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2006; on the plane to study abroad

 

The first thing Seo Jin said to Park Yeonhee once they’d taken their seats together on the flight was “I’m so sorry…”

 

Yeonhee flashed but a flicker of her normal bright smile. “What for?”

 

“I… I never believed you. When you kept saying she,” Jin spoke, sounding as if she was about to shatter into a million pieces on the word ‘she’, “was jealous of us. If… if I hadn’t…”

 

Wordlessly, Yeonhee took Jin’s hand into her own. Her eyes refused to move from their place staring at the bottom of the seat in front of her. “No. Please. Sweetie, it’s not your fault… she’s always tried to show you her good side, so you never could have predicted she would… do this. I didn’t expect it either.” Jin didn’t respond. A lump had settled in her throat nonetheless, hard and regretful. Wasn’t the fear supposed to go away when they had made it out of that evil house? Then why did it still hurt so much?

 

There was a brief pause. “How’s your arm?”

 

Jin blinked. “Hurts still. I might have broken something breaking your fall — please don’t be mad,” she hastily added, catching the frown forming on her girlfriend’s face. “We can get it checked out when the plane lands, but I don’t regret it. I’d gladly break every bone in my body to keep you safe, Yeonhee.”

 

Another flickering of a smile graced Yeonhee’s features. “Please don’t, Jerkface.”

 

Jin let out a weak chuckle at the old nickname. “Hopefully, I won’t have to. We’re… safer now. Safe from everything in that hell.”

 

Yeonhee’s thumb traced patterns along Jin’s callused fingers and palm, feeling her warmth. “Yup. We’re never going back there. We can be happy now together… right?”

 

Jin slumped to the side in her seat, resting her head on Yeonhee’s shoulder. She was… warm. Soft. Here. With her. “I’ve never wanted anything more.” Jin’s flickering, fluttering sparks finally struck the kindling, and Yeonhee smiled a soft, genuine smile.

 

“I love you, Jin. More than anything.”

 

Jin smiled. For just a little while, there with Yeonhee, all her worries fell away and she was content.

 

“I love you too. More than everything.”

 

Yeonhee turned her head and met her girlfriend in a sweet, soft kiss, the kind that always lasted a long time and remained on their lips even after they’d pulled away for breath. They had done it. They were free.

 

Just as they’d intended, the two slept together on the plane, tired but peaceful.

 

~

 

2006; settling in

 

For weeks after that blissful yet horrible day they’d escaped from the house of their nightmares, Jin had completely refused to leave Yeonhee’s side for even the simplest of things. After unpacking together in their new room in a not-inexpensive apartment their “family” had rented out for two years ahead of time like it was nothing, they’d gone out to get a late dinner together, eaten together, showered together, and then cuddled up together in one of the two beds in the bedroom and fallen asleep together, holding each other close.

 

The next day, at Yeonhee’s insistence, they went to go visit a doctor, and ended up getting Jin’s arm in a cast. It was fairly badly fractured, and the doctor insisted on her not playing piano until she got the cast off, which Jin accepted with a wince. She would never regret that fracture. Never.

 

As the weeks passed them by, almost every night Jin awakened from nightmares of her girlfriend’s broken body, bleeding and lifeless at the end of the stairs. On that particular night, just like many prior, Yeonhee woke to the clinging, fearful grip of her girlfriend’s functioning arm, feel her shaking, and hear her sobbing under her breath.

 

“Sweetheart…”

 

Yeonhee couldn’t even begin to make out Jin’s response, but tightened her hold on Jin nonetheless. By this point, she knew what the nightmares were about, and everything in her panged and burned with compassion and sympathy.

 

“Sweetheart, I’m right here. I’m not gonna leave your side, okay? You know that.”

 

“I-I… I l-love you. I love you… I-I can’t… live without you…” Jin sobbed frantically, as if trying to grasp something fleeting.

 

“I love you too. I know. I’ll always be right here by your side,” Yeonhee whispered into Jin’s golden hair. She ran her hand through it, soothingly giving Jin the touch, the proof that she was there and would always be there with her. The two faded back into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

 

~

 

2007; a warm summer day

 

“Wakey, wakey~” a soothing, familiar voice called to Jin, stirring her out of her slumber. She blinked the grogginess out of her eyes, feeling her girlfriend nestled comfortably atop her, and was met with the gorgeous visage of her long, mussed-up plum hair, her round, adorable face with her brilliant warm smile, and her eyes like rubies, glinting in the honey-gold of the sunrise.

 

It was by far and away the most beautiful thing Jin had ever seen; she slung her arms loosely on Yeonhee’s shoulders and pulled her into a deep, deep kiss. They melted into each other, snugly hugging. Yeonhee’s lips were so soft… and she tasted so good. Jin could hardly resist her. They pulled apart with tender smiles only for each other, as warm and brilliant as the rising sun outside — no, far more.

