Authors Note: The site that I watch the program on has used many different spellings for names and certain words. Most of the main characters names I was able to get correct from watching closely (ex name plaques in F4's classroom) where I could not, I used the most common subtitle spelling. If they are incorrect and you know the correct spelling FOR SURE, feel free to let me know. This is my first Boys Over Flowers fic, so please be gentle with me in reviews. I've tried my best to get characterizations correct, but the first try is always the hardest.
Boys Over Flowers is the property of Korean TV
How Do You Know
It was getting harder and harder to concentrate on work these days, more and more he found his mind drifting off. It started with a folder, documents that eventually blended together into a mass of blah, blah, blah and before he knew it, he was staring blankly at the New York City skyline, his mind reunited with his heart - back in Korea.
It had been so long since he had seen her, nearly eighteen months since he flew home for Yun Ji Hu's grandfather's funeral. He hadn't been able to stay long, only two days, most of which had been spent with his father and sister discussing the business. They'd had lunch after the funeral; all but one of them back together again, if only for a couple hours. It had been wonderful - but infinitely too short.
Their only time alone had been the day of his departure, a quiet dinner alone, then a visit to Namsan tower. She didn't cry when he got on the plane. She had regained the old Geum Jan Di, the way she was when he first met her, before she had been broken by the witch. Time and promises kept had healed her, and Gu Jun Pyo was relieved to see it. He knew Ji Hu would be waiting for her when she returned home, to answer the emergency bell, and that too was a relief.
In two weeks he would be returning to her, his business in New York was mostly done, deals struck, contracts signed. Shin Hwa was doing better than ever, even the witch hadn't had anything negative to say the last time they spoke - not that he spoke to her often. That was a situation that he went out of his way to avoid. He'd been badly broken when Jan Di left him, finding out his father was still alive, knowing that the witch had used his 'death' to manipulate him, had badly fractured any pretenses of a mother-son relationship. But discovering all she had gone to keep him and Jan Di apart had shattered it.
He and his sister, Jun Hee, had used a collection of her dirty dealings, a considerable collection, to force her out of power. She would either resign, or they would destroy her and Shin Hwa along with it. A faked death, hostile takeovers, blackmail - these were bad enough. But misusing her power to attack an innocent girl - the famous 'wonder girl' at that- and her family- driving them out of their business and home, kidnappings and attacking the former president - if she thought the outcry was bad after the bullying at Shin Hwa school was exposed, this would leave them in ruins. She'd had no choice but to step down, but the relationship between mother and children had made no movement towards repair, not a single bit, in four years.
Gu Jun Pyo sighed deeply and turned his chair back to face his desk. He didn't want to think about the witch, not on such a beautiful summer afternoon. Particularly not when there were so many nicer things to think about. He had already given up his apartment, shipped most of his belongings overseas to his new house, a house that was made for a family, it was all ready for him to move into when he returned.
He had timed it all perfectly so his return would coincide with the end of her term. She would have a month and half before she had to start classes again and he had made it clear that he would be unavailable during that time. He had long grown tired of cell phone and video calls. What he wanted more than anything was conversation in person, to feel her hand in his and the warmth of her smile.
He looked up at the knock on his door. Now that all that remained was tying up loose ends, it had become rather quiet, so disruptions were few. His assistant - a middle aged woman by the name of Sarah- stood in the door, a small box in her hands.
"There's someone here to see you." She moved towards him, her hands holding a box. "He says he's your brother."
"I don't have a brother."
"I told him that sir, but he laughed and told me to give you this."
He took the box from her hands and pulled back the top. Inside, resting on a bit of cotton, was a lovely green bowl that brought to mind a field of lush, green grass. With a small smile, he picked it up and turned it over, on the bottom was written -
His smile went wide and then turned into a laugh.
"He's okay, show him in."
He placed the bowl carefully back in the box, and then put it in a place where it was sure to be safe.
"Wait." He had a last minute thought; it wasn't as if he was getting any work done anyway. "I'll come out."
The pub was quiet in the mid afternoon, happy hour still several hours away, those who would be patrons still busy behind their desks in their stuffy offices.
