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Oh My God They Were Roommates

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Having a plan was probably the most sensible way to enter one's 20s.

No, it most definitely was.

Unfortunately, this was a realization made by Kim Dahyun only when she stood with a box full of someone else’s clothes on the street outside her apartment.

 

“Thank you so much for helping me with all this.” Said a sweet voice, dragging Dahyun from her thoughts. She turned with a hum and looked at the blonde girl who was crawling out of the back of a white van, dragging with her another box identical the one Dahyun was holding. An apologetic smile lit up the girl’s entire face, making her eyes shine. Dahyun adjusted her grasp on the box by propping it up with her knee and bending back further. Her knuckles were whitening with the strain and her hand ached. She should’ve let it stay on the ground until Sana was ready to go, but as soon as she had picked it up, her pride had prevented her from putting it back down.

“Only six more boxes to go, and then I’m treating you to pizza.” Sana promised with a grin and signaled for them to head inside.

“Sounds like a deal.” Dahyun said, following the older girl.

“How long have you lived here?” Sana asked as they entered the elevator, pushing the button to the fourth floor.

“A year, give or take. My old roomie decided to move in with her girlfriend.” Dahyun scrunched her nose and rolled her eyes. Sana looked questioningly at her. “Oh no, she’s my best friend, they’re just so sappy it’s awkward to be around them for too long. You’d think two years would take the honeymoon stage out of a relationship.” Dahyun cringed, adjusting the heavy box again.

The elevator chimed and came to a halt, letting them out too slowly for Dahyun’s liking. They turned right and walked towards Dahyun’s-... towards their apartment.

“What about you?”

“I’ve lived here… a day?” Sana wondered, pursing her lips.

“I mean why did you move?” Dahyun clarified.

“I know what you meant.” Sana giggled and nudged her. “I used to live with some friends but it didn’t really work out. So my friend Momo and I were stuck with the apartment and we couldn’t afford it. We wanted to find something together, but when she saw this she insisted I take it. And it’s good because it’s a lot closer to our school.”

Dahyun backed into the door and propped the box on her leg, opening their door. She hurried as much as she could over to the growing pile of belongings and put down the box, swallowing a complaint as her arms yelled for a break. Then Sana was beside her, putting down her own box. She sent Dahyun a bright smile and made to take another trip down to the moving van.

“You go down, I need to use the bathroom.” Dahyun said without meeting Sana’s eyes. Sana nodded and walked back out, leaving the door open by a crack. Dahyun waited until Sana was out of earshot to throw a curse at Sana’s belongings. She massaged her shoulders and non-existant biceps. How much stuff did that girl have anyways? Sure, she got the big room, but it wasn’t that big.

Dahyun swung her arms around, trying to regain some feeling in them, before heading into the bathroom, massaging at her shoulders. She locked the door and sighed, using the opportunity to actually pee.

It was so tempting to let exhaustion overpower her, as she sat there, head buried in her hands. She considered texting Jihyo to say that she wouldn’t be staying the night, but never got around to it.

 

Three minutes later she collided with Sana in the hallway. The older girl had attempted to carry two boxes at once, apparently to save them a trip, and laughed at her own clumsiness as Dahyun caught the top box.

“Thank you.” Sana said through giggles. Dahyun’s shoulders complained but she ignored it. “By now I owe you both pizza and wine.”

“I have some wine in my fridge?” Dahyun pondered.

“That’d do.”

Sana let them into the apartment. Even if it had caused trouble for Sana, a part of Dahyun was grateful that she didn’t have to take another full trip.

 

On the last two trips down to the white van, Dahyun was careful about waiting to lift the box until they were both ready, but she still couldn’t hide a relieved groan as she put down the last box. Even Sana sighed and stretched. Dahyun reached back and tried to rub out a muscle knot in her shoulder, wincing as it gave a jab.

They stood in silence for a little, looking at the boxes.

“I don’t actually know any good pizza places nearby...” Sana admitted with a shy smile. It made Dahyun chuckle. She pointed at a menu stuck to the fridge with one of those tourist magnets that said I heart Singapore .

 

The keys were cold against Jihyo’s hands as she pressed them in a familiar pattern. Sound filled the tiny apartment and her mind emptied of every bad thought. There was just her and the piano and Tzuyu on Jihyo’s bed with her laptop and a set of sheet music. Somehow playing made all of her worries go away, and filled her heart with sound, feeling it stream through every artery. She wasn’t flawless, and it was never easy. But she felt at home in this piece.

 

Only when the song ended and she stopped humming along did she notice that Tzuyu had been as well.

With a smile, she turned on the chair and faced Tzuyu. “Was that okay?”

“Definitely. It always helps when I can see it being played.” Tzuyu said, her ears moving slightly as a smile spread across her face.

“You have a weird brain. But I like it.” Jihyo said and shook her head.

“You guys keep saying that. You and Dahyun.” Tzuyu ran her hand through her hair. Grabbed the hair tie from her wrist and started working her hair into a ponytail.

“Well, it’s true.” Jihyo shrugged.

Just as Jihyo was about to change the subject, Tzuyu’s phone chimed. Tzuyu looked at it and grabbed it to read properly. Moments later Jihyo’s phone vibrated in her pocket as well, and she frowned. The message was from Jeongyeon, about getting together at her place on friday. All of them, for once. It had been more than a month since she had last offered to have people over, and it pleased Jihyo to see that she was once again up for bringing people over.

“Did you get the text from Jeongyeon as well?” Jihyo asked as she texted Jeongyeon back, telling her that she was up for it.

“Yeah.” Tzuyu said and wrote something on her phone. “I still don’t understand why she refuses to use the group chat.”

“She’s just bitter that Nayeon changed her name in the chat.”

“I thought she got her back for that.”

“She did. But they handle things very differently.” Jihyo explained, reminding herself that while Tzuyu had gotten close with most of the group quite soon, it always took longer with the two oldest. They somehow had a special bubble around them that most people never got to be included in.

Tzuyu went back to writing on her laptop, her words pulling Jihyo from her thoughts. “Handle things how?”

“Nayeon yells and forgets about it. Jeongyeon cares a lot more. She’s superb at dishing out the insult, but really bad at being on the receiving end.” Jihyo chuckled. Watched as Tzuyu pressed a dramatic stop on her laptop and stretched.

“Do you have everything you need?” Jihyo asked.

“Yes, it was really just that last bit. I’m just gonna send it to Dahyun, then I’ll be out of your hair.” Tzuyu squinted slightly at the screen as her eyes darted across it.

“You don’t have to go.” Jihyo shrugged. “I mean I have to do laundry, but-”

“Sure.” Tzuyu closed the laptop with a shrug.

“Yeah? I already washed it but it’s just in a big heap in the bag.” Jihyo said, grabbing the laundry bag from beside the piano. Poured the contents onto the bed as soon as Tzuyu had moved her laptop and the sheet music.

“How is school anyway?” Jihyo asked, not sure how else to ask. Didn’t want to seem overprotective, even though she had long ago had to admit, that she was.

“Better, I think. It’s hard to know, but I think better.” Tzuyu grabbed a shirt and folded it.

“That’s a relief.” Jihyo smiled and put a pair of pants next to the shirt.

Tzuyu smiled. Grabbed another shirt. Jihyo took a sweater.

They shared the work in silence. Tzuyu didn’t seem to mind, and Jihyo loved that about her. It was something Jihyo used to do with Mina when she lived in the building, and it was only now she realized how much she missed having people around to do the trivial stuff with as well.

“Isn’t this Dahyun’s?” Tzuyu asked, Jihyo jolting slightly, looking around at the grey shirt.

“Oh. It is. She must’ve forgotten it here.” Jihyo frowned.

“Do you want me to bring it to class for her?” Tzuyu offered.

“No, it’s okay. I’ll bring it with me on friday.” Jihyo grabbed it from Tzuyu and folded it. Held it gently in her hands for a second and then put it on the bed away from the other piles.

“You’re never gonna stop worrying, are you?” Tzuyu asked.

“Never.” Jihyo said, sincerity in her voice.

Tzuyu took another shirt. Folded it, opening her mouth and closing it again. Jihyo frowned but Tzuyu just shook her head and smiled.

“My boss is talking about promoting me.” Jihyo changed the subject.

“That’s amazing.” Tzuyu beamed.

Jihyo fiddled with a sock. “Yeah, I mean. I’m not sure I’d be-”

“Come on, you practically run the business already. Even did back when I met you.” Tzuyu said.

“I just hope I can actually do well. It’s gonna be different once I actually have all the responsibility. I don’t know if I can handle it.” Jihyo admitted, pushing in the pockets of a pair of jeans before folding them.

“Sure you can.” Said Tzuyu.

“You should come by again.” Jihyo looked at her. “It’s been forever, I might’ve forgotten your order by now.”

“I will. I promise.” Tzuyu smiled and took the last shirt.

 

 

Dahyun stepped out of the shower to see her screen light up. No less than eleven messages were listed one after the other on her lock screen. She sighed and wrapped a towel around her hair, drying her hands in it. Grabbed her phone in one hand and a large towel in the other, reading the messages.

 

2:53 pm Chaeyoung: Is she here?

2:54 pm Chaeyoung: What was her name again? Something Japanese right?

2:54 pm Chaeyoung: Was it Sana?

3:15 pm Chaeyoung: Jeongyeon wants a group night on Friday, you game?

3:16 pm Jeongyeon: Group night at my place Friday, wanna come?

3:19 pm Jeongyeon: Your new roomie is welcome to join if you want.

5:10 pm Chaeyoung: Are you alive? Is your roommate an axe murderer? You’re either dead or getting laid.

5:12 pm Chaeyoung: Please don’t be dead. Or getting laid. It’s bad luck to get with your roomie on the first day. Have some respect and wait a few weeks. Or at least a few days.

5:53 pm Tzuyu: You’re coming to movie night, right? I’m not gonna survive gross and grosser if you aren’t there.

5:55 pm Chaeyoung: Don’t make me come over there.

5:59 pm Jihyo: I found a shirt at my place, is it yours?

 

There was a picture attached to Jihyo’s message, a grey shirt with the logo of Dahyun’s dad’s favorite baseball team, the LG Twins. When had she left that? Probably the last time she stayed over, which was when? A few nights ago? Honestly it was all just a blur by now. She sighed and started answering, wrapping the towel around her awkwardly.

 

6:32 pm Dahyun: Chaeng. Calm. Your. Tits.

6:34 pm Dahyun: I was helping Sana move boxes for hours and just took a shower to smell less like a donkey and more like a person. I haven’t been murdered and I definitely haven’t gotten laid, thank you very much.

6:35 pm Dahyun: I haven’t decided about Jeongyeon’s movie night yet. Gonna talk to Sana about it.

 

She dried off and got clothed, combing through her damp hair before twisting it in a bun, changing to her chat with Jeongyeon.

 

6:40 pm Dahyun: Thanks Jeong, I’ll probably join and I might ask Sana if it’s really ok with you for her to join?

 

Tugging her lower lip between her teeth, Dahyun switched to the chat with Jihyo.

 

6:42 pm Dahyun: It’s mine! Or my dad’s but I stole it. Thank you. I’ll come pick it up in a few days.

6:42 pm Dahyun: Oh, and Sana moved in today!

 

In the time it had taken her to answer all the texts, Chaeyoung had answered.

 

6:41 pm Chaeyoung: Just making sure. And you’re sure you don’t need me to move back in? You’re sure you can handle things without me?

 

Dahyun snorted and got dressed.

 

6:45 pm Dahyun: Getting cold feet already?

6:46 pm Dahyun: I definitely do not need you to move back in, I can’t handle more of you two than I have to.

6:46 pm Dahyun: Now go away and annoy that girl of yours instead of me.

 

Dahyun shut off the screen on her phone and pocketed it, shaking her head at Chaeyoung as she walked back into the living room. Sana was sitting in Dahyun’s couch, and beamed as she looked around at Dahyun. It occured to Dahyun that she should probably think that it was weird how happy Sana was all the time. In the few hours she had been here, she had filled the entire place with giggles and sunshine. But Dahyun didn’t think it weird at all. Just saw it as a welcome change in an otherwise annoyingly colorless month. Months.

“Pizza will be here in five minutes. Hopefully. Should I get the wine?” Sana asked, bringing Dahyun back to reality.

“That’d be great.” Dahyun hummed and flopped onto the couch as Sana got up. As Sana turned into the kitchen, Dahyun looked after her, guiding her around. Told her where she could find glasses and a wine opener and what shelf in the fridge had the leftover white wine.

 

A squeal sounded from the kitchen and then a breathless laughter. It seemed that Sana had tripped over her own feet in the kitchen. Her cheeks were slightly pink as she hurried back to the couch and handed over the wine and glasses. And then Sana let out another laugh and honestly, Dahyun wasn’t sure why. But she found that she didn’t need to know.

As Sana sat back down, Dahyun started working at the cork. She fumbled slightly as Sana curled up next to her, keeping a little less than what Dahyun considered a respectable distance for acquaintances. But never mind that, Dahyun thought. They were roommates, they might as well get used to being close. After all, it wasn’t the world’s biggest apartment.

“So, I have a favor to ask.” Sana looked at her glass, then at Dahyun. “Big favor actually.”

“Fire away.” Dahyun took a sip.

“Well, you remember I told you that my friend Momo and I lost our apartment?” Sana put the glass down.

Dahyun nodded.

“Well, she’s still apartment hunting, and she’s getting kicked out of our place soon. So I was wondering if you’d be ok with her staying in my room for a few days. Weeks probably, if we’re being realistic. Just until she finds somewhere else?” Sana’s eyes were big and full of plea. And Dahyun couldn’t help notice just how pretty she was.

“I’m sure we can manage.” Dahyun said without really considering it.

This made Sana beam and excitedly she threw her arms around Dahyun. It blew the air from Dahyun’s lungs and almost made her spill the wine, but she didn’t care.

“Thank you, Dahyunnie!” She said, sunshine in her voice. Then she drew back and raised her glass. “Cheers… to being roommates.”

She poked at Dahyun with a toe. With a laugh, Dahyun clinked her glass against Sana’s and they both drank.

12:34 am Dahyun: HELP.

12:34 am Dahyun: Please be up.

12:34 am Dahyun: Help.

 

Chaeyoung’s eyes went big as she read the messages that had popped up while she had been writing.

 

12:37 am Chaeyoung: Oh my god, you banged.

12:38 am Dahyun: No we didn’t!

12:38 am Dahyun: Shut up

12:38 am Dahyun: Nevermind.

12:39 am Chaeyoung: Come on, it was a joke.

12:39 am Chaeyoung: Mostly.

12:40 am Chaeyoung: No, ok, I was sure you actually had slept with her. Nvm, what’s up?

12:41 am Dahyun: She’s asleep. On me.

12:41 am Chaeyoung: lmao. What?!

 

Chaeyoung laughed. Loud. Loud enough to wake the girl next to her. A pair of drowsy eyes looked up at her the light from the phone reflected in them.

“Dahyun.” Chaeyoung giggled and turned her phone so Nayeon could watch the conversation. A sleepy giggle escaped the older girl’s throat. She was hoarse, like she always was right when she woke, and it made Chaeyoung’s heart flutter.

 

12:43 am Dahyun: She bought me pizza after we finished moving and we drank the wine I had left from Mina’s birthday. And she’s… Cuddly. I don’t really think there’s anything in it?

12:44 am Dahyun: She’s just very touchy.

12:44 am Dahyun: and tall

12:44 am Dahyun: and pretty

12:44 am Dahyun: We watched a movie and she was leaning on me a lot.

 

Chaeyoung snorted at her friend’s obvious panic. Nayeon was chuckling as well, following the conversation.

 

12:45 am Dahyun: and now she’s asleep. I’m lying on the couch and she’s sort of… well, laying on me?

 

This time Nayeon laughed out loud and buried her face in Chaeyoung’s arm. “Poor Dahyun.” She whispered

“Poor Dahyun? She’s sprawled on the couch with a pretty girl on top of her. For years that was my dream!” Chaeyoung grinned, and added, softer: “Still is.” Even if she thought it might be comments like this that made Tzuyu and Jeongyeon roll their eyes and pretend to puke.

Nayeon hummed.

 

12:47 am Chaeyoung: And the problem is?

12:47 am Dahyun: What am I supposed to do?! I can’t carry her to bed, my arms are dead!

12:47 am Dahyun: Don’t.

12:47 am Dahyun: It’s from carrying boxes.

12:47 am Dahyun: But I don’t think I can get out without waking her up.

12:48 am Chaeyoung: Well, it’s obvious isn’t it?

12:48 am Dahyun: No. Enlighten me please oh wise padawan.

 

Chaeyoung chuckled at the sarcastic tone but decided to take it as a compliment. After all one of them was single and the other was not. And Chaeyoung took great pride in being the latter.

 

12:49 am Chaeyoung: Can you reach a blanket?

12:49 am Dahyun: Yeah. why?

 

Chaeyoung rolled her eyes. She felt Nayeon’s cool hand creep under her shirt and drawing circles around her belly button. The hairs stood up wherever Nayeon’s fingers trached. She looked down at Nayeon again but she was paying attention to the screen.

 

12:50 am Chaeyoung: Ok, this is only because I’m your friend and you’re obviously the most useless lesbian I’ve ever met.

12:51 am Chaeyoung: You throw the blanket over both of you.

12:51 am Chaeyoung: And you go to sleep.

12:51 am Chaeyoung: It’s quite simple.

12:51 am Chaeyoung: And then you stop texting me and enjoy this.

 

Chaeyoung felt Nayeon’s shoulders shake with quiet laughter. The hand on her stomach wandered distractingly upwards.

 

12:53 am Dahyun: I hate you, you know that?

12:54 am Chaeyoung: Goodnight!

 

Chaeyoung turned the phone on silent and looked at Nayeon whose eyes were glued to the younger girl’s face.

“At least she’s not alone.” Chaeyoung mumbled as she reached over her girlfriend to reconnect the phone to the charger.

“And Sana seems friendly.” Nayeon said, amusement in her voice. “As long as she doesn’t make Dahyun fall for her. That’d be such a mess.”

“Don’t worry. I give her shit a lot, but Dahyun doesn’t really fall for people that easily. She’s never had a serious crush, I think.” Chaeyoung slid down, turning on her side.

“Unlike some people.” Nayeon’s fingers scratched over Chaeyoung’s stomach before settling on her waist.

“Hey, it really wasn’t a choice, maybe if you hadn’t been so hot then...” Chaeyoung trailed off, her cheeks warming at the way Nayeon raised her eyebrows. “What?”

Nayeon smiled. “You’re cute when you’re flustered. It’s okay that you had a crush on me.”

“I still have a crush on you.” Chaeyoung admitted with a grin.

“Aww, babe that’s so cute.” Nayeon cooed, fingers trailing up the younger girl’s side.

“You know I love you, right?” Chaeyoung hummed, leaning into Nayeon’s touch.

“You might’ve told me.” Nayeon shrugged playfully, smoothly moving her hand around to Chaeyoung’s front. “But I don’t really remember that well. Old age and all that.”

Chaeyoung brushed her lips against Nayeon’s sleep-swollen ones. “I love you, Im Nayeon.”

Nayeon chuckled and pushed the younger girl onto her back, moving to settle above her.

“I love you too.”

 

Dahyun couldn’t sleep. The feeling of Sana’s chest rising and falling against her stomach was too distracting, especially coupled with her warm breath against Dahyun’s collarbone. Sana’s hand was wrapped around Dahyun’s shoulder and the other resting under Sana’s head, separating it from Dahyun’s chest. She had managed to throw the couch blanket over Sana effectively by throwing it as far down their bodies as she could. With as little motion as possible she had used her toes to pull at the ends to cover Sana’s bare legs.

 

Sana mumbled in her sleep and Dahyun dared to look at her phone again. 2:17 am. She sighed and closed her eyes. This was definitely going to have consequences in the morning. She had a class at ten the next morning. But that wasn’t the big problem. It was her night to close up at work. Of course she would have Jeongyeon there, which helped a little. She would understand. Or laugh. Probably both. Jeongyeon… Oh, right. Dahyun’s eyes shot open as she remembered the conversation she had had with Sana about Jeongyeon earlier. She looked at her phone and opened her KakaoTalk, her arms wrapping around Sana’s back so she could write without the light bothering the sleeping girl.

 

2:19 am Dahyun: I’m game for movie night. Sana wants to come but she has a friend coming over. Says she’s probably game as well but I didn’t want to invite both without asking you.

 

Dahyun considered seeing if anyone else was still online, but just as she was about to put the phone away and give sleep another try, the message marked as “read” and a response was being typed.

 

2:21 am Jeongyeon: What are you doing up at this hour, are you ok?

2:21 am Dahyun: Yeah, I’m fine.

2:21 am Jeongyeon: Then what, did you get laid or something?

2:22 am Dahyun: Why does everyone assume I’ve gotten laid? Me. Really?

2:22 am Jeongyeon: It’s bound to happen sooner or later, but I guess since it’s you, later is probably a better guess.

2:23 am Dahyun: Fuck off.

2:23 am Dahyun: What about Sana and Momo, can they come?

2:23 am Jeongyeon: Weird names.

2:23 am Jeongyeon: Sure, I don’t mind.

2:24 am Jeongyeon: What are you doing up anyway?

2:24 am Dahyun: None of your business

2:25 am Jeonyeon: Fine, I’ll just ask Nayeon.

 

Dahyun’s breath caught but it had nothing to do with the message. She felt Sana’s hand travel from her shoulder to her chest and settle above her heart. It was beating treacherously fast against her ribs.

 

2:26 am Dahyun: Why do you assume she knows?

2:26 am Jeongyeon: Cause you tell Chaeyoung everything. And she tells anything to Nayeon if she asks. And Nayeon loves dishing.

 

There was no arguing with that logic, so Dahyun just let out a sigh and replied.

 

2:27 am Dahyun: Fine. Sana fell asleep on top of me and I can’t sleep because of it.

 

Dahyun waited for a response, knowing full well Jeongyeon was laughing her ass off and felt inclined to throw her phone against the wall to avoid whatever response Jeongyeon was going to come up with.

 

2:30 am Jeongyeon: Well, you have fun with that.

 

Dahyun turned the screen off, feeling Sana stir.

“Dahyunnie?” Sana’s voice was croaky and for a moment Dahyun thought she was talking in her sleep. But she felt the hand move from her heart again and a finger traced up her neck, and had to swallow hard to avoid losing herself in the feeling. It wasn’t as if she was trying anything, but it was incredibly hard to ignore the reality of Sana squashed on top of her.

“Mh?” She tried to feign a calm she didn’t have.

“Why aren’t you sleeping?” Sana asked in a whisper.

“I was…” Dahyun lied.

“No you weren’t.” Sana said, a smile in her voice. “Your heart is beating like crazy.”

Dahyun felt her face cringe involuntarily and she opened one eye slowly and looked down her own body. Sana’s gaze fixed her. She sighed and opened the other eye, facing Sana’s stare full on.

“I’m not used to people sleeping on me.” Dahyun admitted quietly.

Sana giggled, her entire body shaking against Dahyun’s.

“Sorry.”

She didn’t sound sorry.

“Also, the couch isn’t really the most comfortable place to sleep.” Dahyun added.

“Would the bed be better?”

“What?” Dahyun’s heart jumped and caught in her throat, her warmth creeping up her neck and settle in her cheeks. She stared at the girl still laying on her chest staring up at her with inquiring eyes. Her entire demeanor was so innocent that Dahyun felt she might’ve imagined that sentence.

“I’m gonna go at least.” Sana smiled. Dahyun felt her mouth open and close as the weight of Sana’s body lifted off of her, the blanket falling to the floor, her mind attempting to catch up with a reality she had not expected to be in. Ever.

“Goodnight, Dahyunnie.” Sana said, trailing her fingers across Dahyun’s embarrassingly warm cheek. Sana’s fingers were soft and cool against her skin. Had she been smarter, had she read her new roommate better, had she been a braver person, she would’ve let herself lean into the touch. But instead she felt the muscles of her neck tighten, keeping her head perfectly still. She felt Sana’s eyes on her, but Dahyun kept her gaze locked on the front door. Only when Dahyun was sure Sana had turned her head away, did she dare look after the older girl as she walked into Chaeyoung’s- into her room. Oh right. Not together to bed. Just.. to bed. Because this wasn’t some cheesy heteronormative rom com she had fallen into, where having a one night stand with your new roomie is seen as normal and desirable. This was reality. And the reality was that Dahyun’s head was spinning. She was absolutely exhausted, yet completely awake. Her arms ached and her legs were buzzing from the sudden return of a steady blood-supply. She should move. She should definitely move into the bed. She wanted to. But she didn’t. Instead she grasped pathetically at the air and the floor until her fingers closed around the blanket. Pulled it with much effort from the floor and wrapped herself in it, turning heavily onto her side and curled up, waiting for sleep to take her.

 

The blanket had a new scent on it.

 

And the apartment had a new resident.

Chapter Text

Dahyun woke to the smell of burnt toast. Sniffing once, twice, she scrunched her nose and opened her eyes. She was still on the couch, wrapped in the blanket, a little too neatly for how her sheets usually looked in the morning. The smell of burnt bread hit her nostrils again and she sat up, looking around. With lenses that stuck to the insides of her eyelids, she tried to make sense of it all.

With the blanket tugged around her shoulders, and phone habitually in her hand, Dahyun walked into the kitchen to find Sana scraping at a piece of charred toast with the dull side of a knife. The older girl looked at Dahyun like a deer caught in headlights, and for a moment Dahyun had to just stare, trying to wrap her mind around the sight of Sana. Her blonde hair was in a messy bun and she wore round spectacles that made her look incredibly adorable. But the thing that really made Dahyun stop was the fact that Sana was wearing an oversized sweater; Dahyun’s oversized sweater. Ignoring the last thought, Dahyun put her phone on the little round kitchen table, grabbed two pieces of bread from the pack  on the counter and held out a hand for the burnt toast. Sana handed it over with an apologetic smile. Without a single word, Dahyun threw it directly into the trash, making Sana gape, then giggle. Dahyun then propped the two new pieces into the toaster and checked the setting. Meanwhile, Sana started cleaning the sink of charred crumbs. Dahyun found them plates and strawberry jam, leftover from Chaeyoung. A thought at the back of Dahyun’s head reminded her that she would have to discuss shopping and cooking with Sana. Honestly she hadn’t been good at remembering either since Chaeyoung moved out, as she had been handling that stuff for months.

 

“Did you sleep well?” Sana asked, breaking the silence, examining the sink for leftover crumbs.

Dahyun didn’t know what to answer, so she just shrugged. Honestly, she was exhausted. Once she had fallen asleep, it had been worried dreams and one of her occasional nightmares that had haunted her. And a part of her wished that she had woken Sana earlier or hadn’t let her fall asleep on her in the first place. But there was another part of her that didn’t mind.

The sound of the toaster saved her from the rest of that thought, and she grabbed the toast quickly, placing one piece on each plate at the table in the tiny kitchen. She filled the kettle with water and turned it on, knowing full well that she would need more than a piece of toast with jam to keep her going through class.

Class.

Her heart in her throat, Dahyun grabbed her phone on the table and turned it so the screen turned on. 8:26. How could she have forgotten to set her alarm? She never forgot. Thankfully she had only overslept by about ten minutes.

“Everything ok?” Sana asked.

“Mh. Just… I have class soon.” Dahyun mumbled, grabbing the now crispy golden toast as it popped up, and sat down. Sana joined her with the other piece and they took turns with the jam.

“What class?” Sana asked between bites, pulling at her hair tie until her hair was released. It fell messily onto her shoulders and down her front, and she ran her hands through it until she had a proper parting.

“History of musical theater.” Dahyun held a hand in front of her mouth as she answered before swallowing. Noticing the sound of boiling water, she got up and dug into the pantry looking for cup noodles. She found one and looked over at Sana, silently asking if she wanted one. Sana nodded, and Dahyun grabbed one for each of them.

“Are you always this talkative in the mornings?” Sana asked playfully.

“Huh?” Dahyun looked up from her attempts to open the cup. “Oh. I’m just tired.”

“I’m sorry. You could’ve woken me, you know.”

“I know.” Dahyun wanted to say more. Things like but you looked so peaceful and I didn’t mind it flew through her head, but she let them stay there. In her head. Instead she took it out on the lid to the cup noodles and almost spilled the contents when she finally managed to get the plastic cover halfway off.

“I hope you slept some after I moved.” Sana said genuinely as Dahyun got up from the creaky kitchen chair once more, this time to get the kettle.

“I did.” She assured Sana. Tried to force a smile at her, but found that she didn’t have to. Sana’s smile was almost impossible not to return.

A buzzing on the little kitchen table grabbed her attention and found her phone lighting up. Sana looked at the caller name with interest.

“Chaeyoung? Isn’t that your old roomie?” She asked.

“Yup.” Dahyun said and picked up. “Hello?”

“She lives!” Chaeyoung proclaimed in the other end of the phone. Dahyun heard Nayeon laugh loudly somewhere in the background

“What do you want?” Dahyun grumbled. Sana tried to get her attention, pointing to the kettle and then to Dahyun’s cup ramen. Dahyun nodded.

“I just thought calling you would be a good idea in case you might oversleep.” Chaeyoung said.

“Oh. That’s… kind of you.” Dahyun said, watching as Sana poured hot water into Dahyun’s cup and then her own, shutting the lids on both.

“You sound dead. Did you end up sleeping at all?”

“In the end.”

“And your roommate… Sana?”

“Yes, Sana.” Dahyun explained.

“That’s me!” Sana said excitedly, raising a hand and giggling.

“Put me on speaker!” Chaeyoung immediately insisted.

“No way.” Dahyun cut her off. Sana looked at her questioningly. Then bit her lip and explained. “My friend wants to talk to you.”

Sana nodded enthusiastically, sitting up straighter.

“It’s your lucky day, Chaeng,” Dahyun said in a warning voice. “Don’t make me regret this.”

“Never.” Chaeyoung promised and Nayeon was laughing again, closer this time.

Dahyun sighed and pressed the speaker button.

“Can she hear me?” Chaeyoung asked.

“Yes, I can! Hi, I’m Sana!” Sana waved at the phone. Dahyun pressed her lips together, hiding a smile.

“Chaeyoung here, nice to uh, well, not meet you I guess, but nice to talk to you! I used to live in your room. I’m also Dahyun’s very best friend in the whole wide-”

“No you’re not.” Dahyun grumbled, opening the lid of her ramen, stirring impatiently with a pair of chopsticks.

“Don’t listen to her, Sana. I’m her best friend.”

“She is!” Nayeon agreed from the other end. “I’m Nayeon by the way. I’m the reason those two don’t live together anymore.”

“So, you’re the grossly sappy girlfriend.” Sana chimed happily. Dahyun looked up, her eyes wide, shaking her head violently. Sana looked confused.

“Oi, Kim Dahyun.” Nayeon warned. Great, Dahyun she was definitely going to pay for this on friday.

“I’m sure Dahyunnie didn’t mean it in a bad way.” Sana tried to help.

“We’re not grossly sappy!” Chaeyoung insisted.

“No, you’re just gross.” Dahyun finally snapped.

“Shut up.” Chaeyoung laughed.

“Fuck off.” Dahyun grinned, finally satisfied with her noodles. She took the lid off entirely as she turned off the call and sent a short text to Chaeyoung.

 

8:45 am Dahyun: Thank you.

 

“I’m gonna kill algebra. I don’t know how but I’ll find a way.” Chaeyoung sighed and threw the pen onto the paper in annoyance.

“I think I might have my answers to that problem somewhere. I took the class last year and I may have a bunch of hand-ins somewhere.” Nayeon looked over at Chaeyoung’s notes, moving the pen.

“That’d be amazing,” Said Chaeyoung. “I cannot figure it out for the life of me. I mean, who knows this shit anyways?”

“Not me. I got mine from Jeongyeon.” Shrugged Nayeon.

“Oh right, you guys took it together.” Chaeyoung mused as Nayeon closed her laptop and got up.

“Hang on, I’ll check,” She said and left the room. Chaeyoung leaned on her arms, waiting.

It was one of the practical things about dating an older girl. Usually Nayeon had already had some of the minor courses. But sometimes Chaeyoung regretted that she had chosen the same major as Nayeon. Of course, being in separate years made a difference, but some of their subjects overlapped and during their busy weeks they hardly spoke about anything but school. Not that Chaeyoung didn’t like school. But sometimes she missed just talking about something else.

“Found them!” Nayeon yelled from the bedroom. “Oh wait! Nope… Yes, this is it!”

Chaeyoung chuckled and sat back up as Nayeon returned, handing the younger girl a stack of notes. Chaeyoung quickly scanned it and groaned. She had miscalculated in the very first step. With a click of the tongue, Chaeyoung ripped off the page she had been writing on and started over.

“You never told me last night, but now that you’ve talked to her, what did you think of Sana?” Nayeon asked, just as Chaeyoung was about to redo the problem.

“Mh, not sure. I mean she seems fun? Friendly too I guess, like you said. I’m just not sure it’s what Dahyun needs right now. She’d be much better off with someone like Mina as her roommate.”

“Did she ask Mina?” Nayeon frowned.

“No, I did. But she said she wanted to try living on her own for now. I just don’t understand why she would want to live all by herself so far away from the rest of us.”

“She’s a hermit.” Nayeon shrugged. “I’m sure she’s good enough. Sana, I mean. Maybe fun is exactly what Dahyun needs.”

“Maybe. You probably know better than me. I mean. Sorry… That wasn’t fair.” Chaeyoung said bending over her math.

“No, it wasn’t. But I get it; she didn’t tell you. But she did it of a good heart.”

“I know.” Sighed Chaeyoung. Smiled when Nayeon wrapped her in a hug and kissed her temple.

“When you’re done with math hell, do you want to go through the work for the presentation next week?”

“Sure.” Chaeyoung smiled.

And they were back on the subject of school.

 

Dahyun yawned. Loudly. Unattractively. Without covering her mouth. She didn’t give a flying fuck by now. She just wanted to sleep. But instead here she was, filling a tray with almost-empty glasses of beer and other less telligible beverages, grabbing the dish cloth she had put down earlier, and wiped the table clean.

“Running on fumes today, huh?” Jeongyeon walked past her with four plates of delicious food.

“It’s not that bad.” Dahyun insisted. She placed a new paper cloth onto the now clean table and took the tray of glasses out into the kitchen. Jeongyeon soon joined her.

“You look like hell.” Jeongyeon said dryly, adjusting her shirt into her skirt and fixing the tie. She looked at the clock and then at the line. It was empty but the next serving wouldn’t be far behind. Even on mondays the place was packed.

“I threw out her toast.” Dahyun groaned, rubbing at her temples.

“Excuse me?” Jeongyeon snorted, turning to look at Dahyun.

“She made toast. Sana.” Dahyun continued as Jeongyeon leaned against the line, shifting the weight on her feet with a slight cringe. Dahyun noticed she wasn’t wearing her usual sneakers but i canvas shoes that definitely weren’t meant for eleven hour shifts. “She made toast and burned it to a char and it woke me. The smell. And I just... Took it? Without a word. And threw it out…” She groaned at her own stupidity.

“You made her a new piece, right?” Jeongyeon asked with actual concern.

“Yes? I think… Yes, I did. I even let her use Chaeyoung’s jam.” Dahyun shook her head then stretched her neck, feeling it crack satisfactorily.

“That’s something at least.” Jeongyeon said and walked over to stand behind Dahyun, rubbing at her shoulders caringly. Dahyun hummed happily and leaned into her friend, her eyes fluttering closed. She might fall asleep right then and there, knowing full well that Jeongyeon would always catch her. But then the chef, Taeyang, called from the line. Three plates were waiting to be served. Jeongyeon let Dahyun’s shoulders go with a final squeeze and Dahyun took the order.

“I’m never going to get back to a regular sleep schedule as long as I work here.” Jeongyeon sighed, sitting down on the bench outside the restaurant, rubbing her ankles.

“Nope. But the money is good.” Dahyun mumbled, her head leaning against the brick wall. The night air was cool, but not cold. It was just past 2 am and they should be heading in opposite directions home. But they didn’t. Instead they sat, like they always did, just for a minute, shoulder to shoulder, looking onto the dead street. Jeongyeon was holding a bottle of leftover red wine from the kitchen. There was only a few swigs at the bottom, barely worth sticking around for, but it had become a tradition whenever they were the ones who closed up.

