#the way that Ji Woo doesn’t understand that no matter how painful the truth is that’s all that Seo Joon wants
pajindapat · 13 days ago
But it makes sense that the thing Ji Woo most admires about Seo Joon, the thing that gives him the bravery to be vulnerable about his own feelings and initiate that kiss, is non other than Seo Joon’s sheer, unfiltered honesty. It makes sense when all Ji Woo seems to do is lie, from “what happened between us… thinking about it disgusts me” to “it’s just that our attitudes are so different that we simply don’t fit together.” It makes sense that the first truth that Ji Woo utters to Seo Joon in 12 months is that it’s Seo Joon’s honesty that makes him unable to keep lying: “How are you so honest? How do I ignore you now?”
68 notes · View notes
overthinkingkdrama · 3 years ago
Old Souls
{A Scarlet Heart: Ryeo fan fiction}
Set immediately after the end of episode 20.
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Jin Woo froze, momentarily forgetting the storm around them. He turned back and looked at her over his shoulder and in his moment of hesitation she closed the gap between them.
“I’m right aren’t I?”
“So what? It doesn’t change anything.”
“How can you say that?”
“I’ve already made up my mind.”
“You weren’t even going to tell me, were you?”
Jin Woo tried to keep his face impassive, though every word was a twist of the knife. “I thought it would make it easier.”
“Easier for who? For you?”
“No, I just…I thought if you had to resent someone, better it was just me. Just his lookalike, a fool who knew nothing.”
“Is that all you take me for? Did you still think that was all you were to me? A substitute? You haven’t understood me at all.” Her voice trembled, “It wasn’t like that.”
“It doesn’t matter.” He said, “All that matters is I don’t want to be with you anymore.”
“Of course it matters. I have the right to hear the truth from you.”
“What exactly do you expect me to say?”
“Just give me the real reason. Don’t feed me a line about not seeing a future together.” She was shouting over the wind, “You should have just been honest with me from the start!”
“No you! You should have told me what I was before—” He raised his voice to match hers for the first time, “When you met me that day, you shouldn’t have hung onto me. You should have run the other direction. If I had known then what meeting you meant…I would never have approached you in the first place.”
With night starting to close in, the sky opened up at last. Rain began to fall in driving sheets, soaking them through in seconds. He turned again to go, but she caught hold of his sleeve and held him back.
“Don’t say you regret meeting me. You don’t mean that.”
He fought down his revulsion at his own words, pulling his arm away from her, “I’m sorry, but I do.”
For the first time that fierce look in her eyes wavered and her expression began to crumble. Dammed up tears spilled over, running like the rain, freely down her face. Her tears were more terrible than her anger had been, because he couldn’t even reach for her, to comfort her.
He couldn’t keep looking at her, and so he fled again. He made it ten more paces up the beach when his vision turned white, blinded by a flash of lightning. The air around him fizzed with electricity, making the hairs on his arms and the back of his neck stand on end. Almost at the same instant as the flash, he was deafened by a clap of thunder like a grenade going off. He ducked instinctively, throwing his arms over his head. When he recovered he looked back, and Ha Jin was on the ground.
A moment of primal fear gripped his heart.
“Ha Jin-ah!” He quite nearly flew to her side, kneeling next to her. “Gwaenchanha?”
To his relief she was awake, apparently unharmed. In her fright she must have dropped to the sand.
“Let’s get under cover. Quickly.”
Without thinking he grabbed hold of her hand and together they ran. He held up one arm to shield his eyes from the rain, looking around for somewhere to hide. Somewhere close by, closer than the pension. His gaze fell on a derelict old boathouse. It wouldn’t be comfortable, but it had four walls and roof.
“Come on.” He wrapped an arm around Ha Jin as they continued to run over uneven ground, holding her up when she stumbled. After a few moments he managed to force the door open wide enough for the two of them to slip inside and wrestle against the wind to shut it again.