They settled in a far back booth, ordered a pair of American beers, and then grinned at one another across the table. It had been nearly four years since they had seen one another; So Yi Jeong had been in the middle of preparing for an exhibition when Yun Ji Hu's grandfather had died, so he hadn't been able to get away. As far as Gu Jun Pyo knew, he hadn't returned to Korea once since he had left for Sweden, a week before he left for New York. As he looked at him now, So Yi Jeong gave him a particularly warm smile, one with meaning behind it.
"What?" he grinned, almost sheepishly. The smile reminded him of the way he and Woo bin used to smile back when he and Geum Jan Di first started dating, when he had been hopelessly clueless when it came to women. "What did I do now?"
"I was just thinking of Macau." A trace of sadness came into his eyes with the memories. "To be honest, when I came to see you I was worried I might see a repeat."
The smile slipped from Jun Pyo's face and he had to look away. He was deeply ashamed of his time in Macau, of how he had treated his friends, of how he treated her. Never mind that the witch had manipulated him, he had behaved like a heartless bastard, and there was no getting around that.
"I don't blame you." For a moment, he could almost feel Yi Jeong's fist strike his jaw, could hear the words, loud in his ears.
"You bastard! Whose fault is it than Geum Jan Di can't swim anymore?!"
His chest went tight, the throbbing pain squeezing his throat. No matter what he may do for her now, nothing could ever properly atone for what he had put her through in Macau. "What I did back then…"
"I didn't say that to make you feel bad," Yi Jeong smiled again, the pain gone from his eyes. "I meant it as a compliment. You've become a different man since that time; it makes me proud to be your friend."
"Don't you mean brother?" Jun Pyo laughed a little, remembering the look on Sarah's face.
"It's close enough to the truth, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is." He nodded, the grin saying more than the simple words could. They had been through so much, the four of them - Korea's famous F4. Once ruthless and cruel, cold to the very core, until Geum Jan Di came into their lives. Into his life. How could you not be changed by her? She was like the sun, warm enough to bring to life a dead, blackened heart and thaw a frozen one.
"So, what brings you here?" Jun Pyo asked, "New York is a long way from Sweden."
"A six hour layover." He sighed "I am doing an exhibition in Chicago, starting in three days."
"Really?" His attention was perked, these days he could afford to take an afternoon off here and there; it had been so long since he had seen Yi Jeong's work. In fact, he had seen nothing new since his injury had healed.
"So your hand, it's healed well then?"
"Pretty much, yes." He nodded again, and then signaled the waitress for another beer. "I have some pain and stiffness when I start out, or when I work too long, but otherwise, it is good as new. It seems the pottery gods have smiled on me again."
"I knew they would."
Yi Jeong accepted the beer from the waitress, allowing his mind to drift while Jun Pyo looked over a menu and ordered an array of appetizers. He had accepted the exhibition in Chicago and booked a flight with a long layover just for the purpose of seeing Jun Pyo - so why was he hesitating to bring up the subject of which he needed to speak? He had done his best not to think about it, to think about her, for four years - but he failed.
She kept creeping up on him, her face, her voice, the way she smiled and laughed. Ga Eul had saved him from himself, from a past that sought to destroy him. It had been easier before he knew her, when she was just Geum Jan Di's tacky little friend that Jun Pyo sometimes bribed him to entertain, when he had been able to keep a wall of superiority up between them. But that wall was shattered the night he found her crying in the street, jilted and brokenhearted. He'd helped her get revenge, and he was more than happy to do that for her, but he was surprised by the strength of his reaction to seeing the man who had hurt her. He didn't want to just humiliate him; he wanted to hurt him, to knock him to the floor and pummel him bloody. He told himself it was because Ga Eul was so innocent, and she was tiny and frail looking, almost like a child's doll. Not only that, he was the cause of the problems between Jan Di and Jun Pyo. There was something indescribably low and despicable about the man; what kind of man preyed on sweet, innocent girls like Ga Eul in the first place?
Trying to understand his anger only made him angrier, in the end, he gave up and pushed it from his mind, but he had never been able to look at Ga Eul in the same way again. It was maddening, particularly once she decided to save him; it only became worse when he realized that she had saved him. He decided he needed distance, and then went on to make to make a promise to her, the closest he had ever come to making a commitment to any woman.
