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the love you don't feel

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The smile on Jugyeong’s face when Seojun steps into the room is almost as big as the diamond on her finger.

Almost.

They say your wedding is the happiest day of your life, of course she’s smiling. She’s smiling and patting over a thin braid crowning her head until her eyes land on Seojun through the mirror, standing in the doorway with his head tilted as he watches her look at herself. Admire herself. She’s prettiest when she’s doting on her beauty.

A surprised yelp escapes her. “Yah! Don’t you know it’s bad luck to see the bride before the ceremony?!” she yells, hugging herself as if that’ll tuck her away from view. Or maybe hide the fact the back of her dress is half unzipped.

Seojun chuckles, rolling his eyes at the ceiling. “That only applies to the groom,” he quips. “Who’s contemplating running away by the way.”

Jugyeong’s eyes widen and she drops her hands to turn and look at him. “If one of us is going to run away, it’s me!” she bunches her hands in the skirt of her dress to pull it up and makes to barge out, but Seojun takes a step to the side to block her exit and lets out another laugh.

“I’m just kidding.”

He thought she looked pretty standing at the mirror, but like this, up-close, she’s blinding. Seojun’s heart hooks on a beat before picking up pace.

Jugyeong’s shoulders slump and her smile drops into a frown. “I’m so nervous.”

“Why are you nervous?” Seojun questions. “Are you having cold feet?” he squints an eye playfully. “Shall we escape out that window and elope?”

Jugyeong laughs and shoves him in the shoulder lightly.

“It won’t make a difference,” Seojun assures her gently. “You were practically married anyway. Don’t overthink it, understood?”

Jugyeong takes a deep breath and gives a single nod, stern and determined. “You’re right,” she cups her hands and lifts her eyes to look at him. “How do I look?”

Seojun steps back to run his eyes over her. From her long hair cascading down in waves to the necklace Suho bought her on that trip seven years ago, to the embroidered bodice of the strapless dress. He clears his throat and Jugyeong twiddles with the end of her hair. “Juyoung said it’s too revealing.”

“Juyoung can focus on fixing his own style,” Seojun retorts, making her snort. He rests his gaze on her face, the beginning of a smile on his lips. “You look beautiful, Lim Jugyeong.”

Jugyeong looks momentarily taken aback. By the words or by the honesty, Seojun isn’t sure. She blinks, hands smoothing over the bodice gently. “Thank you.”

Seojun hums. “But it’s missing something,” he angles his head to the side contemplatively. Then he steps in and tuts. “You have…” he reaches up to pull something out of her hair. “Ta-da,” he plucks a hairpin out from behind her ear, silver and adorned with dangling blue flowers.

Jugyeong scoffs. “I’m not a kid, that trick doesn’t work on me,” she laughs. She reaches for it but he holds it just out of reach.

“Take care of it, okay?” he orders. “Here,” he reaches up and slides it through her braid.

Jugyeong skitters hesitant fingers over it then smiles. “I love it,” she says, in the same tone she usually says thank you.

Seojun squeezes his eyes in a no problem way.

“Where’s Sua?” Jugyeong groans and starts pacing. “I knew I should’ve chosen Sujin to help me instead.”

Seojun opens his mouth, then closes it. “I saw her before I came here,” he admits, reaching up ruffle his hair but stopping in the very nick of time to not ruin its style. He scratches his neck instead. “She went into a room with Taehoon.”

Jugyeong clenches her teeth and stomps a foot, making Seojun chew the inside of his cheek to stifle a laugh.

“Stop laughing,” Jugyeong grumbles. “And zip me up.”

She turns around to face the mirror and sweeps her hair away. Seojun loses his breath. He rubs his fingers together nervously and clears his throat before he steps closer. “I’m Suho’s best man you know,” he plays annoyed. “I can’t be your helper too.”

But he’s reaching up and taking the zipper between shaky fingers. He swallows, willing his heart to slow down. He looks at her reflection as he pulls it up, tooth by tooth. Jugyeong looks back, and.

There’s a flicker of realization on her face, like the mirror’s given Seojun transparency. Stripped him down to the beating organ in his chest.

The door bangs open and whatever Jugyeong looked like she wants to say dissipates as her mother begins to praise her.

