A/N: I've always wanted to write about this because there was such a disconnect between where Ga Eul and Yi Jeong left off after their third date and how they acted when they next saw each other, painting Jan Di's apartment.
Yi Jeong entered the porridge shop at the end of her shift, at the end of the night, in fact. Master had already gone home—another baffling premonition had urged him to leave an hour before—and she had been left alone to clean and prep for the next day. She hung the "Closed" sign on the door and was about to lock it when her phone rung. It was her mother, wanting to know what time Ga Eul would be home.
She had gotten home rather late the night before.
As she hung up, the bell chimed, and she spun around to see him standing there.
The nerve of him.
"I'm sorry. We're closed," she said, keeping her voice neutral, robotic. Not bothering to bow, she spun on her heel and walked away to finish wiping down a table on the other side of the room, keeping her back carefully turned to him.
"I know. I came to talk to you."
Moving on to the next table, Ga Eul said nothing. She sprayed the table with the soapy mixture and scrubbed it like her life depended on getting it spotless.
Then she wiped it down and moved on to the next table, kicking a chair out of the way with her dirty sneakers.
She'd like to slap him.
She wished she was the kind of girl who would slap him.
She wished she'd slap him, and then he'd kiss her.
What was wrong with her?
Some spilled hoisin sauce had crusted over beneath a napkin container. She picked at the crud with her fingernail.
She wished she could pick him off like the dirty specks on this table, like a scab, but in order to do that she'd have to hurt herself.
He still hadn't gone away.
She moved the napkin container back, then the hoisin sauce. Then she reset the chairs around the table, spacing them as evenly as she could. In order to do the rest of the tables, she'd have to move closer to him, though thankfully he hadn't moved closer to her.
Stalling, she untied her apron and tossed it onto one of the chairs. Sweaty and hot, she ran her fingers through the loose strands of her greasy, unwashed hair and retied her messy ponytail. She wasn't as dressed up as she had been the night before when they went out. Today she wore a plain white sweater and jeans. Last night had been the tragic climax of an exhausting week, and she only wanted to go home and sleep. Sleep sounded glorious right about now. In her dreams, she could forget about the humiliation of last night and the stress she'd been under the past two weeks giving herself the courage to admit she liked him—hopefully she wouldn't dream of him.
Her confession had failed miserably, and worse than that, he'd had to rub it in her face just how far beneath him she was.
Well, she supposed she should have known he'd be that type of person.
What with his whole speech about Jan Di and Jun Pyo the first time she'd met him.
With his fancy clothes and his fancy car and that smug, superior grin he always wore like he was God's gift to humanity.
What a fool she was.
What an absolute jerk he'd turned out to be.
A few chairs screeched as she rearranged them.
"Ga Eul-yang?" he repeated. "Can you just give me a moment?"
She knew how hard he must be trying to keep the annoyance out of his voice. She knew how he hated being ignored, how used he was to getting his way, and it gave her some small pleasure not to give him the satisfaction.
Staring hard at one table arrangement, she replied, "No, Sunbae. I can't. I'm busy. What makes you think I owe you 'a moment?'"
They both stood still, and the question hung heavily in the air. When he didn't reply, she shoved the chair in front of her extra hard into the table. She picked up her spray bottle and moved on to the next one.
"Fine. Forget it then." His tone took on its usual cockiness, but without much conviction, she thought.
Leaning over a booth, she wiped down the far end.
"I just wanted to say," he continued, "I was kind of...having a bad night last night...and I was hoping we could forget the whole thing."
That made her snap her head up.
Leaving her cleaning supplies on the table, she straightened up and faced him. Wisps of hair, pulled free from her new ponytail, strayed into her eyes, but she didn't bother to shove them back.
For someone who obviously hadn't slept well in days, given the dark circles under his eyes, the rest of him looked unbelievably perfect.
And perfectly cruel.
"Oh, you had a bad night, Sunbae?" she snapped. "You did?...You?" She scoffed. "What? You think that was fun for me?"
"You think I didn't have anything better to do than be the source of your amusement for the evening?"