"When I return, you'll be the first one I look for."
How heavily that promise weighed on him now.
While his mind had been drifting, Jun Pyo had been talking on and the conversation had gone from the upcoming exhibition, to his preparations to return home for good.
"So far, the transition has been going seamlessly. Sometimes I think Noona might be better at this than I am." He laughed "But if you tell her I said so, I'll kill you."
He tuned back in just in time to catch the death threat.
"What?" He shook his head to clear it, forcing his attention back to where it belonged and away from Ga Eul.
"What's going on with you? " Jun Pyo looked at him critically. "I'm trying to get a lock on your mood, you were fine a minute ago, but just now you looked so miserable I'd almost thought the world was about to end."
Yi Jeong squirmed a little under Jun Pyo's stare. He felt like a hypocrite now for having gotten so angry with him in Macau. Looking back with the full picture, and being in close to the same situation himself, he had a new understanding of how much Jun Pyo was suffering himself at that time. He hadn't been fair.
"Have you ever made a promise, only when the time came to keep it, you realized that keeping it might be selfish and wrong?"
"I don't make promises that I can't keep." He shrugged "Not anymore. Is this about Ga Eul?"
Yi Jeong looked up sharply "How do you know about that?"
"I figured things had changed between you, considering how you said goodbye at the airport when you left."
Their one and only kiss… he had meant it to be a friendly kiss on the cheek; maybe she moved at the last minute, or his aim was off - at any rate, he had kissed her on the lips instead. Given the look of surprise on her face, he was sure it was his fault; he also knew damn well that it wasn't an accident.
"I've been teaching part time, at the university in Stockholm." He looked up and took a deep breath. "They've offered me a full time position."
Jun Pyo gave him a hard look, just as he was expecting. After everything he and Jan Di had gone through, the last thing Jun Pyo would condone was hurting someone. Yi Jeong raised his hand before he had a chance to open his mouth and start yelling.
"I haven't accepted."
"Have you turned it down?"
"No, but my father has decided to retire, I am on the short list to replace him." He grinned a little "One word from my father and the job is mine, not that I want to ask the bastard for anything."
"So why are you even considering the job in Sweden?" Jun Pyo looked angry, or on the verge of it at least. "You must be, or you wouldn't have brought it up."
Yi Jeong was saved from answering by the waitress who arrived with several plates of food. She set them down among them, along with a pile of napkins. Yi Jeong pulled them apart and between them was a slip of paper - he looked at it closely - written on it was a phone number. He looked up at the waitress and she nodded to an attractive red head who sat at the bar with a fancy pink drink in her hand. She waved suggestively at the two, obviously, she didn't care which one accepted the number. He tore the paper in half, then rolled it up into a ball and tossed it into the ashtray. The woman gave him a filthy look and turned away, she obviously wasn't used to being turned down.
"I hate forward women." He said, giving the woman a final disdainful look before turning away.
"My first week at the hotel, I came home everyday to find phone numbers left in my room." Jun Pyo rolled his eyes. "It stopped once they found out I was engaged."
"Engaged?" Yi Jeong grinned a little. "That's news to me; does Geum Jan Di know about this?"
"I've been engaged for four years. She's the stubborn one who's dragging her heels." He looked slightly disgruntled, "I don't understand women. I have money, what does she need to go to medical school for?"
"I wouldn't let her hear you say that." He laughed loudly "Though if you plan on it, make sure I'm there. I'd love to see you get kicked in the head again."
"Never mind that." Jun Pyo growled, though he too found the memory funny - now that he was separated from it by half a decade. "We were talking about you, and why you want to break whatever promise you made to Ga Eul. Which by the way, I should warn you, might just earn you your own kick in the head. Remember how close she and Jan Di are, I can't imagine her taking your hurting her best friend too well."
Yi Jeong laughed a little before his face went serious again.
"Did you ever consider walking away from Geum Jan Di… during the time your mother was forcing you to marry JaeKyung…giving in so she could move on? You must have, you're not a selfish person, not where she is concerned."
