second chances and new beginnings
(pardon the title, i know it sucks, i hate it…)
so this is something i wrote for a zine, i assume it’s safe to post now since sales are long since over.
it’s jaehee/mc but also a retelling of jaehee’s route ending. something i’ve always wanted to write, partly as a response to people claiming jumin is out of character in jaehee’s route. they don’t like to see him being “mean”. but it’s the same when zen fans play jumin’s route and proclaim that it’s unfair to zen. i don’t find either character particularly out of character in any routes. they are simply being human and showing their bad sides. so i wanted to approach this because 1) i love jumin and i wanted to give his storyline some resolution because in the actual route, there is little to no thought given to resolving his side of the plotline and 2) because i just didn’t think it fit jaehee to suddenly up and quit the job. yes, she was overworked to beyond her breaking point. but this is OUR GIRL and she has NEVER been a quitter. this action, while good for her, would have haunted her for years.
so have my own version of jaehee’s route, picking up right after jumin drives off with seven’s car…
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MC worried her lip between her teeth. She couldn’t shake the unease she felt. No one else seemed concerned, except for Seven. But he cared little about the passenger – he only extended that courtesy to his “baby”. In other words, he worried for the car stolen from his garage but not for the driver, Jumin. Who no one could seem to confirm whether or not he could drive. The focus largely remained on Jaehee, which MC understood, and also wanted to celebrate her recent liberation, as bittersweet as it was. As usual, Jaehee kept herself poised and confident in chat. Composed, self-assured. But when MC called her immediately after the news that Jaehee was quitting (or was fired, depending on who was asked), she heard the worry. Jaehee admitted to not wanting to leave the company that way. C&R and Jumin had been good to Jaehee before. She couldn’t bear the recent events and they had easily clouded her judgement. Stress, fatigue, anger, and a growing passion that seemed to be ignored caused her to act impulsively. She knew as much. To hear the level of regret and sadness from someone MC had grown so close to made her heart clench. MC knew she had to continue lending her support to Jaehee but this time, perhaps it needed a more hands-on approach as neither Jaehee nor Jumin would likely confront it. Jaehee needed some additional closure or she would continue to struggle.
And now, Jumin also struggled with the recent turn of events. Such an extreme overreaction was unlike him in every way. He’d been drinking the night before and MC had to wonder if he hadn’t gone overboard, though he said he didn’t. No one else spared as much of a thought for him but after hours with no word, MC couldn’t wait any longer. With Jaehee’s help, she called Driver Kim, who didn’t have Jumin’s precise location but agreed to assist MC in finding him. But by the time they found him, it was too late. He posted about the crash in the chat room right as Driver Kim arrived with MC.
“Jumin! Are you okay?” she asked. He looked uninjured, thankfully. He regarded her neutrally, not recognizing her. “It’s MC. I’m sorry to meet like this but I was worried when you took the car…"
He barely nodded his head in acknowledgement. "I wanted to damage the car more effectively but I didn’t have enough time to calculate the acceleration speed and turning rate."
"Jumin,” she gently chastised with her tone. It was enough to get him to give her his full attention. “You’ve been stressed out, haven’t you? Just like Jaehee? So you reacted in this way.” He remained silent. “Do you not see that Jaehee struggled as well? She turned to Seven when normally she wouldn’t have. Jumin, there’s something more at the bottom of this, isn’t there? A larger reason for making Jaehee change the coffee project, for the cat hotel, for the cat show itself."
"There is nothing more aside from Jaehee not doing her work,” he replied stubbornly.
No, it wasn’t about being stubborn, MC realized by looking in his eyes. He just didn’t see. He didn’t even recognize his own trials. He didn’t even know. “Jumin. Answer me this. Do you feel better now?"
He paused but there was a hint of a smile to him. "I do, yes."
"Can you acknowledge that you acted badly? That maybe you’re not mad at Seven or Jaehee?"
He deflated again. "I am not angry at them. Except for Seven."
MC smiled despite the situation. "Okay. I’ll accept that.” She thought for a moment. How to make Jumin see? “Do you remember telling Jaehee not to come back to work?” He nodded solemnly. “Is that what you truly want?"
