It's only after she's seated herself from across her father that she realizes they'd never agreed on pet names.

It feels like such a useless detail at this point. Yona doubts calling her tank of a fake boyfriend daddy would be any more risqué than the hickies marking her throat. Part of her wonders if she does look the part, if she looks as thoroughly debauched as she presently feels, but then another part of her — the part that keeps her blushing and avoiding eye contact with said fake boyfriend — is too flustered to even look at her phone, lest she catch a glimpse of her reflection.

Stupid. Bad bitches don't get all twisted up over friends doing her favors. And that's exactly what the crescent shaped bruises on her neck are — considerable favors, ones Yona's not sure free reign to tease her will ever be payment enough for.

"I'm so pleased you were able to join us," Father says, passively, so passively. He is all manners and decorum, as if his daughter is not sitting at the dinner table with smudged eyeliner and a ripped t-shirt.

It pisses her off. What does she have to do, she wonders, to get the man to budge? This should be enough; Hak is tall and intimidating, and has none of the table manners Soo-Won has in spades - Hak has messy dark hair and a crooked grin, a denim jacket with patches and dirty thrifted boots, and everything else that should set warning bells off in the back of her father's mind. It shouldn't even be a question, Yona thinks, frustrated. And if his looming appearance wasn't enough, if his bored, sleepy expression at dinner with his girlfriend's father didn't seal the deal, then surely the hickies lining down her throat, like a trail leading beneath the worn neck of her top, should be enough.

Yona scrapes her fork down the center of her plate, frowning.

Father politely ignores her. "Would you like anything else to drink, Hak? We have a selection of wines. I'm sure I could have someone fetch one for you."

Hak grunts and chews instead of properly answering. Yona makes the mental note to give him treats later for being such a good bad boy.

"No?" Turning, Father waves down a servant. "Excuse me. Min-Su? Have you seen Yoon around by chance?"

Yona feels the corners of her mouth twitch. "I think he's studying for his exams."

Her father nods and then waves his hand at Min-Su, who has stopped tending the table long enough to fluster. "I was just wondering if he would want to join us. I know he's been working an awful lot lately and wouldn't want him falling ill because of exhaustion…"

From her side, Hak makes a sort of grunting sound again. He knocks her foot with his own, a sort of passive comfort, she supposes, to let her know that he's here, but it feels an awful lot like playing footsies, and the memory of his mouth on her throat is still a little too fresh to keep her from blushing at the contact.

His brow raises. Yona pinches her lips together and reaches over to set her hand on his. She can't be jumping every time Hak touches her, and especially not in front of the one person she's really trying to fool. All of this work will have been for nothing, haircut included.

"... I think being at dinner with the princess here would just exhaust him further," Hak says, and his smile crooks, just mischievously enough to negate all comfort he'd just attempted to lend her immediately.


Hak grins like the gremlin man he is and leans back in his seat. His hand is still laying on the table, but he flips it to rest palm-up, and then he's got her fingers laced between his. "You're a walking headache."

He has her so properly caught in his web. Even if she wanted to, Yona knows she wouldn't be able to wriggle her way out of his grip without changing the angle and standing up or something - Hak has an iron grip, and if he wanted to, he could so easily hold the entirety of her wrist with just two fingers. "Yoon respects me," Yona says, sniffing, sitting taller.

"You pay him."

"We offered him a job. He didn't even want the pay," Yona huffs, leaning forward, and Hak's grinning only deepens into his features. He's having far too much fun with this. "He said it was 'improper' or an 'abuse of friendship' or something, but I didn't think it was right to let him struggle with a single dad when I had the option of supporting him. You know he'd never take a handout! It's not like I didn't try!"

"Sure, sure." Hak taps her foot again with the toe of his boot. "Doesn't mean you're not a headache."

"I'm- who's side are you on, dear?"

He blinks innocently. It doesn't look right on him; Hak can't play doe-eyed maiden when he's more than a foot taller than both of the other people at the table and also made of 110% grass-fed beef. "Yours," he says, in his most saccharine, mocking voice he surely can muster, "baby."

