After a rushed discussion with Dongcheon, Jipyeong complains that this “annoying woman” is so busy he has to adjust his schedule for her all the time. But all throughout his rant and packing his things into his bag, Jipyeong is grinning. Dongheon just shakes his head and sigh at this familiar sight.
Picking up his bag, Jipyeong warns Dongcheon “Do not call me about anything work-related tonight, you know the drill.” Dongcheon nodded submissively and grumbled under his breath as Jipyeong leaves the office to rush to Injae Company’s office.
Jipyeong doesn’t know why, but even after nearly a year of dating, the thought of seeing Injae’s face and spending time together excites him. He tries to keep his composure and stop the little hops in his steps as he approaches Injae Company’s office, in fear that his image would be ruined in the eyes of her employees. As he approached the door, he stopped himself from entering as he touched the door handle.
There she was, his woman… Working diligently on her own. Jipyeong had always taken pride in how hardworking he is, and never imagined he’d be spending his days with someone even more dedicated and diligent than himself. Although it often annoys him that he cannot spend more time with her, he loved that about her. To him, it’s already more than enough that she spares some of her precious time for him.
His heart skips a beat every time he sees how focused she is, how literally nothing can push her off-track. And he also loved how composed she always appears, at least when she is in front of her employees - and how she would never lash out at anyone except at home. Before he knows it, he was smiling like a fool in front of the door - until a familiar voice broke his focus, “Oppa?”.
“Dalmi?” He asked as he turned his head towards his right side
“What are you doing standing there?” Dalmi asked as she lifted the cups of coffee she had bought for Injae, the Samsan boys and herself.
“I was just about to go in.” Jipyeong answered nonchalantly.
“But you know this hallway is long? I’ve been watching you stand there since when I came out of the lift until now. You were watching Unnie weren’t you?” Dalmi snarked at his obvious lie.
Jipyeong has no answer for Dalmi’s remark - she was right after all. He was standing there and staring at her sister. “Don’t make it sound so creepy. I just didn’t want to disturb her, she looks busy. I thought everyone else would have left already though, how come you are all still here?”
“There was an issue with one of our overseas client, and we are trying to solve it now. The boys had just fixed the solution and Unnie is waiting for their response regarding the matter now.” Dalmi answered.
“Ahh, no wonder.” Jipyeong then motioned Dalmi to give him a cup of coffee.
“I didn’t buy one for you though.” Dalmi said apologetically. “You should’ve told me beforehand.”
“It’s okay - I don’t need the coffee. I’ll just give Injae’s to her.”
“Oh right. Okay, here you go.” Dalmi hands over one cup of Americano to Jipyeong before entering the Cheongmyeong Company office across Injae’s. Injae finally lifted her gaze from the computer and noticed Jipyeong outside her door, and mouthed “What’s up?” to her boyfriend.
Jipyeong walked in and handed her the coffee, “Dalmi bought this for you.”
“Why didn’t she come in then? She could have waited here with me and we could have gone through the final agreement together. Now I have to call her to come in once I receive the email.” Injae replied with a hint of disappointment and annoyance.
“You prefer having your sister here rather than me? Why am I always second priority? It makes me upset.” Jipyeong joked.
“You know that’s not what I mean.” Injae firmly replied. Jipyeong flashed a smile in return and just dragged a chair to sit next to Injae. “What?” Injae asked Jipyeong as she felt his eyes on her.
He let out a small laugh and said “Nothing, just finish your work. I’ll ask Dalmi to come in later once you receive the email.” Injae once again denied that he is her second priority, but he knew he is second to Dalmi anyway. Jipyeong had spent enough time with Injae to know that nobody makes Injae happier than her little sister, and that there’s nobody in this world Injae loves and wants to protect more than Dalmi. This is a fact he has accepted and even grew to love, despite Injae’s constant fervent denial of this claim.
The offices were right across each other, but Injae spent most late nights on her own while Dalmi would typically be with the developers in the other room. Injae preferred it that way, working in silence and having space for herself - but she does specifically love the nights where it was just her and Dalmi working hard together with no interruptions. The thrill of the two sisters exchanging ideas, having heated debates but eventually always completing their tasks gives Injae the kind of joy that perhaps Jipyeong’s presence could never match.
On some nights, after their work is done and their bodies gave up on them, both too tired to drive home - they’d sit on the bean bags and just rest together. Talking about the old days, talking about their current life and everything under the moon and stars.
The reason why Jipyeong knew all of this is because every morning, after Dalmi and Injae spent all night together, Injae would tell almost every bit of it to Jipyeong, leaving out only the steamy details of their complains about their respective lovers. Injae would sound annoyed every time, ranting like a child about how annoying Dalmi is - but instead of being irritated at his girlfriend sounding like a broken record, Jipyeong finds it cute and even looks forwards to these complain sessions.
