"So," he said, not wanting to sound too eager despite feeling it drenching his bones, "how was it?"
"The delivery was a success, Master Song."
Woo Bin rolled his eyes. "Well of course it should have been," he replied drolly. "But that's not what I was asking."
"How did she... you know." He leaned forward in his seat, trying to rein in his anticipation of a positive response. "React?"
It took his man a few seconds of eternity before replying, "They were all screaming, so I think-"
"No, no," Woo Bin cut it. "I wasn't asking about all of them. Just the one."
Just the one who mattered.
Another beat. "It was... a bit hard to see from outside the classroom, Sir. From where we were stationed it was... very difficult to determine which voice was hers. However-"
Woo Bin drummed his fingers against his knee. Fair point, he thought in annoyance as he ended the call. Maybe he should have talked to someone in the room to get a proper feedback on his latest antic. From another student, maybe. Or from the teacher.
Or, he added to himself, maybe Ishould have been there to personally see her reaction.
Then he made a mistake of swiveling his chair towards his table, only to grimace at the sight of documents still needing his attention.
Oh, right. I couldn't.
See, there was a reason he had to resort to some other creative ways to express his affections to Chu Ga Eul these past few days. Being away from work meant he had to get back to doing it at some point, as his absence meant that his tasks remained waiting for him. This, in turn, resulted to less opportunities to casually walk out of the office to go to her house, or to take her out for meals any time he wanted - a great travesty, that.
Some days when he was miraculously free, she was the one who wasn't, claiming that she was swamped with assignments and projects which were all due immediately.
That, too, was unfair.
So, being the creative genius that he was, Woo Bin knew he had to improvise.
Starting with sending her frivolous gifts.
And fancy foreign food that even her mother would approve of.
Then an assortment of teas, coffees, and sweets that her father might also like.
And then, realizing belatedly that he also needed to do something about how she was being treated in school thanks to Park Yo Na's influence, his latest stunt - which his man had just reported to him - required that her entire classroom be filled with bouquets of her favorite flowers, all bearing a note personally signed by him.
Chu Ga Eul,
May you find joy in these flowers
in the way I find joy in your company.
Song Woo Bin
It was probably the cheesiest thing he'd ever done in his entire life, but the odd thing was that he wasn't even ashamed of the fact.
On the contrary, he'd relished imagining how Ga Eul would react to his stunt, as during his previous gifts he was able to elicit a sometimes panicked, sometimes laughing, sometimes emotionally moved call from her.
"Sunbae, what is all this? So many coats and perfumes and scarves! I can't believe you just-"
"Oh, Eomma loved the Mediterranean dishes you've sent us! She'd been telling all her friends about-"
"Appa wanted you to know that he liked that cigar you sent him! It's something he'd always wanted to try out-"
"This is all just too much, but- thank you, Sunbae!"
"Thank you, Sunbae!"
"-thank you, Woo Bin-sunbae. It means a lot to me, seeing my parents happy."
He smiled at the memory. Hopefully he'd get more from her this time.
...whenever 'this time' would actually be.
A short while later and a knock on his door made him look up in time to see his assistant come in with files in his hands. Woo Bin paused and said, while already feeling defeated, "Ya. I haven't even finished my current workload yet, and you're giving me more?"
"I'm sorry, Master Song," his assistant replied, and to his credit he did sound apologetic. "But these are new contracts that your father wanted you to vet before he acts on them."
"Contracts?" Woo Bin repeated blankly, even as he'd held his hand out to get them. "I wasn't expecting to receive any this week. What kind?"
"From those who wish us to act as contractor, Sir, including being the sole source of construction materials," said his assistant, pushing his glasses up his face. "At least, that's what I got from skimming through the files."
Woo Bin frowned. Already? It wasn't as if he'd made his plans to replace the Parks in the industry public knowledge. Truthfully he hadn't even discussed his latest business move to his father in great detail, and people were now sending them exclusive partnership contracts?
"I'll-" He paused, suddenly unsure of what to do even as he'd flipped open the first contract to browse it. "I'll look into them."
And his assistant took that as a cue to bolt.
