Title: my heart is still (remembering)
Word Count: 1,909 (62,472 total so far)
Warnings: Lots of swearing, depictions of a character having panic attacks, mentions of alcohol and drug abuse, some (mostly non-graphic) blood and gore, sexual situations(?)
Summary: He’s not a hero, and he’s not a spy. Really, he’s just a mechanic who nearly went crazy and got in over his head in order to cope.
Notes: I feel like I should have things to say but I don't? I'm like 90% sure that I was asleep while writing parts of this chapter because I didn't remember bits of it when I gave it the last read-through just now. But yeah, there's plot and stuff. Please enjoy.
Hakyeon’s eyebrows make a valiant attempt at merging with his hairline when Hongbin walks into his office later that afternoon. Hongbin didn’t call ahead. He probably should have.
“Wonshik’s coming,” he tells Hakyeon, slumping down into the chair in the middle of the room like this is a normal appointment. Taekwoon stands in the doorway staring at them both. He’d barely managed to stand up before Hongbin brushed past him and now he just seems resigned, though his expressions are as hard to read as ever.
Hakyeon shoves against the counter at the back of the room and just manages to stop his rolling stool before he collides with the exam chair. “Why the hell would he come here?” he asks. He doesn’t sound especially concerned, but Hongbin’s pretty sure that he should be.
“Well,” Hongbin mumbles, lacing his fingers together and stretching the tendons. His hand wasn’t shaking, but it never hurts to be extra limber…you know, just in case. “He’s apparently CFO of the company that made your husband into a cyborg, so.” He shrugs.
Hakyeon’s eyes go wide and he takes several deep, slow breaths. “Okay,” he says, glancing up at Taekwoon. “Let’s start from the beginning, yeah?”
Taekwoon closes the exam room door behind himself and pulls over the rickety little chair from the corner, and with gentle words and voices they coax the story out of Hongbin.
He doesn’t tell them about the device that he built, or about his visit to the storage facility at all, actually. They don’t need to know. It won’t help anything. But he does tell them about going to Wonshik’s office, about running away, about Wonshik finding him at his apartment and the conversation that they had.
In spite of himself, he leaves out the darker parts of Wonshik’s history. Hakyeon knows most of it—he has to—but that doesn’t mean that it’s Hongbin’s place to talk about it, even if Wonshik is a lying traitorous bastard.
When he’s done, he looks from Hakyeon to Taekwoon and back again, hoping that one of them will have answers for him. What is he supposed to do? Can he ever trust Wonshik again? Was he an idiot for thinking that someone might just genuinely be interested in him?
Taekwoon speaks for the first time since Hongbin got here. “The situation is complicated,” he admits, “but if Wonshik is truly genuine about helping to end this…then we should at least hear him out, should we not?”
Hakyeon waits for Hongbin’s small nod of agreement before he slaps his hands down on his thighs and declares, “Well, then! We’ll just have to be prepared when he gets here. Don’t let your guard down, but try to keep an open mind, alright?”
Hongbin nods again, feeling kind of lost and floaty. The last thing he needs is to disassociate right now, but he’s not sure that he’s really going to have control over anything in another moment.
Hakyeon seems to sense his disquiet though, or it’s more obvious on his face than he thinks, because he lays gentle, grounding hands on Hongbin’s shoulders and squeezes for a moment. “We’ve got this, Hongbin,” he promises. “You’re not in this alone.”
Hongbin knows that, but he also knows that in some ways, he is completely and utterly alone. That he will always be alone, because no one can see inside his head or his heart anymore. Youngji always knew exactly how he was feeling and how to make it better, but she’s gone now and all he’s got is a vague shadow of her that’s been tainted by his own mistakes.
“I just need a minute, if that’s okay,” he says, closing his eyes tightly.
Hakyeon hums softly and says, “Okay. Yeah, take as long as you need. We’ll let you know when Wonshik gets here.”
Hongbin grunts in acknowledgement and leans back in the chair. He’s comfortable here; and isn’t that sad, that he’s so familiar with a place that most people would associate with great pain?
He lets himself float, acknowledging the thoughts that come and focusing on the breathing exercises that Hakyeon taught him. He can control what goes on in his own head. He doesn’t have to let himself feel this way.
It doesn’t exactly work, but the deep breaths calm him if nothing else. God willing, he won’t fall apart during this meeting, and she won’t show up unbidden.
There’s a knock at the door, three sharp taps. Hongbin startles in his seat and has to fight himself back to calm. He presses a hand to the hammering in his chest, runs the other through his hair, tells himself that it’s okay.
Wonshik is out there, and everything he told Hongbin was a lie, but Hongbin is going to listen to him talk some more anyway. God, he doesn’t want to be here anymore.
The knock comes again, quicker and louder this time, and Hongbin can imagine Hakyeon’s scrunched face as he wordlessly demands Hongbin’s presence.
“I’m coming,” Hongbin calls out, and he heaves himself out of the chair. It’s more effort than it should be. Everything is more effort than it should be. He’s not going to collapse in the middle of this though; that would be embarrassing.