Jun Pyo took a long drink from his bottle to swallow the lump in his throat risen by the memories of how much Jan Di had suffered during those horrible months.
"I tried to let her go, once, it lasted about a day." He smiled a little before his face went painfully serious. "I knew how much Ji Hu loved her, I knew that if I left her alone she would turn to him and he would make her happy. But, you say I'm not selfish where she is concerned? It's not true… with her I am the most selfish. I want everything from her. Every moment of her day, every word, every smile and every laugh. I want them to be mine and that's why I couldn't let her go, why I begged JaeKyung on my knees to let me go. When it comes to Jan Di, I am the most selfish person in the world."
"Even knowing you were hurting her?"
He shrugged "I promised myself that I would make it up to her, once I figured out a way to break free of JaeKyung and the witch, and I will spend the rest of my life making it up to her. Everything she has suffered because of me."
"I haven't been to Korea in four years." Yi Jeong confessed on a sigh "I promised Ga Eul when I returned that she would be the first person I looked for."
"You don't want to see her?"
"I want to see her." He smiled sadly "I want to see her too much, so much that… it scares me. What if I am like him, what if I end up destroying her like he did my mother?"
Jun Pyo sighed and sat back in the booth, his fingers pulling the label of the beer bottle he held.
"When I left to come here, I was worried too. Would New York be a repeat of Macau? Was there enough of the witch inside me that the distance would bring the bastard back to break Jan Di's heart again? The only cure for that was time, and phone calls…lots of phone calls and texts. I called and texted so much in the beginning that I think I got on her nerves."
He grinned, remembering all the times he had gotten yelled at and hung up on because he had ignored the time difference and woke her up in the middle of the night. She was going to be even more irritated when he got home and started pushing her for a wedding.
"But how did you know?" Yi Jeong asked, his voice weak and nearly pleading. "How could you be sure that you could trust yourself?"
"Yi Jeong," Jun Pyo leaned forward and looked at him critically. He already knew the answer, but he wondered if he would answer honestly. "How many women did you date in Sweden?"
The question took him back, he wasn't expecting it.
"I've been busy, and it's not as if I keep track."
"And since when do you object to forward women? That never bothered you in the past."
Yi Jeong looked at him blankly
"I can't tell you what to do obviously, but speaking as someone who nearly lost everything that mattered, I would advice you to think about these things carefully before taking the position in Stockholm rather than returning to Korea."
He sat back and considered his friend carefully, wishing he had the right words, but knowing that he had to find the way on his own. Just like he'd had to.
Yi Jeong stared unseeing, out the car window. They had been locked in airport standstill for twenty minutes now, he would have been much happier when they were on their way, his decision put to rest and fate in control. Instead, he was stuck here with nothing to do but second guess the decision he had made two weeks before.
He'd left Jun Pyo at the airport, frustrated with him, but understanding nonetheless. If anyone could understand the fear of hurting someone special, it was Gu Jun Pyo, that was why he had sought him out in the first place. He thought back now on his words of advice, and then his final words before boarding the plane.
"Remember, no matter what you decided, you have to live with it too."
The words had hit their mark and dug deeply. He had to return to Korea, if not for her, than for him. He didn't want to live without her. Like Jun Pyo, he too was selfish; selfish for her smiles, for her laugh and her warmth. He wanted them all for himself.
He broke out of his revere long enough to notice that they had finally broke free of the tangle of cars and had picked up their pace. The school where she taught wasn't too far away, thirty minutes at the most. He wasn't surprised to find out that she had become a teacher, Ga Eul would never accept a position in which she couldn't be satisfied, and she would never be satisfied in a factory or in a stuffy office. She needed a place where she could be of use, where she could touch lives and have hers touched in return. They way she had touched his four years before.
The school was on a quiet street lined with tall trees and he ordered his driver to park on the next block. School would be letting out soon and cars had begun to line the circular drive in front of the brick school building. He reached for the handle, and then withdrew his hand, seized by a moment of panic. It wasn't too late, he could still drive away, he could protect her from his mother's fate. Her words rose up, screaming through his memory, so loud it was as if he was hearing her voice in real time.
