pairing: kangin x leeteuk
summary: all kangin wants is to be real.
Kangin can’t tell how long he has been alone in the dark.
The paintings go quiet after a few days. Either that, or his hearing goes dead. In the dark he has no way of knowing.
His blunted senses remind him of being in the quarry, and he begins to feel blockish again. Without Jungsoo around to fill his mind, he finds it harder and harder to piece together ideas. Eventually, he just gives up.
Dust settles around the block. Its last conscious thought is that it has been forgotten.
Unnumbered hours later, a voice pierces through the fog around the block.
“Do you have anywhere available right now with a lower rent?”
The block knows this voice from somewhere.
“The basement. I don’t rent it out normally ‘cause it has asbestos, but I’ll give it to you for 300 less.”
It knows that voice, too. Doesn’t like it.
“What if I give up the studio downstairs?”
“I’ll take off another thousand. Provided you move your shit out today, that is.”
There’s a pause. “Can’t you go any lower? Please, my mother’s been in and out of the hospital, she doesn’t have insurance, and the Social Security checks won’t cover an emergency—”
A loud slam. “Did I say I wanted to hear your fucking sob stories?!”
“N-no.” The fear in the good voice awakens something in the block. He wants to break, tear, smash the bad voice so that the good one will be safe.
“Then quit wasting my time and get to moving.”
A door opens and light shines on the block, dulled and muffled by something—a sheet. He hears footsteps, then the sheet is pulled off.
“Hello, old friend. I missed you.”
There’s a smile on Jungsoo’s face, but it’s small and tired and doesn’t make dimples in his cheeks. The fracture from when he left has been patched but not healed.
“We’re moving today,” he says. “I hope you don’t mind. Money’s a little tight now that—” He doesn’t finish the sentence. He doesn’t need to. Kangin knows that Inyoung always took care of their mother financially, and Jungsoo isn’t really stable enough to manage it on his own.
Jungsoo walks out and makes a few phone calls, then works on packing up the other rooms for a few hours until the movers arrive. They come in and size Kangin up. He can tell by the strain in Jungsoo’s voice that he’s nervous as he describes how they’re going to do the move. First they wrap Kangin in blankets from head to base so that all his senses are muffled. He feels straps being tightened all around him, then straining as he is lifted into the air. Finally he’s lowered back down and sealed into what seems to be a padded crate.
There’s a familiar series of angry grunts, just like when he was brought in, as he moves down, down, down. With every step he braces himself for a final crack. Then, just as quickly as it started, it stops. The process is reversed as he’s set back on his feet on a new, cold cement floor, and everything but the blankets is removed. Kangin hears Jungsoo pay the movers, and their heavy footsteps clunk up the stairs, leaving him and Jungsoo alone.
“Let’s get you out of these blankets so you can see your new home.” He begins to undo the straps holding the blankets onto Kangin, one by one.
“Thank God you’re safe,” he breathes. “I don’t know what I would do without you.” Kangin doesn’t know, either. What happens to humans when they’re left by themselves? Maybe they turn into stone, too.
Jungsoo unwraps all the blankets except the last one attached in the back around Kangin’s waist. It only goes up to his chin, so Kangin can see where he’s been moved: he faces an old brick wall of a dark basement, illuminated only by an old lightbulb and a tiny barred window near the ceiling. Directly in front of him is a low bed with threadbare sheets, and in his peripheral vision he can see a dirty bathroom and a tattered chest of drawers next to a staircase leading up and out. This seems to be the only furniture. Dust clings to every available surface and floats through the chink of sunlight in the wake of their entrance. Kangin doesn’t know much about money besides the prices Jungsoo asks for his art, but he’s certain this rat-hole isn’t worth half what the landlord is charging.
“One more,” Jungsoo mutters. He threads his arms between Kangin’s elbows and his waist to reach the clasp, then stops and looks up at his face.
