Three weeks shy of perfect. That was what Sang Woo's parents always said. Sure, they would have preferred not having labor start in the middle of a dinner with their friends but at least he didn't pop out during their sexy Valentine's Date planned. Sang Woo would stop listening at that point, loving parents obnoxious in their affection to one another, but he remembers that lead in. Just three weeks shy of perfect. The truth of the matter was a little less clean-cut than that.
Sung-Hi was in one of her favorite little blue dresses ( of which every dress she owns is a favorite little-something dress, as anyone who knows her long enough comes to realize ) and the pain set in. Not an easy or simple kind of pain but the kind of thing that hit her harder than it ever should have. After all, Jongkook had been a pretty simple kind of birth: in the hospital cursing Sung Kang in broken languages and a few hours later the baby boy had been there. Sang Woo was supposed to be easier. But, well, he was meant to enjoy things the hard way.
Labor was difficult on both ends. Tangled in his own mess Sang Woo came into the world and ended up right on a machine; assistance necessary for a solid week before the doctors were fine letting the parents take their new son home. He'd be a little week for a while but he should be fine, they said. Everything seems to be functioning normal. A "while" became years, though, of an immune system just weak enough to catch every cold passing through class. Chicken pox at two, high fevers his whole third and fourth years of life, chronic colds through the winter. He stayed upbeat enough through it all, even as a kid. "You hardly ever screamed about it. Telling you, just shy of perfect!"
But Sang Woo would have cried if he had been capable of it. Because every time the doctors laid him on his side to shove a needle into his ear to clear his head, he felt like death was tickling his brain. Every time he laid in a bed wrapped and drowning in the bitter taste of fluids colored every tint of the rainbow he felt like the morning was a little bit further away. There was comfort in little things, in sandwiches stuck into soup and watching American television that his parents still liked, even now that they lived at home, but nothing more comforting than his older brother was back then.
It was during one of the winter colds that the real blessings came true. Jongkook had finally done it, after weeks of saving up loose change from chairs and couches and washing his own dish from dinner for some extra spending money he'd been able to buy his brother a thing that would hold true as favorite to this day: a Titan A.E. wrist watch. It came with two tickets to go see the movie, too, purchased by his parents. "For when you get better, when you're good enough again!" Motivation, really, for Sang Woo to start fighting harder in silence against everything that ailed hm.
The only time he did cry, did finally cave and collapse into it all, was when it got to be too much.
At nine years old, just shy of perfect ran out. They had all been warned that if his ears continued to build fluid it might mean he was in need of an operation on the ear. They could only drain him so often, so much. The chance that there was a tumor in the canal was high enough and, even without that option, there was likely some kind of deformity within the inner ear that would need a prosthetic adjustment. The crying didn't stop, even as his eyes tried to focus on the pocket watch as the fear set in because, because he wasn't going to wake up he was so, so sure of it as the doctor said a weird number after four and...
Sang Woo doesn't remember, of course. The operation went odd; the doctors had meant to operate for thirty minutes and ended up in there for the better part of two hours. They couldn't account for it afterwards, the lost time, but everyone was just glad that Sang Woo came through without much of a problem. He'd need a hearing aid if the surgery never took properly but, they were sure it'd function at enough of a level to survive without one and finish developing just fine.
But a month later, it made sense. Safe Haven visited the family as they landed in New York for a trip on business. There was something new to their kid, different, and they were being offered a way to help him learn and cope around it.
Training became a second focus after schoolwork. It was the kind of stress that lent itself to being pampered, too, spoiled in ways that Sang Woo would come to regret. Weight gain off treats and sweets whenever he wanted it, getting to skip days of class when he was feeling a little off. Because the stress of understanding that time wasn't just a luxury but a gift most people squandered became to be an odd thing for parents to accept their child knowing. So many lives flickered around him with their memories hardly intact, more golden about the fantasies they wish they had taken chances on than actually remembering happiness. Even with his failing ear Sang Woo understood that his time was borrowed and special; this life was likely just a stolen moment, gifted because it came with the cost of knowing every fleeting second, of every wasted moment, through the world.
That wasn't an easy trick to manage to filter through, either. So the years were spent doing what he wanted, what he could, however and how often he wanted. It was easy to avoid trying to slip into seeing his own future that way. When the temptation rose, Sang Woo replaced it with one thing or another, a cupcake, a bag of skittles. It was worse when they flew around to help set up shops and tracks: every time he went to step on a flight they worried about his hearing, his immune system, his requite; it bundled together to make a flurry of nonsense through his definitive years that even now are more like a watercolor mess than a masterpiece. It wasn't until his teenage years, when time became happenstance for him, that Sang Woo even began to figuring out how to use it to get himself both spoiled and ahead. Classes began to flourish a little easier because he could manage extra enough study hours and goals, well, they made themselves clear enough.
He would be an actor. Maybe. His height hit hard and they settled in Seoul for another few years, to let the boys finish out their grade school years and their dreams could start to flourish. They had tasted enough of the world already that it made the most sense, really. But Sang Woo fit even worse in Korea then; until he was approached by an agent who told him in the frankest terms possible that, with enough weight lost, he might actually be handsome. At least worth some work in photography. The card burned heavy in his pocket all the way home that evening where his parents gave their input, firmly.
So, go wild he did, just as they said. And training became a twice a week event while he was enrolled in a modeling academy trying to lose weight whatever way he could. Dropping down roughly 40 kg took its time and before Sang Woo was even done doing that much he was signed up to Korea's Next Top Model. Scripted beyond belief, he couldn't survive it for long; his mood swings from being starving coupled with a terrible persona written up didn't do him well at all in being able to keep his head on straight. From star of one episode to cut the next, it was a brief stint with only a fun feature in a music video left to remain as legacy for the effort. A wild effort but dead, all the same.
After it, he knew that his goal as model would take time, to get to being an actor most especially. So he went through with school: something he could do while abroad as easily as he could at home, something that'd make his time still traveling the world here and there easy instead of a difficulty. It came easily when looking at places to apply: massage therapy. With the international license and credits, he'd be able to do it on his whim, do it on a time all to himself. And that worked just fine.
Schooling came and went; it was neither here nor there much, the focus being trying to understand enough of the body to know how to work it into relaxation properly more than trying to set bones and fractures. That would be helpful, sure, like the understanding treatment of hands and skin care would, but it was never enough to stress about over the exams. Work was coming in sporadically enough that it began to work itself into a schedule all its own: work in Seoul, flights to Thailand, to Bali, to Europe for magazines now and again. Never full time enough to not make it to a show in Japan where his brother was rising the wave of rock with his band but enough to survive all on his own.
Subsidizing his salary with a steady flow of clients as a masseur became simple. A shoot in Denmark? Left ample time to take on an appointment or two for extra spending money. It might not get him too close to where he intends to be just yet, might not ever, but it works enough for now. With stolen time in his pocket, making the best is good enough for now.