Actions

Work Header

Falling, Fallen

Chapter Text

"This is it … take a deep breath, Shuhua … you can do this."

Yeh Shuhua, brand new surgical intern, grips the straps of the handbag on her shoulder. She brushes some strands of her long black hair out of the way before looking up to the sign above the entrance in front of her. "CUBE National University Hospital. It's finally time." She mumbles to herself before setting her sight on the doors in front of her. Six years of hard-work culminates to this moment, so her heart flutters just to approach the entrance.

As the entrance slides open, the cool air hits her before the hustle and bustle of Orientation Day engulfs her. Before her, countless tables with one or two attendance each line the lobby area. Each table has a sign for its purpose and a group new hospital staff. This is the main hospital, where sterile white walls and large walls of windows dominate. It feels as cold as it looks, despite having all these hot bodies in the month of August. This main building recently went through a multi-billion won renovation so everything looks so minimal and new.

 Like a lost deer, Shuhua’s eyes start to blur with the countless movements and noises. She couldn't focus on where to go first. "What did the welcome packet say?" She mumbles to herself again.

"I think you just go to the table that contains your last name and check in." A cheerful voice helpfully states before Shuhua had a chance to dig the information out of her bag.

Shuhua looks to her right and there is a girl with fluffy strawberry blond hair smiling at her. "Erm … thanks."

"You're welcome!" The strawberry head chirps before heading toward a table.

Shuhua takes another deep breath and strides forward, eyes scanning for a table that contains her last name. She stops at the last table, her last name does start with a 'Y' after all. She was always amongst the last people during roll call, so why would it be different this time? The people ahead of her clears out to reveal two people sitting at the table.

"Name?" The left attendance asks. A woman with sharp eyes and a name tag that says, "Sunmi"

Before Shuhua could answer, the right attendance says, "Hey, be more welcoming. We're here to welcome these guys to the hospital." A girl with eye-smile and a name tag that says, "Chungha"

"…" Sunmi stares at Shuhua expectantly while ignoring her colleague.

"Shuhua. Yeh Shuhua." Shuhua watches as the girl flips through the many envelopes in a plastic bin. 

"Yeh Shuhua. That's a cute name. You're cute, too. I love your white skin and dark hair … it's so long! We have another beauty joining our hospital. We might as well change our name to Miss Korea Hospital or something …" Chungha drones on, causing a small blush to warm Shuhua’s cheek. She isn’t sure whether to thank the girl or deny such praises.

"Here." Sunmi hands Shuhua a large folder, "You'll find your name tag, personalized orientation schedule, benefits information, department listing, and all the necessary safety information inside. During the different sessions today, you'll have a chance to discuss all the topics in there."

"Thank you." Shuhua respectfully accepts the folder with both hands. "Um … do you know where I should go next?"

"I recommend putting your name tag on first and head to the second floor auditorium. The hospital president will give his welcoming speech before dismissing everyone to go to their individual sessions. We're only doing one day of orientation, so the pace is pretty brutal … you do get a lunch break in the middle, though … and it's free! Just show your name tag." Chungha directs Shuhua as briefly as she could.

"Thank you, again." Shuhua awkwardly bows to the two attendances before jetting off to the auditorium so quickly that she misses the discussion from the two women.

"Sunmi, this year's batch of interns is another round of bishoujo characters!" Chungha excitedly proclaims to her indifferent friend.

"That last one looks like she just graduated middle school … it's going to be hard for patients to respect her, much less the old geezers around here." Sunmi rolls here eyes.

"I have a feeling that's not going to be the case, you've got to have faith, Sunmi!"

"Yeah, yeah … whatever… next!"

 

 

Shuhua pats her name tag onto her blazer's jacket, hoping that it wouldn't leave residue. She's wearing a chic navy business suit and white blouse. It took her a few months to save up from her part time job for this outfit along with other professional clothes. She looks around the mostly filled auditorium and picks an isle seat near the back exit. It is a small auditorium, so being in the back is actually not that far from the podium up front.

Having seated, she starts to take things out of the folder that she just received. There's so much to read and the schedule looks horrendous. "Intro … tour … pay and benefits … safety … infection control …" Lunch looks like it would never get here. Then there's even a breakout session after lunch.

"Can I sit here?" A cheerful voice pulls Shuhua out of her information overload.

She looks up to recognize the helpful girl from earlier, "Um … yeah. Sure." Shuhua nods and gestures toward the seat to her right. 

"Thank you!" The girl sounds waaaaay too cheerful for this early in the morning. She’s wearing a similar suit to Shuhua, but in black instead.

Shuhua nods and turns her attention back to the information that's causing her eyes to blur.

"I'm Song Yuqi." The cheerful strawberry blond offers her hand toward Shuhua.

Shuhua glances at her name tag before nodding and accepting the handshake. "Yeh Shuhua."

"Shuhua … that's a pretty name." For the second time today, someone complimented Shuhua's name, causing her to blush a little. "That's a Chinese name, right?"

"No." Shuhua shakes her head, "It's Taiwanese."

Yuqi stares at Shuhua for a moment, as if she's debating to argue that Taiwanese is Chinese. Though that can be a touchy subject, so she chooses not to engage. "I'm Chinese … do you speak Mandarin?"

Shuhua blinks as she processes the information. "Y-Yes … do you?"

"Yeah! Ohmygosh, I have been dying to speak Mandarin ever since I left home last month. You don't know how great it is to find another Mandarin speaker! I haven't met anyone else who could. How lucky that I ran into you!" Yuqi rattles off four sentences in Mandarin in the span of one breath.

Shuhua claps her hands excitedly before nodding, "Me too. I'm glad I'm not the only one. I miss speaking Mandarin when I'm not home!"

“How old are you, Shuhua?”

“I’m 22. And you?”

“Me, too! So let’s not use honorifics with each other, okay?”

“I’m so glad you said that, because I’m so bad at it!” Shuhua laughs, her mood instantly improved.

"What's your specialty, Shuhua?"

"It's Gen …" Before Shuhua could answer, someone had lightly tapped her left shoulder. She turns to find a girl with a short platinum blond bob haircut looking down at her. 

"I need to get through." The girl speaks in a very matter-of-factly, no nonsense voice while pointing toward the seat on the other side of Yuqi. Turns out, that's the only seat left in the auditorium.

"Oh, sorry." Shuhua and Yuqi gather their things and makes themselves as small and flat against the seats as possible for the other girl to get through. The platinum blond is quite petite. Her skirt shows off very skinny legs and sharp knees as she scoots through to the seat on the right of Yuqi. 

When the new girl has seated, Yuqi turns back to Shuhua. "As you were saying  …"

"Oh, yeah … General Surgery." 

"Really? That's pretty awesome. I'm doing Neurosurgery." 

"That's cool! It was my second choice, but it was super competitive … and I really liked my General Surgery rotation."

"Yeah, I know. I was pretty lucky." Yuqi smiles humbly.

"It has to do with more than luck, I'm sure you've worked very hard." Shuhua praises Yuqi and looks around, "Do you know how many Neuro residents there are this year?"

"I heard maybe 2 or 3 … what about you? I know there's been a down trend for General." 

"I'm not sure, I think I might be the only one …" Shuhua scratches her head.

"Are you going to specialize within General?"

"Maybe …"

As Shuhua starts to explain, the platinum blond girl on the other side of  Yuqi suddenly and loudly clears her throat. It seems that the ceremony is about to start because there is a bespectacled older man standing at the podium. He must be the hospital president. Shuhua presses her lips together and smiles at the girl, who proceeds to promptly ignores her.

“Good morning. My name is Hong Seungsung and I am the president of CUBE National University Hospital.” He pauses for an applause. “Thank you. I’ll try to keep this short.” President Hong smiles warmly. “I would like to personally welcome everyone to our great hospital. We are very privileged to host so many young and interesting talents. We are very excited to have you here to be part of this amazing team of healthcare providers. We pride ourselves in first-rate patient care as well as innovative medical research. You will find that the staff here are always striving toward excellence. Today, you will meet some of those amazing staff.” He motions toward some people who are sitting in the front rows and also standing to the sides of the auditorium.

“I trust that they will welcome you with as much care and excitement as I am eager to show you. After this, you will go on a tour of the main hospital, then break into small sessions that are detailed in your individualized schedule. After lunch, you’ll get your identification cards and sign-in informations. Lastly, you will meet your respective specialty team. In the interest of time, if you have any question right now, I ask you to wait until after your small sessions, as they may answer many of your questions. If you still have questions at the end of the day, you may ask any of our staff in the administrative office on the third floor. Now, I will yield the podium to our esteemed Vice-President of Operations, Dr. Shin Junghwa.” Another round of obligatory applause fills the auditorium as a woman in a fine skirt suit strides up to the podium.

“Thank you President Hong and welcome this year’s group of fine young doctors, nurses, supportive and administrative staff. My name is Shin Junghwa and I am Vice-President of Operations. I am very excited to work along side each and everyone of you to make CUBE the best hospital in the Republic of Korea. Now, I will be leading you on a tour of our state of the art facility. If everyone will careful exit the auditorium and meet me outside in the lobby, we can begin the tour.”

Shuhua is impressed that someone so high up in the hospital is leading the tour. As the crackling of applause dwindles, Yuqi and Shuhua rise from their seats and join the lines of people streaming out of the auditorium. The first floor contains the information center, the medical information center, cafeteria, outpatient pharmacy, surgery departments such as (but not limited to): general, cardiothoracic, plastic, orthopedics, obstetrics and gynecology, and organ transplant. The small window on the door to the office of the General Surgery department shows no light. Shuhua was hoping to catch a glimpse of other residents or some attendings.

Yuqi and Shuhua follow at a leisurely pace with the slow moving group as they travel from the main lobby on the first floor to the basement first floor where the Neurosurgery department is located.

“Wow, I didn’t realize that I was going to be down here … in the basement.” Yuqi sighs as there is nary a window in sight.

Shuhua smiles and pats her back empathetically.

“I hope I don’t become pale and depressed as a basement dweller.” Yuqi mopes and turns to Shuhua. “Remember me when you bask in the sunlight of the first floor.”

Shuhua laughs and nods. “I’ll get you a sun lamp for your office.”

“Thank you, Shuhua. You’re too kind.” Yuqi fakes a single tear down her cheek.

Shuhua really likes how funny and outgoing Yuqi is, she helps the day go by quicker.

The second floor contains the main operating theater. There are other elective surgery departments as well as the conference rooms for various departments. The third floor contains executive offices as well as a bridge that connects to the Children’s Hospital. Various wards and units are on this floor, too many for Shuhua to remember. The only consistent thing is the smell of cleaning detergent and the metallic tang of stainless steel in the open air. Honestly, Shuhua’s mind was barely there by the time they reached the fourth floor, which contains even more wards and random rooms and corners and … Shuhua could see herself getting lost in here for days.

 

 

"I'm going to something called Quality Improvement and Infection Control on this floor." Yuqi looks at the next topic on her schedule. "Joy." She says sarcastically. The tour just finished and they have a moment to grab some burnt coffee from machines in the staff lounge on the fourth floor.

"Campus Safety and Information Security on the first floor for me." Shuhua sighs, it sounds so very much like death by boredom for her.

"That sounds even worse than mine." Yuqi laughs and waves to Shuhua. "Have fun and maybe we can meet again during lunch?"

"Yeah. Sounds good." Shuhua quickly adds. "It was nice meeting you!"

"Same!" Yuqi skips away to her next meeting.

Shuhua smiles and is glad to meet someone so cheerful on her first day. She puts her folder away and starts toward the designated conference room.

 

 

"Minnie, you're here! Finally!" 

"Yeah yeah … I'm pooped." Kim Minnie, second year Neurosurgery resident, responds in an exasperated sigh as she plops down next to her friend on a sofa in the resident lounge. She has straight, shiny, long black hair and thick bangs that almost cover her eyes. Her makeup is minimal except for her dark eyeliners and eyeshadow. She’s wearing light blue scrubs surgeon scrubs under her white coat.

"Why? What'd you do?"

"Miyeon, you know last night I did an overnight, right? Right in the middle of it, a patient stroked out! So I had to assist on a craniotomy. She wouldn't stop bleeding. So it took fooooorever." Minnie whines and kicks her shoes off.

"Oh no, that sounds horrible. You must be so tired." Cho Miyeon, second year Pediatric surgery resident, sympathetically pats her friend on the arm. She’s seated in the middle with Minnie to her right. She has wavy, luscious, light brown hair and the face of a goddess. She’s wearing a light green sun dress that really shows off her pale skin.

"Yah. Kim Minnie, can you put your shoes back on? Your feet stinks." Seo Soojin, second year Cardiothoracic surgery resident, complains from Miyeon's other side. She is a soft-spoken black hair woman with red cherry lips and glittery eye shadow. She’s also wearing the light blue scrubs of a surgeon.

"Shut up, Seo Soojin. Your feet would stink too if you spent the last 12 hours on your feet, sweating profusely while trying to save someone's life." Minnie points to her eyes, “Can’t you pity me for once? Don’t you see these dark circles under my eyes?”

“Pfft. Your dark eye shadow makes it impossible to tell.” Soojin rolls her eyes.

“Yah!” Minnie is in no mood to be put down this afternoon.

"And no, my feet won’t stink. You forget I've assisted on a 26 hours surgery before." Soojin nonchalantly shrugs, "No biggie. My feet didn't even sweat."

Minnie frowns as she sees Soojin's arm draped lazily over Miyeon's shoulder. 

"Guys, please stop talking about feet." Miyeon interjects as the middle person. 

"Yah. Cho Miyeon. I thought you were waiting to have lunch with me." Minnie turns her attention to Miyeon, who is basically snuggled against Soojin. "Why are you sitting like that with her?"

"What? I waited for you. Soojin came to keep me company and I got cold." Miyeon tilts her head onto Soojin’s shoulder.

Soojin smirks victoriously at Minnie. That lazy smirk with her eyes half-lidded really irritates Minnie.

"Fine. Stay warm here with your Soojin." Minnie frowns as she gathers her shoes, "I'm starving so I'm going to get lunch." She quickly rises from the sofa and storms out of the resident lounge.

"Hey, come back …" Miyeon calls after her friend.

"You know, as she gets older she sulks a lot more … is she finally going through puberty?" Soojin crackles.

"I know, right?" Miyeon chuckles, but nevertheless, she gets up from her comfy spot by Soojin. "I'm going to check on her, she's had a rough night so she is just a little grumpy." She waves to Soojin, "Join us in the cafeteria, okay?" Without waiting for a response, Miyeon pushes out the door after Minnie.

"Must be nice …" Soojin smiles knowingly and closes her eyes, a quick nap would be nice, too.

 

 

"Kim Minnie!" Miyeon slowly jogs towards her friend, who is already furiously pressing the down button to call the elevator.

"What? You didn't want to snuggle your Soojin anymore?" 

"Are you pouting?"

"I am not! You said you'd have lunch with me, but you totally just wanted to hang with Soojin." Minnie crosses her arms. 

"That's not true, I waited for you!" Miyeon points at her wristwatch, "You said that your overnight shift would end at 10AM. It's 1PM now, I've waited for you for three hours on my day off." Miyeon huffs and turns away from Minnie. 

[DING] 

The elevator opens and a wide-eyed Yuqi looks at the two residents, who are standing with their arms crossed and their backs to each other. Neither made a move for the elevator. "Excuse me …" They turn to glare at her in perfect synchrony. Reading the atmosphere, she quickly presses the door close button to continue on her journey down to the first floor.

"Soojin was keeping me company, she didn't want me to sit alone in the lounge like a weirdo." Miyeon continues after the brief intermission.

"You didn't have to wait there. You could have …"

"What? Waited in the office? On my day off? My first day off in a month?" Miyeon's voice starts to rise. 

Sensing the anger quickly rising in Miyeon, Minnie turns around and gently grabs Miyeon's arm. "Sorry."

Miraculously, it works and Miyeon quickly diffuses. She turns to look at Minnie, who now has full puppy eyes underneath her thick bangs. "Don't do that …"

"Don't do what?" Minnie's lower lip pouts. 

"That!" Miyeon points at Minnie's lip and laughs. "Your puppy look is getting old."

"But it works everytime." Minnie joins Miyeon in laughter. Her smile causes her eyes to go all squinty and cute as she waddles  near her friend and gives her a big, warm hug. 

Miyeon quickly smacks Minnies back, "Don't be a jerk to me."

"I'm sorry." Minnie coos into the side of Miyeon’s neck and presses the elevator button again, "Let's eat. You must be hungry."

"I am."

Miyeon light pinches Minnie’s cheek as a gentle punishment, she couldn’t be mad at this face for too long. 

 

"Shuhua! Over here!" Yuqi waves excitedly when she spots Shuhua leaving the food line. 

"Hey!" Shuhua smiles brightly and bee-lines for her new friend. She sees that the platinum blond from earlier also sitting next to Yuqi. "Hi." She greets both people.

"Yeh Shuhua, this is Jeon Soyeon. She's a Cardiothoracic intern. She was in a few of the sessions with me." Yuqi quickly gets introductions out of the way. "Jeon Soyeon, this is Yeh Shuhua. She's a General surgery intern."

"Nice to meet you." Shuhua cutely waves.

"Likewise." Soyeon nods awkwardly.

"So, how was your morning?" Yuqi starts to dig into her lunch.

"Boring." Shuhua sighs. "I know we're supposed to know all this, but they couldn't at least attempt to make it mildly more interesting?"

"The worst one was the Clinical Documentation one." Yuqi quickly adds between chews.

Soyeon quietly nods along. She waits as if she wants to gauge how the two other interns are before joining the conversation.

"I almost nodded off during that one." Shuhua smiles at Soyeon, wanting to be friendlier.

"You don't eat veggies?" Now, Yuqi turns to look at Soyeon's plate, that is divided into little piles of veggies and non-veggies.

"No. I don't like them." Soyeon blushes. As she shakes her head, her blond hair swishes around. 

"Awww, cute." Yuqi eye-smiles at her. "I didn't eat veggies when I was little, either."

"Who you calling little?" Soyeon sharpens her eyes at Yuqi.

"Certainly not me. I eat my veggies." Shuhua laughs as she makes a show out of taking a bit of broccoli. 

Soyeon makes a face like she is going to throw up. It feels nice to banter like this.

"Aren't you a doctor? Shouldn't you set a good example for your patients?" Yuqi laughs.

As the Yuyeonhua trio bicker their way into friendship, Minnie and Miyeon enters the cafeteria. They look around for a place to sit after picking up food, but due to today being orientation day, it was packed with people. "What the heck? I can't see any spot open!" Minnie squints behind her bangs while being careful not to spill the food on her tray.

"How about over there?" Miyeon juts her chin toward the a table, there were three girls already sitting there, but there is enough room to fit a few more people if they scrunch up a bit. The three seems to be in good spirit, with one chewing and laughing at the same time.

"Um …" Minnie hesitates, she doesn't really want to deal with a rambunctious looking bunch of new people. Her mood has barely improved after a whole night lacking food and sleep. But the growl in her stomach reminds her that it needs sustenance and it needs it now.

"Oh c'mon." Miyeon rolls her eyes and uses a free hand to grab Minnie's elbow. "You're bound to meet them eventually if they work here now." 

"Hey hey, watch it. My food will spill!" Minnie whines again, like a spoiled puppy, as she is pulled toward the table.

"Excuse me …" Miyeon says in her sweetest voice and as soon as she has Yuyeonhua's attention, she bats her long lashes and smiles sweetly. "Can we share this table with you?" 

Minnie stands there with her mouth slightly ajar. It's amazing how slow, simple Miyeon can transform into a charming Miyeon within seconds. 

It is Yuqi's turn to be surprised, because she recognizes them as the two angry people who glared at her from the elevator. She gulps almost audibly. Shuhua, who’s waiting for Yuqi to respond since she found the table first, is perplexed by Yuqi’s sudden loss of words. These two seem to be full established residents, she didn't want them to get mad.

"Can we?" Miyeon turns up the sickly sweet act.

"Oh yeah, we'll scoot in." Yuqi snaps out of her shock and nods. She scoots to one side and Soyeon moves along while Shuhua does the same. 

"Thank you~" Miyeon smiles with the fullest of her eye smile. Minnie awkwardly nods at the younger people and chooses a seat that is furthest from them. Miyeon settles into a seat across from Minnie. The table could seat six people. Shuhua is seated across from Yuqi at one end. Soyeon is in the middle of Yuqi and Miyeon. Minnie has an empty seat between her and Shuhua.

"Thanks for coming to have lunch with me on your day off." Minnie mutters as she watches Miyeon stir up her soup. "I'll treat you to somewhere nice next time."

"It's okay, I didn't have anything else planned today, anyways." Miyeon smiles again, looking as sweet and innocent as possible. 

Minnie smiles as well and starts to pick up some veggies with her chopsticks. She is about to put the food into her mouth when she notices three pairs of eyes staring at them. "Can I help you?" She asks cautiously.

"Oh sorry …" Yuyeonhua turn back to their own plates.

"Don't mind her. She’s a little tired from an overnight shift." Miyeon smiles gently, trying not to scare the children. "Are you girls new interns?"

"Yes ma'am." Soyeon quickly answers, making Miyeon laugh aloud. Yuqi and Shuhua have to hide their face while grinning, they didn't realize that Soyeon was nervous. 

"Ma'am? I'm not old enough to be a ma'am." Miyeon waves her hand and shakes her head, "I'm still in my prime. Right, Minnie?"

Minnie presses her lips together and raises her brows super high. She was put on the spot so she nods along, "Oh yes, Miyeon is in her prime. Look at her. Such beauty. Such charisma …" but she wouldn't be Minnie without adding, "but she's not my style, though."

"Yah!" Miyeon slams her hands on the table, making the three kids jump while other people turn around to look for the source of the noise. Her ears burn bright red from embarrassment and she wants to get up and run.

Minnie quickly grabs her hand, "I kid. I kid. Now eat your lunch." Minnie speaks in her puppy voice again. Miyeon calms down a little and nods.

"S-sorry, sunbae." Soyeon takes responsibility as the person who started it. For the first time in a while, Soyeon is both awkward and nervous.

"I'm Kim Minnie, second year Neurosurgery resident. This one," Minnie motions toward Miyeon, "is Cho Miyeon, second year Pediatric surgery resident."

Yuyeonhua quickly goes around the table introducing themselves. 

"So Yuqi." Minnie smiles, "We may have a chance to work together, then. I'm not sure which resident you'll be assigned to, but there are only 5 of us so the chances aren't bad."

"Oh, I look forward to it!" Yuqi says brightly.

"Shuhua … are you okay?” Soyeon asks with a concerned voice. Everyone's eyes fall on Shuhua, whose mouth is wide open and food/drool has started to come back out of her mouth. She looks to be half idiot.

They follow her gaze toward the entrance of the cafeteria, where Soojin with her bomb body is strolling in. It looks like the wind is carrying her hair and sunlight glittering around her. Her expression is indifferent, but sexily indifferent in her cherry red lipstick. Her white coat flutters like a superhero’s cape as she catwalks into the place like she owns it.

Shuhua thought that she was hallucinating this angel, but Miyeon quickly waves at her friend. "Soojin, over here!"

Angel Soojin turns toward their table and acknowledges Miyeon with a nod. She looks at Minnie, who is still wearing her jealous pout. The other three are strangers she doesn't recognize, especially the one that is currently drooling. Maybe Minnie's patient who stroked out? Soojin doesn’t see any bandage on her head, though. The only open seat is between Minnie and the drooler. Maybe Soojin should go back to the lounge instead?

"Everyone, this is Seo Soojin, second year Cardiothoracic resident." Miyeon has already started the introductions, to which the interns also responds with their own. Soojin has no choice but to sit down or she'd seem rude. When it is finally Shuhua's turn, she stutters like a full idiot. "Y-Yeh Shushu …" 

"Shushu?" Soojin repeats in an amused voice, what a strange name.

"I thought your name was Shuhua?" Minnie finally speaks up after clearing most of her plate. She was very hungry.

"It is." Soyeon and Yuqi tries not to laugh.

"W-what?" Shuhua is in a confused daze. "Yes, I'm Shuhua."

"So is it Shuhua or Shushu?" Soojin asks as she starts to unpack her lunch bag. 

"It’s whatever you want to call me …" Shuhua replies and simply stares at Soojin, making the older girl slightly uncomfortable. It's not the first time someone's stared at her that way. This girl has a strange look in her eyes that Soojin finds oddly attractive, but the repulsiveness of the drool detracts from that. 

"Okay …" Minnie widens her eyes at the weird situation and then looks across the table to Miyeon. “Eat quickly so we can get away from here.”

"Don’t rush me while I’m eating. I don’t want indigestion." Now it is Miyeon's turn to pout.

"You don’t get indigestion with whatever is going on there?" Minnie points in Shuhua's general direction.

“Soojin-sunbae?" Soyeon speaks up again.

"Yes?"

"I'm a first year Cardiothoracic intern. I look forward to working with you." Soyeon bows and offers her hand.

Soojin reaches across the table and shakes the offered hand. "Nice to finally meet you, Soyeon." She smiles and releases. "I've heard that a genius student will be joining us this year. But be forewarned, it's not going to be easy."

"Genius?" Yuqi quietly repeats and looks at Soyeon in admiration.

"Oh no, that's too much." Soyeon humbly shakes her head, "I'm not a genius, but I'll work hard."

"You know, they also called Soojin the genius student before she got here. Now she's the genius resident. Isn't that right, Minnie?" Miyeon looks across at her friend.

"I've also been called a genius." Jealous Minnie returns in full force.

"Why are you like this today?" Both Soojin and Miyeon exclaims. "Are you going through puberty again?"

"Why are you guys yelling at me? Can't I be allowed to express pride in myself?" Minnie looks around for someone to agree with her.

Of course, as her potential subordinate, Yuqi quickly agrees. "Self love is the best love."

"Please don't cater to her delusion.” Soojin warns Yuqi. 

“Seo Soojin.” Minnie narrows her eyes at her frenemy. She lightly smacks Soojin’s shoulder.

Soojin pays her no mind as Miyeon sighs while looking between her two closest friends. “Guys, let’s not act this away in front of the interns.”

Soojin turns to Shuhua, who is staring at her with a smitten smile on her face. “What’s your specialty?”

“Whatever you want me to specialize in.” Shuhua replies dreamily.

“General surgery.” Yuqi interjects. “She specializes in general surgery.”

“Oh …” Soojin smiles knowingly. “You’re going to have fun.”

“What do you mean by that?” Yuqi asks in place of the smitten Shuhua. 

“Oh, you’ll see.” Soojin wears a secretive smile on her red lips, which drives Shuhua wild.

“Can I please have your number?” Shuhua asks quickly while Soojin is chewing on some salad. 

Soojin blinks at her, then shakes her head. “No.”

“What? Why not?” Shuhua pouts adorably.

Soojin shrugs and continues to eat her salad. Miyeon at this time has finished her food, so Minnie quickly gathers up her tray as well. “I’m ready to go.”

“But we can’t leave Soojin here.” Miyeon blinks, unsure why Minnie is in such a rush. 

“C’moooon, she’s fine by herself. The ice queen has her food, she’s perfectly fine ignoring these guys. I want to catch some shut eye before my next shift.” 

“But …” Miyeon looks at Soojin, hesitating.

“Go or don’t go, it’s your choice.” Soojin looks her in the eyes, then turns to Minnie. “But I don’t see why Miyeon has to leave when you need a nap. She can’t help you with that.”

“She’s my best friend, of course she needs to help me sleep.” Minnie counter argues with a strange reason.

“Ladies, ladies. Please stop fighting.” Yuqi speaks up to try to defuse the situation. “We’re about to leave to go have our identification cards made, get our sign ons, and then meet our residents and professors. You guys can have this whole table. We won’t bother you anymore.”

Soyeon starts to pack up her tray, too. Meanwhile, Shuhua doesn’t want to leave. She shakes her head when Yuqi signals toward the door. She nods her head toward Soojin, indicating that she wants to stay with the older woman. Not that they are good friends or anything, but Yuqi rolls her eyes at how quickly Shuhua ‘deserted’ her friends for a woman. Not that she has any problems with women liking women per se. Loyalty is just very important to Yuqi. 

Yuqi and Soyeon have no choice but to leave Shuhua with her dreamworld. 

“It was nice meeting you.” Yuqi bows to the three residents. Soyeon stiffly copies her. Together, they make their way toward the security office to get their IDs and sign-ons for the hospital computer system. Hopefully, Shuhua will snap out of her fantasy to make sure these things get done.

 

 

After a few more minutes, Minnie and Miyeon also leave the cafeteria together. As they walk toward the door, Miyeon briefly looks back to see Shuhua staring at an emotionless Soojin. For some strange reason, they look really good together. She smiles and catches up to Minnie, who is a few steps ahead of her. Linking arms, they make their way toward the elevator. Miyeon presses the elevator button for Minnie. “I’m going to head home.” She quietly says. Things are calmer and more quiet when it’s just the two of them. Minnie reaches for her hand and holds it within the warmth of her palm. “Thanks for coming to see me  on your day off.” Minnie smiles her signature squinty-eyed smile. “I’m sorry it wasn’t what we’d planned, I’ll make it up to you.”

“Don’t you forget that.” Miyeon’s heart melts at the sight of Minnie’s cuteness. 

“Cross my heart.” Minnie makes an “X” sign across her chest and lets go of Miyeon’s hand as the elevator dings its arrival. “I’ll see you later.”

She steps into the elevator and selects the floor of her office. Miyeon waves and waits until the doors close to turn her heels and walk away. She looks down at her hand where the warmth quickly evaporated. 

 

 

 

The cafeteria quickly empties out after the lunch rush, so it is just Shuhua there with Soojin, who doesn’t seem to pay her any mind. The raven hair woman finishes her salad, some cheese, then a small container of fruits. She had packed it herself that morning and has all the intention of enjoying her lunch, spectator or not. After the last bite of fruit, she licks her lips and turns to Shuhua. “I’ve got to go now. See ya.”

“Wait … your number …” Shuhua holds her phone in both hands and offers it to Soojin. She has been waiting patiently while enjoying the show. The way those lips part and close was so appealing, they made all food look delicious.

Soojin chuckles softly and shakes her head, “Not today, kiddo.” She turns on her stilettos, which are not sensible shoes for the hospital setting, and exits the cafeteria, leaving a dazed Shuhua in her wake. Now, a normal person would have taken the rejection and move on. But, Yeh Shuhua is anything but normal. “She said not today … maybe later?” A wide grin quickly spreads on Shuhua’s face. There is hope after all.

Shuhua quickly dumps her cafeteria tray and trails Soojin at a safe distance. Quiet as a cat, she follows her new object of affection all the way to Soojin’s office, which is also on the first floor. The door has a glass window, where Shuhua can stand to the side to creep on Soojin. First, the older woman takes off her white coat. Her body looks good even in scrubs. She lays down on the sofa that’s situated along a wall. Doesn’t she know that sleeping after eating will cause digestion and bloatedness? Shuhua thought worriedly. Soojin didn’t turn on the lights, so it was hard to see her face in the dark room. Shuhua watches her for a little while before going off to get her ID and sign-in. Soojin closes her eyes after the other girl disappears from her sight. “What a strange person …”

 

 

Since Yuqi left the cafeteria before the mass exit, she manages to beat the rush to the security office. After getting her badge and sign-ons, she goes down to the basement first floor to the Neurosurgery resident office. She softly raps on the door before she taps her badge to the pad to the right of it. “Oh, hi!” She recognizes the person sitting at the desk in front of her.

“Hi, Song Yuqi. My name is Kim Minnie, your second year resident and guide for the next year.” Minnie has her arms crossed and is leaning back in her chair. It must be her way of establishing her authority, but Yuqi simply finds her cute the way she looks so small in the large office chair.

“Hi Minnie-sunbae, I’m so glad it’s you!”

“Why?”

“Oh … because …”

“Don’t expect special treatment from me. I just met you an hour ago, we’re still strangers.” Minnie tries to act cool.

“I know, but I have a good feeling about us.”

“You’re not my type.”

“Eww … no … what?”

“That’s rude.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Whatever, your desk is over there. That box has some new scrubs and white coats for you. Now, we’ve got to go meet our attending.” Minnie hops off her chair and gets ready to head out.

“Okay.” Yuqi nods eagerly. She looks around the office which has a few other desks that look occupied. Must be the other residents. Just like she predicted, there was no window here.

“Well, grab the box. We can drop it off at your locker … the key should be in the right drawer there.” Minnie taps her chin before pointing at a spot.

“Oh, okay.” Yuqi grabs both the box and the key while Minnie holds the door open for her.

“Your badge will get you into rooms assigned to your specialty. Our office door also has a keypad for manual entry, just in case. Our code is 0502.”

“That seems redundant.”

“I know, but the keypad was there before the ID reader was put in and they decided not to remove it for some reason.”

“I see.”

“Each floor has its own locker room. We usually change into uniform there at the beginning of each shift. There are also showers and laundry equipments.” Minnie walks quickly down the hallway. 

“Do you like it here, Minnie-sunbae?”

“Yeah, it’s a pretty good facility. I like our attending, she’s a good teacher … but a bit … eccentric? Is that the right word?” Minnie mumbles to herself toward the end.

“Huh?” Yuqi couldn’t quite catch the last of Minnie’s sentence.

“Oh nothing, here’s the locker room … looks like you’re taking over for our resident who just graduated. So locker six.”

Yuqi quickly unlocks the locker with her new key and puts the box with her new uniform inside. She looks around this windowless room. It looks clean enough.

“Are you done?” Minnie looks amused, as Yuqi looks so new with her wide eyes and open mouth.

“Uh huh …” Yuqi catches herself, “Oh. Yes, Minnie-sunbae.”

“You don’t have to use honorifics with me. It’s awkward, I’m not used to it.” Minnie is oddly down to earth compared to her earlier antics.

“Oh, okay. Thank you. I’m Chinese … so I’m not quite used to it.” Yuqi follows Minnie out of the locker room.

“Ah. I’m half-Thai on my mom’s side so I’m not used to it either.” Minnie smiles charmingly. Yuqi could really fall for this quiet charming side of her. “That’s why I don’t refer Miyeon as Miyeon-unnie. It sounds weird.”

“Is Miyeon older than you?”

“Uh huh, we’re both twenty-four, but she’s older by nine months.” 

“I see. I’m twenty.”

“Ah, still a baby.”

“Thank you.” 

Together, they walk through the corridors and make their way down to the fourth floor, where the main neurology department is. There they see small blonde figure in a white coat directing people on where to hang a painting.

“There you are.” Minnie calls out and the blonde turns around. She smiles brightly and waves Minnie over.

“Nicha, Nicha. Come look at this masterpiece.” It was an abstract painting that has Yuqi scratching her head. She couldn’t figure out what is the subject. An animal? A bowl of fruit? A person?

“I told you not to call me that.”

“But it’s so cute. I can’t help myself.” This doctor laughs and slaps Minnie’s arm, causing her the scrunch her face in annoyance and pain. “How’s my favorite resident today?”

“Anyways, Dr. Kim Yongsun meet Song Yuqi, my new intern.” Minnie makes another introduction. “Song Yuqi, meet Dr. Kim Yongsun, our professor and attending surgeon.”

Yuqi politely bows and waits for a hand to be offered, but it was never offered.

“Oh.” That’s it?

“Sorry, Yuqi. She’s a bit shy with strangers.” Minnie looks like she’s been through this before. “At least say hi and shake her hand.” She sounds like a parent of a young child or a wrangler of livestock.

How is this woman an attending of the Neurosurgery department ?

“Oh yeah.” Dr. Kim Yongsun laughs nervously and extends her hand. “Nice to meet you.”

Yuqi smiles sweetly and takes the long awaited hand. She knows she needs to turn up her charm factor. She’s always been quick to get to know people and she doesn’t see how this time would be different. “Nice to meet you, too. I look forward to learning from you.”

“Okay.” Dr. Kim quickly pulls back her hand and waves to Minnie. “I’ve got something to take care of … I’ll see ya.” With that, she runs off quite quickly.

That was weird.

“She’s weird, huh?” Minnie asks as if she’d read Yuqi’s mind.

“Um …” Yuqi laughs instead of answering.

“She’s brilliant, but strange. Once she warms up to you, though …” Minnie shakes her head. “Come, I’ll show you around the Neurology department and the wards where our patients are.”

Yuqi follows closely behind Minnie. It’s been a day full of interesting characters.

 

 

“Hello.” Soyeon peeks her head in after opening the door on the first floor.

“Hi.” Soojin is holding a compact mirror and reapplying her lipstick. Once she’s done, she fixes up her flattened hair a little bit.

“I’m your intern?”

“I’m your resident.”

“I hope we get along and have a good working relationship.”

“Me, too.” Soojin smiles and gets up from the sofa. She fixes the creases in her scrubs and nods toward a desk. “That’s your workstation. The box has your scrubs and white coats. Your locker is number six, the key is in the box as well.”

“Okay, thank you.” Soyeon goes toward the box. 

“The locker room is next door on the right. You can take your things there. When you’re ready, let’s go meet our attending.”

“Yes, sunbae.”

“Just call me Soojin.”

“Yes, Soojin.”

Soojin nods and goes to her desk. It was nice to have someone as succinct and quiet as she is to be her intern. Soojin gets so tired when there is a lot of talking and doing. As a surgeon, she conserves all of her energy for surgery and not much else. Some people may call her lazy, but Soojin just doesn’t care for all that stuff. 

When Soyeon finally returns, they quietly make their way to the Cardiovascular center on the third floor. 

“Jeon Soyeon, this is our attending, Dr. Moon Byulyi.” Soojin quietly stands in the middle of the center while extending her hand toward a woman with long purple hair. “Dr. Moon, this is Jeon Soyeon, my new intern.”

“Wow, nice to meet you.” Dr. Moon winks at Soyeon and offers her hand.

“Nice to meet you, too.” Soyeon firmly grasps Dr. Moon’s hand.

When a normal handshake should have ended, Dr. Moon puts her other hand over Soyeon’s. “I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.”

Soyeon is wide-eyed, “Y-you have?”

“Yes, Soojin is so cold … I hope you’re not cold like her.” She steps closer to Soyeon, so close that Soyeon could smell her perfume … or cologne? “Are you, Soyeon?”

“I-I-I …” Soyeon stutters. She can’t think of anything. Shock causes her to lose her normally fluent speech.

“That’s enough.” Soojin interrupts and shakes her head. “Don’t scare her away.”

“Did I scare you Soyeon? I didn’t mean to.” Dr. Moon lets go of Soyeon’s hand.

Saying that Soyeon is dazed and confused would be an understatement. “Um …”

“Yes, you did.”

“Did I scare you when we first met, Soojin?”

“No.”

“I remember you were so shy and sweet, Soojin … you blushed so much … you used to ask me for help all the time …”

“No, I did not!” Soojin blushed deeply.

“Byulyi-unnie … you used to call me.” Dr. Moon smiles wickedly. 

“Yah!” Soojin buries her face into her hands, what a twist! Soyeon wouldn’t have predicted it to turn out this way.

“Alright, alright … I’ve got to go, looks like the nurses are starting to get a little jealous.” Dr. Moon tilts her head toward the nurses station, where some nurses do look a little jealous. “Nice to meet you, little Soyeon. I’ll see you at tomorrow rounds.” And with that, she flits away like a little butterfly.

“Wow.” Soyeon doesn’t have any words to describe what just happened.

“Sorry you had to see that. She’s too much sometimes. That weirdo.” 

“Are you alright?” Soyeon gestures toward Soojin’s red cheeks.

“I’ll be fine, can’t believe I let her get to me today of all days.” Soojin motions for Soyeon to follow her. “I’ll show you around.”

“Thank you.”

 

 

Shuhua opens the door to an empty room. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting, but it feels a bit disappointing to walk into an empty room on your first day. There are multiple work stations set up, but looks like she’s the only one who will be using the room this year. Shuhua doesn’t have any residents above her, she’s the first General surgery intern in 3 years. The desks are empty, but clean and not dusty. They must have cleaned the room before she came. It’s kind of nice to have a whole office to herself, but it feels so lonely at the same time.

As she looks around the room, a knock raps at the door. Who could that be?

Shuhua quickly opens to find a group of people, nine to be exact, staring at her intently. “Are you Yeh Shuhua?” The shortest person asks in a serious tone. They were all very beautiful women wearing blue scrubs and white coats, but they look so intimidating.

“Yes.” Shuhua gulps.

 “We need you to come with us.” The tallest one grabs her hand and pulls her out of the room. 

“What’s happening?” Shuhua struggles and tries to pull her hand back.

“You’ll see…”

“… soon enough.”

They drag Shuhua to the main meeting room of the General Surgery department. All along the way, people watch Shuhua’s kidnappers with intense interest. She would have stared, too, if nine goddess-like beauties were traveling together like this. But, they’re like a pack of wolves following the shortest woman. They have this powerful aura that is hard for Shuhua to describe. When they finally reach their destination, they usher Shuhua into the dark room. 

“What …” Before Shuhua could finish her question, the lights flip on quickly to reveal a cake, some balloons, and a giant banner that reads ‘Welcome, Shuhua!’

A confused Shuhua turns toward the nine doctors, who lined one wall of the room. They have something in their hand … party poppers. [POP!] The loud sound echos in the room, causing Shuhua to cover her ears, before the smell of smoke fills the air. “Welcome, Shuhua!” They yell together.

Shuhua stares at them as tears start to well in her eyes, whether from shock or the smoke, it’s hard to tell.

“You must be so confused.” The shortest one, the leader, steps forward. The name embroidered on her white coat read, Dr. Kim Taeyeon, General Surgery.

It dawns on Shuhua. These nine people are general surgeons, who have been waiting for her for three long years after their past residents left. They each have a specialty within General Surgery. One by one, they step forward to introduce themselves. 

“I’m Kim Taeyeon.”

“I’m Jung Jessica.”

“I’m Lee Sunny.”

“I’m Hwang Tiffany.”

“I’m Kim Hyoyeon.”

“I’m Kwon Yuri.”

“I’m Choi Sooyoung.”

“I’m Im Yoona.”

“I’m Seo Joohyun.”

“We’re the surgeons of General Surgery and your mentors.” Dr. Kim Taeyeon motions toward her colleagues. “We are so excited to have you this year. It’s been a while since we have a resident. We each have our own sub-specialty that we would like you to explore.” They were looking at her like wolves circling a deer. “If there is one that you like, please be sure to let us know … for example, head and neck …”

“Yah! Kim Taeyeon, don’t try to push for your specialty.”

“What are you trying to pull?”

The cacophony of voices quickly rise up to protest Dr. Kim Taeyeon’s intention.

“IF anything, she should pick abdomen.”

“No, surgical oncology!”

“NO! Endocrinology!”

It was simply too much for Shuhua, who had just resigned herself to an empty room. Now nine people are fighting over her. She wanted to run out of there, but the exit is blocked.

“Guys, guys. That’s to be decided later.” Dr. Seo Joohyun speaks up. “She just got here, give her some time.” She seems gentle enough. “Shuhua, we got you a cake …”

Dr. Seo goes to the table and brings a pink cake toward Shuhua. “We went to the best cakery in town … it’s strawberry, their most popular flavor!”

What happened next, none of the nine could have expected.

“I hate strawberry … waaaah.” Shuhua lets out a loud wail and starts to seriously cry up a storm.

 

 

The reflection in the metal elevator shows a very puffy-eyed Shuhua. She gently taps along her cheekbones with the pads of her index fingers. She did not plan on crying like that on her first day, much less in front of nine attendings. “Ugh … so embarrassing! I could die!” She whines and gently beats her chest with a curled fist. But it was their fault for stressing her out so much on her first day. In the end, they all apologized and offered to go get her another cake, but she just couldn’t take that much pressure right now. It was A LOT to deal with. 

[DING] The elevator door opens to the first floor and Shuhua pulls out her phone to find her bus route home. 

A gentle clacking of heels causes her to look up and sees Soojin strolling right in front of her. She can only see the back, but having already memorized that fine figure, Shuhua knows instantly that it is Soojin. Again, Shuhua transforms into a stealthy stalker and follows Soojin all the way to the parking garage. Soojin keeps an even pace through the turns and endless rows of cars.

As they near a red sports car, Soojin whips around and looks Shuhua straight in the eyes. The younger girl barely had time to duck behind a concrete column for cover. “How long are you planning on following me?”

“Um …” Shuhua peeks out from behind the column, “I … I was just going the same direction.”

Soojin narrows her eyes at Shuhua and then rolls her eyes. “At least have the guts to admit it.” She unlocks her car and tosses her handbags to the passenger seat. “Word of advice, if you plan on doing that again, I might mace you next time.”

Shuhua gasps and shakes her head, “I wasn’t, I promise!” She knows that it’s a lie, but she simply had too many embarrassing moments today to add another one to it.

“Fine.” 

As Soojin ducks into her car, Shuhua runs up to her door. “Would you like to go out with me?”

Soojin stares at her with those half-lidded cat eyes. “No.” Again, a very succinct answer that quickly deflates Shuhua’s courage. 

“Why?” Shuhua’s loud voice fills the garage.

Soojin’s answer is a quick slam of her door. It’s not long before the engine purrs and then the tires squeal as she whips out of the parking lot. Shuhua looks after the retreating taillights and smiles. “Wow. What a woman.” At least Soojin didn’t hate Shuhua enough to hit her. She also didn’t seem homophobic either. There’s some hope.

 

 

[Bing Bong]

Soyeon presses the stop button on the side of the bus to signal her stop. As the bus pulls into the stop, she leaves her seat and tries to weave through the crowded bus to the door. Once outside, she takes a deep breath of fresh air before wiping her brows. It’s the beginning of August and it’s already so hot. Soyeon pulls out her phone to look up directions to her apartment. Having moved in just yesterday, she still needs a little help getting around.

“Soyeon?” A familiar voice calls to the right of her.

Soyeon looks to find Yuqi, who just hopped off the same bus. “Yuqi!” She’s surprised to find the cheerful girl bounding up to her.

“Were we on the same bus? It was so crowded, I didn’t even see you.”

“Yeah, I think so. It was rush hour after all.” 

“Which way are you heading?”

Soyeon points in the direction that the map had shown her. “That way.”

“Oh! Me, too!” Yuqi is practically glistening in the sunlight. “Come, I’ll walk with you for a bit.”

“Okay.” Soyeon nods and starts to walk along with her new friend. Friend. A strange word to echo in her head. It’s been awhile since that word last echoed there.

“Man, I’m so tired after today.” Yuqi uses a handkerchief to dab the sweat on her forehead. “There was so much crammed into one day.”

“Yeah.” Soyeon nods.

“How was your department?” Yuqi asks.

“Fine.” Soyeon wasn’t sure how to explain Dr. Moon. “Soojin is my second year.”

“Nice … but Shuhua might fight you.” Yuqi laughs and recounts her meeting with Minnie and Dr. Kim.

“She sounds interesting.” In a way, Soyeon wished Dr. Kim was her attending instead. She doesn’t know how to deal with cheesy, greasy people like Dr. Moon. Give her an antisocial person anyday.

“Yeah, I hope she and I will get along quickly.”

“I know you will.” Soyeon smiles sincerely, because Yuqi got Soyeon to warm up to her quickly. It’s not an easy feat.

The walk continues to be that way, where Yuqi would talk animatedly and Soyeon nods or agrees in a few words. It feels comfortable, like they have known each other for a long time. The walk ends quicker than expected when Soyeon spots her apartment building. “Here’s my stop.”

“Really?” Yuqi laughs and points at the building. “I live here, too.”

It was Soyeon’s turn to be animated. She got so excited all of a sudden. “No way! That’s awesome!”

“Yeah!” Yuqi nods excitedly. “I’m so happy, you don’t even know.”

“Me too.” Soyeon laughs at cute excited Yuqi.

“Let’s get inside before we melt out here. What floor are you on?”

“Third. You?”

“Fifth.” Yuqi whines.

“It’s okay … maybe we can go to work together tomorrow?”

“Yeah! That sounds great.” Yuqi pulls out her phone, “Give me your info.”

They exchange contact information before splitting up. Both their hearts are full of excitement because of the start of a new friendship. 

 

After a busy day, Minnie really wants to go home. She barely had any rest today because one thing added on top of another. She taps on her phone to silence the alarm. With a loud yawn, she rises from the sofa/bed in her office. The clock reads 9:30PM. Enough time to have a quick shower before her shift at 10PM. After she gets off at 10AM tomorrow, she is just going to pass out in her nice, comfy bed at home. All the other Neurosurgery residents had gone home. So the room was dark, with the only light filtering in through the door’s window from the hallway.

The phone vibrates once. A text message. 

“Have a good shift.” From Miyeon.

“Go to bed.” Minnie quickly texts as she makes her way to the staff locker room.

“Good night.”

Not wanting that to be the last words, Minnie sends a cute emoji of Minnie Mouse blowing a kiss.

She smiles and turns the hot water on. It’s time to wake up and get to work.

Chapter Text

“Good morning, Soyeon.” Song Yuqi comes bounding down the stairs, her feet making an awful lot of noise so early in the morning.

Jeon Soyeon, who’s leaning against the railing of the stairway of the third floor, looks up at her friend and puts her index finger over her lips. “Good morning, Yuqi.” She says quietly, “People are still sleeping, though.”

It is only 5AM, but they had to report to the hospital and ready for rounds by 6AM, so they figured that they should get up early because the bus could take a little while if traffic is bad. It’s their first real day of work so tardiness would not be a good look.

“Oh, sorry.” Yuqi gently hits her head and adjusts her volume. “I’m just so excited to start.”

“I know, me too.” Soyeon agrees and they start to head downstairs.

Outside, the sun is still sleeping along with most of the city. The humidity is killer, though.

“Ahh … this humid air is making my hair all frizzy.” Yuqi complains as she runs her fingers through her hair.

“It’s cute, though. I like your wavy hair.” Soyeon smiles at a blushing Yuqi.

“Thanks. It takes a lot of work to tame it though.”

“I see.”

“Did you sleep okay?”

“Yeah, best sleep I’ve had in a while. I always get nervous meeting new people, but now that it’s over with … I’m fine.” Soyeon yawns softly.

“I love to meet new people. You can call me a people person.”

“I can see that …” Soyeon hesitates before continuing, “Thanks for inviting me to eat with you and Shuhua yesterday.”

“Yeah, yeah. Of course. Us interns have to stick together. Especially after seeing how weird the second years and the attendings are.” Yuqi laughs, recalling her interactions with Dr. Kim Yongsun.

“Oh yeah.” Soyeon shudders while thinking about Dr. Moon Byulyi.

“There are tons of other interns we haven’t met from the other departments, too.”

“Tons?”

“Yeah, the other surgical departments. We haven’t even been to the Children’s or the Cancer Hospital. Not to mention the non-surgical residents.”

“I see.” Soyeon is so not looking forward to all that meeting and greeting.

“And I see the bus!” Yuqi points at the bus that pulls up to the stop a few hundred feet ahead of them. “C’mon Soyeon, before they leave.” The stop was empty, so Yuqi didn’t want them to pull out before the two have a chance to get on.

Together, they have a little exercise run in the morning and luckily, the bus driver saw them from afar so he waits for them to get on before leaving. “I’m all warmed up now.” Yuqi laughs as she plops down in a seat on the semi-vacant bus.

“I’m awake now.” Soyeon finds it so easy to laugh along with Yuqi.

It takes around twenty minutes to get to the hospital. Traffic was very light in the early morning. Yuqi and Soyeon pass through the main entrance at approximately 5:30AM.

“You should go on ahead, I’m going to get some coffee before rounds.” Yuqi points toward the food court.

“Oh, okay.” Soyeon nods and waves to Yuqi. “I’ll see you later. Have a good day.”

“Thank you. You too. Make friends today.” Yuqi adds.

Soyeon laughs and sticks her tongue out at Yuqi.

“Cheeky girl.” Yuqi hurriedly runs to the cafeteria for a cup of iced coffee. She pauses and then orders a second cup of iced coffee for Minnie, too. After all, Yuqi will be depending on Minnie a lot this year.

After her purchase, Yuqi rides the elevator down to the first floor basement.

-Beep-click-

The keycard unlocks the door to their shared office. Minnie is already there. The room is dark saved for the lamp on her desk. She is busy flipping through charts and making notes. Yuqi clears her throat to try to get Minnie’s attention, but from the muffled sound of music in this quiet room, it seems Minnie has her headphones in.

Yuqi didn’t want to startle the other girl, so she looks around the room and flips the lights on.

Minnie is immediately startled by the sudden change in luminosity. She turns around to find an apologetic Yuqi standing by the light switch. “Hey.” Minnie smiles, but she looks exhausted. Maybe it’s just her eye shadow, but she looks more like a raccoon than a mouse.

“Good morning.” Yuqi smiles brightly. “I brought you coffee.” She holds the cup up but to her disappointment, Minnie shakes her head.

“Thank you, but I don’t drink coffee.”

“Oh.” Yuqi looks between the two cups.

Minnie feels bad for declining Yuqi’s good intention. The younger girl looks a little crestfallen. “It makes me too jittery … I’m a tea kind of girl.”

“Yeah …” Yuqi  sips on her cup.

“You should get changed before rounds.” Minnie motions to Yuqi, who still has street clothes on.

“Oh yeah!” Yuqi quickly puts the cups down and fishes in her bag for the locker key.

“Do you remember where the locker room is?”

“I think so.” Yuqi takes up both cups again.

“Okay, go change. I’ll come find you in ten minutes after I finish annotations on these charts.”

“Okay, see you!” Yuqi leaves the room and tries to remember the turns that Minnie took to get to the locker room. “Looks like I’ll have to drink both of these.”

 

 

“Good morning.” Soyeon bows to Soojin, who is already in their office and also working on patient charts before rounds.

“Good morning.” Soojin replies without looking up.

Soyeon is already changed into her scrubs and white coat by the time she gets into the room. She watches Soojin while the older woman work. “Do you need coffee or anything?” She asks, wanting to be useful.

“No.” Soojin finally looks up and smiles. “I’m fine, thank you.” She sounds so gentle and sweet. Soyeon really like Soojin’s calmness.

“Okay.”

“But, if you want to look over these charts that I’ve annotated before rounds, you’re more than welcome to. We still have about twenty minutes.”

“Yes, please. If you don’t mind.” Soyeon hops over to Soojin’s desk.

“It’s a light load, we only have about five patients to work on today. The other residents have already started to make their visits before the actual rounds.”

“Oh, I see.” Soyeon brings the files back to her desk. If the other people already left, then that means Soojin was waiting for her. She smiles as she glances over toward the older woman before flipping through the charts. As a speed-reader, she is able to quickly look through the charts and grasp the primary concern for each patient.

At the end of the twenty minutes, she finishes the stacks of files and is ready to go.

“Dr. Moon …” Soojin quietly starts, “She likes to call on people who meets her eyes … so if you don’t want to get called on, just hang back and avoid looking at her.”

“Ah.” Soyeon nods.

“Unless … you like to get called on?”

Soyeon just grins and shrugs her shoulders.

“I figured.” Soojin smiles knowingly.

Soyeon follows Soojin out of their office.

 

 

“Good morning, Shuhua.”

Shuhua jumps when she enters office, having expected an empty room and finding Dr. Choi Sooyoung waiting for her.

“H-Hello.”

Dr. Choi is a tall woman with dark brown hair and a warm smile. She sits on one of the office chair with her legs crossed just at the right angle to show off how long  they are. Those tight pants make her legs look so skinny compared to Shuhua’s.

“How are you this morning?” Dr. Choi smiles charmingly.

Shuhua blinks after a few seconds. Her life has taken a weird turn the last two days. “I’m fine, thank you.” She turns around to find a spot to put her handbag down and to avoid Dr. Choi’s gaze.

“I’m your guide for this week.” Dr. Choi is looking at Shuhua as if studying her. “We had drawn straws to determine the order of training. I’m the lucky one to go first.”

“Thank you.” The normally talkative Shuhua is so shy in front of an authority figure.

“That box has all your scrubs and white coat.” Dr. Choi points toward a cardboard box on the sofa. “Bring it with you, I’ll show you to the locker room and we will begin rounds when you’re presentable.”

Shuhua nods meekly and picks up the box. “What is your specialty, Dr. Choi?” It seems rude not to make conversation with one of her teachers.

“Mostly the abdomen and its contents. A lot of hernia repair, gallbladder removal and appendicitis. But sometimes we get the fun stuff, too. Like GI resectioning, tumor removal, and all that jazz.” Dr. Choi pulls her hands in her pockets and leads Shuhua out of the room.

“Will I get to see any of the … um … fun stuff this week?” Shuhua asks, her eyes bright and full of hope.

“Yah. That’s kind of sick of you to hope for that.” Dr. Choi scolds her.

“I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant …”

Suddenly, Dr. Choi’s laugh cuts her off. Shuhua knows she’s been had. “I’m just messing with ya, kid. I know what you mean, we’re surgeons. We all live for the fun stuff. I’m not sure if we have any this week. But if we do, you’ll be the first person I page.”

Shuhua smiles and nods. She’s not even mad that she had been fooled.

“Here it is. I’ll wait for you to get changed …” Dr. Choi fishes in her pocket and puts a key in Shuhua’s hand. “This is for your locker, number six.”

“Thank you.” Shuhua looks up at her and smiles brightly, almost like a sweet little puppy.

“Just don’t take too long, alright? We’re on a schedule.” Dr. Choi pats her shoulder.

“Okay.” Shuhua quickly ducks into the locker room while Dr. Choi waits outside.

It is not long before Shuhua dons the blue scrubs and white coat. She definitely looks more like a surgeon now, even if there is still a newbie air to her. She ties her long hair back into a pony-tail and meets Dr. Choi outside.

“Great, you look the part now.” Dr. Choi hands her a clipboard and a new pen that is engraved, ‘To Shuhua, from Dr. Choi Sooyoung.’ A blatant attempt to win her affection.

“Thank you.” Shuhua blushes as she puts the pen into her chest pocket.

“Keep it safe.” Dr. Choi smiles and motions for Shuhua to follow. “Normally, residents would get ready before and present the patients at rounds. However, you are new and we have no other residents to guide you. We will be doing things a bit differently.”

Shuhua nods along and listens carefully.

“We will join the medicine department’s gastroenterology team. It’ll be a good opportunity for you to learn how to present cases at rounds.”

Shuhua has to power walk to keep up with Dr. Choi’s long legs. They’re no joke and she doesn’t attempt to slow down for Shuhua either.

“After rounds, we will go over our cases and see what the appropriate intervention would be. You’ll do some research on techniques after we decide. After lunch, we will meet in my office, where you will present your information.” Dr. Choi talks at the same pace as her walk. “Got it?”

“Yes, I think so.” Shuhua tries to recount the information in her head as they enter the elevator.

“What’s your number?”

“Huh?”

“Your phone number.” Dr. Choi pulls out her phone and hands it to Shuhua.

“Oh.” Shuhua quickly enters her number, even though she feels that she is cornered into it.

“I’ll text you my number, too.”

“Okay.” Today, monosyllabic words are Shuhua’s best friends.

“Alright, let’s see where those medicine nerd are …” Dr. Choi looks around and waves to some nurses sitting at their station.

 

 

“… And that’s how you present cases during rounds!” Minnie smiles and closes the file in her hand.

“Wow, that was intense.” Yuqi’s eyes are wide like a deer in headlights.

Minnie grins and nods, “You’ll get used to it before you even notice. Don’t worry.”

“I hope so.” Yuqi follows Minnie out of the room as she tries to remember everything that was said during rounds.

“Well, most of our patients are stable at least. We just have to do the post-op follow up with Mrs. Shin, the craniotomy patient from yesterday.” Minnie stifles a yawn.

“Should’ve taken that coffee from earlier, eh?” Yuqi jests as Minnie rubs the bleariness from her eyes.

“Yeah …” Minnie blinks slowly, “I had like 4 hours of sleep in 48 hours. Caffeine would be nice, but I get too jittery with coffee.”

“I gotcha!” Yuqi says a little louder than she meant to, but after drinking most of the two cups of coffee, she’s starting to get a little hyped.

“I need to get something after we see Mrs. Shin.” Minnie yawns again, for some reason the tiredness is starting to catch up to her.

“Why don’t you go get some tea? I’ve got this!” Yuqi chirps loudly. Again.

Minnie looks at her with a slight raise of her eyebrow.

“Really. I can do it. I did a rotation in the neurosurgery department in med school. I’ve done post-op exams before.”

Minnie searches Yuqi’s face for a brief moment, unsure if she should rely on her. After, this is only her second day with Yuqi and she hasn’t tested the new intern yet. Something tells her that she could trust this girl, though.

“Give me a chance. I can do it!” Yuqi presses loudly.

“Okay … page me if you need anything or have a question.” Minnie relents and hands the file over to Yuqi. “I’m going to the resident lounge, I’ll be back in 15 minutes.”

“Okay, I won’t let you down!” Yuqi cheerfully waves to Minnie before going into the patient’s room.

Minnie laughs softly at how cute the younger girl can be before she head toward the resident lounge. She cannot wait until her shift ends in a few hours and she can be off for the next day.

 

 

“And that’s how I would treat this patient.”  Soyeon concludes her answer.

“Good job, Dr. Jeon.” Dr. Moon nods and gives her a thumb up. “You came prepared.”

“Thank you.” Soyeon smiles coyly, trying to hold back her confidence so it doesn’t look like cockiness.

“That concludes this morning’s rounds. If everyone can follow up with their patients through out the day and report anything critical to me.” Dr. Moon waves to everyone as she makes her way out of the room.

“Whew.” Soyeon lets out a held breath, it was exciting but also extremely pressuring to have the attention of so many doctors in the room.

“Good job.” Soojin says with a soft smile. Soyeon is growing fond of that shy smile.

“Thank you.” Soyeon follows Soojin. “I was a little nervous.”

“I know, you spoke really fast.” Soojin leads Soyeon to her patient. “But you answered really well and I could tell Dr. Moon was impressed.”

“You could?”

“Yeah.”

Soyeon’s teeth gleamed as she turned on a power-watt smile. “I’m glad!”

Soojin suddenly turns to her and hands over a small square. “Here.”

It’s a gold star sticker.

“What’s this?” Soyeon is puzzled as she takes the sticker.

“A little recognition.”

“Thanks!” Soyeon slips the sticker into her pocket.

“Hi Mr. Kim, how are you doing?” Soojin suddenly switches from her shy smile to a bright, cheerful one while her voice also gets a bit louder.

Soyeon greets the patient as Soojin goes over to the exam. She observes a different Soojin in front of patients. She’s more cheerful and outgoing. Her actions are more lively and sweet. She asks about their day and their family. But she reverts to her quiet self when she’s alone with Soyeon.

“We have one more person to visit. Then we will write the treatment plan for them. I have a meeting before lunch. We can reconvene after lunch?” Soojin sketches out the schedule for the rest of their day.

Soyeon is glad to have a bit of quiet work time to herself.

 

 

There are few sounds more pleasing to Minnie’s ears than the sound of hot water pouring into a cup. As she dunks her tea bag into the cup, she holds it closer to her face to let the steam wash over the skin and the scent getting stronger as it brews. Taking a deep breath, Minnie breaks into a smile as she leans further into her chair. Her weary body appreciates the rest, even if it’s in this uncomfortable chair.

“Minnie, you’re finished with your rounds already?” Soojin’s quiet voice breaks the silence.

“My intern is doing the post-op exam, but yeah we’re pretty much done.” Minnie turns around to look at Soojin, who’s pouring herself a cup of coffee. “You’re done, too?”

“Yeah, I have a conference call with Yulje Medical about a heart transplant in about ten minutes.” Soojin sits down at the seat across from Minnie. “You trust your intern to do the post-op on the first day?”

“Trust is … a strong word.” Minnie takes out her tea bag and blows on the steaming surface to cool her drink. “But Yuqi makes me have confidence in her. It’s hard to explain.”

“No, I get it. I have the same feeling about mine.”

“Really. That’s a big compliment coming from you.” Minnie puts down her cup as she laughs.

Soojin rolls her eyes. “What do you mean?”

“Like you don’t compliment people that often … Ms. Ice Queen.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“You guys are fighting again?” Miyeon announces her presence from the door.

“We’re not fighting.” Minnie shakes her head and picks up her cup again.

“Tell your friend to be less annoying.” Soojin nods toward Minnie.

“She’s your friend, too.” Miyeon sits down next to Minnie. “You’re done already?”

Before Minnie could answer, her pager rings from inside her coat’s pocket. She set her cup down for the third time and reaches inside. As soon as she sees the message, she turns and gets up immediately. “I gotta go.” With those words and that expression, her friends could tell that something is seriously wrong. She starts sprinting out of the lounge.

“I hope everything is okay.” Miyeon mutters as Soojin nods.

“I have to get to a conference call … let’s check on her later.” Soojin gets up with her coffee cup. “She didn’t even get to drink her tea.”

Miyeon looks at the steam that’s still rising from the cup and sighs. “Poor Minnie. She must be tired.”

 

 

“Is this how your people do things, Dr. Kim? You leave post-op exams to a first day intern?” The surgery department head bellows as his voice echoes in his office. Yuqi can only shrink further into herself as he stares dagger at Dr. Kim Yongsun, her attending. “What will happen to the reputation of this hospital? This department? If this gets out.”

“Sir …” Yuqi tries to pipe up.

“I’m sorry, sir. Dr. Song is my responsibility and I was complacent. It won’t happen again.” Dr. Kim Minnie, Yuqi’s resident, stands with her gaze lowered but visibly upset.

“It is not Dr. Song’s fault, sir. She barely had a chance to exam Mrs. Shin before she started seizing. At least we caught the bleed now before she went home and suffer worse outcomes.” Dr. Kim Yongsun calmly replies and shakes her head, “The important thing right now is for Dr. Kim and I to go in to repair the bleed before it gets worse. This is no time to place blames.” Yuqi is surprise at the firm voice that’s defending her. Is this the same shy Dr. Kim?

“Fine. Go do that. But I will have your heads if anything goes wrong.” The angry old man barks his order before waving them out.

Yuqi tensely follows both Dr. Kim’s out of the office. She cannot bare to bring her head up to meet their faces. She had just gotten to Mrs. Shin’s room and barely had a chance to touch the woman before she started vomiting and convulsing. For some reason, Yuqi froze and couldn’t call the code as a flurry of people run around her to help the patient. Eventually, Minnie ran into the room after receiving an SOS page.

“Dr … Yuqi?” Dr. Kim Yongsun, the stranger-shy surgeon finally speaks again. “It wasn’t your fault.” She nods and raises her fist in a motivating manner. “Fighting.”

Turning to Minnie, Dr. Kim Yongsun, pats her shoulder. “It wasn’t your fault either … I know you’re tired, but I’ll need you to assist me again, Nicha.”

Minnie nods quietly.

“See you in the OR.” Dr. Kim waves to both women before departing.

“Minnie …” Yuqi starts to apologize.

“Don’t say anything.”

Yuqi feels sorry and ashamed for her inadequacy. She was so adamant in being able to handle the post-op, yet she froze when the patient started to have a seizure.

“I’m …”

“I gotta go.” Minnie turns away before Yuqi could finish her apology.

It’s been a while since Yuqi felt this small and incompetent. She wish this day was over already.

 

 

“Hey. You’re Shuhua right?”

Yeh Shuhua turns toward the sweet voice that’s above the background of the cafeteria. “Oh hi.” She nods at Miyeon, who’s smiling sweetly at her. She couldn’t even remember Miyeon’s name so she remains quiet.

Shuhua continues through the serving line after offering her short greeting.

“Where are your friends?” Miyeon looks around the crowded cafeteria.

“I haven’t seen them all day.”

“I see. First day can be busy for interns.”

Shuhua nods. She didn’t want to say that her day is rather smooth and she didn’t have too much to do other than providing a report to Dr. Choi after lunch.

“I can get your lunch, consider it my treat.” Miyeon generously offers as she follows the cute girl through the line.

Miyeon always liked cute things, people, and animals. Shuhua just happens to match her perfect type of cute with wide eyes, small mouth, and ivory white skin that glows in comparison with her jet black hair. Shuhua looks just like a cute doll, one that Miyeon would love to dress up in cute outfits. A bow here, some glitter there …

“No, thanks.” Shuhua shakes her head and holds up her wallet. “I have money.” She’s not interested in being a pity case or anything of the sort. She’s always wary of strangers, especially ones who are too friendly too quickly.

“I know, but as your sunbae, I can treat you.”

“It’s alright, I don’t report directly to you.”

“But I insist.”

“And I insist that I pay for myself.” Shuhua reaches the end of the queue, where a nice cafeteria worker is waiting to ring up her order.

“Why are you being so stubborn?” Miyeon huffs, unsure why this stubbornness is making Shuhua seem even cuter.

Shuhua ignores her and pays for her meal. Not forgetting her manners, she bows slightly to Miyeon before jetting off.

“Oooh, wait for me~” Miyeon hurriedly pays for her meal and follows Shuhua to a table, much to the younger woman’s chagrin.

Since it is not orientation day, the cafeteria is much quieter and less crowded. It is a lot easier to find a table that’s to the corner of the room and next to a bright window.

“Why do you have to follow me? Where are your friends?” Shuhua wanted a little quiet time to look over some patient files before her report to Dr. Choi. Though, now that she thinks about it, one of Miyeon’s friend is that beautiful woman. “Like … Soojin …”

“Oh, she’s coming for lunch in a little bit.” Miyeon smiles, seeing Shuhua’s eyes light up like Christmas lights on a tree.

“S-she’s coming?” Shuhua could hardly contain her excitement that she stutters.

“Yeah, she’s on a conference call and then she’s going to come have lunch with me.”

“With you?” Shuhua asks with a confused, sad puppy look that really tickles Miyeon.

“Yeah, she is my friend … who you asked about …” Miyeon laughs and points toward the door, “there she is!”

Shuhua follows the direction of Miyeon’s fingertip and looks toward the goddess, who is strolling into this ordinary cafeteria. “Wow …”

Each time Shuhua sees Soojin, she feels her self-control slip further and further away. Her mouth slacks open and the kaleidoscope vision tunnels around Soojin. It looks like the woman is filming a shampoo commercial and walking around like a super model.

“Hey, Soojinnie.” Miyeon waves to her friend.

Soojin looks indifferent toward Shuhua, but to Miyeon, she offers a small smile and settles into a seat next to her. “Hi.”

“How was the conference call?” Miyeon scoots over to give her friend some room.

“Boring and a bit longer than necessary.” Soojin opens her lunch bag and keeps her eyes on Miyeon, ignoring the gawking Shuhua across from her.

“Soojin, you remember Shuhua from yesterday?” Miyeon offers Shuhua a little help.

“Uh huh.” Soojin turns to look at Shuhua, who attempts to look half-way decent. “Yeh Shushu.” Soojin playfully repeats the mistaken name that Shuhua said from the day before.

Hearing the teasing tone coming out of Soojin’s mouth causes Shuhua to shiver with happiness. “Hi.” That’s all she could think of to say.

“Hello.”

“What did you bring for lunch?” Shuhua points to Soojin’s lunch bag in curiosity.

“Soojin packs her lunch all year round.” Miyeon states proudly. “Well, minus the occasional lunch conferences.”

Soojin gives her friend a little smile and opens her lunch bag to show some veggies and a heaping serving of meat.

“Wow, that looks amazing.” Shuhua exclaims, her mouth watering as she looks over the glistening pieces of meat. She feels her cafeteria lunch is severely lacking in every way compared to Soojin’s feast.

Soojin laughs softly when she sees Shuhua drooling. It’s the second time that the younger girl has drooled near her in two days. She can’t help but feel a bit sorry for the child.

Feeling a little generous and maybe a little bit of pity, Soojin uses her chopsticks and picks out some pieces to put onto Shuhua’s lunch tray. “Here … try some.”

Excitedly, Shuhua claps and gets into it. She practically swallowed the grilled meat whole, barely taking time to chew and savor. “It’s so delicious!” Her stuffed face makes her look like a hungry hungry chipmunk.

“Slow down, you’re going to choke.” Miyeon laughs at Shuhua’s cuteness and tries to reach over to pat her arm, only for Shuhua to swat her hand away.

Shuhua shoots Miyeon a pointed look before turning into a sweet puppy toward Soojin. “Thank you. You’re amazing. Please let me buy you dinner … as repayment.” Her eyelashes flutter as she props her chin on her palm. “It’s the least I could do.”

Soojin snorts and rolls her eyes. “Please let me eat in peace.” Even though she rejects Shuhua’s advances, the small smile on her lips is very telling for Miyeon. Soojin can be so hot and cold sometimes that it’s hard to have an accurate read on her mood. But, Miyeon can tell that right now Soojin is in a semi-good mood.

Soojin is not the type to flirt with anyone or date anyone out of pity. However, she is very kind and softhearted, despite her cold demeanor. Miyeon has gathered as much through the year that they’d spent together.

Miyeon smiles and watches the two interact for a bit before she looks around the cafeteria.

“Did you find out what’s going on with Minnie?” Soojin notices her friend’s brief distraction.

“I sent her a text to meet at lunch, but she hasn’t responded … it didn’t even say ‘seen’ so I think she’s probably in surgery or something urgent.” Miyeon sighs.

“Didn’t she just come out of a double?” Soojin swats Shuhua’s hand away from her hair.

“Yeah, so she must be so tired right now.”

“Maybe she fell asleep somewhere.”

“That’s not like her …” Miyeon shrugs off the cheerless thought and brings back her sweet smile. “But I’m glad you guys are here.”

Shuhua nods in agreement, but more or less because she gets to see Soojin and eat Soojin’s cooking.

They eat together for the rest of their break before going separately toward their appointments.

 

 

The brightness of the sun briefly stuns Soyeon right before the warm summer breeze embraces her. She pushes the rooftop door wider as she steps outside to the outdoor seating area. The hospital, like a lot of modern buildings, have a small green space on the rooftop to encourage employees to get some sun once in a while. It has a few vending machine and a designated smoking area as well. Soyeon brings her lunch up here to get some fresh air and alone time with music.

Soyeon considered texting her new friends to see if they wanted to join her, but decided against it because she really wanted some time alone to reset her thoughts. There aren’t many people up here today, so she doesn’t have a hard time finding a bench to sit on. From the plastic bag from the hospital convenience store, she brings out a sandwich, a drink, and some tangerines. With her earphones in, she starts to munch on her sandwich while staring out to the landscape beyond the hospital. Being on a slight hill has its advantage, because Soyeon can see so far into the sprawling city in front of her. Her thoughts begin to wander to the years behind her, where all that hard work led to this moment … of her sitting here eating this convenience store sandwich.

Soyeon smiles to herself at the ironic thought. Just as she starts to wonder if it was all worth it, she notice some movements on a bench not far away to her left. She turns to find Yuqi sitting alone with her hands making wiping motions across her face. Soyeon takes off her earphones and stands up immediately. As she steps forward, she hesitates for a second, should she rush over right now and catch Yuqi in this vulnerable moment? They aren’t even close friends yet … but no matter, Yuqi seems like she’s crying really hard.

“Hey …” Soyeon steps closer, “What’s wrong, Yuqi?”

Yuqi looks up in surprise, her normally happy eyes are wet and red with sorrow. “Soyeon …” She turns to try to wipe off the tears and hide her face from Soyeon. “It’s nothing.”

“You don’t have to say it.” Soyeon sits down next to Yuqi, keeping a respectable distance. “Here, use these.” She hands Yuqi some napkins from her plastic bag.

“T-thanks …” For some reason, having this minimum level of kindness makes Yuqi cry even harder, despite her best efforts. She takes the napkins and dabs under her eyes.

“Yeah …” Soyeon sits with Yuqi as the other girl sniffles quietly.

After about five minutes of silence, Soyeon puts one hand on Yuqi’s shoulder. “Here … have some.” She hands Yuqi three tangerines. Soft is not a word people would use to describe Soyeon, but in this moment, that’s the exact word use. She is normally awkward with people, so she doesn’t know how to cheer someone up right away. But she wants to help her friend.

Yuqi looks at the small fruits in her hands and suddenly starts to laugh between sobs. “What … why …”

“I bought it from the store … for lunch.” Soyeon awkwardly answers.

“Thank you …” Yuqi smiles a little.

“You’re welcome. Do you want something to drink?” Soyeon motions to the vending machines behind them.

“No, I’m … I’m okay.” Yuqi smiles and reaches over to pat Soyeon’s hand, as if to thank her for her kind thoughts.

“Oh okay.” Soyeon goes back to to being quiet. Though, she looks down at the hand that Yuqi had touched. It felt warmer than before.

“Thanks, Soyeon.” Yuqi smiles gratefully.

“Anytime.” Soyeon coolly nods, “Is there anything I can do?”

“No …” Yuqi hesitates before telling Soyeon what happened.

Soyeon listens quietly, nodding along as Yuqi animatedly recounts her morning.

“So now Minnie’s mad at me.” Yuqi lets out a loud huff and slumps her shoulder.

When the younger girl finally finishes her story, Soyeon has a rather serious look on her face with her brows wrinkled up and everything. “It doesn’t sound like you did anything wrong, though.”

“I know, but I can’t help but feel like I’m responsible somehow.”

“If anything, it’s Minnie’s fault for leaving you alone.”

“No! That’s why I feel responsible, because I was the one who convinced her to trust me.”

“She should have been more diligent …”

“No, I …”

“So it was not your fault nor Minnie’s.”

“Right.”

“Then why are you so upset?”

“I don’t know, because I got Dr. Kim and Minnie chewed out by the chief?”

“So it’s his fault?” Soyeon sounds serious, but for some reason Yuqi knows that she’s playing.

“No, silly!” Yuqi can’t help but laugh at Soyeon’s funny expression.

“Do you want me to go talk to him?” Soyeon feigns a serious look, “I can give him a stern speech about improperly chewing people out for no reason.”

“No!” Yuqi laughs harder, wiping tears away from her eyes. This time, at least they’re not sad tears. “No, please don’t.”

Soyeon joins Yuqi in laughter at the ridiculousness of her offer. Yuqi is really pretty and cute when she laughs. Even though Yuqi’s voice is more on the husky side, her loud laugh is as sweet as a bird’s song or a bell’s chime to Soyeon. She can’t help but get pulled into the younger girl’s emotions.

“That made me feel a bit better. Thanks, Soyeon.” Yuqi rests her hand on Soyeon’s shoulder.

“No problem. I’m glad.” If Soyeon didn’t have such strong grip on her emotions, she might have blushed at the touch. “I have to go meet with Soojin to discuss some treatment plans now… are you going to be okay?”

“Yeah, I better go check on how the surgery is going.” Yuqi sighs and rises from the bench along with Soyeon. She puts two tangerines in her pocket and starts to peel one. “Thanks for lunch.” Her eyes are still puff and nose still red, but she seems a whole lot more cheerful than before.

“Stop thanking me.” Soyeon smiles and waves to her friend. “I’ll see you later.”

“See you.” Yuqi waves back and watches Soyeon disappear from the garden.

 

 

“Yuqi … you’re still here.” Minnie pulls off her hair bonnet as she dumps her surgical gown into the basket.

“Yeah …” Yuqi nods and searches Minnie’s face for an answer.

“She’ll be okay.” Minnie answers the unasked question.

“Thank God.” Yuqi lets out a held breath and slumps down on the ground for a bit.

Minnie takes a deep breath and slides on the ground next to Yuqi. “Sorry I was mean to you earlier.” She sighs and turns to Yuqi. “I shouldn’t have taken my frustration out on you. You didn’t do anything wrong.” She takes a deep breath and continues, “I made a lot of mistakes when I was an intern as well. Today, I was frustrated at myself for not taking better care of you … like my sunbaes did for me.” Her eyes lower to her hands, “I should have been a better sunbae.” She looks to Yuqi after a moment of silence.

“Thanks …” Yuqi nods and turns toward Minnie, silently hoping her eyes aren’t red anymore. She doesn’t want her sunbae to know that she cried. “… for apologizing.”

“Will you forgive me?”

“…” Yuqi stares at Minnie for a second, letting the other woman simmer in discomfort before smiling widely. “There’s nothing to forgive … let’s start over tomorrow.”

Minnie laughs and slaps Yuqi’s shoulder. “You had me going there!” She shakes her head and leans back against the wall. “I’m off tomorrow, so you get Dr. Kim all to yourself.”

“What?!” Yuqi gasps loudly. “How … why …”

“I’ve done two back to back overnights and this was a double …” Minnie looks at her watch, it’s almost 6PM. “I need to rest. You’ll be fine, she’s more gentle than a lot of other attendings.”

“I’m not worried about me, I’m worried about her!” Yuqi shakes her head, “she’s so shy … what if I scare her away?”

Minnie laughs and slaps Yuqi’s shoulder, again. “You won’t, she’s not that big of a chicken. You’ll learn a lot from her … it’ll be a good do-over for today.”

“If you say so …” Yuqi feels a bit more relieved. “I’ll just have to work harder tomorrow.”

“That’s the attitude … here, have some chocolate.” Minnie digs into her scrubs’ pocket but Yuqi shakes her head.

“No offense … but I don’t want your pocket chocolate …” Yuqi looks down at the rather squished looking piece of Hershey’s. She reaches into her own pocket, “I’ve got my own pocket tangerine.”

Minnie laughs and slaps Yuqi’s shoulder, one more time. “You’re funny, Yuqi. I think we’ll be just fine.”

“Yeah, I think so, too.” Yuqi laughs along as she massages her shoulder.

The two sits there for a bit longer, eating their respective snack, before saying goodbye for the day.

 

 

A week passes by and the interns are completely comfortable with their new routines. Yuqi, Shuhua, and Soyeon form a lunch and study trio. They also gets together in Shuhua’s office to keep her company. Soyeon is witty and awkwardly funny, but she has a surprising side full of aegyo. Shuhua looks seems very immature, but is actually mentally strong and focused. Yuqi is always energetic, but is very thoughtful and sensitive.

They occasionally sits with Minnie, Miyeon, and Soojin for lunch. The six of them try not to talk about work all the time. They start to get to know each other’s preference for music, movies, and hobbies. Despite the rough start in the beginning, everything starts to fall into place for the younger girls.

 

 

“That would be 4,000 won, please.” The cafeteria worker slides the money tray toward Shuhua.

The young woman reaches into her white coat and realizes that her pockets are empty except for a pen and her phone.“Oh no …” Shuhua pats around her white coat, trying to find her wallet. She could’ve sworn that she had put her wallet in her pocket this morning.

The cafeteria worker could tell that Shuhua didn’t have her money and a line was forming quickly behind the young intern. “Miss …”

Shuhua is bright red as her eyes tear up, she couldn’t pay and isn’t going to resort to begging. “I … don’t have my wallet …”

The worker feels sympathetic toward the young woman, but she couldn’t let her have food for free due to cafeteria policy. She sighs and shakes her head, “I’m sorry, but I have to get the next customer …”

Nodding, Shuhua takes her food tray and puts it aside before leaving the line ashamed. She’s never forgetting her wallet before and she doesn’t like the looks that people are giving her. She’s not poor nor is she trying to get food for free. Can’t they understand that? Feelings start to bottle up inside her as her cheeks burn hot and her eyes water. Her stomach starts to rumble at this inopportune time, causing her to fold her arms over her belly. She quickly makes her way toward the door to avoid the looks, but as she reaches the entrance she collides into a taller body just as the door opens. Shuhua bounces back, almost falling, but a hand grasps around her forearm and keeps her from tumbling backward.

“Watch where you’re going, kid.” Soojin’s soft, smooth voice reminds her.

“Unnie …” Shuhua looks up at Soojin with wet eyes and pouts, causing the older woman to be taken back.

“What … I didn’t bump you that hard.” Soojin frowns and rests her hand on Shuhua’s shoulder.

“I don’t have money!” Shuhua cries loudly, all shame abandoned, ignoring the stares from other people.

“What?” Soojin frowns harder in confusion.

“My wallet!” Shuhua’s loud broken explanation serves no one any good. “I don’t have it and they won’t let me have food!”

“Oh …” Soojin rolls her eyes and sighs, “That’s all? I can give you some money. Just stop crying.” Is this pity?

“I don’t want it anymore!” Shuhua whines.

“…” Soojin pulls Shuhua away from the door, toward a nearby table, and away from prying eyes.

Shuhua follows without resistance, feeling the warmth from Soojin’s hand on her forearm. Even between sobs and tears, she smiles a little bit.

“Can I eat some of your lunch, unnie?” Shuhua bravely points to Soojin’s lunch bag as they reach their seats.

Soojin looks between Shuhua and her food. “You don’t even know what I packed.”

“But I know it’ll be good because you made it.”

“How do you know that?”

“What you made last time was really good!”

“Okay … so you don’t want to buy food from the cafeteria … but you want my food?”

“Yes!”

“… I’m going to get some coffee and something for you to eat with …” Soojin replies with some resignation.

“Hooray!” Shuhua is happy to have worn Soojin down a little bit. Normally, she’s not one to let people pity her, but if that’s what it takes for Soojin to pay attention to her … then at least it’s not a bad first step.

Soojin shakes her head and rolls her eyes as the younger girl claps her hands in excitement. She is a little pleased that someone is excited about her cooking, though. Miyeon and Minnie always praised her food, but they don’t have nearly half of the excitement that this Shuhua girl has. Soojin feels almost as much pride in her cooking as she does her surgical skills, so this certainly hits the spot for her.

When Soojin comes back, she brings with her a plate, some silverwares, and a cup of iced Americano.

“Do you like that drink … unnie?” Shuhua is not typically good with honorifics, but for some reason it feels so right to call Soojin her unnie.

“Yeah … oh, I forgot to get you a drink. What would you like?” Soojin starts to share some of her food onto the spare plate for Shuhua.

“Can I drink some of yours?”

“No.” Soojin quickly shuts that down. As much as she has started to like Shuhua’s attention, she won’t put up with the cheesiness of the younger woman’s strange infatuation with her.

“Aww … why not?” Shuhua whines, as she accepts her plate from Soojin.

“That’s unhygienic.” Soojin answers matter-of-factly. “We can be friends, but please stop acting like you’re into me or something.”

“But I am into you.” Shuhua blinks dramatically. “Very much into you. So so so into you.”

Soojin gives Shuhua a look of warning. She doesn’t like games like this, people pretending to like her that way when they first meet her. “You barely know me.”

“I know enough.” Shuhua smiles and points to Soojin. “Your name is Seo Soojin, you’re kind enough to share food with me …”

“That’s all it takes?” Soojin laughs, “give you some food?”

“Yes and no.” Shuhua shakes her head adamantly, “You make good food and I fell for you the moment that I saw you.”

“And what did you see that made you fall for me?” Soojin is curious.

“I’m not sure yet … I saw you and my heart spasmed … and then your food tasted so good.” Shuhua tries to count in her head all the ways that made her fall for Soojin.

Soojin rolls her eyes again. “That’s not a good prognosis, as a Cardiothoracic surgeon, I advise you to have that heart spasm checked out.”

“Can you check me out, Soojin-unnie?” Shuhua smiles coyly.

That is a smooth one. Soojin totally set herself up for that, so she can’t even argue back. “Just eat your food.”

“Okay, unnie.” Shuhua answers extra demure tone as she smiles sweetly at Soojin.

What has Soojin signed herself up for? Will she ever win against this strange, stubborn girl?

 

 

Yuqi enters Shuhua’s office, which is their unofficial base now since no one else shares the office with the youngest.

“Hey, Soyeon.”

