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“You just let him treat other kids like that?” Jeongguk scoffs, wiping dirt off his daughter’s red, tear-streaked face. He kneels so he’s closer to her height and picks her up, bouncing her gently. She cries into his shoulder, and the sound is heart-wrenching, but so loud. He fights the urge to squeeze his eyes shut as she cries. A sharp headache brews in between his eyes, and his grip on Sunhee tightens ever so slightly before he bunches up his loose shirt and squeezes that instead. The spot on his shirt that Sunhee is sobbing into quickly becomes drenched with tears, and he gently rubs her back every time she hiccups with sobs. 

With shaky hands, the other parent grabs a bandage and ointment from his bag. “I’m sorry, he just gets excited, he didn’t mean to push.” He cleans the scrape on his son’s elbow before putting the bandage over it. He runs his fingers through his son’s short hair and uses a wipe to get dirt off of his cheek with a gentle smile. “You didn’t push on purpose, right?”

“No, daddy.” He wraps his arms around his father’s neck. “I didn’t wanna be it anymore, ‘nd I wanted to tag her.”

The man smiles, kissing his son’s clean cheek. “It’s okay, I know you didn’t mean it.” He pulls back from the hug, looking at his son before whispering, loud enough for Jeongguk to hear, “but you have to tell your friend that you’re sorry, even if you didn’t mean to hurt her.”

The little boy looks up at Jeongguk, staring at his nose. He’s cute, standing in front of Jeongguk with perfect posture. He stares wide-eyed until his dad whispers something in his ear again. 

“Sorry.” He sticks his bottom lip out, pointing at the crying child in Jeongguk’s arms. “My daddy has band-aids. Does she want one?” He twists his arm so Jeongguk can see the bandage on the bend of his elbow, then walks around Jeongguk’s legs, out of his sight. A little voice comes from behind him. “My daddy told me his band-aids are magic. Do you want one?”

Sunhee picks her head up, and Jeongguk feels her nod as she lets out a wet sniffle. He puts her down, sitting in front of her, next to the little boy. “Where does it hurt?” 

She points to her knee which is covered in dirt, but not bleeding. Jeongguk cringes at how he spoke, realizing that she wasn’t hurt—at least, not bad enough to bleed. Usually, he would check before letting his emotions overtake him, and even then, he knows that kids are just kids. He knows they’re bound to get hurt. They’re clumsy and don’t think before doing things but his lack of sleep made Sunhee’s sobs sound as if they were coming through a megaphone with heavy feedback. 

He sighs, staring at Sunhee’s dirty knee.

If Jeongguk has learned one thing in his almost four and a half years of parenthood, it’s that bandages are the best invention ever. The perfect placebo. 

Gently, he thumbs off the dirt on her knee and kisses it with feather-light precision so as not to hurt her more than it already does. She stops crying, watching Jeongguk nod in thanks as he takes the bandage from the other parent with an intensity only children have. He furrows his brows, purses his lips, makes himself look as focused as possible when he places the bandage on her leg so Sunhee laughs. Honestly, with the dirt wiped off, Jeongguk isn’t quite sure he knows where to put the bandage. He smiles back nonetheless, ignoring the uncertainty about bandage placement. “All better?”

She nods. “Yes, it doesn’t hurt anymore! Thank you, daddy!” With a tap on the other child’s shoulder and a giggle that’s the equivalent of two trillion won, she runs off, continuing their game of tag. The little boy chases after her. 

Jeongguk hears the man next to him sigh. 

“No pushing, Hojoon!” 

The little boy, Hojoon, turns and nods before running again. 

Jeongguk leans back against the bench, watching the kids run wild. He wipes his dirty fingers on his pants, knowing he’s going to wash them later, anyway. He used to be so clean before he was a father. He stares at the dirt streaking his jeans with a tired exhale. A small dirt streak is a lot better than a small, blue hand print painted onto his cheek, or his daughter’s snot on his shoulder.

