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If I Was a Childhood Mastermind, Would You Be My Partner in Crime?

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The great thing about being eight is that it's easy to sneak around, and if anyone spots you, you can just beam at them cutely and pretend you were going to the restroom. Granted, elevator buttons are impossible to reach, and the stairwell doors are a little heavy, but when the other option is to sit in the lobby and watch your nanny flirt with an executive of whom your grandmother does not approve, you learn to tough it out.

It means a lot of breaks in between flights of stairs, though, and Myungja's paused on the one just below the floor where Halmoni practices, catching his breath. Usually, he's pretty good at waiting. Seoyun-nuna will let him sit at the receptionist's desk with her and they can make faces at each other over Eunjae-sshi's stupid lines on Baeseol-nuna. Seoyun-nuna's out sick today, though, and the girl who's covering for her, Jihee, is too new for things like that. So when Eunjae-sshi had come down to distract Baeseol-nuna and Jihee had gotten busy answering three lines at once, Myunja beat it up the stairs to find Halmoni.

He hadn't thought five floors was quite so many, but he usually takes the elevator up. He's just thinking he's going to have to bring an umbrella or something next time, so he can hit the elevator buttons, when the door above him is yanked open. He looks up, and sees a kid maybe a year or two older than him come barrelling through. The kid stops abruptly at the sight of him, already huge eyes widening even more, then blurts, "You're late!" before booking it up the next flight of stairs.

Myungja just stands there for a minute, trying to figure out how the kid even knows who he is. He's not late, though. He can tell time, thank you very much, and the lobby clock definitely showed that he still had a good half hour before he was even supposed to be here. Of course, somebody downstairs may have noticed he's gone and called up, but then why isn't an adult in here, scolding him for taking off on his own while herding him toward the elevators? Halmoni's a big star! Surely her grandson deserves better than some trainee--and he didn't know they came quite that young, but maybe this one is just short--telling him rudely that he's late.

Feeling indignant, Myungja marches up the two flights of stairs to find the kid. He could just tell his grandmother, but that'd kind of ruin his plan to be all casual and, "Oh, I just happened to get in the elevator with somebody coming to this floor, isn't that convenient, Halmoni?" Besides, he can take the kid. He's climbed five floors--six floors. He's totally hardcore.

He pushes the door forcefully open and steps out into the hallway. That's as far as he gets before he has to re-evaluate his plan. The other kid's nowhere in sight, and Myungja can't exactly go around pushing doors open to find him. People are going to want to know what he's doing, and the restroom trick only works if you're not forcing your way into rooms clearly not marked 'restroom.' He can at least walk toward the restroom like he's heading there while he thinks of something else, though.

Naturally, he gets within a few feet of the restroom and that door swings open, the other kid stepping out and looking much less antsy. So that explains one thing. Still doesn't explain why the kid accused him of being late, though.

The kid turns toward the elevators--tall enough to reach the buttons on tiptoe, probably--and Myungja decides it's time to get some answers. Before the other kid can get out of earshot, he calls, "Hey!"

The other kid swings back toward him, and it's interesting to watch his expression go from guilty to irritated to surprised to suspicious. He frowns as Myungja comes toward him. "You're not from practice."

He's got Seoyun's accent when she's teasing Myungja, which makes Myungja a little more kindly disposed toward him. "I'm waiting for my halmoni. I'm Myungja."

"I'm Daewoong," the other kid says, then tilts his head. "Does your halmoni work here, then?"

Well, that's a new one, somebody in this building not knowing who Halmoni is. "Yeah, she's--"

A door swings open down the hall, making them both jump. They turn to see an older boy leading a very grumpy-looking little kid out of a practice room. When the little kid spots them, he tries to yank his hand out of the other one's grip, hissing, "I can do it myself!"

The older kid rolls his eyes, like this happens all the time. "Yeah, well, I need to go too, so just deal for a second."

Then the older kid catches sight of Myungja and Daewoong, and straightens up a bit. Even down the hall, Myungja can feel his intent to loom. "Hey, are you two supposed to be here?"

"Just using the restroom, hyung," Daewoong calls out familiarly. "The one downstairs was full."

The older kid nods absently, once again distracted by the little one tugging at his hand. "Better get back down there before someone comes looking for you. Minhyunnie, quit it!"

"Then hurry up!" the little kid says with such exasperation that Myungja feels his mouth twitching. He doesn't think the other kid would appreciate him laughing or smiling, though, so he just shares a look with Daewoong and heads toward the elevators.

He was right, Daewoong does have to go up on his tiptoes to reach the button. The doors open right away, and Myungja has just enough time to notice how much higher the floor buttons are when Daewoong jumps up to punch the one for the fifth floor. He's busy being impressed when Daewoong lands, wobbles, then staggers into him. They end up doing this little dance for balance before bumping into the wall, and Myungja's just glad neither of them hit the handrail hard enough to bruise.

"Sorry, sorry!" Daewoong says, but he's laughing a little, straightening and brushing Myungja off like there was anything to get him dirty in the elevator. Myungja snorts and shakes him off.

"You should be more careful," he says, though he's still impressed with that move. Daewoong smiles like he knows it.

"Sorry," he says again. Then, "So, who's your grandmother?"

"Jaja, there you are!" Halmoni comes bustling down the hall, Jihee and Baeseol and Eunjae all trailing behind her, along with a manager and what he thinks is a sound technician. "And Daewoong! Did you find him?"

"More like he found me," Daewoong says, and he may have meant it only for Myungja's ears, but Halmoni has sharp hearing, and she grins.

"He does that," she says, and then they're both swept up in her wake.

Daewoong, it turns out, is the youngest of a child's choir backing her up on her latest single. He sits next to Myungja when she takes them all out to dinner, and soon Myungja has his first real penpal. They're not precisely consistent about writing, but it's often enough that Myungja knows Daewoong hasn't, like, died horribly or something.

It's enough to keep Daewoong fresh in his mind, so when he gets in the elevator at PSE several years later, a trainee himself, he starts smiling as soon as a hot guy with big eyes stumbles over the carpet and into his side.

"Sorry, sorry," the guy says in a teasing tone, and Myungja laughs.