Lieutenant Jeong Tae Eul of the Jongno Police Station in Seoul, Republic of Korea is happy. She never truly understood what that word meant until she found it in the little moments of quiet, with the soft pitter-patter of rain outside their bedroom window.
“What are you smiling about over there,” came a deep voice from behind. As familiar as her own. “Did you do something again? You didn’t sell off the buttons on my jacket again while I slept, did you? Lady Noh will kill both of us.”
She let out a peal of laughter. Sometimes, her husband can be such a big baby. At 34, he’s still scared of the only remaining parental figure in his life. You’d think a mighty king wasn’t scared of anything, let alone an adorable, aging halmeoni.
“I love you,” she interrupted his tirade. She turned just in time to see his reaction.
He stared at her for a beat. Then two. Then three.
Beaming, warm, and godly. His smile started off slow, with his right dimple making a slight appearance before two rows of perfectly white teeth peek from beneath those luscious lips. He smiled at her like she was the center point of his universe. She is, just as he’s hers.
“Why am I still startled when I hear that? We’ve been married for a whole year, and dating for far longer than that.”
“Does that mean you won’t say ‘I love you, too’, because you’re too startled?” She loved to tease him. Even in the early morning, when what’s supposed to be the first rays of sunlight should be peeking through the heavy night clouds.
Instead, the sky was slowly turning light purple and blue, the color of the hydrangeas he gave her on the night of their fateful reunion. The rainy season was starting. Soon, the winds would start singing and they’d have to wear thicker clothes as the summer comes to a close.
She didn’t mind though, she loved the wet season. The smell of wet earth partnered with the melancholy feel of the darkening skies. She used to associate it to sadness, but she soon came to realize that the sun was hiding just for a moment, right before it shined brightly again.
Now, the rain means a precursor to sunshine for her.
The dashing man currently wrapped in her arms and legs is living proof that. She was suddenly awash with irrational fear. What if these moments were some of their last? What if something happens to the Manpasikjeok again? Some other Lee Lim wannabe figures out its powers and wreaks havoc on both their worlds.
“I love you, too, you know,” Lee Gon kissed the top of her head. After a few moments of silence on her end, her husband slightly pulled away so they can see eye to eye.
“Hey, where’d you go?”
Without realizing it, Tae Eul has drifted off into her head again. A sometimes scary place where she re-lived those twelve months he was not beside her. He was off somewhere opening every door in the multi-verse to find his way back. To her, to his home.
She gave a slight shake of her head and kissed one corner of his slightly downturned mouth. “I’m right here,” then she buried her head into the crook where his scar used to be, placed a tender kiss on that very spot, and snuggled deeper.
“Shouldn’t we be getting ready for today’s schedule? I heard from the new secretary you have an event for a bunch of kids later today,” she murmured against his warm skin.
He groaned, “Am I reading them Alice in Wonderland again? Kids doze off when I read to them, I’d be offended if I wasn’t absolutely confident that I have a beautiful voice. One fit for a balladeer.”
Tae Eul snorted, “Jagiya, we both know you can’t entertain kids for shit. You need to be funny for that—” She stopped mid-sentence as he tackled her, pulling their bodies closer as he climbed on top of her. And started tickling her. Bastard!
“St— sto— stop! Okay, okay, I’m sorry. You’re the funniest guy alive and the sexiest and the most not-boring-ever—” He cut her off with his mouth.
She gasped before turning pliant in his hands. Every time they kiss, it always feels like the first time. She dipped her tongue into honey and spice, lavishly taking her time as if the world would wait until they got tired of each other. Tough luck, world, you’ll be waiting a while.
Hands started to roam south, and she knew that if she didn’t pull away now, they would definitely be behind schedule. Did she care, though? She thought about it for a solid 41 seconds as he alternated between kisses and soft nips. Yes, I do, I love kids and can’t deprive them of their time with their king.
Slowly, very reluctantly, she pulled away. “We have to get up. You’re cooking me breakfast, remember? I cooked dinner last night, so it’s your turn.”
He was now moving down to her neck and his hand was sneaking up her nightwear — well his nightwear, technically, since she’s taken up to wearing his clothes now. She loved his smell so much, she just couldn’t help but imprint it into her own skin.
“Ya, Lee Gon, if you don’t stop, I’m gonna put dried leaves on your breakfast when you’re not looking,” she lightly pushed him, not really putting any effort into it. Hell yeah, she wanted to stay in bed, too.
“Mmm, I love dried leaves. My favorite...”
And those were their last spoken words for about an hour and 17 minutes.
