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deception is a skillset

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Half of getting an idea to work out the way you want it to is selling it. Sooyoung is aware of this — has seen the difference between how she and Kim Dokja are perceived, knows it’s entirely about their presentation — but being a marketer has never been her biggest strength. Still, she thinks as she advertises perhaps her dumbest plan yet, she has to try.

“So I have a proposition,” she begins. Jung Heewon already looks exhausted.

“No.”

“Shut up,” Sooyoung snaps. She pauses, remembering Kim Dokja talking about tact or something earlier. “I mean. Hear me out first.” Jung Heewon doesn’t say she will, but she also doesn’t say do you wanna die, Han Sooyoung , so Sooyoung takes the win and continues, “My boss thinks I’m married and he wants to meet my wife.”

For a moment, Sooyoung genuinely thinks Jung Heewon might slap her. Instead, she takes a deep breath and says, “Why does he think you’re married?”

“I wear a ring at work so people don’t bother me,” says Sooyoung airily. “There’s a function tonight he told me to invite my wife to, so I was hoping we could just pretend — ”

“Sangah-ssi’s a better option,” Jung Heewon interrupts. “She talks to you more.”

Sooyoung clicks her tongue against her teeth. “She’s also actually married,” she says, and Jung Heewon frowns. “I'm not going to be a homewrecker just so my boss likes me.” She can practically see Jung Heewon’s brain running through options: Lee Seolhwa, who happens to be Yoo Sangah’s wife, Jang Hayoung, a horrible liar, Lee Sookyung, her best friend’s mother, which crosses, like, every boundary —

“You could just tell the truth,” Jung Heewon finally offers. “That’s probably best for everyone.”

“That’s embarrassing,” Sooyoung counters, “and I’d rather die.” Jung Heewon looks as if she’s going to fashion a sword out of the nearest object and stab Sooyoung with it. “It’s just for one night. You don’t even have to do anything, mostly.”

“I have to — ” Jung Heewon’s voice comes out slightly strangled, like it’s been run through a strainer. “We’re not married.”

Sooyoung tries very hard not to roll her eyes because she’s being nice right now. “That’s why I said pretend. Sometimes, people lie about things, and when they do — ”

“Don’t be condescending.” Jung Heewon pinches the space between her eyebrows for what feels like hours. “What’s the dress code?”

“Semiformal.” Sooyoung chooses not to confirm whether this is a yes — she’s ninety percent sure it is, and she’s also ninety percent sure that if she asks for clarification, Jung Heewon will back out instantly. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow at seven.”

“Like hell you will.”

“My car’s better.”

“I don’t trust you to drive.”

“Hey, I’ve literally driven you around before,” Sooyoung complains. “I was the group chauffeur for like, three years.”

Jung Heewon scoffs. “Sangah-ssi was the group chauffeur; you just bothered her. Either let me drive or find another fake — fake whatever.” When she blushes, she looks a little like she’s gleaming. Sooyoung wonders if it’s some kind of leftover effect from the scenarios or if she’s just always been — shiny, or luminescent or something. Either way, it’s distracting and Sooyoung needs it to stop.

“Fine,” she agrees, rolling her shoulders back as she stands up. “You can drive, I guess. See you tomorrow, um.” She almost says babe just to piss Jung Heewon off, but the word gets stuck in her throat and refuses to dislodge itself. “Wife.”

“How romantic,” Jung Heewon replies drily. Sooyoung has half a mind to point out that she’s not the one who said fake whatever , but she’s not going to pick a fight with someone who’s doing a favor (or at least not for now), so she just makes a rude gesture as she walks outside and thinks about all the mean things she can say as she drives home.

&

Sooyoung’s idea of semiformal is only a little better than what she wears to work — a blazer over a turtleneck with matching pants, simple and not too attention-grabbing. She thinks she’s in the right for being a little confused when Jung Heewon shows up in a full-blown suit, something she knows she stole from Kim Dokja because it’s a little long and too tight around the thighs and arms — not that Sooyoung’s noticing. Because she’s not.

“Ready to go?” Jung Heewon prompts.

Sooyoung clears her throat, which suddenly feels strangely dry. “You’re overdressed.”

“Maybe you’re underdressed.”

“It’s my workplace.” Sooyoung slams the door from the passenger’s side, shaking her hair out like a wet dog even though it’s perfectly dry. “I think I know what’s happening better than you, b— ” She still can’t bring herself to say it. Damn. “Wife,” she finishes weakly.

Jung Heewon glances at her before turning her eyes back to the road. “Are you just going to call me wife this entire time?”

“It can be a pet name.”

“You’re a freak, Han Sooyoung,” says Jung Heewon, but Sooyoung catches a sliver of a smile.

“If we’re,” Sooyoung pretends her voice doesn’t wobble as she continues, “married, then we should probably just — be on first name basis, right?”

