“I’m the first Apostle.”
The woman across from her raises a dagger, the curve of the handle strange yet practiced in her smooth, pale grip. Han Sooyoung watches her hair fall from its loose ponytail, golden against her face. The way her eyes are dark and suspicious as they track her movement.
Beside her, Kim Dokja puts an arm in front of her as he tries to soothe the situation. Han Sooyoung looks at him, all bones and fragility wrapped in a fast tongue and an annoying predilection for lying. She looks at his arm, which does not look like it should be able to protect her at all, and then the woman’s hand, which does not look like it should be able to hurt her at all. She turns the parallel inside of her mind, wondering at her brain for having come up with it.
Maybe this is where it begins.
It is Han Sooyoung’s day with Kim Dokja.
Not that she and Yoo Joonhyuk have delineated the days so strictly between them, because Kim Dokja is still a fragile lying piece of shit that can barely go to the convenience store at the corner of the street without collapsing on a good day, no matter how much he tries to insist that he doesn’t need help. The entire company has collectively agreed that he needs to be supervised at all times so he doesn’t kneel over while pretending he’s fine, or find some other new and innovative way of killing himself even without the existence of the Star Stream. And because they all love him, against all reason, they all vy for the chance to stay at his side. Han Sooyoung would like to pretend that she’s above all of that, having already secured her place as his girlfriend and having the handy excuse of forcing him to edit her next webnovel. But she can admit to herself that really, she’s no better than the kids clambering onto his bed every time they come over, arguing amongst themselves over who he likes best.
Most of the company have enough grace to leave her and Yoo Joonhyuk just a little more time with him than they were technically allotted, even if Jung Heewon smirks every time she leaves as Han Sooyoung is walking in or Lee Jihye ushers the younger kids out with a little too much energy to give them space. It’s infuriating, to be so known, to be so grateful for it.
She and Yoo Joonhyuk sometimes spend their time with Kim Dokja together, because for all of their differences, they have gained an understanding over the years that they have mourned together over this asshole who doesn’t deserve it. She still wants to punch the protagonist more often than not, but now, if it’s a good day, she’ll consider not aiming for the perfect face that she had so meticulously written. If it’s a very good day, she might even admit to herself that Yoo Joonhyuk, despite all of his bastardry and emotional incompetence, has become one of her closest friends. Still, there’s only so much time they want to spend in each other’s company, and putting all three of them in the same room tends to end in violence one way or another, which might impede Kim Dokja’s recovery just a little bit.
So, it’s her day - or, more specifically, her afternoon after classes, and she is sitting in Kim Dokja’s (and Yoo Joonhyuk’s, and her’s) bed, legs crossed over his lap and shoulder against his, her laptop open between the two of them. She points to the screen. “See, this is the kind of bullshit these kids come up with. Why the fuck do they take my classes if they can’t even appreciate webnovels as a medium? Just go like, read some Murakami instead, god.”
“Maybe it has something to do with the fact that you helped save the world,” Kim Dokja says dryly. His voice is smoother, now, she notes with some satisfaction. Not the raspy hoarseness that he had woken up with. “Celebrity does breed interest.”
She glares at him. “Are you saying that I’m not a good professor?” she asks, her tone the equivalent of grabbing him by the collar.
He beams back at her. “I think you’re a great author,” he says, dodging the question without flinching. She bares her teeth at him, and his smile goes a little lopsided, awkward in the way he only is when he’s sincere. She hates, hates, hates what it does to her.
“ Obviously I’m a great author,” she grumbles, leaning a little closer to him and making him huff a little in surprise. He doesn’t move away, though. “But seriously, this shit’s infuriating , it’s bad enough that Sangah keeps trying to get me to introduce actual novels into the syllabus, but now she’s being insufferable with her high academia shit, and it’s infecting the students! God, if she wants them to be baby Moonlight Goddesses, she should start teaching herself, not backseat drive my classes.”
