All Vitals Stabilizing
It was a strange experience, lying in bed with nothing to do.
Rather, he knew that there were things for him to be doing, but he was in no condition to attempt them at the moment. His hand was aching and felt like it was on fire from the medications slowly trying to heal what the infection had destroyed. If he moved too much, he got dizzy again; if he tried to speak, his brain locked up. He’d barely been able to mouth words to Rion when they’d shown up earlier…and wasn’t sure he’d be able to manage it again if they came back.
God…what had he done?
This wasn’t the Jumin Han he’d been raised to be. This wasn’t even the person he’d tried to be. This was a disaster of a human, utterly fallen apart and uncertain of how to be put back together. His father should have been mortified, looking for a way to take the company back from the catastrophe. The rest of RFA should have been cutting ties, wondering where he’d lost his mind, figuring out if any of them were safe from his madness. There shouldn’t have been a person in this room since the moment he walked in, aside from the doctors…and even them, he wondered why they stayed. None of these people were getting anything from him aside from pain and hardship.
And instead…the doctor his family hired was going above and beyond to ensure he did all he could for him, and insisted that he didn’t need additional compensation. His father hadn’t come to visit, but he’d called–voice fraught with distress–and assured Jumin that he’d make sure the company ran fine until he could come back. He didn’t need to worry, because it would all go smoothly. And RFA…
Each and every single member had come by, dutifully in their pairs, and seen him. Chrissy and Yoosung had been overcome with their grief, stricken that anything they might have said leading to this sad conclusion. It wasn’t you, he wanted to say, seeing the tears stream down Chrissy’s face. It was never you. I fault you for nothing…I deserved all of it. It was true. Every word she’d said he’d rightfully deserved. He hadn’t meant what he said to come out as it did…but he couldn’t fault her for taking it that way.
It was so much easier, in his eyes, for them to give away statements of emotion: “I love you.” “You mean the world to me.” “I cherish your friendship.” These weren’t words he said, not to anyone. The very few times he’d ever spoken anything of the sort to Rion all that time ago…it had taken hours before he could voice them, and only then in a tentative whisper. Pet names, they might come easier, but…the rest… They were so lucky, to have access to their emotions the way they did.
Even now, he wasn’t sure he wanted help. Something had to change; that much he knew. Something needed to mend at least a piece of the brokenness inside of him. But he didn’t know why, didn’t know how. Didn’t want to cast aside the way he’d been for all these years just so that he could feel these horrible emotions day after day. How did normal people handle it? All the overwhelming feelings, all the desires to act…did other people feel this way? Or was it simply that he had lived his life repressed, looking only for that which was useful and nothing more, and that had given him these urges he could not seek to control? Everything wanted something from me. All of his father’s girlfriends, all of the women who had tried to court him, all of his employees…with the possible–probable–exception of his Chief Assistant. …Former Chief Assistant. Everyone had an angle, and he wanted no part of it. It was business or it was irrelevant. But slowly…he was starting to see what it truly meant to have friends. What it really meant for someone to love you. It wasn’t always romantic. It wasn’t always sexual. Sometimes it was something strange and in the middle ground. Sometimes it was simply platonic. Something he should have realized a long time ago with Elizabeth the 3rd. My poor pet, being treated far too long like a human woman. I’m sorry, Elizabeth. You deserve better. …I will try to be better. He’d baffled Luciel’s brother by appearing with the cat. He was sure Saeran had no real desire to become Elizabeth’s full time keeper.
Though he did have Elizabeth the 4th now. He could feel the soft fur of the stuffed cat under his arm, and it still made a small smile creep to his lips. It had been a thoughtful gift from Chrissy. He would need to thank her when he could.
