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Cynical

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Love is not designed for the cynical. And anymore, Heo Kyung-hoon was cynical. In this, at least. 

All right, in a lot of things. 

His job sucked. It was his calling, certainly, and he could not see himself ever doing anything else, but that did not mean it wasn’t hard. Draining. Exhausting. 

As he got his palm stitched up in the ER after slicing it too deep again, he mused that sometimes it seemed like anymore, he lost more cases than he won. 

“You have to stop doing this,” the doctor said, carefully injecting lidocaine around the edges of the wound so he could stitch it. Kyung-hoon had often told him (they were nearly on a first name basis by now) that he didn’t need to do that, to which the doctor vehemently replied that while he could do little to stop Kyung-hoon from hurting himself, he could at least not cause him further pain. 

“It’s fine, I haven’t been able to feel my palm for weeks now.”

He probably shouldn’t have said that, as it sent the doctor into quite the flurry. 

Calmed down and coaxed away from the topic of surgery, the doctor stitched up his palm, shaking his head the entire time. “You’re going to lose movement in your hand too if you keep this up.” 

Kyung-hoon already had in some of his fingers, but he didn’t say anything about that. 

Part of him didn’t care. Needing blood for rituals was part of the job and it was his left hand anyway, which he had never really used very much. But another part of him was angry. Here he had gone and lost feeling and some movement of his hand for a string of rituals that didn’t even do anything, that had failed, that had—

He sighed as the doctor bandaged his hand. 

He was good at his job. He knew that. And he was able to help a lot of the people he convinced to let him. It was just that binder full of kids he carried around with him wherever he went that weighed on him...He brought it with him so he would have it in case he ever came upon a detail, a hint, anything—

Anything to finally end the reign of terror of that demon who had murdered his mother right in front of him. 

Another thing to be cynical about. He had no family (still alive), and he was lonely. 

For years, he had dreamed of finding a partner and building a family of his own, but as he had grown older, he had begun to realized how much of a pipe dream that really was. 

As a gay man in Korea, the dating pool was already small. To narrow that down further, he was hardly the bathhouse type. Men always shied away from him, with his scars and his odd (to them) tattoos, and the few who did take an interest soon ran at the smallest whisper of what he did for a living. Sometimes he thought about lying and saying he was a carpenter or some shit, but the long term relationship he so craved could hardly be built on lies. 

So no, love was not designed for the cynical. At least, it was not designed for him. And he was fine with that (he was). He had accepted that, and was living with it just fine (he was).

The doctor once again tried to offer him social services, to which he merely shook his head and walked out the door. 

********

The first time he set eyes on Yeon Sang-won had been in a TV ad he had spotted while eating shitty ramyeon at a truckstop in the middle of nowhere. He had to admit he hadn’t seen much of the man’s face, had only looked up at all after hearing what he (and others) were saying. 

A girl gone missing, vanished into thin air. 

Mother dead in a car crash a month earlier.

Did not have a good relationship with her father.

Rising suspicion…

If that didn’t sound like his binder full of missing kids. 

Eight hours later, he was out in front of the man’s house slicing the internet cable before going to knock on his door. 

“Hello!” he said cheerfully, pushing the glasses he didn’t need up his nose. “You called about intern—“

Oh no.

Yeon Sang-won was absolutely—

Kyung-hoon’s mouth ran dry and he swallowed quickly around it. “Internet!” he finished with a wide smile. “I’m here to fix it!”

Worked every time, and the man let him in without a second thought. 

Do not look at him, Kyung-hoon warned himself. Do not get distracted. Distraction will get you killed. 

The man had money, he thought as he walked around, chattering aimlessly as he measured the place’s EMF. 

“I’ve always wanted to live in a house as fancy as this,” he said cheerily, eyes fixed on the flickering EMF reading. 

The man’s house was as beautiful as he was. 

Then his chattering was silenced as the EMF readings shot through the roof. 

Yes, this was indeed exactly what he thought it was, he mused, standing in a little girl’s bedroom in front of the closet, his machine screaming at him. 

Got you, demon.

