“i like this movie,” tae eul says. she really does. watching eunseob and nari was like watching a fluffy romcom, but jo yeong and seungah make falling in love look like something out of a spy movie. “it’s already a big hit, like i’m totally on my toes right now. this is a thriller.”
“no,” gon says, cutting his eyes over to her, and tae eul has learnt to recognise the way his eyes darken, becoming impossibly more piercing, just before he kisses her, and it still makes her stupid heart skip a beat. every single time. “this is a melodrama.”
he lifts her effortlessly onto the desk and leans in, and she can feel him smile against her lips. when he finally kisses her proper the familiar heat shoots down through her stomach, and she wraps her arms around his neck and pulls him in close. one of gon’s hands snakes down from her back, fingering the edge of her sweater, but it’s only when his fingers brush, warm and insistent, against the bare skin of her hip that she manages to gather enough of her scrambled thoughts to push at his chest.
“what are you doing?” she gasps against his lips. “not here, this is the security office—”
gon’s hand has slipped under her sweater, his palm flat and warm against her stomach.
“mmm,” he murmurs vaguely against her cheek, tilting his head to mouth at her neck and an involuntary whine escapes her lips. “the royal guards won’t be back until i say so. it was the king's order.”
“i have entertained certain thoughts about taking you over my desk in gwangyeongjeon,” gon says, almost conversationally, into her clavicle. “i find this desk right here to be a suitable alternative, if not better. court lady noh would never think of finding us here.”
“yah,” she says, thwacking him hard on the back, but gon barely flinches, instead opens his eyes and looks straight at her, and his eyes are blown with warmth and desire and that same desire pools at the bottom of tae eul’s stomach. his stare is unwavering, insistent, persuasive and tae eul just wants to drown in him. after so long apart, it’s never enough.
“you’re… sure the guards won’t be back?” she whispers, and a victorious, almost cheshire grin spreads across gon’s lips, and he pulls his hand out from under her shirt to reach up and push her coat off her shoulders. it pools behind her on the desk, and she finds herself reaching up, twining her arms around his neck again.
“not unless they’re up for a beheading,” gon says, and presses her into the desk.
it’s the first time she’s ever felt this way, in the many months they’ve spent travelling the universe together. stepping through the obelisks into the in-between, or into another world, usually comes with a gentle tug located somewhere around the bottom of her spine that seems to pull her from this world into the next, and today’s trip, for some reason, leaves her faintly nauseous.
“are you alright?” gon asks, concerned eyes flickering down to her from under his gat, drawing them to a pause at the edge of the bamboo forest, bordering a small, bustling village. they’ve travelled back to the joseon dynasty today, and tae eul is vaguely thankful that her chima’s silky material is loose about her churning stomach.
“just a little queasy,” she smiles up at him. “maybe it was the barbecue dinner i had with the team last night. jangmi always overcooks the meat.”
“are you sure? i can always bring you back to the palace for the weekend,” gon says. “if you need the rest.”
“and throw the royal court into a tizzy over your unexpected guest again?” tae eul laughs. “court lady noh probably won’t take that very well. and we’ve finally made it to joseon again, i’ve always wanted to explore more. i still haven’t found my great-grandfather yet, i need to go tell him to buy that pear field over apgujeong. and really, i’m fine.”
acquiescing, gon laughs, the deep, full-bellied chuckle that she loves the sound of, as he rests a hand at the small of her back. “come along then, my lady.”
by the following friday morning, having emptied her breakfast from her stomach into the toilet for the third time that week, she drops her cheek against the cool ceramic of the toilet bowl as she catches her breath, and a vague, sinking feeling settles in her gut.
“you’re still unwell?” gon frowns down at her, his thumb running soft, comforting circles on the back of tae eul’s hand, as they emerge into the in-between. “have you been to see a doctor?”
“i—not exactly,” tae eul hedges, swallowing around her nausea and trying to think about where to begin.
“i’m taking you to the palace, to see doctor hwang,” gon says, tugging at her hand, and tae eul gasps, digs her heels in.
“no, i can’t—i mean, not yet—”
“why not? what’s wrong?” gon lifts a hand to smooth tae eul’s hair, mildly ruffled by the gentle breeze always blowing in the in-between.
“i—i think i may be pregnant,” tae eul says in a rush, wide-eyed. gon’s mouth falls open, and tae eul doesn’t think she’s ever seen him unable to find words. “i’ve been… nauseous most mornings, and my period hasn’t been here, but i thought that was stress, and, but i think back, maybe—maybe it was that evening in the palace security control room—”
gon just stares back at her, and despite the situation she vaguely thinks about how beautifully chiselled he always looks, and frozen like this he looks like a 21st century michaelangelo.
“i tried a test kit yesterday, and it came out positive, but i haven’t been to see a doctor or anything yet, i didn’t know what to do, i thought i’d wait to see you first, since it would be saturday soon—” she’s rambling, she knows, but she can’t stop, and gon is beginning to look almost as if he isn’t breathing.
“yah,” tae eul says, kicking gon none too gently in the shin, which finally works, as gon promptly unfreezes and leaps back with a yelp of pain.
“how is that the way you treat the father of your child,” he grumbles. “i suppose lady noh’s talismans were rather too effective. i wonder what temple she got them from. i should ask her about it.”
“what talismans?” tae eul says, nonplussed, and gon puts his hand into his left coat pocket, sheepishly draws out a red talisman between his fingertips.
“she keeps leaving them in my pockets,” he says. “i usually catch her at it, but that day back at the security office… earlier that day i thought i’d just give her a break. she’d been trying for so many years for a royal heir.”
“i don’t—this isn’t the point here,” tae eul says. “what are we going to do now?”
“i’d wanted this announcement to be a little more sweet and emotional,” gon says, as he puts the talisman back into his left pocket and reaches into his right one. “i guess it’s too late now. but my point is the same either way.”
tae eul watches with growing horror as gon pulls a small, velvet box out of his other pocket. the golden emblem of the kingdom of corea gleams off the green velvet cover as he steps back and goes down on one knee, opening the box to reveal a single, beautifully-cut diamond set in a plain, champagne gold band.
“i love you very much, jeong tae eul,” he says, looking her dead in the eye. “i take you to be my wife, the queen. will you marry me?”
“you’ve been carrying this around??” tae eul sputters. “since when?”
“it’s been awhile,” gon says, cocking his head up at her. “i would tell you all about it, but are you going to leave me in limbo like this? it’s the first time ever in my life i’ve gone down onto my knees for someone.”
tae eul stares down at the ring. the single diamond flashes in the light at her, simple yet evidently expensive in its quality and value.
“yes,” she says, and her voice catches. she hiccups, clears her throat. “always yes,” she says again, louder, clearer.
gon’s smile is small, playing about the corner of his lips, but his eyes are warm, so warm as he rises, taking the ring out of its velvet cushioning. he reaches for tae eul’s left hand, and slips it onto her ring finger. it’s a perfect fit.
“to answer your question, i had it ordered the very night i returned to the palace after i found you again,” he says, covering her left hand in both of his. “the diamond is from the royal crown jewels, and the gold is from our local mines owned by the royal court. i estimated your ring size by touch, and i was right.” he nods, satisfied with himself. “do you like it?”
“it’s beautiful,” tae eul whispers. it really is, in its exquisite simplicity—she’s never been one for chunky, flashy jewellery.
“my queen,” he simply says, and pulls her into his arms. tae eul wraps her arms about his waist, burrowing her face into his chest.
there are so many things they would have to think about in the future, but she closes her eyes and breathes him in, decides to live only for today.