The space was claustrophobic and the air stale. Jin Woo blinked, still wiping water away from his eyes. It was more a shed than a boathouse, stacked wall to wall with disused netting, rotting ropes, and yard after yard of old canvas. There was just enough space for the two of them to stand, facing one another. The only light came from the cracks along the edges of the door, and even that was quickly dying.
They stood in silence, listening to the sounds of the storm now raging outside and their own heavy breathing.
After a few moments Jin Woo started. “When the storm subsides we’ll—”
But Ha Jin cut him off, “I could never accept it,” She said, “No matter how many letters I sent without reply. No matter how many days passed without word of you…I didn’t let myself believe it. That you could really hate me.”
“Is that what you think this is about?”
“However far away you were, even though we parted so badly, I kept telling myself we were still in each other’s hearts.”
“Do you believe that? That Wang So died hating you?”
“You remember everything, but say we still can’t be together. Could there be another reason?”
“Would we have gone through all of this if he hated you? Would I be standing here now and would I—he, have fought so desperately to reach for you if he—if I had hated you?”
Jin Woo was losing track of his pronouns again. It wasn’t always easy. The memories of himself, of his past life, where he had lived as King Gwangjong, they mingled with those of his present. Sometimes the two bled together. He wasn’t Wang So. His experiences, his perspective, they had changed him. But he wasn’t exactly Jin Woo anymore either. Was he something in between? Or someone else entirely? He was still trying to figure that out.
“Wang So loved you, Ha Jin.” He said, “No. It went beyond that. You were an obsession for him. Because no matter how he grasped at you, he could never have you. Not in the way he wanted. Even when he thought he hated you, his hate was still a part of his love. And even that pitiful hate died with you.” Wang So’s grief overwhelmed him. It was too vast, too old, Jin Woo’s mind could not contain the breadth of it. Every time he thought he could comprehend it, it slipped away from him again, revealing new depths Jin Woo had never imagined. Against his own judgment he reached out toward Ha Jin. Taking her by the arms, he felt the wet fabric of her blouse where it clung to her skin. “You were everything. You were the only thing…and when you went away it was like all the light went out of the world.”
“Why then?” Her face was close enough he could feel her breath on his skin. Unconsciously, he’d begun to draw her closer, but he caught himself this time, dropping his hands to his sides and pulling back.
“Because I hate him.” His voice cracked as he spoke, “He…ruined…you. He ruined everything. He locked you up in that miserable place with him because he couldn’t stand the thought of being alone. He bound your wings and broke your spirit. And when he’d taken everything he could take from you he cast you out, to sicken and fade away, waiting for him. That’s why. I can’t let him do it again. I despise him.”
“Don’t say that. That isn’t what happened.”
“He’s a monster, Ha Jin.”
“Don’t talk about him like you know, when you haven’t even tried to understand him.”
“I will never understand him. I can’t. But you kept on trying too, didn’t you? However undeserving he was you gave him your empathy and your forgiveness. You would do so even now, because that’s the kind of person you are, Ha Jin. That’s why people wound and betray you. But I’m not going to let you this time.”
“He wasn’t only the way you said. To me he was—he was—” Ha Jin stammered her protests, but Jin Woo didn’t want to hear her defending Wang So.
He spoke over her, “Ji Mong talked about self-perpetuating karma. The same fates playing themselves out again and again over different lifetimes. I’ve always been making the same choices, the same mistakes. In my greed clinging onto you, giving into my ambition. Trapping the two of us in this cycle of blood and pain. But you don’t deserve to be dragged down with me. This tragedy is one of my own design. For me this is justice, but not for you. You deserve to be happy, to be free. While I…I deserve to lose you. I was warned a long time ago that if I tried to force an ill-fated love, against the will of Heaven, it would mean disaster. This has to end. I should be the one to end it.”
When Jin Woo had finished speaking, there was no immediate answer. Night had fallen as they spoke and the gale only made it darker. They stood there together in the boathouse as they started to shiver. Several strikes of lightning flashed outside, briefly lighting the room around them. Jin Woo tried to get a look at Ha Jin’s face. To his surprise he saw she looked calm, almost serene now. When her voice came back to him he could tell something had changed.