Baby. Yona feels her face burn, despite it all. Yeah, they definitely should have decided on pet names earlier. It's just a word, for goodness sake, and not really one she'd ever associated with something she'd like to be called. It feels… insulting, she guesses, in a way, and more than a little infantilizing - but she supposes that's the point, to make it uncomfortable for her father, first and foremost - and so Yona swallows her feelings, raises their joined hands and bites his pointer finger, right on the knuckle.

It's not like she planned to have a tug of war in front of her dad. But, well, if it makes him worry about her relationship, maybe she's been going about this all wrong.

"Cute," she mutters, then presses her lips to the back of his palm. The weight of Hak's stare is far heavier than she's prepared to shoulder, and so she doesn't, and pointedly ignores the heat in his eyes.

"... But they are friends," Father mutters thoughtfully, nodding to himself. "Yoon is a hard worker and internalizes many things, but I do think his affection for you is genuine, dear."

It wasn't even a question in her head. Why does he have such selective hearing? Yoon is perhaps the closest thing she has to a best friend.

… Well. A best friend who she hasn't roped into biting her neck, for the sake of her future marriage with someone else. Ugh. What an ugly web she's weaved. Can she even call Hak a best friend in good faith anymore? How many girls let their best friends chew on their neck for the sake of making their overprotective parent cry uncle?

It's just that she never thought it would go this far. When Yona had asked Hak to help her out, she hadn't thought it would go on for this long, either; her father is such a pushover with everything else, and in her youth, she was so rarely allowed to even go outside to play without an entourage of nannies to watch over her. And because she never thought it would go this far, Yona never had to really sit and think on the ramifications of necking with said best friend. Maybe best friend? Potential best friend who… also is willing to leave hickies all over her, for the sake of Soo-Won?

She rubs at her shoulder idly, then catches her father's eye and sets her plan into motion properly. No more pulling punches.

"Oh," she says, coyly, then smoothes her palm up her bruising throat, then fluffs her hair around her ear. "Sorry, Father, I didn't mean to- I mean, they're just burns," Yona says, all challenge, never once breaking eye contact. "From my curler."

It's a bluff. An obvious one. Yona's not sure she even owns a curler, and the mere prospect of it is laughable at best; her hair is naturally frizzy, and when it was longer, she'd had long, fluffy ringlets trailing behind her, tied up in a bow. Even now, with her hair chopped so shoddily, there's no need for her to ever use heat to give her hair texture - it's too short.

If he wants to ignore the elephant in the room then Yona will force his hand. Address it, she dares. I'm lying right to your face. There's no way to avoid it.

"You should be more careful," her father says.

"I just really wanted curly hair," Yona replies, pure venom. She practically stares a hole into her father's face and refuses to look away. "I like it. I even like the way it feels."

Pause. For dramatic effect.

She smiles, perhaps a bit too wickedly. "On my neck."

Her father says nothing to that. What can he say, she thinks, other than to reprimand her? Check. Soo-Won would never be careless enough to mark her like this. For goodness sake, Yona doubts Soo-Won has the ability to be so uncouth. Romance with him is clean, hand-holding and sweet whispered words, kisses to her forehead and secret smiles.

So she fluffs her hair again and then manages to slip her hand from Hak's while he's busy glancing between father and daughter uncomfortably. Slides her hand up his arm and then feels his bicep up, very purposefully, and if it's a show he wants, a show her darling daddy will get. In her sweetest, most spoiled voice, Yona looks to her brickhouse of a boyfriend and asks, "Don't you agree?"

Hak's face betrays nothing. His eyes flicker, just for a moment, between hers and then her neck, where she knows he'd been staring earlier, while groggy and sleep drunk.


"... It's okay," he says, and there's a grit there, one that she vaguely recognizes but can't quite place. "If you're into that kind of thing."

"That kind of thing!" she whines. It's fine; she will revert back to Yona of thirteen, who pouted and tugged and bellyached until she got what she wanted. "You're so meaaaaaan, Hak! You seemed to like it so much earlier, when we were in my room…"

No sane father would let this go unchecked. Surely something has to give now. She takes a break from attempting to eyefuck Hak to inspect the damage. Surely, surely, by now he's budged-

Father smiles, carefully measured. "If it makes you happy, I love anything that you do with your hair."

There's no way. "I- But-"

"I'm just happy to see you happy with the state of it. You've always had such beautiful hair, Yona," her father says, and he even looks a little misty eyed over it. "If cutting it and curling it makes you happy, then I'm happy. I think it looks beautiful."

