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Let Me Love You

Chapter Text

“I hope you guys are ready to begin the tour.” President Hwang says rubbing his hands together.

“Of course we are!” Kang Hwi says with a wide smile.

I roll my eyes.

The shout of the fans waiting for us to exit the airport was deafening the closer we got to the door.

“Take One! Take One! We love you!”

“Hey, are you really going to wear that tuxedo?” Kang Hwi asks putting his arm around my shoulders.

I shrug his arm off.

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“It’s too stiff and formal. We’re supposed to wear comfortable clothing, it’s a long ride you know.”

“You might not have an image to uphold but I do.”

“You’re a star now, you’re not just the son of a Chaebol.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Fine. Have it your way.”

Security signals that they are ready and Go Dong and President Hwang lead us out the door.

The fans press all around us and the flash of cameras is blinding.

I smile and wave at the fans.

An arm falls around my shoulders and I look at Kang Hwi as he presses against my side.

“Remove your arm.” I order.

“Smile, why don’t you? They are your fans too.” He says waving.

We manage to make our way to the tour bus in one piece thanks to security.

Kang Hwi’s arm goes around my neck as we climb the stairs up the bus.

He drags me down the aisle and out of the view of the fans.

“Let go of me you crazy bastard!” I say shoving off his arm.

“Fine, fine. Don’t get all testy.”

I push him aside and I make my way to the back of the bus.

“Hey!” He says grabbing my arm.

I look at him.

“The back seat is for the one who is doing a good job.”

He makes his way past me and I grab his shoulder and pull him back.

“That’s where I am.” I say brushing past him.

He grabs me again.

“Hey, where are you going? I told you I would take it.”

“Ah, why are you guys being like this? Just sit down. Once the bus starts moving, it’ll be dangerous for you two to just be standing here.” Go Dong says.

“Why are you grabbing me? Grab him.” Kang Hwi says pointing at me.

I slap his hand away from my face.

“You can’t have the back seat.” He tells me. “The best sit at the back.”

I snort.

“Instead of complaining, why don’t you spend that time practicing the new song? You can’t even carry a tune.”

“When have I not?” He demands.

“When?”

He looks away.

“It was only once.”

I cock my eyebrow.

“Once?”

“Twice. Okay! I did it a couple of times. But do you know what the fans say? That just my existence itself is a work of art, I could be sitting on stage peeling oranges and I’ll still be great.”

I roll my eyes.

“You are full of yourself.”

“Hey, don’t be a hater.”

“Whatever.”

“Even if I sing out of tune, they still think I’m the best.”

“So you like that?”

I move past him.

“Hey! You just want to have the back all to yourself. But I won’t let that happen. You can’t go.”

“Please stop. You guys can just sit here in the middle.” Go Dong says.

“The bus is going to drive off. Please sit down.” Stylist Choi says.

“Fine. We both sit here in the middle.” Kang Hwi says.

Yeah, right.

We both knew I was the best and that I deserved to have the back of the bus to myself.

I wait for him to sit down before I make my way to the back.

“You bastard!” He yells after me.

I take my seat by the window.

He hurries over to try and drag me off the seat and I open the curtain.

The fans start screaming again and he has no choice but to play nice and wave.

“I’m going to get you back for this.” He says.

“Go ahead and try.” I smile back.

******************************

Jang Man Ok

It all started with my friend Ga Ryeong and her obsession with ‘Take One’ and Won Kang Hwi.

I was just trying to make a living teaching my martial arts classes and selling my own designer clothes on my website.

“OH!”

I jump with her sudden shout.

“Stop shouting, it’s distracting.” I scowl.

“It’s just that my oppa looks so good.”

I scoff.

“Will you get your head out of the clouds and help me? Your job is to take care of the orders and the shipping remember?”

“Alright, alright. Geez.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to be able to keep this place open until Grandfather returns.” I sigh.

“What are you worried about? The website is showing record sales.”

“But it’s not enough to cover the rent and living expenses. I need more students.”

“We just need to advertise place.”

“This wouldn’t be happening if Grandfather was here.”

“It’s not fair to compare yourself, Man Ok. He’s been a teacher for fifty years and he’s well known. You just have to make a name for yourself.”

“You’re right.”

“Of course I am. Now, I better be going.”

“What? But you still have to help me with-”

“Look at the schedule.” She says pointing at the dry board. “Take One is doing a performance and it’s being broadcast on TV.”

“I wish you would stop writing the groups schedule on there. It’s there so that I can keep track of my schedule.”

“You don’t have much of a schedule.”

I glare at her.

“Besides, it’s not the groups schedule. It’s my oppa’s schedule.”

I roll my eyes.

“We still haven’t solved my problem. We need a model to wear my clothes so that we can take pictures for the website.”

“We could always hire a guy.”

“Really? Do you know how much that would cost?”

“About two hundred dollars a day.”

“Two hundred! How can you say that with a straight face?”

“You could just wear them yourself.”

“Are you crazy? And advertise that I’m the one making the clothes? My grandfather would kill me if he found out his beloved grandson was a designer.”

“Alright, bad idea.”

“Besides, I’m too short. I need a tall and lean model.”

“You could always model the clothes for women.”

I glare at her and she hides her smile behind her hand.

“So what are you going to do?”

“We’ll just have to find an alternative.” I sigh.

“Can I go now?”

“Fine. Go. But be here early tomorrow.”

“Sure, sure. Good night.”

“Good night.”

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

“What are you watching?”

“Hey, they’re about to announce the best dressed.” Kang Hwi says.

“Hmm.”

“First, let’s check out the fashionista Won Kang Hwi.” The announcers says.

Fashionista. Ha!

“This time too, he was dressed in a mix-match fashion that looked both comfortable and natural, and raising the bar for airport fashion once again.”

“Did you hear that? I raised the bar.” He laughs.

“But to the contrary, Lee Tae Ik’s award ceremony suit like fashion took over the number one spot as the worst airport fashion.”

“What?!”

The announcer was crazy.

“Lee Tae Ik is a fashion terrorist.” The announcer continues.

“She said you are a fashion terrorist.” Kang Hwi says laughing loudly. “Tae Ik, you must be so embarrassed right now!”

I can feel my face heating up and I press my lips together to stop myself from shouting at the television.

I turn off the TV.

“Why did you do that? I was watching that.” Kang Hwi complains.

I look at him.

“If you have time to watch this kind of program, why don’t you practice your singing? You want to make squeaking sounds on stage again?”

Kang Hwi looks at Go Dong.

“Look at him. He is delusional in his own grandeur. Now he says I make squeaking sounds. That’s not the broadcast performance terms.”

I smile at him.

“Alright then. It’s not of tune, it is out of key. If you don’t want to be humiliated here in China, then let’s sing properly today. Okay? Without singing out of tune.”

“Why are you provoking me so early in the morning? Right now I am having a good mood going here. Ah! You’re upset because they said you have the worst airport fashion, no?” He start laughing again and I glare at him. “Yeah, I can understand. Being the number one most searched topic for having the worst fashion is just horrible! Those pictures must be all over the internet.”

“I’m going to kill you!” I say lunging myself at him.

Go Dong grabs me around the waist and pushes me away from Kang Hwi.

“Hyung!” He says. “Just go to your happy place.”

I take a few deep breaths.

“We have to look at the wardrobe I’ve picked.” Stylist Choi says arriving.

Go Dong waves her away.

“What?”

“Hey, Stylist Choi, Lee Tae Ik got named a fashion terrorist.” Kang Hwi says.

“What?” She says looking at me.

“You should provide more sponsored wardrobe for him.” He continues.

“We did get sponsorship.” She says.

“My body didn’t take it well.” I tell them.

“Tae Ik oppa is so sensitive to everything.”

 

“So it’s my fault?” I ask her.

“No. It’s my fault, of course.”

“Hey, why is it your fault?” Kang Hwi says.

“Please stop it, Hyungnim.” Go Dong tells him.

“I don’t even need to get sponsored wardrobe and I still get named a fashionista. Unlike some people who get sponsorship and still can’t pull it off. You really must have a hard time finding clothes for the fashion terrorist.”

I grab a couch pillow to smack him in the face but Go Dong grabs it before the hit can land.

“Hey, is that from the new collection?” Kang Hwi asks standing. “This is totally my style!” He says taking the scarf from Stylist Choi.

“It’s for you, oppa.” Stylist Choi giggles.

“Which oppa?” I ask.

She looks at me.

“Tae Ik oppa, of course.” She says. “This is a very hot item right now. Do you want to wear it today?”

“I suppose I could try it.”

I hold out my hand and she hands me the scarf.

I go to put it on but Kang Hwi snatches it out of my hand.

“This doesn’t match with you. A god-like person like me should wear it so that it looks good. As soon as you wear this it’d be like pearls around a pig’s neck.”

He wraps the scarf around his neck.

“What did you say?”

I step closer to Kang Hwi.

“Tae Ik Hyungnim.” Go Dong says putting a hand to my chest and pushing me back.

I grab one end of the scarf and I pull.

Kang Hwi grabs at his neck.

“Hey.” Go Dong says grabbing my wrist.

“Take it off.” I tell Kang Hwi.

“No! It’s mine!”

I tighten the scarf around my hand.

Kang Hwi starts coughing.

“Stop it!” Go Dong says.

“Take it OFF!”

“Hyungnim, please stop! You can’t do this.”

“Oppa, I will pick another one for you.” Stylist Choi says.

“No!” I tell her. “I am going to wear this today.”

Kang Hwi’s face starts turning red.

“Take it off!”

He unwinds it from around his neck.

“Are you trying to kill me?” He asks.

I put the scarf on.

“If you don’t want to die then don’t bother me.”

“You started it!”

“Go practice the song. You only sing for a minute so don’t turn over your mic to the audience just because you can’t pull it off.”

“Why are you always such a mean bastard?”

He walks off in a huff.

“Kang Hwi Hyungnim!” Go Dong says going after him.

“Why do you guys always have to fight?” Stylist Choi asks.

“He just needs to learn his place. He’ll be fine.”

**************************

The concert was about to start and Kang Hwi wasn’t back yet.

Bastard.

I sneeze again and I my eyes were itching like crazy.

I sniff.

“Tae Ik, I think we have to cancel today’s performance.” Producer Hwang tells me.

“No.”

“Tae Ik.”

“What about the fans? I heard that there were some who rode the train for four days to come here.”

“Won Kang Hwi isn’t here. What are we supposed to do?”

I look at him.

“We still have to pay for everything don’t we?”

“Yes.”

“So, even if we cancel now, we have to pay for the stage, the lighting, all of the staff and everything. Right?”

“Of course, but-”

“Then we are not canceling anything.”

“Are you going to go out there on your own?”

“What choice do I have? I have all the major singing parts anyways.”

I go and take my position under the stage.

My body was itching and it was getting harder to swallow.

I scratch my throat.

I blink my eyes to clear them.

The music begins and I make my way on stage.

Singing was easy but once I start dancing, my breathing becomes labored and I start feeling dizzy.

Something was wrong.

I try lifting a hand to my neck but my arms feel heavy and my hand is shaking too hard to grab at the scarf.

I try to keep singing and dancing but my vision blurs and the room tilts violently to the left.

It hurts as my knees hit the stage.

I try to get up but I can’t.

I fall onto my side and I gasp for air.

I couldn’t pass out here in front of all these people.

I feel a hand grab my arm and pull me to my feet.

They take my weight as my knees buckle.

Something presses against my lips and the scarf is removed from around my neck.

I open my eyes and as my vision clears, I can see Kang Hwi’s face really close to my own.

Wait.

The pressure on my lips was him.

He was…kissing me?!

He pulls back and smiles at me before pressing his lips against mine again.

I push him off.

He puts an arm around my waist and turns to greet the screaming fans.

The rest of the concert passes in a blur.

I don’t even know how we got through it.

I felt humiliated.

Once we get to the room away from the media and the prying eyes, I punch him in the mouth.

“You fuck!”

He falls on the couch.

Go Dong, Producer Hwang and Stylist Choi pull me back.

“What the hell did you think you were doing?!”

“Did you just punch me in the face?” He asks standing back up. “Do you know how much this face is worth?”

“Your face? Do you not remember what you did to me?” I yell at him.

“Oh. The kiss? What about it? Things like that can happen during a concert. Everyone seemed to go crazy because of it!”

“Are you…gay?”

“What? You think a god like me would be gay? Really. Do you think I kissed you because I wanted to? You should be thanking me for saving you out there.” He says shoving me away.

“You son of a bitch!”

I reach for him again but I am pulled back.

“Stop it, stop it.” Producer Hwang tells me. “The reporters outside will hear.”

I try to calm myself.

“Even the great Tae Ik is scared of reporters. Hey, Go Dong, just open up the door so that the reporters can see that I got hit by Tae Ik!”

“You jerk!”

Go Dong grabs my arms and Stylist Choi pulls on my jacket.

Producer Hwang stand between us.

“Stop it already!” Producer Hwang says.

“Instead of my face, why don’t you hit somewhere else? Try spanking. You know you want to, then we can see which one of us is gayer. I bet the reporters would love that!”

“Bastard.”

I shove them off of me and I leave the room.

I just needed to be away from Kang Hwi.

“Tae Ik! Tae Ik!” Producer Hwang says chasing after me.

“Just leave me alone.”

“Come on, don’t go off like this.”

I call for the elevator.

My hands were shaking and my heart was racing in my chest.

I needed to get out before I really killed Kang Hwi.

“I’ve had it with him! I can’t do this anymore.”

“Tae Ik. You’re not thinking rationally right now. Just go back to the hotel and get some rest.”

“No. I won’t work with him anymore.”

“Look. I understand that his performance was a bit out of line today.”

I glare at him.

“Performance!?”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“How? By tomorrow his little performance on stage will be everywhere.”

“I will handle it. Don’t you trust me?”

I take a deep breath.

“I do trust you, it’s the only reason I’m still here. But I can’t do this anymore.”

“Tae Ik.”

“I mean it. You promised me that you would let me leave when I wanted to.”

“I did promise that, yes.”

“So then?”

He sighs.

“There are three more concerts left on the tour. Just fulfill those and we will talk.”

“What more is there to talk about?”

“You and Kang Hwi were best friends at one point. I don’t understand how you got to this point and I’m not going to ask. But I can’t let you break up the group over this.”

“It’s my choice to make!”

He puts a hand on my shoulder and I can’t bring myself to shrug it off.

He always made me feel better and I respected him.

“You’re angry and I understand why. But I can’t let you walk away in this state. Clear your head first. I will take care of Kang Hwi. Just go back to the hotel and rest. We’ll talk more tomorrow. Alright?”

I nod.

The limo takes me back to the hotel and when I get to the room, Kang Hwi is already there.

“Don’t you know Tae Ik will react if he sees you? He’ll kill you!” He tells Stylist Choi.

I walk up to them.

“Stylist Choi? See me for a bit.” I say.

I go into the room and Kang Hwi, Stylist Choi and Go Dong follow me.

I take a seat on the couch and Stylist Choi stands before me.

I was probably about to take my anger out on the wrong person but she was also to blame for my earlier predicament.

I look at her.

“If the water, silk or even cotton that touches my skin is not 100%, do you or do you not know that it affect my sensitive body?”

“I do know.”

I stand.

“If you know this then how dare you ask me to wear that scarf? Are you trying to kill me?”

“Hey, you created all that ruckus because you wanted to wear it!” Kang Hwi says.

“You stay out of this.”

Stylist Choi starts crying, loudly.

How appalling.

Kang Hwi hurries over to comfort her.

“Hey, don’t cry. Just leave. There’s no use talking to him right now.”

He starts walking her to the door.

I wasn’t about to be ignored.

“Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

They both look at me.

“You know that I faint on the spot if I get an allergic reaction! Are you that stupid? How many times do I have to tell you that I can’t just wear anything on my body like you guys do?! My body is a luxury.”

“Luxury? Yeah, right!” She says.

“What?”

“Lee Tae Ik, you are the worst! You think you’re so great. I hope I never see you again, you rude bastard!”

She dumps the bag of my expensive products on the floor and walks out.

“Wow.” Kang Hwi says.

“Who the hell does she think she is to talk to me like that?”

“You kind of did deserve it for all the crap you’ve put her through.”

“Get out.” I tell him.

“Where do you want me to go? My room is right over there next to yours.”

“Then go to your room! I don’t want to look at you for the rest of the night!”

“Why the hell did you insist on wearing that scarf if you knew you were allergic to it? You could tell it wasn’t silk. That’s why you were sneezing and hyperventilating. You couldn’t take the scarf off because you’re hands were shaking, right? If it wasn’t for me, you could have died. Do you know that? I know I have a good personality and all, but do you think I wanted to kiss you? Just thinking about it makes me want to puke.”

I clench my hands.

“Unless you want to wear matching bruises, I suggest you get the hell out of my sight. Right now!”

“Alright, alright.”

All this anger wasn’t good for me.

I didn’t need to add an ulcer to my list.

I close my eyes and I take a few deep breaths.

I stare down at my scattered products before bending to pick them up.

Once I’ve collected them, I stand back up.

I can still feel Kang Hwi’s mouth on mine and I see red again.

I throw my product bag back onto the floor as hard as I can.

It wasn’t as satisfying as punching him in the face.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

A few days later, we arrive back in Korea.

Producer Hwang had been good on his word and the kissing incident had been buried.

It made me feel a bit better but I still wasn’t sure I could continue to be around Kang Hwi anymore.

The fans are waiting for us at the airport like they always do.

Kang Hwi puts his arm around my shoulders like always.

I glance at Producer Hwang and he nods at me.

I wave at the fans and smile the way I had been trained to do.

Producer Hwang had convinced me to remain in the group.

I hated the fact that he knew how to put all my misgivings at ease.

I ignore Kang Hwi on the ride back to the mansion.

It was my house, I had inherited it from my father when he passed away.

When Take One had been created, I agreed to let Kang Hwi live with me.

We were friends back then and the house was too big for me and I had been tired of living alone.

Now I just wanted to be alone again.

I lived in the main house and Kang Hwi lived in the guest house.

If I was lucky, I wouldn’t have to see or speak to him for weeks.

“We have to discuss your schedule for the upcoming days.” Producer Hwang says.

He and Kang Hwi follow me into my house.

I sit on the couch, Kang Hwi sits next to me.

“Kang Hwi, you’re scheduled to shoot a “Give Hope To The Children’s Program”.”

“Eh? “Give Hope To The Children’s Program”? That’s a program where you have to wash dishes, do laundry and pick up after kids all day. I’m not going to do that! Why do you always pick me for this kinds of stuff?”

I snort.

“I’m always doing the hard stuff on variety show programs and interviews, while all he does is shoot commercials.” He whines. “I really hate it. I won’t do it.”

“I wasn’t asking if you wanted to do it.” Producer Hwang says.

“Even if I don’t do those things, I still give children hope and dreams.” I say. “Unlike someone.”

“Look at you acting like you’re so great. Hey, I’m more popular with the kids than you, you know?”

“That’s why you can go on that program then. The one who is more popular should go, right?” I smile.

“Hey! That-”

“Both of you, stop! Kang Hwi, when I tell you to go to a shooting, just go. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

I smirk.

“Tae Ik, you have no reason to be smiling either.”

I look at Producer Hwang.

“How many has it been already?”

“What?”

“Why do you keep firing your stylists within three months? What are you going to do now? People know about your foul personality and no stylist wants to work for you.”

“Then I just won’t use one. I don’t need a stylist who doesn’t know anything about my sensitive body.” I say crossing my arms.

“It’s not like you need a stylist anyways. You’re always the worst dresser.” Kang Hwi says.

I glare at him.

“We can just go without a stylist. I don’t mind. I’m always picking out what I wear anyways and I’m always named as the best dresser. So it saves you money not hiring a stylist.” He continues.

Bastard.

*************************

Jang Man Ok

I wait for Ga Ryeong the next morning but she doesn’t show.

The idiot probably stayed up until the early hours of the morning chatting with her fellow fan club members of ‘Take &’.

I didn’t want to have to close up the dojo but I needed to go out and buy some more fabric and accessories.

I get on my scooter and I make my way to the mall.

I visit the clothing stores but none seem to have the model I am looking for.

I make my way to the last store and that’s where I find him.

He was tall, with dark hair and milky white skin.

I hurry over.

I place my hands on his chest and I run them up to his shoulders before letting them wander down his arms.

“Are you the one?” I ask.

I put my arms around him and I touch his back.

I stare at his round bottom and I can’t help but touch it.

The people passing by stare at me and I feel my cheeks heat up.

I clear my throat and step back from the mannequin.

Yes, he would be perfect.

“Okay, you pass. How much does it cost?” I ask the shop owner.

She glances my way before looking back at the computer.

“All of it?”

“Yes.”

“$120.”

“It only costs that much?”

Wow.

“If you give me more, I’ll be glad to accept it.” She says.

“I’ll take it!”

I walk over.

“I’m paying you a little more.” I say. “Have a nice day.”

I hand her $160 dollars before grabbing the mannequin, clothes and all, and carrying him out of the mall.

“Billy, congratulations on being the male model at Manokine’s clothing store. Let’s do well in the future.”

I stop outside of the store and I stare at the TV showing a clip of ‘Take One’ in concert.

I’d never actually paid any attention to them but they did look good up there.

Especially the tall one.

I bet he would look really good in my clothes.

If only….

I shake my head to get the silly thought out of my head.

There was no way I would ever be able to afford to pay a star like him to wear my outfits.

“Let’s go, Billy.”

I grab him but he tips forward and hits the guy standing beside us.

Billy knocks off his glasses and his fedora.

“Oh! I’m so sorry.”

I bend to grab his fedora off the ground and Billy tips forward again.

He grabs Billy and I grab his hat and his sunglasses.

“I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay.” He says.

Screaming girls surround us.

What the hell?

“Oh, it’s my man! That’s my oppa!”

They start taking pictures and grabbing at the young man.

The people start shoving me out of the way.

I grab Billy and I start waving him around.

I know I probably looked like a lunatic but it served to distract them.

They stop screaming and instead they’re trying to get out of my range.

I look back and the guy who is still standing there staring at me.

“What are you doing? Run away!”

“Oh, right.”

He runs and soon the screaming girls are after him.

This was all my fault.

But how was I supposed to know he was famous?

Why is he walking around by himself? Don’t celebrities usually have bodyguards?

“Come on, Billy. We have some rescuing to do.”

I leave Billy in front of a clothing store and I circle around through the alley.

I manage to catch up to the blond haired guy.

I grab his arm and I lead him back to the clothing store and Billy.

He tries to catch his breath.

“Thank you. Again.” He pants.

“It was my fault in the first place.”

He chuckles.

“Are you okay?” I ask.

“Yes, kind of.”

“People rarely come here so you should be fine.”

The screaming of girls gets closer.

Crazy women.

How the hell did they track us?

The guy starts to panic.

“Quickly, take off your jacket.”

“What?”

I grab his jacket and I remove it.

“Just stand here and pose with Billy. Cover your face with your hat.”

“Okay.”

I watch from inside the store as the throng of fans run past him.

I walk back out.

“They’re all gone now.”

He breathes a sigh of relief.

I hand him back his jacket.

“Here. You should hurry and leave. They might circle back.”

“You’re awesome, you know? I never would have thought of your idea.”

I can feel myself blushing.

“Thank you.”

“Can you and your Billy walk me back to my car? I think it would be safer to have you with me.”

I laugh.

“Sure.”

“I’m Won Kang Hwi, by the way.”

“Won Kang Hwi? From ‘Take One’?”

“Yes.”

Ga Ryeong was going to die!

“What’s your name?”

“Jang Man Ok.”

“Man Ok. It has a nice ring to it.”

“Thank you.”

He helps me carry Billy and we make our way to the parking garage.

He stops next to a white car.

“This is me.”

“It was nice meeting you.” I say.

“And I especially enjoyed meeting you. I’m really thankful to you and Billy. If it wasn’t for the pre-recording gig I would’ve treated you to a meal.”

I can feel my cheeks heat up again.

“No, it’s nothing.”

“Give me your phone number.”

“What?”

“I will send you invitation tickets when we have a concert.”

“Really? My friend is a really huge fan of yours.”

He hands me his phone and I put my name and number before handing it back.

“Pretty name and style. Nice to meet you, Man Ok. I will call you later.”

“Okay.”

I wave at him as he drives off.

“Come on Billy, I think we’ve had enough excitement for one day. Let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

Why did it fall to me to be the babysitter?

I hit the speed dial and lucky for him, he answers right away.

“Wong Kang Hwi, where the hell are you? Don’t you know we have a schedule?”

“I am on my way right now.”

“Seriously! If you end up being late again then you just wait and see.”

“Just worry about yourself. I will be there on time.”

“You better.”

I hang up.

“Go Dong! Step on it. I need to get there before Won Kang Hwi!”

He hits the brakes and I brace myself on the seat in front of me.

“Why the hell did you stop?”

“The light turned red.”

“Ah, seriously!”

The van starts making weird noises.

“What? What’s wrong?” I ask.

“I don’t know.”

He gasps suddenly.

“What is it? Did it break down?”

He turns and smiles at me.

“It ran out of gas.” He says quietly.

“What?!”

“It’s okay. I’ll call President Hwang to come and get you.”

“Tell him to hurry.”

I get out of the van.

Today of all days.

Stupid Go Dong. Can’t even remember to put gas in the car.

He steps out of the van.

“What did he say? How long before he gets here?”

“It will take around twenty minutes.”

“Don’t give me that rubbish! I don’t have twenty minutes!”

“Oh, look.”

I turn to look down the road in the direction he was pointing.

A baby blue scooter was hurrying towards us.

“Finally.” I wave my arm. “Here, right here!”

“I don’t think that’s him.” Go Dong says.

The scooter stops right next to us and I stare at the young guy with the mannequin strapped to the back.

What in the hell?

I notice the bumper sticker stuck to the side of the scooter.

It was from our fan club.

A fan.

At least something I could use.

I look at the guy.

He was wearing a helmet but tuffs of hair were sticking out in every which way.

He didn’t even glance at us.

I stare at the sticker again.

Was he really a fan?

“What are you staring at?” He finally says.

I ignore him.

He jumps off of his scooter.

He was a lot shorter than he looked.

“What the hell are you staring at?” He demands.

I take off my sunglasses.

“Oh!” He says.

So he did know who I was.

I smile.

“You know me, right?”

He nods.

“I’m sorry. Since you’re a member of the ‘Give &’ fan club, I’m going to ask you a favor.”

“Favor?”

“I’m in kind of a hurry. Please lend me your scooter.”

“Well….yes.”

I move to get on the scooter and he shoves me back suddenly.

Go Dong catches me.

For such a short guy he sure was strong.

“Ah! My grandfather! Sorry.”

He climbs on the scooter and I grab his arm.

He looks at me.

“I am asking you for a favor.”

“I’m sorry but I also have urgent business.”

“You’re a fan and I have a live broadcast schedule to get to right now.”

“I am not your fan.” He says removing my hand from his arm. “I am really busy. And you don’t have a live broadcast show, it’s pre-recorded. Why would you lie?”

How the hell did he know that?

He moves to straddle the scooter and push him onto the other side before climbing on myself.

“Hey!”

I put my sunglasses back on.

“Seeing how you know our schedule, you are a fan. Whatever it is you want, an autograph or whatever, I owe you one.”

“Hold on just a minute.”

I take the helmet from him.

“Thank you.” I push the mannequin off the scooter before speeding off.

“Hey! Get back here you thief!”

I smile.

Something about making that short guy angry really took the edge off.

I might have to make this moment my new happy place.

I arrive at the studio before Kang Hwi.

I am dressed and ready before he even bursts through the door.

I glare at him.

“Sorry, sorry!” He says. “There was so much traffic.”

“Bullshit.”

“It’s true!”

“I clearly told you that if you were late-”

“I am not late! We already rehearsed last time, so it’s fine!”

Right.

“The state circulation got changed. When I move over to the left-”

“It’s alright. I’ll make my moves as I see fit.” He says cutting me off. “Why are you being such an amateur?”

“Take One, it’s rehearsal time.” The director says.

“Let’s go.” Kang Hwi says patting me on the back.

Jerk.

We take our positions on stage and the music begins to play.

He sings his part and moves to the left and instantly gets knocked on the head by the moving camera.

He falls flat on his back.

I crouch down beside him.

“Hey, are you okay?”

He groans.

I help him sit up.

He had a cut on his forehead and I press my hand to it before the blood gets on his shirt.

“Are you okay? You should go to the hospital.” The director says.

Kang Hwi chuckles.

“I’m okay. I think I just need a bandage.”

I shake my head.

A bandage is placed over his cut and I help him to his feet.

“Are you sure you’re alright? You got hit pretty hard. We wouldn’t want you to become more of an idiot.” I say wiping his blood off my hand.

“Of course I’m fine. I’m a god, remember?”

“I don’t recall god’s landing on their assess like that.”

He glares at me.

“Let’s continue. I’ll just wear my hat to cover the bandage.” He tells the director.

“Alright. If you’re sure.”

“I am. I’m sorry everyone, let’s do it again.”

“Well then. Please stand by.” The director calls.

Practice goes smooth after that and then we go backstage to wait until the recording.

I ignore him for the most part.

We are called back on stage and the fans have already been brought in.

The music begins and we do the show.

Luckily, Kang Hwi remembered to move in the opposite direction this time.

After the show I change and I go down to the café to get some ice for Kang Hwi’s hard head otherwise he would bitch about me not carrying.

After the barista got over his shock and excitement to see me, he gave me a bag with ice.

“Thank you.” I say walking away.

I go back to the dressing room.

“Lee Tae Il, this rude guy. Where did he go?”

I stop as I hear Kang Hwi talking with Go Dong.

“I go hurt and we still finished our recording session well, shouldn’t he at least come and see if I’m alright and say a few encouraging words? He doesn’t even have the decency to worry! As soon as the show ends he just disappears like that? Hey, Go Dong, do I have to keep working with this kind of rude dog?”

“Rude dog?”

I throw the bag of ice I had brought into the trash.

I was about to go in and give that son of a bitch a piece of my mind but my cell phone starts ringing.

It was President Hwang.

“What?”

“Where is the scooter?”

“I’ll be right out.”

I send one last glare Kang Hwi’s way before going outside.

I go over to President Hwang and I lead him over to the side parking lot.

“The keys?”

I take them out of my pocket.

He takes them.

“Do you know how hard it was for me because of that scooter?”

I cross my arms.

The last thing I wanted right now was a scolding.

“If you just ride off with a total stranger’s scooter-”

I look at him.

“Then should I just not have shown up for the recording? Or should I have been like Won Kang Hwi, who almost cracked his forehead open because he didn’t memorize the stage circulation?”

“Why are you saying that? You know that’s not what I meant.”

“Give me the car keys.”

“What?”

“Car keys. Now.”

“Let’s go together. You said you don’t like to drive.”

“Forget it! I don’t want to see that losers face right now.”

“Are the two of you at it again?”

“I’m going home.”

“Lee Tae Ik.”

“See you later.”

When I get home, there is a deliver service guy waiting by the gate.

I get out of the car to open the gate.

“Excuse me.” He says.

I look at him.

“Do you live here?”

“Obviously.”

He hands me his phone.

“Please answer the phone.”

I take it.

“Hello.”

“Ohh. You already went home?” Kang Hwi says.

“What do you want?”

“Hey, your hyungnim got hurt but you don’t even look in on him? Shameful.”

Happy place. Happy place.

“Is that why you called? I’m hanging up.”

“No! Wait.”

“What?”

“Take the package from the delivery guy. This is a very important so take good care of it alright?”

“I am not your servant or your assistant. Get your own damn packages yourself!”

“I’ll be by later. Just sign for it alright?”

He hangs up on me.

“That crazy son of a bitch!”

The delivery guy takes his phone before I can throw it onto the pavement.

He hands me the package.

I look at the sticker stuck to the front.

Manokine Wardrobe.

Is this that clothing store Kang Hwi is always buying from?

I smile.

“Oh, yes. I will take good care of this.”

I sign for it and I get the gate open.

I drive up to the house and I throw the package in the trash bin.

It should be taken care of here.

I really did feel a lot better now.

I take a hot shower and I make myself some dinner.

Kang Hwi comes into my house without even knocking.

I slap his hand away as he picks food off my plate.

“Where’s my package?”

“I threw it away.”

“What?”

I look at him.

“I threw it away.”

“Seriously?”

“I told you that if you were late again I would make you regret it.”

“Tae Ik. Did you really throw it away?”

“Yes.”

“That was a limited edition item! Where did you throw it away? Where?”

I smile at him.

“Today is the trash collection day. I would hurry if I were you.”

“You…seriously!”

Yes.

I really did feel better about things right now.

****************************

Jang Man Ok

I answer the phone.

“Man Ok Residence.”

“Oh. Isn’t this Manokine’s clothing store?”

“Yes. It is.”

“I was calling about the denim shirt I purchased the other day.”

“Was there a problem?”

“No, no. It says that the item is out of stock on your website.”

“Ah, yes. That was a limited edition item.”

“I really need it. Please. If you have a spare.”

“I think I did have just one but I will have to go through my merchandize.”

“Thank you so much.”

“What is your ID?”

“I am Na Min.”

I write it down.

“If you could please call me.”

“If I have one I will deliver it personally.”

“Thank you, thank you!”

I smile.

“You’re welcome.”

“Keep up the good work. Bye.”

“Bye.”

It really was worth it to have customers who loved my clothes.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

“I’m going to need you to go to the “Give Hope To The Children’s Program”.” Producer Hwang says.

“What? Why?”

“Should I send Kang Hwi all knocked up like that?”

I look at Kang Hwi.

A nice bruise was forming on his forehead.

“I was really looking forward to this shoot you know?” Kang Hwi says.

Yeah, right!

“This happened because you went on stage without listening to directions.” I tell him.

He sticks his tongue out at me.

I really wanted to punch him again.

“It happened, there is nothing we can do about it now.” President Hwang says. “Tae Ik, you should get ready for the shooting.”

“I don’t want to. You know that I don’t do variety programs.”

“It’s not variety. It’s a public interest program. It’s a four day special program that the broadcast company is shooting.”

“I don’t care. I’m not doing it.”

“I wasn’t asking.”

I glare at him.

He sighs.

“Do you know how much it will cost if we don’t show up for this program? Besides, it will be helpful to your image.”

“I told you I don’t want to. Don’t you know that I hate kids?”

Spending a whole day with a kid.

Just thinking about it makes me shiver.

“Lee Tae Ik. I really need you to do this.”

Why does he have to do that sad face?

“Fine.” I spit out.

“Thank you.”

I glare at Kang Hwi before leaving the room.

I needed to prepare myself mentally for this.

The van picks me up around noon and takes me to the children’s center.

I had a really bad feeling about this.

“Let’s go on the slide.” The kid tells me.

“No.”

“Come on!”

He gets up and runs to the slide.

I sigh and get up.

I walk over and trip over a tricycle.

God that hurt.

I rub my shin.

I watch the kid play.

I felt like a complete idiot.

“Cut!” The director calls.

I look at him.

“Tae Ik-shi, please play together as if it is fun. That way we’ll have something to show.”

“Alright.”

“Let’s take a break.”

The kid walks up to me.

“Why do you just stand there and stare at me like that? You don’t even play with me.” He says.

“I was not staring at you.”

I was just reflecting on my life choices.

“Then do you want to play with me?”

I sigh.

I suppose I had to.

“Sure.”

“Then do Paing Paing for me.”

“Paing Paing?”

He grabs my hand.

“Follow me.”

He leads me to an area free of the protective mats.

“What is Paing Paing?”

“It is spinning while holding hands. Like this!”

I take his hands in mine and we spin around and around, faster.

“Like this?”

“Yes.” He laughs.

Suddenly the kid goes down and he takes me with him.

I land on my shoulder and I feel something pop.

It hurts so much.

I cry out.

Go Dong hurries to my side.

“Are you okay, Hyungnim?”

“I think I dislocated my arm.”

“Me too!” The kid says.

Go Dong keep touching my shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!”

“Sorry, sorry.”

“Let’s take you to the hospital.”

“We need to go to the Taekwondo studio out in front.” The kid says.

“What? Are you crazy?” I tell him.

“My master will relocate my arm.”

“Why would you go to a Taekwondo studio?”

“I used to go to the Taekwondo studio whenever I needed to relocate my arm.” Go Dong tells me.

“How in the hell did you play that you needed to relocate your arm more than once?” I ask him.

He just chuckles and helps me to my feet.

I cry out again.

The pain was excruciating.

We follow the kid to the studio.

Every step jars my arm and I grit my teeth.

“Master!” The kid yells.

He goes in.

“Hyungnim, we should go inside.” Go Dong tells me.

“Relocate my arm here?” I say staring at the building. “Forget it. I want to leave.”

“Master, I can move my arm well now!” The kid says.

I stop.

“Come on. See? He’s all better now.”

Go Dong leads me inside.

The Master comes towards us.

“We meet again.” He says.

Go Dong shoves me forward and I cry out.

“What the hell?!”

“Sorry, sorry.”

I look back at the guy standing in front of me.

“Who are you?” I ask.

“Oh my! It seems you don’t remember me. Ah, this is so upsetting.”

“You stole his scooter and he beat me to death.” Go Dong says.

“Scooter?”

It was him?

He looked really different.

Younger.

Still as short though.

“It looks like you’ve dislocated your arm. My friend also dislocated his arm and he sure had a hard time because of it.” He says nodding off to the left.

I turn to look.

The mannequin.

Shit.

It only had one arm.

I look back at the Master.

He had a crazy look in his eyes.

I straighten up.

“Go Dong.”

“Yes?”

“Let’s go to the hospital.”

“Okay.”

I turn to leave but the crazy Master grabs my arm.

I cry out.

Without warning he pops it back in place.

He lets me go and I grab my shoulder.

“Hyung-nim! Are you alright?” Go Dong asks.

I was not okay!

“Of course he’s alright!” The Master says. “He’s quite the cry baby isn’t he?”

I glare at him.

“Please try to move your arm.”

“I told you that it hurts.”

“That’s why you need to move it. Even the kid didn’t complain this much.” He mutters.

“Hyungnim, try moving it slowly.” Go Dong says.

It still hurt but it was better now.

“You can’t even tolerate that amount of pain? Hmm.”

I roll my eyes.

“You were so bold when you stole my scooter from me.”

“Don’t I need to get my arm x-rayed?”

“There’s no need. It’s not my first time relocating people’s arms. All you need to do is put a hot towel over it.”

The dry board catches my attention and I walk over.

He had all the dates of Kang Hwi’s schedule on here.

Figures.

“Look here! Because of you my Billy suffered an excruciating pain losing his arm. Just thinking about what you did it makes me want to dislocate your other arm!”

“Woah, woah!” Go Dong says. “Please calm down!”

I turn to look at the guy.

“I was right! You’re a member of ‘Give &’. You know our schedule better than I do. Why did you lie about being our fan when you’ve got all of this? I asked for your help because I saw that emblem on your scooter.”

“That’s not me, my friend-”

I hold my finger in front of his face.

“Enough.”

I take the marker and I put a star on the 22nd through the 24th.

“This is a thank you present.” I say standing back in front of him.

He looks up at me.

“What the hell does it mean?”

“You have to figure that out yourself.”

He snorts.

I take his hand and I place the marker in it.

“Anyways, thank you for this.” I say moving my arm. “Good bye.”

“Hey! I wasn’t done talking!”

I exit the studio and I make my way back to the children’s center.

We are able to finish the filming.

“Hyung-nim.”

“Hmm.”

“Why did you tell him about your schedule? You kept it a secret from your fans.”

“Because he only had Won Kang Hwi’s schedule up there. He only has one beverage commercial! What is so special about that? I have three! The laptop, outdoor wear and the clothing!”

Go Dong laughs.

“What? This is all because of Kang Hwi. That jerk. He’s probably laying around at home pretending to be recovering.”

“You guys.” He says shaking his head.

************************

Jang Man Ok

“Ok! Ok! Ok!” Ga Ryeong shouts entering the studio.

I sigh.

“What is it now?”

“If you have any money on you right now, please give it to me. It’s really urgent!”

“What’s so urgent? Is ‘Take One’ releasing a new song? A showcase? A concert?”

“Fan meeting.”

I continue to mop the floor.

“Ok! This time I really have to go. My oppa is waiting for me.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Come on!”

“Get lost. You’re getting in the way.”

“Hey! Just think of it as an advance on my paycheck.”

“You hardly work.”

“Jang Man Ok. Are you really going to be like this? Is this how far our friendship goes?”

She starts crying but I know it’s fake.

I still feel bad, maybe because she was so pathetic.

Damn her.

“How much do you need?”

She raises two fingers.

I give her twenty dollars.

“Here. But you have to work harder managing the website.”

“I’ll work really really hard. I swear.”

“Good.”

She counts the money.

“Wait. Are you messing with me?”

“What? Didn’t you ask for twenty dollars?”

“It’s a VIP invite only! Do you really think it only costs twenty dollars? It’s two hundred!”

“Are you crazy? They’re always on TV! Are you seriously going to pay two hundred dollars to see them?!”

“If I don’t see my Kang Hwi oppa regularly, I can’t go to sleep at night.”

“You really are crazy.”

“My oppa just shines, he is the best.”

I snort.

“What was that?”

“Nothing.”

“You don’t agree?”

“No, he must be really handsome.”

Actually, he had been rather cute.

But still.

He can’t compare to…..

I look at Ga Ryeong.

“Do you know that guy that sings with Kang Hwi?”

“Ah, Tae Ik? Yeah, he thinks he’s so hot.”

“Hmm. He really is.”

“What did you say?”

“Nothing. I just think he would look really good wearing my clothes.”

“No way! Kang Hwi is so much hotter.”

“He’s not as tall.”

“But he’s better!”

“If you like ‘Take One’ shouldn’t you like both of them?”

“There is no way someone like you would understand the profound world of us fans.”

“If it saves me from being crazy like you then I’m fine with it.”

“Jang Man Ok! What about my money?”

“Did you leave your money with me?”

“If I recruit new Taekwondo students for you, how much are you going to give me?”

“I’ll give you all you want.”

