hospital, and he finally did in the locker room, right as Howon was in the middle of changing and couldn’t escape fast enough. “He feels horrible about last night. Seriously,” Sunggyu emphasized.
Howon took the envelope and opened it up. He whistled lowly as he pulled out several bills. He glanced up at his friend with bowed brows. “Where did he get all of this?” he asked. “Does he make it? Did he steal it?”
“Eung. He stole it,” Sunggyu answered honestly, and Howon dropped the money as if it were huring his hands. Sunggyu sighed and crouched down to pick the money up. “But that was from before. Before he met me,” he explained.
“And that somehow makes this theft legal?” Howon challenged.
“No. It makes it from space,” Sunggyu replied, offering the money once again to the other. “He doesn’t steal from anyone here on earth. It’s okay.”
“In that case,” Howon muttered under his breath as he finally accepted the money and stuffed it on the inside pocket of his coat, patting it safely.
While Howon was doing that, Sunggyu leaned against the lockers and tried to patch things up further, “Look, Woohyun isn’t like us. He’s still learning not just how to be human but how to be good. And he’s a quick learner.”
Howon scoffed, “He still almost burned my house down.”
Sunggyu rubbed his tired face. “True,” he gave in that much. “But he was trying to make candles for my cake. He was trying to help.”
“He didn’t see the box of candles right next to the cake?” Howon asked as he tied his shoes.
“Of course he didn’t,” Sunggyu said as he heaved a great sigh. He sat down on the bench, hanging his head. “He’s so embarrassing,” he groaned.
Howon sat down next to him and patted him on the back. “I’m kind of relieved that you’re embarrassed,” he said. Sunggyu glanced over at him and cocked his head. “Your relationship with Woohyun is…different,” Howon put it delicately. Sunggyu nodded, that was true. “But at least you’re taking responsibility for him. You’re not as smitten with him as I thought.”
“Smitten?” Sunggyu repeated.
“Eung. Like he can do no wrong,” Howon clarified.
Sunggyu snorted. “He does wrong, all the time,” he confessed. He then turned towards Howon, trying to convince him with all of his might, “But he’s trying not to. He’s trying his damnedest. And he’s already better than he once was.” Sunggyu wasn’t being smitten. This wasn’t what he believed to be true about Woohyun. Sunggyu knew it to be true.
Howon nodded slowly. “In spite of everything, he’s a good person, er person-like thing,” he backtracked and corrected himself.
“Right,” Sunggyu chirped back.
“I’m starting to understand,” Howon admitted as he got up from the bench with a grunt. He then closed his locker after taking out his bag.
“I’m glad,” Sunggyu responded, getting up as well. He patted the other heartedly on the back before heading out of the locker room.
Howon followed him out. “He’s more fun than Yooseok ever was. Plus he knows my name. That’s nice,” he joked as he slung his bag over his shoulder.
Sunggyu sighed and shook his head. “It’s sad when an experiment made for the sole purpose of destruction is a better person than Yooseok ever was,” he muttered as he walked down the hall.
“Yea,” Howon agreed without thinking. But then it dawned on him. “Wait…an experiment? Are you serious? Hyung!” he called out.
But Sunggyu was already at the other end of the hall and returning back to his shift. Howon sighed as he patted his chest, feeling the thick envelope lying inside. At least they could renovate their kitchen now, and then some…like a tv with a bigger screen.
Sunggyu sighed as he flipped the calendar over to May. His birthday was his favorite day of the year, but just a week later it was the day that he hated the most. He stared at the red circle on the calendar for a few seconds before hanging it back up on the wall.
“Hyung,” Woohyun began as he jumped out of his seat and walked over to his roommate’s side. “There’s a circle here. Is it another birthday?”
“No, it’s the opposite,” Sunggyu answered as he walked away. He slumped into the easy chair and ran his head through his hair. “It’s the day my dad died,” he added. “I’m supposed to go to my sister’s house for the memorial ceremony, but I have to work. My mom said it would be alright if I stayed here.” Woohyun crept up next to him, ears and antennae drooping lowly. Sunggyu patted his head, not really wanting the other’s pity right now. “It’s okay. I didn’t want to go anyway. It’s boring,” he lied.
Woohyun’s antennae sprang up. “Let’s do something fun then. On that day,” he suggested.
Sunggyu sat up straighter, suddenly interested. “Like what?” he asked.
Woohyun sat cross-legged on the floor. “When I was watching a drama, there were riding s vehicle with handles like this,” he described as he put two hands in front of him, gripping in empty air. He then leaned back and began moving his feet in a circle. “And the moved the wheels by going like this.”
“Really? Riding a bike? That’s what you want to do?” Sunggyu guessed in disbelief. He hadn’t rode bikes since he was younger, and lately it was an activity for couples to do, riding bikes around the Han River. Sunggyu’s eyes blinked wider as he stared at Woohyun who was still riding his imaginary bike and now ringing its imaginary bell. Did the alien know it was a couple activity? Does he want to…with me? Sunggyu smiled. “Sure. Let’s do it,” he agreed.
“Assa!” Woohyun cheered. “I’ll go look for some for us to ride,” he announced as he darted back into his bedroom.
Sunggyu grinned and shook his head at the other’s over-excitement, but he couldn’t deny the bubbling excitement overwhelming him right now. Was it a date? Maybe. But Sunggyu couldn’t also deny that part of his excitement was due to the fact that he’d be living out a childhood fantasy once again: bike riding with E.T. Sunggyu smirked as he leaned back in the chair, daydreaming of Woohyun stuffed in the basket of his bike and them flying up into the night sky.
Then a sudden realization bolted him upright. “I’m afraid of heights! Eh, I’ll just tell him to fly low. It’s okay.”
Woohyun stared at the calendar. Tomorrow was the day that he and Sunggyu were going to go bike riding. Woohyun figured that he knew the basics of how to ride a bike. He watched it enough times on the tv. How hard could it be. Everyone seemed to know how to do it, including Sunggyu. And if it did turn out to be more difficult than expected, well, there were training wheels.
The pit of his stomach sank lower as he chewed on his lip, biting back the smile. The alien knew that he shouldn’t get too excited for tomorrow. A ‘father’ was still a foreign concept to Woohyun, as was ‘family’ in general. Experiment 626 had no blood-relations. He was synthetic. But Woohyun could guess that tomorrow wouldn’t be an easy day for his roommate. The alien might not have known about ‘family,’ but he was all too familiar with ‘death.’ And ‘death’ was never easy to deal with.
