To say that Jeong Do-In was in a state of shock was a massive understatement. He was seriously considering taking his daughter, Jeong Tae-Eul, to the hospital and insisting that she be seen by a psychiatrist. What else was he supposed to do when his daughter insisted that her mysterious boyfriend, who only showed up to their house occasionally, was from a parallel universe? A parallel universe that his daughter claimed to have visited multiple times over the past two years - there was also a bit about visiting other time periods but he hadn’t quite processed that bit yet.
He knew his daughter was in love with Lee Gon, she practically glowed with happiness and lived for the weekend when she saw him, disappearing on weekend trips with him. There was always a big smile on her face on Mondays, by Wednesday it changed into a longing look and by the time Friday rolled around she was excited for the weekend. He often wondered why they didn’t meet up during the week or call each other but his questions were just met with a sigh. Do-In liked Gon, he felt like he knew the man from the moment he saw him outside his door, holding his daughter's hand. As time went on it became clear to him that the man was clearly in love with his daughter and made her happy, the fact that he was very good looking and well-educated was an added bonus. Do-In always thought that Gon had a rather regal air about him but to claim that he was the King of Corea in an alternate universe was farfetched.
But his daughter was insistent claiming that she hadn’t believed him at first either. On a late Friday night he walked into a bamboo forest flanked by his daughter and her boyfriend. He first thought they were pulling his leg but then gasped in shock when two glowing obelisks appeared. He felt like his heart was going to explode and his mouth was going to get stuck in a permanent gasp as he followed his daughter and her boyfriend through a long beach until they exited in another bamboo forest where guards clad in black suits greeted them, referring to Gon as Pyeha (your majesty). He had promptly fainted when a guard that looked exactly like Jo Eun-Sup greeted them. As he lost consciousness he heard Gon exclaim, “Yeong-ah, I told you to stay back.”
When he woke up he was in a lavish room, laying on a large four poster bed with silk sheets over which hung an exquisite crystal chandelier. A look out the window clearly told him he was no longer in Seoul. His daughter was sitting on the couch by the bed with an older lady in a traditional hanbok who welcomed him to the kingdom exclaiming that she herself had been shocked when she was brought over from the Republic years ago.
The next few days of Do-In’s life were...eye-opening. As it turned out his daughter wasn’t going crazy and lying to him. He definitely wasn’t in the Republic of Corea, the Kingdom of Corea actually existed and Gon was the King. He lived in a lavish palace in Busan that Tae-Eul seemed to know well enough to sneak around undetected, he knew the palace didn’t exist in their world. Despite that, he found that the Kingdom was very similar to the Republic with a couple of differences – the fact that North and South Korea didn’t exist the biggest of them.
As soon as he internalized all that another bomb was dropped of him, everyone in the Kingdom had a doppelgänger in the Republic. Jo-Yeong was Eun-Sup’s, and his girlfriend, Myeong Seung-Ah, happened to look just like Na-Ri, he even had the same parents and his twin siblings looked like Eun-Bi and Kka-Bi did. His own counterpart didn’t exist having died in a car accident years ago but his daughter had one. Apparently she was being watched very carefully and would be looped in soon and sworn to secrecy. An elaborate back story was being created to explain the resemblance between the two women – twins separated at birth, it worked out well because his daughter’s doppleganger was an orphan in the Kingdom.
Do-In was an intelligent man and quickly realized what was happening after learning about all the work that was going in to creating a presence for Tae-Eul in the Kingdom. So he wasn’t surprised when Gon approached him and asked for permission to marry his daughter before sheepishly admitting that he had asked multiple times before and was always met with a not today until recently where Tae-Eul responded with how are we going to manage that. Do-In even expected the offer to live in the kingdom, along with the assurance that if he chose to go back to the Republic Tae-Eul would visit him periodically.
Tae-Eul spoke with him next telling him that she wanted him to know the truth, she couldn’t just disappear. She would still visit their world to see friends but leaving Gon at the end of the weekend was getting harder and harder. He knew his daughter loved Gon as much as he loved her, he made her happy and that was the reason he told her that he supported her decision.
Never in a million years would he have imagined that his own daughter would be the future Queen of Corea in an alternate universe. But a week later there was a large rock on her finger and the Kingdom was in an uproar while the father-daughter duo returned to the Republic of Korea to get the ball rolling on relocating to a parallel universe.
Lady Noh (Noh Ok-Nam)
To say that Lady Noh was ecstatic was an understatement. After sneaking around with Jeong Tae-Eul for over a year, Pyeha had finally asked her to bring him the ancestral engagement ring that had been passed down in the royal family for ages.
Although she had first been hesitant regarding Tae-Eul she quickly realized that the man she had raised was in love with her. It wasn’t a passing infatuation, she knew that he would kill for her and die for her – she also guessed that there was more to them than met the eye. The love Pyeha had for Tae-Eul was reflected back in her eyes, just as intense, just as permanent. She made Pyeha happy, and then it didn’t matter that she was from the universe Lady Noh had herself left behind.
After that point she had started pestering them to get married so they wouldn’t have to sneak around when Tae-Eul did visit the palace. Lady Noh didn’t want to deal with the heart palpitations she had whenever someone almost caught the two of them together. Pyeha would exclaim that he proposed to her many times but Tae-Eul always refused at which point Tae-Eul would get an angry look on her face and whack him in the arm – an action that made everyone’s eyes go wide. But Pyeha would just smile at her lovingly and find more ways to annoy her.
Lady Noh’s own conversations with Tae-Eul revealed that she was afraid to leave her world behind. But almost two years later it seemed she was ready and had brought her father with her to the Kingdom. After which Tae-Eul finally agreed and the ancestral engagement ring now had a home on her ring finger looking like it was meant to be there. She knew it made Pyeha extremely happy because his fingers were always tracing the ring and he often kissed it when he brought her hand to his face.
The engagement pictures released by the Royal Public Affairs Office went viral as the country waited with bated breath to see their King married. There were many questions about who the future Queen of Corea was but they didn’t release much information apart from the story they made up. She was a detective and worked for the Busan Police, the records had been created and police officers debriefed and told to sign confidentiality agreements. It helped that Tae-Eul was made part of the secretive Special Investigations Unit that mostly did undercover work. Her doppelganger’s presence was also explained – twins separated at birth. The two got along rather well, meeting for coffee and to catch up. The media ate up the stories without hesitation. The general public was ecstatic, they felt rather close to the King who had grown up in front of their eyes, and it seemed obvious to them that their King was happy and in love. The fact that he was marrying a commoner made them feel even closer to him.
Lady Noh was on cloud nine as they planned the biggest wedding the kingdom had ever seen. She couldn’t wait until the wedding, she had even started looking into fertility talismans...Pyeha was in need of an heir after all. She just had to wait until the wedding to place them in auspicious spots so the heir was born an appropriate time after the marriage.
She might also started stuffing different talismans into Yeong’s pockets hoping that he would follow in Pyeha’s footsteps and propose to Seung-Ah. They were rather slow, the whole palace staff giggled about how obviously smitten the two fools were yet they still thought the palace was oblivious to their relationship. She thought it would be nice for Pyeha’s children to grow up alongside Yeong’s.
To say that Jo Yeong was exasperated would be an understatement. Pyeha and Tae-Eul disappeared frequently worrying everyone – himself included even though he knew that they were in a parallel dimension somewhere. It just wasn’t safe. He was glad when they started spending more time in the Kingdom of Corea until he realized that he couldn’t walk into any room without knocking and announcing his presence.
The first time he walked in without knocking Pyeha had fallen off a sofa, his hair mussed and his lips swollen while a blushing Tae-Eul lay on the sofa with wide eyes, a red face and swollen lips pulling her wrinkled shirt down. It was clear what they had been up to and he had hastily retreated while Pyeha ran after him.
The second time he walked in without knocking Pyeha had Tae-Eul up against a bookshelf as they furiously made out, he was holding her arms up over her head, flush against the bookshelf. The sound of moans made him hastily retreat, they didn’t even notice the door open or close.
The third time he walked in without knocking he was with Myeong Seung-Ah who was taken aback by the scene in front of her, she had squealed in her throat and hit his arm repeatedly in excitement. Tae-Eul was chasing Pyeha around the room yelling at him and calling him names. Pyeha was laughing while dodging her and telling her to be careful because he could have her beheaded. When Yeong arched his eyebrow at Tae-Eul, Pyeha just shrugged and said she was his Queen and could call him whatever she wanted. Yeong had rolled his eyes and exited quickly when the two of them looked at each other with huge smiles, it was somehow worse than walking in on them making out.
Seung-Ah had squealed loudly as soon as they left the room exclaiming that Pyeha and the Queen-to-be were so cute together. She had then glared at him exclaiming that he was unromantic before marching down the hallway while he followed, trying to pacify her. He might have pressed her up against the lockers in the change room and kissed her until she was too breathless to complain.
The fourth time he had walked in without knocking was really not his fault, he left Pyeha and Tae-Eul sitting on the couch together in Pyeha’s office while he stepped out to escort Prime Minister Mo in for their Friday meeting. It was barely five minutes later that the two had walked in to find the Queen-to-be laughing trying to get away from Pyeha who had pulled her into his lap and was placing kisses all over her face.
Yeong had sighed and given his best friend a look that conveyed ‘are you for real’. Prime Minister Mo had smiled at the pair, she seemed almost giddy when she saw the two of them together. Seung-Ah suspected that President Mo wrote fanfiction about Pyeha and Tae-Eul, the account going quiet whenever she was swamped with work. Yeong’s eyes had grown wide when he skimmed through some of the fanfictions, a lot of them were very explicit in nature…although he might have saved the ones about him and Seung-Ah, for research purposes of course.
After the fourth time he had walked in on them, he made sure to knock and wait a minute for them to compose themselves before he walked in to any room. His subordinates were instructed to do the same. The whole Royal Guard was very amused by Pyeha’s antics, he was acting so…unlike him. Now that they were engaged, they went out on public dates where they acted like smitten teenagers and the Royal Guard was privy to all their flirting. It was rather ridiculous. Yeong often caught them talking about the pair and what they had seen, it ranged from seeing them walking in the garden hand-in-hand to finding them making out in the horse stables. In between all of that were what Yeong referred to as nauseatingly sweet events – like making people pick fresh flowers for Tae-Eul, making all the Royal Guards carry around hair ties because the Queen-to-Be always lost hers and needed backups, and watching Pyeha whisper things into Tae-Eul’s ears which inevitably made her either flush or whack his arm.
But it wasn’t as ridiculous as Friday night dinners, when Pyeha walked down to the kitchen in his navy uniform and kicked all the kitchen staff out. A giggling Tae-Eul always followed after him. The Royal Guard and the rest of the palace found Pyeha’s behaviour to be rather cute, everyone commenting on how smitten he was, the conversations and laughter overheard was shared across the palace in hushed whispers. Yeong and Seung-Ah joined the pair sometimes at Tae-Eul’s insistence, those nights exasperated him just a little even though they were fun. All three of them would team up and speculate why he never laughed. Pyeha would then share stories from when he was a child and laughed a lot more which embarrassed him greatly. The only thing he didn’t mind was the look on Seung-Ah’s face when she inevitably got him to put on his own navy uniform, she loved seeing him in it and he really liked her taking it off of him.
Yeong was glad that Gon had someone to be vulnerable with, someone that he could share his deepest secrets and worries with. He was no longer Gon’s only friend – a fact that both pleased him and made him feel a tad jealous. But he was slowly learning how to have a life that didn’t revolve solely around Gon and it was nice, especially when Gon was going around acting ridiculous. The Pyeha wasn’t supposed to be chasing the Queen-to-Be around the palace like a smitten teenager for goodness’ sake.
To say that Myeong Seung-Ah was ecstatic would be an understatement. She was on cloud nine while documenting and handling the Royal Wedding. The wedding had been long and wonderful, everything was live-streamed on television allowing the public to be a part of the wedding. The whole country was commenting on how happy the King and Queen looked together, the couple had a large fan following, thousands of blogs with their pictures and videos were going up every day. The common theme was that they made a beautiful couple, the Queen looked radiant on her wedding day, and the King looked happier than anyone had ever seen him.
It was like a fanfiction come to life, she had written one herself where Pyeha got married to a commoner and gave her the world…and it was all coming true! She tried to control her inner fangirl at work and succeeded for the most part. But Yeong was definitely privy to her excitement, she was sure she had almost broken his hand with how hard she squeezed it every time something cute happened throughout the wedding ceremony. Her own love story was something that the public definitely noticed during the live broadcast and the internet was now rampant with pictures and fanfictions of her and Yeong – some of them were very good.
The days that followed the wedding had everyone speculating where the honeymoon would be and how quickly an heir would be presented. Most people bet that the pair would honeymoon somewhere in Europe. The fact that most of the Royal Guard was given time off on a rotating basis over the two weeks wasn’t shared with the public who would wonder why the Royal Guard didn’t accompany the King and Queen. The fact that they were on their honeymoon in Europe in an alternate universe where no one knew them as the King and Queen was definitely not a speculation.
The Royal Public Affairs Office remained rather tight-lipped about the honeymoon, but the fanfiction world was running rampant with really good material that had Seung-Ah fanning herself and seeking out Yeong. She spent most of the week Yeong had off with him enjoying the fact that her boyfriend looked just as scrumptious in casual clothing as he did in his black suits. She liked the playful side of him that came out rarely, but even in his playfulness he was always so cool.
By the time the King and Queen returned from their long honeymoon, they were sun-kissed and looking happier than ever. If Yeong had thought they were bad before the wedding they were much worse now. The staff would walk past closed doors all around the palace and hear giggling and laughter. The two of them didn’t sneak around anymore but rather walked hand in hand everywhere, it was not an uncommon sight to see the King sweep down and place a kiss on the Queen’s forehead or pat her hair fondly. The Queen accompanied the King to most of his engagements, the two of them were joined at the hip. The Queen took up some of her own initiatives and engagements working closely with the Royal Public Affairs Office and Seung-Ah, the two becoming even closer as time went on.
But what made her the happiest was the random nights the King and Queen would sit in the kitchen across from her and Yeong just chatting and laughing over drinks. The Queen would mix drinks – having snuck bottles of liquor from the Republic – and get progressively louder as she got more liquor in her system. Seung-Ah definitely noticed when the King snickered as the Queen longingly looked towards the bottles of liquor as they all drank tea one evening instead of liquor. Seung-Ah hid her smile when the Queen whacked his arm and exclaimed he was the reason she could no longer have liquor. She couldn’t hold back the squeal that left her mouth while she congratulated them.
They were told to keep it quiet but speculation was running rampant within weeks, everyone noticed that the King seemed so much more protective of the Queen. The first tip off was when the security levels for the Queen increased dramatically. She could no longer go anywhere without being accompanied by at least a dozen guards who packed around her more tightly than they did in the past. The King accompanied her everywhere he could, rarely leaving her side, the media commented on this fact extensively along with the fact that the Queen had suddenly taken to wearing looser dresses.
Everyone at the palace noticed that the Queen’s hands frequently rested on her stomach as she walked around the palace. The kitchen staff knew that the Queen’s breakfast now consisted of ginger tea with crackers, all of them suspecting morning sickness. Seung-Ah definitely noticed that the King’s hand often rested on his wife’s belly, which now had a little bump.
Seung-Ah had a press release written up with the perfect picture by the time the palace could no longer hide the pregnancy, the baby bump now visible in loose dresses. The nation rejoiced, the picture where the King was standing behind the Queen both of their hands resting on her baby bump went viral worldwide as everyone speculated if a boy or girl would be born.
To say that Jang Mi-Reuk was overprotective would be an understatement. He took guarding the Queen very seriously, he quite liked her and the changes she brought in the Kingdom. Everyone seemed happier, she was warm and kind but could also kick ass. He still remembered when she challenged a Royal Guard to a duel – a vehement protest against her then fiancée about being able to protect herself. Pyeha had insisted that he knew she could protect herself but being the future Queen put her more at risk. She had managed to hold up her own against Pyeha and reduce the number of people that followed her around before her wedding from six to just Mi-Reuk.
She was different than what everyone thought their Queen would be, and he was glad. He was her Head Guard, a friend when she wanted to whine about Pyeha and his overprotectiveness now that she was pregnant. He chose to just listen and not respond in the chance that Pyeha behead him for encouraging his wife’s complaints. But he mostly stayed silent because he agreed wholeheartedly with Pyeha – the Queen shouldn’t be leaving the palace without a dozen Royal Guards, the guards should stand around her in an impenetrable circle, she shouldn’t be running around or down the stairs, and she definitely shouldn’t skip meals.
Pyeha’s overprotectiveness was rather cute to everyone, he stuck to her like glue most of the times, his hand resting on her back when walking and on her stomach when they were sitting or standing. He was lucky enough to have witnessed the moment when Pyeha first felt the babies kick – they were having twins, a secret that only a few in the palace knew. Even Yeong who was usually stoic had a smile on his face at the scene, Mi-Reuk did wonder if his Captain’s recent less stoic nature had to do with the fact that he was now engaged to Seung-Ah.
Captain Jo had immediately asked all guards to step back to allow the couple privacy as they noticed the Pyeha’s eyes fill with unshed tears. Pyeha grew even more overprotective and only Lady Noh’s explanation that there were always attempts at a heir’s life calmed the Queen down when her husband was being especially overprotective. As the Queen got further along in her pregnancy, the palace staff was amused. Apparently pregnancy often made women very…amorous. She had a habit of tracking Pyeha down, the two of them disappearing into the closest room with a lock acting like they weren’t about to engage in…licentious activities despite the fact that everyone knew what was actually happening. Especially when Pyeha always left the room with a dopey grin and the Queen had a rather satisfied look on her face.
Lady Noh was scandalized claiming that no one had ever behaved so audaciously in the palace but it seemed like she was just putting on a front because he often saw the fond look she gave Pyeha and the Queen when they were together. Her biggest worry was the fact that there was a leak in the palace somewhere and the general public seemed to know rather sensitive details about the pair – everything from Pyeha cooking for her to their current rendezvouses across the palace. But this seemed to endear the public to the pair even more.
As the due date got nearer both Pyeha and all the guards walked on eggshells around the Queen, constantly watching her face for any signs of discomfort. Mi-Reuk was walking by Pyeha’s study with Captain Yeong when a frantic Pyeha threw the door open yelling that the Queen was in labour. Yeong had snorted before escorting Pyeha back into the study and making him sit down by an amused Queen who teased Pyeha about almost fainting.
Mi-Reuk was sure Pyeha’s hand had a broken bone by the time the Queen was brought over to the room that was set up for the birth. The doctors and midwives worked quickly and efficiently despite the fact that Pyeha insisted her stay in the room despite Lady Noh’s protests. He sat by the bed, holding the Queen’s hand as everyone worked around him.
Hours later the room filled with two rather loud cries, Yeong and Mi-Reuk were standing right outside the door looked at each other and smiled. The twins were introduced to the two men, a little girl named Lee In-Na and a little boy named Lee Dae-Hyun. Mi-Reuk knew at that moment that he would protect the two to death much like he would their mother. As the weeks passed the two of them looked more and more like the perfect mix of their two parents who always seemed exhausted but so happy. The kingdom rejoiced for weeks after the birth was announced, the picture of the happy family – the King and Queen sitting in the palace garden each holding one child with fond smiles on their faces was currently the most shared picture in the history of the country.
A few months later, Mi-Reuk watched over the twins in their prams as the King and Queen stood at the altar beside Yeong and Seung-Ah, the two finally tying the knot. He had never seen Captain Yeong show any emotions but the man had tears in his eyes when Seung-Ah walked down the aisle towards him while Pyeha gently patted his shoulder in reassurance.
Mi-Reuk knew the Queen was ecstatic that the two were getting married claiming that they belonged together in every universe with a forlorn look on her face. She was rather excited for them to have children of their own because her own babies needed companions, even hinting at the fact that she hoped their kids paired off and got married to annoy Pyeha. When Mi-Reuk looked at Lee In-Na he wondered what man would be brave enough to take on the Pyeha and the whole Royal Guard for her hand. He smiled when Lee Dae-Hyun grabbed his sister’s hand in his sleep – better yet – who would take on Lee Dae-Hyun for his sister’s hand.
Two readers pointed out to the similarities between this story and the Corea News blog. Just to clarify, the similarities weren't intentional. I have already cleared it with the author of the Corea News blog, the lovely Coreastories on Tumblr.
Chapter 2: The Royal Family Edit
The Royal Family Book is inspired by the TKEM Happily Ever After Series, created in collaboration with mysticalparadox (tumblr) because I suck at Photoshop and she's amazing!
Chapter 3: Burning Hot
Lee Gon is used to getting through things alone. When he gets sick, he camps out in his room. Lady Noh sends food up for him, he lays in bed, sleeps and takes his medication. But it's not like that anymore? Not with Jeong Tae-Eul running around and fluffing his pillows...she's babying him? [Set before the proposal (Chapter 10)]
To say that Gon missed Tae-Eul would be an understatement. There were a couple of things he loved the most across every universe – Tae-Eul’s smile, her voice, the sound of her laughter, the way she wrapped herself around him, the way she kissed him, and the way she said I love you.
It had been a week since he had seen her smile. 7 and a half days since he had heard her voice. 10842 minutes since he heard her laughter. 650520 seconds since he touched and kissed her. 650520000 milliseconds since the words I love you were whispered between them. It was torture.
Usually he could cross over mid-week, sometimes to actually see her, and other times just to call her and hear her voice. It helped when nothing else did, her voice wiped away all the stress and he was happy for the minutes he could stand in the forest and call her from the payphone using the coins he always carried around. And when he could see her he was ecstatic.
The past week had been brutal, there was heavy rainfall and strong winds that damaged villages in the Kingdom, so many people lost everything they had. He couldn't have left the Kingdom to go see her, not when he was needed. Not when seeing him and hearing his reassurances helped those people. Not when he had to make sure that the government stepped in and did everything they could to help those who needed help.
He had spent nights reading, wondering if there was a way to set up communication between the two worlds. He combed every book, read every theory, his notepad scribbled with notes but nothing would work. He could only wish. He wished he could just call her instead of scrolling through pictures on his phone and watching the videos just to hear her talk. He had watched the one where she was lying in bed, the covers up to her chin as she yelled at him to stop recording while he laughed 324 times in the past week. That 20 second clip made him so happy.
But seeing her and getting to experience all the things he loved would make him even happier. He sighed as he stepped through the gate to her world, she was standing there waiting for him, with a smile on her face. Her backpack was slung over her shoulders, he knew it was filled with things they might need as they travelled through other worlds. She said his only job was to bring gold or diamonds that they could exchange for money wherever they ended up and she’d take care of the rest.
He loved the way she lit up when she saw him, her eyes getting so small as she beamed at him, her lips pulling up, her nose scrunching. And then she ran to close the distance between them, jumping into his arms like she had been counting down the seconds until she saw him, like he was. He lifted her up off her feet as she crashed into him, his hands wrapping around her waist to pull her close, her arms around his shoulders supporting her weight.
He missed her. Missed the way she said hi. Missed the way she smelled, like roses. Missed the way she felt in his arms. Missed the whisper of I missed you, I love you. Missed the way the skin of her neck felt when he buried his head in it.
She pulled away and he looked down at her in question. She looked worried. One of her hands shot up to his forehead while the other cupped his cheek. “You’re burning.” She said, her voice dripping with concern.
“No, it’s just because I’m so hot you can’t handle it.” He teased. But it was only then that he remembered that his body his body had been hurting all day much like his head was and that he felt uncomfortable. He had ignored his body in his hurry to get to her.
“No, this is like fever hot.” She muttered as her fingers rubbed his cheek, her touch soothing him immensely.
“I am okay, let’s go, on our date.” He smiled at her.
Her eyes flitted across his face and then she let him go, unwrapping herself from around him and giving him a rather pointed look. “Are you feeling sick? Don’t you dare lie to me.” She said.
“My body hurts.” He said sheepishly.
“And?” She prompted.
“My head hurts.” He said and then she arched her eyebrow and he sighed. “I’ve been feeling uncomfortable all day, but it’ll pass. Let’s go.”
“No, we’re not going anywhere when you feel like this, we’re going to go to my house, I am going to take your temperature and then we’re going to get you some meds and you’re going to rest.” She said fiercely, he did love how bossy she was – the only person that got away with giving him orders.
“We only have two days.” He whispered, he couldn’t spend them sick, he wanted to spend time with her. He didn’t want to lay in bed alone and get over whatever was happening to him. He couldn’t be sick.
“And we’ll have plenty more.” She said while grabbing his hand and squeezing. “Let’s go.” She said while pulling him towards where he knew her car was parked.
He could tell that he was walking slower than usual, but she didn’t say anything, just let him wrap his arm around her shoulder while she walked with him, quietly talking about what she had done this week.
She always told him what made her miss him.
I saw an ad with a King in it, it reminded me of you, you are more handsome though.
I saw that iced coffee you really like, I bought it and put it in my fridge for you and then ended up drinking it myself.
I walked past that restaurant we went to and remembered that you’re really whiny when you’re hungry and it made me miss you loads.
“Wait wait, let me get that for you!” She said when he tried to open the passenger side door to the car.
“I just have a fever, my arm is still okay.” He chuckled but she just rolled her eyes and opened his door for him. “I should be doing this for you.” He sighed.
“It’s the 21st century, get with the program, pyeha.” She said as she gently pushed him until he sat, he smiled when she kissed his cheek before closing the door. He watched her scurry over to the driver’s side of the car while taking her backpack off, she threw it into the back as soon as she opened the door.
Her hand went to his forehead again and he smiled, she was cute when she worried. “What’s the diagnosis doctor? Am I going to make it?” He teased and she whacked his arm. “Ouch! You can’t hit a patient like this.” He whined.
“Stop talking, recline your seat and rest your eyes.” She said while pushing his hair away from his forehead.
“Who’s going to put my seatbelt on?” He teased. But she actually played along, leaning over and grabbing his seatbelt before pulling it and locking it in. “Do I not get a kiss? I heard that you can kiss things better?”
She rolled her eyes but complied, placing a kiss on his cheek. He rather liked this, she was always affectionate when they were alone but this was different, she was worried but not a your life is in danger worried.
He sighed as she started the car and shifted it into drive. He grabbed her hand then, she didn’t need it anymore. “I am holding this hostage.” He said while closing his eyes.
He expected her to make a snarky comment of some sort about needing her hand, but she didn’t, she let him intertwine their fingers together, her thumb rubbing soothing circles into the back of his hand.
The soft movement of the car along with the fact that he hadn’t gotten much sleep over the past few days caught up to him and he must have fallen asleep because he woke up to his door opening, a gust of cool air making him shiver.
“Gon, wake up, we’re here.” She whispered by his ear, he opened his eyes and moved towards the sound to find her inside the car door, leaning in to speak. “You okay?”
He nodded and she moved out of the way so he could get out of the car, he didn’t understand what it was but it seemed like his brain and legs weren’t communicating properly because he felt weak all of a sudden and he almost fell over but her hands were wrapping around him to stabilize him. “Lean on me.”
“You’re so little.”
“No, you’re just a giraffe.”
“Calling me a giraffe is a beheadable offense.”
“Shut up and wrap your arm around my shoulder.” She insisted and he complied, letting her help him up the stairs to her house.
“Your father?” He asked as they stepped into the warm space, he didn’t hear anyone as they slid their shoes off.
“Visiting some friends.” She said and he nodded. He expected her to put him on the couch but she pushed him into her room, stopping by the bed before helping him take his coat off. “Are those clothes comfortable or should I find you some pajamas?” She asked as shivers ran through his body when she took the coat off, the thought of removing any more clothes was unwelcome so he shook his head and got into her bed. He let her cover him with the blankets, she tucked him in snuggly and he sighed, the blankets smelled like her and it made his heart happy even as his body hurt.
“Why are you sick? Did you catch something?” She asked as she walked over to her dresser to look through the drawer.
“I don’t know.” He said, his throat didn’t hurt, his nose wasn’t runny either but his body felt like it got hit by a train, he figured it was because he didn’t sleep much over the past week with everything that was happening.
She walked over with a thermometer in hand and climbed into bed, sitting by him cross-legged, before sticking the thermometer in his mouth. Her hands came up to play with his hair, she knew how much he liked it. The thermometer beeped and she took it out of his mouth and sighed. “39.1º, you’re really sick.” She sighed.
“I liked it better when you said I was burning hot.”
“I never said that.” She mumbled. “I am going to get you some medicine.” She said as she tried to get off the bed.
He didn’t know why he was doing it but he was reaching for her and pulling her back down. “I don’t want medicine.” He whined.
“Stop being a baby.” She said as tried to wiggle out of his grasp – she was rather strong and managed to. He sighed and stared at the ceiling while shivers ran through his body. She came running back in with a bottle of water and a small container. “Up.”
He sighed and complied as she opened the small container and took two tablets out, he opened his mouth and she rolled her eyes but placed the tablets in his mouth before unscrewing the water bottle and passing it to him. He gulped the whole thing down and she smiled while moving closer, grabbing the empty water bottle and pushing him back until he was laying down again.
“It’s cold.” He whined and watched as she ran to her closet and came back with another blanket to put on top of him, he scooted towards the middle of the bed, giving her room to sit beside him, which she did, with her hand on his face, rubbing his skin.
“Did you even sleep last week?” She sighed as she traced the skin under his eyes, he guessed it was obvious he hadn’t gotten much sleep so he shook his head. “Why are they making you work so hard?! I am going to hurt-”
“It’s hurricane season, people lost their houses, there’s flooding and everything is just chaotic.” He mumbled and she stopped with a sigh.
“Oh. I am sorry, you must have been so busy. How are you feeling?”
“Okay, I just get a bit sick when I overdo it, I’ll just sleep it off.” He mumbled. When he got sick he spent days in his room, without seeing anyone, went through it alone after the doctor checked him out. Lady Noh sent food up for him and he spent most of the time lying in bed trying to sleep.
But it was suddenly not like that. Tae-Eul was running around him, she fluffed his pillows, got him another blanket as the shivers kept running through him, played with his hair and massaged his scalp when he said his head hurt. She held him to her and kept him company in his misery.
Tae-Eul, who sucked at making anything, was making him chicken soup in the kitchen. He could hear her on the phone, speaking with her father, asking for precise instructions because she ‘didn’t want to kill him’ and didn’t understand what salt according to taste meant.
He had wondered if he should be worried but then must have fallen asleep because he woke up to a rush of cold air, but this time it felt soothing to him rather than causing shivers to run through him.
“He’s burning.” He heard her murmur from beside him, his eyes were still closed and he didn’t quite feel like opening them. He sighed when he felt a cold cloth against his face, she seemed to be wiping away the perspiration and it felt really good against his warm skin. “Should I bring him to see you if the fever doesn’t break?” She mumbled, he figured she was on the phone.
She seemed to be listening to the other person on the phone and hummed. “It’s still 39º, I gave him two pills earlier, I am going wake him up and make him drink water soon.” She paused and listened. “Yeah, he was shivering before but now he’s sweating and throwing the covers off.” She paused again. “A bath? Cold one? Oh, okay, not hot or cold, okay. I will if he feels up to it. Thank you.” He heard her hang up and then felt her hands unbuttoning his shirt.
“As much as I like where this is going, I don’t think I can be an active participant.” He mumbled.
“You’re awake!” She said as his eyes opened, he tried to smile at her, he wasn’t sure if it worked. “I spoke with my sunbae’s wife, she’s a doctor – she said you should take a bath, it’ll help.”
“So are you planning to strip me down and carry me to the bathroom?” He teased causing her to roll her eyes and scrunch her nose.
“No, I was going to do this until you woke up.” She said as she ran the cold cloth down his chest. “Do you think you’re up for a bath or would you like to eat first?”
“Maybe a bath first, in case I don’t survive after eating what you cooked.” He was just trying to lighten the mood, she sounded much too worried.
“You’re so lucky you’re sick or I would have whacked you.” She mumbled under her breath.
“Didn’t stop you earlier.”
“You deserved it, now get up.” She said as she pulled on his arm while kneeling on the bed.
He pouted but complied, letting her help him up and off the bed but his legs still felt a little wobbly.
“Are you dizzy?” She asked.
“No, I am okay.” He said as he walked over to her bathroom with her trailing in behind him. “Can I help you?” He asked as he leaned against the vanity.
“Just strip and get in the tub so I know you’re not going to fall and hit your head without supervision.” She said as she turned the tub faucet on, adjusting the temperature until she found it to her liking.
“You’re so bossy.”
“It took you this long to figure out?” She asked as she poured some Epsom salt into the bath, the bathroom smelling like eucalyptus suddenly. It was rather calming. She turned towards him and raised her eyebrow. “You’re still wearing clothes.”
“I am shy.” He teased and she laughed before rolling her eyes.
“You don't have a shy bone in your body.” She mumbled as she walked up to him, resting her hand on his chest, left bare by the fact that she had decided to unbutton his shirt earlier. “Get in the bath.”
“Help me.” He said and she sighed rather dramatically but complied anyways, sliding his shirt off his shoulders, unbuckling his belt and unbuttoning his pants while glaring right at him. He wished he didn’t feel like crap, if his body wasn’t hurting he would have rather enjoyed this, maybe even taken advantage of the fact that her father was not home.
Unlike usual, Tae-Eul was all business, there were no coy looks or evil smirks as she stripped him down and pushed him towards the tub.
“It’s cold.” He whined as he stepped into the tub.
“It’s lukewarm, you’d obviously find it cold because you take scalding showers.” She said while pushing him down to sit. He sighed as he sank into the water – he guessed it wasn’t too bad, felt kind of nice against his burning and aching body.
“You should join me.”
“I don’t want your sick germs.”
“You already have them all if I am contagious.” He shrugged.
“I took the flu shot if it’s the flu.”
“I am sure the flu strains in different worlds are different, pabo. Just get in.”
She shook her head.
She sighed. He thought that meant he had won and she’d strip down and join him, but she just sat by the tub, resting her chin on the ledge as she stared at his face, reaching out with her hand to take his temperature.
“So hot.” She mumbled as she touched his forehead.
“I know, I am hard to resist.” He smiled.
“If I hadn’t checked your temperature earlier I would have thought you were faking this.”
“I am just trying to get this frown off your face.” He said while reaching over with his hand spread, putting his thumb and index finger on either side of her mouth before stretching up so it was a smile. She laughed.
“Are those the last words you want to say to your dying future husband?” He teased.
“You’re fine, it’s just a fever.” She said, her voice sounding rather gruff.
“If you say so.” He shrugged as he sank into the bathtub further, it was a little small because his legs were so long but he didn’t mind because she was right by him, her hand grazing the water and splashing him with it lightly. But there was a still a frown on her face. “You just said it’s just a fever, so why are you so worried?” He whispered causing her to look up at him, her eyes a little hazy.
“I just – don’t have good memories of people being sick.” She mumbled. “Especially in this house.”
“Tae-Eul, I am sorry.” He whispered, he was so inconsiderate, of course she didn’t have good memories, her mother had been sick in this house and had passed away from it. He leaned up and closer to her, cupping her face with his wet hands causing her to squeal in surprise, but he leaned in and kissed her forehead anyways. “I am okay, I’ll be fine in a bit, especially because I have such a good nurse.” He said while rubbing her chipmunk cheeks with his thumb.
“I’d be a doctor.” She mumbled making him laugh despite the fact that it made his chest hurt a little.
“Of course. The doctor who wants to have alcohol while she is on antibiotics.”
She chose not to respond to that, she was very good at ignoring things she wanted to ignore. She pushed him back until his back was resting against the tub again, before touching his forehead. “You seem cooler.”
“Your hand is warmer since you keep playing with the water, you really didn’t take science classes did you?” He teased.
“But I feel better.”
“Good. You have to feel better because you need to eat the soup I made. Even if you don’t feel like it because I spent time making it, and I tried it and it’s actually pretty good, so your sick taste buds are going to need to appreciate it and – why are you looking at me like that?” She asked.
“Like what?” He asked confused.
“With that amused smile on your sick pale face?”
“Way to hurt my feelings.”
“Your face is still my favorite even if you are sick and pale looking.”
“Is this how I know it’s true love?” He teased.
“Answer my question.”
“It’s just nice.”
“What’s nice?” She asked.
“I am not used to being cared for like this, when I am sick I just camp out in my room alone and people send up food and medicine and I come out when I feel better.” He said, it was lonely when he was sick, actually it was lonely a lot of times but he felt so much less lonely with her.
“Better get used to being babied like this.” She said with a small smile. “Now you need to get out of the tub before the water gets too cold or it’ll just make things worse.”
“I want to shower.”
“If you can stand up without feeling dizzy.”
“You should just join me.”
“Nice try.” She laughed.
“I am never going to stop trying.”
He watched her run around the room, her wet hair dripping everywhere as she slid on her pajamas and then ran to get him the bed table she had. He smiled as she fluffed up his pillow behind him and made sure he was sitting up properly and comfortable before she ran out to the kitchen.
He sighed, his eyes suddenly filling with tears, he felt a little overwhelmed. He wasn’t used to this level of care. He remembered his father being the last person to fret over him like this, cancelling trips when he was sick, sitting right by him all night, patting his head. And somewhere in the back of his mind he remembered his mother doing the same. But since then, he remembered hospital wings when he was young and his dark bedroom as he got older. Life went on as usual for everyone around him even if he was sick, he no longer became the center of someone’s world when he was unwell.
But Tae-Eul was running around making him do things he knew would make him feel better but never tried when he was alone. He would never have climbed out of bed to take a bath and shower if he was alone, but she made him and it soothed his aching muscles and made him feel less uncomfortable. She sat him down in front of the dresser and blow dried his hair because she didn’t want to leave it wet, even though hers was dripping everywhere. She found him comfy but thin pajamas and a shirt, wrapped him up in bed and then ran around to get him soup.
He didn’t need all of it, but he didn’t realize how badly he wanted it, to have someone worry over him and baby him like she was. To have someone that loved him like she did. He sighed again as he heard her steps walking towards the room, slower than usual so he knew she was carrying hot soup. His stomach growled as he caught the smell of it.
She walked in slowly, putting the tray on the bed table in front of him before scurrying to the other side and climbing up onto the bed beside him.
“Try it!” She said sounding a bit excited, he was sure it was because she made it and it actually turned out good according to her.
He could easily have picked up the spoon and tried it but he wanted to be babied so he pouted. “My hand hurts.” He said, remembering a time where she had done the same. Her eyes narrowed a little but she smiled before scooping up some soup in a spoon, she leaned in closer to him and blew on it, the steam evaporating into the air and then brought it up to his mouth.
“Try it!” She said as she brought the spoon up to his face.
“It’s still hot.”
“No, it’s not! I have been blowing on it for a minute!” She said as she brought the spoon closer to his mouth, he sighed and opened it, letting her feed him the chicken soup.
He scrunched up his nose as he swallowed, chewing on the soft veggies and chicken.
“Is it bad?!” She asked, her eyes wide.
“No, it’s good.” He chuckled quietly and she sighed.
“I would so whack you if you weren’t sick.” She mumbled as she scooped up more soup. “You want the bread?” She asked motioning down towards the toast she had brought along, it seemed to be lathered with butter – his weakness.
“Is it from the bakery around the corner?” He asked as he eyed the bread, it looked like it.
“Yeah, the one you like.” She smiled, apparently she bought the bread he liked now.
“Yes please.” He said before opening his mouth, waiting to be fed.
“Such a baby.” She sighed, but complied, alternating between feeding him toast and soup.
“Did you eat?” He asked as the bowl emptied.
“Hmm, I had chicken and rice while you were sleeping.”
“Don’t go.” He pouted as she got up.
“I’ll be right back, I am just going to put the dishes away.” She said. He sighed as her feet padded out of the room and into the kitchen, then she was scurrying back and climbing back into bed with him.
He shuffled down the bed and leaned over until his head was laying in her lap, his face buried into her stomach, his arms wrapping around her. “Maybe if you’re feeling better tomorrow we can roll the TV in here and watch my favorite movies.” She said as she played with his hair.
“Hmmm, I want to watch the cop show you told me about.” He mumbled into her stomach.
“Why?” She laughed as she scratched his scalp.
“So you can impress me and tell me how you identified the criminal.”
She giggled, her body shaking against him, making him smile. He loved the sound of it.
“I already gave away my secret, it’s the re-runs.”
“I’ll pretend like I don’t know.”
“How kind of you.”
“You should know that I am inherently kind.”
He groaned. “Don’t call me that right now.”
She laughed. “Okay, I’ll wait until you’re better.”
“Tae-Eul?” He asked.
“I love you.” He whispered.
“I love you too.” She answered as she rubbed the back of his neck.
He snuggled further into her, letting her play with his hair as she hummed, his body still hurt but it was a lot better than before and with the soothing noise and the way she played with his hair, he fell asleep rather quickly.
He was sure he heard her talking to herself as his brain succumbed to sleep. He thought he heard her whisper the words. “Well, Lieutenant Jeong Tae-Eul, soon is going to have to be really soon, they overwork him and someone needs to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Chapter 4: Ask Me Again
Timeline: This is set before Chapter 1 of To Say That.
To say that Tae-Eul hated Sunday evenings was an understatement.
Sunday evenings meant that she would have to part with Gon and spend the week missing him and wondering what he was up to, wondering if he was okay, wondering if he would show up again next week or if something would come up and stop him.
It would be another week spent going through the motions and waiting for Friday night, watching the clock with impatience as the hours ticked by, waiting for her phone to ring – hoping that he would say he was here rather than sigh and tell her that he had to go back and just came to tell her that something came up.
It would be another week of wishing that there was a way for them to communicate throughout the week. She wished she could just call him rather than listening to the voicemails she saved. She wanted to hear his voice by her ear, the lazy drawl when he first woke still caused a shiver to run through her body every time he spoke. She wished she could text him instead of reading old messages he sent her while he was in her world. They helped, a lot, along with the letters he always managed to surprise her with, she would find a new one in her pocket or backpack every time he left, she didn’t know when he snuck them in. But they were her lifeline, she had all of them memorized by heart with how much she read them.
It would be another week of missing his words and his face. She wished she could have real conversations with him rather than wondering how he’d respond to things throughout the day. She wished she could just curl up into him at the end of a hard day and be held rather than talking to his picture on her phone. His beautiful smiling face just made her miss him more. He was so photogenic, he managed to look flawless even in all the candid pictures where he was supposed to look bad. Her favourite was the one of him when he just woke up, the sun shining on his face, his hair a mess, his eyes half-closed and a dopey smile on his face. She wished she could grasp his face like she had the day the picture was taken and kiss him awake, and look into his light brown almond-shaped eyes, to see the happiness and love swimming in them.
It would be another week of missing everything they did together. She wished she didn’t feel the pang of loneliness she felt when she saw other couples walk down the street hand in hand. It always made her wish that he was by her side, his large hand holding hers, their fingers intertwined, his thumb rubbing circles into the back of her hand. She missed the way he always pulled her closer, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and tucking her into his body, she could never get over how perfectly she fit. She wished she didn’t feel overwhelmingly nostalgic as she sat in a restaurant remembering the faces he made as he ate, his hand in hers, his eyes twinkling with mirth.
It would be another week of feeling like something was missing when he wasn’t by her side.
She knew he felt the same. Because he held her a bit tighter on Sunday nights, his kisses were more desperate, his touches lingering and his eyes more anxious – like he was preparing himself for the week by memorizing every part of her. He buried his head in her hair and just held her for hours on Sunday night, as if he was getting his fix for the week.
This Sunday just seemed worse somehow, they were in her world, 5 hours from Seoul. He said he wanted to go on a drive with her a couple of weeks ago and she thought it was the perfect excuse to visit the Dark Sky Park in Yeongyang. The drive up had been fun, she let him drive even though he didn’t have a license. He drove perfectly despite it, even with one hand, the other hand held hers and he frequently brought it up to his mouth to place a kiss on the back of her hand. And she couldn’t help but wish for that level of normalcy every day.
The whole weekend had been magical in a way, they were away from the city lights, surrounded by nature and the stars in a cozy wood cabin. She had never seen such a beautiful night sky, and laying curled up under a blanket beside Gon made it all the better. She was able to smell his cologne, was able to feel the warmth of his body against her, the feel of his lips on her skin and the sound of his voice in her ear as he showed her the constellations he knew and the stories behind them.
He knew a lot about stars, not that she was surprised. She had never thought that she would find intelligence to be so attractive but every time he talked in what she dubbed his professor voice, she couldn’t help but hang onto every word.
They were currently waiting for the meteor shower to start, laying on the deck outside their cabin in relative silence. Their stuff lay packed behind them, they were going to head out towards Seoul as soon as the meteor shower passed. She wished it didn’t start at all, so she had a reason to just stay in his arms.
Her head was resting on the bicep of the arm he had wrapped under her, the fingers of his hand dragging up and down her arm lazily, their legs tangled together under the blanket. He occasionally leaned over to place a kiss on her forehead and she kept trying to get closer and closer to him.