It takes her a beat too long to realize that Kim Dokja is looking at her, and when she looks over at him to demand a response, his eyes are on her’s. His expression is- strange, half-lit by the pale light of the laptop, easily fond in a way that he can only be when he’s not thinking about it, but also intent, assessing, as if she’s a scenario that he has to figure his way out of. She is immediately wary, because she knows that That look leads down the path of her insanity, heralded by shit like “Sooyoung-ah, can you stab me so I can bleed out in exactly eight minutes?” or “Han Sooyoung, you need to lead the charge to make the rest of my family murder me.”
Sure enough, Kim Dokja gives her That look, opens his mouth, and begins to talk in that bullshit cryptic way of his. “Sooyoung-ah, how long has Sangah-ssi been moonlighting in your classes?”
Han Sooyoung narrows her eyes at him. “Why,” she says, flatly. Kim Dokja seems to sense her ire, and the arm that is pressed against her’s comes up until it’s around her shoulder, and he begins to run his fingers through her hair as if she’s some sort of cat. It’s still stilted and awkward, for all that Kim Dokja has always been more comfortable couching touch in a veneer of teasing. She leans into it, a little, and is surprised when he turns his head a little, lips brushing her jaw in something almost like a kiss. She closes her eyes, pressing back the sudden way she feels overcome with the knowledge that Kim Dokja has pushed through all of his myriad of insecurities and stupid emotional walls to do this, something so small and so monumental, worth twenty thousand years of waiting.
Kim Dokja takes advantage of her moment of emotional weakness swiftly and without mercy. “I just realized- you always talk about her, when you talk about your classes. You seem to be having fun.”
Han Sooyoung opens her eyes rapidly, feeling something sharp and uncomfortable run all the way down her spine, into her stomach. “No I’m not,” she disagrees, a little too sharply. Kim Dokja doesn’t flinch at her tone, just looks at her with indulgence mixed with exasperation, a look that Han Sooyoung absolutely does not categorize in the same place in her brain as the look Yoo Sangah gives her whenever she complains about her classes.
He runs his hand through her hair again, slower and more sure. It figures that the one time Kim Dokja can utilize physical affection effectively is when he’s trying to manipulate someone. Han Sooyoung hates him. She really wants to fucking kiss him.
She does fucking kiss him, because she can, and because she wants to stop this conversation for long enough to gather her bearings. Kim Dokja is surprised as she crashes into him, her laptop lodged uncomfortably between their bodies. He’s pliant under her for all of two glorious seconds before he kisses back, still a little fumbling but faking confidence with admirable skill. He runs cool but the inside of his mouth is warm, a little sweet from the candy she’s been plying him with. His fingers touch her face, and she grips onto the side of his neck, habitually counting the beats of his pulse, the proof that he is a real, living thing. When she pulls back, he looks a little bemused, like he’s trying to figure out why she kissed him, like she needs a reason to kiss her longest and most beloved reader.
Apparently, he comes to some sort of conclusion, because he tilts his head back to look at her, smug. “You seem like you enjoy talking about novels with her,” he points out, as if their conversation had never been interrupted. Han Sooyoung glares at him, he leans into her touch a little more, smile unwavering.
Han Sooyoung presses her lips together, gathering an air of mocking. “Are you jealous , Kim Dokja?” she says, letting her lips curve into a smirk. “Don’t worry, sweetheart , I’m not-” she doesn’t let herself hesitate when she speaks, knowing that Kim Dokja will pounce if she does. “- going out with your old co-worker on the side.”
Then, Kim Dokja does what he does best: casually saying something absolutely insane. “Well, why not?”
Back when Kim Dokja was dead - that time when he stayed dead for three years - Han Sooyoung and Yoo Sangah may have stayed in the same dorms in the compound for a while. It was just because Yoo Sangah was the only person who knew Han Sooyoung was the first apostle, because she didn’t trust her. It wasn’t...a thing .
So maybe they lived together for a while, and maybe Han Sooyoung found out a lot about Yoo Sangah in those three years, like how Yoo Sangah took her coffee, or how she fought, careful and meticulous and always stupidly guilty whenever she had to kill someone. Maybe Yoo Sangah started putting mugs on the lower shelves in the communal kitchen because Han Sooyoung couldn’t reach where she would regularly put them. Maybe Han Sooyoung learned to bite her tongue sometimes, a little, when she saw long, ashy-blonde hair concealed by the cover of some dumb high lit book. Maybe she even thought about telling Yoo Sangah about her own webnovels, once or twice, just to inform her that she wasn’t the only one who knew how to string a few words together.