He has to be kidding. She's actually speechless.

Hak chokes back a laugh. He barely stuffs it back behind a mouthful of food as he returns to stuffing his face and trying to stay out of the line of fire.

"... You think my hair looks nice," Yona repeats, feeling a little like her mouth is full of cotton, like she's back in her room post-nap and Hak is shaking her awake, all over again. "Like this."

"Of course!"

"Because I curled my curly hair."

Il the Coward toasts to it. Wipes his eyes and everything. "My beautiful daughter."


He's a fool. "He's a fool."

Yoon clicks his tongue and tucks his pencil behind his ear. When he realizes that this problem won't just go away, and that Yona is here to stay and beg for advice, he relents and slips his bookmark into his textbook before shutting it. "That's not a very nice thing to say about your father."

"He thinks I curl my hair!" Yona wails and buries her face in her knees. "He's literally known me my whole life. Yoon, I came out of the womb with curls. I had a full head of hair!"

"How often does he go through photo albums?"

"I don't think his memory is that bad!" At least, she hopes not. And even so, Yona knows for her fact that her dad is the nostalgic type; as a child, she'd often curl up in the study with her father and look through old family albums, pointing at pictures of her mother and giggling when he inevitably began tearing up and reminiscing. "Yoon, he's my father. He knows what I look like."

He sighs and drags a hand down his face. "Why do I get myself involved in these things."

"Because you're beautiful and thoughtful?"

"Flattery will get you everywhere in life." Yoon sets his books aside and then sits on the floor next to her. Instinctually, she leans toward him and rests her head on his shoulder. "Men are stupid. He might just not realize that your hair will curl no matter the length. Or… that it will curl more with less weight on it."

"So he's a fool."

"I didn't say that," Yoon says, then gives up on being cranky and leans his head against hers, too.

But he's thinking it. His feelings on the rich are not a secret - Yona knows that he doesn't particularly like her father, and knows he doesn't try to keep that hidden from her. If anything, he's just civil enough to entertain her problems and try to offer her third-party solutions, and keeps quiet about the things he knows she's sensitive about. Like her family. Namely her dad, the only blood relative she truly has left.

It's fine. She can read between his lines well enough. Yona closes her eyes and moans. "I just wanted to make him mad. I wanted him to see these stupid hickies on my neck and throw a fit. I didn't think it would be this hard!"

"... Yeah, uh. I wasn't going to ask."

Well, he's going to hear about it anyway. Sorry Yoon. "If your daughter sat at dinner and practically threw herself at who you think is her boyfriend, looking like… like this, you'd be upset, right? You'd be concerned?"

"You have a boyfriend?"

He actually sounds genuinely surprised. Yona thinks she should probably be a little offended at it. "... Kind of. No. But he doesn't need to know that."

There's a pause, and then, "Oh, Yona. You didn't."

She's defensive before she even has the chance to catch up to whatever he's on about. "I didn't- hey!" Yoon leans back to stare disapprovingly at her and Yona feels her ears burn. "Don't look at me like that! You don't even know what's happening!"

"You put Hak up to this, didn't you." It's not phrased like a question. Things with Yoon often aren't. She might be fine at reading between his lines, but Yoon is a damn bibliophile, and an expert at making her feel like a fool. "That's why he's been so gloomy lately. You're making him date you to make your dad upset."

Well, when he puts it that way, it sounds terrible. Yona's shoulders fall and she buries her face back into her knees. "He agreed to it, you know. I didn't bully him into anything."

But it sounds weak, like she doesn't believe it herself. And she really thinks she believes it! How many times has she tried to stress that they should only do things if they make him comfortable too? It feels like she checks in all the time, and tries to amend the rules as she sees fit, and… and when she'd met Ayame, and had been so sure that there was something between them, she was so willing to call it off. Her own happily ever after wasn't worth the assassination of Hak's, and it's never been.

"Yona." Yoon's voice is bordering maternal.

It makes her curl in on herself, so guiltily. "He just looks the part, okay! And I didn't want to ask anyone else! I don't trust anyone else the way I trust Hak not to take advantage of things."