“Huh?” Woohyun’s ears perked up as they caught a familiar tune wafting in the air. It was Sunggyu’s cellphone. It was ringing. Woohyun turned his head away from the calendar. The phone sounded like it was in Sunggyu’s bedroom, still ringing. But, Woohyun’s ears twitched again, focusing on the dripping noises coming from their bathroom. Sunggyu was taking a shower. He wasn’t able to answer. The alien knew that he should ignore it. It would be a violation of privacy. But then the phone kept ringing. The person called Sunggyu again, desperately trying to get a hold of him. And so it became less of an issue of privacy and one of urgency. Woohyun bounced on the balls on his feet, wondering what to do. Sunggyu would be mad if he answered the phone, but depending on the situation, his roommate might also be mad if he didn’t. Woohyun made his decision and bounced into Sunggyu’s room. He felt like he made the right choice when he saw the word ‘Mommy’ plastered across the phone’s screen. The experiment didn’t know much about family, but he knew how much of a soft spot Sunggyu harbored for his mother. And so Woohyun answered the phone, typing in the passcode that he’d seen Sunggyu do time and time again.
“Sunggyu?” the old woman sounded confused.
“No, this is Nam Woohyun,” the alien explained as he walked out of the room.
“Woohyun?” Sunggyu’s mother repeated. She then gasped, “Oh! You’re Sunggyu’s roommate.”
“Yes,” he answered. “The phone says that you’re his mother?”
The woman laughed. It sounded eerily like Sunggyu. This must be what it’s like to be related to someone, carrying similar traits, he thought. “Yes, I am,” she replied.
“It’s nice to meet you, Sunggyu’s mom,” Woohyun responded.
“It’s nice to meet you too,” she returned. “Is my son there?”
“He’s in the shower,” he answered bluntly. “He smelled really bad. He needed to wash his hair. He keeps wearing hats instead of washing. It makes the smell worse.”
“Ah yea, that would be my son,” she said while laughing again. Woohyun was starting to like her. She seemed cheerful. “Can you tell him to call me back once his hair is all nice and clean?” she asked. “I want to see if he’s coming for his father’s ceremony.”
“Oh.” Woohyun perked up and glanced over at the circled date on the calendar. “I thought you said he didn’t have to come,” he mumbled. The bikes…
“I did say that, didn’t I?” she admitted. This time she didn’t sound so cheerful. Sunggyu’s mother let out a deep breath before continuing, “Well, I want him there to be honest. It’s hard for me still.”
“I don’t think he will.”
“Uh…Why?” she stammered.
“He said he didn’t want to go and that it was boring,” Woohyun relayed what Sunggyu had told him earlier.
“O-oh, did he?” she stuttered. “Well then, I guess he doesn’t have to call me back in that case.” Something about her voice sounded off to Woohyun, sounded weaker.
“Okay,” Woohyun replied apprehensively, afraid to say more. The more he said, the sadder she sounded.
“I have to go. Take care, Woohyun,” she wished.
“Take care, Sunggyu’s mom,” Woohyun returned just barely before she hung up the phone. The alien gulped as he placed the phone back on Sunggyu’s bed, where he had found it. He had a bad feeling about this. It would be better if Sunggyu wouldn’t find out about this, ever.
“Oh, noona. What’s up?” Sunggyu asked as he was putting a bowl together of food, mixing whatever leftover banchan they had in the fridge into his rice. He had checked the date on his phone before answering it. He hadn’t missed the anniversary, so why was she calling?
“I’m just calling to say that you’re dead to me,” his sister revealed in a grave tone.
“Wh-what?” he blubbered, putting his bowl down and then gripping his phone with both hands.
“You don’t want to go to dad’s ceremony because it’s boring? Yah!” she screamed into the phone, piercing through his ear. “Kim Sunggyu, where’s your sense of duty? Are you too good for us now because you’re a Seoul person now, huh? Too chic for a little country ceremony? Life must be so fabulous for you and your banker boyfriend. Yah, dad accepted you. You’re lucky. You should be grateful, you little piece of shit. Some fathers—”
“Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Slow down,” Sunggyu interrupted her rant. “What? I didn’t say any of that.”
“That’s what your roommate told mom,” his sister barked back. “She wouldn’t come out of her bedroom all night. She locked herself in there, crying.”
“Huh?” Sunggyu focused on the last part. Mom…“Is she still in there now?”
“Yes, but she’s asleep now. I got her to eat something,” she sounded tired. Sunggyu guessed that she’d been busy all night, pleading with their mother. But then her voice turned bitter again, “Don’t act like you care.”
“I do!” he fought back. Sunggyu pulled out a chair and sat at the kitchen table with a groan. He rubbed his face with his hands. “Noona, I didn’t say that. I mean, I did say that to him, but I didn’t mean it. He’s just…” This wasn’t the time to get into it about Woohyun. “God,” he cursed. “When did they even talk?” Why did they even talk?
“Hell if I know,” his sister replied curtly. Sunggyu heard some clattering in the background, filling in the dead air between them. Even this late at night, she was busy with household chores, probably because she spent most of her time trying to coax their mother. Guilt washed over Sunggyu, and his sister just had to drive the nail into the coffin that he already laid himself in, “Gyu, mom’s heartbroken over this.”
He knew what he had to do. “I’ll see if anyone can cover for me. I’ll go home as soon as I can,” he said. He could probably leave right now and get to his hometown before the sun rose, before his mother woke up. That would be the best, to have his mother wake up with him by her side like he’d never left, like he never broke her heart.
And his sister agreed, “Good.” And then the line went dead.
Sunggyu carefully laid down the phone on the table as he tried to gather himself for a few moments, to absorb what had just happened. But the longer he sat down, the more anxious that he became, the more he realized that he was just wasting time, and the angrier he felt. He was angry because he felt a guilt that wasn’t his. He wasn’t to blame for all of this. Only one being on this entire planet was, and that was experiment 626.
And luckily for Sunggyu, 626 had stayed home this evening and was in the living room.
“Hey,” Sunggyu said to his roommate once he entered the living room. His face was oddly flat and calm, hiding the storm that was raging inside. “Why the Hell did you answer my phone?” And then the storm began brewing. Lightening struck and Woohyun stood up straight, hairs on end.
“It was ringing,” the experiment answered.