The weight of the bags under his eyes is enough that it feels like they’re dragging his eyelids closed. He knows Sunhee plays at daycare, and that’s usually enough to tire her out. It just so happens that his longest day at work is the day she needed to go to the playground. He leans forward, letting his head drop. He should be watching Sunhee, making sure she doesn’t get hurt again. That’s what good fathers do. 

He jolts back up the moment he realizes where he is. He shakes his head to combat the exhaustion and watches Sunhee run around in the grass. 

“Sorry, again,” the man next to him says. Jeongguk looks towards the voice, staring at the man to his left. His son looks a lot like him. The only visible difference Jeongguk sees are how sharp his eyebrows are, and how his resting expression looks so serious.

He rests his chin in his palm and his fingers on his cheek, slightly squishing his cheek up as if to match the baby fat his son’s cheeks have. “Hojoon really loves playing and he gets a little rough without meaning to. We’re working on it.”

Jeongguk feels a tick of annoyance when he hears ‘we’. There is no ‘we’ in Jeongguk’s life now, yet here he was, with a daughter who knew not to push other kids to the ground. No matter how worn out he was from life, he never skimped on teaching his daughter the basic manners every child should have. Hojoon is no exception to that. 

“It’s because he’s a kid, but you can’t let him do that,” Jeongguk responds. “You need to teach him to control himself now before he grows into those habits.”

The man sighs, moving his hand up to his eyes. “I know, I’m trying. He knows it’s wrong but he gets lost in the moment.” He picks his head back up, resting his elbow on his thigh, and his chin back on his palm. “It’s been going on since he really started to play. He gives me and his uncles all sorts of bruises.”

“Do you encourage it?”

“What?” The man shakes his head as if the question is ridiculous. “No, of course not.”

Jeongguk matches the man’s posture, resting his cheek on his palm. He could fall asleep like this. The tingly feeling in his leg from his elbow digging into his thigh is the only thing keeping him from drifting to sleep. “I mean, do you keep playing when he does that, or do you stop him and tell him not to get so rough?”

The man pushes his lips out for a second before shaking his head. “We… try not to, but I don’t know what happens when I’m not there.” He pauses for a moment. “My best friends watch him when I’m at work, and I tell them to not let him get so rough but—” 

His voice cracks. He clears his throat, letting out a breathy chuckle. He uses the back of his hand to wipe his eyes. “Sorry. I didn’t know this would be so hard.”

Jeongguk furrows his eyebrows watching the man get emotional. One of the most repeated phrases he heard was how hard parenthood is. Having his own child lives up to the uncountable amount of times someone told him a parental horror story. “It is,” Jeongguk agrees. “I was told so many times that it would be hard, and still, I felt blindsided.”

They sit in silence. Jeongguk doesn't have anything else to say, so he turns to the playground, watching Sunhee and Hojoon on the monkey bars. Hojoon is holding Sunhee’s small shoes so she can reach the other side without touching the floor. He grins at the sight. 

“I didn’t think I’d be raising him alone,” the man says. Jeongguk turns towards him, who looks out at the monkey bars with teary eyes. “Hojoon’s mom passed during birth. I really am trying my best.” A tear rolls down his cheek and he wipes it away. He inhales, as if he was going to speak, but exhales instead.

“I’m sorry,” Jeongguk says. Words fail him at that moment, and he just shakes his head. He hears the man say that it's okay, but something else catches Jeongguk's eyes and he can't focus on anything but Seokjin's hand. More specifically, the silver band on his left ring finger. 

Jeongguk rests his hand over it, forcing himself to look up, away from the ring. “My ex and I realized after having Sunhee that we suck at being parents together. We were great when we were dating, before Sunhee. I don’t know why we didn’t try couple’s therapy.” He lets out a sharp breath from his nose in place of a laugh. He still feels his own eyes water. “We’re okay at co-parenting, I guess, but…”  Jeongguk stares at the man, who looks at him with watery eyes. Something about his eyes, maybe the bags that they both share, makes him look trustworthy. “He—uh. He went back home to take care of his mom, so I’ve been taking care of Sunhee for the past five months alone.” 