Then of course there had been Zen and Jaehee. There was a piece of his mind that had always kept them in the same paragraph together, despite their insistent desire to pretend they were only friends for the longest time. When even he could see the attraction, something was incredibly obvious. It was reassuring to see them finally embracing that, walking in hand in hand. They were well matched…and both much more distressed than he’d expected. Perhaps it was because she was no longer his assistant, but it seemed to him that losing a taskmaster would be a much more positive occasion. But again, he overlooked the power of “friendship.” He wasn’t sure when it had happened, but Jaehee Kang had begun considering him her friend, for better or worse. And despite all the trauma and long hours and borderline torture he’d put her through in his own selfish arrogance, she was still in tears seeing him on the hospital bed, mute and broken. She could barely speak.
Zen managed the words she couldn’t, in the way that only Hyun could. They had known each other for far too long for him to spout meaningless platitudes. Hyun called Jumin out on his behavior, pushed him toward smarter decisions, and reminded him that there was more to the world than what existed in his own head. Reminded him that there were people out here that cared about his well-being, and didn’t want anything in return from him other than his continued presence in their life…no matter how irritating it might be.
Jaehee had been in tears, unable to touch him, but standing at his side with a hand over her mouth. Don’t worry over me, Jaehee. You have so many more important things to be focusing on than your foolish former employer. Your new job, your blooming relationship, anything else in the world you could be thinking about. Don’t waste your tears on me. But he couldn’t tell her. He could only watch, and feel his cold and withered heart yearn to break.
But it had already broken, and shattered, and been swept up into something resembling a heart before.
Luciel and Rion. In a series of incredibly emotional visits, this one had been the worst. Of course, leave it to Luciel to find a way to communicate, albeit slowly. He still wasn’t sure he trusted what words he’d say, but these were the two he needed to say words to. These were the two he couldn’t ignore. The words for Chrissy would wait, and he was determined to say them, aloud, when his voice returned. But to them…
Rion’s voice had been in tatters. Luciel’s was broken and jagged. Both of them looked like they hadn’t slept in weeks. …It was possible they hadn’t. And on Rion’s wrist, the single bracelet he’d ever bought them and placed in the box he’d given them some time ago…and the wedding ring he’d never needed, resting next to the other charms of the necklace he’d given them. I’m wearing them, they’d said, and I’m happy to. Luciel’s face had never shifted. He knew. Jumin wasn’t sure how much he knew, but he knew enough…and he just smiled, content with what was happening.
Jumin couldn’t understand it.
But he wasn’t willing to give it up. He’d said it partially in jest to Luciel, but he was a selfish bastard. No matter how much he wanted to be better, that part was unlikely to shift for good. He was possessive and selfish, and disliked letting go of anything he deemed his. Therein had always lay the issue with Rion. They weren’t willing to be only his, to be consumed by him and his emotions.
He wasn’t sure he blamed them anymore.
But there they were, both of them, awash with emotion and desperate to see him healed. Luciel had said he was lucky to consider Jumin his friend. Rion had repeatedly told him that they still loved him, and he could tell they were sincere by the look in their eyes. By the way they pressed a hesitant kiss against his lips, and the way he could feel their hands shaking against him.
There was still such a strong piece of him that wanted to consume them. Wrap them up inside himself and never let go. To utterly own them, every iota of them, and dissolve into the love they shared.
He knew he’d never have it. He’d need to learn to deal with it. But it was always going to be there.
Perhaps they were right, and somewhere down the road he’d find someone else who made his heart race the way they did, but he doubted it. He still wasn’t sure he wanted it. As painful as it was, he’d still rather keep Rion in his heart and watch them with Luciel, than believe that he had somehow turned away from them in order to love another. Because even if he loved someone else, there would always be that piece of him that loved them.
…maybe that’s how they felt.
It had never dawned on him. I fell in love with you first. He remembered them saying that to him, once upon a time. When they’d realized that being with him wouldn’t have made them happy…when they finally saw the messages from Luciel falling apart before he went to Mint Eye…when they got the call that finally tipped the scales. How much had they been hurting, looking at a man they loved and asking him–asking him–to leave him for someone else. He’d always been so lost in his own agony…but he did believe that Rion loved him. So how must they have felt? How must they continue to feel, still holding a love in their heart that they don’t know how to express…that they hold just as close but cannot portray it the same way? Did they feel this same knife in their heart every time they came across him…every time he said some small words of affection…every time they were reminded of what they’d had to trade?