“Perhaps…” She said, “Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps the stars are set against us.” They always have been, he thought, why should now be any different? “I understand what you’re thinking. You’re trying to spare me pain in the future. I see that now. But I’m here, standing in front of you, telling you that I won’t be happier without you. I won’t be okay. Walk away from me if you must, but know it won’t end there. Even if we become like strangers, you’re someone I could never forget. No matter what name you go by, what world you fly to, I will find you and I will love you again.”
He felt more than saw her shift closer to him, sensing the warmth of her very near though not touching. He tried to back away further, but there was no more room. His heel butted up against a coil of rope, nearly throwing him off balance.
“But then again,” She said, and her voice was soft, almost a whisper, “Perhaps you’re wrong. Perhaps the fact that we’ve met like this, in this place, means that we’ve both suffered enough. Isn’t a thousand years of loneliness enough punishment for anyone? Maybe it means we’re allowed to try again, to love each other with all our hearts. Maybe it’s not a cycle at all. Maybe it’s something like redemption.”
“We can’t know that. It’s not a chance I’m willing to take.”
“Well, I am. Haven’t I lost as much as you did? I understand the risks too. But you don’t know Heaven’s will any more than I do. Is that a reason we shouldn’t try?”
“I wish I had your confidence but I don’t trust myself. What if I hurt you again?”
“You know, there’s something I learned from King Taejo. Your father. He said life was far too brief. He also told me that I should never let the fear of tomorrow steal happiness from today.” As she said this he felt her reach for him, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling his mouth down to hers. His entire body stiffened, trying to hold himself back, but as the kiss went on he remembered something new. Beyond that hint of coffee, the sweetness of her lip gloss, he remembered the taste that only she had. The one that had lingered in his mouth for days after their first kiss. How the memory of that flavor had tried to drive him crazy long after that.
God, how he had wanted her. He could feel his hands beginning to tremble with desire as he wound her rain soaked hair though his fingers. Centuries of unfulfilled longing finally finding its object. The intensity of it scared him.
This feeling scared him.
Enough that he finally managed to push her away.
“Ha Jin-ah…please.” His voice was rough and uneven, “Don’t hang onto me. I can’t…”
“Why can’t you?”
“What if I change? What if I ruin everything again? What if I…break you? I’ve been carrying around my past like a bad omen. What if when it finally catches up with me, it falls on you too?”
“This is my choice to make.”
“How can I let you go through all of that again?”
“What makes you think it’s the same situation? Things are different now. Back then I was never once allowed to have what I wanted. Whatever I reached for was snatched away. Happiness, freedom, love…they were all taken from me. I had to watch the ones I loved fight and die around me. I had to watch others sacrifice themselves for me. That was the kind of world we lived in. Even though I knew the future and tried to change it, I couldn’t protect what I wanted. And even you. You used to tell me I wasn’t allowed to leave you, I wasn’t allowed to die without your permission. But we parted and I died. Neither of us could stop it. But we’re not in the palace anymore. And I’m going to fight for what I want.”
Jin Woo floundered for the words he needed, his defenses were abandoning him now, “I don’t know when or how, but things will fall apart again. Like they always do. I’ll break your heart or I’ll make you hate me. How could I ever make that up to you? How can I dare to love you after everything I did?”
“I thought you remembered everything,” She said, “Why does it seem like you only remember the cruelty and the pain? Where did the beauty go? The time you ignored propriety and carried me on your back because my knee was aching. When you stood by my side for hours in the rain against your father’s command. The day you drank poison to protect me. And the way those hands, which they trained for violence, became impossibly soft when they held me. Do you really not remember?”
“I’ve forgotten all the good moments, Ha Jin. I only remember is the way it ended.”
“Then, my darling,” She wrapped her arms around him again, pressing her head against his chest, “Let me remind you.”