He nods and doesn’t say anything about Jeongguk’s use of ‘he’. “Being alone is the hardest part. I wouldn’t trade Hojoon for anything, I love him with my whole heart, but I couldn’t even be happy when he started walking and talking because I started thinking about how his mom would've reacted. I wanted kids, but she wanted them even more than I did.” He uses his free hand to wipe his tears. 

Jeongguk bites the inside of his lip as he watches the man next to him falling apart. He lets his own stray tear roll down his cheek, dripping off his chin. “Sometimes I have moments where I don’t think I’ll be able to do it anymore, but then she looks at me and I know I have to keep going. I’d do anything for her.” He sighs, smiling despite himself. “I didn’t think I’d be crying on a playground bench today.”

The man next to him lets out a watery laugh, sniffling softly. “Me either.”

“What’s your name?”

“Seokjin.” He rubs his eyes with the back of his fingers before sitting back up straight. His teary eyes become crescents and his cheeks bunch up as he smiles kindly, waving at Hojoon who giggles at the attention and waves back with a matching expression. He runs towards them with Sunhee right behind him. 

Jeongguk wipes his cheeks, hoping his eyes aren’t puffy from crying. Hojoon climbs up the bench, sitting on Seokjin’s lap. He leans his head against Seokjin’s chest and tries to wrap his arms around Seokjin’s broad shoulders. 

Sunhee holds her arms up, asking wordlessly to be picked up. Jeongguk holds her, hugging her tight. She takes Jeongguk’s face in her hands and squishes his cheeks together as Jeongguk does to her. “I love you,” she says with a frown. “Daddies don’t cry.”

What a lie that is. Jeongguk feels like he’s always crying. He cried for days after he and Jeonghoon realized that they don’t work as a couple anymore and agreed to split up. He cried after Sunhee’s daycare teacher complimented her and told him he was an amazing parent. He cried the first time Sunhee got hurt and cried. He cried the first time he heard Sunhee say she loved him.

Though, he always feels like crying when he hears Sunhee tell him she loves him. 

“You’re right,” he says instead of thinking about all the times he’s cried in the past (almost) five years, “Daddy is here for when you cry.” He pokes her nose softly, and she smiles. “I love you too, always.”

She stays on his lap until Seokjin puts Hojoon down with a kiss on the forehead. Sunhee slides off his lap after giving him a kiss on the cheek. Jeongguk stares at Hojoon as he walks away, wondering if his wide eyes and soft eyebrows came from his mother. “It takes a village, doesn't it?” 

Seokjin nods, understanding Jeongguk’s vague comment. “Sometimes it feels like it takes a whole country.” He sighs, crossing his legs. "I mean, he has me, my parents, my whole family, my best friends, their parents, but it still doesn't feel like enough. I still wonder if he has enough support without his mom. God," he furrows his eyebrows. "Even her family come over to see him and take care of him. Is it normal to feel like it's not enough?"

Jeongguk nods. "Yeah. You want the best for him and it's so obvious how much he means to you." Seokjin smiles once Jeongguk finishes his sentence, a blush burning bright on his cheekbones. 

He takes Seokjin’s hand in his own and ignoring his confused expression. “I’m Jeongguk. Let me and Sunhee join your country, if you and Hojoon join ours.”  

Seokjin looks at their hands in with an agape mouth and wide eyes before looking up at Jeongguk’s face and laughing. It’s a high-pitched, squeaky sound that makes Jeongguk smile, makes him feel like his stupid sentence was worth saying. Seokjin nods, squeezing Jeongguk’s hand. “I’d love that.”

His eyes fall on Seokjin’s ears, quickly turning red. He barely stops himself from reaching out and touching one. 