“Fine. How does $5 a head sound?”

“Go ahead. But I doubt you’ll have much success.”

“You just leave it up to me!”

This crazy woman.

How did I get a friend like this?

The next morning I go out for my morning run and I stop as I see the ad for my Taekwondo studio.

It was a picture of me resetting Tae Ik’s arm.

“Hallyu Star Lee Tae Ik has also come to Man Ok’s Taekwondo Studio.”

I gasp.

That crazy woman!

How in the hell did she get a picture?

The walls down the street are all lined with the ad.

I follow the ads down the road until I come up to Ga Ryeong putting them up.

“You can’t post these here.” I say making my voice sound deeper.

“I’m just a hired part-timer. My boss told me to do this.”

Seriously?

“Who told you to do this?” I ask turning her around.

“Man Ok! You scared me.”

“What is this?”

“Man Ok Taekwondo Studio posters! I did good putting them up, didn’t I?”

“Just look at the bullshit you wrote! Not to mention that the design and the picture, it all looks cheap!”

“How could we let this opportunity pass by?”

“How did you even get this picture?”

“My mom took it when she came to collect the rent.”

“Do you know what will happen if this jerk finds out I’m using his picture?”

“Hey, if you relocated his arm then he owes you. Right?”

He did say he owed me.

But still.

“This is not going to end well.”

“You’re going to be cashing in! You just wait and see.”

**************************

Lee Tae Ik

I add up the money I had spent for the month.

I couldn’t go over my self-imposed allowance.

Just because I had money did not mean I could spend like crazy.

“It’s so weird. How am I two dollars short?”

“Tae Ik.” Kang Hwi sing songs coming into my house.

“Did you not see the bell on the door? Why do you keep coming into my house without an invitation?”

“Then place a bodyguard by the front door if you don’t like it.”

“What do you want?”

“How did you ever decide on shooting this kind of thing?” He asks setting his tablet on the coffee table.

I glance at it.

“Ah, the ad shoot I did for the clothing line?”

“What are you talking about? Well, I suppose it is an internet clothing store so it is kind of a clothing ad. But I still don’t think this is good.”

“What?”

“Zoom into the background and take a close look.”

I lean forward and I zoom into the picture in the background.

Oh my god.

How in the hell…?

“What is this?”

Kang Hwi chuckles.

“Hey, this is you right?”

“What is this trashy picture?”

“Man Ok’s Taekwondo Studio?”

That crazy midget!

I look at Kang Hwi.

“Get out.”

“Why?”

“I have to go see President Hwang.”

Who the hell does he think he is using my picture like this?

And that picture no less!

I storm into President Hwang’s office.

“Lee Tae Ik.”

I show him the picture.

“What is this?” He asks looking closer at it.

“Tell them to take down the picture and shut the site down immediately! What does he have against me to post such a horrid picture online? Ahh!”

I felt like there was a lead ball in my chest.

“Do you know who this is?”

“Of course I do! It’s the guy with the scooter.”

“Ah.”

“I demand an apology from him!”

“There’s no need to get so worked up over this. It’s small so as long as they don’t zoom in on it, no one will know it’s you.”

“But we don’t know where and how many they’ve posted already.”

“Alright. I will deal with this. Just go home and forget about it.”

“How can I forget about it?”

“Let this serve you as a lesson then.”

“What?”

“Don’t steal people’s scooters. Go on, I’ll handle it.”

I grit my teeth.

“Fine.”

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

He slaps the ads down on the table.

“You sure wallpapered the neighborhood walls with your posters, huh?”

I look at President Hwang.

“I was going to take them off anyways.” I lie.

He looks at the one I have in the studio.

I hurry to take it down.

“I just want you to know that I didn’t do this on purpose. It just happened.”

“Even so, you made all these posters. You even put up that picture on your internet shopping home page.”

“That is really a misunderstanding. I just uploaded a picture of the uniform. If you don’t look at it carefully, you really can’t tell who it is.”

“Do you know how many people have taken a picture of your poster and posted it on their blogs?”

“I’m sorry. I will remove the flyer and take down the pictures.”

He sighs.

“That will not be enough to resolve this issue. You used his pictures illegally, there is the violation use of his name, his portrait rights and on top of everything, infringement!”

“What are you saying?”

“Lee Tae Ik would like nothing better than to sue you but if it turns into a lawsuit and the media finds out, it won’t look good on him. It’s better if we settle.”

“So what should I do?”

“Take down your homepage immediately and pay a compensation fee of thirty thousand dollars.”

“What?!”

“This is non-negotiable.”

“Can’t you just let me go this once?”

“I’m sorry but you should have thought of that before.”

He leaves.

“Oh! What am I supposed to do now? You think I have that kind of money lying around!”

Maybe if I talked with Lee Tae Ik and apologized?

I call Ga Ryeong.

She doesn’t pick up.

The one time I actually need her!

“Hey, Man Ok.” Mrs. Hong calls.

Now what?

“Good morning.” I say.

“This is Oscar from Do Wah Dong. He’s our dance teacher. Mister Oh, this is the teacher I told you about.”

“Hello.” I say.

“Oh, Jesus Christ! You have the body of a dancer! Do you want to dance with me?”

“What? I don’t dance.”

“Hey, this is a great chance for you to learn how to dance!” Mrs. Hong scolds. “You’re athletic so you will learn fast.”

“What can I do for you then?” I ask.

“Our teacher is teaching a dance seminar but he doesn’t have a place to train. So I told him about your studio. After your classes, I thought you could let him use it for a few hours at night.”

“I’m sorry but if I use the studio for dancing, my grandfather will seriously kill me. Excuse me.”

She pulls me back.

“Hey, for such a young person, you are not flexible at all. It’ll be a while before your grandfather comes home.”

“I won’t use it for free of course.” Mister Oh says. “I will pay you rent.”

Maybe this was my opportunity to make some more money.

“Rent?”

“Of course. How does two hundred a day sound?”

“Two hundred? Let’s do it then.”

“He’ll start tonight then.” Mrs. Hong says.

“Okay.”

My phone starts ringing.

I look at the caller ID.

Finally she’s calling me back.

“Where are you right now?” I ask.

“I have to go see my oppa. What did you need?”

“You know where ‘Take One’ lives, right?”

“Why do you want to know where my oppa lives?”

“I need to see Lee Tae Ik immediately.”

“We don’t know where they live exactly.”

“You guys pry into their lives and you don’t know where they live?”

“Do you think we don’t want to know? Why do you need to know anyways?”

“I’ll tell you the details later. If I wanted to meet Lee Tae Ik, where would I go?”

“I don’t know. He might be at U Entertainment. I have to go. Bye.”

“Wait!”

She hangs up.

This girl!

I make my way to U Entertainment.

When I get there, there are girls waiting outside.

Has to be a good sign right?

I park my scooter and I make my way into the building and I am promptly escorted out by security.

“I really have to meet Lee Tae Ik for personal reasons! Let go of me.” I tell them.

They either can’t hear or they don’t care.

They set me down and go back in.

The waiting girls surround me.

“You must be new here. We have rules.”

“Rules?”

“No matter how much you like the oppas, you can’t just barge in.”

“Move. I have important business. I have to see Tae Ik or whatever you call him.”

“What did he say? Who are you to call our oppa ‘Tae Ik or whatever’?”

“Hey guys. Tae Ik oppa is here!” Someone shouts.

They run off screaming to the waiting taxis.

“Wait! Where are you guys going?”

I follow them.

They arrive at a store.

I try to push my way past them but they won’t budge.

“Hey guys, excuse me. Excuse me.”

One of the girls steps on me with her stilettos.

Oh god that hurts!

“Hey! You should apologize if you step on someone’s foot.” I tell her.

“Tae Ik!” She yells.

The crown pushes forward and I am carried away with them.

I catch a glimpse of the guys face before he’s gone.

“Damn it!”

What was I supposed to do now?

I make my way back home.

There are police cars everywhere and the studio has been closed off with police tape.

“What the hell is this?”

I hurry up the steps.

“What happened?” I ask one of the police officers.

“Are you the owner of the gym?”

“Yes.”

“There was some illegal gambling going on here.”

“What?”

“The detectives are investigating and making arrests.”

“Gambling?”

“You need to come to the police station.”

“What?!”

I am escorted to the police station and I glare at Mister Oh.

I look at the police officer.

“How many times do I have to tell you? I didn’t know there was illegal gambling going on. He said he needed the studio for dancing!”

“Either way. You will need to suspend business and pay fines.”

“Sus…suspension of business?”

“For at least fifteen days until the investigation is over.”

“What. What?!”

I make a scene and I am escorted out of the police station.

Now what the hell was I supposed to do?

My website was shut down and now my studio was being shut down?

How in the hell did my life get to this point?

And what was I going to tell my grandfather?

I go into my empty studio and I try really hard not to cry.

I fail.

I sit in the office and sob hysterically.

The phone rings.

I sniff and wipe my eyes before answering.

“Hello.” I sigh.

“Jang Man Ok!”

I sit up straight.

“Yes, Grandfather.”

“Did somebody die? Why are you answering the phone with a sigh?”

“I exercised hard today. I’m just tired.”

“There is no problem at the studio, right?”

“What? No, there is no problem.”

“Really? I called because I’ve been having disturbing dreams for the past few days. Guard the studio well. Where there is a will…”

“There is a way.” I answer.

“I will call you in a few days.”

“Yes, grandfather. Take care.”

I hang up.

I go out into the studio.

I’ve really let my grandfather down this time.

I spot the fliers under the sofa.

I pick them up.

Stupid Lee Tae Ik.

“This is all because of you.” I tell his picture. “You made all this havoc because I used one photo? If your arm got dislocated, you should have gone to the hospital. Why did you come to someone else’s studio and cause trouble? If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have lent the studio. Then there wouldn’t have been any gambling and there wouldn’t have been any temporary suspension of business. Ah, seriously! If I catch you with my hands, you are dead!”

I tear up the flyers.

I spot the box I had left resting on the table.

Right.

I was supposed to have delivered this shirt.

I pick up the box.

“You are the last order for Manokin Wardrobe.”

Early the next morning I make my way to the address I had for Na Min.

I drive up the driveway and stop near the gate.

“Wow. This house is nice.”

Who was I kidding? This wasn’t a house. It looked more like a palace.

I ring the bell.

I wait but no one seemed to be coming so I press the bell a couple more times.

“Is nobody in? Oh, right. He told me to call.”

I take out my phone but before I can dial, the gate opens.

I stare in shock at Lee Tae Ik.

“Oh!” He says surprised. “What are you doing here? How did you find out about this place?” He demands.

“You live here?”

“Are you a stalker? Are you Won Kang Hwi’s W.P.?”

“His what?”

“W.P. Wicked private fan.”

“I feel bad enough being called a stalker, what kind of person do you think I am?”

“You are shameless to come here after you have sold out someone else’s face with a wretched photo.”

He closes the gate.

Wait a minute.

“What did you say? Shameless?”

Who the hell did he think he was to call me shameless? He didn’t even know me.

I throw the box over the fence as hard as I can.

He groans in pain as the box hits him right in the middle of his back.

I climb the gate so I can look at him.

“Hey! You jerk! Come back here.”

He whirls around to look at me.

“You crazy midget! What do you think you’re doing?”

Midget?

“First, come on out. I am asking you nicely this time. Come out! Take responsible for everything, you bastard!”

“Responsibility for what exactly?”

“Just because you are a celebrity you think you can do anything? Is it such a big deal if you were embarrassed a little bit because you didn’t look perfect in the picture? Who are you to tell me to shut down my website? Fine. I was wrong to use your picture without permission but do you have to take all I have to feel relieved?”

He turns his back to me.

“What? You have nothing to say?”

He walks away.

“Where are you going? You bastard!”

My eyes sting with tears.

“It doesn’t matter to you does it? I am just another annoying insect to squash under your mighty heel.”

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

I get spectacularly drunk.

“What are you going to do now? You don’t even have immediate living expenses. How the hell am I supposed to pay that bastard?”

There is a knock on the door.

“Who is coming to see me this late?”

I stumble a few times on my way to the door.

“Man Ok.”

“Kang Hwi-nim.”

“Hi.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to talk to you. Wait. Are you drunk?”

“Do I look like I’m drunk?”

“Yes.”

“Then yes I am.”

He smiles.

“Come on. I’ll help you inside.

He follows me back to my room.

“Wow.” He says walking into my closet. “These are the accessories used in the Manokine Wardrobe. Are all these real?”

He picks up my father’s watch.

“You know about Manokine Wardrobe?” I ask.

He turns to face me.

“Of course I do! It’s me, Na Min. Look. I’m wearing the denim shirt.”

“Oh! That is one of mine.”

“Do you know how much I wanted this?”

“I never would have thought that you would be wearing my clothes.”

“I suppose I should be apologizing.”

“For what?”

“I’m the one who showed Tae Ik the photo. But I really didn’t know that you were the owner of Manokine Wardrobe. I’m sorry.”

“It’s not like it’s your fault.”

“The lawsuit and shutting down your website must have given you a real blow huh?”

I nod.

“He’s not suing me but I do have to pay him thirty thousand dollars.”

“What?”

“And now I can’t even teach Taekwondo.”

“Hey. Why don’t you sell me all those vintage outfits you have? I will give you the money you need.”

“I can’t do that. They are all I have left of my parents.”

“Ah. I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“Hey. The clothes you sold. Did you design them?”

“Yes. I even made a few of them myself.”

“Did you really?”

I nod.

He takes my hand.

I stare at him.

“Man Ok, would you like to work with us?”

“What?”

“Our stylist quit sometime back. How about becoming our Take One stylist? But you have to let me use all these accessories.”

“I can’t do that. If my grandfather found out-”

“He won’t ever know.”

“Besides, Tae Ik hates me and he would never agree to work with me.”

“I’ll take care of it! All you have to do is agree.”

Me? A stylist for Take One?

“I will make sure you get a handsome salary and the settlement money can be reduced from your paycheck little by little.”

“Really?”

He nods.

It was tempting.

Besides, it’s not like I had any other job offers.

Do I dare?

“Okay.” I say.

“Thank you! Okay, get some sleep. I will come by early tomorrow morning, you just shave your legs.”

“What? Shave my legs?”

“Just trust me. I have a plan.”

I don’t know why those words made me afraid.

*************************

Lee Tae Ik

“Who are you?”

She turns to look at me.

“Nice to meet you.” She says with a bow.

“How did you get in here?”

“Oh! I see you two have already met.” Kang Hwi says.

“Why is she in my house?”

“This is our new stylist, Michelle.”

I look at the young girl again.

Her blue eyes glance at me before skidding away.

“Stylist?” I ask.

“Don’t you think she’s pretty?”

I glance at Michelle.

I had to admit, she was dressed pretty well and there wasn’t a single hair out of place.

“Hey, we’re going to be late for our shoot.” Kang Hwi says.

I narrow my eyes at him.

“Since when do you worry about things like that?”

“Why don’t we work with her today and see if we like it, huh?”

Michelle nods.

“Fine.” I say.

“Come on.” He grabs Michelle’s hand and they hurry out of the house.

Did those two know each other?

I was going to have to remind him about appropriate behavior around employees.

I follow them out of the house.

Kang Hwi was busy introducing the new stylist to Go Dong so I climb into the van.

They climb in and we take off.

“Wow!”

I look back at Michelle.

She lowers her head.

I face forward again.

There was something familiar about her.

I don’t know what it is but I feel like I know her.

Or that I’ve at least met her before.

I look back at her again.

“Hey. You’re going to make her uncomfortable with all that staring.” Kang Hwi tells me.

I face forward again.

“You really think she has what it takes?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know. She looks too young.”

“What does that have to do with anything? Just wait and see.”

“Hmm.”

When we arrive, we are ushered into the dressing room.

“This is Tae Ik’s outfit.” Go Dong tells Michelle.

I watch her through the mirror.

She takes the jacket and helps me into it.

It starts to itch right away.

I take it off.

“What’s wrong?” Michelle asks.

“This is not 100% wool!” I throw it onto the table. “Go Dong, what happened?”

Michelle grabs the jacket.

“This is what the last stylist brought.” Go Dong explains.

I cross my arms and cock an eyebrow at him.

“So you’re telling me to wear this?”

“No. Of course not. I’ll go bring a different one from the car.”

“Wait!”

I look at Michelle.

“It’s 100% wool on the outside.”

“And?”

“Just turn it inside out. No problem.”

“You want me to wear the jacket inside out?” I snort.

She grabs my arm and forces the jacket on me.

“Are you crazy? Let go! Who wears clothes inside out?”

She turns me so that I am facing the mirror.

Wow.

“It…looks good.” I say.

The colors stood out even more against my black pants and black shirt.

“Look at you. Gorgeous.” She sighs.

I smile at her.

Kang Hwi chuckles.

I look away and I clear my throat.

“Right. Well. What are you doing?”

Kang Hwi looks at me.

“What?”

“Aren’t you going?”

I leave the room before I can embarrass myself further.

By that afternoon, photos of the performance are all over the internet.

At least I wasn’t named the worst dressed.

In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Perhaps Kang Hwi hadn’t made a mistake in hiring Michelle.

I smile.

“Are you happy?” Kang Hwi says sneaking up on me.

I look at him.

“What?”

“The fashion terrorist, Tae Ik, clears his name and becomes a fashionista. How can you get rid of your label as a terrorist that has followed you around for five years in one go? Our stylist sure is great, right?”

“Whatever.”

“Here. I prepared this for you.” He says handing me a document.

“What is it?”

“Memorandum for the contact of our stylist.”

“Memorandum?” I chuckle. “Don’t you think you’re exaggerating?”

“Neither party can unilaterally break the contract for at least three months. Regardless of the situation, whoever breaks the contract first will give the other party whatever penalty fees he or she wants.”

“Why a memorandum when hiring just one stylist?”

“This is exactly why we need one. I was the one who found her and brought her here, if you fire her suddenly what do you think that will do to my image?”

“So it’s not so much that you care about her. I get it now.”

“I never said that.”

I look at him.

“Fine. Leave it here and I’ll read it later.”

“Just sign it now! Where will you find a stylist like Michelle? There are two other companies who want her.”

She had only worked with us for a few minutes but already she had made a big difference.

I might as well give her a chance.

I had nothing to lose right?

“Fine. Be that way.”

He makes to leave and I grab his arm.

“Give it here.”

He hands me the paper and I sign it.

“There, happy?”

“You should have done it right away.”

“Get out.”

“I’m going.”

Maybe Michelle was the one stylist to finally get it right.

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

Kang Hwi takes me to see President Hwang.

We give him the memorandum and I sign the contract.

“I will need you to sign this agreement that you will keep the location of Full House and all activities that take place in it a secret.” President Hwang says.

“Right.”

I sign the agreement.

“The money for the settlement will be deducted from you salary every month.”

“Oh, thank you for reducing the settlement.”

“I made that request actually.” Kang Hwi says. “Since now you have become part of the family, I thought we should be nice to you.”

“Thank you.”

“Kang Hwi put a lot of effort this time.” Producer Hwang tells me.

“I don’t know how I will ever thank you.” I tell Kang Hwi.

“Remember that you have to let me use all the items in Manokine Wardrobe.”

“I remember.”

“We are going to get these documents certified so you must carry through with the contract completely.” Producer Hwang tells me. “If you quit before the three months or if you can’t keep secrets, then you will have to pay all the penalty fees also.”

“I understand.”

“I am glad Tae Ik agreed to work with you.”

I clear my throat.

“He must have felt bad for the whole flier incident.”

Yeah right.

We leave U Entertainment and we go back to Full House.

“I was so scared Tae Ik would find out it was me. The way he kept staring at me.” I shiver.

“Nah. Who would recognize you like this?” He says touching my hair.

I had gotten extensions so now my hair was shoulder length.

I had wanted to wear a wig but Kang Hwi had been worried that it would come off and we would get caught.

The contacts were a bother to put on but at least they made me look different.

My ears had already been pierced from my rebel teen years so wearing earrings was no big deal.

The skirts and dresses were another matter entirely, as was the bra with the padding.

I hated it.

It’s a good thing I didn’t have to wear high heels. My poor feet wouldn’t be able to take it.

“Besides, once the contract gets certified there is nothing he can do.”

“I wish I could take a hot shower but I have to careful with the extensions.”

“What day is it today?”

“What? Oh. Tuesday.”

“Let’s go.”

“Where?”

“The best place here.”

He takes my hand and leads me to a shed door.

“This is the best place?”

“Come on. Follow me.”

I follow him inside the shed.

“What are we doing?”

“Watch this.”

He pushes on the brick wall and a door appears.

“Woah!”

“Cool right? It’s a secret passage into Tae Ik’s house.”

I follow him into the narrow passageway.

We come out in the kitchen.

He closes the door and you can’t even tell where it is.

“I think I am the only one who knows it’s there. Tae Ik always acts like he’s so smart but I don’t think he even knows there’s a secret pathway into his house.” He laughs. “Lee Tae Ik, you idiot!” He shouts.

“Shh! What if he hears?”

“It’s fine. He has health training class today so he won’t be back home until late in the evening.”

“Ah.”

“Come on. What I wanted to show is over here.”

This house was amazing.

I couldn’t help staring at the piano that took center stage.

I hurry after Kang Hwi.

He leads me down the hall.

At first the room he leads me into looks like an ordinary bathroom, except there was no toilet.

“Ready?”

I nod.

He opens another door and steps aside.

“Tada!”

“Wow! I didn’t know people had saunas in their house.”

“Tae Ik thinks immensely about his health so he had this added.”

I sit on the wooden bench.

“Wow. It must be so great.”

“Try it!”

“What?”

“That’s why I brought you here.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not? I already told you Tae Ik won’t be back until late. Just stay here for an hour and then you can leave. Just be sure to clean up so Tae Ik won’t know anyone was here.”

“Really?”

“Sure!”

“Okay.”

“I’ll leave you to it then. I have to be somewhere right now. See you!”

“Bye!”

“Oh! Remember to leave through the secret passage way.”

I turn the sauna on and I shed my clothes.

It felt weird doing this in someone else’s house but I was sure the discomfort would be worth it.

I pull my hair up, take off the contact lenses, and I wrap a towel around my waist before going into the sauna.

Ah, this was living the good life.

I lean back and close my eyes.

The tension in my body begins to fade with the steam.

I take a deep breath.

I hear the outer door open.

Did Kang Hwi come back?

I walk to the door and I peer out the window.

Tae Ik!

He starts to take off his clothes.

Oh my god.

I crouch down.

What was he doing here? Kang Hwi said he wouldn’t be back until tonight!

I grab the door handle before he can pull it open.

“What’s wrong with this?” He asks.

I hold on as tight as I can, bracing my foot against the door jam.

“Won Kang Hwi, you again? Come out quickly, right now while I am still asking nicely.”

No way!

He pulls and pulls on the door but I hold on.

“Oh! Are you going to keep holding out? It’s going to start getting very hot in there, you’re going to feel suffocated.” He taps on the window. “I’m not leaving until you come out.”

He was right.

I can’t catch my breath and it feels too hot now.

I had to get out.

“Hey! You could die like that. Stop being so stubborn and come out!”

I feel like I’m going to pass out.

“Hey!”

The door is wrenched open and I fall out.

I try to grab onto something to stop myself from landing face first and I end up yanking off his towel.

I look at him standing there in all his naked glory.

He stares back at me for a second before he starts screaming.

I cover my head and my chest with his towel.

I needed to get out of here right now.

I feel around the floor for my clothes.

“Who are you? How did you get in here?” He demands.

“My clothes.”

“What are you doing?”

The towel obscures my face and I can’t see.

I lift it up a bit and I see that he has wrapped my skirt around his waist.

“Take off my clothes!”

I grab a hold of the skirt and I tug at it.

“Are you crazy? Get your hands off of me!”

“Give me my clothes!”

“Pervert! Let go! Where the hell do you think you’re touching?”

“I am not a pervert!” I say removing the towel from around my head. “It’s me.”

He stares at me, his eyes wide.

“You.” He says pointing a finger at me. “Did you or did you not see?”

“See what?”

“EVERYTHING!”

My cheeks burn just thinking about it.

“I…I couldn’t see.” I lie.

*************************

Lee Tae Ik

My cheeks were still burning both with anger and embarrassment.

I know he’s lying about not seeing anything.

I felt a bit better now that I was dressed but still.

Covering up didn’t mean he doesn’t remember what I look like without clothes.

I glare at him but he has his eyes lowered so it doesn’t have much impact.

“So you collaborated with Kang Hwi to deceive me.”

He looks at me.

“It wasn’t like that. Don’t be so dramatic.”

“Dramatic! You pretended to be a woman. You are a complete swindler.”

“No I’m not!”

I lean forward in my chair.

“How can you not be? Who are you really? You said that you were a master of Taekwondo and now you’re saying you’re a stylist? Have you ever been a stylist?”

“I’m a designer but I am really good at styling.”

“That’s enough. Leave! Immediately.”

“That won’t be possible.”

“What?!”

“You signed the memorandum.”

I laugh.

“That is absolutely useless. It’s not like it’s even certified.”

“You really are an idiot.”

“Excuse me?”

Who the hell does he think he is to talk to me like that?

He shows me the message he got from Kang Hwi.

“Man Ok, the certification is over. Congratulations. What?! Won Kang Hwi you son of a bitch.”

“I’m not doing this because I want to but I’m going to work hard and well. Public matters and private matters are different.”

I smile at him.

This idiot didn’t know what he was getting into.

“You think so?”

He nods.

“So even if you don’t like me you still have to put up with it unless you want to pay the fees for breach of contract.” He says.

I smirk.

“So this is how you want to play it? Alright, I’m game. We’ll see who gives in first.”

“I know it won’t be me.”

“Didn’t Kang Hwi tell you?”

“Tell me what?”

“That among the stylists I am the ultra-number one on their blacklist. Now get out! I don’t want to see you again today.”

“Fine! Jerk.” He stands. “Oh, and by the way? I saw everything!”

I wait until he leaves before I tear the house apart.

They were both going to pay for this.

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

My cellphone startles me awake.

I reach for it blindly.

“Hello?”

“I am going to check the outfits right now, so bring all the clothes I can wear for today’s schedule.”

“What?”

I look at the clock.

4:15 am.

What the hell was he doing up so early?

And why was he bothering me?

“What outfits? Where am I supposed to get clothes this early?”

“Are you saying you can’t do it?”

“I’m not saying that.”

“You have until five in the morning. Don’t be late.”

“Wait.”

He hangs up.

“What can I do in forty-five minutes? OH! That rude bastard!”

I manage to get some clothes for his majesty and I barely make it in time.

He’s dressed is a shirt and slacks and wide awake and I’m still half asleep, in my workout clothes and functioning on sheer anger.

He orders me to show him the jackets and sweaters after he had already nixed all the shirts and pants I had brought.

“Next.”

“Here you go.”

“I don’t like it. Next.”

I hand the next one over.

“Pass. Next.”

Jesus.

“No.”

I hand another one but he just throws to the floor.

“Next!”

I hand the second to last.

“Are you serious? Next.”

I grab the last one and I hand it over.

He glares at me.

“This is the last one.”

“What? You only brought these? Are you joking?”

“You said you only had one schedule appointment today and you’ve just rejected over thirty outfits. It’s a radio broadcast, you can just wear anything. I don’t understand what the big deal is.”

“Are you belittling the radio now? In this day and age even radio broadcasts can be seen. Internet broadcasting and captures are all possible. And you are asking me to just wear anything?”

I bend down and pick up an ash grey shirt.

“Then wear this. It looks really good.”

He shoves it away.

“Get rid of it. Really. Your standard for choosing clothes is appalling.”

I clench my fists.

He was really asking for it.

“Where did you get these clothes anyways? At a cheap market?”

I take a deep breath and I let it out slowly.

“I doubt there are any boutiques open at this hour.”

“There are. Really nice ones.” I tell him.

“Hey! I don’t like any of these. Get something else.”

“Why do you treat me like the neighborhood mongrel calling me “Hey! Hey!”. I have a name. ‘Man’ as in full and ‘Ok’ as in house. Jang Man Ok!”

“Jang Man Ok?” He laughs. “That name is too excessive for you.”

I chuckle.

“Do you want to be buried in this house? I think that nice pile of clothes over there would look good over your dead body.”

“That’s enough! ‘Hey! You! Stylist Jang!’ Choose between the three.”

“Fine. Stylist Jang.”

“Stylist Jang.” He pulls out a card holder from his pocket. “I only collect all the brands that I like. Go there and get wardrobe sponsorship by using my name. Tell them I am going to wear it during a fan meeting.”

I take the holder from him.

“Sponsorship?”

“You don’t know what sponsorship is?”

“I do!”

“Then why are you asking?”

I look at the cards.

“Wow! This place is the place I like best.” I smile.

He stares at me like I’m an idiot.

“Go on. Get to it.”

Hours later I knew that I was definitely going to kill him.

All the places I had gone to had refused to sponsor him.

Bastard.

Thank goodness for Kang Hwi.

I don’t know what I would have if he hadn’t shown up.

Probably been a part of a murder/suicide.

“This work suits you perfectly.” Kang Hwi says helping me unload the shopping bags from the car. “All the things that you picked today, the design is pretty, the fabric is good and they fit well. You made some great selections.”

“If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have gotten any sponsorship. The business cards that rude bastard gave me were of no help at all!”

“He hasn’t bought anything at all in the past several years. He kept wearing his old clothes again and again.”

“So then why did he give me his business cards?”

“Do you think Tae Ik wouldn’t enjoy giving you a hard time?”

“He will learn to deal with it. It’s not like he can fire me now.”

“We don’t know that yet.” Tae Ik says suddenly.

I look at him.

He straightens from where he was reclining against the pillar.

“You could always leave on your own.” He says.

“That’s never going to happen.”

“Then we will have to wait and see.”

He walks towards us.

“You seem very friendly with each other. Did you know each other from before, hmm? Kang Hwi, would you like to explain?”

“Well, I….I’m late for my vocal lessons.”

He shoves the bags he had at me and runs away.

I manage to hold on to the bags.

“Hey! Where are you going?” Tae Ik calls after him.

“Excuse me.”

He turns his angry gaze at me.

“Could you help me with these?”

He looks at the bags before looking back at me.

“Are you crazy? Your work is your work, so do it yourself.”

He turns and walks away.

I really wanted to throw the bags on the floor and stomp on them but I had to be the bigger person because that jerk wasn’t going to do it.

As soon as I make my way into the house, he starts tearing into the bags.

He nixes the majority of them without even trying them on.

“Sense, sense, no sense.”

“I only picked 100%’s.”

“That’s the basics. It should look the best and trendiest.”

Force hadn’t gotten me anywhere.

Maybe he would be more partial to flattery and half-truths.

“I didn’t want to have to say this to you because you’re such a jack ass.”

“Hey!”

“Even if you were to wear random clothes, it would still look cool and trendy. You have the height, the looks and your body is perfect. You just need some help breaking out of the stiff and formal look you favor.”

He almost smiles at me.

I am counting this a victory.

“Who cares if I look better than the others? I can’t wear random clothing. I’m counting on you to take your job seriously, Stylist Jang.”

“Tae Ik hyuing-nim.” Go Dong calls. “You need to come to the company building.”

“Alright. Wait a second.” He looks back at me. “What was the third look I tried earlier?”

“What?”

Third look?

I didn’t even remember the last look he’d tried on.

I look at the pile of clothes.

“The third one is the best.”

I start throwing clothes around to see if I can jog my memory.

“Uhh.” I glance back at him. “I can’t remember which one it was.”

“Do you have the brain of a bird or a chicken? Prepare the third outfit and clean everything up.”

He sends me one last dirty look before leaving.

And just like that the rude bastard is back.

Shit.

“Three months is not that long. You can do this.”

****************************

The next big even on the list is the fan meeting.

This time I made a list of all the things I needed to pick up.

And just to soften the bastard up, I pick up a very nice and expensive watch for him to wear.

It was one of a kind.

I go back home and separate the outfits.

I make a Kang Hwi pile and a Tae Ik pile.

Kang Hwi was going to be wearing accessories from my collection so I had to remember to pack those up.

The phone rings exactly at six o’clock, right on time.

I cue the audio of students practicing Taekwondo before answering.

“Hello Grandfather.”

“Jang Man Ok. Are you doing well?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Why is it so quiet? Are you done with your classes?”

“What do you mean finished?”

I turn up the volume.

“Come on! Come on, louder!” I shout to the empty room.

“Don’t just teach them by yelling, show them the proper positions.” He orders.

“Yes, Grandfather.”

“Get back to your classes. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.”

He hangs up and I fall back on the couch.

“I’m sorry, Grandfather.”

My cell phone starts ringing and I check the caller ID: Rude Bastard.

Figures.

“Hel-”

“Where are you?”

“What?”

“We’re supposed to try on the outfits. If you are not here in thirty minutes then I am just going to go to sleep.”

He hangs up.

I punch the couch pillow as hard as I can.

“I am going to start counting down the days. Three months! Then you are dead. Do you hear me? DEAD!”

**************************

Lee Tae Ik

He is late.

The only reason I stayed was so that I could chew him out.

He arrives in a hurry tripping over the bags he was carrying and the long skirt he was wearing.

Kang Hwi hurries over to help and it makes me angrier.

“Let me help you.” Kang Hwi says taking some of the bags.

“Why does he need help?” I say. “He’s not actually a woman.”

Man Ok glares at me but it is not as powerful with the contacts he has on.

I smile.

“You like dressing up like that huh? Figures.” I snort.

“I had to dress up like this to go the boutique earlier. What is it to you anyways?”

I press my lips together.

“Hurry up and show me the outfits. We’re supposed to get up early tomorrow and you are making me stay up. Why are you late?”

“I’m sorry.” He mutters. “I had to go home after I was done shopping.”

“Why? Did something happen?” Kang Hwi asks laying a hand on Man Ok’s arm.

“My grandfather always calls home around this time to check up on me.”

“Are you stupid?” I ask.

He looks at me.

“Hey.” Kang Hwi says.

“You can forward your home phone calls to your cell phone.” I tell him.

“That sort of thing exists?”

I roll my eyes to stop myself from smiling.

He really was too much.

“How come I didn’t know about this?”

“Because you’re stupid.” I say again.

“You could’ve told me earlier! Then I wouldn’t have suffered so much.”

I sit up.

“Are you crazy? How is that my fault?”

“Well…you…”

I cock my eyebrow.

“Man Ok, let’s go try on the outfits.” Kang Hwi says leading him to the bags he’d brought.

I watch him as he arranges the clothes on the racks.

Once he is done sorting them, he hands the first outfits.

It was uncomfortable to undress in front of him.

I’d had no problem before with Stylist Choi, she was just another employee.

Stylist Jang was too hands on to ignore and he’d seen me naked.

The feel of his warm fingers brushing against my skin make me flinch.

Goose bumps break out over my body and I can’t stop myself from memorizing the way his body felt pressed against my side.

I am relieved and irritated when he finally moves on to stand by Kang Hwi.

They laugh and bond over the pattern of the clothes.

I take off the jacket and let it fall to the ground.

Man Ok hurries to pick it up.

“Why are the clothes like this?” I ask.

“What do you mean? They look great.”

He’d said that before.

I still wasn’t sure if he actually meant it or if he was just trying to get me to wear the clothes he’d picked out.

“They look too old.”

“This is the trend these days.” He says

“I’ll wear it!” Kang Hwi says taking the jacket I had taken off. “I’ll wear them all.”

“You can’t.” Man Ok says taking back the jacket.

“Why? He said he doesn’t like them. I like them.”

Man Ok presses the jacket to my chest, hard.

“Put it on.”

I look at him.

“No.”

“If you don’t wear it, the company will no longer sponsor you.”

“I still don’t want to.”

“I forgot you were a child.”

I turn to face him.

“I am not a child!”

“Then why are you acting like one?”

Kang Hwi snorts and I can feel my face heating up.

“I checked all the fabric so there is no irritation and I fixed all the mistakes from last time. What is the problem then? Stop being so arrogant and just wear it.”

“No.”

“If you’re not going to wear the clothes I picked out for you then just go naked!” He shouts leaning in threateningly.

I jump.

“Ohhhh! Go, Man Ok!” Kang Hwi cheers.

He points at me and laughs.

“Shut up.” I tell him.

I snatch the jacket back from Man Ok.

“Hey, Man Ok. Did you bring anything else?” Kang Hwi asks.

“Of course. I brought you a present!”

I watch him crouch down and open the small suitcase he’d brought with him.

There are scarfs and belts and other accessories.

Kang Hwi cheers and crouches down to riffle through the items.

“Wow! This is great and it’s totally my style.” Kang Hwi says putting on a deep red scarf.

“I knew you would like it.” Man Ok smiles.

I throw the jacket back at Man Ok.

“I’m going to bed. Pick everything up before you go.” I say.

I had to get out of here before I said or did something rash.

I go to my house and lock the door.

I was tired but sleep seems to have left me.

I was feeling too riled up to lie down.

I make myself some tea and I sit on the couch.

I practice my breathing techniques and I close my eyes, trying to clear my mind but all I see is that smiling face.

Now I was getting angry with myself.

What was so special about Jang Man Ok anyways?

He was irritating and insolent. And besides, he wasn’t even that good looking.

Only the best could stand beside me.

I just needed to push him over the edge to get rid of him.

“Just stop thinking about him!”

I go to the kitchen and I slice up a cucumber to put on my face.

I needed to look my best for tomorrows fan meeting.

I sit on the recliner and I place the cucumber slices on my face.

It really did feel refreshing.

I start to drift off when the doorbell rings.

Seriously?

“Who in the hell is it at this hour?”

I take off the cucumber slices and I go answer the door.

“Of course it’s you.”

I leave him standing by the door and I go further into the house.

He follows me in.

“Do you know what time it is?”

He clears his throat.

“Were you sleeping?”

“Of course I was sleeping!”

“Sorry. I saw that the lights were on so I came over.”

“Well, what is it?”

“Here.”

I look at the case he’s handing me.

“What is it?”

“I got it exclusively for you. Try it on.”

I take the box and I open it.

I take the watch and I put it on.

This watch looked exactly like the one my father used to wear.

The memory of him hits me hard and I have to sit down.

I swallow the lump in my throat and I take the watch off.

I put it back in its case.

“Are you okay?”

I blink my eyes a couple of times to push the moisture away.

“I’m fine.”

“It isn’t itchy?”

“No.”

I notice the bowl he’s carrying.

“What is that?”

“Cucumber is more effective ground up like this. If you put in some flour and honey, it doesn’t drip. Lie down.”

“Who said I’m interested in wearing a cucumber mask?”

He points at me.

“What?”

He touches his forehead and I raise my hand.

There were a few cucumber slices stuck to my forehead.

Crap.

He chuckles.

“Lie down.” He says again. “You have to look pretty for your fans tomorrow.”

I look at him.

“I’m naturally handsome.”

“Ah, seriously! Lie down already.”

I lie on the couch and he crouches down beside me.

“Wait fifteen minutes and then wash it off, okay?”

“Hmm.”

I close my eyes as he begins to apply the cucumber pack.

It was nice and cool.

He starts talking, I don’t even know about what but I can feel the tension seep from my bones and I start to drift off.

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

The guys really did look good.

And I hated him even more for it, but Tae Ik looked absolutely fabulous.

I brush my hands down his arms.

The plum color looked really good against his white skin.

I smile at him in the mirror.

He lifts his hands to indicate that he’s ready.

I go over to Kang Hwi.

I fix the collar of his coat.

“You are really going to bring a lot of business to the boutique. The outfits are great! Good job, Man Ok.”

“Kang Hwi-nim, you are the best.”

His smile gets wider.

Tae Ik snorts.

President Hwang open the door to the dressing room.

“It’s time for the fan meeting talk show. If you are ready, let’s go back up.”

“We’re ready.” Tae Ik says.

They walk to the door.

“Wait, wait.”

I grab Tae Ik’s arm and he turns to face me.

Kang Hwi stops and looks at me.

I make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I run my hands down Tae Ik’s chest, brushing down the jacket.

“Okay. All done.”

I turn them back towards the door.

“Have fun!” I say patting their backs.

Tae Ik looks back at me as Kang Hwi pulls him out the door.

I watch the show from the sidelines with Go Dong and President Hwang.

The guys are given presents made by fans.

It goes to hell when a fan presents a gift she made for Tae Ik.

It was some cat pajamas made with faux fur.

Tae Ik starts sneezing and I know he is trying to stop himself from doing it.

The fan requests that Tae Ik put the pajamas on.

“No. No.” I say.

“What’s the matter?” President Hwang asks me.

“He can’t wear the pajamas or there is going to be some serious trouble.”

“Trouble?” Go Dong asks me.

Kang Hwi doesn’t help matters.

He riles the crowd up and Tae Ik has no choice but to wear the pajamas.

“I have to go!”

“Where are you going?”

“To the pharmacy.”

I hurry out of the arena.

I needed to buy some anti-itch ointment.

It took me longer to find a pharmacy and when I get back, Tae Ik has already removed the pajamas and is sitting in the dressing room dejectedly.

“Are you alright? Let me see.”

I remove his coat and I lift the sleeves of his shirt.

Hives have broken out on his arms.

I start applying the ointment while he continues to sneeze.

“That jerk! He will pay for this.”

“Just forget about that right now.”

“Hey! What kind of ointment are you applying?”

“It’s the same kind you have at home.”

“Hmm.”

He sneezes again.

I hand him a tissue.

He lays his head down and I work as quickly as I can.

Kang Hwi comes running into the dressing room.

“Hey! Lee Tae Ik! How can you just donate all the gifts? You did it on purpose because I got the jeweled mic right? I really liked it.”

“You know that I have fur allergies and instead of helping me out you encouraged the crowd!”

“But my jeweled mic! How can you just give it away like that?”

Tae Ik stands in a fury.

I put my hands on his chest.

“Just stop it both of you!”

I look at Kang Hwi.

“If you guys keep bickering like this then I’m going to record it and post it online! I mean it.”

“You can’t do that!” They shout at the same time.

“Then stop fighting. Tae Ik, I need your watch.”

He removes it and shoves it at me before leaving the room in a huff.