Yoon doesn't say anything. He doesn't have to. His silence is just as disapproving as a swat to the head would be.

"We set rules! I'm not just… you know…! He offered this time! I didn't like, strong arm him into touching me or anything, that would just be-"

"Oh," Yoon says, and his voice is so dry at this point Yona has to look up at him, "I'm not worried about him not wanting to touch you."

Never mind. She can't read between his lines very well at all. Yona opens and closes her mouth cluelessly at him for about two minutes, until he takes pity on her and just throws that whole tangent out the window.

"Why in the world are you trying to make your father upset? He gives you everything you want. I don't understand."

Yona laughs humorlessly and stretches her legs out in front of her. Well, now she really does sound selfish and spoiled, doesn't she. It's so close to the truth that it actually stings a little, and she stares at her feet instead of facing Yoon's judgement, because she is her father's daughter, apparently, and also a coward. "... Not everything."


"I just don't think anyone else should have a say in who I can and can't marry. I think that strips me of agency."

He's silent. It doesn't feel as heavy this time, not like before.

The relenting scrutiny gives her the courage she needs. Yona takes a cleansing breath and squares herself. "Is that selfish of me? To still want Soo-Won even when my father says no? I know he means well, and I know I'm really… kind of going about this wrong, and it's super backwards, to try and parade someone who's supposed to be worse in front of him, because I don't think I need permission to marry anyone-"

"But," Yoon says.

"But I don't want to have to cut my dad off just to marry the person I love." It feels weird, saying it out loud. Her father is a fool and a coward, but he's still her dad, she supposes - and those misplaced feelings of frustration don't overwrite the years he's spent raising her, doting on her. Yona purses her lips. "Am I being a brat?"

Her best friend makes a strangled noise in the back of his throat. "Do you want an answer to that?"

She trusts Yoon to give it to her straight, so she says, "Yes."

"I think your heart is in the right place," he says, and it's kind of him, to spare her feelings in any capacity. "But I think it's not fair to Hak to ask him to be himself and then act like he's a delinquent or something."

"That's not what I think at all!"

"I know," Yoon says, very calmly. He reaches toward her and lovingly flicks her on her shoulder. "But that doesn't mean it's fair to him. Hak does a lot for you, you know, and he doesn't ask for much in return. I know you'd never intentionally hurt him, but-"

I know you'd never intentionally hurt him. Something drops into her gut, hot and uncomfortable, and Yona feels a little like she's been gutted, right then and there. Of course she's never- she'd asked, hadn't she? So many times. And it's not like she even intended for things to go this far anyway! Really, when she'd asked for his help, she thought her father would've given in already, that it would have taken a few days, tops, to get him to crack. And the implication that she thinks he's second-rate…!

Yona can't hide from this one. She refuses to. Sitting back, she presses her hands into her lap and says, with all the grit she can muster, "I'm hurting him."

"... Hak would never ask for help."

She knows that. For as strong as he is, he's stubborn in equal parts; Hak would sooner swallow his own foot than admit to weakness, and certainly not in front of her - he has his pride as a man, she supposes, but also is one of the most emotionally constipated people she knows. And it's not like she's unaware of that, because for as long as she's known him, Hak has always worn his mask. She can see the cracks in it, sometimes, when his smile pulls a little tighter, when his laugh is just a shade more dry, and the thought that she might be contributing to it makes her feel sick.

"I really didn't ask him to give me hickies," she says, and her eyes are burning. Stupid. Like she has any right to be the one to cry over this.

That gets Yoon to laugh though. "Even if you did, I don't think he'd be upset with you over that."

Yeah. Yona still doesn't know what he means. Maybe she's not as good at reading people as she thought. Rubbing her eyes, she stands and then offers a hand to Yoon, and then she's pulling him to his feet, too.

"I just think it's a bad idea." Yoon pauses, then squints at her. "No. Never mind. It is a bad idea. For you and for Hak."


She can't hide from this.

Mundok answers the door and smiles so openly that it only serves to make her feel worse. Tae-Yeon is in tow, peeking from between around his grandfather's hip, and that heat in her gut tightens like a vice, rapidly climbing its way to her heart.

"Yona," Mundok says, full of warmth. "What a surprise."