He was making the choice to stay. They made the choice to leave. They both felt the pain from the choice, and suddenly those two pains didn’t seem so different to him.
What have I done? The question kept coming back. It was true what he’d been saying; he didn’t remember a great deal of what had happened in the first few days. In most of the days he was gone, truly. He remembered the fury when Rion called, mockingly saying that Luciel was abandoning her. He remembered the rage of having something like that taunted in front of his face, no matter how unlikely it was. And he remembered going home from work that day…and he remembered punching the table. He’d hit a mirror first, but it had only cracked and not broken, and he’d needed the pain he felt inside somehow to come out. Suddenly those words V had confided in him, words that Rika had said and had terrified him, made so much more sense. The pain in his mind, in his heart was too immense. He needed to see the pain. Needed to be able to feel it in a way he understood. The mirror wouldn’t break. He found something else–and he hit it until it shattered. The doctors said he’d fractured a few of his fingers as well. And as he watched the blood flow down his arm and onto the white carpet, everything seemed to draw a little more into focus.
But he’d been woozy after a moment. He stumbled to the hospital, insisting on stitches and then leaving as soon as he’d been bandaged. They’d wanted to keep him. Wanted to ask him questions, get him help. He didn’t want help.
He kept falling, losing his balance and tumbling to the ground. After the first few times, he finally remembered to not catch himself on his good hand. And next thing he remembered, he was sitting in front of V’s headstone, sobs wracking his body so hard it ached. He was a mess and he didn’t care. He remembered screaming at the stone, at the sky, at the rain, at anything he thought might be listening. Why did you leave me? He knew it was an irrational question. V hadn’t chosen to leave, no matter what anyone was being told. He knew the story, and he knew why they’d never tell it. Saeran had enough blood on his hands, and enough mental scarring. He needed that chance to start anew. So V had shot himself.
Why won’t you answer me? Where are you when I really need you? How did you let her fall so far? None of the questions had answers. V hadn’t been in charge of Rika’s behavior, no matter how much he took the blame. He fought to love her and keep her safe. She hadn’t been able to hear it.
That didn’t sound familiar at all.
He didn’t know how long he’d been there, or how he ended up at Chrissy and Yoosung’s, but that was where the memories picked up again. His hand didn’t hurt enough. No one could know where he was. It didn’t matter. He needed to disappear. And the next morning, he’d burned his bridges well enough to do just that.
So he thought.
The days at the Mint Eye building ran together in his mind. They said he’d been there for two weeks. It felt like so much less time. It felt like a lifetime. He’d tried so hard to run away, not let himself be brought back to the name he had failed…but feeling Luciel’s arms around him, he couldn’t really fight. He was too sick, too weak, too hurt.
He wanted help. He just didn’t know how he wanted it.
He hadn’t spoken the whole time he’d been at Mint Eye, not really. A few muttered sentences to himself, expletives when something hurt, but nothing real. Not even fake conversations. He held enough of those in his mind. And once he’d been taken out, he couldn’t make himself speak. He didn’t trust his voice, didn’t trust what he’d sound like, didn’t trust what might come out. They all deserved words, and he wasn’t good enough to give them to anyone. Perhaps in time…but not now.
“Mr. Han?” He turned his head toward the door, seeing one of his nurses standing there. They’d been thrilled when he’d started moving his head more, though it still made him tired to do. “You have a visitor. Are you up to seeing them?”
He nodded, and the nurse vanished, returning a moment later with a single figure: his father. Jumin felt his heart jump into his throat. Oh Father… I’ve let you down far too much as of late. The nurse let them be, closing the door as the elder Mr. Han sat down next to him.
It was a long moment before he spoke. “Oh son.” The heaviness of the emotion in his voice was enough to wrench Jumin’s throat into a vice. He tried to lift his arm, but the muscles still didn’t want to cooperate. His father noticed, and set a hand over Jumin’s. “I fear too much of this is my fault.”