“Is she cute at least?” Jeongyeon asked unexpectedly, taking a careful sip of the wine.

“Huh?” Dahyun leaned forwards and looked at Jeongyeon.

“Your new roomie; Sana. She cute?”

“Yup.” Dahyun pressed her lips together and looked straight ahead.

“How cute?”

“You know. Cute.” Dahyun accepted the wine bottle from Jeongyeon and valued the contents. She could empty it in one go. She settled for a sip.

“So, drop dead gorgeous.” Jeongyeon concluded.

“Yup.” Dahyun stared at the lamp post.

“You didn’t already fall for her, did you?” Jeongyeon sounded almost worried. Dahyun zoned back and turned to look at Jeongyeon. She didn’t answer. She didn’t exactly feel like she had a crush on Sana. It was more a permanent state of confusion. She made her dizzy. Made her completely unable to think.

“She wore my clothes.” Dahyun blurted. Jeongyeon waited for her to elaborate. “She’s so. I don’t know her at all and she keeps trying to cuddle me and hugged me goodbye before my shift. And this morning,”

“With the toast?”

“Yeah, she was wearing my sweater. You know, the one Mina brought back from Japan for me. We don’t know even know each other. I should find it weird, right? Or is it weird that I actually don’t really mind?”

Jeongyeon didn’t answer. She got up, cringed and looked down at Dahyun with tired eyes.

“You can have the rest.”

Jeongyeon walked into the darkness, heading towards her apartment.

 

Dahyun emptied the bottle.

 

The irony lay heavy in the air around Chaeyoung as she sat on the cold floor in the kitchen, head leaned on the fridge. For an entire month she had lived here officially, yet she hadn’t felt less like this was her apartment. When she lived with Dahyun, this place had been her favorite, but now it felt somewhat like a stranger.

Chaeyoung mumbled to herself as she wrote in her notebook. Lyric after lyric poured from her in the darkness lit only by her phone shining down on her from the countertop. Every word was about the same person. Had been for years. The girl whose arms Chaeyoung could so easily wrap herself in if she just got up and walked into their bed.

There were many places and many people whom Chaeyoung loved. But no place more than Nayeon’s heart and no person more than Nayeon. She knew in her heart that people would look at them and think what an odd match . Knew that all their friends had thought so as well. Of all the combinations in the world, this had been the least expected. Even Chaeyoung had been surprised. She had always waited for the day where her feelings for Dahyun would turn from friendship to romance. It had been the logical choice. But it never happened. She was always just stupid little Dahyun. The best friend in the world. But Nayeon. Nayeon had turned the younger girl into a flustering mess from the start, and had enjoyed it.

A smile spread on Chaeyoung’s lips as she closed the notebook. Got up and turned off the light on her phone. With a yawn she entered the bedroom and crawled gently under the covers, the warmth from Nayeon pulling her in. She settled naturally on her  own side of the bed and stared at the beautiful sleeping girl on the other side. Her hair was red this time around. Had dyed it a few weeks ago when she had gone with Jeongyeon to get her roots done.

“I love you.” Chaeyoung breathed. Nayeon slept.

Finally Chaeyoung scooted closer, her knees bumping against Nayeon’s before turning around and pulling Nayeon around herself like the most wonderful blanket. The sound of Nayeon’s hum and the feeling of her tugging the shorter girl closer was enough to make Chaeyoung’s heart burst. It was all the little things. All the ways they remembered to love each other.

“I love you.” Chaeyoung whispered again. Nayeon mumbled something indistinctive, her face burying in Chaeyoung’s hair.

Despite her currently permanent state of insomnia and the exhaustion that followed, Dahyun rather enjoyed the time she had to herself in the middle of the night after a closing shift. Or normally she did. But tonight her mind was full of worry. Restlessly she started counting the seconds it took for her shadow to overtake her under the streetlights. It only helped somewhat.

She got to her front door and took off her sneakers outside the apartment as to not wake up Sana. Her phone buzzed and she answered quickly that she was home too. A ritual between her and Jeongyeon. She looked at the messages she had gotten throughout the night while unlocking the door to the apartment.

It took her a few seconds to grasp the scene. The house wasn’t dark and quiet like she had expected. The TV was on, volume turned down and the lamp beside the couch had all three lights on. Sana was sitting in the couch, looking at her. A girl’s head was nestled in her lap, fast asleep under the pink and yellow striped blanket.

“Hi,” Sana whispered with a wide smile.

Dahyun looked from Sana to the girl in her lap and back to Sana. Sana noticed and let a hand tangle in the sleeping girl’s dusty rose hair.

“Momo.” She explained quietly, pointing at her with her other hand.

So that was Momo. Dahyun looked at her for a moment. She too was quite pretty, peacefully sleeping with her mouth slightly ajar. Sana caught her eye and smiled softly.

“Wanna join?” Sana asked, looking around for a seat.

Dahyun closed the door behind her, put down her shoes and considered it.

“I should sleep,” Dahyun explained quietly, feeling sleep in the corners of her eyes.

“Oh. Okay.”

Something in Sana’s tone made Dahyun stay put. “What are you watching?”

“Some anime Momo chose. Not sure what it’s about but the music is good.” Sana giggled.

Dahyun looked around at the TV to see if she recognized it. She didn’t.

“It’s almost done I think. Come on, sit?”

Dahyun sighed and nodded, sitting on the floor by Sana’s feet. She felt the exhaustion try to overpower her, but she was determined to reach her bed tonight.

With drooping lids, Dahyun tried to focuson the screen.

“Chocolate?” Sana offered, a hand appearing by the side of her head holding a bar of Dahyun’s fourth favorite chocolate brand. A solid choice.

Dahyun accepted. Any time was chocolate time, really. It tasted like heaven. Slightly like the red wine she had gulped down earlier, but mostly like heaven. She hummed happily, letting her lids win over will for a second. Her bed was calling for her but she ignored it.

“You’re completely exhausted, aren’t you?” Sana asked. Dahyun jumped slightly, feeling a hand in her hair, combing through it gently.

“We had so many customers.” Dahyun complained With a yawn. “Don’t people ever eat at home?”

Sana chuckled and scratched lovingly at Dahyun’s scalp. A shiver ran down the younger girl’s spine.

“Can I ask you something?” The words flew from Dahyun before she could stop them, and she looked up at Sana. Sana’s hand slipped from Dahyun’s head and settled on the couch cushion. She was still combing her other hand through Momo’s hair.

“Sure.” Sana said.

Dahyun’s eyes were fixed on Momo’s calm face as she slept without noticing a thing. Her eyes followed Sana’s hand.

“Nothing, nevermind.” Dahyun turned around to face the TV again. Girls were crying on the screen, hugging each other. Dahyun’s mind seemed to spin incredibly fast without getting anywhere at all. Her thoughts started wandering to the shift, went over every customer, every slip-up. Then the slip-up’s of last shift. The notes she forgot to take. The test she didn’t ace. Biting down on her lip she tried to focus her eyes on the anime. The episode was coming to a close, the ending theme playing over the scene. She finished the last bite chocolate and got to her feet, using almost all the strength she had left. Her legs cursed her and her head was spinning with exhaustion.

“I’m gonna head in. Night, Sana.” She mumbled.

Sana smiled up at her with sparkling eyes, a thumb tracing along Momo’s cheek.

“Goodnight, Dahyunnie.”

 

The cold lights burned her retinas as Dahyun closed the door to the bathroom and turned on the faucet. She let cold water run over her wrists and then cupped her hands into the sink and pouring one handful of water after the other onto her face, rubbing at her skin. Her heart was pounding. She was definitely too tired. She blinked and tried to steady her breathing.

It was all so irrational. It had been a good shift and she had enjoyed working with Jeongyeon. She loved her work, so then why was she going over everything like this? She frowned, trying to remember if she had swept the floor before washing it. Tried to remember if she had locked up. Had Taeyang? No, Jeongyeon had. She groaned and grabbed the edges of the sink, her arms sore. Maybe she should start working on the assignment. Get some of it out of the way. No, definitely not. It was almost three in the morning and she was beyond exhausted. And this was stupid.

She dried her face and didn’t bother with her night routine. Just took out her lenses, brushed her teeth and combed through her hair before dragging herself into her bedroom, setting the alarm on her phone. Her room was tiny, but there was more space now than there had been last summer, several shelves gone. Dahyun tried not to notice it. Instead she flopped onto the bed and curled her body around the squirrel plush normally situated in the corner of her bed. A leftover from her childhood bedroom that she couldn’t get herself to throw out. She had gotten it when she was five and had named it Pearl. Absentmindedly she rubbed her thumb over its ear, the repetitive motion calming her down. Or maybe it was just the heavy duvet holding her body down. She checked that she had set an alarm. She had. With a sigh, she slipped into a worried sleep.

Chapter Text

Tuesday morning came with the sound of a loud discussion in very fast Japanese.

Dahyun attempted to understand some, but she only knew very few words from Mina, and none were close to whatever Sana and Momo were saying. With a groan, Dahyun turned onto her side and got up, reaching for her glasses, but found that she hadn’t put them on after taking out her contacts last night. She squinted as she walked out of her room and into the bathroom, putting on the glasses that lay neatly on the shelf under the mirror. It did not help her mood in the slightest to see how she looked. With a wipe she attempted to remove most of the smudged makeup, nudging her glasses in the process. When she was somewhat satisfied with the result, she adjusted the nose pieces on her glasses and twisted her hair into a bun. It would have to do.

Momo and Sana were still rambling. Then the sound of something breaking and a scream. Then a giggle. Immediately more awake, Dahyun hurried out of the bathroom and looked into the kitchen, the smell of burnt bread hitting her like a wall.

“What happened?” She asked, making a mental note to teach Sana the ways of the toaster.

Momo was standing against the sink a hand covering her mouth, laughing at Sana. Sana was kneeling, trying to pick up the broken pieces of a plate, looking up at Dahyun apologetically. Dahyun couldn’t help but smile at her.

“You better get used to this.” Momo said between laughs. “She’s the clumsiest person on earth.”

“Am not.” Sana mumbled.

“Are too.” Momo insisted, reaching down to take the pieces from Sana.

Dahyun’s eyes travelled from Sana’s figure to Momo. Last night Momo had been underneath a blanket and you couldn’t see her body as such, but now it was on full display. Whatever recipe those two girls were made from, Dahyun envied it. Sana was tall and lean and Momo was fit. As in, extremely fit. And it was becoming increasingly difficult for Dahyun to pull her eyes from the piece of stomach exposed from the hem of Momo’s top to the waistband on her sweatpants. It was hard not to stare at her, in general.

Dahyun really wasn’t used to having pretty girls strut around in her apartment. Not that Chaeyoung wasn’t pretty, but Dahyun had never thought about her in any other way than as her best friend. She noticed Nayeon the first few times she wandered into the kitchen in underwear, Dahyun wasn’t completely blind after all, though she had quickly gotten used to it. But this? Dahyun wasn’t sure she was going to get used to the two japanese girls any time soon.

“Do you have a broom or something? Maybe a dustpan too?” Sana asked, still crouched on the floor.

“Oh, right. Yes.” Dahyun said, her warmth flushing up her neck. Momo’s eyes caught hers and her lips parted in a smirk. Her eyes were enchanting and Dahyun averted her gaze, looking down at Sana who was trying to stack the larger pieces of the porcelain.

Dahyun excused herself and cursed internally at her blush, fetching the dustpan and broom from the back of her closet.  They had never had an actual place for cleaning utensils despite the noticable amount of space in the living room, and since Dahyun did the cleaning, it had just made sense at the time. But with Sana that might have to change, if she really was as much of a klutz as Momo accused her of being.

She allowed herself three deep breaths and felt her cheeks as she walked back. They were warm.

“Thank you. I’m sorry I broke your plate, Dahyunnie.” Sana smiled as she held the dustpan while Momo sweeped the last bits and pieces of broken porcelain into it.

“It’s fine. They’re Ikea. You can buy me a new set someday.” Dahyun said, helping Sana up.

She noticed that the burnt toast was already in the trash today.

“I’ll make breakfast.”

 

 

Chaeyoung had never been the best at piano. But she loved it anyway. Loved the memories it held even if the keys felt wrong under her fingertips. She sang along very quietly. Never liked singing out loud when Nayeon was home. Not that Nayeon ever complained about it, but Chaeyoung’s only insecurity was knowing she could never do a song justice the way her girlfriend could.

Just as she finished the song she felt arms around her shoulders and lips on her hair.

“I know you like Michelle Featherstone, but babe. You need to play something less depressing from time to time.” Nayeon mumbled and stroked her cheek.

“It’s not easy to play something cheerful on this.” Chaeyoung muttered and ran her finger over the middle C. The tone died out too fast.

“How about something romantic then?” Nayeon asked and walked around to sit on the shorter girl’s lap, arms wrapped around her neck. It cheered Chaeyoung up immediately.

“Like what?”

“Like a love song about how much you love your girlfriend.” Nayeon beamed at her.

“Oh, that’s a good idea. If only I had a girlfriend whom I really really loved.” Chaeyoung teased, chuckling when it worked. Nayeon swatted her arm and claimed her lips in a deep kiss.

“Fine, you win.” Chaeyoung mumbled under Nayeon’s lips.

With a grin, Nayeon drew back. “So if I move, will you play a love song for your girlfriend?”

“Deal.” Chaeyoung rolled her eyes.

And she played for Nayeon, feeling her girlfriend’s hands around her waist and her chin on her shoulder. Heard the older girl hum in her ear but she let Chaeyoung sing. And Nayeon kissed her cheek and chuckled when it made Chaeyoung miss a chord, playing a minor instead of a major.

Maybe the keys would have mercy on her in the end.

For most people who move in together, whether strangers or friends, even best friends, there’s an adjustment period. It’s cautious and full of consideration, trying to learn habits and mood swings. But with Sana there wasn’t. It was a head-dive. Sana was everywhere, all the time, invading every inch of Dahyun’s personal space. And Dahyun should’ve minded it. But she didn’t. Somehow it felt like she had been waiting her entire life for someone to take the lead and break through to that place where Dahyun had no mask. It wasn’t like she wasn’t close with her other friends, but it had taken them months or even years to get to the stability that rested between the seven of them.

Sana had told Dahyun on the first night that she had known Momo for the better part of their lives, but she treated Dahyun and Momo with the exact same affection. It was confusing. Half the time Dahyun felt as if Sana was hitting on her and the next she felt like she should avoid her eyes to allow Sana and Momo privacy. And then there was Momo. Momo who was in no way easy to figure out, whose mood changed in seconds, but who seemed to have only a fraction of an inch more respect for personal boundaries than Sana did. But Dahyun didn’t mind that either. Just accepted them as if they had always been there.

 

With a sigh, Dahyun turned around to face the showerhead, warm water pouring over her face. Momo and Sana had gone to the store to replace most of Dahyun’s pantry after effectively emptying it and Dahyun had taken the opportunity to gather her thoughts.

Her mind was buzzing with the words of the chapter she had recently read on the works of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The duo had been active during the golden age of musical theatre and Dahyun had an assignment due on Hammerstein by friday. She tried to recall some of the main points from the section about The King and I . King Mongkut had been born in 1804. Or 1801? It was one of the two. She counted on her fingers the number of wives and concubines as well as the number of children and tried to calculate how many kids each woman would’ve gotten. She shook her head. It wasn’t prudent to the story of the musical.

She shivered as she stepped out of the shower, quickly grabbing the towel and drying off. When she turned to grab her clothes, her eyes fell on the hamper. The sweater she had gotten from Mina lay neatly folded at the top, as if it had never left. Without thinking, she grabbed it and put it on, even though it had a stain on the sleeve.

Momo and Sana returned an hour later, arms linked and carrying each a massive bag of food. Dahyun looked up from the couch, head leaning on her hand, arm resting on the back of the couch and her feet on the coffee table. She returned their greetings lazily, and couldn’t help smile at them. Sana released Momo’s arm and hurried over, standing behind the couch looking down at Dahyun’s book. A picture of an old yellow poster took off half of a page, and Sana’s eyes flitted across it. Dahyun had been buried in the chapter on Oklahoma! , comfortably wrapped in the blanket that always lived on the couch.

“It looks super cool.” Sana breathed, gently placing the grocery bag on the floor beside her.

“It is. It’s not In the Heights but it’s still really cool.” Dahyun sat up straighter and propped her glasses back up her nose, reaching for the glass of chocolate milk on the coffee table by her feet. She took a gulp before setting it back, ignoring Sana’s little giggle. So what if she was a grown up and still loved chocolate milk? Didn’t people say not to lose the spirit of childhood or something?

Momo walked past them grabbing the grocery bag and bumping into Sana on the way, causing her to stumble and grab the back of the couch for support.  Immediately Dahyun felt her closeness and squirmed. Seemingly, Sana didn’t take this as a sign that Dahyun was uncomfortable, but rather that she was making space for Sana. With a swift motion, Sana had swung her legs over the back of the couch and sat next to Dahyun, leaning close to read along with unfeigned interest.

“So, that guy?” Sana pointed at the name Richard Rogers . “Who is he?”

“Oh, he’s a composer. You know, The Sound of Music ?” Dahyun turned a few pages, making a dog ear on the page she had reached before Sana joined. She found a page with the original poster for The Sound of Music .

“I know that one! I didn’t know the other one though. The yellow one? Did he make that as well?” Sana scooted impossibly closer. Dahyun felt Momo’s eyes on them before she disappeared into the bathroom.

“Yup, same director too. They were really successful in the forties and fifties.” Dahyun explained as Sana flipped the pages back to the Oklahoma! poster.

“Would I know any songs from this one?” Sana pointed at it.

“Well, you might know the song Oklahoma! but I’m not sure you’d know any others. Maybe People Will Say We’re In Love ?”

Sana shrugged and grabbed her phone. She quickly found the soundtrack and played the latter of the two songs. She squinted and looked like she was trying to recognize it, bobbing her head slowly as the song played. Dahyun couldn’t take her eyes away from Sana’s smile as she stared at Dahyun’s text book. But in the end, out of fear of getting caught, Dahyun decided to follow her example, doing her best to ignore the feeling of Sana’s arm pressed against her own. She tried to read more, her fingers fidgeting at the dog ear. Then Sana readjusted herself and her head rested calmly on Dahyun’s shoulder. Dahyun reread the sentence. Ripped the dog ear and cursed under her breath, letting go of the page. She settled for picking lightly at her cuticles even if she knew it was a bad habit. Really, she just had to finish the chapter.

 

The song ended and Sana hummed happily.

“Did you know it?” Dahyun asked.

“No,” Sana said and pressed another song from the album “But I liked it.”

The song filled the entire room and all of Dahyun’s mind as she dove back into the text. She heard Momo exit the bathroom and then felt hands in her hair.

“I’m gonna go for a run.”

Dahyun leaned her head back and looked up at Momo, her hair tickling on Dahyun’s cheeks. Momo shook her head so her hair tickled all over Dahyun’s face. Dahyun huffed and tried to wave it away, but Momo took it and tied it into a ponytail, then bent further down and placed a kiss on Dahyun’s forehead as if it was the most normal thing to do to someone she had known for just about six hours. Dahyun felt her cheeks warm as Momo kissed the top of Sana’s head as well, and disappeared out the door. She wiped at the place where Momo’s lips had touched, a tingling sensation lingering. A giggle revealed that Sana was watching her, but neither commented. Almost simultaneously they returned their focus to Dahyun’s book, the older girl’s head once more resting on Dahyun’s shoulder. For almost twenty minutes they sat there without a word, Dahyun reading the best she could, wishing she had a pen to twirl instead of ruining her nails. She flinched as she accidentally picked too hard at one of her cuticles and looked to see if it had started bleeding. Then Sana’s hand covered Dahyun’s.

“Do you always fidget this much?”

Dahyun tried not to notice how cool and comfortable Sana’s fingers felt on her own would they fit? No, what the hell kind of thought was that anyway? “... I don’t know.” Dahyun answered finally. “Maybe? I usually use a pen. I get restless quite easily.”

“Well, stop ruining your nails please.” Sana said in a pout and squeezed Dahyun’s hand. “Should I get you a pen?”

“I… No, it’s fine.” Dahyun turned her head to look at the expression on Sana’s face but the blonde hair fell like a screen down Sana’s face, the angle already odd with Sana’s forehead pressing against her neck.

Dahyun’s eyes jolted back to her hand as she felt Sana’s fingers forcing through the spaces between Dahyun’s.

“What are you doing?” Dahyun asked, trying not to let the complete lack of breath sound in her voice.

“I’m helping.” Sana turned on Dahyun’s shoulder and Dahyun met her eyes. They glinted as she smiled.

It was an odd feeling. Not because they didn’t know each other, but because in this moment it felt like they did. As if Sana knew that the feeling of her fingers tight around Dahyun’s hand provided exactly the comfort the younger girl needed to focus.

 

 

Maybe Dahyun should have wondered why Sana comfortably spent the next hour turning the page for Dahyun as she read, occasionally putting on a new song – always one mentioned in the text. But she didn’t.

“Are you interested in musical theatre?” Dahyun asked as she read the last page of the chapter.

“Not really? I mean I like the songs and stuff, but I haven’t ever gone to a play, and I never felt like I was missing out. It’s interesting though.” Sana explained. “I mean it would be a perfect fit for me, if it wasn’t wasn’t for the acting part.”

Dahyun closed the book but didn’t move. Just let the book rest in her lap.

“What do you mean? As a musical theatre performer?”

“Yeah. I love dancing and singing but I can’t act for the life of me.” Sana giggled.

“It’s true, she really can’t.” Momo agreed, appearing from the kitchen with a coffee mug steaming of soup. She had gotten home from her run about half an hour earlier, complained to Sana for a few minutes about traffic slowing her down and then gone to shower.

The couch was really only meant for two, but Momo didn’t seem to care. Truth be told, as close as Sana was to Dahyun, another person could fit. And so, Momo placed the mug on the coffee table next to Dahyun’s legs and her empty glass, lifted Sana’s legs and sat down, Sana’s legs curled across her thighs. It didn’t look very comfortable. Sana tried to adjust as Momo reached for her mug, but ended up settling for keeping her feet on the coffee table next to Dahyun’s. Only then did Dahyun notice that Sana’s fingers were still twined tightly with her own. She made to release them but felt Sana’s grip tighten.

“Do you have more to read today?” Sana asked neutrally, as if she hadn’t just done that.

“I have an assignment due on the chapter,” Dahyun cleared her throat, propping the glasses up her nose again. “But it can wait a bit.”

“Good you need a break.” Sana turned to look at Momo who was sipping at her soup, trying to balance the need to eat and not burn her tongue. “Did you make any for me?”

“Nope.” Momo mumbled and took another sip. Sana grumbled and then looked at Dahyun.

“Hungry?”

“Starving.” Dahyun noticed the moment she was asked.

“Want me to make something for us?”

“Is that wise?” Dahyun asked dryly.

Sana opened her mouth and looked at Dahyun feigning offence. Dahyun couldn’t help but laugh at her, earning her a pout.

“I have leftovers in the fridge.” Dahyun suggested.

“No you don’t.” Momo chimed.

“Okay. Well, do we have anything that doesn’t require cooking?”

“Soup? And otherwise no.”

“Soup then.” Dahyun shrugged “I’ll make it.”

There was a part of her that regretted the decision to go make food. It was the part that noticed how Sana’s weight disappeared from her side and her hand slipped from Dahyun’s as the younger girl got up. Instead Sana’s head fell onto Momo’s shoulder, poking the older girl’s cheek cheek with obvious amusement.

There was no doubt that she could get used to the two girls, but she was slowly starting to fear for Friday. There was an increasing chance that she would arrive with Sana hanging off of her, and dealing with everyone’s teasing was not something she looked forwards to. And really, she wasn’t sure that the explanation “Oh no, my new roomie is just a koala reincarnate, no worries” would be widely accepted.

It was a nice change of pace though. Not one she had expected, but nice. It seemed that forty eight hours was all it took, to settle into a new normal. Or maybe Sana had just become a much welcome distraction.

“So, that would be one bowl of gamjatang, a serving of bibimbap, and two sparkling water with lemon?” Dahyun asked kindly. The woman looked at her husband for a second then back at Dahyun. “And kimchi please, and a bowl of white rice.” Dahyun nodded and scribbled on her notepad. “Anything else?” The couple shook their heads in unison and the woman let her hand fall onto his, squeezing it lightly. Dahyun tried not to notice.

“You’re welcome to call for me any time, if you need anything or have questions.”

As she turned from the table, Dahyun blinked fast and swallowed a yawn. Her dreams had been disturbing her all night and she hadn’t found calm until she had rolled over and grabbed the the old plush squirrel, and even then it had been a battle.

With a slight shake of the head she took a round in her section making sure everyone was pleased with their dinners and drinks before heading into the kitchen, nodding her head at Joohyun, the shy sous chef. She found Mina near the line, passing orders through to the kitchen.

Dahyun joined her and bumped her hip. “Busy day?”

“As always.” Mina smiled. “You?”

“I guess. I’m too tired to notice.” Dahyun grinned.

“I thought you were sleeping fine after Sana moved in? Jihyo said you stopped sleeping at her place.” Mina sounded concerned. She flinched as her finger pressed on a sore point on her shoulder.

“I spent a night on the couch and it’s still biting me.” Dahyun said with a shrug. As if that was all.

“Oh, right. I guess that’ll do it.” Mina nodded understandingly, then added with a frown, “Why did you sleep on the couch?”

“Long story, I’ll tell you after closing.” Dahyun promised.

Mina nodded, keeping an eye on three almost finished plates.

“Are you coming on Friday, to Jeongyeon’s?” Dahyun asked.

“Movie night? Yeah, I might. You?”

“Yup, plus two.”

“Plus two?

Three dishes were put onto the line with the note for one of Dahyun’s tables. She balanced the dishes.

“Yeah, my new roomie Sana and her friend Momo. They’re both Japanese, and from Kansai, so at least you’ll have that in common? But really, I hope you join. I miss hanging out with you.” She grinned before walking out of the kitchen to bring the food to her customers. A smile played on Mina’s lips.

 

Thursday came in a haze of closing shifts and bad dreams. Dahyun stood in front of the mirror in her room and massaged her sore arms. Three closing shifts in a row might have been overdoing it a bit, but it was good money and it kept her mind from going into static noise. But she was only just getting back to working the floor for full shifts and it seemed she wasn’t entirely back to her A-game yet. She had always had pride in being the best waitress who remembered all the customers and their orders, but especially the past few days she had slipped up more than usual. She blamed the lack of sleep. It was always worse when she didn’t sleep much. She heard a stumble from the kitchen and then a giggle. Smiled. Too fast she had gotten used to the sounds of Sana’s clumsiness, of her giddiness and the sunshine in her voice. Dahyun shook her head at the continued laughter in the kitchen and reached back at her hair, combing it with her fingers to make a ponytail.

 

“Dahyun, can I borrow the broom?” Asked Sana appearing suddenly in the door. Dahyun turned, dropping a large chunk of the hair she had been holding.

“Uh sure, it’s in the closet.” Dahyun said and tilted her head in the direction of her tiny closet.

Sana nodded and walked behind her, but then stopped. “Oh, you forgot a strand.”

Shivers ran down Dahyun’s spine as Sana’s cool fingers trailed over her nape and grabbed the forgotten pieces of hair. Dahyun dropped some more by accident, trying to poise herself, and Sana giggled.

“Let me.” She said and swatted Dahyun’s hands lightly. Dahyun let go, felt her hair fall awkwardly and Sana catch it. Her fingers scratched against Dahyun’s scalp as she gathered the hair.

“Hair tie?” Sana asked. Dahyun reached around and gave it to her. Sana was standing too close, not close enough, and Dahyun wondered fleetingly how she had let Sana get under her skin so fast, and how to stop it. Because this was getting downright ridiculous. It wasn’t that she hadn’t been attracted to strangers before, but she had always acknowledged that they were just that, strangers. But Sana wasn’t a stranger, even if she probably still counted as one by conventional standards.

“There we go.” Sana smiled and to Dahyun’s regret and complete thrill, wrapped her arms around Dahyun’s frame and pressed a kiss to her now exposed neck. Dahyun pressed her lips together as hard as she could to hide the silly smile that tried to break free. Sana giggled and checked that she hadn’t left any lipstick on it before fixing the collar of Dahyun’s shirt.

“Have fun at work.” Sana said, pulled her ponytail tighter, kissed Dahyun’s cheek and walked out. This one did leave a mark, and Dahyun frantically removed it, checking the mirror five times to make sure there were no remains of it. If Jeongyeon ever saw, she would never hear the end of it. As if that was really the big deal here, instead of the fact that a complete, well somewhat stranger had just kissed her, twice.

Honestly, Dahyun didn’t function properly for the next hour, a tingling sensation on her neck and Sana’s laughter in her ear. She almost walked right past her work, her mind guiltily stuck on her roommates lipstick.

With a silent prayer that Dahyun would soon get past this state of fluster, she opened the door to the employee’s entrance at the restaurant.

Chapter Text

Jihyo sighed. Tried not to lose her temper.

“I’m sorry, I’ll get it eventually, I promise!” The poor boy muttered.

“I know, I’m sorry, I’m just tired. You’re doing well.” Jihyo promised and gave his shoulder a squeeze.

“Thanks.” He sighed and smiled before returning to the coffee machine.

It wasn’t as if he was terrible, Minho, he was just too nervous. It was his fourth shift under Jihyo’s supervision and though he was definitely making progress, it wasn’t going nearly as fast as Jihyo could have wished, even if he worked hard. She missed Mina. Missed how easy it had been to train her and how good she was with the customers. Missed working with her in general. Missed her.

“Like this?” Minho broke through her thoughts. Jihyo snapped around to him and looked as he poured the frothed milk into the coffee making a leaf pattern.

“Exactly!” Jihyo nodded, smiling as Minho beamed at her.

 

He was a nice kid. Really was. And throughout the shift, Jihyo’s confidence grew, that he would become a good employee. Maybe even a great one. He worked hard, and it had been Jihyo who had vouched for him when the choice was between him and another boy for the job. She had seen a potential in him and had promised to train him. After the second shift she had almost admitted defeat, but it was finally starting to help.

Until he broke a cup. The sound rang in Jihyo’s ears and she bit her lip hard trying not to scold him. His ears were red and Jihyo’s mercy took over for her frustration. Patted his back and told him to fetch the broom. It wasn’t his fault how the sound made her flinch.

 

By the time Jihyo was done with her shift, she was absolutely exhausted. But she didn’t go home. As always after a long shift, she longed for the cool spring air outside and walked from the coffee house to the river. Looked at the people walking by, at the water flowing calmly along.

Just as she was about to sit down on the edge of the river, she noticed a girl huddled in her brown coat, face in her phone. The smile on her face made the corners of Jihyo’s lips curl. The girl’s black hair fell onto her shoulders, and she was beaming at whatever was on her phone. Jihyo walked up to her. Tried to look at her phone. But Mina turned it off the second she saw Jihyo, chuckling at her pout.

“Whatcha doing?” Jihyo asked as she plopped down on the bench beside Mina.

“It’s warm.” Mina just said and look out on the river.

“It’s cool considering it’s supposed to be spring.” Jihyo shuddered, tucking the coat tighter around her.

“Nah, it’s warm.” Mina just repeated. “Did you come from work?”

“Yup. Five hours of teaching Minho how to make leaves in the coffee and how to make a frappe.”

“I thought he was doing better by now?”

“Oh, he is. But it’s a slow process. It’s nothing like teaching you.” Jihyo looked around at Mina. “You could come back, you know?”

“I know, but I like it at the restaurant. I like working with Dahyun and Jeongyeon. Not that I didn’t like working with you…”

“Mina, it’s fine, I understand.” Jihyo leaned back and looked over the river. “How is she?”

“Tired. Said it was just one bad night, but I don’t think it is.”

“She hasn’t been over since Sana moved in.”

“Doesn’t surprise me. I think Sana managed to overwhelm her quite thoroughly.” Mina said.

“Really?” Jihyo turned to look at Mina, a small smile playing on her lips.

“Just keep your eyes open tomorrow.” Mina’s eyes sparkled, but didn’t elaborate.

For almost ten minutes they just sat there, side by side, feeling the chilly air and looking over the river, talking about Minho and old times. It was almost like in high school. Almost. Except Mina wasn’t laughing nearly as much now as she had then. Had barely been able to speak a sentence without giggling back then. Or maybe it was just a part of Mina that Jihyo no longer saw.

“I’m gonna head home, I’m starving.” Jihyo finally said, getting overwhelmed by the last thought.

“See you tomorrow?” Mina asked.

Jihyo nodded and made to walk away. Then turned and looked at Mina.

“The offer is always there, Mina.”

“I know.” Mina sighed calmly.

Jihyo turned and walked along the river towards her home.

 

 

Dahyun had slept less than three hours, when the sound of glass breaking made her sit up straight, clutching the squirrel plush. Then the sound of Sana’s laugh. It was the same way she laughed whenever she tripped; embarrassed and breathless. Dahyun lay back down and turned to look at her phone. Friday. 8th of April. 2:34 AM. What was Sana doing up?

Habitually, Dahyun scrolled down the notifications, mostly emails from school and social media notifications, but also three messages, all received around midnight.

 

11:48 pm Jihyo: Mina says you’ve been tired at work. Are you ok? You haven’t called in a while.

11:53 pm Jihyo: Sorry if I’m prying, I’m just worried, you know that right?

11:58 pm Chaeyoung: Hey, you up?

 

The sensible thing would be for Dahyun to go back to bed. But she wanted to answer Jihyo first, bless her caring soul.

 

2:39 am Dahyun: This is probably the entirely worst time to write you, I promise I slept up until now. Sana broke something in the kitchen and it woke me.

2:39 am Dahyun: I’ll call in the morning.

2:40 am Dahyun: Are you coming tonight? I hope you are, I need my shirt back.

 

For a moment, she considered putting the phone away, but if there was the slightest risk of Chaeyoung having a serious reason to write her at midnight knowing Dahyun’s sleep schedule, she had to check.

 

2:40 am Dahyun: I fell asleep early, I hope it wasn’t anything serious.

 

Just when she was about to shut off the phone, the screen changed. An incoming call from Jihyo.

“Mh.” She mumbled into the phone, her voice hoarse.

“Hi.” Jihyo said in a tone of relief.

“What’s up?” Dahyun asked quietly, as to not let Sana know she had woken her.

“Movie night has moved to my place.” Jihyo said.

“It’s 3 am, you could have told me that in the morning.” Dahyun said, suspicious. “What’s actually up? And why are you even up?”

“Just what Mina said… You’re ok, right?”

“I’m fine.” Dahyun smiled. “There’s no point in you losing sleep worrying about me though”

“I’m cramming, we have a major test tomorrow. I’ll nap before you guys show up. Which reminds me, don’t show up before five please unless you wanna wake the post-nap Jihyo monster.”

“No thank you, I don’t like sleep robbed Jihyo.” Dahyun turned and stared at the ceiling. Then she remembered that the broom and dustpan were in her closet and groaned. “Actually, can you hold on for a minute?”

“Sure, why?”

“I need to hand Sana the broom before she tries something stupid like picking up the glass because she doesn’t want to wake me.” Dahyun rolled her eyes and sighed, putting on her glasses and getting to the closet. Sana would do something like that.

“Oh ok. Yeah, sure. I’ll just try to remember all eighteen of these dates and fail miserably in the meantime.” Jihyo complained while Dahyun grabbed the broom and dustpan.

“Well good luck with that.”

Dahyun opened the door and murmured without knowing what she was trying to say. Shut her eyes with a whine, at the light coming from the hallway. Sleepily, she dragged her feet and popped her head into the kitchen, squinting.

“Dahyunnie.” Sana breathed, her entire face lighting up.

“Here.” Dahyun handed over the broom with a tired smile. “We should probably find somewhere out here to keep it if you plan on continuing to break my stuff.”

“I’m sorry…” Sana looked genuinely sorry.

“It was a joke, it’s ok. I don’t really feel attached to glasses. Or plates. Just try not to break my mugs.” Dahyun held the phone with her head against the shoulder, hearing Jihyo curse and repeat dates over and over. Bent down and held the dustpan while Sana swept the kitchen floor for glass.

“I’ll do my best. And I’ll buy new plates. Pretty ones.” Sana was still pouting.