'Children, when faced with something they want, don't hesitate, because they know that if they lose it they will cry.'
He relaxed back against the seat, his face in his hands.
"How many women did you date in Sweden?"
None…not a single one. Because…
"And since when do you object to forward women? That never bothered you in the past."
Because none of them were her.
They walked quietly side by side, neither really sure how to start the conversation they knew they needed to have. He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and smiled a little, she still wore the blush that had risen when the little girl said that she had told the class that her boyfriend was in Sweden. He'd already assured her that it was okay, that he wasn't offended or angry, yet she walked rigidly, her hands fisted in her coat pockets, as if she was afraid he was about to turn and yell at her.
"We need to talk." He said softly, indicating a bench "Let's sit."
Ga Eul nodded and tried to smile, the expression on her face reminded him of the day four years before when he had tried to talk to her about their relationship. He had been planning to give her the brush off, to say that he valued their friendship far too much to ruin it by getting involved in such away. But she interrupted him and told him she would stop coming to see him, and then she walked away from him, leaving him alone with his life.
He remembered the empty feeling, the gloom that descended over him while he watched her walk away. But he'd been given what he wanted; he had no right to complain, and certainly no right to go after her.
"Jan Di tells me your pottery is doing well." she smiled, giving him a small look. He nodded and smiled back, knowing it was her he had to thank for that as well.
"See, I told you." She laughed, the musical laugh that he had missed. "I knew the gods would choose you again."
"You were right." He laughed "You usually were though, weren't you?"
The quiet stretched on between them while he tried to work through the words he wanted to say. She had waited for so long, she deserved to have it done right.
"Sunbae," She turned and looked at him, a smile on her face that didn't reach her eyes. "I want you to know that you don't owe me anything. I mean, despite what the children said - I'm not expecting anything.
"So please, don't feel burdened by me." She stood and bowed slightly. "Thank you, for keeping your promise. I wish you only good things."
She began to turn away, but he reached out and took her hand, pulling her back to face him.
"Why do you keep doing that?"
She looked up at him, her eyes huge with surprise. "Sunbae!"
"Did you think I came here just to say hi?" He pulled her back down on the bench next to him, close, so close that their shoulders touched. "I thought you understood that when I returned I wanted to give you more."
"But…" She hesitated, forcing herself not to cry, she knew how much he hated it when she cried. "You never called, never wrote - I haven't heard a thing from you in four years."
"I know, and I'm sorry for that." He tightened his hand around hers. "I was still a mess when I left. It took me a long time to get my head straight, to be sure that I wasn't going to turn into my father."
"And are you sure now?"
"I question it all the time." He shrugged "I guess it's one of those fears that only time can take away.
"I would rather die than hurt you, Ga Eul" He turned and looked deeply into her eyes. "But even though I am still afraid, I want to be with you."
Her bottom lip began to tremble and she clenched it firmly between her teeth, but there was no stopping the tears now.
"I'm sorry." She blubbered, her face quickly becoming drenched. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to…I just…I can't help it!"
Yi Jeong reached into his pocket and pulled out his handkerchief, wiped off her face and then put it in her hand, slightly embarrassed by the looks the old ladies across the street were giving them.
"Please stop crying." He squeezed her hand tighter "Please?!"
"I'm sorry!" She sniffled, trying to stop herself, but only gagging herself in the process. He sighed and let go of her hand, then slid his arm around her and patted her shoulder while the old ladies continued to give him dirty looks.
"Ga Eul, people are staring - they think I'm the bad guy again."
"It IS your fault I'm crying you know." she ended on a sob, and the sob turned into the hiccups.
"You're not supposed to cry when you're happy." He stood and grabbed her arm, then began to tow her across the street to his waiting car. He opened the door and pushed her inside, then took the seat next to her. He looked down into her face, her eyes were red and swollen, her nose running and her face still drenched - yet, she looked as beautiful as ever.
His Ga Eul.
"Who says you can't cry when you're happy?" She said stubbornly.
"Nobody." He smiled and reached down for her hand again, then held it tightly in his.
"Cry as much as you want."