“You’re a freak, Sooyoung-ah,” says Jung Heewon immediately. Her ears, a furious crimson, betray her. Sooyoung snickers.

“Be quiet, Heewon-ah,” she tries, and then she’s going red too and this is the least funny thing in the world. “Ugh, this sucks.”

Jung Heewon makes a noise that’s almost a cackle. It’s insanely endearing, like most things she does. “It could be worse,” she says. “We could be doing nicknames.”

“Heewonie.”

“Die.”

“Hey.” Sooyoung leans over and pinches her, yelping when Jung Heewon slaps her hand away. “Be nice to your wife, goddamnit.”

When Jung Heewon laughs, full-bodied this time, Sooyoung feels her heart launch itself all the way out of her throat. It’s not her fault: Jung Heewon’s pretty, and whether or not Sooyoung has feelings for her, she’s still a very, very weak woman. Still, it’s humiliating, especially when Jung Heewon looks over and asks, slightly amused, “Are you actually dying?”

Sooyoung’s laugh is loud and false. It’s at times like these that she wishes she had all her friends’ talent for lying with a straight face. “I’m fine. Shut up.” She coughs, and they sit in not quite awkward silence until they’re two minutes from the university. “So how long ago did we get married?”

Jung Heewon shrugs as she pulls in, though the crimson spreads from her ears down to her neck. “How long have you been wearing the ring for?”

“A year, I think?” Sooyoung squints at the ring, glinting gold into her eyes. “Oh, shit, wait, here’s yours.”

There are a few things she could have done right now: give Jung Heewon the ring like a normal person, maybe, or even leave it on the dashboard. Instead, she takes Jung Heewon’s hand — calloused, scarred from the remnants of years ago — slips it around her ring finger, nudges it into place. She momentarily congratulates herself on guessing the right measurements before wondering why she’s paying enough attention to Jung Heewon’s fingers to guess the right measurements.

“Um,” says Jung Heewon. Sooyoung’s hand is still clasped around hers. Before she can think something gay and stupid like they fit well together , she yanks it back and opens the door.

“Okay.” Sooyoung steps out and pastes on a smile. “Showtime.”

Jung Heewon groans as she walks to stand beside her (and oh god, there’s the suit again). “Don’t say it like that.”

“What the hell else am I supposed to say?” She glares. “Time to go meet my coworkers, Heewon-ah, are you excited?”

“Now you just sound like you’re reading from a script,” Jung Heewon complains, reaching down to clasp their hands together. Sooyoung’s brain stops working for a moment, and by the time it’s back, they’re already inside. “Hey.” Jung Heewon has to lean down to whisper into Sooyoung’s ear, and her mouth brushes against her earlobe. Sooyoung’s starting to think she’s doing this on purpose. “Are you even paying attention to what I’m saying?”

“Do I need to?”

“You’re an ass.”

“You married me,” Sooyoung replies, because all her coworkers are in the same room and even if they’re whispering, one of them might have supernatural hearing or something. She hisses when Jung Heewon stomps on her foot — and oh, she’s wearing heels. This is fine. Sooyoung resolutely doesn’t think about how much taller she is right now. “Wait, shut up, that’s my boss.”

“You shut up; I haven’t even said anything — ”

“Is this the wife I’ve heard so much about?” her boss asks, smiling so that his eyes crinkle. For obvious reasons, Sooyoung’s never dropped any details about her wife. She thinks he might have something wrong with him, but he pays well, so she never questions it. “It’s so nice to meet you. I’m the dean of English here.”

Jung Heewon snakes an arm around Sooyoung’s waist, pulling her closer. Sooyoung pretends her skin doesn’t burn at the contact. “I’m Jung Heewon,” she says, shaking his hand firmly. The ring on her finger glints, far too real. They chatter for a few minutes about how unique and interesting of a character Sooyoung is (rude, first of all, she might be lax with authority but she’s still way more polite than she is with anyone else), Jung Heewon’s hand resting firmly against Sooyoung’s sweater all the while.

“That was easy.” Jung Heewon tucks a strand of hair behind her ear as the dean walks away, her other hand still unmoving. “You’re mean to your boss, too?”

“I’m not,” Sooyoung scoffs. “He loves me; I’ll have his job in like four years when he retires.”

Jung Heewon frowns at her. “Is that the only reason you’re not mean to him?”

“Of course not,” Sooyoung says, circling her own arm around Jung Heewon’s waist just so that they can be on even ground. “He also brings in really good cupcakes and lets me have the first pick.” Jung Heewon is oddly silent. When Sooyoung looks up at her, her eyes are trained on Sooyoung’s hand. “What?”

“Nothing.” Jung Heewon’s gaze flickers up to the ceiling. “Hey, after this, do you think we could — ” She pauses, chewing the inside of her cheek. “Never mind.”