“Hi, Yuqi.”

“Have you been here long?”

“No … about an hour or so?”

“Whatcha working on?”

“Just some research for this surgery that Soojin is assisting with tomorrow.”

“I just watched Minnie perform most of a surgery by herself.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, she’s amazing. She wasn’t nervous or anything … I hope to get to their level soon.”

“We’ll get there eventually, they were interns like us once.”

“I know. But I just feel like I need to do more, you know?”

“Take it at your own pace, Yuqi. You don’t need to go by anyone else’s speed.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“Of course.”

“Okay, Miss Genius Cardio surgeon.”

They laugh together and work together for a few more hours. As the sun sets, they start to pack everything up to go home. Since they live in the same building, they often go home together.

“Would you mind if we drop by my office to pick up some stuff?” Yuqi left some reading material that she wanted to check out later.

“Sure.”

Together they head toward Yuqi’s office. When they get out of the elevator, they catch a glimpse of Miyeon ahead of them. She’s carrying some take-out bag with her. As they start to call out to her, she enters Yuqi’s office after inputing the code. Minnie must have told her their code, even though she stressed to Yuqi not to tell anyone. Yuqi feels a bit slighted because she didn’t share their door code with anyone, including her friends.

“She’s here late.” Soyeon makes a soft comment.

“Yeah …”

As the reach the door, they notice that the room is slightly dark and only half of the lights are on. Yuqi reaches to put her ID on the pad, but Soyeon pulls her hand down.

Through the narrow window on the door, they watch as Miyeon leaves the take-out on one of the desks and walks over to Minnie, who’s sleeping on the sofa. Minnie is probably exhausted after her surgery and took a nap. Miyeon perches on the edge of the sofa and fixes Minnie’s bangs before gently stroking the sleeping girl’s cheek.

Yuqi and Soyeon’s cheeks turn bright red and they quickly turn from the door as Miyeon leans down to kiss Minnie’s lips.

Without saying anything to each other, they both turn back and run toward the elevator again. They speed walk toward the bus stop and when they’ve finally seated, they both stare straight ahead and avoid talking about what they just witness. It was a private moment that they intruded. It was the first time they’ve witnessed anything so intimate, so they are at a loss of words.

Yuqi wonders how she would be able to look at Minnie tomorrow.

Some things can’t be unseen.



Chapter Text

For Soojin, August is the slowest month of the year. Nothing happens during August, except for the incessant heat and humidity. Although, she can’t complain about this August because it passed by so quickly. She’s been occupied with training her new intern, Soyeon, in addition to a few more responsibilities that she’d picked up. Especially, her new role as the sole lunch provider for one Yeh Shuhua. Thinking of the younger woman makes her smile unknowingly. What a strange character that one is … Shuhua is like a very clingy puppy, who says such cheesy lines. Her cheesiness almost rivals that of Soojin’s attending, Moon Byulyi. And that thought makes Soojin shudder and laugh at the same time.

Every day for the past few weeks, Soojin has been packing lunch for two. In her small, yet comfy apartment, the kitchen is the most prominent area due to her love for cooking. She has two containers set on the counter, both identical with the same amount of pasta, veggies, and protein in them. Feeding a growing puppy like Shuhua isn’t easy, the young girl seems to inhale the food as quickly as possible so she could stare and bat her lashes at Soojin.

Soojin is unsure why she is actually packing for Shuhua, but it makes her happy to do so. She likes to see the genuine happiness on Shuhua’s face when they eat together. This world already has so much sadness, Soojin feels that a little happiness isn’t going to hurt anyone.

 

 

“Does that make sense to you, Shuhua?” Dr. Seo Juhyun asks her intern after explaining the treatment plan for a particular patient.

Currently, Dr. Seo and Shuhua are in Dr. Seo’s office, going over notes from the morning’s rounds. Shuhua is seated across from Dr. Seo’s desk.

“Yes, it does!” Shuhua smiles and nods. Dr. Seo is so easy to understand and she has such a nice calming affect on Shuhua. It’s not that Shuhua doesn’t like her other attendings, it’s just that they are kind of pushy whereas Dr. Seo is laid back. She enjoy learning without so much pressure to pick a favorite sub-specialty, something that Dr. Seo never pushed on her before. Also, because Dr. Seo shares the same surname as the woman of her dream, Seo Soojin.

At the thought of Soojin, Shuhua starts to be in a daze. She likes everything about Soojin. From the way she smiles coyly with her catlike eyes to her soft, feminine voice. She likes the way Soojin talks. She likes the way Soojin walks. She likes Soojin’s cooking. She likes the way Soojin looks at her. She likes the way Soojin gets annoyed with her. Normally a crush would have subsided by now, but her desire for Soojin grows stronger each day. She doesn’t want to sleep with her or anything … well, not yet anyways … Shuhua just wants to be with Soojin. All day. Everyday.

“Earth to Shuhua …?” Dr. Seo waves a hand in front of Shuhua’s face.

“Erm … sorry about that.” Shuhua’s cheeks warm with a pink tint.

“Are you alright?” There is a mild note of concern is Dr. Seo’s voice.

“Yes … I … ah …”

“Thinking about Seo Soojin?” Dr. Seo asks with a knowing smile.

Shuhua’s mouth drops as her eyes widen. “Wha- … how?”

“People talk, Shuhua.” Dr. Seo gestures around to nothing in particular. “It’s a big hospital, but it’s an insular world. People tend to remember when you’re the only Gen surgical intern, who follows a second year Cardio resident around like a lovesick puppy.”

“Lovesick puppy?” Shuhua is offended. It may be true, but it makes her sound pathetic.

“Is that not true?”

“Well …” Shuhua is slow to respond when it’s the truth. She’s not ashamed of who she is or who she likes. “Yes, it is. People shouldn’t gossip so much, though.”

“I agree.” Dr. Seo nods in sympathy and leans forward, resting her folded arms on her desk. “I don’t have a problem with who you date, just don’t let it affect your work.”

Shuhua nods, “You don’t have to worry about that. I won’t let my personal feelings affect my work.” She feels pride in her work. She wants to be a better doctor and surgeon. She wants to be someone Soojin would think is admirable.

“Good. I’m glad that you are thinking clearly … I hope you are adjusting well to the hospital.” Dr. Seo changes the subject once she knows that she doesn’t have to worry about the SooShu situation.

“Yes, ma’am.” Shuhua relaxes a little. “Everyone has been so kind and generous here.”

“Not pushy?” Dr. Seo asks with a slight raise of her brow.

“Well that, too.” Shuhua chuckles. “But a good kind of pushy … I’m getting spoiled.”

“I’m glad you know that my fellow attendings don’t mean any harm or pressure when we fight for you.” Dr. Seo nods. “We’ve been waiting for an intern for a while, we’re just excited to have you.”

“With all due respect, Dr. Seo. I haven’t seen you fight over me … ever.”

“Just because you didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.”

“Oh.”

Dr. Seo chuckles and winks at Shuhua. “I’m not pushy like the others, but I have my ways.”

“Oh …” Shuhua blushes deeply.

“Alright, I have a departmental meeting in a little bit. You’re dismissed until after lunch. Work on your research some more. After lunch, I have a minor project for you to start.”

“Yes, ma’am. Thank you.” Shuhua stands up and bows slightly before she steps out of the room.

She wonders if Soojin had heard rumors about them and what the older woman thinks about such rumors.

 

 

In a small hospital room, Minnie and Yuqi are standing over the bed of a young girl.

“Yuqi, I want you to meet my favorite patient, Jung Somi.” Minnie smiles softly and pats the head of the smiling child. “Somi, I want you to meet Dr. Song Yuqi, my intern.”

“Hi Somi, you can can call me Yuqi.” Yuqi waves enthusiastically.

Somi looks up to Minnie with a puzzled look. “Minnie-unnie, what’s an intern?”

“Basically, it means I’m in charge of her and she has to do what I say.” Minnie shrugs.

Yuqi opens her mouth to protest.

“Oh, like a Minion?” Somi blinks innocently.

“Yes, exactly like a Minion … one with two N’s. Get it? Minnion?” Minnie laughs at her own childish joke as Somi starts to laugh along.

“HEY!” Yuqi protests.

“So that means you’re Gru?” Somi asks between laughter. It’s Yuqi’s turn to laugh.

“HEY!” Minnie protests.

Yuqi chuckles as Minnie pretends to pout. She looks down to study Somi, a child who is so sweet and funny. A child who has stage 4 malignant gliomas. She’s only 10 y.o. But she’s been in and out of hospitals for the majority of her life. Her skin is so pale that you can see her veins. She wears a hospital gown along with a woven cap to keep her shaved head warm. It’s a miracle that someone who’s suffered for almost all her life could laugh and joke so easily. The thought alone makes Yuqi want to tear up.

“So, where are your parents, Somi?” Minnie asks as she pulls up a chair.

“Papa has to work today. Mama went home to make some food for me.” Somi smiles and reaches out to hold Minnie’s hand. They’ve only known each other for a year after meeting in the first week of Minnie’s intern year. Yet, it feels like they’ve known each other longer. Minnie used to sneak candy into Somi’s room when the adults are away. Minnie never treat Somi like just a patient or a zoo animal or just a chart.

“Mmm … I hope she brings enough for me, too. I like the seaweed soup that she made for your birthday.” Minnie gently squeezes Somi’s hand. “Speaking of which, next month is your birthday already.”

“Yeah.” Somi smiles happily. “I can’t wait! Mama and Papa said they’ll take me to an amusement park if I do well with this next round of chemo.”

Minnie looks up at Yuqi, who’s scribbling loudly into Somi’s chart. “Yuqi, what are you going to get Somi for her birthday?”

“Me?” Yuqi stops her writing to look between the two.

“You’re getting me something for my birthday?” Somi asks with a happy surprised look. Who could say no to that?

“Wh-What would you like?” Yuqi feels put on the spot, but she’s not very upset about it. “I don’t know what young people like these days.”

“Um …” Somi starts to think.

“You don’t have to rush, you can tell me later.” Yuqi smiles and writes down her info on a piece of paper. “You can send me a message or wait until the next time we see each other.”

“Okay!” Somi happily accepts the paper. “I will!”

“Well, look at you two getting along. I feel like I’m a third wheel here.” Minnie pouts.

“What are you going to get Somi for her birthday, then?” Yuqi laughs.

“Hm …” Minnie pretends to think about it and then shakes her head. “It’s a surprise!”

“You got me something already?”

“Yes. But you won’t get it until I’ve got a piece of your birthday cake.” Minnie smiles her squinty smile.

“Yay! I can’t wait!” Somi claps her hands before reaching over to her bag on the night stand next to her bed. She pulls out a little digital camera and shows it to Yuqi. “Last year, Minnie-unnie gave me this camera. I’ve taken so many pictures to document all my memories …” Suddenly, Somi frowns and touches her forehead.

“Headache?” Minnie asks worriedly.

“Yes …” Somi hisses in pain, her eyes tearing up, and squeezes Minnie’s hand harder.

“Should I call …” Yuqi looks at the button to dial a nurse.

“Do you want us to ask for medications, Somi?” Minnie reaches over to gently stroke Somi’s head through the cap.

“No.” Somi shakes her head. “The medicine makes me sleep all day … I want to see mama when she comes back.” Somi fights back the tears, having dealt with this pain for so long, it feels like it’s a part of her now.

“Okay … but if it gets to be too much …” Minnie softly rubs Somi’s shoulder. It’s rare for Minnie to be so gentle and not silly or sarcastic. Yuqi takes in the interaction and stays silent as to not disturb the two. As she starts to read the chart again to distract herself, the door slides open.

“Mama!” Somi’s pained expression switches to happiness for a moment.

“Somi, are you okay?” A young woman, who doesn’t look much older than Yuqi, enters the room and closes the door behind her. As a mother, she quickly takes in her child’s distress and hurries right to Somi’s side.

“Just a headache, mama.” Somi nods and turns toward Minnie. “Minnie-unnie said she’s already got a birthday present for me, mama.”

The woman looks at Minnie with such sad, yet grateful eyes, “Thank you, Dr. Kim.”

Minnie nods and pats Somi’s hand. “I’ll let you eat your mama’s food and rest. We’ve already sent for labs and test, but page me if you need anything and call for medications if it hurts too much, okay?” Minnie rises and gives Somi’s cheek a little squeeze.

“Alright, alright. See you later, Minnie-unnie. See you later, Yuqi-unnie.” Somi tries to be bright despite her pain.

Even Yuqi could tell that Somi’s hurting badly. She doesn’t want to leave the room in that situation, but she just waves to both the mother and daughter before following Minnie out of the room.

Once the door has closed behind them, Minnie takes a deep breath and exhales loudly. “Alright, what’s next?”

Yuqi is now familiar with the routine and system after a month. Minnie has put her in charge of their day to day schedule for the most part.

“Are you alright?” Yuqi asks while Minnie continues to walk ahead of her, not looking back. For some reason, Minnie’s back look so sad to Yuqi.

“Yeah. What’s next?” Minnie asks again, louder this time. She is not ready to talk about this. She doesn’t want to cry in front of her intern. Not a lot gets to Minnie, except for children and the elderly.

“Meeting with the chief resident before lunch.”

“Ugh.”

Yuqi can feel that. It’s a meeting with all the other residents, where patients are treated as cases and discussed as room numbers. It’s a great learning opportunity, but it always turns out so boring and impersonal.

“Let’s get some tea before the meeting.” Minnie sighs again.

“I’m going to need something stronger than that.”

 

 

It’s lunch time in the cafeteria again. To Miyeon, it feels almost like high school, because she’s meeting her friends in the same spot day in and day out. Even though they each have their own busy schedule, somehow they’ve managed to have lunch with each other for the majority of the days. Not everyone may be present at the same time, but they share meals more often that she’d expected. Now that their group has doubled, Miyeon feels so much happier.

Before, it was just Soojin and Minnie, who either bickered or ignored each other. Now, Miyeon has little interns who are sweet and funny  … for the most part. There’s still a lot of bickering, but it always brings laughter somehow.

Today, Miyeon is joined by Soojin, Shuhua, and Soyeon. It’s a strange dynamic. Minnie and Yuqi messaged ahead, saying that they’re going to be late to lunch because the chief resident ran late today. Shuhua is trying to sit as close to Soojin as possible, while Soojin is trying to push her away. Soyeon is reading some type of manga magazine, of all things.

“What are you reading, Soyeon?” Miyeon asks out of curiosity.

Soyeon looks up from behind the magazine and looks a bit put on the spot. “Oh … my favorite manga, One Piece.”

“Is it … in Japanese?” Miyeon asks incredulously and motions at the characters on the cover.

Soyeon nods. “Shonen Jump, newest issue.”

“Wow, that’s pretty cool. You can read Japanese?”

“Kind of. I’m not fluent, but I know enough. I can always look up the unfamiliar characters.” Soyeon explains, her voice getting quieter as she notices Soojin and Shuhua listening in, too.

“That’s amazing, Soyeon.” Shuhua nods in approval.

“Well, you can speak and read Taiwanese, so it’s not that impressive.” Soyeon tries to sound humble.

“I think both of you are amazing.” Miyeon smiles sweetly and claps her hands together. “Right?” She looks to Soojin, who nods in agreement.

“Hey guys, sorry we’re late.” Minnie and Yuqi carry their food trays toward the table and join the group. Miyeon moves her bag from the seat that she is saving for Minnie.

 Currently, Miyeon is between Minnie and Soyeon. Across the table, Shuhua is between Soojin and Yuqi.

“What are you guys talking about?” Yuqi looks across her at Soyeon and Miyeon.

“Soyeon can read Japanese.” Miyeon points toward Soyeon’s magazine.

“It’s manga, so it’s nothing …”

As Soyeon humbly tries to explain, Yuqi’s loud voice interrupts. “Wow! That’s amazing! I didn’t know that, you didn’t tell me!” She compliments and complains at the same time. Something that only Yuqi can do.

“It never came up …” Soyeon tries to explain again, only to be interrupted by Shuhua this time.

“Why not? You should say that whenever you meet someone. I’m a genius and I know Japanese is what you should always start with.” Shuhua jumps on the tease-Soyeon-bandwagon.

“Yeah. And she fixes hearts, too.” Yuqi turns to exchange a look with Shuhua.

“She heals and haikus.” Shuhua starts to laugh.

Finding herself at the receiving end of a tease, Soyeon turns on her warning face. She sticks her tongue to the side of her cheek and turns her sanpaku eyes toward the two teasers. Shuhua, being not as close to Soyeon, immediately stops and pretends to look elsewhere. Meanwhile, Yuqi being the loud girl that she is, continues to laugh.

Finally, Soojin, who has been eating and minding her business, clears her throat. “If you guys keep teasing Soyeon, she’s not going to share things with you anymore.” She gives Soyeon an understanding look, Cardio kids have to stick together.

“We’re just teasing because it’s so hard to find things to tease her about.” Yuqi smiles sweetly at Soyeon, “we know she’s amazing.”

Miyeon chuckles at the silliness of the younger women. They really liven up the table with their playfulness. Speaking of playfulness … Miyeon turns toward the quietest person at the table right now. Minnie’s fork is digging into her food, moving things around but not picking anything up to eat. Her eyes seem as far away as if physically she’s here, but mentally she’s somewhere else.

Miyeon reaches over and gives Minnie’s thigh a gentle squeeze, a gesture that doesn’t go unnoticed by Soyeon. Minnie snaps out of her reverie and turns to look at Miyeon, but not really recognizing her worry.

“How’s your day going?” Miyeon asks with a smile.

“Good.” Minnie nods and turns her attention to her food. At least she picks up a piece or two to eat.

Having known Minnie for a long time, Miyeon recognizes when the woman is in a mood. Minnie laughs often and cries just as easily. She’s too in touched with her feelings sometimes. When Minnie gets to be like this, Miyeon worries about how long it will take for her to get over it.

“I heard that Somi’s visiting?” Miyeon puts it as pleasantly as she could.

“Yeah.” A soft sigh from Minnie tells Miyeon the exact source of the other woman’s distraction.

“How is she?”

“Having bad headaches again. We’ve scheduled tests and labs to see if the growth has spread and if we can excise it.”

“Do you want to visit her with me later?”

“Yeah. I’d like that.”

Being a pediatric surgeon, Miyeon has treated Somi at the Children’s Hospital a few times. She may not be as closed to Somi as Minnie, but she is very fond of the kid. She knows how much Minnie care about her and that makes Miyeon care, too.

Yuqi and Soyeon exchanges look when they find the older women chatting to themselves. Miyeon seems concerned as she talks in a soft tone, making it hard to decipher what they’re actually saying. Minnie nods here and there, seeming to be in a mood. Having witnessed a private moment between the two earlier in the month, Yuqi and Soyeon have been paying attention to their interactions. As far as the Yuyeon duo knows, Miyeon and Minnie are best friends, nothing more.

Lunch continues with banter between the younger women while the older ones are quietly occupied with their own thoughts.

 

 

“Hey, Soyeon, wait a minute.” Yuqi calls after her friend as they exit the cafeteria. She is the last to dump her tray, so she’s just seconds behind the group.

Soyeon hangs back a few steps behind Soojin and Shuhua to wait for Yuqi to approach. “Yes?”

“Would you mind helping me practice suturing later?” Yuqi asks. Her expressive eye brows rising in a cute, pleading manner.

“Um … sure.” Soyeon nods. It’s not that Soyeon doesn’t want to help her friend, she is just surprised that Yuqi asked her, since Yuqi is actually very good at suturing from their past study sessions. She might even be able to show Soyeon a thing or two. “When and where?”

“I should be done around 5 today … how about 5:30 at the general conference room on the fourth floor?”

Another strange request. “The general conference room?” Soyeon’s brows knit together a little bit. Normally, they’d just stay in one of their offices. The two of them don’t require a whole conference room’s worth of space.

“Y-Yeah.” Yuqi avoids looking into Soyeon’s eyes. “Just in case Shuhua wants to join …”

Hearing her name, Shuhua turns back and blinks with her wide eyes. She looks between Soyeon and Yuqi, “Yeah. If I can wrap up my work by them, I’ll join you.”

The conference room is still a whole lot of space for just the three of them. Soyeon frowns in puzzlement, but she decides not to pursue it because Soojin is waiting for her inside the elevator.

“This is where we part.” Yuqi suddenly announces. “I’m going downstairs!” The girl runs off … acting more suspiciously than normal.

Shuhua looks at Soyeon and shrugs before turning to give Soojin a bright smile. “Have a good rest of your day, Soojin-unnie. Thank you for lunch! See you later~”

Soojin looks at Shuhua coolly before turning away.

Soyeon steps inside the elevator and wonders what’s going on with Yuqi.

 

Knock-knock.

Minnie gently raps on the door before sliding it open. Somi is propped up on a pillow, sitting and watching something on her tablet. She looks up when Minnie enters and offers a bright smile. “Hi again, Minnie-unnie!”

“Hey, Somi. Look who came to see you.” Minnie steps aside to let Miyeon enter the room.

“Hi, Somi~” Miyeon prances over and greets the child in her sing-song voice.

“Miyeon-unnie!” Somi puts down her tablet and reaches out to Miyeon with both hands.

They hold hands for a second, rocking back and forth and laughing together.

“Sorry I couldn’t come over right away, Somi. But I made Minnie bring me as soon as I could.” Miyeon touches Somi’s cheek and pats her hair.

“I understand you’re busy. I’m glad to see you … Miyeon-unnie, you got even prettier.”

“Aigoo … Somi, you’re the sweetest.” Miyeon reaches into her pocket and takes out a small pack of candy. “That’s why you’re my favorite.”

“Thank you, unnie.” Somi gratefully accepts the pack of sweets.

“Must be because all of the candy we keep giving her.” Minnie stands by Miyeon.

“I’m telling the truth. Miyeon-unnie is the prettiest girl I’ve ever met.” Somi’s eyes go wide as she tries to establish her honesty.

“Hey, how come you never say I’m pretty?” Minnie pretends to pout and turns to Miyeon. “How come it’s always Miyeon?”

Miyeon just smiles in with her eye-smile and pats Somi’s hair again. “Because Somi can only tell the truth. You don’t want to teach her to lie, do you?”

“Yah!” Minnie grasps the collar of Miyeon’s white coat while making a fist at her friend.

Somi laughs before pulling the two apart. “You’re pretty, too, Minnie-unnie. But you’re more cool than pretty. You’re the coolest girl I’ve ever met.”

“It’s too late. I’m already upset.” Minnie folds her arms across her chest and turns away from Miyeon.

“Stop giving Somi a hard time. You’re going to give her a headache.” Miyeon pokes at Minnie’s cheeks.

“Minnie-unnie said she’s already got my birthday present.” Somi changes the subject. “Isn’t she so nice and cool?”

“The nicest and the coolest!” Miyeon chirps as Minnie tries to hide her smile.

They joke around for a little while before heading out to get their work done. Somi says her parents are coming soon. Her mom went to pick up her dad from work because his car is in the shop. The visit seems to have lifted Minnie’s spirit a little.

 

 

“Hurry and come inside.” Soojin calls to the person who’s creeping the door open just slightly. She could feel their eyes watching her.

“Awww, Soojin-unnie. You knew it was me?” Shuhua steps in with a bright smile and quickly closes the door behind her.

“You were staring.” Soojin replies and hands Shuhua a stack of paper plates. “Put these over there with the cups.”

“Yes, unnie.” Shuhua readily complies and runs over to a table where plastic wares, cups, and paper hats were sitting. She sets the plates down and runs right back to Soojin’s side. “Do you think she suspected anything?”

Soojin pauses and thinks before nodding. “I think after Yuqi’s little performance, she thinks something’s up … but I don’t think she knows what it is.”

“That Yuqi is a teeeeerrrible actress. She needs to brush up on her acting skills.” Shuhua laughs after stressing the “terrible” part.

“It was pretty bad.” Soojin shares a small smile.

“So, how did you distract her?” Shuhua asks, clearly meaning Soyeon.

Soojin is not proud of what she did, but it was necessary. “I … left her with Dr. Moon.” Soojin continues with her work. “I told them I had to take an emergency meeting …”

“Wow, unnie. That’s cold, even for you.”

“Well, I had to!” Soojin raises her voice for the first time in a while.

Shuhua grins from ear to ear, happy to hear Soojin’s sweet whiney voice. “Who knows what Dr. Moon is doing to poor Soyeon. She might be scarred for life.”

“I was alone with Dr. Moon for a year, I turned out fine.” Soojin huffs, trying to defend her betrayal.

“And you are fiiiiiiine, unnie.” Shuhua exaggerates her wink.

“Arrrgh.” Soojin lets out a loud groan. Shuhua should be Dr. Moon’s resident instead, they are a good match for each other with the greasiness. She hates that she keep setting herself up for these lame lines.

Shuhua laughs. “I hope Soyeon will be okay.”

“Miyeon will be here in a second.” Soojin changes the subject.

“Oh.” Shuhua pouts, not wanting a third-wheel in her private Soojin time.

“Minnie said she’ll be here as soon as she finishes some case work.” Soojin pretends not to see Shuhua’s pout.

“Oh.” Shuhua hopes that Minnie would distract Miyeon enough for her to solely occupy Soojin.

“Make yourself useful and put these up …” Soojin hands Shuhua some decorations.

“Okay, unnie!” Shuhua likes it when Soojin directs her around. Shuhua does the work she’s assigned, but she frequently stops to steal glances at Soojin. Once or twice, the older woman catches her staring and gives her a cold stare. They have become more comfortable being alone with each other. Soojin seems relaxed and not agitated, like she can act sometimes.

 

 

Hurry. Hurry. Must hurry.

Minnie’s footsteps echo in the neverending corridors. The panic expression on her face makes people jumps out of the way to let her sprint past them.

Somi needs emergency surgery.

Her headaches were more than headaches.

Minnie feels as if she is barely moving through these hallways that look all the same. From her office to the surgical room should not take this long. In this building where every seconds count, Minnie needs to be faster. When she  reaches her destination, Minnie quickly pulls back her hair, dons a bonnet, scrubs her fingers and arms … all the things that she’s required to do, but today she has little patience for it all.

Finally, Minnie steps into the operating room. Somi is lying there on the table, unmoving and already intubated. She looks so lifeless. Minnie hesitates at the doorway, even though she’s assisted in two of Somi’s surgeries before … this time feels strange.

“Dr. Kim. You’re here.” Another neurosurgeon, Dr. Jung, is here. Minnie’s teacher, Dr. Kim Yongsun, is at a conference in another city. Minnie wishes she was here. Not that Dr. Jung lacks in skills or anything, but Minnie has full faith in Dr. Kim … and she needs her support right now.

“Are you going to stand there forever?” Dr. Jung asks again as he steps up to the scope. He looks at her with expectant eyes, as if to tell her to get a hold of herself. He’s treated Somi before as well.

“Sorry, sir.” Minnie takes a deep breath and steps up to the table as the assisting resident. She can do this. She has to do this. She wills her hand into steadiness and picks up the scalpel to hand to Dr. Jung.

 

 

“HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” A loud cheer erupts as soon as Soyeon steps into the conference room. Someone flips the lights on and the small woman is instantly blinded before her eyes adjust to show a group of smiling faces in front of her. “Happy Birthday, Soyeon!” They cheer again. The faces were familiar, she doesn’t know all the names but she has been in meetings or groups with most of them. Other than Miyeon, Soojin, and Shuhua, everyone else appear to be Cardiothoracic residents or attendings. The room is decorated with a banner that reads ‘Happy Birthday’ and some bright color balloons.

“Happy birthday, friend.” Shuhua smiles brightly and puts a conical birthday hat on top of Soyeon’s head.

Soyeon is still uncertain of what is happening. These kinds of things do not happen to her. Ever.

Things like party, friends, cake … cake?!

The group parts into two and Soyeon’s eyes fall upon Yuqi, who approaches with a cake and candles. The cake reads ‘Happy Birthday, Jeon Soyeon’ in red lettering. This party is definitely for her, Soyeon concludes.

“Happy birthday to you …” Yuqi starts to sing in a deep melodic voice, then Miyeon’s high vocal, before Soojin and Shuhua’s sweeter tones follow. Then the whole room serenades Soyeon with the traditional song. “…and many more …”

Soyeon, who has been suspecting a prank from Yuqi instead, is so surprised that she is frozen without knowing how to react. She cannot deny that her cheeks are sore from the wide, toothy smile that has stretched across her face.

“Blow on it, silly.” Yuqi quietly whispers when the song finished and Soyeon is still just staring at the cake.

“Wait, she has to make a wish first.” Shuhua quickly interrupts.

“Yeah.” Someone else said before the whole room starts chanting, “Wish. Wish. Wish …”

Soyeon blinks quickly and nods before closing her eyes. What should she wish for? She loves her work. She loves her life. She’s content … and now she has friends who would throw birthday parties for her. She’s no longer the quiet nerd who studies all the time and does her own thing. She has loving, wonderful friends. What else could she wish for in life? She debates herself before making her wish and opening her eyes to blow on the candles.

“Hooray!” The room cheers. Quite an enthusiastic group. Though, Soyeon suspects that they’re just excited because they can cut the cake now. In this setting of life and death, they look for any chance to celebrate.

Yuqi lets Soojin handle the cake cutting since the older woman is a lot more comfortable with it. “Soooo?” The Chinese woman smiles at her friend. “Are you surprised?”

“It’s quite a large suturing practice group.” Soyeon shares Yuqi’s smile. “Whose idea was it?” She asks even though she already knows the answer.

“It’s mine, of course.” Yuqi exclaims. “Who else would be so thoughtful and kind to plan all this out?”

“How did you know it’s my birthday?”

“I did a little snooping … don’t worry about it. As soon as I found out that it’s August 26th, I had to act right away.”

“You did this all by yourself?”

“Oh no. Everyone pitched in to help. Soojin and Shuhua did the decorations. Miyeon and Minnie brought the drinks and snacks. I brought the cake and did the invites.” Yuqi lists the efforts that went into this little shindig.

Soyeon suddenly feels her eyes well up, despite her mind fiercely protesting.

“Aww, you really like it, huh?” Yuqi smiles and hands Soyeon a napkin to dab her eyes. “I’m happy that you were born on this day, Jeon Soyeon. I’m thankful for you as a friend.”

Soyeon couldn’t contain herself anymore. Yuqi was seriously trying to make her cry. She gently reaches over and pushes Yuqi’s shoulder. “Thank you …” She dabs the happy tears from her eyes. She’s so thankful for these people in her life, especially Song Yuqi.

 

 

“I’m so sorry … ” Minnie stands with her eyes downcast and her hands squeezing tightly in each other. She could barely listen to Dr. Jung deliver the news. There is a quiet ringing in her ears. “…too much bleeding.” Minnie feels like she is a spectator in this plane of existence, where Somi is no longer smiling and laughing and asking for candy. She is merely watching everything happen as her mind is numb.

“Oh no! Not my Somi!” Somi’s mom wails as she collapses into her husband’s arms. “Not my baby!”

Dr. Jung stands beside Minnie, with the same posture and expression. In fact, the whole OR staff came out to delivery the news. Minnie is not alone in this, but she feels more alone than ever. She should have known those headaches were more than just normal ones. She should have pushed for tests and scans sooner … if they had seen it sooner, they could’ve done so much more.

“W-What happened?” Somi’s dad holds his wife tightly as he tearful demands answers. “She was fine this morning when I came to see her!”

Dr. Jung takes a moment to compose himself. “The headaches that she was experiencing were ischemic strokes … she experienced a major one right before falling into a coma. We tried to repair the bleeding while removing the parts of the tumor that were invading several major parts of brain, including the autonomous parts that regulate her heart and lungs.” He couldn’t say that Somi went peacefully, having stopped breathing altogether. It wasn’t a painful death, but it’s the death of two people’s beloved daughter. The daughter that they fought tooth and nail to keep alive for all these years.

Minnie could not breath. She stands there, frozen like a statue, unable to look at Somi’s grieving parents. What does she say to give them even the slightest amount of peace? What can one say in this situation.

Seconds, then minutes go by before Somi’s parents are being escorted away to see their daughter one last time. The staff disperse to go on with their tasks. Dr. Jung gives Minnie’s shoulder a gentle pat before going to see his next patient. Soon, Minnie is alone in this empty waiting room. Empty like her heart and head. How could these empty things feel so heavy? She doesn’t cry. She can’t. Even if her eyes burn and her lungs ache, she doesn’t deserve to cry. Had she been a better doctor, Somi would have lived. Had she paid more attention to this kid, whom she cared so much more, Somi’s parents would still have a daughter.

Minnie needs to get out of this room, but her feet feels as if she is rooted in place. She needs to go … do something. Anything.

 



“Have you seen Minnie?” Miyeon asks Soojin and Shuhua after looking around the room. The party is starting to wind down after going strong for a little over an hour. Residents and attendings have come and gone, yet still no sight of Minnie.

“No. I haven’t seen her since lunch, actually.” Soojin shakes her head, now noticing Minnie’s absence as well. She has been preoccupied with Shuhua’s clinginess. “She should have been here by now …”

Miyeon frowns slightly. It’s not like Minnie to be late without notifying them, that’s usually Miyeon’s thing. She looks around the room and weaves through the people toward Yuqi. “Hey …” Miyeon feels bad for interrupting Yuqi and Soyeon’s discussion. They seem to be even closer now. “Have you seen Minnie?”

Yuqi suddenly remembers her resident. She looks around with knitted brows. “No. She’s not here?” She shakes her head, “I don’t think she had anything on her schedule for this afternoon. She said she cleared it when I asked her about it last week.” Reaching into her pockets, Yuqi pulls out her phone and pager. No messages pending.

“I wonder …” Miyeon starts, but someone steps in closer to them. Another neurosurgery resident.

“If you’re looking for Minnie, I don’t think she’ll make it today.” He says after swallowing a piece of cake. There’s still icing stuck on his upperlip. “One of her patients died in surgery. I heard Dr. Jung say it was Somi.” He states so plainly, as if it was a normal thing for a child to pass away like that.

“No …” Yuqi feels unsteady, stepping backward and leaning against the edge of a table to steady herself. She just met the girl this morning. It feels so shocking for her to be dead already.

Miyeon wastes no time. She turns her heels and rushes out of the room. She knows what it feels like to lose a patient. To lose to young patient. It’s something that she’s gone through several times in her past year … but Minnie … Sensitive Minnie, who became so attached to Somi …

Miyeon doesn’t know where she’s going, but she knows she needs to find Minnie. As she alternates between powerwalking and jogging through the hallways, she constantly dials Minnie’s number, hoping that the woman will answer. It keeps ringing and going to voicemail. She rushes down to the room where Somi was this afternoon. She couldn’t step inside. Only Somi’s parents were there, packing up their things and crying as they do so. Miyeon wanted to say something, but nothing could make them feel any better. Right now, she just wants to find Minnie. Next, she rushes to the resident lounge. Minnie isn’t there. Next, the Neurosurgery resident office sits empty. Miyeon, breathless and worried, is starting to run out of places to check. She should probably check the parking garage to see if Minnie’s car is still there.

As Miyeon starts for the garage, something in her head makes her turn the opposite way. It’s the last place that Miyeon wants to look, but it’s on this same floor so she might as well check.

The morgue’s door is heavier than most of the doors in the hospital. It carries a certain gravity with it as Miyeon pushes it open. She bows slightly to the morgue staff, who looks at her and then nods toward a door to the right side of the room. Miyeon’s heart thumps in her chest as she steps toward the indicated door. Miyeon hates coming here. The stagnant scent of cleaners to hide the smell of death lingers in the air. It feels cold and clammy. The lights are too bright and fluorescent.

The door opens and there stands Minnie at the end of a table. On the table, a white sheet covers Somi’s body from head to toe. At Somi’s feet lays a teddy bear, some candy, and other toys. Minnie stands motionlessly and just stares at the covered body.

“Minnie …” Miyeon softly calls out.

The Thai girl looks at her with the most empty, haggard eyes. She makes no movement or sound before looking back to Somi’s body.

Miyeon comes closer to her friend and reaches to hold Minnie’s hand. It’s so cold. Minnie barely registers the gesture. Miyeon gently squeezes her friend’s hand. “You can’t stay here, Minnie.” She reaches over and cups Minnie’s cheek, turning Minnie’s face toward her. Reluctantly, Minnie’s eyes follow and eventually meets her gaze. “Let’s go home …” Miyeon can tell that Minnie is not all there. She speaks as softly and calmly as possible.

“Home …” Minnie murmurs.

Miyeon nods. “Home. I’ll take you home.”

Minnie hesitates to leave Somi here all alone. “Can we stay for a while? The funeral home is coming to take her in a bit.” Her voice is a soft, pleading tone.

“Okay.” Miyeon can’t say no right now.

They stay like that, holding hands, until Somi is taken away by the funeral home.

 

 

“Are you going home, Soojin-unnie?” Shuhua waits for Soojin by the elevator. How does the younger woman know when Soojin would get there? Well, she has her ways.

Soojin looks at Shuhua with mild surprise and feign annoyance. “Why are you here?”

“Oh, I just happened to be here … waiting for this elevator so I can go down.” Shuhua’s innocent pretense is easy to spot.

“Huh.” Soojin looks at the elevator’s unlit down button, which means it hasn’t been pressed yet. She sighs and presses the button while Shuhua stares at her unblinkingly.

Any person would be flattered by the attention of such a pretty girl. Any other person would be agitated by the clinginess of said girl. However, Soojin feels neither flattered nor agitated. Rather, she just feels puzzled. Why does this girl like her so much? Soojin likes to feed Shuhua because the girl enjoys her cooking. Soojin doesn’t care for the cheesiness or the clinginess, but she doesn’t hate it either.

-Bing-Bong-

The elevator arrives and Soojin steps in, followed closely by Shuhua.

“Do I annoy you, Soojin-unnie?” Shuhua suddenly asks when they are alone inside the steel box.

Soojin turns to her and gives her a leveled look. “No.” She turns away again.

Shuhua smiles brightly. “Really?”

“But if you keep questioning my answer, I might get annoyed.” Soojin presses the button for the parking level.

“Would it be okay if I walk you to your car?” Shuhua presses the fingertips of her index fingers together and shyly asks.

Soojin raises her brow slightly, amused at Shuhua’s first sign of bashfulness. “Why?”

“I just want to.” Shuhua smiles again. “Can I? Please?”

Soojin presses her lips together to keep from smiling back. It takes a second for her to control her face. “It’s public space, I can’t stop you.”

Shuhua almost jump for joy. That’s a yes for Soojin! They have advanced to another level, where Soojin doesn’t threaten to mace Shuhua for following her anymore. If anything, Shuhua is persistent and she is succeeding so far.

 

 

-Click-

Miyeon locks the door behind her after letting herself and Minnie into her apartment. She decided that she didn’t want Minnie to be alone right now. The younger woman takes off her shoes and moves like a zombie into Miyeon’s livingroom. “I’ll order us some food to eat. What do you feel like, Minnie?” She asks, knowing the response would be a head-shake.

Minnie stands by the window and looks out at Seoul’s night scene.

“You have to eat something. You barely ate lunch today.” Miyeon stands beside her with a hand on Minnie’s upperback.

“I’m fine, Miyeon-ah. I just need … time...”

“Alone?” Miyeon asks before Minnie can finish her sentence. “I’m not going to let that happen.” Miyeon’s not usually stubborn, but once she’s settled into it, she can rival the best of them.

Minnie knows this and just sighs in response.

“C’mon, I’ll get the shower nice and hot for you. I have some clothes you can change into.” Miyeon’s clothes may be a little short for Minnie, but she has a few loose fitting PJs that are right up Minnie’s alley.

“Miyeon, you don’t have to worry about me.” Minnie reaches for Miyeon’s hand as the older woman turns away. “I’ll be fine.”

“I know. But as your … best friend, I can worry about you all I want.” Miyeon squeezes Minnie’s hand. She hesitated, but ‘best friends’ the best description for where they are right now.

Minnie lets Miyeon go get a change of clothes and shower ready. She could hear the water running and soon, Miyeon’s soft voice calls her name. “Minnie-ah, water’s ready.” Minnie drags her heavy body to the bathroom, where Miyeon has laid out a pair of PJs and package of new undergarments for her. The hot water from the shower is already making the room humid with steam.

“Thank you.” Minnie voices her appreciation for the first time since Miyeon found her in the hospital morgue.

Miyeon smiles, her eyes softens, and nods. “I’ll look for food to order while you get refreshed.” She gently pats the side of Minnie’s arm before slipping past the Thai woman to make her way out of the room.

Just as Miyeon brushes by Minnie, she feels Minnie’s arm snaking around her waist and pulling her against Minnie. Confused, she looks up to Minnie’s dark eyes, hidden behind the thick bangs.

“Minnie-ah …” Miyeon quietly tries to reason with Minnie. As much as she wants this friendship to advance, she’s not one to take advantage of this situation.

Minnie steps closer and leans down, her face hovering just a breath away from Miyeon’s. “It’s okay.” She reads Miyeon’s mind and she knows this shouldn’t happen in this circumstances. But right now, Minnie wants to feel something else. Something that is not the immense sadness and self-loathing that she feels.

Miyeon wants to protest. She knows better. But Minnie’s lips are oh-so-warm. They feel so gentle and sweet when they press against Miyeon’s own lips. She reciprocates, suckling gently on Minnie’s pouty lower lip and wanting to kiss it better. She feels Minnie’s hands on her waist, pulling her closer, while pushing her against the bathroom counter. There is an unspoken want between them and it’s not the first time they have pushed the line of friendship.

Minnie’s kisses are unpredictable just like her. One day, they are soft and tender. Another day, they’re rough and bruising. Miyeon could tell that at this time, the soft and tender kind is what is needed for both of them. After a string of little kisses, they stare at each other for a moment that feels like eternity before Minnie sidesteps to close the bathroom door, making her intention known. Miyeon watches her as steam builds in the room. They look at each other for a moment, beholding the other in each’s eyes before undressing.

 

 

“Thank you for the wonderful party.” Soyeon smiles at Yuqi, seated beside her on the bus. She looks down at the bag sitting at her feet, which holds all the little presents that her friends have gotten her. Little trinkets that she will cherish for the rest of her life. Especially the slippers that Yuqi gave her. She will never ever wear them. They will be enshrined in a friendship box for life.

“Happy Birthday … if I hadn’t said it already.” Yuqi jokes and bumps shoulder with Soyeon. “Don’t be all mushy now. That’s what friends are for, celebrating each other and stuff.”

“Thank you anyways.” Soyeon smiles and bumps shoulder back at Yuqi. “If you didn’t know, I don’t have many friends …” She hesitates when opening up about herself, “so I really really appreciate what you guys did for me.” She shyly glances sideway at Yuqi, not able to meet her friend’s eyes.

Yuqi is speechless for the first time in a while. She never would’ve thought that she would see this vulnerable side of Soyeon. Hearing Soyeon’s appreciation makes Yuqi turn bright red. How is she this cute?

“Uh … urm …” Yuqi clears her throat. “My mom sent me my high school report card this morning … I scored a 100 in Math back in highschool.” Yuqi dies the moment those words escaped her lips. She couldn’t think of anything else to say?

“Huh?” Soyeon looks at her with the weirdest confused look. “What?”

“And Physics. I had a 100 there, too.” Yuqi wants to jump off this bus. What is wrong with her brain?

“Okay …?” Soyeon is confused how her birthday party discussion turned into Yuqi’s report card announcement. “Congratulations?”

“Thank you.” Yuqi will promptly drop out of residency and move back to China after she gets home to pack.

There is a moment of silence between the both of them before Soyeon’s stifled giggles starts, only to be followed by Yuqi’s loud laughter. It is such an awkward thing that just happened, they have no other choice by to laugh it out.

“Wow, Yuqi. I didn’t know you were so proud … of your high school grades.” Soyeon chuckles.

Yuqi shakes her head. “I don’t know what came over me. Please don’t tell anyone about that.” She laughs along with Soyeon. “Oh God, you must think I’m a freak after this.”

“Oh no.” Soyeon exaggeratedly shakes her head. “I thought you were a freak waaaaay before this. You just confirmed it.”

“Yah!” Yuqi pushes Soyeon’s shoulder. “Everyone’s allowed a brainfart or two, okay?”

“Wow, Yuqi. Now you’re bragging about your gassy brain? Is that how you got your 100’s?” Soyeon is merciless once she’s started. Yuqi makes it fun to tease her because of her expressive face and her flair for the dramatic. Ever since she met Yuqi, Soyeon thinks she laughed more than the entirety of her medical school combined.

“I’m done with you, Jeon Soyeon!” Yuqi huffs as the bus pulls up to the stop and she steps off. “See if I’ll be planning anymore party for you.”

“Awww, c’mon Yuqi. I was just teasing.” Soyeon gathers her things and hops off the bus. The heaviness of carrying multiple things makes it hard for her to catch up to Yuqi’s quick walking pace. “Come back, Yuqi-ah.”

“No.” Yuqi stomps childishly.

The pair playfully bickers the whole way home.

 

 

-Click-

Miyeon locks the door again after accepting the bags of food from the delivery man. She makes sure to tip him generously for delivering so late at night. “Minnie-ah, food’s here.” She loudly calls out.

The sound of the hairdryer stops and Minnie emerges from the bathroom. Something inside Miyeon causes her to pause to take in the sight of Minnie wearing her PJs. No. Miyeon tells herself to get a grip. They have to eat.

“What did you order?” Minnie wraps her arms around Miyeon from behind.

“Your favorites.” Miyeon replies with a smile as a shiver travels down her spine when Minnie’s lips touch the skin of her neck.

“Thank you.” Minnie’s hot breath makes Miyeon burn with desire once more.

“Just eat well, okay?” Miyeon reaches behind and gives Minnie’s bottom a gentle smack.

“…” There’s silence before a quiet sob escapes Minnie’s throat. Then tears start to roll down the taller’s woman cheek and dampen Miyeon’s top.

Miyeon freezes and lets Minnie cry into her neck.

“I’m sorry … I just can’t stop thinking about her.” Minnie cries. “It’s all my fault.”

“No … Minnie, it isn’t.”

“It is! If I had taken her headaches more seriously … I thought it was just her normal headache. I don’t deserve to be a doctor.”

Miyeon turns around and wraps her arms around Minnie’s shoulders. She pulls her closer and let Minnie slump over her. Despite being shorter, Miyeon feels like Minnie is so much smaller right now. “It isn’t. You didn’t know. I was there and I didn’t know either … Somi is … was a brave girl, who liked you very much. She wouldn’t want you to take all the blame for something she’s battled all her life.”

Minnie continues to sob into the crook of Miyeon’s neck. Miyeon isn’t sure that the Thai woman can hear anything outside of her sorrow. But Miyeon is here, with food and a lot of patience. She’s determined to pull Minnie out of this dark place.



Chapter Text

“How about this place?” Yuqi stops in front of a small restaurant and turns to her friend.

“What’s their special?” Soyeon tries to read the worn menu in front of the door.

“They have naengmyeon …” Yuqi squints very hard to try to read the small faded characters.

“Too much veggies.” Soyeon mutters before she steps closer to read it better. “I can’t read it … I can make out samgyetang?”

Yuqi frowns, she can’t remember what samgyetang tastes like. “That’s the chicken right?” She smiles when Soyeon nods in response. “So it won’t have a lot of veggies that you hate.” She giggles at her veggie-hating friend.

“Well, it still has some in the broth but not a lot of ones that crunches …” Soyeon tries to sound a bit more mature than a kid who hates her carrots.

“It’ll be easy to digest and we need to regain strength after our overnights.” Yuqi nods along.

They both just finished their first overnight, which went longer than they’d anticipated. They finally made it out of work right at dinner time. Not wanting to waste a lot of time looking around when they’re both hungry, they decided to walk around the neighborhood near their apartment. It’s time to get to know the local restaurants.

As the women stand in front of the door, someone behind them clears his throat, they were blocking the entrance. “Oh, sorry.” They apologize and move aside before deciding to go in.

“Table for two, please.” Yuqi signals to the lady at the front counter, who waves them to a table in the back. It’s a small place with just a few tables, but it has a relaxed atmosphere that’s rather quiet for dinner time. There’s only one worker, the lady who seats people also brings food and drinks. Other than Soyeon and Yuqi, there are only three other occupied tables.

“Let me know when you’re ready to order.” The lady tells them as she walks by, carrying another table’s food.

The two women look over the actual menus on the table, not find anything else they’d rather eat, so they agree on the samgyetang. It is a ginseng chicken soup that features a small chicken stuffed with glutenous rice, ginseng, garlic, and jujube. People eat it during the summer time to fight the heat and regain strength.

“Can we please have one order of haemul pajeon and one order of samgyetang.” Soyeon does the ordering for the two. They also added an order of seafood pancakes to snack on before the meal.

“One haemul pajeon and one samgyetang coming up.” The lady pours some barley tea for them before going into the kitchen to drop off their order.

“I’m so hungry, I might even eat the whole chicken by myself.” Yuqi rubs her rumbling stomach and grins at Soyeon across the table from her.

“We can always order more if you’re that hungry.” Soyeon takes a sip of the tea and smiles back at her friend. “How was your first overnight shift?” They saw each other occasionally when they went to the lounge for snacks and drinks, but overall they had their own shifts to worry about.

“It was fine. No emergencies, just a lot of monitoring for post-op patients. I took a quick nap around 2AM. I didn’t hate it but definitely don’t want to do it all the time like some of these other people.” Yuqi answers honestly.

“It definitely has its appeal. I got a lot done because it was so quiet at night and I’m more of a night owl anyways.” Soyeon definitely enjoyed the quiet evening where the pace was up to her.

“Really?” Yuqi looks at Soyeon with a slightly raised eye brow. “You know overnight shifts will age us women faster right?”

“So I’ve heard.” Soyeon shrugs. “I’m not worried about that. I enjoy working nights, so less stress … maybe it’ll all even out.”

“You’ve got a point there.” Yuqi nods along.

They make little chit-chat about their work. Before long, the restaurant worker has already arrived with their food. She sets them down quickly before bringing back little plates of banchans.

“I can’t believe that it’s September already, we’ve been at CUBE for a month.” Yuqi takes a piece of the pajeon.

“Time flew by for sure.”

“How are you liking your department?” Yuqi asks.

“Good. Dr. Moon is a good teacher. She makes things easy to understand … though her quirks can be so distracting sometimes.”

“What kind of quirks?”

“Well … she’s a flirt, plain and simple. She hits on everyone, from a halmoni to the nurses.”

“Has anyone complained?"

“No. That’s the strange thing, people really like it. The men thinks she’s their best friend and the women think it’s endearing that she uses greasy lines on them.” Soyeon’s wide eyes makes Yuqi laugh.

“Wow.”

“But I’m learning a lot from her and Soojin. I think they can help me get out of my shell and be more outgoing with patients, you know?”

“I understand.”

“How about you? Dr. Kim still quiet around you?”

“I wish!” Yuqi exclaims. “I wish she was back to dear ole shy Dr. Kim.”

Soyeon laughs. “What do you mean?”

“She is now bad jokes Dr. Kim. She’s got bad taste in arts and fashion … her jokes are the worst. She’s so goofy.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Minnie said that she warmed up to me quickly and is now comfortable … so she’s displaying the real Dr. Kim.”

“Have you asked Minnie about her and Miyeon, yet?” Soyeon asks.

“No … I don’t know how to make it not weird.” Yuqi acts as if Soyeon is Minnie. “Hey Minnie, I saw that Miyeon kissed you in your sleep. Are you guys dating? Or is she harassing you?”

They laugh at the thought of Miyeon actually harassing Minnie. That girl couldn’t hurt a fly. But harassment comes in all forms and isn’t a joking matter. Their laugh cuts out quickly.

“I don’t know how you would ask it … but I hope it work out okay for them.”

“Do you think that Soojin likes Shuhua?” Yuqi asks suddenly. “She’s awfully nice to her, even though she keeps acting cold, she packs lunch for her.”

“It’s hard to read Soojin sometimes.” Soyeon answers.

“The same could be said about you.” Yuqi laughs. “Shuhua actually asked me once if you hated her.”

“What? Why would she think that?”

“I don’t know if you know this, Soyeonie … but you actually have a very bad case of the RBF.” Yuqi laughs, but it causes a grain of rice to lodge in her throat, causing her to cough violently.

“… Well that I already knew …” Soyeon hands Yuqi’s cup of tea to the dying girl.

“Everyone’s pairing up now …” Yuqi says after the rice grain dislodges from her throat. “I hope it won’t get awkward if they do get together.”

“I hope not, either.” Soyeon nods along.

“We should pair up soon, too.” Yuqi laughs, then realizes what she just said and attempts to awkwardly fix it. “N-not like that … but with other people … you know … I mean, not that you’re bad … but  … uh…”

Soyeon laughs and shakes her head. “You don’t think I’m good enough to pair up with. I see how it is.”

“That’s not what I meant!”

“It’s too late, Yuqi-ah. I’m hurt.”

“I just need someone who eats their veggies, okay?” Yuqi jokes back once she could tell that Soyeon is exaggerating.

“I’m eating my potato …” Soyeon points at the potato banchan. So far she’s had the steamed egg, fish cakes, and potato while Yuqi has been eating the kimchi, seaweed, and broccoli.

Their dinner continues to be lively until the end of the meal. They split the cost, as they’ve done several times before when they went out to eat together. Walking together in the warm summer air, Soyeon and Yuqi is fully content after a delicious and filling dinner. The sun is starting to set, painting everything a nice golden, red hue. As she is about to say something, Soyeon turns to Yuqi and is muted by the beauty of the sunset light on Yuqi’s reddish hair.

“Your hair looks like you’re on fire, Soyeon.” Yuqi points to Soyeon’s platinum locks. “It looks really cool and you’re really pretty.”

Soyeon blushes for the first time in a while. Thankfully, the reddish hue of the lights make it hard to see her embarrassment. “Thanks.” It’s been a while since someone’s said that Soyeon is pretty. She knows she’s not the ideal type of pretty, maybe even strange looking to some. She’s never paid it any mind, but hearing it from Yuqi made her heart beat faster and her cheeks burn hotter.

“We’re here.” Yuqi, who plunged Soyeon into her own thoughts, pulls Soyeon back out of her thoughts. They stand in front of their apartment. “Home sweet home.” Yuqi says cheerfully.

Already? Soyeon wanted to say. Instead, she smiles and nods along. They trot up stairs together until the third floor, Yuqi waves to Soyeon. “Good night, Soyeon. I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”

As Yuqi turns to go up another two flights of stairs, Soyeon suddenly speaks up. “Hey, Yuqi-ah!”

Yuqi halts and turns back to look down at her friend at the bottom of the stairs.

“Do you want to move in together?” Soyeon blurts out before she has a chance to change her own mind. “You know? To save on rent and utilities!” She stares expectantly up at Yuqi, watching the other girl’s expression closely.

“Heck yeah!” Yuqi exclaims without hesitation and hops back downstairs. “Do you want to go talk to the landlady before work tomorrow?”

Soyeon blinks, not expecting Yuqi to be so excited about the idea. “Um … yeah! Text me when you’re ready to go tomorrow?”

“Sure thing.” Yuqi nods happily and starts to go up the stairs again. Something makes her stop and turn back down to Soyeon. “Great idea, Soyeon. Good night!”

Soyeon is speechless at the bottom of the stairs for several seconds. She smiles to herself as her spur of the moment turns into an exciting future. As she walks to her door, she starts to daydream about living together with Yuqi, who has been a super good friend.

 

 

A night in the emergency room is not actually like Shuhua’s imagination. Here she is, leaning against a counter space with her chin propped up by her palm. She thought that people would come in with all sorts of wounds that would need her healing hands. In actuality, people come in for the strangest things. Diarrhea, sprained ankle, minor cuts … nothing that usually warrants an emergency. Just thinking about it kind of irritates Shuhua a little bit.

“It’s pretty boring right?” Dr. Lee Soonkyu asks, as if reading Shuhua’s mind.

Shuhua blinks and straightens up. “Um, no ma’am.”

“Please don’t ma’am me … and I can see it in your face. You’re all glazed over like you’re bored.” Dr. Lee, a short woman with a dominating aura, hands the discharge nurse some charts.

“That’s not true, I was just thinking about …” What was she actually thinking about? “Um … sorry, the ER isn’t like …”

“The movies and TV shows?” Dr. Lee finishes her sentence and laughs heartily as she files another chart away at the nurses’ station.

Shuhua nods.

“No, usually it’s very easy like this. Holidays and weekends get a bit more hectic. But typically, we’re more like an urgent care than an emergency department.”

Shuhua nods again.

“I brought some fresh eggs with me if you’d like to bring some home later.”

“Excuse me?”

“Eggs … you know? They come out of chickens … from my farm.”

Oh that’s right. Dr. Lee is the one that has a farm outside of the city. She’s also the one … with the wife! Something lights up in Shuhua’s head and suddenly she is very very awake.

“Dr. Lee.” Shuhua starts.

Dr. Lee holds a hand up to stop her.  “Call me Sunny.”

“Uh …” Shuhua hesitates, it feels disrespectful to call her by her nickname. “Dr. Sunny.” Shuhua compromises.

“Uh huh?” Dr. Lee is flipping through another chart.

“How’d you meet your wife?”

It’s not often Shuhua gets to meet an openly married lesbian in Korea. It is legal for LGBTQ couples to get married in this time, but it’s still a rare thing because of conservative people and traditional values and such. Dr. Sunny is taken back by the suddenly personal question. She stares at Shuhua’s eager face for a moment before clearing her throat. “Um … through work. She’s a social worker at the former hospital that I worked at.”

“How’d you come to be married?” Shuhua wants the tips and the tricks to it all. “Who chased whom?”

“Um … why do you want to know?”

“Oh … I’m just curious.”

“Well, there’s no chasing … and it can be seen as insensitive and creepy to ask about such personal matters if you’re ‘just curious’…” Dr. Sunny speaks in a steady tone.

“I’m sorry.” Shuhua puts her hands up and apologizes because she didn’t mean to offend.

“But I know you’re not that kind of person. Does it have to do with Seo Soojin from Cardio?” Dr. Sunny has a knowing smile on her face.

“What? Y-you know about that too?” Shuhua is starting to get the scope of the gossips in this hospital.

“I may work majority overnights, but I hear stuff to you know?” Dr. Sunny smacks her gently on the arm with a folder.

Shuhua blushes deeply. Does everyone know? She wonders.

“Are you asking me for advice?” Dr. Sunny wags her eyebrows up and down as if she’s ready to ‘spill the tea’.

Shuhua stays silent for a little bit before nodding. “Yes.” Her cheeks get even redder, but she’s trading shame for secret so what does she expect?

“Okay, but you … will owe me if my help gets you the girl.”

“What do you mean?”

“If my tips help you, then … you will tell all the other vultures that you’d like to specialize in emergency general surgery.”

“Uh …” Shuhua tries to think whether these tips are worth it.

“I’m just messing with you, kid. I wouldn’t do that to you. I’d want you to choose something that fits you best.”

“Oh, thank you.” Shuhua lets out a held breath.

“Okay … come here …” Dr. Sunny motions for Shuhua to closer, putting their heads together in true secret sharing fashion. “You see …”

Why is she dragging this out? Shuhua decides on patience for the first time in a while. She nods. “Uh huh …”

“The secret … is … aegyo.” Dr. Sunny says in a hushed whisper.

“Aegyo?” Shuhua repeats, a bit too loud.

“Yah.” Dr. Sunny puts her finger on her tips and shushes Shuhua. “Yes, aegyo.”

“Aegyo?” Shuhua asks again, in a softer tone.

“I’ll show you, my wife was completely smitten after the first time I used it.”

Shuhua follows Dr. Sunny to an empty bed in the emergency department, away from prying eyes. After Shuhua enters the area, Dr. Sunny draws the privacy curtain around them to protect her own image. Outside, people could make out hushed whispers, some gasps, some giggles, and a lot of high-pitched, irritating aegyo.

 

 

Minnie is tunneling into herself. She’s spiraling or free-falling, whatever it is called. She spaces out often and doesn’t have any desire to do anything. She tells herself to shake out of it, but for some reason, it is as if the ghost of Somi is following her around.

“That’s the best plan, in my opinion.” Yuqi’s loud voice interrupts Minnie’s thoughts.

“Yuqi, why do you think that’s the best treatment plan?” Minnie and Yuqi are in their office, sitting at their respective desks and discussing the therapy that they’d mentioned earlier in the day.

Yuqi hums for a second as she searches through the paperworks on her desk. “I saw in a case study … here, from the NEJM that using that type of surgery is better for patient outcome over all … it’s supported by this research paper as well.”

Minnie nods along as she takes the papers from Yuqi.

Yuqi goes over the details of the plan before stopping, “Why? Do you think it’s not a good option?”

“No. I think it’s a good option, but as surgeons we go with the one that we think is best. I just wanted to know why you thought it was the best option.”

“Ah.” Yuqi nods. “I understand … what do you think is the best option?”

They go back and forth for a few minutes before a knock at the door interrupts their discussion. Through the window, Miyeon waves at them with a small smile on her face. Yuqi can tell that she’s waving at them both, but her eyes are really only on Minnie. Minnie waves for her friend to come into the room. Miyeon punches in the code on the keypad and enters as if she’s done that a hundred times. “Good afternoon.” She greets both people before raising up a small bag. “I brought treats!” It’s not uncommon for the Children’s Hospital to have treats brought in by generous donors or staff.

“Yay!” Yuqi claps happily. She hops up on her feet and goes toward Miyeon with an eager expression. She could use a little pick me up in the form of sugar right now. “What is it?”

“A nice ahjumma is visiting her grand daughter and brought a cartful of bungeoppang in to share with everyone. They’re still warm.” Miyeon smiles and hands Yuqi the bag. Her eyes glances briefly at Minnie, who remains seated. “They’re really good.”

“Oooh that sounds amazing. Don’t mind if I help myself to one right now.” Yuqi opens the bag and takes out a fish-shaped bread. “I haven’t had these since forever … they’re amazing during winter times.”

“I know, right?” Miyeon vibes well with Yuqi’s cheerfulness. “Do you want one too, Minnie?” She asks her friend, who is spacing out right now.

Minnie’s eyes are so hard to read lately. They’re darker than usual with very little of the silly eye smiles she used to have. “I’m …”

“Here, have one, Minnie.” Yuqi senses the hesitation in Minnie’s voice and doesn’t wait for Minnie to decline. She didn’t see Minnie eat much recently. In fact, the woman’s cheek has sunken in a little bit. “It’s really good.”

Minnie looks between Yuqi and the treat before accepting with a small smile. “Thank you.” She looks at Miyeon after taking a bite, “It’s delicious.”

Miyeon breaks into an easy smile, she’s glad that Minnie likes what she brought. Yuqi, sensing that she’s not needed here, clears her throat and pretends to cough a little. “You know, I want some coffee with my sweet … I’m going to go get some coffee.” Looking between Miyeon and Minnie, she offers. “Would you guys like anything? Tea? Soda?”

In harmony, the women shakes their heads and declines. Yuqi nods and says she’ll be back soon before leaving the room. She has a feeling that the two older residents need to talk a bit. Minnie has been acting normal, but it seems that she isn’t actually here all the time. Yuqi is worried, but she doesn’t feel comfortable addressing it with Minnie yet.

“How are you doing, Minnie?” Miyeon pulls up a chair and sits near Minnie’s desk. Minnie is munching on the bungeoppang while her eyes scrolling quickly through the screen in front of her.

“I’m fine.” It has been like this since the day Somi passed. Minnie has  pulled into her shell, only coming out when she wants to. She withholds all affection and warmth into herself. They attended the funeral last week and Minnie barely wanted to go to work the next day. Minnie has been holed up at Miyeon’s place for most of the time, but not really saying anything. Miyeon has been giving into Minnie’s physical wants, hoping that it would sooth Minnie a little until she’s ready to talk. However, it has the opposite effect of Minnie not wanting to use her mouth to talk at all.

Miyeon’s worry has escalated and replaced her patience. She wants more answer than just a word or two. “Are you?” She mutters softly.

Minnie ignores the question, pretending that she didn’t hear.

“Minnie, we need to talk.” Miyeon’s voice shakes as nervousness creeps into her.

“We are talking.”

“You know what I mean.”

“… I really don’t.” Minnie slowly swallows the piece of bread in her mouth and turns to finally meets Miyeon’s eyes.

“Do I really have to say it?” Miyeon’s voice is so soft and heartbroken. “You need help. Let’s go see a counselor, Minnie.”

Minnie stares at her without a response.

“You can’t do this on your own … I thought I could help, but I’m also out of my depth here.” Miyeon’s honest and open voice has Minnie inhaling deeply. They all had some sorts of psychology class during medical school, but that’s not enough to self-treat depression.

Minnie’s hands tighten into fists and she turns away from Miyeon. “I don’t need help. I don’t want to talk to anyone about it. Miyeon, I don’t want people to know that I’m a failure.”

“But you’re not a failure.” Miyeon reaches for Minnie’s fist, wrapping her hand around it. “You took all the appropriate steps. The patient safety committee cleared you of that. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Then why did she die?” Minnie fights the tears in her voice.

“Because she had brain tumors that invaded crucial parts of her brain. You’ve had patients die before. Why is this so different this time?” Miyeon sounds harsher than she means to, but some things have to be said.

“Because she’s Somi.” Minnie waves her hand. “I really don’t want to talk about this.”

“That’s why you need to. You’re holding it in and it’s killing you.” Miyeon squeezes Minnie’s hand tighter, only for Minnie to pull away from her.

“I’ll be fine.” Minnie, still in denial about her feelings, refuses to look at Miyeon. “Just give me some time.”

“…” Having no words left to say, Miyeon rises and quietly leaves. When the door shuts behind her, tears hit the top of Minnie’s desk.

 

 

“I shouldn’t have listened to that crazy woman …” Shuhua tugs at the edge of her scrub top as she gripes to herself. Standing near the exit to the parking structure, she’s waiting for a certain someone. “I really shouldn’t have.”

 

[Earlier in the day]

“Hey, Shuhua.” Soojin greets Shuhua, who is waiting for her in front of her office.

“Good morning, Soojin-unnie.” It’s first thing in the morning and Shuhua is still in the middle of her overnight shift while Soojin is just coming into work.

“Did you have a good evening?” Soojin is a lot nice to Shuhua now, treating her somewhat like a younger sister. That’s something that Shuhua doesn’t want at all.

Shuhua could hear Dr. Sunny’s voice in her head, telling her what to do. And in the most aegyo-est voice she could muster, Shuhua replies. “Shushu mished Jinjin aww nyight wong.”

The shock on Soojin’s face should have deterred Shuhua from another attempt. The older woman almost dropped her coffee as her eyes fluttered as if she was having a seizure. But, dumb and stubborn Shuhua tries to recover. “Did Jinjin mish Shushu choo?”

“What is wrong with you?!” Soojin yells and quickly enters her office, slamming the door in Shuhua’s face.

“Soojin-unnie, open up!” Shuhua bangs on the door, she could tell Soojin was hiding against beside it. “What’d I do wrong?”

“Go away!” Soojin yells.

“I just wanted to ask you to go out with me!” Shuhua yells again, despite the giggles from passerby.

“Not in a million years! If you use that creepy tone with me again, I’m going to mace you!” Soojin yells back.

Oh no, their relationship has devolved back to threats of mace. Defeated, Shuhua slumps her shoulders and walks away from the cold, angry door.

[End flashback]

 

“That aegyo technique … I should’ve known that’s a mess.” Shuhua groans and kicks the wall. After the morning ordeal, she finished her shift and went home. She came back to the hospital a whole lot earlier than her next overnight shift so that she could wait for Soojin by this exit. As she wallows in her self-pity, there is a commotion around her.

“Call the police!”

“Oh my God! Someone help her!”

Eventually, Shuhua notices the people frantically running around her. She could make out some sort of thing happening in the lobby of the hospital. Normally, Shuhua is not that brave. However, curiosity gets to the better of her. She tries to get closer behind the crowd of people at the entrance of the hallway.

“He’s crazy.” She hears one person says.

“Someone help that poor girl …” Another person says.

Shuhua tries to get on her tiptoe to see what’s happening. She sees the back of a man wearing a dark, checkered jacket. He seems to have someone in his grasp. He’s also waving a sharp object around dangerously. Shuhua feels absolutely terrible for the girl, whoever she is. The man has his arm around her shoulders … they’re moving erratically. “Fuck all you doctors! You’re all the same! Leeches!” The man screams. “You useless pieces of shit. You decide who live or die? I won’t let you have all the power anymore.” The lunacy of the situation has Shuhua stunned. She looks around and sees that security officers are nearby and they are trying to diffuse the situation, but the man keeps alternating between waving the weapon and holding it to the girl’s throat.

People are screaming and talking and filming and running. It was so hectic … but time stops the moment Shuhua catches a glimpse of the woman’s face.

Soojin.

Her Soojin.

He has a knife to Soojin’s throat.

There is a ringing in Shuhua’s ear before she rushes forward, pushing people out of her way. She squeezes and pushes between bystanders until she propels herself into the middle of the scene. “Let her go!” Shuhua’s sudden appearance and loud voice causes the man to turn swiftly toward her. She could see Soojin’s face, panicked for the first time ever. Shuhua is so scared and angry that she could explode.

“Back off, bitch!” The man screams.

“Let her go!” Shuhua repeats, standing firm. She’s not one to back down in front of assholes and certainly not when her friend is in danger.

“Shuhua.” Soojin says in as much a calm tone as she could. “I’ll be okay. Please, go.”

The man tightens his grip and has the blade on Soojin’s throat. “Shut up! I am in charge!”

Shuhua’s mind goes blank, afraid that he would cut into Soojin’s delicate skin. “You’re in charge. I understand.” Shuhua finally says. “Take me instead.”

“No.” Soojin gasps.

“What? No.” The man bellows again. “Go away!”

“She’s a nobody.” Soojin has her civilian clothes on. Her handbag lays nearby on the floor. “She’s just a civilian … look at me.” Shuhua points to herself in the blue scrubs. “I’m a doctor. A surgeon.” She swallows hard, praying that she’s doing the right thing. “Take the power away from me.” She stares straight into the man’s eyes.

Soojin stares at Shuhua. Her expression hardly changes, she doesn’t seem scared or upset. Rather, she’s a lot calmer than the people around. Though, one can tell that she’s listening intently to Shuhua’s selfless words. The man is clearly confused. He looks down at Soojin, who is dressed in a nice skirt and top, but one wouldn’t know that she’s also a surgeon. He had just grabbed her because she happened to walk by him when he decided to act. Taking a surgeon … that’s the true way to take power. He seems to consider his options for a moment.

“C’mon. Hurry before the police gets here. You know they care about a doctor more than a regular person.” Shuhua tries to make his decision for him.

“Shut up!” He screams again, holding the knife in front of him and pointing toward Shuhua. “What do you want?” He may be crazy, but he’s not stupid. No one volunteers to be hostage for no reason.

“For you to let her go.” Shuhua says firmly, her eyes finally daring to look into Soojin’s. “I want her to be safe.” Just one look at Soojin and Shuhua has all the courage in the world. She tightens her hands into fists, trying to keep the shaky nerves away.

The man is more confused than ever, but there is a momentary distraction when the sounds of sirens and the flashing of police lights start to get closer. Briefly, he looks toward the main entrance of the hospital and weighs his option. Almost deciding to switch Soojin for Shuhua, his grip loosen just a moment. As if Soojin has been waiting for that opportunity, she swiftly pulls her elbow back like a lever and hits him in the gut. As she tilts over, she stomp her high-heel down on his foot then does a quick turn and elbows him in the face.

The whole thing is over in two seconds. Shuhua witness it up close, but she couldn’t even tell what happened. It was a blur how fast it happened. The guy is now on the ground clutching his gut and bleeding nose. It probably is broken. Shuhua’s mouth is open as she stares at Soojin, who swiftly turns around and kicks the man one more time in the shin. Security officers rush forward to hold the guy before the police gets there.

Soojin picks up her purse and walks over to Shuhua.

“Unnie …” Shuhua remembers how to breathe again. She blinks at Soojin than points at the man. “You … how?”

Soojin shrugs. “Did Tae Kwon Do and self-defense when I was a kid.” She hisses and touches her neck. There is blood on her fingertips. The man had put a line on Soojin’s flawless chin. Shuhua wishes she could also land a few punches on that jerk.

“Thanks.” Soojin tries to be nonchalant about the situation.

“Let’s go get your wound cleaned up.” Shuhua steps closer to try to see Soojin’s wound.

“It’s a minor cut …”

“No, come with me. Don’t be stubborn, I don’t want you to have a scar.” Shuhua pulls Soojin toward the emergency department, leaving a stunned crowd behind.

“So you won’t like me anymore if I have a scar?” Soojin playfully teases, as if she didn’t just have a knife to her throat.

“No … I’m afraid I might like you even more.”

“Oh …” Soojin blushes for the first time in a long time. “Well … maybe I want a scar.”

“Quit playing with me, Unnie.” Shuhua seats Soojin on a chair and gets the first aid kit.  Soojin chuckles. Luckily, the cut is just a two-inch long scratch. Shuhua disinfects and apply some ointment to help heal faster. Forgetting about their early morning interaction, Soojin sits still and lets this serious Dr. Yeh Shuhua take care of her. There’s something rather attractive about Shuhua’s furrowed brows when she concentrates. As the adrenaline wears off and Soojin’s body catches up to the breathes she’s been holding, her hands start to shake a little. She’s been holding it in for so long that Shuhua’s attentive treatment has made her relax her tension.

“There … all done.” Shuhua breathes easy after she puts the bandaid on the wound.

“Thank you.” Soojin timidly nods before getting up from the chair. “I’ll see you later.”

“No, let me walk you to your car.”

“I’m fine, really.”

“I insist.” Shuhua’s firm voice really surprises Soojin. The older woman has no choice by to agree.

As they walk out of the ER, Dr. Sunny happens to be walking in. She spots Soojin and Shuhua walking side by side. Thinking that her advice has given fruit, she simply smiles widely and holds up two thumbs as if congratulating Shuhua. When she receives an icy glare back from Shuhua, Dr. Sunny is visibly confused. Has her signature aegyo not work as planned? Why was Soojin injured? Usually the aegyo would lead the aegyo giver to be injured instead of the receiver … strange. Shuhua must have done something wrong is what Dr. Sunny concludes.

 

 

“That’s the last of my boxes …” Soyeon collapses onto the floor in the living room. “I can’t take the stairs anymore.”

Yuqi collapses next to her. “I’m so done with stairs.”

They have been prepping as soon as they got home from work. After three days, they finally finished cleaning their old apartment and moving into the new one. This one has two bedrooms and a spacious balcony. It feels a lot nicer than their old cramped studio apartments.

“My legs are all jelly.” Soyeon flops her arms and legs around to demonstrate her point.

“I can’t even feel mine anymore. I must be getting old because I don’t think I’m able to get up from this spot right now.” Yuqi is spread out on the floor like  a starfish.

Soyeon turns to her side and stares at her friend. “Hey, Yuqi … happy birthday.”

“Thank you.” Yuqi is able to turn her head to face her friend.

“Sorry we had to move on your birthday.” It was the only two bedroom apartment available for months. The earliest date they could move in was September 23rd, Yuqi’s birthday. The Chinese girl does not seem to mind one bit.

“Don’t worry about it.” Yuqi shakes her head. “I’m happy to have a friend to spend my birthday with …”

A loud knock interrupts their conversation. They look at each other, both not wanting to get up.

“Must be the food …” Since it’s Yuqi’s birthday, Soyeon gets up.

“You ordered food?” Yuqi excitedly asks.

“Hello.” Soyeon opens the door and greets the quartet at the door. “Come on in …” She steps aside to let Soojin, Minnie, Miyeon, and Shuhua into the apartment.

Yuqi sits up in surprise. “What is happening?”

“Yuqi-yah, you can’t tell we’re here to celebrate your birthday?” Shuhua loudly exclaims.

“Nobody told me!” Yuqi loudly responds.

“It wouldn’t be a surprise anymore, would it?” Soojin smiles as she carries several bags into the apartment.

They don’t even have a table or chairs for guests yet, so they set up an old fashioned, low budget Asian gathering. That means newspapers are spread on the ground for them to cover the floors. They put the food on top and just sits in a circle on the floor. The order of the girls are Soyeon, Yuqi, Minnie, Soojin, Shuhua, and Miyeon. Shuhua puts down the two boxes of pizza that she brought. Soojin brought fried chicken. Minnie brought tteokbokki and kimbab. Miyeon brought some beer and soju. Plates, glasses, and plastic wares are distributed before they start.

“Wow, all this is for me?” Yuqi’s wide eyes get even rounder.

“Sure, Yuqi. Eat it all while we watch you.” Shuhua spreads her arms out as if she’s showcasing the food. “It’s your very own mukbang.”

“Oh … I have to maintain my figure you know? Sooo … you girls can have some, too.” Yuqi laughs along with everyone.

“You can have the first pick, Yuqi.” Miyeon holds up two bottles. “Beer or soju?”

Yuqi’s face hesitates. “I don’t know if you’ll like drunk me …” If Yuqi is normally loud, drunk Yuqi is up for the imagination of everyone. There is a moment of hesitation as they look to each other, gaging if they can handle drunk Yuqi. But, then again, that’s something for Soyeon to handle and she seems capable enough.

“Both, then!” Shuhua suddenly says and grabs both bottles to pour into Yuqi’s glass, making a somaek.

“Yah yah yah!” Soyeon laughs. “Please don’t get her drunk. I have to live with her, you know?” She teases Yuqi, who gives her a signature side-eye. “My eardrums won’t be able to handle it.”

Minnie pours beer into hers and Soojin’s glass while Shuhua makes another somaek in Miyeon’s glass. Soyeon pours herself a glass of beer and waits for everyone to have their drink before raising hers up for a toast. “Thank you everyone for coming to celebrate young Yuqi’s birthday. I’m thankful everyday for a friend like her, who’s always full of energy and smiles. Happy Birthday, Yuqi!” They cheers together in a loud toast before each drinking the whole content of their glass. It takes a moment before the alcohol warms them up.

“How are you doing, Soojin?” Miyeon turns to Soojin, on the other side of Shuhua.

“I’m okay.” Soojin coolly replies as all eyes turn to her. “Stop looking at me …” She is suddenly shy of the attention. “I’m not heavily injured or anything.”

“I heard it was super scary.” Yuqi puts her glass down. “Some of the nurses said that he was deranged and had a giant machete!”

“I heard that you dropped him with a wrestling powerslam move and broke his neck.” Soyeon gives Soojin a thumb-up for her supposed skill.

“I heard that you kicked him in the balls then stepped on his face with your high-heel.” Minnie speaks for the first time.

“I heard …” Miyeon starts, but Shuhua cuts in. “Hey that’s all wrong!” Soojin feels relieved that the person who was actually at the scene will set the record straight. She is about to explode from all tall-tales being told.

“You only heard a fraction of Soojin-unnie’s awesomeness! She was amazing! It only took her one move like a Tae Kwon Do master.” Shuhua pretends to act out some random moves that really didn’t have anything to do with what Soojin did. “She did break his nose though … and his shin …”

“Stop.” Soojin holds out her hand in front of her. “Please, stop.”

They all laugh at how red Soojin has gotten, whether from the alcohol or from shyness, she is completely crimson from ear to ear.

“Ugh, you guys are the worst.” Soojin rolls her eyes  and pours another drink.

“You know who’s the worst?” Shuhua pipes up after taking a bite of pizza. “Dr. Sunny!” She answers without waiting for anyone to guess.

“The overnight ER doctor?” Miyeon asks before taking a bite of chicken.

“Yeah!”

“What’d she do to you?” Yuqi laughs at Shuhua’s face, puffed out with annoyance.

“She told me to use aegyo to seduce Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua answers truthfully.

Soojin, in the middle of drinking her beer, chokes on the drink. “W-why are you bringing that up?”

“She did!” Shuhua retells the tale of Dr. Sunny’s ‘aegyo that calls for a punch’.

“Omo omo omo!” Soyeon laughs so hard she starts to tear. “That’s definitely worse than Dr. Moon Byuli’s cheesy pick up lines that she uses on Soojin.”

“What?” Shuhua turns completely serious. “What pick up lines?” She turns to Soojin, expecting an explanation. The older woman just pretends not to notice.

“Yeah, she hits on everyone, but I think she enjoys teasing Soojin the most.” Soyeon is a lot more talkative with alcohol.

Shuhua has a frown on her face, thinking about someone else using smooth lines on Soojin. That really irritates her for some reason, even though she knows that Dr. Moon probably doesn’t mean anything by it. Sensing a weird shift in mood, Miyeon clears her throat. “Did everyone enter their name for the Chuseok lottery?” The Chuseok lottery happy the week before the Chuseok holiday, where the luckiest people will get the entire three days off. Some lucky people will have a day or two off while the unluckiest of people will have no day off. Everyone nods.

“I entered my name the day they allowed sign up.” Yuqi really want to take a few days to clean the apartment and get everything organized.

“I hope I get the holiday this year.” Miyeon sighs. “I had to work the entire break last year.” Her eyes briefly lingers on Minnie before turning back to her food.

Yuqi turns to Minnie, who has been eating silently for the most part. “What about you, Minnie? Did you have a break last year?”

Minnie blinks a few times before actually catching up to the conversation. “Um … yeah. I had a day off.”

“Cool. I hope I get at least one.” Soyeon adds. Yuqi briefly turns to her and their eyes meet. They have noticed Minnie and Miyeon avoiding talking to each other. They even deliberately not sit next to each other. Soyeon and Yuqi can’t say anything, but can try to keep Minnie engaged in the conversation. They break into small conversations between two or three people at one point or another as they continue to eat and drink.

“On the fall schedule, I saw a mountain retreat planned in the middle of November?” Shuhua turns to Soojin, who nods with confirmation. Everyone starts to listen as a whole group again.

“It happens every year during November. It’s part of a team building initiative to bring residents together and ensure collaboration between the different specialties. After all, we’re treating a whole person not just parts.” Soojin explains calmly.

“Soojinie likes to walk and hike so she had a lot of fun last year.” Miyeon adds and nudges Shuhua’s side. “We get to partner up during the hike.”

“Oh.” Shuhua almost leaps up in excitement.

“Don’t even think about it.” Soojin deflates Shuhua’s excitement a little bit. They argue between each other as an alcohol-induced bold Shuhua tries to to hug Soojin, who swiftly jabs her in the stomach. Once again, the conversation breaks up into smaller ones between the women.

“What about winter? Anyone has any plans for that?” Soyeon asks everyone again after a short time.

As a group, they look at each other before all shaking their heads.

“How about we go somewhere … like a hot spring?” Soyeon turns to Yuqi, who nods excitedly.

“Hot spring!” Yuqi cheers at her max tipsy voice. “I like hot spring!”

“YEAH!” Miyeon’s suddenly outburst startles everyone. She is completely red, having drank a lot of beer and soju by herself without anyone really noticing.

“Okay, we will plan for that then.” Soyeon laughs as Yuqi and Miyeon reach across the food to high-five each other.

“Leggo!” Yuqi declares loudly.

“Leggooooo!” Miyeon drags out the word before the world spins in front of her eyes and she just falls to the side.

“Omo!” Shuhua manages to catch the eldest and lets Miyeon’s head lull onto her shoulder. “Is she for real?” The older woman is completely passed out.

Soyeon turn to see Minnie staring worriedly at her best friend. The whole night, she’s been eating and smiling but not saying much, quite opposite of the Minnie they’ve seen before. Now that Miyeon is passed out, Minnie puts down her drink and turns to Yuqi. “Um … do you have water to drink?” She smiles softly.

“Water! Soyeon! Water for our guest!” Yuqi yells at the top of her voice as if Soyeon is not right next to her.

“Alright, alright. I got it.” Soyeon points to the kitchen area and gets up to go get Minnie a glass of water.

“Thanks, Soyeon.” Minnie accepts it gratefully when Soyeon comes back.

“You’re not drinking anymore?” Soojin asks, remembering the amount Minnie used to drink when they went out together.

“No.” Minnie shakes her head then points at Miyeon. “I’m going to have to take that one home, so I better sober up now.” Soyeon listens in. Minnie is still thoughtful and caring for Miyeon, even through whatever weirdness is going on between them.

The women chat and tries to eat up what food they could before cleaning up. Yuqi is too lively when she’s drunk is what they decide. Because instead of cleaning, she keeps trying to get them to drink more with her. Eventually, everything gets put away and they waves their good nights.

“Good night, everyone. Thank you for coming and surprising me!” Yuqi loudly waves from the fourth floor of her apartment, yelling down at her friends for the fifth time in the night. Soyeon tries to pull her away from the balcony, but the very tipsy girl keeps trying to scream some more. It’s almost midnight, Soyeon would like to not get kicked out of the apartment that they just moved into. Soyeon feels the weight of Yuqi’s head on her shoulder as she wraps her arms around Soyeon’s waist. Is it getting hot in here? “Let’s go to bed. Okay, Yuqi-ah?”

 

 

“Good night, Minnie. Good night, Miyeon.” Soojin waves to the other two as they get into the same car. Even though they had come separately, Miyeon had a little too much to drink so Minnie decided to drive her home. They two look like they should have a serious talk, but Miyeon got too plastered so that’s probably not going to happen.

“Good night!” Shuhua yells and waves at them.

Minnie smiles and waves back. She reaches over to buckle Miyeon’s seatbelt, which trying to avoid her friend’s alcohol breath. She starts the car and drives toward Miyeon’s apartment.

“Good night, Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua bows, who knew she could be so cute and polite.

“Where are you going?” Soojin stops by her car.

“The bus stop. I think the last bus will be here in a few minutes.” Shuhua looks at her watch just to make sure of the time.

“Get in. I’ll take you home.” Soojin says coolly as she unlocks her car.

“Um …” Shuhua raises her voice. “You don’t have to. It’s late and I know you have an early morning tomorrow …”

“Just get in.” Soojin walks toward Shuhua and reaches for the younger girl’s hand, pulling her toward the car. “It is late.”

Shuhua’s cheeks get a nice rosy color. She wraps her fingers around Soojin’s hand as she allows herself to be pulled along by Soojin. “Okay, Soojin-unnie.” In a sweet and demure voice, she agrees.

Soojin opens the door for Shuhua and shuts it after the younger girl has gotten in. Her heart beats faster and her cheeks feel hot. Must be the alcohol. Without another word, Soojin gets into the car and turns on the engine.

“What’s your address?” Soojin pulls out her phone to get to the maps function.

“Um …” Shuhua tries to remember her own address as this situation is a lot more than she could’ve hoped for.

Soojin waits for a few seconds. “And?”

“Can we take a walk instead, Soojin-unnie?” Shuhua turns and blurts out.

Soojin stares into those wide eyes as considers the request. “At this time?”

“Yes! I’m really full, I don’t think I can sleep with a full stomach … and I heard that you like to take walks.”

“Who told you that?”

“Your attending told Dr. Lee.”

Soojin makes a mental note to file a Human Resources complaint about her meddling attending later.

“Can we?” Shuhua’s hopeful eyes are on full wattage.

Acting as if she’s indifferent, Soojin sighs. “Fine.”

It takes a few minutes of driving before they get to a park that leads to one of the Han River walking paths. They get out of the car and look around. There are still people walking and biking at this time. The path is well lit and have plenty of stores and stalls around. The air is warm, though a bit windy. The breeze carries the smell of the river with it.

