The Gay Scandal of Jin Hyeok and Sun Woo
Jin-Hyeok should have known his life would come to this; an absurd parody of normal life where things could get out of whack in mere minutes because some people had over-imaginative fantasies about his sex life and were prone to sharing details with everyone who was in earshot.
It all started innocently enough. The three jailbait girls came to the horrendous conclusion that he and Sun-Woo were a gay couple continued to visit Antique and be good, regular customers who brought cash in. Upon their first return after the incident, Jin-Hyeok tried to clear up the misunderstanding; he was greeted with a lot of blushing and stammering but also with strong, sincere support. As one of the three girls put in a rushed exited stage whisper: ”Jin-Hyeok Oppa, we don’t care that you and Sun-Woo Oppa are different! Love is love! We are modern women who understand alternate lifestyles! Do not worry! Jin-Hyeok Oppa and Sun Woo Oppa hwaiting!!! Can we get three charlotte cakes and a pot of tea to our table?”
After hearing those words Jin-Hyeok felt it would have been wrong to argue with his customers, especially since it seemed that the girls had practiced what to say and were so proud to be open-minded, modern Asian women. Besides, Sun-Woo was right; the girls were jailbait and it was no concern of his if they thought he was gay, so he let the false impression stand. That was his first mistake.
When he shared the tidbit of conversation with Sun-Woo in his second-ever outing to the gay bar-slash-club, Lolipop, the pastry genius smirked, slid his arms around Jin-Hyeok, hugged him from behind, and purred in his ear, ”Aww, Min-Jun, aren’t our customers sweet? Even they can recognize our legendary romance.”
Disappointed groans from other inhabitants of the club could be heard when they saw Sun-Woo clinging to the new guy and uttering the word 'romance'. Jin-Hyeok elbowed Sun-Woo back. “Don’t call me that! The name is Jin-Hyeok now. And I wouldn’t call it sweet, more like blind dolts reading too much gay romance manhwa.”
Sun-Woo snickered. “Aww, don’t be like that. They just recognize our bromantic chemistry. We are like platonic life partners. So let's drink to that!”
“Platonic life partners, huh?” Jin-Hyeok inquired.
“Yep, platonic life partners. Who else would put up with your mercurial moods? Or handle my demonic charm with such aplomb? So let’s drink to that!” yelled Sun-Woo.
“To platonic life partners, then, it is,” agreed Jin-Hyeok and before he could finish drinking his shot of soju, Sun-Woo curled his arm around Jin-Hyeok’s, drank his as a love shot, and dragged the sputtering man to dance. They danced surprisingly well together, hip to hip, gyrating and orbiting each other with sensual moves in their attempts to one-up each other. And when it was time to leave, Sun-Woo preferred to share a taxi with Jin-Hyeok rather than staying longer at the club, looking for a hook-up to take him home.
When Jin-Hyeok pointed that out as a failure in the 'demonic charm', Sun-Woo said, “But I did hook up already tonight.”
“What? When? You were with me the whole evening, there was no sexing there that I remember, even if the dancing was hot, and you only went to the bathroom once.”
“What? There! But it’s a public place!” Jin-Hyeok was aghast.
“Jin-Hyeok, in case you managed to forget, Lolipop is a gay club. Backrooms and bathrooms are dens for hook-ups and orgies. I am surprised you didn’t notice.”
“Oh, shut up. I didn’t go to the bathroom and now I surely never will go there in the club. I don’t want to know any more what goes on there!"
“But you will come again to the club with me, right? It was fun?” asked Sun-Woo.
“Sure, why not?”
The second mistake Jin-Hyeok made was the fact that he continued to horse around with Sun-Woo in Antique after the first incident. Still, he could not have known what it would bring about later on. In a way, flirting with each other was an amusing, innocent pastime that both men enjoyed. Jin-Hyeok could show his old classmate that he accepted Sun-Woo and his lifestyle without judgment and Sun-Woo got to flirt with one dynamic hottie without having to be afraid he'd lose his job. It could become boring for the genius patissier without his beautiful apprentice or handsome garcon for the eye candy. Besides, for some reason Jin-Hyeok’s and Sun-Woo’s blatant flirting seemed to excite the female customers, and the sales were raking up, no matter that they were currently temporarily missing half the workforce in Antique. Gi-Beom was off to France to study under the bastard Jean-Baptiste for six months and Su-Young was still moving.
So Jin-Hyeok should have known this was the calm before the storm. In a way, the fateful day started like any other in their recent routine. Su-Young called in again in the morning to let Jin-Hyeok know that he couldn’t make it in for this week, either, because of some last minute moving issues. How a simple move from one apartment to another could take three months Jin-Hyeok couldn’t figure out but Su-Young was insistent on handling the matter by himself.
Sun-Woo was busy baking in the kitchen to fulfill the daily needs of the bakery shop and occasionally taking short breaks to get his Jin-Hyeok bantering quota for the day.
Then the three jailbaits entered Antique after their school day was over and sat in their regular table where they would have a good view of the whole patisserie. Jin-Hyeok filled their order with an absentminded flirty smile and went to serve the other customers. The girls giggled and whispered excitedly, observing the two guys like hawks whenever Sun-Woo and Jin-Hyeok happened to come within each other's eyesight.