It was the perfect way to spend Sunday night. She didn’t want it to end. She wanted to ask him if they could stay another day. Just one more day. But she knew it was unfair because he had a Kingdom to run, even disappearing for two days was hard for him sometimes.
She burrowed into him, turning so she could bury her face in his neck and rest her hand on his chest, right over his beating heart, as the thoughts that recently plagued her mind started to play again. The only things that were tying her to this world were her father, Eun-Sup and Na-Ri. Her job wasn’t even a consideration anymore, it hadn’t been in a really long time. She felt so burnt out, she was always fighting with the system and getting passed over for promotions while many of her male colleagues made it through. It was getting repetitive and she felt like she had no purpose, that she really wasn’t helping people like she hoped she would be.
His voice often rang through her mind when she felt that way, his words about how a Queen could help so many more, about how she could be brave for an entire country and make the changes she thought would benefit people. It sounded appealing, not the power, but the ability to change things. And more importantly, it meant that she would be by his side.
She could fall asleep in his arms every night and wake up to the things she loved every day - that dopey smile, his deep and groggy voice in her ear and his messy hair. She could huff and pretend that she was angry at being woken up, he could tickle and kiss her awake every day. It didn’t have to be something reserved for just Saturday and Sunday mornings.
They could get up and cook breakfast together every day – he could cook and she would offer to help but she knew that he would just tell her to sit down and tease her about how she couldn’t burn the Palace down. She could whack him but sit down on a stool and admire him while he cooked, watch the way he moved so smoothly around the kitchen, the way his skilled hands chopped veggies. She could roll her eyes when he washed rice with a grin on his face and offered to change into his Navy uniform.
They could go through their day together, side-by-side, or connected via the phone. She could just find him and tell him what she wanted to tell him rather than having to wait for a week. They could go on walks while they talked, they could curl up in his study and read – he would distract her, she knew this, but it’s what she wanted. She wanted to experience how whiny and clingy he was on a regular day. She just wanted to be with him, to start and end every day with the man she loved. She wanted those calm moments where they both did something completely different in close proximity. She wanted to know that he was right there if she needed him or missed him. She wanted to get up and march over to him and just kiss him when she felt like it or whine about one thing or another.
She wanted it so badly.
She loved him. So much that sometimes it overwhelmed her. She would always love him, she wanted it all with him. Everything. She wanted to marry him. To be his Queen. To fight with him over stupid things. To run around the Palace with her hand in his without worrying about who saw or the CCTV footage. To have children with him. To stand by his side, with her hand in his, in front of the whole world. To be happy. To live her best life, with him.
She had always had a hard time believing in happily ever afters. How could she not when her first memories in life were of her sick mother and the looming threat of her death. She was so afraid that things would go wrong even after all they went through. She was scared that she would be a horrible Queen, that she would hate being there, that he would regret making her his Queen. She knew it was all in her head but the thoughts still lingered.
She knew he was scared too. But his fear was different, he was scared that she would never be ready to be his Queen. And she knew her reluctance hurt him. He didn’t say it out loud to her. But he didn’t have to. She knew. She knew him.
And she kept wondering what was holding her back. She would never be 100% ready, she didn’t think anyone could be completely ready to move to another world and become Queen. But she didn’t want to wait for 100% anymore, she didn’t want to make him wait, to make him question himself any longer. She didn’t want him for just the weekends, she wanted him every day, and she wondered why she had been waiting to be completely ready for so long, it seemed stupid now.
She pulled her face out of the crook of his neck and moved back so she could look up at him. Since her head was laying on his bicep he noticed and looked down at her, their eyes meeting. She loved his eyes, they were always so open with her, so full of love and trust. He had a small smile on his face as he arched his eyebrow in question, knowing she wanted to say something.
“Ask me again.” She whispered, looking right at him. She wondered if she should have been clearer but she knew she didn’t need to be when his eyes grew wide and searched hers. He looked shocked and his eyes filled with tears. She had been so stupid making him wait for this, making him doubt if she would ever be ready. He looked so overwhelmed that it broke her heart, like he couldn’t believe what was happening.
Instead of saying anything, he was reaching into the pocket on the inside of the coat he always wore now, pulling out a ring and making her let out a chuckle in surprise.
“Have you just been carrying that around?” She whispered, feeling her own eyes fill with tears. She wondered how long he had been carrying it, all of a sudden she could remember all the time he patted his chest, right where he had taken the ring out of. He had been carrying it everywhere, for months.
“I wanted to be ready to ask, to do this properly when you were ready.” He whispered as he turned so he was facing her, holding the ring between them. He cleared his throat before he spoke, softly, and her heart started beating loudly in her chest even though she knew what was coming, even though she had asked him to ask her.
“Jeong Tae-Eul.” He whispered, her name rolling off his tongue perfectly as it always did. “I decided to make you my Queen within weeks of meeting you, I know you thought I was crazy, but I was sincere even back then. Even when I first met you I knew that you were the zero that I needed, the answer I was looking for, the constant I needed in my life. I knew even then that you were so much more than I had hoped for and I believe it even more now. You’re everything I didn’t know I needed, better than any dream I ever had. I love you. I love you so much. And I want to give you my world and make it our world. I want forever with you. Will you be my Queen? Will you marry me?” His voice was soft but sincere, and so confident, like he had rehearsed the speech in his head hundreds of times.
She could only nod as she cried, thinking of the first time he told her that she had the nature of the number zero, she did think he was crazy back then. “Yes.” She whispered, and the tears that were filling his eyes finally fell as grabbed her left hand, which she had resting on his chest and slid the ring onto her ring finger, it fit perfectly.
She couldn’t help but lean up and kiss him, their lips meeting softly between their tears and the smiles on their faces. He kissed her back tenderly, both of them pulling away and just looking at each other in between the kisses before closing the distance between them again. And again. And again.
“I love you.” He whispered as he rubbed his nose against her.
“I love you too. So so much.” She whispered.
“Aren’t you going to look at your ring?” He asked and she realized that she hadn’t even looked down at it, too busy looking at his smiling face.
She nodded and looked down, smiling when she saw the ring. It was oval shaped, there was a huge diamond in the middle and it was surrounded by smaller diamonds. It looked perfect on her finger, it wasn’t too big or too small.
“That diamond in the middle has been passed down in my family for years, seven of the previous Queens wore it.” He whispered to her. “But the ring was this huge monstrosity surrounded by a multitude of rare gemstones, you would have hated it, so I had it re-set for you.” He whispered.
She couldn’t help but beam at him, of course he knew she wouldn’t want a huge ring despite agreeing to be a Queen. The ring was a part of his world, but it was also hers, just hers.
“Thank you, I love it.” She whispered.
He leaned down to kiss her this time, the kiss sloppy because both of them were smiling. He rested his forehead against hers and sighed happily. “Thank you, for agreeing.”
“Thank you for asking properly.” She teased.
“Thank you for asking me to ask.” He teased back, his hands tracing her face reverently, like he hadn’t ever seen her before.
“What?” She whispered as his eyes traced her face.
“You’re mine now. Officially.”
“I thought I was already yours.”
“Hmmm, as long as you’re mine. I am going to be a very possessive Queen.” She teased.
“I don’t have a problem with that.” He smiled, cupping her face, he moved closer again and her eyes closed in anticipation. But he didn’t kiss her lips again like she was anticipating, he led a trail of kisses from the corner of her lips up to her ears and then back down again before moving the other side. He pulled away a bit and she giggled when he placed a kiss on her nose, and then her forehead before his kisses peppered down her face again. She looked up at him and sighed, before cupping his face and kissing his lips.
“What now?” She whispered, her thumbs tracing his cheeks.
“We tell your father.” He said and then froze. “I should have asked your father first.” He whispered as if he just realized it.
She laughed. “He’s not going to say no, he’ll need to know everything though.”
“Hmm, he’s probably going to think I am crazy too.” He sighed.
“No, he is already suspicious, he probably knows more than he lets on.” She whispered while reaching up to push his hair away from his forehead.
“I should have still asked him.” He murmured.
“You can ask him later, he won’t mind. Maybe after you show him the other world.” She reassured him.
“This is actually happening.” He whispered and then let out a chuckle, not a real laugh, but more a sound someone would make if they were really overwhelmed.
“Yes, it is.”
“You’re my fiancée.”
“Yes. You’re going to be my husband.”
“I am going to be the best husband ever.”
She couldn’t help but laugh at how sure he sounded of it, and he wasn’t wrong. “I know.”
“You’re going to be the best wife ever.”
“Of course I am.” She teased.
“And we’re going to have the best children ever.”
“5 of them.”
She laughed and whacked his arm. “Two.”
“Four.” He bargained.
“Three, no more than three.” She said, they had had this conversation before, the word hypothetically had been used a lot. They hadn’t been able to agree on a number but they both wanted at least two children, having grown up as only children.
“Fine. Three.” She said, that was a good number, not too much and not too little.
He didn’t say anything but the huge smile on his face said more than words would.
“We’re supposed to be watching this meteor shower.” She said, but made no move to turn away from him.
“I see stars every day, but this is the first time I am looking at my fiancée.”
“You’re so cheesy.” She laughed.
“Yet you still agreed to marry me.”
“Hmmm, I should have said no.” She teased and then squealed when he poked her stomach. “I am kidding.” She whispered.
“I know. I just love the sound of your squeals.” He grinned causing her to whack his arm again.
“You’re impossible.” She murmured but leaned up to kiss him before turning towards the sky. He sighed and pulled her closer to him and turned to face up towards the sky as well, grasping her hand in his, his thumb tracing the ring rather than the back of her hand now.
“In a few years, we’ll have kids and we’ll still be laying out somewhere on the Palace grounds, watching the stars.” He whispered, his voice held promise. “And I’ll love you even more than I love you now, even if it seems impossible now.”
“Me too.” She whispered, hoping it would turn out like that. Better than any happily ever after she had ever heard of.
Chapter 5: The First Fight
Timeline: Right after their wedding.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
To say that Jeong Tae Eul was angry would be an understatement. She was furious. She felt like a fool, like she was the only person that didn’t know. She hadn’t expected it. Not from Gon.
All these months she had thought that they had an agreement. She had thought that only one guard accompanied her everywhere before the wedding, she remembered the sparring match she won to secure that. And she had easily relented when Gon said she should have an additional guard with her now that she was Queen.
But it was all a lie.
And she probably wouldn’t have found out if Jang Mi Reuk hadn’t slipped and said, “well it’s not just us, that would be too much pressure on us”, when they were approaching a rather large and unexpected crowd and she asked if it was okay or if they should turn back around.
She knew he realized he messed up, and she regretted ordering him to tell her the truth. Gon had additional guards following her in civilian clothing, not one, not two, but six additional guards. There were also sharp shooters that tailed them to certain events.
She felt like a fool, Jangmi and In-Young knew that she thought it was just them tailing her, she even joked about how she had won the sparring match. But she hadn’t realized that she was wrong, they probably thought she was stupid, gullible even for believing what she did when they knew better.
Gon had never lied to her before. Ever. Even when she asked him to lie to make her feel better, he didn’t. He was always honest and she wondered why he lied about this and made her feel like a fool.
She wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, to think from his perspective and try to understand why he lied to her. But she couldn’t at that moment, she was too angry. He had so many opportunities to just tell her the truth but he hadn’t.
She knew she was making a scene as she rushed through the Palace halls towards his office, she ignored all the people that bowed to her, didn’t listen to their startled voices as they inquired if she was okay. She threw the doors to his study open with more force than she wanted to use. He was sitting at his desk and he looked up at her, his face lighting up with a smile like it did every time he saw her but today it didn’t make her feel loved, it made her feel like she was an idiot.
She closed the door behind her and he seemed to realize that something was wrong because he let out a worried, “what’s wrong?”
Like something else was the reason behind her anger.
Like he had done nothing wrong.
She walked towards his desk and stood in front of it, he looked up at her confused.
“You have had extra security tailing me.” She said quietly.
His face registered shock before he composed it. She could tell that he hadn’t meant for her to find out, ever. “I can explain.”
She didn’t think he could.
“You absolutely cannot explain this to me.” She found herself saying. “I told you how I felt about it, we talked about it, I thought we landed on a decision after the sparring match that I won. I TRUSTED you to keep your word, but you didn’t, not from the first day-”
“No! You made me look like an idiot Gon, I thought it was just Jangmi and In-Young following me around.”
“It’s really not that big of a deal, they don’t think that-”
“It is! My husband lied to me. He promised me something, made me believe that we had an understanding and then he went behind my back and did what he wanted to anyways.”
“Is this what you’re going to do every time we disagree on something? How am I supposed to trust you to keep your word about anything?” She was crying by this point, she didn’t want to, but she was so angry and so hurt that she couldn’t hold back the tears. “Don’t!” She said when he tried to touch her.
“How do I know that you haven’t been lying to me about other things?” She cried.
“I have never lied to you.”
“YES YOU HAVE! THIS WAS A LIE, EVEN IF YOU NEVER SAID THE WORDS TO ME, YOU LIED BY OMISSION YOU DIDN’T KEEP YOUR END OF THE DEAL!” She yelled.
“I am sorry it hurt you but-”
“There is not BUT, you lied to me.”
“For your own good.”
She couldn’t help but let out a scoff. “For my own good? Do you think that makes it any better? Are you doing to keep lying to me for my own good then? Oh, sorry, I just made a decision and decided that your opinion didn’t matter so I am not going to tell you about it, for your own good.”
“How many people do you have tailing me?” She asked. “And I swear to God if you lie to me Gon, I will-”
“6 in civilian clothing and 4 sharp shooters.”
“TEN people? That’s 8 more than we agreed to.”
“You said one royal guard, you agreed to the two, they’re the only royal guards following you.”
“Don’t – that’s not making it any better, you’re just making me angrier – I can’t believe you-”
“I am sorry that your safety matters to me!” He yelled.
He never yelled at her before, never.
“Don’t you dare write this off to caring about me. If you had to have the extra security tail me then you should have made me listen THEN. Explained it to me THEN. Not lied to me FOR MONTHS.”
“You don’t listen! You’re so stubborn when it comes to this – I was trying to avoid exactly this. You just don’t understand-”
“I – I don’t understand?” She asked. She thought she understood him best.
“Would you have agreed to it?”
“So you’re just going to lie when you think I won’t agree with something?”
“Tae-Eul, please.” He tried to touch her again but she whacked his hand away gently.
She was done with this right now. She didn’t want to talk to him. She knew she would say something she would regret if she stayed longer.
She heard him trying to open the bedroom door, which she locked, hours later. He stopped when he realized it was locked. She heard him sigh, she heard him murmur her name but she couldn’t find it in herself to let him in. She knew it was unfair, that it was his room too, it had been his first.
But she was just so angry and hurt.
He didn’t try opening the door after, she knew he had keys, she knew he could have it opened. That he could stand there and keep knocking, but he didn’t. She didn’t know if she was happy about it or not.
She tossed and turned for hours. She couldn’t fall asleep, not without him, she was so used to curling up in his arms, tucking her face into his neck, feeling the weight of his arm around her waist that it was hard to sleep without it. The last time she had spent a night without him had been the night before their wedding when Lady Noh insisted they couldn’t see each other until it was time for the ceremony. But even then he sat outside the door of the room while she sat on the other side, their fingers tangled together under the space beneath the door while they talked.
Sleeping alone reminded her of the time they spent apart. She hated it.
She sighed and got up, walking over to the door and opening it quietly. She thought he would have gone back to his study or to another room but he was sleeping on the couch in the sitting room right outside the bedroom. He was too tall to fit comfortably, his legs hung off the end of the couch and his neck was in a weird position. She knew he would in pain the next day.
She wanted to wake him up and tell him to come to bed. But something stopped her.
It stopped her the next day too. She hadn’t locked the door when she went to bed but he didn’t even try to come in. She hadn’t talked to him all day, hadn’t even looked at him. Being a Queen left her busy enough that if she didn’t want to see her husband, she didn’t have to, he was easily avoidable.
The third day she was less angry but still felt just as betrayed. The more she thought about it, the more she realized that she just wanted him to apologize for lying and then tell her why he did it. That first day he hadn’t said sorry even once, he was so concerned with just explaining himself.
She sighed as she tried to focus on the papers in front of her in her office, things that she needed to sign, things she needed to comment on, invitations to events that she needed to respond to – but she didn’t feel like working on any of it. She never really used her office unless it was for meetings. On most days she picked up what she needed to do and found Gon, sitting in the study or his office while they worked, preferring to curl up on the couch together as they did.
A knock sounded on her door and she looked up to see it being opened by Lady Noh, a maid carrying a tray walked in behind her, she put the tray down on the coffee table in front of the couches and then left. But Lady Noh just stood there and stared at her.
“You’re not sending back another untouched meal, come here and eat.” She said while looking at her with the pointed look that always sent her husband scrambling.
Tae-Eul sighed and got up, walking over to the couch and plopping down on it ungracefully. She pouted up at the Head Court Lady who sighed and started murmuring about her head and her heart.
“Did he eat?” She found herself asking, she noticed a maid carry a tray of untouched food from his office when she was walking down the hall towards her.
“Aigoo! Aigoo! These two children! I’ll tell you what I told him, just talk to each other.” She said, her voice quite shrill. “You won’t talk to each other but he told me to make sure you eat, and here you are asking me if he ate.”
Of course he would try to make sure she ate. That’s why it was so hard to be angry with him. At the end of the day, he was the man who crossed every universe to find her.
Lady Noh sighed when she didn’t say anything in response but took a bite from the bowl she was presented with.
“Do you think I am overreacting?” She asked a while later, looking up at the woman who both her and her husband looked up to.
“It’s not my place to speak, it’s between the two of you.” She answered but then she sighed.
“I don’t understand why he felt the need to lie to me for so long.”
“You were rather vocal about being able to look after yourself and how much you hated security tailing you.” Lady Noh said.
“Because it doesn’t make sense for so many people to tail me, I was a cop, I can look after myself.”
“You forget that his father was killed in front of him, despite being surrounded by guards, and he – as you put it – was also perfectly capable to take care of himself.”
Tae-Eul felt her heart clench at the mention of what he had to go through at such a young age.
“It’s not the same – this is different.” She said, and it was, she wasn’t the King, there were no bloodthirsty half children running around to kill her.
“This is a well-kept secret, but there were assassination attempts on his mother’s life before he was born.” Lady Noh said quietly moments later, causing her to gasp, she hadn’t heard about that. “People didn’t want her to give birth to the heir, they were never able to prove who did it but it seems likely that it was someone who was after the throne - family. But they tried to kill both the Queen and her unborn child. Nothing is a secret from Pyeha, he worries about you, he’s scared that something will go wrong.”
She suddenly felt a lot less angry about the situation than she did before.
Of course he was afraid, he still woke up from nightmares on some nights, having lived through his father’s death multiple times.
She also knew how much he wished his mother was with them. And with them trying to get pregnant, he probably thought of what he heard about his mother’s pregnancy. Of course he wouldn’t have told her that, probably because he didn’t want to worry her.
She left the rest of her lunch untouched even as Lady Noh glared and prompted her to eat.
She suddenly didn’t have an appetite.
She knew he was out of the Palace to attend some events, their calendars were synced after all. On a regular day, she kept track of which times they were both free and could talk. They would try to find any time in between that they could spend together, and if seeing each other in person wasn’t possible they spent most of the time on the phone. But her phone hadn’t lit up with a message from him in days. No goofy pictures or cheesy texts, no phone calls where Yeong could be heard sighing and asking him to get off the phone in the background.
She was walking towards his study when she ran into Yeong in the hall outside it.
“Is he back?” She asked him, surprised to see him considering they weren’t supposed to be back for some time.
“Yes, he’s in his office taking a conference call.” He said and she nodded, figuring that something important had come up. “Can I talk to you for a minute, noona?” He asked quietly, using the term he rarely used while he was in the Royal Guard uniform. She nodded and opened the door to the study, he stepped in behind her.
“What is it?” She asked as she sat on the sofa and motioned him to sit down in front of her, surprised when he actually did.
He was quiet for a second but then he spoke. “I know I shouldn’t get involved in whatever that is going on between you two. But I am getting tired of it, and he’s not going to tell you this because he doesn’t want to worry you. We thwart about 7-8 attempts a year at Pyeha’s life.” He said, and her heart sunk, she hadn’t known that. “They’re usually pathetic attempts by disgruntled citizens or international forces that would benefit from destabilizing the country. But it’s a real risk. And you’re at a higher risk because you are going to give birth to the heirs of the Kingdom one day – even with Lee Lim dead, there are still people who don’t want that.”
She didn’t quite know what to say so she didn’t say anything.
“You’re the most important person to him across every universe – and you know he struggles with the fear that he’ll lose everyone he loves.”
“I know that, but he lied to me.”
“I know. I am not saying it was right of him to lie about it, I never supported it. But noona, it’s also not right of you to shut him out like this, he’s convinced himself that you’re unhappy here and that you’re going to leave.”
Her eyes snapped up to Yeong’s at his words. “I wouldn’t do that.” She whispered. She wouldn’t leave him, not over this, not over anything.
“I know. But – just talk to him noona, work this out before I go crazy.” He groaned causing her to chuckle, she could imagine her husband whining about it to Yeong.
“Thank you. For talking to me.” She said to Yeong, they had become a lot closer over her the past few months, not as close as her and Eun-Sup were but close. Close enough that he whined to her about Seung-Ah and asked her for advice.
He left her alone with her thoughts after he said his piece, he never was the one to talk for the sake of talking. Between him and Lady Noh, she felt like she had overreacted just a little bit. She guessed that she understood why Gon did it but he still shouldn’t have lied to her about it. He should have talked to her the moment she insisted that she didn’t want so much security. She wondered if he had just been trying to avoid a fight at that time, they had been so swept up in the happiness of her move to the Kingdom and the upcoming wedding then.
She found herself walking around the Palace grounds as she thought about the situation and wondering why it had bothered her so much. She was still adjusting to her role as Queen, it was hard on some days. Sometimes she felt like she was looking at a stranger in the mirror with her Queen-like clothing, her perfectly styled hair and the way she now carried herself. She had always been independent, didn’t rely on anyone to keep her safe, being tough was always her thing as she grew up. She was the one that people came to when they were being bullied, the one that beat up bullies and took care of others. But it was different all of a sudden, and she wondered if she was just trying to hold onto that sense of independence that she had always felt.
She sighed as she walked back towards her room, stopping when she found Gon asleep on the couch in the seating room even though the bedroom door was wide open and she clearly wasn’t inside. She wondered if he was just trying to give her space or if he was angry at her reaction. She sighed and headed to the bathroom to wash up for the night, it smelled like him again, he had been here.
She looked into the mirror after she washed her face, her eyes had dark circles underneath them, she hadn’t even noticed until then – maybe that’s why all the staff had been looking at her weirdly. The way she looked couple with the fact that they no longer saw her and Gon walking down the hall hand-in-hand and laughing at one thing or another probably told them something was wrong.
She sighed again. She hadn’t been able to sleep properly for the past two nights, she spent most the night tossing and turning, her body and heart both missed him, she had tried to keep her mind from doing the same but failed. She missed the feel of his hand in hers. She missed being held by him while they slept. She missed the lingering chaste kisses throughout the day. She missed texting him to complain about things. She missed eating meals with him and talking about their day. She missed touching him. She missed kissing him. She missed his laugh. She missed him.
She knew he lied, she was still angry about it. But she knew in her heart that she could still trust him, he always wore his heart on his sleeve for her, always had. He told her most things, apparently the ones he didn’t were because he was afraid of overwhelming or worrying her.
She changed into her pajamas and marched out to the sitting room, standing behind the couch so she could see his face. He was fast asleep, but he looked as tired as she did, there were dark circles underneath his perfect eyes and his lips were pulled down in a frown even in his sleep.
She couldn’t help but climb over the back of the sofa, she was surprised he didn’t wake up as she tucked herself between his body and the sofa, she buried her head into his neck and clutched his shirt in her hand, burrowing into him. She even missed the way he smelled and how warm he always was.
The lack of sleep and tiredness caught up to her and she slipped into slumber within minutes.
She woke up hours later and she felt a mattress underneath her body rather than the couch in the sitting room. For a second she thought that she had dreamed up walking into the sitting room and tucking herself into her husband. But then her brain registered the weight of his arm on her waist and she figured he probably carried her to bed.
Her hand was clutching his silk shirt, her head was laying on his bicep, she could feel the cool fabric against her cheek along with his warmth. Her eyes fluttered open to be accosted with the sight of her husband’s face, he was looking right at her with his sleepy eyes.
“I am sorry.” He whispered as soon their eyes met, his eyes sincere. “I should have been upfront about it. But you were so insistent on not having security tail you, we were always just arguing about it and I thought it –” He paused and sighed before he continued. “You have to know that your life is the most precious thing to me, and I know I might have gone overboard but – the thought of something happening to you haunts me. I can’t lose you. Not after everything we went through to get here. I know it’s suffocating for you and I thought I was helping you by not telling you – I really am sorry, I didn’t want to lie to you.”
She nodded, she knew all of that now. “You should have been honest about it.” She whispered and then sighed before continuing. “I might have overreacted. I’ve always been independent, you know what I was like when you met me, the thought of people needing to protect me, it makes me feel like I am not me anymore. Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize myself – I just feel so different. Everyone is bowing at me and treating me like I am this fragile Queen that they can’t say anything to, people are running to do things for me, even Jangmi and In-Young are just so protective whenever we do anywhere and it just makes me feel so not like me.”
He was shaking his head at this point, his hand came up to cup her face but he hesitated for a second, but she scooted closer to him, letting him cup her jaw and run his thumb across her cheek. “It has nothing to do with how strong or independent you are, you’re the strongest woman I know. I know you can get through most things, I’ve seen you survive the impossible. It’ not that you’re weak, it’s just that people want to hurt you more now that you’re with me, you’re the future of this Kingdom, you’re the Queen.”
She nodded and nuzzled his hand.
“Why didn’t you tell me you felt like that?” He whispered.
“I don't know. It’s been hard enough settling into this role as Queen, and I didn’t want you to worry too much.”
“Do you hate it?”
“No, I could never hate something that means I get to be at your side. It’ll just take time to adjust, I didn’t grow up knowing I’d be Queen.” She whispered and he nodded.
“Tell me what you’re feeling, even if you think it’ll worry me.”
“The same goes for you, you don’t need to hide things from me. Don’t lie to me. About anything.” She said fiercely.
“I promise.” He nodded. “Can you please agree to the increased security? Let me be overbearing about this one thing.”
She nodded. “Okay.”
“I really am sorry, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should have just been honest. I just didn’t want you to worry about another thing when you were so overwhelmed with learning all the things you needed to know to be Queen.”
“I am sorry for not giving you a chance to explain, I was just really angry.”
“It’s okay, I understand.” He whispered. “Are we okay?” He asked and she nodded.
“Can I kiss you?” He whispered and she couldn’t help but nod, he had never had to ask her before.
“You don’t need to ask. But if you kiss me while I am angry at you, I will punch you.” She said making him laugh.
“Yes, my Queen.” He said before closing the distance between them, his hand still cupping her jaw. The kiss was achingly tender with soft caresses and brushing touches of their lips as they invaded each other’s senses again, she couldn’t remember if she had gone this long without kissing him since she moved to the Kingdom. Little by little the kiss deepened as the pressure and fervor of their lips increased as they lost themselves in each other. His tongue traced her bottom lip causing her to let out moan and let him in. The sound he emitted in response was low and throaty, it sent tingles shooting from her head all the way down to the tips of her toes.
They pulled back reluctantly, the need for oxygen winning over the need the have their lips attached. Though their lips were not touching, they did not separate from each other’s body. He pressed soft kisses onto her forehead, then her cheek and nose, her neck and her collarbone – getting more and more mischievous with each one and causing her to giggle. He laughed against her skin, a look of sheer glee on his face that made her heart pick up double time as he apologized in the way only he could apologize to her.
Before all you thirsty people go "why did you stop there", this story is rated G. I might write the continuation as part of ASOWE one day. Okay bye, thanks for reading you beautiful people.
Chapter 6: Teaching the Queen
This chapter is set post "The Bet" and before "The Pregnancy Chronicles" as Jeong Tae-Eul settles into her role as the Queen of the Kingdom of Corea.
To say that Queen Jeong Tae-Eul was enraged would be an understatement.
She burst into her husband’s office as soon as she returned back to the palace, she had pushed the doors open with so much force that her husband jumped in his chair behind his desk as the they swung open. His secretary let out a surprised yelp and dropped a bunch of files on the floor from her position on the other side of his desk.
Her husband took one look at her and took off his glasses before turning to his secretary who was scrambling to pick up all the files. “Can you leave us?” He asked, his voice quiet and even. The middle-aged woman nodded and turned towards the door, bowing to the Queen before she left the office, closing the doors behind her.
Gon waited until the door was closed before arching his eyebrow at his wife. Her face was pinched and she looked rather annoyed – he was hoping it wasn’t with him. She walked up to his desk and he let his eyes trace over her figure, her stylist seemed to have found the perfect balance between Jeong Tae-Eul and Queen. She was wearing a embroidered white tweed jacket matching tweed skirt and a pair of boots – he knew that her stylist had argued to put her in heels and his wife had vehemently refused, it happened any time she went out to an event.
“If you want me to pay any attention to what’s coming out of your mouth don’t sit on the desk like that.” He said as she came to his side of the desk and leaned against the side with the drawers to the left of his chair, it reminded him a lot of what that exact position had led to only two months ago after her failed bachelorette party.
She rolled her eyes and got up, marching over to the other side of the desk and dropping into the chair across from him. He pouted because he was hoping that she didn’t move, it might have been fun to try to listen to her while letting his hands trail up her-
“Stop thinking whatever you’re thinking, it’s not going to happen.” She said while rolling her eyes.
“What happened? The conference didn’t go well?” He asked.
“You were probably debriefed about it, your spy was typing away on his phone during the whole thing.” She said with a little glare.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He said, shrugging innocently.
She rolled her eyes at her overprotective husband, he had Jo Yeong accompany her to all events she attended without him. Captain Jo always stood by her, texting away on his phone, and she knew he was sending updates to his best friend and her husband.
“What’s bothering you?” Gon asked, he could see the tension in her forehead and her overall demeanour.
“Did you know this conference last took place when your mother was still alive?” She asked and he nodded. The conference the Queen had been an annual tradition in the past, an opportunity for the Queen to address issues facing women and children. He had tried his best to not let it fall through the cracks, but the Kingdom hadn’t had a Queen for over 30 years and the responsibility had fallen onto the ever-changing government because he was only eight when he became King.
“The rules around maternity leave haven’t changed in the past 30 years when your parents signed them into existence.” She said, sounding rather frustrated. “It’s too short, barely a year, and the pay is half of their regular pay which forces women back to work before they’re ready. It’s ridiculous! I was sitting there wondering how much I wouldn’t want to leave our children and return back to work so quickly after having them – and if I wasn’t married to the richest man in the Kingdom I would have to go back to work too – and it’s not fair.” She said.
“You lost me at our children.” He said and she groaned before picking up a pen and throwing it at him.
“Pay attention will you?” She said as she tied up her hair, he knew that it was really bothering her then.
“I hadn’t realized the laws hadn’t changed in that long, it was the responsibility of the ruling government, I should have kept an eye on it.” He sighed, he tried his best but things always slipped through.
“It’s not your fault – far from it. You can’t possibly have your eyes everywhere and this is exactly the way it is in many countries back in my world too. But for the first time I sat there, outraged and I realized that I could actually do something about it and every other troubling thing I heard. Like – did you know that even though healthcare is free there are families out there struggling to afford care. They have to come to these big cities to get treatment for their children and the living and travelling expenses kill them – imagine having a child who is sick and not being able to help them even though healthcare is supposedly free -” She said, her voice breaking at the end, her eyes a bit wet, her nose twitching in the way it did right before she cried.
“Come here.” He whispered as he pushed his chair back, she sighed and got up walking over to his side of the desk again, he pulled her into his lap, her back resting against the arm of his chair. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her temple. "What's wrong?" He asked knowing something was bothering her.
She sighed before she spoke. “There was a woman, she was barely a few years older than me – her daughter had leukemia, she couldn’t even be with her daughter during her last moments because she was working to afford rent in the city – it’s just so unfair. No one should have to do that when they have a child that is sick – my mom – even though it sucked that I knew she wasn’t going to make it, I was glad that I was with her during her last moments, she told me she loved me right before she died and I – it’s one of the only things I remember about her now.” She said, tears running down her face.
He pulled her closer to him, letting her bury her head into his neck, her tears soaking through his shirt. She rarely talked about her mother so he let her cry, knowing that she needed it, wondering how she had held her tears back when she heard this woman share a story about a disease she resonated with so deeply. Jo Yeong’s text suddenly made sense to him, he had said that she looked rather sad as the conference wrapped up – but then sent a follow up message saying she was probably tired.
He wiped her tears away with his fingers when she sniffled and calmed down before leaning over slightly to grab her some tissues from the tissue box. He watched as she dabbed the area under her eyes and blew her nose before throwing the tissue in the trashcan by his feet.
He cupped her face between his hands, turning it so she was looking right at him while sitting in his lap sideways, his thumbs ran soothing circles into her red cheeks. “What do you want?” He asked quietly.
“To change the maternity leave laws, increase the time off and the wage.” She said, her voice strong despite the fact that a few tears still lingered.
“Where will the money come from for the maternity leave wage and time increase? You know that companies won’t agree.” He said watching as her eyes lit with determination.
“The opposition party will never let a bill pass the floor, it’ll just never fit into their budget.” He said, watching as her face grew frustrated. “What else do you want?” He asked.
“A program to provide housing, transportation, and food for families with sick children coming to the major cities for treatment.” She said.
“Sounds expensive. How?” He asked.
“An increase or reallocation of the social welfare budget?” She asked.
“Do you think that will pass on the floor?” He asked.
She sighed, recalling the opposition party, fiscal conservatives that had her labelled a socialist as soon as she talked about spending money on prison reform, they sadly held a rather large number of seats.
“No.” She mumbled. “The Queen’s Privy Purse – I have no use for the money, I’ll make a large donation and still have more money than I will ever use.” She said.
“You can’t just do that, we went over this my Queen.” He said before leaning in to kiss her pout away.
“But it’s our money.” She whined.
“And there are regulations in place to make sure the Royal Family doesn’t go bankrupt.” He sighed.
“I should tell them about your extravagant spending and selling of rare diamonds.” She mumbled causing him to chuckle. Her body melted against his and she groaned. “I didn’t know it would be so annoying even with money and a King for a husband.” She whined.
He laughed before pushing the strands of hair she always missed while tying her hair behind her ear. “I am not the one fighting you on this, I am with you, if that’s the only way to make what you want happen I’ll do it, I don’t care what people say. But calm down and think about this, think about what we learnt-”
“There were a lot of lessons on focusing and keeping quiet while your future husband ravishes you…I don’t recall much about spending.” She mumbled causing him to snort.
“Would it help if I started kissing this long neck while you think?” He teased while running his finger down the column of her neck.
“Stop.” She said as she whacked his hand away and rested her head against his shoulder, thinking about what she could do while she played with the collar of his shirt. It took her a few minutes and then she shot up, turning to look at him right in the eyes, he had a small smile on his face like he knew what she was going to say.
“Fundraisers, you said we can match donations.” She said.
He nodded. “Two projects will require a lot of funding though, how are you doing to do it?” He asked with a challenging smile.
“By being a bit like my husband.” She grinned. “Be very charismatic with my own customer service smile that drives the nation wild, be kind to people I want to shoot-” He laughed at that and nodded.
“I think you have already mastered that.” He said. "What else?"
“You invite all these rich people to the fundraising dinners and events, especially competitors, be it political or business, you make sure you talk to one and then the other – somehow setting them up to out-perform each other – they all end up donating more than they initially wanted to, they always write a new cheque, discarding their initial one.”
“I didn’t know you were observing me so closely, do you have a crush on me Lieutenant Jeong Tae-Eul?” He teased causing her to laugh and whack his arm.
“Be serious.” She said rolling her eyes. “You never taught me that, how do you do it?” She asked.
“I just play off of basic human psychology and the big egos of people with any power. If two people are in direct competition with each other they’ll do a lot just to one up the other. As soon as I talk to one of them the other is wondering what I am saying to them, the one I am talking to is pleased that I talked to them first. A few well-placed words, talking about how much I heard their competitor is donating, a little exaggeration and all of a sudden you have billions of wons.” He said.
“Sneaky, not entirely ethical.” She said causing him to snort.
“Neither is the tax evasion they all participate in, they even get a tax break for donating.” He shrugged. “You can’t always play by the book or you won’t get anywhere.”
“Your vindictive side is really sexy.” She murmured.
“Focus will you?” He said while pulling on her ponytail. “Two fundraisers like this would benefit from being separate and targeting different audiences.” He said.
“How about a large gala for funding the families that have sick children?”
“Yes – and a catchier title or acronym for the foundation.” He said as she rolled her eyes. “Who will you invite?” He asked, he loved seeing how her mind worked, she always caught on rather quickly.
“Businessmen, broadcasters, politicians. It will appeal to them and improve their image, they’ll throw in money.” She said.
He nodded proudly, touching his forehead to hers causing her to smile. “Exactly how I would do it. You need to do some groundwork through, we circuit a few events, pitch the idea of the foundation, have an unofficial article about it.” He said. “What about the maternity one?” He asked.
“Let’s appeal to women, they are more likely to understand, the ones that are in positions of power and work will understand the struggle. And the ones that are not working also like to outperform each other. A luncheon. Maybe an auction of some sort.” She said, she had noticed the talks about bags and designers, the latest limited edition, the jealousy “I have an idea…how do you feel about losing something from the Queen’s jewelry collection?” She asked.
He hesitated, the smile disappearing off his face. “It’s yours.” He said.
“I know, I love you…but I’ll never wear most of what is in the collection. It’s too ostentatious for me. But it’s highly coveted, you should see people’s eyes every time I wear something from the collection, it’s also a part of history and I was thinking that if we put one of those necklaces up for auction we’d get so much for it.” She said.
He was shaking his head before she even finished and she pouted. “Your intentions are good but you’ll be slandered for trying to sell off our history.” He said while rubbing her cheek with his thumb.
She pouted at him, her shoulders falling in dejection.
“But a rare diamond that has never been seen before with no history might work.” He said, he hated to disappoint her.
She beamed and pecked his lips while whispering thank you.
“Ah, so you react to diamonds after all.” He teased causing her to snort and whack him. “Have you looked in your closet recently?” He asked.
“Did you buy me a diamond?” She asked confused and he laughed shaking his head.
“You won’t be wearing any of the custom designer gowns you’ve already worn – unless you have some kind of attachment to them they can be auctioned for a lot.” He explained.
“But I already wore them.” She said looking rather confused causing him to laugh.
“Yes, they’ve been worn by the Queen of Corea, I’ll have you know it was a very sought out position, it still is.” He laughed when she just rolled her eyes. “Everything you wear or touch gets sold out in a heartbeat but the gowns are custom, one of a kind, people can't just buy them from the store. And people always want what they can’t have.” He explained.
“I don’t think I am ever going to get used to this royalty thing.” She said. “I’ll find some to auction.”
“Maybe get Myeong Seung-Ah involved to handle the publicity and planning sides of it.” He said and she nodded.
“The lace dress with no back stays, as does the white one – I want to peel those off your body again.” He whispered, his thumb tracing her bottom lip. “You should also model the dresses for me so I can help you decide which ones need to stay.” He said as he pulled on her lip with this thumb.
“You just want to help me take them off.” She teased.
“But of course.” He said before kissing her lips.
“Follow me then pyeha.” She whispered against his lips before jumping off his lap, laughing as he got up right behind her.
To say that Jeong Tae-Eul was confused was an understatement.
She wanted to do something but didn’t quite know what, so she paced the length of her sitting room while trying to think. And she was thinking because she was falling far behind. Gon was ahead of her when it came to surprises – he took her on all these amazing dates, he cooked for her, he bought her all these little things she loved and he was just perfect.
Tae-Eul felt like she wasn’t doing enough. She never was used to people going above and beyond for her, no one treated her the way he did, like she somehow deserved everything in the world and more. It was overwhelming at times, but it also made her feel so loved that she always felt like she was holding back tears.
She wanted to do the same for him, he deserved it more than anyone in the world. He had gone through too much for one person alone and when she thought about all the tears and sacrifices, it made her just want to hold him and never let go. She wanted to spoil him rotten, to take care of him, to love him like he deserved to be loved – the way he reacted to any sort of affection with those big mesmerizing eyes of his made her heart break. She wanted to give him everything he didn’t even know he wanted.
But her problem was that she didn’t know what to do. Her husband was one of the richest men across any world. She couldn’t buy him anything he couldn’t get on his own, except the little things he loved from her world that she had her father bring every time he visited. Little packages of things that were stashed in their room and other private places so as to not raise suspicion regarding their origin. But that wasn’t enough.
Lately she had taken to walking into the room in new lingerie, but she wasn’t sure that it was enough even though he said that was his favourite type of present – unwrapping her. He was such a smooth talker sometimes, it was ridiculous. But she wanted to do more, she just didn’t know what. She wasn’t the artistic kind, she couldn’t make him something he’d love and her mind kept drawing blank when she tried to think about what she could try to make him.
She sighed as the same idea kept running through her brain, that she cook for him, like he did for her. But the problem with that was that she couldn’t make him something that wasn’t ramen or plain rice, she wasn’t good in the kitchen, at all. Her father usually forbit her from stepping into the kitchen because she ruined everything.
But she wanted to try, for Gon. Maybe she could learn, and then he could have meals she cooked as well as the ones he cooked without having them tasted. She was sure that no one except the chefs and Lady Noh cooked for him, he would appreciate it. And she had watched him work in the kitchen enough to pick up some things, she was pretty good at cutting veggies now since he had recruited her to help with that when he cooked. He gave up on letting her cook the actual meal, she had what her father called slippery hands – she never meant to add too much of an ingredient but when someone said “add salt” she just added what she thought was right and it never was.
Tae-Eul knew she would need help. She grabbed her phone, putting it in her pocket in case Gon called, and found herself heading to the one person who she knew could help with this. It was last minute, but her brain usually worked well under pressure.
Tae-Eul stepped out into the hallway and nodded at Park In-Young who greeted. “Do you know here Lady Noh is?”
“I saw her heading down towards her sitting room.” In-Young answered.
“Thank you!” Tae-Eul said as she scurried down the hall towards the room, she knew if she wasn’t fast enough Lady Noh would disappear into one of the other parts of the palace, she was always running around and awfully difficult to track down at times.
Tae-Eul nodded at all the people that stopped and bowed at her as she practically ran through the halls, they were no longer surprised at the way she ran around like they had been at first. Gon teased her about overhearing maids saying that the Queen seemed to be driven by a motor.
She came to a stop outside the sitting room and knocked on the wooden door, sighing in relief when she heard the older lady’s voice asking her to enter. She opened the door and was met with Lady Noh jumping up from the couch in order to greet her.
“I told you that you don’t have to do that! Stay seated!” Tae-Eul said as she closed the door behind her, she still wasn’t used to how everyone stood up to greet her whenever she walked into the room, bowing and uttering your majesty. The first few times she had looked for Gon as if they were greeting him.
“Protocol dictates I must.” Lady Noh said as she bowed.
“There’s no need for protocol when there is no one else around. I need your help.” Tae-Eul said as she walked towards Lady Noh, pushing her gently so she was sitting again before sitting down right beside her, sideways so she was facing her, one leg on the couch.
“Aigoo! Aigoo! We went over this, Queens don’t sit like this, if you wanted to have a conversation there are better seats for you to occupy across from me!” Lady Noh reprimanded her.
“There is no one else here.” Tae-eul whined.
“You have to get in the habit.”
“Later. Are you busy?”
“When am I not busy?”
“I wanted to do something for Gon and I need your help.” Tae-Eul said, not missing how Lady Noh’s face softened at the mention of Gon, it always seemed to.
“What do you want to?” She asked, looking rather curious.
“I want to cook a meal for him, myself.”
“Pyeha forbid you from stepping in the kitchen alone after last time.” Lady Noh chuckled. Tae-Eul groaned, she would never live that down, she had just wanted to make savoury pancakes, how was she supposed to know that the stoves were professional grade and emitted a lot more heat than her stove at home had – she might have started a small fire, very small. It didn’t even damage anything!
“That’s why I am asking you for help, I know I can’t do it alone.”
“What do you want to make?” Lady Noh asked.
“Rabokki and dakgangjeong.” She said.
“His favourites.” Lady Noh nodded.
