At first, he thinks the worst part is the fact that Isabella is not saying anything, but he knows. He knows what it means.

But then they have to call JJ's family, and then his friends, and then they have to prepare. Isabella takes care of the legal part. Seung-gil handles the ceremony. And every moment feels just wrong.

Somehow, though, the activity keeps him distracted. He picks clothes, he picks locations. He picks everything. He takes calls, some of them from the media. He almost tells them to go to hell, but he knows what JJ wants.

What he would have wanted.

JJ is dead.

The problems begin at the funeral, when JJ's aunt walks in. She greets Isabella, talks to her sweetly, offers her condolences. But her eyes go cold as Seung-gil comes into view. As they always have done.

Seung-gil remains stoically by the open casket. He thinks nothing of it. He thinks nothing of anything. So when the media approaches Isabella, and only Isabella, he just keeps looking at JJ's face.

He is so quiet.

Neither of them give a speech. Instead, they let JJ's siblings do the talking.

In fact, Seung-gil says nothing after the plans are made. While people reminisce about the time JJ got his tattoo, among food and drink, Seung-gil just sips on his wine. While people laugh softly and struggle to do the JJ sign, Seung-gil goes back to the casket. He kneels beside it, silent, and pretends to pray. What he really wants is to rest his head on JJ's lap, close his eyes, sleep. But nobody will run his fingers through his hair.

When they go back to the apartment, there's an awkward silence. A fragile thing, in which all his hopes rest.

"So... do you want to have dinner?" Isabella speaks in Korean. Like whenever they were alone.

They are alone. Seung-gil has not woken up.

"No," he replies, immediately, and makes his way to the spare room.

The first morning, he forgets breakfast and almost faints at the rink. He gets looks, but no words said to him. His phone rings; Sara Crispino. He turns it off. And he practices. And he falls, he falls, he falls.

He stays there until six, and when he returns, he hears Isabella on the phone.

Wordlessly, he takes a shower and then goes out for a walk with Kongju.

And Seung-gil is waiting for that weight in his stomach to go away, as the snowflakes fall on his hair and over his cold ears.

This is real.

And with every corner that he turns, every moment that he breathes, JJ is not there. JJ is nowhere to be found. There's a little urn in a columbarium, but that won't help, will it? A little urn can do nothing but make him angry, lonely… Sad.

Seung-gil shakes his head. He cannot afford to dwell. Instead of going to Mont-Royal, he walks towards Sherbrooke and turns right at Jeanne-Mance. Not so far away, there's a park where events are often held, and though he's never had any interest in them, right now he could use the noise.

There is something that slips his mind, however, and that he only remembers too late, only when there's no escaping it: the University is there. It's not imposing, but there's something about its yellowish bricks that reminds Seung-gil of bones. And it reminds him of death. And it reminds him of their plans. Plans that when Seung-gil eventually retired from skating, he could do his Master's there. That was JJ's idea.

It all seems so pointless now.

When he gets to the apartment, he is shivering, and Isabella gives him a quick glance. She doesn't mention it, however.

"What do you want to eat?" she asks, her voice almost a whisper.

Seung-gil doesn't look at her for long. He shrugs. "Whatever is easiest."

Isabella hesitates. "There's that soup. But's it's…" Vegetable soup.

He shrugs again. "Sure."

He takes the plate to the other room.

Worlds is approaching slowly, but Seung-gil cannot care about it. What he cares for are the little remnants in the apartment: the wilting roses from Valentine's, the writing on the whiteboard, the half-empty bottle of cologne in the bathroom, and the folded clothes in the closet. Grief is in the little remainders of a broken routine.

He expects the feeling to melt like ice does, but as days go by, the snowstorms only grow worse.

Because he has to face the fact that he misses JJ. He misses him singing in the morning and snoring at night. He misses him showing off in practice, and racing him to the rink, and never shutting up. His bragging about his gold medals, his randomly quoting songs, the way he was warm at night. The pouches under his eyes, his upturned nose, his stupid, stupid eyebrows, and the short hair near his nape. And the way he made Seung-gil feel loved, like he belonged.