"You're such a hypocrite, you know that? You can pretend all you want, but you are just like Su Pyo. And you can make fun of me in your workshop or your club or even in front of your father, but you don't get to stand here and belittle me or my feelings in this shop. We're closed. Out." She pointed to the door.
For a moment he looked like he might say something more, but perhaps he sensed the rage boiling up in her gut and creating tremors in her fingers.
Instead, he scowled, his perfect mouth set in a grim line, and without so much as a nod turned and swept out the door.
Collapsing down on a bench, she watched his car roar to life outside and jerk recklessly over into the traffic, speeding away into the night.
Half of her was surprised that he hadn't argued. The other half was simply exhausted.
A few days later, he came again, this time shortly before closing, so there were still customers in the shop. Thankfully, she didn't have to serve him herself, as she was training a new girl. Thankfully, as well, Jan Di wasn't there to force an interaction between them. Ga Eul hadn't told her about the other night; Jan Di had enough problems with the F4 herself.
For all their opulence, problems seemed to be about all the F4 had brought into their lives.
Ga Eul slammed a few dishes down into the sink, plunging her arms wrist deep in the soapy water. Well, at least Master would be there to lock up tonight. She only needed to sneak out the back door after her shift ended and run down to her bus stop before Yi Jeong caught on.
She finished the last of the dirty dishes and grabbed her purse and coat from the closet she'd stashed them in earlier. Leaving through the back entrance, she didn't bother to bid Master farewell. It was technically time for her to leave, and he'd been too caught up in staring at Yi Jeong since he'd come in to properly notice anything anyway.
At least, that was how Ga Eul justified it to herself as she slipped away.
She wasn't running.
She wasn't scared.
She wasn't weak.
She simply needed time to think, to process what had happened, and she couldn't do that with the source of her pain seeking her out for a friendly chat.
Like they'd ever been friends.
Like he would ever be friends with a silly girl like her, a good girl like her.
A tear dropped onto her finger as she sat at the bus stop.
Would she always fall for guys who only made her cry?
Over the next week or so, her shifts always overlapped with Jan Di's; two weeks passed without her seeing him, but on a chilly Saturday night nearly three weeks later, she walked outside to find his car parked down the street. His familiar lamplit figure leaned against it, pensive. When he noticed her approaching, he stood up and walked toward her.
She supposed she should be walking away, but she was so surprised to see him there again that she didn't move.
He stopped a few feet away from her.
"I know you don't want to see me."
"You're right. I don't." She tried to keep her voice cold, the way she did when she'd told Su Pyo she didn't know him.
"But if you really think I'm like Su Pyo, then why did you come back?"
Her eyes widened. She didn't know he remembered her showing up at his studio later that night, letting him lean against her as she led him inside and laid him on the bench.
Why did she come back? She should have let him catch pneumonia from passing out outside. Maybe that would have woken him up or at least punished him for his callous behaviour.
But no. Like the lovestruck fool she was, she had to wait for him to return, praying he didn't have a girl on each arm again. She had to care about him, had to let him repay her kindness with indifference and her affection with mockery.
She had to be that girl.
Why did she come back?
"Why did you come back?" she answered, evading the question. Then, an idea dawning on her, she continued, "Oh. I get it." She shook her head. "It's okay, Sunbae. Just tell me where the almighty F4 need me to be this time, and I'll be there. You don't have to pick me up."
"That's not why I'm here."
Ga Eul scoffed and didn't answer.
That wasn't why he was here, her foot. Surely he didn't think she was that stupid, did he? The only reason he could possibly want to clear the air between them was that he'd been roped into chaperoning her again.
"Don't worry, Sunbae. I can be civil."
She rolled her eyes.
"I mean, if you're worried about me embarrassing you in front of your friends, or tattling on you to Jan Di, you can forget it. I don't want anything to do with you, not even for that. But I can be civil. All we have to do is say 'hello' and 'goodbye' to each other if you want."
"What I want is for you to not be mad at me," he ground out. He looked angry.
Why would he be angry about that?
"Why? Because you have to see me anyway and that makes things awkward for you?"
"Don't lie, Sunbae."