Shuhua brushes her hair from her eyes, but the wind keeps whipping it back in her face. She starts to follow after Soojin, who started to walk after walking her car.

They walk in silence side-by-side for several minutes before Shuhua asks. “Would you like some ice-cream, unnie?”

“Sure.” Soojin agrees so quickly that it really surprised Shuhua.

“What flavor would you like?” Shuhua asks.

“Surprise me.” Soojin smiles and waves for the younger woman to go.

The younger woman tells Soojin to wait for her and runs off toward a small stall nearby. Soojin leans against a railing and watches the young woman from afar. Shuhua runs cutely toward the vendor. Even placing ice cream order, Shuhua is very animated. Soojin can’t help but smile, remembering how brave the younger woman was when she offered to take Soojin’s place. Soojin can’t tell if the kid is crazy or genuinely liking her. No one would have done something like that for Soojin. Maybe her family members, but friends and past lovers … she can’t think of a single person. She can’t help thinking back to that moment constantly.

“Here, Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua comes back and hands Soojin a cone. Chocolate. Just like Shuhua’s.

“Thank you.” Soojin snaps out of her reminiscent mood and accepts the cone from Shuhua.

“You’re welcome.”

They start to walk a little toward one direction, quietly eating their ice cream and enjoying each other’s company.

“How are you doing, Soojin-unnie?” Shuhua finally talks after walking in silence for a little while.

“I’m fine.” Soojin looks over and smiles softly. She knows why Shuhua is asking. She’s been off work for a little over a week, having to see the counselor and waiting to be cleared to go back to work. Soojin would like to think that she’s made of tougher stuff, but part of her is glad for the support. “I’m getting plenty of rest, so I’m doing okay. If anything, I’m a little bored at home right now.”

Shuhua’s mouth forms a little ‘o’ and she nods. “Your cut healed nicely, too.” She licks the ice cream that is quickly melting in the warm air. “I’ve missed you the past few days.”

“Yes. Thanks to a talented doctor.” Soojin teases and unconsciously reaches up to touch her cut. “Have you been eating okay?” Soojin, who has been Shuhua’s lunch provider, asks.

“Yes, unnie. Miyeon has been buying me lunch.” Shuhua rolls her eyes as if she’s not fond of Miyeon. Soojin smiles, knowing that it’s far from the case.

“Why do you use honorifics with me and not Miyeon? She’s older than me.” Soojin licks the stickiness from her lips. “Are we not closed like you and Miyeon?”

Put on the spot, Shuhua stutters. “N-no, that’s n-not it at all!” She yelps, frantically trying to explain. “I like and r-respect you a lot!” She almost drops the rest of her ice cream in panic.

“So you don’t like or respect Miyeon?”

“That’s not it either … I don’t like or respect her as much as I do you.”

“I see.” Soojin smiles coyly and continues to walk.

Shuhua could follow the hot-and-cold girl until the end of time. After some time wandering around, they go back to the car and head to Shuhua’s place. The drive is quiet and Shuhua starts to doze off a few times. It’s been a long day for her and it is very late at night. Soojin makes sure to watch Shuhua walk through the apartment’s door before driving away.

 

 

Miyeon is drunk. Black out, unresponsive drunk. Minnie stares at the beautiful woman, whose hair is covering her face, in her passenger seat. “Miyeon-ah …” She softly calls as she gently shakes Miyeon’s shoulder. No response.

Sighing, Minnie gets out of the car and goes around to Miyeon’s side. It’s going to be hard dragging this girl up to her apartment, no matter how light she is. Minnie leans over again to unbuckle Miyeon’s seatbelt before pulling her friend out of the car. “Oof.” She bears the weight on one side while she locks her car.

This was not how Minnie imagined for her night to go. She had planned on drinking alone after getting home and crying some more. However, this is much more self-punishment than she could ever plan. With careful steps, Minnie manages to get Miyeon into the elevator. They lean against the furthest wall, with Miyeon’s head lulling around on Minnie’s shoulder.

At this point, Minnie is just dragging Miyeon along because the other woman doesn’t have the consciousness to move anything. Beads of sweat form on Minnie’s brows when she finally makes it to Miyeon’s front door. “Miyeon-ssi, you’re home.” Minnie grumpily declares as she keys in Miyeon’s door code. Of course they would know each other’s door code. They’re best friends after all.

Minnie kicks the door closed behind her and drags Miyeon into the bedroom. One look at the bed makes Minnie blush. Her thoughts wander back to the nights she’s spent here. Her skin still remembers the warmth from Miyeon’s skin. It felt so good to hold Miyeon in her arms at those times … only for the morning to bring Minnie back to reality. But, this is not one of those times nor is it the moment to start reminiscing. Minnie snaps herself out of the thoughts again and drops Miyeon onto the bed. The older woman is still wearing her street clothes. Deja vu hits when Minnie undresses Miyeon so she could put her into PJs. For the first time in a while, Minnie isn’t clouded by grief or alcohol. She admires Miyeon’s delicate, alluring body as she pulls her jeans and t-shirt off.

Minnie’s cheeks warm as she looks at her friend in this light. Miyeon is so kind. So sweet. So attractive. So much more than Minnie deserves. Minnie turns quickly and looks through Miyeon’s closet for her PJs. Finding something very quickly, she puts Miyeon into the clothes and tucks her into bed. Minnie has to get out of here before this turns into something that she would regret. She can’t do this to Miyeon. No. Miyeon deserves much more than whatever Minnie is willing to give.

“Minnie-ah …” Miyeon mutters, pulling Minnie out of her own thoughts again.

The woman is not conscious.

“I love you … Minnie-ah …” Miyeon frowns in her stupor, perhaps dreaming of some scenario where a more deserving Minnie would say it back.

Feeling panicked, Minnie turns on her heels and quickly runs out of the apartment. She runs all the way to her car and slams the door as she gets in. Hot tears start to stream down her face again as she slams her hands into the steering wheel. She wants to say it back, but why can’t she? Because she doesn’t deserve such love. How could a weak failure like her accept this love? Miyeon is so much more than Minnie could ever hope for. What if one day Miyeon leaves her, too? That loss would simply be too great for Minnie to bear. “I’m such a fucking coward …” She cries between sobs.

As she cries, Minnie’s phone bleeps an event reminder tone that happens at midnight. It wanted to remind Minnie that Somi’s birthday is in two days, September 26th. Minnie cries harder as she is reminded of what was lost.

 

“Hey, Miyeon.” Soojin waves at her friend when she sees Miyeon strolling toward her.

“Good morning, Soojin.” Miyeon waves back as she pulls her luggage along.

“Ready to go?” Soojin motions toward the train.

“Yeah.” Miyeon nods with an excited smile.

Chuseok holiday officially starts for them today, September 30th. They managed to win the resident lottery and get the next three days off. They both decide to go home to visit their family.

Soyeon and Yuqi were lucky enough to get one day off. Meanwhile, unlucky Shuhua and Minnie have zero day off.






Chapter Text

The KTX train is packed, not uncommon for major holidays like Chuseok. All the seats are taken and there are very little space left for luggage. Luckily, Soojin and Miyeon booked their ticket the moment they found out that they had won the lottery. They are able to sit together in one row and since they arrived early enough, they are able to have space for their luggage. As soon as the train started moving, Soojin closes her eyes and dozes off since they are going on the earliest train of the day. Miyeon glances over to her friend and then to the elderly couple sitting across the isle from them. Everyone is dozing off since it’s still early in the morning.

Alone with her thoughts, Miyeon stares out the window to the landscape that rushes past them as the train starts to pick up speed. After an hour or so of watching scenery,  Miyeon sighs loudly when her thoughts turn to a certain someone. And that is when Soojin’s soft voice breaks her thoughts, “Do you want to talk about it?” Soojin’s eyes are still closed, as if she’s waiting for Miyeon’s answer before committing to opening them.

“No, it’s …” Miyeon is about to say the same thing that Minnie always say. “Actually, yes … I’d like to talk about it.” She’s deciding to set a good example.

“It.” Soojin lifts the curtain of her lashes and finally sits up straight to meet Miyeon’s eyes. “Or her?” Soojin’s unwavering gaze seems to say that she knows everything.

Miyeon takes in a deep breath and looks down at her hands. “Her.”

“It’s about time.” Soojin stretches her arms over her head and arches her back to try to wake up a bit. “Let me go get some coffee for us.” She wants to be fully awake for this, so she gets up to go find the refreshment cart.

Miyeon nods and waits for Soojin to return.

“Here.” Soojin hands Miyeon a cup of coffee before sitting back down in her seat. “Okay. So what’s going on?”

“Thank you.” Miyeon accepts the cup with both hands. “Minnie …” She’s unsure how to start, “she’s depressed after Somi’s passing. She’s in a very bad spot and I don’t know how to help her.”

“It’s understandable. It’s hitting her hard because she really cared about Somi.” Soojin gently blows on the steaming surface of her coffee. “But knowing Minnie, like all of us surgeons, she probably won’t get help.”

Miyeon nods as she holds her coffee cup in her hands, using it as a handwarmer for a while. “She thinks she’s a failure if she talks to someone. I know how she feels and I have that mindset sometimes, but I’ve never seen her this bad.” Minnie’s lost patients before and she’s been depressed about it in the past. But this time, Miyeon gets more and more worried as days past and Minnie continues to bury her feelings. “You know she’s an emotional person, but she lives in her head and won’t let anyone help her.”

“She’s grieving and that’s something that takes time.” Soojin replies. “Sometimes it takes longer than what we feel is an appropriate amount of time.”

“I understand that, but I can’t help but worry about her. I’m being as supportive as I can be as a … friend.” Miyeon starts to say something else, but decides against it.

“When are you going to talk to her about that?” Soojin asks.

“About …” Miyeon tries not to be specific.

“You. Her.” Soojin gets to the point of the matter. “Whatever you two have going on.” Soojin holds a finger up to stop Miyeon from trying to deny it. She’s on a roll right now. “I’m not dense. I may seem like I don’t care, but I do. I know that it’s hurting you and that’s not right.” It’s been a while since Soojin has a chance to talk to Miyeon one-on-one like this. They’re usually with the group or busy with work.

Miyeon turns away from Soojin, moving her gaze to the everchanging horizon outside of the train. Her eyes starts to feel that familiar burn. “I’m okay. I’ll talk to her after she feels better.”

“You’re strong. I know that. You’re trying to support her.” Soojin rests a warm hand on Miyeon’s shoulder. “I’ve noticed the way you two look at each other for a long time. Don’t keep putting it off because you’re putting Minnie’s needs above your own.”

Miyeon nods. Still unable to look at Soojin. “I know. But I just want to help her right now. I don’t want to complicate the matter.”

“You may be too close to talk to her about it.” Soojin sips on her coffee. “Do you want me to talk to her about going to grief counseling?”

With a big sigh, Miyeon nods. “Yeah. It may be best to hear from a neutral party.”

“I’ll do it. I’ll try to make it feel natural.” Soojin knows her quiet voice has a calming effect on most people and Miyeon seems a little more relaxed. “But.” She taps Miyeon’s shoulder, making the other woman turn toward her. “Promise me that you two will have your conversation when she’s back to normal. Because I think you guys would make a good couple.”

Miyeon smiles a little for the first time in the conversation. “It’s hard not to be when we look this good.”

“Arrrgh.” Soojin makes a face. “Minnie has influenced you with the lame jokes.”

Miyeon giggles because she knows Soojin hates the cheesy jokes that Minnie come up with.

“You guys really deserve each other.” Soojin laughs along with Miyeon.

They chatter for a little while before the train drops Soojin off at the Daegu station. For Miyeon, who continues onto Busan, the quiet time alone gives her time to think about her whole situation. Perhaps a little break from Minnie is good, maybe she will have some clarity regarding their relationship, or lack thereof. Miyeon is glad to have talked to Soojin because she doesn’t feel so alone in trying to help Minnie.

 

 

“Oh, they’re here. I see their car!” Soyeon leans over the balcony and excitedly announces back to Yuqi, who’s cleaning around the living room.

“Ah. I’m not done dusting. Help me clean around here!” Yuqi runs back and forth in the room, trying to dust off the furnitures and polish up the TV.

“Appa! Umma!” Soyeon yells loudly, surprising even the Queen of High Volume, Song Yuqi. Soyeon waves excitedly to her parents, who are exiting their vehicle. They look up to see their baby waving so happily that they stands there and wave back at her.

It takes a few moments for the couple to get in front of Yuyeon’s door, but before they could ring the bell, the door swings open and Soyeon comes flying into her parents’ arms. Yuqi, standing behind her, can’t help but giggle at her friend’s cuteness toward her parents. She knows that her friend hasn’t seen her parents in a while, so she waits patiently for the introduction that comes shortly after.

“Appa. Umma. This is my friend, Song Yuqi.” Soyeon steps aside and showcases her friend/colleague/roommate.

When they finally notice her, Yuqi bows slightly and greets her Mr. And Mrs. Jeon. “Good afternoon. My name is Song Yuqi. Nice to meet you.”

“We’ve heard so much about you, Ms. Yuqi. It’s great to finally meet you.” Mr. Jeon smiles as his wife gets closer and gently pats Yuqi’s shoulders. “Thank you so much for taking care of our Soyeon, Ms. Yuqi. We’re very grateful that she has a friend here in Seoul.”

Yuqi’s cheeks bloom into a rosy color as she awkwardly tries to shake her head. “Soyeon’s the one who’s been taking good care of me. I should thank you for giving birth to her.” Parents are Yuqi’s specialty, she could win anyone over in a few moments. But for some reason, today she’s extra nervous. Soyeon doesn’t look too much like her parents. Yuqi could tell she has Mrs. Jeon’s eyes and nose and Mr. Jeon’s ears and mouth. But add it all together and Soyeon looks more like a foreigner than Korean for some reason. Though, they are of the same height as a family unit.

They chuckle together for a moment, still standing at the doorway, before Soyeon clears her throat. “Let’s get inside …” She ushers her parents inside as Yuqi closes the door. Soyeon helps her parents carry the bags they brought with them into the kitchen. “What all did you bring?” She feels the heft of the items inside.

“Oh, just lunch and some sides for you girls to keep in the fridge.” Mrs. Jeon replies as she looks around the apartment, like a typical mom. Mr. Jeon walks with his hands behind his back, following his daughter into the kitchen, while Yuqi stays with Mrs. Jeon.

“Sorry for the mess. We just finished unpacking not too long ago.” Yuqi makes attempts to keep tidying.

“No no, this is very clean for Soyeon … her last apartment …” Mrs. Jeon’s voice starts to get lower into a whisper as she looks at Yuqi, while shaking her head. Yuqi giggles softly along with her, having seen Soyeon’s last apartment. “How is her room?” Mrs. Jeon whispers to Yuqi.

Yuqi grins and steps closer to Mrs. Jeon, sharing a secret whisper, “She cleaned it up. Everything’s at least folded …”

“What are you two whispering about?” Soyeon suddenly stares at them and asks loudly from the kitchen.

“Oh, just this and that.” Yuqi pretends to be innocent. She presses her lips together to hide the smile growing on her face while Mrs. Jeon pretends to look at their medical books on the shelves.

“Uh huh …” Soyeon gives doubtful squint. She looks to her dad, who shrugs as if saying ‘I’m not getting into that’.

“What’s for lunch? I’m so excited and hungry.” Yuqi changes the subject.

“I brought some of Soyeon’s favorite food and some that I heard you like as well, Yuqi.” Mrs. Jeon starts to unpack everything that she brought. It looks like a feast spread across their small kitchen counter. They look at their small two-person dining table, it would surely not hold all this food, so once again they spread newspaper and cloth across their livingroom floor to accommodate everything.

“Wow, this all looks amazing!” Yuqi’s mouth waters as she looks around the spread of everything she could imagine and some dishes she has never seen. Soyeon comes from the kitchen with some hot rice bowls and settles into her corner, where the food lacks all the vegetables.

“Alright, let’s say a prayer and dig in.” Mr. Jeon reaches his hands out to his wife and Yuqi. Yuqi rests her hand in his before reaching over to hold Soyeon’s hand. She gives the small fingers a little squeeze and smile before closing her eyes to listen to Mr. Jeon’s prayer. Personally, Yuqi is not a religious person nor is Soyeon. But it feels nice to hold hands with her friend and give thank to the blessings she has in her life.

They eat a lively lunch together. It’s been a while since Yuqi had a proper family dinner. Seeing the smiles on Mr. and Mrs. Jeon’s faces make her miss her own parents in the home country. She thinks about what they are doing right now or if they’ve had lunch yet. It’s been a while since she last called her parents, things have been hectic and she texts them a lot more than actually hearing their voices.

“Let’s go shopping after we clean up.” Mrs. Jeon proposes as she helps them clean up after lunch, despite the girls telling her to just rest. “You girls need more things in this apartment, it looks a little deserted.”

Yuqi looks around the apartment, it looks nice enough for  her. She thinks it has just the right about of things to not get too cluttered. Though, it does looks like no one lives there since there aren’t any personal things other than furniture and books. “Some curtains would be nice.” Yuqi nods.

“And pictures and little cute figurines.” Mrs. Jeon clasps her hands together.

“There you go again, getting all excited by yourself.” Mr. Jeon laughs as he wraps up all the newspapers that they’ve been sitting on. Mrs. Jeon gives him a sharp side-eye.

“We could use a vacuum cleaner.” Soyeon, ever the pragmatist, nods in agreement to a shopping excursion.

“Then it’s decided!” Mrs. Jeon laughs happily, even more excited than the people who lives in the apartment, “Good thing we took the car instead of the train.”

After everything has been cleaned and washed, the group of four pack into Soyeon’s parents’ car and drive to the biggest homegoods store in the area. It has everything from appliances and furnitures to decorations and entertainment. If they are looking for anything in the home, they are sure to find it there. Soyeon and Yuqi had made a few trips here in the past few weeks to get items. But lacking a car, they could only buy what they could carry back. Now that transportation is readily available, they decides to buy as many things as they need.

“Soyeon, look. This is so cute!” Yuqi holds up a black coffee cup that has a panda’s face on it.

Soyeon grins and nods. Then her eyes spot a yellow cup and she points it out to Yuqi, the cup has brown patches and the face of a giraffe. “This is cute, too. Your favorite, giraffe.”

“How about …” Yuqi thinks as she speaks, “I buy this for you and you buy that for me?”

“Why are you pressuring me to buy you something, Yuqi-ah?” Soyeon pretends on whine. Her parents have gone off to look at things for their own home, so it’s just them in the kitchen area. She is  finally free to tease Yuqi a little bit. It’s one of the few indulgences that she allows herself.

“What? I’m also buying you something.” Yuqi’s voice raises a decibel or two along with her expressive eyebrows.

“But I didn’t ask for that.” Soyeon teases.

“Fine! Then I’ll buy both for myself, but you can’t use them.” Yuqi grabs the giraffe cup from the shelf.

“I’m kidding. I do want that panda cup.” Soyeon tries to look on the shelf, but it looks like that was the last one.

“It’s too late. They’re both mine now.” Yuqi pouts as she turns away.

Soyeon makes a grab for the cups, but Yuqi blocks her hands by holding the cups extra close to her body and turning away from Soyeon each time. They laugh as they play in the isle, with Soyeon basically backhugging Yuqi while reaching for the cups. As they’re messing around, they don’t notice that Soyeon’s parents have come back to them from the other department. They watch the girls play for a few seconds before Mr. Jeon clears his throat and Mrs. Jeon coughs. Hearing familiar voices, Soyeon stops and turns around to face her parents.

“Appa. Umma.” A blushing Soyeon steps back from Yuqi. “Yuqi is being mean to me.”

“M-ME?!” An equally blushing Yuqi turns around and shakes her head. “No, Soyeon was being mean to me.”

“She wouldn’t let me have the panda cup!” Soyeon pouts, making Yuqi’s face scrunch in disgust.

“Omo. Look at this girl lie. I tried to buy it for her …” Yuqi’s voice is starting to draw attention.

“It’s okay girls. Appa and Umma will get it for you.” Mrs. Jeon laughs mildy and steps forward to take the cups from Yuqi’s arms. She adds it to the cart of things that they already have.

Yuqi bows her head to avert Mrs. Jeon’s eyes, but the deep blush on her cheeks gives away her shyness in this situation. “Thank you very much.”

“Thanks, Umma.” Soyeon merongs before hooking her arm with Yuqi’s and leading her friend away from the kitchen department. Her parents look on with wide smiles before turning to each other with knowing gazes. It’s been a while since they saw Soyeon that close to any friend her age.

The shopping trip is very productive and the girls manage to get everything they needed and more. They found panda and giraffe slippers that match with their new cups. They have cute curtains, decor, and a compact vacuum cleaner. After Mr. And Mrs. Jeon leaves, the girls get to decorating and making their home more homely.

 

 

-Knock-Knock-Knock-

The wooden rapping at the office door pulls Minnie’s attention away from her screen. She turns around to look at the small window on the door to see a smiling Shuhua waving at her. Answering the smile, Minnie holds up her finger to signal for Shuhua to give her a moment. She turns around to quickly read over her screen and save the file before rising up to greet Shuhua at the door.

“Hey.” Minnie is surprised because there’s no one else other than Shuhua standing there.

“Hi, Minnie-unnie.” Shuhua cheerfully greets.

“What’s up?” Minnie opens the door wider and steps aside to let Shuhua into her office.

“Nothing much …” Shuhua steps in and quickly looks around before turning back to Minnie. “It’s lunch time and it’s just you and me out of the group today.”

Minnie makes a small ‘ah’ sound. She had forgotten about lunch. Her appetite has not been that great recently. “Right. Soojin and Miyeon have gone home plus Yuqi and Soyeon are off today.” Minnie says this to remind herself.

“Yes. So it’s just you and me.” Shuhua holds up her wrist and taps on her watch. “It’s lunch time.”

“Oh. Okay.” Minnie is confused. She scratches her head, “Did you want me … to take a lunch break right now?” Personally, Minnie was hoping for alone time since Yuqi was off for the day.

Shuhua nods happily, but then shyly adds. “If that’s okay with you.”

It’s not often Shuhua takes the initiative with people other than Soojin, so Minnie has very little choice but to nod in agreement. “Sure thing.” She grabs her wallet and phone from the desk before following Shuhua out of her office. Together, they enjoy a silent walk to the cafeteria to get food. As the older person, Minnie pays for both their lunches.

“Is this table okay, unnie?” Shuhua asks sweetly, throwing Minnie into mild confusion.

“Yeah, it’s good.” Minnie nods in response and tries not to look to shock as Shuhua hands her silverwares and napkins. Shuhua is a nice younger friend, but Minnie rarely has any interaction with her outside of the group environment. Shuhua only calls Soojin, ‘unnie’, not even Miyeon, who’s older than Minnie. So it’s kind of confusing to Minnie right now.

“Thank you for the lunch.” The younger woman claps her hands together in thanks before gleefully digging into her food.

“You’re welcome.” Minnie looks down at her own tray. It’s been a while since she’s sat down to have a proper meal at work. Watching Shuhua eat with such gusto is making her mouth water and she feels hungry enough to relish her food.

They are busy stuffing their faces for several moments before Minnie clears her throat to speak up. “If you don’t mind me asking … why’d you come get me today?”

“Oh …” Shuhua’s cheeks are stuffed with rice, making her to look like a baby chipmunk.

Minnie chuckles, once again, for the first time in a while. She hands Shuhua a napkin to wipe her mouth.

A blush suddenly colors Shuhua’s porcelain cheeks. She swallows her food and dabs her mouth before speaking. “I figured you’d want to eat with someone since Miyeon isn’t here. Loud Yuqi is also off.” Shuhua knows that Minnie and Miyeon are close. As for Yuqi, she’s Minnie’s intern after all, so they must be close, too.

Hearing Miyeon’s name causes Minnie’s eyes to be downcast, something that is quickly noticed by Shuhua. “Uh … yeah, thanks for thinking of me.”

“You’re welcome. Us foreigners have to stick together.” Shuhua says with an assuring nod.

Minnie smiles, “Definitely.” Her eyes are tint with a sadness that seems to darken all her smiles in the recent weeks.

“Are you alright, unnie?” Shuhua suddenly asks between smaller bites of food.

“Yes.” Minnie puts down her chopsticks. “Why do you ask?” Is this going to be one of those intervention things?

“You just seem different lately.” Shuhua licks a grain of rice from her lips. “You’re more quiet and you look sad a lot of the time.”

How does one answer that? Minnie wonders. She takes a deep breath, eyes on her tray and searches for an answer. “I’m just going through a tough time. I haven’t been sleeping or eating well so I’m tired most of the time … I think I just need a vacation.” She tries to be as vague as possible.

“Is there something I can help with?” Shuhua asks softly. “I know it’s not my business, but we’re friends and if you’re having a tough time, I want to help.”

This takes Minnie by surprise. One, she never counts Shuhua as someone with such depth and a serious side. Two, she never thought Shuhua looks at anyone other than Soojin to notice that Minnie was struggling. Three, she is surprised at how touched she feels from Shuhua’s sincerity. Minnie’s eyes burn a little as she feels her lashes moisten. “No. I know that I need to get some counseling …” Minnie admits aloud for the first time, “but it’s so hard …”

“You’re the female lead character of your life.” Shuhua suddenly interrupts, causing Minnie to look at her in the eyes. “It’s one of my favorite mottos to live by … you can borrow it.”

Minnie tilts her head to the side with a puzzled look.

“You’re in charge of your life, Minnie-unnie. If you think you need help, you should get it. You don’t want to be one of those wishy-washy lead girls who let people do everything for you, do you?” This Shuhua is seriously a bit strange for Minnie, especially the analogy.

Minnie looks at Shuhua as if she’s possessed for a moment before those words finally sink in. “No … I definitely am not one of those.” Somehow, she manages to stop herself before she adds on an excuse.

“Soojin-unnie saw a counselor for what that jerkface did last month …” Shuhua hints at Minnie, “maybe she can recommend someone?”

“Oh …” Minnie looks visibly uncomfortable. If she asks Soojin, then  Soojin might tell Miyeon. What would she say to Miyeon then? They’re so awkward with each other right now and there are things that Minnie is not ready to discuss yet.

As if reading Minnie’s thoughts, Shuhua adds. “Soojin-unnie won’t tell anyone.”

Minnie looks at Shuhua from behind her bangs that have grown too long. How does this girl, who’s only known Soojin for a little over a month, know more about Soojin, her friend of over a year? “Yeah. You’re right.”

“Yeah, I’ve told her a lot about myself. She listens and advises really well.” Shuhua smiles cheerfully.

“Yeah, she does.” Minnie remembers when she was having a tough time during her intern year. Soojin was very supportive during those times, despite her cold appearance.

“She cooks well, too.” Shuhua adds. “Like a mom.”

“Like a mom?” Minnie catches the last comment with knitted brown and a tilted head.

Shuhua, having realized what she just said, drops her spoon. “Uh … unnie, don’t tell her …”

“That you think of her as a mom? When you’ve been flirting with her and calling her sexy and stuff?” Minnie starts to laugh. “She’s going to be mad.”

“Minnie-unnie, please!” Shuhua tries to deny such allegations. “Please I didn’t say anything!”

“Noooo. It’s too late. I heard it already!” Minnie laughs harder at Shuhua’s panicked face. It feels good to eat and laugh with someone.

Shuhua acts as if she’s worried, but she starts to smile when she sees that a little part of happy Minnie has started to return. Since Soojin is away, Shuhua has to step up to be the person people can talk to. Soojin would be happy to know what Shuhua did. Shuhua misses her so much.

 

 

Seo Soojin huffs with the fourth time in the hour, causing Soyeon to look over at Soojin’s desk to see what’s going on. Soojin is looking at her phone again, just to put it down for the tenth time in the hour. Not that Soyeon is counting, but it feels like that because she can hear the clatter of the phone on the desk when Soojin drops it down in annoyance.

Soyeon clears her throat to get Soojin’s attention, “Is everything okay, unnie?” It’s Soojin’s first day back after Chuseok’s holiday.

“Hmm?” Soojin looks over to Soyeon.

“You’ve picked up and dropped the phone a few times. Did you get some bad news?” Soyeon asks in a measured tone, since she’s not seen Soojin this agitated in a while. The last time it was because someone had botched orders for labs, causing problems to go undetected until surgery day for a patient. Soojin was so mad, Soyeon thought she was going to start pulling people’s wigs off.

“No.” A succinct answer that sounded like a warning.

“Okay.” Soyeon knows to drop the topic and turns back to her work.

Knowing that it’s not Soyeon’s fault for being concern, Soojin takes in a deep breath before letting a soft sigh out. Her voice is softer as she turns toward Soyeon, “What did you do on your Chuseok day off? I know you said it was good earlier.”

“It was really nice. My parents came to see Yuqi and I, then we went shopping before they went home.” Soyeon smiles cheerfully, forgetting Soojin’s coldness from earlier.

“That sounds really nice. Was it the first time for them to meet Yuqi?”

“Yes. She made quite the impression. My parents really like her.” Soyeon turns around completely to face Soojin. “Did you enjoy your visit home?”

“Yeah. It was a nice and quiet few days with my parents and sister.” Soojin tries to think back to the times when she could just laze around in her old room and not do anything all day. Food was readily available and her parents doted on her every whim.

“Did Shuhua blow up your phone the entire time?” Soyeon grins and motions toward Soojin’s phone.

“No.” The cold look has returned to Soojin’s face as she glances toward her phone.

“Oh.” Soyeon realizes she’s misspoken. “She was blowing up Yuqi’s phone saying how much she was missing you.”

Soojin gives Soyeon a side glance before suddenly rising up from her seat. “I’m going to get something to drink.” She quickly turns and walks right out the door.

Soojin is typically very calm toward Soyeon, so this was a bit of a shock to her. Soyeon’s eyes widen after Soojin leaves and she picks up her phone to text Yuqi what just happened. Lately they’ve been texting nonstop even though they live together now. Whenever something happens, Yuqi is the first person that Soyeon wants to tell. She has the best reaction to everything, especially her weird emojis.

On the other hand, Soojin storms off in a huff all the way to the lounge. She needs to get a bottle of cold water to get the heat in her chest to dissipate. “Blowing up my phone the entire time?” Soojin says to herself as she looks at the screen in her hand. “She didn’t even text me once.” Soojin sighs, unsure why it’s bothering her so much. “But she was blowing up Yuqi’s phone?” Just thinking about it makes Soojin’s mind all jumbled.

The lounge’s door opens softly and Minnie walks in with a blank expression on her face. Upon seeing each other, the two friends look and hold the other’s gaze for a moment.

“What?” They say at the same time.

“You first.” They say at the same time again.

“Fine.” Again, they say in synchrony.

“Ugh!” Both rolls their eyes before breaking into laughter.

“I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever.” Minnie grins, she still has dark circles under her eyes.

“I know …” Soojin figures this is as good a time as any to act on her promise to Miyeon, “probably because you’ve been living in your head for a little while.” She tries to put it politely.

Minnie hesitates with an awkward smile before nodding. “Yeah. It’s been a little while, but it feels like years.” She walks over to grab a bottle of cold green tea from the refrigerator. “Sorry I’ve been so absent.”

“I’m not the one you should apologize to, Minnie-ah.” Soojin gives enough of a hint before she changes the subject. “How are you doing now?”

Minnie takes a sip of her tea and sits down on the sofa, motioning for Soojin to do the same. “I’m okay … I think, finally feeling some peace.”

“That’s good to hear.” Soojin takes a seat next to Minnie, who promptly puts her head on Soojin’s shoulder. It’s not the first time, but Minnie rarely show that much affection for Soojin.

“I need some help, Soojin … I heard you went to a counselor.” Minnie speaks softly.

Soojin nods, “Uh huh.” She shifts a little bit in the seat, placing her arm around Minnie. It feels strange because they’re not usually this warm with each other.

“Can I have their info?” Minnie requests. “I think …” She takes in a deep breath, “It’ll be good for me to talk to someone.”

This was easier than Soojin thought. Here she was, thinking of a monologue and readying to convince Minnie to go to counseling, only for Minnie to say it all to her first. “Here, let me forward her info to you.” She pulls out her phone and forwards the contact to Minnie.

“Thank you.” Minnie replies when she receives the info. “Can we stay like this for a little bit?”

Soojin has not choice but to agree. “Eh. Don’t tell anyone.” She can indulge Minnie for a little bit.

The door opens again and this time Miyeon comes into the lounge. She happens upon Minnie’s head on Soojin’s shoulders. It’s strange sight to see because Soojin and Minnie are rarely affectionate toward each other. They may tease and joke around with each other, but rarely dote on each other. Miyeon tries to walk softly, but Soojin notices and looks toward her movements before she has a chance to announce herself.

“Hi, Miyeonnie.” Soojin smiles softly.

Minnie sits straight up suddenly and turns back to see a puzzled Miyeon standing by the doorway.

“Hi.” Miyeon looks at Soojin and then stares at Minnie, who tries not to meet her eyes. “What’s going on?”

“Oh, Minnie …” Soojin starts to explain what Minnie’d ask her, but gets cut off suddenly.

“Halloween party!” Minnie blurts out. “We’re discussing what we wearing to the Halloween party.” She’s not ready to let Miyeon know that she’s seeking help.

“Oh.” Miyeon accepts it easily, even thought it was an awfully close way they were sitting to be discussing Halloween outfits. “More important than that … your birthday is next week, Minnie.”

“That’s right. I completely forgot about it …” Soojin mutters to herself.

“It’s not a big deal.” Minnie rises from the sofa and shrugs, “I really don’t feel like celebrating.”

“You don’t have to celebrate, we could just do a small dinner or something. It’s your birthday.” Miyeon pleads.

Minnie fidgets. “I really don’t want to celebrate …”

“Not even with us?” Miyeon’s brows knit together, making it hard to Minnie to look at her.

Soojin takes this pause as her chance to slip out for the two to talk. “I’ll see you guys later.” Soojin says as she scoots along.

After Soojin exits, silence covers the room as neither Minnie nor Miyeon are ready to talk. Usually, they are comfortable being quiet near each other. But today, the silence is overwhelmingly disconcerting. They stand quietly for a few minutes before Minnie clears her throat. “I hope you’ll understand.”

“I understand more than anyone.” Miyeon quickly retorts. “Haven’t I been more than understanding?”

Minnie shifts her gaze downward. “You have.”

“At least spend your birthday with me … is that too much to ask?” Miyeon really hates being pushy, but with this current Minnie she has no choice by to push.

“…” Minnie seems to be thinking before she nods. “Yes … it is a lot to be with you right now.” She squeezes her eyes and takes a deep breath before continuing. “You’re my friend. My best friend. I don’t know what I want from you or from me … I need time … to think …”

“You.” Miyeon stresses the word. “You need time to think? What are you thinking about?”

“A lot of things that are jumbled in my head.” Minnie walks up to Miyeon and reaches her hand out to hold Miyeon’s hand. “I promise I’m going to get help … about Somi … but about us, I need time. I need to get better myself first.”

The warmth from Minnie’s hands feel so familiar, something that Miyeon hasn’t felt in a long time. She looks into Minnie’s eyes, the deep black orbs that pull her in and hold her so firmly. Miyeon has no choice. She quietly relents. “I’ll wait …” She pushes her impatience way down and squeezes Minnie’s hands.

“Thank you.” Minnie pulls Miyeon in and wraps her arms around Miyeon, holding Miyeon gently against her. They stay like that for some minutes before Miyeon pulls back.

“But I won’t wait for long. I want you to get help and feel better. However, I have my own pride and feelings, I don’t want to be waiting forever.” Miyeon squeezes Minnie’s arms. “I know you understand.”

Minnie smiles and nods. “I do. Don’t give up on me yet.”

“You’re sure you don’t want to hang out on your birthday?” Miyeon asks again.

“Mhm … we can celebrate another time. I just want to not celebrate it this year.” Minnie nods again.

Miyeon knows that Minnie is still torturing herself over Somi’s missed birthday. She knows that Minnie donated the present that she got for Somi to the Children’s Hospital. She knows that Minnie is this deeply emotion and caring person. That’s why Miyeon likes Minnie so much, but it is also a point of weakness for Minnie.

 

 

“You’re not celebrating Minnie-unnie’s birthday with her?” Shuhua asks between bites. Her cheeks are puffed out like a chipmunk.

“No.” Miyeon shakes her head gently while Soojin gives her a knowing look.

“What’s she doing for her birthday then?” Soyeon asks while look around the cafeteria.

“I’m not sure …” Miyeon looks at Yuqi, who shakes her head.

“She requested a half-day that day.” Yuqi puts her chopsticks down. “I think she has plans that night because her calendar says she’s not taking any pages.”

“She didn’t tell you why?” Soyeon asks in place of Miyeon, who sighs ever so softly.

“No. I know she asked Dr. Moon for the half-day and it takes a lot for her to not take pages …” Yuqi explains.

“I hope she’s not going to get super drunk or something.” Shuhua puts her chopsticks down after finishing her food. “She’s been so down recently …”

“It’s no use for us to sit here and guess.” Soojin finally speaks. “Why don’t we just let her have some peace and quiet, it may be good for her.” She turns to Miyeon. “Too bad she doesn’t get to enjoy her birthday present, though.”

Miyeon smiles humorlessly, “Too bad.”

“What did you get her?” Yuqi asks.

“Tickets to see Troye Sivan.” Miyeon shows the girls the e-tickets in her mailbox.

“Her favorite singer.” Yuqi explains that Minnie plays his music all the time in their office. “His concert in Seoul is on Minnie’s birthday.”

Miyeon nods. “I bought the tickets month ago when the tour stop here was announced … now I have to find someone to sell the tickets to …”

Yuqi and Soyeon exchanges looks again. “Do you want us to talk to her?”

“No.” Miyeon shakes her head. “It’s fine, I promised not to force her. She wants time to think right now.” She puts her fork down, suddenly her appetite is lost.

“Well, that sucks …” Yuqi sighs. “I bet if she finds out that her birthday present is going to see Troye Sivan, she’s going to be super regretful.”

“Let her regret.” Soojin shrugs. “Miyeon puts a lot of efforts and money into getting those tickets.”

“But Minnie-unnie doesn’t mean to be mean …” Shuhua puts in a good word for Minnie. Foreigners have to stick together.

“When did you start calling her unnie?” Soojin narrows her eyes accusingly. She still hasn’t forgotten the way Shuhua basically ghosted her during Chuseok. Even though Shuhua explained that she just wanted to respect Soojin’s time with her family. Soojin specifically remembers Shuhua saying she calls Soojin her Unnie because she likes and respects Soojin. When did Shuhua come to like and respect Minnie so much? She still calls Miyeon just Miyeon.

As if Shuhua is reading the dark side of Soojin’s, she smiles a soft, defusing smile. “Don’t be jealous, Soojin-unnie. You know my heart. You’re the only one for me.”

Soojin makes a face and turns away, but a small smile tugs at her lips. “Sweettalker.”

“Um … we’re all still trying to eat here.” It’s Yuqi’s turn to make a face. “Please go flirt somewhere else.”

“Who’s flirting?” Soojin frowns at Yuqi while Shuhua grins and shrugs.

“You.” Yuqi motions toward Soojin, “and her.” She points at Shuhua. “Are flirting.”

Miyeon laughs at the way Soojin’s eyes level with Yuqi. She looks like she’s about to lay some verbal smackdown on the younger woman. Knowing this, Soyeon immediately starts to defuse the situation. “Yuqi’s just kidding, Soojin. Don’t mind her, she’s just being silly Yuqi.”

“Hey! I’m not silly.” Yuqi pouts, making her look like a silly child.

Each person at the table takes turn to tease Yuqi, causing a ruckus as Yuqi starts to get louder and louder.

 

 

“Thanks for inviting me, Miyeon.”

Miyeon turns to her friend and smiles. “Thanks for coming with me, Jisoo.” Kim Jisoo is an up and coming actress. She’s also one of Miyeon’s oldest friends. They’ve known each other since middle school. With her usual group busy or working, Miyeon calls up one of her few friends in Seoul to go to the Troye Sivan concert with her.

“These are really good seats, I could see Troye Sivan so clearly.” Jisoo smiles happily. The tickets must have cost a lot. “Are you sure you don’t want me to pay you back?”

“No, it’s fine. I couldn’t find anyone willing to pay a decent price for them at the last minute … so might as well enjoy it.” In truth, Miyeon waited too late to sell them because she harbored thoughts that Minnie might change her mind and want to celebrate her birthday with Miyeon. But when the moody woman made no indications of such intention, Miyeon was too lazy to find someone to sell to at the last minute.

“I see. Sorry your friend couldn’t make it.” Jisoo rises from her seat and lets out a deep breath. “But I’m glad you invited me.”

“You’re welcome.” Miyeon eye-smiles at her friend and grasps Jisoo’s arm as they make their way out of the row of seats. “That was good, I knew a lot of the songs.”

“Oh, I didn’t know many …” Jisoo shakes her head. “He’s not really my type of singer, but it was a good concert nevertheless.”

Miyeon chuckles as they scoot along, “Mine neither. But my friend really likes him, so I ended up liking him, too.”

“I can buy us dinner …” Jisoo finally reaches the aisle seat of their row, “… what are you doing here?” She suddenly asks the person across the aisle from her.

A tall young woman with one of the prettiest faces Miyeon’s ever seen is frozen with surprise. “Jisoo …” She speaks softly. Miyeon could tell she’s a foreigner by her looks and seems so familiar, but before she could discern where she knows the woman from, her eyes fall to the woman next to the foreigner. “Minnie …”

Here they stand, four pair of eyes widen at the same time. Four mouths drop open. People file around them, trying to get out of their rows. Miyeon gets pushed forward, causing her to pull Jisoo along.

“Jisoo, I’m glad to see you.” The foreigner speaks with a small smile.

Jisoo shakes her head. “I’m not glad to see you, Lisa.”

Miyeon couldn’t tear her eyes from Minnie, who’s staring back at her. Jisoo turns around to Miyeon and reaches for her hand, causing Miyeon to freeze in surprise. “C’mon Miyeonnie, let’s get go.” Miyeonnie? Since when did Jisoo call her Miyeonnie? Miyeon is surprised as Jisoo pulls her along in a huff, tearing Miyeon’s eye connection with Minnie.

“Kim Jisoo!” Lisa calls after Jisoo and starts to follow them. “Would you please stop?” She sounds upset. With those long legs, it did not take her long at all to catch up to Jisoo and Miyeon. She cuts them off near the exit.

“What do you want from me, Lisa?” Jisoo angrily asks.

“I just want to talk.” Lisa reaches out to Jisoo, only for Jisoo to swats her hand away. This sounds familiar to Miyeon. She turns back to look at Minnie, who is trudging slowly toward them. Their eyes meet, but Miyeon is still in shock. Didn’t Minnie say that she wanted to be alone? Who is this Lisa? Why are they seeing this concert together?

“I don’t want to talk. I’m done listening to your empty promises.” Jisoo’s grasp on Miyeon’s hands tighten. She’s trembling with emotions. Miyeon has a million questions to ask, especially about Minnie and Lisa.

“Wait.” Lisa’s eyes water.

Jisoo cold brushes past her and pulls a stunned Miyeon along. Miyeon wants to ask what’s happening, but before she could, they’re already in Jisoo’s car speeding away from the concert venue. In the quiet car, Miyeon could hear Jisoo’s angry breathing. Miyeon turns back to see if Minnie and Lisa are following, but she couldn’t make out anyone.

“Who was that, Jisoo?” Miyeon finally speaks up.

Jisoo waits for a long moment before replying. “Nobody.”

“So you’re mad at nobody?” Miyeon pushes, she has to find out.

“Yeah.” Jisoo bites down on her thumb as she drives.

“Tell me who she is.”

“Why do you care?”

Miyeon wants to scream that she doesn’t actually care about whoever Lisa is, she only cares because Minnie was with Lisa at the concert that Miyeon wanted to see with Minnie. But instead, she reigns her emotions in and lets out a quiet, “Because you’re my friend and you’re upset.”

Jisoo pauses for a long while, just driving quietly as the cityscape rushes by them. Finally, she takes a deep breath and lets out a sad, succinct answer. “She’s my ex.”

“Ex …” Miyeon’s voice drifts off.

“Ex-girlfriend.” Jisoo turns to briefly look at Miyeon. They’re long time friends, but it’s not like they talk that much about relationships. They catch up a few times every few years to get drinks but they don’t get too involve din each other’s lives. “She broke my heart.”

Miyeon’s heart tightens, touched by the sadness in Jisoo’s voice. “How?” That’s all she could manage to whisper.

“She’s … her name is actually Lalisa.” Jisoo continues her explanation. “She’s a model … we met during filming for a commercial.”

Miyeon stays quiet for Jisoo to talk.

“We started dating within a month of hanging out after the shoot. It lasted a three years … she got super popular with magazines and the fashion world. I got more popular on television shows … we got too busy for each other. One time, she went to Thailand to film and … I think she cheated on me.”

That’s why Lisa seems so familiar to Miyeon. “You think?”

“She wouldn’t admit to it because I found pictures of her and another girl on her phone. She said it’s a friend, but they looked to comfortable to be just friends.”

“You looked through her phone?”

“She was so mad about that. But I didn’t want to hear her excuses and broke up with her.”

“That’s a pretty drastic way to end a three year relationship.”

“I know, but she moved on just fine. So will I.”

“I don’t think she moved on at all … from the way she acted tonight, I think she’s not over you.”

“You saw that she was with some other girl right?”

Miyeon saw alright. But Minnie didn’t look terribly upset with Lisa for chasing after Jisoo. “I don’t think they were together.” Miyeon doesn’t know how to break it to Jisoo that Minnie is actually the person that Jisoo replaced at the concert.

“Lisa doesn’t have that many friends. I know all her friends. That woman I haven’t seen before, they must be on a date or something.”

“Why don’t you just talk to her instead of guessing?” Miyeon finds it ironic that she’s giving such advice while trying to guess whether Lisa and Minnie went on a date.

“No way. I am not getting sucked back into her orbit … I’m not ready to have my heart broken again.”

“You’re being stubborn, Jisoo-ah … I think you both still care about each other alot.”

“…” Jisoo doesn’t reply as she stops the car in front of Miyeon’s apartment. “Thanks for the concert, Miyeon. I’ll treat you to dinner next time.”

“Okay …” Miyeon smiles slightly and reaches across to give Jisoo a hug. “Talk to her.”

Jisoo’s smile is lopsided as she watches Miyeon leaves the car.

Unbeknown to them, the same conversation is happening across town in Lisa’s car.

 

 

“Shuhua! Over here!” Yuqi yells, her voice rising above the loud thumping music.

Shuhua smiles excitedly at her friend and quickly makes her way over to where Yuqi is standing with Soyeon. “Hey. You guys look so cool.”

“You look very cute.” Soyeon smiles and makes Shuhua twirl for her.

“This is amazing!” Shuhua looks around excitedly. The music is hyping her up. The decorations are fascinating. Everything is as a party should be.

Once a year, Halloween happens and the hospital staff pitch together a fund to have a big Halloween Bash. They rent out the presidential penthouse of one of the tallest hotels in the city. It comes with a gigantic pool as well as plenty of room to party. They even rent out individual hotel rooms to make sure everyone has a good time, but has a safe place to retire instead of running into trouble going home. People just have to make reservations ahead of time.

As luck would have it, Shuhua, Yuqi, and Soyeon do not have nightshift duty. They are dressed in their costumes, waiting for the other three to arrive. Yuqi is a Western cowgirl with the hat, boots, and a brown fringed jacket. Soyeon is a biker chick with ripped jeans shorts, boots, and a black fringed jacket. Shuhua is a cute diner waitress with a pink dress and white apron.

“You guys are matching.” Shuhua flicks her fingertips back and forth between Yuqi and Soyeon.

“Why a diner waitress?” Yuqi flicks her fingertips up and down Shuhua’s costume. “It’s cute on you, but why?”

“Why not? Are you looking down on diner waitresses?” Shuhua pokes Yuqi’s shoulder sharply. In truth, she procrastinated because she couldn’t decide what costume to wear. When she got to the Halloween store, the only options left are very pathetic. She could have been in a chicken costume or a sexy cop. Diner waitress is actually pretty good.

“Why not be something cooler?” Yuqi playfully winks as Shuhua. She starts to speaks English. “Hey girl. What’s up? I’m a cow girl from California. Who are you?”

Shuhua rolls her eyes and pretends to throw up.

“Stop fighting, kids.” Soyeon tries to break up the bickering kids.

“No, but …” Yuqi’s eyes drift toward the door, “wow …”

Shuhua and Soyeon follows Yuqi’s gaze to a glamorous Miyeon making a grand entrance. She looks like she is Hollywood royalty walking straight out from an Audrey Hepburn movie. Her hair is done up tastefully and she is wearing a vintage black with white polka dots dress. Miyeon’s eyes curve into a smile when she sees her younger friends. Happily, she waves at them and walks right over, ignoring a roomful of people who are admiring her beauty.

“Hi. Sorry I’m late.” Miyeon greets.

“It’s okay, we arrived not too long ago and Shuhua just got here.” Soyeon shakes her head and motions toward the open bar. “Do you want something to drink?”

“No, I’m fine. I’m on call tonight.” Miyeon pats the pager in one of the pockets of her dress.

“There’s Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua interrupts Miyeon. Her eyes lighting up as she speeds right over to the door to pull Soojin over to the group.

“Oh my god.” Yuqi tilts her head in confusion.

“Soojin that is the best costume.” Miyeon smiles at her friend and pulls her phone out to take a picture.

“Soojin-unnie has the best costume here.” Shuhua covers Miyeon’s camera, not allowing her to take a picture before Shuhua does.

Soojin didn’t even get a chance to explain. She just shrugs. In place of a typical costume, Soojin has dressed up in  a fox footie pajamas. While Soojin’s face is still seductive as ever, she is cute in the way she trudges around as a fluffy fox. If Shuhua thought she couldn’t be anymore smitten with this multi-facet woman, she is proven wrong.

“I wish I’d thought of that.” Shuhua says wistfully, she could have matched with Soojin.

Soojin smiles and pats Shuhua’s head.

As the party starts to pick up, the five women gets some drinks from the bar and bops along the dance floor. As the song peaks at its climax, the door opens again and a lot of heads turn toward it. Minnie struts in full of confidence. She has double braids with some spikes woven into her hair. She’s wearing a bohemian crop-top with a bellydancer’s pants. On her wrists are a multitude of bracelets. Minnie’s bejeweled pants catch the lights in the room and sparkle brightly as she moves toward her friends. Her tone belly flexes and releases as she walks.

“Wow, Minnie’s fiiiiiit.” Yuqi whistles at her supervising resident, making Soyeon give her a quick unnoticed side glance.

“Hey everyone.” Minnie says in a breathy voice. “Sorry I’m late.”

“No worries, the party is just getting started.” Yuqi smiles brightly and motions toward the open bar. “Do you girls want to get something else to drink?”

“Oooh, I definitely want that watermelon vodka drink, it was good.” Shuhua points to the bar, where a group of people are crowded around trying to get their drink on.

“I’ll have that, too.” Soojin nods along.

Yuqi and Soyeon looks at each other. “We have a room so … we can go all out for tonight.” They share the same thought because it’s fine to let loose once in a while.

Minnie glances at Miyeon, who glances at Minnie, but neither say anything. They stand around awkwardly for a few moments before Miyeon speaks up. “I’ll have a Shirley Temple or something.”

Minnie scratches her head, “I’m not sure yet … I can go with you, Yuqi. I’ll figure out something by then.”

Soyeon looks at Yuqi and nods, “Two of you should be able to carry everything. We’ll be out in the lounge area by the pool.” With that, the group split into two. Yuqi and Minnie goes to get all the drinks. The other girls go out to the lounge around with a firepit near the pool. They find a square sunken firepit with plenty of cushioned seating around. Soojin is immediately pulled close to Shuhua while Miyeon and Soyeon sits next to each other. Neither Soyeon and Miyeon are that close to each other, but Miyeon isn’t looking forward to awkwardly sitting by Minnie the entire evening.

Soojin looks at Miyeon, who seems to be deep in thoughts again, before turning to Shuhua. “Are you staying here for the night or are you going to try to catch the bus home again?”

Shuhua laughs and shakes her head. “The room is free, so I’ll stay here instead … unless …” She hooks her arm with Soojin’s, “you want to take me home again.”

Soojin, having forgiven Shuhua for the most part, rolls her eyes and extricates her arm from Shuhua’s grasp. “No thank you.”

“I can take you home if you need, Shuhua.” Miyeon smiles warmly at the younger woman, who puts her arms into an ‘x’ shape.

“No thank you. I heard you’re a pretty bad driver … even sober.” Shuhua shakes her head.

“Who said that?” Miyeon crosses her arms and puffs her cheeks. “Soojinie?”

“Leave me out of this.” Soojin groans.

“No.” Shuhua shakes her head mysteriously.

“Soyeon, did you say that?” Miyeon turns to Soyeon with a questioning look.

“Me?” Soyeon laughs, “I’ve never even been in your car.”

“Then who?” Miyeon, the detective tries to think of anyone who’s experienced her driving. At that time, Yuqi and Minnie shows up with the drinks. They carefully put their handfuls down on the edge of the firepit before handing drinks out to everyone. Miyeon momentarily pauses her thoughts when Yuqi hands her the Shirley Temple. “Thank you.” Same as Soyeon, Yuqi’s never been in Miyeon’s car. Her eyes fall on Minnie, who decides to sit at a corner between Shuhua and Yuqi. Minnie? Why would she tell Shuhua about Miyeon?

The seating arrangement right now is Minnie, Yuqi, Soyeon, Miyeon, Soojin, and Shuhua in a square. They each take a sip of their drink before continue to chatter about things that’s happened over the past month at work. While they are friends, their one commonality is work and so the conversation always find itself circling back about work.

“By the way, Minnie. What did you end up doing on your birthday?” Yuqi suddenly asks. “I keep forgetting to ask you.” Yuqi had given Minnie her present before the actually date, so naturally she forgets to ask.

“Um …” Minnie smiles. Her eyes unconsciously drifts toward Miyeon for a split second. “I … um … went to a concert with a friend.”

“Oh, you did, huh?” Everyone at the conversation pit, except for Minnie and Miyeon, looks at each other with a large smile on their faces. They’re assuming that the two went with each other.

“When you said that you weren’t going to celebrate, I thought you were serious.” Yuqi grins.

Minnie looks at her with a puzzled tilt of her head.

“If you guys ended up going to the concert, you could at least tell us.” Soojin turns to Miyeon, whose poker face should’ve hinted something. “I feel like we didn’t see you all week after that day.”

“Yeah. I was worried that you wasted your money on those tickets, Miyeon.” Shuhua adds.

Soyeon, the most observant person at this time, looks between the two increasingly awkward people. “So how was the concert? Did something happen?”

“We didn’t go together.” Miyeon puts her empty glass down. Right now she’s really wishing for something stronger. A non-alcoholic drink is not going to help her through this.

“Huh? You took separate cars?” Yuqi asks with a slight frown.

“You can ask her. I’m going to say hi to those attendings over there.” Miyeon motions toward Minnie before getting up abruptly. She needed an excuse to get out of the heavy pressure that was trying to drown her.

After Miyeon leaves, all eyes are on Minnie. She frowns and puts down her also empty glass. “What?”

“What does she mean? You didn’t go together?” Soojin asks. “Who did you go with?”

“Exactly what she meant. I went with my friend, Lisa.” Minnie is confused as to why she’s getting the interrogation.

“So you went with someone else … while Miyeon bought Troye Sivan tickets as your birthday present?” Shuhua asks to clarify.

Minnie hadn’t known that Miyeon had bought tickets as her birthday present. In fact, Minnie could barely get a chance to talk to Miyeon to ask about that night. Miyeon has been avoiding her calls and texts. Minnie has been skipping the group lunch to avoid awkwardness. She figured a party like this would be a much better place to provide an escape route if needed.

“I didn’t know she got tickets for us …” Minnie states the truth. “My other friend, Lisa, bought tickets and asked me to come with her as a surprise.”

“How would you know when you’ve been extra distant lately …” Soojin says in a quiet voice, but Shuhua puts her hand on Soojin’s, as if telling her to calm down.

Soyeon, who’s been quiet for a long while, finally speaks up. “You should go talk to Miyeon, before your friendship gets to be irreparably awkward.”

Yuqi nods beside her. “Miyeon was really looking forward to the concert with you, so I was so happy when I thought you went together.”

Minnie  looks around to see where Miyeon has gone. With a heavy heart, she rises from her seat. It’s not something she really want to confront right now in public, but if left alone … Minnie is afraid these negative feelings will fester between them until it’s unhealable.

Yuqi and Soyeon talks amongst themselves in quiet whispers. In a way, they’re responsible for the strange turn of events due to the misunderstanding.

Shuhua holds Soojin’s hand between hers. “I hope they’ll be okay.”

“Yeah. Me, too.” Soojin replies.

 

 

“Hey.” Minnie spots Miyeon standing by herself next to the balcony.

Miyeon doesn’t turn around, but she recognizes Minnie’s voice and her shoulder tenses up a little bit. Minnie comes up next to Miyeon and they both look over the balcony into the night scape below. The busy street is lined with people coming and going in costumes. The music in the penthouse is bumping loudly. But here, in this space, things are abnormally quiet.

“I’m sorry I didn’t know that you’d bought tickets to see Troye Sivan for my birthday.” Minnie starts in a low, apologetic tone.

Miyeon remains quiet, her eyes unfocused on the horizon as the wind blows her hair backward. Minnie studies her face for a moment, she looks so very sad right now. “My friend, Lisa, surprised me with those tickets on my birthday … so I went with her.” She continues. “It wasn’t planned.”

Miyeon continues to give Minnie the silent treatment.

“Can you please say something?” Minnie is not used to getting ignored. “I didn’t know anything about the tickets you bought, so how can you be mad at me?”

“I’m not mad at you.” Miyeon finally speaks, her voice so soft it barely carries over the music. She turns to finally look Minnie in the eyes, “I respected your wishes, to give you time and also to leave you alone for your birthday. Do you know how hard it was? To see you struggle and not be able to help … I really wanted to see that concert with you. But I respected your damn wishes.” Her voice breaks as her emotions start to overwhelm her control. “Seeing you with someone else at that concert really … really … really disappointed me.”

Minnie gives Miyeon the chance to talk. When Miyeon is finished, Minnie steps closer and puts a hand on Miyeon’s shoulder, “She’s just my friend, Lisa. There’s nothing going on between us.”

Miyeon, for the first time, shrugs Minnie’s hand from her shoulder. “I’m -just- your friend, Minnie.” Her earnest and honest answer shocks even her. “You don’t even know what’s going on between us.”

Minnie raises her voice. “I told you I needed time to sort out myself.”

“And I agreed. But now, I realize that I’m putting you before myself when you’re putting yourself before me.” Miyeon doesn’t back down.

“That’s not fair, Miyeon.”

“You’re not the only one who lost someone you care about. You didn’t want to get help even though I begged you. When you finally decide, you push me aside to work on yourself and hang out with other friends.” Miyeon isn’t sure where all this is coming from. The feelings that she’s been pressing down while telling herself it’s for the good of everyone is surging upward.

“Is this how you’ve been feeling all along?” Minnie’s mouth is downturned. “You resent me for putting myself first?”

“No!” Miyeon yells. She opens her mouth to argue, but the pager at her side rings and vibrates loudly. She stares into Minnie’s eyes before shifting her attention to the pager. Her focus shifts undecidedly between the two for a moment before she looks at the page. “I’ve got to go.” She rushes toward the door  before Minnie could say anything.

Minnie stands there, watching Miyeon’s figure disappear into the crowd. Her hands tighten into fists before she make her own exit.

 

 

“Be careful, watch your head.” Shuhua yelps as she helps an inebriated Soojin into a hotel room. “Careful …” She struggle to pull the woman to the bed.

“No …” Soojin whispers hoarsely. “I’m …” She hiccups, “I’m not done …” The drunken woman waves her arms around as she tries to pull away from Shuhua.

“Yeah you are.” Shuhua struggles, her cheeks flustered pink. “You’ve had to much to drink, unnie.”

“No …” Soojin hiccups again as Shuhua guides her to the bed. The older woman plops down on the covers, her head lulls to the side as half of her body hangs off the bed. Shuhua looks over the woman, at least she’s already in pajamas. Shuhua smiles at how cute Soojin looks when she’s out like this. “More drinks … party … wooooo!”

“Alright, unnie. Let’s get you ready for bed …” Shuhua pulls back the covers, struggling a little bit under Soojin’s weight. She pulls off Soojin’s cute paw slippers before lifting Soojin’s legs onto the bed.

“Ahhh …” Soojin frowns, her face flushed with intoxication. “It’s hooooooot~” She kicks her leg outward, almost hitting Shuhua in the process.

Soojin’s whining voice sends shivers down Shuhua’s spine. She’s not sure why this woman has such a hold on her. Everything that Soojin does is so stimulating for her and that whine right now is half-cute and half-sexy. Or maybe it’s because Shuhua is tipsy herself. Shuhua takes a deep breath to clear her thoughts. “Okay, let’s get you settled in.” She says as if to remind herself of her task.

Soojin suddenly reaches up to the zipper at her neck and clumsily starts to pull the tab down. “Hot …” She says in a hoarse voice as she tugs the slider down halfway to her stomach. Shuhua starts to cover her eyes, but realizes that Soojin’s wearing something underneath, that’s probably why she’s burning up.

“Um … let me help you …” Shuhua hesitates, but eventually relents because Soojin’s turning a bright color of red. She takes the tab away from Soojin’s hand and starts to unzip all the way before pulling the pajamas downward. Underneath, Soojin has on a tank top and short-shorts so she wasn’t completely naked. However, Shuhua could feel the blood rushing her head as she hears her pulse in her ears. It’s strange for her to undress a defenseless Soojin like this. Normally, she would have earned a physical or verbal smackdown by now.

Once the pajamas is off and Soojin is nicely tucked under the covers, Shuhua lets out the breath that she’s been holding since she got into this room. “Um … let’s wipe the make up off.” Shuhua looks for the pack of make up remover wipes in Soojin’s packed bag. “Aha.” She brings it back to a slumbering Soojin and starts to wipe the make up away from Soojin’s face. Shuhua enjoys wiping the colors away little by little, as if she’s revealing the real Soojin a little bit at a time.

When all is wiped away and only those red lips remain, Shuhua becomes hyper-aware of her focus on them. She wonders how they would feel and taste. She can imagine the warmed and plushed sensation from those billowy lips. Her eyes flutter and she shakes her head, she can’t afford to think like that right now. She swallows hard before reaching up to brush the wipes across those cherry lips. It doesn’t take anytime at all before Shuhua finishes with wiping Soojin’s hands, too.

“All done, sleeping beauty.” Shuhua smiles proudly at her work as she looks down at a peaceful Soojin. Her hand unconsciously brushes some hair from Soojin’s face before her courage swells up inside her chest. With a sharp inhale, Shuhua leans down and presses the lightest of kisses on Soojin’s forehead. “Good night, the most beautiful girl in the world.”

After Shuhua has turned off the lights and left, Soojin’s eyes slide up to adjust to the dark room. She reaches up to gently touch where Shuhua’s lips has touched her skin. She could still feel the sensation from Shuhua’s warm lips. She sighs softly before closing her eyes again for heavy sleep to consume her.

 

 

“What an eventful night …” Soyeon yawns as she pulls back the covers to the bed.

“You’re telling me.” Yuqi is applying face cream at the vanity in the bathroom.

“I’m glad Shuhua stopped Soojin before she drank anymore.” Soyeon was surprised at how much her resident drank.

“I know, she’s so funny when she drinks. She kind of let loose a little bit.”

“Shuhua was like a mother hen.” Soyeon laughs and imitates Shuhua’s voice. “Soojin-unnie, don’t do that. Hey, don’t dance like that. Don’t get too close to the pool. Stay away from the balcony.”

Yuqi laughs loudly, “She seemed stress and I feel like Soojin did it on purpose.”

“Yeah, I saw that mystery smirk of hers. She definitely enjoys Shuhua’s full attention.” Soyeon laughs. “They should just get together already and save us the headache.”

Yuqi finishes up her skin care routine. “But then we won’t have a fun show to watch anymore.”

“Do you think they’ll be okay?” Soyeon means Minnie and Miyeon. They all witnessed the way Miyeon stormed off. They had messaged her a while after, but still no response.

“I hope so, because I really think they’ll be a good couple.” Yuqi turns off the lights and steps out of the bathroom.

There weren’t many rooms left when they decided to go to the party, so they ended up with a room with just one king-sized bed. Neither Yuqi nor Soyeon minded, so they took the room, just in case they get too drunk. But both are too responsible to get that drunk when they have to work the next day.

“I’ll check on Miyeon tomorrow, then. You’ll check on Minnie?” Soyeon watches as Yuqi makes her way to the other side of the bed.

“Okay. I’ll ask her at work tomorrow. But you should know she’s really bad at talking about emotions and stuff, she’s the holding it in type.” Yuqi pulls back the covers on her side and slips under.

“I get that, I’m the same way.” Soyeon turns to Yuqi, “but I’ve gotten better.”

“Yeah, all thanks me to me.” Yuqi grins and gives Soyeon a thumb-up.

Soyeon laughs and nods. “All thanks to you, Yuqi-ah. By the way …” She pauses for Yuqi to look at her again. “Um, you looked really nice today. I liked your costume.”

Yuqi is taken back by the sudden compliment. Not that Soyeon doesn’t compliment Yuqi, but it’s usually about her work or something else, not her looks. “Um … thank you, you looked really nice too.” That was honest. Soyeon looked like a rockstar biker chick in her costume. “You looked like a badass, actually.”

“I am a badass.” Soyeon says with a blank face.

“No you’re actually a cute little baby chick.”

“What?”

“Yes, you look all tough, but I’ve seen the way you talk to your parents.” Yuqi laughs and tries to imitate Soyeon’s aegyo voice. “Appa. Umma.”

“Hey!” Soyeon smacks Yuqi’s arm.

“I’m just kidding. I really like the way you say that.” Yuqi massages where she was smacked. “I like that you can be a badass surgeon and a sweet kid at the same time.”

Soyeon blushes and turns away. “Dr. Moon said I can  close up a surgery next week by myself … if you want to watch …” She shyly tries to invite Yuqi, but then has to recover. “Since I’m an actual badass, you know?”

“Okay. I’ll see if Shuhua wants to come, too. Let me know when …” Yuqi lets out a wide yawn and her eyes start to water. “Okay, let’s sleep because we have to work tomorrow.”

“Okay. Good night, Yuqi-ah.” Soyeon nods and turns off the lamp on her side.

“Good night, Soyeonnie.” Yuqi smiles and turns off the lamp on her side.

It is not long before Soyeon hears the steady breathing sounds from Yuqi’s side. Must be nice to be a person who sleeps easily. Yuqi doesn’t seem to carry any stress with her, she can sleep anywhere and anytime. While Soyeon’s mind races a million thoughts a minute. Once Soyeon could relax, the steady breathing of Yuqi becomes so relaxing that it puts Soyeon into a sleep trance. She soon drifts to sleep to the sound of Yuqi’s breathing.



Chapter Text

The excitement is palpable in all the resident offices and lounges. Halloween has come and gone. As November stretches, everyone’s attention turns to the annual residents trip toward the latter half of the month. It is a weekend where residents from all departments are given a chance to go on a camping trip to promote interdisciplinary teamwork. A lot of the attendings and other part-time physicians will get called in for coverage. Not everyone is required to go, of course, there still has to be doctors at the hospital. Some residents choose not to go due to personal limitations or other life commitments.

“I checked the weather, it looks like it will be a nice sunny weekend.” Soyeon holds up her phone for Yuqi, Soojin, and Shuhua to see. “It will be a little chilly, though, so pack some warm clothes.” She reminds everyone, as well as herself.

“I can’t wait to sit around a fire and roast some marshmallows.” Yuqi dreamily looks out the cafeteria window. “It’s going to be amazing.”

“I’ll bring some meat to grill for lunch since dinner is provided.” Soojin puts away hers and Shuhua’s empty lunch containers. “Anything else you girls would like to eat?”

“Anything you make is going to be good, Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua dabs her lips, having just finished the food that Soojin made. She brings out a container of pre-cut apples and pears to share with everyone else. “Grilling outdoors will be the best.”

“Okay.” A small, please smile spreads across Soojin’s lips. “I’ll bring meat and veggies to grill.”

Soyeon crinkles her nose at the mention of vegetables, making Yuqi point at her and laugh. “Stop it.” Soyeon frowns and snaps her teeth at Yuqi’s pointing finger. “Yuqi and I were thinking of bringing things to make budae-jjigae.” 

“That sounds good, especially when it’s colder at night.” Soojin nods approvingly.

“Of course, we’ll need your culinary expertise to help make it.” Yuqi adds.

“What should I bring?” Shuhua wants to be helpful as well. 

“Drinks and snacks would be good … and instant rice. Don’t forget that.” Soyeon takes charge with the planning.

“Okay.” Shuhua makes a note of things to shop for on her phone.

“The campground we’re going to will have tents and basic things like chairs and tables. We’ll have to get propane canisters, lamps, sleeping bags …” Soojin makes notes aloud. “I’ll make a list and send it to you guys so we can make sure we’re bringing everything.”

“Oh, that’s right. You went last year, right?” Yuqi is happy that they have Soojin, who is both responsible and experienced.

“Yeah, it was my first year. I went with Minnie and Miyeon.” Soojin quietly mentions the two missing members of their group. All four pairs of eyes lower at the same time.

“How is Minnie-unnie doing?” Shuhua turns too Yuqi. “It feels like she’s been avoiding me, too.” Without saying, Minnie is definitely avoiding Miyeon.

Yuqi scratches her ear before shaking her head. “She’s been very quiet, rounds are fine because we just discuss patient treatment. But when we’re in the office together, she only really respond to work questions.”

Soyeon pats Yuqi’s back, knowing how much Yuqi enjoyed talking to Minnie before.  “How’s Miyeon?” She turns to Soojin, knowing that they talk the most. It’s hard to run into Miyeon because she’s over at the Children’s Hospital most of the days. When the eldest doesn’t want to be found, it’s quite hard to find her since none of the other girls know the Children’s Hospital that well.

“She’s fine, or so she said.” Soojin blinks, trying to think of messages from Miyeon. “She said she’s been busy because her attendings are chaperoning the fall trip, so they’ve put her in charge of some of the planning.”

“Oh. She has multiple attendings, too?” Shuhua blinks, she never really ask Miyeon about herself.

“She has two. They alternate every other week.” Soojin nods.

They’ve been missing both of their friends, who are avoiding the group as a whole. They all know that there is something going on between Minnie and Miyeon. But what can they do when both people are refusing to see each other.

“Soojin,” Soyeon looks directly at their current eldest, “what can we do for them?”

Soojin shakes her head, “I’m not sure myself. I’ve been trying to talk to both of them, but they’re being really stubborn.”

“Do you think they will drop out of the fall trip?” Shuhua lowers her eyes, looking a little sad. She wants the whole group to have lots of fun together.

Soojin looks at Yuqi, “Can you talk to Dr. Kim? Minnie will listen to her, ask her to make Minnie go for her own good.”

Yuqi hesitates, thinking whether she could make such a request of Dr. Kim or not. “I’ll ask, I think she’ll do it if it’s for Minnie’s own good.”

“Miyeon is helping plan it and her attendings are chaperoning so definitely she’ll have to go.” Soyeon nods, thinking about the situation some more.

“Two of my attendings are going to be chaperoning, too.” Shuhua adds.

“So what are we thinking? An intervention?” Yuqi looks at all her friends.

“I’m not sure, let’s make that a back up plan?” Soyeon looks at Soojin, as if waiting for her advice.

“Knowing them, they would hate that and it might blow up in our faces … we should divide and conquer first.” Soojin helps strategize.

“I can talk to Minnie-unnie.” Shuhua volunteers for Team Minnie, as expected.

“You two have gotten close very quickly, huh?” Yuqi says with a hint of jealousy, after all, Minnie is her resident.

“So it’s decided, Shuhua and Yuqi will talk to Minnie. Soyeon and I will talk to Miyeon.” Soojin tries to keep the girls on task and also to give Shuhua an out.

“So … Team Korean versus Team Foreigners?” Yuqi asks with a raised brow.

“Not versus, we’re working together … it’s actually us versus Minnie and Miyeon.” Soyeon pats Yuqi’s back again.

Between their four brilliant minds, they’ve decided that they’re going to make sure Minnie and Miyeon get past this awkward time. That’s how lunch goes for most of the rest of the week. They either plan for the trip or talk about how to bring Minnie and Miyeon together.

 

 

“How about this one?” Yuqi holds up a display sleep bag for Soyeon to see. “It looks warm and it packs into a small bundle.”

“Yeah, that looks good. What do you think about this lantern?” Soyeon shows Yuqi her find. “It’s rechargeable by solar power and it’s really bright.”

“I like it. Is one enough?” Yuqi turns the light on, but in a bright store like they are in currently, the brightness is not apparent. 

“I think so, it is five thousand lumens … plus, we still have to buy hiking shoes and food.” Soyeon gently reminds Yuqi about their budget that they both agreed to stick to.

Yuqi’s brows knit together for a moment, as if she’s deciding something, before she nods. “Just one is enough, I want to splurge a little on the shoes.” After all, it’s the first time that she’s been on a camping and hiking trip. She didn’t get a chance to do it when she was little and when she got older, outdoor activities were never on top of her priority list.

“Let’s go look at the shoes?” Soyeon carries the lamp and one of the sleeping bags while Yuqi carries the other. 

Yuqi nods happily and follows Soyeon to the shoes department in the recreation equipment store. They came here because neither has any outdoor equipment to bring on the trip. “If this trip turns out well, we can go often since it’s cooler now?” 

“Mhm.” Soyeon nods by not really paying attention. 

“You know? We can turn into outdoorsy people, like living off the land and everything.” Yuqi verbalizes her day dream.

“Uh huh.” Soyeon picks up a random thing here or there as she walks through the store. 

“You can explore places we haven’t been before, there’s so much to see. We could learn to mountain climb …” Yuqi continues.

“That’s cool …” Soyeon holds up a mosquito lamp. 

“Are you listening to me?” Yuqi gently hits Soyeon on the arm.

Suddenly Soyeon drops her arm as if it is going limp, “Ahhh …” Soyeon hisses as if she’s been gravely injured and she’s holding her arm close to her body while moving away from Yuqi, “I can’t move my arm.”

Yuqi is surprised at first, but then rolls her eyes and folds her arms across her chest. “Dramatic much?”

“I don’t think I’ll be able to be a surgeon anymore, Yuqi-ah.” Soyeon hisses and swings her arm back and forth as if it is broken. “I can’t feel it.”

“Okay, you can stop now. I didn’t even hit you that hard!” Yuqi laughs and pokes Soyeon’s arm. “Are you that brittle?”

“Ouch!” Soyeon pretends to be hurt by the poke. “I think you just broke a bone.” 

Yuqi laughs loudly and shakes her head, “Why are you like this?”

Soyeon grins when she’s able to make Yuqi laugh and shrugs before moving on to the shoe section.

“What? That was it?” Yuqi follows Soyeon and smacks her in the butt with the sleeping bag bundle.

“I’m not dramatic like you, Yuqi-ah.” Soyeon holds up a pair of shoes, “How do you feel about these?”

“Eh … no.” Yuqi shakes her head, “Those don’t look good.”

“What? They look just fine.” Soyeon puts the shoes back down and pouts. “You never listen to me.”

“Omo, don’t try to coerce me into liking those.” Yuqi walks past the pair that Soyeon had picked and looks around at some other brands.

“I never coerce you.” Soyeon follows Yuqi around.

“Right, you just forcefully choose for me.” Yuqi points at a pair that she likes.

“Those are expensive.” Soyeon taps on the price.

“But it’s worth it if I don’t get a blister or something …” Yuqi looks more closely at the expensive ones.

“But it’s almost twice as expensive as the pair I showed you.” Soyeon argues.

“But these have better ankle support than the ones you showed me.” Yuqi lists a pro for the argument’s sake.

“But not twice the amount of support for the price.” Soyeon retorts.

They go back and forth for a little while before one of the store’s staff came by to check on them due to the volume of their voices. Eventually, Yuqi relents and gets the cheaper pair as suggested by Soyeon. With the money that they save, Soyeon said she can pick up one miscellaneous thing that she likes. In the end, Yuqi is a happy girl nonetheless.

 

 

“Is this going to be enough?” Soojin checks off the boxes on her packing list. She checks it twice as she takes inventory of everything she has laid across her kitchen counter.

“There’s enough meat here to feed six people …” Soojin notes.

“There’s enough rice to feed at least eight people …” Soojin remembers how much Shuhua loves rice. “But is that enough?” She asks no one in particular.

“I’ve got her favorite watermelon drink, too.” Soojin pats the pack of drinks.

Soojin makes sure none of the food item contains strawberries, Shuhua’s least favorite food.

“Wait a minute …” Soojin pauses and frowns to herself, “why do I care what she likes or not?” 

She puts her pen and paper down, “Have I gone crazy?”

“Oh no no no …” Soojin holds her head in her hands and shakes vigorously, “Wake up, Soojin. Get a grip of yourself!”

 

 

“Stripes or no stripes?” Shuhua looks between the two items in her hands. “No stripes or stripes?” She repeats for the umpteenth time.

“Miss …” A young man walks up to her, he’s wearing the store’s uniform, “May I be of assistance?”

Shuhua looks at him for a moment then shakes her head, “Not unless you’re Seo Soojin.”

“Um …” The young man is thoroughly confused.

“Or unless you can tell me which she’d prefer.” Shuhua continues to compare and contrast the two items, no longer paying any attention to the store attendant.

The young man looks back to his supervisor with a difficult expression. His supervisor, a middle aged woman, is signaling for him to help Shuhua quickly because she’s inconveniencing other customers. Shuhua has been standing there asking herself the same question for almost fifteen minutes. However, the young man shrugs with his hands up because Shuhua has chosen to ignore him. His supervisor shakes her head and points him to a pair of customers, who are debating between hiking shoes.

“Stripes or no stripes?” Shuhua takes longer to decide this than when she decide between patient treatment plans.

 

 

“Just be cool, Miyeon … take a deep breath … don’t look over there …” Miyeon repeats the mantra to herself. She keeps her head high and her strides quick as she makes her way through the Main Hospital. She could see Minnie out the corner of her eyes, but she’s refusing to acknowledge that presence.

Miyeon has been avoiding the group, especially Minnie, for the better part of two weeks. Not that Miyeon is trying to be rude to her friends, but it’s all more than she can handle right now with her patient load and her part in planning for the fall trip. Miyeon is overloading herself with work and tasks so she wouldn’t have to deal with her complicated feelings.

After deciding that she’s important too, Miyeon continues to not look in the direction of Minnie. She knows that one look and those dark eyes will pull her back in. Miyeon promises herself that she’s not going to get trapped by those soulful eyes and adorable smiles anymore. If Minnie wants her, Minnie will have to appreciate and initiate. “I’m important, too.” Miyeon repeats and continues her model strut toward her destination.

 

 

“Don’t engage, Minnie … let her calm down first … this isn’t the time nor place …” Minnie’s stubborn eyes continue to follow Miyeon. It definitely doesn’t help that Miyeon looks so good strutting across the hospital lobby like it’s a catwalk. Look at the way her loose, tussled waves are flowing and bouncing behind her. Look at how her hips sway in that pencil skirt. Look at … “Stop looking, Minnie.” She tells herself.

Sharply, Minnie turns on her heels and looks away, but unable to walk away. She’s been avoiding the group, especially Miyeon, for the better part of two weeks. Not that Minnie is a coward for avoiding this awkward situation, but there’s a lot of self-conflict in her thoughts right now. She knows that she should apologize, but she doesn’t feel like she need to apologize. There is nothing wrong with wanting to work on her own problems first, Minnie wouldn’t want to drag Miyeon into her complicated issues and possibly jeopardizing their friendship. But, Minnie knows that she’s hurt Miyeon deeply and that makes her feel ashamed.

The other girls have been contacting Minnie constantly, but other than Yuqi, she has made minimal attempt to talk to them. This is why Minnie doesn’t like to make friends during residency. People leave after residency anyways. Not everyone will stay here at CUBE. Why make friends and go through this complicated mess, if they’re going to leave later? “You’re stronger than this.” Minnie tells herself that she can make it through all this.

 

 

“Good morning, Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua chirps happily as she meets Soojin by her car. She’s dressed warmly in outdoor clothing.

“Good morning.” Soojin smiles slightly before getting out of the driver’s seat to open the tailgate for Shuhua’s luggage.

“This is not your usual car.” Shuhua makes her observation as she loads the back with her things. Soojin is currently driving a bright yellow Jeep instead of her sports car.

“I borrowed it from … uh … a friend.” Soojin seems to deliberate on her words. “For the trip.” She closes the gate before getting back into the vehicle with Shuhua riding shotgun.

“I like it, I’ve never been in a Jeep before … and this is perfect for a camping trip.” Shuhua fastens her seatbelt before turning to stare at driver Soojin. 

Soojin is pretending not to notice the stare as she scrolls through her messages to get the address for Yuyeon’s apartment. Since she is the current eldest and the only person with a driver’s license out of the four, Soojin has been designated as the driver. Soojin enjoys driving so she doesn’t complain about the assignment. It’s nice having the girls in one car, hopefully they’ll like her music choices. Soojin has always been sensitive about her music choices when it comes to her riders. Minnie was always about the sad songs. Miyeon liked the pop tunes. Soojin prefers a nice mixture. Shuhua doesn’t seem to have any complaint as they travel toward Yuyeon’s apartment. In fact, she seems to be bobbing along to the beat while staring out the window instead of Soojin for a change.

“Oooh … I like this song.” Yuqi compliments as she gets into the car while Soyeon finish loading their things into the back. 

“Thanks for driving, Soojin.” Soyeon shows her gratitude with a gentle pat on Soojin’s shoulder.

“No problem.” Soojin looks back to see that both Yuqi and Soyeon are buckled in. “Alright, looks like it’ll be about two hours to the campground. If you guys want to change music or have a bathroom stop, let me know.” She’s a pretty good car-hostess after all.

“Aye aye, captain!” Yuqi’s loud voice cuts above the music.

Soyeon does a slight salute and smiles, “Cap’n.”

Soojin rolls her eyes while Shuhua giggles. The youngest turns around and looks at her friends, “You guys are acting more and more alike now that you live together.”

“That’s not … well, yeah.” Soyeon started to disagree but then changes her mind.

“Yeah, you guys are totally giving off the old married couple vibe.” Shuhua pushes it just a tiny bit, making Soyeon give her a signature Soyeon-side-eye.

“Yah. How could you be so rude?” Yuqi smacks that back of Shuhua’s seat. “We aren’t that old.” 

Soojin grins at Yuqi’s inadvertent admission that they are like a couple.

The start of the drive is pretty relaxing. Soojin is chilling to her music and answering to questions or comments pertaining to her. She enjoys her drive more once she gets out of the city and onto the highway. Shuhua is talking with Yuqi between variety of topics from music to movies to TV shows. Soyeon jumps in when she feels like it, but most of the times she has one earphone in. 

“So how’d  Dr. Kim make Minnie-unnie come on the trip?” Shuhua looks back at Yuqi through the rearview mirror. “She finally replied to me yesterday that she’s coming.” 

Yuqi smiles knowingly and savors the knowledge that only she knows. “Oh … well …” She drags out the answer and looks around the car, seeing if everyone is giving her their attention. “You see, Dr. Kim said that she would make sure Minnie would sit out on surgeries for the rest of her year. It’s not true you know? She’s too nice to enforce that, but I think it scared Minnie.”

Everyone is silent for a few seconds before Soyeon pipes up, “That’s it?” She paused her music for this?

“Well … yeah?” Yuqi turns to her friend, “It’s very important to a neurosurgeon like Minnie, okay?”

Soyeon’s eyebrows rise up as her eyes widen, “Okay … you dragged it out like you had something good to tell.” 

Shuhua nods. “Yeah, like it was at least interesting or funny.”

“What? It’s interesting!” Yuqi helplessly looks between her friends, who all seem bored with her story. “You guys are the worst.”

Soojin smiles at Yuqi’s attempt to look mad, her cheeks just puff out and her lips just pout a tiny bit, she looks so much like a squirrel. The younger women teases Yuqi some more before they start to bicker between each other. Soojin wonders if this is what motherhood feels like because she’s living the minivan and soccer mom life right now. Between Soojin’s daydreaming and listening to the girls, their destination arrived before they knew it. “Look at that, not even one pit stop.” Soojin says as she slams the door closed on her side.

“Oooh … so many cars already.” Yuqi hops out of the Jeep and looks around.

“It’s so pretty here.” Shuhua pulls out her phone to take a picture of the scenery.

“It looks just like the pictures.” Soyeon refers to the pictures on the pamphlets that they received.

The crisp autumn air is refreshingly chilly in the early morning. The campground is part of the Seoraksan National Park. Its current state is a stunning display of a myriad of autumn colors. Within the national park, there are Buddhist temples and many great hiking trails. This is one of its busier seasons as the temperature drops to a pleasant degree and the trees are changing their wardrobe. Fallen leaves and gravel crunch beneath Soojin’s boots with each steps she takes. “I’ll go check us in.” The current eldest announces as she sticks her hands into her jacket.

“I’ll come with you, Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua volunteers and hurries to hook her arm with Soojin’s.

“I … guess we’ll unload the car …” Soyeon looks at the departing figures then up at the top of the Jeep, where the cargo rack is also loaded with luggage and items. “How am I going to get up there?” Soyeon tilts her head back and balks at the feat. Being the shortest person in most situation has its disadvantages sometimes.

“Don’t worry, Soyeonnie. We’ve got this.” Yuqi cheerfully grabs Soyeon’s shoulders and give her a gentle shake. “I’ll give you a boost.”

“Go away, Yuqi-ah. You’re giving me shaken brain syndrome.” Soyeon pretends to pull away from Yuqi, only to be pulled back against the taller woman.

“I’m basically give you a shoulder rub.” Yuqi laughs and shakes Soyeon some more.

“Ah … you’re hurting me.” Soyeon pretends that Yuqi’s touch is anything but gentle and playful.

When Soojin and Shuhua come back to the Jeep, they find that their two friends are still playing and nothing has been unloaded from the car.

 

 

 Currently, the group is at the base camp ground that has many trails leading up or around the mountain. The main HQ tent is a big, white almost dome sitting near the parking lot for everyone to check in. There are several volunteers as well as the four chaperone attendings to make sure things run smoothly and efficiently. The schedule is to start with a short hike to one of the upper campgrounds and rest there for the night. In the morning, they will make a longer hike around a lake before making their way back down to the base campground. The group is responsible for carrying smaller packs and things up the trail. Bulkier items or luggage will be portered by vans and trucks to the next destination for them.

“Hey! You guys made it.” Miyeon comes up to the girls after they’ve finished unloading their things. She’s holding a clipboard in her hands. “How was the drive?”

The four women exchange looks for a split second before they nod at Miyeon. “It was good.” Soojin replies with a small smile.

“Yah, you ignored us for like two weeks and now you’re acting like nothing happened?” That wasn’t supposed to happen. Shuhua is not one to pretend, though.

Miyeon’s cheeks deepen into a crimson color while she shakes head, “That’s not true. I wasn’t avoiding you guys.” Well, half-true since she was avoiding them in conjunction with a certain someone.

