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In Another Life
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After he finally opened his eyes for real after it was over, after they finally, finally, letting each other go, they didn’t talk. They couldn’t talk. He himself couldn’t. He couldn’t even breathe properly then. He couldn’t form a single thought inside his brain. His tongue, it won’t move. 

 

If it wasn’t for her squeezing back their interlocking fingers, he surely would’ve flown away, taken by the wind, disappearing with the breeze. It if wasn’t for her whispering back “oppa—“, he would’ve forgotten who he was or his own name, or if he was alive, or if he even existed, or any of this real. 

 

He blinked once, inhaling deep and then everything became clear.
 

The hill they stood upon, the coldness of air around them, the snow beneath their feet, the forest, the villa—and him under her touch, them standing so close together that they could still taste each other, her red cheeks and her even redder lips, his sore lips that tasted like hers— and all of these combined were giving him confirmation that everything that happened was indeed reality. 

 

It happened. It really did happened. He really did kiss her. They kissed for real and as if on cue, his heart— it leapt. It became crazy.

 

He was actually thankful that they didn’t talk after that. He was thankful that everyone decided to go back home after breakfast without suggesting any other activities. He was more than lucky that no one, especially not Go-eun nor Dong-hoon said something or asked him about their secret rendezvous in the morning, or he would plead insanity. In the bus, he pretended to be asleep to avoid anyone from talking to him or else, he would’ve screamed at them. That’s how high-strung he had become.

 

Crazy, how just one kiss from her turned him into this mess.

 

It’s not until a few days after that, after a few days of trying to distract himself with work —so that he had things to think about other than her— but failed, after a few days of being restless, after a few days gaining constant weird stares from Manager Yoo for cracking up too much jokes, for being weird, for being jittery, antsy—the whole nine, that he decided to sit on a bench in the park near their office after work. He bowed down, sighing to himself loudly when he felt a light touch at the back of his neck.

 

He didn’t even have to look up to know that it was her, but he still did. He straightened his back, leaning to the bench, looking up to her. His eyes searched for hers, pleading shamelessly for her to pull him out of this misery. 

 

What now? Now that they’ve kissed, what should they do? What should he do? What should he asked her? Should he asked her, “why did you kiss me back”? Should he asked for her confession next? For her actual feeling? 

 

Should he asked her for a date? For her to straight up marry him? Or—or, just let it go? Just pretend it never happened? 

 

Was he ready for any of her answers? Would he ever be ready for that? 

 

Confession was one thing, receiving the answer was something else entirely. 

 

Without muttering a single word, she took a seat beside him, taking his hand in between her hands. They looked tiny compared to his, but somehow they fit perfectly. She leaned on his shoulder and for the first time in days, he could breathe easy. 

 

They still didn’t say anything to each other, then. They didn’t say anything, but, really, they didn’t have to. 

 

Her touch, although cold, it was lasting. It was reassuring, that the whole thing that happened wasn’t just crazy for him, but for her as well. Her touch—it was promising something, something that he could hold on to, something that he could put on hope for. Maybe not definitively, but it’s there nonetheless.

 

Exhaling, he realised, that’s more that he could’ve ever asked for.

 

*****

 

How do you know if someone loves you too? 

 

He’s not gonna lie, that at least for weeks now, he had been searching for the answers. He considered asking someone, probably So-min -his first thought was Dong-hoon, of course, but considering the years upon years of never-ending jokes he’ll have to suffer through after that, he changed his mind- because she’s a girl and if anyone who should know about women, it should be her, but the thought of actually going to someone who had been in an on-again-off-again relationship with his other junior, Se-chan who already was disqualified for the same reason, left him doubting.

 

Kwang-soo would probably the next best bet, but he already kinda knew what that beanpole’s answer gonna be. “Eh, hyung— I wouldn’t even confessed if it wasn’t for Ji-hyo noona. She was the one who told me that Sun-bin clearly had feelings for me.”