"Hi, sorry, I know it's late." She tugs on her jacket, fiddling nervously. "Is. Um. Is Hak home? Can I talk to him?"

Her nerves betray her. Mundok seems to be able to read the room far better than she can, apparently, and ushers her in without another word. The door shuts behind her and then she's inside, staring at numerous framed pictures of Hak in little league, still taller than the rest of the boys his age. It almost makes her smile.

Almost. She has a mission, after all. She can't hide from this.

"He's in his room," Mundok says, far too trustingly. It sort of makes her want to cry. Isn't she the one with nefarious intentions here? Isn't anyone worried that they're going to mess around and have sex or something? "I've told him to turn down the amp nearly three times but you know how that boy is. Ungrateful. Stubborn."

"A rock star!" Tae-Yeon says gleefully.

He's something, alright. Yona musters as big of a smile as she can and says, "Thank you. Are you sure I'm not intruding?"

"You're like family," Mundok says. That vice digs its talons into her heart and Yona almost takes a step back, surprised at the weight of it all, surprised at how easily he admits to it. "It's never an intrusion if it's you. Besides. I consider myself lucky that you're such good friends with Hak."

You shouldn't, she thinks, as she passes through the hall and lingers in front of his bedroom door. The hickies, so neatly hidden beneath the neck of (Hak's) jacket sort of hurt now. She doesn't even know if hickies are supposed to hurt or if the guilt of it all is finally setting in and her brain is trying to cannibalize itself.

The cluelessness pisses her off. She's so stupid. And selfish! And the worst kind of person - the goal has never been to get Soo-Won at all costs. There are some things that just aren't negotiable, and Hak's comfort is one of them. Hak's comfort is the main one.

So Yona knocks. Twice. Three times. When she realizes Hak probably assumes it's just his grandfather telling him to keep it down, she slams her fist against the door and shouts his name.

That gets him to stop. The music stops very suddenly, chord cracking, and then there's shuffling on the other end of the door. "What-"

It opens. Because Yona hadn't been prepared, she ends up eye level with his bare chest, and tries not to gawk, really, but it's sudden, all of this naked skin in front of her, and instinctively she looks down, instead of where his eyes actually are.

Black sweatpants. Of course. But they're low slung, and Hak's hip bones are surprisingly sharp, and Yona's brain dissolves into tv static for about half a minute before she gets a hold of herself and jolts so far she nearly knocks herself out on the wall behind her. What? What?

Hak seems to think the same thing, and grabs her by the shoulder before she has the chance to finally put herself out of her misery and concuss herself. "Easy. What're you doing here?"

This whole thing has her so messed up. She's not supposed to be gawking at him like he's a piece of meat or something - he's Hak, the same guy who bullies her for being just half an inch shy of 5'2'' and reminds her daily that there's not a graceful bone in her body. He's Hak, almost best friend, paid muscle, big brother figure. What his body looks like is irrelevant to her, and has always been irrelevant to her, and should remain irrelevant to her. It's not Hak she's trying to marry!

The thought is sobering. Has she ever… really entertained that? Why should she? Where did that even come from?

"I'm sorry!" she squeaks, panicking. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to disrespect you!"


"I don't think you're bad or dangerous or, like, the bottom of the barrel or anything!" Yona doesn't know what to do with her hands, so she holds them at her sides, fists clenched, trembling. The nails digging into her palms grounds her, and then she looks him in the eyes properly, momentarily steeled. "I didn't ask for your help because I thought you'd scare my dad. I mean! I did, but not because I thought you're undateable or terrible or anything-"

Hak yanks her into his room and shuts the door before she can blurt anything else. Clicks the lock, too.

Heat rises to her face before she has the chance to really think about his motives. "Um!"

"Mundok will never let me live this down," he says, far too calmly. Presently, Yona feels like a wreck, like she's just eaten something spicy and now her body is trying to stabilize itself while also dealing with being set ablaze. "What're you on about now?"

"I talked to Yoon." His shoulders sort of… bunch up. "He said… I mean, I didn't need him to guilt trip me or anything, I already thought…!"

Hak pushes a hand through his hair and sighs. Drops to sit on the edge of his bed so that he's eye level with her and says, very deadpan, "Whatever Yoon told you, ignore it."

No. "No! No, that's not fair to you!"