“We know.” Soojin tries to cut in before Shuhua say something else that might be harsher. “But it hurts still.”

“I’m sorry.” Miyeon lowers her gaze, she’d expected them to be mad but not this mad. She’d thought that they’d understand.

“Just don’t do it again.” Soyeon smiles as she comes up to Miyeon. “We missed you, that’s all. Right, Shuhua?”

Shuhua pouts before shrugging. “No. I didn’t miss Miyeon at all.” She replies in true Shuhua fashion, causing Miyeon to half smile.

“When did you get here, Miyeon?” Yuqi changes the subject.

“Since yesterday.” Miyeon is thankful for cheerful Yuqi and thoughtful Soyeon. “Since my attendings are in charge, along with two of Shuhua’s attendings, I had to come up early to make sure things are in place.”

“Oh, where’s your stuff?” Yuqi looks around the campground. 

“I’m set up near the HQ tent right now.” Miyeon points at the biggest tent around, it looks more like a yurt. “We have first aid, information, and some emergency supplies in there if you need anything. My tent is a few steps to the right of it. I have to go pack up in a little bit. But if you need extra items or something, I can hook you up.”

“Don’t try to bribe us, Cho Miyeon.” Soojin gives her a slight side-eye as Miyeon tries to hug her.

“Yah. Watch where you’re touching.” Shuhua rushes to Soojin’s side to push Miyeon away.

“No no. Bribe away.” Yuqi rushes to make a dramatic motion to hug Miyeon, “I love to be bribed.” 

“Ouch, watch me hair … Yuqi you’re pulling my hair!” Shuhua yells, temporary deafening both Soojin and Miyeon who are closest to her. Somehow Shuhua’s hair has gotten caught between Yuqi’s fingers in Yuqi’s haste to hug Miyeon.

“Ooops, sorry.” Yuqi sheepishly smiles and pulls away from Miyeon, pretending like she didn’t do anything wrong. She shakes Shuhua’s hair loose from her hand before returning to where she was standing.

Soyeon chuckles and watches the group gets all tangled up. A movement at the corner of her eyes cause her to turn her head to look at Minnie, who’s watching with a blank expression. Soyeon smiles brightly, stepping forward and making an attempt to call out to Minnie. However, before the words could leave her lips, she sees Minnie turn around and walk the other way. A frown quickly replaces her smile and she turns back to her squabbling friends, but none have noticed the presence of the other woman. “Arrgh.” Soyeon frustratingly scratches her head and tousles her hair. 

 

 

“Alright, listen up people.” A loud voice rise above the cacophony of voices, causing everyone to quickly quiet down. All the residents have gathered out in front of the large HQ yurt for a quick welcoming session. In front of the tent stand four people, attendings to be exact.

“My name is Ahn Hyejin. This is Jung Wheein.” A dark haired woman with sharp cheek bones motions between herself and a blue haired woman. “We’re from the pediatric oncology department.” She stops and turns to the other two woman.

“My name is Kim Hyoyeon. This is Kwon Yuri.” A platinum haired woman with foreign features motions between herself and a tan dark haired woman. “We’re from the general surgery  department.” She looks at Dr. Ahn before nodding. “We’re going to be chaperoning this year’s fall camping and hiking trip.”

“The purpose of this trip is not to vacation, but to build interdisciplinary teamwork between surgical and medical residents as well as between departments.” Dr. Jung motions toward Miyeon. “In addition to us four, Cho Miyeon will be our resident liaison.”

“So go find her if you have any question or problem.” Dr. Kwon nods and points to Miyeon as well, causing people to chuckle softly. 

“She’s not kidding. We’re only here to chaperon, you all are medical professional and grown adults. So don’t expect us to hold your hands through everything. Find Miyeon first. We’re your last resort.” Dr. Kim makes it clear for everyone.

Dr. Jung motions to Miyeon, who starts handing out group assignment, causing everyone to audibly groan.

“What did we just tell you?” Dr. Ahn raises her voice again, “This is to build interdisciplinary teamwork, so you’ll be paired with someone not within your specialty. If you’re looking to just vacation with your friends, then I’ll be happy to send you home and call all your chiefs to explain what happened.” This is a lady who doesn’t have time or patience for whining. She takes care of sick children, grown adults will have to be more impressive than this.

“Look over the group assignments. You’re partnered in groups of two or three, so find your partners. Whenever you’re ready you can leave, we will space the groups in two to three minutes intervals to not crowd the trail.” Dr. Kwon closes the welcoming speech and dismisses everyone to find their partners.

 

 

“What? No!” There is a loud protest coming from Shuhua, causing everyone to look in her direction. Unabashed, Shuhua turns to Soojin to show her the group assignment sheet. “We’re not together, Soojin-unnie!”

Soojin looks at her with minor interest before putting one arm around Yuqi’s shoulders, “Right. Because Yuqi and I are together.” Shuhua screams in exasperation while Yuqi puts her hands on her cheeks.

“Soojin-unnie, please be gentle with me.” Yuqi plays up the timid act.

“I’ll take good care of you, Yuqi-ah.” Soojin points to her backpack. “I’ve brought a lot of good snacks for us to share.” Now she’s going out of her way to make Shuhua want to kill Yuqi.

“Don’t worry, Shuhua-ah.” Miyeon comes up to the group with her sweet smile plastered on. “I’ll take even better care of you.”

“AHHHHH!” Shuhua loudly and angrily screams. “Not you!”

“Yah, why are you being so mean?” Miyeon tries to catch the escaping Shuhua, who is running circles around the other girls.

Once again, Soyeon is the only one not participating in the wildness. She looks at the way that Soojin’s arm is casually resting on Yuqi’s shoulders, but she doesn’t say anything. Instead, she searches the document in her hand to find that she’s been partnered with Minnie, who is actually walking up to her right now.

“Hey.” Minnie says casually. She has on the same double braids that she had from Halloween, minus the spikes. Maybe it’s because Minnie has long legs, but she looks extra sporty in her outdoor clothes. Right now, she’s ignoring the crazy chase that is happening not too far away from them. Nobody else has noticed her yet since they are being obnoxiously loud right now.

“Hi.” Soyeon waves to Minnie. “Long time no see.”

“Yeah, it’s been a minute.” Minnie tries to smile, but immediately she could feel four pairs of eyes on her. Taking a deep breath, she turns around and waves at the other four women. “Hiya.”

They look at each other then at Minnie again. Shuhua is the first to come up and give Minnie a hug. “I’ve missed you, Minnie-unnie.”

Soojin waves at Minnie while Yuqi come up to push Shuhua out of the way. “She’s mine!”

“Yah! You already got Soojin-unnie!” Shuhua pushes back, not enough to hurt Yuqi.

“But she’s my resident.” Yuqi greedily hugs Minnie’s arm to her chest. “Mine!”

“Ugh! I can’t stand you right now!” Shuhua pouts and stomps right back to Miyeon, who is giving Minnie the cold shoulder. 

Minnie, knowing that she’s getting the frozen treatment, smiles at Soojin before turning back to Soyeon. “I’m ready to go when you are.” 

Soyeon is giving Minnie the strangest of look when Minnie’s words snap her out of her reverie. “Yes, we can all head out together.” 

Yuqi lets go of Minnie’s arm and pouts. “But I’m not ready to let you go yet.”

Minnie laughs and pinches Yuqi’s cheek. “We’ll see each other later, Yuqs. Let me borrow your Soyeon for a little bit, okay?”

Yuqi and Soyeon blushes as they glance at each other. They make little small waves and mouths ‘good luck’ to each other.

“Shuhua and I are going ahead.” Miyeon suddenly announces before scooping up her things. She grabs Shuhua’s hand and drags the younger woman along.

“Omo omo, let me get my stuff, lady …” Shuhua protests and grabs her things as she is dragged along. “I’ll miss you, Soojin-unnie!” She cries and turns back to look at Soojin. “Don’t miss me too much …”

Soojin laughs as Shuhua dramatically blows kisses her way. She turns to Yuqi, who’s still clinging to Minnie, “Let’s go Yuqi-ah.”

“Yes ma’am!” Yuqi salutes to her captain again before getting her things. “Minnie, Soyeon. You guys be careful out there.” 

“We’ll be right behind you, so don’t worry too much about it.” Soyeon waves as Soojin and Yuqi pass them by. When everyone has gone, she turns back to Minnie. “Let’s go, then?”

“Yeah.” Minnie smiles and nods before they both head out together.

It’s not a bad pairing for Minnie. She is in the mood to enjoy nature instead of talking right now. If anything, she feels bad for quiet Soojin to be stuck with her talkative intern. Lord knows that Yuqi can talk people’s ears off. She’s also definitely glad that she’s not partnered with Miyeon, but maybe Miyeon had planned it that way. They wait a few minutes after Soojin and Yuqi had left before starting up on the trailhead. 

“Ahem …” Soyeon clears her throat as if she wants to say something.

Minnie looks over to the younger woman walking beside her. Soyeon has a beanie on, her short platinum hair peeking out beneath the woven cap. She looks smaller than usual since she’s carrying a large pack on her back. “If you want to say something, go ahead and say it.”

Soyeon looks at Minnie, whose bangs have grown to almost cover her eyes. “I was wondering how your drive up here was?” Soyeon usually doesn’t have a chance to speak with Minnie. If things had happened according to plans, it would be either Miyeon or Soojin with Minnie instead of her. 

“It was good.” Minnie answers and continues along the trail, which is ascending slowly. She drove up here alone, so it was a peaceful and quiet drive. 

“I see …” Soyeon is definitely not the person to do this job. “I rode with Yuqi, Shuhua, and Soojin here. Soojin drove.”

“Yeah, she’s the only one with the license.” Minnie nods.

“Yeah, since Miyeon came yesterday with her attendings.” Soyeon is sure to stare at Minnie after mentioning the unmentionable person.

“…” Minnie doesn’t respond. Instead she keeps walking, leaves and rocks crunching under her footsteps. 

Soyeon drops the topic for now. She’s trying to formulate another way to approach it without putting Minnie off.

 

 

“How do you think the other people are doing?” Yuqi offers some trail mix to Soojin. 

Soojin politely waves the snack off before shrugging, “I don’t know. It’s hard to tell with Minnie and Soyeon since they aren’t that close. No doubt Shuhua is being mean to Miyeon right now.”

Yuqi chuckles at Soojin’s estimation. “Sounds about right.” 

“How are you and Soyeon doing living together?” Soojin asks as she climbs some steps.

“We’re doing well, since we get along. She’s not the tidiest of people, but she’s not dirty or anything.”

“You guys do get along very well, ever since we first met I thought you guys were very close.” Soojin points at a tree root that’s sticking out so Yuqi wouldn’t trip on it.

“You could say that she’s my best friend. I’m lucky to have her working and living with me. Funny thing is I don’t get tired of her even if we’re together almost twenty-four-seven.” Yuqi chuckles and makes sure to avoid that tree root.

“Is there room for something more between you guys?” Soojin asks, but doesn’t look back at Yuqi.

Yuqi hesitates, watching Soojin’s back as the older woman walk further away. It takes a few moments for Soojin to realize that Yuqi is not following her. She turns back to a very confused looking Yuqi.

“What do you mean by that?” Yuqi asks with a small scowl.

Soojin curses herself for getting involved. This is not the couple she is meant to intervene for, but since she’s here she thought might as well give them a little push. She tells herself that she really should have minded her own business. “Um … you and Soyeon … I think you guys are cute together.”

“We’re friends.” Yuqi replies.

“I know. It was just me wondering out loud … you can disregard it.” Soojin shakes her head, “I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Okay. Don’t let Soyeon hear that, I don’t want it to be awkward between us.” Yuqi has a serious side that appears once in a while. As she nears Soojin, she goes around the older woman to take the lead instead. “She’s really important to me.”

Soojin wants to point that out and put up neon signs of that being a reason why they could be more than friends. But, she’s done enough for the time being and she’s only got enough energy for one intervention on this trip. Soojin follows Yuqi for a few steps, noting the footing in front of her. Yuqi is walking rather quickly through the rocky terrain, making Soojin want to remind her to watch her steps.

“Yuqi …” As soon as the name leaves Soojin’s lips, Yuqi yelps as she falls to the ground. 

“Ouch!” Yuqi hisses and looks at her hands, which are scraped by the rocks. 

“Hey, I gotchu.” Soojin kneels next to her and looks over her hands. “Can you stand?”

Yuqi takes a deep breath and tries to stand, but there is a sharp pain shooting up from her right ankle, causing her to fall back down again. Tears form in her eyes as she shakes her head, “I think I twisted my ankle.”

“I’ll call for help … let’s scoot to the side and sit on this big rock here. I’ll take a look at it first.” Soojin helps Yuqi lift up and put weight on her left side instead.

 

 

“Wait for me, Shuhua.” Miyeon huffs as she tries to keep up with the stomping girl about ten feet ahead of her.

“No.” Shuhua childishly replies and turns around to frown at Miyeon. “You better keep up, Miyeon.”

“I’m trying, but you’re basically running on the trail.” Miyeon tries a take a deep breath to calm her racing heartbeats.

“I didn’t ask for you to be my partner.” Shuhua retorts, not even looking back this time.

“I know, but we’re still partners so be nicer to me.” Miyeon tries to reason with Shuhua, who becomes extra childish when she’s with Miyeon.

“You did this to yourself. I wanted to be with Soojin-unnie, but since you helped plan this whole thing you partnered yourself with me.” Shuhua is smarter than she acts sometimes. “Isn’t that right?”

Miyeon is at a loss for words, she didn’t think that Shuhua would figure it out or call her out so quickly. “So? You can stand to be apart from Soojin for a day or two.”

“That’s not the point, Miyeon.” Shuhua whips around, “you just wanted to avoid Minnie-unnie. So you decided to partner with me and that keeps me from hiking with Soojin-unnie. That’s selfish.” She’s not afraid to call it like it is.

Miyeon’s throat is stuck, she doesn’t know how to respond to that and her voice is at a loss. Her eyes begin to burn, maybe from the sun-sensitivity that she always had or maybe from the tears that are free flowing from her eyes. “Fine, I’m selfish. I’m a coward for wanting to avoid Minnie right now and I don’t want Soojin to talk to me about her, so I partnered myself with you. I thought you would understand.”

Seeing Miyeon cry makes Shuhua’s anger suddenly dissipate. She tilts her head back and sighs loudly. “I do understand, but I was really looking forward to hiking with Soojin-unnie.” With a big dramatic slump forward, Shuhua motions for Miyeon to follow her. “C’mon, I don’t want people to think that I’m being mean to you.” As if on cue, a pair of hikers come into view from around the bend. They must have been walking extra fast to pass the four other women.

“But you are being mean to me.” Miyeon sniffles and wipes her eyes with the back of her hands, making them redder and puffier. “I just wanted a freaking break.”

“Hey … hey …” Shuhua rushes to Miyeon’s side while the other hikers pretend to not notice them. “Uh … she’s got allergies … everything’s fine.” Shuhua awkwardly laughs but the strangers seem to only walk a little faster.

“No. Everything’s not fine.” Miyeon bawls louder.

“Okay. Okay. I got it.” Shuhua reaches for Miyeon’s hands, not allowing her to rub her eyes anymore. “I’m sorry I was mean to you okay?”

“You’re just saying it.” Miyeon turns away from Shuhua, as if she’s making it more difficult now that Shuhua has apologized.

“Ugh. You’re impossible.” Shuhua gripes. She starts to apologize again, but the notification tone from hers and Miyeon’s phones draw her attention to a message that Soojin’s sent to their group. “Oh … Yuqi twisted her ankle.” 

“What? Is she okay?” Miyeon sniffles and pulls her phone out to read for herself.

“Soojin called for help already, but I think we should go back to them.” Shuhua puts her phone in her pocket. 

“Yeah, that’s a good idea. I’ll let our chaperones know.” Miyeon says between sniffles, somehow distracted from her tears already.

“Okay. Here … have some water. All that crying is dehydrating.” Shuhua grabs Miyeon’s water bottle from Miyeon’s backpack and hands it to the older woman.

“Thank you.” Miyeon smiles a little. “See? It’s not so hard. You should’ve been nice from the start.” She opens the bottle and takes a little sip.

“Whatever.” Shuhua rolls her eyes, but when Miyeon rushes up to hold hands with her, she doesn’t resist.

 

 

“Let me see it.” Soyeon kneels down next to Yuqi. After she and Minnie received the group message, they hurried to meet with Soojin and Yuqi on the trail.

“Soojin’s looked it already, it’s swollen … ouch …” Yuqi hisses when Soyeon tries to move the joint even just a little in her examination.

“I’m sorry.” Soyeon’s face is full of concern.

“I can find some branches and fashion a splint … like in the movies.” Minnie suddenly suggests. She points to Yuqi’s shirt. “Can I tear your shirt into strips of bandages?”

“Yah!” Yuqi looks up at Minnie with her mouth wide open. “How can you make fun of me in this situation?”

Minnie looks down at Yuqi with a wide grin before patting Yuqi’s head. “I’m just messing with you, Yuqirin. I have some NSAIDs, do you want it?”

“No!” Yuqi swats Minnie’s hand from her head. “You made fun of me.” 

Soojin studies Minnie’s smile, it’s the kind of silliness that she is used to from Minnie. It’s nice to see that smile again. She reads the new reply from emergency services. “They said they’re on the way and should be here in fifteen minutes.”

Soyeon nods and gently pats Yuqi’s back. “I can’t believe that you injured yourself at the very beginning of this weekend.”

“It’s not my fault. I didn’t ask the tree roots and rocks to be in my way.” Yuqi pouts and argues unreasonably. 

Minnie smiles down at her pitiful intern before she catches Soojin looking at her. She stares back at her friend, only to earn an annoyed look and a “What?!” in response. As Minnie start to reply, she catches sight of Shuhua and Miyeon coming down from the upper trail. They’re holding hands.

“Why are they holding hands?” Yuqi verbalizes the knee-jerking reaction that both Soojin and Minnie share.

“Must’ve been a rewarding hike.” Soyeon chuckles as the two newcomers arrive at the group meet.

“Hey, how’s Yuqi doing?” Shuhua smiles at Soojin first, letting go of Miyeon’s hand when they come close.

“It’s bad, has to be amputated.” Soojin says without missing a beat, causing Yuqi to yell in protest. Grinning wickedly, Soojin continues. “You’re going to have to do it for her.” 

Shuhua laughs and shakes her head. “No thanks, I might cut off the wrong foot … then she would have none.” 

“I am NOT dead people. I am SUFFERING, though!” Yuqi desperately wants to get up to fight both Shuhua and Soojin, but Soyeon wraps her arm around Yuqi’s shoulders to keep the younger woman calm.

“What happened to your eyes?” Soojin asks while Minnie continues to stare at Miyeon’s red, puffy eyes.

“Allergies.” Miyeon smiles weakly and turns toward Yuqi, ignoring Minnie. “I hope they don’t try to take my eyes for that.”

A soft chuckle escape Shuhua’s lips, which is strange because she doesn’t usual find Miyeon very funny.

“You all don’t have to stay with me. I’ll be okay waiting for emergency services if you want to continue your hike to the next camp.” Yuqi tries to be strong in front of her tormenters. 

“I can stay with her.” Soyeon quickly adds. Yuqi shakes her head and tries to protest, but Soyeon cuts her off. “What if there are bears or wolves? It’s not safe to be alone out here.” Yuqi closes her mouth quickly before nodding shyly. “Okay …”

“No, we’re all staying here with you.” Shuhua decides, but her eyes look around at the older women for approval. When she gets the green light, she smiles happily as if she did something really good.

Yuqi looks at everyone before nodding again. “Thank you.”

They all stand around the trail for a little bit, explaining to passerby that they are okay and are in fact not congregating or loitering. Miyeon makes sure to stand as far away from Minnie as possible, still rubbing her eyes but now because of the dust and pollen. Soojin and Shuhua play fights as usual. Yuqi and Soyeon sits besides each other and talk about what they want to do for the rest of the trip. Before long, emergency service shows up as an older man with a black horse. He gives Yuqi the choices of going to the next camp or returning to base camp and going back home. Of course, Yuqi gets to ride the horse either way. Soyeon says she will stay with Yuqi no matter what. Soojin offers to take Yuqi home to rest, but Yuqi says she wants to continue on horseback as to not ruin the trip for both Soyeon and Soojin. After a lot of deliberation, they all agree with her. The older man leaves them with the horse and goes back to base camp.

“Doesn’t this horse remind you of someone?” Yuqi asks from her saddle.

“Who?” Soyeon asks without really looking at the horse even though she’s leading it.

“Minnie, with her bangs.” Yuqi laughs before she even finishes the sentence. In truth, the black horse does have very thick bangs between its ears.

“Yah! You want to die?” Minnie yells and pretends to try to pull Yuqi off the saddle. “Come down here so I can break your other ankle, too.”

Shuhua laughs but pulls Minnie off a screaming Yuqi. “Unnie, it’s okay. She’ll suffer more when it swell up more, don’t worry.”

Yuqi yells some more things at everyone, causing the group to laugh. They manage to keep their high spirit despite this major set back. No one wants to walk behind the horse because it leaves droppings quite frequently.

 

 

When they get to the upper campground, everyone else has arrived and picked out all the good spots for their tents. Fortunately, the girls are left with a plot of land that is actually enough for all their tents, it just doesn’t have a great view. They set up the tents rather quickly since the older women are experienced campers. Everyone has their own task to get lunch ready. Soojin and Miyeon are in charge of grilling the meat. Shuhua and Minnie are in charge of making soup from the instant package. Soyeon is in charge of setting the table and cooking the instant rice. Yuqi has to keep her foot elevated and rested.

Soojin coughs as smoke starts to billow up from the lit charcoal. Miyeon tries to fan the smoke away from her sensitive eyes, but they start to water again. Shuhua and Minnie are measuring out ingredients and chopping up vegetables. Soyeon is having no trouble making the rice at all. After setting the table, Soyeon goes over to Yuqi and sit next to her friend. 

“I like the smoky smell of the grill.” Yuqi smiles at Soyeon, who is examining her now blue-ish ankle.

“Mhm.” Soyeon nods as her brows knit together in concern. “Are you hurting anywhere else?”

“Why? Are you going to kiss my booboo?” The words slip from Yuqi’s mouth before she realized what she just said.

Blushing, Soyeon shakes her head, “No. I’m just checking in case you’re not noticing it right now due to the ankle pain.” 

“Thank you.” They both blush deeply and lower their heads in unison.

Shuhua nudges Minnie, who turns to her with a questioning look, and juts her chin toward Yuyeon’s direction. “They’re cute together.” She whispers softly enough for Minnie to hear.

Minnie chuckles and nods along. “Yeah, they are.” 

Shuhua grins and winks at Minnie, “It’ll just be a matter of time.”

Minnie nods again before Miyeon’s gaze catches her eyes. She straightens her back and looks at Miyeon, who quickly turns away as if their eyes never met in the first place. “The smoke seems to be bothering them …” She points to the grilling team, who are coughing and rubbing their eyes.

“Yeah, I’ll see if they want me to take over …” Shuhua, the youngest, is trying to be the most gallant.

“Okay, let me know if they want to switch. We can take over for them.” Minnie takes pity on Miyeon’s red, irritated eyes.

Shuhua nods and goes over to the grilling team. “Hey. Do you guys want to switch? Minnie and I can take over.”

Soojin shakes her head but then immediately starts to cough. “I don’t know what kind of charcoal this is, it’s really smokey … it’s okay though. I got it … Miyeon, you can switch with Shuhua if you’d like.” She looks at Miyeon full of concern.

Miyeon’s eyes are bright eye in the pupils and around the edges. She could barely keep her eyes open. She alternates between squeezing them shut and rubbing at her eyes. “I’m okay …” She says with little confidence. 

Shuhua turns back to Minnie with a face of concern. She nods toward stubborn Miyeon, who continues to fan at the coal since the fire is not big enough for the grill yet. Shuhua’s eyes communicate a sense of urgency to Minnie, causing the older woman to reluctantly nod. After taking a deep breath full of confidence and courage, Minnie marches right up to Miyeon, who squints at her with surprise. Minnie reaches for Miyeon’s hand and pull the older woman away from the grill to the surprise of everyone in witness. 

“C’mon, let’s go to the faucet to wash your eyes.” Minnie pulls Miyeon along, not giving the older woman a chance to protest. Luckily, Miyeon is too vision impaired to be in a position to argue.

“Huh.” Shuhua smiles and turns to Soojin.

“Huh.” Soojin smiles back at her before starting to cough again. “My meat is going to be ruined by this cursed smoke.”

“Don’t worry, Soojin-unnie. I’m sure your meat is going to be delicious.” Shuhua compliments with a waggle of eyebrows and a wink.

“Yah!” Soojin curls her fist at the younger woman. “Go make your soup before I use this grill on you.”

Shuhua laughs and goes back to her own task.

To the side, Yuqi turns to Soyeon and nudges her, “They’re cute together.” To which, Soyeon nods wholeheartedly.

 

 

“You can let go of my hand now.” Miyeon states as she hear the faucet turn on. It’s just a faucet to the side of a small building used to store supplies. They have buckets and things nearby for campers to have access to clean water. 

Minnie immediately lets go of Miyeon’s hand. “Here … you should wash your eyes, the water is cold … it may help with the inflammation.” She steps aside for Miyeon to get closer to the water source.

Miyeon nods wordlessly and leans over toward the faucet to cup a bit of water in her hands. She puts the little bit of water to her eyes and blinks, trying to get the hydration in and whatever irritant out. After a few times, Miyeon’s eyes do feel a bit better. She turns the faucet off and tries to dab the water away from her cheeks with the sleeves of her jacket.

“Here, let me.” Minnie’s soft voice reminds Miyeon that the other woman is still watching her. Miyeon hesitates as a blurry Minnie gently dabs her sleeve over Miyeon’s cheeks. “Close your eyes.” Minnie says. Miyeon complies. She feels a gentle patting of Minnie’s jacket on her eyelids. 

When Miyeon opens her eyes again, she sees Minnie staring at her. The blurriness of her vision casts a halo effect around the Thai woman. Immediately, her cheeks warms and she direct her eyes downward. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” Minnie says in a hoarse whisper. 

“Let’s get back …” Miyeon turns toward the group’s tents, but she feels a tug at her hand. It’s been captured by Minnie’s again.

“No. Let’s go for a walk.” Minnie tries to smile calmly, but her nervousness shows on her red cheeks.

“Minnie … this is not the place nor …” Miyeon starts to excuse herself, but Minnie’s grip remains firm.

“It won’t take long. We’ll just walk to the stream nearby and back.” Minnie is clearly not taking no for answer.

“Minnie …” Miyeon weakly resists but Minnie is already pulling her into the woods toward the burbling sound of the stream. She lets herself be pulled along, watching the back of Minnie’s head as they walk. The double braids really suit her.

“I miss you, Miyeon.” Minnie says after they get on a small path. “I really do.”

Miyeon doesn’t know how to reply to the admission. She missed Minnie, too. They have so much to discuss yet so little time and place to do so. The silence is almost deafening if not for the songs of birds above them and crackling of twigs under them.

“I know that I was wrong … not for needing time for myself, I won’t apologize for that.” Minnie turns back to glance at Miyeon, her dark eyes are dreamy and honest at the same time. Miyeon almost wish Minnie hadn’t turned away again. “But I was wrong for going to the concert and spending my birthday with someone else.” 

Miyeon tries not say the mean thoughts that are bubbling inside in her head. 

They pad down the narrow dirt path for a little while before the tree line breaks apart to reveal the gentle stream ahead. It is a really picturesque scene of fall foliage, water, and white rocks. Minnie still doesn’t let go of Miyeon’s hand when they reach their destination. Instead, she holds it tighter and walks with Miyeon along the stream. “I’m not trying to get you to forgive me right now, because I know that I was wrong … if you want to yell at me and let me have it … I understand.” 

The sudden maturity from Minnie is quite shocking to Miyeon, who remains speechless. She doesn’t attempt to pull her hand away, because the warmth from Minnie’s palm is so familiar and addictive. “What should I say?” She finally finds her voice. “That you made me feel sad and mad and disappointed and all these ugly feelings that I never wanted to experience with you?”

Minnie’s eyes are saddened, but she feels relieved that Miyeon is still willing to talk to her. “Yeah … you can say all that.”

“I want to say more than that, but it’ll only make me feel sad again.” Miyeon shakes her head.

“I’m sorry.” Minnie restates. “I was confused and really lost at that time. I …”

“You didn’t care about me or my feelings.” Miyeon cuts in.

“That’s not true.” Minnie shakes her head, trying to justify her past actions.

“Or you did care, but you chose to ignore?” Miyeon asks pointedly.

“I …” Minnie finds herself unable to formulate any cohesive thought. “I was a shitty friend. I really was blocking … everything … out because I was hurting.”

“Minnie.” Miyeon reaches for Minnie’s cheek with her free hand. “I …” Is she ready for this? “I …” She stutters before finding resolution within herself, “I l-love you …” the finality of those words settle in after a frozen second, where Minnie’s eyes widen at the admission. “But, I want more than you are willing to give.”

Minnie shakes her head, her face is frozen in horror. “Miyeon …”

“Let me finish.” Miyeon stops Minnie from interjecting. “I want more than someone who puts herself before me every time … I’m tired of being the person to make the first move. Remember when we just became interns and you didn’t think anyone was worth making friends with because we’ll move on anyways? Remember how I had to persistently annoy you until you became my friend and then Soojin’s?”

Minnie’s wide eyes are staring into Miyeon’s. She doesn’t acknowledge the question, but Miyeon continues. “You’re always putting walls up. I love you.” It was easier this time around. “But I want a partner, someone I can share my life with … if you’re not ready to let anyone in … I can’t … I just can’t sacrifice myself like that. I …”

“No no no.” Minnie shakes her head when she sees more tears coming out of Miyeon’s eyes and streaming down her beautiful face. She reaches up to thumb the tear away from Miyeon’s cheek. “I’ve been getting counseling, learning to love myself and open up to people. I’m better, I promise. I need you in my life, Cho Miyeon.”

“We can be friends …” Miyeon’s reply is quickly silenced by Minnie’s lips against hers. She pulls back a bit, enough to breath Minnie’s name in a weak protest.

“Miyeon.” Minnie pulls Miyeon against her. “No more, I don’t want to be friends or friends with benefits anymore …” She swallows hard, adjusting her gaze from Miyeon’s lips to her eyes. “If you’ll give me one more chance … I’ll prove to you that I love you, too.” She smiles when she finally admits it to herself and Miyeon. “I … I really really really love you. If you think there’s even a tiny bit of hope that you’ll forgive me, please give me a chance.”

Miyeon’s mind is screaming with joy, all the the months of yearning for these words has culminated to this euphoria. Except, her heart is tight with anxiety and doubt, can someone really change that much with a few counseling sessions?

Sensing Miyeon’s hesitation, Minnie quickly adds. “I’ve loved you for a long time … I just … I was afraid I would hurt you. It was stupid of me, I know … but I was always afraid that I would lose you due to my confusing feelings. So I didn’t want us to be together … I used Somi’s … as a way to delay the discussion I knew you were wanting to have.” She lays it bare in front of Miyeon. “I know you may be mad at me right now, but I can’t let us just be friends anymore.”

“Where is this coming from?” Miyeon searches Minnie’s face, only seeing sincerity and honesty in those eyes.

“From all the courage that I have in this body. When you and Shuhua came from the trail and I saw your red eyes … I … I just couldn’t handle being the person who makes you cry anymore. It’s too much. I just want to be the person who makes you smile and laugh. I will be that person, if you allow me to be …”

Miyeon’s lips part slightly and her brows lift up as she flutters her lashes in realization. “Minnie … are you serious about this?”

“More serious than anything in my entire life.” Minnie nods with conviction. “I promise, you’re the only person I have ever … love. I didn’t know how to deal with that overwhelming feeling … to admit that I don’t think I could live without you in my life.”

“Pabo.” Miyeon shakes head. “You could’ve talked to me if you felt that way.”

“Yeah …” Minnie smiles when she sees the corner of Miyeon’s mouth lift up a bit. “I’m not very bright, obviously. But I’ve learned from my mistake, I promise.”

Miyeon couldn’t find any reason to reject Minnie. This is exactly what Miyeon had dreamed about for months. She has her reservation about Minnie’s unpredictability, but it is hardly an exaggeration when Miyeon says she loves Minnie with all her heart. It is very apparent that neither are willing to stay as friends now. And suddenly, all their feelings and conflicts in the past seems so trivial and unreal. The only real thing is the kiss that Miyeon presses onto Minnie’s lips. The only thing that matter is that they both share the same love and understanding now.

 

 

“Hey, they’re back.” Shuhua is the first to enthusiastically wave at Miyeon and Minnie. But, she is not the first to notice that they are holding hands and smiling as they return to the campsite. Everyone exchange looks before pretending to not to notice when the newly formed couple walks up to the table. 

“You guys were gone for a long time.” Soojin says without mentioning anything about what she’s seeing. They still haven’t let go of each other’s hand. “The food’s already done.” She pretends like nothing is different. It’s been a while since Minnie and Miyeon went to for the “eyewashing” so Soojin has finished grilling and plating the meat. Shuhua made a decent looking pot of soup, granted the instant package’s directions are very thorough. Soyeon has finished plating side dishes and the rice. Yuqi helped as the lunch manager.

“Yeah …” Minnie blushes, squeezing Miyeon’s hand a bit tighter, “We have something to say to you guys.”

“Oooooh … what is it?” Yuqi smiles from ear to ear, expecting a confirmation for something that everyone’s already deduced. “Did you get sunburned, Minnie? You’re a little red.”

Miyeon giggles and tries not to look anyone in the eyes.

“I’d say it’s more than just a little burn, should I get some aloe vera?” Soyeon slyly adds on the tease.

“C’mon, give me a break. I’m trying to be serious here.” Minnie protests in her whiny voice.

“Shhhh.” Shuhua puts her index finger on her lips, signaling for everyone to give Minnie a little break.

Soojin grins and gently pats Shuhua’s back as if saying she’s doing a good job. Everyone’s trying to hide their smile by pressing their lips together or looking somewhere else but the increasingly red Minnie and Miyeon.

“Um … so … Miyeon and I … aretogethernowandwewantyouguystobethefirsttoknow.” Minnie starts slow, but suddenly rushes through it all in one breath.

“Excuse me?” Soojin puts a hand to her ear. “I don’t think we heard you correctly.” Minnie curses that smug smile on Soojin’s face, as if she’s relishing in Minnie’s discomfort. Just she wait until her and Shuhua make their own announcement. Minnie silently vows to be ten times … no … a hundred times more annoying.

“I said.” Minnie grits her teeth as she sees all of them trying to choke back their laughter. “Miyeon and I are together now and we want you guys to be the first to know.” 

As the howls of laughter bellow out from the four most annoying people that Minnie currently know, Miyeon leans closer to Minnie and speaks for the first time. “Leave Minnie alone, guys.”

“So you can have her all to yourself?” Shuhua is not above making fun of Miyeon.

“We’re you guys fighting just a little while ago?” Yuqi adds. “Now you’re defending her?”

Soyeon is also not above adding to the fun. “That must have been SOME faucet, it washed away all the awkwardness between them.”

Miyeon stomps her foot in annoyance, even though she is smiling. Soojin has that knowing look on her face when she looks at Miyeon. “We’re happy for you guys.” She signals for the girls to stop teasing. “Come, sit down so we can eat. I’m starving. You guys can tell us about how you made up while we eat.”

Minnie’s stomach growls on cue as she finally looks over the food spread. She looks to Miyeon and smiles, “Okay. But we can’t tell you everything.”

Miyeon blushes and shakes her head.

Yuqi and Shuhua pretends to be gagging and making heaving noises.

 

 

The bonfire crackles as it grows. The light and warmth spread to the people sitting around Prometheus’ gift to mankind. They are sitting on logs that form a large circle. Miyeon sits with her head resting on Minnie’s shoulder while the younger woman holds a marshmallow over the fire. They look contentedly lost in their own world. Shuhua couldn’t help but be jealous of the new couple. She knows that they’ve known each other for a while and it’s been a long time coming, but they’re where she wants to be. She looks across the fire at Soojin, who is chatting and smiling with Soyeon about some heart transplant that they are looking forward to doing. 

The fire highlights just the right edges of Soojin’s features, coloring them a sensual orange hue. Shuhua could stare at Soojin all night and day, she can’t get bored of looking at the icy hot woman. Those red lips appear to be even redder right now. Her thoughts drift to how nice it would be to be able to touch Soojin without the older woman recoiling from her touch. It would be nice not to get pushed away as she go in for a hug. It would be more than nice for Soojin to not pretend to dislike Shuhua’s advances.

As if Shuhua’s gaze is burning Soojin’s face, the older woman turn to catch Shuhua’s stare. Soojin’s smile turns into a scowl. A sexy scowl, but a disapproving look nonetheless. Shuhua breaks eye contact and pretends to look away.

“You’re whipped.” Dr. Kwon Yuri gently nudges Shuhua’s right side with her elbow.

“What …” Shuhua pretends not to understand.

“She’s definitely whipped for that girl.” Dr. Kim Hyoyeon bumps shoulders with Shuhua’s left side. 

Squished in the middle, Shuhua vehemently shakes her head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She is not going to have these two terrors trap her and tease her. Out of Shuhua’s nine attendings, these two are the most playful and, might she say, evil of them all. They are at their worst together because they hype each other up and can double team anyone.

“Don’t be shy, tell us your troubles. We’re your favorite attendings right?” Dr.  Kim wraps her arm around Shuhua’s shoulders.

“We’re definitely more fun than the other seven weirdos.” Dr. Kwon pinches Shuhua’s cheek.

They’re annoying like older sisters who pick on their younger siblings. Shuhua tries to wiggle away, but is easily held back by the two very athletic women.

“Do you want us to go talk some sense into her?” Dr. Kwon whispers into Shuhua’s ear while looking in Soojin’s direction. “She can’t be teasing our favorite intern like this.”

“We could definitely put in a good word for you, Shuhua.” Dr. Kim shakes Shuhua’s shoulders. “What do you want me to tell her? That you’re whipped for her? That you’re an excellent lover?”

Shuhua groans and tries to push her two bullies of attendings. “Stop it. You’re embarrassing me!” She huffs as they squishes even tighter against her.

“But you’re our baby, if we don’t take care of you, who will?” Dr. Kwon laughs and ruffles Shuhua’s hair. “We will scare away any of her other suitors and make sure you’re the only one.”

“Other suitors?” Shuhua’s eyebrow rise just a hair.

“Yeah, your girl is a very popular doctor. I heard a lot of people have hit on her, from attendings to patients. Even the chief of human resources almost lost his job by asking her out.” Dr. Kim offers Shuhua a beer, to which the young woman declines.

“I heard that she models on the side and has been offered a chance to be in an idol group.” Dr. Kwon adds.

“You guys are just restating rumors. What do they got to do with me?” Shuhua doesn’t know what she was thinking. These two don’t have any clue about dating or relationships, they’re just as single as she is.

“Why are you so upset with us, Shuhua-ah? We just want to love you and help you.” Dr. Kwon tries to kiss Shuhua’s cheek, only to be pushed away by the younger woman. Shuhua could now smell the alcohol from them. 

“Are you two drunk?” Shuhua gasps and looks between the two. They do look like they have a healthy blush going on.

“No drunker than them.” Dr. Kim points across the fire to Dr. Jung Wheein and Dr. Ahn Hyejin. They have their arms on Minnie’s shoulders and waist. Where are they leading her? Shuhua watches in confusion as Minnie looks back to Miyeon, who remains at the fire, with great concern. Shuhua could see that Miyeon is no less concerned than her girlfriend, who has been kidnapped by her attendings. “Oooh … that girl is going to have the time of her life.”

“Yeah.” Dr. Kwon agrees with her friend. “They’re fun people.”

“Did you … all drink together?” Shuhua looks disturbed. What kind of chaperones are these?

“Well … yeah.” Dr. Kwon says matter-of-factly. “What is there to do out here when you guys are busy hiking and cooking and getting it on?” 

“…” Shuhua doesn’t know how to respond.

“We drink. We gossip. We eat … though …” Dr. Kim looks extra astute as she looks in the direction that the other two chaperones had left in. “I think they’re doing it.”

“You think so?” Dr. Kwon asks across Shuhua.

“Oh yeah.” Dr. Kim nods assuredly. “Definitely.”

Shuhua just wants to die at this point.

“How come we’ve never done it?” Dr. Kwon asks with a curious frown.

“Uh …” Shuhua tries to voice her discomfort.

“Because we’re bros, bro.” Dr. Kim holds her fist out in front of Shuhua.

“Bro …” Dr. Kwon looks genuinely touched as she fist bumps her friend.

“I’ve got to get out of here.” Shuhua takes this lapse in their attention to roll backward off the log and escape this nightmarish scenario.

“Hey, come back here …” The two attendings call after Shuhua, but she’s already running away at full speed, not wanting to get caught again.

It is not long before the light from the fire dims as Shuhua tries to make it back to her tent. In the dark woods, she could barely tell where the path starts. Pulling her phone out of her pocket, Shuhua turns on the flashlight feature to lighten her unease. It’s just a short walk to the tent area, but Shuhua wants to walk a bit slowly so she could think a while longer. As she drifts in and out of her thoughts, Shuhua picks up a light padding of footsteps behind her. Her body tenses as she turns the light around to see who is coming.

“Ah …” A sultry voice protests. “Put that away, you’re blinding me.” Soojin holds her hand in front of her face to shield her squinting eyes from the light.

“Oh, sorry.” Shuhua immediately tilts the light to the ground. “I didn’t realize it was you, Soojin-unnie.” She says apologetically.

“Did I scare you?” Soojin asks with an impish smile.

“No.” Shuhua shakes her head. “I heard your footsteps, I just wanted to see who it was.” 

“Are you going back to the tent already?” Soojin catches up next to Shuhua.

“Yeah, I’m a bit tired. It’s been a long day.” It is true. After the excitement from the morning hike and the lunch where Miyeon and Minnie finally got together, they had a mini-excursion then a large group dinner and bonfire. Shuhua can’t remember the last time she did this many activities in one day.

“It has been a very long and interesting day.” Soojin walks beside Shuhua, both heading toward their tents.

Shuhua nods. She walks with her gaze lowered to the ground, as if to watch her steps in the dark.

“Are you alright?” Soojin asks after a long pause in conversation.

Shuhua’s attention snaps back to Soojin. She smiles softly and nods. “Yeah.”

As they get closer to their tent area, they can see smaller fires a different parts of the campgrounds. It looks like some other people have also gone back to their own small group to sit and chat. It’s a nice scene that they don’t usually get to witness. Soojin notices some leaves and twigs in Shuhua’s hair, so she starts to pick them off the younger woman. “What did you do? You’re covered in dirt.”

Shuhua couldn’t admit to Soojin that she had to roll away from her attendings, so she shrugs. “Not sure. But a little dirt won’t hurt.”

Soojin’s hand hovers over Shuhua’s shoulder. This quiet Shuhua is so distant and foreign to Soojin. She’s so used to the hyper puppy, who constantly hits on her. When Shuhua is calm and quiet, she makes Soojin wants to take over the hyper role. “I’ve never seen you this tired, even after you’ve been in surgery you’re not normally this quiet.”

Shuhua looks at Soojin, studying her features for a moment before smiling reassuringly. “I’m fine. I’m just thinking about things.”

“What kind of things?” Soojin presses.

Shuhua weighs her options. “Us.” She says after a few seconds. “I’m just thinking about us.”

“Us?” Soojin swallows hard.

“Yeah.” Shuhua nods as they reach their group’s tents.

“What about us?” Soojin tries to play it cool.

“Is there even an us?” Shuhua turns to Soojin. 

Soojin is pensive. She looks at the wide-eyed puppy of a woman, whom she has grown very fond of.

“You can tell me.” Shuhua smiles encouragingly. “If I’ve been one-sidedly pursuing you and annoying you, I’ll stop.”

“Where is this coming from?” Soojin looks perplexed. She remembers seeing Shuhua  talking to her attendings at the bonfire. They looked chummy enough. But now Shuhua is all gloom despite that smile. 

“I’ve been thinking about it for a little while.” Shuhua sits down on a chair and motions for Soojin to sit next to her. “I like you, Soojin-unnie … I really like you … romantically.” She adds that for clarity and finality.

Soojin steadies herself as she sits down. 

“Seeing Minnie-unnie and Miyeon today … I really want to be like that with you. To have mutual feelings …” Shuhua continues, too shy to look at Soojin right now. “But I don’t want to pressure you if you don’t like me that way. I can take it. You just tell me if that’s the case and I’ll back off.”

“Are you saying that I either like you or we can’t be friends?” Soojin has an unreadable look on her face.

“I … it would be difficult to be friends when I keep wanting to date you, you know? But I can try.” Shuhua smiles genuinely, even if there is a sad tint in her eyes. “For you, I will try anything.”

Soojin gazes upon Shuhua’s face for a moment before reaching over to hold Shuhua’s cheek in her palm. Shuhua is surprised at the rare display of affection, but she takes the opportunity to nuzzle her cheek into Soojin’s palm. Like a puppy, Soojin thought. “We can’t be like Minnie and Miyeon, they’re weird. But … if you’re willing to try, I think … dating would be … nice.”

Shuhua could barely contain her shock. Her body jerks as her head turns every which way, trying to comprehend what was just said. “You mean … we … us …” She stutters incomprehensibly. 

Soojin lets out a small chuckle and nods. “I like you, too … but if we can take it slow …”

“Soojin-unnie!” Shuhua pounces over onto Soojin’s chair, trying to hug and kiss the older woman. 

“Yah! What part of slow …” Soojin turns her face from those puckering lips and pushes Shuhua away, but she’s at least laughing about it. “I don’t kiss before the first date.”

Shuhua struggles for a bit before just happily resting her head on Soojin’s shoulder. “Then can we go on a date when we get back?” She sighs happily as the warmth from Soojin’s body becomes intoxicating.

“Okay.” Soojin smiles softly and rests her cheek on the top of Shuhua’s head … but that doesn’t last long before she scrunches her nose and leans away. “Yeh Shuhua, when was the last time you washed?”

“I’ll never wash again … I want to remember this me from this day forever …” Shuhua hugs Soojin more tightly as the older woman struggle in her arms.

“Please please bathe before our date!” Soojin whines and smacks Shuhua’s knee.

“Okay, unnie …” Shuhua says in a sing-song voice, still not letting go of Soojin. “I bought matching pajamas for us to wear tonight to declare our relationship status.”

“What? Did you plan all this?” Soojin jokes with an amused smile.

“Not exactly, I just wanted to wear matching pajamas with you.” Shuhua responses as she nuzzles further into Soojin.

They stay like that for a while, holding and leaning against each other. 

 

 

“Thanks for helping me, Soyeonnie.” Yuqi says as she leans more against her shorter friend.

Soyeon smiles and turns her head to look at Yuqi. “What are friends for.” With Yuqi’s arm over her shoulders, their faces are so close. Soyeon could see Yuqi’s eyes twinkle as her smile sparkles. That’s what Soyeon likes most about Yuqi. The younger woman is optimistic even in the hardest of times.

After lunch, they found a crutch at the HQ tent so Yuqi can manages on her own for a little while, but Soyeon suggested Yuqi put some weight on her, too. Yuqi spent most of the afternoon and evening sitting with her foot elevated while Soyeon bring food and snack to her.

“I’m going to have to take a few days off work when we get back.” Yuqi thinks aloud, making plans to go get her ankle examined and x-rayed in case there is a fracture.

“Why didn’t you go back earlier? You could have a lot more rest at home.”  Soyeon awkwardly tries not to squeeze the hand that she has resting on Yuqi’s hip. Her other hand holds out the five thousand lumens lantern in front of them.

“I thought about it, but then I’d be so bored alone at home …” Yuqi starts.

“I would have gone back with you.” Soyeon interjects.

“… yeah, but I wanted to spend this trip with the girls. And besides, had we gone back Minnie and Miyeon wouldn’t have progressed so quickly.” Yuqi laughs.

Soyeon nods, trying to keep her balance on this dark path in the woods. “That was quite a turn of events.” She laughs, remembering how bashful the oldest women were when they finally told the group. As they enter tent area, they turn toward the collection of tents for their group. “See? I told you everyone’s partnering up.” Yuqi points to Shuhua and Soojin, who are canoodling in front of their tents. 

“Oh my god.” Soyeon laughs and turns to Yuqi. “This is some trip, everyone’s getting together.” 

“Yeah, but we don’t seem to have such luck.” Yuqi pretends to pout in jealousy. “I don’t want to go over there right now, let them have a little alone time.”

“Okay … how about we go to the HQ tent? I can look at your foot and apply some more ointment?” Soyeon points toward the mostly abandoned largest tent in the middle of the campsite.

“Yeah, that sounds good. I could use some more NSAIDs.” Yuqi nods and hobbles along with Soyeon.

When they get to the tent, Soyeon gently guides Yuqi to a seat before going to search for more pain relieving ointments and NSAIDs. Too bad they don’t have any ice out in the middle of nowhere, otherwise Soyeon would get that for Yuqi, too. “Okay, here.” She hands Yuqi an opened water bottle and some tablets. Like a compliant patient, Yuqi pops the pills in her mouth followed by a swig of water.

“Thank you.” Yuqi licks the water from her lips as Soyeon kneels down in front of her. Seeing Soyeon put Yuqi’s foot on her knee suddenly causes a feverish burn to creep onto Yuqi’s cheeks. “Thanks for taking good care of me.”

Soyeon looks up at Yuqi and smiles as she unwraps the bandage. “It looks more blue and black now …” Yuqi’s ankle looks like the size of a softball. Soyeon gently tries to maneuver it to check the mobility, causing a twinge of pain to shoot up Yuqi’s leg.

Yuqi hisses in agony and Soyeon immediately stops. 

“I’m sorry.” Soyeon apologizes for making Yuqi hurt, but the younger woman shakes her head. 

“I’m okay.” Yuqi tries to smile despite the small droplets of tears lingering on her lashes. She is disconcerted by the look of her ankle though, it looks like a foreign body instead of hers.

“I’m sorry I made you buy the cheaper shoe with less ankle support.” Soyeon looks really guilt wracked.

“It’s not your fault. I wasn’t careful.” Yuqi smiles and gently pats the crown of Soyeon’s head.

“Thank you …” Soyeon drops the topic, but she still feels guilty nonetheless.“I’m going to apply the ointment now, so bear with me okay?” Soyeon opens the tube of anti-inflammatory ointment before squeezing a large amount on her hand and warming it up in her palms. Gently, she works the ointment over Yuqi’s ankle, taking care not to apply too much force. 

Yuqi’s grip on the edge of her chair tightens each time a spark of pain lights up her ankle, but she tightens her jaws to not make Soyeon feel bad for her. As Soyeon apply the ointment, Yuqi is privy to an angle of Soyeon that she hasn’t noticed before. Soyeon, on her knee and attentively massaging Yuqi’s ankle, is looking so much more attractive than anyone Yuqi’s ever seen. Yuqi likes the way Soyeon’s foxlike eyes are focusing solely on her.  Yuqi finds Soyeon’s upturned lip forms a little triangle and exposes her front teeth in a cute manner. 

Unconsciously, Yuqi reaches out and gently brushes her fingertips along the edge of Soyeon’s outer ear. Soyeon shivers at the contact and her wide eyes look up to Yuqi in surprise. She doesn’t dodge the touch, however, and just looks up expectantly at Yuqi with a held breath. This Soyeon looks so small and vulnerable, but is also dependable and powerful … how has Yuqi not notice all this time?

Blinking herself back into reality, Yuqi’s breath hitches a note before she licks her lips. Her hand moves from Soyeon’s ear to brush some strands of hair from Soyeon’s face before trailing her fingertips along Soyeon’s cheekbone and jawline. Soyeon keeps her eyes locked on Yuqi’s as she shifts forward and upward, pushing herself between Yuqi’s knees. Slowly and carefully, she rises up to face Yuqi. Her left hand is still holding Yuqi’s right calf in place on her left knee, while her right hand rests gently on Yuqi’s left hip. 

Their eyes survey the other’s face, as if  they are seeing each other for the first time. Yuqi finally smiles and squeezes Soyeon’s chin between her thumb and index finger. “Are you going to kiss me or stare at me all night?”

“I can do both.” Soyeon retorts. “All night.” 

“Ahh, I see … so can you kiss me first? Then I’ll let you stare at me.” A mirthful smile touches Yuqi’s crinkling eyes as she adds. “All night.” 

Soyeon nods, nervously wetting her lips when lowers her gaze to Yuqi’s lips. She tilts her chin upward as Yuqi leans down. Their lips meet without fireworks like in the movies. Instead, it’s a soft realization that this is right. It feels like they have been waiting for this moment since they met. It feels like a fog has been lifted and they have finally found each other. Soyeon kisses Yuqi tenderly, teasing her with a soft nibble on the lower lip. Yuqi raises both hands to Soyeon’s cheeks and holds the other woman steady as she greedily kisses her. Yuqi’s hair slides down and forms a curtains around their faces as they kisses more deeply and hungrily.

“Ahem.” A voice clears their throat at the entrance of the tent, causing both women to quickly break apart. Soyeon almost fell backwards in the haste while Yuqi brushes her hair back and pretends that nothing has happened.

Dr. Jung Wheein and Dr. Ahn Hyejin look at both women with much amusement on their faces as they look upon the two younger women. “Don’t worry about us, girls.” Dr. Ahn tries not to laugh as she walks further into  the tent to dig through some boxes.

Dr. Jung tries to look away from Soyeon and Yuqi, who are scrambling to wrap Yuqi’s ankle up in the bandages. “We’ll be on our way soon. Don’t mind us.” She is covering her mouth to hide her grin.

“Aha!” Dr. Ahn holds up two big bottles of soju excitedly. “Have fun, girls. But don’t forget to rest and elevate that ankle.” She winks at them as she passes by.

“I don’t think they’re going to be be doing a lot of resting.” Dr. Jung grins and waggles her eyebrows as they both exit the tent. Yuqi and Soyeon could hear their laughter echo back while they walk away.

“Wow …” Soyeon doesn’t know what else to say.

“Nevermind them.” Yuqi cups Soyeon’s cheeks in her hands. “Kiss me again.” She doesn’t mind who else walks in, because she’s found her person, now.

“Oh.” Soyeon’s lips form a little ‘o’ before she nods meekly. “Okay.” She rises to meet Yuqi’s lips again, this time more fervently than before. It doesn’t matter who walks in next, Soyeon is too happy to care.

 

 

“Another couple has been born.” Dr. Jung Wheein announces as she steps over the log by the bonfire. “It must be the fresh air and isolation or something in the water.”

Dr. Kim Hyoyeon laughs and pats the spot next to her on the log. “There will be many more to come. Sit. Tell me who they are.” 

Dr. Ahn Hyejin hands Dr. Kwon Yuri a shot glass as Dr. Jung sits down and pops open one of the soju bottles. They each hand Dr. Jung a shot glass for her to pour them some soju. “I think they’re the neurosurgery and cardiosurgery interns.”

“Aha! I am not surprised, seeing who their attendings are.” Dr. Ahn laughs as she receives a shot glass full of alcohol. 

“Are you two talking about Moon Byulyi and Kim Yongsun?” Dr. Kwon asks as she pops some shredded cuttlefish snacks into her mouth. 

“Yeah.” Dr. Jung nods and hands Dr. Kim her glass. “They’re totally a weird pair.”

“I thought Dr. Moon is a player or something.” Dr. Kim reaches over for some snacks from Dr. Kwon.

“Nah.” Dr. Ahn looks at Dr. Jung before the two breaks out into loud laughter. “She wouldn’t dare. Completely whipped, that one.”

“Huh.” Dr. Kwon looks at Dr. Kim. “And I thought we knew everything about all the couples in the hospital already.”

“I’ve counted like five new couples from this trip alone … so you best update your information.” Dr. Kim replies and holds out her shot glass. “To youthfulness and libido!”

“Youthfulness and libido!” The other three yell as they clink glasses together before taking a shot of soju. As the alcohol hits their throat, they make a unison ‘aaahhh’ sound in the satisfaction. 

“Oooh, that hits the spot … this is good soju.” Dr. Kim reaches for the bottle in Dr. Jung’s hand and inspects the label. “I will have to buy some more of this when I get home.”

“Pour us another!” They all hand over their glass to Dr. Kim.

“Let’s get this party started!” Dr. Kwon yells on top of her lungs as Dr. Ahn pulls up some pumping music on her phone.

All the residents and interns have gone back to the campsite, naturally as good chaperones, these four decided that they must stay to make sure that the bonfire doesn’t spread and endanger the forest. For their selflessness, they have decided to reward themselves with lots of alcohol and snacks. This is the whole reason why they volunteered to be on this trip in the first place.

 

 

The next day, the campsite slowly wake up with the sun rise. The festivities from the evening before has been replace by a serene morning. Here an there, people are making breakfast and packing up their tents. The HQ tent remains shuttered, due to its inhabitants being simply too hungover to be up this early. The whole camp have heard them partying way into the late night, even after the fires have gone out. 

“Good morning.” Soojin, who’s doing some standing stretches, greets Soyeon, who is just crawling out of her own tent.

“G’morning.” Soyeon mumbles as she rubs her groggy eyes. 

And one by one, each person take their time coming out of their tent, with Shuhua and Miyeon being the last. It was a miracle that Minnie and Miyeon did not share a tent last night, but they had to keep it PG for the children. Afterall, as the returning eldest, they have to set a good example.

“How about we make the budae jjigae for breakfast?” Soojin suggests after everyone has washed up and dressed for the day. “Soyeon and Yuqi shopped for it and it’ll warm us up to get us ready for the longer hike.”

“That sounds really good, let’s do it.” Miyeon agrees and walks over to Soojin to start helping prep.

“Shuhua, let’s go fetch some water for the pot.” Minnie picks up the pot that they used to make soup and motions for Shuhua to follow. With her face still swollen from sleep, a groggy Shuhua drags herself along like a zombie.

“You know. Other than you, Shuhua only listens to Minnie. Why is that?” Miyeon looks after Minnie and Shuhua.

“I have no idea.” Soojin shrugs and hands Miyeon a package of hot dogs.

Miyeon starts to open the package and slice the hot dogs into bite size pieces. She looks up to find Soyeon helping Yuqi walk back from the water faucet. “How’s your ankle, Yuqi?” Miyeon smiles as Yuqi sits down across from her.

“It’s okay, not that much improvement.” Yuqi replies before pointing to the spam and tofu. “I can help you cut those up.”

“Okay.” Miyeon hands a knife to Yuqi, knowing that the younger girl wants to feel helpful in this situation. “I’ll cut up the kimchi and mushroom, you can finish with the onion and scallions.”

Soyeon crinkles her face at the thought of vegetables, but decides to adult up enough to pick up around the camp instead. She starts to roll up hers and Yuqi’s sleeping bags before taking down their tents. 

Minnie and Shuhua return shortly after. “Here we are …” They lift the big pot onto the propane stove and steps back. Soojin finishes mixing the seasoning and put it into the water.

Minnie circles over to Miyeon’s side and watches her cut up the ingredients. “There’s something on your face.” Minnie brushes her fingertips over Miyeon’s cheek, wiping the little fuzz piece away.

“What? Beauty?” Miyeon smiles, her eyes turning into small crescents.

“Yeah, that’s right.” Minnie matches her smile and nods. “The most beautiful girl in the world.”

“Yah.” Yuqi, who is sitting right across from them, yells. “Can you flirt with your girlfriend later? I just woke up … I’m not mentally ready for this.”

Huh. Girlfriend. That’s something they haven’t discussed before or even thought about. “Oh … don’t be jealous, Yuqi. You’re still my number one intern.” Minnie winks at Yuqi before Miyeon smacks her on the arm. 

“Hey, no flirting with other girls in front of me.” Miyeon pretends to be upset.

“I’m sorry, Miyeon.” Minnie says it aloud just because it tickles her fancy. “My beautiful girlfriend.”

Everyone gives them a look of disbelief because they were just fighting not too long ago. Now they are lovey dovey to the max. Yuqi pretends to gag along with Shuhua, but stops when she feels Soyeon’s hand on her shoulder. The short blonde looks down at her before frowning at Minnie and Miyeon. “Your display of affection is making MY girlfriend, Yuqi, sick. She’s already injured, please be more careful.”

Yuqi’s wants to bury her face into her hands, but they are dirtied with spam and tofu. Everyone else’s jaws drop in perfect unison. 

“What? Yuqs? Is this true?” Minnie is the first to recover.

“When did this happen?” Shuhua cries out.

Soojin and Miyeon’s jaws are still slacked with disbelief. They knew that it would happen eventually, but they didn’t think it would come so suddenly. 

“Oh it happened while you and Soojin were … canoodling.” Yuqi chooses the most embarrassing word to stir the figurative pot.

“Canoodling?!” It’s Soojin’s turn to raise her voice while stirring the actual pot. She looks angrily over at Shuhua, who immediately puts up her hands, as if to tell her to do something about this.

“They’d find out eventually, Unnie.” Shuhua tries to defuse Soojin with a smile. “But … we’re taking it slow, so I can’t call you my girlfriend, yet.” Heavy emphasis on the ‘yet’ part.

“You’ve been calling her yeobo and jagiya since you met her … so I don’t think it’ll be a huge difference.” Yuqi interjects and looks up to Soyeon for backup.

“You might as well call her girlfriend.” Soyeon nods and agrees with her girlfriend.

“We haven’t even kissed yet!” Shuhua cries out in agony. 

“Yah! Why are you telling everybody our business?!” Soojin raises the ladle at Shuhua.

“Hey, the water’s boiling. Let’s put this stuff in!” Miyeon finally notices the very turbulent water. She starts to put the ingredients in while Minnie open the packages of instant ramen. 

“Here, Ramiyeon.” Minnie smiles sweetly and adds. “My lovely girlfriend.”

Miyeon blows a kiss at Minnie before going over to make sure the other ingredients are softer before adding in the noddles.

“Soojin, is it true? Wow … I thought you guys were already together.” Yuqi tries to tease Soojin a bit, only to earn an icy look from the older woman.

Shuhua has zipped her mouth and is now pretending to be busy setting up bowls and chopsticks for the stew. She tries to avoid Soojin’s angry gaze when she could.

“Leave her alone, Yuqi-ah … I still have to work with her later.” Soyeon squeezes her girlfriend’s shoulder to remind her that technically Soojin is still her immediate boss.

Yuqi smiles and drops the topic, but that Soojin side-eye is no joke. 

It is not long before the pot blossoms into this amazing bubbling red, delicious smelling stew. Everyone comes over to ladle a bowlful, with Soyeon getting Yuqi’s portion as well. It’s a slightly chilly morning, so budae jjigae instantly warms up their bodies as well as burn their mouths. Amazingly, they finish the pot without a single drop wasted. After breakfast, Minnie and Shuhua go to wash the pot while everyone else starts to take down their tents. It’s not long before they have everything packed up and ready for the porter vans.

The HQ tent is still shuttered by the time that they are ready to head out. 

“Um … so …” Shuhua looks at Miyeon, “do we have to keep hiking with our assigned partner?” She has her pleading puppy eyes on full display.

Miyeon looks over to Minnie, whose soulful eyes have also turned into puppy eyes. “Um … no?” She answers without much conviction, even though she was already put in charge by the chaperones. 

“Yay!” Everyone cheers, now that they have permission to walk with their heart’s chosen. 

They start walking as a group, but each couple has their own walking pace. Soyeon and Yuqi are at the back, riding on the black horse since they are light and small enough to fit on the saddle. They have to be in the back so the other girls don’t accidentally step on horse droppings. Soyeon hugs Yuqi tightly and rests her chin on her girlfriend’s shoulder as they ride and talk at the same time. 

Soojin and Shuhua are perfectly matched in speed, so they are walking way in front. This way they have a little bit of privacy as they talk about their plans for the next month. There is that date that they also have to set up. After all, Soojin doesn’t kiss before the first date so Shuhua will really have to impress her on this date.

In the middle are Minnie and Miyeon, who are like an old couple. They walk together, holding hands and looking around the park with their new rosy vision. Suddenly, everything just looks ten times brighter and more vivid. They laughs softly as they discuss everything that they have missed in each other’s lives in the past month since they started fighting.

The hike, despite being longer, felt like it was so much shorter. They all wanted to spend it longer with their beloved. But the most amazing weekend came to an end as they pack their things onto their vehicles.

Shuhua, Soojin, Soyeon, and Yuqi all pack back into the Jeep. But now, Yuqi has to sit with her leg across the backseat and her foot resting on Soyeon’s lap. 

“Okay guys, I’ll take Miyeon home since her attendings are still MIA.” Minnie waves at them from the outside. Miyeon stops packing things into Minnie’s car to join her girlfriend in waving to their friends.

“See you guys at work tomorrow!” Miyeon giggles, feeling very happy that they will be back to being comfortable with each other at lunch again.

“Bye bye!” Shuhua, Soojin, and Soyeon waves while Yuqi blows kisses at them.

They start their journey back to the city, being different people than they were yesterday. Something profound has changed inside them and they feel elated to discover what that change will be like in their coming days. As they reach the highway and the drive is quiet, Soojin reaches across the middle console to hold Shuhua’s hand as she drives. Shuhua has to suppress her urge to make a fuss about it, she just holds Soojin’s hand between both hands while staring at the older woman. True to her tsundere mood, Soojin coolly keeps her eyes on the road. Or rather, she has someone important to protect now.

Minnie and Miyeon watch until their Jeep pull out of the parking lot before going back to packing Minnie’s car. When they finish, Miyeon looks at Minnie with a strange smile, causing her girlfriend to smile awkwardly and asks, “What’s going on?”

With a mischievous grin, Miyeon gets closer to Minnie and whispers into her ear, “Can we go to your place?”

Minnie’s cheeks burn with Miyeon’s warm breath even in this crisp morning. “I think I can cut the driving time down by half.” She half-jokes, but   they both know she will be speeding like crazy.



Chapter Text

“Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua links arms with Soojin as they walk down a long corridor that has floor to ceiling windows, which overlook the courtyard between the Main and Children Hospitals. The light filters through the glass panels and cast shadows of branches onto the pristine white floors. It’s early afternoon and they just happened to run into each other in this hallway.

“Yes?” Soojin asks as she flips through the chart in her hands. It’s been a rather busy morning for her with the preparation for a possible heart transplant. Her eyes are gliding through the information quickly with a small frown indicating concentration. She isn’t paying much attention to the girl with the wide, glimmering eyes beside her.

“Are you free sometime this week?” Shuhua asks hopefully, her voice rising just a note.

“Mmm …” Soojin delays the answer with a small hum as she tries to formulate the patient’s treatment plan in her head. This is a career deciding case after all.

“Soojin-unnie?” Shuhua tries to get Soojin’s attention again after waiting a few seconds. She likes the serious look on Soojin’s face when the older woman is working, but she doesn’t like that she isn’t spared any attention.

Soojin finally tears her eyes away from the pages to look at the girl with the hopeful smile. “What?” Soojin smiles a little, toying with Shuhua. They’ve been back from the fall trip for almost a week, but they’ve been playing catch up with work almost the entire time. They haven’t had time to think about their promised date. Well, at least Soojin hasn’t had time. No doubt, Shuhua has been thinking about it the entire time. Yet, the younger woman has patiently waited until today to hint at Soojin about it. “Do you need help with something?”

Shuhua’s mouth drops in shock. Has Soojin forgotten about their date? “I don’t need help.” Her answer comes out a little more forceful and upset than she means to be. She turns her gaze down to the floor, watching their synchronized footsteps.

“I’m booked with surgeries this week …” Soojin pulls her arm out of Shuhua’s grasp, causing the younger woman to whine in protest. “But …” Soojin silences that whine by reaching down and holding Shuhua’s hand, “I have a day off next Tuesday … maybe you can come over and I can cook for you?” Soojin tries not to smile as she watches Shuhua’s expression shifts quickly to one of delight.

“Yes!” Shuhua quickly replies as soon as the question leaves Soojin’s lips. She squeezes Soojin’s hand and leans closer to the older woman as they reach the end of the corridor. Her chest could explode with happiness, she wants to let this energy out and scream on top of her lungs that Soojin is the best.  “I would love that, Unnie.” She doesn’t want this moment to end, her hand squeezes Soojin’s a little tighter.

“Okay, it’s a date then.” Soojin puts emphasis on the word date. Seeing Shuhua’s bright smile makes her smile wider, too. Shuhua is simply too cute. It’s taken a long time to admit that to herself, so Soojin isn’t about to deny that again anytime soon. “I have to go to imaging.” Soojin nods toward the left turn.

“I have to report to Dr. Hwang about my patient.” Shuhua points to the right turn.

“I’ll see you later at lunch, then?” Soojin squeezes Shuhua’s hand one more time.

“Yes, Soojin-unnie! I can’t wait!” Shuhua practically screams. It’s true. Despite having lunch so frequently together, sharing a meal with Soojin is always Shuhua’s favorite part of the day. Not only does she gets delicious food, but just seeing Soojin brightens her day.

“Okay. See you later.” Soojin winks for the first time since forever before letting go of Shuhua’s hand and waving at her.

Shuhua clutches her chest and pretends to be collapsing. The wink has hit the dramatic girl right in the heart. “Soojin-unnie … wow …”

“See ya.” Soojin giggles before turning, but after a few steps she turns her head to look back. She finds Shuhua still standing there looking after her. “Gooooo.” Soojin whines with a wide smile on her face.

“In a moment.” Shuhua nods and waves at Soojin. While the white coat obstruct most of Soojin’s curves, the gracefulness of her steps is mesmerizing enough for Shuhua. She certainly loves to watch her walk away.

Soojin chuckles and turns around again to keep going toward imaging. She could feel Shuhua’s eyes on her before she turns another corner. Her heart is fluttering with happiness. 

 

 

“Be careful here with this step.” Soyeon stands atop the steps of the bus while holding Yuqi’s hand to pull her girlfriend into the vehicle.

“Whew …” Yuqi lets out a breath when they both are seated. She puts the crutch under their seat. 

“Are you tired?” Soyeon asks, noting Yuqi’s heavy breaths.

“No, not really.” Yuqi shakes her head and smiles at Soyeon. It’s over a week since they came back from the fall trip. Yuqi has been cooped up at home for most of that time, since her ankle moderately restricts her movements. She’s been allowed to work from home, mostly helping with documentations and doing tele-visit for follow-ups. “It’s cold today.”

Soyeon takes note of that complaint and scoots closer to wrap one arm around Yuqi. Being smaller, Soyeon really has to hitch up her shoulder to hold Yuqi. “Do you want something warm to drink when we get back?”

“That sounds nice.” Yuqi smiles and rests her head on Soyeon’s shoulder. 

They just left her doctor’s office. Her ankle is healing nicely, nothing fractured or torn, and the inflammation has gone down quite a bit. It is still a blue-ish color, but a major improvement over the first few days. Soyeon has taken excellent care of Yuqi. She took over most of the house chores while constantly getting new ice and ointments for Yuqi’s ankle. Yuqi feels like a pampered child most of the time. It might be hard to go back to being normal.

“I’m glad nothing is wrong with the ankle. Just needs to stay off it for a while.” Yuqi takes a deep breath and relaxes against Soyeon. The older woman gives her such a nice feeling of peace and protection. Yuqi feels like she can depend on Soyeon for almost anything. 

“It looked worse than it actually is.” Soyeon nods in agreement.

“What if I had broken it permanently or something? Like they would have to amputate?” Yuqi suddenly looks at Soyeon. “What if I couldn’t walk normally for the rest of my life?” She knows that it couldn’t get that bad from a sprain ankle, but she wanted to know what Soyeon would say.

“Oooohhh …” Soyeon makes a disturbed face. “That’d be a problem, wouldn’t it?” 

“It would?” Yuqi’s eyebrows rise up slowly.

“Yeah.” Soyeon nods with a frown. “I’d have to go back to school to be a biomechanical engineer. Then I’d have to design the best functional and looking prosthetic for you. Then I’d have to maintain it …” Soyeon looks at Yuqi with a slight smile, “You’d have to stay with me forever because only I can maintain it.”

“Wow. You’ve really thought this through, huh?” Yuqi laughs at Soyeon’s preposterous plan.

“Yeah, you’ll have to depend on me forever. Sorry.” Soyeon shrugs as if there’s no other choice.

“This is like that movie, Misery. Are you Nurse Annie?” Yuqi gasps and pretends to lean away from Soyeon.

“Uh … what?” Soyeon blinks in confusion.

“Misery. That Stephen King movie with Kathy Bates? She breaks this guy’s ankles and imprisons him while pretending to nurse him back to health.” Yuqi tries to think back to the movie that she watched a long time ago.

“Uh … what?” Soyeon is disturbed and confused.

“Yeah, that’s like me right now. You’re trying to keep me forever?” Yuqi playfully pokes Soyeon’s side, making the older woman squirm.

“No … I didn’t break your ankles … wait, you don’t want to stay with me forever?” Soyeon feigns a hurt expression. “I was volunteering to take care if you forever. Is that a burden?”

“No … well, yes.” Yuqi reaches over and holds both of Soyeon’s cheeks inside her palms. “I want to take care of you, too. I don’t want it to be just one way.”

Soyeon looks into Yuqi’s earnest eyes and a bright blush creeps onto her cheeks. She could feel the heat on her face, or it could just be Yuqi’s warm hands. “Okay … please take care of me.”

“Good.” Yuqi smiles and pinches Soyeon’s cheeks slightly. “How about hot chocolate when we get back?”

“Okay …” Soyeon absentmindedly touches her cheek after Yuqi lets go. “We have to stop to get milk.”

“Okay, then we go home to make hot chocolate.” Yuqi nods and leans against Soyeon again. They enjoy the warmth from each other against the coldness of this December day.

 



“This is funny, right?” Minnie turns to Miyeon and smiles.

“Yeah, look at the way he’s chasing his tail.” Miyeon nods excitedly and points to Minnie’s phone.

They are currently on the sofa in the resident lounge. Minnie has her arm across the back of the sofa and her legs crossed while Miyeon is leaning against her. During their short break, they are watching a bunch of funny animal videos on YouTube. 

“Should we get a dog?” Minnie suddenly asks without much context.

Miyeon blinks at her a few times before leaning back, “We don’t even live together. How will we adopt a dog?”

“Well, should we live together?” Minnie asks with her head tilted.

“Um … eventually?” Miyeon answers with a question. “We just became official not too long ago …” Miyeon definitely doesn’t want to be the couple that moves in quickly and then breaks up quickly. In America, she believes they are so-called ‘U-HAUL lesbians’ or something of that nature.

“Hmmm.” Minnie makes a sound and goes back to searching through videos.

“Does that upset you?” Miyeon runs her hands through Minnie’s hair and tucks some strands behind Minnie’s ear, to not obstruct her view of Minnie’s face.

“No. I just thinks it’d be nice to wake up next to you every morning.” Minnie answers without looking at Miyeon, but Minnie’s ear is bright red. 

“Huh.” Miyeon pokes Minnie’s cheek. “You know know I’m not a morning person.” 

“I know. You can sleep ‘til noon or whenever you want. I just want you to be the first person I see when I wake up.” Minnie is persistent in not looking at Miyeon. She’s an emotional person, but even she has limits on embarrassing talks like this. 

“So you want to move in together and get a dog?” Miyeon considers the possibility, but it is a bit overwhelming to think about when they just finally stabilized. 

“We don’t have to get a dog right away.” Minnie points at a video of a kitten sleeping in the sun by a window.

“But you really want to move in together? We’ve only been official for like two weeks.” Miyeon puts her hand on the phone screen and looks intently at Minnie.

Minnie puts her phone down and finally looks at Miyeon. “I know, I won’t push it if you’re not comfortable with it. I just want …” she pauses to search for the right words, “… to make up for lost times.”

Miyeon chuckles and shakes her head. “Don’t think like that, the past is past. I want to move in together with you and adopt a dog … I want that. But I want us to do things right and not rush it, you know?”

Minnie studies Miyeon’s face for a hot second before leaning in to place a quick peck on Miyeon’s lips. “Okay. I know. I was just afraid you’d miss me too much when we’re not together.”

“I do.” Miyeon laughs and leans closer against Minnie. “But I am that much happier when we see each other.”

Minnie kisses the top of Miyeon’s head and they go back to watching videos. Minnie will have to be content with this for a little while. Things might have been different, had she been more honest with herself and Miyeon much earlier. For now, Minnie will just have to work harder to prove to Miyeon and they can go the distance.

 

 

“Hi Soojin-unnie!” Shuhua crashes into Soojin, giving her a tight hug, the moment that  Soojin opened her office’s door.

“Oof.” Soojin loses her breath for a moment before that vice-like grip is loosen. “Hey Shuhua.” She steps aside for Shuhua to get into the office before closing the door.

“How are you today? Have you eaten breakfast yet?” Shuhua asks as she quickly scans the room for any other soul. 

“Not yet, it’s been a busy morning.” Soojin follows Shuhua’s gaze around the room. As if reading the younger woman’s mind, she adds. “Soyeon left to follow up on some labs. We just came back from a conference call so haven’t had a chance to eat yet.”

“Oh … I see …” Shuhua nods and hesitates as if wanting to ask something.

“Shuhua …” Soojin speaks to make it a little easier for Shuhua. “Sorry I was called into surgery that day and we couldn’t go on our date.” That’s exactly what Soojin’s text said right before when they were scheduled to meet. It was an emergency and Soojin didn’t even have time to make a phone call. Since then, Soojin has attempted to apologize several times.

“It’s okay, unnie. I know that it was important.” Shuhua pulls up a chair from Soyeon’s desk and scoots closer to Soojin. “I just wanted to see you today. That’s all.” They’ve attempted to reschedule several times but they either had surgery, seminar, or some sort of other work thing going on. Very soon, another week has passed.

“How about we reschedule for this coming Thursday?” Soojin pulls up her calendar on her desktop. “I have a light schedule that day so I can get out early.” 

Shuhua smiles happily and quickly nods. “It’s Christmas Eve … would that be okay?” Shuhua is here in Korea alone, so she wasn’t planning on doing anything with anyone. She’d assumed everyone would want to be with their partners or family. She’d assumed Soojin would be busy, too. Even though she didn’t ask.

“Yeah. I didn’t have any plans, my parents and sister are in Hawaii for vacation. They’ve decided on a tropical Christmas.” Soojin smiles and shrugs. “I wasn’t going to be doing anything special … until now.” Sometimes Soojin can be slick if she wants to be.

“I’m glad … I mean, not because you didn’t have any plans …” Shuhua quickly corrects herself, “but I’m glad I get to spend Christmas Eve with you.”

“Would you like me to pick you up?” Soojin points to the window. “It’s starting to snow quite a bit, it’ll be better than riding the bus.”

Shuhua blushes because it sounds like a real date. Actually, it is a real date. “Yes, Soojin-unnie. Please pick me up.” Sometimes she gets to be so demure with Soojin. Her high energy excitement still bubbles at the surface, but Soojin makes her feel this peaceful happiness that she just can’t wish for anything more. She reaches over and holds Soojin’s hands, just about the only intimacy that she’s been allowed.

“Have you eaten?” Soojin looks at Shuhua’s hands wrapped around hers. “I can take a break and we can get some refreshments?” 

Shuhua nods happily again. “I want a smoothie!” 

“Isn’t it a little cold for a smoothie?” Soojin asks as she grabs her wallet.

“Yes, but I’m craving something cold and sweet right now.” Shuhua holds Soojin’s hand as they rise from their seat.

“Okay, if that’s what you want … let me text Soyeon to let her know I’ve gone to the cafeteria.” Soojin pulls out her phone with her free hand while they head out the door.

“Thank you, Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua takes advantage of Soojin’s momentary distraction and tiptoes up to plan a quick kiss on Soojin’s cheek. She just couldn’t resist those round cheeks. She wishes she could nuzzle her entire face against them.

Surprised, Soojin blinks twice as she stares at Shuhua. 

Thinking that she’s crossed the line, Shuhua stammers. “I-I’m sorry, unnie … it was spur of the moment …”

After a few more blinks, Soojin composes herself even though her puffy cheeks are now rosy with shyness. She tries not to smile as she replies. “It’s okay … I didn’t hate it …” 

“Then can I do it again?” Shuhua’s eyes grow wider.

“Don’t even think about it.” The stern tsundere persona returns quickly.

 

 

Snow, like little cotton pieces, is carried by the wind and float downward to collect on the edge of the balcony before sliding off when too much snow has accumulated. The outside world looks to be so dreary and cold as opposed to the warmth inside Yuqi and Soyeon’s apartment. Yuqi sits on the sofa with a blanket over her legs while sipping on a warm cup of tea. 

“Here. Have some biscuits with your tea.” Soyeon sinks into the seat next to Yuqi and puts the plate on her lap. Yuqi leans against Soyeon and rests her head on the older woman’s shoulder. 

“It’s cold again today.” Yuqi mutters sleepily while warming her hands with the hot tea. She has been home for the past two weeks, resting her ankle while getting used to the domicile life with Soyeon. “Do you want to share the blanket?” She lifts up the fabric to pull over to Soyeon.

“Thank you.” Soyeon happily snuggles up to Yuqi and stares out the window with her girlfriend. “Do you want to order in today?”

“What are you feeling?” Yuqi absentmindedly rubs the smoothness of Soyeon’s knee, feeling the bone structure under the skin. 

“Fried chicken and fries or pizza?” Soyeon grins sheepishly, knowing that they’re all high calories items that Yuqi is actually trying to avoid.

Yuqi puffs out her cheeks, “You know that I’m trying to avoid all the greasy food. I don’t want to get that much more weight while resting.” 

Soyeon chuckles and pokes at Yuqi’s cheek, “You can have a salad.”

“While you stuff yourself with the good stuff?” Yuqi avoids Soyeon’s finger on her cheek. 

“So if you can’t eat it, I can’t eat it either?” Soyeon uses her fingertip to tip Yuqi’s chin toward her.

“No.” Yuqi turns toward Soyeon, but her eyes look away like a guilty child.

“Cheeky girl.” Soyeon laughs at her childish, yet cute girlfriend. “What am I supposed to eat then? You know I hate vegetables.”

Yuqi mumbles something under her breath, too low for Soyeon to hear.

“Pardon?” Soyeon tilts her head closer to Yuqi. 

“Y-you …” Yuqi blushes deeply from the neck up, “could e-eat me instead …” She stutters the whole time, having a bit of difficulty with the level of flirtiness that she’s trying to achieve. 

Three weeks after the fall trip, Yuqi had quite a few doctor’s appointments and Soyeon had major surgeries that she had to prepare for. They barely had moments to themselves, except for this day when Soyeon has the day off. They’ve exchanged kisses here and there, but they haven’t gone much further due to lack of opportunity and experience.

“Oh … uh … I …” Soyeon’s face matches Yuqi’s bright red color. How could she say that she’s nervous about this when she doesn’t even know what to do.

“I’m just teasing.” Yuqi quickly smiles to give Soyeon an out. She knows that just like her, Soyeon lacks experience in the romance department. Throughout most of their lives, they’ve had one thing to focus on, it was their career. They both worked hard to achieve their degrees and are now working their training, but it came with a cost of neglecting the other parts of their lives.

“I want to … learn … though.” Soyeon chooses her words carefully, as to not be too crass about it. She genuinely wants to know how to please Yuqi, as a lover would.

“So … how would you … we … learn?” Yuqi is careful as well. It’s not like they are teenage schoolgirls, but speaking about this topic is difficult even for a grown woman.

“We could read … or … or watch videos …” Soyeon nervously stuffs a biscuit into her mouth. The crunching between her jaws help eases her jitters for a little bit.

“Oh … videos … that should be helpful …” Yuqi nods, also stuffing a biscuit into her mouth.

“Um … where would we … how would we find … these videos?” Soyeon swallows dryly.

“Search Naver?” Yuqi buries her face into Soyeon’s shoulder. 

“Um … okay …” Soyeon picks up her phone and pulls up Naver. “Let’s see …” She can’t believe that she’s doing this for the first time in all her years living. And with a girlfriend who is watching her with full attention. “How to … have sex … with your girlfriend?”

The articles, images, and videos that pulled up were more than anything that they were prepared for. The articles are too technical, reading them only makes the women more confused and less interested. The images are too exaggerated and lacks information. The videos were a whole other Pandora’s box.

“Oh … I don’t think my ankle will let me do that right now.” Yuqi makes a disgusted face and turns away from the screen.

“Uh … how is that even physically possible …” Soyeon flips to another video.

They skim through some more videos before they see something that was so gross Soyeon just flat out tosses her phone away. 

“So …” Soyeon blinks, trying to clear her mind of the images that she just saw away. There were quite a bit of things to digest. Her cheeks are warm, definitely aroused by some of the images and videos, but they also scare her a bit with the level of aggressiveness some of them were.

“Yeah?” Yuqi swallows and nods. She is more nervous now than before they researched the topic. The women looked so sexy and made up, what if Soyeon doesn’t find Yuqi as appealing under these clothes? What if she becomes a turn-off?

A loud rumble from Soyeon’s stomach interrupts their discussion. This is a welcomed distraction because instantly, the atmosphere in the room lightens up. “Fried chicken or pizza?” Soyeon tries not to giggle. She’s patting her stomach as if thanking it for knowing when to speak up.

“Pizza!” Yuqi laughs as she hugs Soyeon tightly. 

They wordlessly decides to shelf this topic for the next time they’re ready for it. Right now, they’re happy with kissing and maybe some light touching. When they’re ready, they’ll know what to do without having to watch some weird internet videos. Or so they hope, anyways.

 



A soft melody drifts into Miyeon’s consciousness, waking her up in the lull between dreams. Her eyes open just a crack, slowly adjusting to the sunlight that filters in through the sunshades. She looks at the clock at the bedside tablet. It reads 12:30 PM. Miyeon pushes the covers down a bit as she raises her arms to stretch. Her vision focus on the empty space besides her. It must be Minnie playing the piano, Miyeon quickly realizes. She yawns softly and pulls herself out of the warm covers before grabbing a nearby woolen throw to wrap around her shivering body. Minnie keeps her place nice and drafty, a bit too chilly for Miyeon’s taste.

“Good morning …” Miyeon calls out when she reaches the massive livingroom, where Minnie is playing.

Minnie is perched on the bench, playing a quiet but joyful song. When she hears Miyeon’s voice, she quickly wipes her cheeks before turning back to smile at her girlfriend. “Good afternoon.” She corrects the sleepyhead. She stops playing and turns around completely to watch Miyeon shuffle closer. “Did you sleep well?”

Miyeon nods while rubbing the sleepiness out of her eyes. When she gets next to Minnie, she opens her throw and lets Minnie slip her arms around Miyeon. Minnie rises slowly and pulls Miyeon into her a hug. They rest their chins on the other’s shoulder as they hold each other for a long moment.

“Were you crying?” Miyeon, despite her grogginess, noticed the wetness still lingering on Minnie’s lashes.

“Mmhmm …” Minnie replies wordlessly after a second as Miyeon tilts her head back to look at Minnie’s face.

“Are you okay?” Miyeon cups Minnie’s face in her hands.

“Yeah.” Minnie nods and kisses Miyeon’s palm. “I woke up with some inspiration for a composition.”

“Want to tell me about it?” Miyeon nods encouragingly.