“Just settle for cheap ones. Ikea like these ones is probably the best idea.” Dahyun sent her the biggest smile she could muster, and it made the corners of Sana’s mouth twitch, her eyes softening. Dahyun got up and placed the dustpan with content on the kitchen table.

“Remember to wrap it in newspaper or something before you throw it out.” Dahyun gestured at it. Sana nodded eagerly. Unaware why, Dahyun felt an overwhelming need to make sure Sana smiled before she went back to bed, but she couldn’t think of any way. For a second she thought about reaching out and touching her cheek like she did to Dahyun whenever she walked by, but the moment she felt her hand react to the movement she stopped it, closing it into a fist. She felt a smile try to pry its way onto her lips, but pressed them together hard instead.

“Goodnight, Sana.” She said, and walked back to bed. Felt Sana stare after her.

“You’re entirely too kind, Kim Dahyun.” Jihyo’s smile was audible.

“She didn’t do it on purpose. But now I’m entirely too awake.”

“Lay down, I’ll help you sleep.” Jihyo said quietly. Dahyun hummed, knowing exactly what this meant. For the past two months Dahyun had crashed at Jihyo’s place whenever Mina or Jeongyeon had told on her or whenever she had swallowed her pride and called herself. And Jihyo had picked her up after work or from home. Had taken her home with her, singing her to sleep while she studied. As if it was no big deal to show up at two in the morning at your friend’s job to take her home.

The memory threatened to overwhelm Dahyun as she got back under the still warm covers.  Felt like she might cry. Maybe it was because she was tired, or maybe her heart was just too full of affection for her friend to bear the gesture at such a late time.

 

Jihyo’s voice was calm and wonderful as she sang, like the warmth of a crackling fire through the phone on the pillow beside Dahyun. The younger girl closed her eyes and listened to the story Jihyo’s voice told her. Curled up around the plush, trying to hug every affectionate feeling for her friend into it, so that maybe she could feel it. Still, Dahyun’s heart might just burst.

 

Jihyo hummed the end of the song.

“Thank you.” Dahyun mumbled, her voice high-pitched.

“I’ll keep singing until I can hear you snore.” Jihyo said quietly.

“I don’t snore...” Dahyun objected feebly.

“You do. It’s cute and quiet, but you do snore.” Jihyo giggled and started singing. “ Every time you come around my way, you spread your wings and chase my weary clouds away.”

Dahyun felt sleep fight her beating heart. The darkness wasn’t half as lonely with Jihyo singing. Her lips parted in a wide calm smile and she let out a sigh. Jihyo giggled in the phone before continuing. Dahyun briefly opened her eyes and saw that the lights were off in the hallway, the light no longer shining through underneath the door.

Sana had gone to bed too.

“Little butterfly, you're shining through. And I never wanna live without your love.”

Jihyo kept singing and Dahyun kept thinking. Until she drifted off. And Jihyo whispered: “Goodnight, little butterfly.” But Dahyun didn’t hear. Or she would have objected. She wasn’t a butterfly.

 

“New notebook?” Jihyo asked as she sat down next to Chaeyoung, her eyes drooping slightly.

“Yup.” Chaeyoung grinned, turning the book to show her the cover.

“What did she write this time?” Jihyo asked, turning to the back page. Read Nayeon’s message. A simple note asking Chaeyoung to keep Nayeon in her thoughts when she wrote about love.

“Do you think she has a special notebook budget?” Jihyo chuckled.

“Probably. She’s bought me almost one a month for the entire time we’ve known each other.”

Chaeyoung let her fingers skate over Nayeon’s message before returning to the page she was writing on before Jihyo sat down. Turning the book slightly, she let Jihyo read along as she wrote, crossing out every now and then, Jihyo’s head on her shoulder.

“You look beat.” Chaeyoung commented eventually, when she closed her book. She shuffled slightly to wrap an arm around Jihyo.

“I didn’t get to sleep until three in the morning. I’m not ready for the test at all.”

“Oh, come on, you’re always at the top of the class.” Chaeyoung nudged her.

“Not for this, I can promise you.” Jihyo groaned and looked at her wrist watch.

“Just get some sleep tonight instead of cramming. You can’t think on no sleep.”

“Funny, I feel like I’ve given that lecture myself.” Jihyo got up and offered her hand to Chaeyoung.

“Sometimes you just gotta hear it from someone else.” Chaeyoung shrugged and let Jihyo pull her up. They walked together until they found Nayeon in a crowd. With Jihyo’s arm around her, it was impossible to reach her though, and she settled for following her into the lecture hall.

Music played quietly from her phone on the couch. Dahyun checked the clock. Almost noon. And the paper was due at four.

She was trying her best to write, notes scattered across the table, twirling her favorite pen distractedly in her hand, despite writing on a laptop. It helped her focus. Sana was in school and Momo was at the studio, so she had the apartment to herself, basically for the first time since Sana had moved in and dragged Momo with her.

She was writing a part on Oklahoma! and the importance of letting a story advance through song, rather than having it interrupt the story. Without thinking about it, she reached for her phone and switched to Lonely Room . To get into the mood, she argued to herself. Felt the need to defend her distracted mind. But her thoughts kept falling to Sana and Momo. How had it only been a few days? How did they, well mostly Sana, take up so much of her mind so fast? It couldn’t be normal. Of course Chaeyoung would just call it a convenient distraction and tell her to get it together and deal with her shit. As if it was that easy. And maybe Sana was just that. A comfortable distraction. No. No she wasn’t. She was just… hard to figure out. Wonderful. Needed. Like bubbling champagne right before a meal; the thing that cracks open the conversation. Except she hadn’t broken the ice gently like champagne settling in the throat and cheeks as a warm hug. She was a huge massive red icebreaker, shattering Dahyun’s walls. Walls that she had so carefully built to spare her friends of worry. And Dahyun realized, pen twirling in her hand, exactly what it was about Sana that made her so irresistible. It was the desire to lean on someone. To let someone be there, and let someone soothe you, even if she had no clue what she was doing. So maybe Sana was a convenient distraction. But she was also an unexpected comfort. Even if Dahyun had no clue why Sana had chosen her.

She wasn’t going to ask.

Just wanted to lean a little longer.

 

As Jud sang and Dahyun twirled the pen, the door opened, revealing a sweaty and grinning Momo, a shopping net in her hand. She waved at Dahyun.

“Hey Dahyun, you studying?”  

Dahyun smiled back and paused the music. “Yup, are you restocking my fridge?”

“That’s the deal right?” Momo grinned.

“Exactly.” Dahyun pointed at her with the pen as the older girl walked closer.

“Did you eat?” Momo asked as she walked past Dahyun, ruffling her hair affectionately.

Dahyun pressed her lips together. “Nope…”

“Want dumplings? I bought some from that place down the block.” Momo asked from the kitchen.

“From Higashi’s? Yes, please.”

Dahyun felt her stomach rumble in agreement as she returned to her notes. Jud was still singing about Laurey.

Soon Momo joined Dahyun on the couch with lunch as Dahyun made a stack of the notes that she was done with and another with those she hadn’t gone through yet.

 

From what she had learned about Momo, Dahyun expected that she would have to be fast if she was to get any dumplings, and sure enough, she was soon flicking away Momo’s chopsticks with her own, trying to get the last gyoza.

“You can’t just offer me lunch and then eat it all.” Dahyun complained as Momo successfully snatched it.

“I can try.” Momo grinned as she made to eat the gyoza. Then she turned her chopsticks and directed them at Dahyun. “Here.”

Dahyun hurriedly chomped down on the gyoza before Momo had a chance to change her mind. Momo let out a laugh.

“Ph-ank-you.” Dahyun mumbled, covering her mouth with her hand.

Momo just laughed and got up to pack away the lunch.

When she returned she had a soda and a glass of chocolate milk.

 

Half an hour later Momo was asleep on the couch, leaning against Dahyun as she wrote. Her mouth was slightly ajar and her breath was calm. Dahyun twirled her pen, holding it still only while she wrote. But just as she was sure that she was almost done, Dahyun realized that she had already written a paragraph on this part before, and backtracked. The phone was still playing, but had switched to another musical, still by the duo she was writing about. She reminded herself to learn how to play this one, then shook the thought from her mind.

 

Momo turned slightly in her sleep.

Dahyun wrote.

It had been ages since Dahyun had felt this nervous about going to Jihyo’s place, but sitting tightly mushed between Sana and Momo on the subway made all her worries flood through her veins. She had only known the girls for a few days yet they were so comfortable around her that it was hard to imagine they would act any different when meeting the others. And Dahyun wasn’t exactly known for being cuddly. So she kept thinking up ways to excuse their clinginess and especially a way to excuse the warmth that crept up her neck when Sana wrapped her arm around her shoulders. Dahyun honestly rarely got crushes and the fact that she, within hours probably, developed what was undoubtedly a crush on her new roommate was bound to be noticed. There was no doubt that most of her friends would read her on a mile’s distance.

Dahyun felt her heart beat fast and picked at her cuticles. What if they found the girls weird? What if they didn’t fit in at all? What if-

What if Sana could try to chill for just a second and maybe let Dahyun live? Just as she had started fiddling, Sana’s hand was in hers, squeezing it tightly, and Dahyun couldn’t think. They weren’t even talking. Momo was just bobbing her head to the music from her headphones, Sana’s eyes on the screen of her phone. And Dahyun wished she had something to distract her as well but she had made the mistake of placing her phone in her back pocket and now couldn’t reach without being obvious.

Sana’s thumb ran soothingly over Dahyun’s skin but it did absolutely nothing to calm her down, almost charging her to an uncomfortable level instead. Like a cat being stroked too long. With a deep breath she started counting the seconds until they were at Jihyo’s, the urge to text Chaeyoung in a blind panic increasing. Then Sana was giggling again and Dahyun looked around automatically, meeting Sana’s gaze.

“You’re so cute.” Sana just said. Dahyun stared, her mind going to a state of what could most accurately be described as static noise, trying to make sense of the reason behind that comment.

It didn’t work.

If this subway would just stop soon so they could get off. So they wouldn’t sit so close. So she could get her stupid brain to work again.

And it did. Came to a halt and Dahyun got up so fast, Sana’s hand slid from hers.

“This is our stop.” Dahyun said hurriedly, trying not to care about the amused expression on Momo’s face. A wide smile spread across Dahyun’s face, not from happiness but from embarrassment, and she felt very much like hiding her face in her hair. But the girls thankfully just got up and followed her out of the subway and up to the open street.

 

The fresh air was a blessing, even though it was still chilly. Jihyo lived quite close to the subway in one of the downtown dorms, and Dahyun walked fast. As fast as she could at least. But then Momo’s arm was around her shoulders and Sana’s hand snuck around hers.

If her friends saw them like this, Dahyun would never hear the end of it. Torn between enjoying the feeling of Sana’s hand in hers and the need to not be mocked for all eternity, she walked, enveloped by the two girls she really barely knew. And then her stomach dropped.

Nayeon was turning the corner, Chaeyoung following suit.

Dahyun’s hand automatically let go of Sana’s and she shook Momo’s arms off her shoulder, realizing a moment too late what she had done. They both looked confused. And worse. They looked hurt. She opened her mouth to speak but no words came out. So she did the only thing she could think of, used her newfound overpriced freedom to wave exaggeratedly at Chaeyoung and Nayeon with both arms in the air and started half walking, half running at them.

Chaeyoung’s lips parted in an amused grin as Dahyun quickly approached, engulfing her best friend in a hug. “Don’t comment, just save me.” Dahyun whispered breathlessly.

“What have you do- oh, wow.” Chaeyoung whispered, and Dahyun figured her best friend had seen Momo and Sana approaching. “Are those two yours?”

“Yup. Save me.” Dahyun mumbled.

“Bless…” Chaeyoung chuckled.

“Shut it.”

“If you want my advice, just let yourself sandwich there.” Chaeyoung said quietly. And despite the growing need to flick her right between the eyebrows for her cheek, Dahyun appreciated that the younger girl kept her voice low enough that Nayeon didn’t hear.

“Who says I’m being sandwiched?” Dahyun hissed.

“Your face. Your arms. It screams gay panic.”

“Fuck off.” Dahyun grumbled.

“Then let go.” Chaeyoung poked her side, to no good. “Which one is yours?”

Dahyun’s cheeks burned, knowing they must be close now. “... blonde.”

“Hot.”

Dahyun kept her arms still tightly wrapped around Chaeyoung’s petite frame. “That’s my problem…”

“Do I not get a hug?” Nayeon interrupted with raised eyebrows, catching Dahyun’s eye, a smirk around her lips.

“I’m getting to it.” Dahyun grumbled.

“I’m waiting.” Nayeon sang. Her eyes glinted.

 

Dahyun sighed and let go of Chaeyoung just as Sana and Momo reached them. Turned instinctively to look at them but Nayeon, impatient as always when it came to affection, wrapped her arms around her from behind, claiming her hug.

“I’m Nayeon.” Nayeon introduced herself to Sana and Momo.

“I’m with Im Nayeon.” Chaeyoung snorted.

Nayeon looked a little like she wanted to kill Chaeyoung, and a little like she was gonna kiss her. Dahyun hoped for the first.

“We talked.” Sana said kindly, obviously not noticing the pun. Impossibly Dahyun liked her more for missing it, or ignoring it. Or maybe it was the smile she flashed at Dahyun, that the younger girl automatically returned. Momo however, just stared from Chaeyoung to Nayeon and back again. Didn’t speak. Leaned a little closer to Sana.

“So, you’re Sana?” Chaeyoung asked, as if she didn’t know. Sana nodded and her entire face lit up in a smile that outshone the sun, instinctively grabbing Momo’s hand when the older girl touched hers with her fingertips.

Finally, Nayeon released Dahyun, allowing her to step out of the naturally formed circle she had become the unwilling center of. And Dahyun watched with anticipation as the three girls started talking - Momo had still yet to utter a word - trying to decide whether to mediate or not. Maybe she should. After all, these were just complete strangers, and Dahyun was vouching for them, with what? A few days of getting to know them. And she hardly knew anything about them. But as she stood with her arm pressed against Chaeyoung’s, and she felt her hand squeeze Dahyun’s, thumb running over Dahyun’s. It made it all ok.

Life doesn’t ever turn out the way you plan. Sometimes life means you don’t get to do the one thing you love. Other times it means that you somehow end up being the center of a game of who can make her blush faster . Sometimes you’re just stupid enough to let your brain develop a crush on essentially a total stranger and then bring her to meet all of your friends, knowing full well it could never end well.

Chapter Text

A bright smile greeted the five as Jihyo opened the door for them. Indiscriminately to the newcomers, she hugged them each on turn, kissing Dahyun’s cheek softly as the younger girl walked past her into the apartment. The scent of Jihyo’s apartment embraced Dahyun like a warm blanket. There was something entirely soothing about it. Dahyun almost let the comfort overpower her. She had gotten so used to this place being her free space when she couldn’t be in her own body.

It was really only now Dahyun felt how tense she had been for the past hour, as her shoulders fell and she stretched her head from side to side. She noticed Tzuyu in Jihyo’s wonderfully big couch and almost joined her before remembering Sana and Momo. She turned at Sana’s giggle, her ear catching it as naturally as if she had said Dahyun’s name. Jihyo was gesturing around her room and Sana pointed at the wall behind the couch. Polaroids, drawings, miscellaneous tickets from movies and concerts and train rides, and an abundance of talent show prizes all hung like a collage behind Tzuyu. It was a mess but not an annoyance to the eye. It drew you in. Organized chaos. And it had drawn Sana in as well. She studied the wall closely, leaving Momo behind. With a frown, Dahyun noticed how Momo seemed almost smaller in the space, left behind by Sana. She shifted her weight uncomfortably, eyes shifting to meet Dahyun’s. And she really did try to return the grin Dahyun sent her. But it didn’t go all that well, her eyes flickering to Jihyo and then Tzuyu. Then to Nayeon and Chaeyoung by Jihyo’s big dining table, and back to Dahyun. Who would have thought that Momo would be the one to go all shy and quiet? She was just fine with invading pretty much every inch of Dahyun’s personal space without even knowing her.

“Oh, I love this!” Sana exclaimed, wresting Dahyun from her thoughts. Sana  was looking at a photo of Jihyo, Tzuyu and Dahyun from Halloween last year. Dahyun’s cheeks flushed at the memory. She had definitely been the odd one out. Both Jihyo and Tzuyu had worn stunning dresses and looked like a million bucks. Whereas Dahyun had been a bunny. A bunny with a fluffy tail and a carrot and everything. Had completely misunderstood the concept of college parties. She looked around at Momo, noticing her moving closer, out of the corner of her eye. Dahyun switched her weight towards her and Momo’s hand snuck around Dahyun’s arm. Meanwhile Jihyo continued to tell the story behind whatever item Sana pointed at. And Dahyun couldn’t help staring. Sana’s entire body seemed to be taking to Jihyo’s natural warmth and shine, making her even more radiant.

“This one?” Sana pointed at a beer bottle label CASS fresh .

“Oh.” Jihyo’s eyes flickered and she smiled. “That’s a long story actually. We’d better make sure people have food first.”

Sana looked at Dahyun who nodded her head in Jihyo’s direction, signaling for Sana to follow. With a shrug and a smile, Sana walked past Dahyun into the kitchen.

 

“Hey Momo, you’re a dancer right?” Asked a voice from the kitchen table. Nayeon sat on the edge of it, nose in her phone.

Momo nodded, but when Nayeon didn’t look up she took a breath and said: “I am, yeah.”

“Do you know this dance?” Nayeon turned her phone at Momo, finally looking up. Momo’s grasp on Dahyun's arm strengthened for a second then disappeared. She walked over,  looking at the phone intensely, leaving Dahyun in the middle of the room. However, before she had time to decide whether to join Jihyo and Sana or Momo and Nayeon, Chaeyoung was by her side and pulled her to the couch.

“I forgot to mention; you look like hell.” She noted on the way.

“Just tired.” Dahyun grinned at her, her eyelids fighting her on the sincerity of it.

Chaeyoung hummed and pulled Dahyun with her onto the couch. “Me too.” She sighed and leaned on Tzuyu who immediately made room for Chaeyoung in her arms.

Dahyun grabbed Chaeyoung’s legs and lifted them across her lap, Chaeyoung momentarily surprised but then relaxed in the arms of her friends, closing her eyes peacefully.

“How was the exam?” Dahyun asked.

“It was shit!” Nayeon answered from the couch, looking back down at the phone, huddling close to Momo.

“It was fine,” Chaeyoung said tiredly. “I got most of it right as far as I can tell.”

“You went home and looked it up, didn’t you?” Dahyun grinned.

“Only a few.”

“More like half.” Nayeon grumbled.

“She’s just mad cause she got some wrong.” Chaeyoung hummed.

“Shut up, or I’m kicking you out.” Nayeon said dryly.

“Yeah, right.” Chaeyoung opened her eyes and sent Nayeon her cutest smile, showing off her dimple. Nayeon rolled her eyes but returned the smile, her eyes shining softly.

“Ew. No more cuddles for you.” Tzuyu exclaimed without letting go.

“Yeah, right.” Chaeyoung looked up at Tzuyu with mischief glinting in her eyes.

Tzuyu poked her dimple, a soft smile playing around her lips.

“Now who’s being gross?” Dahyun mumbled and turned her attention to Jihyo who had walked in with bowls of snacks, Sana trailing after her with soda. “Isn’t Jeongyeon coming? Since it moved to your place?”

“She’s coming in a few minutes I think.” Jihyo placed the bowls and threw a piece of chocolate at Dahyun. “She just texted a few days ago and asked if I could host instead, not sure why.”

“What about Mina? She said she might join.” Dahyun said, biting down on her chocolate.

“She’s coming, but she didn’t say when. I haven’t heard from her in the last hour or so.”

 

…  

 

As Jihyo had predicted, Jeongyeon showed up a few minutes later, carrying several bottles of wine and, as she said, vodka just in case. She quickly joined Sana and Jihyo in the kitchen, ordering chicken and cold buckwheat noodles for all. Sana’s laugh was once again audible from the kitchen and Momo was teaching Nayeon a dance move, probably one from the video. Dahyun felt her eyes rest on the two of them. Nayeon wasn’t as good as Momo, not by a long shot, but she caught on fast and soon they were huddled together again, pointing at the screen and repeating the move, this time with an addition. Nayeon seemed beyond pleased to get a private lesson. And somehow, Nayeon had gotten Momo to losen up and forget about her shyness. Or maybe it was just getting to dance, that did the trick.

It was so enchanting to watch Momo dance, something Dahyun hadn’t yet gotten a chance to, that she didn’t even notice Sana until Dahyun felt the couch dip. She jolted slightly and looked around. Sana was keeping an unusual amount of distance, Chaeyoung’s legs creating a barrier. Without thinking Dahyun caught Sana’s eyes and lifted Chaeyoung’s feet with one hand and patted the seat next to her with the other. Sana’s eyes smiled before her mouth caught up. She scooted over and allowed Chaeyoung’s feet to rest in her lap, the angle forcing Chaeyoung to lean even further into Tzuyu’s arms. Sana’s shoulder pressed against Dahyun’s.

Chaeyoung raised an eyebrow but Dahyun ignored it. She had made Sana smile. They sat in a strange but comfortable silence, Dahyun dared to lean against Sana, but quickly pulled back when Sana started giggling uncontrollably.

 

Mina didn’t leave them hanging for long, joining only ten minutes after Jeongyeon, her cheeks revealing a blush as she looked around at the eight pairs of eyes looking at her. Jihyo was quick on her feet and engulfed her in a hug, leading her to the dinner table where Momo was still discussing dance with Nayeon. Mina quickly waved at the four in the couch and held exchanged a smile with Dahyun, holding her eyes for a second.

“Dinner should be here in about fifteen minutes so I don’t know if we should wait for that or break out the wine?” Jeongyeon looked at Jihyo, catching her in a yawn.

“Wine please.” Nayeon answered.

“I guess that decides it.” Jihyo said with a shrug, clearly not bothering to argue sense when it was Nayeon versus alcohol.

Jeongyeon got up and passed behind Mina. Nayeon and Momo seemed to have finished their discussions, as they got up too and helped Jeongyeon pass out glasses. With nine to share, a bottle only just made it around to all. The five at the table joined the four on the couch, Jeongyeon and Momo sharing the chaise, Nayeon on the armrest by Chaeyoung’s head and Jihyo sharing her old wingback chair with Mina, hugging her tight as the younger girl sat on Jihyo’s lap. It made Dahyun smile and Jihyo noticed, sticking out her tongue at her and pulling Mina closer. Mina let out a chuckle.

“Thanks for inviting us along.” Sana said, though she looked unsure of who to thank, initially addressing Jeongyeon but then switching her gaze to Jihyo.

“No problem. It’s always fun to meet new people and I guess at least you will see a lot of us now that you’re living with Dahyun.” Jeongyeon shrugged.

“And you all know each other really well then?” Sana asked. Momo was still quietly observing.

“Yeah. It sort of just grew into this.” Jihyo said. Mina repositioned herself, allowing Jihyo a better view, wrapping her arms around Jihyo’s shoulders.

“It was just Jeongyeon and I to start,” Nayeon took over. “But that was ages ago. We went to primary school together. Jihyo was in a younger year and we didn’t talk to her much for a while, but really, look how cute she is, you can’t really resist that.”

Jihyo’s face lit up.

“I could.” Jeongyeon claimed.

“No, you couldn’t.” Nayeon coughed.

“Then as high school started Jihyo found that silly thing in her class. All shy and friendless, didn’t know the language well.” Jeongyeon pointed at Mina whose gummy smile lit up her entire face, a laugh bubbling on her lips. “And I started working at the same diner as Dahyun when I started college.”

“I knew Chaeyoung from high school, we-” Dahyun stopped, then looked at Chaeyoung before continuing. “She was a year under me but we hung out a lot. And my senior year I started as a kitchen girl at the place where I work now as a waiter. And Jeongyeon brought me along for some stuff. Then I brought Chaeyoung... And then that happened.” Dahyun cringed at the timing of Nayeon placing a kiss on Chaeyoung’s forehead. Tzuyu flicked Nayeon’s forehead and Nayeon flicked back before taking revenge by kissing Chaeyoung full on the lips, upside down, earning her a happy hum and a giggle from Chaeyoung and puking noises from both Jeongyeon and Tzuyu.

“Oh, just let them be.” Jihyo laughed.

“What about her?” Sana asked, gesturing at Tzuyu, looking at Jeongyeon “Did you go to school with her as well?”

“Tzuyu? God no, she’s a baby. She’s the newest addition to the squad, though we weren’t sure we were going to let her in.” Jeongyeon teased.

“Why not?” Asked Sana, seemingly not catching on to Jeongyeon’s joke.

“Jeongyeon couldn’t handle the possibility of someone as beautiful as Tzuyu overshadowing her.” Nayeon insisted.

“I think that was you.” Jihyo said dryly before turning back to Sana to answer her first question about Tzuyu. “She joined quite randomly, almost a year ago. Mina and I worked at this coffee house - I still work there. And Tzuyu came in a lot on her own, so we took her home.”

“You make me sound like a stray puppy.” Tzuyu said, faint indignation in her voice.

“You were! With those big sad puppy eyes whenever I didn’t have time to talk to you.” Jihyo laughed.

Tzuyu’s cheeks reddened slightly but she settled for a timid smile rather than a comment. Chaeyoung looked up at Sana, whifting her hands at Nayeon’s red hair halfway covering her face.

“What about you?”

 

As Sana told the story of how Momo and she met, Momo only commenting rarely, the glasses emptied of their first glass and Jeongyeon got the second bottle out, sharing it between them. Just as she was about to sit back down between Sana and Momo however, the doorbell rang, and she got up to open, Mina jumping up to help carry - the natural waiter in her taking over -  Dahyun thought with a smile.

Leaving the food to Jeongyeon and Mina, Dahyun listened as Sana talked. Told about how she was an only child and had been taken in by Momo and her sister and treated as a third sister. How her mom had suffered from a bad health and the two Hirai sisters, especially Momo, had been her safe space from all the worry. How she always saw Momo as her real sister and never had many other friends, none other than Momo who stuck around when things got bad. So when Momo was offered a scholarship here, she applied for one too, so they could go together, leaving home together.

 

Throughout the story, Momo had crawled back into her shell, and Dahyun feared that Momo would clamp up completely if someone didn’t make sure to include her soon. Tried to come up with ways to do this. Dahyun hadn’t really expected this, as both Sana and Momo had fit in so naturally at the apartment, but while Sana seemed to thrive even in great crowds like this, Momo certainly didn’t. At least until the chicken was brought out. Food seemed to have a magical power over her, even more than usual, and she was soon in a quiet but intense battle with Jeongyeon about who could eat the most. Dahyun had stopped eating a while ago and so had most others. While Dahyun and Sana didn’t take much notice of Momo’s eating habits, Jihyo was laughing louder with each bite, obviously amused at the thought that someone might beat Jeongyeon at what had obviously become an outright eating competition. Mina had moved to the floor, now sitting cross legged on pillow by Jihyo’s feet, and was gazing at the battle as well, a playful smile around her lips, her eyes darting between the two girls.

“We should start taking bets.” Dahyun suggested playfully.

“5 says Momo wins.” Chaeyoung grinned, catching Dahyun’s eye.

“10 says Jeongyeon wins,” Mina added.

“15 says Momo wins and eats everything in Jihyo’s fridge afterwards if no one stops her.” Dahyun said, crossing her arms, earning a laugh from Sana and a sheepish smile from Momo.

“Confidence. I like it.” Jihyo teased.

“She ate my entire fridge on the first day.” Dahyun said.

“Sorry.” Momo mumbled halfway through another chicken leg.

“I must admit,” Jeongyeon sighed, obviously full, face slightly puffy and eyelids drooping slightly. “I’m impressed.”

Momo’s face lit up halfway through a sip of soda. She was adorable, and looking around, Dahyun was pleased to see that everyone else seemed to think so too. Momo dug in for another mouthful of buckwheat noodles, and Jeongyeon cringed.

“Yup. I’m done.” Jeongyeon admitted defeat, leaned back, but with nothing there to catch her, as she was still sitting on the chaise, it was only Momo’s fast reflexes that prevented her from falling back completely. Sana too helped, tugging at Jeongyeon’s arm to help get her back up, and Momo had an arm around her waist. Jeongyeon looked absolutely taken aback, a blush visible in her cheeks. Jihyo and Nayeon were howling with laughter.

“Are you sure you’re well, Jeongyeon?” Jihyo asked, wiping a tear from her eye.

“I’m fine!” Jeongyeon insisted, squirming because Momo was still very close to her.

“First you lose at eating and now this? Who would have thought Jeongyeon was secretly a bottom?” Nayeon teased.

“I’m gonna kill you if you don’t shut up right now.” Jeongyeon’s entire face flushed. She looked around for help but only Tzuyu and Momo weren’t laughing at her.

“I just never knew you’d go for overseas girls!” Nayeon kept at it, never knowing when to stop.

“Okay, that’s it.” Jeongyeon got up faster than Nayeon managed to register, climbing awkwardly past Dahyun and Tzuyu’s legs and pouncing at Nayeon with her entire weight, both falling to the ground. Nayeon squealed incessantly as Jeongyeon poked and tickled her, sitting on her stomach to prevent her from moving.

“Are they always like this?” Sana asked quietly in Dahyun’s ear, her breath warm and her nose tickling against the top of Dahyun’s ear, making her squirm.

“Uh, yeah. They’re pretty insane. But don’t think too much about it. They’d kill for each other.” Dahyun looked around at Sana, the sound of Nayeon’s squeals zoning out as she saw just how close Sana was. She wasn’t smiling. Just looking. At Dahyun. Looking very intensely at Dahyun. Who turned away. Looked back down at the mess of limbs and laughter. It would have taken less than three inches to reach out. The thought made her dizzy, but she blamed it on the wine.

“Someone make her stop!” Nayeon called through laugh, hitting Jeongyeon’s arm, the night blue beads of their bracelets striking each other with a clank. Identical but Jeongyeon’s worn on her left, Nayeon’s on her right. Instinctively Dahyun looked at Jihyo and saw hers on the left arm as well. A memory from a school fair when they were still in elementary school, Jihyo had told.

“Jeongyeon if you break, you buy.” Chaeyoung said dryly.

“Fuck no.” Jeongyeon stopped and got off of Nayeon before she could regain breath. She quickly sat down next to Mina at the foot of the wing chair, her face flushed and her breath shallow. Mina seemed utterly amused and Jeongyeon nudged her grumpily, making her laugh even more. Nayeon settled by Chaeyoung again, distractedly running a hand through the younger girl’s black hair.

They never got around to the Vodka. It didn’t turn into that kind of night. They played board games and planned what to do for Chaeyoung’s birthday. Dahyun had missed the last one because of work, and though she had made up for it with a movie night, she had also promised not to miss this one. Eventually they agreed to just do a night similar to this one, though Nayeon insisted on more alcohol. Jeongyeon seconded that. Jihyo rolled her eyes, and got shit for being a hypocrite. They all knew who drank the most.

They were halfway through a game of Codenames when Chaeyoung turned the subject over to Momo.

“So, how long are you going to stay with Sana and Dahyun?”

“Oh,” Momo shifted in her seat. “I’m actually apartment hunting, so I don’t know exactly. Hopefully not that much longer, I don’t want to intrude.” Momo answered.

“You’re not.” Dahyun insisted immediately and Momo beamed at her.

Mina’s eyes flickered to Jeongyeon and Dahyun noticed that they seemed to be having a wordless conversation, before Mina turned back to Momo and said: “Jeongyeon has a room if you don’t mind having her for a roomie?”

All eyes turned to Jeongyeon.

“What happened?” Jihyo asked before anyone else could.

“I thought you two were doing fine again.” Nayeon said.

Jiyeon, Jeongyeon’s roommate slash girlfriend slash ex girlfriend slash girlfriend again, of years had been unstable to say the least. It was well known that Jeongyeon had always had a soft spot for her, and while she had mostly handled it on her own it hadn’t passed their noses by entirely. Their on-again-off-again relationship had been a heavily discussed subject for as long as Dahyun had known Jeongyeon. Jiyeon had been reckless and uncooperative and used Jeongyeon for all her personal gains, using her kind heart and forgiving spirit.

“I threw her out. She hadn’t paid rent in three months and it’s my name on the lease.” Jeongyeon said coolly. She didn’t meet Nayeon’s eyes, but stared at the ring on the coffee table made by her glass.

“She got pissed when I said I wouldn’t fool around anymore. I mean officially we broke up months ago. Just figured enough was enough, right? But she took it out on me. I just didn’t feel anything anymore, hadn’t since we broke up probably, and she got really uncomfortable to be around. So, at the start of February I told her she had two weeks to get her shit out of my apartment and I started looking for a new roommate.” She shrugged. It honestly didn’t seem to bother her much, but even so, Jeongyeon’s body relaxed into Jihyo’s when the younger girl wrapped her arms around her. Dahyun had a feeling they weren’t getting the full story, but Jeongyeon had clamped up for now. She would tell them eventually. She always did.

“So you’re finally over?” Tzuyu asked

“Finally... you say that as if I should’ve left her long ago.” Jeongyeon scowled, then shrugged. “But yeah, Jiyeon and I are over. Absolutely one hundred percent over.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Nayeon asked.

“I… I’m sorry.” Jeongyeon didn’t meet her eyes.

“You’re not even calling her Bona anymore, and you still… didn’t tell me.” Nayeon’s frowned. There was a quiet rumble of thunder in her voice, subtle and unthreatening still, though it made sure everyone in the room knew, that she wasn’t pleased at being left out of the loop in her best friend’s life.

“Later, ok?” Jeongyeon’s eyes flickered to Nayeon’s for a split-second. Then leaned her head on Jihyo’s shoulder, the younger girl wrapping an arm around her shoulder. Nayeon nodded.

“Are you serious about considering Momo for a roommate?” Asked Dahyun quietly, breaking the silence that followed.

“As long as she pays her rent and contributes to the food budget? Sure. I don’t see why not.” Jeongyeon said, her head on Jihyo’s shoulder. She looked up at Momo and smiled tiredly, her shoulders still tense from the revelation of her private life. “You seem cool, and if you have Dahyun’s blessing that’s all I need.”

Momo shone and melted into Sana’s arms, Dahyun ruffling her hair.

“Guess I’ll have to get used to living without your kisses.” Dahyun teased.

“What?” Chaeyoung, Nayeon and Jeongyeon all exclaimed at once. Tzuyu almost choked on her water, couching and beating a fist against her sternum to stop spluttering.

“On the cheek! Only on the cheek!” Dahyun insisted quickly. But then Sana laughed heartily next to her, leaning on her shoulder and nuzzling her nose into her neck, and it was just making it even harder for Dahyun to focus on saving the situation.

“Okay, what exactly is going on with you three?” Nayeon demanded. This was exactly the situation Dahyun had not wanted to get into. Why the hell had she even said that? She felt her heart beat too fast as she tried to blink the oncoming dizziness away.

“We just really like Dahyunnie.” Momo teased, reaching over to pinch at Dahyun’s cheeks. This honestly could not get any worse. Dahyun’s face felt hot and she was sure that she was bright red. And worse, she saw Jihyo mouth the word Dahyunnie and shake her head with what was undoubtedly a smirk.

“So, not only did you finally get a girl, you got two? Well done, Dahyun.” Nayeon said impressed. Chaeyoung laughed.

“I didn’t get anyone! We’re just friends! They’re just- I just-” Dahyun tried desperately to focus.

“Oh, we’re not dating!” Sana finally understood and broke through Dahyun’s babblings, Dahyun thankful for her help.

“She won’t let me.” Sana added in a lower voice, a mischievous glint in her eyes. Dahyun regretted ever bringing them.

“Yeah, we just love teasing her because she’s so easy to mess with. Such a cute little thing.” Momo insisted, patting her under the chin lovingly. Dahyun gave up. Let them. Because sitting here, squashed between Tzuyu and Sana, still with Chaeyoung laying across and Momo leaning in on her as well, Dahyun could do nothing but laugh in an attempt to brush it off. And besides, it wasn’t as if she could ever get mad at Momo or Sana for teasing her. At least Momo was finally comfortable in the crowd. And then who cared that they had given the others a good laugh. As long as none of them actually believed that Dahyun liked them. Didn’t feel like gushing on the way her heart threatened to fly out of her chest whenever Sana came close.