She smiled and nodded, Gon’s favourite food was this interesting mix of ramen and tteokbokki that was so delicious that even thinking about it made her salivate, and he loved popcorn chicken – he was working on rating different world’s version of it but insisted the Corean version with the sticky sauce was the best so far.
“When do you want to prepare the meal?” She asked.
“For dinner tomorrow? He comes back tomorrow evening.”
“Meet me in the kitchens tomorrow afternoon, I’ll send someone out to purchase all the ingredients.” She said and then quietly added. “Multiple servings in case there is a problem.”
“I am not that helpless in the kitchen.” Tae-Eul whined.
“It’s good that you’re the Queen and don’t need to cook much.”
“Isn’t insulting the Queen against protocol?”
“You said there is no need for protocol when it’s just the two of us.”
Tae-Eul sighed. There was no winning with Lady Noh. “Thank you, for helping.” She said instead and the older woman nodded just as her phone went off.
“Must be pyeha.” Lady Noh smiled as Tae-Eul took her phone out of her pocket. “Your face just lit up.” She chuckled when Tae-Eul looked towards her with a sheepish smile.
“I’ll see you later!” Tae-Eul said as she ran out of the room while picking up the phone.
“No, first lay out all the ingredients you need and prep them, you’re not skilled enough to cook and prep as you go.” Lady Noh reprimanded as Tae-Eul tried to turn the stove on.
“Yes.” Tae-Eul said, she was standing in the middle of the empty kitchen, hair tied up and an apron wrapped around her as she tried to make sense of everything in front of her. Lady Noh had even taken the liberty to have a copy of the recipe that Gon loved most for her to follow but it still wasn’t easy.
“Follow the ingredient list and prep everything you need.”
Tae-Eul grabbed the packet of ramen first and opened it, laying it out on a plate. And then she grabbed a handful of rice cakes and put them in a bowl.
“It says 16, this looks like there are 16.” Tae-Eul said while shaking the bowl.
“Cooking for beginners needs to be an exact science, the recipe says 16, any less or more will alter the taste.” Lady Noh said, Tae-Eul sighed and counted the rice cakes, putting away the two extra.
“It just says soak in warm water, how warm?” Tae-Eul asked.
“That’s helpful.” Tae-Eul murmured as she turned the hot water on, waiting until it was hot and then filling up the bowl.
“Timer.” Lady Noh reminded her.
“Gon doesn’t do that.”
“Pyeha can count time in his head while doing other things.”
“Of course he can.” Tae-Eul sighed, he didn’t count time in the normal way, recited all these weird things in his head instead. She picked up the timer and set it to ten minutes. She then went back to the recipe page and picked out the two sheets of Korean fish cakes and rinsed them under hot running water for 1 minute. “Ahhh!” She said when they fell out of her hand and into the sink.
“Try again.” Lady Noh said as she looked into the sink and shook her head in disappointment. At that moment, Tae-Eul decided that Gon was a better teacher, he would have told her it was okay or made a joke about how he didn’t want those sheets anyways – before kissing her pout away. She missed him.
She tried again, with success and then grabbed the cabbage leaves. “It says 80g, where’s the scale?”
“You don’t have to weigh them.”
“You just said it’s an exact science!”
“The cabbage won’t absorb or thicken anything.” The woman sighed as if it was obvious.
“Well I didn’t know that.” Tae-Eul murmured.
“Chop them into small pieces.” Lady Noh instructed and she did, but she knew it didn’t meet Lady Noh’s standards because she wrinkled her nose. “Pyeha was a much better student.” She murmured causing Tae-Eul to pout. “Onion, thinly sliced.”
Tae-Eul grabbed the onion and started to slice it only for Lady Noh to sigh. “Thinly sliced.” She said, Tae-Eul sighed and made the pieces smaller while trying to make sure she didn’t cut herself…again.
“Now you have to make the seaweed rolls.”
“I thought you could buy those frozen?” Tae-Eul whined, she knew they had them at the grocery store.
“I thought you wanted to make this yourself?”
“I do, but not from scratch – there are so many opportunities to mess up!”
“It’s not that difficult, it’s just seaweed sheets, noodles, carrots and garlic chives.”
“He better love this.” Tae-Eul murmured as she got to work with Lady Noh watching over her shoulder – apparently she didn’t have the skill to julienne the carrots properly because Lady Noh stepped in to do it for her.
She mixed the ingredients for the sauce into the bowl. “1 tsp sea salt.” Lady Noh said. “NO NO! THAT’S A TABLESPOON!” She yelled when Tae-Eul went to scoop some salt. Tae-Eul smiled sheepishly and corrected herself.
“Mix in the noodles, carrots and garlic chives into the mixing bowl with the sauce.” Lady Noh instructed, while she prepped the batter. Tae-Eul sighed as she mixed the ingredients before grabbing the seaweed sheets to roll them.
Lady Noh sighed with every roll she broke. She was awfully judgmental, sighing and wrinkling her nose whenever she messed up. It was kind of cute…and discouraging. It took her four tries to get the hang of it, and then Lady Noh started with additional instructions that weren’t in the recipe – brush water on the edge after rolling it so it will stick better.
“This is why I suck at cooking, why is that not in the recipe?!”
“Some things come with practice and common sense.” Lady Noh said as she took her rolled seaweed and put in the batter bowl to coat. “Put oil in the wok.”
It was all going okay until she dropped a roll into the oil to fry and then the oil started sizzling, a drop hitting her hand. She was screaming while moving away, almost tipping the pan over while a frazzled Lady Noh caught the handle and stopped it from flying off the stove.
“Aigoo! Aigoo! Aigoo! You’re not allowed in the kitchen again, you could have spilled all this hot oil on yourself!” Lady Noh gasped as she calmed down, her hand over her heart.
“It splashed me!” Tae-Eul defended.
“You can’t just drop it in like you did!”
“But how else-”
“I’ll do the frying.” Lady Noh insisted as she took over that. “So we both don’t die.” She murmured.
“What do you want me to do?” Tae-Eul asked while pouting, she wanted to do it herself but maybe it wasn’t the best idea.
“You know how to hard-boil eggs?”
“Yes!” Tae-Eul said, she knew that perfectly, her house was always filled with eggs.
“Do that. And then start the broth, follow the instructions.”
Tae-Eul nodded and followed the instructions, confirming each ingredient with the older woman before she put it in – it was where she always messed up. She put the water on the stove and boiled it for 10 minutes, removed the kelp and then boiled it more, then took out the anchovy – apparently it was necessary for flavour even though it was disgusting.
While the broth cooked, Lady Noh asked her to get the chicken they had prepped earlier and left to marinate, that part hadn’t been too difficult but she had cut herself a little while cutting the chicken into bite sized pieces.
By the time Lady Noh was done frying and mixing a sauce, the broth was ready. She insisted on being the one to transfer the broth to a wider pot after it was sieved to remove the small particles – afraid that Tae-Eul would spill it, it was a definite possibility so she wasn’t too offended while she peeled the eggs. She added all the other ingredients to the pot and smiled as it started looking like what it was supposed to look like.
Lady Noh nodded and then instructed on how to prep the chicken, coating each piece with starch powder thoroughly. She insisted on deep frying again while Tae-Eul pouted, she knew it was for the best but she wanted to do it herself. “The trick to make it crunchy is to double fry it.” Lady Noh shared while Tae-Eul poured the sauce into a heated skillet and stirred. “I’ll finish this off, he’ll be home soon and you need to shower.”
“I showered earlier I am fine.”
“You’re covered with flour from head to toe, your majesty.” Lady Noh sighed. “And you have something on your face.”
Tae-Eul looked down and sighed, she was in fact covered with food. “I am hopeless aren’t I?” Tae-Eul sighed.
“We’re both alive and the food is not burnt so not completely hopeless.”
“I could never do this alone.”
“You married well, you won’t have to.” Lady Noh smiled making her sigh.
“Gon is so good at this.” She pouted.
“He has been learning since he was a young boy.” Lady Noh said as the chicken sizzled in the wok.
Her words triggered another question she was dying to ask but had forgotten about for some reason. “Who has Gon cooked for before?” She asked coyly, trying not to be too obvious.
“For himself and you.” Lady Noh said, her face looking confused.
“No, has he cooked for…another woman before?” She asked quietly and Lady Noh laughed.
“If I count as one.” She said with a knowing grin. “He cooks for my birthday.”
“That jerk!” Tae-Eul scoffed.
“Aigoo!” Lady Noh said while whacking her arm lightly. “You can’t call him that!”
“He had me believing he cooked for other women.”
She chuckled. “If that was the case then I wouldn’t have been hiding talismans all around the palace for years.” Lady Noh shared with a smile. “And it finally worked.”
“I found the ones you hid under the mattress.”
“It’s been a while since this palace has been filled with sounds of children.”
Tae-Eul sighed, she shouldn’t have brought up the talismans.
“Now go get ready, I’ll wrap up in here.”
“Thank you.” Tae-Eul said while hugging the woman tightly but she just groaned and started going on about how she had ruined her clothes and gotten flour all over her. Tae-Eul was sure the lady had a soft spot for her sheepish smile so she just smiled at her in apology and ran out of the kitchen to get ready.
Tae-Eul rolled her eyes and smiled when she saw the three outfits hanging on the wall of her closet where her stylist usually laid out her outfits. She wrapped her bathrobe around her and padded further into her dressing room.
On the left was the outfit she would have chosen if she dressed herself, a pair of lounge pants and a matching top. They looked very comfy but she decided against it for tonight.
On the far right was the outfit Bong Se-Ra, her stylist, would have picked for her, a spaghetti strap floral dress. She debated it for a bit, knowing how Gon seemed to be unable to keep his lips off her neck when she wore dresses like that. But she actually wanted to eat what she made so she decided against it.
She looked at the dress in the middle and nodded, it was a more casual shirt-dress with sleeves, a light pink that was almost beige. She walked over to the drawers that housed her lingerie and slid on a light pink set that matched the colour of the dress perfectly. She slipped the dress on and buttoned it, loving how soft it felt against her skin. She was starting to become a fan of dresses, heels not so much, she didn’t even have to debate between the flats and the heels, deciding on the flats right away.
She sat in front of her mirror and let out a little giggle, this was all new to her – caring about how she looked. It had started shortly after she met Gon, suddenly she started investing in products that made her skin look glowy and kept running a chapstick over her lips to keep them soft. She had even started putting on the masks that Na-Ri swore by.
She patted in her moisturizer into her face and then sprayed it with her favourite face mist. She even used perfume now, one that smelled like roses but wasn’t too sweet, Gon’s favourite. She sprayed it into her neck and put on the necklace Gon had given her recently, it was oval-shaped but he said it was a zero – a diamond studded one – because she was still the 0 he had was always looking for. She understood what he meant more now, it took a couple of tries, but it made her happy to be his zero.
A knock sounded on the door and she stepped out towards it, opening it to find Jangmi on the other side. She raised her eyebrow at him. “He’s here, he’ll be here soon.” Her informer whispered.
“Give me one second!” She said while she ran back towards the bed, grabbing her phone and the note she had written Gon. “Give him this when he gets here.” She said, she knew if he didn’t find her in the room he’d hunt her down, but she wanted to give him a surprise.
Jangmi grinned a bit too much as he watched her scurry out of her room and down the hallway so Gon didn’t catch her. Although a part of her wanted to run in the opposite direction, towards him, and leap at him like she usually did. All the guards were used to it now, they all looked in different directions with small grins on their faces when they saw her running towards him.
She stepped into the kitchen to find that Lady Noh had already plated the meal and left it in the warming drawers. She grinned when she saw the note about which wine to pair with the meal – she still had difficulty with that but she rather liked her husband’s aged and expensive wine collection.
Tae-Eul opened up the freezer to make sure that the ice-cream she had stashed there – Gon’s favourite -was still there, it was. She walked over to the counter she had sat at on her first visit to the Kingdom and set up the plates and glasses, waiting ten minutes before she pulled the food out of the warming drawers, she knew he wouldn’t take too long.
To say that Gon was surprised was an understatement. He had expected to be greeted by his wife like he usually was, she usually threw herself at him when he was away for more than a day but she was missing, and a grinning Jangmi had just handed him an envelope and left.
The room smelled like her perfume, so he knew she had been there just recently, the scent strong. But she was nowhere to be seen, he pulled out the thick paper from the envelope – it was from her desk - and smiled when he saw her chicken scratch writing.
I know you’re probably confused as to why you’re reading this letter…I have a surprise for you. Take a shower, get dressed and meet me in the kitchen! Don’t make me wait too long, we both know how impatient I can be…and I might have missed you. Maybe.
He smiled at both her words and the fact that she had a surprise for him. He hadn’t realized how happy little things like this would make him, at how just a simple note from her would make him feel delighted - she seemed to pick up on that too and left him random sticky notes here and there.
And the fact that she loved him enough to go out of her way to do things for him always made him want to cry with happiness. The first time had been when she made a big deal out of his birthday. Sitting at her dining table in her world with her father, Eun-Sup, the twins, and Na-Ri with a children’s party hat on his head and Tae-Eul standing beside him singing happy birthday was one of the best birthday memories he had. It was everything a birthday party for a child should have been, even though he was no longer one.
She even noticed the little things, her father now snuck snacks he liked into the Kingdom at her request and she would just pull them out and stash them in their hidden snack drawer – the fact that they had one was hilarious. She had one in her bedroom back in the Republic, stashed with junk food for when she was too lazy to go out into the kitchen, apparently it was even more imperative now that the kitchen was so far from their room.
The other week she had organized a surprise picnic on the Palace grounds under the Magnolia trees because he had been holed up in his office for too long and she insisted he needed a break. It was new, no one had cared if he got enough fresh air and sun before, and no one had ever cancelled all his meetings on his behalf because he had dark circles that they didn’t like. He had laughed so much when she said it was just because she wanted to ensure her husband stayed handsome.
He had always known she was caring, even when she was handcuffing him and calling him a liar, because she kept checking on him. Even though she didn’t need to, he knew a part of her had cared for him from the moment they met, both times. And he had picked up on the way she babied the people around her, it was hilarious. She reprimanded her father for not eating properly – picking up food and putting it in his plate. She treated Eun-Sup like he was her baby rather than a functioning adult. All of it extended to him but it was so much more. She burst into his office and demanded he eat lunch with her, yelled at him when he didn’t moisturize his pretty face as she called it, texted him throughout the day to remind him to take breaks.
She always asked him how his day went, and she listened to his whining – he had never felt the need to whine and complain about things before. He had just accepted things the way they were but he suddenly had someone who listened and threatened to have people beheaded for him, even though he wouldn’t do it, it was nice to have someone that got angry on his behalf. She was always just there, to support him, to make him happy and to love him.
Her last surprise had made him cry, she had been going through the Palace archives for an event with the Royal Public Affairs Office, she had pulled together every picture of his parents she could find and put them in an album – both a hard copy and virtual. She apparently had the whole Palace searching for pictures of him as a child with his parents. He had never thought to do that, he knew the pictures existed, knew that he could go look for them if he wanted to. But he had never done it, and no one had thought to do it for him. They had spent hours going through the pictures, him telling her everything he could remember, his fingers tracing over their happy faces. She had just turned to him and said let’s take lots of pictures of our babies and us, he had just nodded.
He sighed and folded up the note, putting it in the drawer of the nightstand by his bed before running to the bathroom, taking a quick shower and getting dressed in a pair of slacks and a cream shirt, her favourite on him. He ran down to the kitchen, bounding down two steps at a time in a way he knew she would scream about. He stopped outside the kitchen door and took in a deep breath before opening it, preparing himself to see her again.
She was standing by the counter, clad in a light pink dress he hadn’t seen before but decided he really liked, it had buttons. Her hair was out and straight and flying behind her as she ran across the small space and leaped at him. He smelled her perfume before she crashed into him, her arms going around his neck and shoulders, her legs wrapping around his waist causing him to laugh as he wrapped his arms around her to support her weight.
“I thought you missed me maybe.” He whispered, referring back to her note.
“I always miss you, I am changing the rule, I forbid you to leave me for more than two days, three days is too much.” She said while burying her face in his neck and taking in a deep breath and humming.
He loved how she clung to him, like he hadn’t seen her just three days ago, like they hadn’t talked on the phone. Even though things had changed, it always felt a little overwhelming to leave her – the old memories hard to stop, the fear that he might not see her again still present.
“Yes, my queen.” He whispered as he pulled her tighter against him and rubbed her back. She pulled away slightly so he could see her face and he smiled at the way she looked at him, her eyes tracing his face as if cataloguing if he was okay, habits were hard to break for her too. “I missed you.” He told her.
“Liar, you barely called me.” She pouted, definitely playful today.
“I wanted to.”
“I know, it must have been hectic.” She whispered and he nodded as her nose twitched.
“So much. And I really missed these chipmunk cheeks.” He said before kissing her cheeks, left, then right while she giggled. “And this nose.” He said while rubbing his nose against hers. “And this smile.” He whispered before pecking her lips, loving the way he could feel her smile against his own lips.
“I missed you too, a lot.” She whispered and he grinned, she no longer felt the need to pretend that she didn’t miss him.
“What’s my surprise?” He asked as she unwrapped her legs from around him and placed her feet on the floor. “Do I get to unwrap you?” He teased as he tugged on the belt around the waist of her dress.
“No!” She said whacking his hand gently. “I made you something.” She beamed, he loved the way she smiled at him, her nose scrunching, eyes shining.
“And the kitchen is still in one piece?” He laughed while looking around, it was surprisingly clean and not burnt anywhere. But what surprised him even more was that his wife, someone who never cooked, had made him something.
“You’re so mean, I am not that bad.” She pouted and he couldn’t help but bring his fingers to either side of her lips to turn the frown into a smile.
“You’re perfect.” He said before leaning in and kissing her forehead. “Why are you slaving away in the kitchen?” He asked, curious.
“I wanted to do something nice for you.” She smiled.
His heart warmed at her words and the way she grabbed his hand and squeezed before dragging him towards the island furthest from the door, the one he liked to use when cooking. He smiled when he noticed that she had set the table, she still put the glasses and silverware on the wrong side despite all the classes with Lady Noh, but he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
He chuckled as she pulled out his stool for him. He sat in it and took in a deep breath, trying to smell what she had made but the dishes were covered and it was hard to make out what it was. He wasn’t sure what she could have made – she made ramen really well, only when she boiled the water and emptied out the contents of the package. He watched as she walked over to the other side, sitting in her stool, she had a nervous smile on her face as she uncovered the first dish.
“Dakangjeong!” He said, one of his favourites, he liked all popcorn chicken but the one in the sticky, spicy, tangy and sweet sauce was his absolute favourite. “Double fried?” He asked as he peered into the bowl and she nodded with a smile. “Looks really good!” And it did, almost as if he had made it himself.
“And for the main course.” She murmured before uncovering the other dish.
“Rabokki!” He beamed, another favourite. “You made this?” He asked sounding a little surprised, it looked amazing.
“Lady Noh helped…a lot. I am apparently hopeless without supervision.” She said while holding up the index finger of her left hand with a pout, it had a small bandage on it. “I cut myself, it’s very small though.”
“I can kiss it better.” He teased while grabbing her hand and bringing her finger to his lips to kiss it, she rolled her eyes but he saw the way her lips pulled up.
“Try it.” She said while shifting in her stool.
“Are you sure I am going to survive?” He teased.
“If you stop annoying me the chances of you surviving are a lot higher.” She glared, giving away her nervousness despite the snark.
He grabbed his chopsticks and picked a piece of the chicken, popping it into his mouth, he chewed and assessed the flavour – it was crispy the way it was supposed to be, she made it a bit too spicy and it could use a bit more salt. But despite that it was the best popcorn chicken he had ever had because she made it for him.
“Did you cut the pieces?” He asked before popping another piece in his mouth, they were all different sizes, it was perfect.
“Yeah, that’s how I cut myself.” She pouted.
“This tastes really good, I think Dakangjeong made by the Queen tops my list of best popcorn chicken.” He said, his heart fluttering with the way her face lit up with a huge smile, she was perfect. She grabbed her own chopsticks and popped a piece in her mouth, chewing thoughtfully.
“It needs more salt.”
“No, it’s perfect, sweet like you.” He said causing her to roll her eyes.
“Try this!” She said while shifting the Rabokki closer to him. He scooped some onto his plate and took a bite, humming happily as the flavours melted into his mouth.
“This tastes better than when I make it!” He said as he scooped up another bite.
“You’re just saying that.” She said before taking a bite herself with a thoughtful look on her face. “Okay, this is really good.” She said excitedly.
“I guess we’re going to make a chef out of you after all, my Queen.”
“No, I almost injured Lady Noh and myself and it would have been a disaster without her.” She pouted.
“I am sure you weren’t that bad.”
“Lady Noh wasn’t impressed.”
“She isn’t impressed with much.” He laughed. “I’ll teach you.”
“Liar, you’ll just use it as an excuse to feel me up.” She teased.
“That’s your fault, you’re too irresistible.” He shrugged as he ate. He had tried once to teach her, but standing right behind her with his arms wrapped around her as he helped her chop had been much too tempting.
She chose not to answer in favour of stuffing her face with food, he loved how she only ate like that around him now, when they were out she ate like Lady Noh said she should eat and he hated it.
“You know, this is the first time a woman has cooked for me, usually it’s the other way around.” He said a few seconds later as he took a sip of the wine she had picked out, knowing it cause her to glare at him and act jealous, he adored how possessive she could be.
He grew confused as she grinned, putting her chopsticks down, looking much too pleased as she looked at him. “I know who the other woman you’ve cooked for is.” She said while glaring at him over her own wine glass.
“Oh?” He asked, surprised.
“Lady Noh.” She said before reaching towards him to whack his arm. “I suspected it but she confirmed it.”
“I am going to need to have a talk with her about preserving kingdom secrets.” He mumbled, she gave him away and now he could no longer enjoy her whining voice and pouting when he mentioned other women.
She snorted. “Just eat.”
“This is really good, thank you.” He said as he polished off yet another serving.
“I am glad.” She beamed.
“I have a surprise as well.” He said.
“Noooooooooooo!” She whined. “You’re already winning at the surprise game.”
“I didn’t think it was a competition.” He laughed.
“Not today, today it’s my day to surprise you.” She pouted.
“Fine, it can wait until tomorrow.” He said, while leaning across the counter to kiss her pout away.
“No kissing in the kitchen.” She murmured against his lips.
“And why not?” He whispered before sucking on her plump bottom lip. “Hmm, you taste like wine.”
“Gon.” She whined as she pulled away a little.
“Yes?” He said while following her lips and pecking them.
“Hurry up and eat.” She mumbled.
“Do I get dessert after?” He asked before letting his tongue trace her bottom lip, she sighed but moved back.
“Yeah, your favourite.”
“Ice-cream.” She said while placing her right hand on his face and pushing him away.
“That’s not what I want.” He said, he wanted kisses. He wanted her to be clingy, like she always was when he came back. He loved the way she held him, tucking herself into him, her ear over his heart, her fingers caressing his neck. They sat like that for hours it seemed, touches reassuring, as if telling each other that things were different, that nothing was pulling them apart.
“You can’t always get what you want.” She murmured.
“No, I always get what I want.” He whispered, and he knew he would eventually. She’d be the one to just grab him and kiss him until they both forgot to breathe.
“I like that dress.” He said, and he did, the colour looked amazing on her and it had buttons. He loved dresses with buttons and zippers – she had this one sinful dress that unzipped all the way and he adored it.
“It’ll look much better on the-”
“Finish that sentence and I won’t give you any ice-cream.” She snapped.
“You’re so mean.” He pouted as he went back to finishing his food.
He watched as she got out of her stool and ran over to the freezer, her little feet sliding across the floor. It was almost funny seeing how small she looked next to the huge fridge, she pulled the freezer open and pulled out a small container, the colour and size giving it away. It was his favourite flavour – salted caramel almond.
She sat back in the stool and he couldn’t help but lean over and pull it towards him, it screeched against the floor but it wasn’t too hard to pull her until she was right by his side. “You were too far away.”
“Of course.” She rolled her eyes but smiled as she popped the container open and passed him a spoon.
“My hand hurts.” He said, refusing to take the spoon from her.
“You’re such a baby.”
“Babies need to be fed.” He said before opening his mouth and making an ahhhh sound as she giggled and scooped up some ice-cream. She brought it up to his mouth and then turned it right around and put it in her mouth while laughing.
“Your face.” She laughed.
“Pick up your own spoon, pyeha.” She teased as she took another bite.
“You’re no fun.”
“I know.” She smiled as she moved her body until she was right up against him. “How’d it go?” She asked, inquiring about the series of meetings he had attended with international leaders this week in China.
“You’re even richer.” He teased causing her to roll her eyes.
“I don’t want to know.” She groaned causing him to laugh, he had handed her a file that documented all their assets recently, she had barely gotten through the first two pages before she shut the file and exclaimed that she didn’t want to know what she owned.
“They surprisingly, unanimously, agreed to the new climate agreement. And we’ve secured more clients for exporting precious metals.” He said, grinning when she sighed, he knew what she was asking about.
“Gon.” She whined and he laughed, he loved that whiny voice she used.
“I have planted the seed, there are talks about setting up an International Criminal Sentencing Advisory Board.” He said. “They were looking for a chair, and the American President is apparently smitten enough with you to have suggested that the Queen of the Kingdom of Corea was a good fit for the role.”
“Me?” She asked, sounding shocked.
“Yes, you.” He chuckled.
“I don’t know how to be a chair of anything!”
“It’s just bringing ideas to the table and ensuring everyone stays on topic, you’ll learn.” He said before placing a kiss on her cheek. “It’s only fair since it was your idea.”
“If I mess up I’ll kill you.” She mumbled before taking another spoon of ice-cream while leaning her head against his arm.
“You’re going to be great.”
“Can I have a co-chair? Divide the responsibilities.” She asked while looking up at him, the spoon against her lips – it was awfully distracting.
“Sounds like a plan, we’ll see what comes out of it, but if I was you I’d expect some calls over the week.” He said, he had seen a lot of interest after talking about the work Tae-Eul was doing to reform the criminal sentencing processes and prison conditions in the Kingdom.
He still remembered that it had started off as a conversation about beheading which had somehow turned into about how she felt that someone had just decided on an arbitrary number of years as punishment for crimes. She had all these examples of how sometimes the severity of the crime didn’t line up with the severity of punishment. And it had grown to her pointing out how there were so many inconsistencies across the world that just made no sense and how lots of crimes against women and children weren’t punished as severely as they could be. It was a subject she was passionate and knowledgeable about, and he loved how excited she got when she realized she could change the things that were unfair.
“Want to go on a walk with me?” She asked.
“No, I just missed you and our walks.”
“Why don’t I believe you?” He asked, her eyes were shining with mischief.
“I don’t know, why wouldn’t you believe your innocent wife?” She asked.
He chuckled. “Innocent?”
“Innocent until proven guilty.”
He watched her closely, waiting for the slip he knew was coming, she was trying to look nonchalant but it didn’t last long. She bit her lip to hold back the grin.
“What are you up to?” He sighed as she scooted out of her seat and up, putting the dishes away. He got up and helped but she refused to say anything.
She just held out her hand towards him and he grasped it, letting her pull him out of the kitchen and towards the door that led to the Palace grounds. He smiled when she lifted his arm over her shoulder and tucked herself into her side as they got outside. He pulled her into him as they walked, it was a warm night with a gentle breeze.
“How were your meetings?” He asked.
“Boring, I think my secretary has a crush on the Minister of Finance.” She shared making him chuckle.
“He’s rather good looking, he came seventh in the list of most eligible bachelors, I am of course number one.” He said and then bit his lip to hold back the chuckle as her eyes snapped up to his and narrowed.
“Ah yes, was number one.”
“You better not forget the was.”
“Yes, my queen.” He said. “Anything else exciting happen?”
“Not since I spoke to you on the phone, it’s pretty boring without the troublemaker here.”
“I am not a troublemaker.”
“Sure.” She laughed. “Now close your eyes.”
“Just do it!” She said.
He sighed and complied, she acted like he hadn’t grown up here, as if he didn’t know that around the corner was the large oak tree. He still humored her though, pretended that he didn’t know where they were going as she led him around the corner.
“Okay, open your eyes.” She whispered.
He smiled as he noticed the setup, she had gotten a projector and white screen set up, the logo on the screen told him it was his favourite movie that they were probably watching, under the huge oak tree strung with faint lights was a double lounger, with pillows and a throw.
“What’s this?” He asked.
“Movie night, outdoors.” She said as she pulled him towards the lounger, she picked up a remote and told him to sit down, he complied and smiled when she climbed into his lap, her legs stretched out over his and pulled a throw over herself.
She hummed happily as he wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder. “This is pretty impressive.”
“But I don’t feel like watching a movie.” He whispered as she pressed play, the familiar intro track playing.
“I know, you never do, but the sound of the movie will keep the guards oblivious.” She whispered and he couldn’t help but burst out into laughter.
“Didn’t you just call yourself innocent mere minutes ago?” He teased.
“I am not the one that doesn’t feel like watching a movie.” She shrugged and he couldn’t help but pinch the side of her stomach, making her squeal loudly.
Happy Early Valentine's Day? I had lots of LeeEul feels (which you probably know if you're following me on Twitter @misskaahaani) and this has been sitting in my drafts for months!
Chapter 8: The Stylist
The Queen's Stylist, Bong Se-Ra provides some insight into the King and Queen's relationship, and why they are the reason her expectations are too damn high. Follows "The Pregnancy Chronicles - Chapter 18"
To say that Bong Se-Ra was heartbroken would be an understatement. She was sick and tired of breakups, all the men she dated were great at first – attentive, loving, funny, smart and good-looking. But when the initial excitement of the relationship faded so did all their good traits. She wondered if she just attracted the wrong type of men or if she expected too much. But how could she not with the example she saw every day in front of her own eyes?
Even right then, standing by the window and looking out at the private courtyard she could see the King and Queen sitting under the newly erected gazebo with their babies. The sounds the 7 month old Prince and Princess made mixed in with the boisterous laughter of the King and the tinkling laughter of the Queen both soothed her and made her feel rather lonely. She wanted that, a man who would treat her like she was the most special person in the universe and children that would squeal and hug her like the Prince was doing with his mother right then.
She had heard all about the reason the private courtyard now had a gazebo and a daybed. It was all for a planned date, again, much like the gazebo under the oak tree in the back garden. The King had come to her to ask her to help his wife get ready for the date, he told her three things: 1) it was very casual and she needed to be comfortable; 2) they would be in public but likely wouldn’t be seen 3) let her pick what she wants and just guide her, if she wants to wear sneakers, let her wear sneakers.
It had melted her heart, he always did things like that for her. It used to be more frequent before the babies but they still made time for each other. He seemed to know what she needed and when she needed it.
And she was no different with him, she still recalled the day the Queen had walked up to the King’s secretary and Lady Noh with a revised schedule of his engagements and walked away after claiming that her husband was not a machine.
She seethed about the parliament members that slighted her husband, cursed news outlets that wrote negatively about him and she could just tell by the way he sounded if something was wrong. She would cut meetings short and just go to him.
They understood each other at a level that many other couples around her didn’t seem to. They talked, all the time, in hushed whispers, with their smiles, with the arch of an eyebrow, with a squeeze of a hand. It was all she wanted.
She knew they were the biggest reason why she had such high expectations. And it wasn’t just her. The public loved them and always commented on how much they loved each other based off the 10% of themselves they put out to the public. In the privacy of their own home, surrounded by people they trusted that love was overwhelming. It had been from the first day.
Se-Ra still remembered when she first heard of the future Queen. The nation was heartbroken, and she was too, just a little bit. Every woman in the Kingdom watched the King grow up from an adorable boy to a teenage heartthrob to the charismatic man he was today. He was everyone’s first crush, the ideal man – intelligent, handsome, kind, charismatic and a literal King. Most women in the Kingdom grew up wishing to be his Queen. Se-Ra herself had a huge crush on him during her high school and university days, posters of him were on her wall and she followed every news article about him.
She had grown out of it as she got older though.
She always thought he’d end up with a rich heiress or someone from a strong political family because it made sense. And as time went on she really did speculate if he was in fact in love with his best friend, Captain Jo. The whole nation was shocked when he announced his engagement to the now Queen. A single picture was released, the two of them sitting together in his study, looking towards each other with smitten smiles on their faces. The nation went into a frenzy. The King fell in love with a commoner, a former detective with the Busan Police. He met her while she was investigating threats made against him, it was the literal modern day fairytale.
Se-Ra had immediately applied to the position for the Queen’s stylist and her recommendations from her former bosses had gotten her the job even after a rather scary interview with the Head Court Lady.
She had been aghast when she first saw the future Queen. She was so…boyish, in her clothes, in her mannerisms, the way she walked and the way she talked. She snapped at the King when he made a comment she didn’t like and he smiled like a smitten man as if he had been waiting for exactly that.
Her clothes were about three sizes too big for her, her jeans were from the men’s section and she was wearing a polo underneath a sweater with sneakers. Se-Ra hadn’t expected any of it. Yet despite all of that Se-Ra had immediately categorized her as a classic beauty, the type that got prettier the longer you looked at her. None of her features alone were striking, but all together they created a beautiful picture of grace, innocence, and femineity that she knew would bode well for a Queen.
Se-Ra went back to the drawing board after meeting the Queen. She pulled from feminine designers, florals, lace, dresses of different cuts and styles. The Queen hated them even as the Head Court Lady hummed in appreciation. She said no to most things during the first styling meeting. Se-Ra was beyond frustrated because everything had looked so good on her frame, she wondered why the woman would want to hide her perfect body, her proportions were amazing.
So she went back and pulled more classics, more solids that were still feminine but understated, luxe and soft fabrics without floral prints, more conservative pieces that were still young and fun – the Queen was only in her early thirties after all.
The Queen showed up to the next styling appointment with the King in tow, he had kicked them all out, and the two of them spent hours picking things they liked together without anyone’s input. She was close enough to the door to hear the two of them laughing, he seemed to be presenting her with options, telling her of his opinion, and then she seemed to be telling him yes or no. She even heard the King whining and saying things like you can wear this one for me, it’ll be fun to peel off your body.
The urge to just squeal and tell everyone about all of it was so high but she remembered how well the job paid, how good it was for her career and the non-disclosure agreement she had signed. She kept quiet, it was rather difficult – even to this day. The pair had invited her back into the room after they chose things they liked. Out of the 14 racks of clothing in the room they had managed to fill only two empty racks with things she liked. And a look at the shoes they chose had her groaning because there were no heels, she was shorter than the King and had long sexy legs that would look amazing in heels.
And so the tug of war between the Queen and her started, Se-Ra would try to stick to her style and comfort level as much as possible but also try to get her to compromise on little things, like short heels rather than flats or a dress rather than a blazer and skirt combo. She agreed sometimes. Most of the times she gave her what the King called her Lieutenant Jeong Tae-Eul look, he always said it with such a fond and teasing smirk that made Se-Ra blush.
Despite the initial hurdle, the Queen’s pre-wedding looks had been rather fun, Se-Ra remembered the Queen’s first public engagement with the King as his fiancée. It was at the Story Time With the King Event, the Queen was dressed in a tailored white jumpsuit, it was feminine and looked like a dress from afar but it allowed her the flexibility to move around and be comfortable as was needed with kids. Her look had been an instant success even though most people focused on how smitten the King and Queen seemed with each other.
And they were right. The two were so smitten. She had never seen anything like it. The Queen often accompanied him to his engagements, walking right beside him, hand in hand or with his hand on her back. They were always touching in some way. She was always watching him with a loving and proud look on her face whenever he was speaking at an event, even without words everyone could tell that she was his biggest cheerleader. And he looked at her the same way, like the world revolved around her.
Their public sightings were always innocent and loving.
The rumours inside of the palace were a bit less innocent. They ran around the palace like teenagers, there were whispers about how doors were always locked and hands always roaming. Maids would look towards certain rooms with a knowing look, Captain Jo seemed to have them thoroughly cleaning rooms left and right.
Se-Ra herself had once walked past the King’s private study and heard sounds that couldn’t be mistaken for anything else. She hadn’t been able to look the two of them in the eye for days. Especially after she noticed the amount of love bites on the Queen’s body and how fast her undergarment supply seemed to deplete, the King was apparently a big fan of ripping lace of her body. But what made her blush the most was when he accompanied her to fittings, he actually made time to come watch her try things on for events. He didn’t say much but the way his eyes darkened and roamed the Queen’s body had Se-Ra fanning herself and drinking glass after glass of water.
And if that wasn’t enough, she was constantly melting into a puddle of goo whenever she saw the gifts he brought for her. The Queen’s jewellery collection was filled with antiques and rare jewels passed down for generations, they deserved a whole museum dedicated to them. But they were all rather loud. The Queen did love some pieces and wore them, but most of it lay untouched. The King often bought her little dainty jewelry that she wore all the time – it’s not that it was expensive and studded in diamonds and rare jewels (it sometimes was), but it was the fact that he picked them out for her, with her in mind, that made her melt.
Se-ra still couldn’t get over how much he cared. When her clothes no longer fit her when she was a couple of months pregnant, he had Se-Ra come in and get rid of anything that wouldn’t fit because she had cried when her favourite jeans didn’t close. He had her buy exact replicas of the things the Queen loved in bigger sizes and told her to make them as comfortable as possible. He also told her to get the Queen slip on running shoes and hide all the ones with laces when she could no longer bend to tie her shoes. The Queen never had to say a word, he just knew what she needed.
How was Se-Ra supposed to find someone who could live up to that? The boyfriend she had just broken up with couldn’t even remember her favourite colour or that she hated coffee. The one before him had forgotten her birthday. The one before him treated her like a chore rather than his girlfriend.
She didn’t even need all of what the King gave the Queen, even a fraction would do. But it was just so hard to find someone. And she wasn’t getting any younger, she was the King’s age, three years older than the Queen. She wanted more, she couldn’t help but let a couple of tears escape her eyes at the thought.
“What’s wrong?” The Queen asked as she walked into the room that was reserved for their styling appointments.
“Nothing.” Se-Ra answered, wiping away the tears that seemed to be running down her face without her knowledge.
“Sit down and tell me what’s wrong.” The Queen said while pointing towards the sofa, that no-nonsense look on her face had Se-Ra following her order.
“I broke up with my boyfriend.” Se-Ra sniffled. “He couldn’t even remember my favourite colour or that I hate coffee. We dated for a year.”
“Men are mostly stupid when it comes to things like that, they forget everything.” The Queen nodded before handing her a box of tissues.
“I am so sorry, I know this is far from professional -” Se-Ra said as she got up.
“You’ve seen me drunk, puking my guts out, listened to a million rants that were far from being Queen-like, I think you can cry in front of me after a break-up.” She said while moving her hand and asking her to sit down again. Like a friend would.
“He sounds like a jerk.” The Queen said while tssing her teeth.
“Everyone seems like a jerk, I guess I just pick the wrong type of men.”
“Why do you say that?”
“They’re so different from what I want.”
“And what do you want?” She asked.
“I – I hope you won’t take this the wrong way – I say it with the utmost respect – but someone who loves me like your husband loves you.” Se-Ra whispered. “That forever kind of love, quiet, but strong, and loud when it needs to be.”
Se-Ra watched as the Queen’s face softened. “Oh, I don’t know if there is anyone in the universe like him.” She said quietly. “I guess I got really lucky.”
“You broke the heart of every woman in this Kingdom.” Se-Ra chuckled before blowing her nose.
“I would say I am sorry but I am really not.” She shrugged causing Se-Ra to snort. The room quietened for a second and then they both burst out into laughter.
“How’d you…how’d you know he was the one?” She asked.
Se-Ra watched as a soft smile overtook the Queen’s face, as if she was reliving the memories. “He just came out of nowhere and told me I was going to be his Queen.” Se-Ra watched her curiously, she sometimes felt that there was more to the King and Queen’s story than met the eye but she could never be sure.
“He was…just kind. I wasn’t the nicest to him in the beginning because – of some reasons, but he was always patient. And I guess I just fell in love with everything about him. I – I am not the best at talking about feelings, – relationships never did make sense to me so I am not the best person to ask.” She shrugged. “But I’ll tell you to keep your eyes open because you never know when an opportunity will come knocking.” The Queen smiled.
“Thank you. I am sorry for dumping this all on you, it’s just one of those days you know.” Se-Ra smiled. “I pulled some new gowns for you, I know you’re slowly going to start easing your way back into events – but I thought we should go bold-” She stopped short when a knock sounded on the door.
“Enter.” The Queen said clearly and the door opened and a Royal Guard walked in. She had seen him around before, he usually accompanied the Queen when she went out.
“The King is requesting your presence, the Princess won’t stop crying.” He said.
The Queen turned back to Se-Ra. “Sorry, I guess we’ll reschedule?”
The Queen was almost out of the room before she stopped. “Have you two met?” She asked with a small smile on her face, they both shook their head. “Oh, this is the co-head of my security, Jang Mi-Reuk, and this is my stylist, Bong Se-Ra.”
Se-Ra nodded at the man and he smiled back at her, he was kind of cute in a cuddly teddy bear kind of way. But rather shy because he looked away.
“Jangmi, walk Bong Se-Ra back to her car please, she isn’t feeling too well.” The Queen said, and without waiting for a reply she ran off towards her room.
“I – uh, I can escort myself out, there is no need.” Se-Ra said.
“No, I’ll escort you out, I insist.” He smiled at her, and Se-Ra felt her heart skip a beat.
Chapter 9: The Koo Sisters and Family Meetings
Timeline: Post “The Pregnancy Chronicles” including flashbacks.
To say that Tae-Eul was conflicted would be an understatement.
It had been over two years since she finally made the move to the Kingdom of Corea, two years since she married Gon, and their babies were already one. Despite all that time, she was still conflicted about the Koo Sisters.
Out of necessity, she had to befriend Luna, now Koo Seo-Kyeong, because how else were they supposed to explain a woman who looked exactly like her.
The transition to Gon’s world was easier than she thought it would have been because a version of her parents didn’t exist in Gon’s world to remember that they had only given birth to one daughter. The lack of their existence was convenient but a fact that broke her heart.
A part of her had wished that the Kingdom’s version of mother was alive and living happily with her father, but then her own move to the Kingdom would have been impossible and she felt a little guilty when her mind said that maybe it was just better this way because it meant that she could have Gon.
Tae-Eul hadn’t wanted to see Seo-Kyeong at first, because even though her name was no longer Luna, she still remembered her as that.
The woman who disguised herself as her and was able to fool her father and friends.
The woman who stabbed her.
The woman who made her think that she would die before she saw Gon again.
And the worst – the woman who tried to kill Gon, the man she loved.
The woman that was the reason Yeong didn’t let her into the room when Gon was unwell and recovering.
The woman that was the reason she sat outside a room crying for the man she loved.
The woman was the reason that Gon almost died. Even if it wasn’t true in this version of the world.
But Tae-Eul’s presence in the Kingdom hinged on her relationship with her supposed twin sister. They had to explain her away, ensure that no one got curious about them. Her joke about you can just have her beheaded had opened a whole can of worms that she hadn’t known how to deal with.
Because Gon was Gon. He was taught to be diplomatic from a young age, there were so many people he disliked but the dislike was neither evident nor discussed with anyone. He was cordial, he did what he had to do and letting Seo-Kyeong be a part of her life was something he said they had to do. He said they had to meet with Luna, that she was part of the plan. Even though she had almost killed him. Even though he only survived because he was lucky.
Tae-Eul wasn’t like Gon. She hadn’t been taught to be diplomatic, she said what was on her mind and she hated the idea of having Luna so close to her, as part of her life, like suggested by the small number of people sworn to secrecy as they created an identity for her.
Gon had said that Koo Seo-Kyeong was different , that he was having her watched. That she was a cop. That she didn’t have Luna’s life. That she was adopted in this version of the world and had a normal childhood. The fact that she was adopted by Koo Seo-Ryeong’s mother just made things worse. Because that would mean that Tae-Eul now weirdly related to two women that wouldn’t have hesitated to kill her and Gon in another world.
More than herself, she was worried for Gon as they had these conversations. Her, then, fiancée that did what he was supposed to do even when he hated it. She didn’t want to put him in a position where he had to interact with the two women again. Not when one of them tried to kill him and the other sexually harassed him for years and wouldn’t have hesitated to kill him either.
But they had no other choice.
2 years ago
She sulked while she sat in Gon’s lap, wrapped up in his arms, something she never took for granted because it was something she never had the chance to do before. Their meetings had always been so rushed, their early relationship just a series of reunions and goodbyes interspersed with passionate hugs and kisses that always felt like the last.
She remembered wishing that time could stop for both of them when she was in his arms – so she could put her head against his chest and just listen to his heartbeat, hear the way he breathed her in and hold him the way she wanted to hold him. But there had never been time for it before, to just feel the comfort of his arms around her as they sat and talked about everything, without skipping anything in the fear they wouldn’t have time.
But they had the time now, and she loved it.
