Actions

Work Header

Saving Grace

Work Text:

In Ha sits, listless, the sound of the bustling police station oddly muted. People are strange animals with distorted features and their words are just so much honking and braying and bleating, unconnected with her. She is the only one that makes sense in this whole damn world. Her brother takes shape for a moment, fades back into the shapeless void. Nothing breaks through the fog until Jung gets there, grabs her by the collar. And then, strangely, the blood roaring in her ears, blocking out all the noise isn’t because of Jung’s betrayal- he was hers because they were his and that was the deal, dammit!- but the look on her brother’s face when the other shoe drops. It gets louder and she wonders if she’ll ever be able to hear properly again.

***

In Ho realizes what happened the moment Jung walks in to the station. He knows, because why the hell else would he be here? He knows because the robotic bastard that had replaced the friend he knew and loved is nowhere in sight. The man in front of him is one raw nerve, all emotion, but that only happens these days when Seol is involved. And if Seol is involved in this that could only mean… He knows but he doesn’t want to believe it because if he did… Jung roars at his sister, reaches for her, and out of instinct he blocks it. He feels his stomach flip over, and thinks of Seol. Thinks- hit by a car- Seol bleeding- fuck- unconscious- fuck- Seol could be…

“In Ha-yah,” he chokes, turning to where his sister is now being restrained by two uncomfortable looking officers.. “In Ha-yah, what did you do?”

“Nothing! Nothing! It was his fault! And hers! And yours! How could you? It was an accident, but it wasn’t my fault!” She’s screaming, wailing, pulling her hair, striking out at the timid looking boy he vaguely remembers seeing around the library. But she won’t meet his eyes, and she won’t look anywhere near Yoo Jung.

***

She is slick with sweat, enough so that she keeps sliding where she slumps over on the sterile hospital bench, but Young Hee’s blood is running cold through her veins. Her daughter is broken, is being cut apart and maybe being sewn back together, but could she be repaired? She can’t understand- who would do this? She was pushed into traffic- her baby!- her bones broken by a bumper, a hood, a windshield- all just pieces she was in pieces and oh god-

A large hand cups her elbow, helps her sit up, keeps her braced while her husband shifts to hold her, and it’s the only tangible thing in the world to her right now, that hand. She looks up, the antiseptic bright white hospital glare burning her eyes through the tears she’s too numb to cry, and sees the look on the face of the boy her daughter loves as he tries to support her through his own grief. She covers Yoo Jung’s hand with hers, and can’t understand the startled expression on his face when he looks at their linked fingers.

His hand is even colder than her own.

***

Joon paces the corridor with an intensity he usually reserves for drinking and trying to get Ayoung to date him.

He leaves to go get everyone coffee because it’s going to be a long damn night, and maybe the caffeine will sharpen his mind enough to allow it to process the fact that In Ho Hyung’s noona pushed his noona into traffic.

Joon runs head first into the hyung in question as he rounds the corner, because In Ho is doing his own pacing just out of sight, down the hall.

“Joo-” he stops. “How…” In Ho Hyung doesn’t seem to be able to complete a sentence, and Joon thinks that the awkwardness is so palpable he should be able to poke it with a stick. Maybe then it would pop and he would know what to say to this guy that wouldn’t be something like, “You are making me seriously grateful to have Seol for a sister.” That would be totally inappropriate.

“Dude, this situation is so seriously fucked up.” Then again, Joon’s never been one to stand on ceremony. It comes out so suddenly, In Ho snorts before he can stop himself, but he claps his hand over his mouth right afterwards in contrition. His face is pale as a ghost and that half feral look he always has is even more pronounced.

“How is she?” he manages, and Joon rubs his eyes with the back of his hands.

“Let’s get some coffee, hyung.”

***

He is a terrible father.

Hong Jin Tak is terrible at most things, he feels, but he must be worst at being a father, because why else would his baby girl be in the hospital fighting to live when she is in the best bloom of her youthful years? He pictures the tears on her face when she asked for her hard work to be (rightfully) acknowledged and for his consideration after years of sacrifice. He goes even further back to when she was small and stubborn and how he remembers being startled when she fell off her bicycle for the first time, because tears looked so out of place on her dear, rounded cheeks.