Maybe there were times when they were having downtime, and Han Sooyoung was tapping on her phone away from the rest of the marauders to get some peace and quiet for once, and Yoo Sangah would come and sit next to her. Not obtrusively, not announcing herself, but distinctly there, smelling of the shampoo everyone used but with something sharp and floral underneath that she must’ve ransacked some poor drugstore to find. She would just, sit there, too quietly for Han Sooyoung to justify snapping at her. So neither of them would move, and they would just sit together for a while, knees knocking together sometimes, even though Yoo Sangah should’ve been too well-bred to intrude into someone else’s personal space.
And then she would leave with equally little warning, and Han Sooyoung would try to slow her breathing every time, not understanding why she felt like she’d just ran a marathon.
It didn’t matter, though. Yoo Sangah began to deteriorate under the weight of her Sponsor’s contract, giving away pieces of herself like a fucking moron. And then Kim Dokja came back, just in time for the grand fucking finale, and that was that.
Han Sooyoung does not cancel her next class in order to avoid Yoo Sangah. That would be ridiculous.
“Unni, why are you avoiding Sangah-unni?” Jihye flops into the chair opposite her’s in the cafe that Han Sooyoung thought nobody would’ve guessed that she’d go to. It’s corporate and loud and extremely annoying, but she had to get her work done somewhere without either Kim Dokja’s stupid assumptions or...other people.
Lee Jihye ignores Han Sooyoung ignoring her, and puts her chin in her hands, looking Gilyoung and Yoosung’s age instead of the almost 19 year old she is. Han Sooyoung gives her a flat look. “Shouldn’t you be studying?” Beside her, her phone buzzes with another text from Sailor Moon , and she ignores it, lets the screen go dark.
Lee Jihye pouts at her. “...no,” she says. Then, at Han Sooyoung’s unimpressed gaze: “Don’t tell Master!”
Han Sooyoung takes a long sip of her coffee, perfectly sweet with three pumps of caramel and a shot of vanilla and chocolate. Yoo Sangah never let her have sugary drinks in the office, something about rotting her teeth and ants. She always insisted that good coffee was naturally sweet, which was bullshit, but Han Sooyoung took great pleasure in faking flavor notes as she drank her coffee in a way designed to make Yoo Sangah go insane. “Why wouldn’t I tell Yoo Joonhyuk that his disciple’s refusing higher education?”
“...because he’s not the boss of you?”
Han Sooyoung levels Lee Jihye with a Look. “I know what you’re doing,” she says. And then. “Fine, I don’t care anyways.”
Lee Jihye grins. “Yes! You’re the best, Unni!” her smile falters slightly. “But, uh, don’t tell Dokja-ahjussi either...or Sangah-unni, okay?”
“Why would I tell them?”
“I don’t know, because you’re dating Dokja-ahjussi, and when Hyunsung-ahjussi was dating Heewon-unni he told her everything , it was actually a little weird-”
“- wait,” Han Sooyoung resists the urge to massage her forehead. “For one, I’m not the kind of person who would go around telling the person I’m dating everything. Lee Hyunsung is ridiculous. Secondly- why would I tell Yoo Sangah anything? I thought we were avoiding each other. Not that we are”
She looks at Lee Jihye, who freezes. “Uh,” Lee Jihye says. “Because you and Sangah-unni hang out a lot at your school? And last time Gilyoung got suspended for punching a kid, you were the one who told her even though that morning you two were fighting about some book or something, and she was the one who grounded him, so-”
“That’s-” Han Sooyoung swallows. “That’s a special situation. I don’t tell Yoo Sangah everything . And we don’t hang out a lot.”
Lee Jihye narrows her eyes at Han Sooyoung for a long moment, looking disconcertingly like her master. “Is this like that time Ahjussi said that it was a coincidence that he and Master had matching coats?” For that, she gets a mouthful of hot coffee to the face, and Sooyoung chokes on her sip. Lee Jihye screeches high enough that a barista comes over with a look of wariness in their eyes to beg them to please not bother the other customers. Han Sooyoung does not offer to clean her up, because she deserves nothing less for comparing her to Kim Dokja .