“Kang Hwi, give me yours too before I forget.”

“Just let me wear it one more day. Just one more day.”

“No.”

“I’ll give it back, promise.”

He leave the room.

“Come back here!”

I set down Tae Ik’s watch before going after Kang Hwi.

He didn’t make it easy but I managed to get my watch back.

When I come back into the dressing room, it is empty.

I put my father’s watch back in its case and I grab the other case.

Wait.

Where was the watch?

I open the box but it’s empty.

“What the hell happened to the watch?”

Crap, crap!

I go looking for Go Dong.

“Go Dong!”

“Oh, Stylist Jang.”

“Have you seen the watch Tae Ik was wearing by any chance?”

“I haven’t seen it. Why?”

“I can’t find it.”

“What?”

“I left it in the dressing room and when I came back, it was gone.”

“Maybe it was taken along with the donation goods.”

“I’ll check there, thanks!”

It wasn’t there and I was starting to panic.

I go to Full House to look for it amongst the wardrobe.

Maybe it had been placed in one of the bags accidentally.

I search through everything and I still don’t find it.

I throw everything around hoping I missed it but it was useless.

The watch wasn’t here.

I was so screwed.

Tears burn my eyes.

I sit there dejectedly.

I really messed up this time.

This was not a small thing.

That watch was very expensive and rare.

There was no way I could ever afford to pay for it.

“Man Ok. We’re home!” Kang Hwi shouts.

He comes into the room and stops once he takes in all the mess.

“Wow. What happened in here?”

“It’s not here.”

I try to hold it together but he pulls me close and comforts me and I lose it.

“What is it? What can’t you find?”

“The watch. It’s gone.”

He hugs me and pats my back.

“It’s okay.” He says softly.

“Hey, Jang Man Ok! Are you crazy?”

I glance at Tae Ik.

“Why are you shouting? Kang Hwi asks.

Tae Ik comes towards me and I stand.

Kang Hwi stands beside me.

“I hear you lost a watch. Are you insane? Do you know how much that thing costs? Even your lifetime salary will not be enough!”

“Can you stop shouting at him?! It was a mistake.” Kang Hwi defends.

“Yeah, a stupid mistake!”

“Stop it.”

“Good going, idiot. You haven’t even been a stylist for long and you end up losing a sponsored watch?! If you can’t find it then you will have to pay for it. What are you going to do then? Huh?”

“Are you adding fuel to the fire now?” Kang Hwi asks. “If you’re just going to shout at him then just leave.”

“You know that if you don’t resolve this problem then you are out immediately, right?”

“I will find it.” I tell him.

He snorts.

“How? Do you think you’re going to find the watch sitting around here crying? Do you think that by crying someone else will solve it for you? You said you were a pro.”

“Just give it a break already! I told you to get out!”

I can’t even look at him.

He had the right to shout at me for screwing up like this.

Kang Hwi hugs me.

“Clean this all up!” Tae Ik shouts at me before leaving.

“That inconsiderate jerk. Are you alright?”

“I have to find that watch.”

“I’ll help you.”

“Thank you.”

*************************

Lee Tae Ik

Shit!

I take a deep breath.

“Was I too harsh? Did I say the wrong thing?”

God.

Maybe I shouldn’t have shouted.

“No. This is my chance to get rid of him and then I won’t ever have to look at him again!”

Why was my stomach cramping up at the thought of him leaving?

No, no.

Once he was gone, everything would go back to the way it was.

Go Dong is waiting for me in front of my house.

“Why are you still here?”

“I had to give you this.” He says holding up the bag.

“What is it?”

“The cat pajamas.”

I put a hand to my nose.

“Get rid of it.”

I start sneezing.

“Is it alright if I give it to Kang Hwi hyung? He asked for it earlier.”

No way.

“Don’t you dare! Put it in my basement.”

“In the basement?”

“Yes! The basement. Now go.”

“Okay.” He hurries away.

Just thinking of the stupid cat pajamas was making my body feel itchy.

“Thank you, Kang Hwi-nim.”

I peer around the gate door.

Kang Hwi and Man Ok are standing close to each other.

What the hell is this?

“I better get going.”

“I’ll drop you off.”

“It’s okay.”

“Come on.” Kang Hwi says putting his arm around Man Ok.

I clench my fists.

How can he touch him so freely and why did Man Ok allow it?

“Thank you.”

They get in the car and drive off.

What the hell was up with those two?

I take a shower and I try to put Man Ok out of my head. I wouldn’t be able to sleep otherwise.

I browse the internet for a bit before going into the ‘Take &’ fan chat.

There was a comment on there on how I had promised to take a picture of myself wearing the cat pajamas at home.

Damn it to hell!

Stupid Kang Hwi and his big mouth!

Why would he say something like that? Why?!

There was no other way around it.

I had to take a picture of myself wearing the stupid pajamas for the fan site.

I put on gloves and my rain coat before going down to the basement to get the pajamas.

I set the bag down in my room where I had already set up the camera.

“I will take just one photo. Just one. Then I will never have to touch or see these pajamas again.”

I take the pajamas out of the bag with my back scratcher.

As I lift them higher, something shiny catches my eyes.

I turn the pajamas and caught in the fur is the watch Man Ok had lost.

“Oh this idiot.”

I was never going to let him forget about this.

I grab my cell phone and I dial the number.

He’s turned his phone off.

I end the call.

“How can you turn your phone off in this situation? Alright, fine. It’s not my problem.”

I remove the rain coat.

I stare at the watch sitting on my nightstand.

Shit.

Why do I have to feel guilty about this?!

“Ugh!”

I pick my phone up again.

“How dare you turn off your cell phone at a time like this? Call me immediately once you get this message!”

There.

I had done my part.

It was up to him now.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

Why wasn’t he calling me back?

He must have heard the message by now.

I pace a bit.

“Why am I so worried? It’s his ass on the line, not mine. If he doesn’t care then neither will I.”

I change into my gardening clothes and I make my way outside.

I check my phone again.

Nothing.

I spot Kang Hwi and Man Ok making their way towards me.

Ah, I see.

So that is why you haven’t called. Too busy hanging out with that jerk.

“Hey, why are you dressed like a villager? Where did you get that dowdy hat?” Kang Hwi asks me.

I glare at Man Ok.

He won’t meet my eyes.

“I see the two of you went somewhere together.”

“What is it to you what others do?” Kang Hwi asks. “Are you curious?”

“Not at all.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t call.” Man Ok finally says.

“Hmm, you’re still dressing up as a woman. At least you’re wearing pants today.”

“I had to go talk with the boutique owner.”

“You don’t have to explain anything to him.” Kang Hwi says. “Anyway, he isn’t even bothered.”

“Of course.” I shrug. “Why should I be bothered? It has nothing to do with me.”

“See? His consideration for others is less than a grain of sand. Come on, let’s go in.”

He throws an arm around Man Ok’s shoulder and they walk around me.

“Wait!”

They stop and turn to look at me.

I point my pruning shears at Man Ok.

“Hey! Put those scissors away.” Kang Hwi tells me. “What do you want?”

“Not you. Stylist Jang.”

He finally looks at me.

“What do you want with Man Ok?” Kang Hwi asks.

“I have something to discuss with him. Why? Do you have a problem with that?”

He rolls his eyes and turns to look at Man Ok.

“Man Ok, when you are done come and find me.”

“Okay.”

I lead Man Ok to the green house.

“Is there a problem?” He asks.

We stand before one of the young trees I was growing.

I didn’t know how to tell him I had found the watch.

Should I just come out and say it or did I have to explain how I found it?

Would he think I hit it on purpose?

I was still mad that he hadn’t even bothered to call me back. It could have been an emergency.

Maybe I should let him sweat a bit before swooping down and saving the day.

I hand him the pruning shears.

He takes them.

“Cut this. Prettily.” I say indicating the tree.

He looks at it before looking back at me.

“What? Are you serious? Is this why you were calling me last night?”

I open my mouth to answer but he plows on.

“Don’t you think this is a bit much? How can the two of you be so different? Kang Hwi-nim even came with me to the shop because he was worried. And Lee Tae Ik-shi? He wants me to prune a tree.”

He was comparing us now?

My head feels hot all of a sudden.

“That’s rich. Why is one ‘Sir’ and the other ‘Mister’? If he’s so great why don’t you ask that great Sir to find the watch for you then?”

“I don’t need him to find it for me. That is my job.”

“Ah! Is that so? If you can’t find the watch then you will have to compensate for it. Do you even have that kind of money?”

He presses his lips together angrily and he begins to hack my tree.

“Hey!”

I grab his arms and he pushes me away.

“Do you know how much this tree costs?!”

He throws the shears down by my feet.

“You’re the one who wanted me to do it!”

“I figured that since you weren’t good at being a stylist maybe you should give gardening a chance! If you promise me you will leave immediately, I will take care of the watch problem.”

“I will never break the contract first!”

“You will have to leave if you can’t find the watch.”

“I will find it.”

“I guarantee you’ll never find it. Never!”

“You…ugh!”

He turns and walks away.

“Hey! Where are you going?”

“To find the watch!”

God damn it!

I was supposed to tell him about the watch and then he would have smiled at me the way he smiles at Kang Hwi.

I would have been the one he liked best.

Why do we always end up shouting at each other?

“Crap!”

I look at my ruined tree.

“If you survive this then that means there might be some hope for Man Ok and me to be friends.”

I leave the green house and go inside.

I wait twenty minutes before calling him again.

“What.”

“Did you find the watch? There is no way you could have found it.”

Because I was looking right at it.

“Is this the only reason you called? I’m hanging up.”

“No! Wait!”

“What?”

“Get here as fast as you can.”

“Why?”

“Just do as I say.”

I hang up before we can get into another argument.

I grab the watch and I take it out into the living room.

I set it on the coffee table making sure it’s facing the right way.

I sit down to wait but I’m feeling too anxious so I stand and pace.

“Why isn’t he here yet?”

The door opens and I turn.

“Tae Ik! Let me use the sauna.” Kang Hwi pouts.

“I told you to stop barging into my home. Get out.”

I couldn’t let him see the watch.

“Let me use the sauna.”

“The sauna wasn’t made for you to use.”

“Don’t be like that. I promise I-” He glances at the coffee table and I can tell the exact moment he recognizes the watch. “What is this?”

He runs towards the table and I am too slow to catch him.

“Hey!”

He picks up the watch.

“Why is this here? Did you…pocket this?”

“What? No! How can you even say that?”

“The evidence is right here! If you didn’t steal it then why do you have it?”

“Just give it to me.”

“If you had this why didn’t you say anything to Man Ok earlier?”

“I didn’t get the chance.”

“Didn’t get the chance? Hey, were you going to use this watch to give him a hard time?”

“When have I ever?”

“Really? Why are you blushing?”

I touch my face.

“Never mind that. Give me the watch.”

“How much of a bastard can you be? Do you know what he’s been through because of this watch? You were going to use this to get him fired.”

“No I wasn’t!”

“Then why didn’t you say anything, huh? Huh? Tell me.”

The doorbell rings.

“You’re in trouble now. Man Ok!”

“Don’t!”

“Why? Do you know how much our Man Ok has suffered because of you?”

“Okay, yes! I was going to return the watch but Stylist Jang-”

“Stylist Jang what?”

I whirl around to face Man Ok.

“How did you get in here?”

“The door was open.”

Kang Hwi puts the watch in my pocket.

“Hi, Man Ok!”

“Kang Hwi-nim.” He smiles. “I would have come earlier if I had known you would be here.” He looks at me. “Why did you ask me to come?”

“Huh?” I ask like an idiot.

I really didn’t want to do this in front of Kang Hwi.

“You told me to come running. So here I am. What do you want?”

“Man Ok, Tae Ik said he will solve the watch problem for you.” Kang Hwi tells him.

“Really? How?”

“Well, I….”

“You’re not messing with me again are you?” He asks narrowing his eyes at me.

“Of course not. This is serious business.”

“Hey! Lee Tae Ik thinks so much of his family, he wouldn’t joke about this.” Kang Hwi says putting an arm around my shoulders. “Isn’t that right?”

“That’s right.” I say.

He puts his hand in my pocket and pulls the watch out.

“Hey!”

“Ta da!” He says presenting the watch.

I was supposed to hand him the watch!

Man Ok takes the watch.

“How did you find this?”

“Tae Ik found it for you.”

Man Ok throws his arms around me suddenly and I am caught off guard.

Kang Hwi gestures for me to return the hug and I tentatively put my arms around Man Ok.

He leans back so that he can look up at me.

He smiles widely at me and I smile back.

“I take back all the nasty things I said about you today.”

“What?”

*************************

Jang Man Ok

The sun had barely come up and I was already on a van being carded off to the forest for a commercial shoot with Tae Ik.

I kept glancing at him but he was too busy reading something on his tablet.

I really didn’t know how to act around him right now.

He’s saved my ass finding the watch so it was awkward.

For me anyways.

He hadn’t mentioned the incident since that day.

Maybe he was waiting for the right moment to throw it back in my face?

I clear my throat.

“Excuse me.” I say.

“What is it?”

“Your skin looks a bit dry.” I take out the small spray bottle I had packed. “Spray some of this.” I hand it to him but he ignores it. “I can do it for you.”

I spray the side of his face and he jumps like a scalded cat.

“What the hell are you doing?! Don’t you know I don’t use any random products?”

“I took some of the moisturizing spray you have at home.” I tell him.

“Give it!”

He takes the bottle from me and sprays his face before handing it back.

“Here, I got you this too.”

I place the neck pillow against his shoulders.

He takes it off and throws it back at me.

“What is this? Don’t you know I get allergies if I touch any random fabric?”

“This is a pure organic cotton neck pillow. If you don’t believe me, read the label. Look, it says 100% certified pure organic cotton.”

He takes the pillow.

“Certified.” He mutters.

God.

“I was trying to be nice to you because you found the watch for me. But you’re too much.” I tell him.

“Be quiet. I’m going to take a nap.”

I roll my eyes.

He sets his tablet down and I grab it.

I glance at him.

Better ask him otherwise he’s going to throw a fit.

“Excuse me.” I say tapping his shoulders.

“What.”

“Can I use this?”

“Whatever. Just be quiet.”

I sit back and look at the latest runway fashion.

I come across a picture of international actress Jin Se Ryeong.

“Wow! She looks great. Is this dress made of chiffon? It’s perfect for the red carpet.”

She was really beautiful.

“Who?” Go Dong asks.

“Movie star Jin Se Ryeong.” I tell him.

“Ah! I’m her fan. She joined that American drama. Have you ever seen it? It’s the best!”

I nod.

“She won Best Supporting Actress. Whether it is her looks, body or acting, there isn’t a thing that she’s lacking.”

“And she speaks English too!”

“If I even had a slim chance of being with her, I would tie her down and never let her go. Only an idiot would let this beautiful creature-”

Tae Ik reaches back and snatches the table from me.

“Hey! You said I could use it.”

“I can’t sleep because you are being so loud. Go Dong, you are the noisiest!”

What the hell?

I sit back.

Now what was I supposed to do until we arrived on location?

I stick my tongue out at the back of Tae Ik’s head.

Jerk.

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

It was the longest ride of my life and I had never been so happy to go out into the cold air.

Once we arrive, I am caught up in the flourish of activity.

The makeup artist didn’t show so I had to do Tae Ik’s makeup.

It wasn’t hard now that I learned how to apply make up on myself. Plus he just needed a bit of powder.

I stand behind the director as he begins to film the commercial.

I watch Tae Ik turn into charming Lee Tae Ik of ‘Take One’.

I shake my head.

He really was something else.

Who would ever think that handsome guy with dimples was such a rude bastard?

“Hello.” He smiles. “I am Take One’s Lee Tae Ik.” He sips from the coffee cup he’s holding. “Nature is always…” He starts sneezing.

“Cut!” The director calls. “What’s the matter, Tae Ik-shi? Are you not well?”

“I’m sorry. Let’s do it again.”

“One more time. Ready? Action!”

“Hello. I am Lee Tae Ik of Take One.” He sips again. “Nature is al…always…nature…” He starts sneezing again.

“Tae Ik-shi, let’s take a short break.” The director calls. “We will resume after ten minutes.”

I hurry over to Tae Ik.

“What is it? Are you not feeling well?”

He points off to the left and I turn to look at the cage with a kitten and three small dogs.

“Tell them to get rid of them immediately.”

“But they’re also a part of the shoot.”

He glares at me.

“Shoot? With whom? With me?”

“They’re cute aren’t they?” I smile.

“Are you really this much of an idiot or are you doing it on purpose?”

“What?”

“How many times do I have to tell you that I have fur allergies?”

“But isn’t that only for clothes?”

“What’s worse than clothes with fur is the actual creatures that wriggle around. I hate dogs, cats and rabbits the most!” He shouts.

Crew members look at us.

“Why are you shouting at me? I wasn’t the one who brought them.”

“Where is Go Dong? Tell him to get rid of them. If not, I won’t do the shoot today.”

He starts scratching at his neck.

I walk over to the director.

“Excuse me.”

He looks at me.

“I’m very sorry but Tae Ik-shi has serious fur allergies. If you could take the pets away from the shoot it would be very helpful.”

He turns to reprimand his assistant for not knowing about the fur allergies.

He looks back at me.

“I’m sorry.” I say again.

“Can’t he bear it a bit? It will only take thirty minutes.”

I point to where Tae Ik is sneezing and scratching at his neck and arms.

“If it gets severe, he will also get hives on his face.”

The director sighs and orders his assistant to take the pets away.

“Thank you.”

Tae Ik has moved into the trailer and I wait a few minutes to give him time to cool down before going in.

At least I’d helped out so he shouldn’t bitch at me too much.

I take a deep breath before entering.

He’s lying on the bed.

I clear my throat.

“Did you get rid of them?”

“Yes. The shoot will resume in five minutes.”

I grab the coat he had discarded on the floor.

He sits up and looks at me.

“Did you get rid of them completely?”

“Yes. The dogs and cat are gone.”

How many times did I have to say it for him to believe me?

“Why are you wearing that expression?”

“Are you going to pick a fight over my expression now?”

He stands and shoves me aside as he exits the trailer.

“A little ‘excuse me’ would have been nice!”

Asshole.

Tae Ik manages to say his lines without sneezing and the director is getting shots of him sitting around the camp site when they are interrupted by the Department Head.

I go over to Tae Ik and I apply a bit of powder to his nose and forehead.

“Tae Ik-shi! Tae Ik-shi!” The director calls.

Tae Ik pretends he doesn’t hear.

“The director is calling you.” I tell him.

“Hey! Lee Tae Ik, it’s been a long time.” The Department Head says coming over.

He extends his hand and Tae Ik stares at it before finally standing and shaking his hand.

“It has been a long time.”

“Let me introduce you to my fiancé. Tae Ik and I were friends when we were kids.”

“You look so much better in person.” The woman says. “I am a huge fan.”

“I see.” Tae Ik says.

“Let’s have a drink after the shoot. You’re coming to the party at the lodge right?”

“Sure.”

I can tell Tae Ik isn’t happy about seeing this man.

“Stylist Jang, can I talk to you?” Go Dong tells me.

“Sure.”

I follow him to the van.

“I have to leave early.”

“Are you alright?”

“I’m fine but Kang Hwi called and he needs me to run a few errands. I’m sorry to spring this on you.”

“It’s no problem.”

He hands over the key to the van.

“I know it will be difficult to handle Tae Ik hyung on your own.”

“Are you kidding? I’ll be fine.”

“Still, I’m sorry.”

“We have to go back to the resort once the shoot is over right?”

“Yes. I promise I’ll be back early tomorrow for the drive back.”

“Don’t worry, go take care of business. We’ll be fine.”

As I make my way back to the shoot, I come upon the Department Head and his fiancé.

“Can you believe it? At one point he was one of the richest Chaebol sons in Korea. Now look at him. He’s nothing more than a puppet. What a loser.”

“Did his father really kill himself?”

“Yes. People say he went crazy. If you ask me, they are all mentally unstable. Tae Ik’s mother had to be taken away too before she hurt herself. I suppose it’s only a matter of time before Tae Ik off’s himself.”

They chuckle.

“He’s a joke and he has nothing on you.” The woman says.

It made me angry that they were out here talking shit about Tae Ik.

Sure he was a bastard but that didn’t give these people the right to speak ill of his deceased father or his mother.

“The two of you really are made for each other.”

They turn to look at me.

“Are you talking to us?” The Department Head asks.

“Who else would I be talking to? Do you even know what loser means? If a Hallyu star is a loser, what does that make you? A pathetic fool?”

“Pathetic fool?”

“Do you know who my oppa is, girl?” The woman asks me. “He is the department director at his company.”

“Everyone in Korea claims to be a department director. What makes him so special?”

“What? How dare you talk like that to him?!”

The woman raises her hand to slap me and I push her away.

She falls on her ass.

“Hey!”

The man comes at me and I grab his arm and flip him onto his back.

He makes a lot of noise and crew members come to see what the commotion is all about.

They help him onto his feet and he has to be helped into a chair.

Pathetic fool.

The director comes over and Tae Ik follows.

“Who is this crazy woman?” The pathetic fool asks.

“She is the stylist.”

“Stylist?” The woman asks. “How dare you lay a hand on my oppa?”

She pushes at my shoulder and I clench my fists.

“What are you doing? Apologize.” The director tells me.

“Forget it.” The pathetic fool says. “Just get her out of here. Hey, Lee Tae Ik. How can you work with a person of such low standards?”

I glance at Tae Ik but he doesn’t even look my way.

“Tae Ik-shi, ask her to apologize immediately.” The director says.

“Call me when we resume the shoot.” Tae Ik says walking back to the trailer.

I don’t know why the fact that Tae Ik hadn’t even acknowledged me or gotten mad about what I did made me feel horrible.

It’s like I didn’t matter to him.

He didn’t even ask what had happened.

Did he really think I would just go about beating people up?

I hide behind one of the trucks as my eyes fill with tears.

It was because of him that I had caused this commotion.

“How could he not even look at me? Rude bastard. And why the hell am I crying about it?”

I wipe my eyes.

A kitten jumps off one of the trucks and runs off into the trees.

“Hey, kitty. Come back!”

*****************************

Lee Tae Ik

Man Ok didn’t show himself for the rest of the shoot.

And here I wanted to thank him for making a fool of Do Woong.

Maybe he was feeling ashamed about what he did?

Whatever caused Man Ok to react that way I know Do Woong deserved it.

I look for Go Dong but he’s also nowhere to be found.

I call him.

“Hey, Go Dong. Where are you? The shoot finished fifteen minutes ago.”

“Didn’t you hear from Stylist Jang?”

“Stylist Jang? Why?”

“I had to come back. He’s going to drive you back to the lodge.”

“Fine.”

I hand up and go to the van.

Maybe he was in there.

I try the handle but the van is locked.

“Where the hell is he?”

I call him and his phone starts ringing inside the van.

“Ah, this idiot left his phone in the van. What the hell is wrong with him?”

“Educate your staff properly.”

I look at Do Woong.

“You got lessons on proper behavior when you were being groomed to become heir. How can you hire a person like that? Hey, Tae Ik. Your standards have really dropped since the last time I saw you.”

I smile.

“You have become a lot weaker since the last time I saw you. Aren’t you embarrassed that such a small creature took you down? And you’re going to get married soon. Better take care of yourself.”

I turn to walk away.

“You and I are of completely different standings now. You can’t act like we’re on the same level anymore. You’re just a show monkey.”

I turn and grab the collar of his coat and I am seconds away from punching him but I stop myself.

No. He wasn’t worth it.

I release him.

“At least you are better than that bully stylist. She got all riled up just because we insulted you a bit. You should consider getting rid of her. She’s not even that good looking though I bet she could be used for some fun.” He smirks.

I punch him in the mouth and he falls to the ground.

My knuckles hurt but it was worth it.

I glare down at him.

“For the record, you and I were never on the same level. Remember, I will always be up here and you are exactly where you belong.” I tell him before turning away.

I go looking for Man Ok but none of the crew had seen him.

“Where the hell are you?”

I walk through the trees calling out for him but he doesn’t answer.

“Jang Man Ok! Ah, seriously! When I catch you-”

“Over here!”

I run towards the sound of his voice and I come upon a deep trench.

He looks up at me.

Oh thank god he’s alright.

“What are you doing? Why are you in there?”

He pulls a cat from his vest and I sneeze.

“What the hell are you doing with that?”

“It escaped from the crate. It fell into this hole and I came in after it.”

I shake my head at him.

“Then come out quickly. Why are you standing around down there?”

“That’s kind of the problem. When I saw if from up there it didn’t look so deep and I thought I’d be able to climb back out. But now that I’m down here, it’s deeper than I thought.”

Oh, this idiot.

I bite my lip to stop myself from smiling.

He really was something else.

“Deeper than you thought? It looks deep from up here! Can’t you even make this simple estimation? Idiot.”

“I couldn’t just leave the cat in here!”

“So to save that thing you climbed into a hole in the woods where there are no people?”

“Are you just going to stand there and nag at me? I really thought I was going to die down here! Why are you so mean?”

“Fine. Put the cat down and grab my hand.”

“I can’t leave it in here!”

“I’m itchy as it is. You want me to pull you and that thing out while sneezing up a storm?”

“I can’t leave it.”

“Then do as you please. Whether you die in that hole hugging the cat is up to you.”

“Okay! Okay.”

“Don’t make me say it twice.”

He sighs and sets the cat down.

I crouch down.

“I’m going to count to three.”

He reaches up and grabs my hand.

“One, two, three!”

I pull him up.

God he was heavy.

How can such a small creature weigh so much?

He shoves the cat at me and I start sneezing.

I tip forward into the hole and I fall.

His heavy weight lands on my back.

I lie there for a moment making sure that I hadn’t broken anything.

He pushes me onto my back and starts patting my face roughly.

“Hey! Tae Ik-shi! Wake up!”

“Ow!”

“Are you alright?”

“You! Seriously?!”

I shove him off of me and I try sitting up but my lower back twinges painfully and I lie back down.

“Did you hurt your back? Let me take a look.”

Before I can respond he forces me onto my front and he lifts my coat and shirt up.

He runs his fingers down my back and past the waist of my pants.

“Are you crazy? Watch where you touch!” I say rolling onto my back.

I recline against the side of the hole.

Every sneeze aggravates my bruised ribs.

I look at him sitting there with the cat in his arms.

I glare at him.

I really wanted to strangle him right now.

“We’re in this trench…with that cat. Now what are we going to go?!” I scream at him.

“Don’t worry.”

“How can I not worry? It will be dark soon or haven’t you noticed?”

“If you give me a leg up, I think I can reach the top.”

“What? Me? Hoist you up?”

I look up to the ledge.

It was a long ways up and he was heavy.

“Are you crazy?”

He stands up.

“Come on. Get up.”

“Huh?”

He pulls me to my feet and I put a hand to my right side.

“Hoist me up.”

“You should be hoisting me up.”

“Come on, come on!”

I get on my knees and he lifts himself onto my shoulders.

Oh god!

I grab his thighs and I can’t help but groan as I get to my feet.

“A little more!”

I push him up higher and I breathe a sigh of relief as he climbs off of me.

He peers down over the edge at me.

“Get me out.” I tell him.

“First say ‘please get me out’.”

“Are you serious? After I just hoisted your heavy ass up there?!”

“Fine. Then stay down there.”

He was going to pay for this.

“Please get me out.”

“That wasn’t so hard was it?”

I grit my teeth.

I lift my hand up towards him and he grabs it.

“One, two, three.”

I brace my feet against the side of the hole as he pulls me up.

We rest for a few minutes before finding our way back to the van.

I admit that I didn’t entirely know which way to go but I led the way since he didn’t seem to remember how he got here.

It was cold and my allergies hadn’t let up since he still had the damn cat with him.

We come up on the trailer I had used to rest.

“Finally we made it back.” He says.

“The van must be over there. Come on, go unlock it so we can go.”

He doesn’t move.

“Oh, no.”

I look at him.

“What?”

“The car keys. I don’t have them. They must have fallen out in the trench.”

Jesus Christ!

“You…insufferable creature!”

I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths.

Why was this idiot in my life?

I take out my cell phone to try and call someone but the battery is dead.

Great. Fantastic.

I laugh.

“Have you finally cracked?” He asks.

I sober up.

“Climb into the trailer and open it.”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“There’s that window there.”

“Oh.”

He opens the small window and peers inside.

“I think I can do it. Here, hold the cat for a moment.”

“How many times do I have to tell you I’m allergic?”

“Well I can’t climb in through the window holding it.”

“Then put it down. I don’t care, just open the damn door!”

“What if it runs away again?”

“I am seriously at my wits end with you.”

“Do you want me to put the cat in the trailer?”

I spot a basket sitting on the metal table and I grab it.

I throw it at his feet.

“Put it in there.”

He puts the cat inside the picnic basket.

“Now hurry and open the door.”

I stifle my laughter as he jumps trying to get in through the window.

He looks at me.

“I can’t reach. You try it.”

“Me?”

“You’re tall and slim, you could slide right in.”

I smirk at him.

It was too late for flattery.

“You got us in this mess.”

“Fine. Then at least hold up the window for me.”

I open the window.

He jumps up and gets half of the way in.

“I think I’m stuck.”

I grab his legs and push.

“Come on! Use your strength. How can a man have no muscle?”

“You want strength? Alright.”

I shove him hard and he falls right in.

“Was that powerful enough for you?” I call through the window.

He opens the door.

“I could have gotten seriously hurt, you know?” He frowns at me.

He was the one that asked for it.

“You got the door opened so it suffices.”

I push him out of the way and I go into the trailer.

I walk to the back and grab the sleeping bag I had spotted earlier before opening the door.

He was about to come in with the cat.

“Where you seriously going to come in here with that thing?”

He really was stupid.

“I can’t leave it out here by itself.”

I smile.

“Don’t worry. You won’t have to.”

I hand him the sleeping bag.

“What’s this? Are you asking me to sleep outside?”

“Where else would you sleep?”

“On the bed.”

“With me?”

“Well…”

“And if we are found sleeping in the same bed? Will you take responsibility if it becomes a scandal?”

“Who would know anyways?”

“You seriously think people aren’t going to be looking for me?”

“But still, I-”

I hold my finger up in front of his face.

“That’s enough. Good night.”

I close the trailer door.

I can hear him shouting obscenities at me.

I take off my shoes and coat before picking the leaves out of my hair.

I lie down and pull the blanket tight around myself.

Man Ok has fallen silent and hopefully it means he’s resigned himself to sleeping outside.

I toss and turn for a few hours but my guilty conscience won’t let me fall asleep.

I sigh.

“It’s his fault we’re stuck here. Why should I feel bad about anything?”

I sit up and stare at the door.

“Ugh!”

I put my coat and shoes back on before going out into the cold.

Man Ok has made himself a makeshift bed using the folding chair and the cooler.

I walk over to him.

“Hey, Stylist Jang.”

He has his eyes closed and his breathing is slow and even.

I crouch down to shake him awake but I stop.

“How can you sleep so easily?”

I stare at his relaxed face.

My heart stars beating wildly and my face heats up.

“Really…extremely…you really are cute.”

Something comes over me and I find myself leaning forward closer to his face.

The cat pops its head out from where it had been snuggling under the sleeping bag with Man Ok and I jump away.

“Oh, it’s so cold.” He mutters in his sleep.

Make me feel guiltier why don’t you?

I hold my breath and I grab the cat and as quickly as I can, I put it in the picnic basket.

I remove my coat and cover the basket with it.

At least it won’t freeze to death.

I look back at Man Ok.

Now for the difficult part.

I put an arm under his shoulders and the other under his knees and I lift him into my arms.

I hoist him up higher and I walk to the trailer door.

I manage to get him in without dropping him or smacking his head with the door.

I lay him down on the bed.

He snuggles down onto the pillow and I smile.

Yes. He really was cute.

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

“Tae Ik-shi! Tae Ik-shi!”

I blink my eyes open.

What was all the ruckus?

I sit up as I remember where I am.

“Lee Tae Ik-shi!”

Tae Ik as asleep next to me on the narrow bed.

“Oh!”

He opens his eyes and looks at me.

I open my mouth to ask him what the hell he thought he was doing but he sits up and covers my mouth.

“Shh!” He says holding a finger to his lips.

I nod.

The people seemed to be right outside the trailer door.

I remove his hand and I stand, trying to find a place to hide.

I couldn’t be seen in here with him.

Why did this damn trailer have so many uncovered windows?

“Hey, open the door.” I hear someone say.

“Get under the covers.” Tae Ik whispers to me.

We cover ourselves up from head to toe with the blanket.

My heart was pounding in my chest.

What a way to wake up.

This might be even more incriminating than two people who happened to fall asleep in the same bed, but it wouldn’t look good either way. People would either think I was his lover or I could reveal I was a man and they would automatically think Tae Ik and I were in a gay relationship.

I turn to look at Tae Ik at the same moment he turns to look at me and our lips brush.

I jump and my face burns as I turn my head away.

This was the worst case scenario ever.

The door handle rattles.

“The door is locked! He’s not in here.”

Oh thank god.

The voices fade farther away and I pull back the covers.

Tae Ik sighs as he rolls onto his back.

Wait.

“Why am I in here? I fell asleep outside.”

“You came in here in the middle of the night.”

“What?”

“Are you a sleep walker?”

I frown.

“I don’t know…maybe?”

Grandfather had never said I slept walked.

Maybe this was because of the resent stress?

I scratch my head.

“You came in here and almost shoved me out of bed.”

“But I fell asleep with the cat. The cat!”

What had I done with it?

I leap out of bed and I throw the door open.

“Don’t!” Tae Ik shouts at me.

President Hwang stares up at me.

“Oh!”

He comes into the trailer.

“What are you doing here, Stylist Jang?”

Tae Ik had hidden under the blanket again.

“Well…I….”

Tae Ik sits up.

“You scared me.” Tae Ik tells President Hwang.

“Tae Ik! You…” He stops talking and looks from me to Tae Ik. “Did the two of you…stay here? Together?”

“It wasn’t like that! This idiot lost the keys.”

I frown at Tae Ik.

“Shh! I will take the others to the other side of the forest so hurry up and come out. Separately! Alright? I don’t want people getting the wrong idea.”

I nod.

President Hwang sends me one last look before walking out.

I look at Tae Ik.

“What are you doing? Clean this up.” He says shoving the blanket off himself.

I roll my eyes.

This guy.

One minute he was helping me and the next he’s treating me like a servant.

“You have to help me.”

He grumbles but he helps me fold up the blanket.

He exits first and I follow a minute later.

Go Dong was waiting by the van.

He seemed really happy to see Tae Ik alive and well.

“I was so worried when we got word that you hadn’t returned to the lodge.”

“Sorry to make you worry like this. I lost the keys to the van.” I tell him.

“I’m just glad you’re both okay.”

On our way back to the house, President Hwang tells Go Dong to make a stop at a restaurant where he and Tae Ik had a meeting.

How can the President make Tae Ik meet someone in those dusty clothes?

Go Dong drives me home since Tae Ik and the President are going to be a while.

“Thanks for dropping me off. I’m sorry about making you worry.”

Go Dong turns in his seat to look at me.

“What on earth happened yesterday?”

I can feel myself blushing.

Just thinking of the fact that I had spent the whole night snuggled up against Tae Ik makes my hands start to sweat.

I hope I hadn’t accidentally molested him in my sleep.

“What do you mean? Nothing happened.”

“No, I mean at the shoot yesterday.”

Oh. That.

“I just got a little fired up.”

Not that that pathetic fool didn’t deserve it.

“No matter how much you got fired up, I don’t understand why hyung hit the advertiser.”

“What?”

When the hell had this happened? And why?

“Tae Ik hyung hit the advertiser. He called President Hwang to say that he wasn’t going to sponsor anymore advertisements with Tae Ik. I know Tae Ik hyung has a temper a mile wide but he isn’t one to do something like this. Especially not to someone as important as an advertiser.”

Had he perhaps heard the pathetic fool and his fiancé talking shit about his family?

“I don’t know anything about that. Tae Ik-shi didn’t mention it.”

He nods.

“Well, I better go back and wait for him.”

“Sure. Thanks.”

I get out of the van and I watch Go Dong drive away.

I hope Tae Ik wasn’t in any trouble.

I grab my scooter and I drive down to the pharmacy. I buy some hypo-allergenic pain relieving patches as an apology.

I did fall pretty hard on him yesterday.

From the pharmacy I make my way to Full House to wait.

I walk around a bit.

It was winter so everything was bare but I bet the garden looked magnificent in the summer.

I make my way back towards the house and I spot Tae Ik coming down the walk way.

“Hey!”

He glances at me but continues on his way.

I hurry to catch up to him.

I grab his arm to stop him from walking.

“Didn’t you hear me?”

“Move.”

I put my hand on his chest to keep him in place.

“Don’t be rude. I could be at home taking a bath but instead I waited for you.”

“What do you want?”

“Here.”

I hand him the plastic bag.

He looks at it before looking at me.

“What is it?”

“It’s a pain relief patch. Stick it on your back where you got hurt yesterday. It’s hypoallergenic so don’t worry about it irritating your skin.”

He stares at me.

“Take it.”

He takes the bag.

“I’ll be going then.” My stomach rumbles loudly. “Okay. Bye.”

I hurry away.

“Wait!”

I stop and turn to look at him.

“Yes?”

He walks closer.

“You’re already here, we might as well have something to eat together.”

“Really?”

He nods.

“Use the guest room to take a shower. I’ll find you some clothes.”

“If you’re sure.”

“I wouldn’t have said it otherwise.”

I follow him to his house.

I take a hot bath to relieve my aching muscles.

When I go out to the room, there are some really nice clothes laid out on the bed.

Miraculously, it all fits me.

Tae Ik was already waiting for me in the living room.

He looked good, like always.

“Let’s go.” He says.

“Where are we going? I thought we were going to eat.”

“We are.”

“But…”

“Stop wasting time.”

I follow him out to his car.

He drives us into the city.

My stomach starts rumbling louder and I can hear him laughing.

“We should just have had something at home. How much further is it?”

“It’s right up ahead.”

He stops in front of a really nice place.

“Wow.” I say staring at the restaurant.

“Get out.”

We exit the car and we walk up to the door.

“Come on.”

I grab his arm.

“This is where we’re going to eat?”

“Yes.”

“This place looks really expensive.”

He chuckles.

“That’s because it is.”

I grab his hand and pull him back towards the car.

“Why don’t we go somewhere else?”

I probably couldn’t even afford to eat soup here.

He pulls me back closer to the restaurant door.

“Why? You said you wanted to eat something delicious.”

“Well…yes.”

“Then?”

“It’s just…this place…”

He tightens his hand in mine.

“Come on. You’ll like it.”

“It’s not about liking it or not.”

“Then what is it?”

“I’ve never been to a place as fancy as this.”

“There is always a first time for everything.”

“Maybe we should save it for another day, huh?”

“We’re both starving and the longer we stand out here, the longer it will take to get served.”

“But…”

He releases my hand.

“If you don’t want to eat then just go home! Tsk.”

He walks into the restaurant and I have no choice but to follow.

I hope he’s in a good mood because he was definitely going to be treating tonight.

We are seated in a private room and Tae Ik orders half of the menu.

I watch in amazement as dishes of food cover the table.

Did he really think we could eat all of this?

“Is there anything else that you need?” The waitress asks.

“No, thank you.” I say.

“Do you have pine mushrooms?” Tae Ik asks.

“We have some that were brought in yesterday from Bonghwa. Shall I bring two orders?”

“No, no. One order is fine. I don’t like mushrooms all that much.” I tell her.

“Bring two servings.” Tae Ik says.

I wanted to kick him under the table.

“And please prepare pheasant Shabu-Shabu.”

Was he kidding right now?

“Yes, sir.”

I wait until the waitress leaves to say anything.

“How in the hell are we supposed to finish all this if you keep ordering more food?!”

“We will eat it.”

“Christ.”

He picks up his chopsticks.

“Aren’t you going to eat?”

“Yes but I still think this is a bit too much. I mean just look at all-”

“Natural abalone, Yeongdeok snow crab, tile fish from Jeju, rib patties made of Korean beef! These are dishes you might never see sitting at the same table again. What? Is something lacking?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Good. Then eat everything from left to right without leaving anything behind.”

“Fine. I will eat and then die of indigestion.”

I set the napkin on my lap.

I pick up my chopsticks and I’m about to eat when my phone rings.

I pick it up.

Tae Ik makes a displeased noise.

“Have you no manners? Turn off your phone at the dinner table.”

“But it’s Kang Hwi-nim.”

“No exceptions.”

“Fine.”

I set my phone to vibrate.

It keeps buzzing with incoming messages from Kang Hwi.

Tae Ik starts eating and I follow suit but fifteen minutes later, I am ready to burst.

Tae Ik continues to eat.

“Please stop eating.” I tell him. “You’re going to get sick.”

“I told you that we can’t go until we finish eating all of this.”

“I’m not used to eating this much and looking at you, I doubt you eat like this often.”

He glares at me.

“Do you know how much this food costs? If you did then you wouldn’t be so eager to leave so much food behind.”

“Alright. How much is it? I will pay for is so we can go before your stomach bursts.”

He hands me the check.

I look at the bill and I gasp.

“Five hundred dollars?!”

“Are you going to pay?”

“NO!”

“Then eat all of it!”

“Why are you so cranky? Can’t say it’s because you’re hungry.”

He points his chopsticks at me.

“Shut up and start eating.”

We stayed at the restaurant for a few hours until I finally convinced Tae Ik to let me take the left overs home that way nothing would be wasted.

After much begging on my part, he finally agrees.

I could always give them to Kang Hwi.

When we get to the house, I got up to the spare bedroom to collect my dirty clothes.

When I come back down, Tae Ik has already changed into his comfortable clothes and is moaning on the couch.

I walk over to him.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

He looked a little green around the gills.

“I said I’m fine!”

He puts a hand to his stomach.

“Ah-ha! You got sick. I told you not to eat so much.”

“I’m not sick.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

He grimaces.

“You have indigestion.”

“I can’t be sick from eating those expensive foods. It’s just that my…condition isn’t good.”