I don't trust you anyway, she mentally added.
"It's because"—he paused, considering something—"because we're friends."
"Friends?" she repeated. The word felt foreign on her tongue, standing in front of him. "Sunbae, I don't think you normally have friends that are girls."
"I'm friends with Jan Di," he answered.
"That...that's different. She is...she was...Jun Pyo's girlfriend. But they're not even together anymore. I don't see...any reason for us to be friends." She threw her arms out, then slid them back into her coat pockets.
"I didn't exactly take you for the type to need a reason to be friends with someone. Doesn't that go against all your virtuous commoner ideals? Being with someone because you want to be, and all that?"
"Fine. I don't want to be friends with you," she mumbled quietly, staring at the ground.
"I don't believe you."
"I don't care." Her eyes flicked up, challenging him.
"Fine." Yi Jeong sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Then let's pretend you have a friend...that got drunk and did something really screwed up...What would that person have to do to be friends with you again?...Come on. I'm dying to know what the all-knowing Ga Eul-yang has to say on that matter." He cracked a smile and took another step forward. "Name anything you want, and I'll get it for you. Or perhaps you'd like to torture me by making me do manual labor. Or maybe you just want to scream at me for a bit. You can take your pick, but could we not do the screaming part here?" He looked around at the few passersby self-consciously.
Honestly, he appeared almost...nervous.
She didn't know how long she stood there, contemplating him, before she finally answered, "There's something you haven't said yet."
"What do you mean?"
"It's two very important words. Usually comes up in an apology. Any guesses?"
He looked confused, and she sighed.
"Really, Sunbae? What did Jan Di have to do after Jun Pyo Sunbae-"
"I'm sorry," he interrupted, and she gasped in a breath. "But...wasn't that the point of what I was saying?"
His brow creased in frustration, and she smiled.
"I just wanted to see if you were capable of saying those exact words."
"Does that mean we're okay?" He tilted her head, studying her.
She chose her words carefully.
"It's not okay...what you did...but I suppose if you're at least mature enough to own up to your mistake...I can forgive you. You don't need to...buy me anything or...let me beat you over the head with my shoe...But can I ask one for one favour? It'll only take a minute, and it doesn't cost anything."
"Close your eyes."
"Close them! And don't worry. I'm not going to do anything weird." At least, she hoped this wasn't weird.
He did as he was told, and before she could consider the consequences of this course of action, she closed the gap between them and wrapped her arms around his waist.
A mistake, she realized immediately. Now she wouldn't have to imagine how warm he felt; she would have to remember it every night before she drifted into restless dreams of him holding her.
"Shh! Just relax." She tried to force the tension out of her own shoulders. "Don't you know a hug is one of the best medicines in the world?" She kept talking to distract herself. "It's okay to have bad days, but maybe you'd feel better if you tried letting people in instead of pushing them away."
After a minute, she felt his arms lift up and wrap around her gently, his palms firm against her back.
They stayed like that for a few short, sweet moments, until an ambulance swept past on the nearly deserted street, siren blaring.
Moving away from him, Ga Eul tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and asked, "Better?"
Perhaps she was imagining things, but she could have sworn she saw his eyes betray a certain tenderness as he regarded her and answered, "Yes," under his breath.
"Good." Ga Eul smiled, genuinely happy for the first time in weeks.
"Can I drive you home?" His expression turned serious again, his eyes more distant but still friendly.
She wasn't ready for that yet, though.
Or maybe she didn't trust herself to be in that small car with him after hugging him.
"No," she responded, a bit more abruptly than she intended to. "I mean, thank you, but...I think I'd rather take the bus today."
Something flashed in Yi Jeong's eyes, but he nodded.
"But you can wait with me until my bus comes," she rambled on, "if you'd like. The stop's not very far from here."
He raised his eyebrows at her then, as though the invitation confused him, and she could have slapped herself, because what type of invitation was that?
But she didn't have a chance to correct herself, and in fact she didn't need to, because suddenly he smiled that smooth, cool smile of his that made her stomach turn flips and her insides melt.
And then he said, "Sure."