Woo Bin hadn't even reached the end of the document before his phone rang again. He glanced at the caller, raised his brows, thought about ignoring the call for a tiny second before manning up and cautiously replying, "Yo, my bro. Good to hear from you, but isn't it crazy early there at your corner of the world, though?" He paused, then added in jest, "Are you just drunk dialing me?"
Yi Jung chuckled at the other end - which was always A Good Thing since it meant the call was deliberate. "Googled time zone differences, haven't you?"
"More like I made an intelligent guess." Woo Bin smiled, feeling more and more comfortable about actually receiving the call. "You usually don't call at this hour."
"Sorry," Yi Jung replied, sounding tired all of a sudden. "Couldn't sleep."
"Problems?" Woo Bin asked, closing the contract he was reading with an audible snap.
Yi Jung snorted. "If you consider Ha Jae Kyung a problem, then yes. A big, annoying, all-consuming one."
Well, that was a name he hadn't heard in a long while. "Ha Jae Kyung?" Woo Bin repeated, getting unwanted flashbacks about how his own attempts to flatter the woman blew up in his face. "Jun Pyo's girlfriend? That monkey?"
"I wouldn't call her either of those things if I were you." Yi Jung replied in such a way that made Woo Bin imagine him pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance as he did so. "Learned that the hard way, myself."
-wait, wait. That statement alone opened up a lot of questions about Ha Jae Kyung and why the hell she was in Sweden, of all places, and what the hell she was doing with So Yi Jung, of all people. It also reminded Woo Bin that he hadn't asked the latter about his activities abroad... which, in turn, made him feel less than a friend and more like an ass at this point.
And, considering their past scuffle about Chu Ga Eul, meant he really hadn't acted like a good friend in a long while.
Woo Bin cleared his throat. No better time than now to rectify that. "Is she bothering you or...?"
Yi Jung sighed. "She- she financed my latest exhibit without me asking her to, but only because she wanted to showcase her own works as well."
"Her own- wait. She's a potter?"
"Hardly!" the other snapped. "Or- I don't know, she said she wants to be one. Said I inspired her."
"Oh," Woo Bin said, fighting the urge to sound amused - and losing spectacularly at it."Ohhhh. Seems like you've got yourself a fan in that monk- I mean, Ha Jae Kyung." He then winced, remembering all that Jun Pyo went through - and really not wishing that to befall Yi Jung. "Man that's... that's rough."
"Tell me about it," his friend said. "I have half a mind not to show up tomorrow morning."
"Then don't. It's not like she can drag you out of bed."
"I doubt it'd be beneath her, at this point."
Oddly enough, there was... something... about his tone that made Woo Bin's brows go up higher. "Hold up," he said. "What do you mean-"
"Anyway, Jae Kyung's really not the reason why I called." And, before Woo Bin could cut in Yi Jung said swiftly, "Have you received them?"
"Them?" Woo Bin repeated, caught off guard at the sudden change in topic. "What 'them'?"
"The-" Woo Bin turned to the folder currently atop his workload and asked suspiciously, "How'd you know about them?"
Yi Jung chuckled. "Probably because the projects are our family's and Ji Hoo's? Haven't you read them yet?"
Well, that certainly explained the hows and whys of this situation. Woo Bin reopened the first file. "...huh. I was wondering why the name of the other party seemed familiar." Except he really wasn't. Yet. He skimmed through the second file as well and said, "So. Your family's planning on building a museum, while Ji Hoo's wanted a hospital as well?" He grinned. "What auspicious timing you two have."
"More like we both wanted to see if you can actually deliver what you promised," Yi Jung replied.
"Oh I can, of course I can. It's just-" Woo Bin paused. "Let's just say there's been a bit of delay in the... execution of things."
"Well, if you can't do it-"
"Didn't say I can't," Woo Bin said. "Didn't say I won't. Just... I haven't really worked out the specifics with my father yet, so until I do-"
"Busy with other things, aren't you?"
"Well." Woo Bin adjusted himself on his seat and said, "I am a rather important person, after all."
"That wasn't my point, you ass." After a moment Yi Jung asked quietly, "H-How is Chu Ga Eul? Have you been keeping her... safe?"
Woo Bin's lips thinned, feeling the stabs of unwanted jealousy in his gut. "She's fine. She's protected well. You don't have to worry; I'll take care of her."
