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true love (never has to hide)

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Cheum Art Museum, Director's Office

Ryan Gold was lost in thought as he stared at Lee Sol's painting of bubbles and so he barely registered his office door closing shut as Choi Da In left. He didn't particularly care for Da In's tone -she was too smug for his liking- but he brushed all thoughts of it and her aside.

Conflicting feelings of happiness and sadness were now overwhelming him, as they did the first time he saw one of Lee Sol's paintings three years ago.

He couldn't describe his emotions;  they were bright yet soft, secure yet exciting. The secret part of him that was still hurt again was soothed and loved, yet the adult in him hated it. How could he be changed, yet feel the same?

He blinked, finally escaping the reverie when he heard Deok Mi's voice in the corridor. 

Cheum Art Museum, Hallway

Deok Mi was brightly walking towards Ryan's office when her stomach dropped.  Choi Da In was walking out of the Director's office, closing the door behind her.

Ever the professional though, Deok Mi bowed her head in greeting, not wanting to make a scene, but then Choi Da In spoke up. "I won't apologize," she shrugged. "It technically wasn't a lie."

Deok Mi clenched her fists. Choi Da In had purposefully told her that she liked Ryan and that he no longer wanted to be in a relationship with Deok Mi. The misunderstanding was cleared up, but it still hurt.

"Distorting the truth is a lie, too," she said. She hated confrontations, especially over a man, but she would not tolerate any revisionist history and would not be gaslit. 

"I guess you believed what I said more than Ryan's feelings," Da In returned smoothly, walking away. 

Deok Mi gasped softly, because dammit, Choi Da In was right. Her eyes shimmered with tears, but she brushed them away then decided to detour to the ladies' room first to compose herself before going to the Director's office. 

She didn't know that Ryan, who was on his way to find his Seong Curator, overheard this exchange. 

Later on

The tour of the city of Seoul in a bright yellow double-decker bus at night was a welcome distraction for both the Director and Seong Curator.

He's such a cuddly Lion, Deok Mi realized as he warmly hugged and nuzzled her while she snuggled into him. She felt safe and protected and so the exchange with Choi Da In was forgotten. She had her boyfriend, and that was all that mattered. 

"What did you and Da In talk about?" he asked, as he dropped her off at her apartment.

"Nothing to worry about," Deok Mi beamed, glad that he'd even noticed the interaction. That alone made her feel giddy, and she leaned up and kissed him on the lips to stop him from asking more questions. "What's important is me and you." He smiled into her lips and showed her he agreed by returning the kiss. 

Ryan berated himself for getting distracted, no matter how enjoyable the distraction was. He replayed what he overheard at the Museum that night as he went to bed. 

I guess you believed what I said more than Ryan's feelings, Choi Da In had told Deok Mi. 

"What did Artist Da In say?" Ryan couldn't help the worry that bubbled up. "And why did Seong Curator mention distorting the truth?"

He sent Deok Mi a good night text but then made up his mind to ask Choi Da In about the exchange.

The Next Day

Director's Office

Ryan called Choi Da In first thing the next day.

"I told Deok Mi that you were fed up with being with her in that fake relationship," Choi Da In said nonchalantly. 

Ryan's heart sank as he remembered how sad Deok Mi had been when he'd found her in the woodwork shop.

"Choi Da In," he finally ground out.  "Your words hurt Deok Mi. She thought it meant I wanted nothing to do with her."

"So what if I didn't tell her that you wanted a real relationship? She didn't ask," Da In retorted. "Besides, it all worked out for the best, didn't it? You two are inseparable and-"

Ryan's anger got the best of him and he disconnected the call without hearing the end of her sentence.

He inhaled deeply and standing up from his desk, he went to the open window to peer into the workspace that the other workers shared. Deok Mi was laughing as she typed on her keyboard, as Curator Yoo told a story, wildly gesticulating while Hyo Jin looked on, amused. 