"I never asked you to be fair to me."

"That doesn't mean I shouldn't still think of your feelings!" Yona finds her groove and reminds herself of who she is - the proud daughter of Il, heiress to the Kouka companies, someone who should hold herself accountable and true, right to the bitter end. "You- I don't want you to feel like you have to… I don't know, that you have to stick around with me and do this just because I asked you to. If it's too much, or if you think I'm being selfish or stupid, or if you feel degaded…! We can stop. We can always stop."

Hak raises a brow and leans back, hands flat on his bed, supporting his weight. "What happened to the girl who cut off all her hair in a moment of righteous fury?"

"She's still here. She just values your happiness over her marriage." Well. That sounds a little suspicious. Blushes more deeply, she adds, "Not! Um! That you're ruining my marriage or anything!"

He looks like he's tasted something sour. "I'm not unhappy."

"That is the least happy face I've ever seen you make."

"I'm sure you've seen unhappier." Hak cracks his neck and says, "You're worrying about nothing. I'm fine."

Stubborn. She should've known he'd try to thwart her apology. Selfless, martyr Hak, right to the end. Yona blushes all the way to her ears and then marches until she's standing between his legs, nearly nose-to-nose with him, and takes his stupid face in her hands and holds him there, so that he can't run away from this. Something has to give, she thinks, and something - be it her father, or her, or Hak's stupid pride - is right on the horizon, she can feel it. There's a change in the air, like she can smell the rain before the storm.

Or maybe it's just Hak's rapt attention. He stares at her so pointedly Yona thinks she might just die. That tv static is back, and she tries not to think about the stubble beneath her hand, or the sharpness of his jaw, or why any of that even matters right now at all. It doesn't. It shouldn't. She's being weird. She's the one making this weird.

"You can call this off," she says. "Anytime. I won't be upset with you. You won't be letting me down."

"Idiot." Hak scoffs. "How many times do I have to tell you that it doesn't matter? I wouldn't have made it this far if you hurt my feelings. How weak do you think I am?"

It's not about weakness! Yona squeezes his face between her hands. "You are so insufferable sometimes, I swear. I'm trying to give you an out! I'm apologizing!"

"And you have nothing to apologize for," he says, and the seriousness of it takes her aback. "I'm the one who should be apologizing."

"You have nothing to apologize for!"

The look he fits her with is deafening. "Your neck."

Right. It's not like she wants to remain her natural coloring anyway. It's fine, she can just blush for the rest of her life, whatever. Stupid Hak! "That's…! It was a good idea and you know it. It should have worked."

"But it didn't. So it was for nothing." Hak heaves a breath and then gently swats her hands away from his face. Looking away, he says, "It should've been something reserved for Soo-Won. It wasn't my place."

But she gave him permission. God, she wants to shove him back against the mattress and shake him or something. How can any one man be so stubborn? He hasn't forced her into anything. If at all, she's the one putting him through the ringer with this whole deal. Between the two of them, she's the one actually benefiting from this. What does Hak get for forcing himself to act like he's attracted to her? A free pass to tease her? He could take that even without her permission, and he must know it; that's their relationship. It's always been their relationship. He playfully ribs her and she pouts and whines and then they eat ice cream or something. It's how they've always worked.

"I told you it was okay," Yona says, frowning.

"And I told you this was okay. So stop acting like you've done something wrong. It's freaking me out."

But he doesn't push her away. She might not be holding his face still anymore, but she's still standing between his knees, and he's still shirtless, and Yona's still having a hard time ignoring that, for whatever reason. Blinking balefully, she tries to look ...elsewhere, but it's difficult, because everywhere she looks she's reminded of him - and she supposes that makes sense, because this is his bedroom she's in, but it's still… weird. The whole feeling is weird.

This isn't how today was supposed to go. Yona tries to scrub the ick from her face. "I did do something wrong, though!"

"You didn't. How many times do I have to tell you that?"

"We can call this off. Really! It's not working anyway, so…! So let's make a deadline. Would that make you feel better?"

Hak groans. "Would it make you feel better?"

Yes. Probably. The sooner she puts an end to this, the sooner she can go back to daydreaming about Soo-Won's baby blue eyes and not staring very blatantly at Hak's torso like he's carved from stone or something. If hickies won't convince her father of the worst, Yona wonders, what will? What could possibly force his hand more than his only daughter being defiled? By anyone?