When he opens the door and looks out at Hakyeon’s reception area, it’s the most full he’s ever seen it. Taekwoon is in the rolling chair at the perpetually empty receptionist’s desk, his arms crossed and a deep scowl marring the smooth lines of his face. Hakyeon stands behind him with his hands braced on Taekwoon’s broad shoulders, staring down the men who have invaded his office.
Wonshik came like he said he would, and he’s standing there, still in his stupidly expensive suit, bowtie lost and collar undone and fidgeting like he’s actually nervous. Behind him, Hyuk is slouched in one of the hard plastic waiting-room chairs, and he appears to be picking at his nails. Ken, meanwhile, has taken control of the desk in front of Taekwoon, perched on it with his legs swinging back and forth, humming to himself as though this is a perfectly normal day and he’s come here under perfectly normal circumstances.
Hongbin doesn’t want to look at them; any of them. Just the sight of them is like the embodiment of all his failures for the last six months. For the last decade, maybe. He doesn’t know how he’s supposed to feel, and it’s stupid because he was the one who told Wonshik to come here, who ordered him to bring these two.
Hongbin realizes that he barely remembers Hyuk and Ken. It’s been months, and he’s made so many others since then. He should be surprised, or shocked, or disgusted that it was so easy to purge himself of the memory of people who likely would never forget him. How could they? He made them what they are.
The silence has gone on for too long, the lot of them staring at each other and waiting for someone to speak, so Hongbin breaks it.
“I’m surprised you got here so fast.” He has to fight not to flinch at the sound of his own voice, at the venom that comes out without his consent.
Wonshik shrugs, looks at a point just above Hongbin’s shoulder instead of looking him in the eye. “I had something to prove,” he says. It’s too raw, too honest, and Hongbin has to fight not to believe it instinctually. He doesn’t know that it’s the truth just because Wonshik makes it sound so. He doesn’t know anything about Wonshik anymore. Maybe he never did.
“Prove it then,” Hongbin insists. He crosses his arms over his chest and stands up as straight as he can. The posturing makes him feel like a fraud, but he has no confidence of his own so he’ll just have to borrow some.
Wonshik lifts his hands to either side of himself, encompassing…everything, the room at large, or maybe just the two cyborgs he’s brought with him. “They’re fine,” he says. “All of them are fine. They’re at safe-houses or being relocated. They’re starting new lives, or trying to get back what they can of their old ones. I’m doing what I can for them.”
Hongbin doesn’t want to believe the earnest tone of Wonshik’s voice or the wideness of his eyes as they finally focus on Hongbin’s. He can tell that Wonshik is trying, whether he’s being truthful or not. He wants Hongbin’s trust.
“Then why am I still doing this?” Hongbin asks. It’s not what he meant to say, but he needs to know the answer. He’s spent too long being someone that he doesn’t want to be.
“Because I’m a failure,” Wonshik admits. His eyes drop from Hongbin’s, look down at Hongbin’s scuffed dress shoes instead. “And because some part of me thought that we were doing something good.”
“How could you think that?” The question, sharp and too loud, doesn’t come from Hongbin’s mouth. It comes from Hakyeon; Hongbin had almost forgotten that he’s even here. “After everything that you’ve been through, Wonshik—“
“I know,” Wonshik interrupts him. “It was stupid. But I watched all the bots that Hongbin made march out the door, I personally saw them all taken to safe-houses and I thought, ‘This is good. We’re making a difference. All of these people will live, will never have to fear the Black Lung, will never know that kind of suffering again.’” He takes a deep breath that rattles in his throat like he’s holding back tears. “I guess I…wanted to play god.”
Hongbin doesn’t have words for what he’s feeling right now, and neither, it seems, does anyone else. They all stand there, watching Wonshik stand in their midst and fight himself, in total silence.
“I know I’ll never make up for what I’ve done,” Wonshik says at last. “I know I can’t possibly make up for letting this go on, for not being able to save all of the people that the other engineers have worked on, for not…being truthful with all of you. But I’m not going to sit around and let it happen anymore. I’m going to fix things now, I swear it.”
They’re all quiet for another long moment, while Wonshik takes hitching breaths and rubs futilely at his leaking eyes.
Hongbin knows that now is the time. He has two choices, and both of them will be difficult and painful and will require more trust than he’s sure he possesses. But he has to make the decision now.
He says, “There’s a device in my apartment that could cause an entire office building to implode.”
The room goes utterly still, absent even of breath for a few jarring seconds. And then they all turn to stare at him with wide eyes, and Hakyeon lets out a high distressed noise, and Hyuk’s jaw goes slack.
Wonshik, his face blotchy with tears but shocked out of crying, looks at Hongbin with a glint in his eye as a slow smirk spreads across his features. “You’ve been busy,” he accuses.
Hongbin shrugs and allows himself to meet Wonshik’s eyes properly, staring into them and reminding himself of all the reasons why Wonshik is a bad idea.
Wonshik looks at the others, gauging their reactions, and when he turns back to Hongbin he nods once. “I have an idea,” he says.
Of course he does.