 



Nayeon scowled. Stared at the door and tried to word everything in her head. And as soon as the lock to the bathroom clicked, she pushed the door open, forced her way inside and closed it, not letting Jeongyeon leave.

“What the-”

“You have exactly five seconds to tell me what the hell is going on.” Nayeon locked the door again, flopping down on the cold floor, arms and legs cross defiantly, staring up at Jeongyeon. Blocking her exit really did seem like the only way to make Jeongyeon talk by now.

“To tell- Nayeon, there’s nothing more to it. We broke up.” Jeongyeon shifted her weight.

“That didn’t stop you the first… five? times she left you.” Nayeon said coolly, nodding in a gesture that told Jeongyeon to sit her ass down and talk. The younger girl did.

“The difference is, I left her this time, ok? I deserve better than Jiyeon.” Jeongyeon shrugged, fiddling with the bracelet.

“But why didn’t you tell me?” Nayeon demanded, trying to act a lot less hurt than she was. Which was still very hurt. “I’m supposed to know what goes on in your life. And for the past… Three months? You’ve barely spoken to me. I mean I get it, you have your bad weeks, I’m used to that. But three months. What the hell is going on?”

“I just… needed time to figure out what to do about Jiyeon. About… About myself.”

“And you didn’t think it was something you could’ve discussed with me?” Nayeon frowned.

“It’s complicated.”

“You’re seriously not getting away with ‘it’s complicated’, Yoo Jeongyeon. Not in a million years.” Nayeon grumbled.

“Just give me a little time to figure out where to go from here, ok? You know me. I’ll come back eventually.”

“It’s a pain having you as my best friend, you know that right?” Nayeon glowered.

“I know. Good thing you’re so horribly impossible to be around that it’s only me and Chaeyoung who can stand you for more than five minutes.” Jeongyeon smirked.

“I’m gonna murder you in your sleep.” Nayeon hissed. Grabbed her hand and held it tight. “Idiot.”

 

 

Dahyun’s body was limp. Night had fallen long ago and the lights were dim in Jihyo’s apartment. Nayeon was asleep with her head in Jihyo’s lap, mumbling in her sleep as Jihyo stroked her cheek absentmindedly. Tzuyu was talking in her usual quiet voice and Jihyo was huddled close to hear her over the sound of Jeongyeon, Chaeyoung and Momo’s loud discussion. They were sitting on the floor playing a dare game and Momo kept losing. Chaeyoung looked like she was having the time of her life making Momo lose on purpose and Jeongyeon looked slightly fed up with their ridiculousness. Dahyun knew that it was just a facade, Jeongyeon was worse than both of them when she wanted.

“Dahyunnie, you can’t fall asleep here.” Sana said quietly.

“Yes I can.” Dahyun mumbled and leaned her head back against the wall.

“You definitely can’t sleep like that, you’re going to hurt your neck.” Sana insisted with a smile and tugged gently at Dahyun. She was too tired to protest and let herself fall onto Sana’s lap, mirroring Nayeon and Jihyo.

“Can I sleep here then?” Dahyun asked.

“Yes you can.” Sana said and reached over to cover Dahyun with a blanket, rubbing her arm gently.

“Thank you, Sana-chan.” Dahyun mumbled into the blanket and Sana giggled shyly at the name.

“You’re welcome, Dahyunnie.” Said Sana, her voice bubbling over with sunshine. The sound tethered immediately in Dahyun’s conscience.

With much effort, Dahyun turned her onto her side and looked at Momo who was now throwing herself at Chaeyoung in attempt to stop her from getting her to lose. Chaeyoung yelped and tried to get the girl off her but alas. The youngest girl grumbled as Jeongyeon laughed so loud it filled the entire room. Momo looked at her new roommate-to-be with a smirk.

“Don’t.” Jeongyeon warned.

“Or what?” Momo wiggled her eyebrows.

“I’ll kill you.” Jeongyeon said.

“No you won’t.” Mina commented from the wingback chair, looking up from her phone.

“Fine. But I won’t let her move in with me.” Jeongyeon looked around at Mina.

“Yes you will.” Mina chucked and stuck her tongue out at Jeongyeon. Jeongyeon sulked. Then yelped. Momo had used the moment’s lack of attention to release Chaeyoung and launch herself at Jeongyeon instead. She didn’t do even anything, just lay across Jeongyeon, but it was pinning the older girl to the floor effortlessly. Both Jihyo and Chaeyoung laughed, and Dahyun chuckled into the blanket.

“Let me go!” Jeongyeon complained and tried to push Momo off her.

“Not until you promise never to threaten to throw me out.” Momo sang.

“Oh, she can’t make that promise.” Chaeyoung said. “But don’t worry, she’ll never actually do it.”

“Why won’t I?” Jeongyeon looked at her with raised brows.

“C’mon, we all know you’re just a big softie.” Chaeyoung teased.

“That’s true.” Jihyo added.

“But if she doesn’t promise, then she’s never getting out of here.” Momo added pressure and Jeongyeon looked like she regretted the last chicken wing.

“Fine. I promise. Now get off!” Jeongyeon gasped.

“Your friend is ridiculous.” Dahyun noted.

“So are yours.” Sana chuckled.

“You’re right. All of our friends are ridiculous.” Dahyun mumbled. Sana hummed, gave her arm an affectionate squeeze.

Dahyun felt herself doze off.

 

She won’t let me .

 

Chapter Text

Momo-invasion. That was probably the only way of explaining the state of the entire apartment. Boxes were stacked high and low, furniture, at least double the amount that Sana had, stacked on top of each other in such amounts that you could barely get through the living room. But even if Momo was more sorry than anyone, there was no getting around the fact that her room at Jeongyeon’s wasn’t ready and that the landlord at Sana and Momo’s old apartment had left a kind message threatening Momo to clear out her stuff or have it given to goodwill. So for the second time in two weeks, Dahyun was outside of a white van waiting for a japanese girl to emerge from the back.

“At least it’s faster when we’re three.” Sana said, slightly out of breath, propping up the box she was holding. Dahyun however, had learned from last time. Had the box by her feet and sent Sana a grin. Sana grumbled and shifted her weight. Stuck her tongue out at Dahyun for good measure.

“You could just carry it inside?” Dahyun suggested. For a moment, Sana seemed to consider, then she pressed her lips together and nodded. Dahyun allowed herself a few seconds to look after her, admiring the sight of the sun hitting her hair. Until someone - Momo - cleared her throat beside her.

“You could try being less obvious.” Momo raised an eyebrow at her.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Dahyun shrugged and lifted the box. It was huge but not too heavy and Dahyun suspected that it was full of teddy-bears.

“What in the actual hell are we gonna do though, there’s no more room for stuff, and I still have a desk and three chairs.” Momo sighed,

“I mean I have one idea. But it’s… You’re not gonna like it.” Dahyun looked around at her, halfway up the stairs.

“What?”

“If we make do without the TV for a week, move the couch to the corner and stack stuff in that, then use my bed as a couch and store the desk and some of all the boxes in there?” Dahyun offered.

Momo looked at her with narrowed eyes. “So you wanna give up your room for a week. So I can store my stuff?”

“Basically.”

“What’s your motive?”

“Being able to get to the front door from time to time?”

“I don’t get it though. I mean, why are you even letting me stay here?” Momo asked, pushing open the door to the apartment, immediately met by a kitchen table, upside down with boxes stacked on top of it.

“You’re Sana’s friend. It’s her apartment too.” Dahyun shrugged.

Honestly, she wasn’t really extremely pleased to have all of Momo’s stuff taking up every corner of empty space. But what was she supposed to do? Turn her away? And besides, it was only a week, and despite the fact that she wasn’t looking forwards to sleeping in the middle of the living room for a week, it was the only solution she could think of, to get enough room.

Momo seemed to accept both solution and explanation however, and put the box onto the couch, looking around.

“We should probably move the bed now, before we get more stuff in.” she pondered.

Dahyun nodded.

“Bed? What bed?” Sana appeared from the kitchen with two glasses of water. Stubbornly made Dahyun and Momo drink everything before explaining.

“We’re moving my bed into the living room to use as a couch so we can get extra space to fit everything.” Dahyun explained as soon as she had emptied her glass.

Sana looked from Dahyun to Momo and back again, then crossed her arms. “No way. You’re not giving up your room. We’ll move my bed.”

“It’s twice the size of mine and impossible to move. Do you not remember swearing you’d never move it again once we fit it in?” Dahyun tried to return the stern expression in Sana’s eyes.

“I don’t care. This is already way more than I could hope for.”

“Sana. It’s just a week, we already decided it’s the most logical solution.” Dahyun said, stepping closer to the older girl.

“Why can’t we just store some of it in Jeongyeon’s living room until she’s ready?” Sana grumbled.

“It’s too late for that, we only have the van for another hour. So unless you want to carry it all for 25 minutes by foot both ways, then we’re stuck.” Dahyun insisted, then reached out and touched her arm. She immediately unfolded her hands, her expression softening. “Sana…”

“I just feel so bad making you do this.” Sana sighed.

“I’m choosing it.” Dahyun insisted, squeezing her arm gently. Sana looked down at Dahyun’s hand, and the younger girl immediately withdrew it, fiddling with the hem of her shirt.

“Mhh, fine.” Sana scrunched her nose. “But if you can’t sleep, we’re switching ok?”

“What makes you think I can’t sleep out here?”

“Do you think I’m blind? You’re barely sleeping in there.” Sana nodded towards the hallway, in the direction of Dahyun’s bedroom.

Dahyun pressed her lips together. “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”

“Sorry, it’s not my place to meddle. I mean I barely-”

“It’s ok. We’re friends.” Dahyun shrugged. “I’m just saying, there’s no reason for you to worry.”

“Friends don’t lie to friends.” Sana raised an eyebrow.

“Okay so I don’t sleep very well. It’s been going on for months though, and I haven’t died yet. And besides, I have it under control by now. I have ways to cope.” Dahyun sent her a smile. Almost reached out again. Almost.

Sana deflated and nodded. “As long as you’re ok.”

“Yes sir.” Dahyun grinned and saluted her. Sana rolled her eyes and chuckled. Ruffled her hair as she walked past, instructing Momo and Dahyun to move the bed out so they could start moving furniture. Dahyun yelled an “Aye aye!” after her, just to hear her laugh.

“Did Jeongyeon say when the room would be ready?” Dahyun asked, leading Momo to her bedroom, quickly moving the stuffed squirrel and her sheets into a pile on the floor, conveniently hiding the toy.

Momo chuckled.

“You don’t have to hide it. It’s cute. And besides, I already saw him. I came looking for the broom while you were at work.”

“Oh.” Dahyun blushed.

“I have a ton of stuffed toys.” Momo said, walking to the far end of the bed, trying to figure out how best to turn it so they could carry it out.

“Yeah but I actually still sleep with that one.” Dahyun sighed, mirroring Momo as she reached across the bed and pulled, tugging the bed onto it’s side.

“So?” Momo shrugged, pulling the bed to make space between the wall and the bed for Dahyun. “I still sleep with mine too. Or use Sana to cuddle.”

For a moment Dahyun imagined Sana laying in Momo’s arms, curled into Momo’s body. Then imagined what it would be like to be that close to her. Shook the thought from her mind.

“Y-you never answered about Jeongyeon.” Dahyun tried as Momo counted and they lifted. The bed was heavy, and Momo visibly lifted it a lot higher, but they managed.

“Some time next week. She’s really sorry about it though. Offered to come help and everything but I told her it wasn’t necessary.” Momo said.

They angled the bed, Dahyun moving backwards out of the room.

“I thought Jiyeon moved out already.”

“She did but she left most of her stuff and Jeongyeon didn’t want to just throw it out. I think she managed to get a hold of her though. Something about her picking it up monday?” Momo said, slightly breathless from an unsuccessful attempt at getting the bed out. Though through a lot of effort and some very fascinating Japanese curse words, the bed ended up in the living room.

 

Okay so maybe it wasn’t the brightest idea she had ever gotten, offering to sleep in the living room. But for whatever reason, she had, and now it was two in the morning and she was wide awake. Hated the air and how big the room was. Felt exposed in the middle of the room, even laying under the blanket, curled around the stuffed toy. Even with the residual tingling sensation on her forehead from where Sana’s lips had touched when she had said goodnight. But no matter the case, it was too late to change her mind. She could only pray that the week would go by fast.

 

Tossing and turning, the time passed from two to three, and all she could think about was how little she liked the dark. How she missed Jihyo’s arms around her, voice singing her to sleep. When she had been younger it had always been comforting to know that her brother and later that Chaeyoung had been right across the hall. But out here, not even the comfort of knowing that Sana and Momo were just a wall away, could do much to soothe her hammering heart. Distractedly she scratched over the fabric of the stuffed toys, but little did it help. And for one desperate moment she considered knocking on Sana’s door. And the next she considered calling Jihyo.

Did neither.

Just turned and sighed.

 

When Momo came out at half past four to use the bathroom, Dahyun pretended to be asleep, but Dahyun had a feeling Momo had seen her shuffle. She paused in the hallway for a second before heading into Sana’s room. This was bad. Really bad. If she could just find some way to sleep, she would be fine.

She just needed a few hours.

 

 

9:58 am Tzuyu: Are you on your way?

10:03 am Tzuyu: Dahyun? Are you sick?

11:05 am Tzuyu: You didn’t miss much thankfully, boring class, but please text when you get this.

 

Dahyun groaned. Warm sunlight was heating up her face, and she rolled to find shade. But she only found the edge of the bed. With a jolt she was wide awake, her heart racing. A sheen of sweat covered her arms and face. How was it so warm in here?

Something was buzzing. Buzzing. As she looked around, she saw her phone on the floor. It was blinking at her, a call incoming. She barely registered who it was, before picking it up and swiping across the screen.

“Where are you?”

Dahyun blinked. “What? Mina?”

“Where are you, your shift started ten minutes ago.”

“I… What?” Dahyun looked around, fumbled with the phone and looked at it. 3:11 pm. She cursed loudly.

“Are you ok? Dahyun please, what’s wrong?”

“Mina… I-I overslept. I must’ve… I must’ve o-overslept. I didn’t sleep well last night and- I missed class. And- I’m- I’m on my way. Can you stall? Please Mina?”

“Sure, I’ll figure something out. Just hurry. Yang-nim is in a mood.” Mina whispered and hung up.

Heart in her throat, Dahyun tried to free herself of the sheets. Stumbled. Cursed. Noticed the couch blanket on top of the sheets. Sana? Did she put it over her? Had they just let her sleep? Where were they anywhere? Probably at school. No, it didn’t matter.

Dahyun piled the sheets on the bed. Ran to the bathroom. Accidentally banged her head against the door, not quick enough to open it. Cursed again. Everything in her head was chaos. Everything around her was a blur. Nothing seemed real. But somewhere in the haze, instinct took over, and she splashed water in her face. And accidentally down her shirt. Discarded it thoughtlessly. Then ran to the bedroom. Sprayed on just enough deodorant to mask that she hadn’t had time to shower. Put her hair in a messy bun and checked her bag for work clothes. Then put on clothes. Tied her hair into a messy bun. Grabbed the bag. Ran. Didn’t check that she had her keys. Didn’t check that the door was locked. Didn’t check to see if the lights were turned off. Just ran. She could not afford to lose this job. They had barely let her keep it. And now that she was finally back on the floor, back to her old self. But was she? Was she really back? She had been their best waitress. Remembered every customer, every order, every allergen in each dish. But she hadn’t been that person for a while. If Yang-nim fired her… She would have to move back home. Back to her mom. Move out. Away from- no. No there wasn’t time to worry about that right now. It wasn’t a priority. She couldn’t tether herself like that, not this fast. She just had to get to work

 

 

“Come here.” Jeongyeon hissed as Dahyun came toppling through the back entrance. Caught the younger girl halfway through a stumble and sat her down on the bench, grabbing the bag from her back and pulled off the oversized t-shirt, soaked in sweat.

“Press this to your face.” she said sternly, handing Dahyun a soaked cool towel while she dug into the bag for Dahyun’s shirt. Hurried to her locker and found a deodorant, trying to mask the fact that she had sprinted there. And Dahyun could barely breathe. Could barely muster the energy to notice just how much Jeongyeon was doing for her. How she forced first one of Dahyun’s arms and then the other through the white waiter shirt. How she buttoned it. Knotted the tie around Dahyun’s neck. Made her stand up and helped her change from slacks to skirt. Tied the waiter’s apron around her waist. How she tied Dahyun’s hair into the mandatory ponytail instead of a bun.

“Jeongyeon.” Dahyun finally breathed, exhausted before the shift had even started. With watery eyes, she turned the towel to get the cool side against her skin.

“I know. You’re ok.” Jeongyeon cupped her face. Looked at her with warm eyes that contradicted her commanding voice. “We told him there was a problem with your dog.”

“B-but I don’t have a dog!” Dahyun squeaked. “I’m terrified of them!”

“Well you do now. his name is Wan, he’s a 3 year old pekingese and he’s been throwing up all day so you had to take him to the vet immediately.” Jeongyeon said.

“You named my non-existent dog ‘Wan’. As in bark ?” Dahyun asked, finally starting to regain some control of her breathing. Felt dizzy. Her thighs were aching and her hands shook, but she wasn’t as warm anymore.

“You don’t get to judge.” Jeongyeon reprimanded. “You get to say thank you for saving your ass. Now get out there.”

Then Jeongyeon kissed her forehead. Checked that she didn’t leave a lipstick mark. Then pushed her out of changing room, into the kitchen.

 

 

Any minute. Any minute now she would surely pass out. Felt herself sway on the spot, Yang-nim’s shouting passing over her head. She was a model student. A good waitress. Worked hard and paid attention. She didn’t deserve this. It was just a slip-up. Just a mistake. Except she had known the moment she laid down, that she was only gonna sleep when she was too exhausted to keep awake. So wasn’t this, deep down, her own fault? No. No she didn’t deserve this. Did she? It wasn’t as if she was an angel. She had done shit. Not permanent record shit, but still. Piercing words made their way through the haze. One by one. Useless. Pathetic. Unable to take care of herself. Was it his words? Or her own? She didn’t know. Was so used to it by now. But it still made her eyes sting as the words cut little pieces off her. But she didn’t give him the satisfaction of breaking her. She was at least stronger than that.

“I promise I won’t ever be late again.” She said monotonously.

“This is a warning Kim. A real warning. You’ve been nothing but a pain in my ass lately, and if you don’t suit up and find that gear soon, I’m going to start looking for your replacement.”

 

Dahyun worked in a haze. Smiled at the customers. Took orders. Delivered the right food to the right food. Was more efficient than she had been in months. Was almost too perfect. Except that she fell flat every time she entered the kitchen. Wanted to cry every time Mina and Jeongyeon looked at her with worried eyes. Every time Taeyang patted her shoulder and told her she was ok. Every time Joohyun winked encouragingly at her. So the moment she could, she offered to man the bar, just to get away. It was easier to distract herself with the sound of buzzing conversations all around her instead of worried eyes. Even if she knew that she was going to pay hard for this once she was done. Would probably not make it home. But the phone was on silent in her locker, and she didn’t want to call Jihyo. Didn’t want to bother her again.

 

Jeongyeon left at eleven, after Dahyun repeatedly had turned down her offer to take Dahyun’s last hours. The older girl had been there since noon. She did not need another three hours on her neck, just because Dahyun had screwed up. Getting her to cover for Dahyun to Yang-nim was more than Dahyun could’ve asked of her. But it was hard not to feel, when Jeongyeon’s arms wrapped so tight around her before she left for the night.

 

At half past midnight Yang-nim left and asked Mina to lock up. He never stayed until closing time. And he was never sober when he left. It was only Mina, Dahyun and then Joohyun in the kitchen left by now. Music played from the speakers on the walls around the booths in the area across from the bar, where their drinking guests usually sat. Every now and then Dahyun allowed herself moments where the music filled her soul and she felt her fingers spread, tapping chords onto the bar. For a moment everything else was gone and she feared she might break. Gathered her hand in a fist so hard they made her knuckles impossibly whiter on her already pale skin.

“Miss? Hey miss. Can I get a beer or what?” Asked an impatient voice. Dahyun looked up and met the eyes of the man in front of her for only a split second before she switched her focus to his eyebrows.

“Sure, I’m sorry I spaced. What brand?” She asked with a kind smile.

“Prime draft, three please.” He answered, his voice milder.

“Coming right up.” Dahyun turned and ducked into the refrigerator under the desk, grabbing three beers. Her knees struggled as she got up, but she ignored the pain. Was good at that. She opened the beers and handed them over the desk and received payment in cash. Was good at her job. Was proud of her job. Even if she was feeding beers and probably though unwillingly fantasies to men who got drunk on thursday nights.

 

 

There was something magical about Mina. A blessing and a curse that made the customers follow her voice and gaze longingly after her. And most of the time it was nothing but a hassle that they wouldn’t leave her alone, but tonight Dahyun saw how she used her kindest smile as she took over Dahyun’s failed attempt at throwing out the last costumers. Even if there was a security guard connected to the street patrolling the establishments, they rarely used him. And though they probably should have tonight, Dahyun knew why Mina didn’t. Knew that it would mean paperwork and conversations that would drag out the time to get home.

“Thank you” Dahyun breathed, swaying on the spot as soon as she had locked up. Was inclined to just lean against the glass and slide down onto the floor. It was probably nice and cool.

“Go home, Dahyun.” Mina said softly, enveloping Dahyun in her arms.

“If you don’t let go I’m gonna cry on you.” Dahyun sighed, forehead against Mina’s shoulder, the older girl’s hands stroking up and down Dahyun’s back in a soothing rhythm.

“I don’t mind that.” Mina hushed. It was a good thing, as the tears were already falling onto Mina’s shoulder.

“I’m just so tired…” Dahyun croaked, her feet dragging as Mina led her through the restaurant, out through the kitchen and into the dressing room.

“Do you want me to call Jihyo?” Mina offered.

“No I should get home.” Dahyun tried to hold back a cry, her shoulders shaking with the effort to not sob.

“You cannot walk home like this. If you wait, I can drive you?” Mina offered.

“No it’s okay, it’s late for you too. I’ll get home.” Dahyun tried.

“Come off it Dahyun. I thought you were past this I don’t need help thing.” Mina sat her down on the floor by the lockers, holding her face between her hands. Wiped the tears with her thumbs.

Dahyun breathed shakily, wondering if she dared say it.

“S-sana… is usually awake still…”

It was stupid. Why did she even say it. She could not honestly expect Sana to come pick her up in the middle of the night. They barely knew each other. Except they did know each other.

“Okay.” Mina said. As if there was nothing weird at all in Dahyun’s request. “Your phone?”

“S’in my locker.” Dahyun mumbled and closed her eyes. Felt like she was about to pass out. Soft lips pressed against Dahyun’s forehead and then Mina’s presence disappeared. A sound revealed that she had opened a locker and a shuffling of fabric told the younger girl that Mina was rummaging for her phone. But Dahyun didn’t even have the energy to say that it was in the front pocket. Then Mina was back and took her thumb, pressing it to the phone, unlocking it. The older girl settled right beside Dahyun, close enough that Dahyun could hear the beeps from the phone as it rang.

“Hello?” Dahyun heard Sana’s voice through the phone. She didn’t sound tired. It made Dahyun sigh with relief. A part of her had feared that Sana was asleep, even though she almost never was when Dahyun came home.

“Sana? It’s Mina. I don’t know if you remem-”

“Mitang!” Mina smiled at the nickname. It was something Momo and Sana had come up with on friday. “Why do you have Dahyun’s phone? Is she ok?”

“Well. She’s ok, sorta. But she needs someone to help her home. I can’t do it, I have to close up, but maybe… Can you pick her up? I can text you the address, it’s not too far from your place.”

“Of course.” There was no hesitation and no questions asked beyond that. So Mina merely  thanked her and hung up, texting the address and receiving a thumbs up. Dahyun’s tears had stopped falling but her cheeks were still week, and her eyes were giving up, her contacts blurring her vision as they repeatedly went out of focus.

 

“Okay, I’m going to sit you down here, and then start closing up. I’ll be back to check on you.” Mina pressed a kiss to Dahyun’s hair.

“Thank you…” Dahyun mumbled letting her eyelids close heavily.

“No look at me.” Mina insisted, causing Dahyun to look at her again. The older girl held her eyes, forcing them to focus, forcing them to see properly for the first time since stepping in the door eleven hours earlier. “Please get some sleep tonight. I don’t really care how you do it. I just need you to get some sleep.”

“Mh.” Dahyun mumbled and felt new tears overwhelm her. She buried her head in her arms and felt Mina’s hand stroke her hair for a moment before she disappeared, the door closing after her.

She had been functioning somewhat well since she started getting picked up here by Jihyo, but tonight was just a bad night. It had been a bad day. And she was so tired. So Dahyun closed her eyes to stop the tears. Just to stop the tears. And slowly she felt her heart steady. Then felt nothing at all.

 

 

“Dahyun...” a voice called calmly, as if in a dream.

Dahyun smiled into her arms and hummed. A giggle. Then a hand on her arm and another stroking hair away from her forehead. Dahyun didn’t want to open her eyes, in case she disappeared. The scent was so familiar and the voice so calming.

“Come, Dahyun. Let’s get you home.” Sana said, her voice close.

Dahyun mumbled a response, still floating in and out of sleep. Hands cupped her face and lifted it, a breathy chuckle so close Dahyun could feel the huffs of air on her nose. She opened her eyes, and saw only a blurry mess of what was undoubtedly Sana. The blonde hair framing her unclear face revealed her. She blinked until her eyes focused. Thumbs wiped across her face, trying to remove the salt from dried tears, but in vain.

“We’re going home now, Dahyun.” Sana repeated. Let go of Dahyun’s face and ran her hands down Dahyun’s arms, coaxing her to get a hold of her wrists. Pulled the younger girl gently off the floor, quickly wrapping an arm around Dahyun’s waist when she stumbled. She smelled wonderful. Like flowers and lemon and spring.

“Thank you.” A voice behind said quietly. Dahyun turned as in a trance and saw Mina with a towel over her shoulder, leaning against the door. “Make sure she sleeps. And gets to class. It’s at 11.”

“I will. Thank you for calling me.” Sana said sweetly.

 

Sana never let go of Dahyun. Not even for a step. The entire way home she had one arm around her waist and the other around Dahyun’s wrist, steadying the arm Dahyun had wrapped around her neck.

“You promised you would tell me if you didn’t sleep.” Sana said quietly.

“Sana, it’s no big deal.” Dahyun sighed. Regretted having ever called her. What was she thinking anyways?

“I know we haven’t known each other very long, but I know enough to say that it’s a big fat lie. It’s a huge deal.” Sana sounded angry now. “I really like you Dahyun, and I consider us friends. And I know you consider me your friend. Or you wouldn’t have called me.”

Dahyun mumbled unintelligibly, her eyes still closed almost completely.

“Step.” Sana warned as they reached the front door of their building. Didn’t demand more from Dahyun. Instead she helped Dahyun inside and into the elevator, shifting to wrap both arms around Dahyun. It was really more than one could expect of anyone, and Dahyun felt her heart swell with affection for the older girl. And it was so hard to focus. Because Sana was so close and the smell of what was probably her perfume filled Dahyun’s nostrils and conscience. If she dared, Dahyun could merely turn her head by a few degrees, and her lips would touch Sana’s neck. But she didn’t. Her mind wouldn’t let her. But her heart was begging her to do it.

Apparently at age almost twenty one the heart gets desperate to get certain things done. Like actually kissing a girl. And here Sana was, carrying her home from work in the middle of the night, obviously caring for Dahyun, having spent over a week doing what some who had a bit more sense than Dahyun would count as flirting. But her mind wouldn’t let her. Because she didn’t know Sana. And kissing your roommate in a state of sleep deprivation after the day she had had would be just about the least clever thing Dahyun had ever done, and that was saying a lot.

“Thank you.” Dahyun breathed as Sana removed an arm to unlock the door and let them into their apartment. Momo’s stuff was still everywhere, and Dahyun’s bed was in the middle of the room where the couch used to be. Except it wasn’t empty. Sprawled on Dahyun’s bed, arms, mouth ajar and a twitching toe sticking out under the covers, was Momo. Fast asleep.

“Wh-“

“She insisted.” Sana shrugged. “Said, I’m the cause of this mess and I can sleep anywhere. She saw you pretending to be asleep last night.”

“But where am I-“

“With me, if you don’t mind. We can switch if you’d rather sleep with Momo, or I can-“

“No… no it’s fine.” Dahyun muttered. Was honestly too tired to try and find a reason not to take the offer.  Too tired to try and decipher Sana’s motives.

“Can you sleep with your contacts in?” Sana asked quietly, steering Dahyun through the apartment.

“Mh. It’s ok.” Dahyun hummed.

“Then let’s get you to bed. Are your pyjamas in the bathroom?”

“Don’t know.” Dahyun said honestly. She had left in such a hurry and everything was a hazy mess now. She might not even be able to tell which shoe was left and which was right at this point. And Sana just hummed and guided Dahyun into a room that wasn’t her own and was sat on a bed that wasn’t hers. Took off Dahyun’s shoes and undid the ponytail. Only when she started undoing the buttons on Dahyun’s shirt did Dahyun wake enough to realize what was happening. She looked up at Sana with wide eyes.

“Oh. I’m just. I just wanted to help. You shouldn’t sleep in that.” Sana fumbled.

Dahyun tried to think of something to say, but Sana stepped back and almost fell over her own feet. She turned and quickly opened her closet, throwing a huge white shirt and a pair of frilly pink and lilac shorts at Dahyun. Then turned to stare decisively at the wall, arms crossed and leaning against the closet. Dahyun couldn’t help the chuckle that forced its way up her throat and out past her lips.

“Just change.” Sana rushed.

Dahyun did her best, but her fingers were too tired to quickly undo the buttons and she kept apologizing for being slow. Eventually she got Sana’s shirt over her head, staring down at herself. The shirt was way too big and fell well down her thighs, covering the shorts completely. Most of the nightwear Dahyun had seen Sana in looked like it fit a man three times her bodyweight.

“Ok, I’m decent.” Dahyun mumbled and sat back down on the bed. Sana’s bed. Where she had agreed to sleep. Not that she wasn’t used to spending the night in someone else’s bed, but never with someone who made her heart race like this. “You’re sure it’s ok that I sleep here?”

“Dahyunnie.” Sana turned, arms still crossed but a soft glint in her eyes, a smile tugging at her lips. “It’s two thirty in the morning, will you just lie down already?”

Dahyun sighed and nodded, shuffling under the covers, while Sana took off the sweater she had been wearing, revealing her night shirt. Had she been woken by the phone call after all? Out of respect, Dahyun stared determinately up at the ceiling the moment Sana tugged at the strings in her sweatpants. A soft thump revealed that Sana was changing clothes, but Dahyun just stared at the ceiling. Only when steps revealed that she was walking, did Dahyun look at Sana as she walked across the room, turning off the light. The bed shifted and Dahyun knew, even if she couldn’t see it very well, that Sana was crawling across her, settling in the spot in the corner. As Sana settled under the covers, Dahyun became horribly aware of just how close they were, feeling the warmth emitting from her under the covers.

“Momo left her teddy bear for you in case you wanted to borrow. Something about not wanting to embarrass you with the squirrel but wanted you to have a cuddle buddy. I argued I’d be a better cuddle buddy though, but it’s your choice. I don’t think neither me or the bear would mind your cuddles.”

Dahyun praised the darkness as her cheeks burned. Sana’s voice was so conversational, and Dahyun wanted nothing more than to take Sana up on the offer. But she didn’t. Just took the huge teddy bear that Sana offered her. Then something, a finger, poked at her cheek and Dahyun felt Sana shifting in her side of the bed.

“Go to sleep Dahyun.” Her voice was close and Dahyun nodded. Turned her face, just to say goodnight, to say thanks. But in the exact moment she had chosen to turn to look at Sana, Sana had leaned in, obviously with the intention of kissing Dahyun’s cheek as a goodnight, but the changed angle meant that Sana’s lips brushed over the corner of Dahyun’s lips, and to Dahyun’s horror, just stayed there, as if the older girl hadn’t noticed that she had gotten the angle wrong.

But that wasn’t the worst.

For whatever reason Dahyun might never forgive them for, her own lips responded almost automatically, though so briefly that she could hope that Sana never noticed. She felt Sana giggle against her skin, against her lips and then the pressure disappeared.

“Go to sleep, Dahyunnie.” Sana repeated.

Dahyun couldn’t think. Couldn’t focus on anything but the tingling sensation on the corner of her lip. The bed shifted again and Dahyun turned as well. Away form Sana. Tried to ignore the way blood rushed in her ear, digging her fingers into the fuzzy fur of the teddy bear, hiding her face against the back of it’s head. And maybe if she hadn’t been completely exhausted, she would’ve been able to analyze the situation properly and take the proper distance. But her eyes shut before she was ready for it and got pulled unwillingly off to sleep.



Chapter Text

There was something on Dahyun’s stomach. Something stuck between her stomach and Momo’s teddy bear. A hand. A hand probably belonging to the body pressed against her back, hugging her close.

“She really does sleep like the dead when she finally sleeps.” A voice behind her said. Sana’s voice. And it was so close.

“Try again.” Said another voice, more distant. Momo.

“Dahyun, you have to get up.” Sana whispered. If she was honest, Dahyun wasn’t quite sleeping anymore but not entirely awake either. Just lay with her entire body crumbled around the teddy bear hoping it would mask the sound of her racing heart, as she became increasingly aware of Sana’s bare legs against her own and her torso pressing against Dahyun’s back. Dahyun wanted to run and never move at the same time. Felt the way the corner of her mouth tingled as if to remind her of exactly what had happened last night. Felt like her heart might burst yet somehow completely safe in Sana’s arms.

Then Sana’s hand slid around to her side and started tickling there, making Dahyun squirm.

“Oh, she’s awake!” Momo exclaimed the minute Dahyun failed to hide her grin.

“Mh-not.” Dahyun protested. Felt Sana’s laugh on her neck, leaving goosebumps in its wake. If only Dahyun could read Sana’s mind, know if she had noticed it, and please also know why in the world they were cuddling. Had Sana just fought the teddy bear for cuddle rights as soon as Dahyun had fallen asleep? What reality was this anyway? But she couldn’t really do much about it. Couldn’t really get herself to up and ask Sana, so hey you know how you kissed me last night? What was that about and would you like to do it again because I’d be up for that thank you very much . Yeah, no, not likely to happen.

“Dahyun you have school soon.” Momo chuckled, prising Dahyun from her thoughts.

Slowly Dahyun opened her eyes, but only to glower at Momo. “I’m cancelling school.”

“Right… sure you are” Momo raised an eyebrow at her.

Dahyun tried with a pout but it didn’t help at all. So she closed her eyes again.

“I’ll make some food for you.” Momo’s voice said, and then footsteps revealed that she was gone.

“Did you fall asleep fast?” Sana asked, her hand tracing wonderfully back down to rest on Dahyun’s stomach.

“Mh, thank you.” Dahyun mumbled into the bear.

“You’re welcome.” Sana said and hugged Dahyun even closer.

“What time is it?” Dahyun asked quietly.

“Late enough for you to have gotten enough sleep and early enough that you can make it to class.”

“Thank you.” Dahun said again, scratching over the fuzzy surface of the teddy bear distractedly.

“You don’t have to keep thanking me, it’s not a big deal.” Sana’s breathy laugh hit Dahyun’s skin again.

“You picked me up at work in the middle of the night and you let me sleep in your bed. That is a big deal.” Dahyun insisted, turning slightly to look at Sana, blinking her dry contacts into focus.

“I guess.” Sana smiled. She moved back a little, allowing Dahyun to turn onto her back, letting the bear go. Sana removed her hand and propped herself up on her elbow.

“Feeling better?” She asked.

“Much better. As in, so much better.”

Dahyun looked up at the ceiling, pressing her lips together hard. Sana’s fingers ghosted across Dahyun cheek, then up to stroke hair away from her face and finally touching the tip of Dahyun’s nose gently, briefly, making Dahyun scrunch her face. Sana laughed. How one person could contain so much laughter and energy, Dahyun might never figure out. Her energy was so contagious and made Dahyun’s heart stronger and her head lighter. And Dahyun didn’t want to figure out why. She just wanted to bask in whatever sunshine Sana offered.

