after all

UNCHANGEABLE
seulgi kicks her car door close and carries the sleeping yerim in her arms into the bae compound.
 
"she fell asleep crying," she says as she meets up with joohyun and her mom at their doorstep. "maybe i should carry her directly to her room so she won't wake up."
 
they lead seulgi to yerim's bedroom to tuck the kid in. when she's left alone, seulgi murmurs one more apology and kisses the kid's forehead. she heads out of the room and sees joohyun standing with a phone against her ear.
 
"... yeah. she's sleeping now. let's talk to her tomorrow about it."
 
joohyun's gentle voice is so soothing seulgi can't help but smile. she stood there staring, admiring how elegant the woman looked in her long white nightdress. but there's still a hint of jealousy inside, knowing joohyun's talking to her husband--or ex-husband-to-be. joohyun hasn't talked to seulgi yet. the ambiguity of their relationship sends seulgi to uncertainty.
 
joohyun turns around and meets eyes with seulgi. "yes. that would be great. goodnight, junmyeon," she says, not breaking the gaze. she hangs up. seulgi takes it as a sign to approach.
 
"hey."
 
"hey."
 
"umm." seulgi looks to her left and right as if she's searching for something. it was undeniably awkward, and she's sure joohyun can feel it too. "i don't know if there's any better way to say this, but yerim knows everything now, and she hates me."
 
joohyun raises her brows. "she what?"
 
"i'm sorry. but she overheard your mom and your husband talking about this other person involved with you. and i don't want to pretend and lie to her. i told her it was me."
 
"gosh." joohyun brings a hand to her forehead. "i'm sorry. this is all my fault."
 
"hey. it's not your fault. i should be the one apologising. she's got every right to hate me."
 
joohyun massage her temple this time. seulgi notices how she look so stressed like she hasn't been sleeping well for days.
 
"i don't know what to do anymore..." says joohyun, almost helpless. "whichever path i take, someone will always get hurt... it s you, or me, or yerim, or junmyeon..."
 
"hey. hey. calm down." seulgi reaches out, cupping joohyun's elbows, the latter leaning in the touch and breaking down in seulgi's shoulder instantly. "hey. it'll be okay."
 
"i don't know what to do anymore, seulgi..." joohyun's frame shakes. "i don't know what to do anymore. this is all my fault..."
 
"there's no point trying to find out who's at fault or who's to blame. what you need to do is find a way to fix this."
 
"but what should i do? i don't want to hurt anyone anymore..."
 
seulgi rubs joohyun's back. "look. the more you try not to hurt anyone, the longer people around you will get hurt. you just have to decide, hyun, and be firm with it."
 
joohyun looks up at her. "but how?"
 
"ask yourself, what do you want?"
 
"i can't do that. because no matter what i choose somebody will always get hurt."
 
"people are already getting hurt. and the more you're stuck with this indecisiveness, the longer all of us will suffer."
 
"but how can i be happy with my decision if i know i've hurt you, or junmyeon, or yerim in the process? i can't take that, seulgi. especially yerim, she's the last person i wanted to hurt with my decisions."
 
seulgi feels like her heart is being pulled down. if it's a battle between her and junmyeon, she stands a chance. but if yerim is involved, she knows that even she would tell joohyun to make it up with her husband.
 
it's a mismatch, because yerim's the most important person in the world to joohyun, more than seulgi, more than her mom, and even her husband. seulgi won't blame joohyun for that.
 
she holds joohyun's shoulders and puts on a brave mask.
 
"look, hyun. don't worry about me getting hurt anymore. i'm fine. i'll be fine," she says with full sincerity. "i know your husband already made a decision for the two of you, but if you still want to make up with him, i would understand. i don't want to keep hurting yerim either. and it'll be easier for me to stay away from you and her knowing she hates me now."
 
joohyun's face shifts into worry. "seulgi..."
 
seulgi cups joohyun's cheek. "hyun, i... i want you back. i want you back so bad," she says, desperate, needy. "i know i made a mistake before. i left you, and i regret it up to this very second. if you give me a chance, i promise--no, i swear--i'll make it right this time. i'll fight for you no matter what. i won't give up. i'll never leave you again."
 
this causes joohyun to break into a crying mess again as she holds seulgi's hand on her cheek.
 
"but if..." seulgi pauses, preventing her voice from breaking. "if being with me would cause you and yerim so much pain, just say the word, and i'll stay out of your lives forever."
 