 

“Good morning…” Jin whispered, a little out of breath. Yeonhee buried her head in Jin’s neck, cheeks dusted red.

 

“Jeez… dork…”

 

Neither of them were wearing anything — their clothes from the day prior had been scattered somewhere near the foot of the bed — and this fact became suddenly very real again to Jin in that moment. So warm and soft and sweet under the covers… Yeonhee was here, with her. They were with each other. Like always. Suddenly overcome with emotion, Jin wrapped her arms around Yeonhee’s waist, pulling her back under the covers.

 

“I love you. So much.”

 

Feeling that beautiful, radiant smile open up against her neck in response was one of the best sensations Jin could have possibly conceived of. The feelings swelled up, like gathering waves, overcoming her.

 

“I love you too! Sooooooooo~ much~!” Yeonhee’s giggles were positively infectious — and there they were, laughing with each other under the covers, overjoyed and oh-so alive. It was… more than Jin could have ever asked for… and yet it was real, it was here! They just lay there, flush against each other, for a little while, listening to their breathing and soaking in the other’s presence. Jin’s mind swirled with emotion and memory, sloshing about like an unshaken snow globe. One particular regretful series of memories seized her, and Jin could hardly stop herself from opening her mouth, so soaked in love as her inhibitions were.

 

“Hey…”

 

Yeonhee separated a little, eyebrow quirked upward. “Hmm?”

 

“Did you… have any plans today?”

 

“Nooooope! Today’s our free day, remember?”

 

“Then…” Jin paused briefly, gathering herself. “Maybe you’d want to go somewhere with me? Just for fun.”

 

If love was like a surging tidal wave, then Yeonhee was the water itself, glittering so perfectly in the sunlight. There was a glimmer of surprise in her eyes — just a hint, but Jin knew too well her own shortcomings, so it wasn’t shocking.

 

“… Always.”

 

Jin smiled faintly.

 

“Then maybe we could go to… the beach? I wanted to visit with you, suddenly.”

 

The silence was palpable for an instant. But the glint of joy in Yeonhee’s eyes made it so so worth it. Always.

 

“Of course!!” Yeonhee practically threw herself at Jin, and once again Jin caught her in her arms, snuggling close.

 

“Mmm. Thanks.”

 

To be completely honest, Jin still wasn’t sure how to properly conduct herself at the beach. It wasn’t like she’d learned anything from that… last time. But… just seeing the genuine, happy smile on her girlfriend’s face as she dragged her out to sea made her forget anything else.

 

(Seeing her in almost nothing certainly didn’t hurt either.)

 

Soon enough, they were both floating on inner tubes atop the ocean waves, the cries and laughter of the other beachgoers on the sand distant and faint. It was just them. 

 

“So… what do you think?” Jin asked. Yeonhee’s smiled brightened. 

 

“What do I think?” Yeonhee, giggling, splashed a bit of water onto Jin, who spluttered in response, “I love it, dummy. I love you. I’m having so much fun…”

 

Even after the years, Jin was still unused to sudden affection like that, and blushed deeply. “J-jeez… I love you too…”

 

They floated and played and laughed and (discreetly) kissed there at the beach for hours, but finally headed to the changing rooms and emerged on the boardwalk. They were only going to be there a short while longer before grabbing dinner and heading… home to the apartment, but Jin had a specific location in mind. She pretended to go and leave for a bathroom, but really went and grabbed a special something instead.

 

“Hey!” She called to Yeonhee, getting her to turn around.

 

“Oh! There you are,” she said. “Wait… what do you have behind your back~?”

 

Here she went. It was a bit embarrassing, but she could do this. For Yeonhee. Jin removed her hands from behind her back to reveal…

 

“T-ta-dah…”

 

Two ice creams, just the same as they’d always gotten together.

 

“I got you the flavor you like, so…”

 

For a second Yeonhee didn’t move. But then, as she soaked in the sight of Jin with the two ice creams, her eyes started to shine with that sheen that always meant somebody was about to cry. And in a short instant after the welling-up, the dam did burst. Tears like rivers dripped down her face, and suddenly Yeonhee let out a sob, covering her face with her hands. Alarmed, Jin rushed over, throwing her arms around her girlfriend in just a way as to not startle the ice cream in her hands. Yeonhee leaned into her, just sobbing. Jin was about to ask what the matter was, until she heard it, quiet but unwavering.

 

“T-thank y-you…”

 

She just kept repeating it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you… Jin closed her eyes and leaned her head against Yeonhee’s. She didn’t know what she was thanking her so intensely for, but…

 

“O-of course, babe… anything for you. I’m not sure I get it, but… always.”