He wonders when he stopped worrying about keeping her from crying. She was always so easy to care for, self-contained and responsible, especially compared to Joon, who came home with Cs and black eyes and who could never sit still or be quiet long enough for him to get him to listen. He thought that studying abroad would straighten him out, give him purpose and direction, but he should have sent Seol instead. Seol who had worked hard for everything she’d ever earned, might have been able to relax a little, cut loose for once. Lord knows he could certainly have trusted her to make good decisions. Joon wouldn’t have minded staying, and they would have been able to keep a better eye on him.

If nothing else, Seol would still be in America right now, where it was daylight. Maybe she’d be drinking coffee at a café, taking her meticulous notes in class or else going over them the library. Hell, it’s America, land of debauchery, maybe she’d be kissing a tall, blond foreigner in the street but at least she wouldn’t be here, bleeding and struggling, at a hospital in Seoul.

He can’t stop the sobbing once it starts, thick, choking sobs that leave his wife and son clutching at him, but he can’t raise his head.

Jin Tak is a terrible father.

***

Jang Bo Na has known Hong Seol since the first day of high school. She likes to think they balanced each other out. She was the mouth and Seol was the brain. She was “let’s do it!” and Seol was “let’s plan first!” They took turns being the fan and the flame.

They’d met at freshman orientation together, forced together by chance in the bleachers, and as she’d waited for the first bell to ring, she had leaned over to see Seol crouched over her binder, drawing a detailed map of the school, her pen flying over the paper.

“What the hell is that?” she’d whispered, kicking her lightly in the foot. Seol’d looked up, startled, her bright red hair flying every which way, and lost her pen in the process. The look of consternation that had crossed her face even now made Bo Ra laugh, in the corridor outside the operating room where her dearest friend lay.

Seol had looked her straight in the eyes and said, “I’m plotting a course- I think I can hit the snack machine between every class and still have time to go over my notes if I can just get it right. Brain food is a thing.”

Later she’d thought it might have been a premonition -she would catch the bouquet at Bo Ra’s wedding, and Bo Ra would make her first million off of a stock tip from Hong Seol, their kids would probably marry each other and make tons of fashionable, wild haired babies of their own- but she knew for certain from that moment on that she and this weirdo were going to be friends for life.

Only that didn’t work if she never woke up. Bo Ra stuffs a fist in her mouth to keep from screaming and at her side, Eun Taek slides down the wall to the floor.

***

Eun Taek doesn’t like to dwell on things. Worrying about the past and dreading the future are two really excellent ways to make sure that present sucked. He likes the here and now, and dealing with things as they came. That being said, times like this suck even worse for him because he isn’t one to compartmentalize it.

He decides that Seol is going to be okay. Because there is no way she can’t be okay, so he’s just going to wait patiently for that outcome, and distract himself by observing what’s going on around him.

Bo Ra and Seol’s mom are holding hands and praying, while Seol’s dad is sitting with his head in his hands. He doesn’t know where Joon got off too; he’d disappeared awhile back, just after he and Bo Na had arrived, but he thinks that maybe that’s for the better, because Joon can’t help but be loud and right now is a very quiet time.

Eun Taek watches Yoo Jung stand against the wall, like a tall, bleary eyed statue, but can’t look for long because he’s never seen such anguish on anyone’s face, let alone the normally fairly stoic senior.

He’s also never seen a blacker rage on anyone than when Joon comes back, hands full of coffee and In Ho behind him. Suddenly all those things Seol had said about his temper two years ago made a certain amount of retroactive sense. Yoo Jung’s mouth opens, but he seems to be at a loss and his jaw snaps shut, his teeth audibly grinding.

“Oumma, Abeoji, Jung Hyung, he’s here to apologize. Can we hear him out?” Joon’s head is bowed, and ostensibly he directs his question at the whole group but Eun Taek can see that he’s really looking to Yoo Jung for approval. The wash of regret and sadness on Baek In Ho’s face is harder to parse but it’s all genuine, and that’s something.

