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take all my past (and take me too)

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“You look at those lights like they’re a different color.”

Jae-yi shuts her eyes, content. Sang Pil’s warmth, the length of him, presses up against her and his arms settle around her waist. “Maybe they are,” she says. “Seoul is like nowhere else.”

The windows, slick as fresh ink, open on a sea of streets below. They will stay in a hotel for a week—Prosecutor Chun is footing the bill—and then they’ll find an apartment.

Jae-yi wants a high-rise. Somewhere she can see the sky, and the streets, and the gem-like lights at night. But if she thinks hard, she knows: it does not matter where she is, as long as she is with Sang Pil.

(His arms are like nowhere else.)

 

She feels the tip of his nose press against her hair, and then his lips find the nape of her neck and she leans into it.

“Sang Pil.”

“Mm.”

It’s hard to find the words, when everything else is perfect. “You won’t feel caged here?” Because she has seen him like that. With something wild behind his eyes. With a feral smile and a broken heart. She doesn’t want the demands of this new life to do that to him. Doesn’t want to push him where his love of freedom will not let him go.

He spins her around, hands on her elbows now, gaze slanting, searing her. “No,” he says. “I know what I chose. What we chose.”

She smiles. He smiles.

And then, gently, he kisses her. It’s a tender kiss. The kind of softness, the kind of heat, that is reserved for times of peace and happiness. Jae-yi breathes into his mouth and feels him shudder a little through his starched shirt. Feels the way that want and need become one, as that clever mouth is silent.

Silent, and hers.

She strokes his hair and he grazes his thumbs against her cheeks and they can stay like that forever, if they want to. Forever is every moment, now. Forever is them.

But then Sang Pil steps back.

 

He reaches into his jacket, which is shrugged over the rise of a chair. Jae-yi doesn’t know what he’s doing, so she asks him.

He grimaces; just a tug of his lips—lips that she wants back, very badly, and doesn’t see why she can’t have. “It wouldn’t fit in my other pockets.”

Of course not—whatever it is, Sang Pil’s pants are tailored with only about a centimeter of give. Not that Jae-yi’s complaining.

“You have terrible timing,” she announces, and then her mouth falls open. All the words are gone.

He looks up at her, as graceful on one knee as he is on his feet, in a fight, in her arms. “Don’t say that,” he teases. With a flick of his fingers, the box opens.

A sapphire glints up at her. Of course. No ordinary gem for them; for her, who sees different lights in different cities. She remembers, too, the blue dress he bought her. The color of the sky when she told him that he was her man. She remembers it all, because it belongs to them—the sky and the past and the future.

She should say yes, here and now, but she can barely bring herself to breathe.

“Stay with me, Jae-ya.” He says her name in his own way; half-purr, half-prayer. “That’s all I ask.”

She should say yes, here and now. Instead, she gets down her knees and reaches out, hands on his, hands on the ring. It is all a tangle of warm fingers and cold metal and promises.

Jae-yi leans forward. Jae-yi kisses him, open and lingering, fluent in silence.

(His lips are like nowhere else.)

Jae-yi, at last, says yes.

 

They stand up together.