 

Slowly, Yeonhee’s crying wound down, and the two were left standing there on the boardwalk, a number of people staring at them as they held each other. The ice cream was starting to drip onto Jin’s hands. Suddenly very aware of her surroundings, she separated herself from her now-quiet girlfriend, offering her her ice cream.

 

“Uhh… here.”

 

Yeonhee looked at it for a second with red-rimmed eyes, and then laughed suddenly, taking it. Jin looked at her quizzically. 

 

“God, you’re such a dork, Jin. I love you so much.”

 

Jin blushed bright red in response. “W-what was that for?” Yeonhee only grinned.

 

The rest of their evening passed by in that comfortable sort of intimacy that comes from doing one’s daily routine with a dear loved one. They grabbed dinner and ate — it had been a long, fun day, so they were both starving. Yeonhee’s tummy grumbling was one of the cutest things in the entire world, Jin had to admit. Through the window of the restaurant, they watched the sun set in their comfy booth, leaning on each other in contentment. They then headed back to the apartment. The second Jin got the front door closed and locked, her girlfriend’s warm, cushy body pressed up against her, forcing her back to the door. Lips breathed right on her ear. Jin burned bright red.

 

“You’re so perfect, oh my God. I’m so happy. So soooooo happy. Thanks for today~” Yeonhee whispered, grinning devilishly as she drew her words out. Jin felt warmth pooling at the bottom of her stomach.

 

“Y-yeah… of c-cours—” She cut herself off as warm, piano-callused fingers slipped down her waistband. “F-fuck… Y-yeonhee…”

 

Yeonhee grinned, slipping her free hand up Jin’s shirt. “Should I show you just how much I loved today~” Jin nodded, trancelike. They melted together into a heated kiss.

 

Yeonhee and Jin didn’t get much sleep that night, but it was completely worth it. The perfect night for the perfect day.

 

~

 

2009; pianists

 

“Mmm, babe~” Yeonhee’s sweet, sweet voice called from across the room. 

 

“Yeah?” Jin rose her gaze from the book she was reading, catching sight of her breathtaking girlfriend. Those kind, warm eyes, her long, soft hair, that smile — just the sight of her filled Jin with life. 

 

“Wanna come over here?” Without another word, Jin placed her open book pages-down on their coffee table, and went over to wrap her arms around her girlfriend, resting her head on her shoulder comfortably. Yeonhee was on the piano bench right in front of the instrument; it hadn’t been cheap, especially considering they were paying all their own expenses now that they’d returned from their trip without as much as a text to those… “people”.

 

Yeonhee let out an adorable content little hum that made Jin’s heart skip a beat, and then placed her hands on the keys; a flowing, familiar song, like an old friend of theirs, poured into the room. Jin’s eyes widened in recognition as Yeonhee played. Yeonhee snuggled herself closer to her girlfriend’s body, fingers moving with the mastery of several different kinds of practice. Concluding with a flourish, she rested her hands.

 

“That was…”

 

“The song you wrote for me,” Yeonhee replied with a bright grin.

 

“You remembered?”

 

“How could I forget, dork?” She punctuated her sentence with a kiss. Jin startled, a little bit of red dusting her cheeks.

 

“Wh-what was that for?”

 

“Can’t I kiss my lovely girlfriend who always makes me smile?”

 

The blush deepened. “Jeez…”

 

Yeonhee pulled her in for another kiss.

 

~

 

2013; visit

 

If you’d told Jin ten years ago that she’d be amiably meeting with her dearest’s best friend of her own volition, she would have been… suspicious, to say the least. But here she was, sitting in a chair across from Na Jaehee on the couch in the apartment Jin shared with her girlfriend. Jaehee ran a tan hand through long, dark hair.

 

“How have you been doing?”

 

Jaehee blinked, as if she hadn’t expected that question. “… Okay. You?”

 

“Honestly? Amazing. Every moment with Yeonhee is always like a dream come true.”

 

Jaehee snorted. “Gay.”

 

“Very,” Jin replied, smirking wryly. The other girl rolled her eyes.

 

There was a brief silence, a little awkward but not excessively so. Then, Jin took a deep breath.

 

“Can I ask you a question?”

 

Jaehee tilted her head slightly to the left. “Sure. Shoot.”

 

“How do you think Yeonhee has been… doing, recently?”

 

“What brought this up?”

 

“We never liked each other for the longest time. You definitely had… valid reasons. So I wanted to see what you thought of us now.”

 

“Hmm…” She looked off out the window, lost in thought. “Yeah, before, you kinda fuckin’ sucked.”

 

Jin frowned, but didn’t say anything. Jaehee continued. “She always came over to my house periodically back then. She never said what was wrong, but we just… sat there and I tried to cheer her up. That’s only happened once since you two got back from abroad.”