Personally, Eun Taek has a couple of choice words for Baek In Ho’s entire lineage, but he holds himself back because he has serious doubts at the moment that In Ho is going to make it out of this hospital alive, with the way Yoo Jung is looking at him. Bo Ra opens her mouth and he is certain that whatever is about to come out is going to make the whole situation much, much worse. He loves her, but part of loving her is knowing her, and so he’s across the hall, burying her face into his shoulder in less than half a second. If Seol were awake she’d high five him and mark the new record down in the notebook they keep.

Eun Taek is now close enough that he can feel Yoo Jung shuddering, and he doesn’t know if it’s from anger or from trying to hold back that anger, or something else, but then Yoo Jung looks over at Seol’s parents and swallows whatever he was about to say. He nods towards them, deferentially, and keeps his eyes lowered to the antiseptic linoleum in front of him.

This doesn’t help because In Ho suddenly drops to his knees.

“I’m so… so… so… sorry. I apologize on behalf of my sister.” He bows his head and stays where he is.

“Why, In Ho-yah? Why would your sister do this? Not to Seol, Our Seol, she isn’t the type to get into fights!” Eun Taek sees In Ho’s control break when Seol’s mom drops to her knees in front of him. Tears flow freely but he doesn’t have an answer for her, can only apologize over and over. He looks to Yoo Jung, who’s fists are clenched tight enough Eun Taek worried they’ll pop.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, and Seol’s dad pulls his wife back up to the seat next to him.

“All we can do now is wait,” her dad says, and Eun Taek agrees, because he knows Seol’s going to be okay, and it’s all just a matter of time.

***

The first thing she sees when she wakes up is Yoo Jung and she wonders what kind of drugs they gave her because her first thought is, “Wow, I can now read his mind!”

He is clutching the rails on her bed, head bowed, eyes closed, and she knows him well enough to know that he’s blaming himself, which is, she feels, something of a new feeling for him to admit to. She figures with his screwed up family he probably has a lifetime of experience in misplaced blame but recent events would suggest he has always lacked a proper outlet through which to express it. At least now he seems to be facing it head on, and in her books, progress is progress.

There is a clear plastic mask over her face and her breath makes fog on the inside of it, humid and wet, even though her tongue feels like sandpaper in her mouth. This could not possibly be her best look. This hospital is clearly fantastic, though, and she thinks she will ask the doctors to pack her some of whatever they gave her to go, because for just having been hit by a car she feels great and it’s really helping her on the anxiety front, too.

“Water,” she croaks, managing to raise her hand enough to rest her palm over the strained, white ridges of his knuckles, even though her muscles move in a sloppy, flopping way, like fresh conch just pried out of it’s shell. His head snaps up so quickly it’s comical and she laughs a little, but the laughing jars whatever the hell is broken in her chest enough that it pierces through her wonder drug. Okay, so, sensible chuckles for a little while. She can work with that.

He is scrambling for the water jug, and knocks over a cup, some tissues and from the clattering she hears, various pieces of metal but she can’t turn her head enough to see, and thinks she might have to laugh again if she could anyway, and she’s learned her lesson there.

“Hong Seol…” he starts, once he’s got her mask pulled aside and the glass cupped to her lips The sweet relief of the water along the back of her throat is nothing to how nice it is to hear his voice. She is really gone on this kid, she thinks. Life is extremely short, she thinks. I’m so glad he’s here, she thinks.

This water is amazing, she thinks.

She finishes the glass quickly but waves him away when he is almost immediately back with another. If she drank more, she couldn’t hold his hand, and right now, all she wants is to hold his hand. She can’t quite manage the fine motor skills it takes to tangle the digits with his but he gets what she wants and does it for her. Her grin feels dopey and she guesses that if they could take a selfie now it would top their last one for best in show for “pictures she would treasure but not look good in at all.”

“Hi, Sunbae!” She figures now is as good a time as any to start speaking informally. She’ll never find a better opportunity.

His eyes are taking on a desperate kind of glint, the kind he gets before he says some of the most asinine things, but she just marshals her reserves and holds tighter. She isn’t letting him go, no matter what form of lunacy he’d talked himself into.

