A/N: Unfortunately, I can't bake all my awesome readers Christmas cookies, but I will humbly offer you this sugary treat. Enjoy ;)
"Oh no! She slipped, and look, he's going to catch her."
"Shhh! This is the best part."
"And now, they're going to lean in slowly, so slowly you have to wonder if either one of them has been kissed before."
"Aha! They were interrupted!"
"Do people really get interrupted that much in real life?"
"Well, you would know that better than I would, Sunbae."
"I can't believe you're making me watch this," Yi Jeong replied, stuffing another cookie into his mouth.
"Sunbae! Romance is part of the magic of Christmas. And I'm not forcing you to watch anything. You were the one who wanted to bake Christmas cookies with me. Of course, I'm sure you just wanted to eat half of them before everyone else gets here."
It had, in fact, been Yi Jeong's idea to help her bake cookies for the party that evening. He'd shown up at her apartment shortly after lunch, blaming absolute boredom for his sudden interest in the culinary arts, but as the day wore on he confessed he used to make cookies with his mother on Christmas Eve—snowflake and tree-shaped sugar cookies with red and green frosting around the edges. They would leave them out for Santa Claus, he'd said, and in the morning all of the cookies would be gone.
The cookies they had made today were Ga Eul's own mother's special recipe, and while she couldn't say Yi Jeong's hands were as talented at icing cookies as they were at making pottery, it had been fun having him there. She enjoyed spending time with him when it was just the two of them. He always seemed more relaxed—less guarded—with her than he was around other people—even the rest of the F4, who were practically brothers to him.
Thrown together by the tumultuous relationship of their two best friends, Jan Di and Jun Pyo, over the years he and Ga Eul had settled into a strange but easy friendship, and though Ga Eul couldn't deny she'd wanted more for a long time, she doubted he felt the same way about her. She knew he'd given up on love a long time ago after his first love disappeared and, later on, married his brother. She knew his partying habits and the endless procession of girls that flowed through his life was nothing but a smoke screen to hide the pain of being alone, but she knew better than to believe he'd change his ways just for her, so she always kept her thoughts and feelings to herself.
Looking at him now, though, in the fitted navy blue and white striped sweater she'd given him for his birthday, she wondered, like she had so many times before, what might happen if she took a chance. Would he laugh at her? In high school, Jan Di had seen plenty of other girls publicly humiliated for showing their affection for him. Granted, that was before the heart-thawing, gut-punching force that was Jan Di came barreling into the F4's lives, but even now, would he think anything at all of her confession? She'd seen the outrageous collections of birthday and Valentine's Day presents from his many ardent admirers. Piles upon piles of pleas for him to notice them. Her offerings always seemed paltry in comparison. What could she buy someone who had everything? A cheap pair of arm warmers to go with his designer suits. Who was she kidding?
But he always keeps your presents, a nagging voice in her head reminded her. He always remembers which one was yours.
She was so lost in thought that she didn't realize he had held out the plate of cookies to her until it lingered right under nose.
"They're very good. Have one."
She glanced down. There was only one left.
"Did you already eat that whole plate?!"
Yi Jeong grinned at her sheepishly, then let out an exaggerated sigh.
"What else am I supposed to do to relieve the boredom?"
Snatching up the last cookie, Ga Eul shoved it in her mouth.
"You can start by giving Greg and Jennifer a chance."
Her voice had been muffled for half the sentence by the cookie in her mouth, but Ga Eul knew he had heard her.
"The couple in the movie! Have you been watching anything?" As she flung her arm out in an exasperated gesture, she could have sworn he flinched back just a bit.
"I don't have to watch it. All these types of movies are the same. Hapless romantic meets cynical jerk. They fight but secretly admire each other for half the movie. They fall in love. Just as they admit their death-defying passion for each other, some seemingly insurmountable obstacle appears out of nowhere to rip them apart. One gets mad. The other one gets depressed. And then some miracle occurs that not only brings them back together but makes them win the lottery or some other commoner dream like that."
"Should I take it, then, that you have actually seen quite a number of these films?"
Yi Jeong audibly paused, not long, but just long enough to look like he'd been caught at something.
"Of course not," he continued cooly. "I'm merely saying that with this kind of set up, something like that is bound to happen."
"I thought you didn't believe in soulmates and true love and all that sort of thing."
Yi Jeong stared at her—just stared at her—for so long she began to feel self-conscious, but then he tore his eyes away from hers abruptly and set the plate back on the side table.
"It's a movie, Ga Eul-yang," he said quietly.
Feeling disappointed, although she didn't know why, Ga Eul nodded and turned back toward the screen.
"Right," she mumbled.
They watched the movie for a while longer, neither one of them saying anything. They had been doing that before they had finished off the cookies, too, but Ga Eul felt like something had shifted in the room after that. That tension only she could feel—surely only she felt it—had crept up on her again. She wanted to curl up in his arms and rest her head on his shoulder. She wanted to crawl onto his lap and kiss him into oblivion. She wanted him to look at her—at least once—the way Greg was looking at Jennifer just now.