Sunggyu winced and sucked in a breath sharply. “Who the Hell gave you permission to?!” he bellowed, as low as thunder rumbling. “I thought I told you to think more, but you’re still as thoughtless as before!”
“I did think!” Woohyun argued. He jumped from his seat. “I wasn’t going to answer if it wasn’t someone important, but it was your mother. I thought she’d have something urgent to say.”
“Then let her leave a message!” Sunggyu snapped back. His words cut through the air like gusts of wind, blowing Woohyun back. “Why did you have to answer? And why did you have to tell her that I didn’t want to go?”
“That’s what you told me,” Woohyun’s voice couldn’t be heard over Sunggyu’s howl.
“Well, I lied! Of course I want to go! He’s my father!” Sunggyu narrowed his eyes on the other and cocked his head. “But I guess you wouldn’t understand. You don’t have one.” Lightening struck the same place twice. Woohyun fell back down into his seat.
“That’s not fair,” his roommate mumbled, fixing his gaze on the floor.
“No, what’s not fair is you coming into my life and ruining everything,” Sunggyu spoke harshly, blotting out all light in the room with his dark mood. “I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask for you.” Sunggyu let out one final huff before looking away from the other. Looking at 626 just made him more upset. “I’m going to Jeonju. I don’t want to see you until I get back,” he stated before leaving for his room in order to pack. He left before he’d say something hurtful in his rage. But it was already too late.
All Woohyun had heard was: “I don’t want to see you.”
Woohyun packed a bag that night too, full of his tools and his belongings. Ever since Sunggyu’s birthday, he’d stopped making his trip to the mountainside; he made no progress in his repairs. He grew stagnant again. But winter had finally come for Nam Woohyun, and the bitter cold chilled him to the bone.
“Why are you like this? Do you get some sick pleasure out of it?”
“I thought Sunggyu was joking when he said that you destroyed everything that you touched. But you really do. Leave.”
“No, what’s not fair is you coming into my life and ruining everything.”
“I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask for you.”
“I don’t want to see you.”
Okay, I’m going.
It was good that Sunggyu attended the ceremony. He did manage to get there before his mother and the sun rose. And although his mother’s eyes were puffy from crying, she smiled once she saw her two children who came together to remember their father. His sister even forgave him, reluctantly. It was nice to be together with family again, but for the whole weekend, there was a tug in Sunggyu’s heart, a yearning. There was something missing that weekend and from their family. And it wasn’t just his father.
He missed Woohyun. And just like his last trip to Jeonju, he cut this one short as well, leaving early Sunday morning. He wanted to go back to their small apartment in Seoul and see his alien again. He had a stabbing pain of guilt in his mind all weekend, and he was to blame this time. He’d lost his cool, and he wanted to make sure that Woohyun didn’t lose his. So Sunggyu left his sister’s house, promising his mother that he’d return soon and that he’d be bringing a new special friend along with him.
“Woohyun-ah?” Sunggyu called out with an unsteady voice as soon as he opened the door. “Hyun?” He scanned the common area. There was no trace of the other. The whole place was oddly spotless. Even all of Sunggyu’s shoes were lined up neatly by the door. Shit. This wasn’t good.
“Woohyun?” Sunggyu raised his voice as he flung open his roommate’s bedroom door. His eyes widened, opening them as wide as he possibly could because he wasn’t seeing properly. Woohyun’s normally cluttered room was empty, save for the furniture that came with the room. “No,” slipped past his open lips.
Sunggyu flung himself onto the floor and crawled underneath the bed. It took awhile for his eyes to adjust in the dim light. There was nothing. No fluffy purple mop of hair. No Woohyun curled up into a ball. Nothing. Sunggyu blinked and blinked again. But every time he opened his eyes, the same scene greeted him. He kept blinking, refusing to let that be his reality. Now with every blink, hot tears spilled down his cheeks.
Sunggyu had heard correctly over a week ago. Woohyun, for this entire time, he had planned on leaving. He was going to leave Sunggyu behind.
Sunggyu quickly crawled out from under the bed and sprinted towards the door, slipping on the blue shoes before he went out. There was no way in Hell Woohyun could leave. Sunggyu wouldn’t let him.
Fortunately, Sunggyu had enough foresight to download a tracking app on Woohyun’s phone. They both agreed that it was for the best, just in case Woohyun tried to befriend some drug dealers again or something to that effect (landing himself in a hot mess). But Sunggyu never imagined that the first time he’d use it was to track down the alien running away. Sunggyu prayed to every deity that he could think of that Woohyun wouldn’t turn the app off, and that he’d still be within range. The small alien could literally be anywhere in the cosmos by now. Sunggyu gave him enough of a headstart. However, his prayers were answered. Woohyun was on a nearby mountain.
Sunggyu would’ve struggled with the climb under prime conditions, and in the daylight. The climb now felt like the biggest trial in his life. He had tripped over countless roots, probably scraped every last inch of skin on his body, and almost fell into a pit. But he kept going. He had to. He forged his way with the light of his cellphone. He was getting closer. The dot representing Woohyun grew larger until Sunggyu was where the other should be. He really hope that he wouldn’t just find the alien’s phone and all of this had been for naught.
But then the light of his phone fell on a pair of shoes, moving shoes, turning towards him. Sunggyu slowly raised the light until it was flashing in the other’s face.
“WOOHYUN!” Sunggyu shouted as he ran up to the other. “WOOHYUN-AH!” He pulled the alien into a tight embrace. Sunggyu hooked his chin over the other’s shoulder, locking him in place. “Don’t go. Don’t leave.”
Woohyun tore the other away from him. “I’m not going,” he said, but it was quickly followed by a, “Not yet,” successfully dashing all of Sunggyu’s hopes.
“Huh?” he was confused.
“I’m fixing it,” Woohyun stated as he nodded behind him. And that’s when Sunggyu noticed the large, circular ship behind the alien. Had this been under normal circumstances, Sunggyu would’ve been astonished and delighted in seeing a U.F.O. But now, he wanted to whack at it with a tree branch that he picked up from the ground. He wanted it to go away (and for Woohyun to stay here).“Almost finished actually,” Woohyun added as he turned his back towards Sunggyu and resumed working on the ship.
“Is this yours?” Sunggyu asked, walking up to his side. “Did you crash it?”
Woohyun gave a curt nod as he replied in a distracted voice, “The landing gear was locked. Some kind of anti-theft function.”
“Eung,” the alien grunted. He faced Sunggyu again. “You seemed to have forgotten that I’m a wanted criminal.”