To Jin-Hyeok’s surprise his mother and grandmother had decided to grace Antique with their presence on this fateful day, too, and as a good, dutiful son Jin-Hyeok stayed by their table to offer them company after he took their order. Some moments later Sun-Woo joined his employer as requested. In an absentminded habit Jin-Hyeok leaned on the genius patissier's shoulder and hugged him, beaming as he waxed poetic about Sun-Woo’s latest creations. For a guy who detested anything and everything sweet he sure was pro at praising the products. A true salesman in master level.
Then it happened. Excited yells from the jailbaits' table could be heard.
“I knew it! Jin-Hyeok Oppa is the seme in the relationship!”
“No way! Sun-Woo is definitely the top!”
“How romantic either way. Look, they can’t keep their hands off each other even on the job!”
Jin-Hyeok and Sun-Woo blanched and jumped apart. Before Jin-Hyeok could open his mouth to explain the misunderstanding, another yell came from the entrance to the bakery.
“Sun-Woo, you bastard! Come here! I heard you got yourself a life partner in some peddler of cake shop employer! Sun-Woo, you better explain yourself! How could you do this to me!?! You told me you didn’t believe in love and rejected my proposal! Sun-Woo!”
A crazy-eyed young man ran in to the bakery. When he spotted Jin-Hyeok standing near Sun-Woo, he jumped in Jin-Hyeok's direction with a fierce battle cry, fists flailing angrily. Jin-Hyeok deflected the blows and manhandled the guy out of the bakery as fast as he could. Who would have guessed he would have a reason to be grateful to Gi-Beom teaching him some stupid boxing moves?
By the time Jin-Hyeok had calmed the stranger outside down (more like kicked him off of his street) and made it back inside Antique, he saw that Sun-Woo was bowing in apology to the last leaving customers. When the bakery was empty, Jin-Hyeok locked the door and turned the placard on the door to closed. So much for a quiet day. Then he turned to look at Sun Woo in question.
“Your mother and grandmother left when you were outside. They told me to tell you that they would contact you in a couple of days when things are calmer and when they have had time to think,” Sun Woo explained.
The only thing going through Jin-Hyeok's mind was a strong and resolute ‘oh fuck, not again’.
Sun-Woo suddenly kneeled on the floor in supplication and cried, “Oh my god! Jin-Hyeok, please don’t fire me! I had no idea Min Suk would…”
“Sun-Woo,” Jin-Hyeok cut in.
“What?” asked the baker.
“Platonic life partner of mine, please shut up. Now we will go and get drunk and deal with the fallout of today’s events later.”
“Shouldn’t we go after them to explain that this was a misunderstanding?” asked Sun-Woo.
“I know my family. They need a day or two to simmer before they are able to actually listen what I say,” said Jin-Hyeok.
“What? Even if you were to explain that this was a misunderstanding? Isn’t a fast resolution better than prolonging this travesty?” asked Sun-Woo.
“Going after them now would fall on deaf ears. They always jump to conclusions first, take a day or two to calm down and then actually see the situation for what it is when it comes to me. It has always been so since the kidnapping. I sneeze and they have already booked me in to see an allergy specialist before they can finish saying 'bless you'. I come home with a hangover and they are dialing for the ambulance—for I must surely have cancer and am living my last minutes—before I have finished closing the front door. So the day after tomorrow I’m going to the estate to talk with them. Hopefully by then they will have calmed down.”
“So you come home gay, they...?” wondered Sun-Woo
“Well, at this moment they are probably calling the lawyers to disown me. By tomorrow lunch time they should start to think and remember all my girlfriends. By the evening, they will have probably stopped reacting, they will cancel the lawyer appointments and they will be ready to listen. So today, we drink. Let’s go to the Lolipop. There is no way my family will believe that I am gay.”
Famous last. words. Jin-Hyeok should have known.
“My mother and grandmother did what?” Jin-Hyeok cried out in disbelief as he was closing Antique for the day and finishing cleaning up the rooms.
“They welcomed me to the family,” said Sun-Woo glibly. “So much for your conviction that they would never believe you are gay. Or them disowning you for it.”
“But when? How?” asked the baffled bakery owner.
“This morning, before you arrived to open the shop, I was all by my lonesome self, baking batches for the usual weekend rush, when to my tremendous surprise there was a knock on the door and when I opened it, there stood my employer's mother and grandmother. And before I could even react, your mother pulls me in to a strong hug. Tells me she will accept my presence and importance in your life as long as I make you happy and welcomes me to your family. Then the three of us had some tea and chatted; your mother helped me make some of the cakes. It was interesting to talk shop with a culinary researcher. She gave me some ideas to try next. Both are such lovely women.” Sun-Woo explained with delight and added after a pause, “By the way, Jin-Hyeok, they told me they will come for dinner to your place tonight, so you could talk about the situation.”
“And not once did it occur to you to tell them they had misunderstood our relationship? Or mention this to me during the day before now, just when I am about to go home? I am not prepared to meet them so soon!” grumbled Jin-Hyeok.