Then, of course, the real internet tech rang the doorbell, and Kyung-hoon was tossed out on his ass, dragged out of the house by the front of his shirt. Luckily for him though, Yeon Sang-won was desperate enough by that point, his daughter missing for over a month, to give what he was saying half a chance. To give Kyung-hoon half a chance. 

The man was skeptical at first, as were most, but he mostly went along with Kyung-hoon’s plan, only pausing a few times to say how ridiculous this all was and how stupid and desperate he must be for going along with it. Until the first trap sprung, if only briefly. Then he believed it. 

And he put up with Kyung-hoon’s mindless chattering (the exorcist said he hated silence. That was partially true, but it was also true that he talked when he was nervous. And Sang-won made his heart pound like nothing else), maybe even smiled once or twice when Kyung-hoon made a particularly good joke (God, he had such a lovely smile).

Stop, he told himself as he choked on a nut, a blush rising to his cheeks at the feeling of Sang-won’s eyes on him. Do not. 

So what if he looked at you. Smiled. That doesn’t mean anything.

Do not fall in love with him, you foolish boy. Do not. 

In the kitchen grabbing a drink from the fridge, he thought of a thousand reasons not to like him. 

His effect is flat as a pancake. He’s so uncultured, he hasn’t seen Along With the Gods. He has a child and doesn’t even know her best friend’s name. That’s not right. If I had a daughter, I would give her every ounce of my attention and time, whatever she wanted. I would love her unconditionally until my dying breath.  

If I had a family…

In the end though, his good sense hadn’t stood a chance, especially after he had accidentally dozed off on the man’s couch only to wake up briefly and find himself covered with a blanket. After that, he was done for. 

Pathetic, he thought, sleepily smiling at the man’s back where he sat still watching the monitors. Someone is nice to you and you immediately fall in love with them. Who’s actually the desperate one here?

Still, it was such a nice feeling, the couch was comfortable, the blanket smelled good, smelled like home, and it was quite late…

I’ll just rest my eyes for a moment longer, he thought, snuggling into the blanket and that warm feeling growing around his heart. Just five more minutes…

Well, his inattention landed him where it always did: in disaster. 

Long story short, they had fallen into a trap, Sang-won almost died, and…well, so did he. 

“That was embarrassing,” he coughed, a knife in his belly after almost being strangled to death by a ghost (Myung-jin…). 

The fairly heavy blood loss quickly made him dizzy and he fell forward, only to be caught by Sang-won. He immediately  relaxed into the man’s arms, breathing in the clean smell of him as he enjoyed the embrace of another (damn, he really was bleeding quite a bit, wasn’t he?) 

It’s fine, he thought in the ambulance as Sang-won clutched his hand, a terrified look on his face. I’ll take a hit if it means he’ll keep looking at me like that. 

Like he cares.

“It was Myung-jin,” he managed to say before his vsioned darkened and he passed out, ever mindful of their dwindling time. 

Hurry up and fixed me, he thought at his strung-out friend of a doctor who wheeled him down the hall. So I can get back to him.

When he woke up, (after a brief seizure and a bit of defibrillation) it was to a voice he hadn’t heard in years. His mother’s. 

Kyung-hoon ah

It’s mom

He’s in trouble. 

Well. If that didn’t tell him all he needed to know. 

It was just a little bit difficult to drive through the pain of a freshly stitched knife wound to the abdomen. His doctor friend had been utterly livid when he had gotten up and walked out, warning him that he could not ignore this.

“Yes I can,” he had said. 

No, he realized, sweating through his shirt, almost vomiting from the ever increasing pain. No he couldn’t.

That didn’t stop him from trying. And he was certainly glad he did it too, just barely arriving in time to stop Myung-jin from taking Sang-won along with her bastard of a father. 

(His heart pounded harder than it ought to at the thought of losing the man to this ghost). 

“I saw everything,” Sang-won told him on the drive back, and then told him what he saw. 

Kyung-hoon nodded slowly, everything suddenly making a lot more sense. “Her resentment turned her into a demon, and she’s been seeking out children like her ever since.”

Monsters, he thought. How could anyone ever harm a child like that? At all? 

Why is it people like that who are given children and families to squander?

People like Sang-won too, who had very clearly wished for his daughter to be gone, out if his hands. 