His eyes, Sunggyu had seen them in the dark before and seen them glow, but now, Woohyun’s eyes were dim and blank. Sunggyu felt a chill run down his spine. Was this the space pirate? Where was his Woohyun? What happened to him? Sunggyu ran his hands up and down his arms, trying to fend off the cold. “Right,” he mumbled, looking away and pretending to be interested in the space junk next to them. “After you fix it, are you going to leave?”
“Do you think I should?” Woohyun turned the question back around.
“No,” Sunggyu blurted out as soon as the other finished.
The alien turned his attention back onto his ship, fiddling with the wires inside of the open hatch. “Well, I do,” he said with a grunt as he tugged on a stubborn wire, pulling it out. He then inspected the end of the wire, tweaking it, as he continued, “I can’t stay. It’s dangerous. What if the police find me? What will happen then? You’re willingly harboring a fugitive. And what if…something bad happens?” His eyes darted over to Sunggyu briefly. He shook his head and plugged the wire back in. “A fugitive needs to flee.”
Sunggyu turned his back against the U.F.O. and leaned on it, stuffing his hands in his pockets. Each passing second by Woohyun’s side, he grew colder. “Where will you go?” he asked in a small voice.
Sunggyu huffed, “Woohyun-ah.”
“I shouldn’t tell you,” the alien retorted bitterly. He was now just flicking at the wires. “I can’t anyway. I don’t know myself.”
Sunggyu reached over and tugged on the other’s sleeve. He kept tugging until Woohyun pulled his attention away from the damn wires and onto him. And when the alien finally looked at him with those dark eyes, Sunggyu begged, “If you don’t know, then just stay.”
Woohyun responded with a sigh and shook his sleeve out of the other’s grasp. Once free, he walked to the other side of the ship. Sunggyu hit the back of his head against the spaceship a few times, reprimanding himself, before chasing down the alien. When he reached the other side, his stomach sank down to the soles of his feet. The door was open, and Woohyun was inside. But he appeared to be programming the pod’s computer system. Woohyun wasn’t going to leave, not yet, but he was really getting ready to. So Sunggyu stepped inside the cramped pod with him. He couldn’t get more than just a foot and half his body inside of it, but he was still inside. Woohyun wouldn’t be able to leave without taking half of him or all of him.
And because the space was so tight, Sunggyu’s face was only inches away from the back of the alien’s head. He could see his breath fanning Woohyun’s hair, making his ears twitch at the sensation. But even though Woohyun knew Sunggyu was right behind him, he refused to turn around and acknowledge him. Sunggyu wasn’t going to let him do so for long.
“Woohyun, you know I get angry easily, right?” the human admitted, eyes shut tight as if the confession physically pained him to say. “I flare up but…I have a soft heart.” When he opened his eyes again, he saw that Woohyun’s head was slightly turned; he was staring at Sunggyu out of the corner of his eye. Sunggyu sniggered. It gave him the confidence to continue, “It’s not actually soft. It just means that I forgive easily. And I forget, which is bad because…you don’t forget. You dwell on things. So if I said something hurtful, I’d forgotten it already. I said it in a moment of passion. I’m petty, so I probably tried to make you hurt as much as I did,” he explained. He then winced again. “Which in retrospect is pretty awful because I know that you did it by accident.”
Finally, finally Woohyun turned around. “You said that I ruin everything and that I’m thoughtless,” he ‘kindly’ reminded the other, although it came out like a low growl.
Sunggyu chuckled anxiously, pointing at himself. “I did?” he asked. Woohyun nodded, jutting out his chin. “I’m sorry. No one has more thoughts than you. I’m the thoughtless one by comparison,” he apologized, speaking from the bottom of his heart. But his sincerity must’ve been undercut by the fact that he was still laughing. Sunggyu couldn’t help it. Woohyun was making him anxious, and the way that the alien was looking at him…Their faces were close, closer now that Woohyun was pouting. The laughter caught in Sunggyu’s throat. He tilted his head down just a bit, then a little but more…
Woohyun dropped his gaze to his lap, fiddling with the screwdriver in his hands. The other two gripped the arms of the chair tightly. “Earlier, you said that you knew what I would think before I could think it myself,” he spoke in a low voice. “What am I going to think about five minutes from now?”
Sunggyu could’ve lied. He could’ve tried to influence the other. But he knew the answer: “No matter how much I try to dissuade you, you’re still going to think about leaving.”
“Then maybe you should give up,” Woohyun grumbled.
The alien glanced up at the other quickly before turning around. “Then we’re at an impasse.”
Even with that cold back turned against him, Sunggyu stayed, half-hanging out of the pod. Somehow he managed to get in a position comfortable enough that he fell asleep. The methodic tapping against the ship’s keyboard became his lullaby. He woke up with a crick in his neck and Woohyun shaking him awake.
“Done,” the alien announced coldly as he pulled away from the other. “Well…”
“Come back to the apartment,” Sunggyu cut him off. He rubbed his sleepy eyes. “Stay for the night.”
“To say goodbye,” Sunggyu answered. And to give me one last chance. “You can’t leave without saying goodbye.”
Woohyun scoffed, “Goodbyes don’t take that long.”
Sunggyu frowned. “They do if the person means a lot to you,”
A shiver ran through Woohyun, but he tried to fight against it. His antennae still quivered, giving himself away. The corner of his mouth trembled. “Okay,” he gave in after struggling. “Just for the night.”
Sunggyu had thought that he had repaired the bridge between himself and Woohyun, but underneath the bridge’s new, shiny surface, they had foundation problems. From the start, Woohyun had never intended to stay for long. Now that crack in their foundation was threatening to bring down the entire bridge, and Sunggyu wouldn’t be able to go to Woohyun anymore.
But foundations could be fixed; intentions could be changed. Sunggyu just had to change Woohyun’s mind, convince him to stay. Woohyun was like the thread that stitched together the pieces of his torn heart. If he were to leave, Sunggyu would fall apart. But Sunggyu had one more chance, one more night to convince him.
Unfortunately, there were only a few hours left before midnight, and Sunggyu was already fighting off sleep. But he still plastered a smile on his face and acted as if this was just a normal night, sort of. He wanted to show Woohyun what a normal night could be, if the alien should chose to stay. The ordered Woohyun’s favorite foods from the Chinese restaurant nearby.