 

Well, he’d be in trouble, then. He couldn’t possibly ask her if someone had feelings for him, especially if that someone is her. That left him with Suk-jin hyung who probably would answer him with a two-hours long story, reminiscing about his own love story that happened almost 20 years ago. 

 

Manager Yoo was the best candidate to give him a wise enough answer but every time he was about to open his mouth to ask him, his boss’s protruding mouth opened first and asked him the update on their latest project.

 

It killed him to admit this, but he actually went to Google as his last resort. After scrolling down through numerous articles about ‘how to find out if men actually likes you’, he cursed under his breath. He couldn’t find any article from men perspectives which was ridiculous, really, because how many men out there actually knows about women real feelings? That’s right. None. No wonder men get rejected often! 

 

Yet, he managed to rule out a few things that were often mentioned but as he went through them analytically, they turned out to be useless.

 

Sure, she spent time with him more these days, but it wasn’t really something out of the ordinary. Sure, she went with him to do groceries, but she sometimes went out to go window shopping with So-min and Se-chan too.

 

Sure, she held his hands when they walked around together but it's not exactly something new for the both of them. She linked arm with Kwang-soo sometimes too.

 

Sure, she laughed at his jokes and smiled more now, which made him warm in the harsh winter, but it could be because she’s genuinely a person who laughed a lot. She loved joining the fun and that’s the reason she always tag along with the quick-witted Dong-hoon and Kwang-soo who always up for a game. 

 

How would he ever find out if he is in any way special? 

 

He sighed in defeat, feeling rather foolish with his actions. He had been alive for almost half a decade now. He had been in love before. He had been in relationships before, for god’s sake, and even though they weren’t that many, it should be enough for him to at least pick up on some hints.

 

But, again, it’s her. She had always been a mystery to him. It had always been hard to predict her. Even before he found out that he’s head over feel for her, it was always hard to read her next move. Just when he thought he had her already figured out, she’ll surprise him by slipping away. 

 

And truth be told, it’s why he couldn’t get enough her.

 

He was staring at her newly coloured, wavy dark auburn hair that almost looked like fire —and it made his entire body flaming—as she was heating up kimchi-jjigae on the stove in Se-chan’s cramped kitchen, when she suddenly turned to her side, looking back at him. If he was who he was a month ago, he would’ve looked away instantly, but he wasn’t, so he just kept on staring and when she raised her eyebrows at him, he beamed at her.

 

“Something on my face?”

 

“Yeah.” 

 

She put down the ladle, replacing it with her phone and stared at her own reflection on the black screen, studying her face carefully. “What is it?”

 

He pursed his lips. “You can’t see it?” 

 

She shook her head, turning her head in various directions, looking very hard for something on her face, even on her teeth. “There’s nothing—“

 

“You sure?” He continued. “Pretty sure I see something—“

 

“Well, what is it?!” She hissed. “Honestly, oppa, you could’ve told me in the car—“

 

“Just something—“ he touched her cheek, “-very pretty.”

 

She rolled her eyes, almost slamming her phone down on the counter, looking far too annoyed for someone who just got complimented. He chuckled, ignoring her exaggeration as he noticed her cheeks turned pink. 

 

His heart was pleased. Forget the articles, making her blushed was enough to make him feel special already.

 

“If you say things like this in front of everyone, Kim Jong-kook—“ she tossed him a raging stare, threatening, “I’ll kill you.”

 

He refrained himself from smiling even wider, leaning towards her until the distance left between them were just a few inches apart, her eyes wide in bewilderment as they locked into his, and whispered, “it’d be an actual honour to be killed by you.”

 

She slapped him, pushing his face away from her. 

 

He almost bursted out laughing, not expecting this kind of response from her, but he bit his lower lip and scolded her teasingly. “Yah! How could you hit your oppa like that?!”