He sighed and tugged on his tie, straightening it. "No,” he admitted quietly.
“And what if you knew that she, too, was a little sad to have lost her job?” His eyes widened a small amount and MC smiled kindly. “You overworked her, Jumin. You made that environment impossible for her. Do you understand that?"
"She never complained before,” he replied but MC saw the doubt in his expression.
“That part is my fault. I hated seeing her overworked and exhausted, not enjoying herself. I encouraged her to take time for herself and it led to this."
"You are blaming yourself?” he asked, surprised by her honesty.
“I am. I… Well, I love her. I don’t know if she feels the same but if it can help make her happy, I want to do what I can."
Jumin didn’t say anything for a time but watched a tow truck carry the wreckage of Seven’s car away. "Then why are you here?” he finally asked with a sigh.
“I wanted to know you were okay. I still consider us to be friends, Jumin."
"Don’t you perceive me as everyone else does? The ‘bad guy’?” he asked with a sense of dry sarcasm.
“No. Because you’re struggling with this, too. You’re not a bad boss, Jumin. It’s only recently that it came to this. I think… I think you and Jaehee both need more help. Jaehee needs assistance in managing the workload you give her. Especially when she has to work overtime most days. You need someone to help you understand when you might be going a little overboard.” He eyed her somewhat suspiciously but MC just smiled. “Not to tell you no. Just to remind you that while the extra projects can be fun, you need to remember your employees when you think about them. To that end…I would like to join C&R. As Jaehee’s assistant or yours. I can help with cat projects so that Jaehee can continue doing the parts she’s really good at. I might not be as capable as her but you can grade my performance at the RFA party tomorrow. And you can tell me your answer then, okay?"
Jumin agreed to the deal, to treat the party as a trial run of sorts. He asked Driver Kim to take MC home, but MC asked for a detour. As Driver Kim dropped her off in front of Jaehee’s apartment, MC felt her heart hammer. She would be meeting Jaehee tomorrow but she just couldn’t wait any longer. She knocked and it took no time for Jaehee to come to the door. Unlike Jumin, Jaehee recognized MC right away. They had exchanged pictures previously. MC had a bright smile on and she offered a shy little wave as Jaehee ushered her inside.
"MC! What are you doing here?” she asked, shutting the door behind them and going immediately to the coffee maker Zen had given her. It was a bit late for coffee but MC watched with fondness as Jaehee took care to measure the precise amount of beans and water, even testing the water temperature. She obviously had found something to be passionate about again and it made MC’s heart swell to see.
“I actually just saw Jumin,” she began slowly. Jaehee looked up at MC and it looked like she was trying to mask her expression. “I wanted to try to get his side of things, too. I’m always on your side, of course, but I think there’s something more behind Jumin’s behavior."
"I agree with you,"Jaehee said, motioning them both to take a seat on the nearby couch as the coffee brewed. "While he often assigns more work than I can do, it has never been to this level before. I regret it all coming to this."
"I don’t think you really need to regret it. I think you both did things or said things in the heat of the moment. Jumin said he was never truly mad at you."
"Is that right?” Jaehee mused.
“Well. I talked to Jumin because I had an idea. He’s agreed but it’s also up to you. I wanted to join you. Work at C&R with you. As your assistant or Jumin’s, just an extra set of hands to help you divide the work and to maybe keep Jumin off your back a little.” MC smiled and watched Jaehee for a reaction.
“You…want to do this?” Jaehee asked doubtfully.
MC scooted a little closer, holding Jaehee’s gaze. “I want to help you. If you don’t want to leave C&R yet, I want to do everything I can for you. You deserve help, too. But if ultimately, you’re happy with leaving, I won’t stop you.” She fidgeted slightly, casting her gaze to her lap. “Plus it would mean I could spend more time with you. We could eat lunch together. Like that day you called me during your lunch break."