Jumin shook his head, as quickly as he dared, trying to grab at his father’s hand. No, Father, it wasn’t you. This isn’t your fault. You could not have changed the way my mind dealt with issues.
“I wonder sometimes how life would have been different if your mother were still around. If she’d been there more when you were growing up. I feel like I’ve failed you in some way.”
His breath was pushing at his voice, desperate to use it but unsure of what to say. No, Father. No. He needed to say something. He couldn’t speak.
“I’ve put a great deal of pressure on you.” I’ve put more on myself, Father. “I’ve expected far too much out of you.” Not more than I expected of myself. “And I’ve tried to force you to live up to expectations I could not even achieve myself.” We all have faults. This wasn’t yours. “I don’t know how to apologize.”
Jumin tried to send every ounce of his emotion to his father. You don’t need to apologize. There’s nothing to apologize for.
“I want to be better, when you recover, son.” His father looked at him, both of their eyes wet with unshed tears. “The two of us…we haven’t always seen eye to eye, and we’re both stubborn as mules. I’m sorry to say you inherited that from me. But when you get out of here…we’ll talk, you and I. About the company, about ourselves…about what put us in this situation. Neither of us talk about emotions well, but I think this is something we need to do.”
Jumin managed a nod. Yes. It will be difficult, and irritating, but necessary.
“You remind me so much of her, you know.” Jumin’s eyes widened at the statement. “You’ve adopted far too much of me over the years, but especially as a child…you remind me so much of your mother. I’m sorry the two of you didn’t have that much time together. I know you’ve kept in contact with her off and on, but…” He shakes his head. “It’s not the same.”
My…mother? Jumin couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard his father talk about his mother.
“We’re all working hard for you, Jumin. We’ll make sure you don’t come back to chaos.” Jumin breathed out a laugh at his father’s comment, getting a small smile in return. “I know you doubt it’s necessary, but I assure you, it’s been quite a whirlwind. I’m just glad you’re back. Your new assistant has been working incredibly hard, along with Ms. Kang.”
Jumin’s eyes widened again. Jaehee’s still working with C&R? Her last day should have been…just before his disappearance. Of course. There was no way that his Assistant Kang would have left Rion in the lurch with their supervisor gone. No wonder they both looked so tired. Jaehee has worked herself to the bone while he was there. If he wasn’t…
What have I done? Selfish bastard. He really didn’t take others into consideration. Out of practice. Something to work on.
His father patted his hand, standing up. “I didn’t have long, but I wanted to come by on my lunch to see you. I hated to call earlier, but I wanted you to know we had you in mind even if we couldn’t come by.” Jumin managed a small smile back to his father at that. “Take your time and heal, understood?”
Jumin nodded. Yes, Father. I understand.
“I love you, son.”
His jaw set, fighting back the emotion. I love you too, Father. All he could do was nod.
Mr. Han patted his hand again, took a tentative step back, and then went to leave the room. Just before he could walk out, he turned back again. “Oh, and Jumin?” Jumin turned his head to look. “Your friend left Elizabeth the 3rd with me while your penthouse is being cleaned. I’m making sure she’s taken care of until you get back. She misses you, I can tell.”
His lips parted, trying so much to make a sound and failing. My dear beloved Elizabeth… Missed him. How utterly baffling. He’d been such a terrible owner, and yet… I’ll do better, Elizabeth. I’ll be better.
Again, all he could do was nod, and his father smiled.
“Rest, my son. The world will be waiting for you.”
The door shut, and Jumin closed his eyes. His mind was made up. There was no way he was allowing this many people to go through this amount of pain again because of him. It was absurd. He wasn’t worth it. And if the only way to keep them from hurting was to gather up the pieces of the problem he couldn’t fix and see how they all fit together again…then so be it. He’d do it.
I may not be worth your pain. But I will fight to get myself there.
Wait for me, friends. …I’m coming back for you.