“This is nice, isn’t it?” Sunggyu asked with a warm smile as they ate. Woohyun nodded apprehensively, before returning his attention back to the food in front of him. Sunggyu sighed. The alien hadn’t spoken more than a few words since they came into the apartment, and most of those words were just names of foods. So Sunggyu picked up a piece of sweet and sour pork and offered it to the other. “Ah!” he urged the other to open his mouth.
Woohyun looked up at him, confused. “Hyung, what are you doing?” There it was. Woohyun was talking again.
“I’m feeding you,” Sunggyu clarified. “Aren’t I nice?” Woohyun scoffed at that. “Ah!” Sunggyu urged him again, opening his own mouth wide and jabbing the piece of pork against Woohyun’s lips. The alien finally smiled and opened his mouth, allowing Sunggyu to feed him. “Aigoo!” Sunggyu cooed. “Good job.”
“Hyung,” Woohyun called to the other as he chewed. “If you were really nice, you’d let me have the rest of this,” he challenged as he drug the plate filled with pork closer to his side.
“Uh,” Sunggyu muttered, watching the plate run away from him. His mouth watered as he watched Woohyun eat another piece. Sunggyu had barely eaten that day. Sure, they had more than enough food on the table, but…Sunggyu shook his head. When it came down to it, there was something more precious that he’d rather not lose. “Go ahead.”
After they were done eating, they were sitting on the couch as usual. He let Woohyun chose the movie for them to watch. As the alien was putting in the DVD, Sunggyu stretched and spoke with a gaping yawn, “Isn’t this nice?”
“I guess,” Woohyun replied as he returned to the couch. He then played the movie. Sunggyu turned to Woohyun as soon as the title screen appeared, wondering if all of this was some sick joke. “Independence Day,” out of every movie that little creature could’ve chose, Woohyun picked that one. Is he trying to tell me something? Sunggyu shook that thought out of his head. No, Sunggyu was the one supposed to be sending a message that night.
Sunggyu slid down the couch, closer to the alien. Once their shoulders touched, Sunggyu reached around the other’s waist and pulled him in closer. And Woohyun just let him, with his eyes fixed fast on the movie. So Sunggyu took it another step further, and then another, seeing how far he could push the other until Woohyun broke his frostiness. Sunggyu tried his best to thaw him. He was now hugging the alien’s head to his chest as they were both lying down on the couch. Sunggyu ran his fingers through Woohyun’s hair, caressed his long ears as if he were a dog. And it felt oddly like a dog’s ear too. Sunggyu smirked as he scratched behind the other’s ear. “Isn’t this nice?” he asked again before planting a kiss on the top of Woohyun’s head.
Woohyun broke. He tore his eyes away from the screen and turned his head, hiding his face in Sunggyu’s chest. He let out a low, muffled rumble, something between a groan and a whimper. The alien then lifted his head, staring at Sunggyu with those glowing, sad eyes, digging his chin into the chest. “It’s nice,” he admitted, scarcely moving his lips. “Really nice.”
Sunggyu smiled for a brief second as he moved his hands from the top of the other’s head to his cheeks, cupping them. He ran the pads of his thumbs over them. “That’s why you need to stay,” Sunggyu whispered. He leaned in, gently laying his lips over Woohyun’s pouting lips. He didn’t expect much more than just that, and for the alien to remain docile. But then Woohyun’s lips moved against his, and Woohyun himself crawled up until he was hovering over Sunggyu, taking control and deepening the kiss. However, Woohyun’s ‘control’ was more like a gentle leading, teasing Sunggyu’s mouth, luring him in the direction he wanted. And Sunggyu followed, willingly. He had faith in Woohyun, and he was willing to do whatever it took to show it. He was going to let Woohyun do what he wanted.
But it didn’t last for long. Woohyun pulled away and stared at the man beneath him for a few seconds, gathering his thoughts. Sunggyu’s heart raced in his chest. He swallowed hard. What was Woohyun thinking of behind those dark eyes?
Then Woohyun sighed as he ran a knuckle along Sunggyu’s cheek before pulling himself up. “You should sleep,” he stated.
“I don’t have to,” Sunggyu retorted, yawning all through his response.
“Sleep,” Woohyun urged him, patting a hand against his side. He then laid down again, cheek pressed against Sunggyu’s chest. With another hand, he took Sunggyu’s and laid it on top of his head, silently asking him for petting. Sunggyu snorted at that but obliged, playing with his floppy ears again.
Sunggyu leaned down and kissed the alien’s mop of hair. “Good night, Woohyun,” he wished and closed his eyes. Sleep overtook him soon after.
Sunggyu yelped. He had been startled awake by a loud crash just inches away from his head. He could practically feel the noise reverberating through his head. “Aish,” Sunggyu swore as he rubbed his temples. He opened his eyes slightly, looking for the source of the sound. But then they widened in fright after he realized what he didn’t see, didn’t feel. Woohyun wasn’t with him anymore.
He whipped his head to the side, only to see the alien picking up a broken lamp with a grimace on his face. Sunggyu sighed in relief. “Hyun, what are you doing?” he grumbled. He then waved at him to come back. “Come back to sleep.”
Woohyun stood up straight and shook his head. “It’s morning.”
Sunggyu blinked at the other for a few seconds before he realized what Woohyun meant. “Shit,” he cursed, swinging his legs over the side of the couch, and stood up with a slight wobble. “It’s barely morning. It’s three AM!” he yelled after glancing at the time on his phone. “Are you really leaving?”
“I can’t stay,” Woohyun answered, still heading over to the door. He bent down to put on his shoes.
“You can’t leave either,” Sunggyu snapped.
Woohyun stood up straight again, with only one shoe on his foot. But although he should’ve looked silly, he was intimidating. He glared darkly at the other. There was a snarl on his lips. “Why can’t I?” he growled.
“You can’t. You just…F**k,” Sunggyu cursed again. “Do you really want to leave? Do you?” Even after last night? Sunggyu had never fought for someone so hard before. He’d just let Yooseok walk out of his life, and even before then, he never fought for their relationship. He probably never cared enough. He just let it wither and die.
Woohyun bent down to put on his other shoe. “I don’t have a choice,” he said with a grunt as he pulled his other shoe on. The alien then bounced back up and reached for his bucket hat on the hook nearby. But Sunggyu snatched it away first, throwing it towards the other side of the room. Woohyun sighed and pulled his hood up, covering his ears. He then turned his back to Sunggyu and began putting on a coat. And Sunggyu grabbed the last weapon in his arsenal, the water gun.