“Did Kim Dokja put you up to this?” she asks Lee Jihye, because it’s the kind of thing he would do. It’s far too much of a coincidence, this soon after their conversation.
Lee Jihye just looks at her blankly. “Are you and Ahjussi fighting?” And, god, she sounds vaguely concerned. Han Sooyoung knows Lee Jihye is a lot of things, but a good actor is not one of them. She sighs, and leans back in her chair. Her phone buzzes again, and she gives in, clicks open the screen.
Should I get some pho from the Vietmanese place you like, if you’re not feeling well? There’s a distinct sense of malice in the tone, a passive-aggressiveness that most would find difficult to convey over text. Yoo Sangah has always been uniquely talented with words.
Han Sooyoung closes her eyes, and refuses to feel overcome.
The thing is, Han Sooyoung isn’t stupid, okay? Han Sooyoung has fought gods and crossed timelines and started the fucking apocalypse with her own two hands using nothing more than a shitty laptop and a body that wasn’t meant to fit her. She was an author and architect and empress and constellation, someone who could predict entire worlds based on tropes and themes. She is, in a word, brilliant .
Han Sooyoung is brilliant, and so she knows what it means when one day Yoo Sangah smiles at her over her office desk, reaches towards her to tug down her glasses, and she feels breathless. She knows what it means when the world goes into focus in front of her and Yoo Sangah is the first thing she sees, ridiculously beautiful, smiling in that infinitely patient way of her’s. She knows what it means when she thinks, suddenly, that there must be a reason that this person comes to my classes every day, and brings me coffee, and goes out of her way to talk to me, and smiles at me that way.
She was never much of a romance author, but she knows enough about the genre to understand why it is that she’s asking all these questions. And, for a moment, she thinks that maybe she can trust Yoo Sangah, who has been a librarian in Kim Dokja’s mind and so has taken care of Han Sooyoung’s story with her patient hands, her infinite bravery, to give her answers. That maybe she will always be a little like Yoo Joonhyuk, always waiting with half-bated breath for a certain someone to come back into their lives with his stupid smirk and stupid plans and stupid big heart and lack of self-esteem. But that maybe she can be different from him, too. Maybe she can find enough room around the grief for something else.
But then, Yoo Joonhyuk tries to commit terrorism. But then, the manuscript, that stupid thing called hope. But then, Han Sooyoung looks around at some point, and finds Yoo Sangah at a respectful distance. Infinitely understanding, infinitely kind.
Because Han Sooyoung is not stupid, but neither is Yoo Sangah.
The logical reaction to the realization that apparently everyone can see her stupid sapphic thoughts is, of course, ignore it until it goes away. And to walk out the room whenever she hears the sound of Yoo Sangah’s footsteps..
“What did you do.”
Of course, it does not matter how much Han Sooyoung tries to hide. Yoo Joonhyuk can always find her.
It’s not romantic, in any sense of the word. It’s simply how she wrote this protagonist, with his soft squishy heart and emotionally detached exterior and the instincts of a fucking bloodhound. She whirls around to glare at him, a little sad that she doesn’t have the dimensional coat on to flare satisfyingly around her. “What are you accusing me of this time, Yoo Joonhyuk?”
He glares at her, which is a fun nostalgic expression. He does it too little these days, what with being reunited with the love of his life. She and Kim Dokja must’ve gotten soft. “You haven’t visited Kim Dokja in days,” he points out.
And, okay, that was as unexpected as it was predictable, some author she is. She should’ve known that he wouldn’t have gone for the Yoo Sangah route - they weren’t close enough for that, and Yoo Joonhyuk, for all that he would die for any member of the company, reserves his emotional energy for a select few: Yoo Mia, Lee Hyunsung, Lee Jihye, Lee Seolhwa, Shin Yoosung, Kim Dokja. It figures that he would be more concerned about Han Sooyoung’s attempts not to allow Kim Dokja to repeat their previous conversation than her relationship with Yoo Sangah.