That had been happiness.

Seung-gil shivers in the empty bed. He still hasn't been able to get used to the Montreal winter.

And it comes to him as an epiphany: Maybe he never will.

Maybe he doesn't have to.

What is keeping him there?

He does awfully in Worlds and he cannot bring himself to care. He thought he'd be glad to be away from the apartment, but being on the ice is not the same. He cannot land his quad loop. The others skaters stare at him. They regard him with pity-filled eyes, at best.

Seung-gil cannot bear that expression. Cannot bear their presence.

He has to stop seeing in their eyes the same disgust, blame and coldness he recalls from the funeral.

He returns to the apartment. He hears voices. Isabella, he finds out, has friends over. Friends who have brought flowers.

"Oh, I didn't know you'd be back this soon!" she says. She pours Magdaleine a cup of coffee, and Seung-gil focuses his eyes on the hand keeping said cup in place. Isabella's left. "Sit down!" She invites him, with a smile.

"I'm tired," he says, shaking his head, and then makes his way to the room along with Kongju.

"Oh, okay."

He tries to sleep while he hears Isabella laugh. He can't.

What is keeping him there?

The question just becomes more jarring, as the dirty dishes start disappearing from the sink, as he comes back to find a clean house.

What is keeping me here? As one day he finds the whiteboard erased.

What, indeed, as he sees fewer and fewer newspaper articles on the oh-so-tragically-young Jean-Jacques Leroy.

It seems the world is moving on. Even winter is ending. It had to, eventually.

But somehow, it still hurts.

Some nights he cries. Some nights, Isabella passes by his door on the way to the bathroom. If those ever coincide, they don't talk about it. Or about anything.

It keeps hurting. Day after day.

Seung-gil spends more time outside than in, between training and walking Kongju. At nights, he tries to go to sleep, but Isabella is often watching movies in her bedroom. He doesn't want to ask her to turn the volume down. He doesn't want to see her.

He thought he had been troubled by the silence, but this is worse.

One day, Seung-gil tells Isabella: "Let's have dinner together."

It's too much. The unstoppable discomfort. The perpetual sadness. The festering anger.

As he prepares the steak, he is quiet. As Isabella sets the table, she hums.

Every note is like a slap to Seung-gil's face. It's plain to see, she is doing better.

So why can't I?

He knows why.

They eat. They make small talk. They don't meet each other's eyes.

And suddenly, Seung-gil decides to just drop it.

"I'm going back to Korea."

Seung-gil is prepared for a lot of things. What he is not prepared for is Isabella dropping her fork and staring at him with wide, lost eyes.

"You what?"

He eats a bit more, swallows, keeps his eyes low. "I said I'm going back to Korea."

"Oh." Isabella chuckles a little, awkwardly. "Your parents probably miss you."


"So… when are you leaving?"

Seung-gil shrugs. "Soon."



Isabella picks up her fork and cleans it up.

"So;" she asks, "how long?"

Seung-gil frowns. "How long what?"

"How long will you be away?"

He meets her eyes. She is not stupid. She knows. She just wants to hear him say it. "Forever."

Isabella holds his gaze for a moment before turning to stare at the whiteboard, which has been clean for weeks now.

She breathes deeply. "Why?"

Seung-gil feels as if he's been hit, again. And it infuriates him. She has to know. But fine, if she's making him say it…

"JJ is dead."

It's different to think it than to say it. Somehow, it's even worse. Like something just slipped out of his reach forever. That keeps on happening. He thinks he has come to terms with it, and then he finds out there is a new and awful experience he has yet to live.

It's draining.

It's even worse when Isabella looks at him like she's confused. Like she doesn't understand the implications of it.

Before she can ask, he explains: "I have nothing to stay here for." Isabella opens her mouth. "I know what you are going to say. 'Friends'. But that's not true."

There's a knot in his throat, it makes it makes him struggle to talk.

"I don't have friends here," he continues. "There's only your friends. His friends."