“I really did miss you.” He leans forward and rests his head on the blanket, on the center of Kangin’s chest. “I wished I could have brought you with me. I needed a friend and I—I don’t really have…any….” Jungsoo’s voice shudders and his arms tighten around Kangin’s waist as his tears soak into the blanket. But Kangin can tell he’s still holding back. Jungsoo has said a thousand times that marble is horrible at supporting its own weight, and if Kangin tipped just a centimeter to either side unsupported, he’d fall over and break into pieces. Kangin does his best to stay upright in the full knowledge that his best means nothing, and the ache of not being able to pull Jungsoo into his arms feels nearly strong enough to crush him.
Beyond all that, though, Kangin is aware of a completely new sensation. Where their chests are pressed together, just barely perceptible through the blanket is a faint, rhythmically pulsing thump. Kangin doesn’t know what it is, only that he doesn’t have one, and wonders if this is what makes you alive.
The thump ratchets up twice as strong as the upstairs door opens. “You left a box—” the landlord yells down, then stops. “What the hell are you doing? Getting off on a statue?” He shakes his head and mutters, “Faggot. Anyway, get your shit out of my studio or I’ll start charging you for it.” He kicks a box in and slams the door.
Jungsoo runs up to rescue his belongings from tumbling down the stairs. He doesn’t look at Kangin for a minute as he brings them down and sets them on the bed, then slowly turns around, embarrassment evident in the way that his eyes stay off to the side as he reaches around and undoes the last clasp. He doesn’t address what just happened—doesn’t have to; both he and Kangin know better than to give an ounce of credence to the landlord’s ravings.
Jungsoo doesn’t talk to him for the rest of the day. He dusts the basement and brings his paintings down from the studio, then arranges his few personal belongings. The last thing he pulls out is a photograph Kangin has never seen before of a younger Jungsoo with a girl who looks like him—Inyoung, he recognizes. Jungsoo debates about where to put it for a moment, then sets it on top of the dresser, visible from his bed and from where Kangin is standing. Night falls outside the little window. Finally, the last thing set out, Jungsoo turns out the lights and climbs into bed.
“Good night, Kangin,” he says quietly, then curls up into a ball and falls asleep.
“Well, well, look who decided to join the rest of us,” says a voice from behind him. Kangin can’t see the source, but recognizes it as a painting of a woman in a green dress who is constantly complaining that she will never be sold because Jungsoo didn’t make her beautiful enough. “Not so nice being knocked off your high horse, is it?”
“Don’t bother. I bet he can’t even speak.” This one is a clay sculpture of a disembodied hand holding a book.
Kangin realizes with some shame that he’s never really tried. He knows from experience that the other art speaks in a secret language humans can’t hear, so there’s no chance of him being able to say anything to Jungsoo. He digs down inside of himself, looking for a voice. “I can too speak!” he tries, and succeeds. The sound is surprising at first but immediately makes sense; it’s low and strong and comes from deep in his chest.
“Listen to that. He even talks like a dumb block of rock.” The sneering voice who speaks this comes from Jungsoo’s only, and unsuccessful, attempt at cubism. Jungsoo told Kangin once that it was inspired by the greasy rich man, and though Kangin can see the resemblance, others simply find it uncomfortable.
Then a new voice breaks in. “That’s enough, all of you!”
Kangin would have jumped up in surprise if he could. He knows this voice, but didn’t think he would ever hear it again. “Inyoung?” he asks.
“Over here.” Her voice comes from the photo on the dresser. “It’s good to see you again, Kangin.”
“But how are you here? You’re dead.”
“Because you’re so alive yourself.” The photograph doesn’t move, of course, but he can hear a smirk in her tone. “Jungsoo loved this photograph, the last thing he had of his sister, and so I took on a little bit of what he thought of me. It’s no different from the way he loved the best statue he ever carved, who he couldn’t bear to sell even though the money from it would let him move out of this awful house and not worry about paying a bill for years.”