“Aren’t you happy?” She asks, going on the offensive. “I’m giving you time with your beloved reader.”
“He asks about you,” he says, and she winces. Regathers herself.
“I’ve been busy. Not everything revolves around him, you know.” It’s the truth that feels like a lie, and they both know it. After all, he has been the crux of their universes for so long that they barely know how to live any other way.
“You haven’t been teaching classes. Biyoo said you were taking a sabbatical.”
“Did your daughter hack into my email account?”
“She has access to everyone’s accounts,” he gives off the impression of amusement, for all that his features do not change at all. “She’s the dokkaebi king.”
Han Sooyoung rolls her eyes at him. “Stop bragging about your daughter.”
“Stop changing the subject.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” she spreads her hands out, palms-up. Who, me? “Kim Dokja is being a dipshit again. You know the way he is. I’m trying not to throttle him and making your ex stab me.”
Yoo Joonhyuk tilts his head a little, examining her. She stands perfectly still, not letting anything show on her face. He knows her too well, now, after remembering all of his lifetimes, the other her that she didn’t give her permission for him to know. The only reason why she allows it is because she knows him in equally uncomfortable fashion. “He says that you’re avoiding him because of Yoo Sangah.”
Han Sooyoung flinches. If she could go back in time (again), she would write that damn bluntness out of him and replace it with emotional sensitivity instead. “He’s wrong.”
“You’ve been avoiding her.”
“How would you know?” it’s petulant and she knows it.
“She told me.”
That startles her more than anything else has. “She- talked to you?”
“The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know,” he parrots her words, and she gives in to the urge to aim a fist at him. He dodges out of the way with little fanfare, not looking even a little bit bothered.
She bares her teeth at him. “You are insufferable.”
“And you are as much of a fool as Kim Dokja,” he says, with devastating efficacy. “What does it matter if you want her?”
Han Sooyoung tries to punch him again, and then a third time. Technically speaking, Yoo Sangah had enforced a no fighting inside the house rule, but Han Sooyoung was currently avoiding her, and therefore was not subject to any of her stupid rules. Yoo Joonhyuk just keeps dodging out of the way with his stupid OP protagonist abilities, fluid in a way that shouldn’t have been possible after their abilities had disappeared alongside the Star Stream. This goddamn protagonist, this goddamn reader, neither giving any thought to other people’s emotions at all.
“Shut up ,” she demands, punch after punch, no powers, just her. She feels ripped open, wounded. “I don’t . I don’t-”
“Why are you so determined to deny it?” Yoo Joonhyuk doesn’t even seem a little out of breath by the onslaught of attacks.
Her voice goes higher. Sharp. “You weren’t even here when-”
He doesn’t know. He can’t have known, not when he was gallivanting off whenever Kim Dokja went and died on them, wandering the world in some sort of angst-filled craze. He’s never been there when she and Yoo Sangah shared the same space, stepping around each other in anticipation of someone else. He’s never known what it was to wonder how much of your heart you could give, when so much of it was already cut away by the sword of a constellation that no longer shone. He and Kim Dokja were both all instinct and emotion, overfull with it and repressed to the point of comedy. Han Sooyoung and Yoo Sangah were- smart. Calculating. They both mapped out the risks, added in the factor that was Kim Dokja and saw the writing on the wall. There was no reason to reopen these closed b-plots, no reason to do something so humiliating as confront Han Sooyoung about it.
Her fists slow. Stop. “Stop butting into business that you’re not a part of, Yoo Joonhyuk.”
Yoo Joonhyuk looks at her evenly for a long time, and Han Sooyoung realizes with some consternation that it’s the exact same look he gives to Kim Dokja when he’s being particularly loose with his brain cells.
“Han Sooyoung,” he says, in that slow, deliberate way of his that Han Sooyoung knows is a challenge. Has written for him to use as a challenge. “Do you think that Kim Dokja is the only person qualified to accept more than one companion?”
Han Sooyoung glares at him. “‘ Companion’, ” she mocks, to hide the way he’s managed to punch her where it hurts. “Are you still too embarrassed to call him your lover, Yoo Joonhyuk?”