Heekyung pushes Seojun lightly out the way and Seojun goes with it, stumbles a bit but regains balance quickly.

Jugyeong’s still looking at him. Then she’s looking at the door he rushes out through.

“I think you should tell her.”

Sujin isn’t looking at him. She’s holding her phone up and taking a selfie with a peace sign whipped out.

Seojun laughs quietly. “Mm… I don’t know. I don’t think her wedding day is the fitting time,” he answers teasingly, then shoves his face into the frame and sticks his tongue out just as Sujin snaps the photo.

“Aish, get away,” Sujin shoves him away and looks at him with contempt. “Not now. But at some point in this lifetime. You’re so dense.”

Seojun pulls at his bow tie to undo it, letting it hang loosely around his neck. “In this world, you get either beauty or brains, Sujin-ah,” he murmurs, rolling his neck. “I chose beauty. You chose brains. We’re two sides of the same–”

Sujin smacks him upside the head. “Yah! I’m gorgeous!”

Seojun nods at her with a humoring smile. “Whatever floats your boat, sweetheart.”

Sujin sneers at him but says nothing as she looks back at her phone.

Seojun stands up and walks over to Suho and Jugyeong, all wrapped up in each other. “Ok, lovebirds, my turn,” he states. “You get each other for the rest of your lives.”

They draw apart, Suho half-laughing as he turns his eyes on Seojun. “As long as you give her back.”

“I wanted to dance with you,” Seojun tuts. “Whatever. No promises. Go and dance with Sujin, she’s losing her mind.”

Suho laughs and nods, a lock of gelled hair hanging down his forehead. He’s flushed from liquor and happiness. Happiness looks good on that jerk.

Seojun turns back to Jugyeong and holds a hand out. She takes it without preamble and places her other hand on his shoulder. Seojun hesitates, but then he’s holding her waist with a tenderness reserved only for her. “How do you feel?” he asks quietly.

“Happy,” Jugyeong responds.

They sway to the song slowly, silently until Jugyeong speaks up. “I want to ask you something.”

“Seojun,” Seojun responds. At her confused expression, he grins. “Baby names? Lee Seojun sounds good. It has a ring to it. A girl? Seojin.”

Jugyeong laughs, shaking her head. “It’s too early to think about that!” she exclaims, embarrassed if anything.

“Then what is it?” Seojun asks.

Jugyeong’s smile falters and she looks away for a moment before locking eyes with him. “Do you…” she stops, as if she’s rethinking asking him. Presses her lips together hard enough to smudge her lipstick. “Do you still like me?”

Seojun’s heart drops to the pit of his stomach. Time beats slower. The world feels like it’s stopped spinning altogether. His throat bobs, heat creeping down the length of his back. He breathes a laugh out his nose. “Why?” he leans down. “Are you considering the elopement?” he goes on playfully.

Jugyeong doesn’t look like she’s in the mood for a giggle.

“It’s your wedding,” Seojun sighs. “Ask me some other time. I’m biased right now because you look too pretty.”

Jugyeong echoes his sigh. “I just want you to be honest.”

“And I don’t want to ruin your day by being selfish,” Seojun parries.

“I want to know! I’m asking!”

Seojun nods. Tilts his head back a little, to breathe, because being this close to her makes him feel like he’s running out of air. Then he looks back down at her. “I love you,” he says simply. “I never stopped. What I felt for you only grew the more I saw you and right now?” he swallows the lump in his throat. “Right now I love you more than I’ve ever loved you before. And tomorrow I’ll probably love you more than that. Is that what you want to hear?”

Jugyeong’s eyes are wet with tears. Seojun feels liberated. “Seojun-ah…”

He tuts his tongue and reaches up to thumb a tear away. “Don’t ruin your makeup. How many times do I have to tell you that you look ugly when you cry?”

Jugyeong looks like she wants to cry even more. It hurts him greater than the past seven years combinedHe smiles, then laughs and pulls her closer, hugs her to his body and props his chin on her head. “Stop crying,” he begs quietly.

“I’m sorry,” she pules. I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m sorry I can’t say it back.

“It’s okay,” Seojun tilts his head to kiss the top of hers. “I never wanted anything in return.”