Seol hung the last of her clothes in the rack Se-Joo had cleared out for her and faced him with her hands in the air and a triumphant, sleepy smile. He let her revel for a few moments before he took both her hands in his and backed her into the wall of the massive walk-in closet. She looked up at him coquettishly.
“Hmm, why do I feel nervous?” he wondered. “I feel like I’m back at the blue gate, dropping you off at that witch’s house after taking you out on a date.”
“Bang-Wool is not a witch, she’s a fortune teller.”
“She threw beans at me,” he replied dryly. He dragged his hands up her arms to her shoulders and rubbed them lightly.
Seol tried to fight a smile at the memory and Se-Joo frowned.
“I almost cried.” He pouted in an exaggerated way and Seol melted like butter, too tired to resist.
“Do you think Jin-Oh will come back?”
Se-Joo’s gaze slid down to his thumb on her shoulder, and he stared at it for a minute reflectively.
“Yes,” he said at last, voice thick. “He owes me. He told me he’d make sure we could be happy together in our next life.”
“I could be happy with him back,” Seol agreed.
"He'll be back, then." Se Joo looked thoughtful. "Don't you think he'll come be with us because we need him here?"
"Like Mary Poppins?" She made her voice light on purpose, determined to break the mood. "Yes, I'm sure that's how it works. It's probably written in the Ghost Code, right under--" she cut off when he squeezed her side, making her double over with laughter.
Se-Joo opened the front door and continued teasing Seol, who was drunk, belligerent, and riding on Jin-Oh's back.
"You made that up. There wasn't anything in that fountain."
“I was telling the truth! You didn’t believe me about the ghost, either. And wasn’t there a ghost?” he demanded, crossing his arms in front of him.
Instead of being abashed at her insubordination, she lit up and lunged at Jin-Oh and cradled his face with both hands. “Yes, there’s a ghost,” she confirmed. She squished Jin-Oh’s cheeks. “So cute.”
Jin-Oh stared back, eyes wide at the sudden intimacy.
Se-Joo watched the scene with barely concealed amusement and anticipation. Jin-Oh had returned and the three of them were as close as ever, a friendship that bridges lifetimes. But it felt like something was missing, like they were holding back, and it felt wrong.
“I know that you know that I’m sorry I killed you. But at least you became a young, handsome ghost.” She curled her right hand and stroked his cheek reverently with the backs of her fingers before releasing him.
He breathed out a soft, surprised laugh as she turned back to Se-Joo.
“What,” Se-Joo said, cocking his head with an air of sardonic interest, “I’m handsome too?”
Before she could respond, Jin-Oh had grabbed her by her wrist and spun her back toward him and was kissing her, deeply, intimately, as if this were something they did all the time. And from then on, it was.
The day they find out Seol is pregnant, Se-Joo takes her and Jin-Oh out for dinner to celebrate.
She sighs dreamily into her cacio e pepe.
"I didn't think it would happen right away," commented Seol, for the second time, and Se-Joo saw Jin-Oh's head bob in agreement.
"I didn't think it would ever--I mean, I never thought I'd be a father," he said.
"I didn't either. Not before," Se-Joo said. "But we'll be ready." His voice lowered to a whisper. "This is a blessed baby. She's going to be loved a lot."
Jin-Oh, who hadn't stopped staring at Seol in probably a couple hours, nodded again.
A smile crept onto Seol's face at Se-Joo's conviction. "Are we the same?" she asked, and Se-Joo knew she was talking about their past lives. "You seem so different sometimes. You're....open."
Se-Joo smiled a bit sadly. "I wasn't always open in this life. You and Jin-Oh let me be this way. And I'm the same as I was back then, and so are you; only the circumstances have changed. I can love now and be honest about it. And I love you, and I love that I love you. All of you," he added.
He captured her hand across the table and put his other hand out where Jin-Oh could reach it. Dae-Han muttered audibly from the kitchen.
"Han Min-ah, don't forget your lunch box."
Se-Joo heard in reply determined, staccato footsteps run back toward him, and he watched from over the counter, seeing just the top of her head and her two short pigtails, followed by two pudgy hands reaching up to take the lunch satchel.
"Appa, bye!" she shouted to him, running away again.
Jin-Oh appeared in the doorway and barely avoided collision.
"Come on!" Min said to him as she steamed by, waving her hand toward him.
Jin-Oh took the proffered hand and managed to give a little wave to Se-Joo before being pulled toward the front door.
"Bye!" Se-Joo called after them, nursing his morning cocoa.
Se-Joo knew Min would drop Jin-Oh's hand before they reached the bus stop. She had gone through an "imaginary friend" phase, but she was slowly working out the rules, what worked best, what people wanted to think.
He was not even done with his cocoa by the time Jin-Oh was back in the room with him, crowding him but not really looking at him.
"It's cold out there," Jin-Oh complained.
"You can't feel the cold," Se-Joo said, then added uncertainly: "Can you?"
"I know when it's cold," was the reply. Jin-Oh shifted a little restlessly, running his hand over the tins by the kettle. "Min's friends are impressed that she walks to the bus stop by herself," he said.
Se-Joo cringed inwardly but only raised his eyebrows at Jin-Oh and blew into his cocoa mug unnecessarily. "She must be weirdly proud to tell you about it, considering it's not true."
Jin-Oh met his eyes again but didn't say anything.
"It's not true," Se-Joo repeated. He slid the fingers of his free hand into Jin-Oh's hair and held on, as if to assure them both. "You're real, and you're part of this family. Because we kept you. You're real and you're ours. You're Min's dad."
Jin-Oh held Se-Joo's eyes and drank in the reassurance.
"I am yours," he said agreeably, voice just above a whisper. "You might be mine, too." He began to tilt his face closer, and Se-Joo's mouth curved up in delight.
There was a thud upstairs.
"How could you let me sleep so late?!" Seol yelled.
Se-Joo let his hand drop, unbothered by the outburst but anticipating Jin-Oh's guilt.
"Oh no," Jin-Oh breathed sincerely, before vanishing upstairs.