***

There is a limit, Yoo Jung finds, to just how much control one can exert over their emotions.

He’d spent his childhood- all of his youth, really- mastering the art of keeping his feelings in check, and never letting them get the better of him, only of others. Ruthless? Yes. He was ruthless. Because crying about a problem didn’t solve it, and extending a hand only got it bitten by the dog you extended it to. That was the lesson he’d learned the hard way, but by god once he’d learned it, it stuck.

Since he’d met Seol, that mastery has been slipping. First it was an irritation that petty revenge didn’t quite scratch. Then it was a guilt he actually wanted to take responsibility for, and a deep fascination at the curious lightness of being that came from simply associating with her, especially since she never reacted the way he predicted, not at the critical junctures. He’d actually come to surrender somewhat, cycled around towards her way of thinking, that good things could maybe happen if you let them, and that sometimes people weren’t the absolute worst.

That loosening of his guard, that shift in his perspective, left him blindsided, completely unprepared, even, when his original philosophy been proven right.

Seol had been- because he’d been too- In Ha had-

He didn’t realize that he was even able to cry anymore. He hadn’t once since the divorce was final.

She is very small against the sheets, which makes no sense because in his head she is all the air and light and space in the room. She would slap him if he ever said that out loud, he is sure. Her tiny hands lay on top of the blankets and he wants to swallow them in his own, and then crawl into bed and hold her until their bodies make permanent dents that interlock.

He does not do that, because he doesn’t have the right. He knows. This isn’t like when she’d gotten gastritis, or when he bandaged her hand after the drunk had slashed her. This specifically is a direct result of her being tangled up in his shit life, and though he will make sure that In Ha pays for what she did, he knows better to blame anyone but his own damn self. She may have been able to forgive him for all the nonsense he’d pulled in the past, but this is going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, he can feel it, and she is going to hate him once she figures it out, if she doesn’t already.

When she wakes up, he is going to apologize, if she’ll let him, before she banishes his brand of bullshit from her presence, and he will accept whatever punishment she metes out because he deserves it for not protecting her better, for not telling her to watch out for all the crazy that surrounds him- for not dealing with his problems before they became problems, like he’d been taught.

He has to pull it together. He closes his eyes, focuses on his breathing, grips the railing of her bed tight, tighter, in his fists because otherwise he’d be reaching for her, and he will not stain her with his filthiness anymore, but she’s got to wake up so he could promise her that, she just has to wake up, for god’s sake-

His entire body jerks when he feels the hand cover his fist. “Water?” Her voice is raspy from the- god- from the tube they’d shoved down it, and it’s loopier than he’d ever heard her, even while drunk, but it was her voice and it was damn beautiful to hear, even if it makes him jump out of his skin.

He stares at her for a moment, disbelievingly, but his body is already moving to fulfill her request before his brain catches up. The sterile utensils hit the floor and he hopes someone in charge of it hears the clatter in case they need them for her, but water! Water is the main point he’s trying to make right now, and he eventually manages it, and he watches her perpetually sleepy eyes cross in relief.

Okay. Now. Now is the time to apologize while she’s occupied and can’t kick him out before he speaks.

“Hong Seol,” he starts, but is distracted by the speed with which she finished her water. She refuses the refill, and her hand settles on his again. She seems to be trying to lace them together and he’s worried she’s going to hurt herself doing so, so he does it, instead, guilty and greedy all at once. The sensation of her hand in his sooths something savage that has been clawing at the inside of his mind and heart since he’d heard the sirens, and it quiets the stream of self-recrimination enough for him to hear her next words.

“Hi, Sunbae,” she sighs and he is confused by the wide smile stretching across her scraped face. She was just hit by a car. How could this crazy girl be grinning at him like a lunatic?

She is staring blearily into his eyes, and it’s clear she doesn’t like what she sees because her grip tightens and she gets that looks she does when she’s worried about him and when she think’s he’s being stupid.