She heard steps and drew her eyes away from Sana in time to see Momo waltz into the room with a mug of steaming hot tea and a bowl of what was probably reheated dinner. Still sore from strain and heavy with sleep, Dahyun sat up, finally free of Sana’s embrace, propped against the wall with a pillow behind her back as Momo handed her the japchae and a fork and placed the tea on the nightstand. Sana sat up too, pouting at Momo, clearly disappointed that Momo hadn’t brought her breakfast as well. Dahyun took a proper mouthful and hummed happily at the taste. She had been too tired to feel how empty her stomach was, but now that she tasted the food, it complained loudly, wanting more. Meanwhile Sana was still trying to silently convince Momo.

“No way.” Momo said simply when Sana started blinking at her charmingly.

“Please Momoring… I’m hungry.” Sana’s pouty voice was downright irresistable, and Dahyun almost offered to go make food for her just for that voice.

“Then go make some for yourself.” Momo said coolly. How she managed not to cave was puzzling.

“Momoring…” Sana begged.

“Sana-chan…” Momo imitated Sana’s voice exaggeratedly.

“We can share. Here.” Dahyun said and offered Sana what she had just gotten onto the fork. Sana lit up and leaned in, closing her mouth around the fork, humming happily at the taste. Dahyun heard Momo sigh loudly and leave the room, then a rustling from the kitchen.

A rhythm built between Dahyun feeding her own grumbling stomach and feeding Sana, and soon Momo joined them with another two bowls, pushing Dahyun and with her Sana further towards the wall and gently setting the teddy bear down on the floor before settling besides Dahyun. Handed one of the bowls across to Sana, seemingly unbothered by the fact that the youngest was once again becoming a very squished middle of a sandwich. Sure, the bed was a decent size, but three people side by side was the absolute limit.

As soon as Dahyun and Sana had finished Dahyun’s bowl, Sana insisted on sharing her own with Dahyun as well, and Momo kept muttering under her breath at them.

Dahyun didn’t mind.

 

Chaeyoung winced. Placed the coffee on the counter and sucked on her thumb.

Just as the barista had handed Chaeyoung the two cups, someone had nudged Chaeyoung in the back, making her jolt and the coffee spill. She huffed and turned to see but no one admitted to doing it. With a scrunch of the nose, Chaeyoung picked up the coffee and walked outside. She was about to head back when a familiar face came around the corner, running at a seemingly comfortable but for Chaeyoung insane pace. The japanese girl’s rose-colored hair was in a high ponytail and she had big headphones on. It was clear that she hadn’t noticed Chaeyoung, but was coming closer and closer nonetheless.

“Momo!” Chaeyoung called and tried to wave, a cup of coffee in each hand. Nothing. Not until she was less than fifteen feet from Chaeyoung did the shorter girl manage to get Momo’s attention. Of course Chaeyoung would have preferred if the result wasn’t that Momo stumbled and almost fell as she was distracted, but it was better than Momo just running by, perhaps. She waited patiently as Momo regained her posture and took off her headphones. Momo grinned widely and took a few deep breaths. It was only now that Chaeyoung realized, she had to talk. As in speak words that made sense.

As what’s up and other variations of that sentence seemed ridiculous Chaeyoung settled for “Hi.”

“Hi.” Momo beamed and looked at the coffees. “Study break?”

“Yup. Coffee run.” Chaeyoung grinned.

“Which way?” Momo asked. “In case you want to get home before the coffees get cold, I mean”

“Oh, right, this way.” Chaeyoung pointed with her right hand and Nayeon’s coffee.

Momo turned off the music on her phone and walked alongside Chaeyoung.

“So we didn’t scare you off the other night?” Chaeyoung asked.

“Not in the slightest, I had fun!” Momo insisted, pulling at her shirt to get air.

“You just seemed very shy at first.”

“I’m not good with a lot of strangers. It’s super easy two on two or three on three, but more than that and my brain sort of dies for a while.” Momo chuckled. “It’s always been that way. But once I know people I don’t mind the crowd.”

“Just a lot of strangers at once?”

“Exactly. But you’re not strangers anymore. Now you’re my friends!” Momo beamed at her.

“Yes we are.” Chaeyoung agreed happily. “Do you run every day?”

“Most days. I gotta be in the best shape I can to keep up my reputation.”

“Yeah that makes sense. I guess as a dancer you have to be fit.”

“No, not necessarily. I mean yes, you have to be able to move for a period of time but it’s much more about coordination and muscle memory.” Momo explained, stretching.

“I have neither of those.” Chaeyoung snorted.

“Sure you do. Everyone has. It comes the moment you start listening to music.”

“I listen to music all day, I swear I have no coordination. Rhythm yes, but only for playing instruments.”

“Just try some day. Listen to the music with your heart instead of your head.”

“Listen with your heart? Really?” Chaeyoung giggled and stopped in front of her building.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but just try it.” Momo shrugged, looking at her with a hopeful glint in her eyes.

“I will.” Chaeyoung grinned.

“And tell me about it?” Momo asked.

“Sure.” Chaeyoung said as she tried to unlock the door.

“Here.” Momo said and opened it for her. “Oh, wait.”

“What?” Chaeyoung turned in the door.

“You don’t have my number.”

“Oh, well, I…” Chaeyoung tripped over her words and tried to hold the door and the coffees and find her phone. Almost failed at all three. But Momo just ran her eyes over Chaeyoung’s body and found the edge of the phone sticking up from Chaeyoung’s jeans. Without really grasping the situation, Chaeyoung told her the passcode. Momo nodded, typed it and added her number to Chaeyoung’s phone book. Hirai Momo .

“Good luck with the studies.” Momo put the phone back in Chaeyoung’s pocket.

“Thanks. Good luck with your run.”

“Thank you!”

And Momo was off, and Chaeyoung allowed herself exactly five seconds to stare after her. The sight of Momo was quickly wiped from Chaeyoung’s mind though when she entered the apartment and found that what was most likely a tsunami or one of Nayeon’s study freakouts had occurred while Chaeyoung was gone. Papers were everywhere and Nayeon was in the middle, looking lost. Chaeyoung merely shook her head, took off her shoes and walked over to her girlfriend, setting down the coffee and crouching in front of Nayeon.

“Let’s get this sorted, yeah?” Chaeyoung held Nayeon’s face in her hands.

“Mm-k” Nayeon mumbled. “You’re late.”

“I ran into Momo.” Chaeyoung smiled and pressed her lips to Nayeon’s nose. It scrunched and a giggle bubbled in Nayeon’s throat. “Or rather, she ran into me. Almost.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, she was out for a run, you should see that by the way. You know that thing about how Yoga pants only makes like 1% of the population look hot? She’s the one percent.”

“I can imagine.” Nayeon snorted. “Legs like that?”

“Exactly.” Chaeyoung grinned as she helped Nayeon up from the floor and put her to work, gathering papers in four piles depending on the subject. “She’s pretty cool, you know.”

“Oh definitely, I actually understood those dance moves after she taught them to me, and that’s after Hyelim tried to teach me last week. Plus, I always approve of anyone who can make Jeongyeon into a flustered mess.”

“Self-compliment?” Chaeyoung chuckled, reaching for a note.

“Always.” Nayeon smiled. Was already doing better. And Chaeyoung loved knowing that her presence had something to do with that.

 

“Hey.” Dahyun sighed as she sat down next to Tzuyu in the lecture hall.

“Hi! You never answered my text…” Tzuyu looked at her with big eyes and a worried frown.

“I had a shitty day. I meant to text, but I slept up until like an hour ago.” Dahyun apologized.

“It’s ok. Were you ill?” Tzuyu inquired, scribbling nothings on the edge of her paper.

“No, I overslept. By five hours. And was late to work as well.” Dahyun sighed and shook her head, trying to get the memory of Yang-nim’s stinging words out of her head. She hadn’t deserved it. Had she?

“That’s unfortunate.” Tzuyu said.

“To say the least. Do you have plans after class?” Dahyun asked.

“Not other than the lovely cramming of half my curriculum.” Tzuyu flashed her a smile.

“I’ll treat you to coffee if you’ll listen to me?” Dahyun tempted.

“Mh, I don’t know.” Tzuyu bit gently on the end of her pen, a glint in her eye.

“Please? Pretty please pretty Chou Tzuyu. I really really need to talk to someone. Preferably you.” Dahyun begged.

“I guess it wouldn’t be too bad.” Tzuyu gave in. Smiled in that way that made her ears move.

“Thank you…” Dahyun sighed, leaning on her arms, waiting for the lecture to start.

 

Class was thankfully interesting, and Dahyun tried her best to keep up with the pace, taking an excessive amount of notes to keep her motivation high, and keep her mind from drifting to the feeling of Sana’s lips, of her hand, of her body curled around Dahyun’s. She felt Tzuyu’s eyes on her from time to time, and knew that the desperation in her begging had left the younger girl worried.

 

When class ended they left together and walked without talking until they found the coffee shop, one of the only in the area with student friendly prices. Tzuyu wasn’t a big talker but Dahyun never minded. There was a soothing presence about her that Dahyun appreciated. She was stable; a formidable tree, providing shade and cover when needed, and right now, Dahyun needed just that.

“What do you want?” Dahyun asked as they looked up at the menu behind the counter.

“The usual.” Tzuyu smiled shyly. Dahyun wondered why she had bothered asking. She ordered and paid while Tzuyu found a table. It was a well-practiced rhythm.

“So, what’s up?” Tzuyu asked as Dahyun handed her the tall glass and sat down, hands wrapped tightly around her own, staring at the cookie crumbles on top of the whipped cream.

“What counts as a kiss?” Dahyun asked, not bothering to beat around the bush.

Tzuyu didn’t comment or ask for further elaboration. Just sat in silence for a while. When Dahyun snuck a peek at her, Tzuyu’s brows were furrowed and her gaze on her own cup.

“Well,” She said slowly. “if it’s a real kiss it has to be on the lips, of course.”

“You mean like full on the lips? Or does it count if it’s only partly?” Dahyun asked, eyes once more fixed on the crumbles. If it had been anyone else, they would have laughed at her by now, but Tzuyu never judged and Dahyun loved her for that. She never made Dahyun feel like a fool.

“I don’t know. It depends, was is intentional?” Tzuyu asked.

“I’m… Not sure. I don’t think so.” Dahyun admitted.

“So an unintentional kiss, partly on the lips.” Tzuyu said.

“Yes.” Dahyun confirmed.

“Did she comment on it? Or try to kiss you again?”

“How do you know it wasn’t me?” Dahyun asked, looking at her.

“You don’t know if it was intentional, and you would never be brave enough to kiss someone you’d only known two weeks, no matter how into her you are.” Tzuyu said flatly.

“True.” Dahyun mumbled and finally took a sip of the cool mocha under the whipped cream. Chocolate always helped.

“Wait.” Dahyun looked up with a frown. “Who are we talking about?”

“Sana. Obviously.” Tzuyu shrugged. “I think my answer is that you need to get your shit together and kiss her properly. Or at least talk to her about it.” Tzuyu said and drank, eyes catching Dahyun’s and holding them there. Dahyun nodded.

“Like you said, I’ve never been brave. I don’t even know if she likes me.”

“You’re either blind, stupid, or have no confidence at all.” Tzuyu took another sip, and got whipped cream on her nose. She squinted down at her nose, looking absolutely ridiculous and adorable. Dahyun chuckled and handed her a napkin.

“You’re not blind, yet. You’re definitely not stupid. You’re usually confident. So what is it that makes you so unable to see that she’s into you?” Tzuyu asked.

“Sometimes I might think she is but you’ve seen her with Momo, she treats us exactly the same. She’s just… She’s confusing.” Dahyun sighed and grabbed a spoon full of whipped cream, relishing in the taste.

“But how long has she known Momo? Was it ten-twelve years she said?” Tzuyu argued.

“Something like that.”

“And she has known you for what, two weeks?”

“But so has Momo and she’s almost as bad. They’re so-. So touchy.” Dahyun tried to grimace but didn’t do very well. It turned out more like a dopey smile. “God, you’d hate it. I thought I would too, but I don’t. It’s so different with Sana. She’s so apparent, so. Confusing.”

“You say that a lot.” Tzuyu smiled.

“You know how TV’s used to go to static noise when the antenna stopped working?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s how my mind feels every time she does any of her Sana things.”

“And what are Sana things?”

Dahyun took several gulps of frappe, taking her time. Then the events of the last two weeks poured from her lips and her soul, settling between them. How Sana had leaned on her the first night and eventually fallen asleep on top of her, how it felt to have her breath on Dahyun’s neck. How their fingers fit so perfectly when their hands were twined, how soft her lips were against Dahyun’s cheek, against her neck, against her own. How many times she had wanted to be a braver version of herself. And Tzuyu listened. She didn’t interrupt or laugh or judge. She just listened and drank her own frappe.

“Tzuyu, I slept well for the first time in ages last night. I felt so… safe. Like when I was a kid and I sat for hours at the piano because I felt like nothing could hurt me if I kept playing?”

Tzuyu nodded.

“I want more than anything to sleep like that again.”

“With her.” Tzuyu concluded.

“I want to feel safe like that.” Dahyun nodded.

“Tell her.” Tzuyu said.

“You know me, I would never-” Dahyun started, trying to get the last remains of whipped cream onto her spoon.

“You’re a lot braver than you give yourself credit for.” Tzuyu said, grabbing a hold of Dahyun’s hand. Dahyun’s eyes snapped up and looked at her.

“I don’t know what I would do if it was me. If I couldn’t sing anymore.” Tzuyu mumbled, her voice suddenly unsure and her eyes glazing over.

Dahyun squeezed her hand and sent her a reassuring smile. “I might not become the biggest composer of my time, but I will still work with what I love.”

 

 

“So, do you come here often?” Jihyo asked, a teasing grin on her lips and a raised brow as she looked down at Mina. She had been walking after work again, and had once more found Mina there, on the same bench, looking out over river.

Mina giggled and shrugged. Licked her lips and put her phone away as Jihyo joined her.

“I like it here.” Mina mused.

“Looking forwards to summer?” Jihyo asked.

“Definitely. I want to go swimming.” Mina looked around at her.

“You always say that.”

“And I never actually do it, I know. But this year.” Mina nodded to herself as if she had just formed a binding contract. Then she turned and looked at Jihyo, her eyes wavering slightly.

“Jihyo… Dahyun, she-”

“Last night?” Jihyo asked.

Mina nodded.

“But you didn’t call.”

A pause. Then Mina spoke tentatively “She asked me to call Sana.”

“Oh.” Jihyo looked out over the river. Tried not to feel hurt. Just stared at the water flowing calmly. It wasn’t like she was Dahyun’s protector or anything. And Dahyun didn’t owe her anything. It wasn’t a matter of who; the important thing was that Dahyun had actually, for once, asked for help.

“I’m glad she feels like she can lean on Sana.”

As soon as she had said the words, she had feared the knot in her stomach that would tell her the words weren’t genuine. But it didn’t come. There was only gratitude towards the new girl in their group.

“I really thought she was doing better.” Mina sighed.

“We hoped.” Jihyo shrugged. Offered her hand to Mina.

 

 

Tzuyu went with Dahyun home after the trip to the coffee house and stayed for dinner as well. They spent the afternoon studying together with the argument that if they both failed at least they could blame each other. They made scene charts and time lines and compared notes on the similarities between modern musicals and those of the golden age.

Sana took Momo out to eat, noting that they were usually so loud and didn’t want to disturb Dahyun and Tzuyu studying, even though Dahyun kept insisting that it wasn’t a problem.

Dahyun found dumplings in the fridge, from Higashi’s. She took them and put them in the very back of the fridge, so Tzuyu wouldn’t accidentally see them and suggest they eat them. Instead she suggested that she and Tzuyu cook together. Dahyun rarely cooked, but Tzuyu was good and they made enough peanut butter stir fry for at least six people. Played loud music from Dahyun’s bluetooth speaker and sang dramatically along to everything from “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” to “A Wonderful Guy” and bounced test questions off of each other as they chopped scallions and pepper. Dahyun had forgotten to buy carrots, but they made do without them.

 

When Momo and Sana finally returned well past ten pm, Tzuyu was on her way out of the door. Sana refused to let her go without a hug and Tzuyu uncharacteristically let her and also let Momo hug her as they met in the door. Tzuyu waved one last time at Dahyun whom she had placed on the bed that acted as couch, wrapped her in the blanket with tea and chocolate and given her firm instructions to stay put.

 

Momo’s cheeks were red from the cool April night outside and her lips parted in a shy smile as she joined Dahyun on the bed, kissing her cheek.

“Jeongyeon called while we were out. Says I can move in starting monday. Thank you for helping me get that room!”

“No problem.” Dahyun smiled and offered Momo a piece of chocolate.

Sana walked over as well, grabbed Momo’s pillow and seated herself on the floor by Dahyun’s knees, grabbing the remote. It took a moment, but Dahyun realized with a frown that Sana was wearing her sweater again. And it still had a stain on the sleeve, even if Dahyun had tried to get it off. She didn’t mind. If anything it would make it smell like Sana. And Sana smelled like lemons and perfume; and Dahyun loved the smell of lemons. Suddenly.

“Are you done studying for the night?” Sana asked, looking up at Dahyun.

“Yeah, thankfully.” Dahyun said and felt peace settle around her.

“Wanna watch Monster’s Inc?” Momo asked excitedly.

“I… Sure.” Dahyun chuckled and wrapped an arm around Momo’s shoulders, setting the tea down.

It took all of her bravery to reach forwards and let her fingers stroke across Sana’s hair, but she did it, and it earned her a giggle that soon turned into a chuckle. Dahyun tried to make it seem as natural as possible as she let her fingers run through Sana’s hair, over and over. Sana leaned into the touch, humming, and for a second Dahyun allowed herself to hope that maybe Tzuyu was right.

 

 

Momo watched the entire movie without falling asleep, a feat that thoroughly impressed both Sana and Dahyun, but as soon as the credits rolled, she was out like a light, head in Dahyun’s lap. Dahyun looked down at Sana, then at Momo. Stroked a hair out of Momo’s face and smiled as her lips twitched in her sleep.

 

“I should go to sleep, I have work tomorrow… and class.” Dahyun sighed.

“Don’t worry about Momo, she’s already in bed. Just put the blanket over her.” Sana said quietly and got up, holding Momo’s pillow. “Here, if you get up we can put this under her head instead.”

Dahyun carefully lifted Momo’s head and got out from under her. The sleeping girl mumbled and squirmed as Sana placed the pillow under her head. Dahyun threw the blanket over her and let a thumb run across her cheek. She looked up and saw Sana’s hand outstretched towards her. Once again, Dahyun had to use all the courage she had to reach out, but she did. Sana’s grip was firm but welcoming as she dragged Dahyun into the bathroom.

They washed up wordlessly, side by side, took off their contacts and grinned slightly at the sight of both of them in the mirror with their glasses. Double four-eyes. And while Sana used the toilet, Dahyun went to check on Momo and sneak her large stuffed Sully bear, under her arm. She hummed and curled around it. Throughout the movie, well throughout most of the day, something had lured in the back of Dahyun’s mind, and this was the opportunity Dahyun had to test her theory. Ever so gently, the younger girl leaned down and pressed her lips again the soft skin on Momo’s temple. She was warm. But it didn’t make her stomach jolt, and the feeling of Momo’s skin didn’t linger. It was just warm.

Then Sana called quietly and Dahyun went to pee, trying to ensure that she would have the best odds at a night without waking up. When they had both changed, Sana grabbed Dahyun by the hand again, and led her into Sana’s room. Dahyun was wearing Sana’s t-shirt, but had opted for long pyjama pants underneath this time. Didn’t think her heart could take another night with the feeling of Sana’s bare legs against her own.

Almost as if it had already become habit, Dahyun waited for Sana to settle on the inner side of the bed before putting her glasses on the nightstand and crawling under the covers, settling on what she assumed now to be Momo’s side. Hesitation came however when the option was once again whether she should go for the teddy bear or Sana, but all her bravery had been used for tonight.

And it didn’t matter anyway. Sana chose for her.

Just as Dahyun had reached for the stuffed bear, Sana started pulling at her arm. Dahyun turned and looked at Sana, whose pout could not have been more outspoken. Her eyes were big as she held out her arms towards Dahyun. Dahyun didn’t bother try to suppress the smile that spread across her face at the ridiculous girl in front of her, but let bear be bear and scooted closer, letting Sana pull her in. Sana turned onto her back and wrapped one arm around Dahyun’s shoulder pulling her closer by the arm with the other. Dahyun’s pulse made her ears ring as she settled her head in the crook between Sana’s shoulder and neck.

Surely, as her chest pressed against Sana’s side, the older girl would notice how hard Dahyun’s heart was beating. Surely she would figure it out eventually. Surely she must have felt Dahyun’s warm cheek against her shirt when she slid her fingers in between the spaces of Dahyun’s and rested their twined hands somewhere just below Sana’s ribcage. Surely. Surely she must’ve figured out how much Dahyun felt. How fast she had fallen. How desperately she never wanted to get up or move, if not to stretch out just a bit and feel how Sana’s skin felt under her lips. She wondered if it was warm. It felt warm under her shirt, but she wanted more than anything to know .

Dahyun could do nothing but try to sleep, feeling Sana’s chest rise and fall calmly, trying to match the rhythm to steady her own treacherously smitten heart. She was a fool for falling for her roommate, for a total stranger; but an even bigger fool for not doing anything about it.

Yet even if her heart was beating fast at the feeling of Sana so close, Dahyun still felt her body calm down and felt how her eyelids got heavier with each second. Prayed that sleep would take her to wherever Sana had drifted off to.

 

Maybe all that’s needed to start healing, albeit slowly, is a good night’s sleep, a friend to lean on, a hand to hold and perhaps a bit of chocolate. Or maybe this was just a band aid. But a very soft band aid that smelled like lemons and perfume and home.



Chapter Text

8:48 am Jeongyeon: Hey, you doing better?

 

Dahyun looked down at her phone when it buzzed. With a smile, she leaned against the wall in the hallway outside her lecture hall. Class started soon, but Tzuyu wasn’t there yet and she could always spare a few minutes for Jeongyeon.

 

8:49 am Dahyun: Definitely. I’m sorry, I should’ve let you know. I’ve just been busy with papers.

 

Dahyun took a sip of water and scrolled through her texts until she found Mina’s number.

 

8:51 am Dahyun: Hi. Thank you for the other night. I’m sorry it had to come to that, but I’m so glad you helped me. I’m doing better now.

 

Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, Dahyun pressed the notification from Jeongyeon that had appeared while writing Mina.

 

8:51 am Jeongyeon: No worries, Mina said you were in good hands.

 

She definitely had been in good hands. Was in good hands. For the fourth night in a row she had slept for more than a few disturbed hours, and she felt how it healed her. It made it feel less like a lie every time she told her friends she was fine.

 

8:52 am Dahyun: I was. Sana was very kind to me. And Momo too. I’m almost considering keeping her.

 

Just as she sent the text, an answer from Mina appeared as a banner at the top of her screen.

 

8:52 am Mina: That’s so good to hear. I’m glad you texted. I switched shifts with Jeongyeon, I hope you don’t mind closing up with me tonight.

 

Dahyun smiled and quickly texted that she didn’t mind at all before turning back to the chat with Jeongyeon.

 

8:53 am Jeongyeon: Can’t stick to one, huh?

8:53 am Dahyun: Ha. Funny funny Jeongyeon. Funny.

8:54 am Jeongyeon: Well I’m a funny girl.

8:54 am Jeongyeon: Btw, are you coming tomorrow?

 

Dahyun frowned for a second and was about to write back but saw Tzuyu approach out of the corner of her eyes, a smile playing on her lips, revealing her dimple.

 

8:55 am Dahyun: Yeah, I’m helping Momo move

8:55 am Dahyun: Class now, see you tomorrow!

 

Dahyun put her phone away and walked with Tzuyu into the lecture hall. As always they chose seats on the left, about halfway down. But just as Tzuyu had sat down, and Dahyun was about to, Tzuyu spoke.

“So did you kiss her??”

The surprise at the sentence cause Dahyun to slip and almost miss her seat.

“Jesus christ, Tzuyu. You can’t just-” Dahyun winced. “No, I didn’t.”

Tzuyu shrugged and opened her bag, pulling out a music sheet notebook, a regular one and an old blue pencil case. “I thought you were going to do something about it.”

“I’m working on it.” Dahyun said.

“I’ll ask again tomorrow then.” Tzuyu’s eyes glinted mischievously.

“How about we make a pact. I tell you first thing if it happens and until then you shut up about it.” Dahyun offered, digging into her bag, moving notebooks and her laptop around, trying to find her own pencil case.

“Deal.” Tzuyu smiled and handed Dahyun one of her pencils when the older girl reemerged with a frown and only the notebooks in her hand. Had probably left the pencil case back at home on the coffee table.

“Who would’ve known you had such an interest in my love life?” Dahyun rolled her eyes.

“Well, mine is non-existent so I’ll take what I can get by messing with you.” Tzuyu said honestly.

“You do know all you have to do to get a love life is to say yes to one of your many many suitors?” Dahyun chuckled and wrote the date on the top of the page of each open notebook. There was a part of Dahyun that envied Mina and Tzuyu and the attention they got merely for their beauty, but a much bigger part was glad it wasn’t her. A part that had grown considerably after Mina had joined the restaurant staff and Dahyun had seen the not so pretty side of all the attention.

“I just don’t like any of them.” Tzuyu scrunched her nose.

“Have you ever, though?”

“Liked any of the people who ask me out? No.” Tzuyu shrugged.

“No I mean, liked anyone. At all.”

Tzuyu shrugged and grinned into her notebook. “It happens.”

“But you never tell any of us.” Dahyun looked at her.

“How do you know I just don’t tell everyone but you?” Tzuyu raised an eyebrow.

“You wouldn’t…”

“I could.” Tzuyu shrugged.

“But you haven’t.”

“No. I haven’t. Not everyone.”

“Every- Chou-Tzu, I’m offended.”

“Get over yourself.”

“You get over yourself!”

“Wow, sharp reply.” Tzuyu chuckled.

Dahyun felt her cheeks warm. “I-”

“Shh, class.” Tzuyu nudged Dahyun as she was about to retort. Dahyun shook her head with a grumble and turned her head from her smirking friend in the direction of the lecturer.

 

 

For whatever unfathomable reason, Chaeyoung couldn’t play today at all. Not a single chord came out the way she wanted it, either missing a key or pressing them unbalanced, promoting one key over another. Sometimes she just missed the beat, the note too fast or too slow, hit too hard or not at all. But eventually she just gave up. Unplugged the headphones and got up.

“You okay?” Nayeon asked from the table by the kitchen.

“Yeah, just can’t get this to work.” Chaeyoung huffed and flopped onto the chair next to Nayeon.

“Yeah, I figured that much. You curse like a sailor when you think no-one is listening.”

“I curse like a sailor, period.” Chaeyoung shrugged. Rested her head on her arms.

“True.” Nayeon agreed, running a hand soothingly up the younger’s back, squeezing her shoulder before burying her fingers in the black hair.

“Did you find out about the project?” Chaeyoung turned and looked at Nayeon, smiling softly as the latter moved the hair from Chaeyoung’s face, tracing her fingers gently around the back of her ear.

“Sadly yes,” The older girl said, rolling her eyes. “She can only fit it in Wednesday after class.”

Chaeyoung sighed. “I don’t get how you managed to be teamed up with the busiest girl in school, she’s never available for anything.”

“If Seolhyun doesn’t have at least five projects at a time then she wouldn’t be Seolhyun.” Nayeon shrugged. “I need to text Jeongyeon and tell her I can’t make it. I really wanted to help.”

“You can come over for dinner afterwards?”

“Mh, maybe, if we’re done before the devil sets the sun.” Nayeon huffed and took her phone from the table. Chaeyoung watched her. Watched how she gnawed on her lip and rolled her eyes as she wrote. It was fascinating how disgruntled Nayeon could look, but even more fascinating how quickly she melted. Like how she did in this moment where Chaeyoung poked at her shin with a toe and sent her a dimpled smile. Sometimes it was better to be tired with someone you loved than just sitting by yourself.

 

 

One look at the right-hand corner of the laptop was enough to break the mood. And what a mood it had been. For three hours, Sana had been buried in her homework on one side of Dahyun’s bed and Dahyun on her laptop writing an assignment. It hadn’t been heart-racing or in any other way hard to focus, sitting there side by side, just warm and comfortable and calming. But seeing the time on the laptop pulled Dahyun back to reality, and with a sigh she saved her work and started combing her hair into a ponytail.

“Already?” Sana asked with a frown. Then looked at the clock and pressed her lips together.

“It’s ok, I’m gonna quit.” Dahyun yawned.

“No you’re not.” Sana rolled her eyes and closed her book, disposing of it on the far side of the bed.

“How do you know?”

“You would’ve quit ages ago if you didn’t need it.” Sana shrugged.

“Mh, you’re right, I’m poor and have a world of bills.” Dahyun grumbled.

“When are you gonna be home?” Sana asked.

“I’m closing tonight. So I guess two thirty if I’m lucky, three if I’m not?” Dahyun tightened her hair in the tie and stretched her neck, sore from staring into her laptop for three hours.

“Mh, well have fun, and say hi to Mitang from me.” Sana beamed. “It is her who’s on with you tonight, right?”

“Yup.” Dahyun grinned. “How do you even know that?”

“You mentioned it yesterday?” Sana shrugged.

“Incredible.” Dahyun shook her head. “Oh, can you make sure you feed Momo when she gets home. But don’t let her eat the dumplings without me.”

“They’re gonna go bad before you get around to them.” Sana argued.

“We’ll have them tomorrow when we move her stuff.” Dahyun made to get up, but hands around her arm pulled her back, and then Sana’s arms were tight around her in a hug, and despite the slightly awkward angle, Dahyun allowed herself to melt into it.

“I’m gonna be late.” Dahyun looked up at her.

“Mh, fine.” Sana huffed and kissed Dahyun’s forehead chastely before letting her go. But Dahyun’s mind had gotten on static noise and she just lay there against Sana, until the older girls’ giggles forced their way through Dahyun’s conscience. Clearing her throat, Dahyun got up, scratching across her forehead and over her scalp.

“See you, Sana-chan.” Dahyun grinned.

“See you tonight, Dahyunnie.” Sana smiled softly, before opening her book, laying comfortably across the bed, stomach against the sheets, legs in the air and feet dangling carelessly.

 

One day, Dahyun might tell Sana. Tell her how her smile made Dahyun’s heart soar. How Sana’s lips against her skin made it tickle. How her her touch made shivers run down Dahyun’s spine. But not quite yet. Mostly because the moment she told Sana, she could risk losing it all. And even if it wasn’t optimal, she just wanted to live in this dream a little longer. It felt too good to fall. But the ground was getting closer and there was no-one there to remove it from under her or fly her above the clouds where the sun always shines.

So instead of thinking about the realistic outcome of telling Sana, and actually dealing with the possibility of rejection, Dahyun spent the entire walk to work thinking up scenarios, one more far fetched and cheesy than the other, in which she actually managed to confess to Sana that not only would she like to kiss her but she had also wanted to do so for a while. Scenarios that ended in ways that made Dahyun’s stomach turn excitedly and a dumb smile spread on her face.

She couldn’t pinpoint exactly when she had first thought about it. Kissing Sana. Maybe when Sana had picked her up from work. Maybe when she had kissed Dahyun’s cheek the first time. Maybe the very first night when Sana’s breath burned on Dahyun’s neck. She wasn’t sure. Just knew that it was taking up every part of her thoughts now. That her world had somehow stopped revolving around all her guilt and frustration and started revolving only around finding out how Sana’s lips felt against her own. About satisfying the eagle growing in her chest, spreading its wings excitedly at the thought of holding Sana’s face in her hands and taking her breath away.

 

But right now, she had to turn off Channel Sana. Because she had just walked a block too far, and with warm cheeks had a turn around and backtrack until she reached the restaurant, trying her best not to miss it this time.

With five minutes to spare before the shift, Dahyun stepped through the employee’s entrance to the restaurant, her eyes immediately falling on Mina on the bench by their lockers. She was adjusting her hair, tightening the ponytail and then poked at the mole on her nose, checking it in a hand mirror.

“Leave it be, it’s cute.” Dahyun said sitting down next to Mina, undoing the shoelaces on her chucks.

“Mh.” Mina scrunched her nose, then looked around at Dahyun, worry in her eyes. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine. Honestly, I was just so tired the other night.” Dahyun put a hand on top of Mina’s. The older girl took it and turned it, rubbing over her thumb as Dahyun continued. “I had been sleeping in the living room because all of Momo’s crap is in my room, but we switched and now I sleep just fine.”

“Promise? You’re not just pretending because you don’t want us to worry?”

“No really. I’m good.” Dahyun sent Mina a salute and a grin that made her chuckle. Almost mentioned the reason she had been sleeping so well, but opted not to. Mina would just think it was weird.

“I’ll believe you then.”

 

And with that they armed themselves with brooms and dishcloths. It was always the first order of the day for the late shifts, clean up after lunch. The restaurant normally had a busy period around lunch and then quieted down until four in the afternoon where people slowly started arriving again, and by seven it was always pouring in. Even if Mr Yang-nim was a horrible boss, Dahyun had to give him credit for how well the restaurant was going. Although that credit should be equally attributed to Taeyang, Joohyun and their kitchen.

 

The shift progressed smoothly, and really, Dahyun should’ve been suspicious as soon as things started going her way. Because when did they ever? But the need for something to go right had lulled her into a sense of false security, so when Mina offered to help out in the bar after Dahyun got back from her bathroom break, Dahyun just nodded and took over cleaning the tables. The only thing on her mind was getting done with cleaning as soon as possible. Hoped to get back before Sana went to sleep. And she should’ve been ashamed that everything was about Sana, to the point where she hadn’t even seen it coming, but she didn’t. Just turned her head in surprise at the first drunken complaint from one of Mina’s many suitors. Realized too late that it was rarely a good idea to have Mina in the bar without backup. But there she was, with a polite smile and a shake of the head, handing back a phone number.

“I’m sorry, I can’t accept this.” Mina said kindly handing back a receipt on the back of which a guy in his mid-twenties had written a number.

“What, your boyfriend gonna mind?” The man leaned on the counter and Mina discretely stepped back, leaving the receipt on the counter.

“I don’t have a boyfriend but that wouldn’t have affected my answer if I had.”

Dahyun admired Mina. She was amazing with words, amazing at handling these things, kindly looking at him without returning his gaze. Never stepped out of line. The one thing Dahyun didn’t understand however, was why Mina didn’t just lie. She could’ve easily lied and said that she was seeing someone. It was a suggestion Dahyun had brought up several times, but Mina never took it.

“Oh, come on. Can’t she close up? You can leave with us.” The customer insisted, reaching across the counter. Mina stepped back again with extreme precision, right outside his reach, still looking at him.

“No thank you.” She said.

“Why? I’m a total catch.” He grinned.

“I don’t want to.”

The man tried to reach her again. Dahyun saw the flicker in Mina’s eyes as she hit the counter behind her. That was it; Dahyun’s wake up call, to not just stand idly by. Enough was enough, and the younger girl left the dish cloth on the table, stepping between Mina and the man at the bar.

“May I help you?” She asked politely, ignoring the way her heart immediately raced. She was never good at confrontations, never good with words. But for Mina she could pretend to be. The customer seemed just the right amount of baffled to take away his focus. Dahyun had been successful. For a moment he looked from Dahyun to Mina behind her and then back again. Shrugged and shifted his footing.

“Can you give this to your friend and give me two Soju?” He asked, handing Dahyun the receipt with his number with a wink.

“Sure.” Dahyun found two shot glasses. Placed them on the bar between them and poured the Soju. Received payment and the receipt. With one last look at Mina, the man turned around and walked away, a shot glass in each hand. Back to his table of loud friends. The minute he was far enough away Dahyun tore the receipt in two, four, eight, sixteen tiny pieces and threw them in the trash, grabbing Mina’s hand and squeezing it.

“You’re too kind for your own good, Mina.” Dahyun looked at her softly.

“So I’m told.” Mina grumbled, forcing a smile.

“Wanna switch?” Dahyun offered, but Mina shook her head.