He pulls out his phone, and Seokjin leans closer, staring at his lock screen. He tilts his phone so Seokjin can see better. It's a selfie, a bit blurry but Jeongguk cherishes it. It was at Sunhee's second birthday party, right after he and Jeonghoon split up. It was awkward, but Sunhee had fun, and that was all he cared about. In the picture, he's kissing Sunhee's cheek, who's laughing. It's cropped close, cutting off some of Jeongguk's head because Jeonghoon was in the background, drinking a beer. 

Seokjin smiles. "How cute, you two." He opens his phone, showing a picture of him and Hojoon. It was taken at a restaurant, and they're both biting into a sandwich from opposite sides. "My best friend said this would be cute."

"They were right," Jeongguk says, his voice higher than normal. "It's so cute. He looks just like you there."

Jeongguk holds his phone out for Seokjin to put his contact information in after Seokjin asks really? about his comment. He sends a quick text so Seokjin can save his information before they sit next to each other in silence, watching their kids play. 

Hojoon walks up and asks if Seokjin will help him on the swing, and he nods with a smile. Hojoon holds his father’s hand and walks with him to the kid’s swing set. He buckles him up before helping Sunhee on the swing next to Hojoon. From where he’s sitting, Jeongguk can see Sunhee’s smile as Seokjin pushes her and Hojoon. Hojoon asks to go higher, and Seokjin stops him, pulls him back, and pushes harder.

His laughter makes Sunhee ask to go higher as well, and Jeongguk stands up and walks over once he overhears the request. Seokjin looks back, as if to ask if that’s okay, but his face smooths out once he sees Jeongguk walking closer. Jeongguk knows Sunhee will back out once she gets too high. She’s afraid of heights. She gets nervous sitting on Jeongguk’s shoulders, there’s no way she’ll be able to go high on the swings. 

Jeongguk pulls her back, but doesn’t push her any harder than he normally would. She’s smart enough to realize that she’s not higher than before, and tells Jeongguk so. He sighs, lets her know that she’s too smart, and pushes her a little higher every time, until she screams that it’s high enough. They stand by the swings until both kids decide that they want to go somewhere else. As soon as they’re unbuckled, they run to the slide, and Seokjin leans against the side of the swing set. Jeongguk follows, leaning against the other one so they stand face-to-face

“Sorry for what I said earlier. It’s obvious you love and care for Hojoon. Kids are just demons sometimes.”

Seokjin laughs. “It makes you wonder if you were as bad as your kid is. I fought a few kids when I was young. My parents almost had a heart attack when they were called to the school and they saw me sitting with a bloody nose and three other kids bruised and battered. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the way my heart sank to my stomach when my parents walked in, both in their work clothes.”

Jeongguk laughs before thinking back to his childhood. “Once, my brother and I beat each other up to see who could play computer games first. I have a scar from it.” He turns his face so Seokjin can see the small scar on his cheek. 

“For a computer game?" Seokjin snorts. “Everything feels so serious when you’re younger. Though, I’m sure I would’ve done the same.”

“You mean, if I don’t get to play this game in the next five minutes the world won’t end?” Jeongguk's voice drips in sarcasm as he shakes his head, smiling as Seokjin laughs again. “That’s impossible.” 

Jeongguk looks at the other swings, at the young boy on it. He can’t be older than eight. He lets his swing slow down before jumping off. In his peripheral vision Jeongguk sees Seokjin shaking his head. “If he breaks his leg jumping off the swing I’m not going to feel bad.”

“It’s fun!” 

Seokjin makes a face. “Not when you jump wrong and break your leg, it’s not.”

Jeongguk gasps. “Come on, let’s go on the swing.”

“Dear God.” Seokjin stands up, following Jeongguk. “I feel like I’m too old for this.”

Rolling his eyes at his theatrics, Jeongguk smiles. “Your hair isn’t gray, you’re fine.” He ignores Seokjin’s sputtering, saying that he found eight gray hairs in the past day. 