“So you’re not…alive.” He can’t keep the disappointment out of his voice.
“No, but this image of me remembers what it means.”
Kangin’s mood picks up. “Really?! Wait, I think I know. It’s that…sort of dugun dugun sound that Jungsoo’s chest makes, isn’t it?”
Inyoung laughs. “Well, that’s certainly part of it—the physical part, at least. Not the best indicator. Plenty of people have beating hearts and are far less alive than you are. No, the real secret…” she drops her voice. “…is love.”
Kangin is silent. Jungsoo has never talked to him about love. He’s heard rumors from the paintings, but what do they know?
“I can’t tell you what love is. You have to find it for yourself,” Inyoung says. “But I can at least tell you the rule.
“There’s a magic to art, you know. My brother feels it but doesn’t understand it. He’s always talking about the soul of art, and what he means is the way that he pours his own soul out into his artwork, so that for him, each piece is a little bit alive. Some pieces more than others. I’ve never seen him produce anything like you before.” This earns scoffs from the paintings, but she ignores them. “And on very rare occasions, an artist will create something so close to being alive that with a little bit of magical help, it could cross the barrier and become so.”
“Become…alive,” Kangin repeats. The word tastes sweeter now that it feels so near.
“There’s a rule, though. The world is full of bad people, and the magic isn’t about to add to that number. Before a creation can become alive, it has to pass a test: it must love its artist more than itself. That is to say, it must want to be alive, not for its own selfish reasons, but completely for the sake of the artist. And the artist must love it just as much.”
“So you could become alive, Inyoung,” Kangin says. “Jungsoo needs you. He’s not the same without you.”
“I wish I could.” Her voice is heavy and poignant. “But Inyoung has already been alive, and I’m just a shadow of her former self. The magic only works for new creations. No, the one he needs right now is you, Kangin.”
He doesn’t respond; he knows it’s useless to protest that he doesn’t even know what being alive really means, let alone what love is. Inyoung can’t help him there. Instead, he looks down at Jungsoo’s sleeping form, the tiny ball of his body rising and falling gently under the tattered comforter, and spends the night racking his brain for any way he could pass the test.
It becomes clear to Kangin over the next few weeks that Jungsoo is not the same as when he left. He sleeps longer and takes more time in the morning to get up; some days he doesn’t get up at all. Kangin knows that humans are supposed to eat three times a day, but sometimes Jungsoo forgets, perhaps intentionally. The numbers he mutters as he budgets his money get smaller and smaller as he goes longer and longer without making a sale. He paints new things, but they all come out dark and morbid, and when talking to Kangin doesn’t fix what’s wrong with them, they end up unfinished in a corner. Their whining becomes a constant fixture in the background.
Hardly anyone comes down to look at Jungsoo’s work now. Kangin knows he has a sign up in the studio, where someone else has moved in now, but Kangin can’t think of an appealing way to say “come down to the dark, scary basement for more!” and he’s sure Jungsoo can’t, either. In the beginning, old customers come by looking for Jungsoo. It goes the same with each one. They’ll come downstairs, all smiles, glad to see the artist they used to like is still around. That smile will freeze in place as they take in Jungsoo’s increasingly haggard appearance, and start to falter as they look around at the unfinished new work starting to fill the room. By the time they make some sort of polite excuse and leave, their expression is more fear than anything else. Both Jungsoo and Kangin know that if a formerly loyal customer comes down to the basement, that’s the last they’ll ever see of them.
“They know he’s gone off the deep end,” the abstract painting scoffs.
“Completely lost it,” the green woman agrees.
“Look on the bright side,” one of the new paintings puts in, one that had been given up before it was really started, just a gray, rainy-looking blob on the canvas. “This will make for fantastic press after he dies.”
Kangin watches Jungsoo shutting the door behind yet another lost customer and dragging his feet back down the stairs. “Is this what it means to be alive?” he asks Inyoung.