“Condition. Ha! You ate so much I would be surprised if you didn’t get sick. I’ll get you some medicine.”

“There is no need.”

I go into the bathroom to look for something that will help with his stomach ache.

I find a bottle of some of the pink stuff.

I measure out the dosage and I walk over to him.

“Here. Take this.”

“I won’t.”

“Seriously? Why are you prolonging your suffering?”

“I told you I’m not sick!”

“And I know you are lying. So just be a good boy and take your medicine.”

“No.”

“I will force it down your throat. I don’t want you bitching at me later on because I didn’t help you out. Come on.”

He shakes his head.

“Alright, fine. Just remember that you brought this on yourself.”

I grab his arm and turn him towards me.

“What are you doing?”

I straddle him so he can’t wiggle away.

“Hey!”

He shoves at me.

I hold his left arm down.

“Let go of me. Are you really this crazy? Let go immediately!”

“Say ‘ah!’” I say holding up the cap with the medication.

“I’m warning you. I will make your life hell if you don’t stop.”

“How much worse can you be?”

I place the cap close to his mouth.

He grabs my hand with his right hand.

“Don’t you dare.”

I pinch his arm.

“Ouch!”

I take the opportunity to get the medicine in his mouth.

I put my hand over his mouth to stop him from spitting it out so he has no choice but to swallow.

“You are worse than a child, I swear.” I get off of him. “You’ll feel better soon. I’ll make you some herbal tea.”

When I come back with the tea, he’s fallen asleep on the couch.

I grab the afghan off the back of the recliner and I cover him up.

“You’re a hundred times hotter when you’re sleeping and not talking.”

I push a lock of his hair back from his forehead.

I sigh.

“I think I might miss you the most when these three months are up.”

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

President Hwang asked to see me at U Entertainment so I went early the next morning.

At least I didn’t have to dress as a woman today.

Turns out that President Hwang wanted to add other things to my contract.

He thought I was great at handling the guys and ever since I had become a part of the team, they had stopped fighting so frequently.

He wanted me to be with the guys even when my abilities as a stylist weren’t needed.

I told him I’d had to think about it.

Grandfather was going to be coming back pretty soon and I knew I wouldn’t be able to run around like this with the guys.

President Hwang was showing me the practice studio the guys used when Kang Hwi and Tae Ik arrive.

“What are you doing here?” Tae Ik asks.

“Man OK!” Kang Hwi says hugging me.

“Good morning.” I tell them.

“I was just showing Stylist Jang around the place.” President Hwang says.

“We have practice.” Tae Ik says.

“It’s okay. I was leaving.” I tell them.

“No. Stay a bit.” Kang Hwi tells me.

Tae Ik sends me a dark look.

The backup dancers arrive and I take the moment to leave.

I stop to get the new contract President Hwang wanted me to look over.

I’m standing by the elevators when I feel someone tap on my shoulder.

I turn.

Kang Hwi smiles at me.

“Man Ok. Why didn’t you come last night? I waited for you.”

“I’m sorry. Something came up.”

Something like a giant baby with a stomach ache.

“You said you were going to the bathroom.” Tae Ik says appearing besides me suddenly.

I jump.

“I was going there right now.” Kang Hwi tells him.

Tae Ik looks at me and I look away.

“Man Ok, let’s eat together later.” Kang Hwi says grabbing my hand.

“Okay.” I smile.

I watch him walk away.

Tae Ik stands in front of me.

He has his lips pressed together angrily.

“What? Aren’t you going to practice?” I ask.

“Where did you go last night?”

“Eh?”

“You left a person in extreme pain all alone.”

“What? I stayed until you fell asleep!”

“Never mind.” He says holding a finger in front of my face. “Come by later.” He orders.

“For what?”

“Just do as I say!” He shouts before walking away.

“I take it back! I won’t miss you. Bastard.”

I kick the elevator door a few times.

Ugh!

Why do I always forget what an asshole he is?

I call for the elevator and I realize that I left my cell phone in the practice room.

“Damn it.”

Now I had to wait until they stopped for a break.

I wait outside the practice room doors until I hear the music stop.

I hurry in.

“Sorry.” I say.

The backup dancers all nod at me.

As I’m leaving the room, my phone rings.

I check the caller ID and gasp.

Grandfather.

Why was he calling so early?

I look around at the group of guys who are talking and laughing.

“Everyone be quiet!” I shout.

They all stare at me.

“Yes, Grandfather?” I say answering.

“Jang Man Ok. What are you doing?”

“What do you mean? We’re in training.”

“Hmm. It sounds too quiet for you to be training.”

I gesture to the guys.

Kang Hwi shrugs at me.

“At one, shout. At two, action. Start!” I shout.

The guys look at each other.

“One! Ha-ya!” I say.

“Oh.” Kang Hwi says.

“Two!”

“Ha-ya!” The group of guys shout.

“One!”

“Ha-ya!”

“Two!”

“Ha-ya!”

The guys even start mock punching.

“Did you hear? Everyone is working really hard.” I tell my grandfather.

“Good. Keep up the good work.”

“Yes, grandfather. Take care. Bye.”

Oh that was close.

Kang Hwi starts laughing.

“That was a lot of fun.”

The guys agree.

“It’s a good thing your grandfather doesn’t do face time calls, right?”

“Yes. But I’m still always scared he’s going to find out.”

“It’s better that grandfather not know.”

“I know. Still. I feel guilty.”

Tae Ik glares at Kang Hwi.

“What? Why are you looking at me like that?” Kang Hwi asks. “You didn’t even help Man Ok out. All you had to do was shout. You do that often enough.”

“I can’t lie to an innocent person like that.”

I roll my eyes.

Sure, he can be a jackass but he can’t lie.

Bullshit.

“Smart ass.” Kang Hwi tells him.

“Are you done playing around? We have to resume practice.” Tae Ik tells me.

“Yes. Sorry.”

“Don’t leave so quickly.” Kang Hwi says grabbing my arm. “Where do you want to eat later? How about rib patties? I like those.”

Tae Ik looks like he’s going to be sick.

“No. Not rib patties.” I say.

“Then how about sushi? I know a great place. Their fried fish is very good and they also have Yeongdeok snow crab.”

Tae Ik glares at me.

“No, thank you.”

“Then what do you want to eat?”

“How about pizza? I haven’t had that in a while.”

“Pizza sounds good. There’s a place called Marco’s. Their pizza is really good. Have you ever eaten there?”

“No.”

“That place is expensive.” Tae Ik says. “Let’s get pizza from the usual place.”

“Hey! There is no place to sit there. Man Ok, where do you want to go?”

“Don’t even bother. Get pizza from the usual place. If we get it to go, they give a thirty percent discount.” Tae Ik says.

“Don’t be so cheap. Anyways, no one invited you on our date.”

Date?

Tae Ik’s face becomes a thunder cloud.

I have to diffuse the situation.

“It’s okay.” I say. “The usual place is fine.”

Tae Ik smirks at Kang Hwi.

“I’ll see you later.” I say leaving the room.

It was going to be a long day.

*************************

Lee Tae Ik

“Turn on the TV! Turn it on!!” Kang Hwi says rushing into my house.

“What is it? Why are you making such a commotion?”

He turns the TV on.

“All the things mentioned so far are the private affairs of Lee Tae Ik.” LJ says.

What?

“Why is he holding a press conference and why is he talking about me?”

“I know as much as you do.” Kang Hwi shrugs.

I sit down next to him.

“U Entertainment has done the best to protect the privacy of our singer. I know denying the rumors will only spark more of an interest but I can assure you that Lee Tae Ik is not gay.”

“WHAT?!” I shout jumping to my feet.

I grab my phone and dial President Hwang.

“I know, I know.” He says.

“What the hell is going on?”

“Some photos were leaked.”

“What kind of photos?”

“Of you on a date with a man.”

“What? That has never happened.”

“I saw the photos myself. The evidence is pretty hard to deny.”

“I’m telling you that I’ve never been on a date with a man.”

“I have LJ working on solving this problem. While we work this out, I need you to stay put. I’m sure the press can’t wait to corner you.”

“I have nothing to hide.”

“For now Full House is the safest place. Please stay there.”

I hang up.

“What did he say?”

“Apparently there are pictures of me on a date with a man.”

“What?”

“It’s not true.”

“Maybe it was taken out of context. Who is the last person you went out with?”

“I haven’t been out on a date in years. And the last time I actually ate out was….”

With Man Ok.

“What? What is it?”

“I had dinner with Stylist Jang.”

“Man Ok?”

“Yes. But he wasn’t wearing the costume.”

“Do you think that’s who they photographed you with?”

“It has to be.”

But why would the media assume we were on a date?

We didn’t do anything that would make people think we were a couple.

“I wonder if Man Ok has heard about this.” He says grabbing his phone.

I put my hand over the phone.

“Just leave it.”

“But we have to tell him!”

“I’m sure President Hwang will take care of it. Best not to worry Stylist Jang.”

“Maybe he should stay here for the time being. You know how the media is. I’m sure they’re looking him up right about now.” He says before leaving.

Shit.

I call President Hwang again.

“Yes?”

“Have Stylist Jang move into Full House.”

“What?”

“You said it’s the safest place right now.”

“Well, yes.”

“Then have Go Dong move him in here.”

“But where will he stay?”

“In my house.”

“Are you sure? I know how much you value your privacy.”

“I’m sure.”

“Alright. I’ll give Go Dong the order.”

I end the call.

I hoped this didn’t make matters worse for either of us.

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

“I don’t understand.”

“Orders from President Hwang. He says there is some trouble and he wants you to guard the guys.”

“But I’m just their stylist.”

“I guess he’ll feel better knowing there is someone he can trust looking out for the guys.”

“Well. Alright.”

I pack up my things and load them into the van.

It didn’t make any sense but if President Hwang was asking this of me, I couldn’t deny him.

He had been nothing but good to me since I started working for the company.

We arrive at Full House.

I can’t believe I’m going to live here. This was going to be my home now.

It was exciting and daunting at the same time.

“You’ll be living with Tae Ik hyung.”

“What?”

I did not expect to hear that.

I thought that maybe I was going to share the guest house with Kang Hwi.

“Are you sure Tae Ik-shi is alright with me sharing his house?”

“Yes. It’s all been taken care of.”

Oh god.

What if he was seriously pissed off about this?

“Come on. Let me show you to your room.”

I follow Go Dong into the house.

“Hyung-nim! Stylist Jang is here. Hyung-nim!”

“Just leave him. It’s late. Maybe he’s already asleep.”

“Yeah. Probably. Come on. You’re on the second floor, right across from Tae Ik hyung’s room.”

The room he leads me into is about the size of my studio.

“I don’t know if the decorations is to your liking.”

Was he kidding?

I felt like I was at a five star hotel.

“It’s beautiful.”

“Good. If there is anything you need, just call for me.”

“Thank you so much Go Dong.”

“I’ll bring the rest of your things.”

“Okay.”

He leaves the room.

I throw myself on the bed.

Ah. This was living the good life.

There’s a picture of Tae Ik on the nightstand.

I wonder whose room this used to be.

“Somebody moves into your house and you don’t even bother to come out?” I ask the picture.

I wait until Go Dong brings my things and leaves before running to the guest house to see Kang Hwi.

“Man Ok!”

“Kang Hwi-nim.”

“What are you doing here? Come in, come in.”

I walk into his house.

He serves me a glass of wine and takes one for himself.

“Looks like we’re going to be living together.”

“What?”

“I just moved into the main house.”

He starts choking.

“What?! You’re going to be living with Tae Ik?”

“Yes.”

“That makes no sense. Why did you agree?”

“President Hwang asked me to.”

“Ah, seriously? How could he ask you to do this and with the media in a frenzy.”

“Media? What do you mean?”

“Never mind. I can’t believe Tae Ik agreed to this. Are you sure you can handle living with him? I can get you a hotel room. No! I’ll buy you a studio apartment.”

“It’s fine. And anyways, this way I can come and see you anytime.”

He smiles.

“That’s true. But I still feel bad that you have to live with that rude bastard.”

“It’s fine. I know how to handle him.”

I stay with Kang Hwi for a while longer before going back to the main house.

I get startled by Tae Ik who appears out of nowhere.

“You scared me!”

“Where have you been? Do you know how late it is?”

“I was just visiting Kang Hwi-nim.”

“Hmm. Don’t stay out too late, I activate the house alarm at ten o’clock. And don’t leave all the lights on. Do you know how much it costs to have the house fully lit up?”

I snort.

“What?”

“Are you really going to nag at me on the very first day? I’ve only been here a couple of hours.”

“There’s no better time than the present.”

“You could just teach me the code so that I can come and go as I please.”

“That’s enough. You will abide by my rules.”

“Yes, father.”

He glares at me.

“Go to bed.”

I salute him before going to my room.

This guy.

I shake my head.

I turn on my side and look at his picture.

“Looks like we’re really stuck with each other now. Which one of us do you think will throw in the towel first? My guess is you.”

Let’s see how long he could stand to live with me.

****************************

Lee Tae Ik

It’s only been a few days and I’ve had it with this guy!

He uses the sauna and leaves towels everywhere, he uses my stuff without asking and he eats all of my organic food.

This guy wasn’t cute. He was a pig.

I catch him just as he’s leaving the kitchen.

“Jang Man Ok!”

He screams.

“Stop scaring me!”

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“What?”

“The mess in the sauna, my organic food and using my things without permission! It’s all your doing isn’t it, Jang Man?”

“Jang what?”

“Jang Man! I will omit the ‘Ok’ as it is bothersome.”

“Why do you cut someone’s given name as you please?”

“That is up to the person saying your name. And don’t try to change the subject.”

“Alright, fine. What’s the problem?”

“Are you or are you not eating my food and using my things? And the sauna looks like it’s been hit by a bomb. Do you know how much my moisturizer costs?”

“Do you know how petty you sound?”

“Yes.” Wait. What did he say? “What? Petty?”

“Yes, completely petty.”

“That’s not the point! Did you or did you not do the things I’m accusing you of?”

“Yes, I did it. So?”

He makes me feel so angry and the fact that he acts like he doesn’t know why, pisses me off even more.

“You will start to clean up after yourself and stop taking my things!”

“Fine!”

He turns to leave with his plate of food.

“Wait. Where are you going?”

“I’m going to go eat with Kang Hwi-nim. Why? Is there a problem with that?”

He sends me one last dirty look before leaving the house.

The nerve of that crazy idiot.

“Good, you’re here.” President Hwang says entering.

“What is it?”

“Photographs of you and Kang Hwi kissing have surfaced.”

“Fuck!”

I felt like I was going to be sick.

“I’ve found a way to make the gay rumors go away.”

I look at him.

“How?”

“Well. That’s the problem.”

“What do you mean?”

“You said it was Stylist Jang you were photographed holding hands with.”

I can feel myself blushing to hear him say it so bluntly.

“We weren’t holding hands! He was trying to…never mind. What of it?”

He sighs.

“We can release a statement saying that the person you were seen with was your girlfriend.”

“But he wasn’t even dressed as a woman.”

“I know. We’ll say she disguised herself to protect her identity.”

“You really think that will work?”

“Of course. And then…”

“Then?”

“We will have a press conference where you will announce your engagement to Stylist Jang.”

“What?!”

“Just hear me out.”

“Are you crazy? He’s not really a woman!”

“It will only be for a few months and then we can say the relationship didn’t work because she couldn’t handle being in the limelight.”

I sit down.

“Of course you realize that we have to tell Stylist Jang. There is no way around it. He’s the only one who can solve this problem for us.”

I close my eyes.

“I need to know that you are on board.” He tells me.

“Do I have a choice?”

“Tae Ik.”

“Fine. I agree.”

“Good.”

“Not that it matters if Stylist Jang doesn’t agree.”

“He will.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Because he’s a good guy.”

He really was. Even I couldn’t deny that.

“If you say so.”

“Do you know where he is now?”

“With Kang Hwi.”

Just thinking of the two of them together makes me clench my fists.

“I’ll call him.”

I try to ignore the fact that in a minute Jang Man was going to be in here deciding my fate.

I lean my head back.

Jang Man comes into the house.

“Have a seat.” President Hwang says.

Jang Man sits next to me.

“There is something I have to tell you.”

I turn my head away.

I couldn’t look at Jang Man right now.

“There is something we have been hiding from you.”

“Oh?”

“Days ago, pictures of you and Tae Ik were publicized.”

“What kind of pictures?”

President Hwang hands Jang Man the article.

“This is from when we went to that restaurant. Do you remember Tae Ik-shi?” He says nudging my arm.

“Of course I remember.”

How could I forget? He had fussed over me and taken care of me the way no one had done since my father died.

“Why don’t you read it?” President Hwan says.

“Uh, okay.”

My stomach clenches uncomfortably.

“Wait. What?! They’re saying…but…”

“We’ve tried to deal with this but we haven’t been successful.”

“It’s not true!”

“We know that and we have come up with a plan to stop these false rumors.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Well. I need you to pretend to be Tae Ik’s girlfriend. We can say Tae Ik wanted to protect you from the public and the press and that’s why you were wearing the disguise.”

Jang Man is quiet.

“I know I’m dumping a lot on you right now and that this is a huge favor. But you will be paid for this. I will give you twenty thousand dollars and I will cancel the money you still owe for the compensation fee and we will let you open up your online store.”

“For how long?”

“Excuse me?”

“How long do I have to pretend to be his girlfriend?”

“Well…you won’t be his girlfriend for long.”

“Oh?”

“Because the two of you will announce your engagement.”

“Engagement?! We can’t get engaged, I’m a guy!”

“I know. We will create a new identity for you.”

“Michelle.” I say.

“What?” Jang Man asks me.

“Your name. Michelle.”

“I need you to tell me that you agree.” President Hwang tells him.

“Okay. I’ll do it.”

“Thank you.” President Hwang says.

“I need you to know that I’m not doing it for the money. Okay, I’m not doing it just for the money.”

I can’t help but smile.

“Then why are you doing it?” I ask him.

“For you.”

His statement catches me off guard and I look at him for the first time since he sat down.

He looks back at me.

“You’re a mean ass bastard but if I can help you out, then I will do it.”

My heart quickens and I clench my fists to keep myself from reaching out to him.

I look away.

“We will say that the two of you have been dating for three years. We will take some fake photos to show the progress of your relationship. And then it’s just a matter of making small appearances together.”

“Okay.” He says quietly.

“I can’t thank you enough for this.”

“If that’s all then I’m going to go lie down. I’m tired.”

“Of course. Good night. I will bring you the details later.” President Hwang says.

“Sure. Good night.”

I watch his back as he leaves the room.

“Do you feel better now?”

I look at President Hwang.

“About what?”

“Everything.”

“I feel worse. Stylist Jang shouldn’t be getting involved.”

“It’s the only way to stop the rumors quickly.”

“I know. But he’s already lying about the gym and being a stylist. Now he has to add being my girlfriend/fiancé to the list.”

“He’s not going to be doing this by himself. He has you to help him through this. You have to remember that while being in the spot light is normal for you, he doesn’t know what it’s going to be like. I’ll be going then, I have a lot to discuss with LJ. Try to get some rest, huh?”

I nod.

I sit there for a few minutes after he’s left before going to my room to take a hot shower.

It usually helped me relax but it didn’t do anything today.

Maybe if I talked with Jang Man?

We couldn’t afford to be awkward around each other now.

I put my bathrobe on over my pajamas and I walk to his door.

I knock softly.

“Jang Man. Are you sleeping?”

I enter his room.

It was dark and I walk up slowly to the bed.

I could see the lump under the covers.

“How can you fall asleep in a time like this?” I sigh. “Rest well.”

I turn to leave and the door to the room opens and Jang Man walks in carrying a tea cup.

I stand perfectly still.

He flips on the lights and screams once he catches sight of me.

“You scared me!” He walks up to me. “What are you doing in my room with the lights off?”

I didn’t like the accusing tone in his voice.

“Hey! I thought you were sleeping.”

“And that makes this situation better?”

“Shut up!”

“Why are you in my room shouting at me in the middle of the night?”

“Middle of the night? It’s only nine o’clock.”

“It’s been a long day!”

“Then go to sleep!”

“Didn’t you come here to say something to me? Or was there another reason you’re in my room?”

“Forget…” I hold my finger in front of his face.

He stares up at me.

God. Why did he have to look at me like that?

He looked so young and innocent.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” He asks.

My thoughts exactly.

I lower my hand.

“Don’t worry so much about it.”

“About what?”

“The engagement. I will take care of it.”

“How are you going to take care of it? It takes two people to be engaged you know.”

I glare at him.

Didn’t he trust me?

“I said I’ll take care of it. Now go to sleep! Quickly. And stop wandering around the house in the middle of the night.”

“Though it was only nine o’clock?” He smirks.

“I’m leaving now.”

I leave his room unsure if we’d just argued again or if all our conversations consisted of us shouting back and forth at each other.

************************

Jang Man Ok

I felt like a complete idiot.

Today was the photo shoot of our fake relationship.

I show up in my disguise and I am immediately taken into the makeup trailer.

The stylist shows me the clothes I was going to be wearing for the photo shoot while the makeup artist waxed my eyebrows and did my face up.

Longer extensions were put in my hair and now I had to pretend to be a woman every day.

I don’t think any of these people knew I was a man.

Good thing I had remembered to shave my legs and my underarms.

All stupid Tae Ik had to do was show up and change into his outfits.

The first photographs were going to be of our ‘first anniversary’. There were balloons and a giant teddy bear.

We are asked to sit close together on the love seat.

Tae Ik puts his arm around me and his body is pressed really tight against mine.

Did the bastard have to look all cool and normal?

Meanwhile, I’m sitting here in a short sleeveless dress and high heels, my bra was poking at my ribcage and the new extensions made my hair hurt.

He shifts against me and rests his head against mine, smiling prettily at the camera.

The flashing light irritates my eyes and the contacts were making my eyes dry out.

“Why do we have to shoot something like this?” I ask through gritted teeth.

“Didn’t you hear what President Hwang said?”

“But if we’re going to get engaged anyways. I don’t see the point to this.”

“If you don’t want to do it then you can just walk out right now.”

“Like it’s that easy?” I glare at him.

“Isn’t it? Anyways, I don’t know why you’re complaining. You should be happy.”

“And why is that?”

“You get to be engaged to Lee Tae Ik.”

I laugh.

“That is exactly why I’m complaining.”

He glares at me.

“Did the two of you have a fight? Why are you looking at each other like that?” The photographer asks.

“No. We’re fine.” I say.

“Completely fine.” Tae Ik says.

“Here. Tae Ik-shi carry Jang Michelle-shi.”

I stand up.

“Carry me? No! No. He can’t.”

My cheeks burn at the thought.

This was embarrassing enough.

“Why?” Tae Ik asks standing.

“Because. I’m heavier than I look.”

“I know. You’re heavier than a sack of rice.”

He bends down to grab me and I push him away.

“Stop it!” I hiss at him.

“Just smile prettily for the camera, dear.” He smiles.

I shout as I am hoisted up into his arms.

I hold on tight.

“Okay. Smile! Look lovingly at each other.” The photographer says.

Easier said than done.

“Don’t you drop me.” I warn.

“Is that a loving expression?” Tae Ik asks me.

“Put me down.”

“No.”

“Then at least hoist me up higher in a proper hold. If you have the strength.”

He lifts me higher in his arms.

“Ha!” He says smiling triumphantly at me.

I chuckle.

“Good! Okay. We got it. Now go change into the next wardrobe.”

There was one of us hiking, tandem biking, at a café, and of us at the park.

As the photo shoot progressed, Tae Ik’s hands started to wander past my shoulders.

I grip his hand as it lands low on my hip.

I glare up at him but he just smiles at the camera like nothing.

Bastard.

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

The day of our engagement announcement was finally here and I was a nervous wreck.

Everyone seemed to have believed the lie so far but this was more than just a few false photographs.

As soon as we arrive to the location of the press conference, I am ushered into a room where I am dressed and fixed up.

I am given a long black and white gown to wear and black stilettos.

Did these people really think I could walk in these shoes?

Once they are done, I am ushered into a room to wait.

I am reprimanded for not wearing the shoes but I wasn’t about to put those on until I really had to.

Tae Ik was already there, dressed to the nines and with a bored expression on his face.

He glances at me but he doesn’t say anything.

I set the shoes down by the couch and I walk to the full length mirror to look at myself.

I really didn’t look anything like myself. The clothes, makeup, hair and contacts made me a completely different person. I suppose I really was Michelle now.

I try sitting but I am too anxious to sit around.

I drop to the floor and I start doing push-ups.

Tae Ik snorts and I sit up to look at him.

“What?”

“Was I not supposed to laugh at you? Should I open the door so that the reporters outside can see? It’s too funny to enjoy this by myself.”

Bastard.

“I need to work off some of this stress.”

“It’s good to relieve your tension. But what will you do if you damage that expensive dress?”

“I was being careful.”

“Just sit down.”

“No.”

“Do as I say.”

“In case you have forgotten, this is just for pretend. You are not really my boyfriend and you are not going to be my fiancé so stop ordering me around!”

“Shh! They can hear everything outside.” He reminds me.

I sit down.

I felt like I was either going to pass out or have a heart attack.

Everyone was making a big deal out of this.

This felt more like a wedding than an engagement announcement.

I put a shaky hand to my racing heart.

I look at Tae Ik.

“I can’t do this, I’m sorry. Let’s cancel the engagement.”

“What?!”

“Shh!”

“Are you joking right now?”

“Do you really want to do this?”

“You said you wanted to help me.”

“I know but this is too much. I just can’t.”

“So what do you propose we do, huh? You want to just stroll on out of here and cause even more of a scandal for standing everyone up?”

“Of course not. There could be an emergency.”

“What kind of emergency?”

I lift my fist.

“Just let me hit you this one time. Then we can go to the hospital and we won’t have to do this.”

“Are you crazy?”

“Just take one for the team this time.” I say standing over him.

“Don’t you dare hit me.”

“Just close your eyes and it will all be over soon.”

“Don’t do it. I’m warning you.”

“Just one blow and then we can leave.”

“Don’t!”

I pull my arm back and he covers his face with his arms.

“Hyung-nim.” Go Dong says entering. “It’s time.”

Oh god.

My legs start shaking.

“Put your shoes on, crazy.” Tae Ik says standing.

“Don’t talk to him like that. He’s your fiancé now.” Go Dong tells Tae Ik.

“This isn’t real.” Tae Ik whispers fiercely at Go Dong.

“Still. You have to at least pretend to love him.”

I put my shoes on and my feet feel so heavy I can barely walk.

We make our way out of the room.

Go Dong leads the way and Tae Ik walks beside me.

I step on the dress and twist my ankle.

“OW! Fuck.”

“Are you okay?” Tae Ik asks me.

“Stupid shoes.”

I straighten up and start walking again.

A few seconds later, I twist the same ankle again.

Tae Ik catches me before I fall.

I push him off and I hold on to the wall.

Go Dong looks back at me worriedly.

“Stylist Jang?”

“Let’s just get this over with.” I tell him.

I focus on walking and soon we are standing before the doors leading to the room where the press conference is being held.

I close my eyes and I try to even out my breathing.

A hand grasps mine and I look at Tae Ik.

He stares straight ahead.

“Just hold my hand. We’re in this together, I’ll take care of you.”

I tighten my hand in his.

The doors open and we walk in to applause and the flash of cameras.

“Just a few more steps and then we can sit down.” He whispers to me.

I nod.

*************************

Lee Tae Ik

When we get home, Jang Man disappears into his room.

I wanted to go and see if he was okay but Kang Hwi barged into my house full of accusations and questions.

“I already told you why we did it!”

“How could you force Man Ok to do this? He isn’t like us, he’s not prepared to deal with this sort of thing!”

“He’ll be fine. Don’t worry about it.”

“How can I not worry?”

I look at him.

“Is it worry? Or are you jealous?”

“What is there to be jealous about? Your relationship with Man Ok is not real. Like he would ever love a rude bastard like you when he could have me.”

His words hurt but I hide it with sarcastic laughter.

“Don’t kid yourself. Not everyone thinks you’re a god.”

He takes a step towards me, his face pinched with anger.

“If Man Ok gets hurt in any way because of this, I will never forgive you.”

“Why don’t you just worry about yourself? Jang Man is my fiancé now, I will take care of him. Now get out of my house, it’s been a long day.”

He leaves, slamming the door on his way out.

I take a moment to compose myself before going up to check on Jang Man.

The door to his room was ajar and I knock softly in case he’s asleep.

“Jang Man.” I call.

I can hear him talking and I walk further into the room.

He’s sitting on the bed with his back to me.

“You don’t even like Lee Tae Ik-shi, so I didn’t tell you.”

He’s on the phone with someone.

“Fine! I will tell you why I did it. I did it because I love him. Because I love him to death! Because I couldn’t live if I couldn’t be with Tae Ik! He is the only one I will ever love and I want to be with him every second of every day. Now stop bothering me!” He hangs up and throws his phone down onto the bed.

My heart pounds in my chest and my throat dries up.

I back out of the room.

I lean against the wall for a second before hurrying to my room.

I toss and turn most of the night.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the things Jang Man had said.

I knew he didn’t mean it.

He had never given any indication of being in love with me. But hearing those words spoken with such fierce passion….

I groan and put the pillow over my head.

“Just go to sleep. Go to sleep.”

When I do finally fall asleep, I dream of Jang Man. Of the way his hand felt clasped in mine, of him declaring his feelings for me.

When I open my eyes, the sun is streaming through the curtains and I feel worse than I had last night.

I get dressed and I sit in front of my computer pretending to check my stocks.

Why did those words affect me so much?

I wasn’t in love with Jang Man, so why did I want him to love me?

I sigh angrily at myself.

There is a knock on my door and Jang Man enters.

“Tae Ik-shi!”

I look at him.

“Go Dong is downstairs waiting for you. Aren’t you going to the practice room?”

He wasn’t dressed as a woman today and he had pulled his hair back.

I stare at his dark eyes, his small nose and his pink mouth.

If he had really been a woman, would our relationship be different or would we still be at each other’s throats?

“What? Is there something on my face?”

I shake my head to snap myself out of it.

I stand and he looks up at me.

There was that look on his face again.

My heart speeds up.

I step closer to him and he doesn’t move away or react to my closeness.

“I have to go.” I say and I force myself to leave the room quickly before I did something stupid.

At the studio, I try to focus on the new song Kang Hwi and I would be recording but all I can think about is Jang Man.

I sing a few lines but it’s no use. I desperately wanted to be back home.

“My condition isn’t good today.”

“What are you talking about hyung-nim? You sang better than usual today.” Go Dong says.

I glare at him.

“What I mean is that-”

“Never mind. Let’s stop here today.”

“Hyung-nim, you didn’t even practice that much today. We’ve only been here for about an hour.”

“I said I’m not at my best right now. I’m going home.”

I leave the studio and I run into Kang Hwi on my way out.

“Hey, where are you going?”

“I’m not feeling well.”

“Since when have you ever let that stop you?”

“I’m going. Take advantage of the extra time you have to learn the new song.”

I catch a cab home and once we arrive, I hurry inside.

“Jang Man! I’m home.”

I grab a glass and serve myself some juice.

I am taking a sip when I notice some movement out of the corner of my eye.

I turn my head and there in my house is a kitten.

I spit out the juice as I start coughing.

“You’re back early.”

I look at Jang Man and I point at the cat.

“What in the hell is that thing doing here?!”

I can’t hear his answer over my violent sneezing.

He hurries to grab the cat.

I manage to get a hold of myself.

“Sorry.” He says.

“Answer me truthfully. Are you really in your right mind?”

“Of course I am. I know you have allergies-”

“If you know then how dare you keep that thing in this house?”

“It was a gift.”

“I don’t care! I will make this very simple. Get rid of it.”

“I can’t just throw it out onto the street!”

“I don’t want it in my house!”

“It’s not just your house anymore! This is my house too and I have a right to-”

“A right?”

“Please just let me keep the cat, I promise you won’t even know it’s here.”

“How can you raise a cat here without it affecting me?”

“I will keep it in the basement.”

“The basement?”

“Yes! It will be far away from you that you won’t even know it’s here. Please just say yes.”

He widens his eyes and pouts at me.

I stare at his mouth and without thinking, I step closer to him.

My nose itches and I sneeze in his face.

“Eww.”

I stumble away as my allergies come back with a vengeance.

“Make sure that cat doesn’t come out of the basement! If I catch it running around my house again, it is out immediately! Do you understand?”

“Yes. Thank you!”

****************************

Jang Man Ok

“Hello?”

“Man Ok!”

“Kang Hwi-nim. I was just coming to see you.”

“My face broke out. Tae Ik has facial care products in his bathroom. Please get it for me.”

“Sure.”

I call Go Dong to make sure Tae Ik is still at the studio.

“Hyung-nim said he had business to attend to so I left first.”

“Oh, okay. Thank you.”

I go into Tae Ik’s room and I enter the bathroom.

The door was open and the lights were on.

“He leaves the lights on and he bitches at me about racking up the electricity bill? This guy. Seriously.”

I walk up to the counter and look through the bottles he has there.

I hear the shower curtain move behind me and I turn.

Tae Ik is standing there, his body wet and naked.

We stare at each other for a heartbeat before we both start screaming.

He covers himself up with the shower curtain.

It was too late for that.

“What are you doing?!”

I turn away.

“So…sorry! I didn’t know you were h…home.”

“Are you a pervert? Why do you enter someone’s bathroom like this?!” He shouts at me.

“I was just looking for something.”

And I found more than I wanted to.

I look at him.

“I didn’t see anything! I swear, I really didn’t see anything. And even if I had, it’s not like you have anything to be ashamed of. Quite the opposite in fact.”

Shut up!

He flushes a deep red.

“Why are you still standing there? GET OUT!”

“Right. Right. I’m going. Okay. Bye!”

I hightail it out of his room.

My body breaks out into a sweat and I stand in the dining room trying to catch my breath.

I could still see it in my mind.

I pat my cheeks.

“Snap out of it!”

“Excuse me.”

I look at the woman standing in front of me.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

“Huh?”

“No. Sorry.”

I was starting to act like the rude bastard now.

“I’m Jin Se Ryeong.” She smiles.

“Oh!”

She was even more beautiful in person.

“Is Tae Ik home?”

“Yes, he is.”

“Hey! Jang Man!” Tae Ik yells coming down the stairs. “Did you or did you really not see? You saw everything, right?”

I look at him but he’s staring past me now at Jin Se Ryeong.

She runs towards him and throws her arms around him.

“I missed you so much.” She says smiling at him before leaning forward and kissing the corner of his mouth.

My breath freezes in my throat.

What the hell did she think she was doing?

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

I watch Jang Man hurry out of the house and I look at Se Ryeong.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“I came to see you. I’m sorry for the way I left.”

Yeah, right.

She had destroyed my relationship with Kang Hwi and broken my heart but a simple apology was going to mend everything.

“Are you?”

“Of course. Anyway, I’ll just take my things up to my old room.”

“Get out.”

“Is your room still across the hall from mine?”

“That is no longer your room. It stopped being your room the moment you walked out of here.”

“Don’t be like that. Hey, you put in new hardwood floors. What other renovations have you done to this old house? Huh? I’ll just go to your room to see if anything has changed.”

I grab her wrist.

“I told you to get out of my house.”

“I know you’re happy to see me after all this time but please let go. You’re hurting my wrist.”

I release her.

She goes into the living room and makes herself at home.

“I’ll be staying here for a little bit. I need to rest.”

“No.”

“I signed a contract with U Entertainment.”

“What? Why would you sign a contract with U Entertainment?”

“Because I wanted to. And this way we can see each other all the time.”

“You are still just as shameless as ever.”

“I’m shameless? You used to like me being this way. You said I was your queen and I could have all I wanted.”

“Those days are over.”

“You’re not a fool, Tae Ik. I know you love me and I know you won’t let me go this time.”

I snort.

“I have no need for you now.”

“I know you will come back to me.”

“Never.”

“We’ll see.”

I grab my jacket.

“When I come back, I want you gone.”

I walk out of my house furious with her for coming back and angry at myself for letting her get to me like this.

I promised myself I would be cool and aloof if I ever saw her again and just a few minutes in her presence and I was right back to where I had been four years ago.

I unlock my car.

“Hey! Where are you going?”

I look at Jang Man.

“Out.”

He hurries over and grabs my arm before I can climb into the car.

“Let go of me.”

“You shouldn’t be driving if you’re upset.”

I look at him.

“I’m not going to tell you twice.”

He takes the keys from me.

“Tell me where you want to go and I will take you.”

“I need to be by myself right now.”

“I can be quiet.”

“Give me the keys.”

“It’s late. Come on.”

He tugs me along.

“Where are we going?”

“Have you ever walked the garden at night? It’s a very beautiful place, even if there are no flowers. Plus, I know the perfect spot where you can look at the magnificent grounds.”

I let myself be led.

As we walk in silence, the crisp air and the company were better than being out driving alone.

I twine my fingers with his and he lets me.

After walking through the bare garden, he leads me up to the deck my father had built and we sit on the porch swing.

We stare at the house.

He was right, this was the perfect view of Full House.

“Thank you.” I tell him.

“I was afraid that if I let you leave frowning the way you were, you would have left home for good.”

Home.

It felt nice hearing him say that word.

“Where would I go?”

“I would invite you back to my studio but my friend is pretty mad at me right now and I know she’s watching the place waiting for me to come back so that she can yell at me.”

I smile and he nudges my shoulder with his.

“I suppose it’s a good thing I had to go out today.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I’m dressed as Michelle. Not that it matters, I could never compare to Jin Se Ryeong. She’s just as beautiful as I imagined.”

I look at him.

“She’s not as beautiful as you. Trust me.”

He blushes and he stands suddenly.

I look up at him.

“Hey. I will show you a revitalizing kick.”

“A kick? Dressed like that?”

“I’m wearing leggings underneath. Okay. Keep your knees slightly bent, lift your left leg and extend it out keeping your toes pointed. Imagine your opponent is standing in front of you. Yah!” He yells as he kicks.

I snort.

“Come on. Try it.”

“No thank you.”

“You will feel better, I promise.”

He forces me to my feet and he places my body in the proper form.

“Now kick.”

I felt stupid but I actually felt better.

“Good. Try it again. Remember to bend your knees.”

I kick with more force.

He claps his hands.

I smile at him.

“Come on. Let’s go back to the house. It’s getting colder out here.” I tell him.

He nods and we walk back to the house in comfortable silence.

When we enter the house, Se Ryeong is still on the couch.

“Tae Ik.” She says standing.

“Good night.” Jang Man says.

I grab his arm and he looks at me.

“Stay.”

“It’s late and the two of you seem to have something to talk about.”

I watch him walk up the stairs.

“Who is that frumpy girl? Is she your maid?”

I look at Se Ryeong.

“She’s my fiancé.”

She stares back at me for a moment before laughing.

“Good one.”

“I mean it.”

“Wait. Are you really with her?”

“It’s what I said.”

“Boy, your standards have really dropped. But then I suppose no one will ever measure up to me.”

I smile at her.

“Don’t kid yourself. The fact that she is nothing like you is her most endearing quality. Besides, I’ve already been with someone like you and I know what that road leads to.”

I walk up the stairs to my room.

The next morning, Se Ryeong is back.

I glare at her as I come down the stairs.

Jang Man has already set breakfast out and I make my way to the table.

Se Ryeong and Kang Hwi join us.

Jang Man moves to sit across from me but I grab his arm and indicate the chair next to mine.

We had to keep appearances up in front of Se Ryeong. Hopefully she would get the hint quickly and leave.

I serve myself before passing the dishes to Jang Man.

“So I hear you are Tae Ik’s fiancé.” Se Ryeong says.

“Yes, it’s true.”

“You seem to know me but I don’t even know your name.”

“It’s Jang Michelle.”

“Michelle?”

“Hmm.”

“What a peculiar name for someone like you.”

Kang Hwi frowns down at his plate.

“Michelle, give me breakfast.” Se Ryeong orders.

“Get it yourself. You have arms, don’t you?” I tell her.

We glare at each other.

“Man…Michelle. You look lovely today.” Kang Hwi says.

“Thank you.”

I glare at Kang Hwi.

“Do you really find this appetizing?” Se Ryeong asks me.

I ignore her.

“Water, please.” I tell Jang Man.

He fills the glass and hands it to me.

“Here.”

I make sure to brush out fingers together and he smiles at me.

Kang Hwi clears his throat.

“Tell me, Michelle. When Tae Ik kisses you, does he also pull on your lip like he’s biting it?”

Jang Man and Kang Hwi start coughing.

I glare back at Se Ryeong.

She smiles at me.

“What?” Jang Man asks.

“Wait. Are you saying that the two of you haven’t even kissed?” Se Ryeong asks.

“You just caught me off guard is all.” Jang Man says. “To answer your question, no he doesn’t kiss me like that. But then, we are busy doing other things that require more attention than his mouth.”

I start chocking on my food and my face feels hot.

Se Ryeong throws down her spoon and leaves.

“Way to go, Man Ok.” Kang Hwi says.

“Thank you.”

Jesus Christ, this guy.

I gulp down my glass of water but even that doesn’t help cool my body down.

*************************

Jang Man Ok

It looked like Jin Se Ryeong was determined to move into the house by force.

She had been here every day and she was seriously starting to piss me off.

What did she think she was going to accomplish? All she did was aggravate Tae Ik.

I was outside hanging the bed sheets just so that I didn’t have to be in the house with her.

Tae Ik was right, she really wasn’t pretty at all.

I wanted to dump kick her ass to the curve so many times but Kang Hwi told me force didn’t work with her.

How stupid was that woman that she couldn’t even tell when she wasn’t wanted?

“Ah, seriously!”

My phone rings with an incoming text.

It’s Kang Hwi asking me to visit when I’m not busy.

Another text message comes in, this time from Tae Ik asking if I’ve seen his moisturizer.

I’m about to send him back a message when my phone vibrates again.

This time with a text from Jin Se Ryeong.

How in the hell did she get my number?

She wanted me to make her a snack.

“That shameless…ugh!”

I seriously needed to take my anger out on something before I went into that house and dragged that woman out by her hair.