"... Father's party," she says, hands still pressed to her face. She doesn't dare peek between her fingers. "Next weekend. So many of his business partners will be attending, and if… if that doesn't do it, I don't know what will."


When he doesn't say anything more, she sucks in a trembling breath and then drops her hands from her face. He's staring at her, like maybe she's smudged her eyeliner all over her face and looks like a fool or something, but she doesn't allow it much thought. Next weekend, she thinks, and allows the finality of it to comfort her. Or… at least, she allows the finality of it to soothe the burn in her chest, the sharp grip her guilt has on her lungs.

Stupid. How selfish does she have to be, to cry in the face of the man she's apologizing to? Maybe she's not as grown up as she thought she was. It's frustrating. It makes her want to cry more.

Yona slaps at her cheeks twice. Then Hak grabs her by her wrists and says, "Cut that out."


"You don't have to apologize for anything," he says, and he looks almost sad, like there's distance in his eyes that hadn't been there before. Earlier today they'd seemed so clear. Earlier today, when he'd leaned back to inspect his work, there'd been a rawness there, the clearest blue.

She sort of misses it. And she's not sure if she should or not. Is it wrong to want to know him? Does she have that right anymore?

"I mean it." His hands are so warm, and hers sort of feel clammy, even though he's not holding them. "Stop thinking you're taking advantage of me or something. Yoon wasn't there."


"I mean it," Hak says again, more insistently this time. "Please stop crying."

She makes for an effort to touch her face. He allows it, and her fingertips come back damp. Shoot. She really… didn't want to cry at him. That's not what she came here for at all.

"... Give Soo-Won a call." His grip on her wrists tightens, barely noticeable. It's not uncomfortable, and it's not threatening - more like it serves as a reminder that he's here, and Yona shouldn't be so comforted by it. "Talk it over with him. When was the last time the two of you had a conversation?"

"... We texted… earlier…" But the sound of his voice would help, certainly. Hopefully. Something has to help her sort her brain out, and if that something isn't Soo-Won, sweetly offering his thoughts, well, then Yona doesn't know what will.

Maybe she's just doomed. Maybe this is her life now, feeling sick to her stomach with guilt and not knowing how to sort it out.

Hak watches her. She can feel his eyes on her, her eyes, her nose, her jaw. He dodges looking at her throat, and then stares at her shoulder again, and that tightness in her feels like it might pop, all at once. The feeling is suffocating, and consuming, and all she can think of is the brand she wears now on her skin, one she can't scrub off, and how it'd felt to receive them, and then she's spiraling all over again.

What were they talking about again? Oh. Calling Soo-Won.

Soo-Won, who all of this heartache is for. The man who'd given her a promise ring. Right. Of course. Who else would Yona fight for?

"Call him," Hak says.

Yona finds herself nodding. "Yeah. Okay."

"I'll walk you home."

"No, no, um. No, that's okay. I had my driver bring me." Being alone with Hak in the dark might actually be the thing that kills her. Hak looks everywhere but her throat again and finally settles on her eyes. If she tried, Yona thinks she could actually cut through the tension with a knife, and hates herself for making this so weird.

He raises a brow. "... You did?"

"Did you think I walked here by myself?"

"You sneak out all the time. I used to get SOS calls nightly from you."

"And yet you still didn't hear me knocking."

He snorts and then gently knocks at her forehead with his fist. "Smartass."

That's more like it. That's the Hak she knows and loves; some damn normalcy is appreciated, and Yona finds it in her to smile, however shakily, and then he's wearing his half-smile too, however crookedly. And that's fine. If they can go through the motions, surely they'll find their groove again, and things will go back to normal in no time.

They have to. She can't think about the alternative. If it's a future with Soo-Won and no Hak, then Yona doesn't want it. Her happiness isn't comparable to his, and that happiness wouldn't be complete with him, anyway. Even if it's different, in the way she loves the two of them - even if Soo-Won walks her down the aisle and Hak brings her to rock shows and carts her around in his beat-up car - they're both important people, important touchstones in her life.

It's why she can't mess this up. Yona will stop making this weird, even if it kills her. For Hak's sake.