Word Count: 3.2k
Summary: Sunwoo is an “every-Wednesday-and-every-other-weekend”
Notes/Warnings: Subtle homophobia.
Sunwoo and Dohee got married early. She was his high school sweetheart, his first love, and – to this day – the only girl he ever slept with. They moved in together when she graduated – a small, run-down place that smelled of wardrobe and cigarettes, with a tiny bedroom and no real kitchen, but it was cheap and it was theirs. They would have cup noodles and cookies for dinner, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the TV at midnight because they didn’t have a sofa yet, laughing together till Sunwoo spilt soup on his shirt and had to sit half-naked because it was his last clean one.
A kid wasn’t really part of the deal, not back then. It wasn’t on the map. It was a weird feeling, when she came out of the bathroom, clutching the small white stick. Half dread, and half excitement. Half we can’t fucking do this, and half we can do anything in the world.
It didn’t last, of course. The marriage. Them. Not because of the kid thing – or, maybe partially because of the kid thing. Because of everything else that comes with it. Everything else. The dropping out of college, the getting a job, the money, the logistics, the late nights and early mornings.
Sunwoo wonders, sometimes, if things hadn’t happen the way they did, would they still be together now? Had they worked out if they hadn’t fucked up, if they had waited? Would he be better prepared for a kid now, than five years ago? Or was it, by the end of the day, just them that didn’t work out? The everything else?
Twenty-one. He was twenty-one. He can’t really believe it sometimes. He wasn’t much more than a kid himself. He still feels like a kid. He plays along with the adult life charade but in reality he has no idea what he’s doing.
Shit happens, but sometimes great things can grow from it. When life gives you lemons you make lemonade, and all that jazz. It’s bullshit, but it’s true. He wouldn’t, when he thinks about it, want to go back in time, want things to be different, things to not have happened. The kid thing is something he wouldn’t trade for anything else in the world.
It’s Wednesday, and Sunwoo is late. Work took forever – doesn’t it always? – but that excuse won’t fly. Not with her.
He hurries through the gates from the parking lot and over the lawn, yanks the heavy door open and comes into the hallway. It has small benches and low-hanging hooks and tiny lockers along the walls, framed colorful drawings hanging above. Everything is painted in clear green and blue and yellow.
It seems quiet and empty down the halls. A single child is sitting, fully dressed in boots and pink jacket, on the far edge of the bench on the far side of the room. Sunwoo feels its sharp black eyes cutting through him.
“Heeeey,” he says, trying not to sound sheepish. He crosses the room with long quick steps, kneeling before her. “You’ve been waiting for me? All ready to go? You didn’t have to.” He tugs softly at the pink jacket collar, as if to adjust it, though it was fine the way it was. She can take care of herself, like that. She doesn’t need him.
“You said four thirty,” Eunsol informs him dryly.
“Yeah…” Sunwoo looks down. “I’m sorry. I’ll be on time next week. Maybe I can come early. I can try to get the afternoon off.” Like a haunting spirit, Dohee’s words echo through him; Don’t make promises you can’t keep. “I mean. I’ll try.”
Eunsol looks away from him, her small face hard as stone. She has her black hair in two pigtails with fluffy pink ties around the ends. She’s always neat like that. He resists the urge to tug at them a little. It probably wouldn’t make things better.
He apologizes to the only teacher left, nodding dutifully to her words and making a subtle show out of scheduling the impending PTA meeting into his phone calendar. Then he coaxes Eunsol out with him and straps her into her car seat.
“What do you want for dinner? Chicken? Noodles? Ice cream?”
Eunsol eyes him suspiciously. “Ice cream isn’t dinner.”
Sunwoo shrugs. “Suit yourself.”
She thaws slowly over the evening, with the help of talking chicken legs and banana milk and cartoons, laughing at him finally and slapping him on the arm when he’s being silly. Sunwoo stands in the doorway to her room for a while after she has fallen asleep, watching her. Then he drags himself out into the kitchen, picking at the dishes. No matter how tired he is, she always manages to pump energy into him. He pays for it afterwards, though. He doesn’t understand how Dohee does it all week long. Maybe he’s getting old.