The bastard has the gall to roll his eyes at her. She misses the days when he was still too emotionally constipated to move his facial muscles into anything but flavors of glares. She misses when he was still fictional . “ Our lover,” he corrects placidly, and really, this man has no shame at all. He and Kim Dokja are really perfect for one another.
“Our lover,” she agrees nevertheless, because that is still enough of a gift that she cannot be glib with it. “And, what, you want to make this relationship even more complicated than it already is? I didn’t know you were into that kind of thing.”
He exhales a little, just on this side of a sigh. “Idiot,” he informs her. “Talk to her. You are making the children uncomfortable. And Kim Dokja.”
She is about to make a quip about how there isn’t that much of a distinction between the two categories, but he’s already sweeping his way out of the room, finished with what he wanted to say and not wasting a second of time. She looks at his back for a moment, understanding but not relating to how Kim Dokja sees him: a steady, unwavering presence. An anchor, to which all other things are tied.
She loves him, as much as she can, in a way that is wholly different from the way she loves Kim Dokja or - fine - Yoo Sangah. To her, he is a collaborator, a partner with whom she wrote the most important story in all the worlds. The most important stories. In some ways, there is no more intimate relationship than the one they have, creator and creation. Co-authors.
Han Sooyoung looks at his back as it leaves, and thinks that of all the stories she has written, for all the times she has helped Yoo Joonhyuk and Kim Dokja write their stories, she has yet to begin one about herself.
And the crux of the matter is that she knows Yoo Joonhyuk is right: she is as much a fool as Kim Dokja. As terrified of being anything other than the villain in their stories, the roles that she has meticulously carved out for herself. With Kim Dokja and Yoo Joonhyuk, she had stepped up because she knew what her place with them was, knew that the two of them were so broken that she would not be able to be any more villainous to them than they have been to each other. With Yoo Sangah-
She was a villain to Yoo Sangah, once, and never made amends for it. She isn’t sure how they can be anything else, at the end of things.
But. You’re making Kim Dokja uncomfortable. She goes back to her office and sits there, waiting. She is not surprised when Yoo Sangah opens the door a little later, two cups of coffee in hand.
“Are you feeling better, Sooyoung-ssi?”
Yoo Sangah goes along with her lie without a hint of falsehood on her face, eyes unreadable on Han Sooyoung. Han Sooyoung looks back at her, looking for any sign that she knows anything. She doesn’t see anything. That had been her first sign, years ago, that there was something fundamentally wrong with Yoo Sangah, that she could so effortlessly hide her emotions. Even when she hated Han Sooyoung, she had never let anything but professionalism into her voice, never gave a hint to the others about Han Sooyoung’s identity as a prophet.
Han Sooyoung grabs the coffee from her, hides her face behind the cup as she takes a long sip. “I taste...cotton candy,” she lies. “And filet mignon.”
Yoo Sangah closes her eyes in a clear prayer for patience, and Han Sooyoung grins, relieved at this successful return to status quo.
“How are the students doing with their assignment?” Yoo Sangah asks, crossing over to sit on Han Sooyoung’s desk instead of in one of the couches across from her. Normally, this would not be anything out of the ordinary. Now, Han Sooyoung is acutely aware of how easily she crosses into her space, how unthinkingly Han Sooyoung has ceded it to her.
“Terribly,” she grumbles, shuffling her laptop to make room. “It’s as if I’d told them to cut their heads off or something, instead of giving them an assignment that wasn’t an essay. Aren't students supposed to not like essays? I’m doing them a favor!”
Yoo Sangah hums a little in commiseration, sounding more amused than sympathetic. “They’re not used to such an open-ended assignment,” she tells Han Sooyoung, leaning over her to peer at her inbox. Han Sooyoung does not flinch away through force of will, letting the strands of Yoo Sangah’s hair brush her shoulder, smelling of that same floral undertone. “It might be useful to put up some examples of past assignments, or what you think the end result should look like.”
“And have all of them copy exactly what’s been done before?”
“It’s a point of inspiration, not imitation.”
Han Sooyoung snorts. “You have much more confidence in our kids than I do.”