Tears welled up in her eyes, and she forced herself to swallow her emotions back down as she took an unsteady breath.
He was right. It was just a movie. She was just an idiot.
"You left one part out," she heard herself say. The words tumbled out before she could catch herself.
Great. He'd heard her. Now she'd have to continue. But continue to what? How much did she want to embarass herself?
Take a deeper breath, she decided to go all or nothing.
Which meant all.
"At the end of the movie. You left out one part. It's something that happens in all the movies." She chanced a look at him. He stared at the screen, unmoving. "Want me to show you?" she asked.
"Show me what?"
When she didn't continue after a moment, he looked at her again, looked right in her eyes, and she forced herself to be brave.
"How it ends," she answered softly.
He didn't say anything, but he didn't look away either, and she took it as a sign to continue.
Sliding over next to him, she tentatively leaned in, intending to barely touch her lips to his, but suddenly she felt his arms encircle her waist, and he pulled her onto his lap, kissing her instead.
She almost jumped at the sudden contact, and it took her a moment to overcome her shock. She must have had a dream like this a hundred times, but now that it was actually happening, she couldn't process it. She couldn't do anything but slowly give in to the wonderful sensation of his mouth, welcoming and desperate, as his fingers slipped into her hair. He held her tightly to him, the warmth of him pressed up against her like a safe harbor after a long journey adrift, wanting. They continued in this vein for a few moments, and when they parted for breath at last, she relaxed against him and put her head on his shoulder like she had always wanted to do. She hoped this wasn't a dream, that she hadn't fallen asleep by herself on the couch and burned the cookies, because if it was a dream, it was the best one she'd had by far.
"I really like you Sunbae," she whispered.
"Yes, I know."
Ga Eul pulled away, surprised, but Yi Jeong kept his arms around her waist, holding her in place.
Yi Jeong nodded, a small smirk tugging at his mouth.
"Has anyone ever told you you're very easy to read? As if all those pairs of arm-warmers weren't enough."
"It wasn't all those pairs," Ga Eul muttered indignantly. "I only got you three. To go with all your suits." She picked at a piece of lint on his sweater.
"I know. You're a good friend."
Ga Eul looked into his eyes again, searching for that ever-elusive hint of his true feelings.
"Do I have to be just your friend, Sunbae?" She lowered her gaze back down. "I mean, if you don't like me that way, it's okay. I just—"
"I like you."
"Of course, Ga Eul-yang. I wouldn't kiss you if I didn't want to." He smiled at her, but the expression didn't reach his eyes.
"Oh...Oh, yes...Well, does that mean you'll give me a chance then?"
"It's not that simple."
"What do you mean? If you like me too then can't we at least go out once? It will be fun, I promise."
Ga Eul gave him what she hoped was an encouraging smile, but he only smiled back at her more sadly.
"I shouldn't have kissed you just now. I'm sorry."
"What? Why not?"
"Because you're...you...and I don't deserve to. I already drove away the first love of my life. You think I want to hurt my best friend too?"
His best friend? She was his best friend?
Ga Eul frowned.
"But you're not the same person you were then. You're older, and you've realized your mistakes. And you've made it five years being friends with me already. And...even if you hurt me...accidentally...I'll probably mess up sometimes too. In fact, I'm sure of it. We're all just humans, Sunbae. But I don't think you want to hurt me, and I don't think you'll do it on purpose, and that's what counts." She delivered this round of statements confidently and allowed them to sink in a moment before offering her last thought on the matter.
"You know something else, Sunbae?" She brought her hand up to rest on his chest. "You can't change the world any better by being a cynic than I can by being an optimist. But being an optimist is much more fun." She smiled. "And I think it would be fun to have fun with you."
Yi Jeong's gaze drifted over her face for another long, ominous moment, but finally a small spark lit up the warm eyes she loved so much.
Yes, loved, she answered her own unspoken query as he smoothed out her hair where he had messed it up minutes before.
"Sometimes I forget you're two years younger than me. Sometimes you make me feel like a little kid."
"Well, I am studying to be a teacher. You can call me 'Seongsaengnim.'"
"Seongsaengnim?" A more devious grin appeared on his face. "I can think of a few situations where that might be hot."
"Sunbae!" Ga Eul slapped his arm with the back of her hand, feeling a blush flood her cheeks.
Chuckling, Yi Jeong slid his hands further down her back.
"Hey, I just have one question."
"If I agree to this, will our movie be rated at least PG-13? Because the lack of physical contact in that movie is disturbing me."
"You're just asking me that so you can kiss me again."
"Does that mean you want to try being with me?"
"That means I want to be with you."
"Okay," Ga Eul whispered, leaning in so that their noses almost touched.
"Okay," Yi Jeong echoed.
A little bit farther and…
"Ga Eul!" Jan Di's voice rang out from the front entrance. "I got the colored sprinkles you asked me for! They were all out of the snowflake...candy sprinkles...though..."