Minnie nods before pulling back from the hug. She goes back to the bench and plays a sweet, soft tune. It’s just a few notes right now because she just thought of it this morning. When finished, Minnie looks back up at Miyeon expectingly.

“It’s good …” Miyeon searches for her words, “like warm wishes and … peace?” She struggles to think this early in the day. Besides, eloquence is not really her forte.

A small smile spreads across Minnie’s face and she nods. “I knew you’d get it.” She scoots over to let Miyeon share the piano bench with her before continuing. “I woke up thinking about Somi.” She quickly adds so Miyeon wouldn’t worry. “Nothing bad, just remembering the good times with her. I suddenly felt the need to play the piano … instead of sad tunes, I played these happy and peaceful notes. I cried because I felt the most peaceful and happiest feeling in a long time … mostly thanks to you … I think … I feel that I can finally say goodbye properly … so I’m going to compose a song for her and play it the next time I visit her.” She smiles at Miyeon, who is looking at her with this incredulous look.

Miyeon is quiet. Miyeon is thinking that Minnie is the most beautiful person she’s ever met. From the way that the sunlight is making Minnie glow to the fact that Minnie has one of the warmest hearts she’s ever seen, Miyeon smiles when she realizes that this is why she loves her so much. “Can I come with you at that time?” 

Minnie nods happily. “Yes, we have to make it official for her. She doesn’t know that we’re together yet.”

“Thank you.” Miyeon leans on and rests her head against Minnie’s. 

“Thank you for loving me.” Minnie reaches over to hold Miyeon’s hand on her lap. “Thank you for giving me another chance.”

They lean on each other with their hands held together for a long time before they have to get started with their day.

 

 

“It’s really coming down out there.” Soyeon sips on her cup of coffee as she watches the snow come down across the hospital’s grounds.

Soojin looks up from her desk and looks out the window to the snow coming down as fast as rain. “Yeah, it’s the white Christmas that everyone wish for.” She comments before looking back down at the papers on her desk, continuing to scribble away. If she wants to leave early enough to have time to get ready and go pick Shuhua up, she better finish her work soon. 

“Yeah.” Soyeon says quietly as she thinks back to Yuqi, who’s alone at home right now. She wonders what her girlfriend is up to on this cold afternoon. Probably bundled up on the sofa while doing some work from home. Probably still has on the same hoodie from yesterday. That thought makes Soyeon smile. Right after the lab result that she’s waiting on gets in, Soyeon is free to go home to see Yuqi.

“How’s Yuqi’s ankle doing?” Soojin asks as she skim through some information.

“Much better. She should be back within the week.” Soyeon quickly replies with a large smile plastered on her face. “Thanks for asking.”

“Good.” Soojin looks up and smiles back at Soyeon, noting how soft the younger woman looks. “She sounded like she was really bored on the group chat the other night.” Everyone’s been busy with their own thing so they’ve been keeping Yuqi company by random video group chats. 

“Yeah, she hates staying at home. I think she’s starting to have a major cabin fever.” Soyeon laughs, remembering how Yuqi whined to everyone about her predicament. “Shuhua is really excited about this date that you guys are going on tonight.” She changes the topic to something that grabs Soojin’s attention.

As predicted, Soojin perks up from her desk but she pretends to be cool about it. “She is?” She asks with as little interest in her voice as possible.

Soyeon nods, continuing in her own cool voice. “Of course. That’s all she’s been talking about all week … just like the week before when you guys were supposed to go out.”

“I see.” Soojin replies softly and tries to hide a satisfied smile, knowing that Shuhua is as excited if not more than her is putting some extra energy in her. She starts to scribble on the notes a little faster, but she’s still being as thorough and precise as possible. “I’m almost done here, do think you are okay doing the follow ups on your own?”

“Yeah. I’ll be okay. No worries.” Soyeon gives Soojin a thumb up with her smile. “Go get your girl.” Soyeon laughs and goes back to her desk to check on the labs that she’s been waiting on.

The door beeps right before it slides open and Dr. Kim Yongsun steps inside the room. She has a more serious than normal look on her face as she motions for both Soojin and Soyeon to come to her. “Alright you two. The time that we’ve been preparing for is here.” She looks between the two younger women. “Mr. Hwang has a heart candidate at Ulje Hospital. The person is a young man who was involved in an motorcycle accident. He is braindead and the family wants to donate the heart. You two will go there to wait for them to perform the extraction surgery and pull the plug, then come back here with the heart so we can perform the transplant.” She gives them a quick run down of the situation.

This is exactly what they’ve been preparing toward for almost a month. Mr. Hwang moved up to the top of the transplant list at the end of October and this is the perfect opportunity for both women to experience a heart transplant from beginning to end. They have gone over the procedures, techniques, and requirements dozens of times. This has to be perfect, nothing could go wrong. Soojin looks over at Soyeon, who gives her a confident nod. “We’re ready, when do we head out?” Soojin asks for them both.

“The chopper’s on the roof already, it takes off in twenty. I’ve already gathered the required equipments. You guys go get your things then go.” Dr. Kim hands them each the file of the patient who is the heart donor. “Any other question?”

Soojin and Soyeon shakes their heads in synchrony. “No ma’am.”

Dr. Kim gives them both thumbs up before making her way back to the door. “I’ll see you guys when you get back. Good luck.” She waves at them before making her exit, resting sure that they know the importance of this surgery for the patient and all of their careers.

When left alone, the two young doctors look at each other with incredulous looks. They smile at each other, understanding the other’s excitement and nervousness. Quickly, they return to their desks and gather up necessary items before making their own exit. Soojin’s mind is racing a mile a minute, there are so many things to think about and anticipate before the actual transplant surgery itself. All the thoughts continue amass as she walks through the hallway with Soyeon. Their tension is palpable as both brace for the many possibilities that lie ahead of them. Even the best laid plans can go awry and they have to be prepared for that, especially since their attending is here waiting for them.

“Soojin-unnie! Soyeon!” A voice calls out from behind them, a very happy and excited voice.

Crap. Soojin thought to herself. How did she forget about Yeh Shuhua? She turns to Soyeon, who has already turned back to wave at Shuhua. “Can you go on ahead and let the pilot know that I’m on my way?” She tells Soyeon, who nods understandingly and continues ahead of Soojin.

Shuhua catches up with Soojin with a bright smile on her sweet face. “Hi, Soojin-unnie. Where are you guys going?” Her eyes drift toward Soyeon’s receding figure.

“Shuhua, listen …” Soojin steps closer to the younger woman. She hates doing this for a second time to this sweet girl. “Soyeon and I are on our way to Ulje Hospital, the heart transplant that we’ve been preparing for is finally happening …” She speaks as low and softly as she could, it’s the only way she knows to let someone down.

Shuhua’s eyes light up in excitement, then immediately look crestfallen when she realizes that Soojin will be gone for the day. “Oh … that’s great news, Unnie.” The corner of her mouth twitches upward in an attempt to smile, but the disappointment in her eyes cause Soojin’s stomach to sink. “Good luck, I know you’ll do great.” 

Soojin reaches up to cup Shuhua’s cheeks, her eyes gazing deeply into those dark pools. “Thank you … wait for me, okay?” Her thumbs brush across Shuhua’s cheeks as the younger woman nods slightly.

“I will.” Shuhua’s cheeks warm with Soojin’s touch.

Soojin pulls Shuhua’s face closer and tilts her chin downward before planting a soft kiss on Shuhua’s forehead. Her lips press lightly against Shuhua’s porcelain skin, leaving just a trace of of her lipstick. “I have to go now, I’ll be back soon.” She steps back, but lets her fingertips linger on Shuhua’s cheek for as long as possible before turning away. Her pace quickens as she gets further away from Shuhua, resolving herself to do whatever she can to get back as soon as possible.

Shuhua watches Soojin disappears into an elevator while reaching up to cup her own cheeks. “I thought she was going to kiss me …” Her heart is beating right out of her chest as she remembers the sensation of Soojin’s lips on her skin. Once again, she watches Soojin walk away with conviction.

 

 

“Alright, I’ll see you when I get back, Yuqi-ah. Don’t forget to eat, okay?” Soyeon yells into her phone while covering her open ear with one hand. “Okay, see you later!” She tosses her head back to get her hair out of her face as the turbulent wind whips her hair every which way. When she spots Soojin on the helipad, she waves to the older woman then puts her freezing hands into her coat. They both make their way to the helicopter and the door slides right open for them. The snow is really coming down on this dreary afternoon as they rise above the hospital and then the city.

Soyeon looks out the window down to the ground that is slowly drifting away and soon the hospital disappears from view as they make their two hour trip toward Ulje hospital. Soyeon gets on her phone, texting Yuqi about the food that she left in the fridge. She sighs because she doesn’t get to spend Christmas Eve with her girlfriend and to give her the present that Soyeon’s been hiding for weeks. Soyeon really wanted to see Yuqi open the present on Christmas morning, but considering how long the surgeries will be … she’s not optimistic that she would get to see Yuqi before Christmas is over.

Soojin has the same realization as she watches the snow fly by. She wouldn’t get to see Shuhua until after Christmas probably, because when they get back to CUBE, they’d have to go straight into surgery and that is not a short surgery. She leans her temple against the head rest and closes her eyes, it’s been a while since Soojin was excited for a date like this. She really wanted to cook for Shuhua today. Maybe even have that first kiss that they both have been anticipating.

 

 

Yuqi finally hobbles into the kitchen when her stomach rumbled for the fifth time. She knows better than to wait for Soyeon, because her girlfriend is already a city away waiting on a heart to bring back to put into a man who desperately needs it. Thinking about Soyeon makes Yuqi smile unconsciously. Soyeon is so calm and cool, but is also the sweetest person that Yuqi’s ever met. In the fridge, Soyeon had packed food for Yuqi according to meals of the day so Yuqi would just have to microwave the containers. Soyeon made sure that the meals aren’t all the same so Yuqi wouldn’t get bored of eating them. 

When her food is warmed, Yuqi delicately carries it back to the sofa and puts it on the coffee table. The sun is starting to set and it’s getting darker out there. Yuqi picks up her phone to see if there’s any more message from Soyeon. She types in a quick good luck message and tells Soyeon to tell the pilot to be careful flying back in the dark like this.

 

 

Shuhua’s breaths form a light mist as she walks to the bus stop. She zips her jacket all the way up to cover her chin as she turtles her neck inward to keep warm in this blasted cold. Maybe this miserable feeling is because of the cold and wind, but Shuhua really wants to cry. Normally Shuhua isn’t one to get sad easily, but when Soojin’s already had to cancel their date twice, it feels like they’ll never go on a date together. Maybe it’s a sign. Shuhua understands that Soojin didn’t do it intentionally, but she feels like the more they delay, the higher the chance that Soojin would  change her mind.

“Get it together, Shuhua.” She says to herself, because she really doesn’t want to have a breakdown at a bus stop.

Shuhua’s phone vibrates in her pocket, so she pulls it out to see a message from Soyeon. The older woman is asking her to check on Yuqi, who’s alone at home right now. Shuhua forgets that Yuqi is also spending this Christmas Eve alone. Maybe they can keep each other company until Soojin and Soyeon gets back.

 

 

“What’s the delay?” Soyeon is starting to get a little impatient, they have been waiting for a few hours since arriving at Ulje Hospital and they still don’t have the heart in their hands. They have been sitting in the hospital’s resident lounge for a long while since the last update, so Soojin went to get some information.

“The weather.” Soojin sounds annoyed. “They’re saying that the snow may turn into a blizzard and they’re afraid that if they take the heart now, we still can’t go back to CUBE until the snow lightens up. Then the heart would go to waste. So we’re all on standby for the weather.” It took a lot for her not to not sound angry at the situation. She knows that she can’t risk driving the heart back in these dangerous conditions and it would take longer on the road. But the helicopter can’t fly with high wind and low visibility, it would be even more dangerous. 

“So we wait.” Soyeon’s shoulders shrink as she glances at the clock, they’re almost nine o’clock. They’ve been here for almost seven hours. They’ve had a cafeteria meal when their spirit was still high. “Let’s catch some sleep …” She formulates a plan, “they’ll come get us when it’s time and we will go straight into surgery when we get back. So let’s rest while we still can.” 

Soojin nods, but she’s not sure how she could sleep when she’s feeling so anxious about so many things right now. She chews on her lower lip as she sits on one of the sofas while Soyeon decides to curl up on the other. She considers for a second before pulling out her phone to text Miyeon.

 

 

“Merry Christmas!” Miyeon happily announces as she waves to the child laying on the hospital bed in a hospital gown. 

The young girl smiles weakly at Miyeon and waves back at Miyeon before her eyes drift toward Minnie. Immediately her eyes brighten and her smile widens.

Minnie is dressed in a bright red dress with white fur trims. She has on black knee high boots and a red Santa hat that has Minnie Mouse ears coming out of it. She’s also carrying a large sack on her back. “Merry Christmas! Ho ho ho!” Minnie laughs as she walks closer to the hospital bed.

“Hi.” The child smiles shyly at Minnie’s get-up. 

“Hi, are you little Lee Areum?” Minnie asks with her signature eye smile.

Little Areum nods shyly as she tries to sit up on her bed with Miyeon’s help.

“Well, little Areum. My name is Minnie and I’m one of Santa’s mouse helpers. He’s running a little late this year, but he wanted to make sure that you get your present so he sent me to bring it to you.” Minnie digs into her large cloth sack and pulls out a wrapped present. 

“Really?” Areum’s face lights up as she reaches out for the present. Her little hands are so small compared to the box.

“Yeah, will you forgive Santa?” Minnie asks after handing the box over.

“Yes … Minnie-unnie.” Areum gently nods as she eyes the big bow on top of the nice wrapping paper.

Minnie glances at Miyeon, who’s looking at her adoringly, and winks. “That’s why you’re on Santa’s good list.” She gently pats Areum’s head. “You can open it whenever you want to.”

“I … want to save it so I can open it tomorrow with my umma.” Areum looks up at Minnie with a smile that could break the coldest of hearts.

They are here at the Children’s Hospital. Every year, there are children, either too sick to go home or has no home to go to, who have to stay at the hospital. Children like Areum, whose single mom is working to pay for her hospital bills. They have to fight to live, so luxuries like presents and Christmas are just secondary thoughts. Miyeon wanted to get the kids something to cheer them up. They went shopping for the better part of the week to fill the gaps of whatever donations couldn’t cover.

“Are you okay?” Miyeon asks when they leaves Areum’s room.

“Yeah.” Minnie blinks the tears from her eyes. It’s just so sad how the each room in the hospital is a different scene. Some patients’ rooms are full of warmth from family and friends. Some are empty and cold like little Areum’s. 

“If you want to take a break …” Miyeon starts but Minnie shakes her head.

“I don’t know how you do it every day.” Minnie means dealing with the sickest of sick children day in and day out. Minnie has a weakness for sick children and the elderly. Everything reminds her of the past few months and the depression that she went through. She has a newfound respect for her girlfriend, who is this strong woman before her. This woman who always smile despite the toughest of times.

“It doesn’t get any easier.” Miyeon smiles as she interlaces her fingers with Minnie’s free hand. “But I remind myself that they are here for me to treat them with the best of my ability, not for my pity. I try to cheer them up with snack and presents, but most of all they just want to get well.”

Minnie squeezes Miyeon’s hand as they walk to the next patient’s room. Miyeon’s phone dings softly as she receives a text from Soojin.

“Soojin is asking us to check in on Shuhua. She said Soyeon and her are stuck at Ulje Hospital because of the weather. Shuhua went to check in on Yuqi and is camping out there for the night.” Miyeon looks over at Minnie, who nods with understanding. 

“Okay, let’s finish handing out presents to the kids here and go to our kids over there.” Minnie chuckles and waits for Miyeon to knock on the next patient’s door.

“Okay.” Miyeon smiles back at her, noting how strong Minnie has gotten in the past few weeks. She was worried that being here with so many sick children would cause Minnie to spiral back into her depression, but the Thai woman has returned to the Minnie that Miyeon fell in love with. The funny, sweet woman who has so much compassion for patients. Miyeon want to, but could never tell Minnie that she is the reason that Miyeon try her best for patients everyday. When they were residents, Miyeon viewed her job as just a job. Compassion was a foreign concept to her because it wasn’t really something that is taught. She was touched by some patients, but she doesn’t let it affect her in any way. Going above and beyond seemed like a very taxing notion. But Minnie showed her what compassion was and how that affect patients’ outcome and ultimately Miyeon as a person. Miyeon doesn’t want Minnie to think of her as anything but the person that Minnie loves for being strong and compassionate.

“Are you ready?” Minnie smiles.

Miyeon nods and answer. “Yes.”

 

 

“Soojin?” A man’s voice voice calls out to Soojin when she is pouring herself some coffee. She turns around to find herself looking at tall young man in surgical scrubs.

“Hoetaek-oppa.” Soojin mutters and looks at the man who is standing in front of her. “Hi.” She smiles softly at the man. “I didn’t realize you were working today.” 

“Good morning.” Hoetaek is a tall guy with a stylish haircut and eyes that seem to be perpetually darkened like he’s been missing sleep.

“Have you been well?” Soojin asks politely. She’s been here all night. They finally got the confirmation that the patient is undergoing heart extraction at two in the morning. It’s nice to see a familiar face in the foreign setting.

“Yeah I’ve been good … are you here for my heart?” Lee Hoetaek smiles charmingly. 

“Huh?” Soojin blushes, but is confused nonetheless.

“I mean, my patient’s heart.” Hoetaek clarifies while his eye smile does the charming for him. “We just finished the extraction, they’re finishing up in there … should be out here any moment.”

“Oh.” Soojin blinks and nods. “Yes … I’m here for the heart.” She looks down at the cup of coffee in her hand before grabbing three packs of sugar. “Here, looks like I won’t have time to enjoy the coffee.”

“Thank you.” Hoetaek accepts the cup and sugars with both hands. “You still remember how many sugars I take?”

“Yeah … it’s just habit.” Soojin smiles and watches as Hoetaek open the packets to put sugar into his cup of coffee. 

“I forgot to ask about your fall trip. Was the Jeep good?” Hoetaek gives the coffee a quick stir before taking a sip. 

“It was good. Thank you for loaning it to me.” Soojin nods happily. “I had a really good trip with it.”

“We should go on another trip sometimes, I know a few cool camping spots that I think you’d enjoy a lot.” Hoetaek grins as he leans against the counter to chat with Soojin.

“Y-yeah …” Soojin nods hesitantly.

At this time, Soyeon choose to cough and wakes up from her spot on the sofa. The sound snaps Soojin’s attention back to reality.

“Omo.” Hoetaek jumps slightly before laughing nervously. “You scared me.”

Soyeon rises, eyes looking sheepish and sleepy. She has been awake for a while, but she didn’t want to interrupt the conversation until she couldn’t stay still anymore. “Sorry …”

Hoetaek looks over to Soojin, who is staring at Soyeon with a jolted expression. He has rarely seen this look on the normally poker faced Soojin. Soyeon looks from Hoetaek to Soojin as she stands up to stretch. Seeing that Soojin is not in a position to introduce anyone, Soyeon looks back at Hoetaek and bows slightly. “Hi. My name is Jeon Soyeon, I’m a cardio intern at CUBE Hospital.”

Hoetaek snaps out of his thoughts before nodding and stepping forward to offer his hand for Soyeon to shake. “I’m Lee Hoetaek. I’m a fourth year cardio resident here at Ulje.” Hoetaek’s charming smile doesn’t have as much of an effect on Soyeon. They politely shake hands while Soojin comes back to her senses.

“Soojin and I went to medical school together.” Hoetaek motions toward Soojin, who nods quickly.

Before Soojin could add anything to the conversation, another resident comes into the lounge to announce that the heart is ready for transport and the helicopter will be ready in twenty minutes. The weather has vastly improved this morning and they could make a quick departure back to CUBE. Soojin and Soyeon thank the person before going to get their things ready.

“Well, safe travels back to CUBE … I’ll see you soon?” Hoetaek asks with a hopeful smile.

Soojin smiles and nods. “Let’s see when our schedules match up. Thank you for a successful surgery.” 

“It was nice meeting you, Jeon Soyeon-ssi. Best of luck on your residency.” Hoetaek offers a friendly wave toward Soyeon before leaving the lounge.

Soyeon waits for Hoetaek to leave the room before turning to Soojin with an expectant look. Soojin notices her stare and frowns questioningly, “What?”

“Is there something going on here?” Soyeon asks as she picks up her equipment bag. 

“What do you mean?” Soojin is playing clueless.

“You know what I mean … should I be worried for Shuhua?” Soyeon is not a fan of sticking her nose into other people’s business. But Shuhua was her friend before Soojin was her resident. Shuhua has been there for her as they study and work through problems together. She does not want the younger woman to get hurt because she sees that there is clearly something going on with the way Soojin and Hoetaek were talking. Or rather, flirting.

“It is not your business to ask.” Soojin replies in a matter of fact tone. It’s the first time in a while that Soojin take an attitude with Soyeon. She too picks up her bag and heads toward the door.

“She is my friend and if I think she might get hurt, then I will ask.” Soyeon follows Soojin closely out of the door.

“I am not going to hurt her.” Soojin whips around to face Soyeon. It’s too early for this. It’s too stressful already without this.

“Be sure that you don’t.” Soyeon stands toe to toe with Soojin. “I don’t want to lose either one of you.”

They have a staring match for a split second before Soojin turns around to head to the operating room to pick up their heart. Soyeon trails behind her, studying the cold exterior of Soojin’s back. They have had their arguments before, but Soyeon has never gone head to head with Soojin this way. She respects the older woman too much to let her make this big of a mistake.

After receiving the heart from the Ulje transplant team, they head up to the roof to catch their helicopter ride back to CUBE. The entirety of the ride is a cold war between Soojin and Soyeon. They can’t talk or look at each other because each person feels that the other one is wrong. Soojin doesn’t know why Soyeon is overreacting. Whatever she had with Hoetaek doesn’t have anything to do with what she has … or plan to have with Shuhua. They haven’t even had a date yet, for God’s sake. 

After the two hour ride, they arrive back at CUBE and rushes into the OR. There is no time for argument or any other thoughts right now when one of the biggest surgeries in their new career is right ahead of them. Let’s get Mr. Hwang the Christmas miracle that they make movies about.

 

 

Shuhua knows that Soojin is back from Ulje because she walked by the OR booked for the transplant and the ‘In Progress’ light is on. She can only imagine the difficulty of that surgery. In a way, she’s very proud of Soojin and Soyeon for participating in such an important operation. It feels so strange to be so close yet so far from Soojin right now. Shuhua hates to admit that she passes by the room several times throughout the day to see if they are done. Each time she feels more anxious than the next, just wanting to see Soojin walk out those doors.

The sun has set a while ago and yet, still no Soojin. Shuhua sighs as she walks back to her office. From her desk, she pulls out a small box that’s wrapped in simple blue paper. Soojin is not a flashy person, so Shuhua makes sure that it’s nothing too flashy. Shuhua considers going by Soojin’s office and dropping it off there. Or should she wait until the older woman gets out of surgery? Would Soojin get annoyed with her for bothering her right after an exhausting day?

“Arghhh!” So many questions and decisions make Shuhua’s head hurts. She puts her head down on her desk and closes her eyes, trying to calm down while deciding to wait for Soojin. Shuhua really wants to give Soojin her present before Christmas is over. She’s been waiting for a long time for this chance, but it feels like it’s starting to slip away from her.

 

 

The clock on the wall reads 10:37PM. 

Soojin and Soyeon practically stumble out of the OR after the ten-hour surgery. The patient is finally stable after several scares, they pulled through magnificently. Finally, they are done with the transplant and Christmas is almost over. Soojin takes off her surgical bonnet and pulls out her hairtie, letting her hair be free to breath. She glances over at Soyeon, who is just standing there with her eyes closed and breathing softly. They are exhausted, but so much lighter because the anxiety and pressure have left them. 

“Good job, Soyeon.” Soojin is the first to speak. She is glad to have such a capable intern, who’s been with her since the whole process started.

Soyeon opens her eyes and cracks a small smile. She looks a bit haggard, with her eyes sunken in a bit more than usual. “Good job, Soojin.” She replies before adding. “And I’m sorry about earlier today. I shouldn’t have jumped down your throat like that.”

“I’m sorry, too. I wasn’t in the mood to explain myself … there nothing between me and Hoetaek-oppa … anymore. I’m not going to hurt Shuhua.” Soojin says it with confidence because the first person she wanted to call when she stepped out of the OR is Shuhua. She wants to tell the young woman all about how stressed she’s been and how awesome she did during the operation. She wants to hear Shuhua’s excited squeal and the way Shuhua calls her ‘unnie’.

“I believe you.” Soyeon nods and holds down her fist toward Soojin. “We’re still a team, yeah?”

Soojin looks at Soyeon’s small fist before bumping her own fist against it. “A damn good team.” 

Soyeon smiles upon hearing that. She nods in agreement before waving to Soojin. “Alright, I’ve got to go home to see if Yuqi is okay. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

Soojin nods. “Yeah … tell Yuqi that I said hi. Do you want a ride?”

“No. I’m fine. Thank you … Merry Christmas.” Soyeon smiles tiredly before turning to go toward the locker room.

“Merry Christmas.” Soojin replies softly, reminded that it is still Christmas. 

Soojin looks at her phone and contemplates calling Shuhua, but decides against it. It’s too late at night, Shuhua’s probably already sleeping. Instead, she goes to pick up her things from her office and heads home after changing into her street clothes. She just sends Shuhua a simple Merry Christmas text before making her way to her car. Hopefully she’ll see Shuhua tomorrow to give her the present that she got.

In the empty parking garage, the sound of Soojin’s foot steps echo against the quiet space. Soojin’s car is still parked where she left it yesterday. It’s been over twenty four hours since Soojin left this spot. Her neck and shoulder feel so stiff after standing and looking down for ten long hours after a restless night. She really want to sink into a hot bath right now, but knowing her, she’ll probably collapse into bed the moment that she gets home. These two days have turned out a lot more differently than what she had planned. She had imagined a lot more of Shuhua and a whole lot less of stress and exhaustion. She’s so exhausted that she’s even hearing Shuhua’s voice right now. Or is she?

“Soojin-unnie, wait!” Shuhua’s voice booms in the echoing garage, making Soojin stop in her track and turn around to see a real life Shuhua sprinting toward her. “Wait!”

Surprised, Soojin just blinks while staring at the panting woman in front of her. “What … are you doing here?”

“I …” Shuhua gulps for air and saliva as she tries to speak. “I … I’ve been … waiting for … you.” She suddenly digs into her coat’s pocket a pulls out a small square box that is simply wrapped in blue paper with a cute white bow. “M-Merry … Christmas.” Shuhua says between labored breaths as she deposits the box into Soojin’s hand.

“You’ve been waiting for me?” Soojin’s brows knit together as she looks at her watch again, just to confirm the time is 11PM. “How long have you been waiting?”

“Not too long.” Shuhua’s innocent face smiles happily, knowing that she made it before the end of Christmas. 

Suddenly, all the exhaustion leaves Soojin’s body and she quickly strides toward the most adorable girl in the world. She cups Shuhua’s cheeks and tilts Shuhua’s chin upward. Her eyes search those dark pearls for a split second before she presses her lips against Shuhua’s parted ones. It takes a second for their lips to warm in the coldness of the night, but they kept them pressed against each other for as long as possible. When Soojin is ready to pull back, Shuhua’s hands reach up to her coat’s collar and pull her back, refusing to stop this kiss. It feels even better than what Shuhua had imagined. She presses her body against Soojin’s and pushes the older woman backward, trapping her between Shuhua and the car. 

Shuhua kisses Soojin hungrily, as if she’s been given the most lavish of meals after starving for so long. Soojin’s lips are just as she imagined if not more, so warm and soft and God does she smell so good. Soojin almost forgets to breath from the way Shuhua kisses her, so tender and urgent at the same time. Her arms wrap around Shuhua’s body, pulling her as close as possible. Suddenly, a car enters the garage, its headlights briefly shining on Soojin, blinding and stunning her for a second. She panics, it’s improper to be making out at work like this, where everyone can see and there are cameras. She pulls her head back and turns her face to the side in embarrassment at her loss of self-control.

Shuhua could not care less about people seeing. Her lips try to follow Soojin’s, only for the older woman to turn away from her. Feeling as if she did something wrong, Shuhua steps back away from Soojin, only for the older woman to pull her back. Confused, Shuhua looks up expectantly at Soojin, letting the older woman lead again.

“We’re still at work.” Soojin quietly explains, her eyes still looking at Shuhua’s lips. Those lips with her lipstick smeared all over it. God does Soojin want to put more of her lipstick all over Shuhua … but this is not the time nor place for that. She swallows hard. “We wouldn’t want to give them too much of a show.”

Shuhua smiles and shakes her head. “No, we wouldn’t want that.” Her smile grows to be a bit more mischievous as she fixes Soojin’s coat collar. “I thought you don’t kiss before the first date, Unnie?”

Soojin snorts and shakes her head. “I don’t.”

“Then what was that?” Shuhua smiles and teases Soojin a little more. 

“What was what?” Soojin pretends not to know and looks around. “I don’t know what you’re referring to.”

“Are you serious right now?” Shuhua yells and playfully hits Soojin’s shoulders.

Soojin laughs along before grabbing Shuhua’s wrists to stop her silly attack. “I also have something for you, wait here a second.” She smiles and walks around to the passenger side of her car. She opens the door and leans in to grab a rectangular box from the glove compartment. When she gets back to Shuhua, the young woman sees that is a red package with a white bow. “Merry Christmas, Yeh Shuhua.” 

Shuhua smiles and happily accepts the present before jumping onto Soojin for another tight hug. “Thank you so much. Merry Christmas, Seo Soojin.” 

“Let’s get out of here, I’ll take you home.” Soojin squeezes Shuhua again and gives her cheek a soft kiss.

“Okay, unnie.” Shuhua is reluctant to let go of Soojin, but is happy that she gets to share a ride with Soojin.

They both gets into the car and Soojin starts driving toward Shuhua’s apartment. She doesn’t even need the navigation system anymore because she’s memorized that way there from the past times. Looking over at the smiling Shuhua, she reaches for the younger woman’s hand to hold again as she drives. On the way, Soojin tells Shuhua all about the craziness that went on in the past two days, including how awesome she was during the actual transplant operation.

A lively conversation makes the drive go quickly and they are in front of Shuhua’s apartment before they knew it. Soojin gets out of the car and stands in front of Shuhua.

“Thanks for taking me home.” Shuhua holds up her present. “And for this.”

“You’re welcome …” Soojin pulls her present out of her pocket. “Thank you for mine.” 

“You’re welcome. I hope you’ll think of me when you use it.” Shuhua smiles so sweetly again, making Soojin give into her urge again.

Soojin leans closer to Shuhua and quickly pecks her on the lips. Once she starts, Soojin feels like she can’t stop. She want to feel and taste those lips again and again and again … she could feel Shuhua’s fingers running through her hair to hold her face close. They kiss passionately again, even more than the first time because they are now addicts after that first hit.

“Can I come up?” Soojin asks softly between pauses.

“Hmm?” Shuhua couldn’t hear Soojin well between her panting breaths, but she could’ve sworn Soojin asked to come to her apartment.

“Can I stay the night?” Soojin asks again, now heavily blushing. “Not for … THAT … I just don’t want to go home right now …” Shuhua could get used to this honest and up-front Soojin.

“Yes. Yes. Of course.” Shuhua nods excitedly and grabs Soojin’s hand, pulling her toward the entrance of the building. She doesn’t want to give Soojin time to change her mind. She’s not going to lie and say that she’s not hoping for other things, but right now she really doesn’t want Soojin to go home either.

Soojin blushes as she allows herself to be lead up to Shuhua’s apartment. The one with about ten delivery boxes waiting for it in front of the door. Soojin’s eyes widen when Shuhua opens the door to reveal a whole apartment full of boxes from the front door to the back. Soojin had expected something completely different. Suddenly the stress and anxiety returns to Soojin’s body as she steps into Shuhua’s apartment. 

“Shuhua-ah.” Soojin mutters as she looks around Shuhua’s collection of boxes, are they her furniture? 

“Yes, unnie?” Shuhua knows this doesn’t look too good. She should have asked to go to Soojin’s place instead.

“If you don’t get rid of these boxes, we can forget about that date.” Soojin breathes out the breath that she’s been holding.

“Okay. I’ll get right on it, they’ll be gone tomorrow!” Shuhua puts down her things and gets ready to start cleaning, but Soojin grabs her arm.

“You don’t have to start now … but soon, please.” Soojin looks at Shuhua’s face now, how could she have predicted that this is the cute facade of a hoarder?

“Yes, unnie. I promise.” Shuhua nods excitedly.

Soojin is worried because she doesn’t see any furniture in the apartment, does the younger woman sleep on cardboard boxes too? Her answer is shown when Shuhua leads her to the bedroom, where a normal full-sized bed is the sole furniture in the sea of boxes. 

“You can have the bed, unnie. I’ll grab my sleeping bag …” Shuhua’ words are silenced by Soojin’s head shake. 

“We can share, it’s big enough for both of us … let me just go wash up.” Soojin smiles and waits for Shuhua to show her to the bathroom.

Shuhua waits for Soojin to get washed up before giving her some clean clothes to wear to sleep. Soojin’s exhaustion quickly takes over her the moment her head hit the comfortable pillow. She ends up as the small spoon as Shuhua wraps one arm around her. They snuggle close to each other to keep warm for the rest of the night. And in the morning, they would wake up to go to work together for the first time.

 

 

Soyeon stomps her feet on the door mat outside of the apartment, kicking off the snow stuck to her boots, before she pushes the door open. She looks around the dimly lit house, wondering whether Yuqi is asleep. Quiet as a mouse, she closes the door behind her and slips out of her boots. Not wanting to wake Yuqi, she carefully walks into the livingroom without making too much noise. She dumps all of her work stuff onto the sofa before plopping herself down into the comfortable seat. It’s been a long two days and it feels so good and free to be home. Soyeon could pass out right now, if not for the nagging hunger in her belly. She contemplates making ramen, but she doesn’t want to wake Yuqi up.

“Are you hungry, Soyeonie?” Yuqi’s voice calls out from Yuqi’s room, jolting Soyeon awake.

“Are you awake?” Soyeon calls out.

“I’ve been waiting for you, pabo.” Yuqi hobbles out from her room, putting very little pressure on her ankle. “You must be so tired.” 

“I am …” From the sofa, Soyeon holds her hands out toward Yuqi, looking like a child who wants to be picked up.

With a small smile, Yuqi slowly walks up to Soyeon and reaches out to pull Soyeon’s head toward her belly. Soyeon wraps her arms around Yuqi’s waist and buries her face into Yuqi’s stomach. It feels extra good to be held by Yuqi, who’s gently stroking Soyeon’s head in a comforting motion. Soyeon feels all of the tiredness get washed away by a feeling of love and peace.

“Do you want me to heat up some food for you?” Yuqi asks, looking down and trying to see Soyeon’s face, which she has missed for two days.

“I can do it in a minute. Can we stay like this for a little bit?” Soyeon asks softly, speaking into Yuqi’s belly.

“Okay … but can I sit down?” Yuqi asks because it feels awkward to stand with most of her weight on her good ankle. She feels it tiring out already.

“Oh, oh. Sorry.” Soyeon snaps out of her daze and nods. “Of course, here …” She pushes her work stuff off the sofa to make room for Yuqi.

Yuqi gingerly sits down next to Soyeon and turns to her girlfriend. She leans in and places a quick peck on Soyeon’s lips before smiling brightly. “Merry Christmas.” The clock still reads 11:49PM, the day is not over yet.

“Oh! Wait here!” Soyeon suddenly remembers Yuqi’s present that she has in her closet. She hops onto her feet and quickly shuffles into her room before returning with a large box that is clumsily wrapped. “Merry Christmas, Yuqi-ah.” She hands the box to Yuqi after she reclaims her seat.

“Oh wow, this is a large box.” Yuqi happily accepts the present, it’s large but it’s light. “I also have something for you.” She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a small box, the size of a jewelry gift box. 

Soyeon accepts the gift from Yuqi with a curious smile. “Can I open it now?” 

“Yeah. I’ve been waiting for your to come home to open it.” Yuqi nods happily and motions for Soyeon to go ahead.

With childish glee, Soyeon unwraps the small present to reveal a small velvet jewelry box. She glances at Yuqi with a nervous smile before flipping the top open to reveal a pair of sparkly, star-shaped earrings. They look like they’re encrusted with diamonds, which must make them expensive. Soyeon looks at Yuqi with a surprised expression.

As if she’s read Soyeon’s mind, Yuqi smiles and shakes her head. “Don’t worry about the cost. I’m a surgeon you know, I can afford it.”

Soyeon chuckles a little, but is still nervous about accepting such an expensive present. “Um … I’m worried … what if I lose an earring or something.” 

“Then you’ll lose an ear too!” Yuqi puffs up her cheeks and puts her hands at her hips. “You should worry about that regardless of whether it’s expensive or not … it’s my first present to you as my girlfriend.”

Soyeon opens her mouth to answer, but she doesn’t find a fault in Yuqi’s logic so she is unable to argue. “Okay … I’ll take guard them with my life.”

“I was joking, it’s not that serious.” Yuqi shakes her head and taps lightly on the tip of Soyeon’s nose.

“You can open my present now.” Soyeon says shyly and pushes her present toward Yuqi.

“Yay!” Yuqi laughs and waves her hands around in excitement. She picks up the large box and rips the wrapping apart before opening the box. Soyeon watches Yuqi’s expression with great interest, hoping that her girlfriend would like her present.

“WHAT?!” Yuqi exclaims before pulling a big stuffed giraffe out of the box. “What is this?” She laughs as she looks it over, completely missing the sparkling chain around the giraffe’s neck.

“Ahem.” Soyeon pretends to cough as she makes eye signal for Yuqi to notice the sparkly thing. But being as dense as Yuqi can be, the younger woman just looks at Soyeon with a confused expression. “Look here, woman.” Soyeon finally gives up and points to the silver necklace around the stuffed giraffe’s neck.

“Oh!” Yuqi exclaims before lifting up the necklace to look at a small giraffe pendant hanging down from the chain. “This is so cute!”

Soyeon smiles and puts down her jewelry box to unclasp the necklace from the giraffe’s neck. “Here, let me.” She stands up and walks around Yuqi while the younger woman pools her hair to one side. With great care, Soyeon puts the necklace around Yuqi’s delicate neck. It takes her a moment to clasp the necklace again because her hands are having the jitters.

“Thank you.” Yuqi waits until Soyeon is in her vision before holding her hand great sincerity. “This is so lovely and thoughtful.” She never thought that she would have someone who listen so closely to her interest. Actually, she’s surprised that she even has a girlfriend.

“You’re welcome. I’m glad you like it.” Soyeon smiles and reaches up to touch the giraffe pendant that now rests between Yuqi’s collarbone.

“Let me put your earrings on for you.” Yuqi reaches for the small jewelry box before reach over to tuck some hair behind Soyeon’s ear. For some reason, Soyeon shivers the moment Yuqi touches the outer edge of her ear. 

“Tickles.” Soyeon explains while avoiding Yuqi’s gaze.

Yuqi smiles and puts the star shaped stud into Soyeon’s ears, using Soyeon’s chin to turn her head when needed. When she’s done, Yuqi deliberately touches Soyeon’s ear a little longer, causing the older woman to shiver again. She giggles when Soyeon turn beet red.

“Don’t laugh.” Soyeon pretends to scowl while looking away.

“They look good on you.” Yuqi touches Soyeon’s ear again, causing Soyeon to turn to try to bite her hand. Now that she thinks about it, their first kiss resulted from her touching Soyeon’s ear. “Do you not like it when I touch your ear?” She asks playfully.

“It’s not that.” Soyeon, who is rarely this shy, lowers her head while her ears now turn beet red as well. 

“Or do you like it … too much.” Yuqi deliberately teases Soyeon by leaning closer and whispering in her ear. 

Yuqi’s hot breath brushes against Soyeon’s skin, making her immediately lose her breath. She turns to look at Yuqi with wide eyes, having been teased a bit more than she’s used to. “You’re enjoying this waaaay too much.” She pinches Yuqi’s side, causing Yuqi to back off.

“Ouch … I was just teasing.” Yuqi rubs her side and pouts. 

Soyeon reaches for Yuqi’s free hand and holds it with sincerity. “I’m sorry I was away for almost two days, especially during Christmas, too.”

Yuqi is taken back by Soyeon’s sudden change in tone. She shakes her head and squeezes Soyeon’s hand, “Shuhua came to hang out with me last night, then Minnie and Miyeon came to check on both of us. They stayed very late so I wasn’t entirely alone.”

“I’m glad.” Soyeon smiles and wraps one arm around Yuqi’s shoulders.

Yuqi leans against Soyeon and puts one hand on Soyeon’s stomach. “But I missed you so much. I didn’t want to bother you when I know that you were busy, but I really wanted to hear your voice.”

“You mean this voice?” Soyeon opens her mouth real wide and starts to sing real loudly, causing Yuqi to laugh and cover her mouth with one hand.

“Yah! It’s late, people might be sleeping!” Yuqi laughs as Soyeon blinks at her innocently. She removes her hand, but Soyeon starts to sing again. “Please! Stop!” She laughs because Soyeon is really into the song.

Eventually, Yuqi has no other choice by to silences Soyeon with a kiss. There was no other choice, other than maybe to suffocate her with a pillow. But Yuqi likes Soyeon too much to do that. Although, her kiss only slightly dampen Soyeon’s voice as the older woman hums into Yuqi’s mouth, causing Yuqi to bite down on Soyeon’s lower lip.

“Ow.” Soyeon leans back and frowns at Yuqi.

“You play too much.” Yuqi shakes her head and pushes Soyeon into the sofa while swinging her leg over to straddle the blonde. “I’ve been waiting for you for two days and you’re not even putting that mouth to good use.” 

Soyeon blinks in surprise, maybe a bit of fear, because despite them dating for a month, she still isn’t confident enough to go the final stretch of physical intimacy. Now that Yuqi is taking the assertive role, Soyeon feels herself yielding to those forward eyes. “Um … what would you like me to do?” She asks and swallows dryly.

“I want you to …” Before Yuqi could finish her sentence, a loud rumble from Soyeon’s stomach answers for both of them. With a slight roll of her eyes, Yuqi sighs. “Go heat up the food in the fridge. I’ve made some of your favorites.” She is resigned to this fate of interruptions from Soyeon’s stomach.

Soyeon looks down at her noncompliant stomach and frowns. Always when it’s getting heated does her belly protest for food. She watches as Yuqi settle back into her seat on the sofa. “You cooked?” Yuqi is not a big fan of cooking. She hates making a mess and cooking makes messes.

“Yeah. I called your mom for some recipes.” Yuqi answers nonchalantly as if it’s not a big deal. She’s also looking a little miffed that her moment has been stolen. 

“You called umma?” Soyeon is even more impressed. 

“She gave me all the recipes … so if it’s not good, it’s her recipes’ fault.” Yuqi has to preface it just in case.

Excitedly, Soyeon jumps onto her feet and runs into the kitchen. Yuqi sighs again and leans back on the sofa, pitying herself for still being a virgin after getting a girlfriend and taking the initiative with said girlfriend. Is this the life that she is doomed to live?

“Yuqi-ah, do you want me to heat some up for you too?” Soyeon calls from the kitchen.

With a loud sigh, Yuqi answers. “Yeah, I want some.”

 

 

“Mmm, that smells good.” Minnie leans on the counter as she watches Miyeon stirring food over the hot stove. 

“It’s almost ready.” Miyeon turns to look at her adoring girlfriend, who’s watching her with a slight smile. 

“Oooh, so domestic. I like it.” Minnie teases when she looks over Miyeon wearing a frilly little apron that she hasn’t seen before.

“You like it? I got it as a Christmas present.” Miyeon looks really happy as she stirs the sizzling food around in pan.

Minnie walks around Miyeon, pretending to give the apron a good inspection. “Yeah, it’s cute … but it’d be better if it was the only thing you were wearing.”

“Yah.” Miyeon stomps and points her spatula toward Minnie’s face. “Kim Minnie, byuntae.”

“I’m just stating the truth.” Minnie laughs while dodging the spatula. “Don’t threaten me with violence.”

“I won’t give you any food then.” Miyeon covers the pan with a lid and pushes Minnie away.

“Then I’ll be so hungry …” Minnie pouts and bats her lashes, a move that almost always works with Miyeon.

After thinking for a split second, Miyeon smirks. “I have something else you can eat …” Her eyebrows waggle suggestively while Minnie feigns a shock expression.

“Cho Miyeon, byuntae.” Minnie copies Miyeon’s word before both of them bursts into laughter.

“Alright, food’s ready. Give me your bowl.” Miyeon uncovers the pan and scoops up some food into Minnie’s bowl. Using some left overs, she’s made kimchi fried rice for Minnie. They came to Miyeon’s place after work and exchanged presents, then just started watching movies until late at night. When they got hungry, Miyeon offered to cook for Minnie, something that she seldom does. Miyeon can cook, she’s just too lazy to cook. They usually order takeout or delivery.

“Oooh, it looks good too.” Minnie exclaims when Miyeon hands her the bowl. She grabs her spoon and tries to dig in, when she suddenly realizes that she should probably wait for Miyeon, too. 

Sensing Minnie’s hesitance, Miyeon motions for her to go ahead. “I’m getting mine right now.” She is happy that Minnie is excited to eat her food.

With the permission given, Minnie immediately scoops up a spoonful and stuffs it in her mouth. She chews happily while her eyes glances around, as if she’s judging the taste of the food.

“And?” Miyeon asks impatiently after Minnie has chewed for what seems to be an eternity.

“It needs some more salt.” Minnie answers honestly before taking another bite.

Miyeon huffs before taking a bite of her own. “What do you mean it needs some more salt?” She questions after swallowing her food. “It’s plenty salty.” The salt from the kimchi was already more than Miyeon usually eats. 

“You know that I like to eat salty.” Minnie answers after another bite.

“You’re going to have hypertension by the time you turn fifty. Not to mention you’ll wake up all puffy and bloated.” Miyeon watches the way Minnie is eating with so much gusto, despite complaining about the lack of salt.

“That’s for fifty year old me to worry about. And you’re the only one I’m waking up with, I don’t see you complaining.” It’s Minnie’s time to smirk.

“I think it’s good just the way it is.” Miyeon watches Minnie finish the bowl in record time. “And why did you complain about the taste when you stuffed your face with it.”

“It tasted good, just needed more salt. Thank you for the food.” Minnie licks her lips and leans toward Miyeon, trying to kiss the chef, only to be denied by Miyeon’s hand. 

“Please brush your teeth first. You just ate.” Miyeon turns Minnie’s cheek away with a slight push.

“But you’re eating too!” Minnie protests the sudden denial.

“Don’t try to kiss me while I’m eating.” Miyeon laughs as Minnie’s face presses against her hand.

“Yah!” Minnie yelps.

“Pack this up and then wash the dishes, okay?” Miyeon motions to the dishes in the sink.

“Huh?” Minnie wonders how she got here, to be put on dishwashing duty.

“We split the work now, you’re not a guest anymore.” Boss Miyeon has appeared.

“What?” Minnie’s eyes and mouth widen at the same time.

“You heard me.” Boss Miyeon don’t play.

“But, Miyeon!” Minnie complains, but because she’s a good girl, she does her assigned work regardless. Rolling up her sleeves, she moves all the dirtied dishes into the sink. “… I’ll do the dishes, but you’ve gotta give me a kiss, okay?” She tries to compromise.

Miyeon scrunches her face in disgust, “You have to brush your teeth first.” She puts her finished bowl into the sink along with everything else.

“What’s with all the demands for a kiss?” Minnie complains as she turns on the faucet. “Are you playing hard to get now?”

Miyeon laughs and stands behind the hardworking Minnie. She wraps her arms around her waist and leans her cheek into the base of Minnie’s neck. “No, you know you’ve already got me.” She tightens her embrace and breathes Minnie’s scent deeply into her lungs. 

“Oh …” Minnie loves the way Miyeon’s body feels like it molds around hers. “Well, you’ve got me, too.” 

“Well, finish the dishes and brush your teeth … then I’ll give you that kiss you’ve been asking for.” Miyeon gently pecks Minnie’s shoulder before giving her a nice swat on her butt. 

Minnie smiles, suddenly having the pep to work a little harder and a little faster. “Yes ma’am!” 



Chapter Text

“Hey, come on in.” Miyeon greets the person at the door with a bright, squinty smile. “Welcome to my apartment.” She says in her most cheerful voice as she steps aside for her friends to enter.

“Hi Miyeon, thanks for having us.” Soyeon and Yuqi file through the door one at a time. “Sorry we’re a little late, there was a bit of traffic.” They start to pull off their shoes at the entrance before looking around the apartment.

“No worries, Shuhua and Soojin just arrived minutes before you guys.” Miyeon closes the door softly with a click before motioning for the two women to join her in the living room. “Sorry it’s not a very big space.”

Soyeon shakes her head, “It looks a lot bigger than ours.” Her eyes dart around the cozy space that really feels like Miyeon. It’s nice and neat with little personal touches here and there. In the living room, Shuhua is attached to Soojin on the couch while Minnie is setting the table nearby.

“Hey, look who’s here!” Shuhua yells while Soojin just offers a cool wave and a smile.

Minnie looks up from her task and juts her chin towards the two new arrivals. “Wassup.”

“We brought soda!” Yuqi holds up the two big bottles of soda while everyone else cheers excitedly. “Yay!” She laughs along with everyone. It’s New Year’s Eve, they have decided to gather for a small party and welcome the new year together. However, all six women, along with many other residents, are expected to be on call tonight. It is New Year’s Eve and the excitement combined with alcohol could spell disaster for a lot of people. So, they opted to have a sleepover at Miyeon’s, because it’s the closest place to the hospital, and also to forgo alcohol, just in case they get a call into work.

“Finally, since the soda is here, the party can get started!” Minnie jokes as she waves her arms wildly in the air.

Miyeon laughs and mimics her girlfriend while Soojin looks at them with a slightly disgusted expression. “Cheesy.” Soojin shakes her head.

Soyeon looks around the room and a warm feeling spreads in her chest. This year has been a blessing, especially to her. She met this group of wonderful people and she even net herself a cute Yuqi. There’s not much more she could wish for in the coming year. The feeling of contentment keeps coming back to her and that makes her even more content.

“The food should be arriving any minute now.” Miyeon announces as she looks at her phone to monitor the delivery status.

“What did you order?” Yuqi asks with an approving nod from Shuhua.

“She practically ordered everything from the menu.” Minnie laughs as she tries to remember it all. “Bossam, samgyupsal, fried chicken, galbi, tteokbokki, pasta …” The older woman counts on her fingers as she lists all the food.

“There’s only six of us, are you trying to feed a whole army?” Soojin is taken back by the amount of food listed. Soyeon nods in agreement with her resident.

“Unnie, that’s the perfect amount. Don’t worry too much.” Shuhua gently pats Soojin’s knee. “I’m starving.” Soojin smiles and shakes her head.

They all gather on the sofas and armchairs while waiting for the food, which arrives quickly. The delivery man is a little shocked when he is cheered for by a bunch of pretty girls and given a large tip. Shuhua and Yuqi cheered the loudest when all the food was unpacked. Instead of helping with setting up, they do a happy food dance instead.

“This is a pretty big table for your apartment.” Yuqi looks at the wide array of food spread across the table top.

“It’s expandable, Minnie set it up before you guys got here.” Miyeon explains while Minnie raises a ‘V’ sign up with her fingers. “Otherwise it’d be too small to fit all this.”

“That’s convenient.” Soyeon comments as she looks at the table and then Yuqi, as if saying they should invest in something like this.

“Enough talk about the table, lets eat.” Impatient Shuhua raises her voice and chopsticks. “Who wants to go first?”

Soojin gently smacks Shuhua’s arm as if to remind her of her manners, but the youngest is not one to worry about all that. Everyone chuckles a little before motioning for Shuhua to start.

“Thanks for the meal.” Shuhua says to Miyeon and Minnie before digging into the samgyupsal and picking out a nice piece for Soojin. She puts it into Soojin’s plate and smiles brightly at Soojin, who tries to avoid all eye contact because she’s so shy about affection. “Thank you.” Soojin bashfully mutters.

The other two couples look at each other with knowing smiles before starting to pick out food for themselves.

“How are things going with everyone?” Miyeon asks after everyone’s had a bite. The past week has been a blur of work so they have not had time to update each other on events in their lives.

Everyone glances around each other, as if waiting for someone to speak first. Finally, Soyeon takes the charge and starts. “I’m doing well. Soojin and I just checked up on Mr. Hwang, our heart transplant recipient today, happy to report that he’s doing very well. So far, no organ rejection at all, he could probably go home next week.” She nods toward Soojin, as if she’s passing the baton.

“Um … yeah, there’s going to be a publicity event when he gets discharged. Soyeon and I will be having a photo-op with the transplant teams from CUBE and Ulje, as well as the hospital execs. You guys know how they love good publicity.” Soojin accepts the baton and smiles while looking around for the next speaker. Finally, her eyes settle on Yuqi, who chuckles in response.

“Well, Minnie and I are also doing pretty well.” Yuqi grins and looks at her resident. “We presented a case for removing the non-contrast enhancing tumors when we go in to remove the contrast-enhancing ones, when possible of course. This will help achieve maximal resection and optimal patient outcome. Since we did pretty well, Minnie and I …” She pauses as if to ask for permission and when Minnie nods slightly, she continues, “are planning on writing a research paper on it and publishing it in the Journal of Korean Neurosurgical Society.”

Minnie is beaming at her intern and gives her a thumb up. “Good job.” She points to Yuqi and looks around the room. “I’ve been doing the same thing she said.” She takes the easy way out for her turn.

It’s Shuhua’s turn and she looks around with a slightly disappointed pout. “I don’t have anything to report. I’ve been doing a lot of work, but since I don’t specialize in anything yet, I don’t have any awesome major surgery or case study to talk about.” She sighs and slumps in her seat. Feeling sorry for Shuhua, Soojin reaches over and gently pats the poor girl’s back.

“Um …” Miyeon raises her hand for her turn, as if she’s not the one who started this discussion, “it’s been quiet at the Children’s Hospital, all the kids are doing really well right now. We haven’t had any major cases, luckily.” She smiles that signature Miyeon-squint smile at Shuhua, as if saying that she’s in the same boat.

“I don’t have anything work wise … but there is an important day for me next week.” Shuhua drops a hint.

“What day is that?” Yuqi asks what everyone’s wondering, everyone except for Soojin, who chuckles softly.

“The most important day of the year.” Shuhua replies with an excited smile.

Everyone else, but Soojin, looked at each other with questioning eyes. After a few moments, Miyeon gives up and turns to Shuhua, “What day is it?”

With an exaggerated eye roll, Shuhua huffs. “My birthday.”

Everyone chuckles and shakes their heads. Soojin laughs softly and nods. “I knew it. Haha.” She gloats as if she had won something with that knowledge.

“Miyeon’s birthday is at the end of the month.” Minnie shares her own little factoid, not wanting to lose to the SooShu couple. Her girlfriend gives her a high-five for a job well done.

“Why don’t we have a party for both of you?” Genius Soyeon comes up with an idea that could satisfy everyone.

“I want my own party on my special day.” Shuhua grumbles.

“But it’ll be fun to have one big party.” Miyeon is happy with the idea.

“I don’t want to share it with Miyeon.” Shuhua is ever mean to Miyeon.

“You get to spend your special day with Soojin, we can have a party in the middle of the month for both of us.” Miyeon tries to compromise.

Shuhua seems to be considering it for a moment.

“Why did you bring me into this? I never promised to spend the day with her.” Soojin’s words jab Shuhua in the heart.

Shuhua grabs Soojin’s arm and shakes it gently. “Unnie, you don’t want to spend my birthday with me?”

“I don’t know yet.” Soojin is a cold girl sometimes, but that’s what drives Shuhua wild.

“I definitely want to spend Miyeon’s birthday alone with her.” Minnie reaches over to hold Miyeon’s hand.

Miyeon squeezes Minnie’s hand and nods. “I want to spend it with you, too.”

Yuqi fakes throwing up until Soyeon pinches her side.

“We can have it at my place, it’ll be big enough.” Minnie offers.

Soojin looks at Minnie and nods, “I’ve been there and I definitely think Minnie’s place is more than big enough.” She is putting her stamp of approval on it.

“Have you been to Minnie-unnie’s place?” Shuhua asks with a questioning frown.

“Uh huh.” Soojin nods at the adorable frowning girl.

“What is it like?” Yuqi asks out of curiosity.

“Big.” Soojin replies vaguely before smiling mysteriously. “You’ll see when you get there.”

“Huh.” Soyeon adds before turning to Yuqi. “Now I want to see it ASAP.”

They chatter between each other through the meal until the end when Soojin brings out some sujeonggwa, or cinnamon punch, to aid their digestion after eating such a heavy meal. They move back to the sofa area where they proceed to play Taboo and then Among Us for a little bit while waiting for the countdown to begin. Shuhua and Soojin are the impostors. Minnie is the first to sound off her suspicion, but she got voted off instead. Then Miyeon. Then Yuqi and then Soyeon. The impostors successfully kill everyone. Minnie, the first victim, yells and gripes at everyone for not listening to her.

Right after everyone riots over other people not listening to them, the women turn on the TV to watch the countdown begin.

“Alright, five more minutes.” Shuhua turns to Soojin with a dubious smile while Soojin pretends not to notice her. She starts to scoot closer to Soojin, who tries to escape her grasp. It’s normal for them to have this push and pull, it’d be weird if they suddenly stop. Though Soojin is noticeably more comfortable with Shuhua touching her and loving on her than before.

Yuqi reaches for Soyeon’s hand and leads her outside to the balcony, away from everyone else. They are still a little shy with showing affection in front of other people, despite having dated for over a month and living together. “Brrrr …” Yuqi hugs her arms to herself as they step out in the cold, prompting Soyeon to open her jacket for her girlfriend. Yuqi happily slips her arms into the warmth and hugs Soyeon closely.

Minnie and Miyeon are dancing in the kitchen, with Minnie playing a soft tune from her phone. Minnie has her arms around Miyeon’s waist while Miyeon’s arms are wrapped around Minnie’s neck. They rock back and forth slowly to the tune while smiling and staring into each other’s eyes. “Thanks for a memorable year, Miyeonie.” Minnie smoothly thanks Miyeon before the countdown starts.

The crowd not the television starts their countdown chant. “10 … 9 … 8 … 7 … 6 … 5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1! HAPPY NEW YEAR!”

While the countdown is going on, Soojin turns toward Shuhua with a shy smile. Shuhua reaches over to take Soojin’s hands into hers. When the countdown is reached, Shuhua leans toward Soojin and plants a gentle kiss on Soojin’s lips. “Happy New Year, Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua smiles during a short intermission before planting another kiss on Soojin’s lips. Soojin reaches up to hold Shuhua’s face steady while she parts her lips for Shuhua.

As the fireworks start to fly, Yuqi and Soyeon giggle and wish each other “Happy New Year.” The cold makes Yuqi’s lips tremble slightly, she wets them briefly before seeking warmth from Soyeon’s lips. Soyeon pulls Yuqi closer until their hips almost touch while she suckles gently on Yuqi’s lower lip.

Minnie punctuates her kisses with her wish. “Happy,” She pecks Miyeon’s lips. “New,” She nips Miyeon’s lower lip. “Year!” She leans down and gently nips Miyeon’s exposed shoulder, making the older woman giggle. Miyeon pinches Minnie’s cheeks before pulling her face closer to give her a proper kiss.

All three couples are content in their world for the moment while everyone else in the world celebrates the beginning of another year. After some minutes, Yuqi and Soyeon return hand in hand from the cold, looking bright and happy. Shuhua and Soojin are cuddling on the sofa with Shuhua’s head resting on Soojin’s shoulder while Soojin is playing with Shuhua’s hair. Minnie and Miyeon emerge from the kitchen with Minnie’s lipstick all over Miyeon’s face and neck.

The night is starting to wind down for the women, so they start to move one sofa back and one against the wall to make space in the middle of the living room. They all brought their sleeping bags from the November trip, so the living room becomes a campground. Minnie and Miyeon insist that everyone make themselves comfortable while they clean up the dining table and the kitchen.

Shuhua, Soojin, Yuqi, and Soyeon take turns getting washed up and changed into comfortable house clothes. Just as they all start to get into their sleeping bag, all their pagers go off at the same time. It’s an SOS signal for all available on call surgeons. There’s been a multi-vehicle collision involving a party bus, so they have all to get ready again to go back to the hospital.

 

 

Shuhua looks at the eager faces around the room and sinks further into her seat. They’re all her attendings and she’s known them for over four months, but being surrounded still makes her feel very awkward. As they finish singing the happy birthday song, Shuhua quickly blows the candles on the cake without making a wish. The nine attendings clap excitedly and wait expectantly for Shuhua to say something.

Poor Shuhua shifts uncomfortably in her seats before clearing her throat. “Um … thank you for celebrating my birthday …” She stands up and bows slightly as a polite intern should. They have called her into this meeting room the day before her birthday to celebrate. They’ve got a big cake and drinks as well as presents on the table.

“Cut the cake, Shuhua.” Dr. Hwang Tiffany motions while flashing her signature eye smile. Shuhua finds Tiffany’s smile very comforting as well as the gentle way she treats Shuhua.

“It’s chocolate this time.” Dr. Im Yoona motions toward the cake. They’ve all learned from the last time not to get anything that has strawberry, recalling back to the first time they offered her strawberry cake and made her cry. Shuhua finds Dr. Im very easy to get along with and they have a lot in common.

Shuhua nods and picks up the knife. “Okay.”

“We’re grading your incision technique.” Dr. Kwon Yuri cackles along with Dr. Kim Hyoyeon and Dr. Choi Sooyong. “If you fail, no cake for you!” They laugh even harder at their immature joke. This trio has given Shuhua so much grief from teasing and pranking her. Shuhua has to be on guard all the time to avoid falling for their traps.

“Leave her alone, let her enjoy her birthday cake.” Dr. Seo Juhyun scolds her unnies. “Go on, Shuhua, don’t mind them.” Even though her smile is sweet and gentle, Shuhua actually finds her stricter than all the other attendings.

Shuhua is understandably nervous because all eyes are on her. Even though it’s the middle of winter, she feels like sweat is running down her back as she tries to divide the cake into as even and clean cut pieces as possible.

“So Shuhua, it’s been almost five months, have you considered which speciality you’d like to focus on in the future?” Dr. Kim Taeyeon, considered the ring leader of this mob, suddenly asks. Shuhua finds this compact person the most formidable in terms of temper.

Shuhua is taken by surprise, so she finds herself stammering a little. “No, not yet … ma’am.” For some reason, Dr. Kim Taeyeon always makes Shuhua feel so nervous.

“You’re certainly impatient.” Dr. Jung Jessica coolly states with a lazy drawl in her voice. “She’s still got plenty of time. And besides, you know she’s not going to choose your specialty, you’re scary.” Shuhua finds Dr. Jung hard to read, sometimes she’s so sweet and funny while other times she can be so critical.

Shuhua looks between the two attendings, famous for their inability to get along. From what Shuhua heard, they dated once upon a time, but the relationship soured and they broke up on bad terms. Supposedly, Dr. Kim Taeyeon left Dr. Jung for Dr. Hwang, who is her best friend. The hospital gossip mill is practically an encyclopedia of staff relationships. However, Dr. Jung and Dr. Hwang still get along very well so Shuhua doesn’t know if this rumor has much ground.

Dr. Lee Sunny steps in between the two with a plate in her hand as if she’s eager for the cake. She’s a strange one but she knows how to handle them. “How’s it going with your girl, Shuhua?” Shuhua did not expect to be the distraction that Dr. Lee had planned. Shuhua honestly should’ve expected it because Dr. Lee is the meddler who almost made Soojin hate Shuhua because she learned the crazy aegyo.

“Good.” Shuhua feels even more awkward talking about Soojin in front of these nine devils.

“I heard someone saw you two making out in the parking garage, is it true?” Dr. Choi Sooyoung asks with a devilish smile, teeming with mischief.

“I heard Seo Soojin beat up a man for our Shuhua.” Dr. Hwang Tiffany quickly adds, beaming with pride.

“We saw them make out during the fall trip … in front of everyone.” Dr. Kim Hyoyeon wags her brows suggestively. Everyone laughs as they take turns teasing Shuhua. The tension between Dr. Jung Jessica and Dr. Kim Taeyeon also seems to deflate for now.

Without a word, Shuhua puts two slices of cake into her plate and bows to the gossiping harpies. “Thank you for the cake. I’ll enjoy it well.” She turns and hightails it out of there as quickly as she could, even with all their protests. It may seem rude, but Shuhua can’t handle that much pressure being placed on sharing her personal life.

“Hey, you forgot your presents!” Dr. Im Yoona calls after the shy Shuhua.

“See what you did, you scared her away again. You guys seriously play too much sometimes.” Dr. Seo is ready to tear into her unnie. Suddenly, they all pick up their pieces of cake and run out before she starts her sermon.

Only Dr. Kim Hyoyeon is left with Dr. Seo when all has left, “It’s okay little Seo, have some cake. Shuhua will be fine, a little teasing will make her stronger.” They all know how much they have teased Dr. Seo before she turned into this fact stating, logic arguing monster.

“Unnie.” Dr. Seo whines softly as Dr. Kim hands her a plate of cake.

“Eat, don’t whine. I kinda like scary Seo better than whiney Seo.” Dr. Kim laughs and takes a forkful of cake in her mouth while Dr. Seo complies.

 

 

Soojin and Soyeon aren’t in their office, according to Yuqi, the representatives from Ulje are here to celebrate Mr. Hwang’s successful heart transplant. Everyone from the cardiac surgery team is in the main auditorium to take commemorative pictures for the newspaper. Shuhua figures Soojin might be pleased to have a piece of her birthday cake to congratulate her renown success.

Shuhua lines up to get into the auditorium along with everyone else and manages to snag a seat semi-close to the stage. She admires her Soojin, so nicely dressed and exudes this elegant aura, while she’s standing among a bunch of suits on stage. Soyeon is also there, looking fierce as usual in situations like this. Shuhua takes out her phone to snap some pictures, as the camera focuses on Soojin some guy from Ulje comes up to Soojin and gives her a hug.

The galls of that man, who is he and why is he hugging Soojin? Shuhua’s frown could be visible from space as she watches their interactions. Soyeon bows slightly to the man, who returns her bow before happily chattering with Soojin. For her part, Soojin seems to be enjoying his attention, her face is full of smiles and familiarity. They’re not exactly flirting, but from Shuhua’s perspective, they look to be very close.

“He’s a hottie.” Someone says near Shuhua.

“Seo Soojin always attracts the good looking ones.” Another someone replies.

“I thought she was dating someone from General surgery.”

“I heard that too … but maybe they broke up?”

Shuhua wants to scream that they haven’t even started, so they can’t possibly break up yet. Actually, no yet, they’ll never break up. As the photos are being professionally taken by the newspaper, Shuhua could tell that the man has one arm around Soojin, who seems comfortable with that. Watching this unfolds is an out of body experience for Shuhua. She could feel the tension rising in her body, but her mind is blank. After all is done, the man shakes hands with Soyeon and gives Soojin another hug before going back to the Ulje side.

Shuhua wills herself to stand up to approach the stage after a lot of people have left the auditorium.

“Hi Soojin-unnie. Hi Soyeon.” Shuhua comes up the steps toward her friends.

“Hey Shuhua!” Both women reply excitedly, still riding high from the recognition of their success.

“I brought you guys cake.” Shuhua shows them the plate, keeping her eyes mostly on Soojin.

“Who is this?” The voice belongs to Dr. Moon Byulyi, who has turned her attention toward the youngsters.

“This is our friend, Yeh Shuhua, from General Surgery.” Soyeon replies while Soojin comes to stand beside Shuhua.

“I do not approve.” Dr. Moon shakes her head.

“What?” Soojin replies with her typical attitude.

“I am not ready to give my Soojin away yet.” Dr. Moon dramatically covers her face as if she’s crying. “My Soojin is so young and innocent, I just can’t!”

“Ugh, why are you like this?!” Soojin whines before pulling Shuhua away from the stage. “I don’t need your approval!”

Is this what it feels like to meet disapproving in-laws? Shuhua wonders as Soojin drags her out of the auditorium. Soyeon stays behind to calm Dr. Moon down a little bit.

“Sorry about her, she’s really dramatic sometimes.” Soojin smiles and takes the plate away from Shuhua. “Did you bring this for me?”

“Y-Yeah.” Shuhua’s mind still has to catch up with her body. “My attendings threw me a little party.”

“That’s sweet of them.” Soojin takes a fork and picks up a piece. “Are we still on for tomorrow?” She puts the cake in her mouth while waiting for Shuhua’s response.

“Yes, we are!” Shuhua smiles and nods excitedly. She watches the way those red lips chew and the little crumb of chocolate cake around their outline. “Um … stay still.”

Soojin stops chewing and complies as Shuhua picks off the cake crumb at the edge of her lip. “Thank you.” She smiles softly, wanting to kiss Shuhua, but not while they’re in public like this. “Tomorrow, come over about lunch time, okay?”

“Yes, unnie. I’ll be there!” Shuhua sounds confident enough to not let anything or anyone stand in her way.

“Okay, I’ve got to get back to work. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Soojin picks up the plate of cake from Shuhua’s hand.

“See you, Soojin-unnie! Have a good rest of your day!” Shuhua cheers as Soojin makes her way back to her office.



 

“Happy birthday.” Soojin greets Shuhua at the door with a smile on her face.

“Hi Soojin-unnie, thank you.” Shuhua excitedly bows to Soojin for unknown reasons before stepping into Soojin’s apartment. She waits patiently for Soojin to close the door before jumping onto the older woman. “I miss you!” Honestly, Soojin should expect skinship every time they are close to each other.

Soojin turns her head to avoid the kisses that are being pushed upon her. “Stop …” She mutters, because it’s early in the day and she hasn’t had her coffee yet. Soojin needs her coffee before her day can get started properly, otherwise grumpy Soojin will terrorize anyone close by.

“Awww, you haven’t had your coffee yet, huh?” Shuhua giggles, knowing Soojin a bit too well. “Want me to make you some?” The last time Shuhua teased a caffeine deprived Soojin, she almost got slapped.

“Okay …” Soojin tries not to smile at the girl who knows her so well. “You do that while I get the food prepped.”

Shuhua is spending her birthday at Soojin’s, who offered to make traditional Korean birthday food for her. They both scheduled to be off for the day to celebrate Shuhua, which took a lot of planning and adjusting of schedules. Soojin is  making seaweed soup, doejji bossam, and japchae. Since Shuhua doesn’t like cake that much, Soojin is making brownies instead. Shuhua is blessed to have a caring Soojin in her life.

While Soojin is busy taking the ingredients out of the fridge, Shuhua tinkers with the coffee maker to brew some of that liquid energy. Shuhua waits for the machine to heat up the water, she leans back against the counter while her arms are folded across her chest. Her eyes are glued on Soojin, who makes cooking such an attractive art.

“What?” Soojin asks when she catches Shuhua staring.

“Nothing, I just wanted to watch you cook. You’re even prettier when you cook.” Shuhua, ever the flirt, grins at the side-eye that Soojin gives her.

“Sweet talker.” Soojin rolls her eyes, but smiles nonetheless.

“Only because you’re so sweet to me, unnie.” Shuhua smiles before she looks around Soojin’s apartment.

Soojin’s habitat is nice and neat, just the way Shuhua had imagined. Everything is clean and in its place. It’s got a lovely, cozy feeling to it. Shuhua makes her way across the livingroom, where some trinkets and frames are on display. She looks at the photos that are on the walls and shelves, they’re full of a younger Soojin, one before Shuhua. One photo in particular catches her eyes, it’s of Soojin in front of the yellow Jeep. Beside Soojin is that guy from yesterday, the one with the smile and the flirting. He has his arm around Soojin’s shoulders. Shuhua’s brows furrow in confusion, had they known each other before the transplant surgery? The coffee machine finally beeps when it’s done brewing, calling Shuhua back to the kitchen. Her eyes linger a little longer on the photo before she turns toward the aroma of coffee.

Shuhua glances toward Soojin, who is still busy preparing the food. She wants to ask these questions, but she’s afraid of the answers. She reluctantly pushes these feelings back down into her gut and pours coffee into a cup that Soojin had placed on the counter. She adds the amount of cream and sugar that Soojin likes and brings it over to the older woman. “Here, unnie.” Shuhua holds the cup out for Soojin to grab the handle.

“Thank you.” Soojin accepts the cup and quickly takes a sip. “Mmm … just the way I like it.” She smiles gratefully at Shuhua, whose face lights up from the praise.

“Do you need help with anything?” Shuhua offers, even though she hates to cook.

“Can you hand me that carrot?” Soojin is happy to be in the kitchen with Shuhua, so she gives the younger woman little tasks to keep her occupied. The time passes quickly and a while later, they are sitting at the table with more than enough food for two people.

“Happy Birthday, Shuhua.” Soojin wishes again with a smile as Shuhua reaches over to hold her hand.

“Thank you, Soojin-unnie.” A fairly tame Shuhua responds with a smile before her greedy eyes look over the food spread in front of her. All of her favorite foods, especially the seaweed soup.

Despite Shuhua’s desire to completely devour everything that Soojin made, the eating is fairly slow because they are talking about anything and everything as they eat. Even the normally quiet Soojin contributes in a lively manner. Shuhua is thoroughly enjoying the company and food, but somehow something is nagging at the back of her head.

Three knocks rap at the door, causing Soojin to look at Shuhua with curiosity, she wasn’t expecting any other company. “Just a minute.” Soojin calls toward the door and gets up from her seat. Shuhua puts down her chopsticks and follows Soojin to the front door, though she lingers back a little bit as Soojin opens the door. Soojin opens the door just enough to see who is the visitor.

“Hey Soojin.” Hoetaek greets the woman with a wide smile.

“Hoetaek-oppa.” Soojin replies in surprise as she opens the door a little wider. “H-Hi.”

“Sorry to disturb you, but I was in the area …” Hoetaek smiles charmingly, “and I was wondering if you want to have lunch before I leave to go back to Ulje.”

“Oh I … uh …” Soojin is a bit too surprised to respond.

At this point, Shuhua clears her throat from behind Soojin and awkwardly waves at Hoetaek.

The man is surprised to see someone else inside Soojin’s apartment. “Oh, hi.” He recomposes himself quickly and greets Shuhua with a smile.

Soojin snaps out of her surprise. “This is my friend, Shuhua.” She makes a quick introduction, though the word ‘friend’ pierces right through Shuhua’s heart. She knows they’re not ‘together together’ yet but it stings to be regarded just as a friend. “Shuhua, this is Hoetaek-oppa, he’s my sunbae from medical school.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Shuhua.” Hoetaek waves at Shuhua from the doorway because Soojin still hasn’t invited him in.

“Nice to meet you.” Shuhua bows politely to Soojin’s sunbae.

“We’re having lunch at the moment.” Soojin motions behind her, but makes no invitation toward Hoetaek.

“Oh. I see.” Hoetaek is starting to take the hint. He studies Soojin’s face for a moment before breaking into a small smile. “I’ll head back to Ulje then … take care of yourself Soojin. I’ll see you around.” He doesn’t forget to wave at Shuhua as he turns around to leave.

Soojin watches him retreat to the stairs before closing the door and turns back to Shuhua. They both look at each other with a strange awkwardness between them. Shuhua forces a smile on her lips, “Let’s eat the soup before it gets cold!” She tries to inject a little energy into her voice, but it comes out sounding a little strain.

Soojin nods and rejoins Shuhua at the table. They continue to finish their meal, but the conversation is suddenly sparse and finally circles back to the question in Shuhua’s mind.

“So you and …” Shuhua’s already forgotten his name, “him … went to medical school together?”

“Yeah.” Soojin nods. “He was a few years ahead.”

“I see.” Shuhua slurps on her soup, trying to formulate more questions before continuing. “Were you close?”

Soojin stops, she’s unsure how to answer.

“I see that you have a picture with him over there … with the Jeep.” Shuhua pretends to be nonchalantly stirring her spoon in the soup.

“We dated.” Soojin replies shortly, not having the patience to play a game of roundabout questions.

Shuhua stops stirring and freezes. She got the answer to the question that she wanted to ask, but it’s not the answer she wanted. A soft, strangled sound comes out of her lips. “Oh … I see.”

“It was a while ago.” Soojin puts down her spoon, “Is that going to be a problem?” She is looking intently at Shuhua. She knows that there is something on Shuhua’s mind if she’s asking these questions. Soojin could see the uneasiness on Shuhua’s face.

Shuhua looks at Soojin, but is unable to maintain her gaze and shakes her head. “N-no, no problem.”

“Okay.” Soojin responds, but she could visibly see the discomfort in Shuhua’s twitchiness. There’s no usual Shuhua energy, just nerves.

They quietly finish their lunch, a stark contrast to the lively conversation just moments earlier, and Shuhua helps Soojin clean the table. “Thank you for the meal, Soojin-unnie. It was delicious.” She smiles as they bring the dirtied dishes to the sink.

“I’m glad you liked it.” Soojin feels a bit relaxed when Shuhua smiles at her in a genuine Shuhua-way. She likes seeing the cute, innocent side of the younger woman. She also likes the silly, clingy side despite her usual protest.

Shuhua studies Soojin as the older woman starts to spray water over the dishes. Suddenly, she wraps her arms around Soojin’s shoulders from the side and hugs the woman tightly. “Thank you, it was the first birthday meal I’ve had here in Korea.” She says in a hushed tone.

Soojin stops spraying and turns off the water. She comes to the realization of the loneliness Shuhua must have felt on those birthdays. She gently pats Shuhua’s arm in a comforting manner. Soojin is a good listener, but in these situations, she doesn’t know exactly how to respond right away. She just wants Shuhua to understand from her touch that she wants to be there to make all of Shuhua’s birthday meals in the future.

Shuhua turns Soojin around and steps closer until the older woman is trapped between her and the kitchen counter. Soojin looks at Shuhua with an amused grin before the younger kisses her lips. Soojin smiles into the kiss and wraps her arms around Shuhua’s body. Her mouth parts slightly when Shuhua’s tongue asks for entrance. It feels different than other kisses because Shuhua is a bit more aggressive than usual. They’ve only kissed a few times, but there is enough of a difference for Soojin to notice.

Suddenly, as quick as the kiss came, Shuhua’s lips abruptly leave Soojin and the younger woman backs off entirely. Soojin looks at Shuhua with a surprised look on her face. “Are you …” She doesn’t have a chance to finish her question.

“I don’t feel so good.” Shuhua quickly cuts Soojin off before turning and practically running out of the kitchen. Soojin could tell something is definitely wrong.

“Shuhua.” Soojin calls after her and tries to follow Shuhua, who is already reaching for her purse. “What’s going on?”

“I …” Shuhua can’t meet Soojin’s eyes. “I have a stomach ache … I’m gonna go home now …”

“What?” Soojin frowns deeply and tries to reach for Shuhua’s hand, but the younger woman darts around her and is already at the door. “Shuhua!” Soojin is very confused how their kiss turned into this.

“I’ll see you later, unnie.” Shuhua quickly adds at the door before running out of Soojin’s apartment.

At a loss of words, Soojin’s jaw slides open as she stands with her hands on her hips, huffing out hot air. She is fuming because she’s never ever kissed and run like this before. “Unbelievable.” Soojin knows that it has something to do with Hoetaek, but that doesn’t excuse what just happened.

 

 

“And … you just ran out of there?”

“Yeah … look, I’m not proud of it okay?”

“You’re an idiot, Yeh Shuhua.”

“Minnie-unnie, I don’t recall giving you crap about what you did to Miyeon.”

“Shut up, this is about you, not me.”

Shuhua pours Minnie another shot glass of soju before pouring herself one as well. “I just don’t know what to do.” Her loudmouth whining is worse when there’s alcohol involved.

Minnie puts some more meat on the grill in front of them, then looks over at Shuhua. “What else is there to do? You have to apologize to Soojin.”

“But …” Shuhua frowns and shakes her head before taking a shot of the soju. Her frown deepens as the burn travels down her throat. “I don’t feel like I did anything wrong.”

Shuhua called Minnie the moment she left Soojin’s apartment, she may or may not have been crying. Minnie was at work at that time, so she made plans to meet with Shuhua at an all-you-can-eat BBQ place near the hospital. They have two hours to eat and drink as much alcohol as they could stomach.

“You don’t think running out on her like that was wrong?” Minnie raises her brow. Even if she’s very fond of Shuhua, Soojin has been her friend longer, there is more loyalty that’s been earned.

“I was too upset … I kissed her and all I could think about was her kissing him.” Shuhua pouts as she pours herself another shot glass.

Minnie puts some meat into Shuhua’s plate and motions for her to eat, “Slow down, if you get wasted, you’ll regret it tomorrow.”

Shuhua stuffs a piece of meat into her mouth and chews grumpily before taking another shot. Minnie watches Shuhua drink and takes the bottle from the younger girl. “I said slow down. Everyone’s got exes, how are you going to be with anyone if you get jealous of their ex even before you date seriously?”

“I know that.” Shuhua’s voice strains. “But you see how he’s still in her life? She borrowed the Jeep from him. He’s comfortable enough to drop by for lunch unannounced?” Just thinking back to that smug, smiling face is enough to make Shuhua want to flip the table.

“Lots of people are friends with their ex.” Minnie simply states.

“Imagine if one of Miyeon’s exes show up at her place for lunch and they still hang out together, what would you do?” Shuhua reaches for the soju bottle, but Minnie plays keep away with it.

“I would talk to her about it instead of storming out.” Minnie says, “I’ve learned my lesson.” She really has learned a lot from the past two months. “Miyeon is important to me and I’d rather talk to her than to lose her completely.” She levels her eyes with Shuhua, who turns away.

“Soojin is important to me too … it would hurt so much if she decides one day that she wants to be with that guy or another guy …” Shuhua trails off when she realizes how bad it sounds aloud.

“Are you being serious right now? You think she’ll leave you because she might miss men?” Minnie asks as if she’s questioning Shuhua’s sanity.

“I don’t know, I’ve never dated someone like her before … she makes me feel all sorts of crazy.” Shuhua whines. “What if she’s confusing friendship with romance?”

“I think you’re making yourself feel crazy … like how I was … living inside your head instead of talking to the person you want to talk to. I’ve seen the way Soojin treats you, that’s not just friendship. She’s my friend and she couldn’t care less if I’ve eaten or not … but you, she makes you lunch as often as she could … she’s never made me seaweed soup and I’ve known her a year longer than you.”  Minnie lists the ways that Soojin treats Shuhua differently than Minnie. “Last of all, she’s never attempted to kiss me at all.”

“Miyeon would kill her.” Shuhua snorts, finding the mental image of Miyeon and Soojin battling it out rather funny. It would be the most passive and quietest fight ever.

“Actually, she’s attempted to kiss Miyeon once.” Minnie makes Shuhua’s eyes widen in shock. “Yeah, last Halloween. They were both drunk off their asses. I was the designated driver, they tried to kiss each other in the backseat of my car.” Minnie reminisces with a slight smile on her lips, knowing that this information is easily blowing Shuhua’s mind.

“And you’re okay saying that?” Shuhua yelps, almost spitting out everything in her mouth.

“Well, that was before Miyeon and I started seeing each other and it’s not like Soojin has tried anything else. They both don’t remember this happening, so … don’t mention it to them, it’ll be awkward.” Minnie pours Shuhua a drink, but still keeps the bottle away from Shuhua.

“But it’s different because they didn’t date while in medical school …”

Minnie interjects before Shuhua could finish her sentence. “Shuhua, are you really going to let Soojin go because of some random guy?”

Shuhua looks down at her hands, feeling unsure about her relationship with Soojin for the first time ever.

“It took you a long time to get through to her, you know she’s not the type to play around with feelings. She’s careful of how she feels about you, that’s why it took so long for her to respond to you because she doesn’t want to get hurt either.” Minnie puts more food into Shuhua’s plate, like a true unnie. “Have you thought about that?”

Shuhua shakes her head.

“And now you’re doing exactly what she’s afraid of … but it’s worse because you just ran.” Minnie sighs and shakes her head. “I’m not trying to say you’re completely in the wrong because you are entitled to your feelings. I just don’t want you to lose Soojin because of something that is easily fixed by talking to her.”

Shuhua nods and takes another shot. Tear drops begin to fall from her lashes as she keeps her head lowered. “I don’t want to lose her either, I was so panicked when I ran out of there … and then I felt so ashamed and stupid.”

“I know, kiddo, I know.” Minnie reaches over and gently rubs Shuhua’s arm. “But it’s important that you know this and fix it before it’s too late.”

“What if I ruined it with her already?” Shuhua starts to bawl as the alcohol hits her hard.

“I doubt it, she’s surprisingly forgiving for someone who acts so cold.” Minnie smiles as Shuhua reaches over to hug her.

“Minnie-unnie, I’m so stupid!” Shuhua buries her head into Minnie’s shoulder as she cries, drawing attention from the tables around them.

Minnie smiles apologetically as everyone starts to glance or stare at them. She gently rubs Shuhua’s back, as if she’s soothing a baby. “It’s okay, Shuhua … just go apologize to her, okay?”

“Okaaaaay.” Shuhua proceeds to drunk cry it out. It gets worse when Minnie puts some pork belly into Shuhua’s plate. The younger woman just bellows, “ “Samgyupsal is Soojin-unnie’s favorite.”

Eventually, they have to leave the restaurant due to noise complaints from the other patrons. Shuhua is able to slowly walk, keeping a shred of her dignity as she wobbles out of the restaurant. She is starting to sober up after her ugly cry episode.

Minnie looks down to see makeup and snot on her hoodie, making her groan in disgust. She takes a napkin as they leave, to rub away the mess. “C’mon, I’ll take you home.”

“I want to walk … to clear my head a little.” Shuhua sniffles. Her eyes are still red and puffy as she looks at Minnie. “Thanks for talking to me today, Minnie-unnie.”

“Of course. Anytime … are you sure you want to walk in this cold weather though?” Minnie looks around the cold streets. It’s not dark yet and it’s a fairly safe area, but she doesn’t want Shuhua to catch a cold. Drunk people tend to get pneumonia easily during cold days like these.

“Yeah. I’m not that drunk, I just want to do a little bit more thinking.” Shuhua smiles reassuringly after coming back to her senses. She had her moment of immaturity, now she’s ready to woman up a little.

“Alright …” Minnie is reluctant to leave it at that. “If you need me again, call me.”

Shuhua nods. “Thanks Minnie-unnie, see you tomorrow.” She waves to Minnie before starting her trek home. The cold wind breezes against her as she walks with her hands in her pockets while looking at the ground. “I need to make things right.” She sets her intention for the next day. It would not be good to show up at Soojin’s place drunk right now.



 

“Is this okay?” Soyeon asks with a nervous smile. Her eyes are so kind even though she has a sharp look to her. Yuqi really likes Soyeon. She feels that only she gets to see that true Soyeon, so sweet and precious.

Yuqi tries to swallow her nerves and nods in response. “Yeah.” She takes a deep breath and pulls her sweater over her head, leaving her torso to be only covered by her bra. Soyeon unbuttons her own shirt and shrugs it off her shoulders. The chilliness of the room penetrates her skin, causing Soyeon to shiver. She’s standing in front of Yuqi with only her bra on top. She feels self-conscious about her skinny, slightly bony frame. Her eyes search Yuqi’s face for any evaluation.