Jeongguk sits on the swing, gesturing for Seokjin to sit down on the empty swing next to him. He hesitates, staring at the swing moving gently in the wind before giving up and sitting down. He stares at Jeongguk as he keeps his feet on the ground, straightening and bending his knees to move the swing. Jeongguk tilts his head towards him, raising his eyebrows in question. He pushes himself forward and backward, uses the momentum to go higher and higher. The wind flows through his hair, and he smiles at the childhood innocence of being able to just swing. The swing goes back, forward, he leans backward so he can see Seokjin’s wide eyes and open mouth as he watches him swing. 

“Come on, Seokjin-ssi, swing!”

He swings as Seokjin responds, just— Jeongguk swings forward, and as he goes back, Seokjin finishes his sentence— call me—hyung!  

“Come on, hyung , swing!”

Jeongguk waits until the swing goes forward again and jumps. For the second that he’s in the air, he feels like he’s flying, like he could keep going forever until gravity pulls him down. He bends his knees as he lands, and he feels the impact of his landing through his body, but he still laughs. 

When he turns, Seokjin is staring as if he actually flew.

“Hyung,” Jungkook exclaims, walking behind him. He hears Seokjin protest as Jeongguk pushes him forward, but he doesn’t try to stop the swing with his feet. He lets Jeongguk push him until he’s swinging high. 

“Okay!” Jeongguk runs in front of the other swing, out of the way if Seokjin jumps. “So, you jump as you’re going up, not all the way up.”

Seokjin stares, shaking his head. “I’m gonna wait for this to stop swinging as high.”

“Start small, hyung! That’s okay!” 

Start small, Seokjin mouths. Jeongguk watches as the swing slows down before Seokjin squeezes his eyes shut and jumps. He screams and Jeongguk swears he hears Hojoon’s laugh from behind him as Seokjin lands on shaky legs. He sinks to the ground and sits still for a few moments before looking at Jeongguk with wide eyes and shakes his head. “I don’t think I’ll do that again.”

Jeongguk smiles and shrugs. “At least you tried!”’

Seokjin smiles before standing up, leaning on Jeongguk with a smile. “Yeah, I guess so.”

They walk back to the bench and Jeongguk smiles as Sunhee runs over to him. She doesn’t say anything, just holds his hand and walks next to him. He picks her up, holding her against his chest before sitting on the bench. She adjusts until she’s comfortable, her cheek resting against Jeongguk’s shoulder. He rests his hand on her back, and against his palm, he feels how her breathing steadies. He kisses the crown of her head and holds her closer. “She’s falling asleep, so I guess it’s time to head home.”

Seokjin looks up at the pink and orange sky and nods. “I’m going to take Hojoon home soon, too. I have to make dinner.” He sighs, leaning back. “Or maybe I could order in. Fried chicken sounds good.”

Jeongguk smiles. “Maybe I’ll do the same. It’s been a long day. I’m in desperate need to be held as I take a nap, too.” He looks down at Sunhee, passed out, drooling against his chest. “What a life.” He looks back up at Seokjin who’s cooing at Sunhee. “It was nice to meet you. I’m sorry again for snapping at you.”

“We all have bad days,” Seokjin says, looking up at Jeongguk. Hojoon walks over soon after, visibly upset about losing his playmate. Wordlessly, Seokjin holds out his arms so Hojoon can sit on his lap. “I can’t tell you how many times someone acted like a little booger and made his daddy upset.” 

Hojoon looks up at his dad with a playful frown. “If I’m a booger, then you’re the nose!”

Seokjin gasps dramatically, and Jeongguk laughs. “I blew my nose too hard one day and that’s why you’re here.” He holds Hojoon’s hands and bounces his legs as Hojoon laughs at his comment, letting out an ‘eww!'