He pumped the gun as quickly as he could and shot at Woohyun. He kept shooting, but Woohyun was still at the door, not turning around, and was unlocking the door. Sunggyu kept shooting until there was no water left. There was no water left, and nothing else that he could do. Sunggyu throat tightened. This was the end. “Bad alien,” he whispered.
Woohyun turned around. His menacing glare quickly softened. “Hyung, you’re crying,” he muttered in disbelief.
Sunggyu dropped the gun, sending it clattering onto the floor. He wiped his cheek with his sleeve, blinking like mad to rid himself of the tears so that he could see clearly, so that he could see Woohyun clearly. “You can’t leave,” he declared with a loud sniff. “This is your Home. And if you leave, you have to come back, okay? You always come back Home. Like a f**king pigeon.”
“Home?” Woohyun repeated, looking at anywhere but the man in front of him, but his ears turned towards the other so that he could hear him properly. “I don’t have one.”
“Home is more than where you’re from, Woohyun. It’s…f**k, I can’t think straight. Hold on,” he begged the other as he took out his phone again. He quickly typed in the word into the web browser, hoping it would put it in better words than his tired and chaotic mind would. “Home is a familiar or usual setting, a congenial environment. The focus of one’s domestic attention,” Sunggyu read. He then glanced up from the phone to the alien, but Woohyun just stared at him blankly. So Sunggyu kept reading, “Feeling relaxed, comfortable, or at ease. Being in harmony with the surroundings.” He put his phone away and stared the other down. “Do you not feel any of that with me?” he challenged.
Woohyun raised his gaze up to the other’s and admitted, “I do.”
“Then you can’t leave because if you do…” Sunggyu paused to let out a shaky breath. “I’ll be Homeless. Woohyun, you’re my Home,” he emphasized the last word, finally drilling it into the alien’s head.
“M…me too,” Woohyun stuttered before breaking down himself. He leaned back against the door and slid down onto the floor, pulling his hoodie over his face. “I don’t wanna…I don’t wanna leave. I’m sorry. I really don’t want to go,” he blubbered through choked sobs and gasps. Sunggyu had never seen him cry so hard, and Sunggyu himself hadn’t cried this hard in a long time. His head was throbbing and his eyes stung. But there was a smile on his face now, under those tearstained cheeks and red eyes. He finally defeated the alien.
Sunggyu stepped over to Woohyun and crouched down, taking his shaking form into his arms. “You don’t have to. No one is making you,” he spoke in a hushed voice.
“If I stay, I’m going to put you in danger,” the alien argued. “I’m going to ruin things.”
Sunggyu held him closer. “I’ve never felt safer,” he fought back. “And you always fix things. You fixed me. You didn’t even break me, and you fixed me. You do more good than harm. Way more good.”
Woohyun began shaking again. He was laughing. “You have too much faith in me,” he remarked.
“Maybe,” Sunggyu readily admitted. “But you trust family like that. And we share a Home, so we’re like a family now. And family means that no one gets left behind.”
“So I can’t leave,” Woohyun concluded, raising his head and looking at the other from under the hood. “I’m going to stay. This my Home,” he said, hugging Sunggyu back tightly and knocking the air out of his lungs.
After regaining his breath, Sunggyu smiled and replied, “Welcome Home.”
Sunggyu dragged himself and Woohyun into his bedroom. He didn’t want to fall asleep at the doorway, but at the same time, he still didn’t feel comfortable leaving Woohyun’s side. The alien said that he was going to stay, but Sunggyu wouldn’t believe it until they moved his stuff back into the apartment, which would be when the sun was finally up and they have had a good rest. Until then, he was going to keep a close eye and hold on the alien.
But when he woke up, it was the alien who had a close hold onto him. Woohyun was not only holding onto Sunggyu with all four of his arms, but even his legs were wrapped around the human. “I’ve never woken up on top of the bed before. I feel exposed,” Woohyun confessed with a sheepish chuckle, but still didn’t let go.
“It that why you’re holding onto me like this?” Sunggyu asked, tapping on Woohyun’s thighs. Sure the hold was tight, but also comforting. Sunggyu felt as if he was being swaddled.
“Eung,” Woohyun grunted. “If someone were to come in, I can just…” He suddenly flipped onto his back, swinging Sunggyu over on top of him, using him like a shield.
“Y-yah!” Sunggyu yelped, closing his eyes tightly.
“Or if they come in through the window!” Woohyun bounced onto his side and slammed Sunggyu back down onto the bed.
“S-stop it! Yah!” Sunggyu shouted through laughter. It had been too long since they played around like this. Plus, he also delighted in the fact that he made Woohyun feel safe…for a split second. He frowned. “Wait…so you want the intruder to attack me instead,” he finally realized.
“Uh…yea,” Woohyun slowly confessed with an embarrassed grin. Sunggyu then began trying to squirm and slither out of his ‘loving’ embrace. “It’s survival instincts, hyung. I can’t help it,” he defended himself as he let the other go. “I’ll make sure that you won’t get hurt too badly.”
Sunggyu scoffed as he rolled off of the bed. “I shouldn’t get hurt at all!” he shouted. “You’re a friggin’ rock. Probably bulletproof to boot. Do you have any weaknesses?”
“You,” Woohyun answered a little to honestly.
“Gross,” Sunggyu muttered, biting back a smile. “I’m going to the bathroom and washing up after that. Too greasy.” He then put on a serious face and pointed a finger at the alien. “Stay put,” he commanded.
And after taking a quick shower, Sunggyu was pleased to have seen that the alien obediently listened. But he was displeased that Woohyun was sitting at the edge of the bed, brow furrowed in serious thought.
“What is it? You look all depressed again,” Sunggyu asked from the doorway.
Woohyun raised his head, his ears plastered to the side of his head. “What are we going to do?” the alien countered. Woohyun noted the terror flashing through the other’s face because he quickly added, “I’m still going to stay, but we need to plan for the worse.”
Sunggyu walked over and sat down by the other. “What’s the worst that can happen?” he tried to make light of the situation. In his opinion, with a creature like 626 on his side, there wasn’t anything that they couldn’t face. There was nothing scarier.
“My creator comes back for me.” Except for the person who created such a beast. A shiver ran through Sunggyu, but he tried to cover it by standing back onto his feet.
“If we’re going to plan…let’s eat first,” he suggested. “I’ll think better on a full stomach.” Woohyun nodded, hungry himself, and went into his bedroom to get ready.