Jin Woo could feel his resolve beginning to evaporate. The longer she held him, he knew, the harder it would be to let her go. “Even so…” He said, “I can’t stop thinking about it. How you died. How you waited. How I read your letter too late. I can’t…I don’t think I can forgive myself.”
“I forgave you a long time ago. I do so freely.”
“I…I hate myself.”
“But I love you. I’ll help teach you how.” She held him even tighter. “Did you hear me? I said I love you. Past, present and future. Whatever name you have, whatever world you fly to, whatever past lives we share. In pieces and altogether. I love you. I’m sorry it took me so long to say it.”
“Why? Why love me?”
Without letting him go she drew her head back, looking up into his face. He could just barely make out the storm lights in her large dark eyes. “Because you’re mine. My person.” And she kissed him again.
Jin Woo allowed himself to surrender to the softness of the kiss. Folding her into his arms again, finally allowing himself to hold her back. She had declared him hers and who was he to argue? Surrender was sweet.
He was unsure of how long they remained like that, holding on to each other. The storm winds still howled outside, not abating. He only spoke when he felt Ha Jin shivering.
“What was that? Are your teeth chattering?”
“I’m cold.”
“Do you have that jacket I brought you?”
She shrugged, “I think I lost it when we were running.”
He didn’t know why but he found himself laughing. They disentangled briefly and Jin Woo pulled out a raggedy old tarp for them to sit on, covering the chilly concrete floor with it. He sat down, nestling into a pile of nets that smelled like mildew and bad fish, but at least it was mildly more comfortable than standing. “Come here,” He said. He reached for Ha Jin and pulled her down into his lap, wrapping his arms around her, gently chafing her back and arms to warm them until the shivering stopped.
“Do you think we’ll have to stay here all night?”
“I don’t think it’s stopping any time soon. We should wait until the thunder stops and make a run for it.”
“I don’t want to run anymore.” She whined.
“Well I don’t want you to catch pneumonia, and we could both use some dry clothes.”
She didn’t protest more, resting her head on his shoulder. He listened to her breathing grow more even, feeling her chest rise and fall as she began to doze like that, completely spent. Despite what he had said, Jin Woo could have stayed like that all night. Even as his back began to ache and his legs fell asleep, he was so content. Peaceful, for the first time since this whole mess started. At unity with himself.
This won’t last forever, he realized. Though the thought didn’t trouble him as it should have. There was nothing he could do to change or run from it. There would be times, perhaps soon, when he didn’t feel this certain. When he would begin to feel afraid and try to push her away. He knew that about himself. This was going to be a daily struggle. To accept her love, to feel himself deserving of it. It wouldn’t be easy to stay this brave. They were both complex beings, a little of light and a little of darkness. Just to live, just to love someone with the whole of himself was uncharted territory. But he found himself thinking, for the first time, that that was okay. Because he didn’t want to run anymore.
This is the kind of thing other couples worry about too, he thought. It’s normal. For some reason that thought delighted him.
It was another hour or more before Jin Woo decided it was safe to venture out. It was still raining when they left and what little drying their clothes had managed in the meantime was rendered irrelevant by the time they made it back to their room. The two of them helped each other out of their wet clothes and warmed up their bodies in the shower. When the hot water ran out they buried themselves beneath the blankets on the bed, not bothering to dry their hair or put on those dry clothes they’d been trying to get back to.
Jin Woo should have been sore and exhausted, but those things seemed to vanish when she touched him, setting his heart pounding against his chest. He fought sleep, not wanting to miss an instant of this. Of course they’d had each other many times before, in a dozen different ways both here and in Goryeo. Jin Woo couldn’t say that this time everything was new. Rather it was as though each motion, each familiar sensation connected to a thousand long lost associations. There was no unspoken desire too secret, no door that remained locked between them. Instead, they had never been freer nor more shameless in the enjoyment of one another.