“Will you girls wrap it up by 8 pm though?” Jipyeong finally asks after checking the clock which now shows it is 7 pm. “Our tickets are for 9 pm.” The reason why Jipyeong went to the office was because Dalmi had booked tickets for a musical for their monthly double date.
“Yeah, I think so. The other side promised to get back to us by 7.15 KST. Then we just have to read through, sign and send it back. There shouldn’t be much changes so it wouldn’t take too long.” Injae explained clearly.
“That’s great, we wouldn’t want to miss the play. Even though we already have to cancel our dinner at the restaurant.” Jipyeong sighed and pouted, trying to get Injae’s attention.
The pout definitely did get Injae’s attention as she finally turned to look at him, “Are you sulking?”
Jipyeong shrugged. “Can you please not act like a child? You are literally old enough to be a middle grader’s father.”
“Ya!” Jipyeong complained, earning a giggle on Injae’s face. Looking at her little dimples, Jipyeong felt as though all his worries has been lifted, and he even felt happy that her mockery could make her laugh. He then began to rant “You know I’m very mature, how dare you call me childish… I am literally the most respected VC in this building right now… You think I became successful by being childish? No! I am---” suddenly Jipyeong’s lips were sealed.
Sealed with a peck on the lips by one Ms Seo Injae. “What was that for?”
“To shut you up.” Injae said emotionlessly.
“But, you don’t get to just --” sealed again. This time, on top of the shock, a big grin landed on Jipyeong’s face. Jipyeong bit his lips and and looked around, “You know we are in your office?”
“Where there is only you and me”
“And a glass door.”
“Who would even see? Dalmi?”
“Yeah, exactly! Or one of those annoying Samsan boys.”
Injae scoffed at her boyfriend’s complains. She loved how much of a baby he can be at times. When he complains, and when they cuddle, of course.
At that point, Injae’s hands finally ditched the keyboard and mouse in front of her. She cupped her face with her hands and stared at Jipyeong in amusement. Although deep down Injae knows she may still love Dalmi more than anyone, nobody else except Director Han Jipyeong could shift her focus from work.
“Why are you staring at me? Do I look that handsome?”
“Mmmhm. You do.” Injae replied as she finally relaxed on her seat and rested her back on her chair.
Jipyeong loved that about Injae, how honest she is. About his good traits, about his flaws. She was more direct than anyone he’d ever known, and she truly never says anything she doesn’t mean - except when she is having petty fights with her sister, of course. “Are you sure you can waste your time looking at me?”
“I know how to manage my time.” And at that moment, Injae took Jipyeong’s hands. He welcomed her hands gladly, and gripped it tightly, slowly brushing it. Injae loved doing this, simply feeling his hands on hers. She looked up to the ceiling, letting out a small sigh of exhaustion and says “Thank you.”
“I love you too.” Jipyeong replied softly. Injae has trouble letting out phrases like “I love you,”, but Jipyeong grew to learn that her random expressions of gratitude were a lot of times also her expression of love. She has never once complained or questioned his response of saying I love you too to her thank you, so it has been their silent agreement to accept it as that.
A few minutes later, an email notification popped out on her screen. With no hesitation, Jipyeong walked out to summon Dalmi.
After going through the documents thoroughly, Injae and Dalmi placed their signatures on the documents. When signing, Injae suddenly noticed the date. It was the date of their parents split, exactly 20 years later. It may be a weird thing to remember 20 years later, but she remembered the exact date. She can still picture exactly what happened that day. Everything from the corn dog stall, to the office and back home. She immediately felt tears fighting to rush out of her eyes.
“I’ll pack my bags and we’ll meet you at the lobby downstairs!” Dalmi shouted out after she sent back the document to their client. Dalmi hadn’t noticed the abrupt change in Injae’s expression, but Jipyeong who was watching them the whole time did. After Dalmi left, Injae was frozen, standing in front of her desk. Jipyeong shook her out of it and asks what’s wrong, but she tells him she's fine.
She began stuffing her belongings carelessly into her bag, something that is not common with Injae who is typically very organised. Across her office, Jipyeong noticed that Dalmi and the Samsan boys were outside the door, ready to leave. Right before they walked off, cheeky Chulsan swung the door open and the three boys peeked in to bid their goodbyes to their CEO.
Yongsan politely bowed and said “Good night”, Dosan waved as he told the couple inside the office “Noona, Hyung, we’ll go down first!”. Lastly, Chulsan shouted “Good work today CEO Won! Good night, see you tomorrow!” with overwhelming energy.