Sunggyu groaned when the other left the room. He really didn’t like the idea of them having their first date and going over escape plans, but he supposed that it was better than no date at all. Or no plan at all. He had to protect his Home.
“What if we immigrate to Iceland? You like the cold, hyung,” Woohyun suggested as they walked down the stairs into the lobby of their apartment. They were on their way to their date, or meeting, or whatever it was. Woohyun kept bringing up all of the places that they could go across the globe, but Sunggyu shot them all down. Sure, Woohyun was a major part of his family, but he wasn’t the only part.
“I’d rather not leave my mom,” he finally confessed after rejecting Woohyun’s suggestion for the 8th time. He could tell that the alien was growing annoyed. “Do we really have no choice but to leave the country?”
“That’s not necessary.”
“Pardon?” Sunggyu muttered as he whipped his head, seeing their security guard approach them, hopping over his desk to do so. He winced. They probably should’ve waited to start this conversation later, away from prying ears. “Look Dongwoo-ssi, if this is about the lease, we can…”
“You guys don’t have to leave the country,” Dongwoo cut him off. “Actually, Woohyun can’t.” He then suddenly took out his handcuffs and clamped it around Woohyun’s wrist. Sunggyu gasped, and the alien just looked down at it, amused. “Experiment 626 is under house arrest…planet arrest? Aye, he can’t leave Earth,” Dongwoo stumbled into an explanation as he cuffed the other side of the handcuffs onto Sunggyu’s wrist.
“Wh-what? Y-you!” Sunggyu blubbered. He raised his cuffed wrist (and Woohyun’s too) and began shaking a fist at the guard. “Yah! Get these off! What kind of security guard are you?”
“I’m not just security for this apartment. I’m a security guard for the planet,” Dongwoo revealed proudly, puffing out his chest. He then turned to the alien and tapped him on the nose. “You’re my prisoner!”
Woohyun wiped his nose, using the hand that was connected to Sunggyu’s. And Sunggyu was finding these cuffs really old really quick. “Huh? Since when?” Woohyun asked, as if it were a happy occurrence, being a prisoner of his friend.
“Since you crash-landed on Earth,” Dongwoo answered. “The Federation thought that it would be better for you just to stay on Earth, where you could create the least amount of destruction because, let’s face it, it’s not a very peaceful planet. Humans are kind of belligerent and destroying the planet all on their own. No offense, Sunggyu-ssi,” Dongwoo quickly apologized to apparently the only human in this trio.
“Okay?” Sunggyu mumbled, trying to wrap his spinning head around everything.
“And so, they assigned me to be your probation officer…sort of,” Dongwoo added with a shrug. He then giggled and began poking at Woohyun, who was laughing and trying to dodge the other’s ‘attacks’ (and subsequently, jerking Sunggyu along with him). “I’m just here to make sure that you, naughty little creature, stay out of trouble.”
“So I can stay?” Woohyun asked, slightly out of breath from laughing so hard.
Dongwoo nodded and responded, “You are legally obligated to.”
“That’s good enough for me!” Woohyun cheered. He then faced Sunggyu. “Hear that! I don’t have to go! I have to stay here forever!”
“Really?” Sunggyu challenged the guard. “Are you just really letting him off the hook that easily?”
“Have you seen all the gold he has stashed up in his room?” Sunggyu asked.
“Yah! Yah! YAH!” Woohyun yelled, clamping a hand over Sunggyu’s mouth. “Sh!” he hissed. “Do you want me to get into trouble? Do you want me to get sent away?”
Sunggyu pulled the other’s hand down from his mouth while shaking his head. “I don’t. But this seems too easy, doesn’t it?” he whispered back. This whole situation left him uneasy because it was too easy. Like a family movie when the ending is tied up in a neat little bow. Sunggyu had expected to struggle and fight his whole life, helping to hide Woohyun away. It was strange to think that after all of this time, they had a chance to lead an average life (or at least as average as it could be).
“I know it might be hard to believe, but the Federation knows who the true criminal is,” Dongwoo tried to put Sunggyu’s worries to rest.
“626’s creator, Dr. Lee Sungyeol. And he’s already been prosecuted and is serving his sentence now,” Dongwoo answered. He then sighed and slung an arm around Woohyun, only to cover his ears. “626 can’t help what he is. Think of it as an insanity plea. He’s not in the right state of mind,” the guard whispered to Sunggyu.
“Oh,” Sunggyu muttered with a nod. He understood it all now.
And even though his ears were covered, 626 still hear. “Hey!” he exclaimed, shoving Dongwoo away and then crossing his arms over his chest with a huff.
Dongwoo laughed and patted Woohyun’s shoulder. “He needs to be rehabilitated. And you’re helping with that,” Dongwoo revealed, stepping over towards Sunggyu and was now patting him on the shoulder (rather hard. It kinda hurt). “You’re actually what’s preventing 626 from being locked up and put down.”
“I am?” Sunggyu asked in disbelief. Dongwoo nodded. Sunggyu still didn’t buy it. “Me?”
“Yes, you, Kim Sung Gyu,” the guard spoke his name slowly. “You gave 626 the chance to prove himself and believed in him, tolerated him when no one else did.”
“Aw!” Woohyun cooed. He then turned his hand over and really connected them, threading his fingers with Sunggyu’s. Woohyun squeezed the human’s hand. “You saved me. Thank you.”
“That’s what family is for,” Sunggyu whispered as he squeezed Woohyun’s hand warmly right back. Unfortunately, Dongwoo had overheard this ‘touching’ moment and was giggling at them. “YAH!” Sunggyu snapped at the guard. He raised their joined hands. “Are you ever going to take these off?”
“Oh! Right, right!”
That day, Sunggyu and Woohyun finally went on their first date, not only eating breakfast together but also riding bikes together along the Han River. Sadly, Sunggyu’s childhood dreams didn’t quite come into fruition. After strongly coercing Woohyun to perch on the handlebars of his bike, Sunggyu pedaled with all of his might with images of the bike lifting off the ground and into the sky, but they didn’t even move an inch in any direction. And that’s when Sunggyu had to finally accepted that Woohyun wasn’t E.T. Woohyun, on the other hand, was determined to prove that he was even better than that wrinkly, brown alien. He picked up Sunggyu, placed the human on the back of his own bike, and sped off incredibly fast. The skin on their faces pulled back as the wind whizzed past them, as well as the rest of Seoul. And so they started their ride by the Han River, but ended up at a beach miles away. Sunggyu didn’t mind. He was in the mood for fresh seafood anyway.