When sleep did come, it crept up on them like a thief, finding them still tangled up in each other. The last thought that passed through Jin Woo’s fast fading consciousness was that they may well still be barreling headlong toward a bad ending, flouting the gods and the stars, but he couldn’t care. Even if that was so, life was far too short to try to live without this woman. It was better, far better, to march toward calamity at her side than to face it alone.
When Ha Jin woke first to the patter of light island rain still falling outside, she was wrapped in Jin Woo’s arms. She stayed as perfectly still as she could, enjoying his warmth all around her, the smell of his skin. She felt so safe there, she didn’t want to leave. But even though she closed her eyes, sleep remained elusive.
Carefully she started to extricate herself from him, moving slowly so as not to wake him up. When she managed to get a little space between them she climbed out of bed, stubbing her toe in the dark as she searched for her luggage. She settled for Jin Woo’s instead and throwing on one of his t-shirts before slipping back into bed. She remained a little apart from him this time, watching him sleep as the sun rose and light slowly filtered in from outside.
Not so long ago she remembered waking in Jin Woo’s bed like this and being frightened by the smoothness of his skin. The lack of scars or visible traces of the 4th prince’s history. Now she thought it had been an illusion. Though she couldn’t see them, the mental scars they had taken from Goryeo were still very much with them. She wondered how much longer those would take to fade, if they ever would.
Absently she began to trace with her fingertips the places where those scars had been. The wound So had taken in his shoulder from that arrow, which had never healed quite right, always remaining puckered and red. The slash marks on his chest, she’d never been sure if they were from the claws of beasts or the blades of men. She’d never had the will to ask him. And then the one that had given him the most pain, the scar on his face left on him by his mother. She knew the shape of it by heart. She began to draw it across the bridge of his nose and down his cheek with her index finger. She was happy he would never have to look at it again. It’s a relief, she thought.
Her touch disturbed him and he rolled away from her in his sleep.
Staring in the half-light at his back and broad shoulders, Ha Jin felt suddenly, horribly isolated and alone.
There’s no reason, she thought, no reason I should be anything but happy. Why do I feel so empty instead?
Ha Jin couldn’t stay in bed any longer, so she got up and walked toward the sliding door onto the porch and opened it a hand’s breadth, looking out at the sea. The sky was beginning to brighten and the clouds of last night’s storm were being swept away, but as she watched the surf rolling in, she was struck with another pang of unutterable emptiness and she was hard pressed not to cry.
What the hell is wrong with me?
She heard a creak of bed-springs as Jin Woo got up, and though she didn’t look over her shoulder she felt him come up behind her, wrapping her up with him in a blanket from the bed and resting his chin on the top of her head.
“Why are you out of bed?” He said groggily, kissing her hair.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“Who says we have to sleep?” He said, chuckling softly. But when she didn’t reply he remained quiet, holding her like that for a long time while they watched the sky slowly change colors.
“Well, if you’re not going to come back to bed, how about we go for a walk before the beach fills with people?” She agreed to this, and they finally dressed. Despairing of untangling her hair without considerable effort, she pulled it back into scarf, throwing on a sweater over a long sundress and not bothering with any makeup.
Her feet and legs were still sore from hours of unaccustomed walking the day before, but it felt better to be doing something than to remain anxiously in their room.
“Can I hold your hand?” Jin Woo asked, strangely bashful by daylight considering everything they’d done the night before.
She held her hand out and he took it. Jin Woo was positively beaming as they wound their leisurely way along the shoreline. Ha Jin didn’t want to do anything to dampen his spirits, trying to hide her strange mood beneath a false smile. Walking side by side like this, the hollow feeling in her heart not only lingered but seemed to grow. Something was missing, incomplete.
“You know, I always wanted to bring you somewhere like this again. I never had the chance, though.” He said, grinning, “This is so…I don’t know…domestic. Going for a walk on the beach. Like what normal couples do.”
“I guess so.” She replied, in a muted tone.
“It’s nice.”