“I sent her away,” Sang-won slowly realized as Kyung-hoon outlined how shitty of a father he had been, horror dawning in his eyes, only realizing the full extent of his failure towards his daughter and what he had lost after she was gone. 

Just a touch of resentment brewed too in Kyung-hoon’s chest even as his heart beat rapidly at the feeling of Sang-won’s eyes on him, at the sight of the man in his car next to him. 

If she were my daughter, I never would have done that. I would have done anything for her, anything…

But he was a cynical man with no children, and it was doubtful he would ever have any. 

Eventually the pain in his side made his vision blur and he stopped the car under the pretense of going to take a piss.

It doesn’t hurt that bad, he told himself as he leaned against the railing, catching his breath while spots swam before his eyes. Do not pass out. 

Sang-won too leaned against the railing closer to the car, taking advantage of the brief pause in their journey to have a smoke. The fine line of his body and the way the sun shone on his hair provided a welcome distraction from the honestly agonizing pain in his side. 

He’s not really a bad man, he mused as he admired the man’s form. He never truly harmed Ina. Neglected her emotionally, certainly, but he never hated her. Never sought to hurt her. He’s not evil like the parents of the other children. Misguided perhaps, but not evil. 

His eyes slid shut. 

I’m in deep.

“Kyung-hoon!” 

His eyes snapped back open, slowly focusing on Sang-won, who was now standing very close to him, hands on his shoulders. 

"Are you okay?!”

Kyung-hoon nodded slowly, head swimming significantly by then. “It just hurts a bit, my side…” he breathed, the drugs they had given him at the hospital now almost completely wearing off. He shifted ever so slightly, a soft whimper escaping him. “Just give me a minute.”

“You can’t drive like this,” Sang-won said, eyes wide with concern. 

“Mmm…” Kyung-hoon hummed, vision darkening around the edges. “Probably not…” 

Then he was being carefully bundled into the back seat and covered up with his coat, another coat being gently tucked under his head. 

“I’m taking you back to the hospital,” Sang-won said hurriedly, fussing over him. “Are you comfortable?” 

“I’m fine…” he murmured, the warmth in his heart briefly dulling the pain as he smiled. The fabric under his head smelled like Sang-won. “It’s okay. I’m okay, it just hurts like you would expect. I don’t need to go to the hospital…” He shifted ever so slightly to look up at Sang-won. “Do you by chance still have painkillers from your car accident?” 

Sang-won stared at him for a moment before tentatively replying. “At home…” 

“I’ll take those. You need me to save Ina, and she doesn’t have time to wait for me to recover from this.” 

Sang-won agreed then without much of a fuss, leaping into the driver’s seat and speeding home. From there, Kyung-hoon listened to him come up with an absolutely harebrained plan to go into the underworld and pull Ina out himself as he drifted in and out of an uneasy sleep. It was so insane, Kyung-hoon honestly thought it was a fever-dream. An hour later, on Sang-won’s couch, a few more painkillers than were wise to take in his system, he realized that it wasn’t. 

“You don’t know what you’re asking,” he said darkly, sipping on some broth and noodles Sang-won had made him so the painkillers wouldn’t make him sick (his poor, godforsaken heart…would never recover from this…).

“It’s the only way to save my daughter,” Sang-won said firmly. “I did this to her, so I’ll save her from it. I don’t care what happens to me.”

I do.

But there would be no convincing him otherwise, so Kyung-hoon steeled his nerves and prepared himself for a fight. 

“Stay alive…” he murmured, Sang-won’s lightly bleeding hand cradled in his as he finished up the last few steps of the ritual, his heart beating anxiously. “So you can come back and pay me,” he added, covering for the jumped mess of emotions curdling around his heart. 

“Depends on your performance,” Sang-won answered after a long moment, a light smile on his lips, eyes never leaving Kyung-hoon’s.

Do not fall in love with him.

Too late, he thought as Sang-won walked away from him. Too late…

Please don’t die on me, he silently pleaded as he sealed Sang-won in that damnable closet. Please…I don’t think I could bear that.

It’s been such a long time since I felt like this about someone…

Come back to me.

