Entitled: A King of Infinite Space
Fandom: Coffee Prince
Length: 1,700 words
Disclaimer: I don't own Coffee Prince and etc.
Notes: Why am I even allowed to do these things? The writers would be ASHAMED.
Summary: Good men do not survive their secrets well. — Han Sung/Eun Chan
Good men do not survive their secrets well.
"You're making that face again," Yu Juk tilted her head, pretty smile askew, "Oh, did you break some pretty thing's heart?"
Han Seong snorted, smiling thoughtlessly as he turned towards his family—and ignoring how strange it was to think of Yu Juk as his. His son burped against Yu Juk's shoulder, enormous black eyes wet and glazed. He took the boy from her and held him gently.
"I'm too old for that now."
"Ah, right," her smile teased, "You'll get fat like me." She had stayed soft from her pregnancy. Kept the glow.
"You want to take a nap? I'll take him for a few hours."
She was quiet for a time, mouth compressing upon itself before she blinked, and shook away whatever shadow that had haunted her.
"Nothing," she met his concern with a composed smile, "Yes, thank you. I think I could use some rest."
He kissed her temple, and wandered out onto the patio with his son.
It's all about the mending. Patchwork. He heals slow, always knew that. Couldn't help but play with his scabs. Couldn't stop making it hurt.
So, that's all it is. Just a little hurt. And that's fine. That's fine so long as he says nothing, does nothing, thinks nothing, until nothing goes away. It'll be fine. He loves Yu Juk. Her and his son. Truly.
Though that's another wound kept open, Yu Juk. It hurts more to let something heal before damaging it again. But it's different now. They're married now. She's not going to get any closer because she can't, so—
So, anyway, about the new house.
"But I just had a baby."
"Don't you think—don't you think he'd be happier out of the city? A little peace and quiet? What about your art?"
Yu Juk's frown continues, "I like it here. You like it here. Our jobs are here. Our families. And I just paid the electric bill. Why should we change when there's nothing to change for?"
He doesn't have an answer for her, or for himself. Well. An acceptable answer. "Just a thought, I guess. Forget about it."
The new house is different. It's not fashionable or sleek so much as...solid. Tough, maybe. There's character there. He can hear the leaves rattling and the near-silent shift of grass. His son tries to put a beetle in his mouth. Yu Juk watches, doesn't move until Han Seong intervenes.
"You do know that I'm with you, no matter where you hide?" she murmured with velveteen venom, hitched the strap of her bag higher on her arm, and nudged her son into the snug new house with its blank walls and empty spaces.
He loved the house until he closed his eyes and realized that there was more than one truth to what Yu Juk had said.
A good man. A secret. No one to tell. The straws were drawn and it was, quite simply, too late now. Best make do with what had been got. What he was supposed to have wanted. And did. Did want. Or perhaps needed was a better word. He had been with Yu Juk so long that it was sometimes difficult to remember time before her. The time without her. The time that must surely come after, for—
He had dreams sometimes. Awful dreams. Dreams about Yu Juk, dead. Peacefully so, just a cool person on the ground, hands folded over her abdomen. Eyes closed, hands still, silent as he stood above her and tried to dream her back awake.
Only he couldn't.
He couldn't because something always caught him—no. No, it never caught him. It never pulled. He simply looked to find it. And in finding it, left his dead wife upon the ground.
He wakes up cold.
—for he had this thought in his mind, an evil thought, not one he wished for but—
The new house is useless. The new house with the six-inch brick walls is worthless. Every lock he sets is useless. Every trap. Every labyrinth. Every lie and every trick.
"You're making that face again."
"Am I?" Han Seong turned, half-smiling. Yu Juk looked through her lids half-down, almost demure, as she sipped from her thin-necked wineglass.
"What do you think of?" she asked. He tried to answer.
"That's not the face of nothing."
"Well, I wouldn't know."
"You looked like..." she shook her head. Didn't say anything more, but her swallows grew deeper and deeper, until he cracked.
"I don't know. When I try to think back, I can't. I'm sorry."
She sets the glass down too hard. "What are you doing?"
"Why are you so angry?"
"You!" she catches herself and drops her voice. They listen for a moment for the tell-tale wail, but are spared. In the silence, he notices the way exhaustion has tucked in below her eyes. Her throat works, and she closes her eyes tightly for a moment.
"I'm sorry," voice clipped, "Sorry. You haven't done anything. Must just be the hormones."
A pause, he clings to the thought of nothing, "Can I make you some tea? Coffee?"
"Please, just..." her fingers twist, "Please just leave for a while. I'd like a little space."
A phase, of course. It was normal. You couldn't expect a relationship to work without a little suffering. Yu Juk had taught him that. Han Seong was well acquainted with the knowledge that love was painful. Being with someone was easy, staying with them meant sacrifice.
And here's the thing: He can picture his whole life with Yu Juk. It's a good life. Not perfect, maybe, but they grow old together and love each other and the little seed of hatred between them is quiet.
—but all the same it's an notion he's slow to release because even as it repulses him, he can't help but turning—
"Strayed" is what he'd said. All those months—years, now?—ago, when he'd...
Just a mistake. Just a second. He hadn't even really meant to do it. Just—he'd just thought that—she just made him happy.
—turning towards her and running after those skinny legs and—
"A little space" is what she'd said, but a little space lasted a week and a day until she answered the phone.
"Let me come home," he spoke into the receiver, to his mental picture, "I need to come home. Are you angry with me? Have I done something?"
The silence buzzed, "No."
"No meaning what?"
She inhaled sharply.
After an century, she sighed. "It's pathetic," she murmured, "It used to be that I could just leave when I wanted to show that you couldn't hurt me. But now all I can do is send you away," she chuckled unhappily, "And you know, that isn't the same. It just isn't. We're stuck here."
"You can come back now," she said.
The new house is useless because it has learned guilt and resentment and even the baby doesn't cry anymore.
"Hello, husband," Yu Juk leans her elbows against the counter beside him, holding two steaming mugs of coffee. She passes him one. She knows him well enough to add cream. He lifts himself from the computer screen long enough to smile at her, take her offering, kiss her shoulder. Even now, he can't help but admire her.
"Thank you, wife."
She does not apologize. But then, neither does he. They've used up apologies. Instead she says, "I hope that in fifty years we will be right here, just like this. Together."
"I don't need to hope," he returns to her, "I know it'll happen."
And they drink to that. It's bitter going down, because he was never brave enough to tell her that he liked his coffee with sugar.
—and when he catches her she doesn't pull away, because this is his dream and in his world things are perfect and her hair still smells cleanly of men's shampoo. And in his dreams he can kiss her. And in his dreams—
The difference was always in the future tense, because he was never lying when he said he loved Yu Juk, and when he thinks of her he knows when their wrinkles will begin and how tall their children will be and where, someday, they will be buried. And he knows all these things because they are as close to the truth as chance will allow. Because he knows what he will lay down and he knows how she will hurt him and he knows that with loving her comes the burden of hating her, just a little.
The difference was that—
—in his dream she is some bright thing with eyes like stars and he knows nothing, nothing. No plans and nothing hurts because—
—Eun Chan made him happy.