Seokjin’s silver wedding band shines against the setting sun and Jeongguk forces himself to keep smiling. He knows his face gives away his emotions, and the last thing he wants Seokjin to think is that he pities him. He can’t imagine, though. At least Jeonghoon will be back. At least they’re good co-parents. If Jeongguk ever needs help, he knows Jeonghoon would be there in an instant for him and Sunhee, because they ended things amicably, even if there's tension. 

He must not be as good at hiding his expressions as he attempts to be, because he realizes that Seokjin is staring up at his left hand. “Ah,” he says, halting his bouncing knees. “It’s weird, right? That I still wear it?”

“No,” Jeongguk answers immediately, shaking his head to emphasize his point. He looks at Hojoon, who is also staring at his dad’s hand. “Would you like to talk about this some other time?” 

Seokjin looks down at Hojoon, who looks back up at his father. “D’you wanna be alone with your friend?” 

He bounces Hojoon again, laughing at his words. “No, we’ll set up our own play date another day.” He looks at Jeongguk with raised brows. Jeongguk nods, and Seokjin looks back at Hojoon with a smile. “What do you think about heading home soon and picking up some chicken on the way?”

Hojoon gasps and nods. “Can we get the good one?”

“Which one is that?” With a single bounce of his knees, Hojoon gets off Seokjin’s knees, waiting for his dad to stand up.

“The one by your job! Not yours.” 

“Oh, you brat! I burn chicken once and now it’s always bad?” Seokjin holds his hands out, wiggling his fingers and tickling Hojoon. “Maybe I should make it at home now.”

With an infectious laugh, Hojoon runs towards the exit, away from his father. Seokjin follows, not before waving goodbye to Jeongguk. “I’ll text you!” 

Jeongguk waves, holding a thumb up and standing up carefully to not wake Sunhee. He walks to the train station, waiting for the door to open and to find a seat. He sighs, leaning his head against the train wall. 

His phone buzzes in his pocket, and he pulls it out to look at the notification.

 

From: Seokjin 

Thank you again for today. Hojoon won’t stop talking about his new friend. I’d love to go out one day, if you’re interested. :)

 

He smiles at the message. 

 

To: Seokjin

of course id love to have a night out! i havent had one in almost 5 years

if sunhee wasnt out cold im sure she would be talking about her new friend too

maybe they can have a play date one day, and we could talk while they play? 

 

He feels bad for triple texting while Seokjin puts all his information in one message, but that’s just how he types. He blames his bad memory, which is only getting worse as he gets older. He puts his headphones in, playing his music softly to hear any announcements from the conductor. His phone buzzes twice more, but he doesn’t check the message until he’s home, after Sunhee is tucked in. 

 

From Seokjin:

I haven’t had a night out in years, either. 

Maybe a night out is needed. I can make a mean hangover cure, learned that in college. Drink to your heart's content!

 

Jeongguk laughs, sending a drunk emoji before laying down on the couch. 




 

The park hasn’t changed in five years, but the families that go have. Two families officially became one, with Seokjin and Jeongguk wearing matching rings after they went on vacation that past summer. 

They watch Hojoon and Sunhee play soccer as they set up lunch. Jeongguk opens a thermos of Seokjin’s seaweed soup to pour into four bowls. The steam hits his face and fogs up his glasses and Seokjin laughs. “Let hyung help.”

He sees nothing but fog but feels Seokjin kiss him softly before he takes Jeongguk’s glasses and uses his shirt to clean them. Seokjin has aged well. He has a few smile lines that he’s insecure about, and while they cuddle in the morning, Jeongguk can see the gray hairs at Seokjin’s roots, peppering his black hair. Seokijn no longer dyes his hair to cover them after years of persuasion. 

Jeongguk still thinks he’s the most handsome man he’s ever laid eyes on. 

Seokjin’s stomach rumbles when he opens another container, this one with kimchi, and they both smile. Jeongguk shakes his head. “Hyung, if you don’t eat soon the whole park will hear your stomach.” 