“That’s unfair, you still don’t talk to your cousin.” She whispered when he said she was being a tad unreasonable about Seo-Kyeong. She was laying sideways in his lap, her head on his chest over his heart, spread out on the sofa in his office.
“Because he was still involved in the coup, he was alive then, he helped.”
She pouted. “Stop poking holes through my arguments.”
“Tae-Eul, if there was another way I would have thought of it. I don’t want to be around her as much as you, but we have to learn to tolerate her. At least for now, down the road you can decide how you want to interact with her. But the future Queen having a long-lost twin sister and not interacting with her would be odd. We don’t need people looking into you like that, the more information you give out the less people will dig.” He said as he ran his hand up and down her back.
“I know, I just hate it.” She mumbled.
He sighed. “I am sorry, one of the parts of being the Queen will be doing things you hate, sometimes you just have to. I wish I could -”
“Don’t.” She said as she picked her head up off his chest so she could see him, she knew he was going to say that he was sorry she had to give up so much and that he couldn’t give her what she wanted. “I don’t care if I have to do things I might not love, I don’t regret my decision, being Queen means I get you forever and everything is worth that. Even this.” She whispered.
“Of course I am.” She smiled before turning into him again, and tucking her head into his neck, her fingers playing with the material of his shirt around his neck. “I just don’t want you to feel uncomfortable around them. I know you said Luna’s not Luna anymore but she will be to us. And to make things worse we’ll have to tolerate once-upon-a-time-PM-Koo again, and I doubt she’s changed much going off what we know.” She murmured.
“I’ll be okay, it’s not like we are asking them to move into the palace.”
“That’s a very scary thought.” She chuckled.
“You don’t have to come with me if you don’t want to. I know we said we wanted to meet Seo-Kyeong, but knowing how once-upon-a-time-PM Koo was I don’t think she will be able to resist coming with and meeting the King.” She said.
“And future Queen.” He added. “No, I’ll come with you, she won’t be let into the room. Just you, I, Seo-Kyeong and her mother.” He whispered.
“And Yeong, we can’t forget your shadow.” She teased causing Gon to chuckle.
In the end, their assumptions had been true, the court lady announced that Koo Seo-Kyeong was there with her mother and sister. Tae-Eul hadn’t been able to hold back the grin when she told Yeong to let only Seo-Kyeong and her mother in. He had smiled at her and then done just that, sharing later than Seo-Ryeong had thrown a tantrum.
The meeting had gone better than she expected because sitting beside the kind older woman, it was clear that Seo-Kyeong had been loved in this version of the world. She wasn’t the emotionally detached person that she once was. And maybe, just maybe, the fact that she led a life that was so similar to her old life thawed her towards her a bit.
Enough to be cordial but not enough to be a good friend let alone a real sister because she always found herself putting her body between Seo-Kyeong’s and Gon’s – like a part of her still worried that she would try to hurt the man she loved.
But Seo-Kyeong had been nothing but nice to her, she hadn’t tried to take advantage of the fact that her long-lost twin sister was the future Queen. And in a really weird way, she had been a person who provided her some sense of normalcy in her ever-evolving world. Sometimes Tae-Eul just liked to hear what she was doing when she missed home and her old life.
Seo-Kyeong has been invited to her very tame Bachelorette Party, and she had brought Seo-Ryeong along, ruining her party. But in her defense she had asked, and Tae-Eul had been feeling especially kind those days because she was deliriously happy.
Seo-Kyeong had been invited to the wedding. But only Seung-Ah was part of the wedding party.
Seo-Kyeong had helped her when things overwhelmed her in her first few weeks as Queen officially, she had just wanted normalcy and pretending to be Seo-Kyeong for a while had given her that for a bit before things went downhill. Someone had drugged her because of Seo-Kyeong’s connection to Seo-Reyong – Gon had been so angry. And that had effectively ended all visits to Seo-Kyeong’s place.
But they still met in public spaces once in a while, to keep up the charade for the public for one and two because she didn’t have many acquaintances or friends in Gon’s world and sometimes it was a little lonely. The next time they had met, she had been pregnant, it was at a restaurant. Gon had been his usual charming self because there were cameras around and his customer service personality was always on when there were other people present.
And then Seo-Kyeong had been invited to the twin’s birthday party recently, more a spectator than someone who was very involved and it was fine. The media was happy to take pictures of the two of them interacting once in a while and there were only occasional articles talking about how they weren’t close.
Seo-Kyeong hadn’t been a source of worry for her much.
But now she had two invitations in front of her. One was expected, it was the invitation to Seo-Kyeong and Kang Hyun-Min’s wedding – one she wanted to attend because she had once been friends with the man she knew as Shin-Jae but who was now Hyun-Min, and Seo-Kyeong was her twin sister in the eyes of everyone.
She would attend it. Gon would attend with her.
But the second invitation was for Koo Seo-Ryeong’s wedding, she was marrying the Chairman of KU Group, Choe Min-Heon, someone powerful enough to invite the King to his wedding. Tae-Eul really did not want to attend that wedding. Seo-Ryeong was having a lavish wedding a month before her sister’s because she was petty like that. Once-upon-a-time-PM-Koo hadn’t changed at all, Tae-Eul was just glad her dream to be the Prime Minister was just like an obscure fairytale in this version of the world – impossible.
Tae-Eul was going to ignore the invitation and not go. But she was currently watching the news, her secretary playing her a clip where Seo-Ryeong was telling the media that she had invited the King and Queen and that they were attending. Tae-Eul wanted to have the woman beheaded.
A quick check of Gon’s schedule told her that he had sixty minutes between two calls, she told her secretary to send her afternoon tea to his office at 3pm and to send the twins up with their nanny at 3:15pm. She waited until he was free to barge in, exactly at 2:55pm, he wrapped up the phone call as as soon as he saw her.
She loved the way his face lit up with a smile when he saw her, even now, after being married for two years with two babies. And even though she was annoyed at the situation they were in she couldn’t help but smile back as she took off her heels by the couch and watched him get up and walk over to her.
“Miss me?” He asked as he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her into him, leaning down to kiss her forehead. She smiled as wrapped herself around him, she loved his hugs.
“Not at all.” She teased causing him to chuckle.
“My schedule just updated, I had an hour and now there is a block there that says I have a meeting with the Queen? I thought she didn’t miss me.” He teased as his hand travelled down to her ass.
“Stop it! It’s not for sex!” She said trying to whack his hands away, holding back the laughter when he groaned in disappointment and pouted – which was fair because that’s what the meetings were usually about.
“But you didn’t bring In-Na and Dae-Hyun.” He pouted.
When the meetings weren’t for licentious activities, they were about spending time together after the twins woke up from their afternoon nap.
“They’ll be here soon.” She said just as there was a knock on the door. She giggled when his face lit up again, thinking it was their babies. “That’s food, babies later.” She said before turning towards the door and loudly saying enter. She watched as food was placed on the table and the maids disappeared.
“What’s this?” He asked as he peered into the tray.
“Tea and snacks, you rushed through lunch today.” She murmured as she sat down on the sofa and poured the tea into the little cups, he had been in back to back meetings all day and one of the maids had reported that he only ate half his plate of food.
“I love how you spy on me.” He said as he sat down beside her. “Nice pouring.” He teased and she rolled her eyes, Lady Noh had spent hours teaching her how to hold meetings over tea and how it was imperative she pour the tea properly and not act like a toddler.
“There are some perks to being Queen.” She said, ignoring his teasing about the pouring, as she watched him grab the dainty tea sandwiches. She loved the way he picked up dainty cups, his hands were so big and it should have looked weird but he made everything look rather regal. It was unfair.
“So, what’s this meeting for, my Queen?” He teased before taking a sip of his tea.
She groaned as she munched on the cookies, her face stuffed, she held up a finger as she finished chewing causing him to smile.
“Once-upon-a-time PM Koo has told the media that we will be attending her wedding, set for one month before Seo-Kyeong’s.” She shared.
“Of course she did.” He sighed.
“I don’t want to go. I don’t care if it looks bad.” She said. “She’ll probably spend her whole wedding staring at you like you were the one that got away.” She mumbled making him laugh.
“Stop laughing!” She snapped.
“Okay okay, we don't have to go.” He said and she turned towards him, arching her eyebrow. She had just come to whine about it and let him know she didn’t want to go, she had thought he’d be diplomatic and tell her why they needed to go.
“Who are you and what have you done with my husband?” She asked before putting her palm up against his forehead.
He just sighed and pulled her hand down to his mouth before kissing her palm, she rolled her eyes. He was way too cute with the way he smiled at her and if he acted any cuter they were both going to get into trouble.
“Given that we took time off for the twins’ birthday last week, our very busy schedules and the fact that important meetings can pop up any minute we can say that it doesn’t work with our schedule.” He shared. “I happen to know that we’re busy on that weekend.”
“Why?” She asked, narrowing her eyes.
“Because it’s your appa’s birthday and I think it’s time we take the twins to their eomma’s world for a weekend.” He suggested, quietly, as if he was unsure.
She sighed, they had been talking about this for what seemed like forever. If and when they should take the babies to her world – they were fully vaccinated against a number of things now. They were old enough to be curious about the world around them and she really wanted them to have normal experiences – like going to a crowded park, being able to go places without a million guards around them because people chased them for pictures. But at the same time, she was now scared of the little things that could go wrong – she had never been scared before but the thought of anything happening to her children made her anxious.
“Between the two of us and your appa, they’ll be fine, we’ll take one of the Royal Guards that know if you want.” He added.
She sighed. “Am I being unreasonable?” She asked as she picked up another cookie.
“No, just protective.”
“Okay.” She said after a couple of seconds.
It would make her father happy. And she wanted to see her children in her house, running around her living room, sitting on the bed in her room. She wanted to see the friends she hadn’t seen in a while, wanted to be able to enjoy walking down the street with her hand in Gon’s while their other hands pushed a two seater-stroller. And they would get out of attending the wedding she didn’t want to go to.
“But – let’s take Sub-Captain Seok Ho-Pil, just in case.” She added, he unlike a lot of the other Royal Guards did not exist in South Korea.
“Deal, we can say he’s the nanny.” Gon said just as Tae-Eul took a sip of her tea, she almost sputtered it out at the thought of Ho-Pil being the twins’ nanny.
Gon chuckled as she whacked his arm. Then there was a knock on the door and Gon sprang up to get it, knowing it was the twins because followed by the one sharp knock there were little thumps of little hands against the wooden doors that warmed her heart.
In-Na and Dae-Hyun repeated everything adults around them did, the door knocking was especially cute because sometimes they just stood outside the bathroom door and knocked on it, their little hands appearing in the area between the door and the floor.
Tae-Eul watched as he opened the door and both her children let out loud squeals of apa. She grabbed the tray of food and teacups and put it on top of a shelf where they couldn’t see or reach it, her little monkeys loved getting into things now, anything within reach was fair game.
Gon had scooped down to pick them both up and they were both trying to tell him something but it was rather unclear because they just babbled. Her heart warmed at the sight, her husband just looked really good holding babies. It made her want more. Especially since Seung-Ah had a newborn and her babies were going so quickly. But having three children under the age of 3 was a scary thought so she pushed it aside.
But they were so cute, in their matching shirts in different colours and their messy post-nap hair. The older they got they cuter she found them, she could literally spend all day just cuddling them and she wished she could.
“Oh, really, you slept really well?” Gon was saying, as if replying to them while they spoke – they had started doing the thing where they babbled for a bit and then waited for the other person to speak, learning how a conversation worked, they were so smart.
“Nana babababab wawawawa bol.” Dae-Hyun said before laughing loudly.
“Ah, Nana gave you the ball, how nice of her.” Gon replied and she couldn’t help but snort because it was more likely that In-Na stole a ball from him.
“MAMAAAAAAA!” Dae-Hyun screamed when he heard her laughter, she laughed harder when he started struggling in Gon’s arms, his body leaping downwards to get onto the floor. Gon put him down and she held her arms out, watching as he wobbled over to her like a little drunk person, legs and hands moving all while squealing.
“Did you miss me?” She asked as she picked him up and placed kisses on his chubby cheeks, she had snuck in to see them during lunch but he had been rather grumpy then. She loved how he always cuddled into her when she picked him up, she even loved that he grabbed her hair and pulled still, he hadn’t grown out of that habit.
“What happened to your hair princess?” Gon asked In-Na, who was happy to stay in his arms. She just had to point to where she wanted to go and Gon would take her there, she was currently playing with the flag near his desk.
“DAHNNN!” She just yelled and Tae-Eul laughed when Dae-Hyun’s head popped up and his eyes went straight to In-Na. Tae-Eul put him on the floor and watched as he ran over to where Gon and In-Na were while following him.
“She just ignored you.” Tae-Eul whispered to her husband who pouted. It was apparently very funny to In-Na because she laughed and then bit Gon’s nose as Dae-Hyun ran around the desk while laughing.
Gon laughed and then tried to bite In-Na cheeks while she giggled and tried to get away from him.
“MAMI!” In-Na squealed while leaning from Gon’s arms towards her.
Tae-Eul rescued her and kissed her chubby cheeks before sitting down on the chair by the large meeting table and pulling her into her lap. Her hair was a mess – and In-Na was very picky with who she let touch her hair, she guessed her nanny wasn’t allowed to touch it today. But she just sat patiently in Tae-Eul’s lap while she untied her hair and tied half of it up with her little pink clip that matched her shirt, it would keep her hair out of her face.
She let out a squeal when she felt something brush against her legs and looked down to find that Gon was crawling around the table behind Dae-Hyun – her son was being awfully quiet because he knew he was being chased but he still let out the occasional giggle.
“Where did Dae-Hyun go?” Gon sang as she watched Dae-Hyun crawl under the table.
“You’re not going to fit.” She told Gon as he tried to climb between the chairs.
She laughed when her husband fell onto his stomach, laying on the floor and reaching out with his long arms, she heard Dae-Hyun giggling really loudly and she knew that Gon had caught him with his hands. He was pulling out a giggly toddler a few seconds later, rolling onto his back and throwing him up in the air before catching him.
It gave her a heart attack every time but she knew Gon wouldn’t let them get hurt. She put In-Na down on the floor when she wiggled in her lap. As soon as Dae-Hyun saw In-Na, he abandoned Gon’s stomach and chased her around the room, the two of them screaming and touching every piece of furniture.
“You’re way too far.” Gon murmured, now sitting on the floor. Lady Noh would have screamed if she found him like that. She climbed off the chair and sat beside him, squealing as he pulled her into his lap. “You were still too far.” He whispered into her ear.
“You’re ridiculous.” She whispered before turning her head back as far as it would go, she giggled when he kissed her and Dae-Hyun came running while screeching.
“He’s always going to be like this, I have a feeling.” Gon groaned as Dae-Hyun came to stand in front of them while babbling.
“Hi baby, did you want something?” Tae-Eul asked while pushing his hair away from his face.
He babbled something and then laughed like he had said something extremely funny and she couldn’t help but join, Gon was laughing too, his body shaking against hers. Dae-Hyun turned right around and ran back to where In-Na was trying to climb on the couch.
They both came to say hi occasionally, running back to them with their wobbly legs and moving arms while laughing, got the kisses and hugs they wanted before running away again. Gon’s office had been removed of any knick-knacks that they could throw so they did this often. They seemed to have favourite rooms and Gon’s office was one of them.
“I want to cancel my next meeting.” Gon whispered against her throat, he had been placing kisses along the side of her face and down her neck whenever the children were distracted.
“You can’t, I’ll take them back, you finish your meeting and come back.” She said to him, and then groaned when he bit down gently into the skin of her neck. “Stop it, it’s an important meeting.”
“I know.” He sighed.
“In-Na, Dae-Hyun! Come say bye to appa.” She yelled while shifting off Gon’s lap, he grinned as the two of them came running to him, he grabbed and hugged both of them and placed a kiss on their little foreheads before getting up, them in his arms – she didn’t know how he did it.
“I’ll be back soon, be good for your eomma.” He told them making her laugh, he always said that to them. He passed In-Na to her first and then Dae-Hyun, making sure she was okay before opening the door for them. “I forgot something!” He said as she walked down the hall towards their room. She turned and arched her eyebrow at him as he walked to her, he leaned down and pecked her lips. “I love you.”
She grinned. “Ditto.” She whispered against his lips and then laughed when Dae-Hyun pushed his face away while In-Na kicked her legs happily.
“He’s always going to be like this, I am telling you.” Gon groaned.
"Dahn!" In-Na giggled as if agreeing with her father.
Chapter 10: Them
To say that Kim Kang Hee was jealous would be an understatement.
She had first met the King when he was merely four, a year older than her, he had been handsome even as a young boy and she had remembered enjoying their playdates. Their mothers were friends, and her grandfather was a close friend of his uncle. And then his mother passed away and the playdates grew infrequent, and by the time his father passed away they were non-existent.
She met him again when he was 21, and her heart had stopped much like her body had in her steps. He looked like he had walked off a magazine cover straight into her house – with his uncle by his side to meet with her sick grandfather, who had always been close to the throne as the Treasurer.
Like all the young women around her, she also fell for him. Hard. She thought she had a chance because she was a family friend, and he knew her name. He smiled at her in greeting when he saw her and actually acknowledged her existence.
She wanted him. He was the perfect package – and it wasn’t just because he was the King. He was smart, kind, tall, handsome, charming, his smile was gorgeous, his clothes did nothing to hide his perfect physique, and then there was his perfect hair – like someone had spent hours on it to perfectly style it into place.
He was so self-assured, so confident that it blew her away. He was everything she wanted in a man and she was keen on having him. She thought it would be easy, she had always been considered one of the Kingdom’s most beautiful women, but she was also intelligent and kind. She never had trouble getting a man that she wanted and she knew that she could be the perfect woman for the King, the perfect Queen.
She just had to get him to notice her.
She went to every event the Palace hosted. She pulled out all the stops - dresses that were tasteful but revealed her perfect figure, makeup that accentuated all her features, hair curled and tousled perfectly, personalized perfume that cost thousands and had all heads turning towards her and the smile that everyone complimented.
Did he notice her?
She was stunned, she walked around him and he didn’t even look at her after replying to her greeting. And when he did look towards her, it seemed like he was looking past her. He didn’t smile back when she gave him flirtatious smiles and didn’t try to talk to her like all the other men around her. It was like she didn’t exist to him despite existing. For a while she had questioned if he was blind or gay because no one ignored her like that.
And then the rumors spread – that he was in love with Jo Yeong and she made peace with it. He didn’t like her because he just didn’t like women. She was happy to have something to attribute his rejection to.
But to her surprise she turned on the television one day to pictures of him with his fianceé, they called her the Future Queen of the Kingdom of Corea, Jeong Tae-Eul. She was nothing special, in terms of looks or background, a commoner. But even through the one picture the Palace released it was clear that he was smitten, as was she.
He looked at Jeong Tae-Eul the way she wanted him to look at her, like nothing else existed – with that fond smile and those shining eyes. His message to the Kingdom, a little handwritten note, had said that she was the love of his life and he hoped that the people of the Kingdom could learn to love her as much as they loved him. As if that was possible.
She tried to dig for information but she found nothing but what the Palace had released. They said that he met her while she worked in collaboration with the Royal Guard. She was a detective. Apparently the King had been smitten with Tae-Eul from the moment he met her. She didn’t understand it. What drew him in? How did she catch his attention? When did it all begin? Why her?
The questions had been at the forefront of her mind every hour she was awake. So, Kang-Hee ended up going to Story Time with the King – the future Queen’s first public appearance. Tae-Eul was dressed in a tailored white jumpsuit that made her look innocent and graceful. The stylist had chosen well, but more than that Kang-Hee was paying attention to the large diamond on Tae-Eul’s finger. A ring she would have loved to have. It was understated, not too big and not too small, it suited her hand, and it sparkled so brightly.
After that first event, the King and future Queen were everywhere, they went on public dates, enthralling the nation with their love story – no one could stop talking about how in love they were.
It made her blood boil.
There were pictures of the two of them hugging, she didn’t wear heels and he leaned down to hug her, pulled her up and into him like he wanted her as close to him as possible. Everyone loved it, even the way they hugged became a talking point.
There were pictures of him smiling at her with such a fond look that it made everyone melt. And she looked at him the same way, eyes shining and a huge smile on her face – but that made sense because he was the King.
Tae-Eul joined him for event after event as the wedding neared, and he ignored everyone more and more – he didn’t even greet her anymore. He was so caught up in Tae-Eul. Even when the woman was across the room, his eyes were on hers. They would look at each other from across the room and give each other blinding smiles, they talked with their eyes, little smirks and eyebrow raises that meant something to them but not to her. He found his way back to her often, held her hand, and placed chaste kisses on her forehead when he thought no one was looking.
And he was so considerate with her, he stood in front of her whenever she sat down or got up while wearing a dress – out of the car, on a stage, at dinners, in a room. He passed her pillows to put in her lap when she sat in chairs on a stage, higher than everyone else. And when there were no pillows present, his hand rested on her knee without any hesitation. Sometimes while he spoke, her hand rested on his, her thumb rubbing the back of his hand in small circles. They were constantly touching.
He opened doors for her, it was ridiculous, he was the King but he insisted on being the one to open her door. He walked with his hand firmly on the small of her back. He fixed her hair gently when it went flying because of the wind. He whispered to her quietly when they attended events. He looked at her like she hung the stars when she spoke at an event, with such a proud smile like he was screaming that’s my Queen.
Kang-Hee tried to hate Tae-Eul, because the woman had the one thing she wanted – the King’s attention. That overwhelming feeling of rejection was hard to deal with, because it wasn’t that he didn’t like women, he didn’t like her.
And he chose another, someone that didn’t make sense for the role of Queen. Tae-Eul hadn’t been close to the Royal Family growing up, she didn’t know how things worked, she hadn’t grown up knowing all the secrets whispered between the walls of the Palace, she didn’t have a relationship with all the important people that the Palace had a relationship with.
Her heart was broken and the wedding was nearing. Her friends decided she needed a night out and hit the most exclusive restaurant in the Kingdom, only to find the two of them there as well. A whole section was blocked off for them, she was wearing a gorgeous matching set – flowy pants and a matching sweater - and the two of them were laughing about something. He was holding her hand above the table, as if he couldn’t let go for even a second as they ate. She was talking and laughing and he was staring at her like she was the most beautiful thing in the world.
She decided to ignore them and leave early, only to find them being escorted to the car by the guards, he was whispering something to her and she was laughing. The Royal Guards around them looked rather amused. It was clear to her then, that she had never stood a chance, no one did when Tae-Eul existed in the world. Because even before her it seemed like no one had existed for the King and she couldn’t imagine him being like this with anyone else.
And then he hugged her for some reason and she watched what she had only read about and seen pictures of. He did pick her up when he hugged her and you could hear her little squeal of happiness when her feet lifted off the ground. He placed a kiss on her forehead before helping her into the car. Only Jo Yeong rolled his eyes at the sight, the other guards had little smiles on their faces.
Despite her friends telling her not to, she went to their wedding, the wedding of the century, if not millennium. One of the first joyous occasions for the Royal Family after 1994. The whole country attended and the international attendance was also outrageously overwhelming – it was the biggest royal wedding after all. She couldn't turn anywhere without hearing about the wedding, the more private traditional ceremony was the only thing anyone wanted to talk about at the more public wedding because they weren’t invited and only saw a few pictures.
The more public wedding had been held at a church, the same one where his parents had gotten married years ago. The whole world had seen the way the King teared up when he saw his Queen. And the Queen hadn’t been any better, their eyes wouldn’t leave each other’s and they acted as if they had climbed the tallest mountains to get where they were, like they couldn’t believe they were getting married.
Kang-Hee thought things would calm down after the wedding, but then begun baby mania – every magazine, blog, newspaper wondered where the two of them had gone on their honeymoon and how quickly they could expect the future heir of the Kingdom. No one found out where they went, but they returned sun-kissed and looked happier than they did when they left – she hadn’t thought that was possible.
She thought maybe the world would calm down a bit after the initial buzz, but then she was assaulted with pictures of the Queen everywhere, all of them zooming in on her stomach, commenting on how her hair was shinier, her clothes looser and her skin glowing. Then there were bizarre articles about Jo Yeong’s girlfriend being pregnant, but she suspected it was actually the Queen like many others.
She knew the woman was pregnant it before the tabloids did because she was privy to details and information being passed around the Palace. At first she had heard that the Queen stopped drinking alcohol, something she apparently liked very much. And then there were whispers about how the King’s hands always rested on her stomach, and how her breakfast had changed to biscuits and ginger tea.
She heard about how he carried a copy of the first ultrasound around with him and showed the people he trusted – which was only a few but people often forgot that walls had ears. She heard all about how much he doted on her, and watched as they played games with the media, the news about the pregnancy came like waves, things would quiet down and then surge again. The whispers from the Palace grew louder, people caught him speaking to the Queen’s stomach. And she heard all about the random drives the staff made to get very specific food orders.
The media caught on when they saw how protective the King was of the Queen, noticing the rise in the number of guards around her. They all stood around her in an impenetrable circle, no one got through. The King started accompanying her to all her obligations, rarely leaving her side, his hand always on her back.
And she felt the jealousy that had somewhat subsided flare up again, she wanted that. It was supposed to be her. She wanted all of that. She wanted someone to dote on her like he did with the Queen.
She wasn’t surprised when she saw the picture with the pregnancy announcement, he was standing behind her, both their hands resting on her baby bump. Even though they weren’t looking at each other, the picture screamed that they were in love and happy, with their shining eyes and blinding smiles.
And if that wasn’t enough she started hearing the little giggles and gossip, about how they seemed to have an even harder time keeping their hands off each other. She wondered how it was possible with the way the maids had been gossiping since the announcement of the engagement – she had heard about everything from a boxing ring to cars.
The whole nation was so obsessed with the pregnancy that she couldn’t escape it. She was constantly shown images of how happy they were and stories of how in love they were. But she wasn’t happy, at all, because in her mind she wanted it to be her, she wanted the perfect love, the perfect husband, she wanted to be pregnant and be doted on.
She got drunk on the night the babies were born, two of them, not even one. A girl and a boy, she had wished that the Queen wouldn’t give birth to a son, ever, in her mind it would have forced the King to look elsewhere like his ancestors had. But it didn’t matter, because the daughter, who was older, was declared the next Queen of the Kingdom, and the world rejoiced at the progressiveness of the Kingdom.
Even their babies were perfect, they weren’t shown to the public until they were much older. The picture the Palace released after birth was just the King and Queen holding two bundles, and even with the dark circles under their eyes they looked so happy and proud. And the one they released a few months later, with the twins faces visible was much the same, all of them dressed in cream colored clothing, the twins actually smiled for the camera. It was the perfect picture for their perfect life.
She saw them at Jo Yeong wedding next, in person, both the King and Queen standing at the altar for the bride and groom. And even though they weren’t the ones getting married, she couldn’t help but watch them. He looked at her like he was remembering their own wedding and she caught the I love you they mouthed to each other.
She heard about them less after, just here and there. The one time he apparently rented out a whole arcade just for the two of them. Their elaborate dates on the Palace grounds. Whispers about how they still acted like they used to even though they were parents. The public appearances for the Queen started again and she seemed to balance being Queen-Wife-Mother roles so perfectly that it awed everyone.
The twins were a worldwide sensation after their international debut in England, it seemed that the nation as even more obsessed with them and international interest was also rampant. Busan filled with international paparazzi and she wondered how the family would handle it. It was a security risk, a major one at that.
The next time she saw them in person were when the twins were one and had a birthday party that her family had been invited to. Their children were the most adorable ones she had ever seen and she knew they were going to grow up well.
She sighed as she tuned into the interview with the King and Queen that was releasing that day, the first year in review for the new parents. It was being put out by the Royal Public Affairs Office and she was surprised they had even agreed to it, they usually didn’t so she knew they probably had something important to share.
She curled up on her couch as the montage introducing them started, they were sitting together on a couch. She almost laughed when she noticed that the couch was huge and yet they sat right next to each other, close as they possibly could, his hand resting on her knees because she was wearing a skirt.
“What surprised you the most about babies in the first year?” The host asked.
The King had a fond smile on his face as he answered. “How much sound babies make? I didn’t realize they would constantly make so much noise even in their sleep. They were whimpering, cooing, sighing, groaning and making so many sound as newborns. I was afraid to go to sleep because I thought something was wrong every time they made a noise.” He shared and she couldn’t help but smile at that, it was kind of adorable.
“He would just stand by the crib late at night, trying to figure out the secret language.” The Queen laughed.
“What surprised you the most?” The host asked the Queen.
“How much little babies can eat. Looking back, I think it was a byproduct of having twins but I felt like I was always feeding them. We would feed, burp and then repeat with the other baby. And then less that 90 minutes later it would be time to feed again.”
“They have their mother’s appetite.” The King teased.
Kang-Hee snorted when the Queen’s head whipped towards him, her eyes narrowing a little. They were cute.
“What is the best thing about having babies?”
“Their face just lights up when they see us. At first it used to be sounds and giggles and now we get screams of eomma and appa. Well, In-Na says Mami now and Dae-Hyun says Mama, and they both switch between appa and papa.”
“And for you?” The host asked the Queen.
She sighed. “Ah, that’s a hard question. I think it’s just the fact that they are these two human being who love us with all their heart. They change so much every day and it is fascinating to see how we can see more of us in them every day.”
“What scares you the most?” The host asked confusing Kang-Hee, it was an odd question for them to agree to.
“This.” The Queen sighed. “The constant spotlight on them.”
“They are very popular.” The host said.
“Something we didn’t expect at all.” The King chimed in.
“Their picture are worth one of the highest prices in the world, more than most celebrities.” The host said and things clicked for Kang-Hee, this was in response to the paparazzi and media frenzy around their children.
“I am glad so many people love our children.” Tae-Eul said. “But it is scary to go out and be swarmed by hundreds of photographers.”
“They both get very upset with the loudness and constant screams of their names. They’re only one, and it’s overwhelming for them, and frankly us as well. And it has caught us all off guard, the world was different when I was a child and we didn’t know what to expect.” The King added.
Kang-Hee remembered only the occasional newspaper article or news about the King when he was younger, it was usually only when he was involved in an official visit too. But it seemed like his children couldn’t even step out of the Palace without being photographed. And she had heard about Palace staff being fired after taking pictures of the twins to sell to the media.
“We’ve decided that we’ll be releasing pictures of the twins via the Royal Public Affairs Office a couple of times a month. We are hoping that being forthcoming with pictures and videos, and allowing the public to see them grow up will stop the excessive stalking by the paparazzi.” The Queen said.
“As parents, our biggest priority is to keep our children happy and safe, and subjecting them to the media storm that has been going on is not good for either. But we also realize that people are genuinely interested in In-na and Dae-Hyun and want the best for them, which is why we’ll be sharing pictures.” The King added.
It all made sense all of a sudden, this was how they were going to combat the attention, it would allow them to control what went out to the public. It was a smart move, it would allow them to control the media narrative around their children and their family. And by providing frequent updates, the demand for pictures of the babies would go down and the paparazzi would leave them alone. It was genius really.
Kang-Hee tuned out the rest of their words, which talked about the babies and their first year as parents and watched them closely. His hand was still on her knees, and he would squeeze reassuringly when she answered a question. Her hand would rest atop his when he answered something emotional. They looked towards each other with smiles, not huge blinding ones, but small ones that spoke of a deep love. They laughed at the same things and finished each other’s sentences and thoughts occasionally.
The love between them only seemed to grow with time, she had expected them to fall into the rut that most couples fell into once the initial excitement wore off. But they didn’t, it was clear to her that they still appreciated each other, loved each other, and were genuinely happy together.
She sighed, she knew the boat had sailed a long time ago for her, that she could never be Queen. Because he was always the King to her but to Jeong Tae-Eul he was Gon – she had almost slipped and called him that during the interview. She was the only person allowed to call him by his name, and it seemed like she would always be the one exception.
A part of her had known that for a long time. But a part of her had been holding on, keeping the sailing boat in sight in case it sunk, she had a feeling it never would. Maybe it was time to turn around and let the boat go wherever it was headed. She turned the TV off and looked up towards her ceiling, sighing. She needed to stop obsessing over them, over him, and just move on.
She was still jealous in a way – but now she wanted what they had – not with the King, but with someone that loved her like he loved his wife. She picked up her phone and went back to the messages she hadn’t replied to. From an old acquaintance she had recently run into, he had asked her out on a date and she had been putting him off. She sighed and typed in a message, telling him she was back in the Kingdom and would love to go on a date with him. She had to start somewhere.
To say that Gon was amused would be an understatement.
His head was in his wife’s lap as they sat on the sofa in the sitting room, he was laying on his side as Tae-Eul played with his hair, her fingers running through the strands and occasionally scratching his scalp. The television was on across from them and both In-Na and Dae-Hyun were standing right in front of it, pointing at the screen, making him laugh.
“Mamaaaaaa!” Dae-Hyun said, pointing to Tae-Eul on the screen before turning back towards her, his face confused as he patted his own head, messing up his messy hair even more. It was his I am confused gesture.
“Yes, baby?” Tae-Eul asked.
His little eyes widened and he looked back towards the screen and then back at Tae-Eul as if trying to figure out what was happening because his mother’s voice was coming from the television and in front of him.
“Mama?” He said to the on-screen version of Tae-Eul, and then waited.
Gon snickered and turned his eyes towards his Princess.
In-Na was trying to talk to the two of them – the on-screen versions that were being interviewed and then screeching every time they ignored her calls of mami and papa.
“Liberal Arts Majors in the making.” Gon sighed, holding back a chuckle when Tae-Eul whacked his arm. He turned in her lap so he was no longer sideways but looking up at her.
She had that cute little glare he loved on her face, her nose and eyebrows scrunched just a little bit. Her hair was up and tied away from her face in a really messy bun that rivaled In-Na’s. They had all just woken up from a nap on a lazy Sunday. The twins had curled up in bed between them because they refused to be put down in their cribs.
“They’re just confused because we only show them videos of each other when one of us is not around.” She pointed out.
He nodded, that was true. He only showed them videos of their mother when she was away at events and they watched the screen so happily, screaming mama and mami as if she could hear them. And he knew they did the same when Tae-Eul showed them videos of him when he was away.
He had never seen them watching a video of him or Tae-Eul while they were in the room before. And he guessed video calls also added to their confusion since they actually talked to them through the screen then.
“They’re so cute, like slow-witted baby bears, like their eomma.” He teased.
She glared at him and flicked his forehead with her index finger, rather hard. Like she did when she taught him how to play Go-Stop.
“Yah! Do you really think you can do that?” He asked, affronted.
“Yeah. I am the Queen.”
He sighed. “The power is really getting to your head, yeobo.”
She laughed and leaned down, placing a kiss on his forehead. “Does it help if I kiss it better?” She teased as she pulled away.
“I think you mistakenly hit my lips earlier too.” He said while pointing at his lips. She laughed, that pretty, perfect sound that always warmed his heart.
He grinned as she leaned down and pecked his lips. “Here?” She asked as she pulled away a little, still bent over, their faces close together.
“Hmm, I think you missed, a little to the right.”
She laughed again and pecked his lips again. “Here?”
“Hmm, it was too brief for me to know, try again.” He said.
She rolled her eyes and pushed his face away when he leaned up for a kiss. He was about to protest when his Princess started yelling again.
“APPA!” In-Na yelled at the TV.
“Yes, Princess?” He said as he turned towards the TV. Her little head whipped around to face him as did Dae-Hyun’s.
“APPA!” Dae-Hyun said pointing at the TV while looking at him.
He chuckled. “Come here.” He said as he lifted his head of Tae-Eul’s lap and patted the sofa.
Tae-Eul laughed as the two of them ran towards them, they were both wearing navy rompers today, Dae-Hyun’s with just a single white stripe and In-Na’s with yellow stripes throughout, her hair was also a mess since they had just gotten up from their naps.
Dae-Hyun ignored his attempt to help him onto the couch, struggling to get up on his own. It still amazed Gon how much upper body strength babies had, he managed to pull himself up onto the couch with his little arms.
In-Na just held her arms out, demanding to be picked up.
“I feel like we’re spoiling her.” Tae-Eul said as Dae-Hyun stood on the couch, jumping a little and leaning towards her with a grin. She placed a kiss on his cheek which made him giggle loudly.
Gon picked In-Na up and placed her on the couch beside him, her eyes were still on the television where he was now talking, answering questions about what their first year as parents had been like. She pointed it to it and then looked back to him, her face confused.
“Dahn, where’s appa?” Tae-Eul asked Dae-Hyun, who was now standing in her lap, his hands on her shoulders. Gon smiled when he turned towards him and pointed at him. “Good job!” Tae-Eul said, placing a kiss on his nose. She laughed rather loudly when Dae-Hyun copied her, but instead of a kiss it looked like he was trying to bite her nose.
“No!” Tae-Eul said, trying to hold back laughter.
“Nana, where’s appa?” She asked as she cuddled Dae-Hyun closer. In-Na was still looking between the TV and the two of them, a little confused.
“Appa!” She screamed pointing at the television.
“No no, appa.” Gon said while pulling her arm gently until she was pointing at him.
She shook her head. “Appa!” She said again, pointing to the television.
Tae-Eul snickered. “Nana, where’s mami?”
“Mami!” She said pointing towards the television.
“Nana! Mama!” Dae-Hyun said to his sister, trying to get her attention as he cuddled closer to his mother.
Gon picked her up, holding her under the arms until she was looking at him. “I am appa, it’s also me in the TV but it’s a recording, I was there last week while you were napping.” He told her.
She titled her head and Tae-Eul snickered. “She definitely understands that.”
“They understand a lot.” Gon shrugged as In-Na tried to poke his eye. “Ouch!” He said and she giggled before biting his cheek. “Someone is getting sharper teeth.”
“Dae-Hyun, ahhhhhhh.” Tae-Eul said, he looked over to see that his son was copying his mother and opening his mouth, letting her look into his mouth. “No sign of canines yet.” She said. They both had four teeth at the top and four at the bottom, there was still no sign of their canines but their molars were coming in at the back.
“Do that thing again.” He whispered to her and laughed when she lightly tapped his mouth over and over again while he made the ahhhhhh sound, it always made him so happy to hear that ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah sound mixed in with little giggles.
“Ouch.” He said as In-Na bit down on his nose, apparently he wasn’t giving her the attention she wanted. “Why are you and your eomma obsessed with biting me?” He asked his daughter, she just giggled.
“I am not!” Tae-Eul said.
“The marks on my shoulder say otherwise.” He teased, holding back laughter when she let out a little hmph sound.
“Your appa is annoying.” She told In-Na who giggled while she cuddled closer to him, pulling on the neckline of his shirt.
“Dae-Hyun, isn’t appa annoying?” She asked while nodding at him.
“That’s cheating!” Gon said when Dae-Hyun nodded back, copying his mother.
“All is fair in love and war.” She grinned.
He snickered as Dae-Hyun reached for the neck of her shirt and pulled down. “Someone’s hungry.” Gon laughed, Dae-Hyun had taken to pulling at her shirt or hitting her breasts when he wanted milk.
“Are you hungry?” She asked him, he didn’t reply but just tried pulling her shirt more. “I guess that’s a yes.” She said as she pulled him into her lap, and situated him while pulling her shirt up and unlatching her bra at the front – she no longer struggled with it like she had in the early days. “I feel like I am always feeding them, still.” She sighed.
He nodded. It did feel like that, they still breastfed three to four times a day, when she knew she wasn’t going to be around she used that weird machine to pump milk as well for feedings throughout the day. But it was better than the 7-8 times when they had been younger, they had taken a liking to lots of solid foods so that helped.
“The doctor said you can start weaning more and stop whenever you want.” He reminded her and she sighed.
“I know…but this is good for them.”
“You said it hurt sometimes.”
“When this one decides to use teeth.” She smiled while running her hand through Dae-Hyun’s hair as he fed.
Gon snickered as In-Na started struggling in his arms and trying to get closer to Tae-Eul when she caught sight of her breasts. “Got to wait your turn, Princess.” He told her while she screeched. She looked back towards him and made that pouty face she made before she started crying. “No no, it’s going to be your turn soon, you two have such little tummies.” He said before tickling her. The pout gave away to a smile and then giggles.
“Mami!” She said in between the tickles.
“She likes me more.” Tae-Eul teased.
“You have an unfair advantage, if I was able to produce milk...” He trailed off as In-Na laughed.
“Appa is silly, isn’t he?” She asked In-Na as Dae-Hyun pulled away.
“Done?” She asked, looking down at him and then laughed when he just adjusted himself and latched on again, and then pulled away immediately, turning away – apparently he just had to make sure he was done. She pulled him up and grabbed one of the towels she always had laying around before wiping at his face.
“Switch?” He asked and she nodded, putting Dae-Hyun down on the couch as he passed In-Na to her to feed. He cuddled Dae-Hyun closer, he always liked cuddles after feeding, it took him a couple of minutes before he was ready to run around again.
“Want to go play ball with appa?” He asked Dae-Hyun a few minutes later as he started squirming more.
“Bol!” Dae-Hyun said as he moved back a little in his arms so he could see him.
“I guess that’s a yes.” He said, getting up and moving to the side of the room where all the toys were on a foam mat. It seemed like every room now had a play area – not that the toys stayed in that area. He put Dae-Hyun down on the mat and watched as he found his favorite green ball. He couldn’t quite throw it yet but loved chasing after it.
In-Na joined him a while later, the two of them running and crawling after the ball as Tae-Eul came to sit beside him on the mat, laying her head in his lap as he sat and rolled more of the soft air filled balls around the room for the babies to chase – they always brought them back to him in their little hands so he could roll them again.
“Want to go on a date with me after they go to bed?” Tae-Eul asked, looking up at him from where she was resting in his lap.
“Where?” He asked, intrigued.
“It’s nice out today and it’s been a while since we saw Maximus and went on a ride.” She said, looking up at him with a little grin. He smiled knowing it was more for him than for her because he had mentioned missing riding just earlier in the week, it was hard to make time between all their commitments and the twins.
He nodded, as if he could ever say no to that. He loved riding with her, had since the first moment she got on the horse. He may have sat closer to her than he needed to and held her tighter than was necessary that first time but he knew she didn’t mind. He loved wrapping himself around her warmth like that, with his nose buried in her hair and hearing the little gasps she let out when Maximus went faster.
“And maybe we can watch a movie outside again after, it’s been a while.” She said and he groaned, because she was looking at him with hooded eyes and a rather suggestive look.
“We never end up watching the movie.”
“I know.” She smirked.
“I have a meeting in the morning.” He pouted.
“I know.” She laughed. “So no?”
“Like I would say no, I am a pro at looking awake when I am sleepy.”
She laughed and nodded “It’s a date then.”
He smiled as Dae-Hyun came back towards them with the green ball in his hand yelling mama.
“Your son demands you play with him.” Gon said as Dae-Hyun climbed onto her stomach.
“Dahn!” In-Na yelled as she ran towards them too, she never did like to be left out of anything.
She also tried to climb onto Tae-Eul who laughed and got up, kissing them both before rolling the green ball across the room, they both ran after it.
“They’re so cute.” Tae-Eul sighed as the two of them ran around laughing and trying to grab the ball, their little feet always kicked the ball away as they reached down to grab it, making them miss.
“Of course they are, they’re my babies.”
She rolled her eyes as she watched their babies.
“And yours, and you’re kind of cute.”
“Kind of?” She asked, turning towards him.
“Better.” She laughed, her eyes shining.
“I love you.”
“Ditto.” She smiled.
“Even though you insist on biting me.” He added, holding back a chuckle when she groaned and whacked him. “I think In-Na is making her I am pooping in my diaper face.” He said as he caught sight of his daughter standing in the middle of the room without moving.
“Yep, that’s the face.”
Chapter 11: Vacation
Set after TPC and before Chapters 2 and 4 of To Say That; the twins are 4-years-old here.
To say that Lee Gon was confused would be an understatement. He was suddenly awoken by the clatter of something falling to the floor, possibly a pan by the sounds of it. He shot up in bed and his hand automatically reached to his side to alert his wife but she wasn’t beside him.
As his brain caught up with his body he realized that if she had been beside him he would have been curled up around her. And she would be murmuring curse words at whoever made the loud sound while burrowing into him. His first thought that it was probably the children attempting to make breakfast was clearly not right.
He blinked a few times trying to wake himself up and turned towards the digital clock on the rattan side table, it was 7am on a Friday morning. The room was filled with the early morning light, the sun was up and the room already warm. He could hear the birds chirping outside, the bedroom patio doors were open letting in the fresh salty morning air that was characteristic of being near the ocean.
It instantly calmed him, being away from home was nice sometimes. It had been a hard few months with protests against the government in power, he hadn’t been spending enough time with his family. As things calmed down a little, he had insisted they vacation on their private island off of the Maldives for his birthday this year, the children were always on his side and convincing his wife hadn’t been too difficult. A private island meant that they could actually be alone, even though security still surrounded the island – it was more inconspicuous. She was happy to get away from the spotlight.