 

“Pull yourself together!” She hurled back. “Ugh, you’re insufferable—“

 

“Ji-hyo yah—aigo, these two—“ Dong-hoon exclaimed loudly as he entered the kitchen, looking at the two of them while grinning presumptuously to himself. “No wonder kimchi-jjigae took so long to be ready... you guys were stewing something else in here.”

 

He crossed his arms across his chest, glaring at their intruder. “What do you want?” 

 

His snarky jab made Dong-hoon wheezed. “Honestly, hyung—get a room!” Dong-hoon added on, making her blushed in a deeper shade of red.

 

He remained indifferent. “This is a room! You’re the one who barged in!”

 

“Am I interrupting?” That man gasped theatrically as he moved between the two of them, earning an even more intense glare from him. “Sorry, sorry. Sorry, Ji-hyo-“ Dong-hoon put both of his hands on her shoulder while eyeing him, taunting him with their closeness.

 

“Don’t touch her!” He snapped as he raised his hand, planning to snatch those hands away, but Dong-hoon was faster. He backed a step and bumped slightly with the fridge behind him. 

 

He didn’t exactly mind it. He knew Dong-hoon too well.  He knew that Dong-hoon would never cross the line and if she herself wouldn’t mind it, why would he be the one who fussed over nothing? If it's another men, however...

 

“What?!” Dong-hoon still asked mockingly. “I was just trying to see—“

 

“Don’t you dare to put your filthy hands on her—“ he warned him again just as Dong-hoon pulled out his second attempt.

 

“And if I do?”

 

“Try, then!” He raised his chin at him. “See if you still have your hands by the end of the night,” he continued, chuckling darkly.

 

“This hyung is getting scarier now that you guys are together!”

 

Dong-hoon’s complaint wasn’t exactly true. He was getting scarier, or rather, more sensitive about things regarding her, but they weren’t together. Not officially, anyway. 

 

“Hyeongsu, please hurry.” Dong-hoon said it with a joking look.

 

He was ready to kick his of out the kitchen when she replied brazenly after snorting, “it’s ready, dolyeonnim.” 

 

This time he was the one who was blushing. Oh, if only it was true.

 

Their belated New Years party started as soon as So-min and Se-chan arrived home from a nearby bakery, bringing a strawberry shortcake which was a fine addition for their personal dinner tonight but somehow it made Se-chan upset and when So-min muttered her reason for buying the cake, he could understand him as it made him upset too.

 

“Mr. Joong-ki recommended the place.”

 

Hearing that name brought back the irritation he felt this morning. He was at the staff area, having a discussion with Dong-hoon and Se-chan about celebration for their finished project when he heard a few of their female coworkers gushing about one pretty boy who came by to meet her. Hearing her name being mentioned, he glanced at the front door, and sure enough, he saw them standing far too close to each other. 

 

That pretty man came unannounced to return her forgotten scarf from the other day. He came in a casual wear, explaining that it was his off day, so he figured he stopped by to drop that and said hello to his favourite noona. 

 

It was upsetting enough to see her grinning wide at him as they talked to each other but when he saw that man tucked the scarf around her neck, causing the same group of female coworkers to cheer silently on them, he left his discussion without thinking and stomped his way over.

 

“Why are you wearing scarf in here? The heater’s on—you’re gonna get heat . Take it off.” He grilled her, inserting himself between them without shame after Joong-ki greeted him, which she ignored, of course, upsetting him even further.

 

“Joong-ki loves sweet stuffs and he just knows where to find them.” She agreed with So-min, pouring more oil into his fire of anger. “We used to go out and ate desserts together during college—“

 

What did she just say? Him and her? Eating desserts? Together? Like— like a da—

 

“Like a date?! Oh, eonni! You’re so lucky—“

 

He stabbed the meat in his bowl with his chopsticks, ready to spit actual fire from his mouth, but Se-chan got ahead of him.

 

“Yah! Jeon So-min! You can’t just fall in love with everyone who comes to the office!”

 

An

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aifhi_shk
This story was a journey to me. Thank you for enjoying it :’D
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