Yuqi looks down at Soyeon’s black bra, so modest yet sexy at the same time. She likes the duality of Soyeon’s body as well, so frail looking yet hiding so much strength. She finds herself smiling a little as she leans forward to capture Soyeon’s lips, kissing away both of their nerves. The skin to skin embrace is a new feeling to both and it brings so much excitement. Yuqi pushes as Soyeon pulls and eventually they land on Soyeon’s bed with Yuqi on top.

Their kiss breaks briefly upon impact, giggling together, before Yuqi leans down to kiss Soyeon again. Soyeon’s platinum hair is splayed around her head like a halo as she watches Yuqi trails kisses down the valley between her breasts. Soyeon’s heart is thumping loudly, she’s afraid that her small chest would disappoint Yuqi. Relief comes when Yuqi looks up at her with a smile. “What?” With a slight grin, Yuqi asks when she catches Soyeon staring.

“You’re amazing.” Soyeon answers honestly as she tucks some loose strands of hair behind Yuqi’s ear.

Yuqi turns to kiss Soyeon’s wrist before reaching to her back to unclasps her own bra. The piece of clothing quickly slides down Yuqi’s arms and lands on Soyeon’s chest. Soyeon’s eyes quickly drift toward Yuqi’s chest before darting back up to meet Yuqi’s eyes. “M-May I?” She curses herself for stuttering, but it seems to make Yuqi happy that she’s nervous. Yuqi nods as she settles back and straddles Soyeon’s lap.

Soyeon takes a deep breath and pushes off her elbows to sit up a little. She picks up Yuqi’s bra and lays it neatly to the side before her hands gently massages Yuqi’s breasts. It feels strange to be massaging breasts that aren’t hers, but at the same time it is exhilarating. They’re so soft and warm. Soyeon doesn’t hesitate to kiss them and bury her face into Yuqi’s flesh, taking in the scent of Yuqi’s bareskin.

Yuqi reaches behind Soyeon and unclasps Soyeon’s bra. When a surprised Soyeon looks up to Yuqi, she pushes the older woman back down to the bed. Her hands are already pulling the bra off and moving onto Soyeon’s pants. Yuqi is not wasting any time this go around, she even made sure to feed Soyeon beforehand.

Soyeon is surprised by Yuqi’s assertion, though it takes quite a bit of pressure off her. Being this a first for both of them, not having to take the lead lets Soyeon have a chance to enjoy the attention that she craves. She watches Yuqi unbutton, unzip, and undress her. Pretty soon, Yuqi is staring down at a naked Soyeon. She glances at Soyeon’s face again as if to ask for permission before reaching between Soyeon’s legs.

“Yuqi-ah …” Soyeon whispers bashfully as she instinctively closes her thighs, trapping Yuqi’s hand between them. The feeling of someone else’s hand between her legs is too foreign, she’s actually nervous.

“You always take care of me, Soyeonie …” Yuqi leans down to kiss Soyeon sweetly, “let me take care of you this time.”

Soyeon looks at Yuqi with timid eyes before nodding. She’s touched herself before so it’s not like she’s completely an innocent virgin. But being touched by the one she loves is putting butterflies in her stomach. She is so exposed and vulnerable, words that most people won’t use to describe Soyeon. But here she is, opening up to this beautiful foreigner from China.

“Ahh …” Soyeon gasps the moment Yuqi starts to move her fingers around the most sensitive around of Soyeon’s sex.

Yuqi kisses Soyeon again, teasing her lips slightly and whispering soft words of love to Soyeon. Yuqi is nervous too, she’s sort of letting her body be in autodrive, allowing it to feel and react to Soyeon’s body. She wants to fulfill Soyeon’s needs, letting her slow hand be the answer to Soyeon’s nervousness.

“There …” Soyeon mutters with her eyes closed and mouth opened. She makes little suggestive sounds to indicate where she needs those fingers the most. Her body writhes with pleasure each time Yuqi’s fingers make the right motion or touch the right spot.

Yuqi suckles Soyeon’s neck gently as she satisfies Soyeon’s craving. It is not long before Soyeon’s body tightens and releases in spasms of ecstasy. They don’t have experience yet to control their bodies’ reflexes. When Soyeon finally calms down, she lets out a ragged breath and opens her eyes to look at Yuqi. Her face is flushed with pleasure, making Yuqi smile brightly. “I did good, yeah?” Yuqi plops down beside Soyeon and watches the rise and fall of Soyeon’s chest.

“You did great.” Soyeon answers with a kiss and they lay there, holding each other. It isn’t long before it’s Soyeon’s turn to top. She takes off Yuqi’s skirt and underwear without hesitation, as she adjusts her body with the ache in her sex. “It’s my turn to take care of you.”

Yuqi hesitantly spreads her legs as Soyeon moves into a better position to go down on her. This is both their first time in the giving and receiving roles. Yuqi reaches down to touch Soyeon’s face, partly to alleviate her shyness about her sex. She doesn’t want Soyeon to be scare because of the scent or the hair … but Soyeon is already applying her tongue. Slowly and shyly at first, Soyeon uses her mouth to cause Yuqi’s hips to buck. Soyeon is a genius at many things and this is just one of them. The way she moves her tongue has Yuqi gasping and squirming with pleasure.

“Unnie …” Yuqi heaves as she lifts her hips to meet Soyeon’s mouth.

Soyeon really likes the sound of that. She reacts and applies pressure where she feels Yuqi’s body responds the most. Before long, Yuqi climaxes with her thighs around Soyeon’s face and her hands in Soyeon’s hair. Soyeon doesn’t mind the pressure around her head, because it’s a compliment to how much she’s pleased Yuqi.

Eventually, they are resting besides each other, each taking in the afterglow of their exhilarating delight.

“Call me unnie again.” Soyeon turns to smile at Yuqi.

Yuqi turns to look at Soyeon with a small grin, “Maybe.”

“I guess I’ll just have to lick it out of you.” Soyeon makes a lewd joke for the first time.

“Jeon Soyeon, you’re so bad!” Yuqi laughs at the bad joke from the bad girl.

 

 

-Knock Knock Knock-

Soojin looks up from her book at the door. She briefly glances at her watch, it reads 8:30PM. She just had a chance to sit down to truly relax after dinner. She puts the bookmark between the pages and rises from her reading chair to open the door.

A giant bouquet of red roses is thrusted toward Soojin, the sheer size of it obscuring the person behind the gesture. Even without seeing Shuhua’s face, Soojin could already tell that it is her.

“I’m sorry, Soojin-unnie. I know I screwed up really badly. Please forgive me.” Shuhua bows deeply and yells out her practiced apology.

Soojin can’t read Shuhua’s expression because the younger woman is leaning over bowing to her. Half of Soojin really wants to shut the door and lock it tight for what Shuhua did to her. But half of her wants to listen to what Shuhua has to say. It’s been a day since Shuhua ran out of her apartment. They didn’t try to text or call each other and they didn’t see each other at work. Soojin would be lying if she didn’t spend every waking hour thinking about Shuhua since yesterday. She chews on her lower lip in deliberation, unsure if she’s ready to forgive the younger girl or not.

Shuhua takes the opportunity of Soojin’s hesitation to push the bouquet into Soojin before barging into the apartment, not letting Soojin have a chance to protest. “I know it was stupid and immature of me to run out like that. I should have asked you more questions and talked to you about how I felt. I shouldn’t have …”

Soojin holds up her hand for Shuhua to stop talking. “I’ll put these flowers into a vase first. You have until I finish arranging them to talk.” She holds the flowers close to her as she turns toward the kitchen.

Shuhua jumps for joy. She’s elated that Soojin is giving her a chance, but it doesn’t take that long to arrange a bouquet so she better hurry up.

Trailing behind Soojin into the kitchen, Shuhua starts her monologue. “I saw him and you the other day at the ceremony … I was jealous since then because he acted extra friendly toward you.” Shuhua watches Soojin search for and fill a vase with water and plant food. “I don’t know why, but it annoyed me more than when other people like Miyeon and Yuqi act friendly toward you … it felt like you two were flirting.” She pauses when Soojin gives her a sharp look, but continues when Soojin starts to trim the stems of the roses.

“I wanted to ask you about him when I came over for lunch, but then I saw the picture of you and him with the Jeep.” Shuhua speaks softly while Soojin listens, but doesn’t acknowledge her words. One by one, the freshly trimmed roses get put into the vase as if they’re counting down the time that Shuhua has. “Then he came over unannounced … then you said you two dated … and you are still friendly with him.”

“You said it wasn’t a problem.” Soojin cuts Shuhua off. “When I asked you if it was a problem, you said it wasn’t.”

Shuhua is happy that Soojin is talking to her, but she’s kind of scared of this sharp spoken Soojin. “I know … I thought I would be okay … but then suddenly I wasn’t. When we kissed, I couldn’t stop imagining you kissing him … then I was scared that you’d miss …” Shuhua stops herself, knowing that the next thing she says would make Soojin mad, but honesty is the only thing that she could think of right now. “I was scared that you’d miss men … then I had a panic attack, I haven’t had one since my first year here in Korea.” Her voice quivers with nervousness as tears trickle down her face.

“That is not … are you serious right now? You thought I’d dump you because I’d miss men?” Soojin slams the shears down and raises her voice, something that is very unlike cool and unbothered Soojin. This echoes what Minnie had asked Shuhua yesterday.

“I know it was stupid, but I couldn’t breath when I thought about you leaving me …” Shuhua sobs.

“So you ran? You left before I could leave you?” Soojin doesn’t mince her words, but her expression softens at the sight of Shuhua’s tears.

Shuhua doesn’t have any excuses. “I just needed to get out because I didn’t want to panic in front of you. I needed to clear my head. The moment I reached the stairs, I knew that I messed up.”

Soojin picks up the shears again, now trimming the roses more forcefully. She’s really mad now, Shuhua can tell by the way her lips are pressed together to keep from yelling at Shuhua.

“I know that I was dumb and stupid, but I realize that I made a terrible mistake. You mean more to me than anyone ever has. I should have told you how I felt and listened to you. I really want us to be together, Soojin-unnie. Please let me fix this.” Shuhua steps closer, wanting to reach out to touch Soojin. The physical connection with the older woman has always made her feel better, except for the last time they kissed.

Soojin steps back away from Shuhua and shakes her head. “I don’t know if I’m ready to do this again, you really hurt my feelings and treated me like I did something wrong. I don’t like to drag my past relationship and flaunt it in your face when we’re just starting . I’m also entitled to my privacy, not everything has to be shared up front, how would you feel if I run away from you because I get jealous of your ex-girlfriend?”

“I understand … But I’ve never had a girlfriend.” Shuhua sniffles.

Soojin is taken back, she stares at Shuhua for a long while before asking softly. “Are you serious?”

“Yeah. I’ve never seriously dated anyone before you. I went on single dates and that’s about it … that’s why I got so nervous. I’ve never wanted to date anyone more than I want to date you. I want to kiss you. I want to hug you. I want to wake up next to you. I want to go to sleep next to you. I think about you all the time … I know I’m obsessing over you and it’s not a good look. But I can’t help it.” Shuhua figures she might as well let all her feelings free and go all in. “I know I lack experience, and I’m immature and dumb. But whatever the future may hold, I promise you with all my heart that I will love and cherish you … I promise to do better and I won’t ever run out on you ever again. I’ll put you first.”

Soojin listens carefully and watches the sincerity on Shuhua’s face. She chews on her lower lip again in deliberation. Her brows knit together slightly as she considers her options. “I … want there to be an us, but it won’t work if you assume the worst and give up when it gets hard. A relationship can be hard work sometimes.” She doesn’t know if she should say the next part. “And that’s why it didn’t work with Hoetaek-oppa. When it got to the hard parts, he left me to deal with our problems alone … he just worked and worked some more, that was his escape. I was unhappy for a long time before I found it better for us to be friends, so we broke up. For his part, he didn’t really fight for me and just went along with what I said. I don’t want that for us, I want there to be open communications. If you have a problem with something, tell me and we can talk it over.” Soojin feels her own cringe when she compares them to her past relationship like that, but she thinks that Shuhua would appreciate the explanation.

Shuhua’s face lights up with hope when she hears an ‘us’ from Soojin. She quickly nods and places a hand on her heart. “I’ve learned from my mistake, I won’t run away again. I’ll fight for … us.” The word feels delightful rolling off her tongue.

Soojin stares at Shuhua for a while again, before nodding. “Fine. You’ve learned from this and we’re moving past it.” She says with a quiet sigh. “I hope that you will talk to me next time and not worry about other people. They’re not part of this relationship.” She knows deep in her heart that she was going to forgive Shuhua the moment she answered that door. But the younger woman needs to see that she was very upset.

“I promise, I won’t be that dumb again.” Shuhua wipes the tears from her face and steps closer again. This time Soojin doesn’t back away, so she takes this opportunity to wrap her arms around Soojin. “Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me … prove to me that you’re better than that.” Soojin returns Shuhua’s hug and sighs in comfort upon feeling the warmth from Shuhua’s tight hug.

“I will.” Shuhua squeezes Soojin tightly again before pulling back a little. She sniffles and lets out a held breath before calling for Soojin’s attention. “Um …”

“Yes?” Soojin senses Shuhua’s hesitation.

“Can we continue from the other day … can we kiss again?”

“No.” Soojin shakes her head.

“Eh? Why not?” Shuhua yelps.

“I said you have until I finish arranging the flowers to talk, now that I’m done … you’re free to go.” Soojin teases wickedly. She gets to have a sweet little revenge when she sees the shock in Shuhua’s eyes.

Shuhua’s jaws almost drop to the floor, but she sees the little smirk at the corner of Soojin’s mouth and realizes that she’s been tricked. Shuhua huffs before pushing Soojin against the kitchen counter. “You’re being mean, unnie.” They’re right back in the same position as yesterday.

“I learned it from you.” Soojin fires back as her back is pushed against the counter. She brushes the moisture from Shuhua’s cheeks, not wanting to see the evidence of Shuhua’s sorrow anymore.

Shuhua licks her lips. “Then I guess I’ll have to teach you to be nice.” Her hand cups Soojin’s right cheek as she comes up on Soojin’s face. She knows that when she kisses this girl again, she is making a promise not to let anyone come between them again. She presses her lips against Soojin and feels her body relax into Shuhua’s. Soojin’s hands rest on Shuhua’s hips as she parts her lips. She couldn’t resist leaning closer until their foreheads were touching.

“I love you, Yeh Shuhua.” Soojin brushes her lips against Shuhua’s, her words flood Shuhua’s heart with jubilation.

“I love you too, Seo Soojin.”

 

 

“Wow, look at the size of this place …” Yuqi gasps and turns to Soyeon, as if asking her girlfriend if she’s seeing this?

Soyeon is busy looking around the massive living room, her mouth drifts open a little as she takes the sight in.

“Minnie-unnie, are you rich?” Shuhua, the forever blunt person, asks outright while the three of them wander in from the front door.

Minnie scratches the back of her head, unsure how to answer the question. It’s true that she is a surgeon, but the salary of a second year resident is nowhere near enough to afford this penthouse flat that overlooks the Han River. The living room has vaulted ceilings and wall length windows as well pristine white tiled floor. The kitchen is magnificent with its marble countertops, high end appliances and glass cabinet doors. This flat looks like it came out of an Architectural Digest article. This would cost an average person’s lifetime’s worth of salary to own. So yeah, Minnie’s rich. But how could she say that out loud without seeming like an ass?

“Minnie’s not that rich.” Miyeon answers for her awkward girlfriend. “Her parents are.” She closes the door after the last person, Soojin, enters. “They own the flat.”

Shuhua looks incredulously at Soojin, “Did you know this, Soojin-unnie?”

Soojin nods, “It’s not my business to say.” She’s not one to go blabbing about other people’s family and wealth.

“How many rooms do you have here?” Yuqi walks toward the giant windows that look out to the night river scene.

“Three bedrooms.” Minnie clears her throat and answers. “Two bathrooms, a gym, and a study.” She might as well answer and rip this bandage off.

“Is that a hot tub … and a pool?” Soyeon points to the outdoor area that is mostly covered in snow right now. The pool is covered, but she could tell what it is.

“Yeah.” Minnie nods, this is why she really doesn’t invite that many people over. They almost always gawk at the place for the first fifteen minutes or so. She knows that they don’t expect the luxury that she is blessed with, but she has the wealth guilt where she doesn’t like people to know that she comes from money.

“That’s awesome!” The three youngest are so excited, they run toward the door that leads to the pool area. “Can we have a pool party in the summer?” Yuqi asks quickly while the other two whips around with puppy eyes. “Please?!” They whine together.

“Um … yeah, sure …” Minnie tries not to laugh at the kids as she turns to Soojin, “Want something to drink?” The gang arrived earlier than the party time to check out Minnie’s place.

“Sure, a wine cooler is good. I have to work early tomorrow.” Soojin nods as Minnie goes to the fridge.

Miyeon takes this opportunity to quietly ask Soojin, “So I assume you and Shuhua have made up?”

Soojin’s eyes fall on Shuhua, who’s out in the cold with Yuqi and Soyeon to check out Minnie’s hot tub. “Yeah ... You know about that?”

“Shuhua went crying to Minnie, so naturally I heard about it.” Miyeon looks at her girlfriend, who’s returned with a bottle of wine cooler for Soojin. She pops the cap off before handing it over to Soojin.

“Yeah, we’re okay now.” Soojin smiles and accepts the bottle from Minnie. “Thanks.”

“Shuhua was so distressed that day.” Minnie’s caught on to the conversation. “I’m glad that you guys worked it out.”

The doorbell rings, much to Soojin’s relief, drawing everyone’s attention toward the door. Soojin wasn’t that interested in having a public discussion of her personal relationship. While Minnie goes to greet her guest at the door, the three youngest file in from the outside. They shiver collectively because they were dumb enough to stay outside that long in the cold. Yuqi and Soyeon start to hold each other for warmth while Shuhua shuffles toward Soojin with outstretched arms like a child.

Soojin rolls her eyes, but opens her arms for Shuhua to hug her tightly, “Your clothes are really cold.” Soojin remarks.

“You’re so warm.” Shuhua sighs happily and nuzzles against Soojin.

Several people arrive in the common area and Minnie does the job of the hostess to introduce everyone. Miyeon watches her girlfriend with a toothy grin, it’s so strange watching Minnie being the hostess when Miyeon knows the girl can get so quiet in a crowd situation. Soyeon is volunteered as the DJ to get the party started while Yuqi is the social butterfly who quickly makes friends with everyone. Yuqi was the one who let loose that Soyeon has a recording setup at home. She doesn’t forget to introduce her girlfriend to anyone she meets. Minnie and Soojin are in charge of making drinks and seeing that snacks are replenished. Shuhua and Miyeon, being the birthday girls, are free to mingle and greet their friends without any task.

“Hi Miyeon!” An excited voice calls for Miyeon’s attention.

“Jisoo, you came!” Miyeon trots over to her friend and gives Jisoo a quick squeeze.

“Of course, thanks for inviting me!” Jisoo happily returns Miyeon’s hug. “And happy early birthday!”

Minnie glances at them from the corner of the room because both women were rather loud. Their voices rise above the music, plus Minnie is always glancing around for Miyeon when they’re not together. She recognizes Jisoo as the woman who came to the Troye Sivan concert with Miyeon. Her grip tightens around her drink when the women’s hug lingers a bit longer than she’s comfortable with. Then her eyes fall upon the woman coming up behind Jisoo.

“Um … Miyeon, you remember Manoban Lisa, my … uh … girlfriend.” Jisoo stammers awkwardly through the introduction.

Lisa smiles charmingly and reaches out to shake Miyeon’s hand. “Nice to meet you for real this time.”

Miyeon is shocked because this drop dead gorgeous woman is the person who came to the Troye Sivan Concert with Minnie. “H-hi, good to see you again.” It was dark at the concert, she remembers that Lisa is pretty but right now in this lightning she’s down right beautiful. Miyeon blinks her surprise away and smiles in a similarly charming manner as she shakes hands with Lisa. She feels a hand on her lower back and then Minnie’s presence beside her.

“Hey Lisa, I didn’t realize you were coming.” Minnie gently rubs Miyeon’s back.

“Yeah, I didn’t realize that we were coming to your place until we’re already in front of your building. Otherwise I’d already send you a text.” Lisa explains quickly.

“I see you’ve met my girlfriend, Cho Miyeon.” Minnie’s gaze falls upon Jisoo.

“And this is my girlfriend, Kim Jisoo.” Lisa steps aside to let Jisoo and Minnie have space to shake hands.

“Nice to meet you.” Minnie and Jisoo say at the same time as their eyes stay locked in a challenging manner.

After an unusually long handshake, Miyeon clears her throat and motions toward the kitchen. “We’ve got drinks and hors d'oeuvres in the kitchen, so help yourself to them.”

Minnie places her hand on the small of Miyeon’s back once more.

“Let’s catch up in a little bit, Minnie. My parents have been asking about you and your family.” Lisa innocently states, making both Miyeon and Jisoo burn with questions. This girl is not paying attention to these sharp, questioning eyes around her.

“Yeah, mine too.” Minnie gives Lisa a thumb up. This girl is too oblivious to the look that her girlfriend is giving her.

“What was that?” Miyeon gently smacks Minnie’s stomach after Lisa and Jisoo have moved into the kitchen..

Minnie pretends to be hurt and doubles over. “Ouch …”

“Yah!” Miyeon raises her fist threateningly, even though she’s not tough enough to scare anyone. “Don’t tease right now, Minnie. I’m being serious.” Miyeon lowers her fist and stares at Minnie expectantly.

“What?” Minnie straightens up and smiles disarmingly. “Lisa and I have been friends since elementary school. Our families are friends and have done business together before. Her dad’s a famous chef and he’s done some training and catering at some of my family’s resorts  … nothing’s going on between us, we’re practically cousins.”

Despite Minnie’s explanation, Miyeon’s arms are still crossed and her expression is doubtful. Minnie continues her smile and wraps her arms around her girlfriend.

“C’mon, don’t pout tonight. As sexy as you are when you pout, I doubt the guests would appreciate me kicking them out to …” Minnie whispers softly in Miyeon’s ears, things that make Miyeon blush hotly.

“Pervert.” Miyeon laughs and pokes Minnie’s belly.

“I’m sorry.” Minnie apologizes with a soft kiss on Miyeon’s cheek, but as she pulls back, Miyeon pulls her back by her shirt.

“Maybe later …” Miyeon blushes brighter as she whispers between them.

Minnie giggles and nods before taking Miyeon by the hand and leading her to the dance area. Everyone’s having a good time thanks to Soyeon’s skillful DJ-ing. As the alcohol flows, people open up even more and things get a bit livelier. Most of everyone present worked together at the hospital, with some exceptions for Shuhua and Miyeon’s friends from other professions.

As people mingle, Soojin finds herself dancing with Shuhua in the middle of the dance floor. The lights have been dimmed and they’ve both had a few drinks so her inhibition starts to falter. She didn’t know that Shuhua could dance so well because the younger woman is definitely keeping up with her just fine. Soojin could always let herself be free to express her feelings in dancing. She lets her body move according to the beat and she finds herself grinding against Shuhua, who gives it right back to her.

They dance what feels like an endless mix of songs until both are glistening with sweat and Shuhua is holding Soojin close to her. Soojin looks into Shuhua’s eyes and smiles happily. She’s happy they’ve resolved their dilemma. Normally Soojin is not that forgiving of a person, but seeing Shuhua in tears made her all sorts of soft. Soojin’s hands drift to Shuhua’s hips and rest comfortably there. As if sensing a shift in their energy, the music transitions into a soft, romantic tune. Soojin briefly glances at Soyeon’s spot to find it empty, she must have gone to find Yuqi.

“Look at me …” Shuhua reaches up to hold Soojin’s cheeks in her hands, “only look at me.” Shuhua’s assertion makes Soojin smile and looks only at Shuhua. She doesn’t know why she lets this kid have this much power over her.

“I’m looking at you.” Soojin rests her hands on Shuhua’s hips.

“Only at me.” Shuhua reiterates.

“Only at you.” Soojin repeats after Shuhua. This possessiveness drives her crazy in all kinds of ways. If it weren’t for this room full of people, Soojin is ready to give all of herself to Shuhua.

Shuhua kisses Soojin, triggering all the neurons in Soojin’s brain and spreading the warmth throughout Soojin’s body. Shuhua’s lips are warm and tastes of tropical fruit, from the drinks she had been downing earlier. She pulls Soojin more into herself as they rock slowly to the song playing overhead.

“Can I call you my girlfriend now?” Shuhua asks after their kiss, reverting back to her innocent expression.

“…” Soojin is surprised because she had forgotten that they haven’t made it official yet. “I’m your girlfriend and you are mine.”

“Soojin is my girlfriend!” Shuhua suddenly howls to the ceiling, causing everyone in the flat to turn to look at them. Minnie and Yuqi are crackling loudly while Miyeon and Soyeon are too surprised to react.

Soojin’s face turns bright red and she tries to run from the spotlight, but Shuhua has a tight hold on her. “Seo Soojin is Yeh Shuhua’s girlfriend!” Shuhua loudly and excitedly announces again as Soojin buries her face into the crook of Shuhua’s neck out of embarrassment. Minnie starts to wolf-whistle in support while Yuqi yells a loud, “Get it girl!” Miyeon and Soyeon looked at each other before laughing loudly.

As much as Soojin wants to disappear from the party, she managed to stay there for quite a while. As everyone leaves, they wish Shuhua a happy birthday and also congratulate Soojin. Whether they were trying to tease her or not, Soojin is too shy to handle this much attention. Yet, Yeh Shuhua has a firm grip on her waist and refuses to let Soojin leave her side.

Minnie chatters happily with her friend, Lisa, while Miyeon and Jisoo catch up on their lives. Miyeon finds out that Jisoo came to apologize to Lisa a few days after their talk in the car. Lisa was more than happy to take Jisoo back because she’s still very much in love with Jisoo. Come to find out, the girl in the pictures that caused all the misunderstanding between Jisoo and Lisa was Minnie. Lisa and Minnie act like siblings so in some pictures they look to be closer than friends. The four of them spend most of the party trying to clear everything up, in between Miyeon hanging out with her other friends.

Across the room, Soyeon makes quick strides with a glass of water in her hand. “Here, drink some water.”

Yuqi is laying on one of Minnie’s sofas because the room is spinning. She groans as she tries to sit up to accept the glass of water from Soyeon. “I feel very dizzy right now.” She leans on Soyeon when the shorter woman sits down on the sofa. “How are you fine? You drank more than me?”

“How did you know that? You were all over the place making friends while I was working hard to keep the beat going.” Soyeon pretends to pout because secretly she is a little miffed that she didn’t have as much of Yuqi’s attention as usual.

“I’m always watching you, Jeon Soyeon.” Yuqi says after taking a sip of water.

“Scary.” Soyeon says with a little grin.

“You better be scared. Don’t forget that.” Yuqi giggles as Soyeon leans closer to playfully nips her ear. After getting to know each other intimately, they find it so much easier to be affectionate with each other in public.

Yuqi closes her eyes and snuggles closer to Soyeon as the room spins a little too quickly and her head feels a little too heavy.

“You guys are more than welcome to stay over for the night.” Minnie announces after she and Miyeon cleans up most of the trash and things from the party. “It’s late and I have two spare bedrooms.” She looks over at Yuqi and Soyeon, who seem to be considering their options.

Shuhua looks at Soojin for permission and when the older woman nods, she quickly and loudly yells. “Sleepover!” Soojin gently smacks her shoulder for being so loud. Yuqi wants to smack her too because her loud voice is the beginning of a slight headache for Yuqi. Soyeon makes a decision for them and nods, “Thanks for having us.”

Everyone, except Yuqi, finishes cleaning the flat as much as they can.

“The housekeeper will be here tomorrow for a deep clean, so don’t worry about it too much.” Minnie waves Soyeon off when the young woman tries to find a vacuum.

“A housekeeper?” Yuqi sits up from her sick ‘bed’ and looks at Minnie with shock. “You are loaded!”

“No, stupid Yuqi!” Shuhua yells from the kitchen, helping Soojin with the dirty plates. “Her parents are loaded!”

“Same thing!” Yuqi argues but then has to lay back down.

Minnie rolls her eyes before going to her room and then returning with clothes for all of them to change into. Her clothes are all baggy pants and t-shirts so it looks extra big on skinny and short Soyeon.

“Awww, you guys are going to wear Minnie’s clothes … usually only I get to do that.” Miyeon pretends to pout with her cheeks puffed out.

“Awww …” Minnie puts one arm around Miyeon’s shoulders, “usually you don’t need to wear anything at all …”

Shuhua and Soojin pretend to throw up while Soyeon covers her ears and screams.

“I think I’m going to be sick …” Yuqi groans as she starts dry heaving.

Everyone laughs until Minnie’s expression pales, “Yah! Song Yuqi, did you throw up on my sofa?!” The room erupts into chaos as everyone runs over to the sofa. Minnie tries to salvage her white sofa while Soyeon tries to prevent her girlfriend from choking on her own vomit. Miyeon and Soojin run to the kitchen to grab towels to clean while Shuhua takes photos and videos of the disaster.

“Song Yuqi, buy me a new sofa!” Minnie yells, half crying and half laughing.

 

 

“Do you want more bubbles?” Miyeon looks across to a relaxed Minnie.

“No … they’ll just cover up the view.” Minnie smirks as she flicks some droplets of water toward Miyeon.

“Very funny.” Miyeon blushes and flicks some water droplets back at Minnie.

“More wine, mademoiselle?” Minnie picks up the bottle of wine when Miyeon nods. She leans forward and pours the crimson liquid into Miyeon’s mostly empty glass.

“Merci.” Miyeon lifts a leg up to nudge Minnie’s knee with her big toe. “I could really get used to this.”

They are currently in Minnie’s master bathroom inside the claw bath tub with a view that overlooks the city view. They have a bottle of wine and a charcuterie board to the side as well as candles and soft piano music playing. Is there a better way to spend one’s birthday than to spend it in the afternoon bath with one’s girlfriend?

“You should.” Minnie smiles, her eyes gleaming as she strokes Miyeon’s calf underwater. “It’s the day that I will worship you like the goddess that you are.”

Miyeon licks the wine from her lips and quirks one brow up slightly, “Is that so?” She grins, waiting to see what Minnie is up to. Minnie had surprised her with breakfast in bed this morning and a lot of cuddling. They watched TV together until the afternoon, when they decided to bathe so they can relax even more.

Minnie lifts Miyeon’s right leg up and out of the water before she adjusts her position in the tub. She starts to kneel as she brings Miyeon’s right foot to her lips. Gently, Minnie kisses the top of Miyeon’s foot while her eyes are glued to Miyeon’s face. Miyeon swallows another gulp of wine, feeling its effect on her as she watches water and bubbles slide down Minnie’s exposed upper torso.

As Minnie’s wet hot kisses travel up her calf and then thigh, Miyeon feels herself losing control already. The alcohol makes her so lightheaded while those lips make her body burn with desire. When Minnie reaches Miyeon’s upper thigh, Miyeon has no choice but to lift herself upward and out of the water. She stands before Minnie, who is kneeling patiently. Minnie’s eyes look up at her expectantly.

Miyeon feels the cold air hit her as the warmth of the water quickly evaporates. She reaches down to tilt Minnie’s chin upward before bringing her wine glass to Minnie’s mouth. Obediently, Minnie parts her lips to allow Miyeon to pour what little wine she has left into her mouth. Miyeon is careful not to waste a drop as she watches the red liquid disappear into Minnie’s mouth.

Minnie swallows as she watches Miyeon perch at the edge of the tub, legs parted with invitation. Minnie licks her lips again before continuing her kisses along Miyeon’s inner thigh up to the apex of Miyeon’s legs. They have been  together officially only for a short time, but they have done this so many times before that. Minnie knows exactly which spot to tease and which spot to touch in order to make Miyeon lose all self control. It doesn’t take long before Miyeon’s panting and moaning sounds turn into heaving and crying out Minnie’s name. Soon, her climax rocks her body with a wave of ecstasy. When she calms down and catches her breath, Miyeon relaxes her grip on Minnie’s hair.

Miyeon looks down at Minnie, who’s looking at her with an adorable puppy smile and glazed over eyes. Her desire is still burning hot while she looks so pleased that she’s pleased Miyeon. “I love you.” Miyeon whispers as she wipes Minnie’s glistening chin.

“I love you.” Minnie responds and wades the water to kneel between Miyeon’s legs. She wraps her arms around Miyeon, holding their wet bodies together to share the warmth that is more than physical.

“Let’s get dry? I don’t want you to catch a cold.” Miyeon strokes Minnie’s wet hair.

“You take such good care of me.” Minnie makes no motion to move from her position, even though the tub is hard on her knees.

“Okay … I’ll help you towel dry?” Miyeon holds Minnie’s cheeks and tilts her face up to her.

“Okay.” Minnie smiles and gets out of the tub before helping Miyeon out of it. They help each other towel off and put on plushed pink bathrobes before going to the kitchen to get more snacks and hydration. It is very important to hydrate if they plan to have the kind of day they plan to have.

Very soon they are lounging in the living room, drinking more wine and watching a movie. The fireplace is going, so there is plenty of warmth in the room. They cuddle together on the sofa while Minnie feeds Miyeon little snacks.

“I have a present for you.” Minnie plays with the end of Miyeon’s hair. “Here.” She hands over a velvet box with a bow on top.

Miyeon looks at Minnie with a large grin and quickly accepts the box. “What is it?”

“Open it.” Minnie smiles as she watches Miyeon unwrap the bow before opening the box. Inside are a pair of silver bracelets with small charms that read ‘M&M’ inscribed on one side.

“It’s beautiful …” Miyeon’s eyes round as they focus on the silver links that she raises up from the box.

“They’re a pair. One for you …” Minnie removes one bracelet from the box and reaches over to clasp the bracelet around Miyeon’s delicate wrist, “and one for me.” Minnie removes the other bracelet to put around her own wrist. Miyeon reaches over to help her fast the clasp.

“They’re beautiful.” Miyeon inspects the silver links on her wrist.

“I figured …” Minnie strokes Miyeon’s cheek, “it’s a bit too early for rings, so bracelets for now … yeah?”

“Yeah.” Miyeon responds in a demure voice before leaning in to place a soft kiss on Minnie’s lips. “I love you.”

“Happy birthday, my love.” Minnie pulls Miyeon in for another kiss. Their lips are firm against each other, but the kiss remains gently and slow. They hold it there while holding each other before Miyeon parts her lips to invite Minnie’s tongue into her mouth. She gently suckles the slick tongue when it brushes past her lips. Very soon, Miyeon’s robe is untied and opened for Minnie to further explore ways to make Miyeon come.

Miyeon spends her birthday alternating before hydrating and screaming Minnie’s name. Who is really worshiping whom?



Chapter Text

Song Yuqi, a young woman of decent looks and a cheery personality, is standing over an assortment of items that cover much of her dining table. She has her phone in one hand and the other hand in her hair while a frown dominates her brows. Her eyes shift back and forth between her phone and the table, then calls for her girlfriend.

“Soyeonnie. Do you think this is enough?” Yuqi takes inventory of everything in a basket and then a bag and then a box. She doesn’t trust herself, even though she’s already crossed off everything from the checklist on her phone.

Soyeon looks at her girlfriend with a knowing grin, “Don’t be nervous, Yuqi-ah. We’ve got everything they could possibly want.” She trots over to gently rub her girlfriend’s back. “You know they just want to see us, that’s all.”

“I’m not nervous, I just want to make sure that we’re bringing everything.” Yuqi’s eyes are still shifting back and forth between all the supplies. Her vision is starting to blur as her mind stretches thin.

“Yes we are. You’ve already met them and they love you.” Soyeon reiterates because she knows Yuqi well enough to know when the younger woman is nervous. “C’mere.” She pulls a reluctant Yuqi close to her and wraps her arms loosely around Yuqi’s waist. “Just breathe.”

Yuqi is about to protest that she’s not nervous, but seeing the sympathetic look in Soyeon’s eyes makes her relax into the embrace. She takes in an exaggerated inhale before letting out a loud, misty exhale.

“Yah. I said breath, not spit all over me.” Soyeon laughs as she wipes the saliva mist from her face.

Yuqi  chuckles along before planting a wet kiss on Soyeon’s cheek. “Here, lemme add more spit on your face.” She puckers her lips for another wet one, but Soyeon pushes and keeps her at arm-length.

“No no, get away from me.” Soyeon shakes her head, hair fanning everywhere including hitting Yuqi in the face.

Yuqi laughs and reaches up to tussle Soyeon’s hair, “Your hair is getting so long.” She remembers when Soyeon’s hair was way above her shoulder, now it is a little past her shoulder.

Soyeon absentmindedly runs her fingers through the ends of her hair. “Do you like it?”

“I love it.” Yuqi responds with a tight squeeze. She does like the longer look on Soyeon, it makes the smaller woman look more feminine and a little less edgy.

Soyeon blushes before nudging with her elbow. “We’ve got to get going if we want to make it on time for the train.”

“Oh yeah, let me get my bag.” Yuqi runs to her room while Soyeon puts on her jacket.

Soyeon looks outside at the sunny, yet chilly day. At least the weather is good for traveling. They have three days off for Lunar New Year, so they are going to visit Soyeon’s parents. Soyeon has to take a deep breath each time she thinks about this first home visit with her girlfriend. Does she have to tell her parents right away? How would she do it? Is Yuqi ready for whatever may happen? Is Soyeon? Her thoughts are cut short when Yuqi comes out of her room, huffing and puffing.

“Yuqi-ah. How much stuff did you pack?” Soyeon points at the gigantic suitcase that Yuqi is trying to pull along.

“Not much for me. Your mom wanted some other things so I told her to make me a shopping list.” Yuqi smiles as she puts her own jacket on.

Soyeon narrows her eyes at Yuqi. “Do you and my mom talk a lot?” She had no idea that her mom asked Yuqi to shop for her.

“Everyday, right after I talk to my mom.” Yuqi nonchalantly responds as she puts her shoes on.

“What? Everyday? What could you possibly have to talk about?” Soyeon doesn’t even talk to her parents everyday. How did Yuqi keep this from her?

“Oh you know, this and that.” Yuqi mischievously tries to be vague. “Grab your stuff, Soyeonie, or we’re going to be late.” Yuqi knows that Soyeon doesn’t like secrets to be kept from her, but it’s so fun to tease the woman.

Soyeon frowns at Yuqi, but knows that her girlfriend is right. “Fine. But we’re going to talk about it later on the train.” She puts on her shoes before grabbing her backpack and the other bags that Yuqi had prepared for her parents. She has to admit that Yuqi is very good with and to her parents, always making sure that Soyeon remembers to call them at least once or twice a week.

The journey to the main streets is a slight struggle as they trudge along with the heavy luggage. Soyeon and Yuqi are both strong women, but the amount of items they are carrying is simply too much. After some time waiting by the curbside, they finally are able to hail a cab for the train station. They comfortably hold hands for the entire duration of the cab ride. When they get to the station, they almost drop all of their stuff because it is packed with people. Everyone’s doing something or going somewhere during these long holidays. The two women try their best to muscle through the crowds and eventually get to their train. They find their seat and plop down in relief after all their luggage has been stowed away.

“Wow.” Yuqi says in an exaggerated tone. “That was a madhouse.” Pushing through people really took the energy out of her so early in the morning. “I’m already exhausted.” She jests.

“Yeah, that’s why I avoid going home on the holidays … people get so pushy.” Soyeon shrugs off her jacket and uses it as a leg blanket, prompting Yuqi to do the same.

“But you still have to go home to visit them, they miss you.” Yuqi leans against Soyeon, pressing their arms together before Soyeon lifts the armrest that divides them, letting Yuqi fully lean against her. Yuqi feels slightly drained already. Normally, she’s a high energy person, but she hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in the days leading up to this trip. Maybe it’s stress, nervousness, excitement, or all of the above. She slips her arm around Soyeon’s and hugs the older woman’s arm to herself.

“And you know this because you talk to my mom everyday …” Soyeon comes back to their earlier conversation.

“Uh huh. Sometimes your dad, too.” Yuqi mutters and pretends to close her eyes to fall asleep. She feels most comforted when she picks up a faint scent of Soyeon’s body wash.

“Yah, Song Yuqi. We’ve got to talk about this.” Soyeon wants to know more, especially what they all talk about. She’s just curious, that’s all.

“Do we have to?” Yuqi whispers, her eyes too heavy to open.

“Yes.”

“I want to sleep. You should, too.”

“No, I’m not tired.”

Yuqi refuses to cooperate; instead, she buries her face into Soyeon’s hair and breathes hotly into Soyeon’s neck. Soyeon tries to shake her loose, but she giggles softly and presses into Soyeon more firmly. Eventually, Soyeon gives up and just lets Yuqi be. After several minutes, Yuqi starts to really fall asleep and Soyeon sighs in rare defeat. She rests her head on Yuqi’s before doing the same thing herself. It is a short train ride to Soyeon’s hometown, so the couple is woken from their quick morning nap, feeling a little more tired than before. They both yawn loudly before getting up from their seats.

“I still haven’t forgotten.” Soyeon murmurs into Yuqi’s ear as they wait for the front rows to exit first.

Yuqi simply shakes her head and grins.

 

 

“Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Jeon.” Yuqi bows when she sees Soyeon’s parents standing near the exit. “Happy New Year.” She happily greets them while Soyeon runs straight into her parents’ arms.

“Appa. Umma.” Yuqi smiles when she hears Soyeon’s voice turn into a sweet, baby tone. Soyeon wedges herself in between her parents and hugs them tightly. “I miss you so much!”

“Aigoo, our baby is home, honey.” Soyeon’s mom pats Soyeon’s back while her dad ruffles her hair.

Yuqi’s smile turned into a look of surprise when they opened their arms toward her. She wants to ask if that’s okay for them to join, but Soyeon’s parents nod before she could ask. She couldn’t say no to those smiling, welcoming faces. Excitedly, she opens her arms and steps forward into the fold. They feel so warm, it reminds her parents’ hug when she left for Korea. Yuqi can’t help but hug the three of them a little tighter.

The drive to Soyeon’s home is as comforting as the hug. Soyeon’s parents are in front while Yuqi and Soyeon are in the backseat. Everyone’s talking comfortably and cheerfully. Soyeon’s hand finds its way onto Yuqi’s as they drive through her hometown. Eventually, they end up in front of Soyeon’s childhood home.

It’s a neat, modest house with a small garden and two yellow chairs sitting in the front. Yuqi smiles at how everything looks so cute, so fitting for petite Soyeon. Everyone is carrying a piece of baggage as they walk into the house. It smells homey, a familiar scent that Yuqi has picked up from Soyeon before. They drop off the box, bag, and basket of things that Yuqi and Soyeon bought for her parents in the kitchen before Soyeon leads Yuqi to her room, which they will share for the next two nights.

“Here we are …” Soyeon is nervous to open the door to her childhood room. She doesn’t know what to think about Yuqi seeing this side of her. She’s lived by herself for almost ten years, ever since she left for university. Everything still looks the same when she comes to visit, but it honestly feels like a whole other person’s room now. It holds cherished memories of a younger Soyeon, not the person who is here now.

Yuqi looks around the room. Obviously it’s been cleaned by Soyeon’s mom, because things aren’t haphazardly dropped on the ground like Soyeon’s room in their apartment. It smells like freshly laundered bedding, but Yuqi could pick up a faint scent of Soyeon-ness that is hard to explain. As her eyes fall on something in particular, she smiles slightly and makes a sound. “Huh.”

“Huh?” Soyeon turns toward her girlfriend with a puzzled look.

Yuqi grins and points toward the posters that cover much of one wall. “You really liked 2PM huh?” They were one of the groups that ruled second generation KPOP and pretty much started the whole beast idols concept.

Soyeon’s eyes follow Yuqi’s gaze before she nods. “Yeah, they’re the best.”

Yuqi holds her hand in front, opening and closing her fingers to mimic the beat of a heart. “Can you feel my heartbeat?”

Soyeon groans before looking around to find something to throw at Yuqi.

“Huh.” Yuqi makes another noise that causes Soyeon to frown.

“Huh what?”

“I didn’t know you were into … such manly men.” Yuqi can’t help but compare Soyeon’s boy group preference to her, who is any but beastly and manly.

“Yeah …?” Soyeon is confused where her girlfriend is going with this.

“I’m not that manly.” Yuqi shows Soyeon her bicep, or lack thereof.

“Well, you do have a deep, husky voice.” Soyeon can’t help herself, even knowing that Yuqi will whine about it.

“YAH! Jeon Soyeon, that was mean!” Yuqi does indeed pout and whine about it.

“But that’s what attracted me to you.” Soyeon grins devilishly, continuing her onslaught. It’s Yuqi’s fault for trying to mess with her first. “That deep, manly voice.”

“I’m going to kill you!” Soyeon tries to dodge, but Yuqi is faster and is already glomping on her back. “Whoa whoa whoa.” Soyeon takes a few staggering steps before she falls sideways onto her bed with Yuqi landing beside her.

Yuqi viciously bites Soyeon’s shoulder, causing the older woman to hiss in pain.

“Ouch … so … aggressive and … manly.” Soyeon doesn’t know when to give up. “Bite me more.”

Yuqi pinches the little bit of Soyeon’s belly fat, making Soyeon roll away to avoid more attacks.

“Are you trying to kill me?” Soyeon turns to her maniacal girlfriend. She rubs her belly and frowns from the pain.

“Yeah, that’s what you get for making fun of me.” Yuqi huffs as she lays on her side, looking at Soyeon with a big pout. “You know that I’m sensitive about my voice.”

“But I said that it’s attractive.” Soyeon does know about Yuqi’s insecurity regarding her deep voice. She scoots closer now, wanting to comfort the girlfriend she just upset. “You have a very nice voice, Yuqi-ah. I can pick you out from a crowd because it’s so unique.”

“Pick something else to be attracted to!” Yuqi pushes Soyeon’s shoulder away playfully, with little force.

“Well, there’s so much to be attracted to. You’re so cute. You have the prettiest smile. Your hair is perfect. Your butt is amazing … I love everything, but especially your voice.” Soyeon knows exactly what to say to make Yuqi smile.

As expected, Yuqi quickly smiles and rolls her eyes, “You’re just saying that.”

“No, no. It’s true.” Soyeon changes the subject as she rests one hand on Yuqi’s hip. “I'm glad you decided to come. I would’ve missed you too much if you didn’t.”

Yuqi is easily placated by sweet words. She brushes hair out of her girlfriend’s face. “Thank you for inviting me to come along with you. I would have cried myself to sleep every night until you came back.” Yuqi leans closer still, though something holds her back from kissing Soyeon. It is Soyeon’s parents’ house after all and they may not appreciate that.

Soyeon rests her hand on Yuqi’s cheek. “Let’s get rested up before we go back out there?”

Yuqi nods and puts her hand over Soyeon’s hand. It feels so tiny in her own, but it makes her feel so warm and safe. Yuqi closes her eyes and takes a deep inhale of the detergent scent from Soyeon’s bedding, it smells so nice and homey. They end up hugging and snuggling for a while, before Soyeon’s parents call for them to come to the living room.

 

 

“And this is where we would perform charye, or ancestral rites.” Soyeon offers an explanation to Yuqi as they look over the table that is prepared with a variety of dishes, fruits, vegetables, and alcohol. There is so much food, Yuqi’s eyes are blurred by the sheer amount.

“You have something similar in China right?” Soyeon’s dad stands beside Yuqi with his hands behind his back, watching Soyeon’s mom set the table of offerings.

“Yes, I think most Asian countries have some sort of variation.” Yuqi replies with a nod before reaching out to take a tray from Soyeon’s mom.

“Alright, let me put this away and we can start.” Soyeon’s mom smooths out her hanbok as she stands up.

Both of Soyeon’s parents are in traditional Korean garments for Lunar New Year, Soyeon would be too but she wanted to wear modern clothing in solidarity with Yuqi. Soyeon’s hanboks do not fit Yuqi right, so she didn’t want Yuqi to feel left out. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon for young people to forgo the traditional hanboks.

When Soyeon’s mom returns from the kitchen, they line up with Soyeon’s parents in front and the younger two in the back. Yuqi watches and copies the ancestral rites, even though she is not part of the family. She doesn’t know what to say to these Korean ancestors, who might not have even approved of someone like her. A same-sex foreigner dating their descendent. She shakes her head to clear those thoughts away and simply prays for good health for her friends and family, including a lot of good things for Soyeon.

After the rites, they have Soyeon’s parents sitting on two chairs while they both kneel in front of them.

“Appa. Umma. I wish you a new year full of good health and lots of good fortune.” Soyeon smiles like a child and offers a cup of tea to her dad.

“Aigoo. Our Soyeon, we wish you a new year of lots of advancement in your career and good health. We also wish that you would call home more often.” Soyeon’s dad accepts the cup.

“Thank you, appa.” Soyeon turns to Yuqi and waggles her brows to hint for her girlfriend to do the same.

“Ah. Um …” Yuqi holds the cup of tea in front of Soyeon’s mom, her hands trembling a little from nervousness. “Mr. and Mrs. Jeon. I wish you a new year of good blessing, may all your wishes come true along with a lot of love and happiness.”

“Thank you, Yuqi-ah.” Soyeon’s mom reaches out and holds Yuqi’s hands before accepting the cup. “We wish you a new year of health and happiness. Thank you for being our second daughter. We also wish that you would call us appa and umma as well … if that is fine with you.”

Yuqi blinks in surprise, her cheeks burning red as she shyly nods. “I-I would love that.” She feels all eyes on her, making her feel uncharacteristically shy. “Appa. Umma.” She tries it out and the words just roll right off her tongue.

Soyeon practically beams at Yuqi before looking at the twinkling smiles from her parents. She bows to them respectfully and feels Yuqi performing the same action beside her.

After lunch, everyone packs into Soyeon’s parents car to go to visit Soyeon’s relatives. Yuqi is surprised that she is invited to come along as well, she honestly didn’t know what to expect when she tagged along with Soyeon. They visit Soyeon’s grandparents' houses, then her aunt and uncles, and eventually end up back at home. Everyone loves Yuqi and welcomes her as if she’s been part of the family since birth. For her part, Yuqi is just being her loud, funny self. Yuqi and Soyeon, despite being surgeons and all, received several red bags from Soyeon’s relatives.

 

 

After an exhausting day, Yuqi is glad to have a moment to herself in the bath. She takes the chance to recalibrate because there were so many new people that it takes a lot out of her to be extra-outgoing Yuqi. The hot water makes her feel so light as she closes her eyes and recounts the events of the day. Everyone made her feel so included and loved, even though she barely knew them. Soyeon’s grandparents on both sides are adorable. They are so small, just like Soyeon. The thought makes Yuqi chuckle to herself.

While Yuqi is in that bath, Soyeon is getting the bed ready. It’s a full-sized bed, so it’s enough for them both, but she doesn’t want Yuqi to be uncomfortably cramped. She is putting an extra pillow on the side that Yuqi usually sleeps on when she hears a soft knock at the door.

“Hi, umma.” Soyeon walks over to take the tray of tea and snacks from her mom.

“Yuqi is still in the bath?” Soyeon’s mom asks with a little smile while Soyeon put the tray on her desk.

“Yes, hopefully she didn’t pass out in there.” Soyeon jokes as her mom sits down on her bed. “She likes to take long baths.”

“This was such a fun day, I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.” Soyeon’s mom gently pats Soyeon’s thigh as she looks lovingly at her daughter. “I’m glad you came home this year and I’m glad that you brought Yuqi.”

Soyeon can’t help but smile and nods. “I’m glad that we got to come home, it’s been a while.” She puts her hand on her mom’s hand. “I’m thankful to everyone for being so nice to Yuqi. She felt right at home.”

Soyeon’s mom chuckles and nods. “It’s because she’s so easygoing and funny, everyone really liked talking to her, especially your little cousins.” After a second, she adds. “I’m glad that you met Yuqi … she’s good for you.”

The corner of Soyeon’s mouth twitches a little bit, does her mom already know? She tenses up a little bit.

“She’s a good friend, I can tell. She’s good at making you a lot more outgoing than you are usually.” Soyeon relaxes as her mom talks. “I know you’re very goal oriented and driven, so sometimes I worry that you’re too intense to get close to people. I’m glad you have Yuqi and your other friends in Seoul.”

Soyeon has an urge to hug her mom tightly. She wraps her arms around those small shoulders and gives her mom a tight squeeze. “Sorry that I’m a troublesome child, umma. I’m doing well, I promise.”

“I know, I know. But I can’t help it, since you’re my child.” Soyeon’s mom pats her back as if pacifying a toddler. “You make your appa and I so proud. You’re our world.” They hug for a long while, appreciating the familial love that flows between them.

The sound of the bathroom’s door opening causes Soyeon’s mom to pull back. She smiles and cups Soyeon’s cheeks, “Good night. I’ll see you and Yuqi tomorrow morning.”

“Good night, umma. Tell appa I said good night.” Soyeon says as her mom reaches the doorway.

“Oh, good night, Mrs … uh … umma.” Yuqi runs into Soyeon’s mom at the door and immediately bows. How could someone so outgoing be so awkward sometimes?

“Good night, Yuqi-ah.” Soyeon’s mom reaches up and gently pats Yuqi’s cheeks before she goes to her room.

Yuqi looks at Soyeon with a slight smile, “I hope I didn’t interrupt anything.” She touches the cheek that was patted by Soyeon’s mom.

“No no, umma brought us some tea and snacks before wishing us goodnight.” Soyeon pats the seat next to her, recently vacated by her mom. “I’ll pour you a cup.”

Yuqi sits down on the bed, drying her hair with a towel. “She’s so sweet, I really do feel like she’s my own umma.” Yuqi watches Soyeon gingerly pour a cup of tea for her. “Thank you.”

As Yuqi pauses her hair drying to accept the tea, Soyeon takes the towel from Yuqi and sits down next to her girlfriend. She begins to gently dry Yuqi’s hair by squeezing by section instead of just roughly rubbing it. “Your hair’s gotten so long, Yuqi-ah. I think I’ll have to grab the hair dryer if you don’t want to sleep with wet hair tonight.”

Yuqi gently cools the surface of the tea before nodding happily. “Okay~” She loves it when Soyeon takes care of her like this. It makes her feel so pampered and cherished.

Soyeon quickly gets on her feet and quickly steps into the bathroom before returning with the hairdryer. She sets it on low and works through sections of Yuqi’s hair to avoid creating too much frizz. Yuqi is happily sipping on her tea. The warm liquid combined with the gently warm breeze from the hairdryer relaxes her even more. She could fall asleep any moment now.

“Soyeonnie … thank you.” Yuqi runs her hand through her hair when it’s all done. It feels a lot better than when she does it herself because she would be impatient and create a whole lot of frizz. She puts her empty cup of tea aside and pulls Soyeon closer. “Thank you for taking care  such good care of me.”

Soyeon circles her arms around Yuqi’s neck, “I’ll take care of you for as long as you want me to.”

“Is that a promise?” Yuqi leans in and rests her forehead on Soyeon’s.

“It’s a promise.” Soyeon repeats as she brushes the tip of her nose against Yuqi’s, giving her little Eskimo kisses.

“Do you want me to take care of you …” Yuqi coyly suggests.

“… My parents might hear us …” Soyeon chews her bottom lip, highly tempted, but knowing better. Sometimes, she has a hard time controlling her volume when she’s excited. She knows for sure Yuqi will not be able to control her voice.

“Yeah … you’re right …” Yuqi whispers, but her hand wanders down to Soyeon’s bottom, giving it a nice squeeze.

“Maybe when we get back …” Soyeon suggests an alternative as her girlfriend’s wandering hands pull her closer.

“Yeah, because you can be quite loud.” Yuqi teases, earning a push from Soyeon.

“You’re the loud one!” Soyeon folds her arm across her chest.

Yuqi laughs while trying to mimic Soyeon’s moans, making the shorter woman tackle her onto the bed. They wrestle for a little bit before Yuqi earns a well deserved smack in the face with a pillow. Honestly, they’re causing more of a ruckus now than if they were doing something else. Eventually, they tire each other out and drift into sleep in the warm embrace of each other.

 

 

“Is this thing safe?” Yuqi casts a doubtful look over the motor scooter. It’s just a common scooter with faded yellow paint and well-worn seats.

Soyeon gives her an offended look before handing her a helmet. “Of course, it took me to and from school for most of my high school years.” Soyeon didn’t particularly like riding the bus when she was young. Or now, actually. She just likes to ride the bus with Yuqi.

Yuqi gives the scooter a few look-overs before putting her helmet onto her head. She really doesn’t trust the way it looks. No doubt it carried tiny, lightweight Soyeon to and from school with no problem. However, now it’s going to be Soyeon plus Yuqi. What if it falls apart? What if it fails in the middle of the road?

“C’mon. Climb on.” Soyeon is raring to go.

“Fine. Fine.” Yuqi fastens the clip on her helmet before climbing on behind Soyeon. She’s a little nervous because it’s been a while since she’s been on the back of a scooter.

Yuqi and Soyeon had breakfast with Soyeon’s parents before they were told that they are free to explore in the afternoon. Soyeon’s parents are going to be making food, which Yuqi wants to help with, but Soyeon wanted to show Yuqi the city.

“Are you ready to roll?” Soyeon asks while turning on the engine. She would be lying if she says that she isn’t nervous because it’s been a while since she’s been on her scooter, much less driving someone else too.

“Yeah.” Yuqi replies with as much enthusiasm as going to the dentist. She doesn’t know why they couldn’t just take the bus.

Soyeon’s dad had put gas in the scooter, he’s been doing maintenance on it while Soyeon was away so there shouldn’t be any engine problems. The old engine sputters to life after a few tries, earning a gentle pat of appreciation from Soyeon. “Alright, let’s go.”

As the scooter lurches forward, Yuqi’s arms instinctively tighten around Soyeon’s waist. She loves this part, where she gets to hug Soyeon tightly without a care in the world. They zip through small alleyways and sharp corners before hitting the main road. Soyeon handles it all like a pro. Yuqi is actually enjoying the experience, too. It’s kind more fun that she’d expected and she gets to hug her entire body against Soyeon.

Yuqi watches people and buildings rush by as they make their way toward the city center. Their destination is a large building that grows as they approach it. It has a giant sign in front advertising new anime and manga. Yuqi has always known that her girlfriend is a little bit of an otaku, obsessing over things that she really doesn’t understand like anime, manga, and games. But she didn’t expect to be driven straight here when they’re supposed to be out exploring. When they pull into a parking spot, Yuqi steps onto the streets with shaky legs. She hadn’t realized that she was so tense on the scooter.

“This is one of my favorite places in the city.” Soyeon shakes her head, trying to add volume to her mushed helmet hair.

Yuqi runs her fingers through her hair before putting the helmet on the scooter. Her eyes are up at the sign overhead. “This is a big store.”

“Yeah, it has everything. Anime, manga, models, games …” Soyeon drones on excitedly while Yuqi looks at her with adoring eyes.

“You’re too cute.” Yuqi laughs and hooks her arm with Soyeon. “Alright, let’s go. I’ll buy you whatever you want today.”

“Really?” Soyeon is hyped. Not that she can’t afford it, but she likes that Yuqi is willing to dote on her interests.

“Of course. Anything you can carry.” Yuqi can’t help but get excited along with Soyeon. “It’ll be your new year present.”

“Oh … then you should pick out something, too. I will buy it for you.” Soyeon says with confidence, but somehow it makes her look even cuter.

Yuqi doubts that there is anything for her in this store, but maybe they’ll have some stickers or something that she could put on the letters that she sends home every month. “Okay, I’ll pick well.”

As the automatic doors slide open, Yuqi can tell why Soyeon likes this place so much. It is literally her heaven, with rows of shelves full of manga and anime. There’s even a second floor labeled models and toys. Jpop is playing loudly overhead while kids and adults mull about between the shelves. The sheer excitement on Soyeon’s face is adorable, Yuqi snaps a mental image of that innocence shown.

“You can go check things out …” No sooner did those words leave Yuqi’s lips did Soyeon dart off like a child in a toy store. Yuqi chuckles and shakes her head before she decides to wander over to a section labeled stationary. There are many cute designs and she gets lost in the exponential selections of stickers. Eventually, Yuqi’s eyes couldn’t handle all the different designs anymore. She decides to go to the cafe on the third floor to wait for her girlfriend. She takes a moment to text Shuhua and Minnie to see what they are up to.

The two were also on holiday with their respective partners. Turns out they all rode on the same train, just different sections because they all have different stops. Yuqi complains that had she known they were going to be on the same train, she’d book something for them all to sit together. Shuhua says she would rather have Soojin to herself while Minnie is responding with short messages. Eventually, they’re called away by their girlfriends and can’t chat with Yuqi anymore.

After another long while, Soyeon appears in the cafe with a few manga in her hands, looking pleased with herself. She pulls up a chair next to Yuqi and shows her girlfriend her new finds. “I did good, these don’t cost a lot and I haven’t read them before.”

Yuqi tilts her head as she reads over the titles. “Is this all that you want? You don’t need any figurines?”

“No, the one I really want is sold out so I’ll have to check elsewhere.” Soyeon pouts for a split second before taking a sip of Yuqi’s drink, feeling parched after so much hype. “What is this?” She scrunches her face, “It’s so sour!”

Yuqi laughs, “It’s just half-tea, half-lemonade.”

“Did they forget the sugar?” Soyeon keeps sticking her tongue out like a cat, as if that would make the sour taste go away faster.

“Anyways, what did you want to get?” Yuqi tries to dab Soyeon’s tongue with a napkin, but Soyeon swats it away.

“A model of Luffy raising the pirate flag. It looks really cool, ugh … I wanted it so bad, but they sold the last one yesterday.” Soyeon laments her fate.

“Can we order it somewhere else?” Yuqi has already set her mind on spending money on her girlfriend today.

“I’ll have to look around the auction sites, but it gets expensive through them.” Soyeon puts Yuqi’s drink down before patting the stack of manga that she brought, “These are good though. I’m excited to read them.”

Yuqi props her chin up in her palm as she looks at Soyeon with an adoring smile. “You can’t be this cute, it’s my thing.” She playfully chides Soyeon before taking a moment to be real. “When I first met you, I never would have guest that you’d be so into manga and games.”

“People say that a lot.” Soyeon nods in agreement. “Manga, especially One Piece, has helped me through a lot.”

Yuqi senses there’s more to what Soyeon’s saying, so she rests one hand on Soyeon’s back and gently pats encouragingly. “How so?”

“My parents worked very hard to put me through school, you can see that we aren’t that well off. They were always working when I was young but we never really had more than enough … I felt a lot of pressure to be successful when I grow up so that I can take care of them later.” Soyeon’s gaze is faraway, thinking back to her past.

“One time in middle school, I didn’t do well on one of my tests, so I didn’t want to go home. I wandered around for a long while before I ended up here … and I just started going through the shelves, looking for nothing in particular. There was a new Shonen Jump on display, so I started reading it … and I forgot all about my worries because the stories pulled me in … when I got home, umma and appa were so mad because they couldn’t reach me for a long time. But I was able to face them and apologize for my low test score because one of the characters apologized for their mistake …”

Yuqi rubs Soyeon’s back comfortingly.

“From then on, manga and anime became one source of stress relief for me.” Soyeon smiles at Yuqi’s encouraging gesture. “You know how I get anxious if I’m not being productive?”

Yuqi nods.

“Well, when I get pulled into a story, I don’t feel lost or anxious about lacking something to do. I can just follow the adventure and see where the mangaka takes me.” Soyeon smiles sweetly and shyly.

“I can understand that. Not only did it take a lot of stress and hard work to get to where we are, we also have  very demanding careers.” Yuqi knows the strain that Soyeon puts on herself because of what she wanted to achieve for herself and her family. Yuqi, too, feels that pressure. “I felt the same pressure growing up, always needing to be better than expectations.”

Soyeon squeezes Yuqi’s hand, thinking they were in two different countries but were going through similar stress. Now, fate’s brought them together and it’s a blessing to her. “How did you deal with your stress?”

Yuqi smiles ruefully. “I liked gymnastics, a lot. But I’m not at the international competitive level, or rather I’m not prepared to sacrifice my life like that. It’s different over there. Athletes are owned by the communist party, so I would have no freedom or identity other than one of China’s many gymnasts.” She lowers her gaze. “I miss it sometimes.”

“How did you choose to be a doctor? And why Korea of all places?” Soyeon brushes her thumb across Yuqi’s cheek.

“It’s a long story that I don’t think I want to get into right now. I also took an aptitude test and it suggested that I should be a doctor. I followed it and studied until I won a scholarship to come here to study. I’ve always liked Korea, especially since I love Kpop so much.”

“Oh? What’s your Kpop preference? You already know mine.” Soyeon laughs.

“Well, we haven’t had a lot of time … but I used to be obsessed with Super Junior.” Yuqi blushes, feeling a little embarrassed that they’re two professional women sitting here talking about Kpop groups.

“Huh.”

“What?”

“I didn’t figure you for the SuJu type.”

“What type is that?

“Eh … you know.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Don’t worry about it.”

Yuqi narrows her eyes at Soyeon and bares her teeth, pretending to bite her girlfriend.

Soyeon laughs, deciding that it’s time for them to keep going. “Thanks for listening to me.” Soyeon is grateful to have someone as understanding and comforting as Yuqi in her life.

“Thank me after I buy these manga for you.” Yuqi leans in and quickly pecks Soyeon on the cheek before getting up from the table.

Soyeon touches where Yuqi’s lips touched her cheek with a slight grin, “Thank you.” She says before getting said items and following Yuqi downstairs to make the purchase. They get back to the scooter, still standing where they’d left it, and Soyeon puts the manga into her storage compartment. “Thanks again, Yuqi-ah.”

“You’re welcome … where to next, Ms. Tour Guide?” Yuqi buttons up her jacket as the cold starts to seep through the fabric of her shirt.

Soyeon thinks for a second before snapping her fingers. “I’ve got it … another special place to me.” She hops into the scooter before Yuqi settles into the backseat. Yuqi rather likes being shown different places that made Soyeon into who she is today. She feels closer to Soyeon than ever.

 

 

Soyeon takes Yuqi to an old music studio that looks very broken down. The sign reads “Unpretty Records” and it certainly fits the image of the shop. It is the kind of studio/record store that looks vintage, but not hip at all. The cashier is an old, balding man smoking a cigarette inside. He ignores most customers, except for Soyeon. “What’s up, girl? Back for the holidays?”

“Yeah. Just showing … my girlfriend around.” Soyeon realizes that this is the first time she uses the ‘g’ word outside of her friend circle. She makes a conscious effort to say it naturally.

Yuqi beams behind Soyeon and waves enthusiastically at the man.

“Good for you, she’s good looking.” He waves at Yuqi before looking back to Soyeon. “Do you want to use your old studio?”

“If that’s okay.” Soyeon glances back at Yuqi.

“Yeah, there’s not an appointment for another thirty minutes or so.” He hands Soyeon a key from a drawer full of keys.

“Thank you, ahjussi.” Soyeon bows slightly, leading Yuqi to do the same.

“I’ll come get you when it’s time.” The man says before going back to reading his newspaper.

They make their way to the back of the store, where several studio rooms are available for rental. It seems like everyone passing by them seems to recognize Soyeon. Yuqi can tell by the glances and some even points at her. Eventually, Yuqi sees a poster of a young, edgy Soyeon next to the entrance to a particular room. “DJ Jelly?” Yuqi exclaims in surprise. Soyeon is pictured wearing a large yellow puffer jacket while rocking a chic expression.

Soyeon scratches her head and nods. “I used to go by DJ Jelly during the last two years of high school. After my schoolworks is done, I’d come to rap or DJ somewhere to blow off steam.”

Yuqi pulls her phone out to take a picture of the poster. All the girls in the group chat have to see this to believe it. Soyeon tries to cover the camera lens due to embarrassment, but Yuqi manages to dodge her pretty easily. “You never told me about this.”

Soyeon puts the key into the lock and turns it as if she’s done it a thousand times. She flips the light switch on and reveals a small studio with instruments and machines for recording to Yuqi. The door closes behind them with a soft click before Soyeon locks it.

“For a while, I wanted to be a rapper because I fell in love with hip hop … but during the last year of school, I scored highly on my aptitude test for the medical field. Appa and umma were so happy … since I can study well, I figured why not make them happy. I love my job and what I do now … but sometimes, I think I could’ve still made it big as a rapper.”

Yuqi has learned so much about Soyeon in one day. Even though they started dating, most of the time, Soyeon is still a mystery to her. Soyeon teases and plays with her a lot, but this level of candidness is new to Yuqi. Personally, Yuqi has always preferred to take things slowly and learn a little bit at a time. She doesn’t want to rush anything. It seems her patience paid off because Soyeon is comfortable enough to share these intimate memories with her.

“How did you find this place?” Yuqi looks around the old studio. It’s not exactly high tech, but for a high school student it might have done the trick.

“My friend, Nada, found this place first and she brought me to practice with her.” Soyeon sits down on one of the chairs and motions for Yuqi to sit next to her. “We made quite a few bad rhymes in here.”

“Bad good? Like a baddie.” Yuqi feels strange having to clarify the word bad. “Or bad bad?”

That makes Soyeon laugh and shake her head. “Baddie.”

“Can you show off your skill? I want to hear you spit some rhymes.” Yuqi claps her hands together, looking excited.

“Uh … I’m a little rusty. It’s been a while since I’ve practiced, so … don’t expect too much.” Soyeon clears her throat and goes over to the studio equipment. She turns some knobs and presses some buttons, looking like a pro, which to Yuqi is a huge turn on. Then the beat starts to play and Soyeon grabs a microphone. She settles into her seat and closes her eyes, taking a deep breath and thinking about some of her old rhymes.

Slowly, it comes back to her just like riding her scooter. It starts with some ‘uhs’ first before launching into a firecracker of a rhyme that she’s practiced so many times in this room. She raps about how people underestimate her because of her looks and size. She raps about how parents see only what they want to see and when she’s hurt, she can’t show them the real her. She raps about not caring about school because they don’t even teach her how to open a bank account. By the time she’s done, she’s out of breath and when she opens her eyes, she looks at an astonished Yuqi.

“Wow …” That’s all Yuqi could say, her mind is blown by the speed and accuracy of Soyeon’s flow.

Soyeon smiles sheepishly. “What’d you think?”

“I … don’t … think I’ve ever been more attracted to you than now …” Yuqi replies honestly. “Maybe when you were taking care of me during my ankle crisis is pretty close … but I think this tops it.”

“Really?” Soyeon sticks her tongue out to one corner of her mouth.

“Yeah, that was really sexy.” Yuqi nods repeatedly.

Soyeon puts the microphone up to her mouth again. “I’m sexy when I rap?”

“Super sexy.” Yuqi laughs at her girlfriend’s boosted mood.

“Then how about I rap for you some more, girl.” Soyeon turns on the charisma.

“Yes, please, DJ Jelly.” Yuqi woots and throws her arms up in the air like she doesn't care.

They stay at the studio for a while, Soyeon even raps a song or two from 2PM for Yuqi.

“If you weren’t a surgeon or gymnast, what would you be?” Soyeon asks during a water break.

“Hm … I’ve always wanted to be a talk show host.” Yuqi tries to think back to her childhood dream. “I’ve always loved interacting with people and making them laugh. For me, it was one of the most rewarding things … but I get so addicted to making people happy that I feel like I’m not myself … you know?” She turns to Soyeon, who nods slightly.

“I think you would’ve been a great talk show host.” Soyeon offers her two-cent.

“You think so?” Yuqi asks.

“I know so.” Soyeon nods with confirmation. “You’re so cheerful, you give me energy when I feel low. You’re really good at bringing joy to people around you, that’s why everyone likes you. Look at my family, you just met them once and I think they like you more than they like me.”

Yuqi laughs and nods at that notion, because Soyeon’s family did take to her really quickly. “You think so?”

“Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever seen my aunts laugh so hard before … most of the time they just give me chores to do or scowl at my hair color.” Soyeon rolls her eyes at the antiquated notion that kids with colored hair are delinquents.

“Well, aren’t you lucky to have a girlfriend as charming as me?” Yuqi gently ruffles Soyeon’s platinum locks, which takes a lot of work to keep this color.

Soyeon, perched on a stool, reaches for Yuqi’s hand and pulls her close. “I'm the luckiest girl in the world.” Her eyes gazed deeply up at Yuqi, who allowed herself to be pulled along.

Yuqi’s hands automatically reach to cup Soyeon’s cheeks. She looks deep into those enigmatic eyes before slowly leaning down to brush her lips against Soyeon’s. As Soyeon strains upward to press for a kiss, Yuqi pulls back and hovers just a hair beyond Soyeon’s reach. Soyeon’s eyes are puzzled for a moment before realization sets in, she smiles a little at her teasing girlfriend. Soyeon’s hands brush against Yuqi’s hips before they snake behind for those naughty digits to dig into Yuqi’s buttocks.

Yuqi giggles softly as Soyeon pulls her closer. Using the momentary distraction, Soyeon presses for a kiss again, this time finally feeling those warm lips. Yuqi smiles into the kiss as their lips are mushed into each other. Her nostrils flare as she inhales sharply, taking in Soyeon’s scent along with the air she needs to make this a long, tender one.

Soyeon’s tongue seeks to deepen the kiss, allowing Yuqi a chance to tease her once again. She gently nibs Soyeon’s lower lip, but not allowing entrance yet. Soyeon pinches Yuqi’s bottom, as if chastising her for teasing a little too much. With a soft hum, Yuqi complies and parts her lips for Soyeon’s tongue. It’s somewhat exciting for them to be making out at a place that isn’t their home. It’s exhilarating for Soyeon to have Yuqi here in her old studio. Things would have advanced a lot further had a knock hadn’t come at the door.

“Time’s up, Soyeon. I’ve got someone with an appointment here.” The old shopkeeper calls from outside the door.

Soyeon has to clear her throat before piping up. “Okay, we’ll be right out.” She is semi dazed to suddenly be pulled out of an intimate moment.

Yuqi is already fixing her make up by the time Soyeon stands up. “Hold on …” Yuqi smiles and gently wipes her lipstick off Soyeon’s lips. “There.”

“Thank you.” Soyeon licks her lips before taking Yuqi’s hand. “Let’s go home?”

Yuqi nods and intertwines her fingers with Soyeon.

 

 

When they finally get home, the sun is starting to set. It’s been a long day full of discovery for Yuqi, she didn’t know how tired she was until she stepped through the door. The house feels so warm and comforting, plus it smells amazing!

Yuqi inhales deeply, leading her stomach to rumble in excitement.

“We’re home!” Soyeon calls out as she slips out of her shoes, prompting Yuqi to do the same.

“Welcome back.” Soyeon’s mom calls out from the kitchen. “Go get cleaned up and ready for dinner.”

“It smells great!” Yuqi yells out as she follows Soyeon to their room. “I can’t wait!” She could hear Soyeon’s mom laugh from the kitchen.

They quickly change into more comfortable clothes and wash their hands before joining Soyeon’s parents at the table. It’s another amazing spread of food, with Soyeon’s side of the table heavily lacking in vegetables.

“Thank you for this meal.” Yuqi bows to Soyeon’s parents, who motions for her to start eating.

The girls happily and eagerly dig into the feast. It’s not everyday they get to have home cooked meals, especially ones as good as these new year meals. While they try to cook as often as they could, their busy schedules don’t always allow for proper prep time. So most of the time, they cook very quick and easy food.

After dinner, all four people pitch in to help clean up before they all lounge in front of the TV, watching some new year shows, drinking tea and munching on some fruits and snacks.  All their bellies are round and their eyes droopy from overeating. As the conversations lull, Soyeon finds herself wanting to get something off her chest.

“Appa. Umma. I have something I want to talk to you guys about.” Soyeon sits up straighter on the sofa that she and Yuqi share. Yuqi swallows the piece of apple that she was chewing on as she stares at her girlfriend.

“What is it, kiddo?” Soyeon’s dad still calls her kiddo now and then as a pet name. Her mom is curious about her serious tone.

Soyeon’s hands grip her knees tightly before she takes a deep breath. She’s been so open and honest with Yuqi today, sharing all her tender thoughts. She feels that she needs to be open and honest with her parents too, after all, they deserve to know who she is as a person. She quickly glances toward a tense looking Yuqi before she looks back at her parents. She feels Yuqi’s hand on her back as she trembles with anxious feelings. “You see … Yuqi and I … are dating.”

The water is spilled, there is no way to put it back now.

“You and Yuqi … ” Soyeon’s dad repeats after her, “are dating.” He turns to his wife, who looks at him with widened eyes, “Honey, they said they’re dating.”

“I heard her …” Soyeon’s mom nods.

“I know that probably isn’t what you want to hear.” Soyeon quickly adds, feeling confident when Yuqi rests one hand over hers. “But we are together, Yuqi is more than just my best friend. She’s my girlfriend. So I hope that you can accept her as the person I love.”

Yuqi’s brows shoot up faster than a bullet as her eyes widen at her girlfriend’s admission.

“You what?” “You love her?” Soyeon’s parents speak at the same time, a little louder than before.

“Yes, I love Yuqi very much. I hope you will see that she is an amazing person, who you can learn to love as well.” Soyeon turns to Yuqi, who is practically melting at this proclamation of love.

“I love you, too, Soyeon.” Yuqi replies meekly.

Silence follows.

“We didn’t know that you’re already in love …” Soyeon’s mom looks between her dad and them. “We thought you guys were just crushing on each other, I didn’t even think you were dating yet.”

“Definitely didn’t see that coming, I thought it’d take a lot longer before you two start dating.” Soyeon’s dad nods in agreement. “I thought if she’s anything like me, she’d take forever to ask Yuqi out.”

“But she’s not like you dear, she obviously takes after me.” Soyeon’s mom pats her dad on the thigh.

“Well, it could’ve been Yuqi who asked her out.” Soyeon’s dad argues. Then both parents turn to the shocked girls, expecting an answer.

Yuqi’s feelings are all over the place, she doesn’t know whether to be happy or shocked. Soyeon is just slowly blinking at her parents.

“So?” Soyeon’s mom asks impatiently, “Who asked whom out first?”

Soyeon looks to Yuqi before slowly turning back to her mom, “I … uh .. I dunno, we sort of just kissed …” It feels majorly awkward discussing this with her parents. How did this turn so quickly?

“Wow, they kissed before going out.” Soyeon’s dad smiles proudly. “That’s my girl.”

“Kids these days move so quickly. Used to be you’d go on a date or two before you kiss.” Soyeon’s mom shakes her head before getting up to put away the uneaten fruits.

“That’s for sure. Who would have thought they’re already in love. Boy, I’m shocked that my daughter is so quick, she definitely didn’t take after me on that.” Soyeon’s dad pulls out his phone and raises it up in front of him to snap a picture of the shocked expression on YuYeon’s faces. “If your mouths hang open like that, flies are going to get in.”

Soyeon and Yuqi collectively shut their mouths. Soyeon clears her throat, about to speak, but is interrupted by Yuqi. “So you already knew about us?” Yuqi yelps after she’s snapped out of her confusion.

“Well, we didn’t know that you guys are dating already.” Soyeon’s dad shakes his head.

Soyeon’s mom returns from the kitchen, “When we last visited, we saw that there was something going on between you two … I told your dad that I had a feeling you two would eventually end up together.”

“We just didn’t think it would be so soon, since you two only knew each other for a few months … but you’re already talking about love … boy, that shocked me.” Soyeon’s dad chuckles.

“You guys shocked me!” Soyeon finally finds her voice. “I was so prepared to cry and beg and stuff!”

“Me, too!” Yuqi chimes in.

“What? You two thought that we’d be old fashioned and close-minded?” Soyeon’s mom turns to her dad. “How rude of them to assume that about us, right honey?”

“Yes, honey. They assumed the worst of us.” Soyeon’s dad disappointedly shakes his head.

Yuqi can see where Soyeon gets her ability to tease from. These two are messing with them and they have no way to argue back. “Appa. Umma. I can finally say it for real now.” Yuqi takes Soyeon’s hands and pulls her along. They kneel on the floor and Yuqi pours two cups of tea. She hands one to Soyeon before holding one respectfully in front of Soyeon’s mom, “Please accept our new new year greeting as a couple.”

Soyeon catches on and holds her cup in front of her dad. “As a couple, we wish you a new year full of health to enjoy with us.”

“And happiness because we love you both very much.” Yuqi smiles sweetly and widens her eyes to add some sparkle as she blinks at Mrs. Jeon.

The rest of the evening consists of Soyeon and Yuqi feeling like a billion won. They cannot stop smiling, even though their cheeks are ultra sore because they feel so loved and accepted by Soyeon’s parents. Soyeon’s parents want them to come visit often as a couple and they even take a family selfie together. They are so surprisingly open-minded, but then again, their child is Jeon Soyeon so they cannot afford to be bridled with prejudice.

 

 

In the morning, they go to the train station with Soyeon’s parents. They bid farewell at the front gate before Yuqi and Soyeon go back to Seoul with a ton of food and snacks from Soyeon’s parents. Soyeon’s parents also ask when Yuyeon are ready for grandchildren, because they are ready now. Soyeon quickly ushers Yuqi to the train.  Yuqi is laughing her ass off while Soyeon is embarrassed by her parents. Yuqi says she’s ready for Soyeon to meet her parents whenever Soyeon is ready. They all cry a little bit, even though it’s a very short train ride or drive between the two cities.

 

 

Love is in the air, or rather that is what Yuqi would like to imagine as she darts around her room trying to find an outfit for tonight. It’s Valentine’s Day, a holiday that Yuqi barely celebrated other than chocolate exchange with her friends. Today is her first time in a while that Yuqi seriously celebrates the holiday.

Yuqi is getting dolled up with her typically sweet, energetic girl image. She’s got her hair done in soft waves that frame her face perfectly. She’s got just enough glamorous makeup on to go with her outfit and the fancy shoes she’s wearing. Everything is pretty and feminine, as opposed to her typical daily scrubs. “Yuqi, you’re so sexy.” She pretends to hit on herself.

Soyeon, on the other hand, barely acknowledged it as a holiday. To her, it’s just another reason for people to buy things that aren’t actually needed. But for Yuqi, Soyeon is happy to dress up and play along. She wants to make Yuqi as happy as the other woman makes her. They even received permission from their attendings to leave early today.

“Okay … this is as good as it’s going to get.” Soyeon takes a look at herself in the mirror. She’s done her make up a little more dramatic than usual and even styled her hair. She’s wearing an outfit that displays her hip, rocker chic personality. She’s got the leather jacket, the boots, and some choice accessories.

They both step out of their respective rooms and look at each other in surprise. They absolutely do not match with each other. Soyeon’s outfit gives off more of a strong, tough vibe while Yuqi’s is a cute, pretty aura. “Oh.” They know that they don’t have much time to redo with something more coordinated, if they want to go out tonight.

“I like your cool look.” Yuqi chuckles and steps up to Soyeon, who nods with a silly smile.

“I like your cute look.” Soyeon replies and plants a chaste kiss on Yuqi’s lips. Best not get too into it, or they’ll never get out of the apartment. “Ready?”

Yuqi licks her lips and smiles brightly, ready to celebrate with her valentine. “I’ve been waiting for you.” Truer words have not been spoken. She’s been waiting for someone to hold her hand and walk this path with her. Maybe it’s just her imagination, but every time Soyeon looks at her, Yuqi could see the adoration in her eyes. Unconsciously, as they make their way through the cold streets, Yuqi walks closer and closer to Soyeon for warmth. Eventually, they reach a small restaurant not too far away from their apartment.

They grab a table in the corner and settle into the seat next to each other. It’s been a crazy day of trying to get all the work done before their early departure, so they didn’t really have time to eat properly all day. Both are starving as they sift through the menu before deciding on a traditional full course meal.

“Oh, we better take a picture first and send it to appa and umma.” Yuqi stops Soyeon from picking up her chopstick.

“Oh. You’re right.” Soyeon turns on her phone’s flashlight so Yuqi could take a good, well lit photo to send to their group chat. Ever since they returned from the new year holiday, they’ve constantly been texting her parents in the newly formed group chat. Soyeon can’t remember the last time she was this up to date on her parents’ daily activities. It makes her feel warm and happy to know that they are doing well.

“I’m going to put this sticker here …” Yuqi mutters as she edits the photo while Soyeon patiently waits for her girlfriend to be done before they both dig into the food. It doesn’t take long for them to finish as they were both hungry, growing girls.

 

 

After dinner, they walk hand in hand around the shopping district and watch other couples do the same. There are a large number of couples milling about, shopping and talking. There are also large groups of friends, out to celebrate a lively night.

“Hey, Soyeonie, do you know how to skate?” Yuqi motions toward the skating rink in the park.

Soyeon looks over toward the people going in circles around the slippery track of doom. “Um, no I don’t. Do you?”

Yuqi nods and smiles with a thumb up at Soyeon. “I’m very good at it. You can call me the second coming of Kim Yuna.”

Soyeon can’t help but laugh aloud at Yuqi’s oft ridiculous penchant for bluffing. “Really?”

“Well …” Yuqi hesitates for a moment. “I think I’m a little bit better than her … just a little though.” She shows her index finger and thumb pressed together.

“If you say so …” Soyeon makes a soft oof sound when she is suddenly pulled toward the rink. “What’s happening?”

“We’re going skating, silly.” Yuqi replies with a gleam in her eyes.

“What?” Soyeon tries to pull back, but Yuqi is stronger. “I don’t know how to skate.”

“So? I’ve got you. I will teach you.” Yuqi replies with confidence. It’s the first time she’s seen Soyeon nervous … well, except for the whole coming out to her parents thing. Soyeon usually doesn’t get nervous about doing something new. She always puts her best foot forward and goes for it.

“But …” Soyeon finds herself in the skates rental line with Yuqi. Like a caught animal, she looks around desperately for a chance to escape. However, it’s too late because Yuqi’s hand has already tightened around hers. If she wanted to, she could probably make a run for it, but then Yuqi would think of her as a coward. Soyeon chews on her lower lip as she debates what to do inside her head.

“Okay, let’s go.” While Soyeon was nervously looking around, Yuqi had already finished paying for the rental. She pulls Soyeon along as they go to show an attendant their receipt for the skate rental. “We have an hour for me to teach you, Soyeonnie.”

“Oh no, that’s not necessary.” Soyeon shakes her head because the prospect of sliding across the ice on two thin pieces of metal does not sound that fun to her. Yuqi laughs as she pulls Soyeon onto a bench next to her.  “You’re so cute when you’re nervous.” Yuqi doesn’t give up the chance to tease Soyeon.

Yuqi puts on her skates before helping Soyeon into hers. Despite her protest, Soyeon finds herself at the entrance into the rink. She hobbles alongside Yuqi, holding her girlfriend’s hand real tightly. “Just baby steps.”

 Soyeon clings to Yuqi because she’s afraid to fall while Yuqi likes being the one to rely on for the moment. Yuqi holds both Soyeon’s hands and skates backward while Soyeon struggles with baby steps. Each time Soyeon tries to regain her balance, her legs feel like they have no control on the ice and not having control is one of Soyeon’s worst fears. Her feet slide back and forth with each of her correction attempts.