The twins had run around the Palace for two weeks telling the people closest to their parents about their top secret trip in hushed whispers because no one was supposed to know where the family was heading. They had been just as excited on the private jet looking out the window and asking a million questions – from how planes worked to how clouds floated. They were rather talkative and inquisitive at the age of 4. They had been asleep when they finally reached the island, In-Na in his arms and Dae-Hyun in his wife’s even though they were getting too big too carry now.
Tae-Eul had been wide awake though and he loved the look on her face when she saw another one of the things they owned. She just stood still for a while and took it all in before she whispered a quiet of course he owns more than one private island with a cottage that looks like a mansion. She refused to look at the list he had given her of the things he owned, she had closed it after looking at the first two pages, an overwhelmed look on her face. He loved how she still couldn’t deal with the fact that she was one of the richest women in his world and hers – what was his was hers, including the island they were on.
This particular island was his favourite, the weather was wonderful year around, even at the end of October it was humid and warm. But it was mostly because it was his mother’s favourite place in the world – his father had bought this particular island for his mother to escape the cold Corean winters. Tae-Eul had warned him against buying islands for her when he told her that bit, it was rather disappointing, he had his eye on an island near Greece that was up for sale.
He slowly and unwillingly got off the comfy bed for the fourth day in a row and slid his pyjamas back on, he looked around the room to find where his wife had thrown the matching silk shirt the previous night but couldn’t find it. He just shrugged and quietly made his way towards the bedroom door and opened it just a crack to peek outside. He could hear hushed whispers coming from the cottage kitchen so he tiptoed out of the room and walked down the hall so he could see what was happening.
Tae-Eul was standing behind the kitchen island with both In-Na and Dae-Hyun sitting on the island on either side of her, all three of them were in their pyjamas. Well, the kids were in their favourite pyjamas, and his wife was in the shirt he had been looking for. She had the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, with front of it tucked into her shorts, her hair was knotted at the top of her head. He sighed happily as he took her in, she was absolutely gorgeous. And the scene in front of him made him feel like the luckiest man in the world. He had a family that was apparently up to something, they had been whispering to each other all week and refused to tell him what they were talking about.
His wife was stirring something in a big blue bowl and the twins seemed to be throwing little chocolate chips into it one by one, they were counting as they put them in, and they were currently on number 86.
"I think that's enough chocolate." Tae-Eul said to them quietly.
"No Eomma! Appa loves chocolate." In-Na said stressing the word loves, the truth was that the two of them loved chocolate more than he did.
In-Na especially had a sweet tooth and a way of getting everyone to make her favourite sweets, her pout was irresistible, especially with those huge eyes that she knew how to use well. She often pulled Dae-Hyun along as well, and when both of them pouted and looked up at someone wanting something it was hard to resist. Even Lady Noh and Yeong couldn’t say no to them, the only person that could resist the eyes was Tae-Eul and even she struggled with it.
"Yeah, we need more chocolate." Dae-Hyun nodded along while throwing in more chocolate chips, he loved his sweets but was a fan of spicy and salty foods like his mother, but when it came to chocolate…well, chocolate was chocolate.
“One hundred!” In-Na said as she dropped in another one. “I can count to infinity but I think 100 is enough.” She said making Gon smile, his children were so smart.
“You can’t put an infinite number of chocolate chips into a cake.” Dae-Hyun said and Gon nodded, of course they couldn’t, it defeated the purpose of infinite.
“If the cake was the size of our galaxy you could!” In-Na argued, he smiled proudly, his little scientists, he knew his kids wouldn’t be Liberal Arts Majors.
Gon held back a chuckle when he saw the look on Tae-Eul’s face. If she knew he was watching she would have looked up at him and sighed, at times like this she always said only your children would talk like this at the age of four.
“100 is the perfect amount of chocolate chips.” His wife said instead.
“I agree.” In-Na said.
“Me too!” Dae-Hyun piped up.
“Okay then, the recipe says that we need to mix everything and then put it in the cake pan. Now where do I find a cake pan?" She murmured and he stifled his laughter as he stood peeking through the door that led into the living room/kitchen area.
He loved how lost she still was in the kitchen, she had become a pro at mixing baby food and was rather good at barbecuing, but anything else had her lost. It’s why he did most of the cooking, that and the fact that she apparently found watching him cook and bake to be very attractive.
"Appa is right, you are hopeless in the kitchen!" In-Na sighed putting her elbow on her knee and resting her head in her hand while pouting. She was such a drama queen, a very cute one. Gon bit his lip to stop himself from laughing out loud.
"Hey, that is not a nice thing to say." Tae-Eul said while tapping her nose.
"But eomma, you told us not to lie." Dae-Hyun said and In-Na nodded, he always backed up his sister, he adored her just as much as she adored him.
He watched amused as Tae-Eul sighed, she was probably thinking about how their children took after their father and about how he needed to watch what he said around them.
"Okay, okay, help eomma find a cake pan." Tae-Eul said as she looked around the kitchen like a lost puppy, her lips pursed.
"Should I wake up appa?" Dae-Hyun asked.
"No, no, we have to do this ourselves."
"But what if the cake is bad eomma?" In-Na asked.
"It won't be." Tae-Eul said, sounding sure of herself. He held back his laughter, her cooking and baking skills had improved over the years but she sounded like she had the coveted Michelin Stars. Her confidence was especially misplaced since she had burnt a batch of cookies about a week ago. But he admired that she was trying.
"Appa and Lady Noh make cake in a round metal thing." In-Na said and Tae-Eul nodded before opening and closing all the cabinets until she pulled out the right pan.
"Yeah." In-Na said as her mother put the pan on the island and picked up her phone again.
"Okay, so we need wax paper...where is the wax paper?" She murmured reading from the screen. If he wasn’t so interested in figuring out what they were up to he would have walked up to her and just kissed her because she was being utterly adorable before tickling his babies for being so cute.
"How are we supposed to know? You're the eomma." Dae-Hyun whispered exasperated causing Gon to chuckle, he even threw his arms up like a little monkey when he said it.
"Eomma down!" In-Na said wiggling her hands in front of her in the universal pick me up sign. Tae-Eul picked her up off the kitchen island and put her down on the floor. In-Na ran towards the drawers, her ponytail jumping with her, and opened the third one before pulling out the roll of wax paper. She was usually his little helper so she knew where a lot of things were, especially the wax paper because they made cookies together on their second day at the island.
"Thank you princess." Tae-Eul smiled as she picked her up again and put her on the counter. Gon watched amused as the twins rolled out the wax paper in the pan and held it in place as Tae-Eul poured the batter into the cake pan. Apparently it required that level of coordination and effort.
"Okay, now we put it in the oven." Tae-Eul said reading something on her phone and putting the cake pan in the oven before pressing a few buttons.
"Where is the icing?" In-Na piped up while picking up her little pink clipboard. She was always carrying it around and making checkmarks on the lists she created. It seemed to scare the Palace staff because sometimes she just walked around and ticked things off while making hmmm noises.
"I hid it in the fridge in the under the spinach, appa doesn't look there!" Dae-Hyun giggled.
“Eomma doesn’t either.” Tae-Eul mumbled while walking over to the fridge and pulling out two tubes of icing.
"Appa’s birthday card?" In-Na asked looking at her list.
"Eomma, down!" Dae-Hyun said this time, Tae-Eul picked him up and put him on the floor before walking to the sink to do the dishes. Gon watched as his son ran towards the living room, he was so adorable with his cute little run. He picked up the side of the carpet and pulled out a huge card and carefully walked back into the kitchen.
"Oooh, he’s going to love it!" In-Na oohed over the card as Dae-Hyun held it out in front of him.
Gon smiled realizing that this was the top secret project the three of them had been working on while he was cooking dinner the other night. They yelled no every time he tried to walk into the children’s room. And his wife had looked a bit too happy with herself when he pouted at being left out of something, she had made it up to him though, he grinned at the thought.
"Appa’s presents?" In-Na asked looking towards her mother.
"Hid them in the closet." She replied. Gon sighed and wondered why he hadn’t suspected it when she insisted on picking out his clothes.
"Candles?" Dae-Hyun asked.
"Got them." She replied with a smile as she washed the last bowl.
"Is the cake almost done?" In-Na asked.
"Not yet baby, it's going to take a while." Tae-Eul laughed.
"Good job cleaning the kitchen, eomma!" In-Na said.
“Thank you for helping!” Tae-Eul said as she wiped her hands dry with a towel and picked up In-Na before putting her down on the floor by her brother.
"You're welcome." They said simultaneously.
“Reading time?” Tae-Eul asked and both the children nodded happily.
Gon quietly tiptoed back into the bedroom and shut the door behind him knowing they’d head over to the living room to read. He walked over to the bathroom and washed his face and brushed his teeth before walking back into the room and laying back down in the bed again, if they wanted to surprise him he’d let them.
Due to the fact that he hadn’t gotten much sleep the previous night, he did fall asleep again. He was awoken by little hands on his face and whispers of appa mixed in with little people giggles. He opened his eyes to see the twins on either side of him, leaning over his body and giggling.
"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" They yelled and he felt a smile break out on his face.
"Thank you! It’s my birthday? I forgot all about it.” He said acting really surprised which made them laugh even more.
“Sure you did.” He heard his wife murmur from behind them. "Let appa sit up please.” She said, the twins scrambled away a bit allowing him to lift himself up and sit against the headboard. Tae-Eul was standing at the foot of the bed with a cake in her hand.
"WE MADE YOU CAKE APPA!" In-Na and Dae-Hyun yelled, simultaneously.
"Oh wow! With lots of chocolate?" He asked and they frantically nodded before turning to their mother and giving her their pointed I told you so look.
Gon couldn’t help but grab them and give them a kiss, they were so adorable. They giggled and kissed his cheek, In-Na also patted his cheek after kissing him while Dae-Hyun chose to wrap himself around his body. He smiled as the children curled up on either side of him, tucking themselves into the crook of his arms.
Tae-Eul smiled at her husband and put the cake in front of him before leaning over and kissing his forehead. "Happy Birthday." She whispered looking down at him with a loving smile on her face, it always managed to make his heart swell up with happiness.
"Eomma! Knife!" In-Na yelled looking at the cake, it was cute, vanilla cake with chocolate chips and butter cream frosting.
"I got it!" Tae-Eul laughed handing her husband the knife.
“What’s in the cake?” He asked his children.
“With chocolate chips!”
“100! We counted!”
“Oh wow, 100 chocolate chips?” He said as if surprised, he winked at his wife when her eyes narrowed at him.
“Blow out the candles! I am hungry! Eomma said we could have cake for breakfast today!” Dae-Hyun said excitedly.
“All right, all right. Here we go.” He said.
“Wait wait! We have to sing Happy Birthday!” In-Na yelled making him laugh.
He waited until they started singing before blowing out the candles and cutting the cake. Tae-Eul passed him a plate to put the piece into and managed to put icing on his nose while she chuckled causing the twins to burst out into boisterous laughter.
The four of them settled onto the large bed with white sheer curtains surrounding it as they ate the cake, Gon had to admit that it was pretty good, a little dry but still very good. He made very happy sounds as he ate it though, acting like it was the best thing he ever had because it put a huge smile on In-Na and Dae-Hyun’s faces as they ate.
Tae-Eul just rolled her eyes at him as she ate her own cake while the kids told him all about how they had helped to make it. And then they showed him the card they worked on, he laughed when he saw that it was covered in numbers and equations and the words Happy Birthday over a drawing of the two of them hugging him.
They had also helped pick out his presents. There was a new watch that In-Na helped pick out, Tae-Eul laughed and said she showed her a bunch and she somehow picked the most expensive one without knowing anything about them. He smiled smugly, his daughter had good taste. Dae-Hyun handed him a thin gold envelope while whining that eomma hadn’t let him bring his present with them because it was too big so he had a picture of it. Gon smiled when he realized that his son had helped his wife pick out a super high-tech telescope that also took picture, he was super excited about what they could see with it.
He beamed at them and told them he loved it all, and he did, he cherished everything they got for him. His desks were lined with the things they bought him and with the pictures they drew for him, he wore whatever they gave him as much as he could. He hugged them extra tight and told them he loved it all.
“Appa! What do you want to do today?” Dae-Hyun asked.
“Hmm, I don’t know.” Gon said.
“But it’s your birthday, you have to pick!” In-Na said seriously causing him to smile.
“Hmmm, how about we go to the beach?” He said and they both nodded excitedly. “And we can build a huge sand castle fit for a King.”
“And bury you in the sand?” Dae-Hyun asked.
“And bury me in the sand.” He agreed, they found it awfully amusing to bury his legs in sand and hold him hostage while they tickled him – it was apparently payback for all the times he tickled them. “And then we can make pasta for lunch-” He stopped and laughed when In-Na squealed, she loved pasta. “And then we can go swimming. And have barbecue for dinner?” He posed and they all nodded.
“Sounds like a plan.” Tae-Eul smiled. “But to make it happen, the two of you need to go to your room. I want you to pick up your swimsuits and clothes, and then you’re going to take turns showering.” She said to them while grabbing a napkin and wiping icing off of Dae-Hyun’s face.
“Okay!” In-Na said while standing and jumping off the bed. “Race you to our room!” She said to Dae-Hyun who jumped off the bed and ran after his sister.
“BE CAREFUL NO RUNNING ON THE STAIRS!” Tae-Eul yelled after them, he smiled at how she always worried.
“And where’s your present my queen?” He teased. “I thought I’d wake up differently today.”
She smiled deviously and stood up on the bed carefully before walking until she was standing over him. She put her legs on either side of him and sat down so she was straddling his waist, the fabric of his shirt that she was wearing lightly brushed his bare chest. She didn’t put any weight on his body, rather she supported herself on her knees before leaning over him slowly and pressed her lips to his soft pink ones, gently at first, then she applied more pressure. He let out a content him and his lips curved into a smile against hers, and one hand came to her thigh caressing the soft skin, while the other tangled in her hair pulling her face closer to his as his tongue sneaked out to touch hers.
She pulled away and he knew that if they let this go on that they would remain right where they were all day. “Happy Birthday, I love you.” She whispered looking into his eyes. “I’ll share my present at the end of the day, and technically we started celebrating your birthday at midnight last night so you did wake up differently.” She teased while cupping his face.
“Can I get a hint about my birthday present?” He teased.
“Nope. But you can get up and get ready for our action packed day.”
“It’s to tire them out.” He beamed causing her to snort.
“I know, you have a one track mind.”
“What can I do when you walk around in these shorts with my shirt looking all kinds of sexy.” He pouted causing her to chuckle and kiss him again before trying to get up.
“Noooo.” He whined pulling her back. “The birthday boy wants you to stay right here.” He said when she arched her eyebrow at him, she laughed and kissed him again.
“Boy? Don’t you mean old man?” She teased causing him to gasp and tackle her to the bed before tickling her. She let out really loud shrieks because he was relentless. He heard little feet coming towards the room again.
“HEY NO TICKLE FIGHTS WITHOUT US!” In-Na yelled as she ran into the room.
“I’LL SAVE YOU EOMMA!” Dae-Hyun said as he jumped on the bed and started tickling him.
Their plans to head to the beach were a little delayed as they engaged in the most epic of tickle fights which then turned into a pillow fight. Gon smiled, it was the best birthday morning he had ever had and he knew it would keep getting better and better every year. It was so different from the birthdays he had growing up - with formal birthday wishes from those around him and a lot of presents and wishes pouring in from all over the country. And despite the fact that millions of people wished him on his birthday every year, it had always been lonely – but this, the sound of tinkling laughter and the warmth of being surrounded by his family was the exact opposite of lonely and he loved it.
Chapter 12: Something Lost
Trigger Warning: Pregnancy Complications; Miscarriage; Heavy Angst
To say that Jeong Tae-Eul was terrified would be an understatement.
Tears had started running down her face as soon as she woke due to painful cramping in her stomach and the feeling of something seeping down her leg. She shook her husband awake, his name barely loud enough because her voice was stuck in her throat. She pinched the skin of her forearm, over and over again until it was red, willing for it to be a dream, willing to wake up with her husband wrapped around her, comforting her from a bad nightmare, but it wasn’t working.
Gon had always been a light sleeper and was up within seconds, rubbing his eyes while he turned the lamp on, illuminating the dark room. “What’s wrong, yeobo?” He asked, his voice raspy with sleep as he turned towards her, his eyes widening with shock when he caught sight of her face.
She couldn’t get the words out, sobs broke through instead, loud piercing, heartbroken sobs and he looked panicked as he grasped her face. “Tae-Eul, what’s wrong?” He asked searching her face. “Bad dream?” She shook her head. She wished.
She pulled the quilt off of her to show him what she had felt, she felt the air leave her lungs at once she saw the evidence of what she feared, the bed was covered with blood. She heard his gasp over her sobs but just barely before his heartbroken eyes met hers. He was both holding her to his chest as she cried and yelling for the physicians at once. His hand was running up and down her back, he was whispering something into her ear but she didn’t know what.
She heard people enter and leave the room, she heard the panic in her husband’s voice, but she couldn’t tell you who else was in the room. She was too busy clutching her stomach and crying.
The same two words kept ringing through her mind.
She didn’t know how quickly the physicians ran in, she didn’t know how and why she was being moved, she barely realized that she was being cleaned. She barely even heard her husband’s voice was by her ear, whispering that he loved her, that he was sorry. She felt like she was coming in and out of consciousness in a way, catching some of the conversation around her but disappearing into her mind the next moment.
“You’ve had a miscarriage.”
“It’s very common in the first trimester, especially within the first six to seven weeks like this.”
“1 in 3 pregnancies end in miscarriage.”
“It doesn’t lessen your chances of getting pregnant.”
“You can try again.”
“Recent studies show that the chance of the next pregnancy sticking is higher.”
She heard it all, but she didn’t understand it or internalize it. All she could remember at that moment was the smile on her face two weeks ago when she handed her husband the report of her blood test for his birthday. A regular blood test she did every three months to make sure nothing was wrong. It wasn’t to test for pregnancy specifically but that was one of the many things they looked for. She had been shocked to learn that she was pregnant but she was happy. So happy to have another child.
All she could see in front of her eyes was the happiness on Gon’s face, the way his eyes lit up, the smile on his face, the happy laugh as he rained kisses all over her face while she laughed. She could hear his whispers of I love you, she could almost feel the kiss he placed on her stomach after lifting her shirt up. She could feel his hand on her stomach, protectively laying over it.
She could almost see the scene in front of her, his head laying on her stomach as she played with his hair, asking their baby if it was a boy or a girl as if it could answer. She remembered his words, about how excited they were to meet their new child, how excited their big brother and sister would be once they knew, how they would pick out the perfect name, about how he was sure it was a girl.
She remembered standing in front of the mirror just that morning, holding her shirt up, looking to see if she was showing at all – she knew she wouldn’t be, it was too early. But she was that excited.
The world quietened down around her, she knew her husband was holding her, that her head was tucked under his chin, that his comforting smell filled her nose – but it wasn’t making a difference today. Her heart felt like it was numb, like it was barely beating.
It didn’t get better. It had been two weeks maybe, but she seemed to have lost track of time. She felt like she was going through the motions. She felt like her body and her mind were disconnected. She remembered getting up every morning and waving her children goodbye as they left for school, pretending to be okay. She couldn’t help but look at their faces and remember what they were like as babies, so small and fragile. In her head a new face appeared, it looked like a mix of the two of them.
Her heart hurt even more at the thought, she buried her head under her pillow and sobbed after they left. She imagined holding a little bundle in her arms, feeling their soft skin, kissing their little hands and feet. She imagined her husband holding their baby with the same proud smile that he held the twins with, playing with them, waking up in the middle of the night to find the baby asleep on her husband’s chest. She imagined teaching them how to crawl, how to walk. She imagined her husband feeding them while making airplane sounds. That wouldn’t happen. Not anymore.
She knew her husband was there watching but he didn’t wrap himself around her anymore. She remembered pushing him away over the first few days when he tried to comfort her. It didn’t help, for the first time since she’d known him, his presence didn’t ground her, it didn’t make her feel instantly better, she didn’t know how to deal with it. Nothing helped. Not even his reassurances that it would be okay, those always used to work, always.
She lay in bed all day. She could sense the worried looks her husband gave her, the worried looks her kids gave her, the worried looks everyone around her gave her. She knew she was scaring them. She knew that the press was going wild because all her appearances were cancelled citing that she wasn’t feeling well. She knew the longer she stayed unwell the louder speculation and rumours would grow.
But she couldn’t help it.
She tried to be strong like everyone said she was but she didn’t feel strong, she felt weak, so weak. There were times when part of her yelled at her to suck it up, to move on – it sounded a lot like her younger self that yelled at her hoobaes at the police station. She wished she could listen to that part of her, but she couldn’t seem to kick herself out of the rut she was in.
She wanted to.
She knew her husband was home a lot more, she could hear him playing with the kids all the time since she didn’t. She could hear them laughing. And she wanted to join them. But she couldn’t. She saw how her kids’ faces deflated every time they saw her – even when she tried to smile at them they seemed to see right through her.
She saw the worried look on Lady Noh’s face every day when she personally came up to deliver her lunch, she sat with her for a while, in silence sometimes, sometimes she spoke quietly reminding her to eat and take care of herself. She saw the disappointed look on her face when she came back to find the plate of food untouched. She ate dinner though, her husband wouldn’t eat if she didn’t, he had done it for many nights until she finally gave in, more for him than herself.
She thought she was getting better, a little. Then she saw Seung-Ah’s pregnant belly and she broke down again, both for her own loss and for reacting like she was at her best friend’s happiness, it was so wrong. She found herself sitting on the bathroom floor and crying until she had no energy to move. She saw the look on her husband’s face when he found her, he looked as heartbroken as she felt.
He didn’t say much just a quiet you’re shivering. And she was, the marble floor was cold. He seemed almost hesitant when he asked her if he could help her into the shower, asking for permission to touch her. She nodded.
He didn’t even look at her as he took her clothes off and carried her towards the shower, putting her down. Her knees wobbled and he stepped in with her, still in his clothes, to make sure she didn’t fall. He pushed her under the shower head and the shivers ceased as soon as the warm water hit her, soaking her hair. She didn’t know how long she stood under the warm water, but the grey of his shirt looked black by the time he turned the water off. He grabbed a fluffy towel from the side and wrapped her up in it after partially drying her hair.
She walked out to her closet and got dressed, her eyes went to the black and white boxes that lined her shelf, her most prized possessions. She walked over to the them and picked up the first one, she knew everything that was in it. The first box was her mom’s box, it had her black belt and pictures of her from when she was alive, and every little thing she ever made for her mom for her birthdays and holidays. Her mom’s small closet used to be filled with little boxes just like it, labelled with things like birthdays, anniversaries, trip to Busan, trip to China. She called them memory boxes and her father told her that she would go through her boxes whenever she felt sad.
Creating her own memory box for her mother had helped her cope with the loss as a child, to have all of her mom’s things in a box that she could look at whenever she missed her. No one knew about the boxes except her father and her husband.
The second box on the shelf was Gon’s box, every little note he had ever written her was in there. He used to tuck little notes into her pocket or her backpack every time he left her at the door to her world. And even though she knew he would do it without fail, it always surprised her when she found one. It kept her sane during the week, she looked at them when she missed him, when she couldn’t just text him. She had all of the notes memorized by heart because she read them that many times. The box was also filled with pictures of their travels – things she couldn’t share with other people. This box was her favourite thing in the world.
The third and fourth boxes were In-Na’s and Dae-Hyun’s, filled with pictures of their ultrasounds, pictures of them at every month during the first year of their life, pictures of them as they grew up, things they had made for her - handmade cards for her birthday, drawings, paintings. These boxes kept getting bigger and bigger as they grew, she had started with a shoebox sized box and now the two boxes were the size of six shoeboxes put together.
The fifth box made her cry, she hadn’t started with a shoebox-sized box this time, she had known how quickly it filled up. The huge box was empty except for one thing, the blood test that told her she was pregnant. The report she had wrapped up in a ribbon and passed to her husband as a birthday gift. It was the start of the box and the end, it was the box for the baby she lost. She felt the tears stream down her face again. Her hands were shaking as she took the paper out of the box before reaching to the top shelf to grab a smaller, empty box, smaller than a shoebox. She put the paper in the box and closed the lid, setting it back on the shelf with her other boxes.
She knew people would argue that she shouldn’t keep a box for their unnamed baby, that it was painful reminder of something lost. But she was going to keep it because at one point it made them really happy, and even if it couldn’t be, she still wanted to hold on to it. Maybe one day she wouldn’t need to see it on the shelf, but for now she did.
She sighed and turned to go back to her room but stopped short when she heard her children speaking with her husband.
“Is eomma going to be sad for a long time?” Dae-Hyun asked, his voice sounding too serious for a four-year-old, it broke her heart.
“We miss her.” In-Na said, her voice quiet.
“She doesn’t smile at us anymore, does she not love us?” Dae-Hyun asked.
Her heart broke at his tone and his words, her legs threatened to give out from under her. She tried to think of the last time she hugged her children and told them she loved them. But she couldn’t remember. Her mind drew a blank, she knew she hadn’t over the past two weeks.
“Of course she loves you! Eomma is just a little sad, she’ll be okay, sometimes some things hurt for a long time, like a big boo-boo.” Her husband reassured them, she wondered how long he had been doing that, she didn’t think the children would be so perceptive.
“Is she sad that the baby pill didn’t work?” In-Na asked. Her heart broke, she realized that her children must have been really worried about her for Gon to tell them what had happened, even if it was in terms that they understood.
“Yeah, she really wanted it to work but it didn’t, so she’s sad about it.” He said, in a tone that told her it was more a reminder than the first time he was telling them.
“Can’t you just get the pill again?” Dae-Hyun asked.
Her husband sighed. “We can but you have to wait a little bit, it takes them a really really long time to make the pill sometimes, just like it takes you two a really really long time to finish your veggies.” He said, his voice taking a teasing quality at the end. She had expected her children to laugh but they didn’t.
She peeked out to see that all of them were sitting on the bed, Gon in the middle, cross-legged with both the children on their knees in front of him. In-Na was patting his cheek lightly.
“Appa, you can be sad, you don’t have to smile. Eomma said we have to be sad when we’re sad.” In-Na said while her brother nodded.
“You sad appa, you sad?” Dae-Hyun asked quietly.
“Yes, I wanted the pill to work too.” He said with a sad smile that broke her heart. Both of the children threw their arms around him, hugging their father tightly.
“Me too, we can get another one!” In-Na said as she pulled away.
“Will eomma be happy again if she gets the pill?” Dae-Hyun asked.
“Maybe.” Gon answered with another sigh. “She just needs a little time first. How about you two go finish your paintings and then we’ll go outside and play?” He asked while smiling at them.
“Will eomma come?” In-Na asked.
“I – I don’t think so.” He said and the kids just nodded, looking a little sad as they got off the bed.
Her heart broke again and it felt a lot worse than anything ever had. She was so caught up in her own grief that he hadn’t even realized that her husband also lost his child, that he was sad too. She could see it now as she looked at him, his shoulders were hunched in and his face looked wistful. She hadn’t even let him hold her and she didn’t hold him and let him cry about it either. She hadn’t even talked to him in two weeks, she had pushed him away because she was hurting. She hadn’t realized that he was hurting too – even her 4-year-old children noticed.
And she had neglected the children she already had for the one she lost. Her son had to ask his father if his mother loved them. She was being a horrible mother and a horrible wife, she was hurting the people she loved the most in this world.
She waited until the door shut behind the children to walk out of the closet, her husband was now standing by the door and turned towards her at the sound of her footsteps. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed his face, he had dark circles and looked so tired, but more than that he looked heartbroken. She was suddenly walking up to him and hugging him, wrapping her arms around him tightly while whispering I am so sorry over and over again. She hadn’t hugged him since that first night, when she ended up pushing him away because his touch wasn’t helping and it sent her spiralling – he had been hesitant to touch her since. She buried herself into his chest feeling better than she had in weeks, maybe she just needed the reality check she had just gotten to break the cycle of just lying in bed and crying.
“It’s not your fault, shhh.” He whispered, still trying to comfort her. “It happens all the time, 1 in 3-”
She looked up at him and nodded. “I know, not that. I am sorry I pushed you away, it’s not your fault either – you lost a baby too and I didn’t even think about you – I am so so sorry, Gon.” She said.
She wondered if that’s all he needed for her to say because his eyes filled with tears and he started crying, sobs leaving his body, both of them fell to the floor by the door. She wrapped herself around him, holding him, sitting in his lap. “I thought – I thought you were angry with me.” He got out between the tears. She moved her head away from his body and shook her head no. “I wanted to so badly to be able to help but I didn’t know what to do. I – you pushed me away, you didn’t let me hold you.” He cried.
She nodded, crying herself while cupping his face. “I am sorry, so so sorry.” She said again, and she wondered when the last time she said I love you to him was. She knew he whispered it into her ear when he thought she was sleeping.
“I love you.” She said and his eyes snapped up to hers, searching hers, and she felt her heart break again. She wondered how horrible she had been to make him question if she loved him. “I love you so so much.” She said.
His arms wrapped around her and he pulled her flush against him, hugging her tightly, she let herself bury her face in his neck while she ran her hands up and down his back, whispering I love you again and again. She didn’t think she had ever gone this long without telling him that she loved him.
“I am sorry we lost him or her.” She whispered, letting the words linger between them. He pulled away a little to look at her. “I am sorry I have been so selfish – I – I didn’t even think that you lost a child too. It was our baby, but in my head I just kept repeating my baby over and over again. I – I am sorry we lost our baby. I am sorry I was such a bad wife and mother, and left you to deal with it all alone.”
He shook his head. “No, it’s hard to lose a baby, it was growing inside of you – it’s different, even if they were only there for a little while.”
“I am sorry.” She whispered again.
“I am sorry too.”
“You did nothing wrong.”
“You didn’t either.”
“I could have handled it better, I am supposed to be stronger than this.”
“It has nothing to do with being strong, there is no correct way to grieve.” He whispered.
“Do you think it’s something we did? I was on birth control before I found out I was pregnant, I drank, we travelled, we -”
“No, I have been reading, it’s just because of genetic abnormalities, it happens to most women before they even know that they’re pregnant, a lot of them just think it’s a heavy menstrual cycle.” He whispered. She nodded, but felt the guilt well up in her again, he had been finding comfort in books because she kept pushing him away.
“I am sorry for pushing you away.” She whispered while cupping his face again, letting her thumb rub away the tears on his cheeks.
“I – I read that it’s normal. Losing a baby is one of the most common reasons couples grow apart and get divorced.” He whispered, his eyes searching hers. “When you kept pushing me away I thought-” He stopped short and she was crying harder, shaking her head.
“Never. I – I couldn’t deal with the fact that your touch, which always makes everything better, wasn’t working those first few days – I don’t think anything could have. I am sorry I hurt you, I didn’t mean to. I could never ever imagine a life without you. Ever. No matter what happens. I’ll love you forever and ever, that’s one thing that we’ll never lose.” She said, her thumbs continuing to gently rub his cheeks.
“I love you too. So much.” He whispered and she nodded.
And for the first time since the night they lost their baby, they allowed themselves to properly grieve, wrapped around each other, crying between whispered words of reassurance. It must have been at least an hour later when he pulled away from her.
“I promised the kids I would go out and play with them.” He said
She nodded, she had heard. “I’ll come with you.”
“You don’t have to if you don’t feel up to it.”
“I have been neglecting them as well and that’s not fair to them. I just can’t seem to do anything right these days.” She said trying to stop the tears but it just didn’t work.
“Don’t blame yourself for that, no one is blaming you for anything, losing a baby is hard.”
“Gon, my son thinks I don’t love them anymore.” She cried. “I don’t remember the last time I hugged them or told them that I love them, they’re never going to trust me to be there for them again.”
“Tae-Eul, that’s not it. He was just curious, he knows you love him, you’ve been getting up every day to get them ready for school. And even though you don’t speak much, you still play with their hair and hug them goodbye every day.”
She didn’t even remember what the mornings were like, it was like she was going through the motions. “I still want to go.” She said and he nodded. “But we need to clean ourselves up before.”
He nodded. They both got up and walked over to the bathroom, washing their faces and trying to erase the little signs that they had been crying. They both pulled on their winter coats and boots before walking across the hall to the children’s room.
Both In-Na and Dae-Hyun looked shocked to see her but they smiled at her hesitantly and she smiled back before dropping to the floor and holding her arms out to her babies. Their faces lit up and they both ran to her, throwing their little arms around her neck and hugging her tightly.
She hugged them both super tight and super long before letting them pull away. “I love you, so so much.” She told them and they both smiled.
“I love you too!” Dae-Hyun said with a huge smile.
“I love you more!” In-Na said.
“No! I love her more!” Dae-Hyun said to his sister.
“No! I am older, I love her more!” In-Na said.
“Aigoo, stop. I know you both love me lots and lots, but you can’t fight over who loves who more, it doesn’t make sense.” She said before kissing both of them on their chubby cheeks. “Now put on your jackets and boots, we have to go get some fresh air.”
“You’re coming with us?” Dae-Hyun asked and she nodded, loving the way his face lit up as he ran over to his closet while In-Na ran to hers. She got up and walked back over to her husband, letting her hand grasp his tightly.
“You okay?” He asked.
“I will be.” She said looking up at him. “You?”
“Already doing a lot better.” He said while smiling down at her.
“Eomma! I want to wear my pink coat but I can’t find it!” In-Na said with a pout as she ran up to her.
“When did you see it last?” She asked.
“In the car, I took it off because it was too hot.”
“It’s probably still in the car then, pick a different one.”
“But the pink one matches my pink boots.” She pouted while holding her foot up.
“I see some white in the boots, how about you wear your white coat? It’ll look really nice.” Tae-Eul said. She sighed when In-Na looked up at her father for confirmation, even her 4-year-old children trusted his fashion sense more than hers.
“I think it would look even nicer than the pink coat, princess.” He said to her and she nodded before running back to her closet.
Dae-Hyun was ready first and he came to stand in front of her and held his arms out in a pick me up gesture that he hadn’t used for many months. Her heart melted as she reached down and picked him up, allowing him to tuck himself into her neck.
“I love you.” She reminded him.
“I love you too, eomma.” He whispered.
“Hey! Not fair!” In-Na said as she came back into the room. Gon laughed and picked her up, laughing when she leaned into her mother’s body and tucked her face into the other side of her neck even though he was the one holding her.
It was an odd sight, In-Na was probably uncomfortable with the way half of her body was leaning between them but she refused to move until they got outside to the playground that had been designed just for them. It was their 4th birthday present, under a heated gazebo with 16 inch-ceilings (for the winters) were swings, a slide, a see-saw and a sandbox.
She let them run over to the slide and sat down on the bench, watching them play, with her husband beside her. She rested her head on his shoulder while holding his hand. She wondered why she hadn’t sought his touch over the past two weeks, just because it hadn’t worked those first few days didn’t mean it wouldn’t have worked later.
“You okay?” He asked.
“I will be.” She replied quietly, and she would, maybe it would be soon or maybe it would take months. But she felt a lot better today than she had over the past few weeks. And she had a supportive husband that loved her and two children that were her world.
She smiled as the children got tired of the slide and decided to get on the see-saw. “Maybe…” She stopped short before starting again. “Maybe in a couple of months if we feel ready, we can – try again.” She whispered. He stiffened and she remembered his words as they sat on the floor of their room earlier, I never want to see you like that again. She would have to convince him if she ever felt ready to have a baby again. But she knew he’d listen and talk through it with her if that’s what she really wanted.
“We don’t have to decide now.” She whispered to him while looking up at him and he nodded, his jaw tense. “I love you.” She told him and his jaw relaxed. He leaned down and kissed her forehead, whispering I love you too back to her.
And then they got up to push their children on the swings when they demanded attention. She slid down the slide with them, laughed when Gon got on In-Na’s side of the see-saw and stranded Dae-Hyun in mid-air. It made her children happy and it helped her deal with her own emotions. She had lost a baby, but she was lucky enough to have two healthy children who came into the world with minimal complications and a husband that loved her just as much as she loved him.
That night she curled herself into her husband’s arms and let him hold her in a way she hadn’t for the past two weeks. They didn’t sleep though, they spent most of the night just talking and comforting each other. And she knew that they’d be okay, maybe not right then, but soon.
Since everyone was doing some match about Seo-Joon’s birth after the last chapter, I’ll clarify.
The twins are 5 years old in Chapter 2 of To Say That where Jeong Tae-Eul’s tummy is big enough that she has to sit out of games. They are 6 years old in Chapter 4 of To Say That where Seo-Joon is 7 months old. This means that Seo-Joon was born when they were between 5-6. Since they’re only 4 in the previous chapter, Seo-Joon is yet to be conceived!
Chapter 13: A Decision
Continues on from Chapter 8.
Trigger Warning: Mention of previous miscarriage (Lee Gon's thoughts).
To say that Lee Gon was afraid would be an understatement.
He knew the words were coming the moment her eyes had met his from across the room earlier that week. He had been holding his one month old goddaughter, Jo Hyun-Ae, and his wife had been looking between the baby and him with a look that told him she was imagining a different baby in his hands, their baby, a third one. She was ready to try again.
He was conflicted, his heart and mind torn been wanting the same thing and fearing it.
On one hand, the thought of having another baby with his wife filled a part of him with absolute joy. He missed the twins’ baby years, they had grown up much too fast. He missed holding them in his arms all the time and smelling the baby powder. He missed the way their little bodies cuddled into him for comfort. He missed the babbling noises. He missed the screams and never-ending laughter. He missed how easily amused they were. He missed how they would start screaming and crawling towards him when they saw him. He missed watching them learn new things. He missed everything about the little humans they used to be, he especially missed how much they needed him as babies now that they were independent. And the thought of being able to go through it again with another child filled him with want.
He craved to see his wife pregnant again, to excitedly track how her stomach grew, to hear his child’s heartbeat for the first time, to see the baby grow from a little pea to an actual baby in ultrasounds. He wanted to experience that feeling of utter awe and shock when he noticed how big her bump seemingly got overnight. He wanted to laugh at how she hoarded food and hugged boxes of cookies to her in her sleep, he wanted to sneak in afternoon naps with her – his hand resting on her baby bump. He wanted her to grow clingy like she did during her first pregnancy. He wanted to bother her about eating healthy, he wanted to see the way she stuffed her face with any food she could find because she was always so hungry. He wanted to rest his head on her stomach and talk to their baby, he wanted to kiss her belly good night, he wanted to feel their baby kick again at the sound of his voice.
He wanted to sit in their bed with his children while they read books to their little brother or sister inside their eomma’s belly and had conversations with the baby. Like he had in the past with the twins, but he could imagine how much better it would be with the two of them joining in. He thought his children were the most interesting people in the world, they constantly said and did things that amazed him. He couldn’t even begin to imagine the conversations they would try to have with their little sibling who was mysteriously inside their eomma’s belly. He could imagine how happy the twins would be to know they were getting a little brother or sister, how excited they would be to read to the baby, to kiss their eomma’s belly good night. He wanted it all. So much.
But then he thought about that night months ago when he woke up and his wife was sobbing, one look at the white bloodstained sheets had told him what had happened. The grief was hard to describe and hard to compare to anything else. In the moment he had just screamed for the physicians even though he knew they couldn’t help, it was too late, it wasn’t meant to be. It had been heartbreaking, both losing the baby he had barely known about for two weeks and watching his wife, the love of his life, fall apart. She was the strongest woman he knew, and he could only imagine how bad the grief was for her. She had been hard to console that first night, her cries more like wails that still haunted his sleep on some nights, he had never seen her like that. He never wanted to see her like that again.
She had pushed him away. It had broken his heart. She refused to let him comfort her or hold her after that night. She wouldn’t talk to him. She wouldn’t even look at him. She walked around like a zombie, going through the motions of her day. He thought he would lose her, despite Lady Noh reassuring him that she would be fine, despite the fact that her father said she would be fine, despite the fact that the physician said she just needed time to grieve.
He wanted to tell her it was okay, that it wasn’t anyone’s fault, that the books said it happened often because of genetic abnormalities, that she would have probably written it off as an off-cycle period if she hadn’t caught her pregnancy so early but she didn’t give him a chance.
He scoured every book he could find, to learn how he could make things better, how to get her to talk to him. But they just said she needed time. That it was normal that she pushed him away. But it had never been normal for them, his wife was clingy as he was, they never pushed each other way.
And then he read how the chances of divorce went up exponentially after losing a baby and in the deep recesses of his mind his insecurities spoke again - that another person he loved would leave him. Even though he knew she loved him more than anyone in the world, even though he knew that she wouldn’t leave him willingly, his brain still whispered a quiet she’s going to leave you and go back to her world whenever his eyes closed.
He knew they had gone through so much and made it out stronger. But he had wondered if losing a baby was going to be the breaking point. Because she had never pushed him away, ever. Even when she was angry with him, she didn’t push him away like she had, she didn’t shy away from his touch. She let him apologize, she came to him to apologize, she always came to him. But she hadn’t then. He knew the last time he touched her and held her was the night they lost their baby, the last time he had kissed her was the same night before they fell asleep, the last time she had smiled at him and kissed him was that night too. He had never gone that long without speaking to her apart from the time when he was travelling through time to get to her.
He hadn’t known what to do. So, he did what he did all the time as King, he presented a strong face to those around him. He attended all his meetings. He cancelled hers or delegated where he could. He came home by the time the children were home from school, he played with them, he talked to them. He did everything they did as a family, as if things were normal, as if nothing had happened.
But his children were very perceptive, they had noticed. How could they not when their mother, who usually laughed and played right alongside them, was so quiet? In-Na had asked him if she was mad at him first, a why would you think that had resulted in her saying that they didn’t hug or kiss anymore. He couldn’t believe she had noticed, she was only four.
He had shaken his head and said that wasn’t the case, but he had wondered if she was mad at him. And despite wanting to keep their children away from anything bad, he found himself unable to lie to them when they asked him questions with their big brown eyes that reminded him so much of their mother. He had told them in terms they would understand. But they seemed to grasp the severity of the situation and had nodded. They were sad too, because their mother was sad, he wanted to make them feel better but he couldn’t. He felt like he couldn’t do anything those two weeks.
She had finally looked up at him the day he found her crying on the bathroom floor, she was shivering and sobbing at once. She let him touch her and help her into the shower. But she had just walked out of the bathroom after, without a word, leaving him again. But his children were sitting on their bed when he changed and walked back to the room, they sometimes liked to sneak in and stick their heads under the pillow when they were feeling a little down. He sometimes found them cuddling their mother while she slept through the day.
He still remembered their sad little faces as they asked him when their mother would stop being sad, like he had an answer. But what hurt him the most was that they saw through him too, even though he had tried his best to put a smile on his face for them, they knew he was sad. He had wanted to cry at that moment so he sent them away.
But then she had come to him, finally, she had touched him, and told her she loved him after two weeks – he had been dying to hear the words from her, to reassure himself that she still loved him. She held him and let him cry, she comforted him – but more importantly she finally let him comfort her. She woke up from whatever trance she had been in and she started trying to be herself again.
It hadn’t been easy. But she was a lot better now, like the old Tae-Eul, on most days it felt like those weeks hadn’t happened. But there were still times where she rested her hand on her stomach with a sad smile when no one was looking. He knew she still looked at the blood test report that she had given him for his birthday – the only proof that she had been pregnant at some point.
It had been four months. She hadn’t brought up a baby. He thought she decided against it. But she had brought it up a couple of days ago. He hadn’t said anything, too surprised by her words even though he saw it coming the moment he held Hyun-Ae and looked at his wife. She seemed to recognize that he was surprised and told him they could talk after he had the chance to process it.
She seemed to be waiting for him to bring it up again. But he hadn’t been able to. He didn’t know what to do. She was trying to be patient, he knew that, but it was days later. And she was now lying in bed - her head resting on his arm, her hands resting on his chest, their legs tangled together, his hand cupping her face and playing with her hair - looking right at him and telling him that she wanted to try again, that she wanted a baby for the second time that week.
Before the miscarriage he would have laughed and tackled her to the bed so they could get working on it right away. But now he was scared that if something happened to their baby again, he’d lose her, she’d lose herself, she would pull away again. He didn’t know if they could make it through it. He didn’t know if he could see her like that again, if their kids could see her like that again, if she could deal with that again.
“I am not sure we should.” He whispered to her even though a part of him really wanted to say yes. “I am afraid.” He said, the words he wouldn’t say to anyone else as he dragged his thumb over her soft cheek over and over again. Touching her grounded him.
“I know. I am too. But I want another baby, Gon.” She whispered.
“I can’t see you go through another-” He stopped short, the words hanging between them, but they both knew how the sentence ended.