They continued in silence for a while longer, Jin Woo perhaps reading her subdued mood, gazing out at the water. They walked until the path they were on ended abruptly at a rocky breakwater and they were forced to turn back, walking even slower on the return trip. Stepping into the footprints they’d left in the wet sand going in the other direction.
Without warning, Jin Woo said, “I want kids. Do you think you want children?”
“Why all of a sudden…?” Ha Jin gave a nervous laugh at the unexpected question.          
“I was just curious. I really want kids. At least two. A boy and a girl.” Ha Jin must have looked as startled as she felt because he continued, “I don’t mean right now. We can get married first if you want. I just thought you should know.”
Maybe in another moment she would have felt differently, but her head was in no place for a spur of the moment proposal. She tried to play it off as a joke, “Gee. Marriage and children. You sure made a turnaround from wanting to break up with me yesterday.”
“You’re right. Sorry,” He said, rubbing the back of his head with his free hand and looking contrite. “I’m not trying to give you whiplash. I’ve never been very good at doing things halfway, I guess. If I’ve decided to be with you, that means I want to be all the way with you. Without holding anything back. No need to rush anything, I understand if you want to time to find your feet. But I want to be honest.”
Ha Jin didn’t know what to say to this so she said nothing.
He went on, “I want to try everything with you, all over again. For the first time. I want to go on dates and hold hands and travel to places like this. I want to live freely with you while I have the chance. To live as well as I possibly can for you. I want another chance to marry you, properly this time. And I want a little girl who looks like you…”
Something finally clicked into place. The empty feeling at the center of her, the reason her happiness was incomplete, she had remembered. Ha Jin came to a standstill, her fingers slipping out of Jin Woo’s hand.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. My Han Byul. My little girl.
Jin Woo took another two steps before looking back at her, “What is it? Did I say something wrong?”
Through her sorrow Ha Jin tried to speak, but at first she couldn’t. Tears had started to fall, and once they started they wouldn’t stop. She was imagining the last time she had seen her baby, realizing as Jin Woo took her by the shoulders, searching her face for an explanation, he doesn’t even know. How do I tell him?
Finally she managed, “You and I…we had…we already…I never told you...the real reason I had to leave the palace.”
For a few more seconds Jin Woo frowned, eyes full of concern, trying to make sense of her words, but almost as quickly his brow cleared with a realization. He pulled her into an embrace. “Shh, it’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”
Between racking sobs she gasped, “You don’t…understand…I…”
“You don’t have to explain. I already know.”
“Here I’ve been wondering what I could do to repay what I owe you. I didn’t realize all this time there was something I could still give you. I’m sorry I didn’t think of it sooner.”
When she had caught her breath somewhat she said, “What are you talking about?”
Jin Woo smiled at her tenderly, wiping the tears from her face with his thumbs, “Do you want me to tell you about our daughter?”
They spent the next few hours with Jin Woo telling her everything he could think of about Han Byul. Not always in order, not always coherently, but with animation and warmth.
“First and foremost,” He said, as though reading her mind, “Jung kept his promise to you. She never lived in the palace as long as I was alive.” Apparently the 14th prince had remained fiercely insistent that the little girl was nobody’s but his own. Even long after Wang So knew the truth about her origin, he would never admit otherwise. It was only years later, under the influence of strong liquor and after much protest that he had even admitted that Hae Soo was the real mother, that she had begged him never to let Han Byul go into the palace.
So hadn’t found out about her until several years after Soo’s death, and even that was an accident on Jung’s part. “My brother broke his exile. Left his hometown and made the journey with her to Song’ak for your death anniversary. That was when I knew.” He said. On the day very So had met Han Byul, Jung’s exile was lifted. “We came up with an arrangement. He would bring his ‘daughter’ to the capital once a year. In return, I would never ask him to send her to the court.”
“Tell me again,” Ha Jin asked, “What she looked like.”
“She resembled you. She had your hair and your eyes. From what I heard she could be very stubborn when she set her mind to something. And naturally Jung spoiled her to death.” From everything So had seen or heard, Jung was the most doting father one could have asked for. “It’s funny, she had your looks and your spirit, but all of her facial expressions were Jung’s.”