“Do you trust me?” Yuqi has a firm hold on Soyeon’s forearm while Soyeon finds herself gripping tightly on Yuqi’s jacket. Yuqi asks again when she sees the nervousness in Soyeon’s eyes. “Do you trust me?”

Soyeon’s eyes drift downward for a second before she nods nervously. “I do.” Her voice sounds a little shaky.

“That’s all you need to think about and just relax, okay? I promise I won’t let you fall alone.” Yuqi pushes her skates, leading Soyeon over to the edge of the rink where the barriers and handrails are.

Soyeon wills her body to relax as she shifts her weight from side to side, trying to adjust to the skates while Yuqi leads her around the rink. When she lets Yuqi lead, she just focuses on Yuqi’s hold on her hand and follows Yuqi’s instructions. Several times, they almost fall with Yuqi using her body as a shield for Soyeon. Without saying anything, Soyeon is sure that Yuqi plotted this so she could have Soyeon clinging to her for dear life. Yet, Soyeon enjoys the encouragement and praises from her girlfriend when she finally starts to get the hang of gliding.

“You’re doing it, Soyeonie!” Yuqi sounds even more excited than Soyeon.

“Y-Yeah!” Soyeon is actually having a lot of fun as she starts to figure out how to shift her weight around. She still has a little trouble with breaking, but as they skate around the outer edge of the rink, it’s pretty fun. She feels a high off gliding around as if there is no gravity at all. Eventually, they have to return the skates, but Soyeon’s adrenaline has yet to come down.

“Thank you.” Yuqi waves to the rink attendance before she returns to Soyeon. They start to walk slowly because their legs are yet adjusted to walking again. “Did you enjoy it?” Yuqi asks, knowing full well she’s seen that look of excitement in Soyeon’s eyes.

“It was awesome!” Soyeon exclaims. “I didn’t think I would like it so much but it was so much fun. We should go back again sometimes.”

Yuqi is happy she showed Soyeon something new. “Okay, next time we can work on breaking without slamming into the barrier.” She smiles when Soyeon wraps her arms around her body. She wraps one arm around Soyeon’s shoulders.

“It didn’t hurt too badly did it?” Soyeon rubs Yuqi’s back, since the younger woman used her body as a shield for most of Soyeon’s stumbles.

Yuqi leans closer to Soyeon’s ear and whispers softly enough for Soyeon to hear. “It hurts so so so bad … I think you’ll have to kiss and massage it better later.” She giggles and blows a tickling, teasing breath against Soyeon’s ear.

Soyeon tilts her head away from the source of tickles. “I don’t know about that … but … maybe this will make it up to you?” She holds out a small, red velvet box in front of Yuqi.

Yuqi gasps, she didn’t even notice that it was in Soyeon’s pocket. She knows that she’d touched and hugged Soyeon enough to feel most of Soyeon’s body. Happily, she opens the box to reveal small, golden earrings of the letters “S” and “Y”. Her eyes widen and she looks at Soyeon. “Our initials!”

Soyeon shakes her head.

“My initials?” Yuqi tilts her head.

Soyeon shakes her head again.

“… Your initials?” Yuqi hesitates.

Soyeon nods her head happily.

“Why?” Yuqi laughs as she inspects the shiny, pretty earrings.

“So everyone knows that you’re mine.” Soyeon answers with a wide smile as if she’s rather proud of herself.

“Are you learning from Shuhua?” Yuqi laughs at her girlfriend’s cute expression.

“She’s all talk, I bought you earrings.” Before Soyeon has a chance to say anything else, Yuqi pulls her in for a kiss in the middle of the park. “I love you.” She mutters into the kiss. She really loves the way this woman just nonchalantly gives her a present and claims her at the same time. She really loves that she belongs to Soyeon and that Soyeon belongs to her.

“I love you, too.” Soyeon savors the kiss a bit longer before they find themselves walking hand in hand again.

“I’ve got you something, too. But it’s back at the apartment. I’ll give it to you when we get home?” Yuqi looks around to figure where they are exactly.

“Okay. I can’t wait!” Soyeon is still soaring on the wings of love.

“Where do you want to go now? I’m not ready to go home yet.” Yuqi looks around the streets when they finally emerge from the park. The sun had just set not too long ago and streetlights came up, creating a faint glow as the snow started to drift from the sky.

“Me neither.” Soyeon points toward one area of the streets. “Want to go karaoke?” They are semi tired from the skating session and they need a place to avoid the snow from dampening their hair and clothes.

“Okay, that sounds good.” They walk over to the karaoke bar and grab a room. They call for some beer and snacks while they sing their lungs out. Yuqi is amazed that Soyeon is so cool to be able to rap super fast and sing well, too. They take turns singing solos and duets, eventually their time is up and they go home.

 

 

“Ah … it’s so nice to be home.” Yuqi shakes the jacket off her shoulders as she steps out of the uncomfortable heels. Their apartment is so nice and warm as opposed to the snowy cold night.

“I can’t wait to be in my PJs.” Soyeon laughs as she follows the trail of clothes her girlfriend is leaving from the front door to Yuqi’s room. She goes into her room and undresses quickly so she can be in sweats.

“Soyeonie, do you want to watch a movie?” Yuqi walks into Soyeon’s room, while the latter is still getting dressed. They’re comfortable enough to see each other naked without blushing now.

“Sure, what do you want to watch?” Soyeon ties her hair up after she’s dressed.

“A romcom?” Yuqi tries to think of what she wants to see, while standing at Soyeon’s doorway in her underwear.

“Sure. I’m going to wash makeup off first, okay?” Soyeon walks by and doesn’t forget to gently rakes her fingers on Yuqi’s belly, making Yuqi shiver.

“Alright. I’ll get changed and decide what to watch, then.” Yuqi nods as she scrolls through her phone, looking at the movie selection.

When they have taken turns washing up and changing into lounge wear, they bring a few blankets out to the sofa and turn on the tv. Yuqi has settled on an old romcom that neither of them have seen before. The reviews were good, so Yuqi has high hopes for it.

“Do you want me to grab more pillows?” Soyeon asks as she settles into her seat and lifts up the blankets for Yuqi.

“No, this is fine … oh!” Yuqi slaps her hands together, startling Soyeon. “I forgot! You’re present.” She puts her index finger up. “I’ll be right back.” Then she hurries into her room to retrieve the well wrapped present, leaving Soyeon to chuckle in amusement.

When Yuqi returns, she presents a pretty hefty box to Soyeon. It’s not too big, but it’s heavier than it looks. Soyeon looks at Yuqi in puzzlement before putting it on their coffee table.

“Open it. I hope you’ll like it.” Yuqi smiles encouragingly as she waits for the satisfying tear of the wrapping paper.

Soyeon makes quick work of the wrapping paper before opening the white gift box. An audible gasp quickly follows as she pulls the highly prized packaged Pirate Luffy model from the outer box. ”Yuqi!” Soyeon yelps as she inspects the original box of the figure. “Oh my god!” She yells again after she’s certain that this is the actual model.

“You like it?” Yuqi asks, knowing well that her girlfriend is completely ecstatic.

“I love it!” Soyeon hugs the box to her chest as if hugging a baby.

“Uh … what about me?” Yuqi pretends to be jealous of Luffy, even though she has a playful smile on her face. “I don’t want to share your love.”

Soyeon looks down at her new baby for a second before putting it down so she can properly glomp onto Yuqi. “I’d dump Luffy for you anyday! Thank you, Yuqi-ah! It’s the second best present ever!”

Yuqi happily embraces her grateful girlfriend and hugs her tightly. “Second best?” She asks.

“Yeah, you’re the best present ever!” Soyeon replies without missing a beat.

“I was afraid that it wouldn’t get here in time when I ordered it.” Yuqi inhales deeply, taking in Soyeon’s faint perfume. “You’re also the greatest present.”

“Don’t steal my line, girl.” Soyeon tickles Yuqi’s side, when they’ve pulled back from their long embrace.

“It wasn’t that original. It was super cheesy!” Yuqi merongs at Soyeon.

“Take that back!” Soyeon ramps up her tickling attacks.

“Stooooop.” Yuqi whines between her giggles and laughter.

“You know what you have to say.” Soyeon demands.

Yuqi laughs and tries to deflect Soyeon’s tickling digits, knowing that Soyeon always wins. “No … no …”

“Say it!” Soyeon knows all of her ticklish girlfriend’s weaknesses.

“Nooooooo.” Yuqi falls off the sofa in her attempt to scoot away from Soyeon, but almost immediately Soyeon is straddling her torso and continuing the ‘assault’. “Stop, I’m dying.” Yuqi is running out of breath laughing so much.

“Say it!” Soyeon’s voice is a pitch higher as she laughs as well.

Yuqi has no choice but to relent because her ribs are sore and her eyes are teary from the tickle attack. “Unnie!” She yelps. This is their game, she gets tickled until she calls ‘unnie’ instead of ‘uncle’.

Soyeon’s eyes shine with victorious joy after she stops her attack and looks down at Yuqi. Both are panting from laughing so hard. Yuqi looks up at Soyeon, who is staring down at her with a smirk. “What?” Yuqi rasps.

Soyeon’s hands slide upward along Yuqi’s ribcage and takes hold of her hands, pinning them above Yuqi’s head. “Since I’m the unnie, you have to listen to me.”

Yuqi sees a flicker of mischief in Soyeon’s eyes and decides to play along. “Yes … unnie.” She says in a cute tone.

Soyeon’s grip on Yuqi’s wrists tightens as she leans down, her face hovering centimeters above Yuqi’s. “Yuqi, Yuqi on the ground. Who’s the bestest unnie in all the land?” How could she be so silly even in this situation?

Yuqi presses her lips together, trying not to laugh into Soyeon’s face. She clears her throat and puts on the sweetest aegyo she could muster. “Soyeon-unnie is the bestest unnie in all the land.”

Soyeon smiles, completely smitten with her girlfriend’s cuteness. “Who deserves all the kisses because she’s the best?”

“Soyeon-unnie deserves all the kisses because she’s the best, sweetest, sexiest, funniest, and most amazing girlfriend.” Yuqi sprinkles some more accolades for her deserving girlfriend before stretching her neck upward to kiss Soyeon.

Soyeon kisses Yuqi back with fervor. She tilts her body downward, putting more weight on pinning Yuqi against the ground. In their quiet apartment, only the sound of smooching lips and soft moans are heard over the white noise. Yuqi tries to slip out of  Soyeon’s grasp so she could touch the rest of Soyeon’s body, but she is firmly held in place. “Soyeon-ah …” She whispers as her body heats up against Soyeon’s.

“…” Soyeon doesn’t respond.

“Soyeon-unnie …” Yuqi addresses Soyeon correctly, according to her girlfriend’s kink.

There is something about Yuqi saying it that drives Soyeon wild. She’s been called unnie before many times by many people, but the sound coming out of Yuqi’s lips is enough to make Soyeon shiver with excitement. Her hands finally release Yuqi’s wrist, before she starts to unbutton Yuqi’s pajama top.

Yuqi holds Soyeon’s hands to pause her action, “Can we move to the bed? It’s a little cold on the ground …” She enjoys this position of Soyeon straddling her, but the ground isn’t the most comfortable spot for her to enjoy Soyeon’s touch.

Soyeon smiles and nods before getting up and helping Yuqi onto her feet. They hurried into Yuqi’s bedroom, which they ended up in most of the time because of the condition of Soyeon’s room. Tossing back the covers, they undress quickly and hops into the bed to avoid the chill of the room. They hug each other’s naked body close while kissing fervently to quickly warm up. Yuqi’s kisses travel further along Soyeon’s neckline before ending between Soyeon’s breasts. She wraps her mouth around one of those perky nipples, suckling and nippling gently. The action causes Soyeon to arch her back and drape one leg over Yuqi’s body.

“That tickles.” Soyeon rasps softly interrupting the wet suckling sounds.

Yuqi looks up at her before gently taking a sharp bite of her left breast.

Soyeon gasps and takes a handful of Yuqi’s hair, pulling her head back. “Be nice.” Her eyes drift to the teeth mark on her breast.

“Or what?” Yuqi smiles in a challenging tone.

“I’ll bite back.” Soyeon pinches Yuqi’s cheek with her free hand.

“Where will you bite me, unnie?” Yuqi bats her lashes innocently.

“It’ll be when you least expect it.” Soyeon lets go of Yuqi’s cheek before scooting backward with her elbows until she’s stilling up on the bed. Yuqi is puzzled by the sudden change of position. She pulls her knees upward and kneels in front of Soyeon.

“I want to try something new.” Soyeon reaches for Yuqi’s leg, leading Yuqi to sit with her legs on either side of Soyeon’s hips. She’s open in a precarious manner, exposing all of her to Soyeon, who takes no time noticing. Even after loving each other for so many times over the past months, every time Soyeon looks at her sex, Yuqi can’t help but blush.

“Do you remember that one scene in the Handmaiden?” Soyeon asks as her hand strokes Yuqi’s thigh.

Yuqi narrows her eyes, trying to think back to the specific scene. “Which … oh …” Realization dawns on her as a sheepish smile spreads across her lips. She nods and picks her hips up toward Soyeon.

They adjust until their sex are poised to touch. “This is  … different.” Yuqi laughs, wondering what they’re doing since they’ve mostly stuck to the traditional fingers and tongues positions. They haven’t even explored toys yet.

“It looked interesting.” Soyeon nods in agreement about the strange feeling. “Okay …” She licks her lips before lifting her bottom up and shimmying toward Yuqi, who is doing the same.

It is completely different when their sex touch. The feeling shocks them as they grind into each other. It’s not the penetrating sensation of fingers or the wet heat of tongues, but a different pleasure. They rock and roll their bodies, gyrating their hips together while trying to find a motion that pleases them both. Eventually, they fall into a rhythm that brings the heavy panting and moaning to their lips.

As Yuqi tilts her head back with her eyes closed, trying to focus her senses all on the pleasure, Soyeon reaches out with one hand and gently rubs her clit. The action causes Yuqi’s hips to buck suddenly, she audibly gasps as Soyeon increases the pace and pressure. It isn’t long until Yuqi’s body shivers as the orgasmic wave causes her body to tighten. Soyeon smiles when she achieves her goal of making Yuqi come first, it’s one of her many power plays.

Yuqi’s chest rises and falls as she indulges in the delight of her flesh. It takes her some minutes of Soyeon stroking her chest and whispering loving words before she could focus her mind. “Let me get you there, too.” She tries to return the favor for Soyeon, but the older woman pushes her back down on the mattress.

“It’s okay, we’ve got all night.” Soyeon is in no rush, she’s happy just to cuddle with Yuqi for a little while.

“But …” Yuqi knows that Soyeon deserves the release, too.

“In a little bit, I’ll be at your mercy, Yuqi-ah.” Soyeon smiles and plants a sweet kiss on Yuqi’s lips.

“I’ll be gentle, I promise.” Yuqi winks at Soyeon, knowing fully well that she’s prone to biting the older woman. Not that she’s into hurting her girlfriend, but Soyeon makes the cutest noise when she gets bitten. Soyeon’s little disapproving scowl is also a sight that Yuqi revels in.

“Um … I’ve heard that before and the next day I’m full of bruises and bite marks.” Soyeon shakes her head, calling Yuqi out on her false promise.

“But did you enjoy it though?” Yuqi holds Soyeon’s thin body against her, pulling that frailty close to her heart. Her finger traces the sharpness of Soyeon’s shoulder, eventually pressing on the mole that is there. “I seem to recall you making a lot of noise that sounds like you liked it.”

“What kind of sound did I make?” Soyeon immediately questions Yuqi’s bluff.

“Oh Yuqi, you’re so amazing. Oh Yuqi, don’t stop … Oh Yuqi, please more more … bite me harder.” Yuqi playfully replays Soyeon's supposed noise at a higher note than Soyeon’s actual voice.

“Yah! I do not sound like that!” Soyeon rolls on top of Yuqi and tries to smother the laughing bully with her weight, but she’s a little too light to do any real damage. Yuqi’s loud, infectious laugh causes Soyeon to laugh along. It feels right to be sharing the skin to skin warmth with Yuqi in their apartment. “Thank you.” Soyeon rests her head on Yuqi’s chest.

Yuqi hugs Soyeon close and kisses the top of her head. “What for?”

“For being in my life because you’re the best part of it.” Soyeon closes her eyes and listens to the soft thumps of Yuqi’s heartbeat. It relaxes her.

“Is this because I bought you that Luffy thing?”

“Oh!” Soyeon sits up suddenly, remembering her present. “Can I play with him now?”

“Uh …” Yuqi blinks and shakes her head. “No toys in bed … well … not that kind of toy anyways.”

“Ugh, Yuqi-ah, that’s gross.” Soyeon makes a face.

“No, it’s not. And besides, you chose me over him already.” Yuqi reminds her girlfriend of her earlier words.

“But … I’ve waited for so long and now I’ve got him, can’t I play for like … ten minutes?” Soyeon looks at Yuqi with her brows up and her eyes pleading.

How could Yuqi say no to that look? She sighs and rolls her eyes. “Fine. But after ten minutes, you’re mine again.”

“Okay, yay!” Soyeon hops out of bed without waiting for Yuqi to change her mind. She runs real fast to the living room before zooming back into bed in a jiffy.

Yuqi watches her girlfriend excitedly unpacking the box. It’s something about a naked girl playing with an anime figurine that just doesn’t seem like something that would be in Yuqi’s life just a year ago. Yet here she is, watching said naked girl play with the figurine that Yuqi bought her. Yuqi has a smile on her face, finding her life at an amusing point right now.

After ten minutes, Yuqi takes Luffy away and puts him on the nightstand. “C’mere.” Yuqi  pats the pillow before she tosses her head back and ties up her hair. Surprisingly, Soyeon complies despite her attempt to dominate early. She lays her head down on the pillow and watches as her girlfriend crawls toward the foot of the bed.

“Yuqi-ah, no biting this time, okay?” Soyeon smacks Yuqi’s bare bottom as it travels away from her.

“Can’t can’t promise that.”  Yuqi shakes her head as her hands rub along Soyeon’s inner thighs.

“Why not?” Soyeon starts to feel her sex tighten when Yuqi applies pressure to her inner thighs.

“Because sometimes you get so cute, especially when you climax, and I just want to bite you, okay?” Yuqi absurdly debates.

Soyeon rolls her eyes at her bullheaded girlfriend. “Fine, but do it gently … it really hurt the last time.”

“Okay, I’ll try.” Yuqi laughs when Soyeon relents, it’s not everyday she wins an argument with Soyeon.

Yuqi starts to go down on her girlfriend. She’s a lot more confident lover than their first time. Her practiced tongue’s languid movements quickly causes Soyeon’s body to squirm as her thighs almost collapse around Yuqi’s head. Yuqi is not all talk, she knows how to use her entire mouth to please Soyeon. She’s also a good listener because she pays attention to which action makes Soyeon moan the loudest and which causes her body to react involuntarily. Soyeon feels feverish as heat starts to build in her body. She reaches back and grabs the edges of the pillow to keep from being too loud or moving too much. Yuqi’s tongue drives her wild, whether verbally or sexually. It’s just not fair how Yuqi knows exactly where her weakness is, making her feel all sorts of crazy. Eventually, Soyeon gets out of her head and enjoys the grind against Yuqi’s mouth. Her back arches at the height of her excitement and she cries out as the most intense pleasure rocks her body. Even then, Yuqi is continuing to gently laps her sex. Soyeon is caught up in the rapture of love, feeling everything and lacking the power to move.

When Yuqi can see that Soyeon has ridden the wave of pleasure all the way back to her. She watches Soyeon’s chest rise and fall into a calmer rhythm before she gently nips Soyeon’s inner thigh, causing the older woman to yelp in protest. Yuqi laughs wickedly, as if she’s won in some small way, before she plops down next to Soyeon. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Jeon Soyeon.”

Soyeon turns to Yuqi, tracing and ingraining every feature of that face into her mind. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Song Yuqi.”

They hold each other close after Soyeon turns off the lights. Sleep quickly claims them after an eventful day. Eventually, the only sound in the room is Yuqi's soft snore and Soyeon’s gentle breathing.

 

 

“Here is your cup of coffee.” Soyeon hands Yuqi her travel mug as they amble out the door.

“Thank you very much.” Yuqi waits for Soyeon to lock the door and they go downstairs together.

“Brr … it’s another cold day.” Soyeon comments as she adjusts her backpack.

Yuqi shifts her shoulder bag around while holding the coffee mug and her breakfast bar. “I’m staying in Shuhua’s office today, the basement office is too cold to stay for long.”

“Okay, I’ll come look for you guys there when I’m done with rounds.” Soyeon takes a sip of coffee right before they enter the cold, windy streets.

“Baaah …” Yuqi makes a face as a gust of wind sends chills down her spine.

“Maybe we should invest in a car …” Soyeon’s teeth clatter together as the two of them huddle close and try to make it to the bus stop. “It’s too cold to be walking like this everyday …”

“We have to get a license first, don’t we?” Yuqi cannot feel her face after a while.

“Okay, I’ll study and get a license then we will get a car.” Soyeon has her determined face on.

“It’ll be summer by the time we get a car.” Yuqi chuckles as she and Soyeon get onto the bus.

Soyeon huffs. “Have some faith in your girlfriend. I’ll get that license in no time.” They sit down side by side on the bus.

It feels like deja vu. Yuqi still remembers the first time that they went to work together in August. Now, just six months later and they’re planning to get a car together. Time passed by so quickly and a lot had happened. Yuqi turns to Soyeon and smiles. “I have my full faith in you, Soyeonnie. But I also like walking to the bus stop and riding the bus with you.” She drapes one arm around Soyeon’s shoulders and pulls her girlfriend close.

Soyeon considers the alternative before nodding. “I can get my license first, but we don’t have to get a car yet … I like sitting like this with you, too.” She rests her head against Yuqi’s and together they look out the windows at the passing streets. Outside all the hustle and bustle of the city seems so far away when they’re together like this. Yuqi hopes that things will slow down and she will have more time to enjoy little moments like this with Soyeon.



Chapter Text

Yeh Shuhua, a young woman of energy and youth, warms both of her hands with her breath before continuing her walk. She’s pulling along a medium sized luggage while holding a shoulder bag tightly against her body. It’s a cold day, but at least it’s nice and sunny. Her eyes fall on the steps of the train station, instantly groaning to herself. The steps are definitely a struggle, she has to pull her luggage up each step one by one. As she labors, people rush by without paying her any thought, they have their own baggage to lug around.

When she is almost at the top, suddenly the bag feels lighter as if she’s received a boost of strength. Feeling that someone’s beside her, Shuhua turns to find Soojin pulling the luggage up from the side handle. “Unnie!” Shuhua squeals in happiness, not losing any time to jump onto Soojin.

“Good morning.” Soojin smiles warmly and returns Shuhua’s at the top of the steps. “Happy new year.”

“Happy new year!” Shuhua squeezes Soojin tightly before letting go. She takes inventory of Soojin’s belongings, finding that Soojin is only carrying a small bag. “That’s all you’re bringing?”

Soojin nods and looks down at her overnight bag, “We’re going to my house, so I don’t need to bring that much. I’ve already shipped everything else home ahead of the holidays …” She points to Shuhua’s luggage and bag. “Why did you pack so much? I told you that they don’t need anything.”

Shuhua shakes her head. “It’s my first holiday with the in-laws, I want to give them a good impression. My mom told me to bring all kinds of things.”

“In-laws?” Soojin’s brows scrunch together in confusion and amusement.

Shuhua smiles bashfully and shrugs her shoulders.

Soojin lets it go with a sharp exhale. Upon finding out that Shuhua would be spending Lunar New Year alone, since everyone else has plans, Soojin invited her to come along to visit Soojin’s family. It’s a bit early for her new girlfriend to do a home visit, but Soojin didn’t want Shuhua to be alone during the time for family and friends to gather. She told her parents the situation and they  agreed that she should bring Shuhua home, even though they’ve never met the girl.

Originally, Shuhua wanted to travel home to Taiwan to visit her family after not doing so for three years. During school, she was always busy with exams, practicals, rotations, etc. so she couldn’t go home. However, this year she learns that there isn't enough vacation time for first year interns so she couldn’t be gone very long. It would be next year before she could come home. As she was starting to feel depressed, Soojin came along like a saint and invited her to come home with her. Shuhua can’t believe that she’s already meeting her in-laws. In an attempt to make a good impression, she bought a whole bunch of gifts and fruits for the Seo family.

“Looks like this is us …” Soojin compares their tickets to the numbers on the seats before stepping into the row.

Shuhua joins her after she’s stowed away her luggage.

“You can have the window seat, Shuhua.” Soojin keeps herself as close to the seat as possible for Shuhua to pass by.

“Thank you!” Shuhua loves to look out the windows of trains, especially to places that she hasn’t been to.

Soojin texts her parents that they are on the train now and to expect them shortly.

“Soojin-unnie.” Shuhua turns to look at Soojin, her girlfriend. It feels strange to call Soojin her girlfriend, even inside her head.

“Mhm?” Soojin finishes checking her messages before turning to Shuhua.

“Do you think they’ll like me?” Shuhua asks with mild curiosity.

“I’m not sure.” Soojin answers honestly, causing Shuhua to be in shock. “I’ve never brought a girlfriend home, so I honestly don’t know how they will react to you.”

Shuhua blinks and thinks twice before asking. “What about a boyfriend?” Curiosity kills, she ought to know better, but she couldn’t help herself.

Soojin purses her lips and looks away from Shuhua. She has a serious expression on her face.

“I’m sorry …” Shuhua changes her mind, not wanting to start a fight right now.

“I haven’t brought a boyfriend home either … so I guess this is the first.” Soojin tries to think back as far as possible. “Usually just friends come to visit, but … this is the first time I bring home someone I’m seeing.”

“It’s a first for me, too.” Shuhua wraps her arms around Soojin’s. “I’ve never been to a girlfriend’s home to meet in-laws before.”

Soojin chuckles at Shuhua’s insistence on calling her family her in-laws. Since they made up, Soojin and Shuhua have been trying to spend as much time together as possible. Shuhua comes over after work. They avoid Shuhua’s apartment until the young woman can clean it up to Soojin’s standards. Shuhua has been so fully integrated into Soojin’s life, she doesn’t remember what life was like before Shuhua anymore.

Shuhua slips her hand downward and holds Soojin’s hand. “Your hand always feels so soft and warm, unnie.” Shuhua lifts their intertwined hands up for her to inspect Soojin’s hand. She can almost memorize the feel of all the grooves, knuckles, and nails. She’s confident that if she has to choose with her eyes closed, she could pick out Soojin’s hand out of hundreds without problems. “It really calms me down.”

“Are you nervous?” Soojin asks since she’s only ever seen overconfidence Shuhua, who does what she wants.

“A little bit.” Shuhua is playing with Soojin’s fingers, running them between hers. “Work has been a little stressful lately … and meeting your family for the first time … I guess I’ve been a little overwhelmed.”

“Don’t worry about my family. They’re nice people and you will be fine … I’m told that my family members and I act very similarly. So if you get along with me, you shouldn’t have any problem with them.” Soojin tries to reassure Shuhua by leaning in and gently kissing Shuhua’s cheek.

Shuhua’s cheek warms with attention. “Does your sister look like you?” Shuhua has wondered since Soojin told her that she has a younger sister named Seo Yejin. Shuhua has seen pictures of Soojin’s parents, but Soojin doesn’t usually take pictures with her sister, so Shuhua doesn’t know what Yejin currently looks like. Their seven year difference put them at different places in life and Soojin has been away from home for so long.

“Hmm … yes and no. I’m told we’re similar in the eyes and our faces are round alike. My whole family has round faces.” Soojin giggles.

“Does your family do anything special for the new year?”

“I don’t think so.” Soojin tries to think back to what they did last year. “We’re a pretty small family, so we may visit my grandparents to wish them well and give them gifts. That’s about it.”

“Oh I see.”

“What about your family?”

“It’s been such a long time … let’s see. We’re a big family, so celebrations start from morning and go until the next morning. We party, we eat, we watch tv, and we play a lot of gambling games.” Shuhua tries to list it all. “We get super rowdy!”

Soojin laughs and nods. “That’s about what I would expect.”

Shuhua suddenly slumps in her seat. “I miss my mom’s cooking, though.”

Soojin gently rubs Shuhua’s back. “Let’s visit them next year?”

“You promise?” Shuhua peps right up at the prospect of bringing home a hottie to show her family. They’re going to be obsessed with Soojin.

“Uh huh.” Soojin giggles.

“What did you tell them about me?” Shuhua asks with a hint of interest.

“I told them that you are very cute and energetic and that you have been super nice to me.” Soojin answers, not knowing or maybe pretending not to know Shuhua’s true intention in the question. Shuhua wanted to know what Soojin told her parents about them. But she didn’t want to pressure Soojin.

Shuhua distracts herself by taking out her phone. “Can we take a selfie?”

“Right now?” Soojin asks with a puzzled look, they’re sitting in a train. It’s not that great of a setting for photos.

“I want to save us as my phone lock screen … our first trip together as a couple.” Shuhua already has the camera opened and pointed at them.

Despite her skepticism, Soojin smiles when Shuhua starts to count down for the first photo. She turns and places a kiss on Shuhua’s cheek for the second photo. Then for the third, their lips are pressed together while smiling brightly. Soojin doesn’t like to do cheesy couple things like this, but it feels so natural to do it with Shuhua.

“Which one should I use as my lock screen?” Shuhua flips between the photos while chewing on her lower lip.

“Which one do you like best?” Soojin likes all of them, plus it’s Shuhua’s phone so the younger woman should decide.

“Hm …” Shuhua takes a long while to decide. “I think I like the second one the best.”

“That’s a good one.” Soojin agrees, she especially likes Shuhua’s expression in that photo.

“Okay, here … it … is!” Shuhua sets the wallpaper for her lock screen and shows Soojin. They look adorable this way, Shuhua smiling brightly and Soojin closing her eyes to plant a kiss on Shuhua’s cheek.

“Send them to me.” Soojin smiles happily.

“Oh, are you going to set one as your lock screen, too?” Shuhua asks hopefully.

“No way.” Soojin quickly shuts that down.

“What? Why?” Shuhua whines, “We look so good together.”

“We do, but I don’t like to broadcast my relationship like that.” Soojin is a fiercely private person, her lock screen is the original one that comes with the phone.

“Unnie …” Shuhua tries her puppy eyes and pouty lips combination, but Soojin just rolls her eyes and looks away.

Their conversation comes to a little lull after Shuhua sends Soojin the photos. The conversation picks up again after Soojin tells Shuhua that her mom asked for Shuhua’s favorite dishes, so she’s making those especially for Shuhua. This makes Shuhua feel a lot better about intruding into Soojin’s family time.

 

 

The moment that the train stops, everyone rush onto their feet to try to elbow their way out. Shuhua stands close to Soojin, trying to protect her from accidental bumps from the other passengers. Soojin reaches for Shuhua’s hand, holding it tightly so they don’t get pulled apart as they move along the sea of people. They make it off the train unscathed after a lot of scooting and pushing along. Soojin leads the way, taking Shuhua’s shoulder bag while Shuhua pulls her heavy luggage behind.

“Soojin-ah!” A voice calls out over the crowd. Soojin searches for the source until she sees her parents waving at them from one of the exit gates. Happily, she waves back and pulls Shuhua along as her steps quicken.

“Hi, appa! Hi, umma!” Soojin says in a cheerful voice as her parents hug her tightly. She wraps one arm around her dad, patting his back. Her other hand is still holding Shuhua’s tightly, she knows how nervous the younger woman is right now.

Their attention turns to Shuhua after the hug. “Appa. Umma. This is my friend, Shuhua.” Shuhua glances at Soojin before bowing deeply toward Soojin’s parents. She would be lying if she said it didn’t sting when Soojin introduces her as her friend. She already had a feeling that it would happen this way. But she understands that they are still new and it is a lot to spring on someone’s parents on Lunar New Year.

“Hi Mr. And Mrs. Seo. My name is Yeh Shuhua, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” Shuhua portrays a perfectly mannered person, trying to make the best impression.

“Nice to meet you, Shuhua. We’ve heard a lot about you.” Mr. Seo gently pats Shuhua’s shoulder.

“You’re prettier than the pictures that Soojin sends us.” Mrs. Seo happily pats Shuhua’s other shoulder. They don’t know how friendly they could be with Shuhua yet and if they’re anything like Soojin, they’re a little shy.

“Thank you. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you. Thank you again for inviting me.” Shuhua bows again like a good, polite young woman of substantial upbringing.

They get the niceties and greetings in as they make their way to Soojin’s parents’ car. After they’ve loaded the luggage in, Shuhua and Soojin get into the backseats. Immediately, Shuhua reaches for Soojin’s hand, who doesn’t pull away. Shuhua is still getting used to being able to hold Soojin’s hand, hug Soojin, and kiss Soojin whenever she wants … within normal limits. She still gets rejected when she’s being too clingy and cheesy, but not as often as before they started dating.

In the car, Shuhua notices that Soojin’s parents have the same … ‘feel’ as Soojin. She can tell that they are nice and sincere people, but they are also on the quiet and reserved side. She can totally see the resemblances between them. Soojin is definitely a blend of both of her parents in terms of facial features and mannerisms. Shuhua smiles to herself, thinking how cute it is to have multiple Soojins running around.

 

 

“We’re here.” Soojin’s dad announces as he presses a button in the car to open the gates.

As the gates slide open, the car lurches slowly into the driveway. Shuhua looks around, seeing a small yard and a decent size house. Shuhua knows that they were well off enough to send Soojin to a private school and a dance academy while letting her sister go to a vocal coach. Soojin says that they are not Minnie-wealthy, but they are alright.

Soon, Shuhua finds herself inside the house, still looking around with great interest. She’s in the house that Soojin grew up in. She can see how this cozy house raised this cozy person.

“Unnie, you’re here.” A voice calls Shuhua’s attention back from her ogling.

“Yes Yejin, I thought you’d be at the airport with appa and umma.” Soojin walks up to a younger girl to give her a tight hug.

“Umma left me a list of chores to do before your friend gets here …” Yejin drifts off as her mom gives her a sharp look. “Speaking of whom …” She waves awkwardly to Shuhua, who returns her wave with an equally awkward smile.

“Hi, I’m Yeh Shuhua, Soojin’s … friend.” Shuhua hesitates for a millisecond. “Nice to meet you, I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Yejin nods. “Good to meet you, Shuhua-unnie.” She turns to Soojin and takes the heavy bag from her. “I’ll let you two get situated.”

Soojin helps Shuhua unpacks the gifts and snacks from her luggage before taking the younger woman upstairs. “Here is the bathroom on this floor.” Soojin points to one door. “This is Yejin’s room … this is my room … and this is yours.” Soojin opens the door to the last room in the hallway to reveal a neat guest room.

As they step into the room, Shuhua pouts. “I don’t get to stay in the same room as you, Soojin-unnie?”

Soojin opens the closet for Shuhua to deposit her luggage. “It’s impolite to make a guest share a room with me.”

“But I’m not just any guest, am I?” Shuhua closes the closet door.

“No …” Soojin puts one hand on Shuhua’s cheek. “But this is my parents’ house, we have to follow their rules.”

Shuhua doesn’t have any argument against that. She nods, still holding Soojin’s gaze.

“I’m going to freshen up before we go downstairs, we have to perform chirye before we get to eat.” Soojin turns to leave, but Shuhua catches her by the waist.

“Can I have a kiss, Soojin-unnie? Before you go …” Shuhua looks expectantly at Soojin, who looks toward the opened door to her room. She turns back to Shuhua before planting a quick peck on Shuhua’s lips.

“No …” Shuhua holds Soojin tighter. “A proper one.”

“Shuhua.” Soojin warns.

“Please …” Shuhua wants to know that Soojin is hers. She wants confirmation that they are not just friends like Soojin keeps introducing her.

No matter how she feels, Soojin can’t tear her eyes away from Shuhua’s pleading look. She wraps one arm around Shuhua’s back and cups Shuhua’s cheek with one hand. “Okay …” Her hot breath brushes against Shuhua’s lips before the kiss reassures Shuhua that Soojin is hers. It’s not a passionate kiss, just a warm-and-fuzzy-feeling-in-your-stomach kind of kiss.

When they break apart with a soft smooch noise, Soojin brushes her thumb across Shuhua’s lips. Her favorite red lipstick is now smeared across Shuhua’s lips. “I’ll see you in a little bit.”

A slightly dazed Shuhua nods and smiles as Soojin exits the room. She licks her lips, still tasting the sweetness that Soojin left behind. As she goes to the closet to unpack, she notes the red hue  on her lips. Absentmindedly, she touches her lips and smiles again.

After washing up and looking proper, Soojin and Shuhua come downstairs. It’s the first time that Shuhua gets to see Soojin in a pretty hanbok. It suits her so well and she looks so pretty that Shuhua can’t help but to continuously snap photos from different angles. Soojin laughs and tells Shuhua to stop, but Shuhua is determined to turn this day into a photoshoot. Eventually, Yejin is also downstairs in a hanbok. Together, Soojin and Yejin perform chirye to their parents. Shuhua also wishes them good luck and health and they give her a red bag. After that, they have lunch before heading out to Soojin’s grandparents. It’s a short greeting before they return home again. For the rest of the day, they watch tv and lounge around.

 

 

After dinner, Shuhua gets to shower first because she’s the guest of honor. When she gets out, it’s Soojin’s turn. Soojin’s parents have retired to their room and Yejin has gone out to see some friends for the night. As she dries her hair, Shuhua decides to go to Soojin’s room to wait for the older woman to be done. She pushes the door open slowly and puts her head in to look around first before fully intruding into Soojin’s space. Shuhua smiles at how simple and girly the room looks, just like its owner. Everything is neat and in order with nothing too garish in sight.

Shuhua sits down on Soojin’s bed, then decides to lay across its width. It smells like Soojin, too. Shuhua closes her eyes and pretends that she’s floating on a cloud of Soojin’s scent. It would be heaven to be able to hold a warm Soojin in her arms …

“Ahem.”

Shuhua’s eyes shoot wide open. She’s dozed off before she knew it and here in her dream is a towel-clad Soojin with her hair wrapped in a turban. Some lucky water droplets get to travel down Soojin’s neck, shoulder, chest …

“What are you up to?” Soojin asks with her brow slightly raised. She can see that Shuhua is practically drooling, but it doesn’t explain why the younger girl is on her bed in the first place.

“I … uh … I …” Shuhua has turned idiot again, as she is unable to reconcile Soojin’s question with the thought of naked Soojin under the towel.

Soojin closes the door behind her as she walks over to her closet for her evening clothes. Her eyes never left Shuhua, still waiting for an answer.

“I was waiting for you … and then I sort of fell asleep.” With all power of reasoning drained from her mind, Shuhua decides to just tell the truth.

“You couldn’t have waited inside your room?” Soojin asks with a slight smile.

“No … well, yes …” Shuhua gets up from the bed and saunters over to Soojin. “But your bed is more comfortable and I wanted to see you as soon as you got out of the shower.”

Soojin shakes her head, wondering why this girl is so obsessed with her. “Well … I have to change now.”

“I see that …” Shuhua runs the tip of her index finger along the edge of the towel, if she just tug it a little bit, it’ll come right off. “I don’t mind waiting …”

“Then turn around.” Soojin makes a circle motion. “Unless you’re planning to watch me change.”

“Can I?” Shuhua’s face lights up.

“No.” Soojin quickly shuts this down.

“But, Soojin-unnie!” Shuhua protests and pulls a little on the towel. “It’s just us right now.”

“I know … but this is my parents’ house … it’s kinda strange to …” Soojin drifts off, knowing that Shuhua catches her meaning.

Shuhua wraps one arm around Soojin’s waist, “Then can I kiss you for a little bit at least?” She bargains. She is a hot blooded young woman after all.

Soojin can hardly fight when she feels the same urge as Shuhua. They’ve yet to be intimate with each other due to lack of opportunity. Now that they’re available and free, they’re at the wrong location. She can almost feel Shuhua’s body heat through the towel. Shuhua’s lips come in quick and eager, wanting to take in all of Soojin. As their kiss deepens and Soojin feels herself drowning closer to the edge of losing self-control, she pushes Shuhua back a little.

“Shuhua …” Soojin breathes into Shuhua’s lips.

Shuhua takes it as an invitation to kiss Soojin again, which the older woman doesn’t fight. Shuhua’s kisses are always sweet at first, but they grow to be so hungry and wanton. She pushes Soojin against the wall and starts to trail her kisses down Soojin’s neck. In her heated delirium, Soojin grabs Shuhua’s cheeks and tilts the younger woman’s face up toward her.

“Shuhua … not right now …” Soojin whines in a whisper.

“But unnie …” Shuhua tries to reason with Soojin.

“Later … when we’re back …” Soojin brushes her lips against Shuhua’s. “Not here, okay?”

Shuhua searches Soojin’s eyes. Seeing that Soojin’s made up her mind, Shuhua nods disappointedly. “Okay … when we get back …” She takes a step back from Soojin and takes one long look at that towel-clad body. “Good night, Soojin-unnie.”

Soojin nods. She didn’t want for Shuhua to go right away, but if the younger woman stays, it would only lead them to more trouble. “Good night.”

Shuhua opens the door and trudges back to her room. Her lonely, Soojin-less room. As much fun as she’s had today, Shuhua just wants to be with Soojin and be all that Soojin needs. She knows that she’s being obsessive, but that’s been her personality for as long as she has been alive.

Falling into bed, Shuhua huffs and tosses back the blanket. She’s feeling too warm and her heart is beating too fast. Closing her eyes, she tries to remember the sight of Soojin in that towel. She licks her dry lips as her hand slips under the elastic of her pants. She knows she shouldn’t be doing this right now, there is a tiny part of her that feels guilty, but it’s honestly Soojin’s fault for being too damn hot. She bites her lower lip to keep her moans from coming out as she has to settle for imaginary Soojin right now. And when it’s all done and over, an empty encroaches her heart.

 

 

“We’ll going out now, be back later!” Soojin calls out before closing the front door. She looks ahead to see that Shuhua is stretching in front of the driveway. Soojin finds Shuhua’s post sleep expression the most adorable thing ever. Especially when Shuhua’s eyes and cheeks are puffy from sleep.

In a sleepy daze, Shuhua remembers Soojin waking her up and her going to brush her teeth, but she doesn’t remember exactly how she got here. She arches her back and does a few twists to try to wake up. It’s another cold, sunny morning.

“Let’s go to the bus stop, it’s not far from here.” Soojin hooks her arm with Shuhua and they start their walk. “We’ll get breakfast soon.”

“Okay, Jinjin.” Shuhua yawns softly and lets Soojin lead her.

“Jinjin?”

“It’s your nickname.” Shuhua mutters softly. Sleepy Shuhua is the only quiet Shuhua.

“Since when?” Soojin asks, feeling amused by her new nickname. It’s not that creative, but it’s cute, nonetheless.

“I’ll call you JinJin and you call me ShuShu, okay?”

“… No, too cheesy.”

“Awww, JinJin.”

“No.”

They catch a bus going down to the busier part of town. Since Soojin’s parents live in a very small town, there’s not a lot going on other than some food stalls for the local festival. They walk with their hands swinging back and forth as they wander the narrow streets of the town. Soojin buys some breakfast food for Shuhua when the younger woman’s stomach starts to rumble.

Shuhua splits the egg sandwich into two and hands Soojin half while she keeps the other. “Where are we going, unnie?” She doesn’t mind wandering around with Soojin, but in an unfamiliar place, Shuhua would like to know their destination at least.

“You’ll see.” Soojin grins with a little mysterious smile.

“Oooh … that’s sexy, do it again.” Shuhua giggles before chomping down on her half of the sandwich.

“No.” Soojin shakes her head before biting into hers.

They continue to tease each other and play until Soojin reaches a small front of a shop. To the right of the shop, an obscured stairway leads up to the second floor. Shuhua would never have guessed it was here if she was wandering around alone. There is a sign that reads “Dance Studio” and an arrow pointing upward. Soojin leads the way, letting Shuhua have a chance to fully appreciate the seductive sway of Soojin’s curves. She mentally slaps herself for thinking such lecherous thoughts in the morning. Why is she such a horn dog? But who could blame her? Especially since Soojin left her in such a miserable state last night.

They arrive on the second floor and Soojin pushes open a wooden door to reveal a small reception room. “Hello.” She bows to the person sitting at the front desk.

“Wow, Seo Soojin!” The lady squeals in excitement and runs out from behind the desk to give Soojin a hug. “Long time no see!”

“Hi unnie, happy new year.” Soojin smiles and gives the woman a squeeze.

“How have you been? Came back for the holiday?”

“Yes and since I have some free time, I wanted to come by to see the studio and check in on you.”

“Well, I’m glad you haven’t changed, always a sweetheart.”

As the two women chatter, Shuhua sways from foot to foot, since no one is giving her attention. She checks her phone, just a message from Miyeon wishing her a happy new year. Smirking, she sends back a quick ‘ditto’, knowing that it would make Miyeon complain. Teasing, or rather, torturing Miyeon is one of her hobbies. She lets Soojin connect with her friend for a bit, knowing that the older woman doesn’t come home that often to visit.

“This is my friend, Yeh Shuhua.” Soojin finally introduces Shuhua. “I wanted to show her the studio … would that be okay?”

Shuhua looks up and bows to the studio owner. “Nice to meet you.”

“Good to meet you. Of course, go ahead and go in. I don’t think anyone will come up here to practice anyways. I’m just here to do the books and do some maintenance stuff anyways.” The studio owner turns around and pushes open a sliding door to reveal a dance studio. It’s got proper equipment, mirrors, bars, and everything.

“Thank you, unnie. We won’t be long.” Soojin bows and signals for Shuhua to follow her.

“Take your time. You know how to work the audio equipment, I’ll be here for a few hours so don’t worry about time.” The studio owner smiles and closes the door, letting them have some privacy.

It’s a brightly lit space with huge windows. There are fans hung on each corner of the room. A roller cart of audio equipment sits against one wall of the room. If Shuhua was to imagine a proper dance studio, this would be it. Even though it’s a small studio, it still has that atmosphere.

“Did you come here often, Soojin-unnie?” Shuhua asks, since the studio owner seems to know her very well.

“Uh huh.” Soojin nods as she walks around this nostalgic space. “I’ve spent a lot of hours here …” Her fingers run the length of the plie barre.

“What kind of dance did you do?”

“A mixture. I’ve done ballet, contemporary, hip hop … I’ve tried a lot of different styles.”

Shuhua still remembers the night of hers and Minnie’s shared birthday party. The way Soojin danced was beyond anything that Shuhua could imagine. Shuhua was completely entranced that night, especially when Soojin was doing all that grinding and winding. Thinking of that memory makes Shuhua feel the heat once again. Maybe she needs to go get her hormones checked or something!

Soojin walks to the audio equipment and puts on a beat that she remembers well. “This is it.” Her body reacts on its own to the remix of an American song.

Shuhua watches as Soojin’s expression changes, becoming more sensual and powerful at the same time. She studies the sway of Soojin’s body, hypnotized by the movements, and waits for a chance to step up. When Shuhua sees her opportunity, she doesn’t miss a beat. She more or less mirrors Soojin’s movements. Whether Soojin is surprised or not, she doesn’t show it on her face, like a professional. It doesn’t take long before they are in sync with each other, once Shuhua figures out the routine.

That’s when Soojin tries to make her dance more intricate and complicated. Shuhua laughs when she gets tripped up a few times, causing her to go out of sync. Instead of getting agitated, Shuhua rises to the challenge and shows off some of her own complicated moves. They accidentally start a dance battle as they start to show off bigger and better moves. Even though it’s the middle of winter, they are heating up this dance studio. It’s not long before they have a healthy, sweaty sheen on their skin.

Eventually, the extent of Shuhua’s skills show and she is pushed to almost concede the victory to Soojin. However, she has one more trick up her sleeve. The music is churning out heart pumping beats, but Shuhua starts to dance very small, minimal movements. Starting with tiny hip shakes and small chest pops, Shuhua does the smallest movements possible.

“Yah!” Soojin can’t help but find that ultra funny. She laughs so hard, she has to hold her stomach and collapses on the floor. “What the heck!” She continues to laugh as Shuhua continues to dance her minimized moves around her.

“Unnie, do you like my dance?” Shuhua teases as she does the minimal robot.

Soojin nods as she tries to stop laughing.

“Is it … as you would say … sexy?” Shuhua waggles one eyebrow.

Soojin laughs harder, rolling on the floor because Shuhua looks so much like a fool. “Nooooo …”

“Yes it is, it swept you off your feet.” Shuhua isn’t wrong here.

“It’s so funny!” Soojin wipes tears from her eyes.

Shuhua smiles happily, super proud of herself because she made Soojin laugh so hard. She does a cute little plie before safely falling down next to Soojin on the floor. “I was really going for a sexy dance, unnie.”

“You danced really well, I was very impressed.” Not a lot of people could keep up with Soojin, much less made her work to impress.

“Thanks. I’m not as good as you, but I think I can keep up okay.” Shuhua slides closer until she’s lying right next to Soojin.

“Where did you learn how to dance?” Soojin is curious.

Shuhua rests one hand on her forehead as she thinks back. “Mostly from music videos and Youtube. I used to be so in love with dancing, I made tons of videos of me dancing at home.”

Soojin rarely sees this side of Shuhua. It’s uncommon for Shuhua to answer her seriously, without masking herself in innuendos or jokes. The young girl is both the most honest and dishonest person that Soojin knows. She’s so straightforward with Soojin about her feelings, but when Soojin inquires about herself, she’s a closed book.

“I would like to see some of those videos.”

“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” Shuhua waggles her brows again, causing Soojin to smack her shoulder before laughing. The girl is incorrigible.

“Soojin-unnie, what did you want to be when you were little?” Shuhua lays on her side and props her head up with one palm.

“Hmm … I think it was either a ballerina or a Taekwondo master.” Soojin tries not to smile as nostalgia engulfs her. Shuhua nods and waits for Soojin to explain more. “I really liked martial arts when I was little, so my parents indulged me. Then I started to like ballet, so my parents put me into classes for that as well.”

“Those are two very different things, unnie.” Shuhua is trying to imagine little Soojin running from Taekwondo practice to ballet practice. She also remembers how Soojin easily beat the man up in October.

“Yeah, I don’t know why I liked both of those two things so much. I guess because I’m not usually someone who expresses myself with words, those two practices became my physical proxy for my feelings.”

“Why didn’t you pursue careers in either one of those practices?”

Soojin is silent for a little while. “I didn’t see a future in Taekwondo, unless I opened up a dojo … so I put all my time into ballet toward the beginning of my high school years. I really thought I could make it into a big ballet company.”

Shuhua could sense Soojin’s hesitance, so she reaches over and gently brushes her hand along Soojin’s arm, trying to comfort the woman through the difficult memory.

“My third year of high school, I injured my ankle … it didn’t seem too bad at first, but every time I put my full weight on it, I had extreme pain shot up my leg. So I was forced to rest for several long months. Then when I returned, I couldn’t do as many jumps or the high technical dances anymore … my ankle felt weakened and my parents said they don’t want me to lose mobility by worsening my injury.”

Soojin’s eyes tear up as she thinks back to how painful it was to her heart to not be able to pursue her passion.

“I went to university without having any idea of what I wanted to do with my life ... It was really confusing back then.” Soojin turns to look at Shuhua, who’s listening intently.

“How did you come to be a surgeon?” Shuhua’s fingers brush against Soojin’s cheek.

“My cousin. He’s also a surgeon. When I started university, he kept inviting me to shadow him at work. I finally went after my first year, since I still couldn’t decide what I wanted to do and my parents were starting to worry. It ended up working out, I have all these talents that I didn’t know I even had.”

“I’m glad it worked out this way, otherwise I would never have met you.” Shuhua leans in to gently kiss Soojin as reward for sharing a sensitive part of herself with Shuhua.

“What about you? How’d you come to be a surgeon?”

“I’ve always wanted to be a surgeon, even though I discovered dance as another passion. I saw a documentary about a surgeon’s role in saving patients when medicine cannot. I thought a surgeon is so cool … being the last line between life and death … being able to make a permanent improvement to a person’s life. Saving not only the patient, but their whole family … you know? It felt like a higher calling. I know now it’s not all glamorous like that, but even now I get the hype before each surgery.”

“I understand … it’s definitely a career that comes with high risks and rewards.”

“I think … surgeons like us are adrenaline junkies. I do try not to get all high and mighty about it, though. I know I’m not God.”

They lay on their sides, facing each other and holding hands.

“JinJin …” Shuhua squeezes Soojin’s hand. “I’ve always been the type to keep to myself until I’m comfortable with someone … you’re the first person I’ve ever approached first. That first time I saw your face … and it was game over. I had to go out of my way to charm you. I’m glad I did because you are so sweet and kind … and amazing … And why do you have to be so pretty? I don’t get bored looking at you at all. I really like you.”

Soojin’s blood rushes faster as she listens to Shuhua’s sincere confession. “Sweet talker …” Soojin is too embarrassed to respond right now. Lucky for her, a text notification for Shuhua interrupts their moment. Shuhua wants to ignore it, because she wants to hear Soojin’s true response. Seeing Soojin’s cheeks turn bright red is one of Shuhua’s new hobbies. But another notification dings, causing Shuhua to pull out her phone.

“Who is it?” Soojin asks when she sees a small smile on Shuhua’s face.

“Yuqi. She’s seeing what we’re doing.” Shuhua types a quick reply as Soojin starts to sit up.

“I think it’s about time we get out of here.” Soojin glances at her watch, they’ve been there for almost two hours. Between the dancing and talking, they’ve lost track of time.

Shuhua finishes her last text to Yuqi before hopping onto her feet. That Yuqi really knows how to interrupt. Shuhua knows that the moment has passed, so she lets it go for now. She holds a hand out for Soojin. “Do you have anywhere else you’d like to go?”

Soojin takes the offered hand and pulls herself back on her feet. “Not really, but how about we walk through my favorite park on the way home?”

Shuhua nods happily and holds Soojin’s hand tightly. After Soojin turns off the music, they bid the studio owner goodbye and head back toward Soojin family’s home. Instead of taking the bus the entire way, they get off after a few stops sooner. They find themselves at the entrance of Soojin’s favorite park. The snow has been shoveled on each side of the path. Fresh snow from overnight still lingers on the barren tree branches. Despite the warmth of the high sun, the wind brings the chill, giving them a reason to walk close to each other.

“So earlier …” Shuhua starts. “I told you why I like you, now it’s your turn. Why did you agree to go out with me?” She’s not ready to let it go yet.

Soojin chuckles and looks down at her steps. “I ask myself that sometimes, too.”

“Soojin-unnie!” Shuhua pulls Soojin toward her.

“Alright, alright.” Soojin tries not to smile at Shuhua’s silliness. “I don’t know why myself … but I like the way you look at me, like I’m truly loved and cherished. It gets to be addictive having someone looking at me like that.” Soojin laughs when she sees Shuhua opening her eyes super wide and blinking rapidly at her. “At first, you were like a sweet, hyper little sister … but then …”

“Then what?” An impatient Shuhua cuts in.

“Then … I started to notice how pretty you are.” Soojin notices the blush on Shuhua’s cheek, maybe it’s from the cold or maybe it’s because of what Soojin just said. “Um … I like how your eyes get so wide when you’re excited and the way your lips curl into duck lips when you’re trying to be cute.” Soojin’s own face is starting to get very red.

“Uh huh, go on …”

“Then I started to like the way your body feels against … me when we hugged … just small things …” Soojin stumbles through the embarrassing words. “Everything snowballed until … that Christmas night when I saw you waiting for me … it all made sense that night. After that first kiss, I just wanted to keep kissing you.”

“Awww … Soojin-unnie …” Shuhua loves hearing the confirmation of Soojin’s feelings for her. It reassures her that it wasn’t pity from Soojin. Shuhua knows that she was extremely clingy to Soojin, but her persistence paid off after all.

“I like you, too, Shuhua.” Soojin mutters softly. She’s obliged to say it after Shuhua’s confession from earlier. Why are they confessing to each other again after they’re already dating?

“What was that? I didn’t hear you!” Shuhua practically screams.

“Ahhhh … I’m so embarrassed, saying all that stuff!” Soojin hides her face in her hands, but Shuhua wrestles one hand back to continue holding in hers.

“Don’t be embarrassed, Jin-ah. You just let out all your feelings and I’ll accept it all!” Shuhua chirps happily.

“Jin-ah?”

“Your other nickname.”

“Why?”

“I could also call you jagiya … or yeobo or heoni.”

“Yah … don’t push it.” Soojin smacks Shuhua’s shoulder, trying to get her embarrassment out.

“Oww.” Shuhua almost saw stars after she got smacked. Her arm goes numb for several minutes. “I think you broke my arm … was that martial arts you just used?”

Soojin laughs and shakes her head. “No, that was just a normal light, love tap.”

“If that’s a love tap, I’d hate to make you mad.” Shuhua rubs her arm and pretends to be seriously hurt.

“Just don’t make me mad, then.” Soojin shrugs nonchalantly, but Shuhua feels like it was a fair warning.

“Okay … how about we take a picture over there?” Shuhua points to a stretch of the path, where the trees on both sides with overreaching branches have grown into an interlocking canopy overhead. The area looks just like a place from a drama that Shuhua had been watching.

Soojin follows Shuhua, who’s pulling her along. “Is this for your lock screen, too?”

“No, this is for me to remember the moment you professed your feelings for me.”

“What? P-Profess? I didn’t …” Soojin is flustered because Shuhua used such cheesy language to describe what she’d said.

“Okay, Soojin-unnie … you stand right there and pose okay?” Shuhua takes a few steps back and raises her phone up.

“Wait …” Soojin wants to protest, but Shuhua is already taking pictures so she has no choice but to comply. Soojin poses awkwardly at first, but eventually she warms up to having Shuhua snap endless photos of her. “C’mere, let’s take a picture together instead of just me.”

“Okay.” Shuhua slides right by Soojin and takes a selfie together. She snaps a series of different expressions of both of them together. After she’s satisfied with the amount of photos, they continue their way back to Soojin’s family home.

 

 

Dinner at the Seo family home is a quiet affair. Everyone speaks so softly and politely with each other. They have seaweed soup today for Soojin’s birthday in March, since she probably wouldn’t be able to come home. Shuhua reminds herself to even chew more quietly. She glances around the table, seeing that everyone is eating and minding their business instead of chewing and talking at the same time like she’s used to. Soojin catches her girlfriend’s gaze and smiles knowingly. She knows that it’s a test of Shuhua’s self control to sit quietly and still for a long time.

“So, Shuhua-unnie, how did you and my unnie meet?” Yejin turns her attention to Shuhua.

Soojin looks at her sister while Shuhua swallows her food quickly. “Um … during my orientation day, I met her in the cafeteria along with my other friends.”

Yejin nods and continues to eat. She at least tried to chat up her sister’s friend.

Shuhua, wanting to keep the quiet away, continues. “Then one time, I’d forgotten my wallet and she shared her lunch with me … and then she kept packing lunch for me. So I owe her a lot.”

Soojin tries to hide her smile by continuing to eat her food instead of indulging herself with thoughts of a grateful Shuhua.

“Soojin-unnie’s never packed lunch for me.” Yejin looks sharply at her sister.

Soojin puts down her bowl. “Umma always packs your lunch, so I never had a chance to. Would you like me to pack your lunch tomorrow?”

“No thanks, I’m going out with my friends tomorrow.” Yejin shakes her head.

Shuhua chuckles. As it turns out, Soojin has a handful of a sister as well. She quickly presses her lips together to keep from upsetting Soojin.

“Any plans on where you’ll go after residency, Shuhua?” Mr. Seo asks.

Shuhua blinks, surprised by the question. “I honestly haven’t thought much about it, sir. I’d like to stay here in Korea, if there is opportunity for me.” Her eyes shift to Soojin.

Soojin looks at her with a curious expression. It dawns on Soojin that Shuhua might not stay in Korea after her training.

“Is there any hospital you’d like to work at after residency?” Mrs. Seo puts some food into Shuhua’s bowl, causing the younger woman to bowl in thanks.

“I would like to stay at CUBE. I’m considering a fellowship right now, some of my attendings have spoken to me about being more specialized but … I want to be able to do it all.” That’s why she’s a General Surgery resident, she doesn’t want to limit herself to one thing.

Soojin listens intently, she’s never considered what would happen to them after their training years. Should she even think about that when they just started dating? Her heart tightens at the thought that they might part one day.

“That’s what Soojin said she wants to do as well. A Cardio fellowship.” Mr. Seo nods in approval. “It’s good to dream big and go for it.”

The rest of dinner continues to be quiet. Mr. And Mrs. Seo asks when they would be leaving for the airport and if they wanted to pack anything with them. Shuhua didn’t realize it but she ate a whole lot of food, making Soojin’s mom very happy because Shuhua thoroughly enjoyed her cooking.

After dinner, Soojin helps Mrs. Seo clean up while Mr. Seo goes to get some work done before the next day. Shuhua goes to the upstairs washroom to wash up and get ready for bed in a little while. When she steps out of the washroom, Yejin is leaning against the wall on the opposite wall.

“Oh hey.” Shuhua steps aside, thinking that Yejin needs to use the bathroom. “Here you go.”

As Shuhua tries to go back to her room, Yejin steps in front of her way. “I know that you and Soojin-unnie are dating.”

Shuhua blinks, too surprised and confused to formulate a proper response.

“I can tell by the way you two look at each other.” Yejin tries to look nonchalant, like her sister.

Shuhua raises one eyebrow, but doesn’t confirm nor deny.

“If you hurt my sister, I’m going to have to find you and hurt you.” Yejin’s voice deepens, it’s meant to sound threatening, but Shuhua can’t help but giggle. Since Mr. And Mrs. Seo doesn’t know about Soojin and Shuhua yet, Yejin probably took it upon herself to make sure Soojin is alright.

“Hurt her?” Shuhua tries not to laugh too loudly. “I’m sure you know that she’s more than capable in self-defense and I would die before hurting her. I love her.”

Yejin is taken back. “L-love?”

“Well … I haven’t told her yet, I don’t want to scare her away … but, yeah. I love her.”

Yejin feels awkward, standing in the hallway and looking like a fool. “Well … uh … that’s good … yeah.”

“I promise not to hurt Soojin. She’s lucky to have you as a sister. I hope that you’ll continue to look out for her like this.” Shuhua gently pats Yejin’s head and ruffles her hair. “You’re a good kid, Seo Yejin. Maybe we’ll be in-laws one day, so let’s get along, okay?”

“Tsk.” Yejin swats Shuhua’s hand away from her head and stomps into her room. Shuhua chuckles as she watches Yejin’s door close.

“What’s going on?” Soojin’s voice causes Shuhua to turn back.

“… I’ll tell you later.” Shuhua reaches out and hugs Soojin tightly.

Soojin is surprised by the sudden hug, but not that surprise because Shuhua has a habit of hugging her whenever she has a chance. “I’ve cut up some fruits if you want some.”

“Yeah! I do!” Shuhua is always excited about food.

They go back downstairs to join Soojin’s parents in watching tv and eating fruits. Soojin decides to put away her apprehensive feelings about their future for now. They should at least enjoy their time together in the present instead of worrying too much about things.

The next day, they go back to Seoul. Yejin gives Shuhua her number in case she ever needs help with Soojin. Shuhua is happy that her sister-in-law approves of their relationship. She’s not ready to share that information with Soojin, yet.

 

 

Soojin buttons up her coat as she walks into the snowy streets from the parking garage. Today, the flakes have ceased to fall but the slush on the ground makes it a little slippery. Maybe wearing a dress isn’t that great of an idea. But, Soojin wants to look pretty for today. Soojin is careful not to walk into puddles, as it may ruin her new boots. She hugs her arms against herself to keep warm as she looks around the streets.

“Soojin-unnie!” Shuhua’s loud voice rings from one side of Soojin’s hearing.

Soojin spots the younger woman standing under an umbrella and waving excitedly at her. She’s wearing black jeans and a pretty blouse under that jacket. Soojin notices that Shuhua’s done her make up a little differently, making her look more mature and … sexy at the same time.

With a slightly amused smile, Soojin sticks her hands into her pockets and saunters up to Shuhua. “Did you wait long?” Soojin asks softly, noting the redness of Shuhua’s nose tip and cheeks.

“No, I just got here not too long ago.” Shuhua holds the umbrella over Soojin’s head while sniffling just a little bit.

Soojin steps closer to Shuhua, so the umbrella would cover both of them. “Here …” She slips a hand warmer packet into Shuhua’s pocket, “We can each have one.”

Shuhua looks up at Soojin with round eyes of surprise. She smiles brightly and wraps her arm around Soojin’s, “Thank you, JinJin.” The nickname has grown on Soojin over the past two weeks.

Soojin smiles and sharply inhales the cold air. It is their first Valentine’s date, so there is a strange energy in the air. It’s been over two weeks since they returned from Soojin’s parents, but it’s been too busy for them to meet up. Today is the only day that they managed to take time off together, much to Dr. Moon Byulyi’s chagrin. Soojin’s attending has taken the role of the strict ‘father’ who must approve Shuhua before Soojin is allowed to date her. Nevertheless, Soojin informed her that she must have Valentine’s Day off and there is not going to be any negotiation or approval needed. In contrast with Soojin, Shuhua’s attendings are more than happy to take care of her work so she could go out to have fun.

“Are you hungry, JinJin?” Shuhua asks.

“Not really.” Soojin shakes her head. “What about you?”

“I could use a snack before we head out.” Shuhua points toward a trendy cafe just ahead of them.

It’s still early afternoon, they decided to meet earlier in the day so they could spend all day together to make up for the two weeks they were too busy to spend quality time. Shuhua said that she has a surprise for Soojin, so they had to meet up in this specific area of the city. They quickly go into the cafe and pick up some desserts and hot drinks before heading back out to the cold. It’s a nice day to walk arm in arm with one’s girlfriend.

Soojin looks around the area, unable to recognize anything familiar because she doesn’t usually venture to this side of the sprawling city. She lets Shuhua lead her into a small alleyway before they are going upstairs to the second floor of a small building. Soojin wants to ask where they are going, but Shuhua is insistent on it being a surprise. Finally, they reach a door that is labeled “Dance Studio”. Soojin turns to Shuhua in surprise. “What is this?” She asks as she is ushered into the studio.

Shuhua smiles and winks at her, still refusing to say.

There are a lot of people waiting inside. The receptionist instructs Shuhua and Soojin to check in their purses and coats. They sign into the event, which Soojin still has no idea what’s going on, and makes their way onto the dance floor. The other people in the studio are also couples and they don’t seem to mind that Soojin and Shuhua are here together. Not that Soojin really cares what strangers think.

“Welcome everybody to our studio’s Valentine’s Day Salsa Special!” A woman, presumably the instructor, speaks into a microphone. She’s dressed in a very flashy red salsa dancing outfit and red high heels. Soojin starts to catch on why she’s here. She feels Shuhua lean into her and a warm breath tickles her ear.

“Surprise.” Shuhua whispers.

Soojin shivers from the tickling sensation. She chuckles and nods. “I’m surprised.”

They are instructed to pair up, but everyone is pretty much here with their date, so they’re already paired up. They are shown some steps before the music starts. Naturally, Soojin and Shuhua are quick to learn the steps. Their young, well practiced bodies are made to dance the sexy and energetic dance. Since this is the event that she’d planned, Shuhua takes the lead in the dance. She is very comfortable with placing her hands on Soojin’s hips and pulling Soojin flushed against her. For her part, Soojin enjoys the way she just has to go with the rhythm and Shuhua’s lead.

Soojin laughs when Shuhua adds some of her micro-dance moves into the equation.

“Do you like your surprise, JinJin?” Shuhua asks with an eager smile.

“I do.” Soojin nods as they dance their way around the room, trying not to run into other couples. “How did you come up with this idea?” This dance studio is much larger than the one in her hometown, so there’s plenty of room for people to practice their spins and twists.

“I really enjoyed being in the studio with you last time and they had a Valentine’s special here, so I figured why not, you know? If we like it, we can come back and make it our thing?” Shuhua spins Soojin out before grabbing her hand and pulling her back.

Soojin controls her spin so she doesn’t collide too roughly against Shuhua. “Our thing? I thought our thing was me making you lunches?” Soojin spins out again before striking a pose.

“Oh. That’ll always be our thing … but we can have other things, too.” Shuhua will never give up on Soojin’s cooking. She sways and shakes her booty before stepping up to offer her hand to Soojin again.

As everyone gets used to the steps, the instructor shows them some more moves that are more technical. Of course, Soojin and Shuhua take very little time to grasp the concepts. Based on their energy and the way their bodies roll against each other, an observer could safely assume that they are together. Some couples are a lot older than Soojin and Shuhua, they aren’t that suave with the dance but they seem to be enjoying themselves thoroughly. By the end, everyone got warmed up and more relaxed than at the beginning of class. They gather for a group photo, which will be emailed to everyone. Soojin and Shuhua, as the best couple, win a free salsa class.

 

 

“Whew, that was fun.” Shuhua shivers as soon as the cold air touches her sweaty body. She buttons up her jacket while Soojin does the same.

“I really enjoyed it.” Soojin sticks her hands into her pocket to keep arm. “I’ve never salsa danced before.”

“You danced so well, you could have been an instructor, JinJin.” Shuhua confidently boosts her girlfriend.

“Thanks.” Soojin laughs and shakes her head. “But I don’t think that’s true at all. It took me a while with some of those moves toward the end.”

“You were phenomenal.” Shuhua cannot help but hype up Soojin.

“Okay, where to next?” Soojin changes the subject, because Shuhua’s boasting has her blushing and it’s only the start of the day, she can’t afford to keep blushing like this.

“Late lunch?” Shuhua looks at her watch, they were in class for a little over two hours.

Soojin nods. “I’m starting to feel hungry. What do you want to eat?”

Shuhua looks on her phone at the restaurants around them. Soojin wraps her arm around Shuhua’s shoulders, so the young woman can look while they walk without accident. “How about this hotpot place?” Shuhua shows Soojin her phone.

“It looks good. I’m also craving something hot and soupy.” Soojin nods in approval and they start to walk toward the restaurant.

 

 

Shuhua opens the door for Soojin to slip into the small restaurant. It’s a little place that has a lot of ambiance. They are quickly shown to a private booth in the corner, thanks to Soojin having made a reservation ahead of time. The booth is a semi-circle around a table, so they could sit as close or as far away as they wish. They shed their outer layers before flipping over the menu. What’s more intimate than sharing a hot pot with the person you like on a cold day? They quickly pick out several orders of high quality beef and vegetables, as neither are very keen on seafood. Shuhua orders her rice while Soojin opts for noodles. It’s not long before the waitress comes back with all the ingredients and races through how long to keep each ingredient in the broth.

“Thanks for booking the salsa class, Shuhua. I had a lot of fun.” Soojin dunks some thinly sliced meat into the broth before dipping it in sauce and presenting it to Shuhua’s mouth.

Happily, Shuhua chomps down on the meat, almost hurting her teeth on the chopsticks as she does. She chews quickly and swallows. “Thanks for enjoying my surprise. I was worried that you wouldn’t like it.”

“Why wouldn’t I like it?” Soojin puts some vegetables into the hotpot.

“Because … I don’t know, I was a bit nervous … it’s my first time planning a couply thing for us to do.” Shuhua shrugs her shoulders.

“I just like spending time with you … but the class was very fun, so that’s a bonus.” Soojin smiles and pokes Shuhua’s cheek.

“Yay! I’ll keep planning more things for us!” Shuhua throws her hands up excitedly.

Soojin can’t help but smile along and pet Shuhua’s hair. She likes it when Shuhua does little cute things like that. She is cutest when she gets so excited that she stumbles over her words.

“Jin-ah, what’s your favorite thing to do on Valentine’s Day?” Shuhua asks.

“Hm?” Soojin’s brows knit together as she thinks long and hard. “Nothing really, I like staying at home and watching a movie. I don’t like very crowded places and it gets very crowded at shopping places and restaurants on days like this.”

“I see.” Shuhua nods.

“What about you, Shuhua?” Soojin reciprocates the question.

“I just like being with you.” Shuhua answers without missing a beat.

“Sweet talker.” Soojin rolls her eyes and continues to eat instead.

“I’m serious … though I know that there is candy involved on this day as well.”

“You want candy?”

Shuhua nods eager, of course this kid wants candy. “Can we go get some later?”

Soojin shakes her head. “No.”

“JinJin!” Shuhua’s protest breaks off when Soojin reaches into her purse and pulls out a small square blue box. It’s a box of ROYCE’s Nama chocolate. “Jin!” Shuhua is surprised. Even though they’re in the middle of lunch, she’s ready to tear off the plastic cover on the box.

“Let’s finish lunch first, okay?” Soojin puts her hand on Shuhua’s. “Then you can have dessert.”

Shuhua happily agrees and puts the box down on the table. They take their time enjoying their lunch and each other’s company. Afterward, they walk around the shopping centers while sharing the box of chocolate that melts in their mouths. Once again, Shuhua wants to take pictures together. She is determined to fill her phone with photos of Soojin.

 

 

Dusk, the time of day where everything is painted in a glorious golden red hue. As people start to go out for Valentine’s Day, Soojin and Shuhua are heading back to Soojin’s place. They’ve had their day long date, it’s time for them to have a little down time with each other. Soojin unlocks the door and steps inside, letting Shuhua close and lock it behind her. They take their coats off and hang it on the rack next to the door.

Soojin slides off her boots before she walks to the electric fireplace to turn it on at the flip of a switch. Shuhua puts her purse down and looks around the familiar apartment. She’s been here several times, but each time it still feels new to her.

“Would you like something to drink?” Soojin turns back toward Shuhua, who still lingers at the doorway. “Make yourself at home.” She reminds her girlfriend.

“Oh yeah …” Shuhua smiles sheepishly. “Um … what are you having?”

“I was thinking of finishing a bottle of wine that I opened yesterday.”

Shuhua freezes for a second. “Um … I’ll have the same then.”

“Okay. Let me go get it.” Soojin goes into the kitchen to retrieve the bottle from her fridge.

Shuhua lingers by the counter, watching Soojin expertly pour the red wine into the glasses. She hands Shuhua a glass before holding hers out for a toast. “To our first salsa dance together.”

Shuhua smiles. “To our first Valentine’s Day together.” They clink glasses after the cheers. Soojin has a habit of smelling her wine before drinking it while Shuhua drinks it slowly.

After the first sip, Shuhua’s eyes twitch as she makes a horrifying expression. “Ugh.” She doesn't like wine at all. She wanted to drink with Soojin, but she just couldn't get over the taste. Shuhua is a fruity mixed drink sort of girl.

“What’s wrong?” Soojin asks because Shuhua’s face looks like she just had a seizure or something.

“I … can’t drink wine.” Shuhua puts the glass down, but the disgusted expression is still on her face. She keeps flicking her tongue in and out, trying to get rid of the lingering taste. “Can I have some water please?”

“Oh … yeah, just a second.” Soojin quickly grabs a glass and pours some water for Shuhua, who chugs it down quickly. “Why didn’t you tell me …?”

“I wanted to try it … I just can’t drink, the taste is too overwhelming for me.”

“Maybe next time we’ll start with a sweet wine instead of something this dry.” Soojin chuckles at Shuhua’s cuteness.

“Maybe.” Shuhua isn’t that willing to taste wine again anytime soon. Honestly, it tastes like feet … not that she knows what feet tastes like.

“Are you good with water or would you like something else from the fridge?” Soojin picks up Shuhua’s wine glass and pours it into hers.

“Water is fine.”

Soojin refills Shuhua’s glass with water before she motions toward the living room. “Let’s go to the sofa, would you like to watch anything?”

“I’m good with anything.” Shuhua looks at the comfortable sofa and her mind is already racing with possibilities.

“Okay … we can watch a show that Soyeon recommended to me.” Soojin picks up the remote control and changes the output to Netflix.

“What is it called?” Shuhua puts her water glass and Soojin’s wine glass down on the coffee table.

“It’s called Save Me.” Soojin scrolls through her watchlist, looking for the photo of Seo Yeji. “She said something about Ok Taecyeon being really good in it.”

“The guy from 2PM?” Shuhua doesn’t follow many boy groups, but she’s at least heard of 2PM.

“Yeah.” Soojin puts down the remote after selecting the series. “Hold on, let me go get your present.”

“Present? I thought we weren’t doing presents.” Shuhua looks surprised.

“Well, I got you a little something.” Soojin smiles as she walks into her room. Soon, she returns with a small brown box, neatly wrapped with twine and decorated with a little sprig.

Shuhua stands up to accept the present that’s offered to her.

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Thank you.” Shuhua looks at the present. “Can I open it?”

“Go ahead.”

Shuhua tugs the twine free, then peels back the wrapping to reveal a black box. “Mason Pearson Hair Brush.” The box describes a boar bristle hair brush that is made in London, England. Shuhua could tell that it’s an expensive item. She takes the brush out of the box and feels the heft of it in her hand.

“It’s supposed to keep your hair healthy and shiny.” Soojin explains. “I really like how long and silky your hair is … it’s very pretty.”

Shuhua blushes and nods before running the bristle through her hair. “Thank you, JinJin.”

“I hope you’ll get good use out of it.” Soojin adds as she reaches out to touch the ends of Shuhua’s hair.

“… Can you brush my hair for me?” Shuhua takes Soojin’s hand and leads her to the sofa. Shuhua sits down with her back to Soojin, who takes the brush. Soojin likes the sound that the bristles make as they glide through Shuhua’s silken locks. Shuhua’s hair has always been one of her most attractive points to Soojin.

“How long have you grown your hair out?” Soojin runs her fingers through Shuhua’s hair, along with the brush, causing Shuhua to shiver happily. Soojin’s attention is always welcomed to the younger woman.

“About 7 years or so.”

“That’s quite a long time.”

“Yeah, my whole family likes long hair. My aunt and sister look exactly like me from behind. My dad said he doesn’t like it when I cut my hair because I’m prettiest with long hair.” Shuhua explains.

“I also like long hair …” Soojin runs her fingers from the root of Shuhua’s hair to the end, watching it slip through her fingers like water.

“I also have something for you.” Shuhua turns around and goes for her purse, thus denying Soojin of the small pleasure from her hair.

“I thought we weren’t doing presents.” Soojin teases, mimicking Shuhua’s earlier question. She puts the brush down on her coffee table.

“Well, I got you a little something.” Shuhua uses Soojin’s own answer. She hands Soojin a box that looks like it was wrapped by a child. Gift wrapping is not one of Shuhua’s talents.

Soojin presses her lips together, trying not to smile at the way the present looks. She gently tears along the edges to reveal a bottle of perfume. “Bvlgari Omnia Coral …”

“I know you like to wear perfume and I know that you don’t like anything too strong or flowery, this is a light and fresh scent … I hope you’ll like it.” Shuhua nervously explains her present. It’s hard to pick perfume because she hasn’t known Soojin that long to be able to pick out exactly what the older woman would like. This has more notes of berries, does Soojin even like berries? Shuhua starts to second guess her pick.

Soojin tests it by spraying it into the air and letting the droplets waft into her. “It’s a nice scent.” She turns her attention to Shuhua. “Thank you for this thoughtful present.”

As Soojin is about to re-cap the perfume and put it away, Shuhua grabs her hand and stays it. “I want to smell it on you.”

Soojin is taken back by the assertiveness shown. “Um … I’m already wearing perfume, I don’t think it’ll mix well.”

“I insist, Unnie.” Shuhua levels her gaze with Soojin.

“It’s not going to smell right …” Soojin tries to reason with Shuhua, but the younger is already using her puppy eyes. “Fine.” Soojin relents and holds her right wrist in front of her. She sprays once onto her wrist and waits for the alcohol to evaporate before holding her wrist toward Shuhua.

The younger leans, brushing her nose against Soojin’s wrist. Soojin wants to say that she doesn’t have to sniff that closely, but the touch sends a chill up her spine. “I can’t smell it.” Shuhua shakes her head.

“What?” Soojin holds her wrist up to her nostrils and catches a noseful of the scent. “You can’t?”

“No.” Shuhua has a genuine look on her face, so Soojin feels bad for doubting her.

“Okay, then …” Soojin sprays again on her left wrist, “How about now?”

Shuhua leans in again, also brushing her nose against Soojin’s wrist. “No. I still can’t?”

“Really?” Soojin asks suspiciously, because she can smell it strongly.

“Really!” Shuhua loudly declares before taking the bottle away from Soojin. She sprays once on one wrist before rubbing them together.

“You know that’s a myth to rub your wrist together …” Soojin tries to explain, but Shuhua reaches out, slips under Soojin’s hair and rubs her wrists against the areas behind Soojin’s ears. Shuhua is right to apply the perfume at pulse points, but she’s overwhelming Soojin with this new scent. She could smell it everywhere.

“Let me try now.” Shuhua puts down the bottle and gets on her knees on the sofa. She leans forward and pushes Soojin against the armrest of the sofa.

“Shuhua …” Soojin finds herself trapped between Shuhua’s weight and the armrest.

Shuhua approaches Soojin’s neck and closes her eyes as she inhales deeply. Her lips barely touching Soojin’s skin as she lingers there to savor the scent. “I can smell it now.”

“Shuhua.” Soojin mutters with her eyes closed, she’s also savoring the closeness of Shuhua. “You’re being too greedy.” She lets out a held breath, trying to calm her steadily climbing heart rate.

“I just want to smell my present all over you.” Shuhua brushes her nose against Soojin’s neck.

Soojin inhales then answers. “ You could’ve just gotten to the point instead of making me do all this.”

“I’ll be more direct next time.” Shuhua kisses Soojin’s throat, causing the older woman to unconsciously swallow.

Soojin opens her eyes and looks at Shuhua. Her heart swells upon seeing the look on Shuhua’s face, it’s full of adoration and excitement. Soojin wants Shuhua to look at her like this all day, everyday. She reaches behind Shuhua’s head and pulls the younger woman toward her until their lips touch. Soojin’s kisses are soft, warm, and breathless. She likes it slow and thorough, letting her feel the warmth from Shuhua’s skin and tasting the faint taste of wine from before.

Shuhua doesn’t need to drink because nothing could compare to the buzz that she gets from Soojin’s lips. The ebb and flow between them causes her heart to race, though Soojin’s agonizingly slow pace will drive Shuhua insane. This is her day to lead. Her hands reach up and holds Soojin’s face in place as her kisses become more fervent and wanton. Soojin called her greedy earlier, but how could she not when this is what she’s been waiting patiently for all this time?

Soojin senses the urgency in Shuhua’s kisses. Their soft, chaste kisses have turned into passionate, unrestrained kisses. Soojin finds her hands grasping onto Shuhua’s shirt, pulling her closer. She can hear the wet sounds of their tongues and lips, making her blush hotly. Her head feels so light as the butterflies in her stomach quickly multiple. Shuhua reaches down and grabs her thighs, pulling her body toward Shuhua until she’s laying down on the sofa.

“Shuhua, wait.” Soojin tries to find her voice as Shuhua is trailing kisses down her neck again. “Wait.” Either her voice is too soft or the younger girl is ignoring her. “Shuhua.” Soojin reaches down and holds Shuhua’s face, forcing her to look at Soojin. “Wait.” The look of surprise and nervousness in Shuhua’s face is simply too adorable. Soojin is no virgin, but the thought of going further with Shuhua gives her a little pause. It is not that she doesn’t want to love Shuhua, but she’s nervous that she’s going to be consumed by this girl.

Shuhua blinks, waiting for Soojin to say something. “Jin-ah …” Shuhua turns her head and kisses Soojin’s palm. “Do you want to stop?” Shuhua seems saddened by the thought, but if Soojin is not ready, she’s not going to push it.

“No.” Soojin clears her throat and shakes her head. “No, I don’t want to stop.” She repeats again in a firmer voice after finding her resolution. “Um … can we move to the bedroom instead?” Her voice shakes at the suggestion.

Shuhua’s face lights up and she happily hops off the sofa. “Okay!” She didn’t need to be told twice. Shuhua is tempted to carry Soojin bridal style into the room, but that might be overdoing it. Instead, she helps Soojin onto her feet and lets Soojin lead her into the bedroom. Shuhua never been inside Soojin’s bedroom, not that she hasn’t taken a peek before. She’s been over enough time to have some stolen peeks out of curiosity, but the lights were out every time, so she couldn’t really see in much detail.

Soojin turns the lights on at a dim setting before pooling her hair to one side of her shoulder, exposing her back. She turns her cheek halfway toward Shuhua and glances over her shoulder at the younger woman. Without needing Soojin to ask, Shuhua smiles and happily unzips Soojin’s dress, exposing her shoulder blades and back. While she’s there, Shuhua takes the opportunity to unclasp Soojin’s bra as well.

Soojin shivers, maybe from the exposure or anticipation. Shuhua leans in and places a soft kiss at the base of Soojin’s neck before sliding the bra strap and the dress off one shoulder at a time. Both items fall to the ground and collect at Soojin’s feet, leaving Soojin only in her panties and stockings. Shuhua brushes her fingertips against Soojin’s tattoo on her shoulder and arm before her lips are pressed along Soojin’s spine.

Soojin feels so strange, standing there and letting Shuhua explore her body. She could feel the glee and excitement from Shuhua’s touch. Her breath hitches a notch as she feels Shuhua’s hands cupping her breasts from behind. She can feel the younger woman massaging and appraising the way they feel in her hands.

“Your hands are cold.” Soojin whines softly.

“Sorry, I should’ve warmed them first.” Shuhua hugs Soojin from behind, sharing some warmth with Soojin’s back. “I’m just too excited.” Shuhua whispers into Soojin’s ear before gently nipping it.

Soojin likes the feeling of Shuhua’s teeth on her ear, but she’ll die before she admits that out loud. She feels her body being pulled along toward the bed, when she is seated at the edge. She is treated to a show of Shuhua taking off her top and jeans, but leaving her undergarment on. Soojin frowns at the inequality in their level of undress. As she is about to complain, Shuhua kneels down in front of her. Slowly, Shuhua spreads Soojin’s legs and leans into kiss Soojin’s inner thigh. Shuhua then trails her kisses down Soojin’s right leg, as she rolls down that stocking. Then she repeats on the left leg until both stockings are on the ground.

Shuhua has decided to take it slow, despite her wanting to rip everything apart right now, she wants  to match Soojin’s pace more. Her eyes look up at Soojin, wanting reassurance, which Soojin readily gives to her in the form of a nose tap. Shuhua pulls off Soojin’s panties and lifts one of Soojin’s thighs onto her shoulder. She goes in with soft kisses first, just teasing Soojin with her lips, making the older woman quiver with anticipation.

Soojin could tell that she’s being teased because Shuhua barely puts any force into her lips or tongue. It’s fine at first, but as Soojin grows wetter and more aroused, it becomes frustrating. “Shuhua.” Soojin high-key whines and low-key begs.

Smiling, Shuhua knows that Soojin needs her right now. She doesn’t play around anymore. Her languid tongue applies a slow, hot stroke upward between Soojin’s folds. She repeats it twice with more force lingering on Soojin’s clit each time. Soojin’s head lulls back as she props herself up with one hand while the other encouragingly pets Shuhua’s hair. Soojin can’t help herself but moans each time Shuhua prods her tongue deeper inside her. Soojin’s gentle petting becomes hair pulling when she grabs a handful of Shuhua’s hair. Soon, she loses all strength in her body as she limply lays her back down on the bed.