“I’m never going to get used to this. It’s easier to say no now but-” Mina shook her head. “I just hate when they get mad at me. I feel like I’m doing something wrong by rejecting them.”

“You don’t owe them anything.” Dahyun insisted.

“Thank you, Dahyun.” Mina nodded and sighed, slumping against the counter.

“You got this.” Dahyun attempted to wink at her, making the older girl chuckle at the obvious fail. “And if not, just do what we talked about.”

“Lie and tell them I have a boyfriend?”

“They don’t need to know you’re gay,” Dahyun said quietly, “It’s none of their business.”

“Mh, but lying...” Mina scrunched your nose.

“You don’t have to be an angel, Mina. Lie a little. Live a lot.” Dahyun grabbed a clean towel from the counter and swung it over her shoulder. Grinned at Mina as she walked away, not catching what Mina was mumbling under her breath. She was inaudible enough as it was, you couldn’t expect anyone to hear what she said when she actually tried to be quiet, especially when the sounds of Hip and Lip were blasting from the loudspeakers above the bar.

 

 

Around half past two, Dahyun unlocked the door to the apartment, quietly sneaking into the darkness. Only a lamp on the floor by the corner to the kitchen was lit, lighting a way through the chaos of Momo’s belongings for Dahyun. For once it seemed that Sana and Momo had gone to bed at a somewhat sensible time, Momo fast asleep on Dahyun’s bed. The sight of her slightly open mouth and flickering eyes under the eyelids made Dahyun realize how much she was going to miss Momo when she wasn’t here anymore. And guiltily worse, how much she was going to miss having an excuse to sleep in Sana’s arms.

Shaking the last thought from her mind, Dahyun took off her shoes and tiptoed past Momo and into the bathroom. Wondered if Mina got home ok. She normally drove there in her little green Toyota, but tonight she had walked instead. Dahyun didn’t like the idea of her walking alone at night, but then again, Dahyun was too. When Dahyun had questioned why she was walking, Mina had explained that her car was at the garage. But when Dahyun had still been worried, Mina had suggested that they adopt Dahyun and Jeongyeon’s tradition of the “I’m home.” text. It was always hard not to be protective of Mina, just something about her aura, but tonight even more after the incident with the customer. But just as Dahyun looked through her social media while brushing her teeth, a message popped up, letting the younger girl known that Mina too was home. Dahyun had sent hers as soon as she had entered her own building. As soon as she had cleaned the sink, Dahyun changed clothes and took out her contacts, her eyes thanking her for it. Didn’t bother to put on her glasses but just finished washing her face and walked into Sana’s room as if it was the most natural thing to do, the path to her own room long forgotten.

Sana was asleep, undoubtedly so, and Dahyun carefully crawled under the sheets, argued with herself, and scooted closer. Her leg bumped into Sana’s and she froze, afraid to have woken the girl. Heart in her throat, Dahyun waited, until she finally sighed in relief, even if her courage had left her. Turned and reached across Sana for the stuffed bear in the corner. Though just as Dahyun was about to turn her back to Sana, a mumble revealed that Sana hadn’t been nearly as asleep as Dahyun had thought.

“You’re mean.”

“What?” Dahyun looked over at Sana, the bear in between them.

“I thought you liked my cuddles.” Sana grumbled. Dahyun chuckled awkwardly, a warmth creeping up her neck as Sana whined, “And now you’re laughing at me!”

“No, I’m just-. I’m laughing because you’re cute. I just didn’t wanna wake you.” Dahyun explained.

“I’m cute?” Sana was definitely awake now. Her face was barely visible in the darkness but Dahyun knew from her voice that she was beaming.

“No, I take it back. Not cute at all.” Dahyun said, thanking the darkness. Nonetheless, Dahyun put the bear back in the corner and let Sana pull her close.

“You are mean.” Sana stated, holding the younger girl impossibly close.

“Am not.” Dahyun mumbled against Sana’s neck.

“Yeah, you are.”

“No I’m not.” Dahyun chuckled.

“Yeah, you’re a big meanie!” Sana insisted.

“I’m literally allowing you to squash me, you should know how few people are allowed this amount of cuddles.”

“You should’ve just cuddled me immediately.” Sana huffed. “Meanie!”

“Don’t give me a reason to make it true, I know you’re ticklish.”

“You wouldn’t!”

“Don’t test me.”

“Mh, fine. You win.” Sana said disgruntled.

“Thank you. Now go back to sleep.” Dahyun adjusted against the older girl and felt lips in her hair.

“You should too.” Sana mumbled into Dahyun’s hair. Then sighed and pulled the sheets further up around them.

It was possible right? That Sana was doing all this - wanting Dahyun to cuddle her; kissing her all the time - there was a possibility that Sana liked her back, right? This wasn’t just regular friendship stuff. At least not any friendship Dahyun could ever remember having and she did after all have six - seven other friends who were all in one way or the other, into girls, as far as she knew at least. Didn’t actually know about Momo now she thought about it. But the rest. And Dahyun wanted to ask. Wanted to ask Sana if she considered there to be a possibility of more than friendship between them. But couldn’t get herself to move. Just wanted the bliss of Sana’s body against her own and her hand on Dahyun’s waist.

For minutes she lay with her head in the crook of Sana’s neck, asking herself if this was weird, what they were doing, if she should have told Mina when she had the chance, gotten an opinion. If this was something she shouldn’t be doing. Doubt was threatening to overpower her, and it almost made her pull away, but she didn’t want to wake Sana again. Just wanted to figure this out. But what if Sana really didn’t feel anything? What if she instead started pulling away out of respect for Dahyun’s feelings? What if their bubble burst? But then again, how much longer could she take being torn by the conflict raging inside her chest, and how the heck did Sana not see it?

For a split second the need to do something, anything, soared inside Dahyun, wings spreading powerfully in her chest, and without really thinking she turned her head slightly and pressed her lips to Sana’s neck. Froze. Felt sparks fly through her veins and her heart hammer against her ribs, trying to break its confines. Drew back.

It was nothing like kissing Momo, or Chaeyoung or Jihyo. This was addictive. But Dahyun just pressed her lips tight together and held her breath, waiting for Sana to say something. But she didn’t react.

When she was finally convinced that Sana was asleep and hadn’t noticed, closed her eyes, swallowing hard. Buried her forehead against the point on Sana’s neck where her lips had touched. Tried to let the scent of Sana calm her.

She would tell her. Soon. She would try to tell her. Soon.

 

 

“If you back a little and turn it-” Jeongyeon’s voice rang through the hallway. Dahyun grunted and tried turning the desk “Yeah, like that. Okay, it fits.”

Dahyun swore as every muscle in her body went into protest. They had been carrying things the entire day, down into the van in the morning and now back up and to the fourth floor, to Jeongyeon’s apartment after lunch. It was a good thing that apartment was bigger than Dahyun’s and barely contained anything anymore, as most of the stuff in Jeongyeon’s apartment had belonged to Jiyeon.

“You didn’t have to do this.” Momo mumbled next to her, easily carrying a box, her top accentuating strong shoulders and her rose-colored hair in a high bun.

“I know.” Dahyun said and sent her a strained smile. “I’m choosing to.”

Momo nodded shyly and waited as Dahyun and Jeongyeon struggled in the doorway.

“Dahyun, your hand!” Jeongyeon exclaimed and stopped dragging. Dahyun’s hand had almost gotten caught between the desk and the door. She moved it with difficulty, feeling it ache and the desk tip slightly in the time it took for her to reposition her hold on it.

“Thank you.” Dahyun said and nodded for Jeongyeon to continue moving into the apartment. Just as they managed to finally angle the desk right to get it through the door, Chaeyoung showed up behind Momo with what Dahyun knew to be a laundry bag currently used for Momo’s toiletries. As soon as there was enough space, both Momo and Chaeyoung snuck behind the other two and the desk, carrying the stuff into what was now going to be Momo’s room. This of course meant that they both had to hurry quite a bit to get out of the room again, as Jeongyeon and Dahyun now had to master the trick of getting the desk through another door in order to get it into Momo’s room.

“You sure she needs the bed too, can’t she just sleep in yours?” Dahyun complained as they once again had to get the desk through a door.

“I suggested that too but she wasn’t much for it.” Momo grinned, leaning against the wall for a moment to catch her breath before she went back down with Chaeyoung to get more boxes. Jeongyeon grumbled indistinctly.

“She’s a catch, you know.” Dahyun wiggled her eyebrows, angling the desk.

“I’m not interested.” Jeongyeon’s cheeks flushed, pulling the desk and getting it stuck.

“Sure. Right. Have you seen her? Legs for days, abs that can cut diamonds, and she’s Japanese. And she’s so cute.” Dahyun tried to sell the idea as they wriggled the desk back out a bit and turned it some thirty degree.

“Well, if you’re that into her why don’t you go for her?” Jeongyeon said flatly as they finally got the desk through the door to Momo’s room and sat it down where she needed it.

“I’m not into Momo.” Dahyun shrugged, biting down on her lip. Leaned on the desk and felt her mind once again travelling to Sana. If she could just stop thinking about her for one goddamn second. And if she could just not have Sana’s giggle on repeat like a record stuck on the same three seconds, threatening to make her knees buckle just from the memory.

“Oi, earth to Kim Dahyun. Where’d you go?” Jeongyeon asked, ripping Dahyun rudely from the vision in her head of Sana’s smile and the way her hair fell into her face when she nodded exaggeratedly this morning when Dahyun offered to make scrambled eggs.

“Uh, school.” Dahyun said almost on reflex.

“Right, cause school gives you heart eyes.” Jeongyeon raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t have heart eyes!” Dahyun protested.

“Oh, you so do.” Jeongyeon laughed.

“Can’t you just go get laid or something instead of being on my neck?” Dahyun huffed.

“That’s a whole smartass comment coming from you.” Jeongyeon snickered.

“It’s a friendly suggestion. And Momo is right there. She’s gonna be in your apartment now, I bet you it’s not gonna take long for her to win you over.” Dahyun crossed her arms.

“I’m not gonna do her. And I already told you, if you have a crush on Momo, you should just go for it.” Jeongyeon shrugged, her eyes glinting.

“I’m not into Momo!” Dahyun huffed, realizing too late that Jeongyeon was well aware of this.

“You’re not?” Asked a feigned offended voice behind Dahyun. Then arms were around her and Momo’s strong body seemed to attempt to eliminate every inch of space between them, making Dahyun blush. Just because she wasn’t into Momo didn’t mean she didn’t feel anything when she so firmly pressed herself against her. “Well, I can still change that, can’t I?”

“I think you already have.” Jeongyeon laughed.

“Nah, she just thinks I’m hot. I can live with that.” Momo grinned and pressed kisses to Dahyun’s cheek, to her jaw and to her ear.

“Ew.” Dahyun said, turning her head to get away as Momo’s kisses got sloppier. Wiped her ear with her sleeve. At least the two older girls were entertained.

“Okay, are we moving your stuff or not?” Asked Chaeyoung, appearing in the door to Momo’s room, out of breath with another box, placing it on the floor.

“We are! Sorry.” Momo said hurriedly, letting go of Dahyun who had to spend a few seconds regaining her footing.

“Good,” Chaeyoung stretched and then grinned. “I’m happy to help though.”

“Well, it’s only a few more boxes and then the bed.” Dahyun said.

“Wanna order dinner now or wait until we’re actually sure we’re gonna survive the bed?” Jeongyeon asked.

“Order now.” Momo insisted. “Chicken?”

“Sounds good.” Jeongyeon said and disappeared into the kitchen to order for them. Meanwhile Dahyun went with Momo and Chaeyoung out the front door.

“I already hate that bed and we haven’t even started moving it yet.” Chaeyoung said, as they walked down the hallway.

“I know, but Jeongyeon claims there’s no room for me in her bed so we gotta.” Momo said rolling her eyes and clicking her tongue.

“She has a king size, there’s plenty of room!” Chaeyoung complained. Momo just shrugged.

 

 

“I thought we were having chicken?” Momo asked as they finally sat down around Jeongyeon’s coffee table, looking at the box with the italicized lettering revealing that it was from Higashi’s. Dahyun had grabbed the dumplings from her fridge in the morning and brought them to Jeongyeon’s, storing them here.

“We are, but you and I have an outstanding with these.” Dahyun said and opened the box.

“But I thought it might have been a good reason to come visit soon.” Momo said with a pout.

“You’re gonna come over anytime you want, dumplings or not, right?” Dahyun handed Momo a pair of chopsticks.

“If I’m welcome.”

“When has that ever bothered you? But sure, you’re officially welcome to come visit.” Dahyun laughed and stuffed her mouth full of dumpling. Momo did the same with a shrug and a grin. They tasted amazing. Even if it wasn’t a tradition yet, Dahyun would work hard to make it one, because Momo and dumplings was a good combo.

“Are you two willing to share those?” Chaeyoung asked from the couch, eyeing first Momo and then Dahyun sceptically.

Momo and Dahyun exchanged looks.

“One.” They said in unison, both equally hard to understand, still busy with their dumplings.

Chaeyoung took one.

 

Chaeyoung and Dahyun stayed for another two hours, mainly because there was chicken and beer and Fluxx. Dahyun won. Momo sulked. Well, she sulked until Dahyun tiredly curled into a ball in Momo’s arms. And honestly, once seated there with Momo’s warm body around her it was hard to accept that she should probably go home before falling asleep here. But she didn’t want to go home. She really didn’t want to go home to the bed that was now back in her room, without Sana. But it was for the best. Definitely for the best. And Chaeyoung was pulling at her arm trying to get her to go with her, a well timed little roar of a yawn escaping the younger girl. They were taking the same subway line home, Chaeyoung just had to go a bit further. So there really was no getting around it.

 

 

The subway was cold and rumbled too much, but Dahyun and Chaeyoung leaned on each other in the almost empty compartment, watching video clips on Chaeyoung’s phone and talking about Chaeyoung’s upcoming birthday. Even though they didn’t live together anymore, somehow nothing had changed between them. There was the same confidentiality between them that there had been ever since Chaeyoung sat down next to Dahyun all those years ago. And it was for that reason that Dahyun didn’t mind breaking the mood; knew that Chaeyoung would understand.

“I’m afraid that I can’t sleep.” Said Dahyun in a low voice. Chaeyoung raised her head and looked at Dahyun.

“You’ve been sleeping fine the past few days though, right? Since the last-”

“I have. But tonight is going to be different.” Dahyun needed to tell someone. And she needed it to be Chaeyoung. She needed her best friend.

“Why?” Chaeyoung inquired.

“I’ve been sleeping in Sana’s bed for the past few nights. Ever since Momo’s stuff arrived. That night at work, the one Jeongyeon mentioned, that was the first night after Momo’s stuff arrived and we put my bed in the living room. I couldn’t sleep at all that night, and since that Momo insisted on switching. And... I’m afraid I can’t sleep without Sana.” Dahyun picked at her cuticles. Chaeyoung covered her hand and held it tight.

“And you can’t ask her if you can keep sleeping in her room.” Chaeyoung concluded.

“It would be weird.” Dahyun cringed.

“I guess. Yeah, it would.” Chaeyoung agreed honestly. “But I think you should try anyway. Try telling her the truth.”

“All of it?”

“She deserves the truth. You live together, you-” Her expression changed, and Dahyun frowned when Chaeyoung’s lips shook and her voice trembled. “I’m sorry. I know my being away so much the past few months made it harder.”

Chaeyoung didn’t meet Dahyun’s eyes.

Dahyun opened her mouth to protest, but Chaeyoung just shook her head. She looked like she was on the verge of tears, and the sudden change in the mood made Dahyun wrap her free arm around Chaeyoung.

“Nayeon told me.” Chaeyoung muttered into Dahyun’s shirt. “How many nights Jihyo picked you up and took you home. Got you from work and from home when you were up late. Told me that she, that Nayeon- she sat with you. For nights... Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I don’t know… I didn’t want you to put your life on hold for me. I couldn’t get myself to hang onto you just because I was scared. I guess- I guess I just didn’t want to be scared anymore.” Dahyun sighed and felt Chaeyoung’s hand let go and then both her arms around Dahyun.

Chaeyoung just nodded and sniffled, so Dahyun kept going, though her voice was only a whisper against the younger girl’s shoulder.

“I didn’t want to admit that I was the scared girl who couldn’t be alone. I didn’t want to keep you from Nayeon, not when you were so excited to move in with her. It was all just bad timing. I should’ve told you. I know that now, and I’m sorry. Chaengie, I’m so sorry.”

With a whimper Chaeyoung gripped harder around Dahyun. “You’re a fool, Kim Dahyun.”

“I know.” Dahyun sighed. “I’m sorry.”

“Please tell her. Let her help you, I know she’ll want to.”

“I…” Dahyun buried her forehead in Chaeyoung’s shirt. Closed her eyes. “I’ll try.”

 

 

The apartment was dark.

 

Dahyun’s bed was cold.

 

And Dahyun was left of courage.

Chapter Text

Chaeyoung’s birthday arrived in a haze of coffee and involuntary naps.

 

Dahyun woke on the couch, now back in its place, books and notes from all of her subjects spread in a seemingly random pattern across the coffee table, onto the couch and even on the floor. She looked around, her foot pushing a book on lyrics vs composition onto the floor, landing on her flashcards for the just finished test about Rogers and Hammerstein II. Her hair was a mess, the bun on the top of her head halfway undone. With a few deep breaths, Dahyun blinked her contacts into focus and yawned.

“I was just about to wake you.” Said a voice emerging from the kitchen. she walked over with two cups of tea, replacing the empty coffee mug on the table. As she walked past Dahyun again, she reached over and stroked her hair out of her eyes. Then walked into the kitchen with Dahyun’s empty mug and Dahyun’s eyes on her back. Her hair swayed a little when she walked, but too soon she disappeared into the kitchen. A scramble told Dahyun that Sana was cleaning the cup. She turned up in the hallway before Dahyun had gotten enough sense to look away. But Sana didn’t seem to notice, her expression a frown as her eyes searched the mess around Dahyun.

“Do you have any clue when they will start being kinder to you? It seems like an insane amount of work.” Sana commented with obvious worry when Dahyun scrambled to stack her notes enough that Sana could sit down. She settled with the usual lack of personal space, her body snug against Dahyun’s.

“I just need to get to May, then we tone down the intensity to one of the subjects; this one. And it’s my birthday that month so hopefully I’ll get some money from my parents, so I can take fewer shifts.” Dahyun sighed, sleep making her voice croaky.

“I can contribute more with rent if you can’t get the money to last?” Sana offered.

“No, it’s fine. We’re roommates, we share.” Dahyun reassured her

“If you’re sure.” Sana was studying her face, then nodded at the cup on the coffee table. “Drink your tea.”

“What time is it?” Dahyun asked as she reached for her tea. Lemon.

“Just past three. When are we leaving?” Sana asked, sipping from her own mug.

“Around five if we walk there. Half past if we take the subway.” Dahyun rubbed her eyes.

Sana shuffled and grabbed her phone from her pocket as it buzzed. She looked down at it, a soft smile around her lips.

“What?” Dahyun asked curiously.

“Just my mom. She worries easily.” Sana muttered and answered.

“That’s sweet of her.” Dahyun said, taking a sip of her tea.

“It should be me worrying about her.”

“Why? If you don’t mind me asking.” Dahyun frowned.

“Not at all,” Sana smiled. “She’s just dealt with some health stuff. Bad heart... But she’s been doing really well for the past three years.”

“Oh, well, I’m glad she’s doing good.” Dahyun didn’t exactly know how to react to that.

“Me too, I guess I just keep waiting for it to turn bad again. It’s stupid, I know.” She shook her head.

“It’s not stupid. It’s natural to worry.” Dahyun reassured her.

“I guess.” Sana smiled slightly, putting her phone down. “Did you finish the presentation?”

“Which one?” Dahyun laughed hopelessly. The tea had finally gotten the perfect temperature and she took a large gulp, savoring in the taste of it.

“The one you told me about yesterday, about… What was it? Composition and incorporation-”

“Of rock music in modern musical theatre.” Dahyun finished, nodding. “Yeah, I did.”

“Do you have to do more before we leave?” Sana asked, looking around at the mess.

“Not too much. I want to look over these-” Dahyun pointed at a stack of sheet-music but realized those were the wrong ones and started sifting through the piles to find the ones she needed. Her heart raced immediately, but just as she was about to get up to see if she was sitting on them, her eye caught on the name of the song she was looking for. She sighed and picked it out from underneath her book on golden age musicals.

“These ones.” Dahyun showed her three different songs from different musicals. “My Man” from Funny Girl , “For Good” from Wicked and “People Will Say We’re in Love” from Oklahoma! .

“I remember this one.” Sana said and pointed to the last one. Dahyun smiled. She did too.

“I like it.” She hummed and took it gently, fingers ghosting over the lyrics underneath the sheet music. “Do you have to play them?”

Dahyun shook her head. “I’m gonna use them to figure out how music contributes to conveying love in a song. Like, other than the lyrics.”

“That’s so cool.” Sana breathed.

“I just need to listen to each a few times and make some notes, then I’ll be ready to go.” Dahyun made another attempt at an energetic smile.

“And you’re sure you can’t save that until tomorrow?” Sana frowned.

“Why?”

“You look like you could use some more sleep…” Sana admitted, reaching out to stroke Dahyun’s mess of a hair.

“I… I can.” Dahyun gave in, leaning into the touch. “I can do this tomorrow.”

“Good idea.” Sana smiled warmly and took the sheets of paper and tea from Dahyun, placing it on the coffee table as neatly as she could. Dahyun swayed slightly on the couch and Sana caught her. Always seemed to catch her lately. And Dahyun found the all to familiar spot in the crook of Sana’s neck while Sana adjusted herself slightly and let one hand run slowly up and down Dahyun’s arm, the other removing the hair tie from what might once have been a bun. Combed her fingers through Dahyun’s hair. But Dahyun barely registered. She just relished in the smell of Sana’s perfume and let sleep drag her back in.

 

 

Gentle kisses to her forehead pulled Dahyun from sleep way too soon. Stuck somewhere between sleeping and being awake, the younger girl mumbled and squirmed, trying to get closer to Sana. Made her giggle by doing so.

“Dahyunnie, you’re going to miss your best friend’s birthday, and I don’t think she’ll accept the excuse that you were busy sleeping on your roommate.” Sana teased, cupping Dahyun’s face, still pressing soft kisses to Dahyun’s forehead, to her cheek and to the tip of her nose. As always when Sana was too close like this, Dahyun became horribly aware that all she had to do was move her head a fraction of an inch and Sana would be kissing her lips instead of her nose.

So she moved.

Backwards.

Out of reach.

“You’re right.” Dahyun said. Sana’s eyes flickered momentarily, then her lips spread in a warm smile. Why hadn’t Dahyun kissed her right there? Why did her mind turn so horribly blank when she opened her mouth to speak? It was pathetic. She was completely useless. If she just spoke her mind. Told Sana. But it would be so awkward if Sana didn’t like her back. How would she feel knowing her roommate was crushing on her? Would their newfound friendship and confidentiality survive that, or would she draw back? Would Dahyun lose Sana and by extension Momo, as soon as she had gotten them? Honestly, she couldn’t even imagine her life without either them by now.

“Are you gonna change before we leave? I don’t really know what’s customary to dress like for something like this…” The insecurity in Sana’s voice immediately returned Dahyun from her train of thoughts.

“Oh, you’re fine, you look good. I’m gonna change though.” Dahyun looked down herself, cringed and got up grudgingly. It wasn’t as if Chaeyoung would ever judge her for showing up in her so called grandma-style clothes, but Nayeon would never let her hear the end of it.

 

Sana was standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom when Dahyun poked her head in five minutes later. With her toothbrush still sticking out of her mouth, Sana turned and shuffled slightly, making room for Dahyun.

It was becoming a familiar routine, sharing the mirror.

She had gotten used to having the place mostly to herself, as Chaeyoung mostly had morning classes and more often than not spent the night at Nayeon’s. But Sana often bumped into Dahyun in the bathroom, her afternoon classes allowing her a sleep schedule that was more like Dahyun’s than Chaeyoung’s had been. Luckily it had only taken them a few days to get a system. Sana on the left and Dahyun on the right. And they always talked. Today Sana talked about how horrible their calculus lectures were and how she kept zoning out. How she envied Momo and her ability to learn their dances in no time. How she found it embarrassing that she had to keep asking Momo to show the steps. And Dahyun listened with patience and reassured her. Talked about her teacher’s distracting lisp and how Tzuyu had actually ordered tea instead of frappe the other day.

In these moments it seemed almost like they were just regular roommates, and Dahyun was sure she could get used to just having this. But then Sana promised to show her their most recent choreography, and Dahyun felt her stomach respond to the thought of Sana’s body dancing in front of her.

Yeah, she really had to get over it soon.

Or do something about it.

But right now, she merely shook her head and blinked, trying to get her mind in a very different direction than where it was currently heading.

 

 

“You’re late.” Chaeyoung frowned with a pout as she opened the door.

“I know. I’m sorry. But I have a present for you?” Dahyun gave Chaeyoung her most charming smile and blinked in what she hoped was an endearing manner.

“I guess.” Chaeyoung rolled her eyes and chuckled.

“So, this is for you.” Dahyun handed her a flat present and wrapped her arms around her best friend’s neck, planting an open-mouthed kiss on her cheek. “And so was that. Your birthday kiss.”

“Ew, gross!” Chaeyoung complained and wiped her cheek.

“Gross? How dare you call my present gross?” Dahyun huffed. “I’ll give you gross.”

“What’s- Dahyun!” Chaeyoung howled as Dahyun placed more wet kisses onto her best friend’s cheek. “Hey- you stop that! I’m covered in saliva- Ew!” Dahyun laughed against the younger girl’s skin and stopped kissing her, but held her tight still as she chuckled and allowed the closeness. “What’s gotten into you?”

“Missed you, I guess.” Dahyun mumbled happily against her best friend, feeling how Chaeyoung’s body finally relaxed and drew back a little to wipe the poor girl’s cheek dry somewhat. It wasn’t a lie. The moment she had seen Chaeyoung, there had been a moment where everything between them passed over Dahyun like a wave. The little drawings on yellow post it notes. The hours together side by side during recess and after school. The rush when they signed the lease on the apartment. The sinking feeling when they changed the contract. And then a few days ago in the train. Finally admitting to Chaeyoung how bad things had actually been. Realizing that she could have both; could let Chaeyoung live her life separate from their little world and still go to her. Could have her best friend without making her stop to wait for Dahyun.

“Dahyun?”

“Mh? Sorry. I just-” Dahyun shook her head and stood on her toes to kiss Chaeyoung right between the eyebrows, longer than she normally would.

“It’s a good thing this is only once a year.” Chaeyoung sighed and shook her head when Dahyun drew back. “That wasn’t one kiss, that was like a hundred.”

“Okay, so I overdid it a bit but who cares?” Dahyun shrugged, pulling herself from their past- “It’s your birthday!”

With a roll of the eyes and a grumble, the birthday girl turned to Sana and gave her a polite hug as well.

“Thank you for inviting me.” Sana beamed and handed Chaeyoung a rectangular box. “I hope you don’t mind I had Dahyun help me with your present.”

“Not at all.” Chaeyoung smiled and gestured for the two newcomers to step further into the apartment.

Sana passed behind Dahyun into the apartment and Dahyun found herself following her roommate with her eyes until the older girl found Momo in the couch and happily sat down - not on the empty cushion next to Momo - but in her lap. With a chuckle, Momo wrapped her arms around Sana’s waist. And then arms wrapped around Dahyun’s as well, and Chaeyoung’s voice was in her ear.

“So, how is that going?” Chaeyoung asked.

“Huh? What?” Dahyun turned her head slightly as Chaeyoung rested her chin on Dahyun’s shoulder and handed Dahyun the present from Sana as she started opening Dahyun’s.

“Nothing. You’re useless, you know that?” Chaeyoung leaned her head against Dahyun’s, tugging at the piece of scotch tape holding the wrapping.

“Very aware, thank you very much.” Dahyun mused, watching Chaeyoung’s hands in front of her, as the content of the present, thick expensive watercolor paper and a good brush, was revealed. Chaeyoung leaned her head harder against Dahyun’s and the older girl returned it.

“You didn’t have to. I know-”

“Shut up and let me spoil you for once.” Dahyun ran her hand over Chaeyoung’s arm before handing her the present from Sana that she had been holding. It matched Dahyun’s somewhat, this one containing some of the liquid watercolors she had been daydreaming about for months. For another minute they stood by the door, Chaeyoung examining her new supplies.

“I love you.” Chaeyoung hummed.

“You’re embarrassing yourself, weirdo.” Dahyun mused as Chaeyoung let go of her, walking around her to the dining table before walking back to Dahyun. Definitely caught Dahyun’s yawn as she walked back.

“You ok?” Chaeyoung linked their arms.

“Yeah.” Dahyun smiled lazily. “Just tired. Promise.”

With a sceptical nod, the younger girl dragged Dahyun over to the rest of the party, sitting down between Momo and Nayeon while Dahyun joined Mina, Tzuyu and Jihyo on the floor.

“Okay, so now that we’re all here, can we please start drinking?” Nayeon asked, casually wrapping an arm around the birthday girl, nosing into her black hair.

“What about food?” Mina asked, looking around at Tzuyu and Jihyo.

“Sure, that too.” Nayeon shrugged.

“This is the reason you’re always the one who gets the worst hangovers.” Jeongyeon said dryly.

“Or she’s just old.” Jihyo shrugged.

“Fuck off.” Nayeon made a face.

“That’s not your decision, it’s your girl who invited us.” Jihyo said coolly.

“Then at least get the alcohol, I need something to distract from your-” Nayeon made a gesture at all of Jihyo and grimaced. Jihyo scowled, though she immediately softened as Tzuyu caught her eye.

“Fine, alcohol.” Jihyo shook her head with a smile and nudged the youngest girl.

 

No-one objected to that claim.

 

 

“Come on, just say it!” Nayeon complained loudly.

“Like hell I will!” Jeongyeon objected just as loudly.

“It was your question, you have to answer!” Jihyo said, louder than any of them.

“She rigged the questions, I’m not going to answer!” Jeongyeon’s cheeks were flushed, partly due to the amount of alcohol she had consumed at this point and partly because of the question Jihyo had read aloud for her.

“It’s not that hard, just admit you’d do me if I wasn’t taken!” Nayeon insisted, leaning back in the couch nonchalantly.

“Who says I’d ever do you?! You’re just about the last person in this room I’d pick.”

“Of course you’d pick me.” Nayeon rolled her eyes.

“Not in a million years!” Jeongyeon made her best barfing imitation much to Jihyo’s delight.

“Then fucking pick someone, Yoo.” Nayeon kicked at Jeongyeon with her free foot, though the angle didn’t allow much of an impact.

“But we’re adults, why the hell are we even playing truth or dare?” Jeongyeon complained.

“Vodka.” Chaeyoung and Dahyun deadpanned.

 

Jeongyeon groaned and looked around at the crowd, her eyes searching for anyone who’d help. Then with a sigh and a deep blush spreading across her neck and chest she looked up at the ceiling and grumbled “Momo.”

“I knew it! Now you have permission to go for her.” Chaeyoung laughed turning to Momo who looked surprised and shy, but smirked at Jeongyeon nonetheless.

“I still say you wanted to pick me but you can’t get yourself to admit how much you like me.” Nayeon flicked her hair and wiggled her eyebrows.

“Ew.” Jeongyeon glowered.

“Hey, that’s my girlfriend!” Chaeyoung warned, earning a sloppy kiss from Nayeon. Tzuyu caught Dahyun’s eye and they grinned. Neither called them out on it. Not tonight. Tomorrow maybe. Definitely.

“Yeah, you can keep her.” Jeongyeon cringed.

“You need to get laid. You’re insufferable.” Nayeon insisted, then turning to Momo, “Fix it, please.”

Momo laughed and wrapped her arms tighter around Sana still in her lap, looking around at the others. She almost seemed shy. And it seemed that Sana noticed it too, because as Nayeon was about to open her mouth, Sana quickly asked for the game to move on. Jihyo agreed, insisting that there were children present, patting Tzuyu’s hair. Tzuyu however protested and said that since she too was turning twenty next month as well she could hardly count as a kid. Frankly looked a little offended. But Jihyo just poked her cheek and told her she’d always be a baby to Jihyo. Though it seemed like Tzuyu wanted to protest more, she just closed her mouth and let Jihyo nuzzle closer, her cheeks flushed from the quite heavy amount of alcohol she had gotten. Even Tzuyu seemed to have gotten more than normal, normal being none, but now her eyes were unfocused and she swayed slightly at the weight of Jihyo leaning against her.

While most of the others were good at handling alcohol, she and Tzuyu had never been much for it, but tonight it was different. Dahyun didn’t feel the effects too much yet, but she was convinced that she would feel it the second she had to get up. Nevertheless, Dahyun poured herself another swig of vodka and topped it off with orange juice. Could hardly taste the alcohol anymore. Looked over at Sana for the umptienth time, and found her lazily playing with Momo’s hands. So Dahyun leaned against Jihyo, though the older girl was still leaning on Tzuyu. But as Dahyun let her body slump against Jihyo’s, she adjusted to let Dahyun lean better. It was nice. But still Dahyun kept her eyes on Sana, hoping she wouldn’t notice, or maybe hoping just a little bit that she would. Then Jihyo’s arm wrapped around her shoulder and Dahyun shifted to lay down, finally tearing her eyes from Sana’s smile and resting in Jihyo’s lap. Relished in the feeling of Jihyo’s hands absentmindedly playing with her hair and stroking her cheek. It made Dahyun’s heart calm down a bit, and the thought of pulling Sana aside and telling her exactly how she felt got pushed a little further back in her head.

As long as she didn’t put it off too long.

“Tzuyu, truth or dare.” Nayeon said, breaking through Jeongyeon and Chaeyoung’s quiet conversation, starting the game again.

Tzuyu looked apprehensive. “I… Dare.”

“I dare you to tell me the best kiss of your life.”

“That’s not a dare!” Tzuyu flushed.

“Answer!” Nayeon insisted.

Tzuyu scowled. Her eyes travelled down to meet Dahyun’s. There was that thing once again about Tzuyu. And for a moment, Dahyun wondered if they were in the same boat. Or if Tzuyu was just private enough that she hadn’t told. Or maybe she just hadn’t told Dahyun.

“Tzuyu, come on.” Nayeon insisted, waving her beer bottle as she pointed at the youngest, her eyelids drooping. She had definitely been in a mood to drink tonight.

“How about we actually play a game that isn’t for twelve-year-olds?” Jeongyeon asked grumpily, obviously not over the whole Momo incident.

Tzuyu looked at Jeongyeon gratefully and Dahyun, Sana, and Mina quickly agreed. For Dahyun, though she felt for Tzuyu, more than anything else, she did not want to risk that any of them unknowingly made her do or say something about Sana that she wasn’t ready to.

 

They switched to Mafia and Jeongyeon provided roles as well as more vodka for all whose cups were empty. It was just like regular Mafia apart from the fact that you had to drink the entire contents of your cup when you died during the night and take a shot if you were eliminated during the day. While everyone closed their eyes, Jeongyeon got the shot glasses and a bottle of white rum with strawberry taste courtesy of Jihyo. It tasted absolutely disgusting but Jihyo had insisted that if it was rum for the strawberry princess it should be strawberry taste.

Dahyun wasn’t chosen for anything, and kept her place in Jihyo’s lap, hoping it would make her seem innocent. Or maybe was just too lazy and drunk to bother with anything else.

“Mina is definitely a mafia.” Jihyo insisted off the bat.

“Why are you always out to get me?” Mina complained, though Dahyun could barely see her from the angle she was lying in.  “I’m not the Mafia.”

“Oh, come on. I heard you move.”

“You’re sitting too far away to hear anything.” Mina grumbled.

“Dahyun isn’t, Dahyun did you hear anything?” Jihyo asked, stroking Dahyun’s hair.

“Wha- no.” Dahyun turned in Jihyo’s lap and grinned up at her. “I heard your tummy growl.”

“Go home Dahyun, you’re drunk.” Jihyo chuckled and poked the tip of Dahyun’s nose.

“Very true.” Dahyun leaned up a little, adjusting so she could see Mina better from the angle.. “But since I’m using Jihyo as my pillow, I have to follow her, so I’m on Mina too.”