“Part of it,” Inyoung admits. “If you become alive, you’ll find that some parts are much harder than anything you’ve experienced so far.”
Kangin wonders again whether this is something he really wants.
After two months there’s still one customer they haven’t seen: the greasy rich man. All the paintings speculate he’s heard wind of Jungsoo’s state from one of the others and knows better than to show his face. Kangin thinks so, too, but he won’t admit to it. He can tell Jungsoo is clinging to him as a sort of lifeline. “Have to take a shower today,” Jungsoo will mutter. “What if he comes by? Can’t afford to look shabby.”
Then, one day, there’s a knock on the door. They all know it’s him. Jungsoo jumps up, fixes his hair, throws on a jacket over the shirt he’s been wearing for the past three days, and runs up the stairs to greet him.
“Leeteuk, my good man!” the greasy rich man says exuberantly, clasping his hand. “When I saw the change of ownership outside, I was afraid you’d left us for good. You can’t imagine my surprise when I heard from one of my colleagues that you had gone in—to a new studio. I came straight over. Now, show me your new work. I want to see everything.”
Kangin doesn’t like something about his demeanor, but can’t put his finger on what. Jungsoo leads the man around the basement, showing him this painting and that. The man makes a show of listening interestedly, but his eyes have been on Kangin since he walked down the stairs. After the third painting, he speaks his mind.
“My offer still stands for that statue.”
Jungsoo whips around to glare at him. “My answer is still no.”
“Don’t trifle with me, boy.” The man steps closer, looming over Jungsoo. “I know exactly what you’ve fallen to these past few months. The entirety of the art world knows. No one with half a brain wants any truck with a madman—I alone have a refined enough eye to see the diamond in the rough. You cannot afford to reject my offer. There will be no others.”
Jungsoo looks up at him with a steely glare. “If all you came here to do was insult me, then you can get the hell out of my studio.”
The man stares back at him for a long moment, then, without a word, turns on his heel and marches up the stairs.
“Call me if you change your mind,” he says over his shoulder before closing the door.
As soon as he’s gone, Jungsoo wilts. “What have I done?” He paces in circles around the basement. “I’ll never make a sale again unless he gets his way. Why am I so stubborn? It’s just a damn statue—!” He turns as if to yell at Kangin, but as soon as their eyes meet, the anger melts off his face.
“Who am I kidding?” Jungsoo walks over and perches on Kangin’s base, leaning his back against Kangin’s leg. “You’re my only friend, Kangin. I could never sell you to someone like him.” He curls his legs up to his chest and runs his fingers through his hair. “Truth is, I don’t think I could ever sell you at all. I don’t know what I would do living here…alone…” His back trembles as he starts to cry.
Kangin’s hand is just inches from his face. He concentrates all of his effort, wills it to become alive, to reach out and wipe the tear from Jungsoo’s cheek. Please, magic…I’m begging you… But the stone doesn’t budge.
“Why the hell isn’t it working?!” Kangin growls. “All I want is to comfort him! What’s so wrong about that?”
“There’s nothing wrong with it, Kangin,” Inyoung answers gently. “But think of it like this: you feel that way because he needs you now. What would you do if one day he decided to sell you?”
“That—you—” Kangin fumbles, but he has no answer to that question, and he knows it. “That’s too hard.”
“Nobody said becoming alive was easy.”
Just as the greasy rich man said, the news that the once-great Leeteuk has lost it seems to have spread to every possible customer, even the occasional casual art buyers who used to fill in the gaps in Jungsoo’s budget. Jungsoo counts his money and finds that he only has enough for this month’s rent unless something changes, and after three weeks, there’s no sign of that happening. He starts to disappear during the day, telling Kangin he’s going out to get a “real job” that actually pays. But at the same time, his mental state continues to deteriorate. He’ll be fine for a week or so, then go two days without getting out of bed. The next day he’ll come back and tell Kangin he’s been fired. The cycle repeats. When the day to pay the next month’s rent comes, he doesn’t have enough.