Seung-gil barely has friends, to be honest, but that never seemed to matter before this. A lot of things have started mattering only now.

Like the ring on Isabella's finger. He cannot stop thinking about that ring. Every time she moves her left hand, it seems to shine in the light. Her wedding band and her engagement ring.

It never hurt before.

Isabella hesitates before speaking again. "You have friends, Seung-gil."

He doesn't know why they are talking in English. But he's glad they are. Speaking in Korean is just a constant reminder of what they lost.

"Not here."

"Our friends are your friends too."

Seung-gil shakes his head. "No." And that 'our' is painful too. Everything is. "They don't like me. They never did. And I don't like them either. And, you know, that's fine. But they could at least pretend. They could have at least spoken to me at the funeral."

"Seung-gil," she starts, "they just-"

"I don't want to hear it," he raises from his seat.

"They don't know how to talk to you." Isabella insists.

"Why? It was never a problem for JJ! He just… did it."

"JJ…" Isabella takes a deep breath. "JJ was something else."

And that is true. JJ was blunt and loud and courageous.

If he hadn't been, Seung-gil wouldn't have fallen in love with him.

But if he hadn't been, he would still be alive.

Seung-gil stays quiet for a moment.

"I know they blame me," he admits, feebly.

Isabella raises her eyebrows, and slowly stands up. "Blame you? Why would anyone…?"

"He was out because he was walking Kongju, because I was sick. If I hadn't been sick… If I hadn't brought Kongju over…."

"She's your dog. You couldn't just abandon her."

"That's not what I mean!" Seung-gil snaps.

Isabella stays quiet for a moment. "Then what do you mean?"

He stops, then shakes his head. "It doesn't matter."

Isabella frowns. "Yes it does. Talk to me."

"Why should I?"

She stops, shrugs. "I always thought we were friends… We've lived together for a while now."

Seung-gil purses his lips. "And did that never bother you?"

She shakes her head. "No. Did it ever bother you?"

He doubts. His words can be misinterpreted, probably, but… "Not until recently."

Isabella smiles, reaches his hand to touch his. He recoils. "Sorry."

"You don't get it." Seung-gil says.

"Don't get what?"

He stays quiet.

"Don't get what?" she insists, but her voice is gentle.

"You... you were his wife." He says, with difficulty. His eyes burn. "He loved you."

"He loved you too."

His heart beats loudly at that. Yes, he did. Seung-gil never doubted that. He still cannot doubt that, even if it would make things easier.

"But" he continues, "he married you, not me. And that's why… I'm not saying… I do not mean-" he scoffs, and looks away. His vision is blurry.

"Just say it. I'll understand."

He takes a deep breath. "They don't believe him. They wouldn't believe that he loved me. They don't talk to me about him, because… because to him I'm just the lover, the extra one, the…" he practically spits his next words "the fucktoy."

She covers her mouth with her hands, and she looks as she did in the emergency room. "Oh, no. Seung-gil, please, that's-"

"I know. I know. It's not like that. It was not like that to him-"

She wants to comfort him. He doesn't want her comfort. He wants someone to hear him out.

"But-" Seung-gil continues "In their eyes, I don't belong here. Not really. But I just came over and he died while walking my dog, and-"

"Don't." She interrupts him, voice trembling. "You don't get to blame yourself. It was not your fault."

Seung-gil scoffs, looks away. When he blinks, some tears fall. "In the long run, it was."

"It wasn't, Seung-gil." She speaks firmly.

"In their eyes-"

"In whose eyes?!" Isabella asks. "If anyone ever blames you, they can talk to me. I refuse… I won't… I can't let them think that!" She calms down a bit. "If someone is to blame, it was me."

Seung-gil stares at her, perplexed. "Why- why would anyone…?"

"I was there."

Right. Seung-gil has, somehow, forgotten that detail. But still- "How does that make it your fault?"

"H-he was trying to defend me," her voice breaks. "And when he was stabbed, I just… I couldn't help him:" Her shoulders shake, and suddenly, she's crying.

And Seung-gil feels like an idiot.