It was a fight. It was an awful, bitter fight, but not the one Kyung-hoon had been expecting. He had been anticipating, had prepared for a fight between good and evil, but that was not what this was. No, this was a fight between the harmed: living and dead. The harm was equal. The dead, having had their lives stolen from them, their souls destroyed by those meant to care for them. And the living, having lost everything in the process. 

He tore his stitches keeping Myung-jin out, keeping Sang-won’s fire safe. The narcotics and the adrenaline high in his blood, he didn’t even feel it, only recognized it from the blood soaking through his shirt and the sweat plastering his hair to his forehead. She beat him bloody, but he supposed it was only fair. Adults like him had given her hell. 

Then again, this was the girl who had brutally murdered his mother. 

He pulled out every trick he knew to buy Sang-won more time, dragging out just a bit of dark magic of his own, magic he had sworn he would never use at the very end, just to keep that flame lit, keep that door open a little longer.

Come back to me, he prayed. Come back.

Out of ideas, at the very last second, they made it back. 

“Yeon shi!” he cried, dropping his drum in favor of skidding over to the battered man’s side. His daughter lay on the floor between them, exhausted from her ordeal and unconscious, but decidedly alive and unharmed, and Sang-won was looking at him with all the gratitude in the world, his face so very open and soft...

Kyung-hoon trembled to see it. 

They had won, they had won, twenty-two years of chasing this down and finally it was over, they had won, and Sang-won was alive, had come back to him—

Before he knew what he was doing, Kyung-hoon was leaning forward and kissing him. The relief he felt as soon as their lips touched (he had never before had the pleasure of kissing someone he had fallen in love with), and oh how his heart swelled when Sang-won kissed him back, kissed him back like he was drowning and Kyung-hoon was air. He tasted like death and honestly smelled worse, but Kyung-hoon did not care, this was everything he had ever wanted…

The kiss ended naturally, in reality didn’t last longer than a few desperate presses of lips before both of their attention was turned back to Ina, who had escaped a fate worse than death by mere seconds. 

Kyung-hoon didn’t remember much after that. He did remember Sang-won firmly telling him to go back to the hospital, don’t you dare die on me after this from preventable blood loss, as he climbed into the back of an ambulance with Ina, speeding off with her to the nearest children’s hospital. 

What in the hell he was going to tell the cops, Kyung-hoon had no idea. But there was nothing he could do about that as he called his doctor friend and said something along the lines of “I think I’m bleeding to death” before passing out on the front lawn. He woke up in the hospital a bit worse for wear an undetermined amount of time later to a furious friend, a new set of stitches, and two blood bags hanging on the IV pole beside him, but he was alive and mostly in one piece. 

All he could think about as he lay in his hospital bed recovering (he had no other choice seeing as his friend had pink-slipped him in order to keep him there for three days, which pissed him off more than a bit and made him want to yell at his friend about ethics, but he supposed it was only fair) was the feeling of Sang-won’s mouth on his. How wonderful that had been, how happy he was...

But the more his head slowly cleared out the drugs and adrenaline, the more he recognized that it was probably a heat of the moment thing, and was unlikely to happen again. The man probably wasn’t even gay, seeing as he’d had a wife and kid and all…

If that didn’t break Kyung-hoon’s sorry heart.

Given all that, one could understand the surprise Kyung-hoon felt upon waking up to see a bouquet of flowers on his bedside table, put there by a nurse. The note on them said, Get well soon. YSW

He sent a get-well card to the man who had saved his daughter’s life and gotten badly injured in the process. You’re hanging on to nothing, he told himself as he smiled wide enough to make his cheeks hurt. It would be kinder to yourself to just accept it now that this is one-sided and will never be anything more. 

But he just couldn’t (wouldn’t) do that. Not just yet. 

Let him have this just a moment longer. 

The next time he saw Sang-won, he was leaning against the man’s car, waiting for Ina to get out of school. For a moment, he let himself believe this was a normal thing, that Ina was his too, and the two of them were standing there, waiting for…their daughter to get out of school. Just for a moment. It felt so nice as he did…

The bill he gave Sang-won was a joke of course, he just wanted to see the man smile. And Sang-won did after a second. 

“You’ll have to revise this,” he said with a snort. “Or I’ll just ignore it.”