The landlord pounds twice on the door, then barges in and stomps down the stairs. “Rent!” he demands.
Jungsoo flinches and shrinks back from him. “I…don’t have enough.”
“T-this is all I have.” Jungsoo holds out his wallet, hand quivering.
The landlord snatches it and pulls out all of the cash inside, running his grubby fingers over it to count it. “You’re two hundred short.”
“I know. I’m sorry. Just give me another week—”
The landlord drops the wallet and grabs Jungsoo by the collar of his shirt, slamming him back against the wall. “Listen here, you goddamned waste of oxygen. I have had it up to here with your bullshit. I may not be able to get that two hundred out of you now, but if every cent you earn doesn’t go straight to me until you’ve paid it off, I will find a way to make you pay.” He gives Jungsoo a final shove to mark his point, then lets him go, pocketing the cash before he storms out.
“You get your ass back here!” Kangin yells after him. “I’m not done with you!” But it’s useless; he can only fume in perfect stillness as he watches Jungsoo stand, wavering, and pick his wallet off the floor.
Jungsoo knows better than to show his face around the house much until he can pay off his debt. Kangin doesn’t see him eat a single crumb, and guesses he must be getting his food outside, so the landlord can’t see him spending money on something else. In a week he’s earned the extra two hundred and life can go back to normal, but now he’s that much further behind on the next month’s rent. The scene repeats itself. This time Jungsoo walks away with a few bruises, though he tries to hide them from Kangin, slipping into the bathroom to change his shirt as if he’s ashamed.
Jungsoo is fragile, and he is fragile because he is alive.
Just when it seems that things can’t get any worse, a call comes for Jungsoo from the hospital.
“Is this Park Jungsoo? You’re listed as the emergency contact. Your mother is sick.”
Jungsoo’s face goes white. He sinks down onto the bed and listens as the doctor describes the sickness with a lot of words that mean nothing to Kangin, along with a few that do: “We can cure her, but without insurance the drug costs about 5,400 dollars.”
It takes Jungsoo a minute to swallow that number. “A-alright. I’ll take care of it. Can you just give me a few days to get the money together? My budget’s a bit tight right now.”
The doctor says they can give him a week, no longer, and hangs up. Jungsoo pulls at his hair and looks up at Kangin. “What am I going to do?”
Kangin has no answer for that. Jungsoo is still in debt for the month, and has one, maybe two hundred dollars hidden away. A good sale would take care of the bill with money to spare, but it’s been months since he’s had one of those. Unless he gets a new customer, there’s no chance of Jungsoo finding the money.
Jungsoo goes out to work for the next few days, leaving at odd hours, only coming back occasionally to sleep. On the morning of the sixth day after the call he brings his pay back and counts it.
“916 dollars and 23 cents,” he says, “with the rest I had from before. Not even a thousand dollars. And I have two days left…” Jungsoo looks at Kangin for a long time without speaking. Then, suddenly, he stands up and walks outside, taking his phone with him.
When Jungsoo comes back there’s a grave expression on his face. He doesn’t look at Kangin as he turns off the lights and climbs into bed, and though Kangin waits for him to say good night, he never does.
“Looks like our favorite rock is getting sold,” the lady in the green dress taunts.
“It was only a matter of time,” the abstract painting agrees.
“What are you two talking about?” Kangin demands. “Jungsoo himself said he would never sell me.”
“Don’t be dense,” the hand holding the book says. “Oh, wait—you can’t help it!” The others erupt into a chorus of laughter. “You saw how suspiciously he went outside to make that call. I bet he called that rich client of his and just couldn’t bring himself to do it in front of you.”
“But…he…Inyoung, tell them!”
“I’m sorry, Kangin,” Inyoung says, voice laden with sympathy. “But I think they’re right. You’re the only one here with an offer still standing.”