Waving a hand dismissively, Seokjin puts the open container on the blanket. “Let me make sure the kids eat first.” He grabs four pairs of chopsticks before putting out white rice. He stares at the food, making sure everything is out before calling Sunhee and Hojoon. 

Hojoon looks up, and Sunhee kicks the ball into his goal while he’s distracted. She cheers, saying it’s a goal, while Hojoon shakes his head and arguing that it doesn’t count. 

Jeongguk calls them again, telling them to argue while walking over or he and Seokjin will eat all the food. To show, he takes a large clump of white rice and eats it, before reaching for the samgyeopsal. He blows on it until it’s no longer steaming and holds it out for Seokjin. He takes it with an exaggerated bite, and Sunhee and Hojoon run over. 

“Don’t eat it all!”

“Wait, I’m hungry!”

Seokjin shrugs, purposely using his shoulders to try and hide the food from sight. “We ran out, sorry!”

Sunhee jumps on his back and he lets out an oof before holding her so she can wrap her arms around his neck. “There’s food right there!"

Jeongguk looks at the food before shaking his head. “I don’t see anything. It’s all in our tummies.”

Hojoon sits across from them and picks up his bowl of soup. He doesn’t entertain them, focusing on eating.

Laughing, Seokjin lets Sunhee off his back so she can eat too. Jeongguk sips his soup, leaning against Seokjin as he does so. He feels a soft nudge to the side, and he looks up at Seokjin who’s staring at him. “Hey,” Seokjin says, fighting a smile like he’s about to tell a joke, “thank you for telling me I sucked at parenting.”

Jeongguk pushes him lightly, and Seokjin bursts out into squeaky laughs. “I didn’t!” And then softer, “I was having a bad day.” 

Seokjin kisses Jeongguk’s cheek and offers a bite of his japchae, even though Jeongguk has some in front of him.  An unspoken apology for the joke. He pouts and stares at the offered food before eating it. Jeongguk leans his head against Seokjin’s shoulders as he chews, shaking his head. He stares into Seokjin’s eyes when he turns to look. “I deserve the jokes, it’s okay.”

“You do.” Seokjin says with a smile, using his left hand to use his chopsticks and carefully picking up kimchi for Jeongguk to eat. He leans closer, kissing Jeongguk’s forehead. “Does agreeing with you make me as bad a husband as I am a father?”

Kimchi goes down Jeongguk's trachea. 

Sunhee and Hojoon laugh as Seokjin pats him on the back. “Don’t say that,” Jeongguk coughs out, trying to look as serious as he can while choking.

“I’m just joking! Please don’t choke—I need you here.” His joking tone is laced with an undertone Jeongguuk can’t place until he sees how Seokjin’s expression becomes serious, his lips parted just slightly and his eyebrows furrowed. 

Jeongguk coughs one last time before taking Seokjin’s hand in his own. “You don’t have to worry about that. I promise, I won’t leave you for a long time.”

Seokjin's lip curls up as his face smooths out. He kisses Jeongguk's nose before turning to his kids. “Sunhee, Hojoon” he asks. Sunhee looks up with a piece of pork hanging out of her mouth and her cheeks puffed out with food, just like Seokjin does. Hojoon stares up as he brings his chopsticks to his mouth, keeping his arm frozen in place and mouth open. “Does daddy ever break promises?”

Hojoon shrugs before eating again, while Sunhee shakes her head as she chews and swallows in one gulp. “Never!”

Seokjin pinches their cheeks before turning back to Jeongguk. “The consensus is I guess you’re trustworthy. So, I believe you and your promise.”

Jeongguk chuckles, staring at his family with a smile so big it almost hurts. “I love you.”

Three pairs of eyes look at him, and all three respond, in their own varying ways. One with a kiss and fingers running up and down his back, one with a shy laugh and a hug, and one saying it loud enough that the whole park could hear:

I love you too.