That image made Ha Jin laugh, thinking of how wild the 14th prince had been in his youth, and then her laughter almost set her off crying again. “I really wish I could have seen her.”
“She would have loved you. She did love you in her own way. Jung taught her to love your memory. He would tell her about you the way I’m telling you about her now. She came to the stone pagodas every year to preform your rites.”
Ha Jin could tell that despite his demeanor, it wasn’t easy for Jin Woo to talk about these things. Especially when he spoke about his brother, his eyes grew clouded. They never fully reconciled, I suppose, after what happened with their mother…The thought made her sad and she dismissed it quickly. A conversation for another day.
“It’s so strange. I hardly knew her but I miss her so much it aches when I think about her.”
“Well, you’re a mother. She’s a part of you, even now. If you had gotten the chance to watch her grow up you would have been an amazing mother. You would be again, if you ever chose to.”
“Thank you for talking about it like this. You don’t know how grateful…”
“Don’t be grateful. I’m happy to do it. I miss her too. Whenever you like, as often as you like, you just have to ask and I’ll tell you everything all over again.”
After listening to all this, the hollow place in Ha Jin’s heart—the  place where she now realized Han Byul fit—didn’t disappear, but it was filled somewhat by Jin Woo’s recovered memories of the little girl, growing into a happy and healthy young woman, far away from the dangers of the palace. Even if she was far out of Ha Jin’s reach, it was a comforting to know that she had managed to protect her daughter in the end. And who knew if they wouldn’t see each other again someday?
By the time they turned back up at the pension it was already lunch time. The ahjumma who owned the place greeted them both with almost too much enthusiasm and inquired—Ha Jin thought a bit cheekily—about how they had slept the night before. She served Ha Jin a double portion of rice, saying something in Jin Woo’s ear as she passed by. Ha Jin thought she heard the words “honeymoon baby” and something about red ginseng.
“What did she just say?” Ha Jin asked when she was gone, but he only turned bright red, filling his mouth with food and refusing to answer.
They whiled away the rest of the day in a senseless and haphazard way, enjoying each other’s company. Before she knew it dinner had passed them by and then the sun was setting. Where has the day gone?
“I wish we could stay here for a few more days. Two nights isn’t enough.” She said, as they were walking back to their room.
“We can come back if you like. Someday. When we both have more time to explore the island.”
“I’d like that.”
Ha Jin wandered into the en suite and caught sight of herself in the mirror. Her hair was a mess of snarls and rats nets. She let out an audible yelp as she untied the scarf that had been barely holding it in check. “I can’t believe you let me run around with sex hair all day.”
“I don’t think anyone noticed.”
“Tell that to the pension owner. No wonder she couldn’t stop snickering every time she saw me.”
"Bring your comb out here,” Jin Woo said, “I’ll brush it out for you.”
Ha Jin did as she was told, sitting cross-legged in front of Jin Woo on the bed while he gently began to work the tangles out of her long black hair.
“I’ve been thinking about something. I want your opinion.” He said.
“Mmm.” Ha Jin had her eyes closed, enjoying the sensation of Jin Woo playing with her hair, despite the occasional tug on her scalp. “Is it about having a baby? Because I’m going to need a few days to adjust to the idea.”
“No, it’s not about that.” He paused for a while before continuing. “What do you think about me, possibly, leaving my firm?”
“Why? To start you own practice?”
“No. I’ve been thinking I would quit practicing law all together.”
She tried to turn her head sharply to look at him, causing him to pull her hair. “Ouch.”
Ha Jin didn’t know much about his job, but she had always had the impression that he worked for a very prestigious and competitive law firm. And besides a few recent rough patches—most of which were in some way related to her—she knew he was very good at what he did. “Haven’t you always wanted to be a lawyer?”
“I’ve always wanted to earn my father’s approval.” He said. “I don’t think I’ve ever really wanted to be a lawyer.”