“What, you’re getting shy on me now?” Now that she thinks about it, Jung Heewon has always been sort of shy about this stuff, even when she was with Lee Hyunsung. It was cute then, too, but Sooyoung had always pushed that thought away because of the whole constant-threat-of-certain-death thing.

Oh, fuck, she realises, she’s been thinking Jung Heewon’s cute for at least seven years now. That feels significant.

“You look sick,” Jung Heewon says, voice low. “Do you wanna get out of here?”

Sooyoung shakes her head. “We have to stay here for an hour. To be polite or whatever.”

“Since when have you cared?”

Sooyoung opens and closes her mouth. “Let’s get snacks,” she says instead of answering, making a beeline for the appetizers table. Jung Heewon follows, looking somewhere in between perplexed and reluctantly entertained. She takes one look at the food and realises she’s actually not that hungry, but she doesn’t particularly feel like talking to her coworkers, so she just leans against Jung Heewon and crosses her arms.

“You’re touchy,” Jung Heewon murmurs, though she doesn’t sound displeased. Her voice is — well, it’s always been deep, in a way Sooyoung used to find grating but thinks is calming, especially when it’s just them in a room full of people they barely know. “What happened to you wanting my hands off you or you’d kill me?”

“Oh, like you wouldn’t kill me too,” Sooyoung replies easily. “And that was six years ago, shut up.”

Jung Heewon snorts. It should be an unattractive noise, but it’s still sort of charming. This is ridiculous.

They spend exactly forty-six and a half minutes doing coupley things — which, to be fair, isn’t that difficult; they bicker often enough to seem married but not often enough to seem on the verge of divorce. The fact that it’s this easy is actually a little unnerving: Jung Heewon’s arm around her feels too natural, just like her lips brushing against Sooyoung’s ear feel too nice and her heels are too pretty.

“Ah, that guy,” says Sooyoung, nodding in the direction of a coworker she hates. “He’s the reason I had to put on the ring.”

Jung Heewon’s gaze narrows at him. “Was he being weird?” she asks, guarded.

“Nothing too bad,” Sooyoung says hastily. “He just kept asking me out.” Her coworker isn’t bothering to be subtle about his staring, though it now seems more focused on Jung Heewon than Sooyoung herself. “Ugh, let’s get out of here.”

“Hm,” says Jung Heewon, and before Sooyoung can ask what she’s thinking, she kisses her.

Jung Heewon is a good kisser. This isn’t something Sooyoung expected to discover at a work function, but she tastes like mint and something woody and it’s nice enough for Sooyoung to forget about whatever feelings she may or may not have — forget that they’re at the university and her boss might be watching — and kiss back, just for a little. When they pull back, Jung Heewon looks like she’s won, somehow. Her lips are bright red. Sooyoung quickly averts her eyes.

“He’s not looking anymore,” Jung Heewon says.

“That’s why you did it?”

“I mean — ” Jung Heewon sighs, turning Sooyoung’s head toward her. Sooyoung feels the pressure of her ring against her jawline, just barely there. “Is that why — is there any other reason you — ”

“Is there any other reason you’d want to kiss me?” Sooyoung accuses, because she’s sure as hell not going to say she has feelings if Jung Heewon doesn’t.

“Why do you think?”

“I don’t know; that’s why I asked — ”

“Do you think I was just like,” Jung Heewon begins, running a hand through her hair, “let me kiss my good friend Han Sooyoung for no reason? Was that it?”

“We’re supposed to be married,” Sooyoung hisses in reply, “so yeah, I don’t know why you’re acting like I’m the idiot here.” She pauses. “Wait, that wasn’t why?”

Jung Heewon blinks at her.

Sooyoung blinks back.

“I might like you,” Jung Heewon admits finally, her voice sounding smaller than Sooyoung’s ever heard it. “But if you don’t, then no being weird about it, all right?”

“Are you a fucking idiot?” Sooyoung demands, too loudly. A few people start to stare, so she grabs Jung Heewon’s hand and marches her out of the building, to the safety of the parking lot. “Obviously I like you; why else would I kiss back?”

“We’re supposed to be married,” Jung Heewon repeats, mocking. Were Sooyoung not ecstatic right now, she’d kill her.

“Fine. So — so,” Sooyoung stammers, suddenly nervous without insults to fall back upon, “you like me, and I like you, so — ”

“We should go out,” Jung Heewon finishes for her. She’s doing that glowy blushing thing again, though Sooyoung’s starting to think that might just be her thinking Jung Heewon’s radiant all the time. “On a date, I guess.”

“You guess,” Sooyoung echoes.

“Shut up.”

“Make me,” she says, and then Jung Heewon kisses her again under the moonlight and tonight might not have been so bad after all.