Kyung-hoon took it back from him, smiling too, as Ina ran out to greet her father. She was wary of Kyung-hoon, but he supposed most kids didn’t much like meeting strangers.

“Don’t be afraid of him,” Sang-won murmured gently as Kyung-hoon opened the car door for her. “He’s a good man.”

Kyung-hoon’s heart swelled. It swelled more when Sang-won coughed almost awkwardly before sheepishly asking if Kyung-hoon would like to come back with them for dinner. 

“I suppose we’ll have to do some negotiating with that bill,” he said, not looking at Kyung-hoon and shifting around on his feet. “We can talk about it over dinner.”

Of course Kyung-hoon agreed. 

He had expected further awkwardness, what with Sang-won acting decidedly uncomfortable all of a sudden and Ina not being a fan of new people, but he got nothing of the sort. At least not after he asked her what kind of music she was listening to in the car and showed interest when she answered. 

They didn’t end up ever talking about the bill through dinner (he hadn’t been planning on bringing it up, truly, this one was on him, pro bono, with pleasure) as Ina chattered excitedly to him about literally everything but the kitchen sink. Especially after he mentioned BTS. 

“See?” Kyung-hoon said, tossing Sang-won a smile as Ina leapt up in the middle of dinner to go get her violin and show Kyung-hoon her rendition of her favorite song. “I told you I bet she liked BTS."

Sang-won blushed. “I’m so sorry, I’ll ask her to stop talking so much. You probably don’t—“

Kyung-hoon cut him off as Ina ran back into the room. “It’s fine,” he said. “I don’t mind in the slightest.”

He really didn’t. 

At the end of the night, as Sang-won sent his daughter off to bed, she clutched at Kyung-hoon’s hand and begged her father to tell her when Kyung-hoon could come back. 

“Can he come back? Please come back! I want you to come back!”

His miserable fucking heart. 

When he looked back up at Sang-won, the man had the oddest look in his eye. 

“He can come back whenever he wants,” he whispered softly, eyes never leaving Kyung-hoon’s. 

Ina tugged on his hand, leaning heavily on it. “When are you coming back, Heo shi?”

How Kyung-hoon’s heart clenched with hope as he answered, “Soon.”

She cheered excitedly the whole way up to bed, leaving Kyung-hoon and Sang-won there at the foot of the stairs, gazing at each other. 

“It’s late,” Sang-won whispered. “I could call you a cab…”

“Mmhmm…”

“Or…” He shifted awkwardly on his feet. “Or you could stay for a drink…” 

“Mmhmm.”

He hadn’t the faintest idea what they talked about over those drinks. All he was focused on the whole time was how close Sang-won was sitting to him, how he leaned more towards Kyung-hoon with each passing minute. Eventually his hand was placed over Kyung-hoon’s, and the exorcist turned his hand over to tentatively lace their fingers together. They talked for a few more minutes after that, both their eyes fixed on their joined hands, paying attention to nothing but the electric charge between them and shifting ever closer until they were practically in each other’s laps, foreheads pressed together. 

“Sang-won…” he breathed, heart pounding so hard he wondered if the other man could hear it. 

“Kyung-hoon…” 

Then he was in Sang-won’s lap and they were kissing frantically. 

There was nothing chaste or gentle about that kiss, spurred on by a whirlwind of emotions Kyung-hoon didn’t have half a hope of untangling. Sang-won’s tongue was in his mouth, practically down his throat in an instant as his hands stretched Kyung-hoon’s thighs further around his waist, massaging at his ass as the exorcist wound his arms around the man’s neck, fingers in his hair as he ground his rapidly stiffening cock against Sang-won’s. 

He wasn’t entirely sure how or when they ended up on the ground from there, him on his back and Sang-won between his thighs, but his blood ran so hot he couldn’t care less. As Sang-won ground their hips together his hands pushing up under Kyung-hoon’s shirt, part of the exorcist thought of the girl sleeping upstairs, she could so easily walk down them and find them like this, but he couldn’t find it within himself to push Sang-won away, and neither did Sang-won seem concerned. 

A thousand emotions, some of them clearer now —fear, relief, loneliness, grief, joy, desperation, lust— battered them both as they drank in the taste and feel of each other, and Kyung-hoon had never been more turned on in his life. 