Her eyes grew wet and she nodded. “I know. But it doesn’t have to be like that this time, it could be as easy as the first time.”
“We’re getting older, you know the risks increase as people age.”
“That’s why we should do it now and not later. I don’t want to change my mind years down the road when it’s not possible. I spoke with the physician, I had the check-ups he recommended, he said it would likely be okay.”
“Likely is not 100%. What if something goes wrong?” He asked, his voice breaking at the last word.
She cupped his face, her thumb running across his cheeks. “I love you, no matter what happens, I’ll always love you. No matter what happens – if we have this baby or if we can’t for some reason – you’re mine for life Gon, nothing is going to make me leave you. We’ll get through it together.” She whispered, somehow just knowing what was bothering him without him having to say it, she always did.
His mind was running a mile a minute, trying to process her words, trying to process his own feelings and desires. He wanted to give her what she wanted, he always did, but he wasn’t sure. She let him play with her hair as he thought about what to say, it might have been minutes later that he spoke.
“Even if I say I don’t want another baby?” He asked quietly.
She paused for a bit, but then nodded. “It’s not just my decision, it’s yours too, if you really don’t want one, I guess we won’t have one.”
“Are you going to resent me for it?” He whispered.
“Never. I might be a little disappointed but I could never resent you for it.” She whispered with conviction.
He sighed and mulled over her words. She wanted a baby. She seemed ready. She had checkups that indicated it would likely be okay. She said they would deal with what happened together.
“Do you really want to have another baby?” He whispered.
She nodded immediately, not even taking a second to think about it. “So so much. Do you want to?”
He nodded, he did want another baby, with her he’d want many more. “But I am scared.”
She was crying and nodding at this point. “Me too.” She whispered as he wiped her tears away and rested his forehead against hers.
She took a deep breath in and moved away so she could look him in the eyes again, before she spoke. “How about we try, if it happens, it happens, and if it doesn’t, we’ll make peace with it.”
“Will you be okay if it doesn’t happen? If we can’t get pregnant for some reason, if the baby doesn’t -”
She nodded. “I’ll obviously be disappointed if we can’t, but we’ll get through it if it doesn’t happen – the thought of not trying makes me sadder. I want it so bad.”
“If it does happen, I am going to be super protective.” He warned, he wasn’t going to let her leave his sight.
She nodded. “I’ll put up with it.”
“Seriously, you’re going to have to listen to all my outrageous requests, take it easy – no running around and going to events, no travelling, no – I can’t let anything happen to you.”
She nodded. “I know it might not be as easy as the first time, I won’t be stubborn.” She said while tracing his cheekbones.
He sighed and leaned in to kiss her forehead, letting his lips linger, letting his hand play with her hair and cheeks.
“So – should I stop my birth control pills?” She whispered minutes later as they lay looking at each other.
He nodded and pushed her hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ear.
“This is the part where you’re supposed to tackle me to the bed and tell me you want to practice.” She said, smiling at him, her smile still made his heart jump.
“My apologies.” He laughed while kissing her nose before pulling her closer. “Let me just hold you and then I’ll follow your order, my queen.” He said while tucking her under his neck and burying his face in her hair.
“It’ll be okay.” She whispered against his skin, her arm wrapping around him to pull him closer.
“I hope so.” He sighed while holding her to him. She melted into him and they both lay there, lost in their own thoughts. He still didn’t know how he felt about it, he knew it made sense to try – he wanted it too, but he just hoped nothing went wrong.
He must have tensed or sighed too heavily because she moved in his arms.
“Yah!” He moved away when she poked his stomach, tickling him.
She laughed and dug in with both her hands causing him to squirm and chuckle as he tried to pull his stomach away from her. She somehow got up on her knees as she tickled him, she was awfully quick when she wanted to be. And an expert at tickling him out of what she called his rare brooding moods.
He managed to get his body up on his knees despite the fact that she was tickling him and pushed her causing her to scream as she went flying back towards the headboard, falling onto the mattress.
“Don’t! Gon, I swear-”
“You started it.” He said as he straddled her and lifted her shirt, digging his fingers into her skin causing her to squeal loudly. He loved how she still thought she could get away with tickling him without retaliation.
“I give up! I give up!” She yelled as he continued tickling her. She smiled up at him, her eyes shining, and lifted her head towards his to kiss him. He smiled as he leaned down, kissing her lips. He screamed against her mouth when she tickled him again, digging her hands into his unsuspecting stomach, somehow managing to roll him over until his head was at the footboard of the bed.
“TREASON! TREASON!” He yelled.
“Shut up!” She laughed while grabbing a pillow and whacking him with it repeatedly.
“YAH! Abusing the King like this warrants a beheading.” He said as she straddled him and kept hitting him with the pillow. He tried to grab it from her and succeeded, throwing it over the side of the bed and grinning up at her triumphantly.
“Try me.” She said with a teasing smile, and he groaned, remembering that night many years ago when she had uttered the same words, sticking her neck out towards him.
He lifted his body up, pushing her off him and grabbing her at the same time, he managed to roll them over until her head was laying on the pillows by the headboard again.
“Hi.” She smiled up at him while wrapping her arms around his shoulders.
“Don’t hi me, you’re under arrest for treason and abusing the King.” He teased.
She snorted. “What are you going to do, handcuff me to the bed, pyeha?” She teased, her eyes telling him that she would like that very much. He would too.
“Hmm, maybe. After the kids go to sleep.” He whispered leaning down to kiss her, she smiled against his lips and pulled him closer using the arms she had around his shoulders.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING? ARE YOU HAVING A TICKLE FIGHT WITHOUT US?!” In-Na’s voice came from the door as he heard it swing open.
He groaned. “I am trying to practice making you a baby brother or sister.” He mumbled while rolling off his wife, she thought it was necessary to whack him for the comment.
“And a pillow fight! Your eomma cheated!” He said while holding out his arms to his children, they both ran up to the bed and jumped into his arm.
“I did not cheat!” Tae-Eul gasped.
“A rematch!” Dae-Hyun yelled.
“I’ll be the efree.” In-Na yelled.
“Oooh, you’re going to be the referee? But you’re going to make sure your appa wins.” Tae-Eul pouted.
“No!” She defended but then turned around and winked at him, he burst out into laughter, her winks were the cutest thing in the world because she couldn’t close one eye at a time, so she just closed them both really tight and opened them again.
“Hey! I saw that!” Tae-Eul said while grabbing In-Na from his lap and tickling her. “Dae-Hyun, help me tickle your sister!” She said and Dae-Hyun jumped at the opportunity, the room filling with sounds of their laughter.
“Appa help!” In-Na yelled between laughter.
“I’ll save you!” He said while reaching over and trying to pick her up and away from his wife’s grasp.
He saw Tae-Eul whisper something to Dae-Hyun and before he knew what was happening his son was tickling his stomach, making him drop In-Na, she screamed as she fell onto the bed. Tae-Eul laughed and pulled her up, cuddling her and placing a kiss on her forehead.
“Not cool.” He pouted at Dae-Hyun while catching him in his arms.
“Eomma said she would give me a cookie.” His son beamed up at him.
He turned to his wife and arched his eyebrow.
“All is fair in love and war.” She shrugged as she scooted up to sit by the headboard with In-Na on one side of her. She patted the other side and Dae-Hyun abandoned him to crawl up to her side.
“I see how it is.” He pouted.
“Aw, you big baby, come here.” She said while holding out her arms. He fell forward to lay his head in his wife’s lap, laughing when both his children decided to tap his head when he did. He nuzzled Tae-Eul’s stomach.
“What time are we going to the zoo tomorrow?” Dae-Hyun asked excitedly.
“When the small hand is at 10 and the big one at 6, what time is that?” Tae-Eul asked him.
“10:30?” Dae-Hyun answered, making him smile, he was so smart.
“Does Chin-Hae have to come?” In-Na whined. “He keeps following me everywhere.”
“Yes he does, he’s just trying to be nice to you, baby.” Tae-Eul explained, he didn’t even have to look up at her to know that she had that stern but kind eomma look on her face.
Gon found it amusing how In-Na and Chin-Hae were constantly arguing with each other and fighting, about one thing or another. But then she would do something like punch the kid on the playground that was being mean to him on the account of samchoon would be sad if I didn’t protect him.
“Fine.” She whined.
“We can ditch the boys and walk in front of them.” Tae-Eul whispered to In-Na.
“I want to sit on appa’s shoulders so I can be as tall as the giraffes.” She beamed.
Tae-Eul snorted. “Your appa is not that tall.” She squealed when he pinched her stomach. “I don’t think the giraffes will be out because it’s too cold.”
“They have a climate controlled enclosure.” He told her with a grin. “I insisted on it when I was six.”
She rolled her eyes at him.
“Were there dinosaurs taller than giraffes?” Dae-Hyun asked him.
He turned so he could see him and nodded. “Yes, a giraffe is usually 5 meters tall, but there was a group of dinosaur called sauropods and the Sauroposeidon was a whole 17m tall. Is that two times as big or almost three time as big?” He asked his children.
“Almost three!” They said excitedly.
“Little calculators.” His wife murmured but she had a fond smile on her face, and he wondered if she was thinking about a potential third little calculator.
“I want to see one!” Dae-Hyun.
“We’ll have to go to North America, they have the fossils in museums there.”
“Can we? Can we? Can we?” In-Na said while jumping on the bed.
“Of cou-” He started to say.
“We'll think about it. Now don’t you two have piano lessons in two minutes?” She asked and they both gasped cutely, he wanted to just eat them up.
They placed a kiss on their eomma’s cheek and then his before running out of their room, back to their own where their piano teacher usually met them.
“You can’t agree to everything they ask.” She said whacking his arm.
“I can’t say no to them, they have your eyes.”
“They have your eyes.”
“It’s the perfect mix of our eyes.”
“You better learn to say no Mister, I refuse to have three spoiled kids.” She pouted.
He sighed and lay his head back on her stomach.
“I feel like number three is going to be the most spoiled between the two of us and their older brother and sister.” He whispered, he could see it now, the two of them wanting to carry their little brother or sister around everywhere and listening to every little word out of their mouth.
“I want a boy.” Tae-Eul said.
He looked up at her and shook his head. “A girl. Another princess to spoil.”
“I don’t think In-Na will take well to another girl and sharing the title princess.”
He pouted, that was actually quite likely.
“And I am going to pray for a boy.” She said.
“I can just whisper I am the King and I command you to be a girl to your stomach, it worked with the twins.”
“That was a fluke, inspired very heavily by your travels to other universes where we had children.” She said while whacking him and then she quietened. “Did – did you ever see a third child?” She asked.
“Hmmm. In that one world where I was carrying the two of them with you walking beside me, you had a rather large stomach.” He whispered before placing a kiss on her tummy over her shirt, it seemed so long ago now, he had almost forgotten but it comforted him in a way. That world’s version of her had been happy and well past the second trimester – it gave him hope. Maybe it would be okay after all.
Chapter 14: The Twins
This chapter is in Lee In-Na and Lee Dae-Hyun's point of view at the age of 5.
Appa = Dad
Eomma = Mom
Samchoon = Uncle
Imo = Aunt
To say that Lee In-Na was shocked was an understatement. She only realized that she was royalty at the age of five when she started school and saw how different everyone else was from her. When she was younger she thought people just walked around taking pictures of her because she was pretty – her appa always said she was the prettiest little girl in the world. Everyone called her princess like her appa did, she didn’t know it was because she was actually a princess.
When she started school she realized that other people didn’t have their pictures taken all the time. When they went out with their family they didn’t have to bring all the guards with them, they were allowed to go to a crowded park and play on the swings. They didn’t have guards that followed them around everywhere including school and they didn’t live in a palace with so many other people.
Of course, she had known that everyone called her appa Pyeha, but she hadn’t thought much of it until she realized that she was a real princess and her appa was a real King. But her appa was just…her appa, he played dress-up with her and had tea-parties with her and her dolls, Kings weren’t supposed to do that right? He was the best tickle-monster and gave the best piggy-back rides, he took her for long rides on Maximus and appa even let her paint his nails…only his toes though. He let her sneak into bed with him and eomma when she couldn’t sleep, he even read her extra bedtime stories if she asked nicely. But her appa wasn’t like that in all the pictures and videos, he didn’t smile and laugh like he did at home. His smile was so little! But everyone still loved him, they bowed to him and listened to all his words, it was really cool.
Everyone loved her eomma too! She was apparently the Queen – but she was just her eomma. She only dressed like a Queen sometimes and she didn’t even wear a crown unless they were playing dress-up, even then appa always gave her a police hat and wore the crown himself. Dae-Hyun hated tea parties and dress-up so he just played on his iPad and waited for his turn. When it was his turn they always went outside and played football or tag with the guards, they were so big but so bad at tag, they ALWAYS got caught and Dae-Hyun wasn’t even that fast!
In-Na usually sat with her eomma when she didn’t want to play, cuddling into her. Her eomma always smelled so good and gave the best hugs and kisses. She played with her and loved her, and taught her and Dae-Hyun taekwondo! They even had girls’ nights without appa and Dae-Hyun where they watched TV shows that she wasn’t supposed to tell other people about – they were a secret between the two of them. At home, her eomma was always running around laughing, playing with her and Dae-Hyun, talking to her appa – but she didn’t do that in the videos. In the videos, she was quiet and just smiled, she talked to appa differently in front of other people too – she never teased him or tickled him in public. They didn’t even kiss – they always kissed at home – she thought it was cute but Dae-Hyun thought it was yucky and always tried to pull their faces apart which made them laugh. She loved it when they laughed, it sounded so pretty.
She also learnt that other people didn’t have special guards! They didn’t have a samchoon that checked all the rooms they went in to and watched over them when their parents did boring things. Other people’s samchoon didn’t wear all black and talk to other guards using a small microphone – sometimes he even let Dae-Hyun use it to say hi to all the other guards, it was fun! Other people didn’t even have an imo that worked at their house and always took their pictures to put on SNS, eomma said that imo took the best pictures and wrote the best captions, whatever captions were. And no one had a big ajhussi that went with them everywhere, he drove their car and was a big teddy bear. She was ajhussi’s favourite but she wasn't allowed to tell Dae-Hyun that, it was a big secret!
But In-Na was confused, people also took pictures of samchoon and imo, but they weren’t the King and Queen. People always yelled for them too with their big cameras, she saw them on TV. And people even took pictures of Jo Chin-Hae, and he wasn’t a prince like Dae-Hyun was, he was actually kind of annoying and followed her around everywhere but he looked a lot like samchoon – she thought samchoon was very handsome (she heard the maids use that word) and she wanted to marry him when she grew up. For some reason everyone laughed when she said that!
Anyways - people even took pictures of Jo Hyun-Ae and she was just a baby, not a princess baby like she was! Eomma said it was because everyone also loved Yeong samchoon and wanted to know all about his life – her eomma had just laughed when she asked if it was because samchoon was handsome.
Her appa had made a funny sound and asked if he was more handsome than samchoon. She walked over to the study door and opened it before yelling for samchoon. He was really quick! She took his hand and dragged him over to the couch where her appa was sitting telling him to sit down beside appa who just nodded at samchoon. She then stood across from them looking at both of them, they were both very handsome but samchoon was more handsome. Appa pouted when she said so she gave him a big hug and said that he was the best appa in the world.
Her eomma kept laughing and then walked over, she pushed appa’s hair off his forehead and told him that she thought he was the most handsome man in the world – it made appa stop pouting even if it was a lie…samchoon was the most handsome man in the world and she was going to marry him one day.
To say that Lee Dae-Hyun was confused by his life was an understatement. He was always the fastest and won at tag when they played at home with the guards but some of the other kids on his football team were faster than him and always won. Jo Chin-Hae was faster than him sometimes too even though he was younger than him by a whole year, he was only 4! Dae-Hyun just shrugged and ran after Chin-Hae while laughing, he could hear his appa cheering him on from the other side of the field.
His appa and Chin-Hae’s appa were coaching his football team but they were still waiting for everyone, they always came early so the guards could look everywhere and stand all around the field. It was fun weaving through their legs while trying to catch Chin-Hae. Eomma and imo were watching him, In-Na, and Chin-Hae from the bench, Eomma couldn’t play with them anymore because her tummy was really big – she was growing a baby! She couldn’t even teach them taekwondo anymore.
Dae-Hyun wanted to know how the baby got in there – but everyone told him a different story and just laughed when he glared at them suspiciously. He thought it was because his parents were always kissing, it was yucky. Lady Noh told him that God put him inside eomma’s tummy to keep him safe until he was done growing, Appa said they got a special pill and eomma ate it, samchoon said it was because eomma ate too much. Eomma glared and yelled at samchoon when he said that but it was funny. Appa said something about beheading samchoon – but no one told him what beheading was – and then appa had kissed eomma again. Even at football practice appa would run over and kiss eomma whenever they stopped for a break, but he didn’t kiss her on the lips when there were lots of people around, he kissed her forehead and sometimes he even kissed her tummy.
Kissing and touching Eomma’s tummy was fun! Their little brother kicked and moved when they touched it and talked to him. His feet and hands were so little but eomma said he was really strong. He really liked bedtime stories and kisses, he always kicked when appa read the story and when he and In-Na kissed the tummy goodnight. When he was ready to come out of eomma's tummy Dae-Hyun was going to be the best big brother ever, he was going to teach the baby how to run and play football. His baby brother would be fun, unlike Chin-Jae’s baby sister Jo Hyun-Ae, she was so tiny and she didn’t do anything and she was almost 1.
Appa said Hyun-Ae was the reason they were getting a baby brother, it really didn’t make sense to Dae-Hyun, but eomma said she saw appa holding Hyun-Ae and wanted another baby. Then they smiled at each other and kissed, yucky. Samchoon agreed with him, he said his parents were yucky when they kissed…but samchoon was also yucky because he kissed imo when he thought no one was looking.
Dae-Hyun was just glad the baby was a boy because In-Na was boring sometimes, he loved his sister but she always wanted to play with dolls but it was fun when she played tag and football with him. It would be more fun if they had another person to play with. Eun-bi and Kka-Bi were too old to play with them now so they needed more friends that were allowed to come to the palace.
Eomma and imo always laughed throughout the practice, he didn’t understand why, they didn’t look like they were talking about anything funny. Maybe they were laughing because most kids on the team were such bad listeners – they didn’t do what appa and samchoon said. They ran towards the wrong goal post and didn’t pass the ball properly, they just giggled and laughed while running around the field and picking flowers until eomma whistled and told them to stand in straight line and repeated the instructions. Eomma was better at explaining things than appa, she always patted appa’s cheek after while laughing, Dae-Hyun loved it when his eomma laughed, it was so pretty.
There was a boy on the team that always picked eomma flowers, appa always watched him closely which made samchoon laugh. Samchoon was weird, he never laughed when he wore all black clothes and had a headphone in his ear, he was always so serious then. But when he was wearing normal clothes he was more happy! He called appa pyeha when he was wearing the black suit but he called him hyung when he wore normal clothes…it was very confusing but he was only 5, he’d figure it out one day. For now he just wanted to play football and figure out where babies came from.
Chapter 15: Being A Mother
To say that Jeong Tae-Eul was overwhelmed would be an understatement. She had three children under the age of 6 – it was really inevitable. Her children were usually little angels. The twins, Lee In-Na and Lee Dae-Hyun, were always joined at the hip and kept each other entertained. The palace was always filled by the sound of their little feet and laughter as they rushed around from room to room. Everyone from Lady Noh to the Royal Guard to the maids doted on them. Lady Noh was beyond ecstatic that the palace was filled with happiness again, claiming the last time the hallways were alight with laughter was when Gon was a toddler and ran around with the Queen chasing him.
Tae-Eul was glad that they had such calm dispositions, parenting them was easy on most days. They fought sometimes but made up really fast, In-Na usually walking over and planting a kiss on Dae-Hyun’s cheek and saying sorry. Dae-Hyun didn’t say sorry much, he just went over and hugged his sister before asking her to play with him. They were great while she was pregnant with her youngest and very excited to meet their little brother. They made a pile of toys that they were going to share with him, helped their parents pick out baby clothes and decorate the nursery, talked to and kissed her stomach every night.
Things changed quickly when the baby was born though. She had an easy time with the twins, they didn’t cry much and were pretty calm as babies. Seo-Joon, however, was nothing like his siblings. He was constantly crying, and just fussy overall. The twins had been happy to interact with and be held by other people as infants but Seo-Joon cried if someone other than his mother or father held him. Even the baby whisperer, Jo Yeong – yes they were all surprised - couldn’t calm Seo-Joon down.
In-Na felt rather possessive over the baby, treating him like her little doll – she wanted to always dress him up and play with him. It was rather cute most of the times, she would just sit with the baby and pat his head gently to put him to sleep or tickle him to make him babble and kick his feet in the air. She walked into his room every morning and picked out his outfits for the day – giggling that he was messy and needed to keep changing.
Today was different though, she was angry with her baby brother because he wouldn’t stop crying. Seo-Joon usually calmed down quickly when In-Na played with him but that wasn’t the case today. His wails had gotten louder when In-Na touched him, which seemed to make In-Na sad…and her sadness always seemed to express itself in anger. She had stomped back to her room after shooting the baby a glare.
Dae-Hyun also loved his brother, he helped his mother take care of him, cuddled him during nap time and insisted on feeding him at mealtime. But he wanted his brother to grow up fast, he usually just stared at the baby and told him to grow up quickly so they could play sports together.
Today was different, Dae-Hyun insisted on going out to play on the swings like she had promised him but Seo-Joon wasn’t feeling well so she told him they couldn’t go. Even though Dae-Hyun was rather calm on most days he threw a massive tantrum, claiming that she didn’t love him anymore and just loved the baby before saying that he wished he didn’t have a little brother.
“I know you’re angry, Eomma is sorry that we can’t go out and play right now.” She said while pushing his hair away from his face, which was red and had tears streaming down it. “But you’re not being very nice right now, please go play in your room with your sister until you calm down and are ready to be nice again.” She said calmly as Dae-Hyun looked up at her angrily. She hated to see him cry and could understand that he was frustrated. He turned right around and walked to the room across the hall to join his angry sister. She just couldn’t catch a break today.
Tae-Eul sighed and walked back to her bed, before settling in with the baby by her, his face was scrunched up and but he had stopped crying, finally. She pushed his hair away from his face and quietly sang to him, while occasionally running her finger over his gums. It was so hard for her to see him cry like this, usually when he cried they could calm him down quickly. But he was 7 months old and had been rather fussy all week, he was constantly crying and even had a mild fever the previous night, it was only then that she realized that he was teething.
She knew there wasn’t much she could do for him, she went through it with the twins too. She remembered just crying with them because they were both so miserable while her husband tried to soothe two crying infants and his wife. The doctor had advised against any kind of creams or gels, insisting on just using rubber teething rings. It was a tough week but they had gotten through it and she forgot all about it until Seo-Joon started teething.
She knew she could have asked for help, the children had nannies to look after them during the day when both Tae-Eul and Gon were occupied. But she insisted that they not stick around once one of them was with the children – she wanted to raise her children herself. It was important to both her and Gon that their children feel close to them and they both wanted to be involved in their upbringing. So when she learnt that she had no engagements scheduled for the week her husband was away, she gave the nannies time off. The week had started off really well, she got to spend all day with her children playing games, reading, watching their favourite movies and just being with them. But as the week progressed it got harder and harder, and she missed her husband – together they could tackle anything. If he was here he’d have taken the twins out to play while she dealt with the baby.
She felt the tears well up in her eyes and run down her face, it was just so hard sometimes. She hated it when any of her children were upset, it made her feel rather guilty, like she was a bad mother. In addition to the guilt, she was also feeling rather lonely, she missed her husband, so much. They rarely spent more than a couple of days apart and he had been gone for a week this time, she literally felt like getting on a plane and going to him. Especially right then, she just wanted to curl up into him and cry. The only thing that stopped her was knowing that he was on his way back – he insisted on wrapping up early when she told him that Seo-Joon was running a fever the previous night.
She looked down to see that Seo-Joon was asleep and sighed in relief, sniffling and wiping her own tears away. She patted his head gently and hoped he’d sleep for a few hours and not wake up crying again. She must have sat there for at least an hour before the door to the room opened, she waited for the pitter-patter of small feet but looked up in surprise when she heard loud steps.
Before she knew what she was doing she was running across the room and leaping into her husband’s arms, wrapping her arms around his neck and burying herself into his chest, trying to get as close to him as physically possible, the tears falling down her cheek again. He wrapped his arms around her and whispered I missed you into her ear, holding her against him tightly. She took a deep breath in, inhaling the smell of his cologne hoping that it would calm her nerves like it usually did. But she still felt the tears fall down her face, she must have made a sound because he pulled away from her abruptly, his wide eyes on her face.
“What’s wrong?” He asked grasping her face between his hands gently and starting at her with worry. “Tae-Eul, what’s wrong?” He asked again, wiping her tears away.
“I – I am a horrible mother.” She sobbed.
“No, you’re not. What happened?” He asked, still wiping her tears away as they fell.
“Everything, Seo-Joon won’t- he won’t stop crying. The twins have been fighting all week over one thing or another. In-Na is mad because Seo-Joon – he’s not engaging with her like he usually does. Dae-Hyun is mad that we couldn’t go out and play. In-Na stomped off angrily first and then Dae-Hyun threw a tantrum saying that – he said that I didn’t love him anymore and that I - just love the baby before saying he wished he didn’t have a little brother.” She cried. “They’re all so miserable and I can’t do anything about – about any of it. And I – just – I feel like such a failure-”
“Shhhhh. Listen to me.” He said, his hands now grasping her jaw line as he lifted her face so she was looking him right in the eyes. She had missed his eyes, the deep chocolate brown eyes that were always so open with her. “You’re not a failure, and you’re not a horrible mother – far from it. You’re the best mother in the world-”
“I am not, you’re an amazing mother, they love you so much. I love you so much. Don’t be so harsh to yourself, yeobo. Ask for help if you need it – dealing with two children who are acting out and a teething baby all alone is hard. I am sorry I was away, I should have come back as soon as you said he wasn’t feeling well-”
“No no, you have commitments, we can’t just-”
“Doesn’t matter, nothing comes before you. All of you. Don’t ever hesitate to ask me to come to you if you need it – ever – doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing.” He said wiping her tears away again and placing a kiss on her forehead. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” She said burrowing into his chest again as he ran his hand across her back in soothing circles and rested his chin atop her head. It always worked to calm her down. “I must look like a mess.” She murmured against his chest, she was still in her pajamas – they were wrinkled and stained – her hair was a right mess because she hadn’t had the chance to comb it and she must have smelled horrible too.
“No, you just look like an overworked, yet very beautiful, mother.” He replied causing her to snort. “Now why don’t you take a nap with Seo-Joon, I’ll go set the twins straight, they made their mother cry.”
“Don’t be too hard on them, it’s been a difficult week.”
“I won’t, but I gave them one job before I left and they failed miserably.” He sighed.
“What job?” She asked confused.
“To not bother their eomma too much and to take care of her.” He said.
“Is that why they spent the first two days following me around and asking me if I was thirsty or hungry?” She asked with a chuckle.
“Probably.” He laughed.
To say that Lee Gon was amused would be an understatement. His two oldest children had stopped dead in their tracks when he walked into their room, his hands behind his back and a disappointed look on his face. Usually, they would have run to him laughing while demanding that they be picked up and yelling that they missed him. But it seemed like they understood that they had done something wrong. He may have also tried to emulate his wife’s I am so disappointed in you look – but he had to admit hers was a lot better…and scarier.
“Have a seat.” He said pointing to the small table in the centre of the room where In-Na had all her tea parties, he picked up the stuffed giraffe from one of the small chairs and sat himself down – he knew he looked ridiculous and it was rather uncomfortable but he liked hosting their father-daughter-son talks on the round table.
“What did I say before I left?” He asked.
“To take care of eomma and not fight.” In-Na replied.
“Okay, I am ready for the report.” He said looking between the two of them. They knew that their father usually asked people to do things and they reported to him after – they often sat with him while people gave him progress reports, he refused to spend the evenings without his children and they often played in the study while he worked. He also held daily briefings with the twins where they reported what they did during the day so they were used to reporting.
“I baked cookies for eomma with Lady Noh!” In-Na smiled – he had heard all about that, apparently they were too sweet but really good.
“And?” He asked.
“I patted her head so she could sleep.” She added while patting her own head to demonstrate, he wanted to laugh and just wrap her up in his arms but he held back.
“And?” He asked, arching his eyebrow at her.
“I – DAHN STARTED IT!” She yelled. “He broke my favourite doll!”
“IT WAS ALREADY BROKEN!” Dae-Hyun yelled back.
“Indoor voices please.” Gon reminded his children who both sagged in their chair with frowns on their faces.
“Seeing you fight makes eomma sad.” He reminded them.
“I know.” They both said together.
“Tell me what happened today.” He said, he liked to listen to their side of the story too – it was important that they learn to listen and recognize that there were multiple sides to every situation and that they needed to listen to them all.
“Seo-Joon kept crying, he didn’t want to play with me.” In-Na pouted.
“And how did that make you feel?”
“Sad…angry. I wanted him to stop crying but he just wouldn’t stop.” She said.
“Eomma promised we’d go outside and play but then she said no because Seo-Joon keeps crying…he doesn’t even do anything.” Dae-Hyun whined.
“And how did that make you feel?”
“Very angry…eomma never plays with me anymore.” He pouted.
“Anything else?” Gon asked.
“I…I said a mean thing to eomma.” Dae-Hyun said while looking down at the table.
“And how do you think that made her feel?”
“Sad…I didn’t mean it.” He said while looking up, his eyes teary.
“I know you didn’t, that’s why we have to be careful with our words and think about them three times before we say them.” He said and both his kids nodded. “Seo-Joon is growing teeth and it really hurts, both of you cried so much when your teeth were growing.”
“I cried?” In-Na asked and Gon nodded.
“So much because it hurts, they have to come out of your gums.” He explained.
“Oh no, is he okay?” Dae-Hyun asked, looking worried.
“He will be, once they start coming out it stops hurting.” Gon said.
“Should I go get the doctor?” In-Na asked and Gon shook his head.
“There is no medicine for it.” He said.
He watched them closely, both of them seemed rather crestfallen and guilty as they looked between each other and him. “Is eomma angry at us?” Dae-Hyun asked.
“No, she’s just a little sad. What do you think you should do?” He asked.
“Say sorry.” They both said together.
“Exactly, good thinking.” He said with a smile. “Now before we go say sorry to your eomma can I get a hug? I missed both of you.” He said getting up from the chair and chuckled when they both jumped up, their chairs scraping against the floor as they lurched towards him and wrapped their arms around his legs. He picked them both up and sighed when he realized they were getting to big for this.
“Aigoo, you got bigger while I was gone.” He laughed.
“I ate all my veggies.” Dae-Hyun grinned.
“We didn’t eat the spinach.” In-Na whispered into his ear causing him to laugh, it seemed like both of them had inherited their parents’ aversion to spinach.
“I missed you.” In-Na said patting his cheek lightly.
“Me too!” Dae-Hyun said as he put both of them down.
“I missed you two more.” He said.
“No!” They both said together.
“We missed you this much.” Dae-Hyun said holding his arms out as far as they could go. In-Na joined him and nodded.
“Ha, I missed you this much.” He said holding his arms out all the way.
“That’s not fair! You’re taller!” In-Na whined.
“Exactly, I missed you more because I am taller.” He said.
“Eomma would roll her eyes if you said that in front of her.” Dae-Hyun giggled as In-Na nodded.
“And she’d say your appa is full of it.” In-Na laughed.
“Full of what?” Dae-Hyun asked as Gon let out a loud sigh.
To say that Tae-Eul was happy was an understatement. She had been sound asleep when the feeling of little hands on her face and whispers of eomma woke her up. She opened her eyes to find the twins leaned over her in her bed. Her hand automatically shot out to her side to make sure that they hadn’t accidentally stepped on Seo-Joon but her husband’s whispered I got him calmed her down instantly.
“Sorry.” Both In-Na and Dae-Hyun said at the same time.
“We already said sorry to Seo-Joon but he was sleeping…appa said not to wake him.” Dae-Hyun whispered. “I am sorry for being mean.” He added, his face a little unsure and guilty. “I didn’t mean it, I love you eomma.”
“I know baby, I love you too.” She smiled up at him, her own smile growing wider as he broke out into a smile.
“I am sorry too, for being mean to Seo-Joon and hurting your feelings.” In-Na said.
“Thank you for apologizing.” Tae-Eul smiled up at her.
“You mad?” She asked and Tae-Eul shook her head at them causing them both to grin before they leaned over and started attacking her face with kisses. They giggled as they kissed her cheeks and her forehead, and even her nose while telling her they loved her. It was something they picked up from their father while they were infants, every time she looked even a little sad they’d climb over her and kiss her face like her husband did while giggling. She loved the sounds of their giggles.
“Stop! It’s ticklish.” She laughed while squirming, their little hands and lips were awfully ticklish.
“No! We’re tickle monsters!” Dae-Hyun laughed as his little fingers started tickling her stomach. She heard her husband snort from the side of the bed and glared up at him for not coming to her rescue while the twins tickled her.
“I’ll show you a tickle monster.” She said turning in the bed to free her hands before tickling the two of them, digging her fingers lightly into their small stomachs as they squealed happily.
“Shhhh, you’re going to wake Seo-Joon up.” Her husband said causing all of them to stop and call a truce, little giggles leaving their mouths.
“Tickling makes me tired.” In-Na sighed before curling up to her mother’s side, placing her head on her chest. Dae-Hyun decided to join her and placed himself atop his mother’s body, his head under her neck next to In-Na’s.
“Hmmmm, we should take a quick nap before dinner.” She said patting Dae-Hyun’s back before wrapping one of her arms around In-Na to pull her closer so she didn’t fall off the bed.
“Appa, it’s nap time.” In-Na said looking up at her father who was standing at the side of the bed rocking a sleeping Seo-Joon.
“Yes princess.” He laughed before lying down on his side of the bed, placing Seo-Joon on his chest. He was surprisingly fast asleep despite all the noise. The twins fell asleep quickly, as they usually did, their breathing evening out.
“Arm.” Tae-Eul said while lifting her head up a little. Her husband chuckled before sticking his arm out and laying it across her pillow. She smiled and put her head back down, resting it on his bicep as she cuddled closer to him with the heap of children.
“They made you pictures too.” He whispered. “I put them on the side table.”
“I missed you so much.” He added.
“Me too. I want to add another rule – no trips over three days in length.” She whispered.
“Deal.” He said, his head turning towards her as he placed a kiss on the side of her forehead. “I want to add another rule too.”
“Can’t let me win can you?” She teased, he added a rule every time she added one.
“Be honest with me if they get hard to handle, there’s nothing in the world that’s more important than what you need.” He whispered.
“You’re already under so much scrutiny for taking so much time off.” She whispered. Media outlets had been claiming that he wasn’t as invested over the past few years, he often left conferences and meeting midway due to the children – they were active, they got sick and hurt from time to time, and her pregnancy with Seo-Joon had been rather difficult, she was on bed-rest for the last trimester. Her husband had delegated much of his responsibilities to be with her and the children then. Although most people found it endearing, there were critics – accusing him of putting his family before the Kingdom he served, it was ridiculous but apparently a feeling that was common.
“I don’t care what people think, I am not going to alienate my family to chase a few percentages in approval ratings.” He murmured. “And I don’t want you to ever think about that when you need me. You come first.”
“You still know all the right things to say.” She smiled.
“To you. I’ve been learning for a long time now.” He said.
“I’d kiss you right now if I didn’t have two children laying on me.”
“Such a tease.”
“Yes with my ratty hair and stained clothing.”
“No, with your hair that will fall down your back in luscious waves when your untie it, your face flushed from laughter, a smile on your face and the way you look at me.” He whispered.
“So smooth.” She laughed.
“How about you go do whatever it is that you do with Myeong Seung-Ah and I’ll watch the kids tomorrow? I have nothing scheduled since I am still supposed to be in China.” He whispered to her, placing a kiss on the side of her head again.
“No it’s okay.”
“I already texted Yeong to bring the kids over tomorrow so they can all play…so you should go.” He said causing her to chuckle. “Get a massage, get your hair done, sleep, eat.”
“Hmmm.” She hummed thinking that it’d be nice to be pampered for a day.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to peeling pretty lingerie off of you either if you go shopping.” He added causing her snort and whack his chest gently.
To say that Jeong Tae-Eul was amused was an understatement. She stood by the door of the children’s playroom with Seung-Ah trying to not laugh while Seung-Ah recorded the scene in front of them. The children's playroom was a wide and open space with carpets, which were always littered with toys.
Gon and Yeong were both laying on their stomach on the carpet, surrounded by all the children. Dae-Hyun and Chin-Hae were crawling around the room chasing each other while yelling something about Transformers but it seemed like In-Na and the giggling two year old Jo Hyun-Ae were teaching Seo-Joon how to crawl.
Seung-Ah snorted quietly as the two men and the two girls showed Seo-Joon how to get on his knees from his stomach. In-Na always did it whenever Seo-Joon had tummy time, he always got up on his knees before falling back onto his stomach with giggles like it was a game. It seemed like she had roped in everyone else to help her with her endeavour today.
“Get up and crawl like this.” Gon said as all of them got onto their hands and knees and started crawling around Seo-Joon who just giggled and moved his hands and feet quickly while lying on his stomach.
They watched as Hyun-Ae decided she was tired of crawling around and got up before climbing onto her father’s back. Yeong laughed as she wrapped her little arms around his neck so she didn’t fall and started crawling around the room trying to catch Dae-Hyun and Chin Hae while the little girl squealed.
Gon and In-Na were still trying to get Seo-Joon to crawl. Tae-Eul watched amused as Seo-Joon got into crawling position and just rocked back and forth while both In-Na and Gon encouraged him to move, picking up their own hands and demonstrating how to move forward.
Tae-Eul couldn’t help but laugh when In-Na crawled underneath Gon’s outstretched arms causing him to lose his balance and fall with a thud. Her laugh caught everyone’s attention and she watched amazed as Seo-Joon shot forward crawling towards her while everyone cheered. She bent down and held her arms out and almost melted into a puddle when he started crawling faster and laughing as he approached her. She swooped him up in her arms while placing kisses all over his face and cooing at him.
“Of course he only does it when you get home.” Gon pouted.
“He does it for the kisses.” Tae-Eul said as her baby giggled and curled into her.
“Do I get kisses if I crawl towards you?” Gon asked.
“There are kids around!” Yeong snapped.
Chapter 16: A Cardboard Box
Nana has a plan, it includes Dahn and Joon-Joon, and a cardboard box.
To say that Lee In-Na was determined to make her appa smile was an understatement. He looked a little sad these days, eomma said it was just because there was a lot of work to do. But appa always had a lot of work and he wasn’t usually sad about it.
He had lots of meetings these days, and the people talked so much that she couldn’t even go to appa’s office after school. Everyone thought she was too young to find out but she knew something had happened to make appa sad. And she was going to fix it.
Her appa always gave them cuddles and played with them when they got home but he hadn’t been there to greet them at the car when they came home for the past few days. She missed him, and she knew that Dahn and Joon-Joon did too, even though Joon-Joon was too little to be able to say it. He was not even one yet!
She knew eomma missed appa too, because whenever she saw him she put her hand on his face and traced his cheek with a sad look on her face. She always whispered something to him when she pushed his hair away from his face, and they hugged for super long, that’s what she did when she was sad, she hugged. In-Na wasn’t supposed to know this, she was supposed to be asleep but sometimes she peeked out the door to make sure everything was okay. And sometimes she snuck into the nursery to make sure Joon-Joon was okay, she had to be a good big sister after all.
She ran towards their playroom to find Dahn, he also thought appa was sad, he was making him a drawing. While she knew that appa loved their drawings, she knew this needed more than just a pretty picture. She had a plan and she needed her brother’s help to make it happen.
Dahn was colouring his picture, it was one of all five of them spending time in the gardens. She knew appa would put it on the special wall in his office where he put all the things they made him. Eomma said he sometimes showed people who visited him all the pretty things they made because he was so proud of them.
“Dahnnnnnn! Come with me!”
“Why?” He asked, still colouring and not looking up.
“We need to find a box.” She said.
“Why?” He asked, finally looking up at her. He asked too many questions for five-year-old.
“Because I have a plan and you have to help me!”
He nodded and got up, but then he started putting away his crayons slowly and she sighed. He took way too long to do things, there was nothing wrong with just leaving your crayons out for a bit.
“Let’s go!” She whined as he zipped up the crayon case.
They both ran through the hallways of their private quarters, waving at everyone they saw until they found the Royal Guard office just inside the line they weren’t supposed to cross without an adult around. The door to the office opened before they could even knock, they always knew!
“Princess In-Na, Prince Dae-Hyun.” Ho-Pil Ahjusshi said when he saw them, and then he bowed a little. She didn’t understand why everyone always said their names - they were five, they weren’t going to forget!
“Can we please talk to Jangmi Ahjusshi?” She asked, they had to use names sometimes because it was so confusing without them! All of them were ahjusshi except samchoon. Even though Ho-Pil Ahjusshi was nice he asked too many questions, Jangmi Ahjusshi just played along.
It was a top secret mission so they needed him. And she knew samchoon was away because he had to pick up Chin-Hae from school – she guessed it was good because samchoon also asked WAY too many questions.
The man nodded and then Jangmi Ahjusshi appeared waving to them both happily. Eomma said he was a big teddy bear and she agreed, he was her favourite ahjusshi.
“How can I help you?” He asked.
In-Na motioned for him to come closer, he crouched and they both moved closer to him.
“We need a box, please.” She whispered to him.
“What kind of box?” He asked.
“A cardboard box.” Dae-Hyun answered.
“How big?” He asked.
“Big enough to fit Seo-Joon.” She said.
Ahjusshi laughed. “You can’t ship your baby brother away.”
“We are not shipping him away, we just need a box.” Dae-Hyun explained.
“Please.” In-Na added. Eomma said they always needed to say please.
“Yes, please.” Dae-Hyun nodded.
“Let’s go to the mail room.” Ahjusshi said as he stepped out through the door. They ran ahead of him and he jogged after them towards the mail room. They knew where to find the boxes but they weren’t allowed to go to that part of the palace without an adult.
They knocked on the door to the mail room and waited for it open, the man who opened it said their names and bowed again while they waved back.
“We need to imspect some boxes, please.” In-Na said.
“Inspect.” Dae-Hyun corrected.
“Yes, inspect.” She nodded.
The man looked towards Ajhusshi and then nodded, letting them into the big room always filled with boxes. There were always so many boxes in there, one time eomma and appa built them really big tunnels with boxes – and then it rained and they all got wet and ruined.
“What kind of box do you require, Princess?”
“One to fit Seo-Joon.” She told him. The man’s eyes widened. “We are not mailing him away.” She reassured the man. Adults were so silly.
“What about this one?” Ahjusshi asked pointing to a beige box.
“It’s ugly.” She said, there was a huge place in it where it was a different colour because a sticker had been pulled.
“This one has writing.” Dae-Hyun said as he caught sight of another box.
“No writing.” In-Na said, presentation was important according to Auntie Se-Ra.
“I like this one.” Dae-Hyun said pointing to a white cardboard box free of any stickers or ugly patches.
She liked it. They could even write on it.
“How big is Joon-Joon?” She wondered.
“He comes up to here when he stands.” Dae-Hyun said pointing to his thigh, before stepping into the box. It looked like he would fit.
“This one please.” In-Na said to the man she didn’t know.
He just nodded.
“Thank you.” Dae-Hyun said as he stepped out of the box and started pushing it towards the door.
“I‘ll carry it.” Ahjusshi said but they shook their head.
“Can you open the doors and make sure appa doesn’t see? It’s a surprise.” She told him, he nodded and opened the first door.
In-Na helped Dae-Hyun push the box towards their room, it was very light so it was easy to push but everyone kept looking at them as they pushed it through the hallways.
“Nothing to see here! Keep moving, please!” She said to a bunch of court ladies, it is what eomma muttered under her breath when people watched her. “It’s a secret! Don’t tell anyone!” She yelled when she realized that they would tell Lady Noh and then Lady Noh would tell appa.
“Yes, Princess.” They all said and she nodded.
“Thank you!” Dae-Hyun said as they pushed the box further down the hallway towards the part of the Palace where they lived.
“Are the hallways clear? Where is appa?” She asked Ahjusshi - if they ran into appa their surprise would be ruined.
Ahjusshi held out his walkie-talkie towards Dae-Hyun letting him press the button to talk to the guards, it was their special walkie-talkie that only they used with the guards, they all had codenames too!
“Goldilocks, this is Brother Bear, can you hear me? Over.” He said.
“Prince Brother Bear, this is Goldilocks. Go. Over.”