"no..." joohyun shakes her head. "no, seulgi. no." she cups seulgi's face this time. "don't say that, please." she loops her arms around the taller woman and hugs her. "you can't... i need you... i know i should have talked to you sooner about this, but a lot is going on. i'm worried about yerim. but i don't want to lose you again. please don't go..."
 
seulgi closes her eyes, feeling joohyun's warmth. "but what about yerim? she wouldn't want to see you with me. she'll hate you for it."
 
"i can assure you that separating, and joohyun getting back with junmyeon won't fix the issue with yerim," an incoming voice says, startling joohyun and seulgi. it was joohyun's mom. "even if you fix everything with junmyeon and continue your marriage, yerim will still remember this day for the rest of her life. it will just worsen her hatred towards seulgi."
 
joohyun pulls back from seulgi. "mom..."
 
the older woman folds her arms on her chest. "it's time that you two make things right together, not on your own. junmyeon already gave you that chance. i don't understand why you are still complicating things."
 
"but, mom..."
 
"yerim will eventually understand," says the woman, her voice firm. "she loves seulgi. she won't be mad at her forever. but you two, i hope you've already learnt your lessons from your decisions before. you're old enough to know that giving up on each other won't help. you have to do it together, and you have to be firm because it won't be easy at first."
 
seulgi and joohyun just stare at the older woman, mouths open.
 
"you have already wasted a lot of time being apart. don't you think now's the best time to make up for it?"
 
joohyun took one step closer to her mom. "mom, are you saying--"
 
"i don't know how else i can say it so you would understand." the older woman rolls her eyes and sighs, pretending to be annoyed. "it's okay to worry about yerim, but don't let her stop you from being together again. she loves you both. i'm sure she'll learn to forgive and accept you. if you could convince me with your everlasting and unchanging love for each other, i'm sure you'll convince your daughter too."
 
joohyun looks at seulgi with hopeful eyes. she reaches out for seulgi's hand and rubs a thumb over it.
 
seulgi feels like all the cells in her body are exploding into happiness. it's like there's an internal fireworks display celebrating the birth of a new life within her.
 
she thought it was impossible, but here it is now. her years of agony and pain erased by joohyun's sweet smile.
 
the joy overflows into her eyes. seulgi didn't realise she's already crying. she glances at joohyun's mom, who gives her a small smile and an assuring nod.
 
seulgi looks back at joohyun. she intertwines their fingers and notices the absence of a metal ring. she smiles.
 
"let's do this, hyun."
 
---
 
"you said you hate me..."
 
"i know..." joohyun nuzzles her face further into the crook of seulgi's neck. "i'm sorry. i didn't mean that. a lot just happened that day and the day before that, and the week before that, and i just sort of... exploded." she releases a sigh, her body relaxes against seulgi's while they lay on the bed in her bedroom.
 
the wedding picture on the wall is now gone, reassuring seulgi that having joohyun in her arms now isn't a dream.
 
"but you were still planning to make it up with junmyeon, right?" she says.
 
joohyun doesn't answer. she sighs again and pushes herself up to look down at seulgi. "i was doing it for yerim. you know i'd do anything for my kid."
 
"i know, and i understand every bit of it." seulgi trails her fingers along joohyun's arm. "but i got scared. i thought we had another chance. then in an instant, it got snatched away. i..."
 
"shhh..." joohyun stops her with a quick peck on the lips. "it's over now, okay? we're okay now. i know i was unclear these past few days, but this is what i want, seulgi. i want you."
 
"but you're still worried about yerim?"
 
"i am. and i still feel this guilt for hurting junmyeon. but mom's right. it already happened. making it up with him won't be fair to him and won't unhurt my kid." joohyun's face becomes sad. "i just hope yerim will forgive us soon."
 
"hey. i'm with you on this one, okay? we can take it slow with her. maybe it's best if she won't see me for now until her anger subsides. i can talk to her again if you think the timing is right."
 
"then how are we going to see each other?"
 
"i'll leave tomorrow morning before yerim wakes up. i'll stay in my apartment and check the shelter and the construction site while you're busy with your duties. then at night, once yerim is asleep, then we can sneak in to see each other. either i go here, or you go to my apartment. we aren't that far, anyway."
 
"but aren't you supposed to stay in the city for your work?"
 
"i will only go there whenever i have schedules. after that, i'll drive back here."
 
"but that's a long drive!"
 
"you were willing to do the same for me when i was injured, remember?" asks seulgi, silencing joohyun. "look. i want to make this work out. evens are now extinct. i am no longer in aef. as i've said, i'll make it right this time. i'll do everything i can to be here for you all the time."
 
"oh, seulgi..." joohyun buries her face back in seulgi's neck. "thank you."
 