“Please…” he begged as Sang-won briefly broke the fiery kiss to tug Kyung-hoon’s pants down and off, scrabbling frantically with the zipper of his own. “Please…” 

Then their lips were pressed back together, their moans muffled in each other’s mouths as Sang-won’s slick fingers (with what was another mystery) groped down at the exorcist’s entrance. Kyung-hoon’s body opened easily to him (of course it did, Kyung-hoon had only been fucking himself on a toy every spare moment he had to the thought of Sang-won’s lips on his own since his injury could handle it) and he clutched desperately at Sang-won’s shoulders, clenching down around him. 

Please, please hurry, I want you inside me, I need you inside me, I’ve never wanted anything so much in my life—

Sang-won drew back again and Kyung-hoon barely had time to catch his breath as he listened to the sound of a condom wrapper being torn open and the slick sound of it sliding over a cock (had he planned this?) before that cock was sinking into Kyung-hoon and he was moaning like his life depended on it. 

It felt so good. 

His body was open and willing, and he barely even felt the stretch as Sang-won moved inside him, easily at first, giving him a moment to adjust before taking up a hard and fast rhythm. Kyung-hoon loved it, holding tight to the other man, desperate sounds escaping his throat as pleasure nearly overwhelmed him. 

“Sang-won…Sang-won…” he gasped as the other man pounded into him, cock rubbing just right over his prostate with every thrust and making him see stars. 

At some point, one of them laced their fingers together and pressed their hands beside Kyung-hoon’s head. The intimacy of that alone made Kyung-hoon feel drunk and he craved more as he held the other man close, clutching desperately at his clothed back. 

How he wished for bare skin.

Part of him thought to reach for the hem of his shirt, to pull it from the other’s body so he could see him, all of him, but then Sang-won’s free hand was wrapping around his cock and it was clear that neither of them were going to last much longer, the emotions running too high and the rhythm too hard and fast for either of them to have a hope of drawing it out. 

Nothing had ever felt so good. 

“Sang-won,” he moaned again, arching his back into his thrusts and his hand, feeling as though he would certainly die from this. “Sang-won, please, ahh…” 

They both came not long after that, Sang-won’s hips stuttering against his with a grunt and Kyung-hoon muffling a wail into his bicep, spilling over the other’s hand. 

This is perfect, Kyung-hoon thought, shuddering through the aftershocks and savoring the feeling of the other still grinding into him, oblivious to the fact they had just fucked on the floor of the man’s kitchen, of all places. This is absolutely perfect.

When he woke up in Sang-won’s bed the next morning, the other noticeably absent from it, was it any wonder his heart sank to the pit of his stomach?

Get ready, he told himself. He’s going to reject you. He’s going to say something along the lines of “I don’t want o uproot Ina, it hasn’t been that long since my wife”, and you’re going to take it like an adult. 

It really hadn’t been that long since the man’s wife died, had it…

That’s fine, he thought, slumping back down onto the pillows for a breath, nursing his already half-broken heart. It’s all fine...

“Kyung-hoon!” Sang-won appeared in the doorway, half-dressed and looking harried. “Kyung-hoon, I hate to do this to you, but there was a problem at the site. Like an ‘if I don’t go in I lose my job immediately’ sort of problem. Could you watch Ina? Just for a few hours and I’ll find someone else, I’m just really in a pinch. Though I guess I could take her with me and she can sit in the car—“

“No!” Kyung-hoon said quickly, sitting up. “No, it’s okay. I can…I can watch her.”

“Bless you,” Sang-won said with a relieved sigh before disappearing out the door. 

Kyung-hoon stayed in bed a little longer to process what had just happened.

So do I...do I have half a chance? Or is he just taking advantage of free and available childcare?

Who was to say, really. 

He couldn’t say he ended up thinking about it much, as what followed was honestly the best day of his life. Ina was overjoyed to have her new friend with her the whole day, and Kyung-hoon couldn’t have been happier to spend it with her. Who’d have thought playing dolls with an eleven-year-old girl was so much fun, and he couldn’t say he minded playing the captive audience as she practiced her violin. In fact, he truly felt that watching cartoons with her while she braided his hair and put glitter on his face was the best way he could be spending his time at this very moment.