I spot a trowel sitting next to a patch with dried up flowers.

I grab it and I start to tear everything up.

This felt good.

“Hey, you crazy thing! What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Tae Ik shouts at me.

“I’m going to put in a vegetable garden.”

I hear him walk up behind me.

“Do you know how much those flowers cost? Why are you tearing them out to plant vegetables?”

I turn to look at him.

“So what if they cost a lot? You can’t even eat them. I am going to pluck them all out and plant some vegetables. What? Do you have a problem?”

“Vegetables?”

“Yes. You said you like organic vegetables. Just wait and see. I’m going to grow them without any pesticide and the food expense will decrease considerably.”

“Ah.”

“Do you want to try it? It totally helps to relieve stress. Come on.”

I grab him and pull him closer.

“No, it’s fine. Just continue what you were doing.”

“Don’t be like that. Come on, just try it.”

“Why should I?”

“Why do you think? You’re going to eat the vegetables aren’t you? Go on.”

“I don’t do things like this.”

“Try it once. I’ll show you.”

“I said I don’t want to do it.”

“Let’s try it together.”

I force him to kneel on the ground and I grab his hand and help him pull up the plants.

“Really! I said that I’m not doing it.”

“It gets rid of your stress! Just keep doing it.”

“I’m not even wearing my gardening clothes!”

“It’s alright. It’s just a little dirt.”

Pretty soon he’s tearing up the dirt like a pro.

“Wow, you are really fast. You might have a talent for gardening.” I tell him.

“Of course! I decorated this entire garden.”

I stare at his back.

“I meant to say this earlier.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry about your father.”

He stops digging.

“It must have been very hard for you and your mother.”

“It was.”

“Do you visit her often?”

“No.”

I know he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore so I stop prying.

“What kind of vegetables do you think we should plant?” He asks.

“I was thinking lettuce, tomatoes, and bell peppers.”

“We should go to the garden center and see what kinds of vegetables we can grow at the same time. They have to have a wide variety.”

“That’s a good idea.”

He turns his head and smiles at me before continuing to pull out the plants.

A warm feeling settles in my chest.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

“Man Ok, did I tell you? I have been asked to be the main model for the international brand ‘Win’.”

“Kang Hwi-nim, that’s fantastic! They make beautiful clothes.”

I roll my eyes.

I didn’t like the way he said his name with that tone of voice, so full of affection.

“You say his name so lovingly, you’d think Kang Hwi was your fiancé instead of Tae Ik.” Se Ryeong says.

Kang Hwi reaches to take food first and I stop him.

“Hey. Don’t you know that first priority is given to the guest?” He asks.

“You’re not my guest. I didn’t invite either of you to eat with us.”

“Ah! Seriously!” He drops his chopsticks on the table and gets up. “Michelle, bring my food to my place.”

I stand.

“Forget it. You can make your own lunch.”

“Why should I when she’s willing to feed me?”

I turn to look at Jang Man.

“Is this true? Why are you cooking for him? I forbid it! From now on you will only take care of me.”

Jang Man slaps a hand on the table top.

Se Ryeong jumps in her seat.

“Both of you, sit down and shut up!”

We sit back down.

“This is all because of you.” Kang Hwi whispers at me.

“You be quiet.” I whisper back.

“Hey, Michelle. Don’t you take care of you skin?” Se Ryeong says.

“What?”

I tighten my grip on my spoon.

“Your skin is tanned like someone who works outside. You’re the fiancé of a top singer, you should take care of yourself. This is a little extreme.”

“Hey!” Kang Hwi says.

I slam my spoon down on the table and stand.

Jang Man grabs my hand.

“What is it? Why don’t you eat some more?”

“I lost my appetite.”

“With food like this, I don’t blame you.” Se Ryeong says.

I take her chopsticks and I throw them down onto the table.

I look down at Jang Man.

“Hey, Michelle.”

Jang Man looks at me.

“Are you a social service worker? Are you a domestic assistant? Why do you serve food to just anyone? You are my fiancé! You needn’t worry about weird dregs like them. Just make our food in the future.”

I glare at Se Ryeong before going to my room.

I throw some books around to relieve some of the anger.

I wanted them gone from my house.

The next morning I had a photo shoot so Jang Man and I had time to be alone together.

I had forgotten what it felt like to have him by my side like this. The feel of his hands smoothing down my clothes. The feel of his body as he pressed against me to put powder on my face.

I find myself looking at him instead of the camera. Smiling back when he smiled, posing the way he was telling me to.

On the way back home, I tell Go Dong to stop at the shopping center.

I lead Jang Man into Hava, a cosmetic store.

President Hwang wanted us to make some appearances together and this was an opportunity.

Fans line up outside the shop.

I can tell Jang Man is uncomfortable.

I take a seat at the counter and he sits next to me.

I take his hand.

“Are we going to buy cosmetics?” He asks.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Never mind that.”

I gesture for the consultant.

“What can I help you with?” She asks.

“My fiancé needs a cream or pack that revitalizes the skin quickly. As you can see, her skin is a little sunburned.”

Jang Man stares at me.

“We have a new product, it’s the first time it’s being launched in Korea. It’s an intense cream made from rose oil especially cultivated in Bulgaria.”

“We’ll take it.”

“Yes, sir.”

She goes to ring it up.

“Are you really going to buy that?”

“Yes.”

“It must be really expensive. I can always get you samples later on.”

“Be quiet!” I say between clenched teeth. “Do you want people to think I use samples?”

“Oh, right. Sorry.”

I pay for the cream and we leave the store.

Fans are screaming my name and Go Dong has a hard time keeping them away.

When we get home I hand Jang Man the bag.

“Here.”

He takes it.

“Can’t you even carry this little bag yourself?”

“I didn’t buy it for me.”

I get out of the van and he follows quickly after me.

“Why did you buy this for me?”

Because I didn’t want people to criticize his skin the way Se Ryeong had done. Because I had to make sure he was taken care of and looked his best.

I stop to look at him.

He looks up at me with that expression that makes my heart beat wildly.

“I’m just giving it to you. So use it.”

I begin walking again.

“That doesn’t make sense. Petty, rude bastard is giving me this expensive gift?”

I stop and turn to look at him.

What did he just say?

I walk back to where he’s standing.

“What? Petty? Rude bastard?”

“No, I didn’t mean it like that. I just…it’s just that you don’t normally do things like this.”

I glare down at him.

“So you’re saying I’m cheap?”

“No! No. Did you really buy this for me?”

I sigh angrily.

“Why do you make our interactions so hard?”

“What?”

“If you go around looking all tired with dark circles under your eyes, people will think I make you suffer. So use the damn cream! Just use it! You make such a big deal out of me giving you a present.”

I walk away.

“Thank you!” He shouts at me.

**************************

Jang Man Ok

My present for Tae Ik had finally arrived.

My sketch book was full of designs for clothes I had drawn with him in mind but this sketch was more for fun.

I had drawn a caricature of him in his gardening outfit, complete with pruning shears and I had sent it off to the printers to have it placed on a t-shirt.

He arrives after lunch and luckily, Se Ryeong hadn’t shown up today.

“I’m home!”

I smile at him.

“How was it?”

“Fine. Kang Hwi still sings off key and wastes time.”

“Did you eat?”

“Yes.”

He makes his way up the stairs.

“Hey! Change your clothes and come back down.”

“Fine.”

I hurry to my room to get the t-shirt.

I stare at the drawing and I start to get second thoughts.

“Will he like it? Or will he be offended?”

I don’t know, I don’t know.

I hear him leave his room.

There was no going back now.

“He will like it.” I tell myself before going downstairs.

He looks at me from where he’s seated on the couch.

I stand in front of him.

“Why did you tell me to come down?”

“I got you a present.”

I place the folded t-shirt on his knee.

He looks at it.

“What is it?”

“Can’t you tell from looking at it? It’s a t-shirt.”

“A t-shirt?”

He sits up and unfolding it, he holds it up against his chest.

I smile to see him wearing it.

He stares down at the drawing.

“Is that supposed to be me?”

“Doesn’t it look just like you?”

He looks at me.

“Wow. You aren’t asking me to wear this, are you?”

That question hurts my feelings.

“If you don’t want to, then forget it! I had it made on a 100% organic cotton t-shirt just for you. Just give it back!”

I make to take it and he holds it out of reach.

“Forget it! Since it’s pure cotton, then I will wear it specially for you.”

My cheeks burn.

“Never mind. Give it back!”

He holds it behind his back.

“Are you kidding me? If you gave it to me, then it is mine!”

“Are you really going to wear it?”

“I said I was didn’t I?”

“You better.”

He rolls his eyes.

I can’t wipe the smile off my face.

I’m getting ready for bed when there is a knock on my door.

I open it.

Tae Ik stands there in his fancy pajama pants and the t-shirt I had given him.

He smiles, cocks his hip and holds up two fingers in a peace sign.

I laugh.

“Are you modeling it for me now?”

“Proof that I’m wearing it.”

“It really does look good on you.”

“Of course it does. You made it.”

My cheeks burn again.

He steps closer.

“Thank you.”

He places a soft kiss on my cheek before turning and going into his room.

I stand there with my mouth open and my heart racing.

What in the hell just happened?

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

I come down stairs to get some water and I stop as I see Se Ryeong sitting on the couch.

I force myself to continue to the fridge.

I was not going to let her get to me.

I grab the bottle of water and I turn, intent on going back to my room when two arms encircle me from behind.

Her perfume surrounds me and I hate it.

“Tae Ik.”

“What are you doing?”

“How much longer are you going to be like this? How much longer are you going to pretend I don’t exist?”

“It’s late. Get out.”

I try to remove her arms but she grabs my hands in hers.

“I am sincere when I say I want to start over with you.”

That word makes me angry.

I remove her arms from around me and I turn to look at her.

“Sincere? You seem to have forgotten the words you spoke to me back then.”

“Back then, I-”

“‘I like you, I am being sincere. Let’s break up, I’m being sincere.’ You don’t care who you hurt as long as it’s convenient to you. Is that sincerity? Does a person like you even have any sincerity?”

“What about you? The way you are acting towards me, are you being sincere? You act like you can’t see me, and you ignore me. I know you are just doing it because you still haven’t gotten over me yet!”

“Is that what you think?”

“It’s the truth!”

“No, it’s not.”

Her eyes fill with tears and I ignore my instinct to comfort her.

“Then why do you still have the picture of the two of us together? If you are over me, why keep it? When people were saying you were gay, you could have just showed them that picture and the rumors would have gone away! But you didn’t because you still care for me, because you wanted to protect me. You knew that if that picture came out, it would have involved me in a scandal. I know you still love me, why can’t you admit it?”

She hugs me tight and I place my hands on her arms intent on pushing her away.

Movement catches my eye and I turn my head.

Jang Man stares back at me.

I open my mouth to say his name but he hurries past us towards the door.

“Is it raining outside? I left clothes on the line.”

The door falls shut behind him.

I push Se Ryeong off of me.

“Don’t misunderstand why I didn’t show that picture. I just don’t want to get entangled with you ever again. I would rather people say I am in a gay relationship with Won Kang Hwi than have people think I am with you!”

She shoves me.

“I know that your relationship with Michelle is fake.”

I frown at her.

“What gave you that idea?”

She throws the photos Jang Man and I took at me.

My stomach clenches with worry.

“They all have the same date. I knew you could never love someone like her.”

“What are you going to do?”

“It’s all up to you.”

“And what does that mean?”

“If I want something, I take it. If I don’t want it anymore, I throw it away. I am going to give you one last chance. Which is it going to be? Me or her?”

I clench my fists.

She was not going to win this time.

“Didn’t you hear me earlier? I told you to get out and this time, don’t come back.”

I walk around her and I grab my coat on the way out.

I go to look for Jang Man.

*************************

Jang Man Ok

I can’t get the image of Tae Ik and Se Ryeong hugging.

I crouch down by the vegetable garden Tae Ik and I were building together.

Was he still in love with her?

“Are you an idiot, Jang Man Ok? What does it matter to you?” I ask myself.

I sigh and I lower my head.

It really did bother me and it really did matter whether he loved her or not.

All this pretending we were really together was starting to mess with my head.

I hug myself.

I had run out of the house like an idiot without my coat and it was freezing out here.

A coat falls around my shoulders.

“Are you stupid?” Tae Ik asks me. “Why are you gardening in the middle of the night?”

I look up at him.

“What about Jin Se Ryeong?”

“What do I care?”

Did he really not care?

We stare at each other for a moment.

Finally he sighs and looks away.

“Let’s go inside. It’s cold.”

“Okay.”

He holds his hand out to me and I take it.

The next morning, Tae Ik is called to go to U Entertainment and he demands I go with him.

I was more than happy to get out of the house except that once we arrive, Tae Ik ends up getting into a shouting match with Jin Se Ryeong. He even yells at Producer Hwang and Go Dong.

I chase after him as he storms out of the building.

“Lee Tae Ik-shi!”

He gets into a taxi and I follow.

I am about to give the driver the directions to the house but Tae Ik stops me.

“I don’t want to go home right now. Let’s go anywhere but there.”

“Can you just drive around for now?” I tell the driver.

He nods and I sit back.

I look at Tae Ik.

“Are you okay?”

“Of course not.”

I’m quiet for a few seconds.

“Is there anywhere you want to go?”

He looks at me.

“Should we really do it?”

“Eh?”

“What we faked and photographed.”

“You want to reenact the photos?”

“Why not?”

“Okay.”

I instruct the driver to take us to a hiking location.

We are dropped off and I look up the pathway before looking back at Tae Ik.

He was dressed to perfection like always. That might work against him this time.

“You sure you want to do this? You’re not really dressed for this.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Hmm. And do you think you can make it to the top?”

He glares at me.

“Are you belittling me now?”

“I’m just saying that-”

“Enough.” He says holding his finger in front of my face. “Hurry up and follow me.”

One of these days I was going to break that finger.

He sets off in a fast pace up the pathway and I hurry up after him.

I am almost to the top when I realize Tae Ik’s not with me.

I turn and look down.

Tae Ik stumbles up the steps, almost bowling over another hiker.

He’s gasping for breath and he grabs hold of a young tree to stop himself from falling to his knees.

“Hey! I’m tired, let’s go back down now.” He pants.

I chuckle and make my way back down towards him.

“There is just a little bit left.”

“No, no, no! I can’t climb anymore.”

“Come on, you can make it.” I say grabbing his arm.

“No, it’s too much!” He says breaking out of my hold

“We’re almost there!”

I grab his arm and I force him back onto the path.

“Hey, Jang Man! I’m serious.”

“Come on! Come on!”

I stand behind him and putting my hands on his hips, I force him up the last few steps.

He groans and complains until he can do nothing but gasp for air.

“We made it!” I say leading him to the top.

I grab my cell phone and I pull him close.

“Say ‘Cheese!’”

I take the picture.

He was grimacing more than smiling but at least it was real.

“Isn’t it nice up here?”

He’s bent forward, hands on his knees as he tries to catch his breath.

“Whatever.”

I step up to the edge and I cup my hands over my mouth.

“Woohoo!” I shout.

“What are you doing?”

I look at him.

“Try it! Give a shout.”

“Forget it.”

“If you shout out, you will get it off your chest.”

He shakes his head.

I turn back to look out at the scenery.

“Rude bastard!” I shout.

“What?” He asks.

“RUDE BASTARD!” I shout again.

“Don’t.”

“Completely petty!”

“Hey!” He shouts at me.

“Shout louder.” I tell him. “Hey! Hey!”

“HEY!” He shouts before laughing.

I smile at him.

“Don’t you feel better? Come on, let’s go down.”

“So quickly?”

“We don’t have much time and we have to go to our next destination.”

I grab his hand and lead him back down.

Our next stop is the bicycle rental place.

I wanted a tandem bike but Tae Ik nixed the idea.

“Give us two separate bicycles.” He tells the shop owner.

“Why? Let’s ride that one! It’s more fun when the both of us ride together.”

“You’re too heavy.”

I glare at him.

The shopkeeper brings us the bikes and we get on.

“Thank you.” I tell him.

I take off first.

“Jang Man!” Tae Ik shouts after me.

We ride around the bicycle path with the other people.

Pretty soon I notice that a group of people have gathered and are taking pictures.

“Tae Ik-shi!” I call.

He stops and looks at me.

“Maybe we should go.” I say indicating the crowd that had gathered.

“Never mind. Don’t worry about it.”

“Still.”

“Did you forget? We’re engaged. We’re supposed to be seen together having fun.” He takes my hand and kisses it.

The people get louder and my face flushes.

“What are you doing?”

“Last person to that convenient store up there buys the ice cream. Oh, and stop calling me ‘Mister’.”

He takes off.

“Hey, you freaking cheater!”

Of course I end up buying the ice cream.

After we have returned the bicycles, we make our way to a coffee shop.

I go in to order while Tae Ik sits outside.

We sit on opposite tables with our backs to each other like in the picture.

I lean back, my head resting against his shoulder.

“Hey.” I say.

“What?”

“Sitting here like this, it really does feel like a secret date doesn’t it?”

He is quiet for a moment.

“Put your hand behind your back.” He finally says.

“What?”

“Just do it.”

I hold my right hand out behind my back and he twines our fingers together.

I feel too hot all of a sudden.

He rubs his thumb against my wrist and I shiver.

“If we hold hands like this, it feels more like a secret date doesn’t it?” He asks.

“S…sure.”

We sit there like that for about two minutes before he lets go.

“This isn’t a position to be maintained for a long time.” He says.

“Ah! Y…yes.”

I felt weird now. I had to look at him to make sure he was still the same person I was living with.

I take my cup and sit in front of him.

He looks at me.

Yep. It was still the same guy. Except he was smiling at me, in a nice way.

It was creepy and yet it made me feel good.

I glance away as my face burns.

“Are you hot?”

I look back at him.

“What?”

“Your face is red.”

“Oh! It’s because the coffee is hot.”

He stands and leans over the table towards me until our noses are almost touching.

“What are you doing?”

“Why? Does it make you uncomfortable?”

“You’re too close.”

“Do you perhaps think I am going to kiss you?”

Kiss?

Another shiver runs down my body and I look at his mouth.

He stands up straight.

“Stay here.” He says.

“Where are you going?”

“To the bathroom.”

“Okay.”

What the hell is up with this guy today and why is it getting to me?

I shake my head.

Three school girls come up to me shouting.

I look at them.

“Who the hell do you think you are to joke around with Tae Ik oppa? Huh?” One of them demands.

One of the girls slaps me and I stand up and shove them away.

“Crazy girls! Don’t you have anything better to do?”

They come at me again and I feel their nails scratching my face and my cheek hurts from where one of them punches me.

People gather around but no one moves to stop them.

“Get off of me!”

They tug at my hair and they hit me wherever they can reach.

I can’t bring myself to hit them back so I just fend off their blows as much as I can.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

I smile to see Jang Man sitting at our table waiting for me.

Today had been fun.

I don’t think I’ve felt this free since my family fell apart.

Two girls approach me.

“Oppa, please give me your autograph.”

“Sure.”

I take the pen and paper she was handing me.

I give them my autograph and I take a picture with them.

My phone rings and I excuse myself.

It was Go Dong.

“Hello?”

“Hyung-nim, where are you?”

“Don’t worry, I will return shortly.”

“That’s not why I’m calling! There is a problem.”

“Problem?”

“Didn’t you see the article?”

I frown.

“What?”

“Is Stylist Jang with you?”

“You’re not making sense! Tell me what the problem is.”

“An article was published, it says that your engagement to Stylist Jang is fake!”

Se Ryeong.

Damn her!

“I’ll call you back.”

I hand up and I close my eyes.

This was really getting out of hand.

I hear a loud commotion outside and I look out the window.

Jang Man is no longer sitting at our table.

Fear grips my heart and I hurry outside.

He is on the ground and there are girls on him, hitting him with all their might.

“Get away from her! What the hell are you doing?”

I push the people off of him and I crouch down to look at him. I grab his arms and sit him up.

He has scratches and bruises on his face and there is blood coming out of his nose.

“Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

He nods his head.

“I’m okay.”

“Are you crazy? Why are you just letting yourself be hit? You are a master of Taekwondo. All you had to do what throw them down or give them a kick!” My eyes burn with tears to see him like this. “Why were you enduring it like an idiot?”

“It’s okay, Tae Ik.”

I touch his red cheek.

“This is not the face of someone who is okay.” I help him to his feet. “Let’s go to the hospital.”

I put my arm around him and I lead him away.

It was torture sitting out in the waiting room waiting for him.

President Hwang comes out of the room.

I stand.

“Is he okay? Is he really hurt?”

“He’s fine. There is nothing wrong with him. He will be a bit bruised so he’ll have to take it easy.”

I close my eyes.

Thank god.

My knees buckle and I sit back down.

“Hey, Tae Ik!”

I open my eyes and look at Kang Hwi as he hurries towards us.

“Where is Man Ok? Is he okay?”

“He’s fine.” President Hwang tells him.

Kang Hwi sighs.

“What the hell happened?”

“An article got out announcing that Tae Ik and Stylist Jang’s engagement is contract based. The life and death fans attacked him.”

“Who would know to release that information?” Kang Hwi asks.

“Jin Se Ryeong.” I say.

Kang Hwi and President Hwang look at me.

“She had the pictures. She knew the engagement wasn’t real.”

“Why didn’t you say something sooner?” President Hwang says.

“What difference would it have made? She would have used the information anyways.”

“That woman!” Kang Hwi shouts. “I really hate her.”

“You’re not the only one.” I tell him.

“Tae Ik, I don’t know how we are going to fix this mess but we will do all we can.”

I look at President Hwang.

There was only one way to solve this.

“Just hold a press conference.” I say standing. “I will take care of it.”

“Tae Ik.” President Hwang says.

“Don’t try to interfere! This is my problem and I will take care of it. I owe Jang Man that much.”

I leave the hospital.

I couldn’t look at Jang Man right now.

I had failed to do the only thing I had promised him. Instead of taking care of him, I had ruined his life.

President Hwang calls to tell me the press conference will be held tomorrow at eleven in the morning.

He asks me to reconsider, not to be rash. But there is no going back and the only way to go forward is to unravel the mess I had made.

I pack my things and I leave early the next morning to avoid running into Jang Man.

I don’t think I could answer any of his questions or stomach any of his assurances.

I spend the morning standing in front of my father’s grave.

Bitter tears fill my eyes.

“Why did you leave us? I need your guidance now more than ever.”

I press my hands to my eyes as I cry.

My life was one big fucking mess.

I had blamed him so many times but the choice to become this person I am had been mine and mine alone.

There was no one else to blame.

When I get back to my car, I have thirty three missed calls from President Hwang and Jang Man.

“You’re late.” LJ tells me as I arrive to the press conference. “When we get in there-”

“Don’t say anything. I will take care of it.”

I open the door and enter.

I make my way onto the stage and I take my seat.

LJ takes his seat next to me.

“First, I would like to apologize for making you wait.” I say. “I haven’t come to deny any rumors today.”

LJ looks at me.

“What are you doing?” He hisses at me.

I ignore him.

“I’m sure you have all seen the article that says my engagement is fake. What the article says is true.”

Loud murmurs go up in the crowd.

“I have deceived everyone and I have hurt a person that is very dear to me. So I will take full responsibility and I will leave U Entertainment on my own.”

The reporters start shouting questions at me.

I stand and leave the press conference.

LJ follows me.

He grabs my arms and whirls me around.

“Are you crazy? What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“I did what I should have done months ago. I’m out.”

******************************

Jang Man Ok

I was desperate.

I hadn’t heard from Tae Ik and I was worried.

When I couldn’t help it anymore, I call President Hwang and I demand answers.

He gives me the location where the press conference is being held.

I ask Kang Hwi to go with me. Tae Ik is his friend and I know he’s just as worried as I am.

When we get there, the conference is long over and Tae Ik is gone.

We come upon a group of reporters talking about Tae Ik’s withdrawal from U Entertainment.

“What the hell? Voluntary withdrawal?” Kang Hwi says.

“What does that mean?” I ask.

“It means Tae Ik has quit.”

My stomach clenches with fear.

“I have to go. I have to find him.”

“Man Ok.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Where are you going?”

“Home. It’s the only place Tae Ik can go.”

I run out of the building and I hurry back home.

“Please let him be there. Please.” I whisper.

I run into the house.

“Tae Ik! Tae Ik!”

I go up to his room.

The bed was made and nothing seemed to be out of place.

I walk to his closet and a sick feeling settles in the pit of my stomach as I see that it is empty.

He had taken everything.

I fall to my knees and sudden tears burn my eyes.

“Where have you gone?”

This was my fault. If I hadn’t forced myself into his life…

I wipe my eyes.

No. This was not the time to break down. I had to do something. I couldn’t just let him disappear like this.

I call President Hwang.

“Stylist Jang.”

“I’m sorry to bother you after all that has happened.”

“Don’t worry about it, it’s not your fault.”

“I have to know where Tae Ik has gone and I think you are the only one who can tell me.”

“Well…”

“Does he have any close friends I can call?”

“There is no one, except Kang Hwi.”

I close my eyes.

“Please. I have to find him.”

“I will find out what I can and I’ll call you back.”

“Thank you.”

He doesn’t call back until the next morning.

I hadn’t slept at all, I just kept imagining the worst.

“Hello?”

“Stylist Jang, are you awake?”

“Yes. What did you find?”

“You have a passport right?”

“Yes.”

“Then get your passport, pack a bag and come to the airport immediately.”

“Airport?”

“Hurry, our flight leaves in an hour.”

He hangs up and I scramble, trying to get everything I need as quickly as possible.

At the airport I remember to call Go Dong and ask him to take care of my cat for me until I return.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

I had spent the night at a hotel, unable to come to my aunt’s house. But today was a new day and it was time to take responsibility.

I force myself to walk up to the house.

My mother is coming out as I am walking up.

She looks at me and it makes me happy to see recognition in her eyes.

“Mom.”

“Tae Ik!”

She pulls me into her arms and I hug her back just as fiercely.

“Have you been well, mom?”

“Yes. Have you been well, my son?”

“I am a lot better now that I am here with you.”

She leads me into the house where she takes me to see my aunt.

“Tae Ik! I’m so glad you came.” My aunt tells me.

“I am too.”

My mother takes my hand and I look at her.

“Did you come to take me home?”

My smile falters and I lower my gaze.

“What about your dad? Didn’t dad come with you?”

I force myself to look at her.

“Later…he’ll come by later.” I lie.

“When later? I want to see him right now. I miss your dad a lot, Tae Ik.”

I look at my aunt.

“Mina. Why don’t you get Tae Ik something to drink?”

“Oh. Of course, sorry. Tae Ik, I will get you that tea you like.”

I nod and watch her leave.

I look back at my aunt.

“Your mom has gotten much better these last few days. She is in her right mind for far longer now than before. So you shouldn’t worry so much.”

“I’m sorry for not calling you more often when I left her in your care.”

“Don’t say that. Before she was your mother, she was my little sister. We help each other out.”

“Thank you.”

“So, tell me. What brings you here? Did you finally get some time off?”

“Yes.”

I had all the time now.

“I wanted to see my mom and I need time to rest.”

“I am glad you came.” She says taking my hand. “Don’t think about anything else, just rest and spend some time with your mother.”

“Okay.”

“The room you like is empty. Come on, I’ll take you.”

“Thank you.”

I grab my suitcase and I follow her.

She opens the door and we enter.

“Change your clothes and get some rest.”

I spot all the newspaper clippings she had about me. At the top is the one announcing my withdrawal from U Entertainment.

She hurries to pick them up.

“I will get you a blanket and a pillow.” She says leaving.

I try lying down but I couldn’t sleep so I go out to walk around the grounds.

This place had held many wonderful memories when I was kid, now it was filled with painful ones.

I can see that day five years ago when I brought my mother here so clearly.

My father had been dead for a week and my mother couldn’t admit he was gone. It was hard for me to take care of her by myself so I had brought her here, to this sanctuary. I thought that if she was away from our house, it would help her deal with her sorrow but it seemed like she was still repressing it.

I walk back to the house.

I pass the restaurant my aunt had on her property.

“Excuse me. Aren’t you Tae Ik?” A woman asks me.

I look at her.

“No. You have the wrong person.”

“It is you. Oppa!”

“Tae Ik!”

“Tae Ik, I saw you in concert!”

“Tae Ik!”

I had to get out of here.

They get up and hurry towards me. I run away but they catch up to me.

They surround me, their screams loud as they take pictures and grab at me.

“No!” My mother screams suddenly. “What are you doing to him?”

I hurry towards her.

“Mom, are you okay?”

She grips my arms.

“Tae Ik! Who are these people? Why are they here?”

I hide my mother behind me as I look at the fans.

“Don’t take pictures.”

They ignore me.

“I told you not to take photos!” I shout at them.

I grab my mother and I lead her away from the house.

We sit by the pond and my mother feeds the carp. It was nice being with her like this.

“There used to be a lot of carp at our house too, right?”

I nod.

She caresses my head.

“Tae Ik used to only be afraid of cats and dogs. But you aren’t afraid of carp, are you?”

“I’m not. Though they are scary when they gather like this.” I smile at her. “I sound like an idiot, don’t I?”

“No, I feel the same way. Do you think those people have left? I’m hungry.”

I stand and hold my hand out to her.

“Let’s go.”

“What if those people are still there?”

“It’s okay. They must have gone. Let’s go and eat something delicious.”

She takes my hand and we walk back to the house.

I stop as I spot President Hwang greeting guests.

“Welcome! Welcome!”

“President Hwang.”

He looks at me.

“Tae Ik.”

“What are you doing here?”

“The place is packed!” Jang Man says running up.

My heart beats wildly in my chest and for a second, I feel light headed.

“Jang Man.” I say.

He smiles at me.

“Tae Ik.”

He hurries up to me and pulls me into a hug. He lets me go just as quickly and I groan as he punches my arm.

“How dare you make me worry like this? You left without a word.”

“Tae Ik, who is he?” My mother asks.

“He’s-”

“Hello.” Jang Man says with a bow. “I’m Jang Man Ok, Tae Ik’s friend.”

My mother smiles back at Jang Man.

“Nice to meet you.”

“Come inside, have you had lunch?” Jang Man asks leading my mother into the house.

I look at President Hwang.

“We were worried. You left without a word. Poor Stylist Jang was beside himself with worry. I’m sorry for intruding on you like this.”

Guilt churns in my belly but I wasn’t going to let him convince me to go back.

“Well you’ve seen that I’m fine so you can go.”

“Sure, sure.”

By dinner time they are still here and my aunt has invited to stay for as long as they wanted.

We sit around having tea.

My mother had gone to bed early so it was just my aunt, President Hwang, Jang Man and myself.

I try to hold my tongue for as long as I can.

“Thanks to the two of you sales today were at a record high. I am so thankful.” My aunt smiles.

“You’re welcome.” President Hwang says.

I stare at Jang Man but he doesn’t look at me.

“What brings you all the way here?” I ask.

“I already told you. We were worried. Let’s all just rest here for a few days before all going back together.” President Hwang smiles at me.

“You made a fruitless trip because I’m not going back.”

“Tae Ik.” President Hwang says.

“The first flight is at nine o’clock tomorrow morning. I expect you both to be on that flight.”

“Tae Ik.” My aunt says.

I stand to leave.

“Tae Ik! If you’re not going then I’m not going either.” Jang Man tells me.

I look down at him and he glares back.

“What?” I ask.

He looks at my aunt.

“Auntie, I’ll be in your care for a few days. But I will earn my keep, I promise.”

“Hey, Jang Man-”

“I can help increase sales!” He says ignoring me. “I can wash dishes and sweep. Anything you need, just ask.”

“That is enough.” I say walking over and tugging him to his feet.

“Tae Ik.” My aunt says again.

He wrenches his arm out of my grip.

“I am here because of you! So if you don’t like then come back with me.”

“No.”

“Then I’m staying.”

“This isn’t a game!”

“Who said it was?” He sits back down. “Auntie, can you teach me how to make this tea? I think my grandfather will enjoy it.”

I make my way to my room.

I try to sleep but all I can think of is Jang Man.

I sigh.

Why did he have to invade every corner of my life, even the parts I wanted to keep hidden? And why did it make happy that he wanted to be a part of it?

*************************

Jang Man Ok

I come back from my morning run just in time to see Tae Ik get into a red sports car.

“Tae Ik!” I call.

He drives off.

Was he leaving again?

I grab a bicycle someone had parked outside of the restaurant and I follow him.

He drives his car into the ferry and I leave the bike before boarding.

I walk around the ship looking for him.

He wasn’t inside with the other passengers and so I make my way on deck.

I spot him leaning against the railing.

I hurry over.

“Hey! I’ve been looking for you.”

I tug on his arm and he turns to look at me.

I gasp as I realize my mistake.

“Sorry.” I tell the stranger. “I thought you were someone else.”

I hurry away, my cheeks burning with embarrassment.

Where the hell was he? I know he got on.

I make my way down to the car hold. I weave in and out looking for the red sports car. When I finally find it, I am relieved to see Tae Ik sitting inside.

“Bastard.”

His eyes are closed and I sneak up to the car.

I pound on the driver’s window.

He rolls it down and I jump in front of it.

“BOO!”

He screams the way I knew he would.

I laugh.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” He yells at me.

I go around and get into the passenger seat.

“Where you in here the whole time? Don’t you want to get some fresh air?”

He’s glares at me.

“Why are you here?”

“I followed you when I saw you sneaking away.”

“Hey! I wasn’t sneaking.”

“I thought you were escaping so I followed you.”

“Get out.”

“No.”

He smiles.

“I will leave you on the side of the road once we’re off the ferry if you don’t get out now.”

“No you won’t.”

He leans over and open the passenger door.

“I don’t want you here.”

Too bad.

“Are you going to keep acting like this?” I close the door. “I told you, we’re in this together. So, where are you going? I want to sightsee, this is my first time in Japan.”

“Sightsee?”

“I’ll even buy you lunch. Doesn’t that sound good?”

He gets out of the car and I follow.

He comes around towards me.

“Why are you getting off? Are you going to leave the car here?”

“Do you know how much this car cost? I am not abandoning it. Drive!”

“What?”

“I’m tired, so you drive. Move!” He says shoving me out of the way.

He climbs into the passenger seat.

“Rude bastard.”

Well, at least now that I was driving that meant I could go anywhere I wanted.

Once we arrive, I drive us to the beach.

I take the keys so he has no choice but to follow.

I can see that people have hung shells from a tree that had grown near the water.

“Wow! Tae Ik, look at that.” I say running over to it.

“Hey! Get back here.”

“It’s so pretty!”

Tae Ik comes over to stand beside me.

I look at the shells and charms decorating the tree.

I can’t read them but I’m sure they’re important to whoever hung them.

“I love you.” He says suddenly.

I stare up at him.

He looks down at me, his face soft and vulnerable.

Something deep inside of me shifts and I feel like I’m looking at him for the first time.

“Stay by my side forever.”

I wanted to say yes so badly.

My hands start shaking and my face burns. I open my mouth.

“No, don’t say anything.” He says touching my chin.

He leans down towards me and I close my eyes, waiting to feel the press of his lips against mine.

“Why are you blushing? And why are you closing your eyes?”

I open my eyes and I look at him.

“What?”

He straightens up and crosses his arms.

“You said….and then…forever…” I stammer like an idiot.

He smirks.

“No way. Did you think I was confessing my love for you just now?”

“What?”

“It is written like that in the seashell right in front of you.”

I gape up at him.

“What.”

“I just read what was written there.” He says nodding at the shell.

“Seriously?”

I turn away feeling embarrassed. Both because I had been so affected by his words and because he had just been having fun at my expense.

I turn back to glare at him.

“Seriously?!”

“Calm down.” He chuckles. “Do you want me to read the other one?”

I clench my fists.

This jerk!

“AHH!” I scream.

He jumps.

“What in the hell is wrong with you?” He asks.

I take a few gasping breaths.

“You did it on purpose.”

“No I didn’t.”

“Liar!”

“So what if I did?”

“You have no survival instincts do you? Do you know how easy it would be for me to kill you?”

He snorts.

“Fine.” I pull back my fist.

“Okay! Okay! I’m sorry.” He says.

“You have to make it up to me now.”

“How?”

“Follow me.” I grab his arm and I drag him behind me.

“Hey, where are you taking me?”

I walk to the store near the beach that sold the charms that were hung on the tree.

I pick out pretty sea shell.

I hold it out toward Tae Ik.

“Buy this for me.”

“What? A shell?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t want to. It’s a waste of money.”

“Come on. I want to hang up a wish on the tree.”

“Then do it.”

“I don’t have any cash on me!”

“That’s too bad then.”

He walks to the door.

“Hey! You owe me.”

“I’m still not going to buy it.”

“If you don’t buy it for me, I’m going to make a scene.”

He turns around and smirks at me.

“Do it then.”

“You think I won’t?”

I sit on the floor near the register.

“Go ahead.” He smiles.

“Alright.” I clear my throat. “Tae Ik, you fucking cheap idiot. Buy this for me, come on! Tae Ik! TAE IK! You rude bastard! Why won’t you buy me this shell?!”

I wave my arms and I thump my heels on the floor for effect.

The cashier stares at me before looking at Tae Ik.

“Hey, hey! Stop that.”

He hurries towards me and grabs my arm.

“What’s the matter? Not so cocky now are you?”

“Fine, I will buy it for you! Just shut up. You’re embarrassing me.”

“That was the point, dummy.”

I stand and place my shell on the counter.

“I’ll take this.” I tell the cashier. “Oh, right.” I grab Tae Ik’s arm and pull him forward to stand beside me. “Translate, translate.”

He makes the purchase.

“I can’t believe you did that.” He says as we leave.

“You started it.”

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

I walk over to Jang Man to see what ridiculous thing he’d written down on his shell.

I really hoped it was something I could use to embarrass him.

I read his shell and I frown.

“What is this? Just ‘growth’?”

“What is the matter with growth? Growth as a person, as a stylist.”

“Hey! Do you know how much this shell cost? And you just wrote ‘growth’ on it?”

“Wow, so petty.”

“Petty?”

“Yes, King of Petty. Alright. How much was it? When we get back I will pay you double.”

“It was twenty-five dollars and you have to pay interest as well.”

“Twenty-five dollars? For this thing?”

“Yes!”

He slaps my arm.

“Hey!”

“Why didn’t you say anything? The beach is filled with seashells! Why did you pay money for this?”

“Why?! Who is the one who made a scene because I didn’t want to buy one?”

“Still. If it was that expensive then you should have said something.”

I glare down at him.

He really had a talent for pissing me off.

“Hey. Do you think I should collect seashells and sell them? Then we will really make money!”

I shake my head at him and I walk back to the car.

“What?”

“I always forget how hard you make my life. Every day with you is an adventure.”

“Thank you.”

“It wasn’t a compliment.”

We drive back into town and after lunch, we make our way to a temple we had spotted.

Jang Man picks out a spot for us in the grass and I sit next to him. We watch the Japanese dancers perform a traditional dance.

“Wow. That’s cool.” Jang Man says. “This is my first time seeing something like this.”

“I see you are tourists.” The man sitting next to Jang Man says in Japanese.

Jang Man looks at me.

“Yes.” I tell the stranger.

“Yes.” Jang Man says mirroring me.

“Have you come on your honeymoon?” He asks.

I shake my head and I open my mouth to answer.

“Yes, yes.” Jang Man says.

I look at him.

“Are you answering because you know what he’s saying?” I ask.

“No but he’s smiling so it can’t be anything bad.”

“If you both wish for love up at that temple, you will live happily forever.” The man says pointing behind us.

Jang Man and I turn to look.

“Oh. Yes, yes.” Jang Man says again.

I leave Jang Man behind and I go up to the temple.

I didn’t know if this really worked but I was willing to try it.

I ask for the strength to look after the people I love.

Earlier when I had told Jang Man I loved him, I had been just doing it to mess with him but once I actually said those words to him…something inside of me felt right. I was not entirely sure how deep my feelings for him were but I knew he was more than just a friend to me.

Ignoring these feelings now would be wrong, especially since I wanted to do things right this time.

In order for me to be happy, I had to be honest with myself and those around me.

When I come down, Jang Man is waiting for me.

We walk around the temple.

“Walking like this side by side, doesn’t it remind you of that time at the photo shoot when we lost our way?”

“Kind of. At least this time you don’t have the damn cat with you.”

“Tell me the truth. You didn’t know the way back either did you?”

“That’s not true.” I lie.

“Liar!”

I stop and look at him.

“I want to ask you something.”

“What is it?”

“Why did you come all the way here to find me?”

I needed to know just how much he cared for me and if there was even a chance he could ever reciprocate my feelings.

“Well…I…I just don’t want you to say later on that you left because of me.”

His answer disappoints me.

“It’s not because of you so don’t worry about it.” I say looking away.

“Of course. Why would someone like me matter to someone like you?”

I look at him.

“Why wouldn’t you matter?”

“Huh?”

“Is that the only reason why you came?”

“What other reason would there be?”

It hurts.

Was this karma catching up to me?

I walk away.

“Hey! Wait up.”

We make it back to the ferry and we sit in the car, in silence.

I look over at Jang Man who has fallen asleep.

I sigh as I stare at his relaxed face.

His face is turned towards me and I get the sudden urge to kiss him again. At least once. I had to know how it felt to have his mouth pressed to mine.

I lean towards him.

It was wrong to take advantage of a sleeping person like this but he would never allow it if he was awake. Plus if he is startled awake he might be too surprised to hit me versus if he was fully conscious.

He opens his eyes just as I’m about to press my mouth to his.

I pull back.

He sits up.

“What are you doing?” He asks.

I panic and so I do the first thing that comes to mind. I pretend to be sick. I put my hand to my mouth and I make gagging noises.

“What is it? Are you alright?”

I shake my head.

“I’m feeling car sick. I think I might throw up.”

“Hurry and get out.”

He leans over me to open my door before getting out of the car and hurrying over to help me up to the deck.

I put my sunglasses on and I let him lead me.

I was a coward.

I clench my hands as we stand at the railing.

“Are you feeling better?”

“Yes. I feel slightly better now that I’m getting some fresh air.”

He smiles at me.