 

Jin grimaced, remembering exactly the moment she was referring to.

 

“She smiles a lot more… genuinely, now. I don’t know what caused it, but you’ve changed, Seo Jin. I guess you stopped being such a shitface courting her in Germany? Finally. I know you’ve always meant well, but you were always so afraid. And you couldn’t see what you had.”

 

Nodding, Jin trained her eyes intently on some patch of the floor. “You’re… right. Yeonhee always deserved better, and it took far too long to… tear myself away from what I was always worried about. But I’m glad to see that you think I’ve improved.”

 

Another silence. This time a little more comfortable than the previous. Jin ran a hand through her golden shoulder-length hair, sighing.

 

“I have… one more question.”

 

“What is it?”

 

Jin’s eyes darted to the door, and then to Jaehee. “I know it can’t be done… legally, but, uh…”

 

Jaehee raised an eyebrow.

 

“I’ve been thinking about this for months. And I decided that before I did anything, I needed to ask you, Jaehee. So…” Jin furtively flashed Jaehee a glimpse of a small black box. “How do you feel about… Yeonhee and I getting married?”

 

Jaehee’s eyes went wide, and the two of them were thrown once again into a momentary silence as a piercing, serious, unique kind of look passed over Jaehee’s features as she looked at Jin, trying to find something. Jin bit her lip. Then she spoke.

 

“Will you remember your mistakes and not repeat them?”

 

Jin nodded. “Yes.”

 

“Are you always going to stay by her side? Will you always love her and try to make her happy?”

 

“Always.”

 

“Then…” Jaehee winked. “Am I gonna be invited?”

 

Jin rolled her eyes. “I honestly can’t think of any people but you who should be there with us.”

 

~

 

2013; always

 

The first thing Park Jin said to Park Yeonhee after sealing their marriage with a kiss was “I love you, I love you, I’ll always love you…”

 

“I love you too. I’ve always loved you, and I always will, Jin.” Yeonhee’s cheeks glistened with tears, but she was smiling brighter than Jin had ever seen — the sun couldn’t even hope to compare. They swept each other into another deep kiss, smiling and beaming all the while. A little bit away from them, Jaehee sobbed into a tissue. Yeonhee smiled fondly against Jin’s lips.

 

“You’re so beautiful,” Jin whispered, reverently unable to take her eyes off her girlfr—no, wife. Yeonhee smiled her wide, toothy smile and leaned against Jin, nodding.

 

“Are you happy?” She asked. Jin blinked, and then smiled even deeper than she already was, eyes twinkling with love and mirth.

 

“Of course! This is the happiest I’ve ever been, Yeonhee.”

 

Yeonhee’s hand rested on the small of Jin’s back. She sank onto Jin’s lips again for a quick peck.

 

“I’m glad.”

 

~

 

2019; present day

 

Cackling, Yeonhee cuddled up next to her wife in bed, phone in hand, both of them wearing next to nothing. She tabbed off of what looked to be a news article titled “Nationally-Acclaimed Pianists Park Yeonhee and Seo Jin Photographed Kissing in Seoul” and into her missed calls.

 

“Look at this, babe. I’ve gotten forty-six calls from some idiot named ‘Jeon Joohwa’ in the past hour. I wonder what they want.” She winked. Jin’s heart did a somersault at the sheer cuteness.

 

Jin burst out laughing the second Yeonhee’s phone rang for the forty-seventh time right before their very eyes. “I only got one from Father. I haven’t answered it and I don’t care enough to.”

 

Rolling her eyes, Yeonhee placed her phone on the nightstand, wrapping her arms around her wife. “I haven’t either. I’ve been dreaming of this ever since we first left that… house.”

 

Jin frowned, remembering. She still had nightmares sometimes about the day they left, but they’d been decreasing in severity for a while now. Yeonhee took Jin’s left hand in her own, palm on palm. She regarded their matching wedding rings, carved skillfully with miniature musical notes, and smiled. Jin’s fingers closed over her. Yeonhee lay a kiss on Jin’s cheek.

 

“Jerkface.”

 

Turning to face her wife, Jin was brought out of her stupor.

 

“Mm?”

 

Yeonhee took the opportunity to bring their lips together, a low, needy sound coming deep out of Jin’s throat, making her giggle in response.

 

“Mmm,” Jin hummed. “I love you.”

 

Yeonhee blushed a little in response. “I love you too…”

 

Smiling a deep, genuine smile at Yeonhee, Jin placed another kiss on her nose. Yeonhee grinned, radiant and wide, and suddenly all of Jin’s worries vanished in an instant. They snuggled together even closer, feeling the touch of each other’s skin freely. At last, free. At last, together.

 

It felt warm.