He leans against the kitchen doorway, looking out over his apartment. It’s hard to tell that there’s someone else living with him most of the time, whenever Eunsol isn’t there.
He lingers for a while when dropping Eunsol off the next Sunday evening, standing with Dohee in the hallway and exchanging pleasantries.
“So how’s it going with… Jin…”
“Yeah…” Dohee cocks her head back and forth a little. “It’s going fine.”
“How’s he with Eunsol?” Sunwoo asks. “Does she like him?”
Dohee grins, a tug at the side of her mouth that Sunwoo’s not sure how to interpret, even though they lived together for almost three years. That was a while ago, now. Feels like forever. “Didn’t at first. You know how she is. Takes a while to warm up to new people.” She smiles to herself. “She’ll get there.”
“Huh,” Sunwoo says. “So. Do you like him?”
She smiles again, that private little smile, like she’s thinking about something nice. “Yeah.”
He weighs on his feet for a moment, nodding slowly with every swing. He feels Dohee watching him. He gets a fleeting feeling that he suddenly knows where Eunsol got her sharp eyes from.
“What about you?” Dohee asks finally. “Are you seeing someone right now?”
“Nope,” Sunwoo says, weighing harder. “Nope. Nah. No. Not right now, no.” He stops himself before he ventures off into a nopetidudu or something of the likes.
“Why not? What kind of question is that? I’m just not. I guess nobody wants me.”
“Bullshit,” Dohee grins, shifting to the other foot. “Fine young man like you?”
“What are you so concerned for anyway?”
She shrugs. “I just think it might be good for you. To have someone. To share your life with. And all that.”
Sunwoo tsks. “Listen to you. It’s not all about being in a couple, you know. There’s such a thing as personal development, you know, spiritual stuff and shit. You have to grow on your own, find yourself or something. It’s not like you need another person to be whole. You can be whole on your own. Some people are perfectly happy alone. I’m perfectly happy alone.”
Dohee’s grin is almost laughter now. “Fine. If you say so.” She turns around, shouting in to the apartment; “Eunsol-ah! Come say bye to daddy!”
Dongwoo wants to get married. Nothing big, he assures Sunwoo. A small thing, just some family and friends. Maybe not even that. Maybe just the two of them. Dongwoo would be happy with that too. But something. He’d like something. Dongwoo has always wanted to get married.
Sunwoo squirms subtly when he brings it up. It’s not that Sunwoo doesn’t want to. It’s not that. But it’s… complicated.
Dongwoo comes up behind him one evening when he’s standing in the kitchen chopping onions, folding his arms around Sunwoo’s waist and nosing over his shoulder.
“When are you gonna let me meet her?” he murmurs.
It’s not the first time he’s asking – the fifth, maybe. Sunwoo can’t really tell him to stop because it’s a valid question. When is he?
After the divorce, Sunwoo started going to a gym to fill the evenings. It was a weird time, a weird feeling, half freedom and half loneliness. Half relaxed and half restless.
It was some way from his apartment then, but it was cheap, and open round-the-clock. He didn’t know anybody there. It felt sort of nice, in a way. It was something that felt completely separate from his old life, like he was starting something new.
There was a guy there – tall and broad, but less toned than Sunwoo, a bit soft and undefined around the edges – whose hours tended to coincide with Sunwoo’s – around eight to ten pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Sunday afternoons too if he had the time and could be arsed to drag himself there, if it wasn’t Eunsol time (though those Sunday workouts grew more and more frequent when the prospect of running into each other dawned on them, shit were they buff for a while) – and who used to look at Sunwoo with something like a smile on his face, that Sunwoo suspected was just there on it by default. But he would look at Sunwoo, and Sunwoo would look at him back, and slowly, gradually, would they let their eyes meet, hold for a couple of seconds, heads turning a bit while passing each other in the hallway or past the machines. After a while they’d start smiling at each other, and then nodding at each other, and then exchanging small heys when they came and when they left.
It took over two months of standing side by side, lifting dumbbells with manly grunts and sneaking glances at each other in the big mirrors before Sunwoo dared to introduce himself.