“S’ok, Sunbae. M’ok.” She really is crazy because she is most assuredly not okay, and he has to apologize before it all catches up with her. Her hair is coppery and wild around her head because not even a medical grade hair tie could stand a chance against her lion’s mane, and he wants to bury his nose in it and let the safety and comfort he gets from nestling in that spot get him through what he has to say for her own good. He can’t and he thinks that a lifetime of knowing what he could have had and missing it might actually be just punishment enough for his mistakes.

“Hong Seol, I’m so sor-”

“Yeah, yeah, s’alright. M’fine. M’just glad you’re here, even if we’re not playing laptops on holiday right now. Damn! Our holiday! This vacation sucks! I demand a retrial! Imma call you Jung-ah now, too, so deal with it.” She blows a raspberry at him.

He blinks, because that’s some speech and in not one scenario he’s played out has she ever reacted like that. He does not have a handle on this girl’s mind at all.

“Hong Seol,” he begins again, because he’s been practicing his apology in his head since he’d managed to form words in it again, once the roiling red haze had pulled back at the doctor’s announcement that the surgery had went well.

“Yah! Did you push me into traffic? No. So stop. Ohmigod, Baek In Ha pushed me into traffic! You and In Ho were right! She is the worst. I should have ran!” At that she tugged on his arm. “Oh, man. You’re not going to go scary, crazy revenge-y Sunbae again are you? Because that only ever leads to trouble!”

Jung feels like someone cut through his heart with a cold knife. She isn’t wrong at all. He doesn’t know what she reads on his face this time but it has her struggling to sit up, and that can’t be good for her, so he holds her shoulder gently to keep her down. She shakes her head at his expression.

“Okay. Let’s make a rule, Jung-ah.” He flinches. “Nope, Jung-ah, Jung-ah, Our Jung-ah- this is how it’s going to go. Let’s only get mad at each other for things we do, like, you know, on purpose to each other.”

Against his will, the corners of his mouth tick up, and he is struggling not to laugh. She is ridiculous, this girl. “Like, you know, on purpose?”

“Shut up, you know what I mean. Did you tell Baek In Ha to push me? Did you know she would? Were you trying to get rid of me?” Bile rises in his throat at the thought and he wonders if he could ever go that far, for anyone.

“No! No, of course not, you don’t really think that I would do that, right?”

She rolls her eyes. “No, I don’t think that. You even got that lump Sang Chul a job after he screwed up your internship. You aren’t a bad guy, deep down, Jung-ah, and I know it. Besides you would never let anyone hurt me, so why are you taking responsibility?” She smacks her lips sleepily. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, except I kind of do, and it’s dumb. I got hit by a car, but I’m still smarter than you and all I want is six glasses of water, you forever and more of whatever is in that IV. Don’t make this harder than it has to be.”

Her family comes in and must think him extremely abnormal, because he is laughing hard enough that tears are rolling down his face and kissing her hand over and over again in a mixture of gratitude and disbelief. He is not ignorant of the good fortune he had to find her, and moments like this really drive it home. She is going to be insufferable when she wakes back up, because it turns out she might be right in the end after all.

***

Seol is markedly less pleased with the hospital when she wakes up later, because while she’s been drifting in and out of a restless sleep they clearly weaned her off the good stuff, and now she’s stiff, achy, and can feel the layer of grit, grime and god knows what else all over. She can move all her limbs in an orderly fashion again but doing so sends sharp pain shooting through her chest and that’s even worse than the rubbery Gumby feeling from before.

She is also thirsty as hell, and this time no one will give her water because she might need another surgery and they have to wait until the specialist gets in that afternoon to do the MRI. When she hears that she thinks seriously about biting the doctor.

“Bo Ra. Bo Ra, you’re my best friend. Get Eun Taek to sneak me in a Diet Coke. Just a small one. A mini can! Please. If you love me, you’ll make it happen.”

Bo Ra winces, patting her arm gently, but she won’t crack. The doctors had explained to them all what would happen if there were fluid in her stomach, and it was a lesson both effective and informative.

“I’m sorry, bestfriend. I would if I could. I promise when you get sprung from this joint I will treat you to whatever beverage you want in any amount you choose.”

Seol grumps and wishes she could cross her arms and pout without, you know, debilitating discomfort.

“How’re you feeling otherwise?” Bo Ra asks, and Seol evaluates the question.