He almost cried, he was so happy. 

I want kids, he thought. I want this. 

Was there a chance that he could keep this? 

Please let me keep this.

Sang-won was more than a little surprised at the state he found Kyung-hoon in when he came home (Ina had insisted they show her father her work, and who was Kyung-hoon to deny her), but Kyung-hoon could only smile. 

“It’s…getting quite dark already,” Sang-won murmured as Ina skipped to the kitchen to pick something out for dinner, eyes never once leaving Kyung-hoon’s sparkly face. “You could…stay the night if you wanted. Just so you don’t have to travel home so late...”

What kind of decision was that? Simple. It wasn’t one. There was only one answer to be given. 

Yes.

What followed was another (family) dinner, though this one was much less awkward as Sang-won listen amusedly to Ina’s description of their day, and Kyung-hoon basked away on cloud nine. 

He might have been fooling himself, but he was content to do so for the time being. 

Later, as Ina slept, Sang-won pressed him into the sheets and slid into him again. Kyung-hoon covered his mouth with his hand to muffle his moans, his other curled tightly in Sang-won’s. Their fucking was much gentler then, less hurried and less desperate. They rocked their hips together almost languidly, Kyung-hoon’s legs draped around his waist as they kissed. In the middle of it, Sang-won slowed his thrusts even more in favor of pressing his mouth to Kyung-hoon’s chest, licking over his nipples and making the exorcist shudder with pleasure. 

Then he moved lower, briefly slipping out of Kyung-hoon so he could reach the still-pink scar on his belly. He brushed a careful thumb over it before kissing it, his mouth ever so gentle on his skin. Kyung-hoon ran his fingers through the other man’s hair, trying to absorb it all as his heart threatened to explode. 

All too soon, Sang-won was leaning up and pressing back into him. Kyung-hoon moved to meet him, pulling him down by the back of the neck to kiss him. Sang-won laced their fingers back together then and took up a firmer rhythm, and Kyung-hoon nearly writhed under him in pleasure. Somehow, it all felt even better than it had the first time. 

(Part of Kyung-hoon wondered if he had bled to death on the front lawn, and this was just heaven. Because yes, this was heaven). 

Things continued to slowly but surely progress like that without either of them really realizing it. Kyung-hoon had tried to be careful, hadn’t meant to become so permanent a fixture in the Yeon household, not wanting to look like he was trying to replace Ina’s mother, but he did anyway. Become a fixture, that is. 

Sang-won worked and Kyung-hoon thoroughly neglected his job in favor of watching Ina, taking her to school and picking her up, spending time with her and letting her get away with literally everything under the sun (in many things he might have been cynical, but with her, he was soft).

He hadn’t wanted to push things, hadn’t wanted to rush things, but neither did he want them to stop. Quite the opposite. 

All the same, they had never talked about what they were doing, so when six months in Ina asked what she should call him since he was living with them now while, he had no idea how to answer her. 

“But are you, like, my stepdad  now?”

Kyung-hoon’s heart skipped a beat. “What?”

“My stepdad. There’s a girl at my school who had a mom and a dad, but her dad left so her mom married another guy and she calls him dad now. Are you like that?”

How Kyung-hoon’s heart throbbed. “I…don’t know.” After a beat, he went on. “Would that bother you if I was?”

She thought about it for a moment. “No, I don’t think so,” she said. “It might if you were a girl cuz nobody can replace my mom, but you’re not a girl, so it’s not the same thing.” 

When Sang-won came home that night, Kyung-hoon cornered him the first chance he got. 

“We need to talk about this,” he said firmly, gesturing between the two of them. “Because it’s been six months and we haven’t yet, and I keep waiting for you to bring it up but you don’t, and after the conversation I had with Ina today, we need to talk about this!”

Sang-won blinked at him. “What did she say?”

A bit harried, Kyung-hoon answered, “She asked me what she should call me since I’m living with you now, and when I didn’t know how to answer, she asked me if I was her stepdad now! So I need to know what your outlook on this is because if you’re planning on dumping me soon, I need you to do that sooner rather than later, before I…” get any more attached.

Sang-won stared at him. “Dump you? I wasn’t...I wasn’t planning on doing that!” He shifted uncomfortably. “So...is this…what you want?”

