Truth be told Ga Eul didn't know what to feel, or what she should feel as of this moment.
First had been hearing from Yoon Ji Hoo that Woo Bin had awaken earlier that morning - after days of unconsciousness. So of course Ga Eul had dropped everything, taken a leave of absence from school, and informed her parents where she was going before heading to the hospital herself.
Then, upon her arrival she noted that he was still asleep, and the disappointment she'd felt had been so- palpable. The nurse she'd talked to had said that the best course of action was just to wait for him to wake up again - and so, she did. He'd looked so... vulnerable sleeping like that, pale and almost sallow, so far from the lively man he was that for a moment Ga Eul was overcome with thoughts of- what if he'd never open his eyes again? What if she'd never hear his voice again? What if he were to-
They were too horrible to comprehend and she couldn't help it; she'd grabbed his free hand and cried beside him, cried for him, in what seemed like the tenth time that week.
And then he woke up with her right there, and she'd never felt happier.
Alive, more like.
And Ga Eul had thought, well, there was no better time than now to show him how she truly felt, all along. That was where they were headed, wasn't it? Her freely reciprocating his feelings? Everything about him expressed how much he'd liked her and she- she'd been so-
I'm just... sorry. I mean it was our first date and it ended up like that. I'm sorry.
Ga Eul had looked at him incredulously before shaking her head. He'd protected her, basically shielded her from harm and saved her life in the process - and he's the one saying sorry? She'd hit him if she could for being so- There'll be others, she'd said decisively. Just focus on getting better now. Don't think about it yet.
There'll be other dates, she'd told him.
To make up for this horrible first one, she'd make sure of it - was what she didn't say.
Ga Eul had kissed his cheek after he'd said something to make her laugh, and when she'd looked up it was to the sight of So Yi Jung holding the door open and staring straight at her.
At first she thought he wasn't real. How could he be real? How could he be standing there, when all this time-
She couldn't help the instinct to move away from Woo Bin, feeling as though she was caught doing something she never should have. And the thought angered her, and it showed in her words, in her actions, when she'd told Yi Jung point-blank-
Perhaps you thought I liked you so much that you don't have to do anything for me to keep on liking you. But you were wrong. I'm sorry, but you were wrong.
She'd ran out of the hospital as fast as she could, texted Jan Di to either call or meet her as soon as she's free - and headed straight to the porridge shop to help her clear her head. Ga Eul had all but ignored the Master when she entered and plopped down at the corner table, basically waiting for Jan Di to contact her or... something.
Ga Eul really, really needed some help right now, because she's just so- god, but she's just so confused.
Perhaps she ought to text Song Woo Bin and apologize to him for running out without telling him goodbye?
Perhaps she ought to call her parents and tell them how he'd been doing, meantime?
Perhaps she should just-
The bell overhead rang, signalling the appearance of a customer. Out of habit Ga Eul rose to her feet, bowed - and belatedly realized that she was looking at So Yi Jung.
For a few moments, neither of them spoke.
They both paused. Ga Eul bit her lip and looked away.
God, for so long she'd dreamed of this - of him finding her at the porridge shop and surprising her with his appearance when she least expected it. But now that it was happening, why did it feel so-
Yi Jung closed the door behind him and made his way towards her. "You're a hard woman to find, Chu Ga Eul," he said, and perhaps he was teasing her but his words felt- insulting, almost.
It's on her tongue to tell him, Woo Bin-Sunbae never had that problem, but she didn't. How could she? Woo Bin should focus on his recovery, and she should do everything she could to help him - not cause him any more problems - and her using him against Yi Jung would definitely count as one. "What are you doing here?"
"I came to-" He shoved his hands in his pockets. "I wanted-"
What? she thought to herself. What do you want?
When Yi Jung still didn't say anything, Ga Eul took a deep breath and said, "Then let me speak first. I'm sorry."
He glanced at her, his brows drawn together.
"I'm sorry... that you returned to Korea only to find your best friend hurt. Seeing him like that... must be hard for you, too." He opened his mouth to say something, but then Ga Eul hurried on, "I'm also sorry - because you came back for him, didn't you? And never because of-"
-me, she wanted to say.
It must make her seem so selfish, but at that moment she didn't care.
"I'm sorry that I was never enough for you, So Yi Jung," she said, voice shaking but still she pressed on. "That despite everything I've done for you before-"
"Ga Eul-" Yi Jung made a move to grab her arm.