“Greasy, itchy, achy, and like In Ha better be damn glad I’m not ambulatory.” Bo Ra snorts and fiddles with the edge of the blanket. “What’s going on with that anyway?”

“In Ha? She’s in custody but I think they’re going to take her for a psych eval. I can’t even argue, ‘cause… I’m sorry, but bitch be crazy.”

Sensible chuckle, Seol, she reminds herself. Sensible chuckle. She groans because she can’t help laughing anyway. Ouchies.

“What even possessed that witch anyway? Do we know?”

Seol is a smart cookie and can extrapolate a few theories based on location alone, but chooses not to answer until she can talk to Jung.

The door slides open and Eun Taek walks in with a teddy bear as big as he is and a bunch of flowers. It’s endearing, but he’s so cliché. She hopes Bo Ra makes much fun of him for it later, but not right now, because she doesn’t want to laugh again. Sensible chuckles, dammit.

“Heyo! How’s our precious invalid doing today?” He kisses both girls on the cheek and Seol feels a rush of gratitude for the boy because he doesn’t so much as wrinkle his nose and for all she has a nicked lung, she can smell herself. Yuck to start.

“Thirsty! Did my favorite underling bring me drinks?” she bats her eyes, hopefully.

“Soon, friend. I just got word that the specialist is pulling up to the hospital now!” This is great news, but also confusing, since the specialist isn’t due in for another four hours.

“How…” she trails off, wondering if maybe she’s lost track of time again, because it’s all been kind of wavy since she got here.

“It pays having a chaebol boyfriend, that’s all I can say.” Eun Taek does meaningful eyebrows at Bo Ra to communicate that she not get any ideas. Bo Ra continues anyway. “As soon as he heard you cry when they said you couldn’t have water he took off like a shot and was all, ‘Secretary Choi this’ and ‘Get me the Head of Surgery that.’ It was impressive and kind of revolting at the same time.”

Seol had been wondering where he’d gone, because while she remembers vaguely sending Joon, Bo Ra and Eun Taek off before to get some rest, and her parents finally agreeing to take turns going to check the shop and change, she decidedly did not remember giving him permission to let go of her hand. She will be addressing that with him forthwith, because she almost died yesterday and she is not going to waste anymore damn time.

“Have you seen him since?” she asks, slightly worried that he’s off doing something either noble and stupid or, come to think of it, un-noble and stupid, when she notices the cap from something liquidy sticking out from the side of Bo Ra’s tote bag. Seol tries to inch her arm towards it, surreptitiously, and she thinks she might get away with it too, because Bo Ra and Eun Taek are having one of those silent couple conversations that they’ve been having for years but only have admitted to recently. She’s just managed to graze the side when a large hand plucks it right out from under her fingers.

“He had to drive almost two hours to Daejeon to pick up a specialist at a hot spring,” Jung answers, moving Bo Ra’s bag next to the door, clearly proving he was the mean, terrible bastard she’d originally suspected he was. “I tried to get back before you woke up again, but… It took some convincing. I made up some lost time on the drive back, however. He’s just calming down and then they’ll have you in.”

He’s got his polite Sunbae face on, though, standing just beyond her reach and that won’t do. She wants her weird, grumpy, laughing Sunbae right now because she is in pain, and has to go in a big, scary, noisy machine, and for god’s sake she is so freaking thirsty and she should have something she wants, dammit. She decides to be as annoying as possible. She’s earned it.

“Oooo!” she coos, turning up the cute. “Our Jung-ah is here! Did you miss me, Oppa?” All three in the room with her turn to stare at her like she’d just grown another head, one that had fangs and spit venom and was generally terrifying. The color drains from Jung’s face as he strides closer (within touching distance she’s pleased to note), and he reaches out to stroke her cheek worriedly.

“My God. She must have really hit her head. There must be more bleeding! Call the doctor! Now!”

What’s more is both Eun Taek and Bo Ra scramble to do so. Sometimes she seriously hates her friends.

But she can hold her boyfriend’s hand again, and the doctor is coming to get her for the MRI and that means soon she’ll be swimming in Diet Coke, and that’s enough of a start.