“Good. Oh, look. The color of the ocean is so beautiful.”

“To me it all looks black.”

He snorts.

“That’s because you’re wearing your sunglasses. There aren’t that many people around, I think it will be fine if you take them off.”

“Forget it. The sea will still be the same to me.”

He reaches up and takes my sunglasses.

I face him.

“There. Look at the blue of the sea. Isn’t it pretty?”

I move closer to him.

It was now or never Tae Ik. You will never get an opportunity like this again.

I take a deep breath and I steel myself.

“Is that really the only reason?”

He turns to look at me.

“Huh?”

“Why you came here looking for me. Is that really the only reason?”

He glances away for a second before looking back up at me with that look on his face that makes my chest hurt and my body feel hot.

“Why did you leave?” He asks softly.

I take his face in both my hands and I kiss him before I can lose my nerve.

He makes a surprised noise.

I expect him to push me away but his lips become pliant and they move against mine. His arms go around my waist and he holds me tight against his body.

The kiss was better than I imagined. It would be…unforgettable.

The moment after we stopped kissing was something I would rather forget. He looked flustered and I didn’t know what to say.

The ride to my aunt’s house was full of stilted conversation and even more tense silence. I would have preferred if he’d just hit me.

When we arrive, my mother, my aunt and President Hwang are waiting for us.

“Where were you guys?” President Hwang asks as we sit for dinner. “If you are going to go somewhere you should say so. I looked for you for a good while. Wait. Did you guys fight again?!”

“It’s not like that.” I tell him.

“Stylist Jang, was Tae Ik mean to you again?”

“What? No, no. No, he wasn’t meant.”

“Why are you so mean to cute Man Ok?” My aunt asks.

I look away.

“You really are cute.” My mother says. “Right, Tae Ik? Isn’t Man Ok cute?”

I look at Jang Man.

He flushes a deep red and I wanted nothing more than to reach over and press my lips to his again.

“I…well…” I clear my throat.

My mother chuckles and pats my knee.

“What is on Japanese TV these days?” President Hwang asks turning on the television.

“You speak Japanese?” My aunt asks.

“No but I get the gist of it.”

“Today afternoon, Won Kang Hwi of Take One arrived in Japan for the launch of the spring line of the international brand ‘Win’.” The reporter announces.

“Kang Hwi-nim.” Jang Man says in that wistful voice and a dark cloud settles over me.

I stand.

“Where are you going?” Jang Man asks me.

“For a walk.”

“I’ll come with you.”

“No! I need to be alone.”

“Tae Ik, it’s late. You shouldn’t go alone.” My aunt tells me.

“I’ll be fine.”

I change into my workout clothes and I leave the house at a brisk pace. I end up back at the pond.

I sit and watch the carp.

I sigh.

Kissing him wasn’t enough. I would have to put it all on the line and tell him how I feel. Then it would be up to him to decide whether or not he reciprocated my feelings.

Shit.

I stay at the pond until the cold seeps into my bones.

***************************

Jang Man Ok

“Kang Hwi-nim knows that I’m here? How?”

“Go Dong told him.” President Hwang says.

“Ah.”

“I think that is the main reason he agreed to come to Japan. Kang Hwi has been trying to call you but he couldn’t get a connection. He was worried that something might have happened to you or Tae Ik.”

“Oh. I should have told him before I left. I didn’t mean to make him worry, I was just so focused on finding Tae Ik.”

“He wants to see you tomorrow.”

“But…” I sigh. “What about Tae Ik?”

“Go and see Kang Hwi secretly, I will keep Tae Ik entertained while you’re gone.”

A feeling of guilt washes over me.

“I just don’t want Tae Ik to think I am ignoring him when I came all this way to see him.”

“He’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

“Okay.”

I look out the door.

Tae Ik had been gone for a while now and I was starting to worry.

What if he was hurt or lost? I really wanted to talk to him about the kiss.

I didn’t know why he did it or what he meant by it and all these thoughts and questions swirling in my head were making me feel sick.

I try to wait up for him but I don’t see him come back.

In the morning I make my way to the location Kang Hwi had given President Hwang.

I stare at the lighthouse as I wait.

“Excuse me. Do you have the time?”

I turn.

“Kang Hwi-nim!”

He puts his arms around me.

“Man Ok!”

He is wearing a duck cap and sunglasses with a black hoodie.

“What do you think? No one will recognize me right?”

“No way.”

“Come on! Let’s go. I’m hungry and I want to share a meal with you.”

He takes my hand and leads me to a waiting car.

“I saw a shop that I know you will love!” Kang Hwi says as we eat breakfast.

“Really?”

“Hmm. Let’s go there once we finish.”

“Deal.”

Kang Hwi was right, I really did love the shop.

We spend the morning looking at everything in the store. Kang Hwi gets a sweater and I buy myself a pair of jeans.

I spot a few scarves and I make my way over. I check the label and it says it’s 100% silk so I choose a navy blue one for Tae Ik, that way he can always remember the color of the ocean.

I stand in line.

“Hey, Man Ok!”

I look back at Kang Hwi.

He holds up a flier.

“Let’s do this.”

“What is it?”

“It’s an herb garden that was designed so that if you stand right at the center of it, the sound echoes all around you. Let’s go see it!”

“Sure!”

We pay for our purchases and we make our way to the herb garden.

Kang Hwi leads me to the marked center.

He cups his hands around his mouth.

“Woohoo!” He shouts.

His voice echoes all around us.

“Woah! It really does work.” He says smiling at me. “Man Ok, you try.”

I step forward.

“Woohoo! Kang Hwi-nim.”

He laughs.

“Let me try again.”

I step back.

“Jang Man Ok! You’re so cute!”

We both laugh.

“Man Ok, I have something to tell you.” He says taking my hand.

“What?”

“I want to thank you for being my friend.”

I grip his hand tightly in mine.

“Kang Hwi-nim. You don’t have to thank me. It’s been a pleasure.”

He smiles widely at me.

“Then can you in the future, like now, always be by my side?”

“Huh?”

He steps closer and he caresses my cheekbone with his thumb.

“I…”

“What is it?” I ask.

He sighs and leans closer.

My phone starts ringing and I jump away from him.

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

It was Tae Ik.

I look at Kang Hwi.

“I really have to answer this.”

“Go ahead.”

I walk a bit away from Kang Hwi.

“Hel-”

“Where the hell are you?!”

“Eh?”

“Did you think I wasn’t going to notice you were gone?”

“Well I-”

“Tell me where you are.”

“Why?”

“So that I can go get you.”

“It’s fine.”

“Jang Man.”

“I won’t be much longer and I’ll just catch a-”

“Did you forget that you said you were going to earn your keep? You talked so big saying you would do whatever was needed and then you just run away? Come back quickly and get to work!”

He hangs up.

“Oh, this rude bastard!”

I walk back to Kang Hwi.

“Sorry. I have to get back.”

“So soon?”

“Yeah. There is something I forgot to do.”

Like strangle Tae Ik.

“Well. At least I got to see you.”

“Sorry for just leaving without a word.”

“I understand.”

He hugs me tight before releasing me.

“See you back home!” He calls as I get into a cab.

“Bye!”

In the cab he sends me a message saying he missed me already.

I smile.

Kang Hwi and I had gotten close and to me, he was the brother I never had.

I send him a text telling him I missed him too and I would see him back in Seoul.

When I arrive back at Tae Ik’s aunt’s house there is a group of fans outside holding banners and calling Tae Ik’s name.

I hurry inside before they see me.

President Hwang tells me Tae Ik has been in his room all day and hasn’t come out.

I grab some beers from the restaurant and I make my way to his room.

Maybe a few beers would cheer up Mr. Grumpy.

I knock on his door and I pop my head in.

He glares at me.

“What do you want?”

“Do you want a drink?”

“That’s alright. I already had some earlier.”

I step into his room and I sit down beside him.

“Then since you already had a drink, have another.”

“What are you doing? Why do you just come into my room without invitation?”

“Your face is so inviting I just couldn’t stop myself.” I smile.

He rolls his eyes.

“Besides, I came in to have a drink with a friend. And I got you a present.”

“What kind of present?”

I put the scarf around his neck.

“So you remember that day we spent on the ferry.”

I know I’ll never forget it.

I shove a beer at him and he has no choice but to take it.

“Bottoms up.” I say clinking my can against his.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

“I told you I don’t want another drink.”

“It’s my last night in Japan. Can’t you even share a drink with me tonight?”

“You said you weren’t going back if I didn’t go back.”

“That’s what I planned on doing but the return ticket is for tomorrow. I got a cheap flight by buying one with a fixed date.”

“Then change it.”

“I can’t change it.”

I tsk at him.

“So let’s go together, huh?”

I didn’t know if I was ready and we still hadn’t solve this thing between us.

“If you came to drink then just have a beer and go.” I say taking a sip of my beer.

“Ah, seriously! I swear that we could be standing in front of the most peaceful and beautiful place in the world and you would still be grumpy as hell and wearing that expression.” He says pointing at me.

I snort.

He opens his beer and takes a gulp.

“Not so fast.” I tell him.

“What? It’s just beer. It will take something stronger to dull my senses.”

Half an hour later he has had seven beers and is drunk off his ass while I am still nursing my one beer.

I shake my head at him.

“Seriously! Can’t you just go back with me?” He whines.

“No.”

“Look here, Mr. Rude Bastard! I came all this way to find your stupid ass!”

“What did you call me?”

He bows his head and says nothing.

I glare down at the floor.

“YOU!” He shouts suddenly scaring me. “Do you even know how expensive the exchange rate is these days?”

“Hey, Jang Man! Stop shouting at me, you drunk idiot.”

He feels around the empty cans before taking my beer.

“Ah, good. There is still some beer.”

I take it from him before he can drink it.

“Hey!” He says looking at me.

“Stop drinking.”

He starts giggling.

I frown at him.

“Why are you laughing?”

“This rude bastard.” He says poking me in the ribs.

I slap his hand away.

“What is no nice about this rude bastard?” He sighs. “Still, you are very blessed. You have people who love you and can only see you. It is such a wonderful thing.”

“It’s not as wonderful as you think.”

“So stop running away!”

“I told you to stop shouting!”

“What fault do your fans have? All they do is love you!”

“You’re drunk. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He leans forward suddenly and he cups my face.

“Oh.” I say surprised.

He smiles at me.

I put my hands over his.

“What on earth is so nice about a guy like this?” He sighs. “You really are good looking.”

He releases me and I am left with the desperate urge to kiss him.

He tips forward and falls into my lap.

“Hey, Jang Man.”

His eyes are closed and he snuggles against me.

“Jang Man!” I say shaking him.

He slaps my hand away.

“Tell them to bring more beer!” He shouts before hugging my legs.

He starts snoring.

Great.

I lean my head back and I close my eyes.

I take a moment to calm my racing heart before I pull him to his feet.

“Oh god, why are you so heavy?”

I lift him into my arms and I carry him back to his room. I lay him down and I cover him up with the blanket.

He takes my hand and pulls it under his chin.

“Stay with me.” He murmurs.

I lean my head against his.

“It’s all I want.” I whisper.

I sit with him for a while before I make my way to my own room.

I sleep for a few hours and by dawn, I am awake and dressed.

I pack my things and I leave the house.

I would call my aunt later.

I couldn’t say good bye to my mother, once was enough and I didn’t want to put her through that pain again.

I go to the airport and I purchase my ticket. After, I go to a café and I sit and wait until the sun comes out. The flight was at seven so I make my way outside and wait.

Fifteen minutes later, President Hwang and Jang Man arrive.

I look at Jang Man’s dejected face and I step out from where I was hiding.

“Jang Man, take my luggage.”

“Tae Ik.” He smiles.

“Hey, this fellow. You have an aptitude for shocking people.” President Hwang tells me.

We make our way into the airport.

“I will go and check in the luggage, you guys go have some coffee.” President Hwang says.

“What do you want to drink?” Jang Man asks me.

I look at him.

He’s still smiling widely at me.

“Don’t smile. I will develop affection for you.” I tell him.

He pushes me.

“What are you going to drink?”

“Just water. Seven parts cold water and three parts hot water. Make sure the ratio is exact.”

“Yes, Tae Ik-nim.” He says in that wistful tone of voice.

I look at him.

He pats my face before hurrying away.

I can feel my face flush and I smile.

He comes back with two coffees and my water.

“I got you some expensive coffee.”

“I told you I just wanted water.”

“Try the coffee. It might help remove the frown from your face, grumpy.”

We sit down.

He drinks from his cup.

“Maybe you should be having water too.”

“Why?”

“You drank too much last night. You need to hydrate.”

“I’m fine.”

“Right. Here, have some water.”

I grab the cup and press it to his lips.

He laughs.

“I told you I don’t want any.”

“The way I didn’t want any medicine that one time?”

He pushes the cup away and I grab his hand.

“Stop.” He chuckles.

“Come on. Have a sip.”

“Stop it, Tae Ik. You’re just going to draw attention to yourself.”

“Fine but if you get a headache don’t come crying to me.”

“I would never dream of it.”

“Hmm.”

I can’t wipe the smile off my face no matter how hard I try.

************************

Jang Man Ok

When we arrive in Korea, President Hwang insisted that Tae Ik covered himself up to avoid being mauled at the airport.

Tae Ik protested but he gave in at the end.

President Hwang takes out a hat he had in his luggage and he hands it to Tae Ik.

Tae Ik refuses to wear it.

They go into the men’s room where I imagine President Hwang forces the hat on Tae Ik’s head.

They were in there for a while so Tae Ik mustn’t have made it easy.

I stand by the entrance to the men’s room with the luggage.

I had wrapped a scarf around my head just in case and I put my sunglasses on.

“What is taking them so long?”

Finally I hear Tae Ik’s loud complaints get closer. President Hwang is pushing him out of the bathroom.

I take one look at Tae Ik and I laugh. I cover my mouth quickly.

He looked utterly ridiculous.

He was dressed way too fancy to be wearing that stupid wool hat with floppy ears. It looked like he was wearing a baby’s bonnet.

“President Hwang, did you sell roasted chestnuts before?” Tae Ik asks.

I try to quiet my giggles.

“What are you talking about? This was fashionable back then.” President Hwang says. “It’s called a military hat.”

“What military hat? This thing is hideous!”

“Tae Ik, if you really don’t like it we can trade. You wear my scarf.” I tell him.

He looks at me.

“That wrap cloth? Forget it!”

“Let’s go, huh?” President Hwang says leading the way.

We pass a group of fans waiting for Kang Hwi to arrive and they don’t even look at Tae Ik twice.

I guess the stupid hat did work.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

It was nice to be sleeping in my own bed again. Although the house felt too empty with Jang Man gone. He had moved back into his studio now that our engagement was over.

Before, knowing that he was just there across the hall made me feel secure. Now I was all alone again.

I close my eyes and I pull the blanket under my chin. I take a deep breath and I release it slowly.

I hear sudden scattering noises coming from all around me.

I open my eyes and sit up.

“What the hell is that?”

The scattering noises get louder.

I spot a giant thing crawling up the wall and I scream.

I scramble out of bed and I spot some more insects in the corner of the room. I grab my suitcase, which I had yet to unpack, and I run down the stairs. I change out of my pajamas in the car and I drive myself to the only place I wanted to be at.

I felt stupid now that I was standing in front of his door but I couldn’t go back home. Not until an exterminator got rid of the disgusting bugs.

I knock on the door.

“Jang Man.”

I knock again.

“Jang Man!”

He doesn’t answer.

“Where the hell is he at this hour?”

I take out my cell phone and I dial his number.

He answers right away.

“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” He asks. “Why are you calling?”

Just hearing his voice made me feel better.

“Jang Man, my house has become weird.”

“What do you mean?”

“There are these noises.”

“Noises? What kind of noises?”

“Scattering noises.”

“What?”

“It’s full of crawling things that make scattering noises.”

“Ah! You mean cockroaches?”

“This place is not inhabitable by humans right now.”

“Why are you making it sound so serious? So you have a couple of roaches. Just spray some insecticide or smash them with a fly swatter.”

Eww!

“You savage! I’m not doing that.”

“Then learn to live with them.” He chuckles.

“Forget it! Where are you now?”

“I’m at home.”

His voices comes closer and I move away from the door so that he won’t see me.

“Bullshit. You are not home.”

“How do you know? You can’t even see me.”

I watch him climb the steps to his home and he stands in front of the door.

“I am looking at you right now.”

“What?”

He whirls around and I stand from the bench I was sitting on.

He looks surprised.

I walk up to him.

“What are you doing here?”

“Please let me sleep here.”

“What?”

“I can’t go home and it’s too late for me to go to a hotel and I don’t want to be driving around.”

I didn’t know how many more excuses I could make.

“Oh! S…sure.”

He unlocks the door and I follow him in.

“The bathroom is right over there. Why don’t you change into your pajamas while I set up your bed?”

“Alright.”

I put on my pajama pants and the t-shirt he gave me before walking back out into the studio.

He is on the floor setting up a tent.

“What are you doing? Why are you setting up a tent in the middle of the night?”

“I am making your private quarters.”

“Private quarters?” I snort. “This tent? You have to be kidding.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Hey! Are you telling me to sleep in a tent?”

“Why? Is that not allowed?”

I narrow my eyes at him.

“Is this because I made you sleep in the sleeping bag that time?”

“No. But if I did, I would be justified. Besides, there aren’t any rooms you can use.”

I smile down at him.

“There is a room in the main building, isn’t there? I will sleep there and you can sleep in the tent.”

I turn to walk away.

“Hey, that’s my room! Are you going to invite yourself to my bed without permission?”

I shiver at the thought. But it wouldn’t be the same without him in the bed with me.

I look at him.

“Fine. Just finish setting up the stupid tent.”

Once he’s actually put it up, it looks bigger than it did on the floor. He puts in an inflatable mattress and fluffy blankets.

“It’s cushiony and the blankets are 100% cotton so you shouldn’t have a problem. Come on, sit down.”

I roll my eyes.

“Come on. It’s cushiony and better than you think.”

He grabs my hand and pulls me down.

It was nice and soft.

“What do you think?”

“Well, if I’m only going to be using it tonight then I guess it’s not that bad.”

“Just for one night? What about tomorrow? Are you going to go back home?”

No way.

“I told you that place is not inhabitable by humans right now!”

“Then just stay here with me for as long as you need. It will be cheaper than staying at a hotel. At least you know the press and your fans won’t find you here.”

I turn my body towards him.

“You want me to stay here for a long time?”

“Y…yes, of course.”

My gaze falls to his mouth and I lean closer.

His face flushes a deep red and he pushes at my chest.

“Well, good night!” He says scrambling out of the tent. “Make sure to sleep under the covers. It gets cold at night.”

“Hey!”

“Sleep well.”

He all but runs away.

I sigh.

“God. I want you so much.”

I lie down and I try to go to sleep but his smell surrounds me and I can’t get a hold of myself.

I wanted him here in this tent with me. I wanted to ravish his mouth and make him sigh my name.

“Ugh! Just stop.”

I look at the gray walls of the tent.

I had to calm down, I couldn’t push him for more than he was willing to give.

Right. I just had to be cool.

Cool. Cool.

I glance at my cell phone.

Was he sleeping or was he also lying awake?

I grab my phone and I dial his number but I stop myself from making the call.

“You have to be cool!”

I set my phone down.

I count to ten but I find myself reaching for my phone again.

“You are Lee Tae Ik, Hallyu star and one of the richest Chaebol son’s in Korea. You will not beg for affection.”

I nod at myself.

I take a couple more deep breaths.

Just be cool and wait. Wait.

“No. I can’t.”

I sit up and I call him.

“Hello?”

His voice was rough with sleep and I sigh. I picture his rumpled hair and his sleepy eyes.

I clear my throat.

“Jang Man. This tent is weird.”

“What is weird about it?”

“I can’t sleep!”

“Eh?”

“I feel like those bugs are going to creep out of nowhere at me.”

“Ah, seriously! Just go to sleep.”

“I told you I can’t!”

“Just lie down.”

I lie back down.

“I’m lying down.”

“Shut your eyes.”

I close my eyes.

“Okay.”

“Now go asleep.”

“Jang Man!”

“Why are you shouting?”

“At least sing me a song. Something that will make me fall asleep.”

“I told you! You will fall asleep if you lie down and close your eyes.”

I sit back up.

“I have already tried that and it doesn’t work.”

The tent is unzipped suddenly and he sticks his head in.

“You scared me!” I tell him.

“Liar. You aren’t even lying down.”

“I was just before you came.”

“Scoot over.”

He comes into the tent and lies down beside me.

I smile in victory.

“I’m going to teach you a couple of relaxing breathing techniques.”

“Hmm.”

“Just close your eyes and breathe deep.” He says, his voice soft. “Hold it for two seconds and exhale out. Imagine your worries disappearing in a cloud of mist. They just float away leaving you relaxed and calm. Breathe in and breathe out.”

I don’t even remember falling asleep.

*****************************

Jang Man Ok

The ringing phone startles me awake.

“Hello?”

“Stylist Jang!”

“Ah, President Hwang. What can I help you with?”

“Tae Ik disappeared again!”

I sit up.

“What?”

“I came to see him this morning and he’s gone.”

“Gone?”

“Yes. He took his luggage with him.”

Oh. That’s right.

“Sorry. I forgot to call you. Tae Ik is at my house.”

“What? At your house?”

“Yes, he showed up last night.”

He breathes a sigh of relief.

“No, there is no need to be sorry. If he’s with you then that’s fine. I know it’s shameless of me to ask but please take care of Tae Ik.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of him.”

“Okay. I’ll let you go then.”

“Bye.”

I hang up.

I hope Tae Ik’s still sleeping so that I can start my day without him hounding me.

I get up and stretch.

I hadn’t come back to my room until late last night. Tae Ik had fallen asleep in the middle of our exercise and I had been too relaxed to move for a while. But I knew I couldn’t sleep there with him so I had forced myself to leave the tent.

Hopefully, Tae Ik would sleep better tonight.

I am pulling on some jeans when I hear a vacuum turn on.

“What is he up to now?”

I leave my room and I make my way to the studio.

There are uniformed men vacuuming the floors and the curtains. Tae Ik stands in the middle of the studio like a great lord supervising the workers.

I walk up to him.

“What is all this?”

“I can’t sleep because I feel itchy so we are cleaning the place to eradicate mites.”

We? He wasn’t even doing anything.

“Eradicate mites?”

“Mites, cockroaches, cave crickets, mice. They get rid of them all at once.”

“Aren’t these kinds of services expensive?”

“How many square feet is this place?”

“Eh?”

“They calculate the cost based on the square footage. It’s eleven dollars per square foot.”

“Then…two thousand times eleven is…” I gasp. “It’s too expensive! Are you really going to pay that much to clean this place?”

“I’m not going to pay anything. I am your guest, it is your responsibility to make sure I am comfortable.”

“Me?”

He nods.

“STOP! Stop, stop, stop!” I tell the workers.

They look at me.

“Thank you but your services are no longer required.”

“Hey, Jang Man.”

“Get out. Get out, get out.” I tell the workers as I usher them out of the studio. “So sorry for wasting your time!”

“Wait!” Tae Ik says.

I close the door after the workers and I walk up to Tae Ik.

“You did that in purpose.”

“I just wanted to foster a pleasant environment for my sensitive body.”

I walk away from him before I punch him in the mouth. I count to twenty before walking back over to him.

“Fine! A pleasant environment which suits your sensitive body.”

He smiles.

“Then can I call back the ‘Catch It all Clinic’?”

“I got something even better.” I smile.

I grab the vacuum cleaner and I hold it out to him.

“What? Are you telling me to do it?”

“That’s right. Personally foster that pleasant environment.”

He crosses his arms.

“I have never done this kind of thing and you thinking I should is insulting.”

I shove the vacuum cleaner at him and he has no choice but to grab it.

“First time for everything, right? First, clean the floors meticulously. And those window panes over there? It’s been a while since they’ve been wiped down so they will be very harmful to your body. Make sure you clean them until they shine.”

“Hey, Jang Man! Are you crazy or are you still asleep? Are you really telling me to do this?!”

“From now on you will be responsible for keeping the place clean. In return, I will take care of the laundry and the food.”

“HEY!”

“When I come back I want the place spotless! Now get to work.”

I can see why he likes to order people around. It’s such a rush.

When I come back out to the studio an hour later, the place is nice and clean and Tae Ik is lying in his tent.

“The place looks nice.” I tell him.

“I’m so tired. Cleaning is not something that can be done by humans.” He groans.

I chuckle.

“Wash up and let’s go eat.”

“We’re eating out? What if people gather? Let’s just eat at home.”

“Don’t worry about that. Hurry and wash up. Let’s go eat something delicious and then after we can run errands.”

“What kind of errands?”

“The normal kind that everyday people do. Hurry up!”

I have him change into some regular lose pants and I lend him one of my hoodies. The sleeves were a bit short but it would do.

He puts the hoodie up and we walk to the restaurant. We sit down at an empty table and I order the specialty.

The owner places the steaming bowls before us and the smell has me salivating.

“Are you seriously going to eat this?” Tae Ik asks.

I look at him.

“It’s good! Try it. This is a famous place, you know? Foul-mouthed grandmother with fifty years of tradition.”

He curls his nose in distaste.

“It might not look appetizing but it’s all Korean cow intestines. They only use dried cabbage which they personally cultivate in the countryside. It’s completely organic.”

“Organic?”

I nod.

“Ha!”

“Don’t be like that and have a bite. It’s really good.”

“Ugh! I could never eat something like this. This has to be inedible for humans.”

“If you aren’t going to eat, then get out!” The proprietor shouts at Tae Ik. “This jerk!”

I snort.

Tae Ik picks his spoon up and tastes a bit of the soup.

He looks surprised.

“It’s good right?”

“Wow. It’s not bad.”

He starts eating in earnest.

Maybe now he’ll trust my word a bit more.

After we eat, I take him to the market place.

We pick up some vegetables and fruits, organic juice, and other household items we needed.

“Tae Ik, hurry up. Come on.” I tell him as he starts lagging behind again.

He just had to stop and look at everything.

“Newly-wed bride, buy some mackerels! They are really fresh.”

I turn back to see Tae Ik standing in front of the sea food vendor.

“Buy some mackerels for your husband!” The lady tells him.

I chuckle.

“I am not a newly-wed bride. I am a guy.” Tae Ik says deepening his voice.

He hurries towards me.

“Newly-wed bride, buy some mackerels.” I tell him.

“Hey!”

“I am not a woman, I am a man.” I say deepening my voice.

“Jang Man!”

We walk by the beauty salon and I see that they are offering a fifty-percent discount.

“Oh! They have a special.”

“So?”

“So I can finally take off the stupid extensions!”

“Now? I don’t want to. Let’s go.”

“Why?”

“Don’t you know that I detest crowded places? Everybody is looking at me!”

I look around but no one is paying attention to us.

“No one is even looking at you.”

“I still don’t want to.”

“Then just go home. Here.” I hand him the grocery bags. “You know the way home right?”

“How would I know that?”

“Go straight down, turn left at the intersection and then keep going straight. Do you think you can remember?”

“Are you calling me stupid?”

“If the shoe fits.” I mutter.

“HEY!” He shouts.

People stop on the street to look at us.

“Why are you shouting?”

“Never mind.”

He walks away quickly.

Idiot.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

I manage to get back to the studio without getting lost.

“Stupid? Who are you calling stupid? You were lost because you couldn’t even forward in-coming calls.” I say entering. “Hey, Jang Man! Do you think you can act like this because this is your house? Keep it up and see. Tsk.”

“Who are you talking to?”

I shout as the kid runs towards me.

“You!” I say pointing at him.

It was that kid that had made me dislocate my arm.

“Ah! It’s the master’s husband!” He says.

“What? Husband?”

“It’s true! Our master fixed your arm so you got married. I saw it on TV. He was dressed as a woman but I knew it was him. That smile is unmistakable.”

How old was this kid?

“It’s not true! We didn’t get married.”

“So our master hasn’t gotten married yet?”

“He hasn’t.”

“Then he must still be single. Yes! I’ve still got a chance.”

“What are you talking about?”

He climbs onto a chair and writes something on the dry board.

I look around him to see what he’s writing.

He puts a heart on the first of the month and writes ‘Husband’s Birthday’.

“Who is your husband?” I ask.

“Master.”

“He can’t be your husband. You are both guys.”

“So? I’m still going to marry him, even if we have to run away.”

“What?”

“Hey! You were dating my master and you don’t even know his birthday? Shame on you. This is why he left you. But I suppose that your loss is my gain.”

He jumps off the chair and hurries out of the studio.

“Hey!”

He ignores me.

I look back at the board.

Wait. Tomorrow was the first of the month.

I change my clothes and grabbing one of Jang Man’s scarves, I wrap it around my hair and the lower half of my face and I leave the studio. I make my way to a fancy organic bakery I had passed on my way home earlier.

The cupcakes looked delicious.

I pick out the ones I want and the waitress boxes them up.

“Give me twenty-four candles.”

“What?”

“He’s turning twenty-four.”

“Oh. But it might be difficult to put the candles on the cupcakes.”

I look at their fancy decoration.

She was right.

“How about I pack the candles separately?”

“Okay.”

She walks behind the counter and I turn to follow her when I sneeze suddenly.

Was there some animal in here?

I look at the counter and I am surprised to see a small cotton stuffed cat sitting on a baby blue scooter.

I am reminded of Jang Man’s scooter.

I walk closer.

“Excuse me.”

The waitress looks at me.

“Yes?”

“How much is that scooter?”

“That isn’t for sale? We had it custom made for decoration purposes.”

“Ah! Then I will give you more money than it’s worth.”

“The boss treasures it so I can’t sell it. Sorry.”

It would be the perfect present for Jang Man. How can I get her to sell it?

I lean against the counter.

“Sell it to me, please. Huh, Noona?”

“I’m sorry. I can’t.”

I remove the scarf and I give her my best smile.

“Really?”

She gasps.

“You…I…”

I lean towards her.

“Come on, sell me the scooter. Please.”

She grabs it and hands it to me.

“Take it.”

“And the cat doll.” I tell her.

“Of course. Take it all, anything you want. To hell with the boss.”

I wink at her.

“Thank you, Noona.”

I whistle all the way home. It was useful to be famous at a time like this.

I climb the stairs and I’m about to open the door when Jang Man beats me to it.

“Oh! Tae Ik, where did you go?” He says coming out.

My mouth falls open.

His dark hair is short in the back and longer in the front. It’s parted to the right and his bangs fall over his eyebrow, framing his face.

He stares at me.

“Tae Ik?”

I close my mouth.

“Oh! Yes, I was feeling stifled so I went for a walk.”

“A walk? Dressed like that?”

“Hmm.”

“What did you buy?”

I hide the gift bag I had gotten at the bakery behind my back.

“Ah. Nothing. Just…whatever…there was something I needed.”

He smiles at me.

“Liar. What did you really buy?”

“Nothing.”

“You keep hiding it and it’s peaking my curiosity. Let me see!”

He moves to grab it and I hold it out of reach.

“It’s underwear!”

He steps back.

“Did you forget to pack underwear?”

“Never mind!” I say holding my finger in front of his face. “I’m hungry. Hurry in.”

I hurry past him into the house.

We have dinner and I send him off to bed. I needed time to prepare his surprise plus I had to wait until midnight.

Once it is ready, I send him a message telling to come to the studio. Of course, he takes his sweet time.

I am shocked when I see him again. I was so used to seeing him walking around with his hair in a ponytail, long hair falling around his face in a tangled mess. Now he looks…perfect.

I gape at him as he comes out in fitting sleeping pants and an old t-shirt.

“What do you want?” He asks crossing his arms.

“Right. Tada!” I say revealing the cupcakes.

He uncrosses his arms and comes closer.

“What is this?”

“Happy Birthday!”

He smiles.

“Wow! It’s pretty! But my birthday is tomorrow.”

“Eh?” I look at my watch. “It’s passed midnight! At least say ‘thank you’, I prepared this thinking of you.”

“Thank you.”

“Hurry and sit down.”

“These look so good.” He says sitting down.

I sit down across from him and I hand him the gift bag.

“Here. Open it!”

“Why are you asking me to look at your underwear?”

“It’s not underwear!”

“But you said-”

“That was because you were trying to look at it. But if you don’t want it then forget it.”

He grabs the gift bag.

“No! Give it here.”

He takes out the box and removes the lid. I watch his face so that I can catalogue his reaction.

He laughs.

“It looks like my scooter!”

I smile.

He looks at me.

“Where did you buy something like this? It’s pretty.”

“We met for the first time because of the scooter.”

“Thank you, Tae Ik. I really, really like this.”

“There is another present.”

“Oh, right.” He grabs the smaller box.

“I must warn you that it’s a really dangerous present, so be careful when you open it.”

He looks at me.

“Dangerous present?”

I nod.

He slowly removes the lid and he snorts once he looks inside.

“It’s a cat! Just look at its frowny face. Does it remind you of anyone?”

“Who would it look like? A doll is just a doll.”

“It looks like you.”

“What? Hey! How can I look like that doll?”

“I will call it Ik from now on. Ik of Tae Ik. Hello, Ik!”

“Don’t you dare call it that! I will throw it out immediately.”

“Fine. I won’t call it that. Oh! The candles have almost melted all the way! What are you doing? Sing to me quickly!”

“Sing?”

“You have to sing the song so that I can blow out the candles.”

“Seriously? Do you know how expensive my singing is?”

He rolls his eyes.

“Hey, don’t do that.”

“It’s my birthday so just sing the damn song!”

“Fine. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you! I lo….uhh, Jang Man. Happy birthday to you.”

He blows out the candles and I clap.

“Thank you, Tae Ik. I mean it.” He says reaching over and patting my hand.

“You have to eat the cupcakes slowly so you can enjoy their exquisite taste.”

“How can I eat this tiny cake little by little? I’ll just eat it in one bite.”

“Hey, hey, hey. Enjoy the taste.”

“But they look so good.”

“Forget it! Get up. Let’s go to the tent for round two.”

“Round two?”

I walk to the tent and he follows me.

I’d set out a bottle of wine I had found in the pantry and some cheese and crackers.

He takes a seat and I sit next to him.

“Here is to many more birthdays.” I say clinking my glass with his.

“Thank you.”

Two glasses of wine later, he’s drunk.

“Why did you buy just one bottle of wine? There are two of us you know?”

“You shouldn’t drink so much.”

“I’m fine!”

He refills my glass before filling his.

“Bottoms up!” He says clinking his glass with mine.

I take a sip and he gulps his down.

“You need to pace yourself.”

“It’s so good!”

It was good.

I look at him.

He sets his glass down and looks at me. He smiles.

“What? Why are you staring at me like that? Oh! My hair. Do you like it?”

“They say clothes make a difference, but your hairstyle is making a big difference.”

“Does that mean you like it?”

“Of course. It suits you perfectly.”

“Thanks for all of this. My grandfather isn’t here and I forgot my own birthday. It would have passed unnoticed if it weren’t for you.”

I clear my throat.

“I am more thankful to you.”

“For what?”

“If it weren’t for you, I would have stayed in hiding all alone.”

“When our engagement was revealed as fake, why did you give up everything and withdrawal?”

I look down at my glass of wine.

“I…didn’t like the fact that I had caused you so much trouble. I messed up both our lives and I hated myself for it. As for what has happened between us, I’ve thought about it and I…I love you.”

He lays his head on my shoulder and I’m startled out of my confession.

“Stupid.” He says.

“What?”

He sits up.

“I said you’re stupid, Tae Ik!”

“Why am I stupid?”

“Because I love you too! But you kept mistreating me and I didn’t want you to hold my feelings against me too. Idiot! Rude bastard!”

My heart beats wildly and my body feels hot.

He leans towards me and he presses our lips together softly.

It was exquisite.

His head falls on my shoulder as he passes out and I pull him close.

“Idiot.” I whisper to him.

I kiss his forehead before laying him down.

I put the tray holding the wine and the cheese and crackers outside the tent before lying down beside him.

*************************
Jang Man Ok

“Jang Man Ok. Grandpa is home!”

I frown in my sleep.

“Jang Man Ok.”

I open my eyes.

Tae Ik has a leg over my hip and his arm over my chest. He’s snoring softly behind me.

“What is this mess in a scared studio? Jang Man Ok!”

I gasp and I try to sit up but Tae Ik has me pinned down. I roll him onto his back and I try to scramble out of his arms but he rolls back towards me. I slap his thigh and I wiggle out from under him.

I hurry out of the tent.

Grandfather stares at me.

“Grandpa.”

“What are you doing? Look at this mess!”

“Well, I…”

“Jang Man! What is all the racket?” Tae Ik groans from inside the tent.

Grandfather looks at the tent before looking back at me.

“Grandpa, it’s not what you think!”

Tae Ik steps out of the tent, his hair is a mess and he’s not wearing a t-shirt just his pajama pants.

My grandfather’s face is shocked and Tae Ik looks groggy and confused.

Grandfather grabs him around the neck and flips him onto his back. Tae Ik groans in pain as he lands hard on the wooden floor.

I wince.

President Hwang comes running into the studio.

“Elder! Please be calm.” President Hwang says grabbing my grandfather.

Grandfather flips him onto his back too.

Shit.

Grandfather glares at me and I lower my gaze.

Chapter Text

Jang Man Ok

We kneel before my grandfather.

“Who are you and why are you in my studio?” Grandfather demands.

“Well. Styl-”

I elbow President Hwang in the ribs.

He looks at me and I shake my head.

“That is to say, we are indebted to Master Jang.” He finishes. “It’s a temporary boot camp. He is a singer.” President Hwang says pointing at Tae Ik.

“Singer? Are you talking about a show guy?”

“What do you mean a show guy? Elder, singing is an art. Just the way the martial arts you do is not merely fighting or sports, but an art. The music we do is also an art.”

“So what?” Grandfather demands.

“So the basic of singing is abdominal breathing. He is learning the basic of singing by learning Taekwondo abdominal breathing. We are shameless for not getting your permission first and I apologize. We are indebted to you for the time being. I’m sorry, Elder.” President Hwang says bowing his head.

He was a very good liar.

Grandfather turns his gaze on Tae Ik.

“Singer.”

Tae Ik looks at him.

“What is your name?”

“I am Lee Tae Ik.”

“Lee Tae Ik? That is an unusual name.” Grandfather looks at me. “Jang Man Ok!”

“Yes, Grandpa!”

“This is the Gijang seaweed that you like.” He throws the packet at me. “Make some soup and set the table.”

“Yes, Grandpa.”

I get up and make my way to the kitchen.

I make the soup and the rice before going up to my room to change.

When I come down, I set the table and prepare the side dishes.

I call grandfather, Tae Ik and President Hwang to eat.

Tae Ik sits across from me.

Breakfast is a quiet affair.

Tae Ik glances at me before looking away. He was probably upset about the rude awakening he had received.

I hoped he was alright.

“If I had known it was your birthday, I would have bought a present on my way.” President Hwang tells me.

“There is no need.” I tell him.

“Did you say you are President Hwang?” Grandfather asks.

“Just call me Bum Soo. There is no need to speak formally to me.”

“Kicking out guests who have come to his home is not the manner of a martial artist. It seems that Man Ok already promised Lee Tae Ik that he could stay.” Grandfather looks at Tae Ik. “Please think of this as your home and stay here comfortably till you leave.”

“Thank you, Grandfather.” Tae Ik says.

“But you came into my home with the dream of becoming a singer. In order to achieve that goal, you will have to train hard.”

“Train?”

“What? You don’t want to?”

“No. That’s not what he meant, Grandfather.” I say. “Lee Tae Ik-shi trains really hard. Isn’t that right, Lee Tae Ik-shi?”

“Yes. I will train hard.”

My cell phone rings.

“Hello, Kang Hwi-nim?”

“Why are you answering your phone while at the dinner table?” Grandfather says.

“Man Ok.” Kang Hwi says.

“Sorry, Kang Hwi-nim. Now is not a good time. I’ll call you later.”

I hang up.

Tae Ik glares at me.

After we have finished, grandfather says he is going to go for a walk up the hill. President Hwang goes with him.

I peek out the door and I watch them walk away.

Arms encircle my neck from behind and I look at Tae Ik.

He smiles at me.

I shove his hands off.

“What are you doing? What if grandfather sees? Are you crazy? Really!”

I close the door and go back into the studio.

“Why are you acting like this?” He asks coming after me.

“Did the landing make you forget what my grandfather just did to you?”

“So what? Does that mean I can’t touch you anymore?”

I start to pick up the mess Tae Ik and I had left last night.

“Hey, Jang Man!”

“Lower your voice.” I hiss at him.

“You said you loved me too.”

“I know that!”

“So then?”

My phone rings.

“Hello?”

“Man Ok!”

“Kang Hwi-nim.”

“Are you at home?”

“Yes.”

“Really? I want to see you.”

“When are you coming over?”

Tae Ik makes slicing motions with his hand and I wave him away.

“How about now?”

“You’re here?”

I hang up and I make my way to the door but Tae Ik pulls me back.

“Tae Ik! What the hell?”

“Man Ok, I’m here!” Kang Hwi says walking in. “Tae Ik. What are you doing here?”

“I live here.”

“Wait. Are the two of you…living together?”

“Well-”

“Yes, we are living here together.” Tae Ik says pulling me against his side.

Kang Hwi glares at him.

“Why are you here?” Kang Hwi demands.

“Kang Hwi- nim.” I say.

Tae Ik stands in front of me.

“You don’t have to explain anything to him.” Tae Ik tells me.

“Let’s talk. Outside.” Kang Hwi tells Tae Ik before turning and walking out.

Tae Ik follows him out the door.

I really hoped those two didn’t get into a fight.

****************************

Lee Tae Ik

“Hey.” Kang Hwi says.

His hand falls on my shoulder and I shrug it off.

“Start talking. How long have you been living here with Man Ok?”

“It doesn’t concern you.”

“It doesn’t concern me? It involves Man Ok, of course it concerns me! How can you act like this? How can you leave U Entertainment without saying anything? How can you be with Man Ok-”

“Are you serious?”

“What?”

“What about you? You accepted that contract with ‘Win’ without saying anything and you chase after Jang Man every chance you get.”