It takes her a full second to realize that Yoo Sangah has frozen, and then another for her to process her words. And then Han Sooyoung stands up, closes her laptop. Goes around her desk on the side that Yoo Sangah isn’t on.
She’s about two steps from the door when Yoo Sangah regains her voice again. “Sooyoung-ssi-”
“NO,” Han Sooyoung says, a little too loudly. She closes her eyes, presses her voice downwards again. “We do not have to talk about this.”
Yoo Sangah has the gall to sound soft . “I think we do.”
“Did one of them put you up to this?”
Yoo Sangah doesn’t bother to ask who they are. “I spoke to Joonhyuk-ssi earlier, he told me I should come over.” She pauses, uncharacteristically hesitant. “He said- he said you were going to stop avoiding me.”
“I’m not avoiding you,” Han Sooyoung lies.
She hears soft footsteps across the carpeting, quiet from years of stealth missions, even in heels. “Not anymore,” Yoo Sangah agrees. “Unless you’re going to run away again.” Her tone is all gentleness, but the words sound like they could’ve come from Yoo Joonhyuk. A challenge. She was so sweet, until she bared her teeth.
Han Sooyoung can’t fucking stand her. She turns around, and Yoo Sangah is closer than she’d thought she was, face to face with her, a head taller but utterly unthreatening unless you knew what she had done. Who she has been. Prophet, librarian, god.
She says. “Kim Dokja is convinced that I’m in love with you.”
Yoo Sangah flinches, at that, emotion finally seeping into her meticulously maintained expression. “And that made you avoid me for weeks,” she replies, voice soft and even. Hiding all her vulnerabilities. “Because Dokja-ssi thought you were in love with- me.”
“No,” Han Sooyoung says, annoyed and terrified. “I avoided you for weeks because he was right.”
She tilts her head up to meet Yoo Sangah’s eyes, defiant. She is tired of pussyfooting around this, of everyone around her pushing her into something that she doesn’t know how to account for. For once, she wants to do something completely unplanned, unscripted, for nobody but herself. She is tired of pretending to want less than she does. She never let Kim Dokja get away with this kind of shit, it’s absurd that she would be more accepting of it in herself.
If this were any other situation, Han Sooyoung would be more smug about Yoo Sangah’s shocked face, the fact that the other woman had obviously not prepared for this possibility. She manages a smirk. “What, you didn’t guess?”
Yoo Sangah says: “Sooyoung-ssi, you-” she shakes her head. “You spent years of your life for Dokja-ssi. If he needs proof that you love him-”
“This is, for once, not about Kim Dokja and his lack of self-esteem,” Han Sooyoung says bluntly. “Honestly, I’m starting to think that it’s more about your lack of self-esteem. Do you honestly find it that difficult to believe that this is just about you?”
Yoo Sangah looks at her for a long moment, then looks away. There’s something strained in her laugh. “Sooyoung-ssi, you literally wrote an entire world for him.”
“Do you need me to write something for you?” Han Sooyoung steps a little closer, a deliberate breaching of the space between them. “I thought you weren’t a huge fan of my stuff, but if you really want, I can whip something up. How do you feel about a self-insert reverse portal fantasy?”
“Please don’t,” Yoo Sangah says, but she sounds a little less tense now, more amused. Han Sooyoung smiles at her, feels emboldened. She’s always been more comfortable being the one to make other people feel off-kilter.
“I wrote a novel for Kim Dokja,” she says. “And I teach people stories with you. They mean the same thing.”
Yoo Sangah is laughing a little, now, covered behind her palm, a little hiccupy and not at all perfect. What a stupid, wonderful sound. “You never told me that!” she says, something like delight seeping into her voice. “Sooyoung-ssi, what was I supposed to think, when you spent years writing worlds into existence for him, twice?”
“You don’t need as much rescuing as he does. And besides, I tried to make a contract with an Outer God for you!”
“That was years ago!”
“Maybe that means something?” Han Sooyoung pulls Yoo Sangah’s hand away from her face, keeps her palm in her hand, slender and warm. Yoo Sangah’s eyes are rimmed a little with red, though she hasn’t cried. Her smile is broad and bright, with zero pretense.
Neither of them can stop smiling, when Han Sooyoung leans in.