But she pulled away and continued, "-the only thing you can give me in return is a promise, but only if I've waited for you - as if I haven't done enough."
Once upon a time she'd held on to that promise like a lifeline. How lucky was she that she could be someone a member of the F4 cared for? That after four or five years-
God, but during those days four or five years didn't seem like so long a time to wait for someone she liked so, so much.
Ga Eul winced. How could she be so naive, back then? If it hadn't been for Song Woo Bin-
"I'm sorry... that the only reason you found it in yourself to call me was because you heard someone else might be interested in me-"
"Is he the one, Ga Eul?" Yi Jung asked, his expression tight. "Do you consider Song Woo Bin as your soulmate, then?"
The question made her pause.
It was easy, so easy, to tell him yes.
"What I feel for him," she replied softly, closing her hands to fists at her sides, "is no longer your concern, I think."
Which was perhaps the wrong thing to say. "He's my best friend," he spat, almost glaring at her. "And you're-"
"What?" Ga Eul asked, moving closer, despite herself. "What am I to you, Yi Jung-Sunbae? I've often wondered."
He gritted his teeth and looked away.
"Am I someone you truly cared about?" she added, hurt spilling out of her own tongue. "Or am I somebody who just amused you? Someone nice and foolish enough to keep on waiting for you, just because you told me to do so?"
"Ga Eul," Yi Jung said, looking pained.
Her eyes stung; forcefully she wiped them away with the back of her hands. She hadn't allowed herself to think much on these things because of how stupid it made her seem, but now, now that he was here-
"I never called you," he said, "because the second I hear your voice I know I was going to fly out of Sweden to be with you."
"And-" she said, trembling almost, "would that have been so bad?"
"You have to understand, Ga Eul. I have to- I went to Sweden to get better, so that when I come back here, to you, I'll be-"
"-more?" she guessed.
He didn't say anything.
"But I- I already liked you as you were back then."
"I'm sorry," Yi Jung said softly, "that I didn't."
He'd left ultimately for himself, without much regard for her or her feelings, and that-
Ga Eul bit her lip. If only they spoke about it, if only she'd known, if only he told her more clearly what his intentions for leaving her in the first place had been-
"I gave you that promise because it seemed like the only concrete thing I can offer you at that time," he added. "Not until I've improved myself." He paused and stared at the table between them for some time. "But now... it seems like I'm too late."
She crossed her arms. He shouldn't make her feel guilty about moving on as she did... he shouldn't.
"The one thing I'm not sorry for," Ga Eul said softly, "the one thing I won't ever be sorry for, is for liking Woo Bin-Sunbae back."
She hadn't even told him point-blank about her own feelings, she'd realized too late - and yet here she was, already confessing them to someone else.
Then again, Woo Bin did the same - didn't he?
Yi Jung closed his eyes for a moment, turned away - then wordlessly headed for the door.
It was better this way, Ga Eul thought, letting him go.
Once upon a time, he spurned her away and now-
How quickly the times have changed, he'd said earlier.
But it was better that he knew all she felt, better that she'd told him, better that it happened like this - so she could feel free and breathe.
The door suddenly opened before he could reach for it, however, and in came Geum Jan Di, who in her haste almost crashed into him.
"Ya! You-" she'd started to say, rudely pointing at Yi Jung. "You're here? You've come back?" Then Jan Di looked at Ga Eul. "Does he already know about Woo Bin-Sunbae?"
Ga Eul almost choked. What a loaded question! "Jan Di-"
"Yes," Yi Jung answered quietly. "Yes, I know."
"Right," Jan Di said, looking just a tiny bit embarrassed as she looked from Ga Eul to Yi Jung and back again. "Of course you do."
"But... there's something I want to know more about, too," Yi Jung said, sounding so- formal, now that they have an audience. He glanced at Ga Eul again. "Who shot him - and why?"
She blinked, caught off guard by the question.
"If you want to find more about it, then we'll help you. Right, Ga Eul?" Jan Di said, sounding so very sure of herself - as she often did.
Ga Eul nodded. "Yes, of course. Anything for Woo Bin-Sunbae's sake."
Yi Jung stared at her, then. "For Woo Bin's sake," he repeated, almost sadly.
"And yours too, Ga Eul."