It was a compliment and words of encouragement from a colleague, but her heart suddenly sank hearing it. It has almost been 20 years since she used that name. But her heart still flinches when she hears others call her. Like it felt fake, like it was not her. And of course, she constantly imagined how sad her appa would be. She had filed the petition to dissolve her adoption, but Chairman Won was making it difficult just to spite her. And she has yet been able to change back her name legally.
When they reached the lobby, Dalmi and Dosan were waiting outside the ground floor lift. “What took you guys so long?” Dalmi questioned.
Both Injae and Jipyeong shrugged off the question, and Jipyeong asked “What are we eating?”
“Let’s get spicy stir fried octopus!” Dalmi exclaimed excitedly, clearly craving it. “What do you think Dosan?”
Still as obedient as ever when it comes to the little things that makes Dalmi happy, Dosan readily nodded, “Sure, spicy octopus sounds good to me too!”. Jipyeong nodded in agreement too.
“Unnie?” Dalmi asked since only Injae didn’t respond to the suggestion. “Unnie? Do you want something else.” Injae was still spaced out and hadn’t heard her sister’s question. Jipyeong then tapped her arms, “Yes?” Injae asked as her thoughts finally rejoined the three.
“What are you thinking of? Do we have work left? Is something wrong?” Dalmi started getting worried, her first assumption obviously being work-related issues.
Jipyeong however, knows it isn’t - because Injae would not space out about work. She would quickly fix it no matter what time of the day it is. So he softly repeated Dalmi’s words to Injae “She asked, do you want to eat spicy octopus for dinner?”
“Oh, yeah. I’m okay with that.” Injae forced a smile to not let her guard down in front of Dalmi, something she still hates doing.
Dalmi and Jipyeong began discussing, or you could say semi-debating, about which restaurant would be nicer and more convenient. As they had their heated discussion, Injae who was initially walking beside Jipyeong lost their pace and began trailing behind.
Dosan who noticed it, slowed down to walk beside her, and gently he tried getting her attention, “Noona?”
“Are you okay? Is it really not work? Are you trying to not worry Dalmi? You can tell me, you know.” Dosan assured her with his sweet smile.
Over the years of working together and basically becoming family, Injae had gotten somewhat comfortable with Dosan too. He was truly a breath of fresh air in her life, though he was a genius and was absolutely stubborn at times, he was much like a puppy during their family gatherings, always supportive and attentive in many ways. Sometimes, he would even shamelessly side with Injae when she fought with Dalmi, earning a well-deserved glare from Dalmi every time.
Seeing his genuinely worried face, Injae raised the pitch of her voice and confirmed “I’m fine, it’s okay!” before giving Dosan a tap on his shoulder.
Throughout the dinner and play, Injae was exceptionally quiet. She was never the talkative type anyway, but usually with Dalmi and Dosan, the two just knows how to banter well with Injae. Dalmi about the pettiest things, and Dosan about some random issue that they have differing opinions about.
The two couples parted ways after the play, and Injae was quiet the entire car ride too. Jipyeong had no idea what to do. This was the state of their relationship. They had always been honest, open and mature about most things - but Jipyeong notices on some nights Injae's mind wanders off somewhere. Jipyeong has never known how to break down that wall.
Injae suddenly missed everything about the family she used to have. She was so out of it she didnt respond to anything Jipyeong said about having a second round date.
“Injae-ya, you barely ate for dinner just now. Aren’t you hungry?”
“Not really.” She answered.
“But I don’t want to send you home yet… I still want to spend time with you.”
Not willing to disappoint her boyfriend, the way she is unwilling to disappoint almost anyone - she finally snaps out of her thoughts and started thinking “Hmm, okay, what would be nice? Tteokboki? Pajeon? Chicken?”
Jipyeong was excited hearing her suggestions, because she doesn’t usually want to eat late at night, especially snacks like those. But some nights, she makes an exception, and this was turning out to be one of those nights. “Tteokboki!”
“Of course, why did I even ask…” Injae laughed as Jipyeong starts the car again. “Let’s go to the usual place.”
When they reached the place, they ordered their usual tteokboki. It was Jipyeong’s favourite, and Injae honestly wasn’t that big of a fan, but it made her happy to please him once in a while. “Aaaaaa,” Jipyeong demanded Injae to open her mouth when he noticed she was barely eating on her own.
He fed her one spoon after another, and she couldn’t refuse if it came from him. She was hungry after all. After they were done eating, they decided to walk around in a nearby park. One of her hands entwinned with his inside Jipyeong’s pockets, and the other hand holding a cup of warm chocolate each.