“Goldilocks, confirm Papa Bear’s location. Over.”
“Pyeha Papa Bear is in his personal study, over.”
“Goldilocks, keep eyes on Papa Bear and tell us if he is in the hallway. Over.” Dae-Hyun said into the walkie-talkie.
She held her hand out for it. “Goldilocks, this is Sister Bear. Also tell us if Mama Bear leaves the nursery, or if Grandma Bear is close, over.” She said into the walkie-talkie.
“Goldilocks confirming eyes on King Papa Bear, Queen Mama Bear and Lady Grandma Bear, over.”
“You forgot to say thank you.” Dae-Hyun said.
“Thank you, Goldilocks.” In-Na said into the walkie-talkie before handing it back to Ahjusshi to hold.
They slowly pushed the box towards their room, looking around before pushing it down a new hallway, but the walkie-talkie didn’t go off so they were safe.
Until they almost got to their playroom.
“Prince Brother Bear, Princess Sister Bear, Lady Grandma Bear is coming down the hallway behind you. Over.” The words came through the walkie-talkie.
“Run!” In-Na screamed. “Ahjusshi, distract Lady Grandma Bear.”
Ahjusshi nodded and turned around while she and Dae-Hyun pushed the box faster down the hallway to their room.
“Dahn, get the door!” She said as they approached their playroom.
Dae-Hyun opened the door and she pushed the box in before closing the door behind them quickly. They both put their ears to the door and they could hear Lady Noh walking down the hallway and ahjusshi talking to her.
“Why is her head and heart always hurting?” Dae-Hyun whispered as the footsteps travelled past their playroom.
“Appa said she’s just saying it.” In-Na giggled.
“Now what?” He asked.
“We have to write the delivery address on the box.” She said.
Dae-Hyun ran over to the table and grabbed a blue crayon while she found the perfect spot to put the delivery address.
“Here. There’s lot of space.” She said pointing to the side of the box.
“We have to cut a hole into the box so Joon-Joon can breathe.”
“We also have to put a flashlight and a stuffed toy inside so he doesn’t get scared.” In-Na added, that’s what eomma used to do. “I’ll go find those, you write.” She said, Dahn was better at writing than her anyways.
She found her favourite Frozen flashlight and a stuffed Olaf, Joon-Joon loved the stuffed Olaf, he liked most stuffed animals they had though. But eomma banned all the ones that shed even a little because he liked chewing on them. In-Na looked through their crafts box to find scissors for the hole and then wondered how they could make a hole in the cardboard, they couldn’t fold it like they could paper.
“All done, Nana.” Dae-Hyun said from his spot on the floor. She walked over with all the supplies and looked at the box.
“Appa’s Office, The Royal Palace, Busan.” She read. “You can’t write appa, he’ll know it’s us!” She pointed out.
“Right.” Dae-Hyun said, hitting his head against the box.
She grabbed the crayon and crossed out appa. “What should we write?”
“Pyeha’s Office?” Dae-Hyun suggested.
“Perfect.” She said holding the crayon out to Dae-Hyun, he wrote Pyeha over the crossed out Appa.
She put the flashlight and stuffed Olaf into the box. “Where should we put the hole?” She asked.
“Right here.” Dae-Hyun said, pointing to the other side of the box.
She stared at the box and then the scissors. “Do you know how to cut cardboard in the middle?” She asked.
Dae-Hyun shook his head.
In-Na sighed. “We need help.”
To say that Tae-Eul loved how her children and her husband loved random cardboard boxes was an understatement. She had used one in the spur of the moment once when the twins were 13 months old and it had become a tradition of sorts.
Her husband’s job seemed easy to many but it was really difficult. There was always something going wrong, things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to, people didn’t react the way they were supposed and everyone expected way too much.
She had gotten into the habit of watching all his televised appearances and got updates from his secretary for his private ones. And despite the smile on his face and the charisma he exuded wherever he went, she could tell when something was wrong. It was the way his jaw tensed between the smiles, the way his eyes looked when the camera zoomed in on him - things that no one but her recognized.
Because no one got to stare into the mesmerizing brown eyes like she did. No one knew what was bothering him on day when he woke up in the morning and held her for a few minutes longer than he usually did. No one else heard the sigh he let out as he got up and got ready for the day.
His days were always packed and she had taken it upon herself to give him the breaks he deserved and never asked for. She was met with some reluctance at first, from Lady Noh who didn’t want people to think he wasn’t doing his duties and from his staff who didn’t know how to deal with him missing meetings - because he never had before.
But she worked quietly and with authority, it was the one time she didn’t mind using her position as Queen. A quick phone call to his secretary had his afternoon meeting rescheduled and would allow him to relax in his office or spend time with his kids.
He had been having a bad day the first time she had used a cardboard box, it was after a grueling day of meetings with cabinet members about the budget. He hated two things, crooked politicians and unbalanced budgets, and that day had both.
She had sprung into action and cleared his afternoon that day. The twins woke up groggy, their hair a mess. But with the help of their nanny, they had them fed and bathed by the time Gon was due to be back. She put In-Na in a white dress and Dae-Hyun in his favourite shirt before the idea had hit her. Her husband loved opening presents, and there was a large box in the playroom from a new play set they had purchased for the children.
She had the nanny help her get the box outside Gon’s office and then put both her babies into the box. They loved boxes so it hadn’t bothered them at all, they just giggled and the box moved around a little.
She had knocked on Gon’s office door and he had opened the door to the giggling box. The smile on his face as both the kids screamed happily when he opened the lid had been so worth it. It was a far cry from how he had looked on the video call earlier that day.
It became a tradition of sorts after that, whenever he needed a break and the twins were in a good mood, she put them in a cardboard box outside his office. Sometimes she followed in behind them and other times she just left them to it. As they got older the kids learnt to stay quiet and jump up and yell “surprise” when the door opened, their giggles and the smile on Gon’s face made her heart melt every time.
She hadn’t done it for a long time, since before Seo-Joon was born and both her older children were now standing in front of her asking for help because they had a box but needed to cut a hole in it.
She hadn’t expected that they would ever organize something like this and her heart melted when In-Na said she just wanted Gon to be happy. They were currently on the brink of war with Japan again, and Gon was trying his best to find a way to make peace. It was a stressful time and of course her children were much too intuitive even if they tried their best to shield them from these things.
“That’s very nice of both of you.” She told them and they grinned in response, they were so cute. And she was more than happy to help. She grabbed a giggly 8-month-old Seo-Joon to head over to the twin’s playroom.
“Ouch!” She told her youngest son when he pulled on her hair and tried to put it in his mouth as she carried him. He just giggled in response and she couldn’t help but place a kiss on his very chubby cheek.
Tae-Eul smiled when she noticed the white box, with blue writing on one side - the delivery address. She grinned when she saw the crossed out appa which had been replaced by Pyeha. She could imagine the two of them deciding what to put on the box and then sighing when they messed up.
Her kids were so cute.
“How about we help Seo-Joon get used to the box first?” She suggested. She didn’t want to upset her baby, the twins had always loved being inside the boxes but Seo-Joon was more fussy than they were.
“Deal!” In-Na said. “Joon-Joon, come here.” She sang as she held her arms out to her baby brother. Tae-Eul grinned as Seo-Joon cooed and went to his sister, leaning towards her. “Joon-Joon, no!” In-Na whined when he pulled on her hair and laughed.
Dae-Hyun stepped into the box and sat down, and In-Na put Seo-Joon in. To her surprise, he squealed happily rather than crying, but maybe that had more to do with the stuffed Olaf Dae-Hyun was holding. “We put a flashlight and a stuffy here for him.” He explained.
“How thoughtful.” She smiled. “How about you get out of the box and we can see if Seo-Joon is okay being in the box alone.” She suggested.
Dae-Hyun complied and Seo-Joon just used the space to flop down onto his tummy, hugging the stuffed Olaf.
“I think he likes it!” In-Na said.
“It seems like he does.” Tae-Eul smiled.
“Eomma?” Dae-Hyun said.
“Can we have milk and cookies and tea time in appa’s study too?” He asked.
She guessed they missed the after-school break they took with Gon whenever they could, he usually greeted them by the door and then they all had an afterschool snack together while Seo-Joon fed. Gon had been in meetings for most of the week during those times.
“Yes, baby, let’s do that. Can you get me a piece of paper and a pen, please?” She asked.
He nodded and rushed off towards the table with their craft supplies while In-Na played peekaboo with Seo-Joon. She was always so dramatic about it, she didn’t just move her hands in front of her face like most people did, rather she disappeared and then popped up, it amused Seo-Joon to no end.
She wrote a note to the kitchen staff when Dae-Hyun brought the paper and pen to her. A simple one asking the kitchen staff to deliver the things to the playroom on a cart – chocolate milk for the twins (always diluted with half regular milk so it wasn’t too sweet), tea for her and Gon, cookies, peanut butter mini sandwiches and the little chocolate croissants the twins loved. They literally loved anything that was any sort of bread.
She folded the note and gave it to Dae-Hyun. “Can you two go down to the kitchen and deliver this?” She asked and they nodded. “Remember no running on the stairs.” She reminded them.
“You forgot to say please.” In-Na grinned and she held back a chuckle.
“Sorry, can you please go down to the kitchen and deliver this, my munchkins?”
“Got it!” Dae-Hyun said and they both rushed out of the room.
“Your brother and sister are really sweet, arent’t they?” She asked Seo-Joon as she leaned over the edge of the box. He just smiled up at her, and then went right back to chewing Olaf’s stomach. “Let’s see.” She whispered before closing the two flaps at the top of the box – she opened it right away and yelled peek-a-boo.
Seo-Joon laughed, so she tried it again, this time waiting for just a second longer before yelling peek-a-boo and opening the box, he laughed louder. She tried it again, and again, waiting one more second every time to make him feel comfortable inside the box when she put him outside Gon’s office. The last thing she wanted was for him to get scared and start crying.
She got to a 30 second interval by the time the twins returned, she let them play with Seo-Joon while she cut a big hole into the box, making it big enough that Seo-Joon could see out of it but not big enough for him to try to crawl out. She then ransacked the craft drawer to find a bow to put on the top of the box while her older children made meowing sounds and crawled around the box where a giggling Seo-Joon was sitting.
There was a knock on the door indicating the cart of food had arrived, she opened the door and grabbed it, saying a quiet thank you before clearing her throat to catch the attention of her kids.
They looked over at her in question and she sat on the floor across them and motioned them to settle down while poking Seo-Joon chubby cheek.
“What’s the plan Mama Bear?” Dae-Hyun asked.
“Okay – one of you can push the box and the other one the cart, I’ll carry Seo-Joon.”
“Why can’t we push him in the box?” Dae-Hyun asked.
“He might get hurt, and we don’t want that.” She explained. “If the box tips over he’ll start crying.”
He nodded, so she continued.
“We need to put the box outside appa’s study quietly.” She said and they nodded. “We'll knock. Your appa is probably just going to say ‘enter’ a couple of times but just keep knocking until you hear him walking to the door.” She said and they nodded, In-Na practicing knocking in the air.
“I will then put Joon-Joon in the box, tickle him and close the lid, we’ll put a bow on it and then run to hide against the wall.” She said.
“Good plan!” In-Na said excitedly.
“All right, do we have this team?” She asked, putting her hand out, her heart always melted when they put their little hands on top of hers and then broke off.
“Do we need to diaper check Joon-Joon first?” Dae-Hyun asked.
“He should be okay, I changed him before you came to get me.” She said before getting up, putting Seo-Joon against her hip and pulling her hair to the other side. He whined and tried to grab at it anyway. She laughed when he gave up and put his mouth against her sleeve, chewing on her.
They implemented the plan, Dae-Hyun pushed the box and In-Na the cart, she had to help a little because the cart was taller than In-Na. She put the cart against the wall and then nodded at the twins, they both knocked, one-two-three. And like suspected, Gon just said enter. They knocked again and were met with a slightly louder enter. When they knocked the third time, she heard the chair scraping against the floor.
The twins looked at her wide-eyed and she quickly put Seo-Joon in the box, kissing his cheek and tickling his stomach until he was laughing. In-Na closed the lid and Dae-Hyun put the bow on the top before they all scrambled against the wall so they could peek.
Gon looked a little annoyed when he opened the door, not seeing anyone, and then Seo-Joon started babbling and he looked down, a huge smile growing on his face when he saw the box with a bow. He chuckled as he reached down to remove the bow, opening the box.
Seo-Joon’s giggles got louder when he saw Gon, he tried to stand up, as he tried multiple times a day, it only worked for a half a second before he fell. But Gon scooped up a happily screaming Seo-Joon and placed kisses on his cheeks before cuddling him.
“I know you’re hiding behind the wall.” He said as Seo-Joon curled into him.
In-Na and Dae-Hyun ran out yelling surprise and she pushed the cart out towards the study, smiling at her husband as he pretended to be caught off guard by the two of them.
“Can we come in?” In-Na asked.
“Of course.” Gon said, moving to the side to let them through, they both hugged his legs on their way in and he looked up to her with a grin. “Thank you.” He said quietly.
“I wasn’t me this time, pyeha.” She said as she pushed the cart by him, getting up on her tippytoes to kiss his cheek before she did. He followed her in with Seo-Joon, who was now chewing on the neckline of Gon’s shirt.
“Did you plan this?” He asked the twins and they both nodded before going into an explanation of exactly how they planned it. They both interrupted each other to add bits they forgot – they told them about the walkie-talkies and their almost run-in with Grandma Bear which was their secret code name for Lady Noh.
Gon chuckled and oohed and ahhed at all the right parts as they sat in his lap, Seo-Joon on his chest as well. She just observed the scene quietly, even though it hadn’t been too long since they had done this, it seemed like it had.
She put all the drinks and snacks on the table and the twins were apparently famished from all the planning because they attacked which caused Gon to grin and look at her with a smug look.
“Don’t you dare say a thing.” She muttered, he always teased her that they ate exactly like her.
He just shrugged and put Seo-Joon on the couch between the two of them before picking up the teacup and taking a sip. Seo-Joon decided to entertain himself as they all ate and drank, he sometimes just liked to lay on his back and see if he could chew on his feet – much like his siblings had when they were his age.
It didn’t take long for him to get bored and try to get off the couch though, she put him on the carpet and let him crawl around, he stopped occasionally to look at things and then crawled again. The twins took it upon themselves to run after him when he crawled towards a place he wasn’t supposed to go while she cuddled into her husband’s side, grabbing his hand between hers and rubbing circles along the back of it.
“Okay?” She whispered.
He sighed. “So much better now.”
“Good.” She whispered. “I think they missed you, they planned it all out and then asked for help.”
“I should have been around more-”
“Shhhh, not your fault, you’re doing the best you can, they’re just a little spoiled.” She reassured him. “I’ll let them tire themselves out and then put them to bed.”
“I’ll come with you, it’s been a couple of days since I read them a bedtime story.”
“I know you’re busy, it’s okay if you can’t.”
“No, I can today, I’ll work later.” He whispered and she nodded.
“I love you.” He whispered.
“Ditto.” She whispered back.
And then he decided he wanted to play too because he got up and lay on the carpet on his stomach, knowing Seo-Joon wouldn’t be able to resist. As expected, their 8-month-old crawled over to his appa and then squealed when Gon got on his hands and knees to crawl. He turned around and crawled away from Gon who roared.
“Oh no! We have to save Joon-Joon from the dragon!” In-Na yelled before getting on her hands and knees and started crawling over Seo-Joon who laughed while Dae-Hyun tried to fend off the ‘dragon’ by trying to tickle Gon.
She laughed when Gon grabbed In-Na and lifted her off Seo-Joon while Dae-Hyun struggled to find his way between Gon and Seo-Joon’s body, Gon managed to grab Seo-Joon and let out an evil laugh.
“Eomma! Help!” In-Na yelled.
Tae-Eul snickered and got down on her hands and knees to crawl around too. “Who should I help?” She asked as she crawled towards them.
“Us! The dragon has your baby!” Dae-Hyun yelled.
“The dragon is my husband though, maybe I want him to have the baby.” She said as she put her body between the twins and Gon, stopping them from taking Seo-Joon.
“Eommmaaaaaaaa!” In-Na whined making her chuckle.
She grabbed Seo-Joon from Gon and then yelled. “You fell for it!” She laughed before passing Seo-Joon to Dae-Hyun who screamed happily.
Gon gasped. “Traitor!” And then he whispered. “This warrants a beheading.”
“I’d like to see you try pyeha.” She whispered back and then winked, giving her children the opportunity to crawl further away from the dragon.
Gon seemed to catch on pretty quickly because he took off behind the twins, telling them that he was coming to take the youngest prince. She laughed as he broke the rules and stood up, grabbing down In-Na and Dae-Hyun by the stomach and putting them into the cardboard box before he scooped up Seo-Joon.
“VICTORY IS MINE!” He yelled.
“That’s cheating!” Dae-Hyun yelled.
“Yeah, Kings shouldn’t cheat!” In-Na said as she stood up in the box.
“I am not a King right now, I am a dragon.” He pointed out before kissing Seo-Joon’s chubby cheek and throwing him up in the air before catching him.
“Attack!” Dae-Hyun yelled and then they were both jumping out of the box and chasing Gon around the room. She grabbed Seo-Joon from Gon and lay on the couch with him. “Let’s let them tire each other out, how about we cuddle here?” She asked as she put Seo-Joon on her stomach, helping him sit up.
She loved doing this because Seo-Joon like his siblings was a fan of babbling, she seemed to have the longest conversations with him, she would say something and then he would just babble in response. And when he got tired he just flopped down onto his stomach and curled into her. He was growing too fast and she was going to enjoy all the cuddles she could.
“Time!” Gon yelled, she looked up to find him hunched over, gasping for air.
“I think your appa is getting too old for this.” She teased, Gon’s eyes narrowed and she winked at him.
“Tell your eomma I am not old.” He told the twins.
“You are pretty old.” In-Na shrugged. “Older than samchoon.”
Tae-Eul snickered. In-Na's little crush on Yeong was still going strong, she always sighed after she said samchoon and Gon always made the face he made when she said something to annoy him.
Dae-Hyun walked over to her and she arched her eyebrow.
“Can I cuddle too?” He asked.
“Climb on in.” She said while moving closer to the edge so he could tuck himself in between the back of the couch and her body. She smiled when Dae-Hyun started tickling Seo-Joon as he lay his head on her chest.
“I want cuddles too!” In-Na whined.
“You can cuddle with me.” Gon said before dropping onto the armchair, his back on the cushion, his head leaning over one arm of the chair and his legs the other, In-na copied him and lay on top of him.
She loved the smile on Gon’s face as they all lay there, talking about what they wanted for dinner in between Seo-Joon’s squeals and babbles. She loved lazy afternoons like this with her family, it was so normal and it really did make her forget about everything that was going on around them for a bit.
She knew it was exactly what Gon needed. And she wasn't even the one to plan it, her children were.
Chapter 17: Jeong Do-In
The first chapter of To Say That was posted exactly a year ago today, so I thought it would be apt to post a chapter today to commemorate the chapter that kicked off the whole TKEM: Happily Ever After Series.
To say that Jeong Do-In was confused was an understatement.
There was a man standing in the yard. At first, he had thought it was a customer for the café, but when he looked out the window again, he was walking towards the stairs that led to their door.
Her hand wrapped up in his large hand.
She was holding flowers.
He had yet to process the sight when there was a knock on his door.
His daughter was standing at their door with a man that he had never seen before. He was dressed in rather odd clothing, it looked expensive and like it had seen better days. The man towered over Tae-Eul and stood much too close to her.
Weirdly, Do-In felt like he knew the man. He tried to pinpoint why that is but couldn’t recall ever seeing him or interacting with him. Even weirder was the fact that his hand was still clasped around his daughter’s hand, tightly. He thought they would have let go of each other considering they were standing in front of him, but they didn’t.
His eyes went to Tae-Eul, his daughter who hadn’t seemed like herself over the past few months, who had looked lost and upset, like she had lost something. The change had been abrupt, she had gone from being her normal self to being forlorn. To his utter surprise, there was a small smile on her face - one that reached her eyes for once. He felt like he was seeing his daughter again after a long time.
His eyes went back to the man, from his rather attractive but tired face to his hand wrapped around his daughter’s and then to Tae-Eul. He guessed his expression was questioning because Tae-Eul spoke.
Her words took him by surprise. “Appa, this is Lee Gon, my...boyfriend.”
“Boy-boyfriend, since when do you -” He stopped short as he watched his daughter turn to the man beside her, Gon. The way she looked at him caught him by surprise, she looked at him with such a soft expression, like he was the center of the universe, like he was the sun.
His daughter didn’t look at anyone like that, especially not a man.
Gon, who looked rather tired spoke, his words unusual, like he was from a different time. “I wanted this announcement to be sweet and emotional, but I guess it’s too late now. Again.”
He whispered the last word for some reason, it made no sense, had this happened before?
“But the point is the same. I love your daughter.” Gon continued.
He gasped at the word love, but Tae-Eul didn’t, rather she squeezed Gon’s hand.
“I’m Lee Gon. Nice to meet you, sir.” He said before bowing.
“I’m just so startled…” He said as he bowed back before looking towards his daughter, wondering if this was all a joke.
He didn’t know his daughter had a boyfriend.
He hadn’t expected an introduction.
And he definitely hadn’t expected a man to stand in front of him and boldly declare his love for Tae-Eul.
He was unprepared for all of this.
“Appa, I’ll answer your questions later, just know that I love him, and that he’s a decent man. He’s -” She paused. “- he has been travelling, and is feeling unwell, so let me just – let me take care of him.” She pleaded, her voice soft and eyes filled with tears.
He could do nothing but nod and watch as his daughter pulled Gon into the house and pushed him into the bathroom with whispers that were too quiet for him to hear. Tae-Eul then walked into his room, and he followed to find her going through the drawers that housed his sweats.
“Appa, where are the pajamas that were too big for you?” She asked as she ransacked his drawers.
“Bottom drawer.” He said, she nodded and closed the third drawer and opened the bottom one, pulling out the navy cotton pajamas he had never work along with a huge white t-shirt.
“It’s not silk but at least it is clean.” She muttered under her breath.
“Silk?” He asked confused.
“All his pajamas are silk.” She said.
“A- how long have you known him?” He asked, confused.
He didn’t remember her mentioning anyone, and she was always at work and said she had no time to date.
“It’s a long story, for another day.” She said before walking out of his room.
“No!” He gasped as she opened the bathroom door and stepped in, the sound of the shower getting louder and then quieter as she closed the door again.
“Did she just – seriously – under my roof?”
He found her actions shocking, she just walked into the bathroom where Gon was showering, without hesitating.
His daughter was in the bathroom with a naked man.
Under his roof.
He watched as she stepped out of the bathroom and walked over to her room, without pausing to address him. Like she had done nothing wrong.
He peeked in to see that she was changing the sheets of her bed and cleaning her room. Before he could speak, she did.
“Appa, can you make samgyentang for Gon? Not too spicy. Please?” She asked.
He nodded, not knowing what else to say. His brain was still working on processing the bizarre chain of events unfolding under his roof. His daughter hadn’t prepared him for this. He had never heard of a boyfriend; much less been introduced to one.
He focused on what made sense, he could tell that man wasn’t feeling well, he looked rather pale and sick, like someone who hadn’t slept for weeks.
He started on the soup and wondered if the man in the bathroom was the reason his daughter had been so sad lately. She was confusing him, she was fine and then something changed, sometimes he thought she was two different people.
He sighed as he worked, trying to figure out what was going on. The shower stayed on for a long time, and he could hear Tae-Eul moving around in her room - cleaning. He could hear her footsteps lingering in the hall, outside the bathroom, probably waiting for Gon.
When the bathroom door opened, he closed the lid of the pan to let the broth thicken and peeked into the hallway. It felt a little odd to be peeking around corners in his own house, but he had no choice.
He could hear them whispering, and they were both standing in the middle of the hallway. Tae-Eul was cupping his face and tracing his cheeks gently as he leaned into her. The navy pajamas that had been too long on him fit Gon well, albeit they were a little loose, and the white t-shirt was too.
He watched as Tae-Eul pulled Gon into her, wrapping her arms around him in a hug. She buried her head into his chest. He watched as the man sighed and wrapped his arms around her, scooping her up in his arms a little and burying his face into her neck.
It didn’t look like a hug shared between two people that were unfamiliar with each other – they fit too well and melted into each other.
He looked away because it felt like he was intruding on a private moment, even as his brain told him that it was his house and he should be intruding since his only daughter showed up unexpectedly with a man he hadn’t heard about, a man that she claimed to love.
He watched amazed at the way his daughter babied Gon, she only acted that way with Eun-Sup and the twins, but this was a whole another level. She spoke softly, she forced him to eat more, refilled his water, and watched him closely.
Her hand rested under the table, on his thigh, the whole time, like she couldn’t bear not touching him. He didn’t understand it, and the more he thought about it the more confused he got.
His phone rang then, and he left to get the call, leaving the two of them alone in the kitchen. A mother of one of the kids in his evening class was calling to let him know that her daughter would be away for the next few days.
When he walked back to the kitchen, Gon was sitting at the table alone, sipping slowly on a glass of water. Gon nodded when he saw him enter. “I apologize, I realize I should have brought a gift since it is my first time visiting. I did not think Tae-Eul would be here.” He said, with his perfect enunciation.
“Where have you been travelling?” He asked Gon, curious as to why he looked so tired.
“All the wrong places.” He responded with a sigh.
An answer that made no sense.
But before he could prod any further, Tae-Eul returned, clad in her pajamas. “Let’s go sleep.” She said to Gon, holding her hand out.
“Good night, appa.” Tae-Eul said quietly as Gon got up and grabbed her hand, she pulled him towards her room.
His brain was screaming but words weren’t coming out.
She didn’t just –
She pulled the man to her room to sleep.
Under his roof.
Not that he would give it.
Even if she said she loved him.
She wasn’t married to him.
They had a perfectly comfortable couch.
He got up, the chair scraping against the floor and walked over to Tae-Eul’s room.
The door was closed.
Seriously, this girl!
He knocked on the door.
He heard shuffling.
She opened it, arching her eyebrow at him.
“This is my house, you can’t do this – at least leave the door open!”
He expected her to fight.
His daughter was a fighter.
She would argue this and tell him she was a grown woman, that she could do what she wanted, and the not under my roof was on the tip of his tongue, ready to escape.
But she just nodded, and opened the door, leaving it open and whispering good night to him again.
He didn’t know what to do or say, so he walked away.
The house was silent after a few sounds of them settling into bed, and then nothing. Not even the sounds of whispers.
He waited thirty minutes before he got up again, walking towards her room.
The sight in front of him made him want to cry for some reason.
Tae-Eul was curled around Gon, his face was tucked into her neck, one of her arms was wrapped around him, holding him to her. His arms were wrapped around her waist, holding onto her tightly.
The way they held each other spoke of longing and love, like they hadn’t seen each other for years and were afraid to let go.
He closed the door.
He did not quite know what he was witnessing but he knew it was something he didn’t have to worry about.
To say that Jeong Do-In was curious was an understatement.
His daughter was happier than he had ever seen her, and his daughter was a happy person by nature. Cynical sometimes, but warm and loving to those around her.
But she smiled a lot more now.
She laughed and was more affectionate with everyone around her.
And she actually took time off work, no longer whining about having to work towards a promotion that never came.
She tried to dress better, tried being the operative word because Tae-Eul like himself was what people would call fashion challenged. But her skin was glowing and she stood in front of the mirror for a little longer.
She disappeared every weekend, with Gon.
He didn’t know where they went, he just knew that she was happy and lived for the weekend when she saw him. She returned on Sunday nights with a huge smile on her face which turned into longing by Wednesday and excitement by Friday.
He didn’t understand it. But he was making peace with the fact that he didn’t understand a lot of things, and that he had raised his daughter well and trusted her. He couldn’t fight anything that made her this happy.
And the mysterious well-spoken man made his daughter happy.
Gon loved her. It was clear that he would never hurt her.
Gon visited him sometimes on Fridays, surprising his daughter because he came to pick her up. He dressed like he had too much money to spend, sat, ate and drank like he had taken etiquette classes and spoke as if he was reciting a textbook.
It was odd.
And he was still curious.
Searching on the web didn’t result in anything.
No one knew him.
But his daughter claimed he was a good man, and in his heart Do-In knew he was. But he still wondered what the secret was, and he knew there was one. A big one.
To say that Jeong Do-In was amused was an understatement.
He thought his daughter was going away for the weekend with her boyfriend and had planned his own trip.
He hadn’t expected the phone call from Tae-Eul, she was usually not in contact with him on the weekend.
She asked him how to make samgyentang for Gon, in a sheepish voice.
His daughter who did nothing but boil water and eggs in the kitchen was asking him how to make chicken soup for her sick boyfriend.
And she was snapping at him for not giving proper instructions.
She wanted precise instructions because she didn’t want to kill him and didn’t understand what salt according to taste meant.
She said something about a beheading but that didn’t make sense either.
Her worry was wholly amusing, and a little touching.
That was the day he knew for sure that his daughter would marry the man camping out sick at his house soon.
He had gone home early to find Gon in his daughter’s bed again, his arms wrapped around her again and his head resting on her chest. Tae-Eul’s hands were in his hair, like she had been playing with it before they fell asleep. He almost woke them up and asked him to move, but then sighed and figured it was not a big deal considering she often disappeared with Gon for days.
Of course, that didn’t mean he couldn’t glare at them over breakfast the next day.
Not that they seemed to care.
His daughter was once again doting on her boyfriend, putting food in his plate and giving him all the good pieces of meat. She even blew on his food before passing it to him.
He couldn’t help but scoff.
To say that Jeong Do-In’s life turned upside down was an understatement.
He had always been a tad suspicious of his daughter’s boyfriend even though he had made peace with not knowing everything and choosing to trust his daughter.
But the man hadn’t ever told him what he did for a living, or answered his questions in a way that made sense, and his daughter always stopped him from pushing more.
He hadn’t expected what they were saying to him, sitting at the kitchen table again over dinner. He really did think they were crazy when his daughter told him that Gon was from a different world.
He wondered if his daughter had fallen prey to all the recent media with supernatural men sweeping up earthly women. Vampires and werewolves, and whatever other nonsense children liked these days.
He was sure they were both mad, until he was walking through a bamboo forest and stepping through gates that somehow led to a world that was so similar but completely different.
And then that first meeting made sense all of a sudden. The longing between the two of them made so much sense as they gave him a rundown of how they had met, in another timeline, one that no longer existed. They had lived through a different version of events together, had fallen in love long before Gon showed up at his door with his daughter.
He wasn’t surprised to hear that he had known Gon, he had felt familiar when they first met and he had always questioned why he trusted the man despite knowing so little about him. He may have forgotten him, but it seemed like a part of him hadn’t.
His completely normal – although somewhat brusque – daughter had somehow attracted the attention of a King of another world who could travel between worlds and time. Maybe the novelists and storytellers were on to something with the vampires and werewolves thing, everything suddenly made sense.
He was seeing a lavish wedding, nothing like he had ever seen before. Even the wedding between Princess Diana and Prince Charles that he had once seen on television paled in comparison to his daughter’s wedding.
The wedding was attended by thousands and watched by millions.
He didn’t even want to think about how much it cost.
All he knew was that his daughter was happy even though she would have never planned such a wedding for herself, she said it was expected of Gon. She had looked gorgeous, so beautiful that he had cried, both at the traditional Corean wedding that boggled his mind and the larger Catholic wedding.
Tae-Eul had the biggest smile on her face throughout it all, even though she was nervous.
Gon cried when he saw her, both times. The sigh that left him said finally without him having to say the word.
It reassured him, he knew Gon loved Tae-Eul, and that he was a good man that would keep his daughter happy.
His daughter, the Queen of the Kingdom of Corea.
He often found himself snickering at that.
Never in his wildest dreams did he think it was possible for his daughter to one day be Queen of a Kingdom.
But she was.
And apparently a good one too from what he saw and heard when he visited.
To say that Jeong Do-In was ecstatic was an understatement.
He hadn’t thought much when his son-in-law appeared and asked him to accompany him to his world for a weekend although they often came to him. It gave them a break and was easier logistically.
He hadn’t thought anything about the fact that his son-in-law wanted to cook. He often did, and everything he made was delicious, better than anything he had tasted anywhere. It was a good thing too because his daughter was challenged when it came to cooking.
The confusion settled in when all the food placed on the table was miniature. All the dishes had small pieces, and everything was served in small bowls. Like they were having a tea party rather than dinner.
He had looked between his daughter and son-in-law, confused.
Both of them were chuckling.
His world spun when his daughter put his hand on her stomach. “Say hi to your grandchild.” She said.
“Grandchildren.” Gon said. “I know we’re going to have twins.” He grinned while his daughter rolled her eyes.
“Two months.” She nodded with a huge smile.
His baby was having babies.
He was going to be a grandpa.
His daughter was happy.
His son-in-law was ecstatic.
Tae-Eul said Gon was driving her insane. He was so careful around her, hovering over her, forcing her to eat, holding her hair as she threw up at smells, running his hand over her back.
His daughter was in good hands. The best.
Gon showed up randomly at his home throughout the months, sometimes to get him, sometimes to get things that Tae-Eul was craving, things he couldn’t get in the other world. The fact that he went out of his way to fulfill his daughter’s every wish always made him emotional, he had always known that his daughter deserved the world and Gon thought that too.
On their trips between the two worlds, Gon talked about how the babies – always insistent it was twins – were growing, the size, what system they were working on and so on. Like he was giving him a lecture on child development.
Do-In loved it, loved the thought of his grandchildren forming their nervous system and brains. He thought they were twins too, his daughter was showing too much for so early in her pregnancy and craving way too many things.
It reminded him of when his wife was pregnant with her, she always had the weirdest cravings. Gon wanted to know about it all, he always wanted to know every little thing about Tae-Eul.
And then they found out they were twins, and his son-in-law was on cloud nine.
He brought him a framed ultrasound of them for his home, the first picture of his two grandkids. A prince and a princess.
To say that Jeong Do-In was amused was an understatement.
His son-in-law was a King but still prone to the same tendencies as normal men. Gon hadn’t learned the art of following a manual to build things like most. Unlike most people, he probably hadn’t built anything in his life. But his daughter was insistent they build the cribs for the twins themselves.
Gon had come to get him, muttering about how she said that they needed to build it because she remembered her crib being perfect in its imperfections. He laughed at the grumbling and shared with him how building that crib had seemed impossible, there were scratches in multiple places and multiple nails at all the joints because he hadn’t trusted the screws that didn’t fit properly.
Bong-Hui had been six months pregnant by then and always tired because Tae-Eul was a kicker, she kicked all day, for multiple minutes at a time and moved around a whole lot. She had a worried look on her face the whole time he built the crib and nagged him about using the wrong screws in the wrong places – she was right. It wasn’t perfect, but he still remembered that afternoon and why the crib had ten extra nails.
So, Gon built a crib. And he built another.
His daughter had a fond smile on her face as she watched her husband fail. It warmed his heart because the love was so clear, it always was. She whispered babo very fondly as he struggled with Yeong to put the crib together
He had taken pity on his son-in-law and helped and watched amused as his daughter teased him, pushing him around and getting him to move the crib playfully.
She was happy, it was clear. He had been worried a bit, being a Queen was no easy task, and there were times she had seemed overwhelmed at all that was going on around her. But being Gon’s wife seemed to be easy and balanced everything.
Do-In knew he had the best son-in-law in the world, because his world revolved around his daughter and keeping her happy. He could see it in the way he was giving in to her request to set up the nursery themselves, even though he had never put together furniture or decorated a room. He was doing it because she wanted it. And he would do the same for his children.
Every time Do-In visited he couldn’t help but notice how much Gon doted on Tae-Eul. He lost count of the amount of times he fondly kissed her forehead, how many times what she wanted appeared without her even asking for it, and the way he held her.
His hand was always on her stomach, and he was always talking to his babies when he could. He would randomly drop to his knees in the middle of a room, with no regard to who was around, when they kicked.
His grandchildren were going to be so loved, just like his daughter
He didn’t need to worry
So, he went fishing with Jo Yeong’s uncle a lot when he was in the Kingdom.
To say that Jeong Do-In fell in love at first sight for the second time in his life would be an understatement.
He had loved Tae-Eul the moment he had seen her red and wrinkly face, she was crying at the top of her lungs and looked miserable. And she was perfect with her strong lungs and soft skin. He loved his grandchildren the same way, immediately
They were perfect in every way, they had ten fingers and ten toes, a whole lot of hair and the softest skin he had ever felt. They were healthy even though they were small. Smaller than Tae-Eul had been, which was a surprise because Tae-Eul had been rather small. But it was a miracle that Tae-Eul’s little body had been able to support both of them so well.
He loved holding them.
In-Na and Dae-Hyun.
He was surprised at how well his daughter took to being a mother. She had always been good with children, adored running the taekwondo classes for the little ones, she pretended to be strict and would go on for minutes at a time about how cute they were after they left. But he was still surprised.
He was just as surprised watching Gon, he didn’t think the man could love his children any more than he loved his own daughter, but he proved him wrong every time.
Gon was a different man around the twins. He was silly. He sang. He cuddled. He looked nothing like a King, but just a father who was smitten with his children and would go to the end of the universes to protect them.
They both took well to being parents, better than he and Bong-Hui had with Tae-Eul. But he guessed the support structure at the Palace helped, and he appreciated it so much. Especially the way Lady Noh could get both the King and Queen to listen to her with just a little glare, and the barrage of staff that let his daughter focus on just her children.
It was different from his first months as a parent, looking after Tae-Eul had been so much work that he and Bong-Hui had no time for anything else, they lived on the meals brought to them by kind relatives, they rarely did laundry for their own clothes, cleaning was difficult because the vacuum woke up Tae-Eul or made her cry. It had been a difficult few months. He couldn’t imagine doing it all with twins without the help his daughter had.
He watched his grandchildren grew up wonderfully in front of his eyes, they were spoiled rotten with attention from everyone. From their parents. From the Royal Guards. From Lady Noh. From Seung-Ah. From the court ladies and the staff.
They were very easygoing babies, Dae-Hyun even more than In-Na. They slept well and they ate well. They smiled at people and babbled, capturing everyone’s heart. Do-In was there for it all, their smiles, their laughs, their first crawls and walks, and their wobbly exploration of his house when they visited for the first time after their first birthday.
Watching In-Na try to climb up on the couch made him remember Tae-Eul doing the same, they looked so similar. Tae-Eul hadn’t given up until she got onto the couch herself, but Nana enlisted her brother’s help and he watched amused as Dahn stood behind Nana and pushed her a little.
Their laughs when they both made it onto the sofa were so amusing, he couldn’t help but clap for them and give them kisses when they screamed for him.
They repeated the process over and over again between running around everywhere and exploring. The mats on the floor for taekwondo class were their favorite, they fell onto those and laughed loudly, crawling over them and flopping onto their stomach. His favorite game was chasing them while crawling, they giggled and screamed while they tried to dodge him until they were too tired to continue.
Seeing them napping together on the living room couch after they tired themselves made him so happy, it reminded him of the little Tae-Eul that fell asleep on the couch next to him. Tae-Eul fell asleep anywhere, sometimes with her face in her food, and her children were the same.
Babysitting the two of them while his daughter and son-in-law went out became the highlight of his month. They visited at the end of each month, they were so much fun and so much work. He was tired by the time they left but in the best way.
A picture of him curled up on the couch with them was framed on the wall, taken by his daughter when they came back from a walk, along with pictures of their first trip to a park with people.
There were lots of firsts in the Republic of Korea, the world that allowed his family some freedom to explore, where they could be just a regular family rather than the Royal Family.
There were trips to parks where they could play with other children. Trips to petting farms and zoos, and even an aquarium. There were trips to amusement parks and movies. All the things they couldn’t enjoy in peace in their world.
Before he knew it, the twins were talking and yelling halabeoji when he saw them, they ran rather than walked. And he was running behind them, reading to them, playing with them, and listening to all their new words.
He loved being a grandfather, it made him so happy.
And he was even happier when the third baby came years later, Joon-Joon who looked much like Gon and reminded him of the first few months with the twins.
To say that Jeong Do-In was nostalgic would be an understatement
Tae-Eul and Gon were exhausted, curled up in the bed in what was still her room, fast asleep like that day many years ago when Gon had shown up at his door.
The door was open.
But this time a baby lay on Gon’s chest, and two six-year-olds lay with them, Dae-Hyun curled up into Tae-Eul’s side and In-Na between Tae-Eul and Gon.
Tae-Eul had turned in for a nap with Seo-Joon while Gon took the twins to the park down the street. They had come back exhausted, he had sent them off to wash up to help with dinner. His grandchildren loved to help cook, and were much better at cooking that Tae-Eul was, even though they were only six.
He had gone to check in on them when everything was too quiet for too long, he hadn’t expected the sight in front of him, all five of them curled up into the bed that he bought for Tae-Eul when she was 12 and too big for the single bed she used to have.
He never thought that the bed they picked out then would one day be where the man she claimed to love slept, curled up around her. And when that had happened, he didn’t even consider that Gon would one day be the father of her children, and those children would curl up in bed with them.
But he should have because the love was so clear between them.
And they had come such a long way.
From just the two of them to five.
From strangers to lovers to husband-wife to parents. And they still had a long way to go.
Do-In couldn’t help but take a picture of his perfect family, another one to add to his wall that was filled with pictures of them. From the first ultrasound picture Gon had given him to the ones from taken last month. He showed them off proudly to all his friends, they all fawned over how cute his grandkids were.
He wished his wife was there to see it all. One of her biggest worries when they learned that the cancer had spread and she wouldn’t be able to live for long was Tae-Eul. Bong-Hui often wondered if their daughter would be okay growing up without a mother, about what her life would be like. She wanted nothing more than Tae-Eul growing up well and being happy.
She would have been so happy to see her today. Their beautiful daughter who had grown up well and become a cop, only to learn that she was destined for something greater. She was a Queen that was adored by a Kingdom. A wife to a man that loved her as much as she loved him, a man that Bong-Hui herself would have adored. She was the best mother to her three children, children that Bong-Hui would have spoiled rotten.
And most of all, Tae-Eul was happy. Maybe not always, there were times where life wasn’t kind to her, like with everyone else. But the wrinkles that were appearing around her mouth and eyes were ones that told everyone that she smiled more than she cried.
They couldn’t have asked for more.
He closed the door quietly, letting the five people he loved the most in the world sleep while he made dinner – deepfried chicken mandoo, Dae-Hyun’s favourite. He always danced in his seat when he ate them. And yakgwa for dessert, In-Na’s favourite. She always tried to steal extra pieces when Tae-Eul wasn’t looking, Gon helped her sneak more sweets than she was allowed.
Seo-Joon ate anything that his siblings ate, often wanting to sit in their lap and eating off their plates while giggling and making a mess.
It was perfect. All of it.
Chapter 18: Outrageous Requests & Races
To say that saying no to his princess made Gon feel upset was an understatement.
In-Na was usually a very good listener, her demands, although sometimes a bit out there, weren’t anything out of the ordinary.
Even the request for a unicorn was reasonable according to Tae-Eul, she said all little girls wanted unicorns. And then she had added that not all little girls had a crazy father who thought they really needed to find a unicorn for their daughter.
How was he supposed to know that putting a unicorn horn on Maximus would suffice? His usually intelligent daughter had fallen for it and was happy riding unicorn Maximus around while Tae-Eul grinned at him in the smug way that she had perfected.
Apparently, In-Na had been much more reasonable as a 3-year-old than she was at almost 6-years-old. She was adamant that she wanted a baby monkey after having seen a documentary that Dae-Hyun had insisted on watching. Dae-Hyun adored documentaries about animals and books about them too, he wanted to know everything about all of them, it was endearing.
But it always gave In-Na too many ideas.
Gon hated seeing his daughter cry, but she stood in front of him crying and begging for a monkey, throwing an epic temper tantrum because the baby monkeys in the documentary were adorable and they showed a person who had monkeys for pets.
“It’s just a monkey! I want one!” She cried while wiping away her tears.
“Nana, monkeys are not pets.” Tae-Eul tried to explain but she shook her head vehemently.
“So many people have monkeys as pets!” She yelled.
“That’s not how you should speak to your eomma.” Gon said calmly.
“YOU NEVER LISTEN! I DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU EITHER!”
“Nana, take a deep breath -”
“NO! IS NOT FAIR DAHN GETS WHATEVER HE ASKS FOR! YOU ONLY CARE ABOUT DAHN AND JOON-JOON YOU DON’T LOVE ME ANYMORE!” She yelled before crying harder and stomping away.
The last thing he wanted his children was to feel that they weren’t loved.
Tae-Eul sighed and turned towards him. “Stop, it’s not your fault.” She said while pulling him towards her. She wrapped her arms around him in a hug, her hands rubbing his back as her head came to rest against his chest. He hugged her back, holding her close.