“Well, no. I was afraid to piss them off, after such a warm welcome. Besides, it was so busy today I didn’t really have the time to talk with you before now. It isn’t like I confirmed that we are in a romantic relationship to them. I just declined to comment. It is your duty as their son to talk things straight with them. Oh, do call me when you have finished and let me know how things went between you.” Sun-Woo waved good bye as he stepped out of the bakery to hurry home.
Jin-Hyeok looked at the clock, the now empty bakery, and sighed. It was time to go home and talk some sense in to his parents.
“But mother, I’m not a homosexual! You have met my previous girlfriends! I am straight! I like women! I’m a normal man!” Jin-Hyeok gaped at his parents and grandparents, who refused to believe him after twenty minutes of arguing about the matter.
“Of course you are a normal man!" Jin-Hyeok's mother yelled. "There is nothing wrong with being gay, it’s in your DNA! All of us have been reading scientific articles about homosexuality for days. We understand you and accept you as you are!” Jin-Hyeok’s mother hugged him strongly.
Then his grandmother spoke. “As for your girlfriends, no wonder you flitted from one to another and couldn’t stay with any of them. It must have been so hard to force yourself to be someone you are not and try so hard, only to fail again and again. My poor, darling boy. Stop! You don’t have to lie to us anymore. We accept you as you are. “
Jin-Hyeok stared blankly at his family. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Before he could string another sentence together to explain the misunderstanding yet again, his father added his thoughts on the matter.
“Son, don’t worry, we really support you and your relationship. We called Su-Young to ask about your fine young man and he explained it to us. How Sun-Woo was from your class in high school, and has been carrying a torch for you for the last decade and half. How you met again when you opened Antique. It must be fate! Not everyone will meet their high school sweetheart years later to try again. Grasp this chance! Don’t let it go to waste! And from what I heard Sun-Woo is a fine looking young man who is a real genius when it comes to his profession. All of us approve and will not stand in the way of your love. We want you to be happy.”
And at last but not least, grandpa chimed in on the Jin-Hyeok Sun-Woo affair. “Next week, bring Sun-Woo to the Estate to officially meet the family. You don’t have to hide anymore, my child.”
Jin-Hyeok could only whimper.
His family left with heartfelt goodbyes and demands to officially meet his life partner, and two hours later, Jin-Hyeok found himself yet again in Lolipop, doing shots with Sun-Woo, who was laughing his ass off over the situation and clinging to the bar counter so he wouldn’t fall off the stool.
Jin-Hyeok himself leaned his cheek against the counter in despair, peeking at the laughing baker before whimpering again. “Sun-Woo! My own family! My own family doesn’t believe me when I say I am straight!”
“Well, for a supposedly straight man you do find yourself in way too many gay scandals," the Master of the bar pointed out in response to Jin-Hyeok's laments. "And the dancing with Sun-Woo here has been sizzling with UST if I say so myself. Not to mention you slowly becoming a regular in a gay club. Just something to think about. More shots?”
“Oh god yes! Do you have 80% proof vodka?” asked Jin-Hyeok.
“Yes,” answered the barman.
“Give me that!" Jin-Hyeok demanded. "This whole fiasco makes me drink.”
When Sun-Woo had calmed down, he sighed. “It’s a pity, though. And kind of a waste.”
“What is?” asked Jin-Hyeok curiously with a slight slur in his voice.
“The acceptance and support you get from your family for being supposedly homosexual," Sun-Woo said thoughtfully. "There are gays who actually dream of this kind of unconditional love from their families, but instead are shunned and shamed for being true to themselves. Jin-Hyeok, you got a precious gift that almost everyone in this room is envious of having. Appreciate your family. They are a rarity indeed.”
Jin-Hyeok did not know how to react to the bakers word's and said in an attempt to lift the mood, “Hey, platonic life partner of mine, want to drink love shots with me and then go dance?”
“Sure,” said Sun-Woo, perking up at the proposition of soon getting to gyrate with Min-Hyeok in close encounter. When the elaborate shots were done, Sun-Woo dragged Jin-Hyeok with him so they could conquer the dance floor.
Which lead to the next morning, when Jin-Hyeok woke up fully clothed in his own bed with a hangover from hell and a piercingly clear memory of kissing Sun-Woo when the other man helped him open his own front door.
Sun-Woo’s lips had tasted of freedom and Jin-Hyeok found himself craving more. It was like a hole had been filled in his soul that had always been missing and he noticed it just now. ‘Oh hell,’ thought Jin-Hyeok when he lay in his bed, hangover drumming in his brain. ‘I’m too old to have a sexual orientation crisis in my thirties!’. So Jin-Hyeok did the only thing he could think of: he whimpered.
“Ah, I see you are awake,” said Sun-Woo, leaning against the door frame and looking in to Jin-Hyeok's room. “I slept on the couch, if you are wondering. I also made some coffee, I hope you don’t mind. And then, Min-Jun, we can have a little talk.”
What happened then was a beginning of something beautiful and another story entirely. And when Jin-Hyeok brought Min-Woo to his family estate the next week as demanded of him, it indeed had become the official meeting of the in-laws, no misunderstanding there.