The wind hit their faces and Injae started feeling better. Embracing the cold winter night while holding Jipyeong’s warm hands. After 10 minutes of silence, they approached an empty bench and Injae rested her head on his shoulders, almost automatic like a reflex.
Injae does that every time, but it still makes Jipyeong happy. He adjusted his shoulders to make her more comfortable, “Are you tired? You must be…”
"Oppa, do you ever think of your parents?"
The question took Jipyeong by surprise. It’s not something they talk about often. “Well, sometimes. I don’t remember much of them so everything is a bit blurry to me.”
The grip of Injae’s hands which was still in his pockets began tightening, almost as if she wanted to clench her fists. "I don't know if he will ever forgive me." Injae blurted out.
"Appa." She turned to look at Jipyeong. The tears finally out of her face.
It was Jipyeong's turn to be frozen. He kind of knew why she would say that. He knew what had happened to their family, from grandma, from Dalmi, from Mother, but never from his own girlfriend's mouth.
He looked at the tears stream out of her eyes and he doesn't know what to say or do. His mouth gaped. Noticing his reaction, Injae began to sit up and swallowed her tears. She tried to wipe out the tears, but it just kept coming.
"I knew it. He won't. Even you think he won't. I don't deserve it anyway.“ Injae said, sounding like she almost choked on her own words.
But that's not what Jipyeong meant. He was just too taken aback that Injae had finally broken down her final wall. Letting him in. He didn’t want to say something wrong, so he just held her. He hugged her, in silence. He held her as she cried. After some minutes, Injae’s body began to try escaping his embrace, and never the type to force anything on her - he let her go. He watched her cry for hours, and though it truly pained him to see her cry, he felt that it would be good for her to finally release it all.
When Injae finally calms down a little, he held her hand.
"He would have understood you. Even if the whole world cannot, even if the whole world turn their backs on you - he would not. He would have welcomed his little girl back into his arms any day. He would have let you cry into his shoulders whenever you need to. I'm sorry."
Injae, still overwhelmed and taken aback by his sudden words of comfort, "For?"
"I can't be that man. I can't replace him. I can't be your place of comfort. I can try, but I can never be your hero the way he was. I might hurt you once in a while... But either way, I want to try. I have never wanted to try something so badly in my life. I've always thought if the prospect was too good, the risk was also too high. But I want to bet my everything on you, on us."
Injae looked puzzled. "What do you..."
In that moment, Jipyeong's heart suddenly had a gush of confirmation. That Injae needs to be his forever. He had been too scared to accept this because he never had someone be his for as long as he could remember, but he could no longer put it off.
"I can't force you to drop everything at once. I can’t rid the pain built up in you for over two decades. But I want to be there every time you cry. I want to hold your hand, hug you tight, and be the target of your mood swings. For the rest of my life."
"Injae-ssi, Seo Injae-ssi, will you be my wife?" He didn’t get on his knees. He didn’t pull out a ring. He didn’t have them. But he never let his eyes wander off hers.
The sudden question shocked Injae. “I’m…”
“You don’t have to force yourself to answer right away.”
After a 2-minute awkward silence, Injae finally spoke up again, “I don’t think I can do that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I… I don’t think I can marry you.” Injae felt her lips tremble as she let the words out.
“But, why…? You’re not sure yet about me?”
“No, that’s not it. I want to be with you. I love you.” Injae answered. Jipyeong was shocked, she actually said I love you. It didn’t sound like her.
“Then? Why not?”
“I’m just, I’m ---” She took a deep breath before continuing her words, “I don’t think marriage is for me.”
“I don’t get it…”
“I’ve seen two marriages fall apart growing up. A lot of things turn ugly. I don’t want our relationship to take that turn.” Injae stated.
Jipyeong was disappointed, but after taking some time to process it, he was not shocked. He simply stood up, and smiled at her. “Let’s send you home, Halmeoni will be worried.”
Jipyeong had never been the dramatic type. He was used to things not going his way. But Injae felt bad anyway, and the car ride home was silent. For the next few days, their conversations had been short and they didn’t meet up until it was time for him to join the girls for Chuseok preparation at home.
For the first time, Jipyeong watched carefully every little thing Injae did. Though Jipyeong paid attention to Injae when they were alone or in the office, he often gives more of his attention to Halmeoni if he was visiting their home. It almost became an unspoken pact, an unwritten deal that Injae would always pay more attention to Dalmi when at home and Jipyeong to Halmeoni.
