And Anyway, I Never Lied

A Buried Stars fic.

First published March 2022.

Do-yoon + Hyesung, 1048 words.

Post-Despairers ending.

Contains suicide references.

After Hyesung tells him his plan for getting himself back in the spotlight, Do-yoon almost lets it happen. His new policy of non-interference – letting the world pass him by – he almost sticks to it.

But alone at night, Hyesung’s words are a hangnail he can’t stop picking at. And so he sends him a message.

Have you made a report yet?

Hyesung must still be up, because he replies quickly: Isn’t it past lights out at the hospital?

Don’t do it, Dooyoon writes.

Hyesung’s response is slower this time. I thought I’d explained the situation to you.

You did. I’m asking you not to.

Can’t believe you are sending me this shit at quarter to midnight.
I already made my mind up.
You remember I almost died?? That wasn’t an accident.

He already paid for it.
You won’t get what you want like this.

What do you know??
You already gave up on your dream.
Sorry I’m not over the hill yet.

That’s why it’s been niggling at him, Do-yoon thinks. Because Hyesung can be so annoying sometimes. He’s all of twenty, and he acts like if things go wrong now, his life is over. Your life is over, Do-yoon thinks, when you’re dead.

Gyu-hyuk could have finished Hyesung off, and he didn’t. He had the opportunity, and he chose to take his own life instead.

That’s what makes Do-yoon so angry. Because he wishes Gyu-hyuk had lived instead.

You are making a mistake.

Before he can give it too much thought, Do-yoon switches chat windows. He doesn’t have Hyesung’s address; if he asks for it now, Hyesung will tell him to fuck off.

But Hyesung isn’t the only one he can get this information off.

You up? he messages Seil. This will only work if Seil is awake; if he has to wait till morning, the moment will pass, and Hyesung will do as he wants.

I’m up, Seil writes.

Do you have Hyesung’s address? I’m worried about him.
We were chatting earlier but he’s stopped replying.

Isn’t that for the better?

I’m serious. I’m worried.

There’s a delay before Seil responds again. When he does, it’s an address copy-and-pasted into the chat.

You are a lifesaver, Do-yoon writes. He’s already getting to his feet, finding his shoes and wallet – all the things he hasn’t needed while he’s been marinating in hospital.

What are you gonna do? Seil asks.

I just want to check everything’s okay.

Even at night, a hospital is never asleep. Do-yoon has to time his movements, but he makes it out without attracting notice.

Really, he doesn’t need to be in hospital any more. It’s only that he hasn’t wanted to face the real world that he’s still there.

He’s facing the real world now.

He takes a taxi to Hyesung’s address. It’s a rooftop apartment, not that far from where Do-yoon lives, if he hadn’t let his lease lapse. He can’t change his mind and go home now.

The stairs are rough, after weeks without proper exercise. Do-yoon takes a moment to recover himself before he raps on Hyesung’s door. Hyesung peeks through the curtains, and Do-yoon catches his look of outrage before he opens the door.

‘Hyung, what the hell?’

‘We need to talk,’ Do-yoon says. He walks in past Hyesung, who hasn’t realised yet he should be getting in his way.

‘I told you,’ Hyesung says, ‘I already made up my mind. If I have to give up, I might as well die.’

For a moment, the thought flashes across Do-yoon’s mind that this isn’t what Gyu-hyuk would have wanted. He died the way he did for a reason. Asked Do-yoon what he did for a reason.

‘Why do you even care if I tell anyone?’ Hyesung says. ‘It’s like you still like him better than me, and he’s dead.’

‘I do care,’ Do-yoon says. ‘Dragging his name through the muck isn’t going to convince an agent to take you on. You’re not going to find success that way.’

‘It’s the only way I’ve got,’ Hyesung says. ‘And he doesn’t deserve to be remembered well. He tried to kill me, hyung. Am I just meant to roll over and forgive that?’

Do-yoon forces himself to expel a breath. ‘I guess not.’

‘See? You know I’m talking sense.’ Hyesung sighs, and he looks away from Do-yoon. ‘I can’t believe you came over in the middle of the night for this –’

The moment when Hyesung relaxes is just long enough for Do-yoon to take him by surprise. Do-yoon has brought something else from his hospital room: a belt, which he gets around Hyesung’s neck now, pulling it taut.

Automatically, Hyesung’s hands go to the belt; he claws at Do-yoon, and he tries to resist, but Do-yoon, like Hyesung, has already made his mind up. He won’t let the belt slacken.

Hyesung struggles. He tries to kick back at Do-yoon; he tries to get away. It seems to be a very long time that he keeps struggling. Then all at once his body becomes a dead weight, and Do-yoon collapses to the floor under it.

This time, when Do-yoon checks for a pulse, there isn’t one.

Hyesung has already told Do-yoon how he can cover this up: he’s told him that he’d rather die than give up.

So when they find the body, it’s only natural that anyone would conclude that Seo Hyesung, who no agent would look at after the revelations of his school violence, whose dreams were cruelly interrupted by the building collapse, who was still disturbed by the death of his beloved producer – anyone would conclude that Hyesung had chosen death rather than try and find a new path in life.

It’s very sad, of course. He had so much potential. If only he’d chosen to put in the work.

Do-yoon stages the death scene, and he leaves it for someone else to find. If Seil messages him now, Do-yoon doesn’t know what he’ll say. But Seil doesn’t message. Probably he’s gone to sleep and forgotten all about Do-yoon’s supposed concerns.

If things start to go wrong, Do-yoon tells himself, he can come clean. If anyone asks the right questions, makes the right connections, Do-yoon can tell the truth. Like Gyu-hyuk wanted to.

Except Do-yoon has already chosen to lie.