“He can’t!” Kangin says, but regrets the words as soon as they come out.
“I’m sure if there was any other option, he would take it,” Inyoung says. “But our mother’s sick, and there’s nothing else he can do.”
Kangin knows full well that she’s right. That doesn’t stop him from hating it. Why did things have to end up this way?!
“Don’t get so full of yourself,” the abstract painting scoffs. “You’re just a statue. It’s patently irrational that he’s held on to you for so long.”
“I’m not!” But the painting’s words come in to land on him like vultures on a rotting corpse. You are. In the end, you’re nothing but a chunk of stone. He spends the rest of the night arguing with himself, angry thoughts crashing against each other like rocks.
In the evening, the greasy rich man comes to the door as expected. Jungsoo drags himself out of bed at his knock.
“It’s good to hear you’ve seen sense, Leeteuk,” the rich man says. “Rest assured, the world will know of your recovery.”
Jungsoo just shushes him. “Don’t let my landlord hear you. Come down here.”
The rich man walks down the stairs and looks around. For a second, Kangin hopes that he’ll walk over to one of the other works—but his eyes fall on Kangin last, and she makes a beeline to the back of the basement. “Still in good condition, I see,” he says, making a slow circle around Kangin. “Measurements?”
“60 by 60 by 183, including the base.”
“Very well. I’ll send the movers over on Monday to pick it up.” He pulls a sheet of paper out of his briefcase and hands it to Jungsoo. “There’s the contract.”
Kangin hears the scratch of Jungsoo’s pen on the paper. “And my payment?”
“Right.” The rich man takes the contract back and pulls out his checkbook. “We agreed on…”
“90 thousand, with a 5% nonrefundable deposit paid upon signing,” Jungsoo finishes.
“Of course.” He writes a check, tears it out, and hands it to Jungsoo with a flourish. “Here you are, then. The rest will follow once it’s installed.”
Jungsoo nods, staring down at the check. He doesn’t see his guest out.
“Just enough,” he says finally, setting the check next to the rest of his money in the drawer where he keeps it hidden. He calls the hospital to tell them he’ll send the money along the next day. Then, slowly, dragging his feet, he walks around to sit on the bed in front of Kangin.
“I’m sorry,” Jungsoo says. “I wished I could have kept you. If it was just me, you know I wouldn’t have done it—right?”
Kangin has no response; anger has inflamed every strand of his mind.
“Ah, never mind,” Jungsoo says finally, shaking his head. “You can’t hear me anyways. It’s better if I stop pretending that you’re—”
His sentence is cut short by the basement door slamming open. “Where the hell is he?!” the landlord’s voice booms from the top of the stairs. His beady eyes settle on Jungsoo. “You.” Staggering slightly, he makes his way down. Jungsoo scrambles to his feet and backs up, only to run into a wall.
“You’ve been hiding money from me,” the landlord says. His face is red and his whole body reeks of beer.
“I—I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jungsoo stammers.
“Don’t you lie to me! I saw that rich asshole leaving the house. I know he pays you. Give it to me.”
Jungsoo shrinks back into the wall. “P-please, just give me a c-couple days, then I’ll give you enough money for the next y-year, I swear! The hospital says I have to p-pay them by tomorrow—”
“You owe me money today!” The landlord looks around him, then his eyes fall on a box off to the side—Jungsoo’s sculpting tools. He hefts the largest hammer into his hands. “You’re going to give me that money on the count of three,” he says slowly, stepping forward, “or you—” His foot runs into Kangin’s base and he stops short. Looking up at Kangin, his eyes take on a murderous gleam. “Or I turn this fucker into pebbles.”
“No!” Jungsoo gasps. “Please, can’t we—”
Panic flickers across Jungsoo’s face.
“Don’t move!” Kangin yells at him. “He’ll hit you instead!”