He’s not nervous around new people, it really wasn’t that, so he put on his charming smile and reached out a hand (having wiped it subtly on his top first, but it was still a bit sweaty, but he figured we’re at the fucking gym).
“Hey, by the way,” he said. They’d met so many times now that it almost felt like they knew each other a little, and Sunwoo felt how silly it was that they had never actually talked. “I’m Sunwoo.”
Dongwoo took his hand in his own, warm and fleshy and a bit damp itself. It wasn’t a hand shake as much as a hand touch, a hand press, a hand feel. Dongwoo stood for a second, holding and feeling Sunwoo’s hand in his own. That soft default smile widened into a soft real one. “I’m Dongwoo.”
Sunwoo pulled his hand back, though he didn’t really want to, and suddenly didn’t feel so careless and charming anymore.
“So,” he croaked, putting his hands on his hips and realizing only when it was too late that he must look ridiculous. He removed them quickly, but didn’t know what else to do with them, so he put them back on his hips again after all. “How much can you press?”
What followed was seven months of blatant flirting between them, though Sunwoo didn’t fully realize that it was flirting. He had never really flirted with a guy before, didn’t really know how it was done, didn’t even recognize it when he was knee-deep in it himself. It never really hit the conscious part of his brain that a guy would flirt with another guy, didn’t hit him that Dongwoo would flirt with him.
This really wasn’t the first time, technically, that he had felt this way. Wasn’t the first time that he had glanced at a man’s body in a dressing room (or in the lobby, really, because Dongwoo looked very handsome in his glasses and dark straight coat) or felt a painful tingle inside of him at seeing a man’s smile. Wasn’t the first time he had constantly been looking for someone, longing to see him, and jolting every time he caught a glimpse of broad shoulder and long brown hair.
That had been there the whole time, had always been a part of him, though he had always tried to ignore it, push it away and concentrate on the more girl-oriented parts of his sexuality. But this was the first time anything had ever been this close, this real, this close to real. It was a weird feeling. Half exhilarated and half fucking terrified.
They had known each other for almost a year when Dongwoo invited him over for dinner and a beer or two and then kissed him under the bright yellow lamp in his kitchen.
To this day, Sunwoo still introduces Dongwoo to all of Sunwoo’s friends and family and acquaintances they happen to meet when they’re out together as his buddy. He sees, but ignores, the way it makes Dongwoo’s face fall more and more for every time.
They run into Dohee in the grocery store one day. Dongwoo stands with a pack of detergent pushed into his face, reading the fine print, and has just asked Sunwoo whether he wants unscented or regular when Sunwoo hears a very familiar voice behind him.
Sunwoo whips around, stiff as a board. Dongwoo turns too, slowly, a second or two later. Dohee has a pleasant, curious smile on her face.
“Heeeey,” Sunwoo says.
Sunwoo catches the way she glances quickly down into their basket, filled with dairy and bread and vegetables, before setting her eyes on Dongwoo. “Who’s this?”
Sunwoo puts a hand on Dongwoo’s shoulder, but then quickly removes it again. “Hey. Dongwoo, this is Dohee, my ex. Dohee, this is Dongwoo, my buddy.”
Dohee looks at Sunwoo. “Buddy?” Then shifts back to Dongwoo again, stretching her hand out, and Dongwoo takes it. “Nice to meet you. I’m Eunsol’s mom.”
Dongwoo smiles pleasantly back. “I know. I’ve heard a lot about you, both of you.”
The two of them chat for a good three minutes (turns out Eunsol is with Jinyoung) before Dohee finally excuses herself, giving them both a long thorough look before leaving.
Dongwoo turns to him, still smiling. “She seems nice.”
When Dongwoo first found out Sunwoo has a kid, he made but a very poor attempt to hide his excitement.
He tells Sunwoo, later, when Dongwoo has started sleeping more nights at Sunwoo’s apartment than at his own, and has stopped bringing a bag over every time and just leaves it there permanently, one of those late nights when they’re lying together in bed, talking instead of sleeping;
“It’s just. You never know in this world. Whether things will work out for you. Whether you’ll be able to.” He studies the ceiling in silence for a moment. “I never knew who I’d end up with. Whether they’d want to, or be able to. I guess I just never took it for granted that I’d be able to have kids of my own.”