At first, Jaehee didn’t say anything. She rose to get mugs for the coffee and poured the drinks. MC watched a little nervously, worried she’d overstepped and had angered or upset Jaehee. "Do you like sweeter drinks?” Jaehee finally asked. MC nodded, and Jaehee added some cream and sugar to MC’s, with a dollop of whipped cream and some sprinkled cinnamon on top. She joined MC on the couch again, offering her the cup. Jaehee wrapped her hands around her mug, letting the warmth travel through her fingers. “Your offer is… a little unbelievable,” she admitted. “I never would have expected that. Truthfully, I do not wish to leave C&R on such terms. I don’t like quitting or giving up. And while those conditions cannot continue, as you have shown me, it left a bad taste in my mouth to see the consequences as they unfolded.” Jaehee took a slow sip of the coffee. “But your idea sounds like the best of both worlds, I have to admit. I cannot say I wish to remain at C&R forever. I have given some thought to what I’d like to do afterwards and exploring that will be my goal from now on. However, I’d rather leave C&R with more preparation and on terms Mr. Han and I can agree on."
MC smiled in relief as Jaehee agreed. "Perfect! Jumin has agreed to hire me assuming the party tomorrow is held to good standards. A test of sorts to prove that I can help you both. And I can help Jumin with cat projects so it’s not extra work for you but otherwise, I’ll just be there to divide your duties. Or take the easier ones at least,” she laughed. Feeling more relaxed, she took a sip of her own coffee, the sweet taste providing a sense of comfort to her. But as she lowered the mug, she saw Jaehee watching her. Frozen to the spot, she watched Jaehee reach forward, her thumb gently wiping MC’s lips. MC knew from the heat in her cheeks that she had turned bright red.
“You had some whipped cream,” Jaehee explained softly. But before anything else was said, Jaehee was leaning closer still, bringing her lips to MC’s. She kissed MC softly, even sweeter than the coffee. She seemed hesitant to pull away. But she did, watching MC with some trepidation. “Do you remember that I had mentioned a proposal that I was going to ask you at the party?” Still too shocked to speak, MC nodded. “I find it can’t wait any longer. MC, I have feelings for you. I want to enter into a relationship with you."
MC felt her heart hammering almost painfully in her chest. Was this even really happening? It felt like a dream. She knew Jaehee was waiting for an answer but all she could think about was that kiss. Finally, she nodded frantically. "Of course I feel the same! I want to be with you all the time! I had ulterior motives to working at C&R. I just wanted to be by your side!"
Jaehee laughed warmly. "That’s a little sneaky of you.” They both shared a chuckle at that. Jaehee rested her forehead against MC’s and it felt more intimate than the kiss had, meeting her eyes so closely . “But I’ll forgive you.” She kissed MC again, still just as gentle and romantic as before. When she pulled away, they were both smiling. Jaehee glanced to MC’s mug where the whipped cream had all but melted into the hot drink. “I always thought you might like sweet things. I just had that idea about you. I’m glad I was correct. I look forward to discovering more about you every day, MC."
As MC had expected, the party went very well. She had to impress Jumin, after all, so it had to be perfect. Jumin did agree to hire MC and the three of them spoke candidly about Jaehee’s future. About her plans to stay only long enough to be better prepared for her future, though it did not include C&R. Having the warning in advance, so to speak, calmed Jumin and allowed him to accept her plans. It would give Jumin time to find a replacement for Jaehee and possibly allow that replacement to learn from her. He didn’t know exactly how capable MC would be but her preparations for the party proved she’d be at least as qualified as the other C&R employees.
With that done, Jaehee introduced the RFA officially to her girlfriend, MC. Some of the boys seemed confused but all accepted them after the initial shock. The rest of the party, MC remained close to Jaehee, holding her hand or her arm, a bit more clingy than Jaehee expected but it made her feel loved when it came from MC. As the party wound down, they were sitting together, enjoying a brief rest before they had to close the party and begin the cleanup.
Jaehee glanced at MC, at their hands clasped together. "Should I have waited until tonight to ask you to be my girlfriend?” she asked. “Would that have been better?"
MC shook her head and squeezed Jaehee’s hand. "No, I don’t think so. I could have waited until today to meet you but I couldn’t stand not seeing you yesterday so I think it was perfect. Besides, it gave us one more day together and I was able to express just how much I love you today. I wouldn’t have been able to do that as much if we hadn’t talked yesterday."
Jaehee smiled. "Does one more day really mean that much?"
"When I spend it with you, it means everything.”