Then there were two. And it didn’t take much accusing for Momo to get on that wagon too.

“I’m with those two. Mina is mafia.”

“Oh, come on.” Mina scowled at Momo but got nothing but a huge cheeky grin back.

“I trust Jihyo and Jihyo says you’re mafia, so you’re mafia.” Momo shrugged.

Mina let out a whine. “But I’m not mafia! I promise, Momo. Just trust me. Trust me and not Jihyo. I bet you she’s mafia and just trying to get rid of me to win some easy points.”

“Why do you all think it’s Mina?” Sana asked just as Momo was about to talk.

“She’s always mafia.” Tzuyu shrugged.

“I’m not!” Mina insisted and then looked up at Jeongyeon who was hiding her grin behind her mouth, the younger girl narrowing her eyes at her with a huff. “This is all your fault.”

“Is not. They’re the ones who got gullible after one night.” Jeongyeon gestured at their friends, barely able to contain herself.

“One night where you made me mafia five times in a row.” Mina grumbled and returned her attention to Momo.

“Just trust me, I’m not mafia.”

“Then accuse someone instead.” Momo challenged, a glint in her eyes.

“What about Sana, she keeps giggling.” Mina argued, just as Sana once again had a fit of laughter in Momo’s arms.

“She always does that no matter what.” Momo said with a shrug.

“She could be using it as a distraction.” Tzuyu argued in favor of Mina.

“Eh, I still say we eliminate Mina.” Jihyo said and pointed at Mina.

“But I’m not mafia!” Mina insisted.

“You might be. And really, can we afford to take the chance?” Chaeyoung raised an eyebrow at her.

“That’s the stupidest argument, any one of us might be the mafia!” Mina said.

“Yeah, well, I’m on Mina.” Chaeyoung pointed at Mina as well. They just needed one more vote on her, and Chaeyoung solved this by whispering something at Nayeon that made her grin widely and immediately point at Mina as well. Dahyun felt the need to throw a pillow in their face, but controlled herself.

And so, Mina, the doctor, was eliminated first. She took her shot and winced, scowling at Jihyo for the betrayal and possibly her choice of disgusting alcohol. Quietly Dahyun reminded herself to take out Jihyo next turn just because of that wide grin, but when Jeongyeon announced the arrival of morning after a night of calling on the different players, Dahyun had been killed by the mafia.

With a scowl up at Jihyo she grabbed her drink and a straw she hoped hadn’t been used before, lazily drinking but not bothering to move from Jihyo’s lap. Just watched as Sana and Momo started bickering when Sana accused Momo. Tzuyu kept saying it was Sana but Chaeyoung and Nayeon went for Tzuyu. Eventually Momo did as well.

Tzuyu, the policeman, slumped back against the couch and stared down her shot as if it was gonna drink itself, but in the end Jihyo coaxed her into taking it. None of them could help laughing at the ridiculous face the youngest made at the taste and Jeongyeon was by her side immediately with a regular coke. Thankfully Tzuyu drank, sending Jeongyeon one of her most endearing smiles and Jeongyeon smiled stupidly back. It was a general effect of Tzuyu’s best smiles. You sort of just stopped functioning properly, overwhelmed by her cuteness.

 

“Okay, night has fallen.” Jeongyeon interrupted and moved over to sit next to Mina who had moved backwards from the circle around the coffee table. The spot gave Jeongyeon a perfect view of the remaining players.

Dahyun watched as Momo and Sana woke as the mafias and both smirked at her. Dahyun almost yelled at them. She should’ve known. Really should’ve known. How had she suspected Jihyo? Even after she had gotten killed. That gullible huh? Or that drunk. But while she tried her best to wordlessly curse their asses from here to the moon, they agreed to kill Chaeyoung. A wise move as Nayeon and Jihyo were unlikely to agree, probably securing their victory. Dahyun felt dizzy as she finished her drink. Had a feeling someone had miscalculated something in this round but was too affected to figure out what.

In the end Sana stood as the sole winner when Nayeon and Jihyo uncharacteristically agreed on Momo and Sana played along, then killing Nayeon for good measure the next night.

 

After the third round, Jihyo suggested they play video games but Nayeon wanted to play cards. Honestly, Dahyun wasn’t sure she could focus on either, and it was made no easier by Tzuyu pulling her to her feet to free Jihyo from under her. The tall girl caught Dahyun as she stumbled.

“How much have you had?” Jihyo asked quietly as Dahyun clung to Tzuyu.

“Not sure.” Dahyun scrunched her face trying to remember, but she had lost count after the fifth? Sixth? No, it really was no use. She shrugged and let Tzuyu and Jihyo drag her into the kitchen and place her on a chair.

“Jihyo, can you? I really have to pee…” Tzuyu asked and got a nod from the older girl. Left Jihyo and Dahyun alone in the kitchen.

“You never drink this much.” Jihyo mumbled as she poured a glass of tap water and held it in front of Dahyun. Waited patiently until Dahyun managed to close both hands around the cool glass and she drank willingly, though her mouth was used to the alcohol and the sugar by now, making this taste quite a bit too bland. Jihyo kneeled on the floor and rested her arms on Dahyun’s knees, looking up at her.

“Dahyun…”

“Mh?” Dahyun asked, blinking Jihyo back into focus every few seconds.

“You never drink this much.” The older girl repeated.

“I know.” Dahyun sighed. “I know I don’t. I hate the taste.”

“Why then?” Jihyo asked.

“I don’t know.” Dahyun shrugged. Finished the water and put the glass on the little table.

“... You haven’t called much lately.” Jihyo said, her voice small.

“I know.” Dahyun looked down at the older girl and felt her heart swell. There was genuine concern in Jihyo’s eyes. Everything about Jihyo was genuine.

“But you’re sleeping better?” Jihyo asked, resting her head on her arms, turning her gaze away.

“I am.” Dahyun lied easily and stroked Jihyo’s hair.

“I’m glad.” Jihyo hummed, her voice barely a whisper as she continued. “But… I wish you’d call even when things are going well.”

Dahyun felt her throat close up. Carefully lifted Jihyo’s head and slid clumsily onto the floor, wrapping her arms around Jihyo, hiding her face in her hair. Could barely hold back tears.

“I will.” Dahyun croaked. “I promise I will.”

The floor of the kitchen was cold, but neither of them seemed to care. They just held onto each other like drunken fools, which they probably were. Dahyun definitely was. Because without really knowing why she started singing, quietly, out of key - but singing the song Jihyo always sang for her. Because it was the only thing she could think of doing in that moment. Quiet though the song might be, it filled the kitchen somehow and Jihyo hugged her impossibly tighter, mumbling along. It sounded a lot better than Dahyun’s, but the younger girl didn’t stop.

At some point, and Dahyun wasn’t quite aware of when, they were joined by Chaeyoung, who sat down quietly beside them and leaned on Dahyun’s shoulder. Dahyun loosened her grip on Jihyo and wrapped one arm around Chaeyoung, the other still stroking Jihyo’s back.

It hadn’t been an intrusion on Dahyun’s moment with Jihyo, for Chaeyoung to join. Had just been another reminder. And the song was a promise to do better. A promise to start remembering to share the good times too. And Dahyun felt somehow both overwhelmed by how crappy a friend she had been lately, and soothed at the hope of improving. Just holding them both so close felt like retribution.

Still, even now, she couldn’t help but think of Sana. And it stung. Because all her attention had been turned to Sana and it would’ve maybe been ok if it hadn’t been for this horrible timing. If she could’ve just met Sana a year ago, or maybe in a year from now. But she had just dumped right down in the middle of a storm and offered cover. And Dahyun wanted to tell Jihyo and Chaeyoung how much happiness she had right now because of Sana. Yet right now, she was so painfully aware, that if she hadn’t been so completely lost in her feelings, she would have spent lunches with Jihyo or nights with Chaeyoung instead of using every excuse to cuddle up with Sana. Had forgotten her friends in the rush of sunlight.

From now on she would do better. But with six friends that had turned to eight, it was almost impossible to keep up with everyone. Especially when she could barely keep herself together.

I don’t wanna do a damn thing without you .

Dahyun winced. Realized for the first time that she actually hated that this song, how every song was suddenly about Sana. But it wasn’t Sana she hated. God, no. It was her own mind. Hated that even now with Jihyo’s calm breath against her collarbone and Chaeyoung’s hand around Dahyun’s, she was still thinking about Sana. And she hated that she couldn’t stop the words that escaped her lips.

“How do you know when something turns from a crush… to something more?” She breathed.

 

The magic was broken.

Their bubble had burst.

Or at least that’s what she had thought.

 

But there was only care and fondness in Jihyo’s expression as she pulled back. She turned her head to the side and let her eyes examine every feature in Dahyun’s face. A smile spread on Jihyo’s face. The kind that made her eyes glint. And then Chaeyoung’s fingers laced through the spaces between Dahyun’s, and Dahyun returned the tightness of Chaeyoung’s grasp.

“You really are a fool, Kim Dahyun.” Jihyo shook her head slightly and leaned back into Dahyun.

 

Maybe there were kinds of magic that couldn’t be broken.

Bubbles that never burst.

Or at least that’s what she hoped.

Chapter Text

Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed until Nayeon claimed her girlfriend from the pile of tangled limbs and quiet voices. Jihyo sighed against Dahyun and sat up, Dahyun immediately missing the warmth and pressure. But just as Dahyun was about to ask for more closeness, Tzuyu showed up in the door, her eyes shifting from Dahyun to Jihyo. Held the eyes of the older girl as she spoke.

“Can we talk? If you have a moment…”

“Sure. Sure, I’m-” Jihyo looked around at Dahyun.

“It’s ok, go.” Dahyun assured her. Jihyo nodded and got up, following Tzuyu back into the hallway. Then a door opened and closed, and Dahyun was left alone, with the feeling of cold hard kitchen tiles and the distant sound of her friends having fun. Wanted to join but also wanted to sleep. Except right now she really had to pee. So blinking the dizziness away, she got up and found the bathroom.

It was unbelievable how much you had to pee when drunk. As if the bladder had suddenly turned the size of a walnut. But maybe this was just her punishment for drinking more than she probably had ought to. Dahyun fumbled a bit trying to get the toilet paper off the roll and clumsily had to wind a bunch back, and when she looked in the mirror, she noticed that her cheeks were slightly flushed and her pupils wide. It was definitely time to stop. Not that she really knew why she had chosen to keep going.

Cooling her wrists under the faucet, Dahyun let her mind wander. Maybe if she got the chance, she would have the courage to tell Sana how she felt. They called it liquid courage, right? It wouldn’t be that bad to just walk up to her and- oh god, if she got to kiss her. No, no this was about talking to her. What was wrong with her that she couldn’t think about anything else? As if she had somehow switched brains with some horny fourteen year old. If she talked to Sana, then maybe they could get everything out in the open and find a way to move on. Move forwards or backwards… or whatever. Honestly she should just have more, confess and then blame the alcohol. Laugh it off. She was so good at just laughing it off. Yeah, that was definitely the solution.

Dahyun cleaned her face the best she could, dried up and headed out, back to the kitchen for her glass. But it wasn’t empty anymore. Jihyo was standing in front of the sink, looking into the depths of it.

“Are you ok?” Dahyun asked, Jihyo jolting slightly as she looked up at Dahyun. Her eyes wavered but she just shrugged and made room for Dahyun by the sink.

“Me? Yeah, I’m fine.” Jihyo smiled. “I think… No, actually, do you wanna play kings?”

“Kings?” Dahyun asked, her brain working just a bit too slow for her liking.

“You know, card game?” Jihyo smiled slightly.

“I… I guess.” Dahyun frowned.

She let Jihyo drag her out of the kitchen, forgetting the glass by the sink. Momo and Mina were playing Mario Kart on either side of Jeongyeon in the couch, Sana on a pillow on the floor between Momo’s legs, watching them.

“Jeongyeon, have you seen the cards?” Dahyun asked as she reached them, patting Jeongyeon’s head distractedly.

“Oh, yeah, they’re-” Jeongyeon moved forwards towards the coffee table, but as both Mina and Momo had been leaning on her, they both shrieked, though Momo managed to get an extra bonus while Mina drove into the water.

“Hah! Karma!” Momo grinned happily.

“Karma for what?!” Mina whined as the car reset.

“For being a sore loser.”

“I’m not a sore loser.” Mina huffed.

“You whacked me over the head for hitting you with a blooper.” Momo smirked at her.

While the two Japanese girls kept arguing, Jeongyeon handed Dahyun the cards, grinning up at her as Momo once more settled with her head on Jeongyeon’s shoulder. And for a moment she was sure that someone was staring at her. And with a jolt of the stomach she saw Sana turn away and stare at the TV the second Dahyun dared hope it had been her staring. Wanted to sit by her. Hold her hand. Lean on her shoulder. But she didn’t. Instead she turned away from her four friends by the tv, towards the dinner table against which Nayeon was leaning, scrolling through her phone.

“Are we playing?” Nayeon asked when she looked up and saw the pack of cards in Dahyun’s hand.

“Kings.” Jihyo said from behind Dahyun, showing up with rum and coke.

“Finally!” Nayeon smirked. “This is my kind of game.”

They settled around the table and were soon joined by Tzuyu and Chaeyoung, though the youngest opted for orange juice instead of rum. For a moment Dahyun was sure that Jihyo would protest as Dahyun grabbed the rum, but she didn’t even notice. Was just shuffling, her eyes narrowed. So Dahyun poured herself a generous amount and topped it with coke, sipping from it and wincing. Maybe a little too strong after all.

 

Nayeon started, drew a six of hearts and grinned as everyone took a sip. Dahyun got a two and gave both sips to a chuckling Nayeon. Then Tzuyu drew a four and chose Chaeyoung as a drinking mate. Jihyo drew a three and took three large gulps. Nayeon was the first to get a waterfall, and Dahyun felt the disorientation return halfway through, but didn’t waver. By the end she swore her revenge for Nayeon though, and got it when she was last to raise her hand on a seven. Then Chaeyoung complained loudly when Dahyun used her innocence in the romantic department as a way to get the others down when she had to do her round of never have I ever. And when Tzuyu drew a king she made the rule that every time Nayeon swore she had to drink.

After the second round of waterfall, Dahyun took the punishment that came with leaving the table, as the other consequence would have been her walnut sized bladder bursting. She swayed slightly as she walked and made sure to not stumble over her own legs.

 

One look in the bathroom mirror was enough for Dahyun to grimace at herself. In an attempt at splashing water in her face to freshen up, she had smeared her make-up slightly and gotten water down the front of her shirt as well. She scrunched her nose in dismay and tried to correct her make-up with a finger. Then wiped her shirt with a towel and sighed. It might really be time to stop. With that consideration, she emerged from the bathroom, adjusting her shirt. But her path was blocked by someone. Someone who smelled lemony and slightly like flowers. Sana. Sana whose arms were immediately around her, steadying her. And Dahyun looked up, her stomach jolting at the feeling of Sana’s warm body so close to her, her senses heightened but her responses slow.

“Sana-chan.” Dahyun mused happily.

“You look like you’re having fun.” Sana chuckled.

“Very much, espe-” Dahyun stumbled over the word and hiccupped. “Especially right now.”

“Okay, just how much have you had to drink?” Sana rubbed Dahyun’s back, laughter still bubbling from her lips like champagne. Maybe Dahyun could take just one more drink.

“Mh-lot.” Dahyun mumbled and wrapped her arms around Sana’s waist - you know for stability. Not at all because she finally had the courage to do almost all the things she wanted whenever she saw Sana looking at her with that smile that seemed to make every nerve in Dahyun’s body stir all at once.

“You’re very pretty, d’you know that?” Dahyun mumbled as Sana fixed the younger girl’s hair.

“You’re very drunk, Dahyunnie.” Sana chuckled and pressed her lips to Dahyun’s forehead. Dahyun hummed and leaned into it. “And apparently a very cuddly drunk.”

Dahyun just nodded and buried her head in Sana’s neck, taking in her scent unapologetically. It felt amazing for once to not be stopped by her doubts. Couldn’t even remember what it felt like to be nervous.

“Why do you always smell like lemons?” Dahyun mumbled.

“It’s my conditioner.”

“I like it.” Dahyun took a deep breath into Sana’s hair. Sana giggled and squirmed slightly, but Dahyun just tightened her grasp, trying to eliminate every inch of air between them.

“Okay, well, I think it’s water for you from now on.” Sana said, amusement evident in her voice.

“Why…” Dahyun whined.

“Because you’re hitting on me.” Sana chuckled.

“So?” Dahyun asked and drew back. She looked up at Sana, trying to focus. Felt with a racing heart how Sana’s eyes flickered between her own. Adjusting in the older girl’s arms, Dahyun felt herself stand up on her toes, inching closer to Sana.

And then Tzuyu was there. Broke the magic. Pulled Dahyun back. And Dahyun could’ve yelled at her. Because she almost did it. She almost kissed Sana. But Tzuyu was stoic in her expression, in her posture, as she caught Dahyun’s eyes and held them.

“Weren’t you on the way to the bathroom, Sana?” Tzuyu asked, looking over at Sana. “I can hold this clingy thing meanwhile.” Sana looked confused for a second. Her eyes flicked from Dahyun’s eyes to her lips and Dahyun’s stomach did a somersault. But then Sana’s hand stroked across Dahyun’s cheek and Dahyun felt herself being handed over to Tzuyu. If Dahyun had been less drunk she might’ve reacted in time, might’ve resisted more when Sana freed herself. But then again, if she had been less drunk she would’ve never gotten to this point. So Dahyun merely sighed when Tzuyu’s arms wrapped around her.

Tzuyu rested her chin on Dahyun’s head and waited until Sana had locked the door.

“Not like this.” Tzuyu mumbled solemnly.

Dahyun sighed. “I know…”

Tomorrow she would thank Tzuyu for not letting her, but right now she couldn’t. All she could think about was how Sana had looked at her lips. That meant something, right? When a girl looked at you like that?

“Can you take me home with you when you leave?” Tzuyu asked quietly, leaning her head back against the wall.

“Weren’t you going to stay here?”

“Change of plans.”

“Ok, sure.”

“Thank you.” Tzuyu hugged her tighter, and Dahyun felt her sigh heavily against her. Let the younger girl walk her to the couch. Away from Sana and the temptations she couldn’t resist. They found Momo, Mina and Jeongyeon still in the couch, still playing Mario Kart. Though now it was Jeongyeon battling Momo.

“Can we join?” Tzuyu asked, her tall frame still wrapped around Dahyun’s petite body.

“Sure,” Mina looked up, her eyes travelling from Tzuyu’s face to Dahyun, “You good Dahyun?”

“No, Tzuyu’s mean.” Dahyun huffed, sticking out her bottom lip.

“When you’re sober you can do whatever you want, but not like this.” Tzuyu mumbled.

“I know.” Dahyun whined. “You’re still mean.”

“I’m ok with that.” Tzuyu shrugged. “Mina, can you take her?”

“I- sure.” Mina frowned. With the slight feeling of being a puppy handed from one to the other, Dahyun let Mina pull her onto her lap

“Don’t let her do anything dumb.” Tzuyu reprimanded before walking away.

“Dumb? Dahyun? Like we can prevent it.” Jeongyeon snorted and let out a loud laugh as Momo’s car spun from being hit with a turtle shell.

“I’m not that dumb.” Dahyun pouted, leaning into Mina.

“No, you’re not. But you are a fool.” Chaeyoung commented as she joined, sitting by Mina’s feet.

“That… I cannot deny.” Dahyun shrugged and started nudging Chaeyoung’s shoulder with her foot until the younger girl shot her a look and moved to sit by Momo’s feet instead. Dahyun chuckled lazily and dangled her feet off the couch.

 

 

Midnight came and left, and Chaeyoung’s birthday was officially over, but they all stuck around until one in the morning. Mina was the first to leave. Needed to catch the right trains if she was going to get back before sunrise. It seemed that this became everyone’s cue to pack up, Tzuyu’s hand tugging at the hem of Dahyun’s shirt, her eyelids drooping and her body swaying slightly where she stood. The worst buzz had left Dahyun, as it had been almost an hour and a half since she had stopped drinking, and her body ached.

“You wanna head home, Chou-Tzu?” Dahyun asked, linking her arm with Tzuyu’s to keep the tall girl steady. And herself as well, maybe. Probably. How long did you have to stay away from alcohol to start feeling better?

“Mhh…” Tzuyu nodded.

“Yeah, I think we’re heading home now too.” Jeongyeon yawned, hanging off Nayeon’s shoulders like a koala.

“Good, then you can stop being a pain.” Nayeon hummed, stroking Jeongyeon’s arm.

“Jerk.” Jeongyeon said, tightening her arms around the older girl before letting her go. “Momo, you ready to go?”

Momo, who was still on the couch with Sana, Chaeyoung and Jihyo, looked for a moment like she was going to protest but in the end she nodded and dragged Sana with her from the couch. Jihyo was the only one who was gonna spend the night, and even if she had wanted to move, Chaeyoung was curled in a ball in her arms, fast asleep, the controller for Mario Kart limply in her hand.

“Can you help me get this tired child home?” Dahyun asked Sana as the older girl joined them by the door, holding onto her own arm, pinching slightly at the skin.

“M’not… child.” Tzuyu mumbled, more and more of her weight against Dahyun.

“Okay, Chou-Tzu.” Dahyun hushed, taking a few deep breaths to feign more energy and a more sober demeanor.

“Let me just get my purse, do you have everything?” Sana said calmly, trying to hand a very clingy Momo off to Jeongyeon who didn’t seem the slightest like this was a plan she wanted to be a part of, but in the end she accepted and said her goodbyes to Jihyo and Nayeon, telling the latter to tell the sleeping birthday girl goodnight for her. In the meantime Sana had gotten back with her purse.

“You know you can still stay here, right?” Nayeon said quietly as she hugged Tzuyu goodbye. If Dahyun hadn’t stood right by the youngest, she wouldn’t have heard it.

“I know.” Tzuyu smiled. “Thank you, Nayeon.”

Just as they were about to leave, Chaeyoung stirred in Jihyo’s arms and resurfaced with a raspy groan, stretching and almost hitting Jihyo in the face with her arm.

“The strawberry princess lives.” Dahyun noted with a grin as Dahyun blinked, her mouth slightly ajar, looking around.

“Where’s…”

“She had to catch a train.” Momo explained, leaning half against the wall and half against Jeongyeon.

“Oh. You could’ve woken me.” Chaeyoung pouted.

“Sorry. But you’re catching the rest of us, just in time.” Dahyun said and watched as Chaeyoung and then Jihyo got up and joined the rest of the party by the door, the older girl rubbing her thighs, probably sore after having Chaeyoung sleeping on her for an hour.

Sana was the first to get a hug from Chaeyoung, and it made Dahyun happy to see it. Momo who had been shy when first introduced had now so quickly become familiar with all of them, whereas Sana still kept to Dahyun and Momo. But as Chaeyoung pulled back, Sana pressed a chaste kiss to the younger girl’s cheek. The latter blushed but allowed it.

“Happy birthday, Chaeyoung. Thank you for inviting me.” Sana said with a soft smile.

“No problem.” Chaeyoung said, a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

“I know it’s not exactly your birthday anymore but Mina told me about the tradition, and though I’m not exactly a part of the group yet, I just-”

“Sana. You are a part of the group. And it’s ok. I’m glad I got my birthday kiss from you, even if it was late.” Chaeyoung assured her. Sana beamed, and her posture straightened proudly. Chaeyoung’s smile widened automatically and she shook her head at the silly girl. Dahyun couldn’t help smiling either. Not even when Chaeyoung caught her gaze and rolled her eyes.

As soon as everyone had said their goodbyes, the five left together, but separated down on the street. Even if they lived in roughly the same direction, it would’ve been a detour for Jeongyeon and Momo to go past Sana and Dahyun’s building, and Momo looked half-asleep already. Definitely wasn’t in the mood for a detour.

 

 

Cool wind blew through the streets, as Sana, Tzuyu, and Dahyun walked side by side, arms around each other, their shadows switching between following them and showing the way as they passed under the yellow street lights. It was warm. Somehow it had become the end of April.

Dahyun’s vision blurred in and out of focus, the cars on the street going too fast for her to properly notice and the sounds of the night distant as if the three girls were surrounded by a bubble. There was something assuring about walking together, Tzuyu in the middle, her long legs taking lazy heavy steps, stumbling every few blocks. Sana’s arm was around Tzuyu’s shoulder, holding her gently, while Dahyun held around her waist, steadying herself as well as her friend. The wind helped sober Dahyun up a little, cooling her cheeks and her neck, taking deep refreshing breaths, but she was still definitely not sober. Not even close.

 

Dahyun’s phone buzzed in her jacket pocket and she fumbled with the zipper, trying to get the phone out. It buzzed another two times before she managed to retrieve it.

 

1:24 am Chaeyoung: Thank you for tonight. Text when you get home, and make sure Tzuyu drinks water before she sleeps.

1:25 am Chaeyoung: You should drink water too!

1:25 am Chaeyoung: Oh and about Sana. She’s good for you.

 

Dahyun pressed her lips tightly together, trying to hide a smile, and clumsily typed a response with one hand.

 

1:26 am Dahyun: Wwill do. Happy birthday

1:27 am Dahyun: Thankyou.

 

Dahyun shut off the screen and put the phone back in her pocket. Sana looked at her inquisitively.

“Chaeyoung.” Dahyun said as an answer to the question in Sana’s eyes. “She likes you.”

“I like her too!” Sana exclaimed happily, beaming at Dahyun. “I like all of you! So much.”

“We like you too.” Dahyun chuckled.

And it wasn’t just the crush part. She really liked Sana. Liked the new normal she had brought with her. In fact, she didn’t think she ever wanted another normal than this. Dahyun’s mind was still so full of love and admiration for all of her friends, and she let their faces take up her vision, their smiles making hers wider and their laughter ringing in her ears.

Maybe she was just being sentimental because of the alcohol - no, she definitely was - but maybe that was ok. She closed her eyes and leaned on Tzuyu. Her heart threatened to burst and was glad Tzuyu couldn’t read her mind, or she would’ve called out on how sappy she was. And even that made Dahyun’s heart swell.

Tzuyu was never good at sappy or cheesy, but she loved so fiercely, so genuinely and Dahyun knew that Tzuyu would always stand up to anyone who got in the way of someone she loved.

“Step.” Tzuyu said quietly and Dahyun opened her eyes in time to step from the curb onto the asphalt as they passed the street.

All the way home, that was the most they talked, but they held onto each other, steadying and comforting one another in the darkness. Only when they got to the front door of Sana and Dahyun’s building did they let go of each other. After fumbling to find her key, Sana unlocked the door, and held it for the other two.

“You two can take my bed if you want. It fits two, and the couch is really uncomfortable to sleep on.” Sana said as they headed up the stairs.

“If you don’t mind, I’d rather not sleep with Dahyun, she kicks in her sleep.” Tzuyu looked down at Dahyun.

“No she doesn’t?” Sana frowned. “I mean once but-”

“I actually do bustle quite a lot in my sleep, normally...” Dahyun felt a warmth creep up her neck at the memory of having once kicked Tzuyu’s thigh so hard during a nightmare that it bruised.

“Well, I’ve only noticed it one time.” Sana shrugged.

“But,” Dahyun turned to Tzuyu just as they reached the door, “Sana doesn’t kick, you can just sleep with her if that’s ok with you?”  

“Uh, sure.” Tzuyu said with apprehension. Sana looked at her, clearly not buying it.

“I can take the couch if you’re more comfortable with that?” Sana asked. Unlocked the door and held it for them.

“No, I’m the one who didn’t choose to stay, I’ll take the couch.” Tzuyu said as they stepped into the apartment, Dahyun reaching to turn on the lights.

“No way. You’re taking my bed, I’ll bunk with Sana, she’s used to me by now anyways.” Dahyun said firmly, squatting to untie her shoelaces.

“But-” Tzuyu frowned and crouched beside Dahyun, Sana busy taking off her own shoes, stumbling over her own feet and giggling at herself. Tzuyu’s voice was barely a whisper when she spoke. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“Look, I promise I won’t kiss her, or confess, or- or anything. Ok? So you just take my bed and I’ll handle it.” Dahyun insisted under her breath.

“Mhh, I don’t like it. But if you promise.”

“You said it yourself, not like this, right? This isn’t how it’s supposed to happen.” Dahyun got back up, Tzuyu following her.

“Okay.” Tzuyu nodded.

“What are you two talking about?”

“... Tzuyu’s girlfriend.” Dahyun shrugged.

“You have a girlfriend?!” Sana’s entire face split in a wide smile.

“No. Definitely not. She’s drunk. Don’t trust her.” Tzuyu scowled down at Dahyun. Once in a while Dahyun swore Tzuyu made herself taller just to bother Dahyun.

“I’m not drunk.” Dahyun protested.

“Yeah you are, Dahyunnie.” Sana giggled as Dahyun decided to disprove her own point by colliding with the couch.

“Well, I’m your problem tonight.” Dahyun grinned at her.

“I think I can handle five feet of drunk goof.” Sana said with raised eyebrows.

“Okay then. You and me tonight then, Sana-chan.” Dahyun nodded decisively. Sana giggled into her hand at the nickname and Dahyun felt like flying. Then Sana almost tripped over her own feet as the three walked towards the rooms, and Dahyun wondered for a split-second how much she was affected by the alcohol. They had barely talked that night and Dahyun hadn’t seen if Sana had gotten a lot. Maybe she was just being her clumsy self. But no matter the reason for the stumble, Sana merely laughed at herself and straightened up, running a hand through her blonde hair, the dark roots growing slowly longer.

 

 

Jihyo sighed. With a raised eyebrow at one of her oldest friends, Nayeon leaned against the counter, watching how Jihyo stared into the empty glass.

“You okay?” Nayeon asked with a frown.

“Yeah, but so tired. I’ll be out of your hair in a few. Promise.” Jihyo sent her a tired smile, but Nayeon honestly didn’t like sending Jihyo out into the night by herself.

“You really should stay, Jihyo. It’s a long way home and-”

“I’d rather just get home.” Jihyo ran a hand through her hair and yawned loudly.

“If you’re sure.”

“You know, for someone who claims they don’t give a shit, you sure care a lot.” Jihyo nudged her, and Nayeon couldn’t help but nudge back.

“You better text me when you get home.” Nayeon sent Jihyo what she hoped was a stern look.

“I will.” Jihyo nodded and pushed herself away from the counter. At Jihyo’s gesture towards the living room, Nayeon followed her, watching as the younger girl put on her coat, patting the pockets to check for content and then looked around at Nayeon again.

“I’ll see you… what? Monday? Do we have classes together monday?”

“I think so. Probably.” Nayeon shrugged, not bothering to try and remember.

“Then Monday.” Jihyo nodded, smiling at something over Nayeon’s shoulder, and next thing, Chaeyoung’s arms wrapped around Nayeon from behind.

“Had a good birthday?” Jihyo asked with a chuckle. Chaeyoung nodded into Nayeon’s shoulder.

“Good.” Jihyo took the few steps to reach them, hugging both at the same time. “Night, Chaeyoungie. Night, Nabongs.” She said, sending them a tired smile before walking out of the apartment.

For a moment Nayeon just stood there, looking at the closed door, but then Chaeyoung leaned her head against Nayeon’s.

“She’s a big girl. She’s gonna be ok.” Chaeyoung muttered.

“I know.” Nayeon smiled, turning in her girlfriend’s arms. “But at least now we have the apartment to ourselves”

“Okay, wow, mood change.” Chaeyoung chuckled as Nayeon played with the black hair.

“You make everything dirty.” Nayeon rolled her eyes, pecking Chaeyoung’s plump lips softly.

“Says you who tried to do me after two dates.” Chaeyoung said dryly.

“Says you who let me.” Nayeon retorted.

“... I guess you have a point.” Chaeyoung chuckled, tugging the older girl closer. “So. Do I get my birthday present now?”

 

Dahyun’s heart raced and her head was spinning.

The minute she had laid down, the remaining effects of the alcohol hit her. Hard. Or maybe it was the wonderful feeling of being back in Sana’s warm, big, comfortable bed, her head on the pillow that smelled like lemons. It was intoxicating all on its own. And she thought of how she might do it. How maybe tonight when Sana pulled her close she would turn around in her arms and ask if she could kiss her. And maybe she would let her, and Dahyun would finally know how Sana’s lips felt. They looked soft, and felt soft against her skin, but she wanted to know how they felt against her own lips. Wanted to know how she tasted. Or maybe it would just get awkward and someone would end up sleeping on the couch. Yeah, better not. And besides, she had just promised Tzuyu fifteen minutes ago that she wasn’t going to try tonight. But still.

 

Only a few minutes passed from when Dahyun had laid down until Sana walked into the room, closed the door and turned off the lights, leaving them in darkness. Then the sound of glasses being put on a nightstand. She could do it now. Could do it right now. Say her name. Yet some little voice kept ringing in her ears, persistent and annoying. Not like this. But she wasn’t drunk anymore. Was she? She was dizzy but that was Sana right? She wasn’t drunk anymore. She was allowed to kiss her. But... if she still had the courage, then maybe she was actually still drunk? But not a lot. Not too much.

 

Dahyun fixed her eyes on the blurry outline of the lamp in the ceiling as the bed dipped and she felt Sana crawl across her. Clenched her hands around the sheets to keep from reaching up and pulling Sana close. She could feel her heartbeat and hear the blood rushing in her ear and wondered if Sana could her hear how shallow her breath was.

“You ok there?” Sana asked with a breathy chuckle as she settled next to Dahyun.

Not like this.

“Yeah. Just... dizzy.” Dahyun croaked, her mouth dry. She closed her eyes and tried to steady her breathing, biting down on her lip. Why did Sana do this to her, make her so desperate, like a teenager with her first crush. But she was somehow in this moment just a teenager with her first crush.

“Do you need water?” Sana offered, already on her way up, but Dahyun shook her head, too fast, and she felt slightly sick. She tried to focus but everything was too far away for her eyes to see. Really shouldn’t have taken off her glasses already.

“You sure?” Sana insisted. Dahyun looked over at her, and found that she was close enough for Dahyun to make out her features properly. And considering Dahyun’s horrible vision, that was definitely close enough.

Not like this.

Dahyun held her breath. Tried so hard not to cave. Needed Sana gone. Right now. Just for a moment. To get over whatever was going on with her right now, because she was definitely losing control of it. It felt as if the alcohol had magnified her feelings tenfold. Everything was just too much, and there was no cool wind in here to make her feel less like she was going to hurl.

“I guess… Water… Would be good.” Dahyun breathed. Once again she felt the bed move. Felt Sana crawl over her and out of the bed. Dahyun bustled, kicking her legs to get the covers away, a clammy sheen of sweat spreading over her skin. And with all the strength she had, Dahyun propped herself up on her elbows, letting her head fall back against the wall with a sigh. Why wouldn’t Tzuyu’s voice inside her head shut up? Why was it so hard to just ignore it and ask Sana? And Dahyun feared the answer. That the voice was right. That she was still too affected by the alcohol, that she might not remember this in the morning.

 

Sana came back too fast, tippy-toeing and closing the door behind her gently. Turned on the little bedside lamp on the nightstand. Awkwardly because of the angle, Dahyun grabbed the pillow and propped it up against the wall, sitting more upright as Sana kneeled by the bed.  Took the glass when Sana held it out to her and held it with both hands. It was wonderfully cool, and for a moment she forgot that she was also supposed to drink the contents and not just hold it. But Sana was watching her with a smile playing on her lips.

Dahyun tried to concentrate on drinking the water. It was hard, when Sana’s smile was so infectious. If she spilled water down herself from smiling too much, Dahyun thought, she would definitely never manage to get Sana to fall for her.

“You know,” Sana said, her eyes glinting, a mischievous smile replacing the sweet one as soon as Dahyun had managed to drink some of the water. “It’s my birthday in December.”

Dahyun stared at the older girl, her mind trying to decipher the relevance of this.

“Yeah, you told me that the first night.” Dahyun said feebly. Drank a little more of the water. It was like putting two and two together and getting the answer three hundred and forty five.

“It’s an awful long time away.” Sana leaned closer to Dahyun.

Oh.

Dahyun took her time drinking the water, but eventually lowered the glass, focusing on the blurred outline of Sana’s hairline. And when she spoke, she tried to be as neutral as she could.