“Why are you here?”

“Because there was a problem with the house and I am staying here while it is being fixed.”

“Why didn’t you go to a hotel?”

“Because Jang Man asked me to stay.”

“You could have refused.”

“Why would I? It makes him happy to have me here.”

He snorts.

“You really think you make him happy? You’ve been nothing but a bastard to him!”

“You are the bastard! You think I don’t know that you were fooling around with Jin Se Ryeong while we were together?”

“That was-”

“Don’t deny it. I saw the two of you with my own eyes.”

“That was different!”

“How was it different?! You knew I loved her.”

“I never wanted her! She came on to me.”

“And that makes it better?”

“Leave Man Ok alone.”

“Never.”

“I am being serious.”

“So am I.”

I turn to go back into the studio.

“Tae Ik. Don’t you think you’ve hurt him enough?”

I stop.

“I’m saying this as your friend.” He says.

That’s funny.

“My friend?”

“Yes, your friend! We used to be like brothers and there was a time we gave each other advice instead of cutting each other down.”

I turn to look at him.

“Alright then, friend. Give me your advice.”

“He is too good, for either of us. Just let him go.”

I chuckle.

“You say as if it’s so easy.”

“Let us promise each other that we will let him go back to the life he had before we showed up.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I love him.”

His mouth falls open.

“Tae Ik.”

“I can’t walk away now. I won’t.”

“Stop being selfish!”

“Are you saying it would be easy for you to just walk away now and never look back? That you can forget he was ever in your life?”

He sighs.

“No. But how long do you really think the two of you can be together? You will only end up hurting each other.”

“It’s none of your concern. Just leave.”

I make my way back to the studio.

Jang Man hurries towards me.

“What happened? Where is Kang Hwi-nim?”

“He left!”

“But….did you tell him to go away?”

“So what if I did?”

“Why are you like that? Why are you being mean to your friend?”

“What did I do? He’s-”

“How can you send off someone who came all the way here to see you?”

“He didn’t come to see me.”

“That’s even worse! You can’t tell someone else’s guest to leave. Ah, seriously! I had something I wanted to discuss with Kang Hwi-nim.”

“With Kang Hwi? About what?”

“You don’t have to know. Maybe I can still catch him.”

I stand in front of him.

“Hey, wait a moment. We have to talk.”

“We can talk later, I have to catch Kang Hwi-nim.”

“Hey! Are you really going to be like this?! Is Won Kang Hwi important or am I important?”

“Why are you being weird about this? You know Kang Hwi-nim is my friend.”

“I’m being weird?”

“Man Ok!”

I whirl around to look at Kang Hwi.

“Kang Hwi-nim!”

“Why did you come back?” I ask.

He ignores me and stands beside Jang Man.

“Man Ok, I’m really hungry. Give me something to eat.”

“Is this a restaurant? Why are you demanding food at somebody else’s house?” I tell him.

“Somebody else’s house? Hey! Is this your house? It is Man Ok’s house! Who are you to tell me what to do?!”

“What? Look here you-”

“What is this commotion?” Grandfather asks coming in. “I can hear loud voice all the way outside. Did you fight in this sacred studio?”

“No, Grandpa. They didn’t fight. Their voices are naturally loud. Right?” Jang Man says slapping my arm.

“I’m sorry. I will be careful not to raise my voice in the future.” Kang Hwi says with a bow.

I roll my eyes.

“And who are you?”

“Oh, Grandpa. He’s-”

“It’s okay, Man Ok. It’s nice to meet you, sir. I’m Won Kang Hwi, I’m friends with Tae Ik.”

Friend.

I snort.

Jang Man glares at me.

“And I am very close with Man Ok too. I had business around here so I came to visit my friends.”

This fucking liar.

“Oh my feet!” President Hwang says entering. “What kind of shoes won’t even let me make it up the hill? Oh, Kang Hwi. What brings you here?”

“So you all know each other?”

“Yes.” President Hwang says.

“Ah. Well, at least he isn’t sullen like someone else I know.” Grandfather says glancing at me.

I frown at him.

“This young fellow’s smiling impression is good.”

“Thank you, Elder.”

Just what I needed, for Grandfather to like Kang Hwi better.

Kang Hwi’s stomach rumbles loudly.

“Have you eaten?” Grandfather asks.

“Not yet.”

“Man Ok, go prepare some good.”

“Yes, Grandfather.”

Kang Hwi and Grandfather have a little chat while I glare at them.

President Hwang pats my back and I look at him.

“Try not to give Stylist Jang such a hard time, eh?”

“I’ll try.”

He chuckles and says his farewells before leaving.

Jang Man calls Kang Hwi to the dinner table and Kang Hwi all but runs after him.

Grandfather clears his throat and I look at him.

“You shouldn’t frown so much. You’ll get wrinkles.”

He turns and goes to his room.

I make my way to the dining area.

“Wow! This looks really good, Man Ok.” Kang Hwi says as he picks up the chopsticks.

I push Kang Hwi over as I sit next to him.

“Give me food too!” I tell Jang Man.

“Huh? You already ate.”

“Well, I’m going to eat again. Earlier you didn’t make fried eggs!”

Jang Man stares at me.

“What are you doing? Give me some quickly.” I tell him.

“There is no more rice. I gave Kang Hwi-nim the last of it.”

I reach over to take it from Kang Hwi but he curls over it protectively.

“Hey! You already ate. This is my rice bowl.”

“What? Your rice bowl?”

“Yes.”

“Hey! That is actually my rice bowl so give it.”

I reach over again to take it.

“Hey! I’m hungry, stop being so greedy.”

“Just give it to me!”

“Come on! Get off.”

“Stop that!” Jang Man yells.

We look at him.

“Put the bowl down. Right now!”

Kang Hwi sets the bowl on the table.

Jang Man grabs another bowl and he divides the rice up evenly.

“If you fight one more time at my dinner table, neither of you will eat! Is that understood?”

“Yes.” We say.

“I’ll get you something to drink.”

He stands and walks over to the counter.

“Why is Man Ok so scary now?” Kang Hwi asks quietly.

“Because it’s his house so he shouts as he wishes.”

“I see. And you think you’re going to be fine here?”

“I’ll be fine. It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Hey, I’ve lived in someone else’s house so I know how hard it can be. But at least the owner of this house is kind. The owner of the house I lived in was a complete rude bastard.”

“What? Hey!”

“Tae Ik! Are you starting again?” Jang Man shouts.

I close my mouth.

Kang Hwi snickers and I elbow him in the ribs.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

Stupid Kang Hwi stays until dinner time before excusing himself.

I am glad when he finally leaves.

I corner Jang Man in the kitchen under the pretense of helping him clear the dinner table.

“What are you doing?” He hisses as I kiss the back of his neck.

“Come on. I haven’t kissed you all day.”

“If my grandfather-”

“The sooner you kiss me, the sooner I will let you go.”

He sighs and turns in my arms.

I back him up against the counter as I press my mouth to his.

His hands pull me closer.

Grandfather coughs in the other room and Jang Man pushes me away.

I bang my shoulder against the refrigerator.

“Ow!”

“Sorry, sorry. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. Or I was until you shoved me.”

“This is why we can’t be all…touchy-feely with one another.”

“Fine. But you have to stop being so cute.”

He snorts.

“How am I supposed to do that? Can you stop being so damn good looking?”

I smile.

I bump his hip with mine.

“One last kiss before bed?”

He whips the dishcloth at me.

“Wipe the table and stop begging for kisses. It’s unbecoming.”

I kiss the corner of his mouth before wiping the table.

I let my hand wander down his back and I slap his backside as I leave the kitchen.

“Oh, you bastard!” He shouts after me.

“Jang Man Ok!”

“Sorry, Grandfather.”

I chuckle.

I grab my pajamas and I change before going to my tent. I stop as I spot Kang Hwi lying in it.

“What are you doing?!”

“This thing is cushionier than it looks. Can I sleep over tonight?”

“What? Come out of there quickly while I’m still asking nicely.”

“Oh, I’m so full and sleepy.” He says snuggling deeper into the blankets.

“Hey, Kang Hwi! Come out quickly!”

He sits up.

“Maybe I should live here too.”

“What?!”

“Why are you shouting again?” Jang Man asks running up to me. “Oh, Kang Hwi-nim.”

“Man Ok, can I sleep over too?”

“Do you think we’re camping? This is my bed, get out!” I tell him.

“You want to stay here?” Jang Man asks.

“He can’t. Jang Man!”

“It’s so cold outside and I’m warm and sleepy.”

I grab Kang Hwi’s ankle and I pull. I would drag him out myself if I had to.

“Hey, hey, hey, hey!” He complains. “Fine, I’ll come out.”

“Thought so.”

“You can have your stupid tent. I’ll just sleep with Man Ok.”

“With me?” Jang Man asks.

Kang Hwi nods.

“I can sleep on the floor by your bed.”

The nerve of this guy.

I push Kang Hwi back into the tent.

“Hey!”

“Shut up and go to sleep!”

I climb into the tent with him.

“Are the two of you going to be alright in there? If it’s uncomfortable then-”

“Then what? Are you really going to let him sleep in your room?” I ask with a glare.

If anyone was going to be sharing his room, it was going to be me.

“No. But-”

“But nothing. Go to your room quickly and go to sleep!”

“Fine.”

He walks away.

It was weird lying in the tent with Kang Hwi.

I close my eyes and I try to do the breathing exercise Jang Man had shown me.

“Are you sleeping?” Kang Hwi asks.

I ignore him.

“Being like this, it reminds me of before when we used to share hotel rooms.” He is silent for a moment. “What you said earlier, about Jin Se Ryeong. I was never with her. That night, I was just warning her. You couldn’t see it then because you were in love with her but you’ve seen her for who she really is now. I’ve always known she was like that and I worried about you. You were so…pure hearted and I couldn’t let her use you. When she kissed me…it was so unexpected. I had all but called her a bitch one minute and the next she’s throwing herself on me. I should have told you but you just shut down from one day to the next. Now I know it’s because you saw that kiss and you took it to be something else.” He sighs. “You are my brother and I don’t ever want to see you get hurt like that again. I’m sorry for all the things I’ve done to you, whether intentional or not.”

I turn on my side with my back to him so he won’t see the tears fall.

I wipe the corner of my eye with my sweater.

I had allowed that woman to destroy my friendship with Kang Hwi and I was too proud now to tell him I was also to blame. I was too ashamed of the damage I had caused to our relationship to ask him to forgive me.

****************************

Jang Man Ok

I come back from my run just as Kang Hwi is leaving the studio.

“Are you leaving already?”

He smiles.

“Yeah.”

“We should have breakfast before you leave.”

“I think I’ve intruded enough already.”

“What are you talking about? You didn’t intrude on anything.”

“Man Ok, come sit with me.”

“Okay.”

We sit on the bench.

“Why are you letting Tae Ik stay here?”

“Because he needs a place to stay.”

“You know he has money right?”

“I know.”

“Then why?”

I shrug.

It was hard to put my feelings into words.

“Man Ok.”

“He’s been good to me.”

“Good?” He laughs. “Are we talking about the same guy here?”

“I know he’s a mean bastard but…I like having him here with me.”

“Why?”

“It’s hard to explain.”

“Try.” He urges.

“He makes me feel….Tae Ik is…” I sigh. “I love him.”

“What?!”

“I know this must be weird for you but I really do. I love him. And I can’t stop, I can’t leave him.”

“But-”

“He is like a star shining brightly in the night sky and he’s meant to be up there far from everyone’s reach. I know that and I also know that this will most likely end up in heartbreak but what can I say? I’m an idiot. It’s probably why I’ve fallen for the world’s biggest bastard.”

“Man Ok.” He says taking my hand. “I care about you, very much. And I would hate to see you suffer more because of him but there is something you have to know.”

I look at him.

“What?”

“Tae Ik is a good man and if he’s declared his feeling for you, then you have to trust in them.”

I tighten my fingers in his.

“Thank you.”

“Nah. I’m just doing what any friend would do. Anyways, I still want you by my side Stylist Jang. Tae Ik might give you a hard time about it but you are the only one who gets me and my style. You will still work with me right?”

“Of course, Kang Hwi-nim.”

“Good. I am having a photo shoot in China soon and I want you there.”

“But my Grandfather-”

“Don’t worry about it now, I’ll give you more information once the date is set.”

“Okay.”

“I better go.”

“Call me if you need anything.”

“I will.” He stands and makes for the stairs but he stops and turns to look at me. “I almost forgot, I’ve appointed myself foster parent of Chaton.”

My cat! I had forgotten all about him.

“Thank you.”

“With Tae Ik here, it would be best if Chaton stays with me for the time being.”

“Yeah. That would be best.”

“I’ll see you later. Take care of yourself.”

“Bye.”

I go back into the studio.

The next few days pass in a flurry of activity.

With Grandfather thinking that Tae Ik was here for boot camp, he made him work out every day.

Tae Ik was good but my Grandfather was extra hard on him. It’s like he knew there was something going on between us. Not that Tae Ik was any help with all the long looks he gave me over the dinner table, the stolen kisses in the kitchen, and the long hugs good night.

President Hwang visited every day to try and convince Tae Ik to come back to U Entertainment. He even started bringing Go Dong along in the hopes it would weaken Tae Ik’s resolve. Go Dong fussed over Tae Ik and followed him around until Tae Ik screamed at him. They even started showing up in the mornings to train with us.

I liked having so many people around, it felt like I finally had a complete family.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

Jang Man had gone out to buy me some organic food and juice so I took the time to do my chores.

I am vacuuming when the damn thing chooses to crap out on me. I kick it but it doesn’t fix anything.

“Stupid piece of shit.”

The door opens.

“Hey, Jang Man! Throw this thing away! It doesn’t work. Just look at all the dirt it’s leaving behind.”

“Tae Ik!”

I lift my head.

Jin Se Ryeong hurries towards me.

I frown at her.

“What are you doing here?”

“This doesn’t make any sense. Are you even the Tae Ik I know?”

I cross my arms over my chest.

“What do you want?”

“Come with me right now! I will give you everything and anything you want! Just leave this place.”

She grabs my arm and I shove off her hand.

“Stop it! How much longer are you going to act like this just to make yourself feel better about what you did? There is nothing between the two of us anymore. I have no more feelings left for you.”

“Why? Why are you doing this?! Because of that stupid boy, Jang Man Ok or whatever the hell his name is?”

“That’s right.”

“Have you let yourself believe he is the one you’re in love with? It was all fake, your relationship isn’t real! You are just doing this because you’re still angry with me.”

“It has nothing to do with you!”

“Then…what? Are you saying you’re gay?”

“I don’t care how you want to label it. I love Jang Man Ok, the fact that he’s a man makes no difference.”

“You want me to believe you like men now? Stop lying!”

“It’s not a lie! He is the most important thing to me now. I got over you a long time ago so just stop now.”

“I will never give you up.”

I sigh.

“Please stop begging for my love. I’m starting to pity you.”

I grab her hand before she can slap me.

“You think Jang Man Ok is different from me? He’s just going to use you.”

“He can use me, anyway he wants. As long as it’s for the rest of his life.”

She wrenches her wrist from my hold.

“You really aren’t the Tae Ik I used to know.”

“You never really knew me to begin with.”

She presses her lips together angrily.

Perhaps I had finally gotten through to her.

“Don’t expect me to make it easy on you when you come crawling back to me.”

“That’s not going to happen in this lifetime.”

“We’ll just have to wait and see.”

She turns and walks out.

I kick the vacuum cleaner until some of the anger leaves me then I sit and wait for Jang Man.

“I’m back!”

I stand and hurry towards him. I grab his arms.

“Tae Ik! What-”

I press my mouth to his.

The grocery bags fall to the floor as he raises his hands to push me away.

“What are you doing?”

“I need you.”

I pull him into the office and I shut the door. I press him up against it as I kiss him with all the feelings I had locked up. His fingers twine in my hair and I grab his hips, pulling our bodies closer.

I undo the button of his jeans and I put my hands under his shirt, letting myself map his warm skin with my fingertips. He groans and he reaches up to undo the buttons of my shirt.

“Why are you dressed like this? Do you know how desperate it make me to see you wearing fully buttoned shirts?”

“It’s exactly why I do it.” I say nipping his ear.

He shivers.

“Quit it or I’m going to rip the shirt open.”

“Are you crazy? Do you know how much this shirt cost?”

“I don’t care! I want it off.”

I help him undo the buttons before he can rip it open. He takes his t-shirt off before pushing my shirt off.

I kiss his shoulder and his neck before kissing his mouth again.

I push my knee between his thighs.

I had never felt this strong need. The urge to have sex, to touch and be touched overwhelmed all my senses until my sole focus was to get relief.

He pushes me and I lose my footing. I pull him with me as I fall to the floor.

He straddles my thighs and I grip his hips as I lift my own to rub my hardness against his.

He moans and he leans forward to lick my throat.

I gasp.

I reach down between us to undo my own pants.

“I had forgotten how good you look undressed.” He says.

I look up at him.

“You said you hadn’t seen anything.”

“And you believed me? I saw it all and trust me, the second time was harder to forget.”

I chuckle before taking his penis in my hand.

He moans, his hands tightening around my shoulders.

It was weird holding someone else’s hardness like this. I tighten my hand and I give a few experimental tugs. He sucks in a breath before putting his hand inside my pants.

I moan and I let my head fall back.

He pushes my hand out of the way and takes us both in his hand.

I squeeze my eyes shut.

“We can’t afford to take this slow right now.” He pants as he works us faster.

I reach down to cup his bare ass.

He runs his fingers slowly down my chest, his cool fingertips making me shiver.

I manage to hold out for thirty more seconds before I spill all over his hand. He follows a second later.

He rests his head against my chest for a few moments before falling on his side beside me.

I put my arm around him.

“So.” He says.

“Hmm.”

“Is this because of Jin Se Ryeong?”

I open my eyes.

“Why do you say that?”

“I saw her leaving.”

I sigh.

“Did she threaten you again?”

“I guess you can call it that.”

He sits up and I look at him.

“That woman! Seriously. Who the hell does she think she is to come all this way just to bother you? If I see her again I will definitely show her what’s what. She thinks she can mess with you and get away with it?!”

I smile at him.

“What? Are you jealous?”

“Of that goblin? No way! But you’re mine to protect now and I’m not going to let anyone hurt you.”

I sit up and pull him close. I rest my forehead against his.

“Are you going to be my bodyguard now, Stylist Jang?”

“Someone has to look out for you. And let’s face it, you don’t have enough strength to fend them off yourself.”

I poke his ribs.

“Hey! I’m strong enough to lift your heavy ass aren’t I?”

“That’s different. You had motivation, you sneaky wolf.”

I pull back.

“What?! Sneaky wolf? Hey!”

“Jang Man Ok!” Grandfather shouts.

We scramble to our feet and we redress ourselves as fast as we can.

Grandfather’s footsteps get closer and I’m only halfway done re-buttoning my shirt.

Jang Man punches my arm.

“Ow!”

“Why do I let you put me in these kinds of situations?” He hisses at me.

He reaches over to help me button my shirt.

We sit on the couch and try to look relatively normal. Jang Man flips open the schedule binder as Grandfather enters the office.

“What are you doing?” He asks.

“I was just showing Lee Tae Ik-shi the schedule for the week. He needs to practice his singing too.”

“Hmm.”

I stand.

“Well. I think I will go and do a few breathing exercises.”

Grandfather gives me a long side-glance as I make my way to the door.

“Lee Tae Ik!”

I stop and I turn my head to look at him.

“Yes, Grandfather?”

He turns to look at me.

“You forgot to zip up your pants.” He says brushing past me out the door.

My face burns.

Jang Man throws the binder at me and I duck just in time before it can hit me on the head.

*************************

Jang Man OK

“Grandfather, can I speak with you?”

“Of course.”

“Were you sleeping?”

“No.”

I sit on the floor in front of him.

He stares down at me and I find it hard to meet his gaze.

“What did you want to talk about?”

I clear my throat.

“I wanted to tell you that I will be away from home for some time.”

“Why?”

“My friend needs my help.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“Ah. And have you told Lee Tae Ik about this?”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“He wouldn’t understand.”

“Jang Man Ok. You asked him to come here and now you’re just going to leave like this? These are not the manners I taught you.”

“Grandfather, wherever I am I won’t do anything to worry you. I promise, so just give me your permission.”

“You have to tell Lee Tae Ik you are leaving.”

“I can’t.”

“Jang Man Ok!”

“I’m sorry, Grandfather. Just please look out for him? He gets these moods and if he’s left alone for too long he lets his emotions control him.”

“Very well.”

“Thank you, Grandfather.”

I stand.

“Is that all you wanted to talk about?”

My cheeks burn.

“Yes.”

“I see. Go rest then so that you are well enough to care for your friend.”

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

I stop by Tae Ik’s tent.

I climb in as quietly as I can and I lie down beside him.

He’s sleeping deeply so he doesn’t stir at my sudden presence. I softly touch his face.

“I’m sorry. I hope you will forgive me for leaving like this.”

I watch him sleep for a bit before going to my room.

The next day I get up before the sun is even up and I leave the studio as quietly as I can.

Guilt and anxiousness churn in my belly, making me feel sick but I had promised Kang Hwi. Besides, I had a job to do and I was not going to go back on my word.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

We were supposed to be meditating but I couldn’t concentrate. I hadn’t seen Jang Man all morning and I was worried.

I stare at the back of Grandfather’s head.

He seemed unconcerned. Perhaps he knew of Jang Man’s whereabouts?

I lean towards President Hwang.

“Did Jang Man go somewhere?” I whisper.

He shakes his head and shrugs.

“You don’t know?”

He makes motions for me to be quiet.

“Where could he have gone?”

“Stop talking!” Grandfather orders.

“I’m sorry, Grandfather. I think I need fresh air.” I say standing.

I hurry outside before he can say anything else.

I take my cell phone out of my pocket and I dial his number. It rings until the operator answers telling me to leave a message.

I hang up and try again. It’s the same thing.

I call again.

“Answer it! Please!”

I hang up as the machine answers again.

I wait a few minutes before calling again.

“Hello?”

I close my eyes.

“Jang Man, where the hell are you?”

“Tae Ik.”

“Why did you go off without a word? And then you don’t even bother answer your phone? It’s unacceptable!”

“I…”

“Man Ok!”

I frown at the sound of the voice in the background.

“Is that Kang Hwi? Are you with Kang Hwi?”

“Tae Ik, I can’t explain right now. I have to go.”

“Jang Man!”

The line goes dead.

I stare at my phone.

What in the hell?

“What is this, Jang Man? You think you can just go off and then not tell me where?”

I go back into the studio.

“I called Kang Hwi to see how he is.” Go Dong says.

I stop as I hear Go Dong and President Hwang talking in the office.

“And?”

“He’s in China doing a photo shoot.”

“Yes, I saw that in his schedule. At least he’s keeping himself busy while we resolve this issue with Tae Ik.”

“Yes. But the weird thing is that Stylist Jang is there with him.”

“Stylist Jang?”

What?

“Yeah. I was surprised to hear that too. What exactly are we going to tell Tae Ik?”

“Oh these kids! Always running off without a word.” President Hwang says with a sigh.

I go into my tent.

So, Jang Man had run away with Kang Hwi.

Tears burn my eyes and I clench my fists. Betrayal and a deep ache settle in my chest and I feel like I can’t breathe.

“Tae Ik hyung!” Go Dong says coming into my tent.

I glare at him.

“What do you want?”

“Are you alright?”

I wipe my eyes with the back of my hand.

“Hyung.” He says touching my arm.

I wrench my arm out of his hold and I glare at him.

“Did I invite you in? Get out!”

“I-”

I kneel and I push him out of the tent.

“GET OUT!”

“Tae Ik!” President Hwang says.

“Just leave me alone!”

“Tae Ik!”

I zip up the tent door and I pull the blanket over my head. I didn’t want them to hear me cry.

I would have preferred to stay in the tent all day long but Grandfather demanded I come out to eat.

I go to the bathroom to wash my face. My eyes were red and puffy and my face was blotchy from all the crying I had done.

Grandfather had already prepared lunch and I sit down.

I was glad it was just the two of us, I didn’t want to have to endure President Hwang and Go Dong’s worried glances.

I can feel Grandfather staring at me but thankfully he refrains from making conversation.

I wash the dishes before going to my tent.

“Lee Tae Ik.”

I sigh.

“Come out.”

I unzip the tent and I get out.

Grandfather crosses his arms.

“Grab your things.”

I look at him.

“What?”

“Grab your things and follow me.”

He turns and walks away.

I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant so I just grab my suitcase.

I follow him into Jang Man’s room.

He turns to look at me.

“You will stay here for the time being.”

“Why?”

“Because it is not right for a guest to sleep in a tent while there is an empty bed.”

I look down at Jang Man’s bed.

“I will be fine in the tent.”

I turn to leave the room.

“You will stay here.”

I look at him.

“Grandfather.”

“Your sullen attitude will not work with me. I am master of this house and you will do as I say.”

“Yes, Grandfather.”

“Good. Now, unpack your things.”

I nod.

He pats my shoulder as he leaves the room.

I sit on Jang Man’s bed. I had fantasized about being in this bed and now that I actually was, it was cold and uninviting. I lay my head down on Jang Man’s pillow and I close my eyes.

The loud knock on the door startles me awake.

“The sun is shining! Get up immediately!”

Had I really slept all afternoon and all night?

I get up and open the door.

“Look at what time it is! How can you still be rolled up in the blankets?” Grandfather asks. “Today’s training will be outside so get ready right now.”

I blink bleary eyes.

“What?”

“What are you waiting for? Get ready quickly and follow me!”

I go back into the room and I put on my Taekwondo uniform before making my way to the bathroom. I wash up quickly and I leave the studio.

Grandfather is waiting for me.

“Come on, quickly.”

I follow him up the three flights of stairs and onto rougher terrain as he leads the way up the hill. Halfway up I feel like I’m going to pass out.

I bend with my hands on my knees as I gasp for breath.

“I can’t.” I tell him. “I can’t go any further.”

He chuckles.

“That staggering stamina refuses to get better.”

My lungs and my legs burn.

“Tae for ‘big’ and Ik for ‘wings’.” He says.

I look at him.

“What?”

“Your name was made so that you can fly around the wide world freely. But you are worse than a chick!”

What the hell was he talking about?

He looks at me.

“Your father was a focused person.”

“How do you know about my father?”

“I taught your father Taekwondo. Even though he was busy, he used to come here to train with me at least two or three time a month.”

I stare at him in surprise.

“When you were a kid, I was invited to see your newly built house.”

“Then are you the Master who named me?”

“Yes. Your father treasured you and he was really proud of you.”

I look away as tears sting my eyes.

He grasps my upper arms.

“Whatever happens in your life you must confront it and win! You can’t do anything with just your thoughts. That way you won’t be ashamed when you stand before your father again.”

**************************

Jang Man Ok

I stare down at my phone.

“Oh no.”

“Man Ok, is everything okay?”

“My phone went dead.”

“Was it an important call? You can use my phone.”

“No, it’s fine.”

It would only infuriate Tae Ik more if I called him from Kang Hwi’s phone. I would just have to call him later when we went back to the hotel.

I look at Kang Hwi.

“Did you need something?”

“I think the sash is falling, can you check?”

“Sure.”

I make sure his outfit is perfect.

“Thank you.” He smiles.

I nod.

“Are you worried about Tae Ik?”

“What?”

“You don’t seem your usual happy self. Did the two of you argue because you were coming with me?”

“No, no. We didn’t argue.”

Yet.

The photographer calls for Kang Hwi.

“When the shoot is done, how about we have dinner at the hotel restaurant?”

“Okay.”

He pats my shoulder before hurrying away.

“Does Tae Ik know you’re here?”

I turn to look at Jin Se Ryeong.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Is that any way to speak to a lady?”

I snort.

“You are not a lady.”

She smiles.

“And I was surprised when I found out that you weren’t one either.”

“That still doesn’t answer my question.”

“I am doing this shoot with Kang Hwi. Didn’t you know?”

“If I had I wouldn’t have come. I’d rather never lay eyes on you again.”

She chuckles.

“You go here and there, doing whatever you want. Aren’t you tired of all the lies?”

“What is it to you? Worry about yourself.”

The assistant photographer comes to tell her to get ready for the photo shoot.

“Alright, I’ll be right there.” She looks at me. “You are really irritating, do you know that? But this position suits you well, you have the visage of a servant.”

I clench my fists.

She puts a hand on my shoulder.

“So don’t go back and forth confusing people anymore and guard your current poison well, Stylist Jang.”

“Fuck off and die, poisonous bitch.” I say shrugging off her hand.

I walk away.

After the shoot, Kang Hwi and I take a cab back to the hotel.

I show him the pictures that had been taken today on my tablet.

“This outfit came out really well. It’s like they designed all the outfits with you in mind.”

He smiles.

“The outfits from Win really suit you well.”

“Hmm.”

“When I was younger and I saw Hwa Min’s clothes for the first time in a fashion magazine, I thought of becoming a designer like her.”

“So Hwa Min is you role model?”

“Yes.”

“Do you want to meet her?”

I look at him.

“What?”

“I should have told you this before. Hwa Min is my sister.”

“Really?”

“Well, she’s my half-sister.”

I slap his arm.

“Why didn’t you say anything?!”

“How was I supposed to know she was your role model? So, is that a yes?”

“Of course!”

“Good. Then I will invite her to have dinner with us.”

When we arrive at the hotel, I go up to my room and wash up before going back down to meet Kang Hwi in the lobby.

“She should be here soon. Why don’t we have a seat?”

“Okay.”

I follow him over to the chairs.

There on the table I spot a magazine with Tae Ik on the cover. I walk over to it and I pick it up.

His smiling face looks back at me and shame and guilt fills me.

“Man Ok. Are you alright?”

I shake my head.

“What is it?”

“I can’t go to dinner. I’m sorry.”

I turn and I head for the elevators.

“Man Ok!”

I go up to the room and I call him. I needed to hear his voice, I needed to explain.

But he doesn’t answer his phone.

A ball forms in my throat and tears choke me.

“I’m sorry.”

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

I arrive at the hotel the next morning. I had made President Hwang find out exactly where Jang Man and Kang Hwi were staying.

I hurry into the lobby and I make my way to the elevators. When I arrive on the seventh floor, I go down the corridor to my right looking for Jang Man’s room.

I put a hand to my face as I pass some fans looking for Kang Hwi’s room.

I hide behind a pillar.

I spot Jang Man come out of a room from the corridor directly across from where I was.

“Jang…”

I stop myself from calling out.

If the fans heard me, there would be trouble. I wait for them to look the other way before hurrying past them.

I make my way back down to the lobby.

“Jang Man Ok!”

He stops and looks around.

I walk up behind him.

“Hey, Jang Man.”

He turns.

“Tae Ik.” He smiles.

I grab his hand and I lead him out of the hotel towards a secluded pathway.

He throws his arms around me and I hold him for a moment before pushing him away.

I stare down at him.

“What are you doing here?” He asks.

“I should be asking you that. You left without saying anything! Is it because of Kang Hwi?”

Please say no.

“Did you come all the way here just to ask me that?”

“You must have a reason for leaving home without a word. I am waiting to hear it.”

He lowers his gaze.

“I have work to do.”

“Work?”

“Just because the contract to our engagement was terminated does not mean my responsibility as a stylist is finished.”

“Hey! Do you think that makes sense? You’re telling me you left without a word because of your job?”

“Even if you can’t understand, it’s the reason why.”

I sigh.

Work.

“Tae Ik. Did you tell President Hwang where you were going?”

“Why should I have to tell him anything? I don’t work for him anymore.”

“Did you at least tell Grandfather?”

“No.”

“How can you just leave without telling anything?! Why are you so immature?”

“Jang Man! Is that really the problem you want to focus on right now?”

His phone vibrates and he looks at it.

“I have to go. There is a photo shoot in thirty minutes.”

“Jang Man.”

“I’ll be back around five, we can talk then.”

He turns and walks away.

I hurry after him. I grab his wrist to keep him from leaving.

He looks at me.

“What is the matter with you?!” I demand.

“Stop shouting.”

“Are you going to pretend you forgot?”

“Eh?”

“Fine. Since you don’t seem to remember, I will remind you. I love you. And I don’t like it when the person I love chooses to stand at someone else’s side. So, Jang Man, I want you to only be at my side.”

He opens his mouth but he doesn’t say anything.

I release his wrist.

“That is why I came here, to remind you.”

“Tae Ik.”

“I will wait for you tonight in front of the hotel. Don’t be late.”

I force myself to walk away.

I get a room in the hotel, a floor above Jang Man’s.

I take the time to call Grandfather to tell him where I am. He seemed surprised but I told him I had business to attend to and he said he understood.

Waiting for five o’clock to come around is long and I make my way to the front of the hotel twenty till.

I sit for a while and I when I can’t contain my anxiousness, I pace.

He is late and for a moment I am afraid he won’t show up.

“Tae Ik!” He says running up to me. “Oh thank god you’re still here. I’ve felt so bad for the way we left things earlier.”

“Me too.” I say taking his hand.

“Why don’t we go somewhere quiet and talk, huh?”

“I have a room-”

“No. If we go up to the room then we’re not really going to talk are we? And I don’t want there to be any more confusion between us.”

“Then where do you want to go?”

“How about the bar? There is a quiet place in the back.”

“Fine.”

We walk into the hotel and he leads the way to the bar. He orders some drinks and we sit in silence.

I didn’t know how to begin the conversation with him, I was still feeling a bit confrontational.

The waitress brings our drinks and Jang Man drinks his beer and orders another one.

“Stop drinking and talk.”

“You have a fighting expression on your face.”

I sigh.

“Why, on earth, did you leave without saying anything to me? Why did you go with Kang Hwi?”

“I already told you.”

“Yes, work you said. But I don’t know if that is the only reason.”

“It’s the truth, Tae Ik!”

“Do you know what it felt like when I heard you’d gone off with Kang Hwi?”

“I’m sorry. But I think you misunderstood.”

“Misunderstood? Misunderstood what?”

“I love you. I’m in love with you.”

I close my mouth.

“I mean it. I’m in love you so please stop misunderstanding every situation that doesn’t involve you. I’m not going to go running around with someone else behind your back. This is just my job and Kang Hwi is just my friend. I really don’t know how else to say it or how I can show you to make you believe that my feelings are real. I’m not going anywhere. We might have to be away from each other sometimes but it doesn’t mean my feelings for you stop being real just because I’m not looking at you. To be honest, that is actually when they are the strongest. I’ve missed you and I have wanted nothing more that to just leave everything and go home to you. But I can’t do that. I am an adult and I have my responsibilities, the same way you have yours. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

My heart pounds and the words I want to say to him are stuck in my throat. I suppose I will have to show him instead.

I stand and I hold my hand out to him.

“Come on.”

He takes my hand and I lead him to the elevators.

I squeeze his hand in mine and he leans against me.

I lead him to my room and as soon as the door closes, I turn and take him in my arms.

“Forgive me.” I whisper.

His arms tighten around me.

“I’m sorry for hurting your feelings, Tae Ik. I just didn’t know how to tell you and I knew you would be mad and I didn’t want to leave you like that.”

I cup his face.

“I will try to be more understanding but I can’t promise that I won’t get jealous or angry.”

He smiles.

“I’m not expecting you to change overnight.”

I kiss him.

He untucks my shirt and his fingers caress my back.

I walk him back further into the room.

We separate long enough to undress before falling into each other again.

He pushes me down onto the bed before climbing over me. He presses his mouth to mine again and I let my hands wander down his back.

He arches into my touch and the consuming need comes over me again. I flip us over and I drag my tongue down his body.

“Tae Ik.” He moans.

And there it was.

I close my eyes as my heartbeat thunders in my ears.

“I did not come prepared for this so I suppose we will have to improvise.” I say before wetting my fingers thoroughly.

I part his thighs.

His breathing becomes labored and I haven’t even touched him yet.

I place my mouth on his penis as I place my finger against his opening. He lifts his hips with a loud moan, pushing himself further into my mouth.

I gag and I pull back.

“Sorry.” He gasps.

“It’s fine.”

I hold his hips down with one hand as I work him open with my other.

I take my time preparing him. He begs me to hurry, to penetrate him but I didn’t want to rush this moment. I did not want to hurt him.

He pushes my mouth off of him as he ejaculates.

I run my fingers through the milky substance and I use it to coat my own aching hardness. I push him onto his front and I pull his right knee up towards his chest as I position myself against his entrance.

I push into him slowly. It was not just for his benefit, but for mine as well. He was so hot and tight around me, I did not want to ruin the moment by coming too soon.

When I finally sheathe myself fully inside of him, I take a moment to regulate my breathing.

I twine my fingers with his as I pull out slowly.

“Are you okay?” I ask pushing back in.

“No.”

I stop my movements.

“Am I hurting you?”

I cock my head so that I can look at his face.

He glares back at me.

“Do you need me to show you how to do this?”

“What?”

“Is this how sex is going to be between us, you moving at a snail’s pace? Because if it is then just get off me and I’ll finish myself.”

I tighten my hands in his as annoyance creeps to the surface.

“I was trying to be considerate but if you don’t want that then fine.”

“Good. Now move before I fall asleep.”

I grab his hips and I pull him up onto his knees.

I push harder into him this time and he lowers his head with a groan.

“Is this more to your liking?”

“Shut up and fuck me.”

My whole body shivers and I stop trying to control my emotions. I let the animal instinct come over me and I push into his body harder and faster seeking my release.

He tightens painfully around me as he comes and I gasp loudly as I spill into him.

I rest my forehead against his back for a moment before pulling out. He falls onto his side and I lie down behind him.

We are quiet, trying to regain our breaths.

I sit up and grabbing the blanket, I pull it over us as I snuggle up behind him.

“How was it?” I ask.

“The truth?”

I stare at the back of his head.

“Yes.”

“I hate you.”

I frown.

“What?”

“Do you have to be so damn good at everything?”

I smile and I put my arm around him.

“Shouldn’t you be happy about that?”

“I haven’t decided whether I should be happy or annoyed.”

I kiss his shoulder.

“Just go to sleep, crazy.”

“Bastard.” He says twining his fingers with mine.

My ringing phone wakes me.

I roll over and I pick it up.

“Hello?”

“Tae Ik, where the hell are you?” President Hwang asks. “If you are going somewhere you should say so in advance.”

“I don’t to report to you anymore.”

“It doesn’t mean I don’t worry! Why are you so thoughtless? I have tried to be patient with you but you know what? Just do whatever you want!”

I roll my eyes.

“Hyung.” I say.

“What did you call me?”

“I’ll do it.”

“Huh?! What did you say?”

“I will come back to U Entertainment.”

“Tae Ik…really?”

“Yes. I won’t let the things I’ve worked so hard for disappear. I’ll sing again.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’ll be back this afternoon, we’ll talk then.”

I hang up.

“What is this sudden change of heart?” Jang Man asks.

I snuggle up against him and I smile down at his sleepy face.

“What? You don’t agree?”

“Of course I do! I’m just surprised.”

“It’s time I start taking responsibility.”

“Hmm, you’re acting so mature.” He yawns. “Have you ever been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder?”

I poke his back and he slaps my hand away.

“I’m glad you’ve finally decided to end President Hwang’s suffering. I’m sure your fans will be happy to see you again.”

“And you? Are you happy I’m going to start performing again?”

“Of course. You belong up on that stage, Tae Ik. It’s where you shine, it’s where you’re the happiest.”

“You’re wrong you know.”

“About what?”

I lean closer to his ear.

“I’m the happiest when I’m with you.” I say softly.

He sits up and pulls his underwear on before reaching for his t-shirt.

I frown.

“What are you doing?”

“You’re starting to creep me out. I better leave now before the rude bastard makes a comeback.”

I laugh and pull him back down onto the bed.

“What? You don’t like me like this?”

He runs his fingers through my hair.

“It’ll take some time to get used to.”

I kiss him.

“Let’s eat breakfast in bed and then share a shower.” I say nipping his ear.

“Alright. But only if you promise to keep the sappy smiles to a minimum.”

“No promises.”

****************************

It was hard to go back home by myself but I had to show Jang Man I could do this.

I walk up the stairs and as I near the door to the studio, singing reaches my ears.

I enter.

President Hwang smacks the back of Go Dong’s head.

“Hey, hey. Singing is good but let’s finish cleaning. Tae Ik is going to be back soon, we need to greet him with a clean house.”

“That won’t be necessary.” I tell them.

“Tae Ik!”

“Hyung-nim.”

They hug me and I allow it for a moment before pushing them away.

“Where did you go off to?” President Hwang asks me.

“To see Jang Man.”

“Ah.”

“How did it go?” Go Dong asks.

I picture Jang Man’s wet pliant body and I smile.

“Better than expected.”

President Hwang claps me in the back.

Go Dong takes my bag to Jang Man’s room and I follow President Hwang to the office.

“Did Grandfather go somewhere?” I ask.

“He had work to do with the Association so he left for a few days.”

“Ah.”

“Did you think things over while you were away?”

“I can’t promise you that work will be my sole focus this time. There are other things in my life now and I want to dedicate my time equally.”

“Of course.”

“So, tell me. What do we need to do first?”

“To be honest with you, I never actually voided your contract with the company. I just marked this time down as a vacation.”

I cross my arms.

“I was hoping you would change your mind.” He says.

“Which I have.”

“Yes. But I would like to add some things to the original contract.”

“What kinds of things?”

“Would you be interested in writing some of the songs for the new album?”

“Lyrics are easy, they are just words. The hard part is composing and I am not sure I have the qualifications yet.”

“Actually, I already know someone who can help you with that.”

“Who?”

“Hey, Go Dong!”

“You called for me hyung-nim? I was just finishing up, there is a lot of dust on the windows.”

“Take a seat.”

Go Dong sits down beside me.

“For the new Take One album, I want you to work with Go Dong.”

“What?” We both ask at the same time.

“You will have the time to learn the extent of each other’s talents. Kang Hwi will be gone for another week or so.”

“Hyung-nim, what are you saying?” Go Dong asks.

“Go Dong, you will debut as a composer for the new album.”