"i promise you, i will never let go of you again, ever," says seulgi, full of resolve.
 
now that she's given a second chance, she intends to keep her word no matter what happens.
 
because being with joohyun gives her this feeling like her entire body is finally relaxing and her brain finally finds peace.
 
joohyun is indeed her sanctuary. her haven. her home. seulgi will do anything to protect what they have now.
 
joohyun fell asleep that night resting on top of seulgi, like how she used to do before.
 
---
 
seungwan's eyes almost popped out of their sockets.
 
"oh my goooooosh!" sooyoung squeals, hugging and kissing seulgi and joohyun. "i am not dreaming, am i?" she says, pulling back and fanning herself. "you two are finally back together?"
 
"yes, we are," says joohyun, glancing at seulgi. "right, honey?"
 
seulgi blushes. "yeah..."
 
sooyoung squeals again. "gosh! i'm so glad! i meant, no offence to junghyeon--"
 
"it's junmyeon," says seungwan.
 
"--whatever his name is." sooyoung rolls her eyes. "don't get me wrong. i have nothing against him. i will always be thankful for his contribution to bringing yerim into this world. but my point is, i seriously think you two are right for each other. your love is truly right."
 
"that's cheesy," seungwan comments.
 
"oh, come on, seungwan! don't ruin my moment here! you're just bitter because you haven't made progress with your romantic life yet."
 
"excuse me, i am going out exclusively with someone now."
 
seulgi raises an eyebrow. "oh. really?"
 
"anyway, my point is..." sooyoung pauses and looks back at seulgi and joohyun. "it is truly right because your feelings for each other lived from year to year. yes, there were changes in your lives, but the love never disappeared."
 
"sooyoung--the romanticist. i think i've heard that line from a song." seungwan smirks and sooyoung growls. "anyway, we're both happy for you." she hugs joohyun. "i'm happy for you. finally acting upon your own feelings, huh? though i wish you have done this sooner instead of waiting for junmyeon to do it for you. how's he, by the way?"
 
joohyun glances at seulgi first before going back to seungwan. "he got himself an apartment for now and stays there. it's closer to the hospitals he's working in. he admits he's hurting, but he says being busy really helps."
 
seungwan shakes her head and sighs. "it's not always rainbows and butterflies."
 
"that i'm sure i've heard from a song!" sooyoung exclaims and everyone laughs. "anyway, aren't you supposed to be at work today, joohyun?"
 
"it's my off," says joohyun. "we drove here today so seulgi can get some of her clothes. she'll be staying in the town more often than here. we called you since we know you two are in the area."
 
"why get more clothes if you don't need one when you're together?" asks sooyoung, making everyone look at her with horrified faces. "come on! we're all adults here! it's not like you two aren't gonna do it."
 
seulgi awkwardly meet eyes with joohyun, who's face is red. "stop that, sooyoung. just order that pizza now. we are hungry."
 
"ooh. too to eat earlier?"
 
"sooyoung!" says seulgi.
 
"yah!" says joohyun.
 
sooyoung raises her palms up. "okay! okay! i'll order now. chill."
 
seungwan watches sooyoung walking to the balcony, making a call. "having yerim, our little joohyun, is really cute. but if ever we'll have a little sooyoung around..." shakes her head. "i don't want to imagine it."
 
"yah! i heard that, seungwan!"
 
---
 
a few hours later, they were back in town. joohyun had to go home first so she can have dinner with yerim. she made sure her daughter's already asleep before she went to seulgi's apartment.
 
and now, they are making out on the sofa like two teenagers when suddenly joohyun pulls back.
 
"wait. i remember something."
 
"w-what...?" asks seulgi, her lips swollen.
 
"how far have you gotten with gyuri?"
 
"what?"
 
"you heard me."
 
"are you seriously asking me that now?" seulgi gestures to their position, how she's hovered above joohyun.
 
"yeah. i want to know. according to junmyeon, gyuri said nothing happened between you two because you stopped."
 
"isn't that what i've been telling you before? nothing happened between us."
 
"well, if you had to stop, it only means you were already doing something, right?" joohyun raises an eyebrow. "so, tell me, how far have you gotten with her?"
 
seulgi groans, pulling back to sit on the couch. she glances at the painting first, remembering how that night went. she knows there's no way joohyun would let her off the hook. she exhales.
 
"we... we made out."
 
"you did? where?"
 
seulgi awkwardly turns to joohyun and taps the couch. "here."
 
joohyun gets up. "okay. i'm outta here."
 
"where are you going?" she grabs joohyun's arm.
 
"i dunno. maybe i'll stay in the balcony where there's no trace of gyuri. unless you made out there too?"
 