Kyung-hoon stared at him, eyes blurring with tears. “Yes,” he breathed. “Yes, I want this more than I’ve wanted anything in my life, and for that reason I need to know if you see this as a long term thing or not, because if you don’t, I…” I’ll need to go. And save whatever will be left of my shattered heart. 

Sang-won took a shuddering breath. “This…has been moving really fast, I know…” He let out a sharp sigh. “I am…so bad at this. I was bad at this with my wife and now with you as well…My wife…” He shut his eyes. “I know what this must look like. It must look like me looking to replace my wife the first chance I get, but I swear that’s not it. I was worried that it was, but the longer you’ve been here the more I…the more I realize it’s not.” He swallowed thickly. “I don’t want you to leave. You saved me, and you saved my daughter, and I fell in love with you while you did it. This whole time, that hasn’t changed.”

And Kyung-hoon…

Well. 

He just might have burst into tears at that, immediately burying his face in Sang-won’s neck and sobbing out I love you, I love you, I fell in love with you the second I saw you to which Sang-won chuckled and told him he was being just a little dramatic. 

Maybe a bit. Or maybe not. 

When Sang-won kissed him then, Kyung-hoon’s heart had never felt so full. 

The second time he cried like a little baby was the first time Ina actually called him dad, a year in. He had been waiting by the car outside of school, like he always did, when someone came up to him. 

“I’ve been seeing you around here for a while,” the woman said, looking him up and down almost a bit suspiciously. Given his black clothes, suspicious tattoos, and scars, that might have been fair. “What…is your business here?” 

Kyung-hoon looked up at her from where he had been playing with his phone. “I’m just waiting for my daughter,” he said immediately and without thinking, heart skipping a beat when he realized what he had said. But he had been thinking of her as his own for a long time now, hadn’t he?

The woman was surprised when it was Ina who came over to him. 

“Yup,” the girl said cheerily when asked, taking Kyung-hoon’s hand. “This is my dad.” 

It was everything Kyung-hoon could do to not burst into tears on the spot. When they got in the car, he only managed to hold back most of them. 

“What’s wrong?” Ina asked from the back. “Are you okay? You’re crying!” 

“Mmhmm,” he said, wiping the tears from his cheeks. “I’m okay, sweetheart, I’m good. I’m just happy.”

At home in Sang-won’s arms, he bawled. 

“She called me dad!” he sobbed into his partner’s shoulder. “I’m so happy...”

Sang-won chuckled and patted his back. “My dramatic exorcist.”

“Shut up...”

The third time it happened, he was looking at his two favorite people. Two and a half years in, Ina was holding sign, one that read ‘You’re already my dad, but will you make it a bit more official?’ and Sang-won was standing next to her, holding a ring. 

“I can’t marry you for real,” Sang-won whispered. “But I can offer you a symbol of commitment.” 

What was left of the cynical walls around Kyung-hoon’s heart splintered, and he soon found himself wrapped in his family’s arms, a ring on his finger. 

When Ina came and hugged him before bed that night, she whispered, “I love you, dad,” into his chest. 

He hugged her back as tightly as he could. “My sweet girl,” he breathed. “I love you so much.” 

He still kept his job, the one as an exorcist. There was still so much evil in this world, and so few of them who knew how to fight it. Sang-won wasn’t happy about it, but Kyung-hoon felt he had to. There were other families out there who needed protecting, just like his own had. 

The difference was, now he was more careful. He never wore his ring to work for fear an evil spirit would see it and seek out his family, but he felt its presence on his hand all the same. He had something to come back to now. He could not be as cavalier with his life as he used to be. 

He had a family. A husband. A daughter. A family.

He had always wanted a family.

Laying in bed, sweat cooling on his skin, blissfully sated with Sang-won asleep in his arms, their rings glinting in the dim light of the room (Sang-won never took his off), Kyung-hoon had the funniest thought. 

Myung-jin, he thought, staring up at the ceiling and thinking of the girl who had brought him to his family. 

I suppose we’re even now. 

I suppose I might just be able to forgive you for killing my mom since you led me to my family. 

Yes, I suppose I will.

 

 

El Fin