"Isabella," he says, softly. He walks towards her. "Bella. It's not your fault."

"I know," she mutters. "I know, rationally, it's not. But… but I still feel-"

Seung-gil hesitates. "I thought you were fine," he admits.

She shakes her head, but somehow is not offended. "I can't sleep. I wake up all the time, thinking about him. Sometimes I think I'm just going to… open my eyes and-"

"And he'll be there."


Seung-gil chuckles weakly, and then sniffles. And then slowly, the dam that he has built around his emotions falls, and he breaks down into sobs. Isabella does, too.

They talk between tears.

"I thought it was Kongju. I never thought- He was always so-"

"I know." Isabella nods. "Full of life, right?"

She presses her forehead to his shoulder. He hugs her close.

"Was he in pain? I'm sorry. I just… need to-"

"It's fine. He wasn't. He passed out pretty soon."

Seung-gil lets go of Isabella, wiping her tears and getting a box of tissues.

"I didn't realize people ignored you. I'm so sorry," she says.

Seung-gil hesitates. "You know, one of the… One of the last things I told him was," he takes a deep breath. "'Not your fault people are douchebags'. You should know that too. "

They chuckle weakly.

Isabella blows her nose. "I actually was so glad when you came into the picture."

"Were you?" he asks, surprised.

"Yes. I mean, don't get me wrong. I love- loved… love JJ but sometimes he was… too much for one person."

Seung-gil makes his way to the couch. "He would have loved to hear that."

Isabella laughs. "He would have."

"Goddammit," Seung-gil sighs, holding his head in his hands. "He just couldn't go peacefully in his sleep when he got old, could he?"

She sits beside him. "You know JJ. He always had to make a big deal of everything. JJ style and all that."

They look at each other, and, after a beat, do the JJ sign. They crack up even though there are still tears in their eyes.

Isabella takes his hand.

Seung-gil does not move back to Korea. Seung-gil does not fail another competition as terribly as Worlds. At his next competition, in fact, he wins.

His exhibition skate? Theme of King JJ.

That way, people will remember him, still, in the way JJ would have wanted them to: Ridiculous, creative, wonderful.

He adds one detail: a quad loop.

One day, Isabella tells him they should do something with JJ's ashes, that just letting them stay in the same place isn't what he would have wanted. Seung-gil agrees.

"What, though?" He asks.

"Do you trust me?"

"Yes." He doesn't hesitate.

The conversation is seemingly forgotten, until, about a year later, Isabella takes out a small box.

"Ta-dah!" she says.

Seung-gil raises his eyebrows. "Are you proposing, Bella?" he laughs. "While I'm flattered, I have to remind you: I'm gay."

"Open it."

It is a ring, no surprise there.

Not any ring, though. He has to check Isabella's hand, because it looks the same as her engagement ring. But she's still wearing that.

"What is this?"

She flushes a bit. "I… hope it's okay. That's… there's this place where they turn ashes into diamonds and…"

Seung-gil stares at her. "Oh."

She nods, bashfully.

"That's..." he laughs and puts on the ring. "I love it. Thanks."

Her face lights up.

Seung-gil retires at 27. He studies a PhD at the University of Quebec at Montreal. He becomes a professor.

Isabella becomes a screenwriter. Someday, she says, she'll write a biopic about them. She also opens an acting school.

(JJ had always said he wanted to be a coach when he retired.)

They never find JJ's never quite get over that, or JJ. Sure, they invite people over, they have lovers. But it's never quite the same. Sometimes you never quite get over someone, but you learn to live without them.

Years pass.

Seung-gil gets used to the cold in Montreal.

The End.

Author's Notes: Well, this is the first fic in years I have actually finished.

I mean, I could add one extra thing, which is that I feel Seung-gil and Isabella would eventually adopt a kid. They wouldn't be in a romantic relationship, of course, but they'd stick together. Still, it didn't seem to fit the mood of the story, in the end.

Thank you so much for reading. If you'd like to leave a comment, I'd appreciate that a lot. Constructive critiques are always nice.