"Good," his friend said, after a long while. "So long as she's okay, then we won't have any more problems."
"Tell me something I don't know." Then, as if to get back at Yi Jung Woo Bin added, "Good luck dealing with that monkey, bro. You'll need it."
And then he hanged up.
The next day found him still in the midst of studying the new contracts.
His assistant was able to schedule him a meeting with his father later that week - an odd, yet formal instruction coming from Chairman Song - so now he was busy editing his presentation. He needed to highlight the benefits of his proposal, hoping that his father could see that this was more than just revenge against the Parks, but that it would be a profitable venture for Song Construction, Inc. An opportunity that shouldn't be missed, considering they were the ones who made that chance available in the first place.
Too caught up he was in staring at his monitor that he didn't even notice his office door opening - until the person who opened it had deposited a rather large bowl in the middle of his desk rather loudly.
"Wh-" Swiveling to fact the intruder, his eyes widened when the visitor turned out to be- "Ga Eul?"
"I," she said, arms crossed in front of her chest and her cheeks puffed up adorably, "am going to murder you."
Fighting the incredible urge to throw his arms around her, Woo Bin instead scratched the side of his chin before saying, "Is that right?" He gestured at the bowl and said, "I'm assuming you've happily poisoned my porridge, then."
"I could have!" she said, even as she reached for the bowl to open it and begin preparing the meal for his consumption. "I should have. But then I thought, well that wouldn't be painful enough for me, would it?" Ga Eul stirred the porridge with gusto before handing him the spoon. "Because believe me, I want you to suffer."
"And here I thought I was the bloodthirsty one between us." Unable to help himself, Woo Bin rose from his seat to place his hands on her shoulders. "Please, tell me what I did wrong, and how I can rectify it immediately."
She pursed her lips, then reached inside her bag - only to retrieve a piece of paper and shoving it on his chest. "Seriously? You really had to fill my classroom with flowers?"
He took the paper to find his own handwriting staring back at him. "Well-"
"We had to find an empty classroom for our lecture, did you know that?" Her face started to redden then. "All because our usual one was no longer viable. And- and-" Ga Eul moved away, choosing to sit on a chair near him. "Everyone is asking how I know you, how I've managed to snag you, and now it feels like they're all looking at me." Somehow she'd managed to make herself look smaller. "All because I'm me and you're... you."
Well, this was an outcome he wasn't expecting. "Hey, hey," Woo Bin said, coming to crouch before her and hold her hands in his. "Look, I know that maybe what I did was... a little too much-"
"Just a little?" she asked, pouting.
He gave her hands a squeeze. "But it made everyone in your school know that you're connected to me. That I'm yours. And I did that not just because I wanted to-" Here Woo Bin lifted his hand to cup her cheek, "-but more importantly, I did that to protect you."
She leaned into his touch, closing her eyes as she did. "Park Yo Na's no longer attending school, so I don't think-"
"Doesn't mean she no longer has any influence there. She is from a powerful family." He brushed his thumb against her lower lip. "I want everyone everywhere - even in your school - to think twice before trying to harm you again."
Ga Eul opened her eyes, then looked as though she was trying to find the right words to tell him. "I- I don't want you to think I'm not thankful," she started saying. "Because I am, believe me. It's just... you're doing too much, Sunbae. The gifts to me, my family, and now-"
"What?" he said, acting offended. "You don't think I can afford them?"
She pulled his hand away from her face, but didn't let go of it. "I- I feel like I'm not doing enough to reciprocate."
Woo Bin let go of the breath he hadn't even realized he was holding in. Here, he pulled her to her feet, before drawing her into a hug. "Liking me is enough," he replied softly, meaning every word. "Choosing me is enough."
She exhaled, and he could feel her finally relaxing against him. "Sunbae, I-"
"Ma'am! Ma'am! Please, you can't-"
His office door swung open again, with more force than what was necessary, and in came-
"I finally found you."
Here Park Yo Na stepped closer to him, looking haggard and pale and all sorts of wrong. "Song Woo Bin."
Author's notes: Yes I'm still trying to write Eutectic but mayyybee after this story has ended :)
Stay safe, darlings!