“What would you do instead?”
“That’s kind of the reason I wanted to talk to you about it.” She wished that she was facing him so she could try to read his expression. His voice sounded distant. “You know that Ji Mo—I mean Professor Choi is still studying what happened to us, don’t you? Looking into the possibility that there might be others like you and me. Other reincarnations. Other time slips.”
She hadn’t. She knew that he was looking for Wang Moo, but she had never even considered the idea that it went further than that. And Ji Mong had never mentioned it, perhaps on purpose to keep from upsetting her.
When she didn’t reply Jin Woo continued, “Well I’ve been thinking of ways that I could help him.”
“Help him? Why?”
“I don’t believe what happened to you and the Professor was an accident. I don’t believe it was an isolated incident either. I’ve always dismissed the possibility of the supernatural out of hand, but I can’t ignore everything that’s happened to me. If there is a reason you went back, then there’s a reason that you and I are here right now. There might be something bigger on the horizon. A greater purpose behind all of this. I want to find out what that is.” He ran the brush through the length of her hair several more times before saying, “There, all finished.”
Ha Jin swept her hair over one shoulder and began to braid it loosely for sleep. Slowly she turned to face Jin Woo, studying his eyes.
“What are you thinking?” He asked.
“I guess I’m just taken aback. I thought you would want to leave all of this behind us, to try to forget. But instead you want to dig further. I don’t know what to say.”
“The thing is, I don’t think forgetting is an option. I wish it was. I wish I could go on with my life as though nothing has changed, but I don’t think I can. Any more than I could disown a part of my soul. These memories of the past are a part of me, they’ve changed me. If this is who I am now, then I don’t want to live my life blindly. Does that make sense?”
“I think so.”
“Does it scare you?”
She began to say, “A little bit, but—”
He added hastily, “If you tell me not to, I won’t. If it would make you unhappy, then I don’t want to do it.”
“Let me finish. It scares me a little bit, but only because I’ve spent so long trying to run away from it. If you tell me this is where you want to go, then I’ll stick right by your side, and go there with you. I’m done with leaving you alone, okay? But there is one thing that bothers me.”
“What is that?”
“Didn’t you say, eventually, you’d had hopes of being invited to work with your father in the States? If this is what you want to do, it could mean staying in Korea. Perhaps long term. I mean, don’t you still want to live near you family again?”
He set the brush to aside and took one of her hands in both of his, “I don’t want to go anywhere.” He said, bringing her hand up to his lips and kissing it, “All the family I need is right here.”
Ha Jin felt her face begin to color but she didn’t bother trying to hide it, smiling at him. On a rogue impulse she sprang forward, pushing him backwards onto the bed, straddling his hips. Leaning down she kissed him once, softly, and began to sit up again, but he looped his arms around her waist and pulled her down onto his chest, kissing her again. Harder this time, and as he did he rolled them over so he was above her, looking down into her eyes.
“Don’t let me run away again.” She heard him say, “Even if I get scared. Even if I try to. You have to hang onto me like you did before and bring you back to you. Promise me?”
As he spoke he found the hollow of her collar bone with his mouth and kissed her there, over and over again, moving his knee upward and hiking the skirt of her sundress to her thighs. She tried to answer him, but found her powers of speech were failing her. “…Whatever happens…” she managed, “…I promise…” His hand slid slowly to the back of her knee, making her whole body quiver involuntarily.
She started to yank his t-shirt over his head. Jin Woo sat up briefly to finish the job, tossing it off the bed. He rested one hand on either side of her head, gazing down at her intently. And the expression in his eyes now was not quite that of Jin Woo, and not entirely of So either, instead it was something new and thrilling.
“Soo-ya.” His voice was low and earnest, and the use of her old name surprised her, “Saranghae.”
She reached for him, caressing his cheek with the blade of her hand, whispering back, “Me too. Saranghae, naui Hwangja-nim.”
  [The End]
20 notes · View notes