“Three!” The hammer comes up, swings. Crack! A chunk of Kangin’s chest flies off and slides across the floor. Kangin forces down a scream as fire flares up around the missing piece, not scrap rock, but a part of him.
The landlord snarls. “Won’t be so tough if I go for your face.”
“Stop!” Jungsoo yells. But the landlord is determined now. He lifts the hammer and takes aim. Jungsoo darts forward.
“Stay put, you idiot!” Kangin shouts. “You’ll die!” But it’s too late. Time seems to slow down for Kangin as the two move together, the hammer on one side, Jungsoo on the other. Kangin orders something, anything, on his body to move. Even if I go right back to being a rock, even if I get sold and never see him again, for just one second—just one arm—be alive!!
There’s a thundering crack as Kangin’s hand swings up and the head of the hammer lands in one strong palm. Both Jungsoo and the landlord stagger back from him in shock. Kangin wrests the hammer from the landlord’s hand and lets out a bellowing roar.
A squeal escapes from the landlord’s lips. “Monster!” He turns tail and runs. Feeling rushes into Kangin’s legs and he barrels after, up the stairs and out the door—
“Kangin!” Jungsoo’s hand catches him from behind. Kangin stops short. “Leave him. It’s okay, he’s not coming back.”
Kangin stares blankly at Jungsoo’s hand wrapped around his arm, soft, tan skin pressing against soft, tan skin. Jungsoo gently pries the hammer free and lets it clatter to the floor. He’s still quivering. Kangin shakes his head to clear his mind—his head moves—then does the only natural thing, which is to reach out and pull Jungsoo close with every ounce of strength his arms can muster.
Jungsoo wraps his arms tight around Kangin’s waist and buries his face in Kangin’s shoulder. “You’re....” He chokes on a knot in his throat, a tear squeezing out onto Kangin’s skin.
“Alive,” Kangin finishes his sentence. “I’m alive.” He can feel the thumping in Jungsoo’s chest, now joined by a new beat of his own.
Jungsoo’s head snaps up suddenly, and he pulls back. “But you’re hurt!” He looks down and runs his fingers along a deep scar on Kangin’s chest where the hammer hit him. Kangin winces as he does; it still stings. “I’m so sorry, I—”
“I’m fine, I’m fine.” Kangin pushes back Jungsoo’s bangs and kisses him on the forehead. “I’m just happy that I could protect you.” And for the first time, Kangin can give him a real smile.
Then Jungsoo starts crying again, of course, and Kangin holds him tight again, of course, until he finally calms down. (And Kangin will never admit to it, but maybe a little condensation escapes from his eyes, too.)
Somehow, everything else manages to work itself out. The rich man is none too happy to find that the new centerpiece of his foyer is suddenly very much not made of marble, but he’s so shocked to see Kangin walking around on his own two legs that he forgets to complain about the deposit. Jungsoo sends him off with the sketches and clay models from the sculpting process, and he seems placated enough. Jungsoo gives the check to the hospital before he can remember to be angry.
Rumors of the human statue begin to float around, and suddenly Leeteuk is the hottest name in art, and everyone who’s anyone wants to visit his ultra-exclusive basement gallery where the magic is supposed to have happened. The prices of his work skyrocket, mostly on the back of the superstition that each one has a small chance of coming to life, which Jungsoo neither confirms nor denies.
They never see the landlord again. He calls a few months later and offers to turn over the deed on the condition that he doesn’t have to meet with them in person, and that’s the last they hear of him.
As for Kangin, he has a few things to learn about being human, like speaking politely and using chopsticks, but Jungsoo is patient with him even if he himself is not. Eventually he adjusts enough to be able to work a normal job and blend in with regular society. Once he’s fully independent, he decides to wander a bit, to see the world.
But he never wanders too far. And if anyone ever tries to give Park Jungsoo trouble, before they can even lay a hand on him, they’ll meet a man with fists like rock who teaches them not to try again.