You knew you weren't supposed to have too much caffeine. That was why you were nibbling on a slice of cake in a cafe owned by your dear friend Jaehee instead of taking her up on her frequent offers of free coffee. Even though it made your mouth water.
“Are you feeling alright?” Jihyun asks, tentatively searching and curling his fingers to rest between your unused ones on the table. Based on what you'd heard from the internet and your mother, they would be swollen and achy after a few months. It’ll be worth it, you know. Your eyes meet those of the man before you, and your lips erupt in an uncontrollable grin.
“Wonderful. Why?” He laughs at hearing your smile, his once-brilliant eyes softening in your general direction. Although you’re aware he can’t fully see you anymore, you’re hoping the news you’ve planned for this deceptively simple coffee date will be the final push to encourage him to seek out transplant surgery.
“You’ve sounded a bit exhausted lately,” he touches the back of your hand, ever so slowly. It’s always so gentle with him. “I haven’t kept you awake too much, have I?”
If he didn't sound so earnest, you would have blushed at his words. He leaned over his elbows, reaching to clasp your hand fully between his own pair. You cleared your throat, and the soft curl of his lips melted your heart.
“No, it’s not that at all. I’m fine, Jihyun.” He raises a questioning eyebrow at you, “I’m serious!”
“I just want you to know that if you ever do get overwhelmed,” he shoots you a meaningful look, “you can always rely on me.”
His hands drag your captive one to his lips, where he places a sweet kiss to your palm. He seeks out a certain finger to attack next, pressing kisses into the knuckle just below your ring.
“I know that,” you say. The surety in your voice shines in the eager way you whisper, the hope in your eyes and darkened cheeks.
It shouldn’t be so difficult to tell him. Sure, you hadn’t spoken implicitly about the possibility of such an event, but you were sure V would still love you. He would still be your husband, and he would still support you until your dying breaths. You also know that he is enough of a martyr that he would sacrifice his own wants to give you whatever you wanted.
And you—you’re split between wanting to support his freedom and wanting to keep him beside you forever. It’s this conflict, compounded with how to breach the subject in the first place, that keeps you from telling him what you originally intended to.
V sits silent, complacent, letting his tea cool placidly in front of his propped elbows. Your thumb brushes against his cheek, shifting his hair out of his face. “Do you know that you are so very handsome?”
He smiles in a way that knots your stomach, and he kisses your palm but remains quiet. It’s a ritual you perform—murmuring his praises like they’re holy mantras. More often than not, he lets you wear yourself out with them before giving a self-deprecating grimace and explaining how undeserving he is of your kindness.
But you do it anyway. Even if he thinks himself unworthy. You hope that someday he’ll see himself as you see him. You hope that he’ll climb the walls he’s built in his head to protect himself from others. You hope he’ll stop hiding; that he’ll let you carry some of his burdens, too.
A coffee shop feels too public for your intimate revelation, the more you think about it. You don’t want to share the news with so many people around. So many possible interruptions, when all you want to do is take your time. Gradual submersion, or something.
He catches on before you have the chance to ask him: “Are you ready to go home?”
“If that’s okay,” comes your sheepish answer.
“Of course. I’ll go pay.” You catch yourself admiring him, twisting the ring around your finger until it was back in its proper place.
His cane clacks against the floor, but it’s Jaehee who approaches him and leads him to the register to ring up the cake and tea. They offhandedly argue about something. You're willing to bet anything that it’s because of the discount Jaehee stubbornly forces on you during your every visit. If you had to put your finger on it, you’d suppose it was because of V’s continued self-reliance, how he hates to burden even his closest friends. It’s a good thing that you know for a fact that Jaehee is perhaps just as insistent as he is, though maybe a little firmer in her pushes.
He’s thoroughly defeated on that front by the time you stand to join him at the entrance. When you both reach for the umbrella stand, you laugh and snatch yours up victoriously.
“Ready to go?” Your fingers curl around the crook of his elbow, tethers between the two of you. He smiles gently, “Ready when you are.”
Before you even started dating, you had wondered about Rika. What sort of person was she? Your worries and thoughts only became worse when you finally grew acquainted with the ever-elusive photographer. Who was she to have scarred him so terribly—physically, emotionally, mentally…Maybe that was why you offered him a dance at your first party. You felt—not responsible or pity for him, exactly, but you knew then that you wanted to take care of him. Even when he turned you down as delicately as possible in his state, you knew.
And here you are, your efforts having paid off in the sweetest of ways.
“You’re awfully quiet today,” he murmurs, hardly audible above the pattering rain. “Is something the matter?”
Ah. Right. You had wanted to talk over coffee, hadn’t you? But that’s okay. It would be better to tell him alone, wouldn’t it?
“Nothing’s the matter. I just want to get home.”
He hums an answer, something wistful and wishing. For a moment—even though your shoes are drenched, you’re shivering from the cold rain, and you know that you’ll be constantly sore and aching and uncomfortable soon enough—you are sure this is the happiest you’ve ever felt. Maybe those are the hormones talking, though.
Nope, you think. As he fills the quaint silence with expectant words about his upcoming meeting with Jumin, you can’t help but melt into him. It’s as if he can sense your bliss, because he can’t seem to keep a smile from his face either.
“I’m glad that you’re so happy, but is there any reason for it?”
“Do I need a reason?” you say. And then, to actually answer him, “I’ve got something important to tell you.”
“When we get home!”
He expels a dramatic, full body sigh. “Keeping me in such suspense; it’s worrying me a little.”
“Don’t be. I’m sure you’ll love it.”
You stand on tiptoes to press a kiss to his jaw, right above the collar of his coat, and gingerly reach for your stomach with your free hand. “You’ll love it.”