“Have you gone crazy?” I ask. “You want me to write and compose the new songs with him?”

“You’re just saying that because you don’t know what Go Dong can do.” He pulls an iPod from his pocket and he sets it on the table. “Listen to the melody’s he’s composed and after you have done that, you will understand why I want the two of you to work together.”

“I don’t want to.”

“Hey! Don’t just say you don’t want to. Think about it carefully.”

“I just said I don’t want to!”

“You…how can you say that?! Don’t dismiss him so easily. Listen to the melody’s and then decide.”

“Fine.”

I take the iPod and I go into Jang Man’s room.

I lie on the bed.

Go Dong could sing, I had just heard him earlier but anyone could sing. Composing was a whole different ball game.

My phone rings and I pick it up.

“Hello?”

“Tae Ik-nim.”

I smile.

“Jang Man.”

“Is it too soon for me to tell you I miss you?”

“Not at all.”

“Did you make it back okay? Did Grandfather give you a hard time?”

“Grandfather isn’t here. He has some work to do so he’ll be gone for a few days.”

“Hmm. Did you talk with President Hwang?”

I sigh.

“Yes.”

“What is that tone? Did you yell at him again?”

“He wants me to write songs for the new album.”

“That’s great!”

“He wants it to be a collaboration between Go Dong and me.”

“Go Dong is a writer?”

“No, he claims to be a composer.”

“Is he not good at it?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never heard any of his melodies.”

“So…”

“I don’t want to do this with him! What if he’s not good? I’ll have to tell him he sucks and then where is that going to leave us?”

“Tae Ik.” He sighs.

“Don’t say my name like that.”

“How?”

“Like you’re utterly disappointed.”

“Give Go Dong a chance. If you don’t like his music then you don’t like it. Don’t dismiss him just because he’s always been your assistant. There is hidden talent everywhere.”

“Fine.”

“Good. I have to go, I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Take care and come back soon.”

“I promise, as soon as I am given the green light I am hoping on the first plane out of here.”

I smile.

“You better.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too. Bye.”

“Sleep tight.”

I hang up.

I grab the iPod and I select the first song.

The twang of the guitar gives a sense of longing and I start writing the lyrics in my head.

Wow. This was good.

“Hyung-nim.” Go Dong says knocking on the door. “Are you sleeping?”

I say nothing.

I would rather listen to all the songs before making my decision. If I let him come in here, he would give me a sad face and I would feel pressured to say yes.

“Bum Soo hyung-nim says we will start working tomorrow at the studio. I know you’re not happy about this but I promise I’ll work really hard and I won’t cause you any trouble. So just believe in me this once, huh? Just give me a chance, hyung-nim.”

I finish listening to the play list by dinner time and I make my way to the dining room.

Go Dong and President Hwang look at me.

“I see you’ve invited yourselves to dinner.” I say.

“We didn’t want to leave you alone.” Go Dong says.

“Here.” I say handing the iPod back to Go Dong. “Your compositions are really good. I have a few lyrics in mind for tomorrow.”

“Hyung-nim!” He shouts throwing himself at me.

His arms squeeze me really tight.

“Thank you! I promise I will do really well and I won’t let you down.”

“Hey! Get off.” I say pushing him away.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

I am singing the song while Go Dong plays the guitar. President Hwang is taking a nap on the floor.

I stop to change a few lyrics.

“Well, well, well.” Grandfather says entering.

We stand from the couch.

He clears his throat loudly and President Hwang scrambles to his feet, hitting his head on the table on the way up.

I snort.

“Elder, you have returned.” President Hwang says rubbing his head.

“You were practicing your singing.”

“Yes, Grandfather.” I say.

“These guys are working really hard.” President Hwang says.

“The singing can’t be heard all the way outside. Why? Singing shouldn’t be done by one’s voice, but with their strength.”

“Well, yes. I suppose that is true.” President Hwang says.

“Follow me, quickly.”

We watch Grandfather exit the studio.

“Are we going to start practicing Taekwondo at night now?” Go Dong asks.

“I’ve never heard about anything like that.” President Hwang says.

I brush past them and I follow Grandfather.

He leads us to the restaurant Jang Man had brought me to. Foul mouthed Grandmother with fifty years of tradition.

The steaming bowls are placed before us and I feel Jang Man’s absence so deeply.

“Only if you have guts will your song be powerful.” Grandfather says. “Here! Let’s eat.”

“You must be tired from the long trip.” President Hwang says.

“I’m fine.”

“I will enjoy it, Grandpa.” Go Dong says.

I stare down at my soup.

“Hyung-nim, you can’t eat something like this can you?” Go Dong asks me.

“Oh, right.” President Hwang says.

“Hyung-nim?” Go Dong says.

“Tae Ik has a small appetite.” President Hwang says.

I pick up my spoon and I start eating.

“I criticized him for being a weakling. But you aren’t picky with your food and you eat well.” Grandfather says.

I nod at him.

He smiles.

“Eat up! Only then will you have the strength to work.”

When we get back, it is late but I can’t sleep.

I just keep thinking of Jang Man. So I bundle myself up and I go sit outside.

I take the opportunity to write down some lyrics.

I am startled by a hand touching my shoulder.

I look up at the woman standing in front of me.

“Tae Ik?”

I stand up quickly.

“No. You have me confused for someone else.”

“You are Tae Ik!”

“I have to go.”

She grabs my arm.

“Why are you here? Are you…staying here at this studio? Did Man Ok bring you here?”

She won’t let me pass to get to the door so I scramble up the stairs.

“Hey! Hey!”

I hide behind the tree.

“What is this?” Grandfather says coming out of the studio. “Ga Ryeong.”

“Hello.”

“What brings you at this hour? Are you drunk?”

“I might have had a little bit to drink. I came to see Man Ok.”

“He’s not here. He’s looking after a friend.”

“Is that what he told you? Wait. Is he with Kang Hwi oppa?! Oh that bad boy.”

“Did Man Ok do something wrong?”

“Man Ok went there to become a stylist!”

“What are you talking about? What is a stylist?” Grandfather asks.

Shit. Shit!

“A stylist! Someone who puts together outfits for singers. But then he just entered into a contract engagement with Tae Ik and he had long hair and wore a dress! How could he do this to me? I’m supposed to be his best friend and I have to find everything out in the papers? And now he’s with Kang Hwi oppa when he knows I really like him?!”

Fuck it all to hell.

“Ga Ryeong!” Grandfather shouts. “Jang Man Ok entered into a contract engagement and he puts together outfits for people?”

“No…I didn’t…I mean…”

“Why aren’t you answering?!”

“Grandpa-”

“You know where Man Ok is don’t you?”

“Well…I only know that Man Ok and Kang Hwi-nim are together. They are supposed to be coming back from China today.”

“China?”

“Yes.”

“Lead the way.”

“What?”

“What are you doing?! Lead the way.”

I watch them leave.

I take out my phone and I call Jang Man.

He doesn’t answer.

“Pick up the fucking phone, Jang Man. This is serious!”

I hang up and call again.

His flight would have landed by now.

“God damn it! Why aren’t you picking up the phone?”

I hang up and call again.

“Come on, come on!”

The operator answers and I leave a message.

“Jang Man! Call me at once, this is urgent!”

I hang up.

Now all there was left to do was sit and wait.

***************************

Jang Man Ok

I follow Kang Hwi out of the airport.

Thankfully he had worn a disguise so none of the fans had noticed him.

“Jang Man Ok! Jang Man Ok!”

I turn and I see Grandfather making his way towards me, his face settled into a deep frown.

Ga Ryeong follows.

I turn away.

I couldn’t let Grandfather see me like this.

“Isn’t that-?”

“Get in the taxi.” I say pushing Kang Hwi. “Hurry!”

“Jang Man Ok!”

Shit.

I turn to look at him.

“Grandfather.”

He looks me up and down.

“Why in the hell are you dressed like a woman?”

“Grandpa, how did you know I was here?”

“Gra…grandfather.” Kang Hwi says with a bow.

Grandfather glares at Kang Hwi before looking back at me.

“What on earth is going on?!”

Kang Hwi steps forward.

“Grandfather, this is all my fault. I told Man Ok-”

“I wasn’t talking to you!”

“Grandfather.” I say.

“Grab your things immediately! We will talk at home.”

I grab my bag.

“Man Ok.” Kang Hwi says.

“Let’s go!” Grandfather says walking away.

I follow after him.

“Man Ok.” Ga Ryeong says.

“I’m not talking to you.”

“I’m sorry.”

Our way back to the studio was filled with tense silence.

Grandfather gets out of the cab first.

I pay and I follow him.

Tae Ik is waiting at the entrance.

“Are you okay?”

I shake my head.

He hugs me.

“Jang Man Ok!” Grandfather shouts from inside.

I sigh.

“I better get in there. He’s already mad enough at me.”

Tae Ik takes my bag and I go into the office.

I kneel before my grandfather.

“Grandfather.”

“You told me you were going to be looking out for a friend and instead I find you dressed as a woman with Won Kang Hwi! What is the meaning of this?!”

I wince.

“I…I am a stylist.”

“I already know that! Why are you dressed like this?”

“Because I…at first I just did it to trick Tae Ik into letting me work with him. Then, I was afraid someone would recognize me and tell you what I was doing so I kept disguising myself.”

“I see. So you intended to continue hiding what you were doing from me.”

“No!”

“You just said as much!”

I open my mouth before shutting it again.

“Explain the contract engagement.”

“What?”

“The contract engagement with Lee Tae Ik! Explain it.”

“I don’t know if I can.”

“Give it a try.”

I take a deep breath.

“I did it to help him.”

“How is you pretending to be a woman and selling yourself for money supposed to help him?”

“It wasn’t like that!”

“Wasn’t it? So are you telling me you didn’t get any kind of compensation?”

“I’m sorry for not telling you.”

“I can overlook the fact that you have no real desire to run the studio and I have ignored you fooling around with Lee Tae Ik in my home. But I will not stand for you lying to me! How long?”

“I don’t-”

“How long have you been doing this?!”

“Since about a month after you left.”

He shakes his head.

“Grandfather.”

“I have never been so disappointed in my life. And I never would have imagined I would feel this way because of you. You have made a fool of me, Jang Man Ok and I am ashamed to call you my grandson.”

Tears sting my eyes and I look at him.

“I have never gone against your wishes before. Please forgive me this one transgression, Grandfather. I’m begging you.”

“Get out. I don’t want to look at you anymore.”

“Grandfather.”

He turns his head away.

I get up and leave the office.

Tae Ik is waiting for me in my room.

“Jang Man.”

I hug him as I cry.

He holds me tight.

I cry until my chest hurts with my sobs.

Tae Ik helps me take off my ruined make up and helps me change my clothes. He urges me to lie down. I curl on my side and he lies down behind me.

“I suppose I better move out now. Grandfather isn’t happy with either of us at the moment.”

“Stay a few more days. I don’t want to be alone with him.”

“Alright.”

I close my eyes.

I had been so happy to finally be home and what should have been a happy reunion had turned into disaster.

I sniff.

I pull Tae Ik’s arm tighter around me.

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

I sing to myself as I write the lyrics.

 

“Each day, each day, each day.

Every minute is exciting.

My smile is only for you. Only look at me.”

 

“Hyung-nim!” Go Dong says barging into the tent and startling me.

I hold my notebook close to my chest.

“Why are coming in here without knocking?! You scared me.”

“It’s too soft for knocking.” He looks at my notebook. “What are you writing so diligently?”

I hide the notebook behind my back. I was too embarrassed to show him the sappy song I had written for Jang Man.

“Never mind. What do you want?”

“Did you forget you’re supposed to wash the dishes from dinner?”

I hated washing dishes more than anything. There were always so many and with Jang Man avoiding Grandfather, he didn’t stick around to help out.

I groan as I stretch.

“I’ve felt sick since this morning. I think I’m catching a cold. My whole body aches.” I glance at him. “Go Dong, do you think you could-”

“No. I can’t, hyung-nim. I would do it in your stead a hundred, no, a thousand times but Grandpa gave orders saying you were to wash the dishes every night.”

I roll my eyes.

“If I get caught doing it for you, then-”

“Fine! Forget it. I will do it. Tsk.”

I leave the tent and I make my way to the kitchen.

Grandfather sits at the table, his arms crossed and a fierce expression on his face.

I clear my throat and I make a beeline for the sink.

“Sit down!”

“I was just going to-”

He kicks out the chair directly across from him and I sit down.

He doesn’t say anything, he just glares at me.

“Grandfather.”

“Eh? You still have the audacity to call me that?”

“If you would just let me explain.”

“Explain? Explain what? That you used my grandson?”

“I didn’t use him!”

He raises an eyebrow.

“I didn’t mean to shout but your words are offensive.”

“Why? Because they are the truth?”

I sigh.

“I might have used him at first but that is no longer the case.”

He snorts.

“I don’t believe you.”

“Then I will explain it to you. The first time I met Jang Man, I stole his scooter and he put his Taekwondo moves to use on Go Dong. The second time, he took great pleasure in fixing my dislocated arm.”

He chuckles.

“I found out he had used a picture of that moment on his online store and I threatened him with a lawsuit and I forced him to close down his store. We came to an agreement and he had to pay thirty thousand dollars for the damages.”

“Thirty thousand dollars?! We don’t have that kind of money.”

“Which is why he had no choice but to take the job Kang Hwi offered him. He was paid handsomely and the fee was reduced. Jang Man knew I would never agree to work with him so he disguised himself. When I found out who he really was, I made his life impossible. You’ve met me, you know what I’m like.”

“Hmm.”

“But none of my transgressions against him mattered when I needed his help. He agreed without hesitation. Your grandson is a good, kind person. It’s my fault Jang Man had to lie to you and everyone else. So don’t hold him responsible for any of this.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Did you also force him to hide this from me? Did you ask him to continue with the lie behind my back?”

“Well, no.”

“I see.”

“Jang Man didn’t want to disappoint you.”

“It’s too late for that.”

“Grandfather. Jang Man did what anyone else would have done in that situation.”

He stands and walks to the door.

“It is late and you still have a lot of dishes to wash.”

“Fine.”

“One more thing.” He turns to look at me. “Are you feelings for Man Ok sincere?”

“Yes.”

He nods and leaves the kitchen.

“That’s it? No mentions of bodily harm? Thank god for small mercies I suppose.”

I wash the dishes and I sneak into Jang Man’s room. He rolls onto his back to look at me.

“When are you going to stop hiding from him?” I ask sitting down on the bed.

“I don’t know. When he forgets he’s mad at me?”

I shake my head at him.

“Jang Man.”

“I’ll try to talk to him tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

“Stay a bit?”

“You don’t have to ask me twice.”

He scoots over and I lie down beside him.

The next morning Jang Man backs out and he doesn’t speak with Grandfather.

He promises he will try the next day but it’s the same thing over and over again.

I just couldn’t stand to see him so sad about this.

Sure Grandfather was scary but Jang Man was the only family he had left and it wasn’t right that they continued to let this situation fester. It was time I intervened.

“Jang Man!” I say before he can escape to his room.

He walks towards me.

“What?”

“Come with me.”

I hold out my hand and he takes it.

“Where are we going?”

“To see your grandfather.”

He tries to pull back as I lead him to the office. I hold on tight to his hand.

“I can’t!”

“Come on, let’s go in. Say that you are absolutely sorry for everything, then Grandfather will forgive you.”

He shakes his head and continues to pull.

“You’re just saying that because you don’t know! When Grandfather is angry, he is really scary.”

“Trust me, I know. But you still have to do this. So come on!”

“No, Tae Ik! I can’t, really.”

“Ah, seriously! Then why did you continue to lie to him if you knew?”

“Because I couldn’t help it then.”

“So get back that fearlessness and go in.”

“I’m not ready!”

“Then are you going to continue to have this kind of relationship with grandfather?”

“No.”

“Then let’s go in.”

I tug him closer to the office.

“Ah! Just wait a moment. I’m telling you I’m not ready yet!”

“You have to do this so just do it quickly!”

He sits on the floor.

“Tae Ik! I really, really can’t right now. How about tomorrow?”

“Hey, Jang Man! Don’t be such a coward.”

Grandfather steps out of the office.

“What is all this noise?!”

“Grandpa.” Jang Man says.

“Grandpa? Am I your Grandpa? I don’t have a grandson like you!”

He turns to go back into the office and I grab his arm.

“Grandfather.” I say.

He turns to look at me and Jang Man gets on his knees before him.

“Grandfather, please forgive me. I really am sorry for everything. I was just so ashamed to tell you I had seriously fucked up. I just needed to prove to myself that I could fix it on my own. I didn’t mean for it to get so out of control.”

“So what? I’m just supposed to forget that you lied to me?”

“You once told me that a true friend is one who stays by a friend’s side when he is in difficulty. I did what I had to do to help Tae Ik. Can’t you forgive me for following your example?”

Grandfather clears his throat.

Ah, this Jang Man. I can’t believe he just turned it all around on Grandfather.

“You bad little thing!” Grandfather says. “You try to win against your Grandpa to the end! Jang Man Ok.”

“Yes, Grandfather?”

“Make some soup for lunch, I am in need of energy. I’ll be in my room.”

“Yes, Grandpa!”

Grandfather walks away and I help Jang Man to his feet.

“Good job.” I tell him.

He smiles.

He grabs my hand and leads me to his room where he does a little victory dance. I laugh.

“You were quick on your feet.” I say sitting down beside him on the bed.

“Of course, they don’t call me Master Jang for nothing.”

“I am glad you are on good standing with Grandfather again. Maybe now we can get our love life back on track.”

“Seriously? Do you only think about yourself?”

“In situations like this? Yes. Plus, I was also thinking of you.”

He pushes at my chest and I grab his hand as I lean towards him. He closes his eyes as I brush our lips together.

Grandfather coughs right outside the door and Jang Man pushes me off the bed. I bang my knee hard on the floor.

I hug my knee to my chest as I moan in pain.

“Sorry, sorry. Are you alright?”

“Hey, Jang Man! Is this going to become a regular thing in our relationship? Because if it is then we need to put down some mats to help cushion my fall.”

He snorts.

“I forgot you’re such a delicate flower.”

“What?! Delicate flower? Hey!”

He grabs my face and kisses me.

“Feel better?” He asks.

“Keep going, I’ll tell you when.” I say before kissing him again.

**************************

Since Jang Man and Grandfather had mended their relationship, there really was no reason for me to stay at the studio anymore.

Full House had been cockroach free for a month now, and I wasn’t going to abandon the dream home my father had built for us.

Jang Man was upset that we wouldn’t be living in the same house anymore but it was time.

“I am grateful for everything, Grandfather.” I say bowing.

“Take care of yourself and stop by to visit once in a while.”

“Yes, Grandfather.”

“Remember to keep training diligently. I will keep an eye on you.”

“I will bear that in mind.”

“Good!”

“I’ll get going then.” I say grabbing my luggage.

“Jang Man Ok! Help him with his things.”

“Yes, Grandpa.”

Jang Man walks me to my car.

“Call me when you get home.”

“I will.”

He sighs and crosses his arms across his chest. I tap his pouting mouth and he slaps my hand away.

“Hey, Jang Man.”

He looks at me.

“I love you.”

“I know. I love you, too.”

I cup his face and I kiss him.

“I’ll come by in a few days.” He says once we separate.

“I’ll be waiting.”

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik

Arriving back at Full House was like remembering a dream.

I felt like I had been gone for so long, I had forgotten the majesty of my house. It reminded me of who and what I was.

“Finally!” Kang Hwi says entering the house. “I thought you had forgotten the way home.” He says throwing himself on my couch.

“Hey! What did I say about coming in here uninvited?”

He chuckles.

“I never thought I was going to say this, but it’s good to have you back.”

“Shut up.” I smile.

“I know, I can’t believe it either. I think I might be sick. To think I missed the rude bastard!”

“What? Hey!”

“Let me use the sauna.”

I sigh.

“Well, since I’m in such a good mood. Alright.”

“Really?!”

“Are you crazy? Hell no! Now get out of my house! I have important things to do.”

“Hey! I hear you are writing lyrics for the next album? Are they all going to be about Man Ok?” He laughs.

I lunge myself at him and he scrambles away before I can grab him.

“I’m just saying! That would really show him how much you love him! I even thought of a song. Listen to this.” He clears his throat and he starts clapping his hands in a cheery tune.

 

“Round eyes and a small nose. A cute little bear that wears white fur clothes.

I will always look at you.

When I am next to you, I am always happy.

And when I press a kiss to your little nose, your face turns red because you are shy,

pretty little baby bear.”

 

Laughter escapes me and I cover my mouth quickly. No, laughing at his stupid song would only encourage him.

“Ha! You think it’s good, right?”

“No.”

“Liar.”

I throw the couch pillow at him.

“Get out!”

“Okay, okay.”

He whistles the song on his way out.

“Idiot.”

I leave my luggage in my room and I make my way to Jang Man’s room.

I sit on the bed.

The house seemed depressing without Jang Man here to fill the house with his endless chatter.

I sigh.

“Jesus. Am I really sitting here staring dejectedly at the floor? Stop acting like such a fool! You just saw him twenty minutes ago.”

Oh, right. I was supposed to call him.

I take out my cell phone and I dial his number.

“Tae Ik!”

“Jang Man.” I smile.

“Did you get home alright? How is it? Is your house inhabitable by humans now?”

“For what I paid, it better be.”

“Did you make yourself some lunch? You should eat.”

“Jang Man.”

“Maybe you should have stopped at the store. I doubt there is anything edible at your house right now.”

“Jang Man.”

“Maybe if you ask Kang Hwi nicely he will make something for you. Ask him to make you some fried shrimp! He is really good at making those.”

“Jang Man.”

“He made them for me one time and they are so freaking good. If you don’t want that then just call for some food to be delivered.”

Was this idiot never going to shut up?”

I start laughing.

“What? What is it? What are you laughing at?”

“I’m laughing at you, you idiot.”

“Idiot! Hey, why are you laughing at me? Did you forget how easily I can kick your ass already?”

“I miss you.”

“Shut up. I would rather be mad at you.”

“Why?”

“Because…because then I might not miss you so much.”

“Why do you have to say something so cute when I can’t even touch you?”

“I’m being serious, Tae Ik.”

“Me too. So, what are you doing?”

“Wait. Are you saying that because you’re curious or because you’re about to turn this conversation into phone sex?”

I snort and I can feel my cheeks heat up.

“I was just asking.”

“Oh. Well, I just finished washing the dishes from lunch and I am going to go change into my work out clothes. I feel like going for a run, you know? To help me relieve this stress.”

“Hmm. I’ll let you continue with your plans then.”

“Alright. Bye.”

“Bye.”

I hang up the phone. I think I missed him now more than I had before I talked to him.

“Ah, seriously. Why are you so damn cute?”

**************************

Jang Man Ok

“I’m going for a run now!”

“Alright.”

I put on my headphones and I leave the studio.

I stop as I see Tae Ik reclining against the handrail. He smiles at me and wags his eyebrows.

“Oh! Tae Ik, what are you doing back here? Did you forget something?”

“Let’s go.”

“Where?”

“To have fun.”

“Fun? I’m just going for a run.”

“That’s not fun. Come on!”

“Where are we going then?”

“Some place good!”

He grabs my hand and leads me down the stairs.

“I have to tell Grandpa-”

“I already called him.”

“Wait then! At least let me change my clothes.”

“No need.”

“Tae Ik.”

“Just stop fighting it. You know you want to come with me anyways.”

“Fine.” I sigh.

He drives us to Full House.

“Seriously?”

He parks the car and I follow him into the house.

“What is this? You said we were going somewhere good.”

“What? You don’t think my house is good enough?”

“Shut up, you know that’s not what I meant.”

“You said you were going to change.”

“I don’t have any clothes here.”

“Go to your room and change.”

“I’m telling you that I took all my clothes home.”

“Then what are those rags you left thrown on the bed?”

“Rags? How dare you insinuate that I-”

“Enough!” He says holding his finger in front of my face. “Stop arguing and go up. Quickly!”

“We’re back to that are we? Keep it up and see. Spoiler alert, it’s not going to end well for you or that finger.”

“Go on!”

“Fine.”

I go up to the room.

“Bastard.”

I stop as I spot the gift box on top of the bed.

“What in the hell?”

I open the box and inside there is a navy blue silk shirt with black slacks.

I smile as I pull it out. Underneath the clothes are some new shiny shoes.

“This must have cost that rude bastard a lot.”

I take off my workout clothes and I put the new clothes on.

I check myself out in the mirror.

I didn’t want to toot my own horn but I looked freaking good.

I run my fingers through my hair and I put on the shoes before leaving the room.

“Tae Ik! Are you going to tell me-”

I stop as I see him sitting at the piano.

He’s changed his clothes too. He’s wearing a white shirt and black slacks.

I walk up behind him and he starts playing the piano.

It was a ridiculously cheery tone and I snort.

He clears his throat.

 

“Jang Man.

My soup doesn’t have cream.

Jang Man.

Even the organic juice has disappeared, has disappeared.

Jang Man.

Like this, without you, I can’t do anything at all.

I have become like this for you, Jang Man”

 

I clap.

“Very…nice.”

“Shut up.” He chuckles.

“I mean it, it was very romantic.”

He stands and turns to face me.

“Come on, let’s have dinner.”

He leads me to dining room.

“Wow.” I say as I spot the feast he’d laid out. “You really went all out.”

We sit across from each other.

“Dig in.” He says.

I notice that my wine glass has a little bit of wine in it and I look at him.

“I don’t want you drunk tonight. I plan to do things with you and I need you to be fully functional.”

“When have I ever been drunk?”

“Really?”

I clear my throat.

“Never mind.”

I start eating and half way through dinner I notice that he’s just staring at me.

“What? Why are you staring at me?”

“You’re really handsome.” He says with a soft smile.

I can feel my face heat up.

“You’re just saying that.”

“I mean it. When you came here the first time in that dress and contacts, I never imagined we would end up here like this. I really must be crazy.”

“I know the feeling. Who would have thought I’d be having a romantic dinner with the rude bastard, the King of Petty.”

“Promise you’ll stay by my side. And I am not saying it to Michelle, but to Jang Man Ok. Say you will stay on as my stylist. I don’t want to be apart from you, not when I’m working and not when I’m at home.”

I think about the letter that had been delivered this afternoon.

“Well. I’m sorry, Tae Ik but I can’t be your stylist.”

“What?! Why not?”

“I am going to start going to school.”

“Eh?”

“Kang Hwi-nim enrolled me in some design courses.”

He sighs angrily.

“That son of a bitch. He enrolled you in classes behind my back? Who the hell does he think he is? I’m going over there right now and I am going to make sure I get my message across this time.”

He throws his napkin down on the table as he stands.

I reach over and I grab his hand.

“He’s just being a good friend.”

“I’m your boyfriend! I should be the one who does this kinds of things for you.”

“You’re my boyfriend?”

He looks down at me.

“Yes. Why? What did you think we were?”

“Nothing.”

“What?!” He asks removing his hand from mine.

“No! I mean that I didn’t label our relationship in those kinds of terms.”

He sits back down and he glares at me.

“Do you not like me saying you’re my boyfriend?”

I shiver. Oh god, the way that word sounded when he said it.

I tug on my shirt collar.

Did the room just get a few degrees hotter?

“Are you ashamed to say you are my guy?”

Another shiver makes its way down my back and blood begins to pool at my groin. I dig my fingernails into my thigh.

The last thing I wanted was to get a hard on at the dinner table while he was being a rude bastard. It would only encourage him. He was probably already doing this on purpose.

“It was just unexpected hearing you say it so suddenly.”

“If you don’t like it then just forget it! I won’t say it anymore.”

“I never said that!”

“So what? Is school going to become more important than me now?”

“Well…”

“Jang Man!”

“It’s a good school! And besides, it will get me on the right track for my career plan.”

“You continued to be Kang Hwi’s stylist and you did pretty well! So why won’t you be my stylist too? Why? Why not?!”

“What are you doing? Are you going to whine like a little kid now because I want to go to school?”

“What? A kid?! Hey!”

“If you are going to keep shouting I am just going to go and have dinner with Kang Hwi-nim. At least he never acts out like this.”

“Why do you keep saying his name in that tone of voice? You never say my name like that.”

“How?”

“All wistful and shit.” He crosses his arms. “Say it.”

“Say what?”

“Say my name the way you say his. Say Tae Ik-nim.”

I snort.

“Tae Ik-nim?”

“Yes, Tae Ik-nim! But you have to do that thing you do when you say his name.”

“Thing?”

“Yes! Press your hands together like this.” He says clasping his hands beneath his chin. “And fluttering your eyes say ‘Tae Ik-nim’.” He says batting his eyelashes at me.

“Do you know how ridiculous you look?” I say laughing.

“Why are you laughing?”

“Because it’s going to sound like I’m saying cake-nim. Besides, it doesn’t suit you. You’re way too serious for me to call you that.”

“Hey, Jang Man! Just say it once for me. I mean it.”

“Ah, seriously! Fine.”

I clasp my hands together and I flutter my eyelashes.

He nods with an eager look on his face.

“Tae Ik-nim.” I say in a high voice.

“Ha! Take that stupid Kang Hwi.”

I laugh.

“You are a ridiculous man.”

Chapter Text

Lee Tae Ik: Six Months Later

“Tae Ik-nim, Tae Ik-nim.”

I smile. I roll over and I pull him close.

“Jang Man.” I say kissing his neck.

“Hyung-nim. What are you doing?”

I open my eyes and Go Dong stares back at me.

I scream and I shove him away, almost falling off of bed.

“What are you doing?!” I shout sitting up.

He sits up.

“I am a pure and innocent person, you know? I’ve never even been involved in a scandal. It’ll be problematic if you touch me like this again, I know exactly what Stylist Jang will do to me and you if he sees.”

I kick him out of bed.

“Stop saying such ridiculous shit! I feel sick and itchy just knowing my lips touched your skin. Eww!”

“Hey! A lot of people find me desirable so I don’t blame you.”

“STOP IT!”

“You’re the one who accosted me.”

“I forgot I set my alarm to sound like Jang Man.”

He laughs and gets up off the floor.

“For such a serious person, I am surprised to find you are seriously perverted at heart.”

“Perverted? What?!”

“I mean, taking advantage of sweet Man Ok like that.” He shakes his head.

“Advantage? Hey! Get out before I put my newly learned Taekwondo skills to use on your ass.”

“Your assistant asked me to come wake you.”

“Why?”

“What do you mean why? Did you forget you have a TV appearance today? Stop torturing your new assistant, she practically cries every time she has to keep you on track.”

“Hey! It’s not my fault they’re so incompetent.”

“Just stop daydreaming so much and keep track of time, huh?”

“I don’t remember you being this mouthy to me.”

“Hyung, I’m a professional musical director now. You aren’t so scary to me anymore.”

“Bullshit.”

“Get up and get ready or I’ll tell Stylist Jang you’re misbehaving.”

I throw the pillow at his head and he runs out of the room.

“This guy! I should have fired him when I had the chance.” I shake my head.

I look at the picture I had by my bedside of Jang Man and I together.

I smile.

“How dare you leave me at the mercy of these idiots?”

I kiss his smiling face before getting out of bed.

The days seemed to be packed with appearances, photo shoots and fan meetings.

Our new album had been very successful and I had even allowed Go Dong to use the song I had written for Jang Man.

Jang Man.

I sigh as I look at my reflection in the mirror.

He had gone to the United States for a month.

He promised to be back for our first concert in a week but whenever we talked he seemed really excited about his new job. I just wasn’t sure he would come back so soon. I knew he wanted to extend his time abroad, even if he didn’t admit it out loud.

I missed him so much and Kang Hwi took every opportunity he could to make fun of me. He said I looked like a lost puppy. The fact that he was comparing me to a freaking dog pissed me off so much, he was lucky he was even still alive.

“Take One, two minutes till show time.” The stage director calls.

We were taping a recording for a morning show and we had been asked to sing one of our new songs. We were supposed to sing ‘Touch’ from our previous album since the fans always requested it but the song lineup had been changed at the last minute.

I had never sung this song publicly before, just because it was for Jang Man and I wanted him to be present when I did sing it.

Maybe that is why we weren’t told of the change in songs until ten minutes before the taping. At least we only had to sing the first half of the song so I suppose I could sing it in its entirety to Jang Man later.

“You ready?” Kang Hwi says clapping me in the back.

I glare at him.

“I’m always ready.”

He snorts.

“How about last week when you forgot the dance moves?”

“That was different!”

“How?”

My cheeks burn and I’ll be damned if I answer his question.

“Never mind.”

“You thought you saw Man Ok in the audience again right?” He chuckles.

“I said forget it!”

He puts his arm around my shoulders.

“I get it. While he was here you were getting it regularly. This month must be hell for you and your libido.”

“What?!”

I shove him off and he holds his hands up in surrender.

“Come on, guys. What are you doing?” President Hwang asks opening the door.

“Come on. It’s show time.” Kang Hwi says slapping my shoulder.

I make sure I look perfect before following him out of the dressing room.

We take our positions on stage and the music begins to play.

I step forward.

The fans scream our name and I smile at them.

 

“Don’t say anything, just be as you are

And come into my arms-be my love, hold my hand”

 

Kang Hwi steps up beside me.

 

“When I see your lips, I feel your small breaths

The moment you came to me, you’re my dream

I only want you”

 

I picture Jang Man’s face.

 

“Day by day, my heart rushes all the time

My smile is only for you so only look at me.

 

I force myself to concentrate on the dance moves so I won’t look like an idiot just standing there.

Kang Hwi and I move in sync and the fans get louder.

 

“Hello hello, you’re my goddess

I love you my love

Hello hello, I only love you

You are my heaven

I want to have you everyday

To me, you are everything

I can’t let you go even for a single moment

You are my heaven”

 

The lights dim as we finish and the fans scream for us.

“Take One! Take One!”

“Kang Hwi Oppa!”

“Tae Ik Opppa!”

Kang Hwi and I exit the stage.

“I am probably being biased because you are my boys, but I think you looked fantastic.” President Hwang says.

We follow him backstage towards the dressing room and stop as I catch sight of the person standing in the corridor.

Kang Hwi runs into me.

“What are you doing?! That hurt my nose, idiot.”

Jang Man waves at me.

My heart beat thunders in my ears and I feel light headed.

“Man Ok!” Kang Hwi shouts running towards Jang Man.

“Kang Hwi-nim.”

He lifts Jang Man into his arms before setting him back down.

“Why didn’t you say you were coming? This is a surprise!” Kang Hwi says.

Jang Man smiles at me over Kang Hwi’s shoulder.

“That was the whole point.”

“Man Ok, I’ve missed you so much.”

“I missed you too.”

Seeing Kang Hwi embrace Jang Man so fiercely finally snaps me out of my stupor.

I walk up and grabbing the back of Kang Hwi’s jacket, I pull him off.

“Hey, what do you think you’re doing?” I ask.

“I’m greeting my friend who’s been gone for a while.”

“Just say hello with words. You don’t have to grab him like that.” I look at Jang Man. “Don’t even shake his hand, Jang Man! You don’t know when he will start to getting indecent desires for you again.”

“Indecent desires?! Hey! Like you’re one to talk. I happen to be a pure soul. Man Ok, tell me. Am I more pure or is this Rude Bastard more pure?”

Jang Man snorts.

“Man Ok, it’s not too late you know. Just say you’ll come home with me. Am I not better than Tae Ik?”

“What?! What did you say?”

Kang Hwi hides behind Jang Man.

“Look, look. He’s still as violent as ever. Man Ok, scold him!”

“Come here you! You think you can say all this shit and get away with it?”

He uses Jang Man as a shield.

“Why are you guys acting like this again?” Jang Man asks. “Ah! You guys haven’t changed at all.”

“Fine! Just remember you asked for this.” I tell Kang Hwi.

I grab the back of Jang Man’s neck and I pull him forward. I lean down and press my lips to his and I initiate a passionate kiss.

Jang Man’s arms go around my waist.

“Hey, how can you kiss him like this in front of people?! It’s shameless.” Kang Hwi complains.

Jang Man laughs against my mouth.

I break the kiss.

“Shameless? We haven’t even gotten started.” I smile.

I take Jang Man’s hand and I pull him to the dressing room.

“Don’t you dare!” Kang Hwi shouts.

He runs after us but I close and lock the door before he can come in.

“Hey, Tae Ik! You better not do what I think you’re about to do with Man Ok! My stuff is in there!” Kang Hwi says pounding on the door.

I press Jang Man up against the counter.

“Please don’t do it on or near any of my things!”

I kiss Jang Man again.

“Are we really going to have sex in here?” Jang Man asks.

“No. I’m just going to let him think we are.”

“That’s too bad.”

“What?”

He pulls a bottle of lube from his jean’s pocket.

“I came prepared.”

I smile.

“Jang Man Ok, I think I just feel in love with you all over again.”

He laughs.

“Hey! Are you listening to me in there? Make sure my things are far away from where you are doing the deed!”

I let my jacket fall on the floor before lifting Jang Man onto the counter.

His leg pulls me closer as I put my hand under his shirt.

He nips at my neck and his fingers start unbuttoning my shirt.

“You looked so hot up there on the stage. I just wanted to run up and kiss you right there in front of everyone.”

“You should have. All I was thinking about was you.”

I nip his lip and he groans.

“Tae Ik!” President Hwang shouts knocking on the door.

I take off Jang Man’s shoe and I throw it at the door.

“We’re busy right now. Come back later!” Jang Man shouts.

I laugh against his neck.

“You really have made me crazy.” I tell him.

“I think you’re giving me too much credit. You were already half way there. I just happened to push you over the edge.”

“You crazy thing.”

“You rude bastard.”

We smile at each other.

“So!” He says slapping my backside. “Are we doing this or what? Should I go get the backup dancers to help you?”

I pull his hips up against mine and he groans.

“Are you going to start with threats again?”

“Whatever gets you moving.”

I reach down to unbutton his jeans and he pulls off my shirt before removing his own.

“I really have missed you.” I tell him.

He puts his arms around my shoulders.

“I missed you too.”

I press my mouth to his, softer this time.

His hands caress my back before reaching down to undo my pants.

His hand brushes against my hardness and I shiver.

I push down his pants and underwear and he lifts up his hips long enough for me to push them down his legs.

“Oh, that’s cold!” He says as his bare backside touches the counter.

I turn and I grab Kang Hwi’s hoodie.

“Sit on this.” I say with a smirk.

“You really are terrible.”

I snort and he laughs.

“TAE IK!” Kang Hwi shouts through the door.

Afterwards, we sit together on the floor.

He’d put his underwear and pants back on but we were still both shirtless.

I have my arm around him and his hand is lazily drawing circles on my thigh.

“So. I’m your goddess?”

I shrug.

“If the dress and contacts fit.”

He pinches the inside of my thigh and I slap his hand.

He presses closer.

“I’m so glad to be here with you again.”

“Me too. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming home earlier?”

“The look of surprise on your face was worth it.” He says smiling at me.

I lean forward and I kiss his mouth.

He rests his head on my shoulder.

“You know we have to vacate the room eventually right?” He asks.

“I know. Just let them stew a bit longer.”

He chuckles.

“I think I like this new Tae Ik.”

*****************************

Jang Man Ok

Tae Ik insisted on hosting a ‘Welcome Back’ party at Full House.

I thought it was just going to be Tae Ik, Grandfather, Kang Hwi and me but when we arrived, there was a lot more people than I thought.

And it was a lot fancier than I had expected. I felt a bit underdressed. I was glad I had put on a shirt instead of just a t-shirt over my jeans.

There were caterers and a pianist.

Ga Ryeong had also been invited and I shake my head as I watch her chase after Kang Hwi.

I grab two glasses of Champaign and I make my way over to my grandfather.

“Grandpa, have some of this.” I say.

He takes the glass and I hand the other to President Hwang.

A hand tugs on my wrist and I turn.

Tae Ik cocks his head towards the door and he mouths something at me.

“What?”

“Follow me.” He whispers.

I follow him out of the house.

We walk down the pathway in silence.

“Grandfather might scold us later for sneaking out.” I let him.

He reaches down and he twines his fingers with mine.

“I wanted to take a walk with my boyfriend. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

My cheeks heat up and I smile.

We walk to the gazebo and he pulls me down to sit beside him.

“There is something I want to tell you.” He says.

I look at him.

“What?”

He pulls a ring out of his pocket.

My heart speeds up.

“Are you proposing?”

“In a way, yes.” He reaches over and he takes my left hand. “I want you to wear this promise ring.”

“And what am I promising?”

“That you will always be my love.”

I nod.

“I promise.”

He places the ring on my finger.

“What about you?” I ask.

He lifts his left hand.

“Ta da!” He says showing me the ring he was wearing.

It was the same as mine.

“Tae Ik, I was just kidding.”

“Well I’m not.”

“Do you think it’s alright for you to wear that?”

“Why wouldn’t it be?”

“Because you have an image to uphold.”

“I love you and I’m not going to hide it from anyone.”

I press my forehead to his.

“Say it.” He says touching my cheek.

I pull back to look at him.

“What?”

“You know what.”

“Ah.” I press my hand together under my chin and I bat my eyelashes. “Tae Ik-nim.” I say with as much affection as I can.

He smiles and takes my hands in his.

“Jang Man Ok. You use the Man for ‘Full’ and the Ok for ‘House’, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And if you say it in English, what does it mean?”

“Full House.” I tell him.

“That’s right. So let us live here together continuously at Full House.”

“Live here? Together?”

“Yes.”

“In separate bedrooms?”

He frowns.

“Why would we sleep in separate bedrooms?”

“Well…grandfather-”

“Already knows we love each other. What? You don’t want to?”

“It’s not that.”

“Then?”

I shrug.

“Hey, Jang Man!”

And there it was, that look of irritation that made my heart flutter and my body feel hot.

I smile.

“Alright. I will live here with you.”

He smiles smugly.

I punch his arm.

“OW! Are you crazy? Why the hell did you do that for?!”

“Last one back to the house gets to tell Grandpa.”

I take off first.

“Hey!” He shouts.

I laugh.

“Jang Man, come back here! It’s not fair, you cheated! JANG MAN OK!”

 

The End.