But today, Jipyeong couldn’t take his eyes off Injae. He finally noticed some things he may have missed before. How attentive she was to details that no one else may have noticed, how she made sure Dalmi was never doing too much, how she never once showed her pain to Dalmi as she set up the memorial of their Dad. Because Injae felt like she doesnt deserve to complain about her pain regarding their Dad to Dalmi.
Sometimes Injae acts so nonchalant some might think she simply doesnt care. She gets things done regardless of how upset she is, and people might think that's heartless. But he began noticing the twitch in her eyes, the curl in her lips when she got emotional, the hoarseness in her voice, the slight tremble in her hands.
He fell in love with every little thing all over again, with how strong she appears. And he understood exactly that his question the other day may have further opened up a scar that she still wished to hide.
That evening, Injae and Dalmi’s phones were suddenly flooded with messages. The two sisters were forced to go back into the office to settle their company’s issue. There’s barely ever a quiet day for the sisters, and grandma and Mother both shook their heads looking at their busy kids.
“Don’t worry, I’ll send them to the office and make sure everything is okay.” Jipyeong promised.
Upon hearing that, the sisters who were scrambling to put on their shoes suddenly looked at each other in disbelief and then looked back at Jipyeong as they yelled “Who said we need you?” in unison.
Grandma, Mother and Jipyeong were all taken aback at the sister’s remark - shaking their heads at how well they work together when it comes to letting others know that they’re independent enough.
Later that night, Dalmi and Injae were finally done with their work. While Dalmi accompanied Dosan to finish off some things, Injae’s phone rang.
“Are you done?” the man on the other line asked.
“Kind of, why?”
“You’re still here? I thought I told you to just go home.”
“Just come down.” Jipyeong hung up.
Albeit a little reluctant and annoyed at the vagueness of his request, Injae went down anyway. Jipyeong didn’t even tell her where he was in the lobby, so she looked around. As she was looking around, she stopped in her tracks - looking at the Sandbox logo, again, feeling a rush of guilt and a tinge of pride.
When she looked away from the logo, she found Jipyeong’s gaze waiting for her near the cafetaria. The air was filled with silence, but Injae quickly noticed the box in Jipyeong’s hands. Jipyeong began approaching her and she looked down “Oppa…”
“Don’t worry, it’s not a ring. I heard what you said the other day, I’m not going to force anything.”
Injae looked up and locked her eyes on his. His face so calm and sweet, contrasting to his shocked expression the night she rejected his impromptu proposal. “Then?”
“It’s just a set of bracelet and earrings. I notice how beautiful you look with your earrings, so I decided to get one for you when I saw this gorgeous one,” Jipyeong explained as he opened the box of infinity shaped earrings and bracelet to show her. “Do you want to try it on?”
Injae agreed, and before she could open the earrings she is currently wearing, he gently pushed her hands back down and began taking it off himself. He had gotten used to helping her take them out after long nights in the office. He then started putting on the earrings, one side after the other. He asked her cheekily “My taste is a bit cringey, isn’t it?”
She let out a chuckle and asked back “If your taste is cringey, does that mean I’m cringey?”
Jipyeong started laughing and Injae added “But no, the earrings are pretty.”
He took her hands and started walking outside, “I thought about it… Sure, I was a little upset.” Jipyeong admitted. Injae took a deep breath and wanted to say something, but Jipyeong stopped walking and continued.
“I realised I just want to be with you. I want to watch many more sunrise and sunsets with you. I want to drink coffee and take walks with you. You can take as much time as you need, and even if you never want to take that step, I am fine.” Jipyeong expressed his feelings honestly.
Taken aback, Injae was unable to say much. She smiled at him, saying “Thank you” with a faint voice. Injae - hating the fact that her heart was beating so fast and that she is unable to control situations when it grows awkward - began to divert her attention to the sky. “Aren’t the stars so beautiful?” she said, genuinely amused.
“It’s beautiful,” Jipyeong said with a light smirk, without lifting his gaze to the sky at all. Feeling his eyes on her face, Injae looked down to meet his eyes, unable to hide the blush on her cheeks “What’s beautiful?”
“You.” Jipyeong answered with a smile. He lightly placed his lips on hers for a kiss before pulling back again and finally looking up to the sky, his head going up and down a couple times. “Yeah, you’re definitely more beautiful.” Jipyeong firmly said before pulling her in for a warm, tight hug.
Injae loved hugs. It recharges her and somewhat fills the emptiness inside of her, metaphorically - and almost literally. Every time they pull in for a hug, she would lower her head to try and lie on his chest. She loved hearing the sound of his heartbeat, and Jipyeong loves nothing more than having her soft silky hair touch his skin, and to breathe the smell of her shampoo.
At that very minute, they knew - this was the kind of hug they wanted to have for the whole rest of their life.