Sunwoo stares for a long while at that same spot in the ceiling, and doesn’t say anything. The next day, he very casually shows Dongwoo a bunch of Eunsol-pictures he has taken with his phone.
Dohee lingers for a while when dropping Eunsol off the next Friday afternoon, standing with Sunwoo in the hallway and exchanging pleasantries.
“So how’s it going with that buddy of yours? Dong…”
“Uh,” Sunwoo says. “Yeah. I suppose he’s doing fine.”
“Do you like him?”
“What? Well, yeah, sure. I mean. He’s my buddy. We’re… buddies...”
Dohee smiles gently at him. “I think he will make a great stepdad for Eunsol.”
Sunwoo sputters. “How did you… That I…”
“What, that you’re bisexual? I knew that.”
“How did you know that?”
Dohee takes a step forward then, reaches up and cups his face in her hands. “We were together for over four years. I know you.” She looks into his eyes, her gaze cutting through him. “Don’t fuck that up, you know. He’s seems like a keeper.”
A ball of something hard and moist has settled in Sunwoo’s throat. He feels a bit weak in the knees. A part of him wants to grab on to Dohee’s arms and cling to her like a child and make her tell him everything’s going to be fine.
“Eunsol…” he croaks out. “I can’t… I don’t dare to… What if she thinks it’s weird?”
Dohee folds her arms over her chest. “She’s five. And she is what we make her. If she has acquired values we don’t believe in, it’s our job to fix that. But she’s young, you know. She’s malleable. Maybe more so than you realize.” She grins a little, that tug on the side of her mouth again. “Also, she adores you. Way more than you realize.”
She gives his cheek a little pat, then leans past Sunwoo and shouts into the apartment; “Eunsol-ah! Come say bye to mommy!”
It’s just the next weekend, actually, when Sunwoo and Dongwoo are sprawled out on the couch in front of a B-rated TV movie they’re not really watching, that Sunwoo in a moment of carelessness teasingly points out that Dongwoo basically hangs at his apartment twenty-four-seven and should just move in already.
It dawns on him what he actually just said when Dongwoo doesn’t laugh, is just very quiet, and Sunwoo turns his head to find Dongwoo staring at him, grinning just so. “Would you want that?”
Sunwoo also suddenly feels very quiet and stares at Dongwoo back. “Would you?”
Dongwoo smiles at him for a long excruciating moment, then says in a low voice; “Yeah.”
Sunwoo exhales quietly, his face splitting in a grin of his own. He reaches out to take Dongwoo’s hand, but Dongwoo pulls it away from him.
“That would mean you’ll have to let me meet her, though.” Dongwoo’s eyes are soft and careful on him, smile faded but not gone.
Sunwoo thinks gently to himself; well shit.
It’s Wednesday, and Sunwoo is early. The Daycare halls are bustling with life and noises, and Eunsol bounces up into his arms when she sees him. He helps her put on her boots and pink jacket, tugging softly at her small ponytails and laughing when she swats at his hands. He straps her into her car seat, and then gets in on the other side.
He glances at her while gliding through the traffic.
“Hey, Eunsol-ah,” he says finally. She turns her small black eyes at him. Sunwoo stares at the back of the car in front of him. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet. Someone I care about very much. Would you like to meet them?”
He stands in the doorway to her room for a while after she has fallen asleep, watching her. Then he goes into the kitchen and calls Dongwoo.
“Hey,” he says. “It’s me. Listen. Are you free this weekend? Do you wanna come over?”
Dongwoo is quiet for a moment. “It’s Eunsol-weekend,” he says.
Sunwoo grins. “Yeah, it is.”
Some two months later, Sunwoo wakes up early on a Sunday morning and gets up to take a piss. When he comes back he realizes that Eunsol has snuck into their bed some time during the night and is now lying curled up at Dongwoo’s chest, hugging him in her sleep. Dongwoo is on his side, drifting somewhere between asleep and conscious, absently petting her hair.
Sunwoo stands watching them for a minute, grinning in a way he knows must look ridiculous, then lies back down and spoons Dongwoo from the other side.