145 An Ill-fitting Piece Pt.2

    "I'm glad to see Zeren so energetic," Gyuri chuckled as both she and Jimin spectated the chase from the foggy window.

    Jimin hummed in agreement, too flustered to say anything else. With Gyuri standing close to him, he couldn't concentrate on anything but her proximity.

    "He's acting like he usually does but I can't help noticing... why is he hurt?" Gyuri looked up at Jimin, causing the young emperor to hold his breath. Gyuri frowned as Jimin's bruises stared back at her. "And you too... you're still hurt."

    Tell her.

    Jimin shook his head to be rid of Zeren's voice.

    "Are you all right?"

    "I- I-" Jimin stepped back as he tried to calm his erratic heart. Curses, he grunted to himself. After weeks of not seeing Gyuri, her effect on him was tenfold. It took all he had not to wrap his arms around her and tell her how much he missed her.

    "You should sit down." Gyuri offered a seat to him and he took it without protest. "Are you hungry? I know the food is for the vagabonds but there's so much and I doubt we'd finish it."

    "No, I am fine. I am just..." He stole a glance at her and immediately regretted it.

    Was she always this beautiful?

    "...I am just a little weary, is all." Jimin looked away, completely missing the way Gyuri's features contorted with worry.

    "I went back, you know."

    Sensing a shift in her tone, Jimin tentatively looked up. Gyuri was preparing a bowl of stew for her and himself despite his refusal.

    "That day when... when it happened. I went back for you but when I got back, you and Zeren were gone." Gyuri sat down opposite him on the table. "I thought something bad happened."

    Jimin clenched his fist.

    Aside from his uncooperative heart, the other reason why he couldn't look her in the eye was because of what transpired. He was ashamed. He had been beaten to a pulp and had almost failed to protect her. How could he show his face to Gyuri after that fiasco? It wasn't Jimin's intention to frighten Gyuri by disappearing, but his pride wouldn't allow him to look defeated in front of her. Not when he soon realised what she meant to him.

    "I am sorry-"

    "I was so worried about you!"

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    Jimin was surprised by Gyuri's outburst.

    "You're such an idiot, Chim Chim," she scolded, "I thought more of them had come and carted you and Zeren off. You had me so worried." Eventually, Gyuri smiled, catching Jimin off-guard. "I'm glad you came today. Now I know you're okay."

    Jimin's heart fluttered.

    Despite being surrounded by people who pampered him, it was the first time Jimin felt like someone truly cared. Unlike everyone else, Gyuri was concerned about him rather than what he represented: she wasn't worried about Jimin the emperor but Chim Chim the boy from the Temple. In that instance, Gyuri had unknowingly dismantled the final defences Jimin's rational self had painstakingly built.

    "Gyuri may be of low birth, but you have the power to change that."

    Jimin pushed away his thoughts. Tempted as he was to embrace her, she wasn't his. Not yet.

    "You need not worry about me," Jimin struggled to say as Gyuri dug into her stew, "I am an imperial guard after all. I was just doing my job."

    "Of course, I'd still worry!" Gyuri chastised. "You were beaten half to death!"

    Jimin winced.

    "And," Gyuri added, her voice softening, "you're also my friend, Chim Chim. I don't want to lose you."

    Jimin's expression suddenly became unreadable. "...Friend?" His voice was husky. "Is that what we are? Friends?"

    Misunderstanding Jimin's intention, Gyuri explained, "Well, I- I thought we were past being acquaintances, so..."

    Jimin smiled wryly, remembering their conversation from long ago. "Of course, but what if-" He looked over his shoulder as he heard a yelp outside. It sounded like Pho had finally caught up to Zeren. Jimin concealed his alarm as he turned back to Gyuri.

    Tell her.

    "Chim Chim?" Gyuri stared at him expectantly.

    Jimin took a deep breath as he leaned in, his hand reaching out to touch her cheek. In all his life, nothing could compare to how vulnerable he felt as he uttered the words that could change everything between them.

    "But what if... I want more?"
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