"why are you so jealous?" seulgi yanks joohyun into her lap.
 
"seulgi!"
 
"no." she caged the smaller woman in her arms. "i told you, i will never let go of you ever again."
 
joohyun pouts. "hmp."
 
"look. i don't want it to sound like i am blaming this on you," says seulgi gently. "but i was lonely that night, and paranoid. i messaged you but you weren't responding, so i thought you may be doing something with... with your husband..."
 
that stops joohyun from trying to break free from seulgi's arms. "why would you think like that?"
 
"why shouldn't i? you're a married couple."
 
joohyun kisses seulgi's forehead. "then why did you stop? i'm sure you're having a good time with her for you to bring her here."
 
"i remember you..." she grazes her thumb over joohyun's lower lip. "i remember your kiss, and i just... stopped. i couldn't bring myself to do it anymore unless it's you."
 
joohyun leans into seulgi's shoulder. "well, truth is, junmyeon and i haven't been doing it for a while now. there's been a lot of fighting these past few weeks. i think it all started when we went out together on our anniversary. we fought that night because i wasn't in the mood. i was hella worried about you."
 
"should i apologise to junmyeon for ruining for him?"
 
joohyun playfully pushes her. "i love you."
 
"i love you too. and i..." seulgi stands with joohyun still in her arms. "i shall show you tonight how much i love you..."
 
"seulgi!" joohyun kicks her feet as seulgi carries her into the bedroom and throws her on the bed, seulgi hovering above her after.
 
"i haven't... made out... with anyone... in this room yet..." says seulgi, kissing joohyun in between her words.
 
"oh, yeah? but i clearly remember gyuri going out of your room last time."
 
"well, she slept here, but i took the couch."
 
joohyun just looks at her in silence, hands playing on seulgi's nape.
 
"what?" seulgi asks, feeling conscious.
 
"i love you."
 
seulgi melts at that. "i love you too."
 
"please don't leave me again, seulgi."
 
"i won't, honey. i promise i won't. after going through a lot, i realised that it's only you that i want in this life," says seulgi. "i don't want to sound like i'm stealing somebody's family, but you and yerim make me feel complete."
 
"you're not stealing somebody's family," says joohyun assuringly. "and i don't have plans of taking my kid away from her father. but i'm glad that you love my daughter like your own."
 
"i would love anything or anyone you love, hyun."
 
joohyun smiles. "thank you." she pulls seulgi down and kisses her.
 
the kiss escalates quickly, and joohyun had to break away before it is out of control. both were gasping for air.
 
"i... there's something i want to tell you..." says joohyun, her eyes never leave seulgi's. "i know you want this. believe me or not, i want it too. but..."
 
"but...?"
 
"i... i'm feeling guilty doing this with you..."
 
"w-what?"
 
"don't get me wrong..." joohyun gently pulls seulgi's head to her chest. "it's not about you or junmyeon. it's about yerim. i feel like i'm betraying her if we do this now."
 
seulgi blinks as she hears the heartbeat of her lover against her ear.
 
"i know it sounds crazy, but can we wait for the divorce papers to come out first before we do it?"
 
seulgi releases a relieved sigh. "okay. i thought we'd never have again for the rest of our lives."
 
joohyun laughs. "i didn't mean it that way! i just don't want to do it yet while i'm still legally married to my daughter's father."
 
seulgi props her chin on joohyun's chest to look up at her. "i understand."
 
"you do?"
 
"yeah. i'm sure the process won't take long as it's a consensus decision between you and junmyeon. and as long as i can still kiss you and hug you, i've no problems with that."
 
joohyun smiles again, looking relieved. she pulls seulgi to kiss her. "you really are the best! thank you."
 
seulgi smiles back. "shall we take a shower for now so we can cool this heat down?"
 
joohyun chuckles. "i'll shower first, okay?"
 
seulgi pulls back. "sure."
 
joohyun stands up and goes to the bathroom. seulgi takes that opportunity to check her phone and search online about how long the divorce process usually takes.
 
her eyes widen when she sees the answer: 'minimum of six months up to a year.'
 
"what the hell!"
 
the door to the bathroom opens, and joohyun's voice follows, "are you all right, honey?"
 
seulgi closes the app right away. "uh... yeah... just reading some stuff online..."
 
"okay. i love you."
 
"i love you too."
 
the bathroom door closes. seulgi buries her face in the mattress.
 
"dammit."
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schindlee
in case you missed reading the foreword, this is a sequel story. if you haven't read untouchable yet, i suggest you go over that before proceeding with this.

enjoy!
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