Ryan briefly closed his eyes.

Deok Mi didn't have a malicious bone in her body, and he grew sorrowful as he recalled their past.  How he'd fired her after a day without knowing the whole truth, and how he'd harshly accused her of intruding and overstepping in his life when all she'd wanted to do was care for him.

And now his own friend had deliberately manipulated her and caused her pain.

"Seong Curator," he sighed, finally opening his eyes. "How can I ever deserve you?"

Just then, Deok Mi looked up, her eyes widening in concern. She dipped her head in his direction. Are you okay? she seemed to say, not taking her eyes off him. 

Ryan's mouth tilted upward in a slow smile. I see you looking at me, his eyes replied with a smirk. 

She blushed, turning away, and he grinned. 

How could he let her know that all of his smiles and all his happiness were for her?

Deok Mi called him later that night. "Director?" her voice was softer than usual.

"Seong Curator?" Ryan cradled his cell phone with his ear and shoulder as he finished uncorking a bottle of pinot noir. 

"I got a fruit basket from Artist Choi Da In," she said, hesitatingly. "As an apology. I'm not-" she stopped. "Did you have anything to do with it?"

Ryan snorted as he poured the red wine into a decanter. "I'm not sure that I did? After all, you didn't tell me about any run-ins you had with Da In." He meant to be teasing but it seemed to have an opposite effect.

"Oh. I didn't mean to keep anything-" Deok Mi started, then stopped. "What I mean is-" she paused again. "Sorry for the late call. Let's talk tomorrow. I'll hang up first." 

Ryan stared into the phone, concerned. What did he do wrong? Did she not feel comfortable talking to him?

"What does she take me for?" he grumbled. "I thought she said we were dating?" And without a second thought, he grabbed his keys and coat.

He had to pay Seong Curator a visit. 

He knew she was Sa Na Gil, and therefore won't let him into her apartment so he purchased two hot chocolates so they can drink on her patio to keep warm.

"You came all this way to bring me a hot drink?" Deok Mi smiled prettily at him, taking a dainty sip. She was wearing a cute pink pajama set, with fuzzy rabbit slippers and a headband.

"I came all this way to tell you that you can be honest with me," he replied without thinking. "Stop holding things back."

"You think I'm a liar?" Deok Mi's eyes widened. 

"You didn't tell me about your run-in with Choi Da In." Ryan placed his cup down. "Why are you hiding things from me?" 

Deok Mi stiffened. His tone sounded like an accusation, and it felt like he no longer cared for her.  "If you have a problem with me, or want to break up with me, that's fine," she sniffled, her eyes shimmering with tears. "Just say so."

"Deok Mi, what are you saying?" Ryan was genuinely perplexed.

"Director, I'm not hiding anything and-"

This was how he first realized they communicated differently, and that he needed to take into account their Boss-Employee relationship.

"When we're off work, I'm not your Director. I'm your lover."

"L-lover?"Deok Mi's wide-eyed look confirmed they needing dating ground rules. 

He placed his hand on hers and gently squeezed. "We are dating now," he teased. "Can you call me Ryan?"

"How about we just speak casually ?" Deok Mi asked shyly, tucking her hair being her ear. 

"That's a start," he replied, drawing her closer. He kissed her softly on the cheek. "Now tell me about Da In."

"I'm embarrassed," Deok Mi hid her face in his shoulder. 

Ryan kissed the top of her head, tucking her close. "Don't be."

"I can't help it," her voice was muffled.

"She told me what she said and I was upset. But not as upset as you were."

She peeked up at him. "I feel silly," she said. "I got worked up over nothing."

Ryan leaned in and rubbed his cheek against hers."Don't ever feel shame about your feelings. I promise I will always listen with care and always be here."

Deok Mi's eyes brimmed with unshed tears. "Thank you, Director."

She said it with such love that Ryan decided her use of Director go. For right now all he wanted to do was hold her close and let her feel his love.