Shuhua lets Soojin move fully onto the bed while she takes off her bra and undies. She climbs onto the bed, about to continue her “lip service”, but Soojin calls her name. “Shuhua … can you … I want to please you, too.”

It takes a moment for the thought to dawn on Shuhua’s easy to read face. “You want … to sixty-nine?”

Soojin nods slowly. She just couldn’t bring herself to say it. She’s happy Shuhua is here to say things she’s too shy to say herself.

Shuhua is happy with Soojin’s forward suggestion. For some reason, she’d expected to lead the entire time since this is Soojin’s first time with a woman. She’d expect Soojin to lay back and just enjoy the ride. For Soojin to be an eager and willing participant is far exceeding Shuhua’s expectations. She complies with the request, moving so that her mouth are back on Soojin’s sex while her sex hovers above Soojin.

Shuhua didn’t know what to expect as she continued to pleasure Soojin. Yet, when Soojin’s tongue touches her folds, an uncontrolled whimper escapes from Shuhua’s lips. She wasn’t fully prepared for the way Soojin is touching her with both her tongue and fingers. They both try to focus on the other, but the sensations overwhelm them. Their bodies move according to their lustful desires. Overexcited Shuhua is the first to come, almost squeezing Soojin to death when her thighs tighten so violently. Soojin comes shortly after, because Shuhua increases the speed of her fingers and from the knowledge that she made Shuhua come.

Feeling spent, they lay beside each other, feet to head, as they lack the energy to correct their position. They bask in each other’s high.

“Wow.” Shuhua laughs softly.

“What?” Soojin wants to know what’s so funny.

Shuhua holds her thumb up. “You … you’re just … wow.”

Soojin laughs, too. She gently rubs Shuhua’s leg besides her. “I know, right?”

Shuhua jerks herself up and looks at Soojin while pointing at herself expectantly. Soojin gets that she wants praise, but Soojin just closes her eyes and pretends to be asleep.

“JinJin!” Shuhua shakes her girlfriend. “Don’t leave me hanging like that.”

Soojin pretends to roll onto her side, turning the other way, but Shuhua continues to shake her.

“You were wow, too.” Soojin says softly, too shy to look at Shuhua while saying such lame things.

“Say it louder!” Shuhua yells and smacks Soojin’s butt, leaving a red handprint on Soojin’s pale skin.

“Yah! That hurts!” Soojin sits up to face Shuhua, who suddenly grabs her face and kisses her fiercely. Soojin melts into the kiss, letting Shuhua take charge of her.

When there is a pause, Shuhua rests her forehead against Soojin’s. “I smell myself on you. I can still smell the perfume on you. You’re mine, Seo Soojin.”

Soojin watches those possessive lips saying such obsessive things, but instead of being repulsed, she feels comforted that Shuhua likes her this much. “Yours.” She reaffirms those feelings.

They hold each other and kiss tenderly until they both decide that they feel hungry. Soojin puts on a robe and goes to the kitchen to make some kimchi fried rice along with some other things. Shuhua puts on an oversized shirt from Soojin’s closet and watches Soojin cook.

“Jin-ah.” Shuhua suddenly calls out.

“Hmm?” Soojin looks back at Shuhua as she stirs.

“Is it okay if I tell you that I love you?” Shuhua is still nervous that she might scare Soojin away.

Soojin stares at Shuhua for a moment before shyly nodding.

“I love you, Seo Soojin.” Shuhua happily declares.

Soojin shyly nods again before turning off the stove. She walks over to Shuhua and throws her arms around the younger woman, knowing that it took her a lot of patience and courage to say those words to Soojin. “I love you, Yeh Shuhua.”

Shuhua hugs Soojin tightly before she starts to jump, causing Soojin to wobble around with her. “I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you …” She says it so many times that Soojin lost count, partly from the dizzying effect of Shuhua’s jumping and spinning.

“Wait. Stop.” Soojin laughs and protests, but doesn’t physically try to stop Shuhua. She gets caught up in Shuhua’s excitement, it’s the first time someone is this happy to profess their love for her.

“C’mon! This is the best day of my life!”

“I hope we can always be this way.”

Shuhua is taken back by the sudden sadness in Soojin’s voice. “What’s wrong?”

Soojin turns to look at Shuhua. “I’m sorry that came out of nowhere … I’ve been thinking about something …”

“What is it?” Shuhua puts one hand on Soojin’s shoulder encouragingly.

“If you don’t find any suitable opportunity in Korea after your training … are you going back to Taiwan?” Soojin gives voice to the thought that has been plaguing her mind since new year.

Shuhua slowly nods. “I … the plan was to go back home eventually. I love it here and I came here because I knew I would learn a lot …” Shuhua steels herself to look into Soojin’s eyes. “But it’s not home, I’ll always be the foreigner here. People can tell from my name, they can hear it in my accent.”

Soojin has always thought that Shuhua’s accent and over-exaggerated speech is cute, she hadn’t considered it to be strange and foreign to other people.

“That’s been the plan … but …” Shuhua reaches for both of Soojin’s hands. “Plans change.”

Soojin blinks rapidly.

“Would you like me to stay here?”

Such a strange question that’s been posed to Soojin. “Of course, I want you to stay. Stay here with me. I want to say that and make you stay here, but if it doesn’t feel like home to you …”

“We can make a home anywhere if we’re together. We know that we love each other.”

“You’re right … I know I’m probably worrying too much, I just never considered that you might want to leave Korea before.”

“Would you like to come to Taiwan with me?”

Soojin is surprised again. She takes a moment to consider it before nodding. “If I can find an opportunity there, I would come with you.”

“See? We might even move to Egypt or something, we don’t know yet.”

“Egypt?” Soojin is confused where that came from.

“I’ve always wanted to go there.”

“Maybe to visit?”

“For a couple’s trip?” Shuhua yelps excitedly.

“Yeah.”

“After we visit Taiwan, you can meet my family first.”

“Okay.”

“They’ll love you. My parents are excited to meet their daughter-in-law.”

“We’re not married yet.” Soojin keeps reminding Shuhua.

“Yet!”

“Hey! You tricked me!”

Their serious discussion is interrupted by their excitement for travel. In the future, they may have to revisit this topic once again, when it’s time for them to see if they can continue to grow with each other. For now, Shuhua gets to eat Soojin’s kimchi fried rice and watch tv with Soojin. She gets to help Soojin wash up after they’re done. She gets to cuddle and kiss Soojin while they’re lounging on the sofa. She gets to take Soojin to bed and loves her all over. Home is when she’s around with Soojin, she can make a home here in Korea. Shuhua stays over and in the morning, they go to work together. Shuhua is confidently wearing some of Soojin’s clothes while Soojin is happily wearing the perfume that Shuhua bought her.



Chapter Text

Kim Minnie, a young woman full of cuteness and charisma, is dancing along in her kitchen to some light music. She alternates between singing and whistling along to the familiar tune. Sometimes, using her teacup as a microphone as she belts out some high notes. She adds a teaspoon of honey to her tea before turning back toward the living room.

“Ramyeon, do you want sugar in your tea?” Minnie looks at her girlfriend, who is fretting over the luggage and packages.

“No.” Miyeon shakes her head as she tries to straighten some things in one of the luggages.

Minnie adds just a dash of milk to Miyeon’s cup before bringing both cups out to the living room. She stops next to Miyeon and tries to hand the stressed woman the cup, but is promptly ignored. “Take a deep breath, Miyeonnie. Have a bit of tea, it’ll help calm your nerves.”

“I can’t! I woke up late. Well, you didn’t wake me up. Now I’m not sure if I got everything!” Miyeon sounds panicked.

Minnie groans and puts the cups down on her coffee table before grabbing hold of Miyeon’s shoulders. “Chill, Miyeonnie. Chill. We’re going to visit your mom, not some stranger.”

“I know, but I want us to make a good impression as a couple!”

“What does that even mean?”

“I don’t know! She didn’t really say anything when I told her that we’re dating and I’m bringing you home … so I want it to go perfect so she can’t say that we’re not good together. I just want her to really accept us and think that we’re great together …” Miyeon runs out of breath so she has to stop for a moment.

“Whoa whoa, take a deep breath. Come, sit down with me.” Minnie takes Miyeon’s hand and pulls the reluctant woman along.

“I still have …” Miyeon whines, but Minnie shushes her with a finger on her lips.

“Just take a minute to have a nice cup of tea with me. Then, we will get ready to go to the train station. I know that you love your mom and your mom loves you. You want her to be happy with us.” Minnie hands Miyeon the cup of tea while stroking her girlfriend’s back. “It’ll be okay. I promise.”

Miyeon looks at Minnie’s gentle smile and nods. She sips on the warm, perfectly brewed drink and lets the warmth calm her down. Usually, she’s the calm, reasonable one in this relationship. Yet, their roles are reversed today. “How are you so calm about this?” It’s Minnie’s first formal meeting with Miyeon’s mom. Miyeon had expected the younger woman to be a little nervous.

“Oh, I’m freaking out, trust me. But, I have to be calm to be charming and charming I shall be. I’m going to charm the pants off that woman!” Minnie has her determined face one.

“What?”

“What what?”

“Why would you want to charm the pants off my mom?”

“It’s a figure of speech, Miyeonie!”

They laugh together while finishing their tea. After the liquid settles warmly in Miyeon’s stomach, she feels a whole lot better. “Thanks for the tea.” She leans in to give Minnie a chaste kiss. There’s still a bit of honey lingering on those plump lips, causing her to run her tongue between their lips.

Minnie closes her eyes to fully indulge in the sensation of the kiss. “I’ll wash the cups and we can get going.” She says after Miyeon has pulled back.

“Okay.” Miyeon squeezes Minnie’s chin before getting up to get her things together.

“Has anyone told you that you’re a good kisser?” Minnie teases.

“Oh quite a few people.” Miyeon teases back.

“How many?” Minnie squints her eyes at Miyeon.

“A lot.”

“Let me have their contact info so I can congratulate them on being right.”

“You’re silly.”

They share another laugh before going about their tasks. When Minnie is done washing the cups, she puts on her coat while Miyeon puts on her jacket. Together, they make their way out the door and travel to the train station. Miyeon’s home in Busan would take them around three hours of train time, not including traveling to and from the stations. For once, they are both running on time, despite Miyeon’s late start.

 

 

“Are there any ground rules I should know with your family?” Minnie wants to have all her bases covered.

Miyeon juts her lips out while she thinks, “Not really. It’s just me and my mom, so we don’t have a lot of rules.”

Miyeon’s father passed when she was too young to remember. It was a car accident, one like many others, but this one changed Miyeon’s entire life. After that, it was just Miyeon and her mom for a long time. Now, it’s just her mom back at home.

“You didn’t have any rules growing up?” Minnie unwraps a pack of candy.

“Not really, mainly just keep my grades up and graduate. My mom doesn’t believe in high pressure parenting, she says that she’ll be happy for me whatever I do, as long as I am happy.”

“She sounds chill.” Minnie has only met Miyeon’s mom briefly when she came to visit Miyeon at the hospital. Minnie remembers thinking how much Miyeon looks like her mom. They’re both very soft spoken people with gentle smiles.

“You’ve met her.”

“I know, last year … but we basically just said hi and bye, I didn’t really get to talk to her.” Minnie offers the package of sour lemon candy to Miyeon.

“Thank you.” Miyeon happily accepts the addictive little sour drops. She pops one in her mouth right away.

Minnie smiles, seeing how happy Miyeon looks. “You really like those huh?”

“Yeah, I do. But it’s your fault for introducing them to me and now I can’t stop eating them … If I get cavities, I’ll definitely hold you accountable.”

Minnie laughs and shrugs. “Sure, when you lose all your teeth, I’ll cook very soft food so you can eat them.”

“You’re not gonna dump me?”

“Well … I didn’t say that, I said I’d cook for you.”

“Yah!” Miyeon yells into Minnie’s ear, but also startling the passengers around them. When she realizes that people were staring, she groans in embarrassment and buries her face into Minnie’s shoulder. Minnie just chuckles in amusement.

“I’m just kidding, Miyeonnie. Even if you lose all your teeth, I’ll still love you.”

“Shut up. I don’t need your sweet talking right now.” Miyeon is still too embarrassed to look around.

“I’m serious … when you get old and wrinkly, I’ll still want to kiss you.”

“You forget that you’re also gonna be old and wrinkly at that time. What makes you think I’ll want to kiss you?”

“Hopefully I’ll still be rich enough to afford plastic surgery.” Minnie laughs and stretches her skins back from her cheeks. “I’ll just have them pull all my saggy skin back like this.”

“Ewww, no! Get away from me.” Miyeon laughs hard when she sees her girlfriend’s ridiculous look.

“Are you saying this isn’t a kissable face?” Minnie makes kissy fish lips toward Miyeon, who keeps her at arm-length.

“Yah.”

Minnie just laughs and pulls Miyeon close to her. “We have to get all of our play out before we get to your mom’s place.”

“Why is that?”

“What if she thinks we’re weirdos and don’t like us together?”

“Ooh … I didn’t think of that.”

“I can’t believe that you told her about us already.”

“I don’t hide anything from my mom. It’s too much pressure.” Miyeon turns more toward Minnie. “Besides, I don’t see why I have to hide our relationship.”

Minnie is still surprised by Miyeon’s frankness sometimes. She loves that about this woman, she is a little goofy but she’s so sincere and sweet. “I didn’t mean it that way … I’m just pleasantly surprised.”

“Why are you surprised? Have you not told your parents about me?” Miyeon frowns at Minnie.

“No, not yet.” Minnie shakes her head.

Miyeon purses her lips, looking like she’s going to cry. Minnie hates herself for making her girlfriend mad … but who could resist that face? Miyeon’s normal and happy expressions are pretty, but her mad expression has this extremely adorable lure to it. “And why not?” Miyeon stresses each word.

“I was going to surprise you later, but I booked us a trip to Thailand for the summer. I even squared it away with the scheduler. You can meet my parents and my brothers. It’ll be an amazing surprise for them.” Minnie tries to stay as aloof as possible.

“Oh Minnie!” Miyeon throws her arms around Minnie and hugs her tightly. “You’re the best!”

Once again, the ruckus brings attention to them, so they sink a little further down in their seats to dodge people’s curious and slightly annoyed stares. Minnie puts one finger on her lips while smiling at Miyeon, who does the same. They simmer down for a little bit before planning their summer vacation. It’s a long train ride all the way to Miyeon’s hometown, so they might as well settle in.

 

 

“From here, we’ll catch a taxi to the house. Mom is still at the shop, so we’ll drop the stuff off then go meet her there.” Miyeon puts away her phone and smiles, looking half apologetic to Minnie. She doesn’t know why but she feels like she wants to apologize that her mom isn’t here to greet them like other parents might be.

“Cool. I’ll get to see the shop today, then.” Minnie is a little too oblivious to notice the apology written on Miyeon’s face. She looks around and waves her hand toward a taxi.

They load their luggage into the trunk of the car before hopping into the backseat. After Miyeon tells the driver her mom’s address, she rests her head on Minnie’s shoulder and relaxes. She’s so happy to be able to be home. Even though she lives in Seoul, she always regards this city as her home. It’s just a different atmosphere, a more relaxed vibe that is closer to her heart. Miyeon is excited to see her mom and show Minnie around her city.

It’s been about four months since Miyeon came home for Chuseok. At that time, Minnie and her were in a whole different place than where they are now. At that time, Miyeon couldn’t even fathom a happy future for both of them, since she and Minnie were drifting apart. Miyeon turns to look at Minnie, who’s glancing around and checking out the sights. Sensing that Miyeon is staring at her, Minnie turns and looks at her with a half-grin.

“What?” Minnie asks. “Do I have something on my face?”

“Yeah …” Miyeon leans in and places a kiss on Minnie’s cheek. “Me.”

“Yikes. That sounds like a serious condition.” Minnie pretends to be scared.

“Yes, it’s terminal.” Miyeon giggles and hugs Minnie tightly. “If you try to remove me, you’ll die. But if you leave me be, you’ll live a long and happy life.”

“Oh? Is that how it is?” Minnie wraps her arms around Miyeon, hugging her just as tightly.

“Yeah!” Miyeon smiles when Minnie kisses her cheek.

“Well ...” Minnie leans closer to Miyeon’s ear, whispering softly enough just for Miyeon to hear. “You can get on my face later.”

“Pervert.” Miyeon hits Minnie repeatedly while Minnie laughs.

Their banter back and forth is interrupted by their taxi driver’s cough. He coughed so loudly and exaggeratedly that the girls think he meant to interrupt their loud flirting. They both settle down and smile sheepishly at each other while holding hands. They’re just disrupting people wherever they go today.

 

 

“This is the kitchen, you can put the stuff down here on the counter.” Miyeon is giving Minnie a quick tour of her humble abode. It’s a two bedroom apartment with a very comfortable, homey feel to it. It’s about the size of Miyeon’s current apartment. Minnie slips out of her shows before she looks around curiously. “So this is your childhood home …” Minnie tries not to snoop as she carries things into the kitchen, but it happens naturally and she can’t stop herself.

As she passes by some photos on the walls, Minnie stops in her tracks. They’re full of Miyeon’s happy faces.

“You were the most adorable baby ever … oh my gosh!” Minnie laughs when she finally gets to the wall full of Miyeon’s baby pictures. “Look at those chunky thighs!”

“Hey! They’re not that chunky!” Miyeon goes over to see what photos her girlfriend is looking at.

“Yeah they are. Look! They’re just rolls of baby fat. You were practically the Michelin baby.”

“That’s mean!” Miyeon hits Minnie’s shoulder as the other girl tries to dodge her attack.

“I love chunky babies. And you were the chunkiest so I love you the mostest!” Minnie catches Miyeon’s hands and tries to keep the older woman from attacking again.

“Stop saying chunky!” Miyeon huffs before turning away from Minnie. She suddenly hears the sound of camera shutters behind her. When she turns around, she sees that Minnie is using her phone to take pictures of everything on the wall.

“What are you doing?”

“Gotta save these pictures in my phone for a rainy day, when I need a little cheering up.” Minnie gleefully snaps away.

“No stop, no more! You’re just going to use them to make fun of me later.” Miyeon tries to cover the camera lens.

“Alright alright, I’ll stop if you don’t like it.” Minnie puts her phone away before Miyeon gets too upset with her.

Miyeon pouts and pushes Minnie away when the younger woman tries to hug her. “You’re always picking on me.”

“That’s not true … but I do like to pick on you, because you’re just too cute to leave alone.” Minnie tries to hug Miyeon again.

“Why can’t you like to be nicer and compliment me all the time instead?”

“That’d be too boring, right?”

“No.” Miyeon rolls her eyes for the umpteenth time.

“Awww you’re so cute. Let me kiss them cheeks!” Minnie laughs and tries to reach for Miyeon’s cheeks.

“No, get away …” Miyeon laughs as she tries to swat away Minnie’s hands. This is what they do when they are alone, always teasing and messing with each other. Well, mostly Minnie doing the teasing and messing while Miyeon gets sulky.

“Can we continue with the tour before I make you mad again?”

“Fine.” Miyeon stomps her feet and leads Minnie around the modest apartment, she makes no attempt of being a good tour guide. Meanwhile, Minnie cannot hide her gleeful smile. She really shouldn’t keep making fun of Miyeon, but once again, her addiction to that pouty face is making her a terrible girlfriend.

“This is my room.” Miyeon opens a door and immediately feels Minnie hug her from behind.

“Our room.” Minnie corrects Miyeon before adding, “Temporarily.”

“I’ll only share with you if you stop being mean to me.”

“I wasn’t …” Minnie sees no point in arguing further, so she shuts her mouth and nods. “I promise.” She hugs Miyeon tightly and nuzzles her cheek against Miyeon’s. “I promise that I’ll be more careful.”

It wasn’t what Miyeon had asked for, but she also finds it fruitless to keep arguing. She nods and turns around. “We can’t bicker in front of my mom. Be on your best behavior, okay?”

“Aye aye, cap’n.” Minnie salutes Miyeon, which earns her a belly jab. “Ouch.”

“I wonder if I should roll the futon out for you …” Miyeon chews on her lower lip.

“What? Futon?” Minnie gasps. “Why can’t I be in the bed?”

“Because it’s my bed …”

“But I’m the honored guest, I should be on the bed and you should be on the futon.”

“That’s not happening.”

“Then we will just have to share the bed!” Minnie holds Miyeon’s hips and guides her toward the bed. “There’s plenty of room for both of us.”

“I guess that will have to do if we both want to sleep on the bed.” Miyeon pretends to give in and lets Minnie seat her down on the mattress.

“The problem is …” Minnie climbs on and straddles Miyeon’s lap, “I don’t know if I will be able to keep my hands to myself at night …”

Miyeon tilts her head back as Minnie brushes her hair out of her face. Her hands gently rubbing Minnie’s outer thigh. “Don’t worry about that, Minnie-ah. I know that we’re both going to fall asleep right after we lay down in bed.”

Minnie frowns, looking up Miyeon with a doubtful expression. “That’s not true.”

Miyeon smiles knowingly. “You know that it is … unless it’s a special night, we just fall right asleep when we get into bed.”

“What? Us?” Minnie tries to argue, “I don’t think so. You make us sound like super old people who sleep unless they plan for sex.”

Miyeon stares at Minnie for a moment before nodding. “Yeah, that’s us.”

“I am offended.” Minnie climbs off Miyeon’s lap and shakes her head. “That’s not us at all. I will not be a boring old lady! Take off your clothes right now, Miyeon!”

Miyeon snorts and shakes her head. “No no, we don’t have time for that. We have to finish unpacking the stuff then go meet my mom at her shop.”

“We can spare some minutes.” As Miyeon tries to get up from the bed, Minnie’s clingy hands try to tug her shirt upward.

“Hey hey, keep your hands to yourself.” Miyeon crosses her arms in front of her chest. “Pervert. I’m not your quickie.” She scoots around Minnie, who continues to playfully make grabs at her, before dashing out of the room.

Minnie laughs and chases Miyeon into the kitchen, where they tire each other out by running around the island. Before long, they have to get back to unpacking and putting things in order for later, when Miyeon’s mom comes home. Minnie just can’t keep her hands off Miyeon, claiming that she’s still a hotblooded, hormonal young woman. She’s no old lady.

 

 

The walk to Miyeon’s mom’s shop is a short, peaceful stroll. Minnie and Miyeon hold hands while they walk. Miyeon is sure to point out her favorite convenient store, bike shop, book store, etc. as they pass by. Minnie snaps a photo of each location to help her remember Miyeon’s favorite places.

“Here we are.” Miyeon suddenly announces in front of a flower shop.

“Already?” Minnie utters in surprise before looking up to the sign that hangs overhead. “The Green Room.” What a curious name for a flower shop.

“C’mon, I’ll show you around.” Miyeon tugs Minnie’s hand as she pulls her girlfriend through the entrance.

The entrance is open, showcasing a variety of flowers in different arrangements. The flower shop is like many, where bouquets range from modest to extravagant and also to suit different occasions. The sweet fragrance of flowers entrances Minnie. She takes deep, pleasing breaths as Miyeon stops in front of the cashier. “Hey there, is my mom around?”

“Hey Miyeon, she’s in the back organizing the inventory. She’s almost done, though … I think.” A guy around their age answers, but his eyes are on their held hands.

“Okay, thank you. Happy new year!” Miyeon cheerfully replies before pulling Minnie along.

“Thanks. Happy new year to you.” The guy responds and nods at Minnie.

The Green Room is beyond Minnie’s expectations. For some reason, she’d expected a small little shop with Miyeon’s mom as a cute little florist. It turns out to be a pretty decent sized business. There are surprisingly quite a few people milling about the store, looking at trinkets, flowers or gift sets.

“Oh my gosh!” Minnie exclaims when the shop’s actual name sake actually comes into view.

Behind the plethora of flowers displayed at the front half of the store is a cafe with walls covered in ivy and plenty of potted plants hang from the ceiling. There are intimate small round tables for two around the room, with small vases of flowers in the center. The ceiling is covered with skylights, basically ceiling windows that allow the maximum amount of sunlight in. There are also string lights all around the walls, making this one of the most dreamy and romantic spots Minnie has ever seen.

As Minnie gawks, Miyeon leads her girlfriend through a set of glass doors. There is a posted sign that says ‘closed’ but seeing that she’s the owner’s daughter, she can go as she please. Immediately, the scent of tea envelopes both of them and adds to the welcoming atmosphere of the cafe.

“What …”

“This is the Green Room, mom’s lifelong dream. She’s always wanted to open a tea house where people can immerse in natural beauty while enjoying some calming tea and desserts.”

“I am … blown away.” Minnie’s mouth still hangs open as she mutters softly to Miyeon. “This is amazing.”

“Yeah … it is, isn’t it?” Miyeon smiles proudly at her mom’s hard work. “Are you surprised?”

“Surprised … shocked … amazed … stunned …” Minnie stumbles through all of the synonyms, trying to find the right word to describe what she’s feeling.

“Stupefied?” Miyeon offers some minor assistance.

“Stupefied!” Minnie yelps in agreement. “This place is like a dream, your mom did a fantastic job. I wish this was in Seoul so we can go visit more often … oh my gosh, how cool would it be to have a piano playing in here?”

Miyeon is amused that her girlfriend is losing it over her mom’s tea house. Part of her wants to be humble, but most of her wants Minnie to continue to blow this out of proportion. Miyeon had put a lot of summer and weekends working here with her mom, so she is very proud of this shop.

“Miyeon, you’re here.” A soft, feminine voice calls out.

Miyeon turns around and immediately runs to her mom with her hands out like a child. “Umma.” She embraces her mother tightly and plants a small kiss on her mom’s cheek. “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Silly girl, you just saw me recently.” Miyeon’s mom gently pats her daughter’s back. Even though she teases her daughter, she still hugs her closely. Eventually, her attention drifts toward Minnie, who quickly straightens up and bows deeply.

“Nice to see you again, Mrs. Cho.” Minnie errs on the side of being more formal.

“Nice to see you, too, Minnie.” Miyeon’s mom smiles politely before motioning toward one table. “Why don’t you two have a seat? I’ll bring us some tea and snacks.”

“I can do it, umma.” Miyeon tries to offer, but her mom is already several steps away to Minnie’s relief. She’s not ready to just sit here one on one with Miyeon’s mom just yet.

Miyeon pulls up another chair to their table, “It’ll just be a moment.”

Minnie puts her fingertips together and eye-smiles, “I love tea and snacks.”

“Glutton.” Miyeon chuckles and reaches over to gently pet Minnie’s hair. “A cute one, though.”

“Aren’t I the cutest?” Minnie turns on her most charming of eye-smile, forming two crescents.

“You look like that shiba inu meme.”

“I’m way cuter than that.” Minnie frowns in protest.

As they bicker back and forth, Miyeon’s mom brings in a tray full of desserts and tea. Minnie and Miyeon both get up to try to help, but Mrs. Cho says that she can handle it. She pours them some tea from a glass teapot into small glass cups. On the serving tray sits little cream puffs, cake, and cookies.

“This is our Winter Blend, it’s a light fragrance tea and it’ll warm you up.” Mrs. Cho puts one in front of each person before having a seat herself.

“Thank you.” Both Miyeon and Minnie respond before taking a sip.

Minnie really likes the light aroma of the tea. Being an avid tea drinker herself, she takes time to let the steam mist over her face before taking a sip. Instantly the warmth from the tea travels down to her belly and she feels a lot more relaxed. Maybe Mrs. Cho intentionally chose this tea to help her relax? Or for all of them to relax? Minnie can’t tell, but she is grateful for this tea.

“How was your train ride here?” Mrs. Cho asks while pushing a small plate of cake toward Minnie.

“It was good, crowded as expected but smooth with no delay.” Miyeon answers her mother while watching her girlfriend delightedly take the plate of cake. “Has it been busy today?”

“Yes, people are buying last minute gifts for their families. You know that holidays are always good for business.”

Minnie cuts into her slice of cake with her fork and eats happily while observing the mother and daughter’s talk. Mrs. Cho and Miyeon both speak so softly and politely, even to each other. They both have that little smile when they talk. Minnie can see where Miyeon inherited her golden nose from.

“So Minnie, how are you liking the refreshment?” Mrs. Cho turns her attention to Minnie.

“Oh um …” Minnie is surprised when she becomes the focus of the conversation, so she stumbles a little. “Delicious, ma’am. Thank you very much.”

“I heard that you like to eat.”

“Yes, ma’am. That I do.” Minnie nods and licks the crumbs from the lips. She wonders where confident Minnie from this morning has gone, because she feels her chest thumping as her body tenses.

“Does your family celebrate Lunar New Year as well?” Mrs. Cho is making conversation. Miyeon is listening and feeling relieved that her mom is trying, even if it makes her girlfriend visibly awkward.

“Yes, ma’am.” Minnie mentally chides herself for saying ma’am repeatedly. “It’s not a national holiday, but it is celebrated all over Thailand. Mostly it’s a reason for people to party and have a good time.”

“I see. I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand, it’s one of the few Asian countries that I’ve not been to.” Mrs. Cho gingerly sips on her tea.

“Oh, you should come …” Minnie considers inviting Mrs. Cho along on the trip that she’s planning with Miyeon, but when she looks at her girlfriend, she earns a sharp look that clearly says ‘no’. “Go. You should go, whenever you get a chance. I can set you up at one of my family’s resorts.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you, Minnie.” Mrs. Cho smiles, but she doesn’t seem eager to take Minnie’s offer.

“Yes, you’re welcome …” Minnie struggles not to add ma’am to the end of her sentence.

Miyeon chuckles softly to herself, indulging in this moment of awkward turtle Minnie, who is so polite that it hurts Miyeon not being able to laugh out loud. Her eyes drift past her table and sees that there are lots of customers lined up at the cashier. He seems to be struggling a little bit. “Umma, I’m going to help up front for a moment okay?” Minnie looks up at Miyeon with wide, pleading eyes.

“I can go, you stay and talk with Minnie.” Mrs. Cho smiles when she sees Minnie’s look.

“It’s okay. It won’t take long, you’ve been working all day, have a rest.” Miyeon pats her hands on her mom’s shoulders before she walks toward the glass doors. She glances back at Minnie, who is giving her the look of a child being dropped off at school for the first day. She gives her girlfriend a fist pump to encourage her.

Minnie swallows dryly before picking up her cup of tea.

“So Minnie … Miyeon tells me that you two are dating.” Mrs. Cho doesn’t waste any time at all. It’s going to be one of the few chances she’ll catch Minnie alone.

Minnie almost choked on her tea. “Um … yes ma’am, we’ve been dating since November.” She puts her tea cup down and straightens up her posture.

“I recall when Miyeon came home for Chuseok in October, she was very distracted and upset.”

“Ah … I … that was very much my fault.” Minnie hangs her head, unable to look at the scrutinizing eyes of the older woman. “I was going through a tough time and I was pushing her away instead of letting her help me. I’m better now, though, and I’ve learned to open up to her.”

“I’m glad to hear that. Miyeon seems happy and she says you make her very happy so she wanted my blessing for you two to continue.” Mrs. Cho’s voice is steady, not betraying any emotions, unlike Miyeon. Minnie is glad that Miyeon is so honest and sincere, even in her speech.

“I’m thankful for Miyeon … and I will continue to try to make her happier everyday.” Minnie finally looks up and into Mrs. Cho’s eyes to show her sincerity. “I hope that you will kindly approve of our relationship … though, I understand if you need more time to accept us.” She speaks slowly and softly.

“I was certainly surprised when she called and told me two weeks ago … it certainly confirmed some things for me.” Mrs. Cho smiles softly. “She’s never brought home or spoken about a boyfriend before. Even when I knew she had a boyfriend, she never seemed to care about them enough to mention them, much less bringing them home.”

Minnie nods. She has always known that Miyeon dated men before her, but she is not one to pry since she knows that Miyeon didn’t love any of them. Miyeon told her as much.

“But then she met you, I started to hear about you more often than not when she called home. She kept mentioning how funny, kind and cute you are.”

Minnie’s ears burn hotly to hear this from her girlfriend’s mother. She scratches her head in embarrassment. “She’s so sweet to say all that.”

“I’m not homophobic and you seem like a nice young lady. I do worry about the difficulty that you both may have in life because of your love. But I know that you both are strong, independent you women so I will try to worry less. Miyeon is all I have, as long as she is happy, I am happy. All I can ask you for is to please treat her with the kindness and humor that she keeps telling me about.” Mrs. Cho finishes her piece and reaches across the table to put her hand gently on Minnie’s.

Minnie feels the second of hesitation before that hand envelopes hers with warmth. She blinks in surprise before putting her other hand over Mrs. Cho’s. “I will make her happy for as long as she wants to be with me. Forever, if possible.” Minnie knows that it’s a tall promise and no one really knows what the future holds. “Ever since I told her that I love her, deep in my heart, I’ve already decided that she’s the person I want to grow old with … her feelings might change, maybe she might not find me as cute in the future … I promise you that I will love her for as long as she lets me.”

Minnie gently squeezes Mrs. Cho’s hand to express her resolution. The older woman searches Minnie’s face. Behind those thick bangs, she could see the earnest and bright eyes of someone telling the truth. She nods and smiles happily. “Thank you, Minnie. I feel relieved to hear you say that. I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable, but she’s …”

“You don’t have to explain yourself. We both love Miyeon very much and she deserves to have all the love in the world because she’s the kindest, sweetest, and most caring person I know. You’ve raised her well and I should thank you for that.” Minnie squeezes Mrs. Cho’s hand again.

Mrs. Cho’s eyes water before the woman briefly looks away from Minnie. “She is a wonderful daughter, I can’t ask for better.”

They sit there, hands held, for a while as they share adoration for a common person. The atmosphere is more relaxed and Minnie feels a bit of filial respect toward Mrs. Cho. She’s not as nervous about whether the woman can accept her or not. Feeling bold, she dares ask. “Can I call you umma as well?” She round her eyes and flutters her lashes at the older woman.

It’s Mrs. Cho’s turn to be taken back. She chuckles in surprise before nodding. “You’re just as cute as she describes. Yes … you can call me that.”

“Thank you, Umma.” Minnie has already decided that Mrs. Cho will be her mom, too. She’s lucky enough to have one Mae and one Umma. They chatter back and forth, with Minnie telling Mrs. Cho more about herself and her family. The older woman would never have guessed that her daughter would one day grow up to fall in love with a Thai girl, but that’s just life.

When Miyeon returns, she’s surprised that her mom and Minnie are chatting like they have known each other for a long time. She smiles happily as she returns to her seat. “What are you two talking about?”

“I was telling Minnie about our trip to Japan.” Mrs. Cho smiles at her daughter. “I got the inspiration for the Green Room from one of the tea houses that we visited there. Aoyama Flower Market Tea House is the name of it. I brought a lot of inspiration back with me to build this place up.”

“It was a very cool place, but I feel like you’ve done a great job building your own vision of it, umma.” Miyeon nods along before glancing over at Minnie.

“I wish I could come here often, it is my kind of place …” Minnie winks at Miyeon as her girlfriend gives her some questioning looks.

“Look like we’re out of tea …” Mrs. Cho starts to get up.

“I can do it, umma.” Minnie gets up and puts the empty plates and cups into the tray.

Miyeon’s eyebrows lift up way beyond their limits. Did her girlfriend just call her mom, umma?

“No, you should sit and enjoy …” Mrs. Cho tries to help, but Minnie has quickly picked up the tray.

Miyeon turns to her mom, who seems completely happy with Minnie calling her umma. Was she gone that long? Miyeon is glad that the awkwardness is gone, but this has progressed much quicker than she’d anticipated. She had underestimated Minnie’s charms and she’s not ready to share umma, yet.

Minnie takes the tray back to the kitchen area and starts to clean the dirty dishes so Miyeon and her mom could have a little personal time.

 

 

After getting home, all three women get to cooking right away. A lot of the food has been prepared beforehand, especially the side dishes, so they only have to make some of the main dishes and soup. With three people in the kitchen, the work goes by fast and soon they have a proper meal. Like many other families, they make their offerings to the ancestors before they are able to eat the fruits of their labor.

Since Miyeon’s family is a little untraditional, they don’t do everything in the traditional order. After their late lunch/early dinner, Minnie and Miyeon finish cleaning the kitchen so Mrs. Cho could have time to change into her hanbok and get ready to accept chirye from the girls.

“You and my mom are getting along fabulously.” Miyeon comments. She washes the dishes while Minnie dries them.

“We’re cool.” Minnie smiles at Miyeon. “Don’t be jealous if I become her favorite daughter.”

“Pfft. As if.” Miyeon rolls her eyes. “I’m irreplaceable.”

“I will have to agree with you on that.” Minnie gently smacks Miyeon’s bottom.

“Heeyyy.” Miyeon laughs and flicks some water at Minnie, causing her to have a little deja vu.

Mrs. Cho exits from her room, causing their casual flirting to cease. She is holding a folded stack of clothes, bringing them toward the kitchen. “Minnie, I have a present for you.”

Minnie quickly dries her hands on a towel and then dries them again on her shirt to make sure they are dry. “Um … present?”

“Yes.” Mrs. Cho holds the stack in front of Minnie. “I figured you might not have a hanbok made, so I made one for you. You’re just a little taller than Miyeon, so I estimated from one of hers … I hope this will fit you.”

“This is for me?” Minnie asks again as she holds her arms out to accept the stack of clothes. Shock is visible on her face as she looks between the hanbok and Mrs. Cho.

“Yes.” Mrs. Cho repeats herself. “This is for you.”

Minnie’s eyes start to tear up. Mrs. Cho is unaware that her daughter’s girlfriend is way too in touch with her emotions for her own good. She sees the tears in Minnie’s eyes and it instantly melts her heart. “It’s not much …”

“It’s beautiful!” Minnie cries, feeling so touched that Mrs. Cho would take the time out to make her a hanbok for the holidays. “Thank you so much!” From the way her tears are flowing, one would think that she’s upset instead of thankful.

With a sympathetic smile, Miyeon comes behind Minnie and puts one hand on her girlfriend’s back. “Don’t cry, Minnie-ah. Your eyes will be too puffy for the pictures.”

“P-pictures?” Minnie hiccups.

“Yeah, let’s change into our hanboks, perform chirye, then take a family picture?” Miyeon gently rubs Minnie’s back to sooth her.

“O-okay.” Minnie bows deeply to Mrs. Cho. “Thank you so much, umma.”

“You’re welcome, Minnie. You girls go change, I’ll finish here.” Mrs. Cho is happy that her hard work is appreciated.

Miyeon leads her soft girlfriend to her room and closes the door behind them. She finds her own hanbok from her closet and starts to undress. “I’ll show you how to put it on.” Minnie nods and gently dabs the tears from her eyes before undressing herself. They’ve seen each other naked plenty of times, so the bashfulness is no longer there.

Minnie watches Miyeon put on her hanbok and copies her. Miyeon’s is a light green color while Minnie’s is a light pink color. “Did you tell umma my favorite color?”

Miyeon nods. “She asked last week, but I didn’t know what she was planning. I was surprised, too.”

“She must’ve worked on it all week.” Minnie looks down as Miyeon helps her tie her sash. “Do I look like a proper Korean girl?”

“Yes you do, Kim Minnie.” Miyeon smoothes out the fabric on Minnie’s hanbok and steps back to admire her pretty girlfriend. “You’ll make a fine Korean wife.”

“Are you going to take my last name?” Minnie teases.

“Which one?”

“The real one. Yontararak Miyeon.” Minnie chuckles at the name. “It does have a nice ring to it.”

“I’ll consider it when I see a ring.” Miyeon playfully replies.

“Wait … really?” Minnie gasps and tries to get Miyeon to say more, but the older girl already opens the door and exits the room.

They perform their rites and give each other well wishes. Mrs. Cho can’t stop smiling as both girls offer her tea while she offers them red bags. It’s been just her and Miyeon for the longest time, now they have another person in the family, someone who is cheerful and warm just like Miyeon. After they perform chirye, Miyeon sets her phone on a tripod and they gather on the sofa for a family picture. Mrs. Cho is seated between Miyeon and Minnie. Her smile is the brightest in the photos.

Later at night, they walk around a local festival. Even after dinner, Minnie gets to taste some of the local cuisine, including a lot of the seafood that she likes. She vows to never leave Busan if she gets to eat like this every day. Miyeon is the only person she gets to have seafood with in Seoul. Maybe it’s because they both grew up in ocean cities. When they get home, Minnie and Miyeon cuddle and falls asleep like the old couple that they are.

 

 

“Is it always this quiet around here?” Minnie asks Miyeon, who is walking between her and Mrs. Cho.

“It’s usually quiet, but not this quiet … since it’s a holiday, most people are staying home.” Miyeon explains to her girlfriend, who is looking around curiously.

“What is the crime rate around here? Are the schools good? How is the tax rate? How are the hospitals around here?” Minnie continues her train of questions, leaving Miyeon stumped by her interest in the neighborhood. She turns to her mother for help to answer all of them, but Mrs. Cho simply smiles and shrugs.

It is still very early in the morning, but Mrs. Cho is already heading to the Green Room to get ready for the day. She wants to get a head start on some work, so the girls offered to walk her to work. After they drop her off, Miyeon will show Minnie around town. Mrs. Cho seems to be in her own thoughts, staying quiet for most of the way.

“You’re asking an awful lot of questions, Minnie-ah.” Miyeon sighs when she receives no help from her mother.

“Oh, sorry. I’m just curious.” Minnie smiles apologetically.

“Are you planning to move here or something?” Miyeon jokes.

“Well …” Minnie ponders, “Maybe? We’re already most of the way through our second year … we’ve got a little over a year before we decide what to do next. We can look around here to see if there’s anything interesting, that way we can see umma more often.”

“Are you serious?” Miyeon’s morning mind is still waking up, she can’t believe that Minnie is already thinking about this.

“Yeah!” Minnie darts behind Miyeon and runs to Mrs. Cho’s side. “What do you think about that, umma? Wouldn’t it be nice if we can live in the same city?”

“Of course, I would love that.” Mrs. Cho hooks arms with Minnie and smiles. “But you girls do what is best for you, career or otherwise.”

Miyeon also hooks arms with her mom, not letting Minnie have Mrs. Cho all to herself. “I see what you’re doing. Stop trying to sweet talk her!”

Mrs. Cho laughs as she is sandwiched between her two daughters. She counts this as one of her biggest blessings, for Minnie to be such a good match for Miyeon. As they gently tug her arms, trying to pull her toward them, she feels the warmth coming from both.

“Alright alright, my wonderful daughters … we’re almost to the shop, please let me get there in one piece.” Mrs. Cho jests as she is stuck between two bickering lovers.

They bid her a good day and they will meet her at home later. Minnie reminds her that she should eat full meals. Miyeon tells her to take breaks often so she doesn’t get too tired. Mrs. Cho just laughs and waves them off.

 

 

“This is it.” Miyeon stands in front of the entrance and points to the sign, she turns and reads it out loud for Minnie. “Busan High School of Arts.”

“I didn’t know that you went to a high school of the arts.” Minnie snaps a picture of Miyeon standing next to the sign. They’ve spent most of the morning and afternoon exploring the sights of Busan. Minnie had her fill of seafood for the day.

“Yeah, you never asked, silly.” Miyeon poses cutely while Minnie snaps away.

“You know you keep making just the same set of poses, right?” Minnie teases as she switches the phone to video mode.

“I know. I can pose however I want, okay?” Miyeon frowns and stomps her foot, letting Minnie capture the whole thing on video.

“That’s adorable.” Minnie laughs and saves the video as a favorite. “Anyways, too bad the gates are locked, I want to see your high school.”

“I know … it’s a holiday, so no one’s here for us to ask for permission or let us in.” Miyeon says wistfully.

“I’ve never seen a Korean high school before, other than in dramas.” Minnie takes some steps back and looks around. The gates are locked, she’s already checked. The walls around the school are high, so she can barely make out the buildings, much less the school grounds. Her brows knit together and she pouts. “I was really looking forward to seeing your classroom and stuff. Is there a back way in or something? Or a low section of the wall that we can climb?”

“You want to break into my high school?” Miyeon laughs, finding her girlfriend's obsession with Korean high school very funny.

“Yes!” Minnie confirms her intention. “We’re not going to vandalize it or anything, I just want a private tour! C’mon Miyeonnie, help me out.”

“You’re being ridiculous, you know that?” Miyeon shakes her head, wanting to refuse. But Minnie knows all her weaknesses, especially Minnie’s puppy eyes. Their problem is that they use their puppy eyes against each other knowing that it is the other person’s weakness. That’s why the other girls call them the Puppy Couple. Or so Miyeon would like them to be called, because that’s just super cute. “Ugh, why do you have to be so cute?”

Minnie grins and then merongs Miyeon. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t get to be your girlfriend. Now … let’s get into this school … how do you think we can do that?”

“Fine.” Miyeon huffs, pretending to be annoyed, as she gives into Minnie’s charms. “Maybe we can … But you’re not going to like it.”

Miyeon leads Minnie to the back gate of the school. It is also locked. But next to the gate are two large dumpsters that sit next to the high wall, therefore giving them a way to climb over the brick fence. “Ah … it’s still the same …”

“You can’t be serious.” Minnie makes a disgusted face as she looks over the stinky dumpster. “We’ll catch something if we touch it!” She whines.

“I know … so let’s just forget about it, alright?” Miyeon isn’t that into break-and-entering anyways. She takes Minnie’s hand, intending on leading her girlfriend away from the school.

“Wait wait wait.” Minnie resists Miyeon’s attempt and pulls Miyeon back to her. “I still want to see the school.”

“Why do you want to see it so much?” It’s Miyeon’s turn to whine. “It’s just a high school. Not much different than any other school. I promise, you’re not missing anything!”

“But it’s your school and I want to see it. Let’s go.” Minnie pulls a struggling Miyeon along as she goes around the dumpster. With her face all scrunched up in disgust, Minnie flips the lid closed on one of the dumpsters. She looks back at Miyeon with a convincing smile. “C’mon, I’ll boost you up, my love.”

Miyeon hesitates for a long time before sighing in defeat. She decides to go along with it because it was her idea in the first place. Minnie squats down a  little bit and knits her hands together for Miyeon to step on. Miyeon rests one hand on Minnie’s shoulder and the other on the lid of the dumpster as Minnie boosts her up. With a little effort, Miyeon is standing on top of the dumpster with her hand extended, ready to help Minnie up as well. Luckily, both women are fairly light so the lid of the dumpster is only slightly dented under the weight of both of them.

They easily climb over the wall after that. Then, they carefully jump down on the ground behind the wall. The school building is just across a small courtyard.

“Whew.” Minnie smacks her hands together, dusting the invisible germs off them. “Let’s go see your school, Miyeonnie!” She is too hyped for her own good. As she reaches out for Miyeon’s hand, the older woman smacks it away.

“Wash your hands first, they just touched a dumpster.” Miyeon walks ahead, leaving a shocked Minnie behind.

“Miyeonnie, it was your idea in the first place!” Minnie protests as she jogs slightly to catch up with Miyeon. “Besides, you must have done it before, right? Otherwise, how would you think of climbing over the dumpsters to get inside?”

Miyeon shrugs, pretending not to hear Minnie, as they reach a double door into the school. Of course, it is locked.

“Are you serious?” Minnie exclaims and kicks the door. Just lightly, because she’s no vandal.

Miyeon laughs at Minnie’s animated expressions. “It’s okay, I know another way in …” She points to a window nearby and motions for Minnie to follow her. When they get to the window, Miyeon simply lifts it up without any hesitation.

“What the-“ Minnie has another shock of the day as she watches her girlfriend climb through the window. “We seriously need to talk about this.” She mumbles before heaving herself through the window as well.

They are in some sort of storage room, it’s small with boxes stacked high on both sides of the room. The suspended dust particles gleam when sunlight strikes through them. The stuffiness makes Minnie want to hold her breath instead of breathing in all these allergens. Miyeon is already several steps ahead, sliding the door open and stepping into the hallway.

“Let’s go to the bathroom to wash our hands first.” Miyeon smiles and beckons for Minnie to follow.

Minnie isn’t sure why, but she’s honestly stunned by this HBIC version of Miyeon. “Okay.” She power walks toward Miyeon, not wanting to be left in the stuffy room by herself. They find themselves in the closest bathroom to wash their, most likely infected, hands. Minnie keeps glancing at Miyeon in the bathroom mirror. Sensing Minnie’s obvious looks, Miyeon meets her eyes in the mirror and smiles sweetly. “Do I have something on my face?”

“Yeah, beauty.” Minnie smoothly recovers, making Miyeon chuckle.

They dry their hands and finally, Minnie can hold hands with her girlfriend. “Please tell me how you know so much about breaking into your school?”

Miyeon leads them out of the bathroom and looks around the hallway. “Well … they can be really strict about attendance here, if you’re really  tardy they’ll lock the doors and mark you absent. Too many absent marks and you can lose your scholarship …” Miyeon looks toward Minnie and shyly smiles. “I didn’t want to lose my scholarship because that would make umma really sad and she was already struggling to provide for both of us at that time.”

Minnie nods and squeezes Miyeon’s hand. “I understand.” They take several more steps before she pulls on Miyeon’s hand. “But were you late that often?”

Miyeon giggles and nods. “I kept oversleeping.”

Minnie already knows that her girlfriend is a bit slow to get ready, but she never thought that it was a congenital condition. “Wow …” She teases Miyeon with her shocked look.

“Whatever, don’t hate.” Miyeon laughs before pointing to a particular classroom. “This was my classroom.” She slides the door open, luckily they don’t bother to lock the inner doors when they already lock the outer doors.

“Wow, a real Korean class room!” Minnie exclaims as she steps inside. “And it looks just like a Thai classroom! Wow.” The wide eyed woman walks around with her mouth hanging open as well. “Where was your seat, Miyeonnie?”

“Right here … I think?” It’s been several years since Miyeon last visited this room. She points to a desk in the middle row, but closest to the windows.

“Does it get too bright or too hot there?”

“Yeah, sometimes it’s so bright that I couldn’t open my eyes right … so I had to squint like this.” Miyeon squints her eyes in demonstration.

“Ah, you’re too cute.” Minnie laughs. “I always sat in the back of the classroom, because I often fell asleep during lessons.”

“I do, too! But since I’m always squinty like this …” Miyeon makes the squinty face again, “they can’t tell if I’m sleeping or just trying to read!”

“You’re kidding! Who couldn’t tell?”

“My teachers!” Miyeon fervently tries to convince Minnie.

“I think they probably thought you’re too pretty sleeping to punish or something. My teachers awarded me a lot of rulers to the knuckles.”

“What? You were hit?” Miyeon looks shocked.

“Yeah!” Minnie seems content with her bad girl image. “Plenty of times.”

“Did it hurt?” Miyeon is shook.

“Heck yeah it did!” Minnie holds out her hand. “Look, see this scar? It was from second grade, I got hit for not doing my homework.” It’s just a tiny mark on one of her knuckles.

“Why were you misbehaving if you knew you’d get hit?” Miyeon brushes her fingertip over the scar that she’d never noticed before.

“Because, I’m a bad girl.” Minnie smirks and winks at Miyeon, “Don’t you like bad girls?”

“No.” Miyeon laughs and pushes Minnie’s shoulder. “I like good girls who do their homework!”

They joke and tease each other as they visit other places in Miyeon’s school. First, Miyeon’s choir class where she sings a few lines from their Christmas carols. Then, the library where Miyeon studied during study hall. Next, the auditorium where Miyeon acted during theater class. Eventually, they are on the second floor in front of a door labeled ‘Advanced Art’ and Miyeon taps on the plaque. “This is my favorite class.” She proudly shows off the simple door before sliding it open. They step inside the room and Miyeon turns on the lights. It’s the typical art room that you’d see in dramas and anime, lots of canvas, clay, marble, and other art equipment sitting around. It’s a large spacious room with a lot of artworks hanging on the walls. The desks are arranged in an almost circular fashion, leaving space the middle of the room for the subject of their artworks.

“This is pretty cool.” Minnie walks around the room, peering at all the different art styles on display. “There are some good works here, even though they’re just students.”

“Right? Everyone’s always praising our music program, we also have a really good art program here. My teacher at the time was super knowledgeable and supportive of our creative ideas.” Miyeon’s attachment to the room is shown when she unthinkingly touches everything as she walks around the room.

“I’ve seen some of the art you display at your apartment, Miyeonnie. They’re really good, like studio-worthy good … why didn’t you pursue a career in arts?” Minnie leans her butt on one of the tables as she watches Miyeon inspect all the works in progress. Miyeon seems lost in thoughts, like she’s traveled back to the past.

Miyeon is in the present, but her mind has traveled to the past. She remembers herself in this room, but it feels like she’s just viewing a movie from long ago. “It takes lots of hard work, talent, and luck to be an artist … like years of working toward it just to get recognition and appreciation. Lots of people only become famous after their deaths …” Miyeon finishes her circle and comes to Minnie. “I didn’t want to be a starving artist living off umma. After appa passed away, she worked really hard to keep us afloat. I didn’t want her to have to work for the rest of her life just to support me.”

Minnie pats the desk next to her and Miyeon hops on top of it. “So you decided to be a surgeon?”

“Yeah, I did an aptitude test to find careers with high pay and job security. Being a surgeon is on top of that list, along with being a lawyer … but I feel like I want to heal people more than to argue for their innocence.” Miyeon looks down at her hands. “I wanted to be able to take care of umma later, when she needs me.” Her voice is soft with a tint of sadness. “Art wasn’t likely to help me do that later.”

Minnie’s heart swells as she listens and studies Miyeon’s melancholic expression. Without another thought, she reaches over and holds Miyeon’s hand. “You’re full of surprises today, Miyeonnie.”

Miyeon looks at Minnie and half-smiles. “How so?”

“You know how to break-and-enter into your high school. You’ve told me before that you wanted to be an artist when you were younger, but you never told me your reason for why you became a surgeon. You’re already planning to take care of umma, you’re the filial daughter that I could never be. I never thought about how practical you are.”

“I’ve said it before, being a surgeon was just a job to me until you showed me how to care for people. Now, I can’t imagine doing anything else.” Miyeon squeezes Minnie’s hand and awkwardly lifts it to her lips, planting a soft kiss on the back of Minnie’s hand.

“Oh my god, you’re so silly.” Minnie laughs, but doesn’t remove her hand.

“I mean it.” Minnie’s laugh is infectious, causing Miyeon to laugh along.

“You know …” Minnie’s voice gets serious, even though she still has a smile on her lips. “You don’t have to do it alone, I can help you take care of umma … whenever you need to …” She struggles to get her words out, as her cheeks start to get very red.

“Minnie … are you … what are you trying to say?” Miyeon presses.

“Ah. Forget it! It’s too embarrassing to say out loud!” Minnie shakes her head vehemently. “Forget I said anything!”

“Okay … well, I figured you’d want to have the option to take care of your parents anyways.” Miyeon’s melancholic voice returns.

“I’ve told you before, I don’t plan on going back to Thailand … at all.” Minnie frowns and reaches over to pinch Miyeon’s cheek. “So don’t think about that again. I’m not going back, except to visit, my place is here now.”

Miyeon just looks at Minnie incredulously.

“Once I’ve said I love you to you. My mind is already made up, I want to be with you for as long as you want to be with me. If that means for the rest of our lives, then I’m the luckiest girl in the world. My parents … my brothers and their wives are more than capable to take care of them. I’ve got tons of cousins, who are kind of like their kids, so I’m not worried. If they do need me later for some reason, I will of course go to help, but I’ll come back here no matter what.”

“And your parents are okay with that?”

“Of course not. But it’s my life. Ever since I was little, everything has been according to their plans. I’ve practiced piano diligently since I was a kid. I love to play, but it’s not my calling. I can’t follow the path they set out for me. Everyone in our family is in some sort of role in the entertainment business or has a place in the family business. Everything they do is to draw tourists and visitors to our resorts and stores. I don’t want to be a part of that machine … so I wanted to strike out on my own, to follow my own path.”

Miyeon just nods and listens.

“Not to say that my parents aren’t proud of me. I think secretly they are, even if they gripe about me living too far away. I know I live in their penthouse and spend their money, but if they know that I am living well, they will bother me less. If I don’t take their money and live somewhere else, they’ll be worried and would start telling me to come home more often … it’s a mess, but it works and they haven’t complained much.”

“If they start to complain …” Miyeon shakes her head, “tell them that I won’t give you up.”

They laugh together and Minnie wraps one arm around Miyeon’s shoulders. “I love you.”

“I love you squared.” Miyeon rests her head on Minnie’s shoulder.

“I know they’ll be super surprised to meet their daughter-in-law this summer.” Minnie half jests. Her parents have known about her preference toward women for a long time, she’s not brought anyone home yet because she’s never been this serious about anybody.

“Okay, I guess I better start learning some Thai so I can at least greet them properly.” Miyeon answers honestly, unfazed by Minnie’s attempt to tease her.

They stay like that for a while, holding each other in the room where young Miyeon spent her youth. Miyeon wanted to show young Miyeon that things do get better, even if she felt like she was making such a big sacrifice back then … Now, she has someone who is irreplaceable in her life. If one path closes, another will open.

Eventually, they have to go home because they have to do some house chores before making dinner for Miyeon’s mom. Since she works so hard, even during the holidays, they wanted to be able to take care of the house for her. They make their way to the back gate again and to their surprise, they find that the gate has been unlocked this entire time. They just assumed that it was locked since the front ones were locked.

Minnie whines. “We didn’t have to climb the dumpster? I could’ve caught a communicable disease from it!” She turns to Miyeon and pouts.

“Why are you blaming me? I told you we didn’t have to do it. You insisted!” Miyeon smacks Minnie’s shoulder.

“Ouch. Now I have a shoulder injury, too!” Minnie whines louder as Miyeon closes the gate behind them. “You’ll have to take responsibility!”

“Alright alright, just stop being so loud, okay? I’ll go deaf.” Miyeon puts her hands over her ears.

Minnie tries to pull Miyeon’s hands off her ears. “Yah!” She screams louder. “Take responsibility for me!”

“So loud!” Miyeon leans away from the invading Minnie.

“My voice will be the last thing you’ll hear!” Minnie keeps leaning in toward Miyeon’s ear. “I love you! I love you! I love you!”

Miyeon laughs because if this is the last thing she’ll hear, then she wouldn’t even be mad.

 

 

Miyeon is in the kitchen, prepping the ingredients and getting ready to make her mom’s favorite food. Minnie is dusting Miyeon’s room. She’s done everywhere else, so she’s just taking her time trudging around the little room. Lazy Minnie has taken over and she doesn’t want to do that much more chores, but she still has to vacuum. She’s got all the window sills and books, what’s left here is Miyeon’s closet. When she opens the door, the scent of Miyeon wafts out of the clothes hung on the rods. Better than any flower, Miyeon’s natural scent is the best.

Feeling a little snoopy, Minnie sifts through Miyeon’s clothes, most of them belonging to a younger girl who clearly had very basic taste. Miyeon’s and Soojin’s styles are definitely similar, lots of basic pieces and cardigans. It suits them, whereas Minnie is all about making a statement with her clothes.

“Oh my God!” Minnie exclaims as she finds the treasure trove. “Miyeonnie!” She grabs the hanger and runs out to the kitchen to show Miyeon.

“Wha … Oh my God!” Miyeon stops chopping veggies to look incredulously at Minnie. “Why are you going through my closet? You should be cleaning!”

“I forgot that you had a uniform!” Minnie squeals excitedly. “Can we take it back with us?!”

“No!” Miyeon shakes her head. “Put it back where you found it!”

Minnie shakes her head and puts the school uniform on her. It’s the summer uniform with a blue plaid skirt with a white short sleeve shirt. It has a matching blue ribbon as well. “It’s so cute!” It looks a bit short on the taller woman.

“Put it back!” Miyeon stomps her foot.

“No, let’s bring it home, I want to see you in it all the time!”

“I don’t want to do that sort of kinky thing!”

“Please, Miyeonnie! This will be the best present ever, I won’t even expect any birthday or Valentines or Christmas present!”

“You shouldn’t expect presents!”

“Please!”

They argue back and forth for a while before Miyeon gives in. Minnie has always won most of their arguments. She’s been obsessed with Korean uniforms since she started watching k-dramas, now is her chance to actually have real ones in her possession. Without wasting time or waiting for Miyeon to change her mind, Minnie runs back to the room to pack all of Miyeon’s uniforms into her luggage. The summer and winter uniforms get neatly packed so they wouldn’t get wrinkled.

Suddenly, there is a pep in Minnie’s step as she continues to dust and vacuum.

Miyeon can’t help but smile as she watches an energized Minnie run around cleaning the apartment. She knows Minnie doesn’t usually clean, she actually has a housekeeper that comes twice a week to clean her penthouse. She knows Minnie has changed a lot and has done a lot since they got together. Even now, it feels like a dream that she’s afraid she’ll have to wake up from any moment. She can’t believe just a few months ago, they were having the toughest time and now Minnie is in her family home, vacuuming for the first time in her life.

Minnie catches Miyeon staring at her so she winks cutely, prompting Miyeon to blow her an air kiss. Minnie is so cute that she makes Miyeon’s cheeks sore from smiling. They’re so different, but Miyeon can’t imagine her life with anyone else. Minnie is moody and silly, often melancholic for little reasons. Miyeon teases her for being too in touch with her feelings, but it’s also one of her greatest strengths. Miyeon likes how Minnie fully feels everything. Whereas, Miyeon is more reserved in her feelings. Ever since she was young, she reminds herself to keep her feelings at bay so she can support her mom. Instead of indulging in her feels, she stays calm and quiet through any sadness and pain. That often makes her temper at its worst when her feelings release. Lately, she’s been more expressive and able to tell Minnie what upsets her. Minnie has been more calm and lives less in her head. Miyeon honestly feels that they better each other.

They continue in their tasks, but each think about the other more often than not. Also more often than not, Miyeon checks out her girlfriend’s booty as the other girl hops around doing chores. She tells herself that she’s just making sure Minnie is okay since this is pretty much her first time working this hard at house work. When Miyeon’s mom gets home, they have a family dinner together. She wishes them a lot of happiness together and that she could see them more often. Minnie promises to come with Miyeon when they can come visit.

After nightfall, they go to bed early since they have a long day of traveling ahead. Without saying, they fell right asleep after their heads hit the pillows. Miyeon sleeps with a smile, knowing that she’s been right all along.

 

 

“Watch your step.” Minnie warns a very sluggish Miyeon as they make their way down the steps and onto the sandy beach.

“Mmm.” Miyeon acknowledges the warning, but walks with her eyes half-opened.

They huddle close together as they walk, because the wind is making the temperature feel chillier than actuality. They are here before sunrise so they are also missing the warm rays of the sun. Minnie picks a spot on a sandy incline and puts down one of their blankets. “Is here good?”

“Mmhmm.” Miyeon nods drowsily and waits for Minnie to sit down. Miyeon sits a step lower than Minnie’s, between the woman’s legs, resting her back against Minnie’s chest. It is too chilly to be out here, but Minnie quickly envelops them both with a blanket and then puts another one over Miyeon’s legs.

“Are you going to be awake for this?” Minnie teases and kisses the top of Miyeon’s head as the other woman buries her face into Minnie’s chest.

“Mhm.” Miyeon is completely non-verbal this early in the morning, even though this was her idea.

Minnie laughs softly as she hugs Miyeon to her chest. “Your place is so close to the beach … it kind of reminds me of my home in Thailand, we were always steps from the beach.” Minnie has fond memories as a young child, racing her brothers toward the waves.

“This one’s my favorite.” Miyeon coos softly.

“Why’s that?”

“No crowds.”

Minnie looks around, it really doesn’t look like a tourist beach, but then again they are in the middle of winter so it’s expected to be deserted. “You shouldn’t go out to an empty beach alone.”

“It’s safe.” Miyeon continues to answer with her eyes closed.

“No matter how safe, promise me. You’ll always take someone.” Minnie can sound stern when she wants to.

“Mmm.”

“Miyeonnie.”

Miyeon finally opens her eyes and looks up at Minnie. Her eyes half-lidded. “I promise I’ll always take you with me.”

“Okay.” Minnie smiles. “But I must fully disclose that I’m a runner, not a fighter.”

“I’ll still take you with me.”

Minnie smiles and leans down to kiss the sleepyhead’s lips, as if they are sealing the promise. Against the whistling wind, it feels so good to have Miyeon’s warm body snuggled against hers. It takes a moment to warm up their lips before Minnie’s hot tongue brushes against Miyeon’s. For a moment, Minnie couldn’t hear the wind or the background noises anymore. All she could hear are Miyeon’s breaths and the sounds of lips smacking together.

They kiss and kiss until their lips feel slightly swollen and chapped from the friction and the cold. At that time, Minnie’s eyes catch a glimpse of light peeking above the horizon. She smiles brightly and points toward the light. “Look Miyeonnie, the sun’s up!”

Together, the two of them get to witness a daily miracle of the red sun slowly rising to say hello. As the brightness starts to wash over the beach, Miyeon nuzzles against Minnie. “I wish I could spend every morning watching the sunrise with you.”

“I wish for that, too.” Minnie kisses the top of Miyeon’s head again and they watch the sun fill their world with light, just like they do for each other.

They stay like that for a while, wanting to hold on to this moment longer as the world continues to spin. Soon enough, it is their time to return to the apartment and gather their things so they could head back to Seoul. They wish Mrs. Cho a wonderful new year and promise to come back to visit soon.

 

 

Dressed in white, an angel rests on her bed high up above the ground. Chains of soft, string melodies play from the built-in speakers in her room. She stirs slightly as sleep falters, allowing her consciousness to reclaim her body. Slowly, she stretches her arms above her head and twists her body so she could get a full stretch from fingertips to toes. The beautiful angel, with their most delicate of noses, pushes back the fluffy comforter and steps down from her bed.

As her feet touch the soft carpet, she hears a slight sound coming from her closet. Thinking that she is alone, the angel blinks in surprise and pauses, waiting for any other noise. Yet, she is met with the comfort of silence. She lets out a held breath before standing up from the mattress. Her arms stretch above her head as she looks at her reflection in the mirror that is the closet’s door. A small smile appears on her lips as she admires her white dress, made to her size and fits her like a glove. All around the room are full length mirrors made to allow her to admire her own beauty.

The angel glows with the aura of a goddess in her white dress that’s accented with silver and diamond jewelry. Even her heels are silver and diamond encrusted. The angel eye-smiles her reflection, feeling a little prideful of her looks. She might be the prettiest angel that she knows.

“You certainly are the most beautiful angel around.” A soft voice hisses, causing the angel to blink in surprise. She looks around in panic, not knowing where the source of the voice came from.

“H-Hello?” The prideful angel’s voice falters as she looks around the empty room. It’s softly lit by the skylight and large windows that overlook a cityscape. She could see clearly all corners of the room, but she couldn’t see anyone else other than her own reflections in the myriad of mirrors. “Who’s there?” She tries to sound more confident as she walks toward her bed, wanting to see under it.

A soft sliding sound brings her attention to the closet behind her and she whips her head around. “Ah!” She falters back as a dark figure steps out of the closet.

The woman in front of her is clad in a black oversized suit over a black crop top that shows off her very tone abs. She has on dramatic eye make up as well as dark lipstick. At her feet, a pair of red bottom stilettos adds several more inches to her height, making her all the more domineering to the barefoot angel. She walks slowly toward the angel, along with her crystal hilt cane. The woman’s eyes are veiled by her thick bangs, but the angel knows that those eyes are staring intensely at her. “You’re even more beautiful than your reflection.”

“Who are you?” The angel sounds scared, but there’s a small smile tugging at her lips.

“I’m you, of course.”

“No you’re not.” The angel tries to keep her distance, as the dark woman takes strides toward her.

“More precisely, I’m your dark side.” The dark woman tries to close the distance between them, but the angel keeps darting away.

“I’m an angel, a creature of light. I don’t have … a dark side …” The angel struggles, trying not to laugh at the serious faced woman.

“Everyone has a dark side, angels included. I’ve just been locked behind your reflection …” The dark woman rolls her eyes at the struggling angel.

“Why were you hiding in my closet?”

“I wasn’t hiding. I was trapped … always observing your beauty from the other side, but never able to fully appreciate it.” The tilts her head while smiling darkly at the angel. “Tell me, Miyeon, what is it you desire?”

“How do you know my name?” The angel, Miyeon, gasps exaggeratedly.

“I know a lot about you, having observed you for so many years.” The woman, taking advantage of Miyeon’s momentary surprise, closes the distance and traps Miyeon against a wall. “Tell me your desire, Miyeon.”

“Angels don’t have desires, we just want peace and joy on Earth.” Miyeon frowns and tries to push the woman’s shoulder, but she wouldn’t budge.

“Sure you do, everyone and everything has desire.” The woman puts one hand on the wall by Miyeon’s ear while the other hand uses the hilt of her cane to tilt Miyeon’s chin up toward the woman.

“I want to know your name.” Miyeon looks defiantly at the woman.

“I’ll tell you my name if you’ll grant me a kiss.” The dark woman flashes a toothy grin, attempting to be charming.

“No …” Miyeon shakes her head.

“No?” The woman echoes with a question before that cold cane hilt travels down Miyeon’s neck, chilling her exposed skin, all the way to her chest. “I don’t think you’re in an position to decline.”

Miyeon tries to push the woman again, but her strength is simply not enough and she continues to be pinned against the wall. “What do you want from me?” Frustrated, she yells.

“I just want to satisfy your desire and mine.” The woman trails the hilt down Miyeon’s belly and eventually stops between Miyeon’s thighs.

“Stop.” Miyeon gasps and reaches down, while closing her legs, trying to stop the woman’s hand.

“I’ll stop for a kiss.” The woman lists her price again.

Miyeon whines, “Why are you picking on me?”

The dark woman presses her lips together, trying not to laugh. “Yah! I told you my price, do you want me to stop or not?”

“If I wanted you to stop, I would’ve ran away already, right?” Miyeon bats her lashes, making the other woman giggle.

“This was your idea!” The other woman groans.

“Fine. Fine!” Miyeon throws her hands up to surrender. “I’ll pay your price.” With an exasperated sigh, she grabs hold of both of the other woman’s cheeks and pulls her face roughly toward Miyeon’s.

“Yah!” The other woman complains about the rough treatment, causing her neck almost to sprain, as she is pulled forward. Their lips meet roughly before she is pushed back.

“There, you’ve got your kiss. Now tell me who you are.” Miyeon wipes her lips as the other woman licks hers.

“That was not the kiss I’d like.”

“Well, it’s the one you got.”

The other woman narrows her eyes at Miyeon before suddenly switching back to that devilish grin. “My name is Minnie, I’m just your typical desire  granting devil.”

“That’s an awfully cute name for a devil …” Miyeon looks doubtful of Minnie’s role, causing the other woman to frown.

“I may have a cute name but I’m all devil!” Minnie growls and bares her teeth. The hilt of her cane threatens to enter Miyeon as it rubs against her underwear.

Miyeon gasps, feeling the round, spherical crystal prodding at her folds. She puts her hand on Minnie’s shoulder, wanting to push her away while the other hand tries to push the cane away. “Stop … what are you doing …” Her breath sounds ragged, as her stomach tightens and she tries to wiggle away from the contact.

“What do you think I’m doing?” Minnie leans closer, her warm breath brushing against Miyeon’s ear.

“No … no one’s ever touched me there …” Miyeon shivers as she feels the cool crystal rubbing against her sex. As she wiggles to ‘get away’ she is also grinding against it. “It feels strange.”

Minnie gently licks Miyeon’s ear before trailing her tongue down along Miyeon’s jaw. She lets her face hover just a hair from Miyeon’s. “Strange good? Or strange bad?”

“I don’t know …” Miyeon gasps as the devil pulls down on the neckline of her dress, causing her cleavage to be almost fully exposed, had she not tied the front ribbon so tightly. “What are you doing?”

“Something I’ve been yearning to do for a long time.” Minnie pulls at the ribbons that fastened the dress closed, tugging roughly until they are undone. “I want to touch all of you.” She continues to push and rub the crystal against Miyeon’s panty clad vulva, making sure to get Miyeon properly red and out of breath.

Miyeon tries to resist, but there is urgency in the ache that’s building in her sex, as Minnie rubs the hilt back and forth between her squirming thighs. “Please … stop …” Even though she’s asking Minnie to stop, her eyes are glazed and her cheeks are flushed with desire. Minnie smirks and licks her lips before taking the cane away from Miyeon’s sex.

There is a second that confusion replaces lust in Miyeon’s expression, but Minnie grabs her hand and pulls her toward one of the larger mirrors in the room. She makes Miyeon stand in front of the mirror as she tosses the cane aside and circles behind the angel.

Miyeon watches Minnie’s eyes in the mirror as the devil leans forward, her cheek brushing against Miyeon’s. It’s easy for her to get lost in Minnie’s deep dark orbs, they’re so hard to read when she has on dark make up and straighten her bangs so they cover much of her eyes. Miyeon tries not to move, letting Minnie take the lead.

“Did you enjoy that little taste of desire?” Minnie rests her hands on Miyeon’s hips and her chin on Miyeon’s shoulder.

Miyeon shakes her head slightly.

“Liar.” Minnie hisses softly.

“I’m not lying.” Miyeon shakes her head again.

“I thought that angels can’t lie.” Minnie’s hand slips under Miyeon’s dress before Miyeon has a chance to react. “If you didn’t like it … why are you already wet?”

Miyeon doesn’t know how to respond so she just shakes her head. “I don’t like it.” She insists, but Minnie knows better.

Minnie reaches to the front of Miyeon’s dress and tugs the top apart to expose Miyeon’s chest. “You smell good.” Minnie whispers as she brushes the tip of her nose along Miyeon’s shoulder while pulling the top of the dress toward, fully exposing Miyeon’s naked torso. Miyeon shivers and tries to cover her breasts while watching Minnie in the mirror. Her folded arms prevent the dress from slipping off her body.

Miyeon tries to pull away from Minnie’s hold, but the devil has a firm grasp on her hips. Minnie pulls her back forcibly against her body. “Where are you going?”

“Away … you’re being mean to me. You even ripped open my favorite dress.” Miyeon pouts and shakes her hips, grinding her butt against Minnie’s front.

“I’ll get you another one … but you look even better without it.” Minnie purrs into Miyeon’s ear and nips it again.

Miyeon giggles because it tickled, but a sharp pinch on her butt makes her temper flare and she has to bite her lower lip to control it. She struggles as Minnie tries to straighten her arms, making the dress slip down to her feet. Standing in front of this mirror, with just her panties, Miyeon feels so exposed as her reflection stares back at her.

“I wonder if you’re wet enough …” Miyeon wants to answer, but Minnie has two fingers inside her mouth. Miyeon’s tongue lashes against those digits, coating them for a healthy amount of saliva. Minnie chuckles. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Minnie wastes no time slipping her wet fingers under the elastic band of Miyeon’s panties while her other hand grabs hold of one of Miyeon’s breasts. Miyeon reaches back over her shoulder and touches Minnie’s face, breaking character and wanting that connection with her lover.

Minnie turns her head and licks Miyeon’s palm as her two fingers straighten and curl, making rhythmic strokes between Miyeon’s labia. Miyeon moans softly, as her legs weaken and she leans back against Minnie for support. She turns her head and looks at Minnie, who is watching her in the mirror. Minnie slows her strokes to an aggravatingly slow pace as she reaches her free hand up toward Miyeon’s chin, turning her girlfriend’s head to force her to watch herself in the mirror.

Miyeon sees herself completely at the mercy of Minnie as her body writhes with each of Minnie’s finger strokes. Minnie curls her fingertips, scraping her nails along the sensitive flesh. Miyeon finds herself tiptoeing along with Minnie’s upper strokes. “Minnie …” The name swirls around Miyeon’s mind before escaping her lips.

“Do you see yourself?” Minnie’s whispery voice sounds excited. “Look at how hard your nipples are …” Miyeon’s face burns hotly as she watches her perky breasts heave with her heavy breaths. “Can you see your panties getting soaked?” Miyeon can see her white silk panties darken with moisture. “Do you want more?”

Miyeon’s throat is dry, mostly from her soft panting. She tries to swallow, but finds herself parched. She nods, making a soft agreeable whimper. Minnie kisses her neck before smiling, “Good girl.” Just like that, Minnie’s fingers cease their ministration on her sex, making Miyeon miss her touch. Instead, Minnie  sheds the jacket of her suit, she’s burning up as well.

Miyeon loves how fit Minnie looks in a crop-top, she shows off the lithe kind of muscles that are strong and feminine at the same time. “Minnie …” Miyeon’s panties are quickly pushed down and kicked aside, the last barrier to cover Miyeon’s sex. Miyeon wishes she was on the soft bed instead of this standing position, where her legs could give way any moment. Minnie kneels in front of her and puts one of her thighs on her shoulder. It isn’t long before Miyeon is forced to put her hand on the wall, that the mirror hangs on, to keep balance.

After being with each other for so long, Minnie has learned a thing or two about where Miyeon’s most sensitive spots are. It doesn’t take long for Minnie to orally tease Miyeon until the older woman whines and whimpers with frustration. This is part of the devilish fun for Minnie, making Miyeon beg for release. Just as soon as she has Miyeon worked up enough, she relents. Miyeon’s fingers rake into Minnie’s hair, grasping a handful of dark locks as she watches Minnie eat her out. Minnie looks up at Miyeon, just as she’s done many times before, but every time Miyeon is tempted to drag that face up for a kiss.

It doesn’t take long before Minnie does the thing with her tongue that she knows will drive it home for Miyeon. Sure enough, Miyeon’s toes curl as her walls twitch and tighten. She closes her eyes and lets her mind go blank as a feeling of utter happiness and relaxation wash over her body. As Miyeon starts to go limp, Minnie catches her and slowly lowers her to the ground.

“Did I fulfill my angel’s desires?” Minnie teases again after wiping Miyeon’s juices from her lips.

Miyeon grasps onto Minnie’s crop top and shakes her head.

“No?”

“No. You always tease me so much.” Miyeon softly complains.

“But didn’t that make it better for you?” Minnie holds Miyeon tightly in her arms.

“No. I was very frustrated.”

“Oh … my bad, I’m sorry … could’ve sworn you almost fainted from your orgasm … but I guess you were just … frustrated.” Minnie tries not to laugh at her adorable girlfriend.

“It’s your turn. I’m going to make you frustrated.”

“Maybe you should get a little rest first, you know how you get lightheaded if you have too intense of an orgasm.”

“Shut up and take your clothes off.” Miyeon pushes Minnie away and tries to unzip Minnie’s pants.

“Wait wait wait … aren’t I supposed to be the devil, why are you so roughly trying to undress me.” Minnie doesn’t fight Miyeon as the other woman gets on her knees to unzip Minnie’s pants.

“You play that character too well … I was a little nervous.” Miyeon admits with flustered cheeks. It was her idea to roleplay like that, but Minnie took it more seriously than she did.

“And you were the perfect angel. I wouldn’t be surprised if you sprouted wings right now.” Minnie giggles as Miyeon tugs at her pants.

“I thought about wings, but it seems too complicated and I didn’t want to overact.”

“You were perfect.”

Miyeon smiles at her girlfriend’s praise and quickly pecks Minnie’s cheek. “So were you.”

“I had to go back into the closet for you, of course I was perfect.” Minnie jokes. “I definitely need to clean in there, it’s a mess … need to donate some clothes … oh …” Minnie is pulled from the ground and pushed onto the bed. She kind of likes it when Miyeon takes charge. Minnie scoots in further into the bed before quickly yanking her crop top over her head.

“Close your eyes.” Miyeon commands, but doesn’t climb on. The table has turned and now the devil is at the mercy of this sweet angel.

“Oooh …” Minnie coos playfully before complying to Miyeon’s demand. However, she does peek a little bit as Miyeon goes to her purse to retrieve something. Minnie closes her eyes quickly when Miyeon returns.

“Keep them closed.” Miyeon’s soft voice reminds Minnie as she feels something soft brush against her forehead, then eyes. Miyeon’d put a sleep mask over her eyes.

Minnie laughs nervously, “What do you have planned for me, angel Miyeon? This isn’t part of the plan …” Minnie feels Miyeon’s hands running down along her thighs and legs, separating them as Miyeon climbs onto the bed. Minnie feels herself being pushed back until she’s laying there, exposed and unable to see. Her tense is amped up when she feels Miyeon’s fingertips brushing along her belly.

“It’s my turn to tease you, remember?” Miyeon says in her breathy voice as a cold object touches Minnie’s abs, making the blinded woman jolt in surprise.

“Miyeon …” It’s not that Minnie doesn’t like surprises, she is just jumpy with excitement. Minnie could feel the cool object moving further down her belly before slipping between her legs. “It’s cold …” She whines, hoping Miyeon would be gentle.

Miyeon chuckles and pats the side of Minnie’s thigh, “It’ll warm up in a second …” Minnie pouts, regardless if Miyeon could see it or not. She could tell that the object is not too big and is more metallic, due to its coolness. The cold makes her nipples tingle while Miyeon is guiding her legs further apart. Soon, Minnie moans softly as the object glides between her folds. She’s wet  after watching and pleasing Miyeon, but Miyeon moves it in slowly to give Minnie time to adjust.

“Miyeon …” Minnie calls out her name again and reaches into the air, wanting to hold Miyeon’s hand as the object pushes inside her. It’s a foreign thickness, not like Miyeon’s slender fingers at all. Miyeon takes Minnie’s hand before she slowly moves the object in and out of Minnie, making the younger woman squirm with delight. It’s not long before Minnie’s sex is adequately soaked, making it a lot easier.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.” Miyeon’s sweet voice juxtaposes the carnal act she’s performing on Minnie. Before the younger woman could reply, she feels a shock from her sex, making her writhe with pleasure. Minnie wasn’t prepared for the vibration that rocked her body. The object is a vibrator, that hums softly before it pulses, sending waves of stimulation through Minnie’s sensitive walls.

“Miyeon!” Minnie calls out Miyeon’s name again, this time with much more urgency. She squeezes Miyeon’s hand tightly as she arches her back and tilts her head back, “Ah …” She moans loudly, this is far more than the teasing that she’d done to Miyeon early. This is an overstimulation of her senses, making her mind go blank and her body go rigid as she cums, sort of bullying.

Miyeon leaves the vibrator in until she feels Minnie’s body goes limp and Minnie’s grip loosen on her hand. She smiles and takes the object out, putting it aside as she lurches forward, crawling on all fours.

Minnie is panting softly as her heart starts to slow. She feels the mattress shifts with each of Miyeon’s movements before soft lips are pressed on hers. She opens her mouth as Miyeon slips her tongue in. They kiss softly and deeply until Minnie reaches up to remove the sleep mask. “Did you enjoy your Valentine’s Day present?” Miyeon trails her butterfly kisses along Minnie’s neck.

Minnie is dazed, barely able to keep herself conscious as her nerves try to recover from the overstimulation. “Mmm …” She answers wordlessly before Miyeon claims her lips again.

 

 

“I have something for you.” Minnie declares after she finishes her bowl of cereal. “Wait here.”

“Okay.” Miyeon is still eating hers. She’s slow at most things, including eating cereal.

Miyeon watches as Minnie dashes toward the piano in the living room. After their eventful afternoon, the women showered and decided on cereal because neither wanted to eat anything too heavy. They’d eaten way too much at New Year, so they are watching what they eat together. Miyeon chews slowly as Minnie starts to play a melody. It’s upbeat and fast, a new song that Miyeon hadn’t heard before. She gets lost watching her girlfriend play this grand piano in her PJs.

Miyeon loves this duality to Minnie, who continues to surprise her each time she thinks she’s figured out the other woman. Miyeon hums along when a familiar part, what she assumes is the chorus, repeats for a third time. After a few minutes, Minnie rests her hands on the keys and turns back to Miyeon.

“So, whatcha think?” Minnie looks at her expectantly.

“Um … it’s good, what song is it?” Miyeon gets up from the dining table and walks over to where Minnie is sitting. “I haven’t heard it before.”

“It's new, I wrote it as your Valentine’s Day present. It’s called Maze … I’ve got lyrics that I’m working on as well, but right now I’ve only got the melody.” Minnie pulls Miyeon to sit on her lap.

“Maze?” Miyeon settles comfortably on Minnie’s lap. “What’s it about?”

“It’s about how I’m lost in your maze … and you in mine … like we both got trapped and can’t find our way out.”

“That sounds interesting. I’d like to hear the lyrics when you’re done ... but I’ll need you to play that piano again, so I can record it.”

“You’ll be the first to hear it.” Minnie kisses Miyeon’s shoulder. “And don’t worry, I’ll make a clean record for you.”

“It’s my Valentine’s Day present … shouldn’t I be the only one to hear it? And why are you giving me an unfinished present?” Miyeon’s index finger pushes into Minnie’s chest.

“Awww. I’m sowwie.” Minnie tries to use her aegyo. “I came up with the melody too late … I’ll make it up to you.”

“Make it up to me how?” Miyeon pouts.

“I can borrow my friend’s Maybach, I’ll take you out to the fanciest restaurant in the city and you can have anything you want. Food, wine, dessert, gold, diamond … you name it!” Minnie excitedly lists everything that her bank account could afford, having learned to be boastful just like Yuqi.

Miyeon laughs and shakes her head after Minnie finished her list. She puts her hands on Minnie’s cheeks, squishing them against her palms, “I’m just kidding. I don’t need all that, I just want you.”

“Am I enough?” Minnie looks deep into Miyeon’s eyes, feeling like she’s melting under that loving gaze.

“More than enough.” Miyeon quickly kisses Minnie’s forehead before she adds. “I’ve got something for you, too. I’ll be right back.” Miyeon hops onto her feet and walks quickly toward the bedroom. She digs through her purse for the wrapped present before coming back to Minnie. She hands Minnie a square box with a big bow on top and smiles. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Minnie’s mouth opens wide with surprise. “I get two presents today?”

Miyeon’s cheeks are bright red as she nods. “Yeah … the other one is for both of us …” She mentally reminds herself to clean it really well before she stores it for next time.

“Thank you!” Minnie says cutely before tearing off the wrapping paper and opening the box. Inside is a brown leather collar. Minnie takes the collar out of the box before looking up at Miyeon. “Um … thanks? I guess we can … have more kinky sex later?” Minnie thinks that the collar looks really small for her neck, but maybe they can go exchange it later.

“No silly!” Miyeon laughs and stomps her foot at the same time. “It’s not for whatever kinky thing you’re thinking about.”

Minnie looks between the collar and Miyeon, still confused as ever.

“It’s for the dog that we’re going to adopt … if you still want us to move in together …” Miyeon gets shy all of a sudden.

Minnie blinks slowly, her mind unable to absorb Miyeon’s answer.

“Yah!” Miyeon stomps her foot again.

Suddenly, Minnie shoots up from the piano bench and throws her arms around Miyeon. “I love you so much!” She squeezes Miyeon tightly, having received the answer to the question she’s been wanting to revisit with Miyeon. “Thank you so much. This is the best present ever!” Minnie feels her eyes burn as she hugs Miyeon.

Miyeon feels warm droplets on her shoulders as Minnie’s body shakes with excitement. “Awww, don’t cry Minnie-ah. I love you and I want to live with you … let’s not cry anymore okay?” She gently rubs and pats Minnie’s back, wanting to make the younger feel a lot better.

Their Valentine’s Day ends with them making plans way into the night. They have so much to see and do as their futures further intertwine. From friends to lovers, they’re still finding more and more things about each other. This is only their beginning.