“...And then the Mad Hatter says to her, ‘Fairfarren, Alice!’ which means goodbye in his language, I suppose,” Lee Gon glances to his obviously rivetted tiny humans for an audience. The kid to his right has drool dripping down his school uniform. Sigh.
“Pyeha, it’s so boring! Can we please stop now, let us ask you questions instead,” said the little girl in front of him. He was hit with a wave of deja vu.
The last time he did this, reading this very same story in front of children on a field trip from Seoul, he had thought it was only a very ordinary day. Nothing special, just another thing to do on his endless checklist as the King of Corea. He only had an ID card to look forward to at the end of the day.
Now, though, it’s different. His wife stood a few feet from the small raised platform he was sitting on. As he glanced over at her, his breath hitched a little.
There was a once a time when he thought he’d never see her again, much less hold her in his arms. Those fleeting moments where he met different versions of her in other parallel worlds, he wanted nothing more than to tell her just how much he loved her. But none of them was his Tae Eul. His home. His heart. His wife.
That word still stunned him, jarring his busy mind to a complete standstill. For 25 years, he had wondered who the woman named Lt. Jeong Tae Eul in that ID card was.
He had created so many scenarios in his head when he finally met her, but none of them lived up to the way his surroundings dissolved when they met that fateful night at Gwanghwamun Square.
He remembered it so clearly, thanks to his photographic memory. The way she kept talking down at him, even when he was literally towering over her on the back of his gentle giant, Maximus. Like an idiot, he had stood in front of her and babbled about being a King. She had looked at him like she wanted to slap him and laugh at the same.
He couldn’t blame her. He should’ve been more tactful in his approach, but his genius brain was too muddled to think up of a way to introduce himself properly without freaking her out.
Then again, maybe it was fate.
Fate. That word again.
Such a cliche, overly used and most of the time, not even in the right context. As a man of science, his rationality often won out. Things always happen because a preceding action was done. Life was all about chain reactions. Fate was for children believing that even if they just stay still, life will eventually happen to them.
Until he met her. Then he had to re-evaluate every belief he instilled in himself. It took a hammer, a driller, a bulldozer to tear down those walls he erected as an orphan child.
Never let anyone touch you. Never let anyone see you weak. Never let anyone see you crying, once was enough during your father’s funeral. Never leave anything to fate.
He used to repeat this like a mantra. It was a lifeline; in a world where he was literally untouchable, he had never craved touch until he was around her. Suddenly, he found himself looking to hold her hand, touch her cheek, tuck a stray strand of hair, brushing off imaginary lint from her shoulder.
“Pyeha, do you have a girlfriend?” The little girl in front of him took him out of his reverie.
The audience laughed. Ah, that’s right, he thought to himself, they don’t actually know they have a queen, and she’s right there. Wearing her best bodyguard disguise once more to avoid prying eyes.
He lowered his voice, pretending that this was a secret between the two of them, “Can you keep a secret for me?” The kid nodded vigorously.
“I don’t have a girlfriend, but I do have someone I love very much. She’s shy, so I can’t introduce you to her, but maybe someday…” He trailed off with a smile.
The Royal Office for Public Affairs already released all this information in a letter to the citizens. Nothing too specific, just that His Majesty has met someone and it is genuine love between the two. The public got curious for the first months, but eventually, the initial buzz died down after the tight security and careful rendezvous ensured Tae Eul’s anonymity.
He supposed they needed to figure out a way to inform the public of their new Queen. Or not. He was never one to tell his beautiful wife what to do, she was much too independent for that. And he absolutely loved her for it.
She didn’t want to give up her life in the Republic of Korea, her dad, and the police station. He respected that. Thus, their weekend getaways to random parallel worlds and timelines. Sometimes weekends would stretch into weeks and even up to a month if they were feeling carefree enough.
It wasn’t nearly enough, as he wanted her by his side every second of every day. Then she would give him a slap on the back and pretend to be annoyed saying, “Didn’t we agree to only live for today?”
He laughed every time. Grab her hands in both of his, place a gentle kiss on her palms, and softly whisper, “And forever.”
Hi there, thanks for getting to this point. This is my first fanfic, in like, ever. It’s a bit long because I didn’t really have a plot in mind. I just wanted to imagine a fluffy, domestic, married Lee-Eul after the Finale. I also wrote this at 3AM so please forgive any typos and other grammatical errors. Anyway! This was so much fun, after years of doing nothing but academic papers, this was a reprieve for me. Thanks, y’all. See you soon for more!