***

She does not need further surgery, and the only time he can ever remember being even near this happy and relieved was that day in bed when Seol had said they could get back together.

He needs a minute because of the intensity of his feelings which is not new, but not trying to suppress them is. He rests his forehead against the wall and is thankful for the chill.

That’s how his father finds him, and the conversation while expected, still surprises him.

“Are her parents going to sue?” his father asks, and there is no preamble, no ‘how is she doing?’, no pretense that he actually cares whether Seol lives or dies beyond not wanting there to be a mess to clean up, either way.

“Even if they did, you never registered Baek In Ha. It won’t come back to you.”

“Like hell it won’t. You think that crazy girl won’t try every trick in the book to get out of this? That includes dragging your name- my name- our company’s name- through the mud to do it.”

“I’ll take care of all of that, Father. I think something might actually be wrong with Baek In Ha. It’s my fault for pushing her that far.”

“If you know then why did you do it?” Jung sighs.

“It doesn’t seem enough to say that I underestimated just how deranged In Ha had become. I didn’t see it, but somewhere along the way she went really, really wrong.”

“What was all this even for? Some nobody girl?”

Jung looks his father in the eye and sees for the first time that maybe it isn’t him who is the strange one of the two of them.

“Not just some girl, Father. Her name is Hong Seol, and I would get used to hearing it, if I were you.”

For once, he turns his back on his father, and walks away.

***

Seol can’t be released from the hospital until she can stand on her own and walk around the hall. The determination she has to get out of bed, and into the shower on her own is fine motivation. Still, it’s not a fun process.

“Broken ribs suck, Sunbae,” she grunts, holding his arm for support as she takes a turn around the corridor. He laughs, but it’s sympathetic.

“I can imagine. Can we agree that you won’t break any more?” he asks, trying to slow down without her noticing, worried Seol is pushing herself too hard.

“We certainly can,” she replies, having none of it, and actually speeding up a little. “Hopefully Oh Young Gon, Son Min Soo, Baek In Ha and all assorted homeless drunks with broken bottles have given up their grudges against me.” The stricken look on his face makes her pause, and she pats his cheek. “Too soon for jokes?”

He guides her to a nearby bench, and she waits for him to start. He wrings his hands and avoids her eyes, but she just scoots closer and leans her head on his shoulder.

“It kind of hurts to tilt my head like this, so please begin.” He shifts so he’s bracing her neck with his palm and rests his cheek against her (still dirty, she winces) hair. It does feel nice though.

“I was really mean to Baek In Ha,” he blurts out.

“Yeah? Well, she’s kind of… how did Bo Ra put it? Oh yeah, a crazy bitch, so I understand.”

“What?”

She wriggles back so she can look at him.

“Even her own brother admits that she’s got a few screws loose, and told me she’s kind of awful. He feels terrible, and has apologized at least seven hundred times. If nothing else, she should feel some remorse for putting In Ho through all this.”

Jung doesn’t look thrilled at the mention of In Ho visiting, but that is besides the point, and she needs him to focus.

“If I’ve got all of the details, it sounds like she was mad that she got cut off from being functionally useless, and lost her mind. That’s… kind of on her, don’t you think?”

He can’t seem to form a reply. “She attacked me, because she was mad at you, for something your father did. That… I’m not just saying this because I’m on your side or because I’m mad that she literally tried to throw me under the bus. I’m saying this as a reasonable person who, you know, likes logic- that’s not your fault. And I’m sorry you were ever worried about that, because I can’t stress enough how not your fault that was. She thought she was the master of the universe and couldn’t handle being proven wrong.”

He wraps her in his arms like he can’t help it, but is very gentle when he rests his chin into the hollow of her shoulder.

“You are my saving grace,” he whispers, then jumps when she pinches his side.

“You are corny as hell,” she replies, but she can feel the heat in her cheeks when she does. “I’d kiss you but I can’t run away and hide after. Now, let’s finish this PT, so that I can go home and really start recuperating. I’d like to be in prime running shape for the holiday you owe me.”

Two doctors scold them for causing a ruckus as they laugh.