“She doesn’t mean it, she’s just angry.” His wife reassured him.
“She’s never said that before.” He whispered.
She said that he didn’t love her anymore.
“Kids sometimes learn stupid things as they get older.” She muttered.
“It’s dangerous.” He sighed.
“I know, give her some time to cool down first and then we’ll go talk to her.” Tae-Eul said, pulling away a little to look up at him.
He nodded and she reached up to cup his face, rubbing her thumbs along his cheek in the way he loved.
“It’s been a long day, huh?” She smiled up at him.
“So long.” He groaned, there were so many meetings and a million things that needed his attention at the same time. Tae-Eul was still holding off transitioning back to work since Seo-Joon was not even one yet. He also hated nannies, he wouldn’t eat if someone other than Gon, Tae-Eul, the twins, Lady Noh or his grandpa fed him. He cried if anyone else tried to hold him, so they had to change their plans to accommodate their youngest.
Gon pulled Tae-Eul down to sit on the couch behind him, she curled into his lap sideways, head resting on his shoulder as her hand played with the collar of his shirt. He wrapped his arms around her and rested his cheek atop her head.
“Good thing there’s only one of her, huh?” Tae-Eul teased.
He couldn’t help but chuckle. “There is no guarantee that a second daughter would have been like In-Na, maybe she would be more like Dae-Hyun.”
Tae-Eul shook her head. “She would have wanted to be just like her big sister.”
“Probably.” He relented. “But that’s not a bad thing, In-Na just has her moments, she’s stubborn like her eomma.” He teased.
He laughed when she whacked him, just like he was expecting her to. “You should have found a more docile wife then.” She muttered.
“No, I always loved the way you whacked me.” He laughed. “Ever since that one time where you hit my back hard on your way to the bathroom at that chicken place.”
She hummed. “I was a bit angry.”
“No one had hit me like that before you.”
“You deserved it.” She teased before placing a kiss on his neck.
“Not really, you were angry because you thought I was lying about this world. Come to think of it, you’ve never apologized for it.” He teased.
“And how do you want your apology, pyeha?” She asked sarcastically.
“I think I have more than made up for it then.”
“Not even close. I want a billion kisses.”
She laughed. “Have you been counting?”
“Yes, you’re not even at a million yet.” He said.
She cupped his face and pecked his lips. “And now?”
“Closer to a million.”
She laughed and kissed him again, a short peck. She pulled away and pushed his hair away from his face. “You need a haircut.”
“Dae-Hyun does too.”
“We’ll get one together. What about Joon-Joon?” He asked.
Tae-Eul shook her head. “I love his crazy hair when it gets long.” She laughed. It stuck up completely straight if they set it like that after a bath – which they often did when they had nowhere to go. It amused them and the twins greatly.
“Enough cool down time?” He asked.
“Probably, let me just go check on Joon-Joon first.” She said.
“No! You’re going to wake him.” She said, shooting up.
He looked at her sheepishly, he loved it when Seo-Joon was awake, he was 9 months old, Gon loved that age. And he hated missing the things his youngest son did during the day. The twins were crawling around and messing up things at nine months, and Seo-Joon was no different. Gon loved to crawl over him like he had with the twins and watch as he explored the growing world around him.
Joon-Joon like his siblings was a happy baby for the most part, but only with his parents, the twins and people he was close with. Otherwise, he cried up a storm. But around him, he always laughing, Gon loved the way he held his arms out towards him to be picked up whenever he saw him. He now tried to kiss him, although Tae-Eul was sure he was just trying to chew on him.
“It’s almost bath time.” Gon pouted, Seo-Joon loved bath time, more than In-Na had as a baby.
“No, you stay right here, mister.” Tae-Eul laughed as she ran towards the nursery.
He sighed, he wanted more play time with Seo-Joon. But he guessed sleep was important, his son was rather cranky if he was awoken earlier than he wanted to get up.
Tae-Eul came back in less than a minute. “Your son is sound asleep.”
Gon sighed, he wished he was awake.
“Let’s go.” She said holding her hand out towards him. He grabbed it and let her pull him towards the twin’s playroom. When In-Na was sad, she usually hung around Dae-Hyun. She hated going to her own room, someone needed to witness her tantrum and share in her misery.
Dae-Hyun looked up when they walked in before pointing over to the window seat where In-Na was laying, her head under the pillow. He made a pouty face while he pointed to her, indicating to them that his sister was in a bad mood.
Gon smiled as Tae-Eul leaned down and grabbed Dae-Hyun, squeezing him into a hug and kissing his cheek. Gon laughed as he wiped his cheek.
“Gross.” Dae-Hyun said.
“You used to love my kisses.” Tae-Eul pouted.
Dae-Hyun sighed. “Fine, you can kiss me, but not in public!” He said the last part with a lot of conviction.
“Deal.” Tae-Eul said before placing a kiss on his other cheek and squeezing him.
“What about me?” Gon asked.
Dae-Hyun ran over and wrapped his arms around his legs, Gon dropped down to face-level and pushed his son’s hair away from his face. “Can you go play for a bit while we talk to your sister?” He asked.
“Is Nana in trouble?” He asked quietly.
Gon shook his head. “No, I think she might like some privacy though.”
Dae-Hyun nodded. “I’ll go to my room.”
“Thank you, baby.” Tae-Eul smiled, and then watched him run off.
Tae-Eul arched her eyebrow at him.
He nodded, he was going to start.
They both pulled up the little chairs the twins sat on while coloring or drawing, pulling them over to the window seat and sitting down on them. Only his kids could reduce a King and Queen to sitting on little chairs to placate them.
In-Na still had her head under the pillow, she was laying on her stomach and Tae-Eul could see her reflection in the window she was facing.
“In-Na?” Gon tried. “Nana.” He said when she didn’t reply.
“I don’t want to talk, please and thank you.” She mumbled, not turning towards them.
“At least she is still using her manners.” Tae-Eul whispered to him.
“Can you please use your listening ears then? You don’t have to speak.” He said.
She hummed and he turned to Tae-Eul, who nodded.
“There are so many different kinds of animals in this world.” He started. “Some of them like living with humans.”
“Like dogs and cats.” Tae-Eul added.
“Right.” He said. “But some animals can’t live in houses.”
“Our house is so big.” Nana said from under the pillow.
“It’s not the size of the house that matters baby, some animals get sick if they live in homes.” Tae-Eul said.
“How?” She asked, turning her face towards them and peeking out from under the pillow.
There were tear marks on her face and she was still a little red, Gon hated it when she cried.
“Not fever or stomach-ache sick, their brain and heart sometimes get sick.” Gon explained.
Nana’s eyes narrowed in that suspicious way, much like her mother’s did when someone said something she didn’t quite understand or believe, so he continued.
“They get very sad and confused inside when things don’t happen the way they should. Some animals are supposed to grow up in forests and jungles with other animals.” He said. He didn’t quite know how to explain animal aggression to her in a way that made sense. And there was so much more to consider, from capture to transport and the conditions the exotic animals were housed in to make profit.
“Hmmm.” Tae-Eul hummed. “Some animals like living alone and some like living with their families. Monkeys like living with their families, they don’t like living with humans.”
“They don’t?” Nana asked, lifting the pillow off her head.
“Monkeys are the most human-like animals, so it is kind of like if a gorilla said I think Nana is adorable, I want her to live with me.”
Tae-Eul snickered quietly. “Would you be happy if someone did that and made you to leave us and Dahn and Joon-Joon?” She asked.
Nana shook her head. “That would be so sad.” She whispered.
“And how do you think the monkey would feel if we did that to him or her?” He asked.
“Right, and sometimes animals can’t control what they do when they get sad. Because they don’t understand timeout and trying to control their anger.”
“They explode?” Nana asked.
He nodded. “Right, they explode.”
“And we don’t want that to happen and for anyone to get hurt.” Tae-Eul said.
“Like Joon-Joon.” Nana whispered.
“Especially Joon-Joon because he’s so small.” Gon nodded.
“But what about people who have monkeys as pets?”
“They don’t understand that monkeys need to be with their family and other monkeys.” Tae-Eul said, running her fingers through her daughter’s hair.
“We should tell them!”
Tae-Eul nodded. “We should. You know eomma is part of so many different charities?”
“One of them is called The Humane Society of Corea. One of the things they work on is stopping people from buying exotic pets.”
“Hm, it means pets that aren’t supposed to be pets, like monkeys and tigers.”
“People have pet tigers?”
“Some of them do.” She said. “How about you come with me next time and we can figure out a plan on how to stop people from buying exotic pets, and teach them more about it?”
“They also have animals they rescued, maybe we can see some of them.”
“But aren’t they keeping them as pets then?” She asked.
“Very good question!” Gon praised her, he loved how she questioned what she was told rather than just accepting it at face-value.
“They only keep them for a little while before they can find them a home where they can be with other animals like them, and the people who take care of them are experts, like you see at the zoo.”
“They don’t go back to their families in the jungle?”
Tae-Eul shook her head. “Not all the time, if you take them from their home when they’re very young, they don’t learn all the important things they need to know to survive in the jungle.”
“Where do they go then?”
“They go to zoos where they make sure their environment is like the one they are supposed to be in and that they have another animal like them there. Or to special animal reserves, where they can be with lots of animals like them who might need more help. It lets them be safe.”
Nana nodded, Gon smiled, he could tell the little gears in her head were turning, it was the same look that took over his wife’s face when she was thinking.
“Okay.” She said sheepishly. “I am sorry for being mean.”
“Thank you for apologizing.” Tae-Eul said as Nana slid off the window seat.
Gon smiled as her little arms wrapped around his shoulders, hugging him as he sat on the little uncomfortable chair. “I am sorry, I love you appa.” She muttered
He hugged her back. “I love you too, always.” He reminded her.
“I know, I am sorry it was mean to say that.” She said as she pulled away. “I want to take my words back.”
Gon sighed and patted down her hair. “It’s hard to take words back, that’s why you have to think at least three times before you say something.”
“And make sure to not say anything when your feelings get very big.” Tae-Eul added.
She nodded and hugged him tight.
“Can we get a dog?” She asked causing Tae-Eul to laugh.
“Maybe.” He said as he turned towards the door which opened.
Dae-Hyun walked in carrying Seo-Joon, his hair was sticking up in every direction and he looked sleepy, drool covering his face.
“Did you wake him?” Tae-Eul asked, grabbing Seo-Joon from Dae-Hyun and wiping his face with her sleeve.
“No, he was trying to stand in his crib, so I got him.” Dae-Hyun said. “I was super careful!”
“I know you were baby, thank you.” Tae-Eul said while ruffling Dae-Hyun’s hair.
“He’s smelly.” Dae-Hyun said and Tae-Eul laughed.
“Did you poop in your diaper?” Tae-Eul asked Joon-Joon as she held him up in the air, so he could look right at her, he just giggled.
“Let’s go change your diaper.” She said before cuddling him close and getting off the little chair.
“I want to help!” Nana said.
“Is it bath time for Joon-Joon?” Dae-Hyun asked.
“Yeah, it looks like he’s going to have three helpers for bath time today.” Tae-Eul said looking at him, he nodded.
“Can we go swimming first?” Dae-Hyun asked.
“Joon-Joon can splash on the shallow side.” Nana added.
“Sounds like a good idea.” Gon said, any plan that got Tae-Eul into a bathing suit was a good one in his eyes.
His wife glared at him, the cute little glare that told him that she saw right through him.
“Get your swimsuits and floaties, you appa is going to change and clean Joon-Joon while I find my bathing suit.” Tae-Eul said pointedly before passing Seo-Joon to him and marching out the room.
Gon sighed and lifted Seo-Joon up into the air, sniffing him. “Let’s get you changed and cleaned then, no peeing on appa please.” Gon begged as he carried him to the nursery.
The evil sounding laugh his son let out didn’t reassure him any.
To say that his eomma and appa confused Dae-Hyun was an understatement.
They always chose to do not fun things. Appa had been swimming with him and Nana before he went back to the shallow end of the pool where eomma was with Joon-Joon.
Joon-Joon liked to sit in the shallow end with floaties on his arm and splash water. He always hit the water and then laughed really loudly when it jumped, it was boring but eomma said he was the same way when he was Joon-Joon’s age. Babies found everything funny.
Eomma liked to sit and play with him, sometimes she splashed water and other times she held him in the water while he tried to swim. It was cute, he kicked his little legs and laughed a whole lot.
Appa was supposed to be swimming with him and Nana but he kept going back to eomma, he sat right behind her and wrapped his arms around her. He wasn’t even playing with Joon-Joon, but trying to tickle eomma, his fingers were crawling on her legs and stomach, and he kept whispering into her ear.
Eomma kept pushing him away too!
“Appa! Come back, we want to race.” He yelled, appa let eomma go and tickled Joon-Joon before swimming over to them.
“Yes. I am faster.” Nana said.
“No! I am.” He said, Nana was way slower than him.
“You judge.” Nana demanded.
"No getting distracted and going to eomma!” He said causing his appa to laugh.
“Okay, okay, no distractions. My eyes on you two the whole time.”
“From the side of the pool to this side.” Nana said.
“Okay, go to the start line then.” Appa said.
He was so going to win, he swam over to the other side and bounced a little in the water to prepare himself.
“EOMMA, WE’RE GOING TO RACE!” Nana yelled.
Eomma cheered for them both from the side, taking Joon-Joon’s arms and cheering for him, he laughed so loudly.
“On your marks!” Appa said. “You can only go when I say the word go, if you move before you’re out.” He said, looking straight at Nana, she always cheated.
“Why are you looking at me?”
“No, I am looking at both of you.” Appa said while looking at him, he held back a giggle when appa winked at him.
“One. Prepare yourself. Two. Three. GO!” Appa yelled.
He took off like a speedboat, kicking his feet hard and moving his arms fast, he could hear Nana beside him and wanted to look to see if she was close behind, but appa always said to just focus on winning and that he would lose if he got distracted so he just swam towards appa.
He touched the wall and stopped.
He giggled when appa made a buzzer sound.
“And the winner is…Prince Dae-Hyun.” Appa said loudly.
“YESSSSSS!” He screamed while turning towards Nana who was pouting.
She sighed and gave him a high-five. “Good job.”
“LOOK OUT COMING IN!” Appa yelled before jumping into the pool, they both screamed because he was huge and caused a huge splash wave.
He was laughing as they screamed. “Bet I can beat you both.” He teased.
“That’s not fair, you have huge legs!” Nana said.
“And arms.” He added.
“Race eomma!” Nana said.
“No, eomma is small.” He said.
“I can still beat him.” Eomma yelled.
“No, you can’t.” Appa yelled back.
“RACE! RACE! RACE!” Nana sang.
Eomma grabbed a giggling Joon-Joon and swam over to them slowly, keeping Joon-Joon out of the water.
“If you and Dae-Hyun watch Joon-Joon and promise to not come into the pool, and sit on those loungers then I can race your appa.” Eomma said as she stopped by them.
He nodded, he wanted to see this!
Appa helped them climb out of the pool and walk over to the lounge chairs before grabbing Joon-Joon and giving him to Nana.
He reached under the chair to pull out Joon-Joon’s bath toys and gave them to Nana so they could play together before following appa to the pool.
“On your marks!” He said, giggling because it sounded weird when he said it.
Appa swam over to the other side of the pool to eomma.
“First one here wins, you have to wait ‘til I say go!” He yelled to his parents, they both nodded.
Eomma turned towards appa to say something while fixing her top.
Eomma leaned closer to whisper something to appa.
“Go!” He yelled.
Eomma shot forward, using her legs to kick off and swim towards him.
Appa didn’t move.
“APPA! GO!” He yelled.
“Cheater!” Appa yelled before he started to swim, but eomma was already way ahead and swimming superfast.
She reached the wall just before appa did and screamed happily. “I win! I win! I win!”
“YAY EOMMA!” Nana yelled from behind him.
“You cheated!” Appa said to eomma.
“No, I went when you said go, right Dahn?”
He nodded. “Appa was too slow.”
“Exactly! I won.”
“No, how?” She asked, looking at appa and moving her head to the side.
“You said - ” Appa stopped short.
“What did I say?” Eomma pouted.
“What did she say appa?” He asked, wondering how someone could cheat by saying something.
“Dahn is the judge, what did I say?” Eomma asked.
He looked at appa in question but he just sighed and glared at eomma, muttering under his breath while she laughed.
“Nana, bring Joon-Joon back, we can swim more while appa deals with the fact that he lost.”
Nana giggled and picked up Joon-Joon who whined and reached towards his rubber ducky.
He ran over to grab it and give it to Joon-Joon while Nana carried him to the pool, passing him to appa, who kissed his cheek. “You believe me right, your eomma totally cheated.” He said to Joon-Joon.
Joon-Joon hit appa’s cheek and laughed, causing eomma to snort.
“That means stop lying.” She said happily before giggling, he loved his eomma’s giggles.
“Eomma, swim with us!” Nana said as she jumped in.
“How about we play pool tag?” Eomma suggested.
“Not it!” He and Nana yelled causing eomma to laugh.
“I am going to count to three.” She sang. He and Nana swam away as quickly as they could.
“One. Two. Three!” Eomma yelled before swimming after them, Nana screamed as she swam away from her.
He took a break because eomma was swimming after Nana and laughed when he saw appa. Appa put Joon-Joon on his shoulders and Joon-Joon was pulling on his hair as appa slowly swam around.
“I am going to get you!” Eomma sang as she swam towards him.
“NO!” He yelled before swimming away quickly, dodging his eomma by ducking under the water and tickling her stomach before swimming away in the opposite direction.
This was more fun. He loved it when his parents chose to do fun things.
Chapter 19: A Child
To say that Lady Noh felt joy well deep in her heart was an understatement.
She watched as Prince Seo-Joon ran down the hallway towards her, as much as he could on his wobbly unstable legs at the age of just 13 months. He was wearing a new pair of sandals that made the cutest stomping noises against the hardwood floors, his arms were spread out like wings at his side to help him balance.
He was squealing loudly and laughing as he moved towards her, occasionally stopping to look behind him. The twins were following him, the sounds of their laughter and squeals reaching her loud and clear. In-Na had her arms out as if she was shielding Seo-Joon and ensuring no one got close to him.
Dae-Hyun was valiantly trying to push away the dinosaur they were all running from – pyeha.
Gon was slowly chasing after them, making dinosaur noises as the children all squealed.
This was one of her favourite games, watching Gon run after his children pretending to be dinosaur that wanted to eat them. It always filled the halls of the once solemn palace with sounds of children running around, of laughter, and of play.
The first time she had seen it, the twins were around one, and her heart had melted. It continued throughout the years, getting more and more adventurous as the twins got older. But now there was a baby to chase again, a baby with three protectors it seemed.
More than seeing the children playing, Lady Noh loved seeing Gon playing.
When she saw him playing with his children, she saw in him the child she always hoped would come out. Gon had lost his childlike innocence rather early in life, the toddler that squealed and ran around had quietened considerably after his mother passed away. He had felt the loss even at his young age and retreated into himself, his father had handled the grief of losing his wife well, but he was a little distant as he tended to the many responsibilities of a King.
After his father passed away, Gon acted like the young King he was. It was like he went from eight to thirty-eight in the span of a week. A burdened King that lost his father in the most horrific of ways. A child that saw things no child should have. A child that tried to shut out the world around him, but the light within him had helped him stay afloat.
The child in him rarely surfaced after his father’s passing, apart from small glimpses here and there as he played with Jo Yeong and on rare occasions with her and Prince Buyeong. It had broken her heart when she realized that the child had learnt how to pretend to be happy for the people around him. She had tried so hard to help him, to give him some sense of normalcy and a childhood, but she knew she had failed him. And she knew he saw how much she hated to see him like that, he tried for her, but it was so easy to see through the façade.
But with his own children, he was a child again.
He laughed for the smallest things, like a little child that was amused by the world around him. A child that had been lost somewhere as he grew up.
He lost the hint of formality that lined his every interaction with his children. To them, he was just appa, not the King, and he refused to have them refer to him in any formal capacity. He didn’t measure how he acted around them. He gave and accepted everything freely, without any hesitation.
He played with the toys he had always found ‘babyish’ as he grew up. Gon had taken solace in books and learning as a child, things he knew a King should do, things that made him seem older than he was. It worked, because a lot of people often forgot that the calm and stoic King was a child. A kid who didn’t do things kids were supposed to. But now he ran around with weird things on his head, and played with toys that his children adored. Things she had wished he did as a child.
He no longer spent his day holed up in his study, writing away on the boards that covered every surface. She always had to poke and prod him to get out of there as he grew up. But now the study usually remained empty, the boards that had always been covered with new math equations were barely touched. And there were little scribbles at the bottom of the boards, pictures drawn by the twins and lines drawn by Seo-Joon. There was even a heart drawn on one corner – from the Queen, it hadn’t been erased. And the study was filled with children’s books and toys, things that just made their way into the room over the years as the twins, Seo-Joon, and the Queen spent time in there with him.
Gon no longer ran away alone to escape from his life and the expectations. He had someone to share the burden with and a family that served to balance out his work. His day always ended at 4 or 5pm, evenings were reserved for family time. There was a whole schedule, there were nights where they watched movies, nights they went to the park, museums, events, zoos, or wherever else the twins wanted to go.
He had a wife that swept in and took care of him when he did too much. Something that no one else ever did. Because he had never said no, and they had never thought he wanted to. The Queen split the work with him. The woman was only a tyrant when it came to Gon, she would reschedule meetings and delegate his tasks when he wouldn’t. She doted on him and cared for him in a way that no one else could. It reassured her that someone would always be by his side when she eventually wasn’t around.
And the way Gon loved his wife made her heart immensely happy, because she had always wished that for the boy she watched grow up. She wanted him to have everything he wanted, and she knew that Gon always craved family, something he didn’t really have. She had tried for years to push him towards love, but he said he wasn’t interested.
But then he had shown up with a woman from another world and it all made sense.
Tae-Eul didn’t care that Gon was the King, she would have loved him the same even if he wasn’t. He was Gon to her before he was King, and he couldn’t find that anywhere else. He had picked well, a strong woman that stood by his side through everything, someone who loved him beyond reason, someone who understood him, someone who became his happiness and brought with her all the things he craved.
They made sense – pyeha and his Queen – the woman who was his fate, the only woman who would dare to whack the King when he was being whiny and childish. Even his childishness was now real rather than something he did just to be charming. He was happy. Truly happy.
The distance between the charismatic outgoing King that seemed happy and the solemn Gon who was alone in his sadness had lessened drastically. Even his interactions with people he didn’t know well were better now, the distance between him as a King and them as his subjects still existed and it always would, but he smiled a little more. And it made her immensely happy to see it.
Lady Noh let out a laugh as Seo-Joon ran straight into the skirt of her hanbok. His little hands wrapping around her as he squealed and laughed.
“Aigoo, do you want me to save you, my young Prince?” She asked as she scooped him up in her arms and picked him up. It was always so difficult but so worth it because of the way he cuddled into her. There were days she wished she was younger so she could play with the children and run around with them.
She turned to look down the hall as a tired Seo-Joon rested his head against her shoulder, playing with the strings of her hanbok and trying to reach for the clip in her hair while making adorable cooing noises.
Down the hallway, Gon was holding a screaming Dae-Hyun and pretending to chomp down on him while In-Na tried to rescue her brother. She was running around Gon and trying to tickle him, but Gon refused to let Dae-Hyun go.
She couldn’t help but laugh as Tae-Eul yelled out a loud “incoming” and appeared behind her husband, jumping on his back unexpectedly and forcing him to bend over. It put Dae-Hyun closer to the ground. He was able to pull out of Gon’s grasp with In-Na’s help.
“Stop bothering my kids, you big dinosaur.” Tae-Eul said as the twins screamed happily.
The Queen was squealing then as Gon grabbed her legs and tickled her behind the knees – her ticklish spots. Her arms tightened around his neck as she tried to pull her legs away. The sounds of her loud yells to be put down and that she would kill him if she fell, mixed in with Gon’s laughter, filled the once quiet halls.
“I won’t let you fall.” Gon said.
Lady Noh couldn’t help but laugh as Tae-Eul started recounting all the times he had let her fall. They were going to be at this for a while.
“Aigoo, those two.” She sighed before turning to the twins who bounded up to her. “Want to have tea with me while we wait for them?” She asked.
“Call!” They both said at the same time.
She narrowed her eyes at them.
“I mean, yes please, that would be lovely.” In-Na said as Dae-Hyun nodded.
Seo-Joon was now chewing on her shoulder.
“You want me to take him, Lady Noh?” Dae-Hyun asked, holding his arms out for Seo-Joon.
She hated to let him go, but her back was hurting so she bent and helped Seo-Joon into his brother’s arms, the toddler laughing as he tried to get to the floor instead. “Aigoo, no, go to your hyung.” She said.
“Ahn!” Seo-Joon laughed as Dae-Hyun grabbed him, she sighed, they all called each other by name.
She led them all to her room, where they often had tea parties. The twins had started their etiquette classes with her early, learning how to mind their manners and eat like civilized people.
A spread was prepared for them quickly, decaf tea for the twins, with biscuits, and soft granola bites for the young Prince along with freshly squeezed juice.
They all ate with gusto, much like their mother, she had to clear her throat a couple of times to get the twins to slow down. Seo-Joon was not held to the same standard, he roamed the room, returning for a bite once in a while. He carried the bottle of juice with him around the room, dropping it in multiple spots and picking it up.
She was getting too old to keep up with babies, so she didn’t try, just let him roam the room because he came back when he was tired. She smiled as he settled himself into her lap after he was done exploring the room. She moved the bowl of granola bites closer to him and smiled as he stuffed his face with them while the twins practiced how to drink tea without making noise.
The door to her room opened a while later, a sheepish King and Queen standing at the door.
“Done?” She teased.
They were both red in the face from laughing. And she knew Tae-Eul must have gotten her revenge and tickled him right back. She would hear all about it from the maids and Court Ladies later. Whispers of how they tickled each other and chased each other around, and how they were found in a corner kissing.
She was used to it by now.
She no longer cared for decorum, because they looked happy - their eyes shined with happiness. And that’s all that mattered.
Chapter 20: Rumours
To say that Gon was confused was an understatement.
He was walking back from his office towards Gwangyeongjeon, his family’s private residence – it was a regular occurrence, one that didn’t require stares. He was used to being stared at though, he could feel eyes on him as he walked past people after acknowledging their bows. But it wasn’t like this - today the stares were accompanied by whispers, which wasn’t usual.
Something had happened and he missed it. He had been holed up in his office for the whole morning, working through never-ending paperwork after sending the twins off to school. Nothing had been brought to his attention either, so he wondered what it could be.
He walked into the personal kitchen they had built in Gwangyeongjeon, he enjoyed cooking and Lady Noh did not enjoy him kicking everyone out of the main palace kitchens to do so. Especially now that the twins were also starting to experiment with cooking and assisted him often. There were days where they spent hours in the kitchen, the three of them cooking or baking while Tae-Eul sat at the island, sometimes with Seo-Joon, and oohed and ahhed when the twins showed her what they could do.
“Why is everyone staring at me?” He asked as he caught sight of his wife standing by the island. Seo-Joon was sitting in his high-chair, and she was feeding him.
“Apparently you’re cheating on me this time.” Tae-Eul said as he came up behind her. He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind and placed a kiss on her temple. He took in a deep breath as her words registered, letting the smell of her rose-scented shampoo calm him down.
“Seriously?” He groaned.
But before he could speak further, Seo-Joon was yelling appa appa appa appa again and again while squirming in his chair. Gon’s heart warmed, and he felt a smile overtake his face. He loved how all his kids loved to scream appa. The twins had run through the halls yelling appa repeatedly when he disappeared out of their sight much like Seo-Joon now did, they all got super excited when he showed up and wanted all his attention. He always felt the stress of the day melt off his shoulders when he saw them, his heart just became overwhelmed with the love they had for him.
“Joon-Joon, what are you eating?” He asked before unwrapping his arms from around Tae-Eul and grabbing the spoon she was using to feed Seo-Joon.
“Appa, ahhhhh.” Seo-Joon said holding his mouth open, waiting to be fed.
Tae-Eul laughed as he leaned in and kissed Seo-Joon’s nose, making him laugh loudly. He pulled back and scooped up some rice and brought it to Seo-Joon’s mouth, laughing when the 13-month-old giggled and wrapped his lips around the spoon to eat the rice. He also made little sounds right before he did, he had learnt it from his siblings who made sounds as they fed him.
“Tabloids?” Gon asked his wife as he fed Seo-Joon, she leaned against the counter and watched them.
“Who’s the lucky lady?” He teased.
She laughed at that and hit his back gently, out of Seo-Joon’s sight. “Your oldest admirer and contender for the Queen title, Kim Kang-Hee.” She shared.
He felt confused again, wondering why anyone would link her to him. He hadn’t seen her in months, the last time being at a charity event they both attended.
“Why?” He asked.
“You were seen leaving her house, alone.” Tae-Eul said as she wiped the side of Seo-Joon’s mouth.
He sighed and rolled his eyes. “Prince Buyeong was there too.” He muttered. He had accompanied his uncle on a visit to see Kang-Hee’s grandfather, the man was unwell and a good friend of the Royal Family due to his previous role on the Royal Treasury. The woman in question hadn’t even been home.
“Old articles about how she was infatuated with you and pictures of her staring at you like you hung the stars are surfacing.” Tae-Eul shared while making faces at Seo-Joon.
“Of course.” He sighed.
“Apparently, she would be able to manage motherhood and the being the Queen better than I am.” She muttered a few seconds later before sighing.
“Tae-Eul -” He said turning towards her but she shook her head, giving him a small smile.
“I’ll be right back.” She said before turning towards the door that led out of the kitchen.
“Mama mama mama mama?” Seo-Joon said as the door closed behind Tae-Eul.
Gon sighed and turned to him, continuing to feed him but he kept saying mama between bites.
“Your eomma is just a little sad because the tabloids are not being kind right now.” Gon told his son while feeding him, loving the little sounds and giggles that left him. “But don’t worry, I’ll find a way to make them shut up, they always did like to talk about her too much.”
Seo-Joon laughed loudly at that, and he couldn’t help but smile.
“Maybe I should tell them that Prince Seo-Joon refuses to be fed if it isn’t by his eomma, appa, or siblings, and that all of the nannies we’ve tried aren’t working. And that you refuse to sleep if eomma doesn’t rock you and sing to you. How can she go back to working like she did before?”
Gon loved having conversations with Seo-Joon, because he babbled in response, like he understood exactly what was said to him and was responding to it. There were also lots of pffft noises and giggles interspersed in the middle.
“I know, it’s preposterous, you’re such a smart baby.” Gon laughed as Seo-Joon made an unimpressed face.
By the time Tae-Eul returned, Seo-Joon was fed and burped, and ready for his nap. Gon watched her as she rocked and sang Seo-Joon to sleep, cuddling him and kissing him in the middle. She was quiet otherwise, there was no laughter, no amused looks sent his way as Seo-Joon slowly fell asleep and made cute sounds. She just gave him a small smile as she put him in bed once he was fully knocked out.
He grabbed her hand and tugged her into their own room before pulling her to lay down on the bed. She didn’t even resist one bit before cuddling into him, her arm wrapping around him and her head tucking itself under his neck as he wrapped his arm around her and ran his hand along her back.
“Talk to me.” He whispered after a few minutes, waiting until her breathing was even and quiet, and her body melted into his.
“Maybe they are right.” She muttered. “I need to get back into my regular schedule, I can’t just stop working, I am the Queen, I have responsibilities and it’s not -” She stopped and he pulled away a little, sighing when he noticed the tears. He cupped her face and ran his thumb along her cheek, wiping the tears away. “-maybe we just have to let Joon-Joon cry for a couple of days and get used to not having us around all the time.” She cried, her eyes on his chest rather than on his face.
He shook his head and cupped her face with both hands, forcing her to look up at him. “You can be a mother first, and a Queen second, no one gets to fault you for that.”
“But you have to do so much to make up for it and I -”
“I don’t mind one bit if it means that you’re happy and our kids are happy.” He said, interrupting her. “I am happy to do whatever it is that you need to me to do. If you need me to step back and be around more to help with Joon-Joon so you can ease back into work, I can do that. If you want to continue with this, I am happy to attend what I need to in lieu of you.”
“I am supposed to share the burden, not add to it.” She said, her nose crinkling in a way that told him she was about to cry more.
“Aigoo, my slow-witted bear.” He sighed, holding back a smile when her eyes narrowed and she whacked him like he expected. “I had longer days and more things to do before you swooped in and threatened Lady Noh and my secretary. We delegate a lot more now than I ever did and it works. You’ve made being King more a job that I can put away at the end of the day rather than my whole identity. It’s the opposite of burden, baboya.” He whispered while rubbing her cheeks with his thumb.
She sniffled. But didn’t cry more.
“I hate tabloids.” She muttered.
“I am telling you that I have no problem shutting them down.” He said while pushing the few strands of hair that always managed to escape her ponytails back behind her ear.
She sighed. “You can’t, that’s not seen in the best light.”
“I am strategic.” He grinned.
She laughed “Yeah right, smaller tabloids being bought by bigger agencies so they can curb what is being written, smells like you, pyeha.” She teased, his heart warmed at the way her eyes lit up with mirth.
“I will admit to no such thing.”
“You did that last time.”
“No.” He bluffed.
“Yes, you did, the rumour about me cheating on you disappeared overnight.”
“It’s because we went out and put on a show.” He said.
“Sure.” She teased before nuzzling his hand and sighing.
“We should do that again, it’s been a while since we’ve been on a public date. What shall I close down for you, my Queen?” He asked.
She laughed and whacked his arm gently and he couldn’t resist but to roll them over until she was under him, and he was hovering over her.
“Stop bottling things inside.” He whispered, letting his eyes trace over her face, she still looked like a beautiful piece of art, every single millimetre of her perfect like someone had spent years working on her.
“Hmmm.” She just hummed noncommittally. She always said she didn’t care about what was being said about her, but then it took a little thing to tip her over the edge.
“You’re perfect, the Kingdom couldn’t have a better Queen.”
She nodded sheepishly.
“I love you.” He whispered before leaning in and kissing her forehead.
She was smiling up at him in the way he loved when he pulled away, with a huge smile that made her eyes crinkle at the sides and her nose scrunch. There were faint lines on her face now, much like him, lines that told people she smiled a whole lot.
“I love you too.” She muttered before her eyes flickered down to his lips and then back to his eyes.
He grinned and moved closer, capturing her lips in a kiss. He loved the way she sighed and tilted her face towards him, kissing him back.
Lips against lips, opening and closing, slowly.
The sounds of her sighs disappeared into his mouth.
The sound of her gasp filled his ear as his tongue flicked out to run along her plump bottom lip.
A groan escaped him as her arms and legs wrapped around him, pulling him closer, her fingers digging into his hair.
She hummed happily as he pulled away for air. “We have about forty minutes before your son wakes up crying.” She whispered.
He grinned. “Forty minutes is good.”
“Hm, the office desk would be better again.” She teased.
The way her eyes lit up told him that she was remembering the last time similar accusations had been thrown at them, before Seo-Joon was born.
20 Months Ago
To say that Lee Gon was nervous was an understatement.
There were rumours afloat, the tabloids were filled with utter nonsense yet again. He usually paid them no heed, but this time he was a little nervous.
The tabloids said that Tae-Eul was cheating on him. Just because she whacked Jangmi as he escorted her to the car and was laughing. Apparently, her friendliness paired with the fact that she hadn’t accompanied the King on a date outside the Palace meant that their marriage was unravelling, and she was cheating.
The accusations were baseless, he didn’t question it for even a second, he knew his wife, he trusted her. She was just friendly with the guard, how could she not be when they accompanied her everywhere. Tae-Eul thought she was ‘one of the boys’ in a way - she had grown up around men and always had more male friends than female, and it made sense that she got along with the members of the Royal Guard.
They all loved her. The Queen who aimed better than them at times. The Queen who could handle herself and hurt lots of people before they could hurt her. The Queen who could protect herself if it ever came down to it but appreciated them. The Queen who could look a detailed security plan and poke holes through it.
All the things the people who wrote stupid tabloids did not know about her.
He didn’t want her to know what the tabloids were saying. She was pregnant with Seo-Joon and everything was going well. They had somehow made it past the turmoil of losing a child, and Tae-Eul was herself again. But her pregnancy with Seo-Joon scared him, he was scared that something would go wrong again, and that fear meant that he didn’t want to tell her anything that would stress her out.
He hid it.
He didn’t tell her what was going on and told everyone around her to keep quiet. He knew she would be angry when she found out, but he couldn’t help himself. The Palace got no newspapers, the news channels didn’t work, he had certain news blocked so she couldn’t search it up on the internet.
He knew it was only temporary, but he was trying to buy time to erase the news from existence.
He should have known that his wife would find out sooner than later, the cop in her could sniff secrets out.
To say that Jeong Tae-Eul was suspicious was an understatement.
Everyone seemed to be walking on eggshells around her. That paired with the fact that the Palace suddenly did not get news channels, and she could not search up the news on the internet had aroused the suspicion of the detective in her.
There was only person who would think to hide things from her. She made a call to his secretary and had his schedule cleared for the afternoon. Secretary Kim had been hesitant, but a well-placed throat clearing and reminder that she was the Queen had her complying.
Her husband looked rather nervous as she opened the door to his office and closed it behind her, locking it. She walked towards his desk, pulling her cardigan around her tighter.
“I am angry with you.” She said as she got closer.
“Why?” He asked nonchalantly, but she knew him, if it was actual nonchalance, there would be a smirk on his face and his eyes would be sparkling with amusement rather than nerves.
“You’re doing that thing where you deal with things alone to protect those around you.” She said as she came to a stop in front of his desk, resting her hands on the chair in front of her. “I love that you care so much, but I thought we went over this Gon.” She said quietly.
“I happen to know that.” She said, rolling her eyes.
“I am scared that stressing you out is going to make something happen again. You were stressed last time and I -” He stopped short and she hated the look of pain that flashed across his face.
She guessed they were not completely done healing from losing a baby, and she had a feeling that they never would be. It was a fear and grief that they would carry with them forever.
She walked around the desk, to his side, and put her hands on his shoulders, pushing him back so he was sitting upright in his chair. She carefully climbed into his lap, facing him. She crossed her legs and sat on his thighs, leaning back into the desk to support her back. There were some nice perks to having such a tall husband with long legs.
She cupped his face, thumb rubbing his cheeks as she ran her eyes over his face. He looked stressed and she wondered how long he was planning to keep things to just himself, and what he was trying to hide so badly. She smiled when he nuzzled her hand, eyes closing for a second before opening again.
“I know, this pregnancy is scary because we don’t know what’s going to happen.” She whispered. She was being watched closely just in case. “And the thought of something happening again and going back to how things were like last time is probably both our worst nightmare – but it’s not the same.” She said. She felt different this time, she was sure things would work out, and the doctors were happy too. “It doesn’t have to be the same, you said so yourself, that there so many variables and we can neither account for them all, nor fear that the exact same set of variables will present themselves again.”
“You sound like a science person, I don’t like that.” He muttered making her chuckle quietly.
“If you walk around eggshells with me for the next six months, I will go crazy.” She whispered as his hands wrapped around her, resting on her back.
“I know – I – ” He sighed and trailed off, like he didn’t have words.
“Let me decide, if something is too much for me, I’ll tell you. I promise.” She whispered.
His hand trailed around from her back to her stomach, resting atop where their baby was growing, a bump not yet visible. He leaned in and kissed her forehead gently, his lips brushing against her skin lightly.
“What are you trying to hide?” She asked as he pulled away.
“The tabloids are saying you’re cheating on me…with Jangmi.”
She felt utter confusion fill her at the words. “What – I wouldn’t – what.”
“I know, it’s because you were laughing with him and whacking his arm, and people are stupid.”
“Not Queen-like.” She sighed. She wasn’t supposed to touch them, they weren’t allowed to touch her unless it was related to her security, it was just the way things were. She had messed up.
“Don’t blame yourself, it is not your fault. It’s just who you are as a person, you’ve always had more male friends than female.” He said before muttering quietly under his breath. “Like Hongdae and Kondae.”
She couldn’t help but laugh at how he sounded when he said that. She leaned in and rubbed her nose against his while squeezing his face with the hands that were still cupping it. He was such a baby sometimes.
“I can’t believe you’re still jealous of a man that no longer exists in a way.” She said.
He sighed. “I thought the woman of my dreams had another suitor. Plus, you were plenty jealous –”
She interrupted him, changing the topic before they got sidetracked. She was jealous, he was hers even before she had made a conscious decision about it. But she would rather not focus on that when they had something important to discuss.
“What else are you hiding?” She asked.
“They say that we haven’t been seen together in weeks.”
“I have been too busy throwing up for the past month.” She groaned.
“I know that too, I just want to -” He trailed off, his voice almost a growl. She tried to stop the part of her mind that loved it when he sounded a little angry and scary, it was rather sexy.
“The people who wrote the article are still alive, right pyeha?” She teased.
“I can’t go after every little person sadly.”
“It’ll tide over, most people shouldn’t believe that garbage.” She said.
“That’s dumb.” She whined. “I am so in love with you that it’s nauseating.”
He laughed then. “Everything is nauseating these days, yeobo.”
She rolled her eyes. “Stop hiding stupid stuff from me, we’ve been over this.”
“Yes, my Queen.” He said.
“Tomorrow, you’re taking me out somewhere nice.” She added.
“We don’t have to –”
“No, I want to go. A public date with my husband. A nice and busy restaurant, rent out a whole section, I am going to sit right next to you and plant a huge kiss on you.”
“Too obvious.” He laughed.
“Or I could accompany you to your speech at the conference you’re attending tomorrow and look at you like you hung the moon and the stars.” She teased.
“I like that. Look at me with that fond smile you have on your face right now.” He smiled.
“Deal.” She whispered before tracing her thumb across his cheek again. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” He said while pushing all her hair behind her shoulders and tucking strands behind her ear. “I thought you’d be angrier.”
“I shouldn’t have talked to you for days huh, like that first fight we had years ago.” She teased.
He sighed. “That seems like it was ages ago.”
“It was, we were both learning then, but I think we’ve got it down pat now. I know when you’re doing stupid things it’s because you’re scared. And I can’t be angry at you about that.”
He smiled at her, that smile that reached his eyes. “You really are perfect for me, you know that right?”
“I know…I always was. You’ve been obsessed with me since the age of eight, staring at my ID.” She teased.
She squealed when he pinched her arm lightly.
“I cleared your schedule for the rest of the day, what do you want to do?” She asked as she ran her hands through his soft hair, loving and hating how it always perfectly fell into place.
“How about a public family outing?” He asked. “Nana and Dahn are almost home from school.”
“Yeong is going to cry a river, internally, if you tell him all four of us will go out somewhere without giving him a heads up.” She said, she could imagine the glares and huffing.
Gon grinned. “But it’s so much fun.”
She couldn’t help but laugh at that, he loved pressing Yeong’s buttons.
“We should do that soon though, take them out somewhere, close down something for a few hours.” He mused.
“Today, I think I want to nap with my wife and then cook dinner with my little sous-chefs.” He said as he ran his fingers through her hair.
“I like that.” She grinned. She knew the twins would inevitably end up joining them for cuddles when they got home. And a late afternoon spent cuddling with her family sounded like the best plan.
“You’re not allowed to touch anything, you just have to sit at the island and look pretty, and ooh and ahh every time Nana and Dahn do something impressive.” Gon went on.
She snickered. “Yes, pyeha.”
He just grinned at that and continued to run his fingers through her hair. The way he smiled at her always managed to warm her heart and the way his fingers scratched her scalp and ran through her hair never failed to send shivers running through her body.
She had an addition to make to their plan.
“I was thinking…” She said as she fingered the buttons on his shirt, running her fingers up and down them. “…before of a nap…” She whispered before unbuttoning the top few, exposing his ridiculously defined neck.
“I thought you weren’t feeling well.” He said, his voice both a little worried and a little hopeful. She hadn’t felt like doing anything except sleeping and throwing up over the past few weeks.
“I am feeling better.” She said, looking at him, his eyes were trailing over her face as if he was looking for a hint of a lie. “And missing my husband.” She whispered as she unbuttoned more buttons and let her fingers trail down the warm skin of his neck and upper chest.
He cleared his throat. “What the Queen wants, the Queen gets, let’s go.” He said with a grin.
She shook her head.
He arched his eyebrow.
“It’s been a while since we’ve made good use of this desk, pyeha.” She teased, it had to have been months ago, before they went on that vacation with the twins and…things went wrong.
“This reminds me of the first time you were pregnant.” He smiled.
She hummed, remembering exactly what he meant.
“Encore, please.” She teased.
She loved the way his laughter filled the space around them.