Sunggyu’s Home also grew from just Woohyun to a physical place. Before, he thought of his apartment as just a place where he slept and ate, but now it was a place that he thought fondly of, a place that he always wanted to go back to. And the apartment began to reflect themselves. Woohyun’s knick-knacks and tools (the alien had rented space and opened up a repairs shop) were littered throughout the house now (including parts from his dismantled spaceship), and Sunggyu added to the collection, bringing out things that he liked. His study skeleton was in the corner of the room (Woohyun liked it because it didn’t have any eyes). He hung pictures on the walls of the both of them and their friends. He even got them curtains. It truly looked like his Home, their Home. And eventually, they turned one of the bedrooms into a guest room, sharing the other one.
And Woohyun finally got all of his questions about sex answered, but Sunggyu was left with some of his own.
“Hey Woohyun,” Sunggyu began sheepishly, hanging in the doorway after washing up.
The alien was in the bed, dressed in his pajamas. He rolled over onto his side and sleepily responded to the other, “Hm?”
“What you said about souls in synch and everything becoming one, then back to two, then three?” Sunggyu reminded him.
Woohyun opened his eyes and stared at the other curiously. “Yea?”
“A third soul isn’t gonna pop out from somewhere, right?”
“Pfbt!” the alien sputtered into a roaring laughter. His sides must have been splitting because he was gripping them tightly. “Gyu!” he wheezed. He then took in a deep breath, puffing his cheeks, before letting it go. “I have a lot of things, but a womb isn’t one of them. And I don’t think you have one either,” he said, wiping a tear spilling out of his eye. “Besides, a male and a female make a baby. I’m a male, and you’re—“
“Okay, okay, okay,” Sunggyu cut him off as he hurriedly walked across the room and flopped onto the bed, hiding his reddening face. It had taken him a while to work up the courage to ask, still not knowing what the other was fully capable off. And although he was thoroughly embarrassed for asking, it did put some fears to rest. The last thing that they needed was more creatures with 626’s DNA wrecking havoc on the planet.
Woohyun rolled over again to face Sunggyu. “You’re a doctor. Shouldn’t you know this?” he teased.
Sunggyu raised his head and glared at the other. “I know the human body not…whatever you are,” he retorted.
Woohyun smirked and raised an eyebrow. “Well, I think you have a better idea of what my anatomy is like now.”
Sunggyu groaned and smacked the alien’s cheeky face with his pillow. “Shut up, and go to bed.”
Finally, while Sunggyu already considered Woohyun to be part of his family, there was one last thing that they needed to do before he was fully assimilated into it. And that was what this weekend was for. After years of living in Seoul, Sunggyu finally invited his mother to come and stay with him for a while.
“This is a very nice Home that you’ve set up,” his mother said as she walked around the living room, inspecting it carefully. Her head was on a swivel as she tried to take in everything. “Nice skeleton.”
“I like him too,” Woohyun responded as he walked up to her. He’d just returned home from working at his shop. When the woman turned towards him, Woohyun bowed. “Hi, I’m his roommate, Nam Woohyun. We’ve talked on the phone before,” he introduced himself.
“Oh yes, I remember,” she replied, smiling in spite of the bitter memory. “It’s good to finally meet you in person. Will you be joining us for dinner? Sunggyu said that he was going to take me to a fancy Seoul place.”
“Mom, I just said that I’d take you out,” Sunggyu clarified. “I’m not making that much money yet. And I still have to pay off my loans.”
“Yes, but any place in Seoul is a fancy place,” she explained, patting her son on the arm. Woohyun laughed at the lam joke, which brought a smile to the woman’s face. “So will you be joining us?” she asked again.
“I’d be delighted to,” Woohyun answered with a great grin on his face. “But first, let me change. I smell,” the alien announced before darting off into the bedroom and closing the door.
Sunggyu’s mother laughed to herself as she stared at the door. “That must be your new special friend,” she remarked. Her eyes flittered over to her son coyly.
“Yea, he’s very special,” Sunggyu answered.
The woman nodded as she continued to look around the room, pausing to study a piece from Woohyun’s ship. “I like him better than Yooseok-goon,” she confessed. She looked back at her son. “It’s hard to explain…a woman’s intuition? Yooseok and you didn’t seem to be a good fit. To be honest, I always felt like he’d be trouble.” She stepped closer to Sunggyu and whispered, “But Woohyunnie is different. And you’re different with him.” Sunggyu sniggered. She whispered it so that Woohyun wouldn’t overhear it, but with those big ears, the alien probably heard it all. His mother still continued in spite of the sniggers, “You’re happier now. And you finally let me come up to visit, so Woohyun is a very very good influence on you.” The sniggers turned into genuine laughter as Sunggyu burst out in chuckles. His mother looked at him confused. “What? Do I have something on my face?”
“Nothing. It’s nothing,” Sunggyu dismissed, trying to regain his composure. He turned his head towards the bedroom and called out to the alien, “Woohyun-ah! Are you ready? We’re going to leave without you.”
“I’m coming. I’m coming. I’m coming!” Woohyun yelled, stumbling out of the room. In his haste, he had bumped into a standing lamp and caught it before it fell to the ground. “Hehe oops,” he mumbled as he propped it upright. But while he was putting the lamp back in its place, he then knocked over a vase, which he barely caught in time before it hit the ground. “Whew. That one was close. Crap!” He hit a figurine with his elbow as he stood back up, and he wasn’t able to catch that one (maybe having their Home cluttered with breakable items wasn’t the most brilliant idea).
Sunggyu just laughed and shook his head, used to this routine. “He’s just a little bit clumsy,” he explained to his mother in a low whisper. “You okay?” he asked Woohyun.
“Yea, I’m fine,” the alien replied as he walked up to them. “So, are you ready?” he asked and then offered his arm to the woman for her to take, which she gladly took.
“I could get used to this,” Sunggyu’s mother remarked as she linked arms with Woohyun and then with her son.
Sunggyu looked at the three of them with a warm smile. “Me too.”
Nam Woohyun was going to fit into his family just fine.
Literally had no place to put this...and I kinda forgot to...in the notebook, Woohyun wasn't only making notes about the repairs on his ship, but he was also writing "Goodbye" letters to everybody.
I hope that you enjoyed this! And thank you Erika for the idea!!!