“It is.”

But she was practically asking her to-. Wasn’t she?

Not like this .

“You don’t have to wait until then.” Sana’s grin made her entire face light up. And Dahyun wondered if she was joking. Because the slightly raised eyebrow and glinting eyes suggested she might be. But she caught Dahyun’s eyes and moved closer. She was definitely asking her. Or messing with her. Oh god, what if she was messing with her like always? What if she was and Dahyun would look like a complete fool. Either way she would have to tell Sana. Immediately. Admit her feelings to get her to stop. It was the only solution.

Not like this.

God, could Tzuyu’s voice just shut up for one second, it was really hard enough to focus without it.

“What are you doing?” Dahyun breathed as Sana kept inching closer.

“Giving you an opportunity.” Sana said with a shrug, her voice cute and innocent, but her smirk not so much.

“An… opportunity?” Dahyun’s voice caught in her throat. Sana was too close. In about three seconds she was going to break. “What do you-”

“You can kiss me if you want.” Sana breathed so quietly, Dahyun had to spend several seconds making sure she had heard her right. But she had felt Sana’s breath against her lips, sending sparks through her entire body. Sana’s smile had gone. Less than two inches away. If this was Sana teasing her, Dahyun might actually get mad. But it couldn’t be.

Not like this .

Shut up. Just. Shut up. This was it. This was the moment she had been hoping for, dreaming of. This was… okay, so a slight chance that Dahyun was reading it wrong. Maybe thirty percent. Could be that she meant that she wanted cheek kisses, like she gave Dahyun all the time. After all, they didn’t kiss each other on the lips on their birthdays. So maybe a fifty fifty.

Not like this.

In this moment she almost hated Tzuyu for saying it. For saving her. And Dahyun bit her lip, regretting the words before she even said them.

“Good to know.”

Immediately, Sana drew back and chuckled. Closed her eyes for a moment. Almost hesitantly she reached up and let her fingertips run across Dahyun’s forehead along her hairline and down her temple, tucking a strand behind her ear. And she got up. Crawled back across Dahyun into the bed. Put the covers back over the both of them. Laid down on her back.

“Goodnight, Dahyun.” She said sweetly and turned on her side, facing Dahyun. Closed her eyes.

Dahyun put the empty glass on the nightstand, turned off the light and shuffled to get back down, fluffing her pillow the best she could. Stared at the ceiling, waiting for Sana. Waited for her to pull at her arm or turn Dahyun onto her side and drag her closer.

Anything.

But nothing happened.

She kept staring at the ceiling. Sana wasn’t touching her, not even a fingertip. And Dahyun didn’t dare look. Her head was spinning and Sana’s words replayed in her head.

You can kiss me if you want. And Dahyun wanted to. But Sana’s eyes had been full of devilry and her chuckle had been light. The fear that Sana was just messing with her was threatening to overpower her, moving uncomfortably in her stomach. The thought that Sana might just have said it to make Dahyun blush. But Sana had to know by now. She had to be aware why Dahyun turned into a blushing mess every time Sana did stuff like this. But she never did anything about it. If it wasn’t for the tiny little fact that Dahyun hadn’t ever really said anything. So how could she know? How could she even have an inkling that Dahyun was here, her mind blank every time Sana came too close. And Sana hadn’t said anything either. So probably, most likely, Sana had no intention of ever doing anything about it. Because it wasn’t like that for her. She felt no different about Dahyun than she did about Momo. But Sana wasn’t touching her. For whatever reason she wasn’t saying. And Dahyun wanted to respect that. Didn’t want to intrude.

For about half an hour.

Then she gave in.

Scooted closer, turning onto her side, facing away from Sana.

“Sana. I… I can’t sleep.” She breathed, hoping against hope that Sana was still awake.

Sana was around her instantly, as if she had just waited for Dahyun to ask her. The eagerness of Sana’s touch made Dahyun chuckle and Sana buried her head in the younger girl’s hair. Dahyun heard a giggle. Or maybe something else. But she never found out, because her body reacted instantly to Sana’s body pressed against hers.

Dragged her off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Dahyun could barely breathe. The room was too stuffy and warm, and the sheets were clammy. And in about two seconds, she was definitely gonna throw up. Definitely. Which meant getting away from Sana, so it wasn’t-. But… Wait. Where was Sana? There were no arms around her. No legs against hers. No soft breathing. No smell of lemons.

Swallowing hard, Dahyun opened her eyes and turned in Sana’s bed. Stared at the wall.

Sana was gone.

But when she had gone, Dahyun had no clue of. She had been out like a light the second Sana was around her. As if Sana had become her safety blanket. Had she?

You can kiss me if you want.

God damn it. Why the hell hadn’t she just done it. Why hadn’t she just… let herself go for once? Why did she have to be such a pathetic useless- Okay, yeah, it was definitely time to find a toilet. Or a bucket. Anything really, by this point.

Trying her best not to get trapped in the sheets, Dahyun stumbled out of bed, her eyes swimming and the floors moving under her. Somehow managed to make it to the bathroom, but would most likely get a bruise on her shoulder from a collision with the door jam.

 

 

Ten minutes later, Dahyun dragged her trembling body into the kitchen, everything aching and the acid burning in her throat. Didn’t even notice Tzuyu until after she had sat down on one of the old kitchen chairs.

“You look dead.” Tzuyu said dryly.

“I am.” Dahyun groaned, resting her head on the cool surface of the kitchen table with a sigh.

“Did you kiss her?” Tzuyu asked without a warning.

“Christ, Tzuyu, will you let me live?” Dahyun whined, her speech muffled by the fact that her cheek was sticking to the surface, which warmed a lot faster than Dahyun wanted it to. Already missed the cold and considered turning her face to find a new cool spot. Couldn’t move enough to actually do so.

“Here, drink this.” Tzuyu said, placing a glass of water in front of Dahyun. “Did you?”

“No.” Dahyun sighed. “No, I didn’t.”

But I fucking should’ve. Somehow, the feel of Sana’s breath on her lips was still there. But she didn’t want to get into it with Tzuyu. It was all a blur, and a part of Dahyun was sure that she was imagining the whole thing as being a lot more intense than it probably was. But whatever the case, Dahyun didn’t feel like sharing. Not yet.

“I’m proud of you. Drunk kissing never ends well. Now drink your water.” Tzuyu said neutrally. Dahyun grumbled and raised her head, her cheek sticking slightly to the table. Rubbing her cheek with one hand, Dahyun grabbed the glass with the other and immediately sighed. It was ice cold, but the feeling of condensation on the glass brought back memories of last night. Of the sparkle in Sana’s eyes. Dahyun shook her head. Shook the memory out and took a careful sip of the water, acid still burning in her throat and her stomach turning uncomfortably. But the water was an almost instant relief. Made it easier to ignore whatever was trying to drill a hole in her skull.

With a smile, Tzuyu walked around the table and started running her fingers through Dahyun’s hair, gathering it in a ponytail.

“If you’re gonna throw up again.” She explained when Dahyun mumbled unintelligibly at her. Despite hoping she really wouldn’t need it, she was grateful. The possibility was definitely there. If her stomach even had more content left. But then again, the water she was trying to drink could just come right back up too.

In an attempt to cool her warm face, Dahyun held the glass to her forehead, closing her eyes at the relief it provided.

“I love you, you know that?” Dahyun mumbled as a drop of water from the glass trickled down her forehead into her eyebrow. She wiped it lazily and opened her eyes again.

“I know.” Tzuyu said, sitting back down opposite Dahyun.

Dahyun looked at her. Somehow, Tzuyu didn’t seem dead nor tired. Didn’t look happy or sad. Just… sat there. Looking at her phone. And to Dahyun’s complete astonishment, she saw that Tzuyu’s phone wasn’t open on instagram or twitter or whatever. It was open on the university intranet, looking up an assignment. At this hour. Whatever hour it was. After the kind of party they had had last night.

“...Tzuyu?”

“What?” Tzuyu turned off the screen on her phone and looked at Dahyun with a frown. Tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. How in the world did Tzuyu manage to look downright adorable while Dahyun was sure she mostly resembled the sad remnants of a regurgitated shrew?

“How do you do it all?” Dahyun asked with as much power in her voice as she could muster.

Tzuyu frowned. “I don’t know what you-”

“You take max credits.” Dahyun continued. “You have a job, you’re always hanging out with either Jihyo or Chaeyoung or me, I don’t know how you do it all.”

“I… I actually ask myself that sometimes as well.” Tzuyu smiled weakly before changing the subject. “Do you want breakfast?”

For a moment Dahyun considered pressing the subject, but the way Tzuyu’s eyes wavered suddenly made her rethink. “Yes please.”

“Toast?”

Dahyun tried suppressing a smile, but failed. “Yes, if you don’t burn it.”

“Why would I burn it?”

“No reason. Nevermind. Toast would be nice.” Dahyun said feebly, waving a hand at Tzuyu. Bit her lip and looked down at the half empty water glass. “Is… Is Sana out?”

“Yeah, she left a note, said she went to help Momo unpack.” Tzuyu said, her back to Dahyun.

“Oh.” Dahyun swallowed. Felt her stomach turn. Nerves and hangovers definitely didn’t do well together.

“Please don’t turn into one of those gross couples we hate.” Tzuyu begged.

“We’re not a couple” Dahyun mumbled.

“But you want her to be your girlfriend.” Tzuyu noted.

“I want a lot of things that are never gonna happen, Tzuyu.” The thought of… yeah, no, that was never gonna happen. Yet her mind went back to night before and she felt her own fingers ghost across her forehead like Sana’s had done. Had Sana even been drunk? Her breath hadn’t smelled like alcohol. Had it? Dahyun let a finger touch her lip, trying to remember. It was hard to remember much. But she hadn’t been as drunk as she had been afraid of, because Sana’s glinting eyes and mischievous were vividly imprinted in Dahyun’s memory.

Maybe if she just asked her, actually talked to her about it, she would find out. Because either way, this couldn’t keep going. She had to either kiss Sana or get the girl to take enough steps backwards to let Dahyun get over her. But either way, she needed to know. This was all too much.

“Sore spot?” Tzuyu asked.

“Eh, it’s fine. I’m just… way too close to barfing to discuss my love life right now.” Dahyun sighed.

“That’s fair.”

“I have got to talk to her.” Dahyun mumbled and let her forehead lean against the kitchen table. “I have to… do something.”

“I agree. You need to get laid.” Tzuyu said in a way too casual voice.

“Shut up. I need to get over her.”

“Under her. You’re in no way capable of topping.”

“It’s too goddamn early for you to be so snarky, why aren’t you hungover?” Dahyun lifted her head from the table and stared at the younger girl with a dead expression.

“Because I, unlike you, did not have a plan to get drunk and confess to a girl.” Tzuyu shrugged. “And because you’re tiny.”

“Okay low blow, what does that even have to do with anything?” Dahyun scowled.

“Small people have a lower threshold.”

“So is that why I feel like someone’s practicing one of Metallica’s drum solos against the inside of my skull?”

“Probably.” Tzuyu got up and took the almost empty glass from Dahyun. “I’ll get you an aspirin and then make breakfast, ok?”

 

 

2:36 pm Dahyun: Hey, is Sana with you?

2:37 pm Momo: Yup, we’re unpacking

2:38 pm Dahyun: Good. How are you? Not too hungover?

2:38 pm Momo: Nah, I’m good. Jeongyeon’s got it worst here

2:38 pm Dahyun: Bet she’s just blaming Nayeon like always

2:38 pm Momo: Yup.

2:40 pm Dahyun: How about Sana?

2:43 pm Momo: She’s good too. You could just text her, you know.

2:44 pm Dahyun: I know

2:45 pm Dahyun: Thank you Momo.

 

 

Okay so in retrospect getting far more hammered than ever tried before, maybe should’ve waited until a day where you didn’t have an eleven hour shift afterwards. Especially with everything going on with Sana still taking up most of Dahyun’s mind. But it didn’t change facts. And fact were that Dahyun had barely eaten, could not keep her eyes in focus and had left a note on a yellow post it on the kitchen table for Sana.

 

Sana.

There’s leftover bulgogi in the fridge, bottom shelf, blue box. Will be home around 2:30-3:00 AM.  

- Dahyun

 

Not that she couldn’t have texted Sana. But she somehow couldn’t get herself to do so. And couldn’t really justify communicating any more through Momo. Maybe it was the fear that Sana would expand the conversation at this hour, ask what happened, ask if Dahyun was ok. And Right now, Dahyun just couldn’t handle any of that.

It was bad enough that the lights were so bright and the music from the loudspeakers rang in her ears and for some reason her knees wouldn’t stop shaking. And with every minute she regretted that last drink. And the one before that. And maybe the one before that too. The only thing she had been able to keep down all day was an antacid and a glass of some ginger and orange juice that Tzuyu had bought her from the corner store. Though the taste of ginger still sat grossly in her mouth, it miraculously had helped her nausea. But she didn’t dare eat. Throwing up on the customers was probably a very bad tactic for a girl who was really trying not to screw up. Not to fail again. So Dahyun just stuck to filling the tray on her arm with empty glasses and used napkins, getting the last of the lunch tables cleaned and ready for dinner guests.

“So I was thinking,” Jeongyeon said, passing by Dahyun, balancing four used plates on her left arm, “You should come over after class tomorrow, if you have time?”

Dahyun frowned. How did Jeongyeon have that same ability as Tzuyu to look amazing after a night like that? And while Tzuyu might not have been that drunk, Jeongyeon definitely had been. That much Dahyun was sure of.

“Dahyun?” Jeongyeon tilted her head with a frown.

“Oh, right! Uh...” Dahyun tried to remember her schedule. She had a test on friday but that was still three days away. And if she got up early tomorrow she could fit in the essay she had to write before class.

“Sure. Any particular reason?” Dahyun frowned.

“Momo misses you.” Jeongyeon shrugged.

“I… well-”

“And I maybe miss you too.” Jeongyeon shifted her footing and put a stabilizing hand on the empty dishes.

“I haven’t been very good at… all of that - being a good friend and all… have I?” Dahyun felt her stomach turn uncomfortably. But not in the hangover kind of way. In the guilty kind of way.

“I think it’s a mix of us giving you too much space and you not wanting to bother in case something went down.” Jeongyeon shrugged as much as the weight of the dishes allowed. “So you’re coming over?”

“Sure.” Dahyun nodded. “You should get those out.”

Jeongyeon nodded and turned to walk away, looking back at Dahuyn with a grin. “We’ll have dumplings or whatever.”

“You really are trying to score her, aren’t you?” Dahyun grinned back.

“Says you.” Jeongyeon chuckled and walked away. And somehow Dahuyn’s heart felt just a little lighter.

With a shake of the head, Dahyun got back to filling the tray, going over her schedule in her head. If she started revising in her head now, she might be able to get a head start.

 

It just didn’t go that way. Because sometimes an attempt to revise while having a hangover and working at the same time, is just not that good of an idea, and when she was assigned to door duty at six, Dahyun gave up trying to revise. It was all she could just to manage the reservations list.

She should’ve been so happy to be assigned door duty. It was her favorite part of work after all. Welcoming guests, making them smile even if they were drenched from the pouring rain outside, managing the time slots and the tables, in a big weird puzzle that somehow always made sense in Dahyun’s head. She had always been good at figuring out systems and Chaeyoung used to say that she solved puzzles like she read sheet music - using math and patterns.

Tonight however, Dahyun could barely enjoy this part, hated every song from the loudspeakers and had to rely on her instinct to smile whenever she greeted guests. But Mina and Jeongyeon made it easier. Swarmed the tables like bees but still somehow smiles at Dahyun every chance they got. And somehow, tonight it didn’t feel like they were pitying her, like they were looking after her. Just felt like friends all going through the same aftermath of a party that maybe got a little too festive, and shouldered it together.

 

Really. It was all slowly improving. Except every time she lowered her guard, her mind went back to Sana. And it made Dahyun’s heart race and her cheeks flush. She kept getting stuck somewhere between being mad at Sana for being such a tease when Dahyun was obviously crushing so hard and being convinced that Sana had actually meant it. That Sana actually wanted Dahyun to kiss her. But if she wanted that, why hadn’t she just done it? Honestly, Dahyun just had to get her shit together and confess so they could move out of whatever this was. Because it was too much, and it was so scary to risk losing her. To have to cope without the girl who had become her safety. Except there was that feeling of Sana’s breath on her lips that made Dahyun feel lightheaded.

And then Dahyun was pulled from her thoughts. Loud voices pierced through her ears, and the words made Dahyun’s heart sink feel heavy with worry.

“You never called.” A man’s voice said loudly, and Dahyun turned to look at the scene, even if she already knew who the words were meant for. And there Mina stood; somewhat safe behind the counter of the bar, frozen with a towel wrapped around a glass.

“I’m not interested. I apologize for not making that clear.” Mina said politely, her voice so gentle that Dahyun could barely make it out.

“But your pretty friend gave you my number.” The man said.

“I know, but I’m not interested. Would you like to order drinks?” Mina asked, regaining her posture and drying off the glass, placing it with the bottom up. Held her chin high. The man glowered for a moment, then ordered three sojus. With a kind smile Mina got his table number and provided the drinks. As he walked away, Dahyun caught Mina’s eye and nodded encouragingly, making her smile genuine.

 

“Excuse me?”

 

Dahyun turned at the sound. A couple stood in front of her. A chubby balding man with round specs and kind eyes next to a short lady with grey strands in thick black hair and wrinkles around the eyes.

“Hello,” Dahyun said, a professional smile on her lips. Knew it didn’t reach her eyes. “I’m sorry about that. How may I help you?”

“We have a reservation here at 8:30 pm.” The man in front of her said.

“Ah yes, of course.” Dahyun nodded “May I have your last name?”

“Peom.”

“Peom...” Dahyun mused, running a finger down the list. Mumbled the name over and over searching for it.

Peom.

Peom.

Table 14. Peom Jeong-Yul. 2 people. 8:30 pm.

Her heart skipped a beat and she felt an uncomfortable heat creep up her neck and settle in her cheeks. She looked down the list of tables and her fears were confirmed. Half an hour earlier she had seated another couple at their table. Frantically, hear eyes ran over the seating chart, trying to find a free space. Nothing. The headache returned on full force, and her pulse rushed in her ears. Why this all of a sudden? It was okay. It was just a slip up. But her heart was racing and her cheeks flushed involuntarily. She blinked fast. Felt sick. Bit down on her lip. Come on. This was nothing. She always solved these problems. This was just. Bad, this was bad. The screw up she couldn’t make. The mistake there wasn’t room for. Yet another mistake. Why did she keep making these mistakes? Why did she-

“Miss, is there a problem?” The man asked with a frown.

“Uh, logistics, I’m sorry. Let me just check on something, I will be right back.” Dahyun sent them her most polite smile. The man nodded apprehensively. Dahyun blinked. Rapidly. Turned on her heel. Walked as fast as she could - into the kitchen - away from the noise. Away from her own head. Her head hurt. She pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to get it to subside. Just a bit. But it didn’t. As soon as she got into the kitchen, every part of her body shook. Gave in. As if it had only held on her until this point. Hadn’t even felt herself shaking until now.

Jeongyeon was immediately there, a hand on her back.

“You okay?”

“I’m…” Dahyun mumbled, her knees weak. It wasn’t as if she had never made mistakes like this before. She wasn’t perfect. But her head was spinning and she had to bend down, leaning on her knees. Definitely regretted every single shot of the strawberry rum now. Tried to blink the room back into focus. Tried to turn her head to look up at Jeongyeon instead of at her sneakers. Maybe if she could just get Jeongyeon to help. She just had to ask for help. Jeongyeon would help. God, her head was going to explode.

“Do you need to be sick?” Jeongyeon asked, but her voice was distant. “Dahyun?”

What was wrong with her? This wasn’t a big deal. 8:30 was usually the time when the earliest guests started getting done. It wasn’t a problem. Yet she kept shaking. Kept… Was she crying? What was wrong with her. It was just a mistake. Just… Just a mistake right? Nothing that would get her fired. God what if she got fired. She wouldn’t be able to keep the apartment. Wouldn’t be able to pay her bills. Would have to start lending from her parents just to keep the interests paid. Pay for what? A shattered dream.

“Mina!” Jeongyeon’s voice rang somewhere behind a veil. Someone was holding her shoulders. Dahyun blinked. The kitchen tiles swam. And then she was being pushed down. Fell onto a surface. A chair? A chair. Heat settled in Dahyun’s cheeks. Her arms. Her ears. Her hands. Sweat gathered on her forehead. Cold droplets on hot skin. It burned. Her skin. She couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t she breathe? What was wrong with her? It was just a mistake. Just a mistake. Just a mistake. A sound escaped her lips. A whimper? A sob? And she dug her fingers into her arms. Was gonna throw up. Definitely gonna throw up. Definitely-

Hands cupped her face. Soft cool hands. And her head was forced up. Forced to focus. And there was a face in front of her. With soft eyes. Mina’s soft eyes. And it was all too much. It was just a mistake. This was just Dahyun being pathetic. It was just the hangover or the remnants of November or whatever. It was too much of a fuss. But she still couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t… Couldn’t breathe. And Mina’s features were blurry.

“You’re ok.” Mina’s face was so close but her voice was so far away.

“Peom” Dahyun mumbled. “Four- fourteen.”

“Jeongyeon’s on it.” Mina said.  “You’re ok.”

“Peom Jeong-Yul.” Dahyun repeated, her voice breaking.

“We’ve got it under control. You’re ok.” Mina said, still holding Dahyun’s face, thumbs rubbing against her cheek. Dahyun tried to focus. Her eyes landed on the mole on Mina’s nose. Focused only on that. Really, Mina should get away. Because in about five seconds Dahyun was going to throw up on her. Not even from nausea. But her head… It was. God someone was pressing a bowling ball against her forehead.

“You’re ok.”

Mina kept saying it. But she was lying. Dahyun’s head was so heavy. Hurt so much. And her face was wet. She kept looking at Mina’s face. Couldn’t meet her eyes. Stared at the mole on her nose. Blinked. Her eyes kept swimming. Why was she even crying? If she could just focus. She was never gonna drink again. Ever. Never. Not if this was the price. But it wasn’t just the alcohol. And Dahyun knew that. Even in her delusion and all this pain Dahyun knew that.

“Look at me.” Mina said.

But she was. She was looking. Dahyun’s eyes flickered. And she shut them tight. Couldn’t breathe. Her head was going to kill her. Or her heart. Whichever won the battle to cause her most pain.

“Look at me.” Mina repeated. And Dahyun did. Opened her eyes. Let out a sob. Met Mina’s gaze. It was so firm. Warm. Trapped Dahyun’s. And Dahyun couldn’t breathe. Sobbed. Then a hand was on her back. Something was shoved into her hand. Then her hand was pushed to her mouth. And Dahyun did her best to breathe. The bag inflated. Deflated. Her skin still burned. But at least now, if she threw up, it wouldn’t be on Mina. Mina. Mina who still kept her gaze locked. And somehow it was the only real thing to Dahyun. Mina. Her eyes. The thumbs that still wiped her cheeks. They were wet. Something cool pressed against her forehead. Mina wouldn’t let her look away. Her head hurt. But the cloth helped. She could breathe. But it hurt. The bag inflated. Deflated. Over and over. And Dahyun felt dizzy. Felt sick. Felt… relief?

New tears trickled from her eyes, momentarily blurring Mina’s features.

“You’re ok.” Mina said.

Dahyun sobbed into the bag. She wasn’t ok. This was the second time in less than two weeks that she had broken down at work. The second time in less than two weeks that Mina was drying her tears. And she had been so sure. Had been so confident that everything was better now. But it had just been a band aid. And damn it, Dahyun knew that band aids did nothing to fix what was broken underneath. Another sob left Dahyun. Another stream of tears.

“You’re ok.” Mina insisted and her grip on Dahyun’s face got tighter. And the cloth disappeared momentarily and then returned, colder. Someone had turned it. Dahyun moved the bag from her mouth. Her lips trembled. Her chin.

“H-hurts” Dahyun stammered.

“What hurts?” A voice asked. Jeongyeon’s. Somewhere above her. She must be the one holding the cloth.

“Everything...” Dahyun croaked. Sighed shakily. Jeongyeon’s hand wrapped around hers. Forced the bag back over her mouth. Made her breathe.

“You’re ok.” Mina insisted. Relief washed over Dahyun once more. Or exhaustion. It was hard to put a word to any feeling right now. The cloth disappeared from her forehead. Lay on her neck the next moment. Cooled her. And Mina’s eyes were still there. Except so was the rest of her face. And her cheeks were wet too. With a trembling hand, Dahyun reached out. Wiped the tears from Mina’s cheek. Mina’s eyes softened. Dahyun kept breathing into the bag. Awkwardly, Dahyun tried to dry the other cheek too. Tried not to poke Mina in the eye wiping the tears away. It helped somehow. And Dahyun held on to the peace Mina offered.

“You’re ok.” Mina mumbled.

Dahyun was ok. Right? She was ok?

“You’re ok.”

She was ok.

Once more, the cloth was turned, coolness once more on her neck. She looked up. Jeongyeon was holding the cloth. And Dahyun’s water bottle. And Dahyun let the bag fall. Reached out. Took the bottle. Drank. Breathed. Drank. Breathed. Handed back the bottle. Breathed. The cloth disappeared again. But then Mina’s forehead pushed against Dahyun’s. Gently but demanding all her attention. Footsteps. Jeongyeon was gone.

“You’re ok.”

“I’m… I’m ok.”

Her head still hurt. Tears still flowed.

“You’re ok.” Mina breathed.

“I’m ok.” Dahyun looked into her eyes. “Jeongyeon…”

“She took care of it. She offered them drinks and asked them for patience. There was another couple about to leave. You’re ok.” Mina let her face go, but kept their foreheads pressed together. Squeezed her shoulders lightly.

“I’m ok.” Dahyun repeated. “I don’t know. I don’t know what happened.”

Her body felt weak. She wasn’t aware how much time had passed. What if her boss found out? What if. What if he found out. She had already been late. And this. This wasn’t good.

“Hey. Hey no. No, you’re ok.” Mina grabbed her face again and pressed her lips to Dahyun’s forehead.

“You’re ok.” She mumbled against Dahyun’s skin.

“Did he see me? Yang-nim” Dahyun feared the answer.

“Do you think for a second he’s been out of the office? No, of course he didn’t. You’re ok.” Mina kissed the bridge of Dahyun’s nose and then wrapped her arms around Dahyun’s neck, hugging her close.

“I’m ok.” Dahyun breathed and tried to get Mina to let her go. “You should go help Jeongyeon. The place is packed.”

“Felix took over. Just cause he’s a kitchen boy doesn’t mean he can’t serve food.” Mina said, her arms tightening shortly before letting Dahyun go, staring into her eyes. “You’re more important.”

“I’m ok.” Dahyun promised. “Y-you go. I’ll be out in a few minutes”

“Dahyun…”

“I’m ok. Promise.”

“Mh, okay. But I’m gonna kick your butt from here and until Monday if you’re lying to me.” Mina promised quietly. Kissed Dahyun’s forehead again.

Dahyun chuckled and coughed.

 

Then Mina was gone and Dahyun stared at the floor. It seemed so silly. Double bookings happened. It was no big deal. The place was big enough that there was room for those kinds of mistakes. They were only human. Dahyun made a simple mistake, nothing more. But her body had betrayed her, faster than her mind could make sense of it all. It really must’ve been the hangover making everything so much worse. It was stupid to have gotten that drunk. Everything about yesterday had been stupid. She should’ve traded away her shift. After all had an exam on friday. And she had agreed to go to Jeongyeon’s tomorrow. She would just have to deal.

She was ok.

 

It took a few minutes, but eventually she managed to get up. Ignoring Taeyang’s worried looks, Dahyun took a moment in the bathroom to freshen up, then returned to the floor. Thanked Felix and finished her shift, though she had switched places with Jeongyeon, waiting tables instead of organizing the floor.

 

Several times during the night she caught the staff looking at her. Saw the worry in their eyes. Hated it. Hated that she had broken down. But she just smiled at them. Joked around. Used every little bit of remaining energy pretended to be her usual energetic self. It helped. Laughing and pulling jokes. And at one point Jeongyeon even noted that she seemed to be better, and they joked around a litte.

It was almost as if it had never happened. If it wasn’t for the headache and her stinging eyes, she might’ve believed it if someone told her it never happened. But the next second she caught Mina and Jeongyeon with their heads together. Discussing. Looking at her when they thought she didn’t notice. They were talking about her. Pitied her. No… No they loved her. They did this out of love. Worried because they loved her. Dahyun knew that. But her stomach turned. And she wished they would just all stop worrying. Would stop pitying her.

 

She was ok.

 

She had expected Sana to be asleep when she got home. It was late after all. But she saw the light under the front door and allowed herself five seconds to breathe before unlocking the door. She stepped inside and found Sana on the couch, hiding in a blanket with a bag of chips and wide eyes.

Screams came from the TV.

Then Sana looked up at Dahyun. Reached out and grabbed the remote.

Paused the movie.

“How was work?” She asked, her voice shaking slightly.

Dahyun took her time taking off her shoes and jacket. Allowed herself a moment to figure out whether or not she should tell the truth or not. But she couldn’t take one more pair of worried eyes. Couldn’t take any more commiseration.

“It was good.” Dahyun lied. “Busy night. I’m off until saturday now. Thankfully. I’m so beat.”

“You going straight to bed?” Sana asked, curling up the top of the chips bag and tying a bag clip around it, preventing the remaining chips from going stale. Was she going to bed now as well?

“Yeah, I promised Jeongyeon I’d keep Momo company tomorrow night so I gotta study before my afternoon classes.”

“Do you ever take time off?” Sana asked, getting up, the blanket still around her.

Turned off the TV.

“Yeah, tomorrow night.” Dahyun grinned at her.

“I mean to yourself. Stare into a wall or your phone or something. Alone?”

“I guess not. I don’t really like being alone?” Dahyun said.

But I like being with you.

They walked together to the bathroom.

“Yeah, I remember you said you slept at Jihyo’s a lot before I moved in.” Sana said.

Side by side, they washed up. Had Sana waited for her?

“I did.” Dahyun took out her lenses, and put on her glasses. “I didn’t like sleeping alone.”

“And now?” Sana asked.

“I still don’t.” Dahyun yawned, covering her mouth.

I like sleeping with you.

Sana didn’t ask more. She just hummed and combed through her hair. The roots were starting to show, revealing black hair underneath the blonde. Without talking, they got ready for bed together. But they didn’t look at each other. Didn’t nudge each other. Just stood there, side by side, brushing their teeth, cleaning their lenses, cleaning their faces. And eventually there was nothing left but the smell of toothpaste and Sana’s raspberry foam cleanser. And her eyes finally found Dahyun’s.

“Goodnight, Dahyun.” Sana stretched and looked at Dahyun with a peaceful smile.

“Goodnight, Sana.” Dahyun smiled back.

I like you .

Sana turned and walked out. And Dahyun felt her body ache, finally allowing herself to feel. Because feeling when Sana was there… wouldn’t have ended well. Would it? Dahyun dug her fingers into her arms and locked the bathroom door. Sat down on the closed toilet seat and felt her eyes swim with tears of exhaustion.

She had almost told her. Almost reached out. But not tonight. No more tonight. No more. Of anything. Except her screen lit up.

 

3:12 am Jeongyeon: You asleep yet?

 

Dahyun considered not answering.

 

3:13 am Dahyun: Almost, but I won’t be if I keep texting you.

3:13 am Jeongyeon: I just worry.

3:13 am Dahyun: I know.

 

Dahyun bit her lip. Wrote. Felt how her heart tugged with regret before she even pressed send, but sent it anyway.

 

3:14 am Dahyun: I’m fine though.

3:14 am Dahyun: Just stop worrying please.

3:14 am Dahyun: It’s not necessary.

3:14 am Dahyun: And honestly getting a little annoying.

3:15 am Jeongyeon: Ok.

3:16 am Jeongyeon: Night.

 

Dahyun almost forgot to turn left when she exited the bathroom, rubbing her tired eyes. But Sana’s door was closed. And turned and walked into her own room. Closed her own door. Fell onto the bed. With a groan of regret she set the alarm for only four hours later. Took off her glasses and rolled into the corner, her back against the wall. Waited for sleep to take her.

 

 

“Hello?” Jihyo frowned and yawned. It was barely seven in the morning.

“Jihyo? Did I wake you?”

“No…” Jihyo lied and covered the microphone to yawn loudly before returning to the conversation. She still had a bit of a headache from friday, but it wasn’t half as bad as it had been yesterday. She had felt completely dead then, and hadn’t been able to get out of bed for more than fifteen minutes at a time without getting too nauseous.

“I did wake you… I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, I’m up now.” Jihyo turned onto her side and pulled the covers further up. Felt her stomach growl.

“Do you have work today?”

“At noon.”

“Can we meet? Now?”

Maybe it was the way Mina was talking, hushed and unsure, or maybe just the fact that she was calling at this hour. But Jihyo sat up, a worry in her heart building.

“Sure. But… Mina, what’s wrong?”

Jihyo’s stomach dropped with Mina’s words.

 

“She’s not ok.”

Chapter Text

You know that feeling in your stomach kind of like hunger and kind of like someone decided to pull at your intestines and kind of like your organs are simply trying to switch places? Yeah, that’s guilt. And it was exactly the feeling Dahyun was trying not to dwell on as she emerged to street level from the subway, a clear blue sky interrupted only by the tall buildings around her and the warm sun shining down on the idesias with a promise to make the streets burst into a sea of yellow. Still, the weather didn’t really matter much, even if it normally cheered Dahyun up. The regret and awkwardness was being doubled by the lack of sleep and her almost chronic state of confusion as she made her way to Momo and Jeongyeon’s apartment. Honestly, she could’ve cancelled. Wanted to cancel. Didn’t want to face Jeongyeon. But if it wasn’t here, it’d just be at the next shift, and she had after all, promised to come by. So here she was. Leaving the revision and frustration about Sana behind. Once again, she had gone when morning came, and this time, Dahyun had an inkling that she wasn’t going to find her at Momo’s. Actually wasn’t aware if she even had other friends, as she never really talked about anyone but Momo and her sister. A classmate every now and then, but never named.

 

Without really noticing her feet carrying her, Dahyun reached the apartment building and stared at the name on the door phone. Momo’s name that been written in with a red pen on a piece of paper covering over Jiyeon’s name. A rush of guilt flooded over Dahyun at the sight of Jeongyeon’s name. She had just done it to be kind. She was just looking after Dahyun. Had done so ever since that night. And Dahyun could still hear her shouting outside the room, even now.

Swallowing her pride, Dahyun pressed the buzzer and leaned her forehead against the building.

“Hello?” Jeongyeon’s voice said, Dahyun’s stomach jolting once more.

“It’s me… You-”

“Dahyun? Good, finally.” Jeongyeon’s voice sounded almost relieved? Had she been afraid that Dahyun wasn’t going to show?

A click revealed that the door had been unlocked, and Dahyun sighed before pushing open the door.

 

With thoughts circling around Jeongyeon, Dahyun reached the apartment. It was flung open before Dahyun had even knocked, and a tiny frame engulfed her, black hair blocking her view, Chaeyoung hugging her so hard that it felt like they were sixteen all over again. For a moment Dahyun could even smell Dahyun’s grandma’s freshly baked cookies and a hear the laughter when Chaeyoung played a minor key rather than a major accidentally. But…

“Chaengie…” Dahyun frowned and felt Chaeyoung’s arms tighten around her shoulders for a second before letting her go “What are you doing here?”

“I... Well, Momo invited me over? Nothing more than that?” Chaeyoung said with a shrug, but her eyes searched Dahyun’s.

“Then why did you hug me like I’m terminal?” Dahyun asked, kicking off her shoes and taking off her coat, hanging it on the overfilled hook by the door.

“Am I not allowed to miss my best friend?” Chaeyoung feigned a pout, but Dahyun didn’t buy it for a moment.

“What are you planning?” Dahyun knew already that she wasn’t going to get an answer. Strongly suspected that she had attained knowledge of last night’s incident from the source with the blonde hair whose fingers were currently digging into her arms, eyes narrowed, looking decidedly not at Dahyun.

“You told?” Dahyun asked without greeting Jeongyeon.

Jeongyeon shrugged. “I thought she knew.”

Dahyun pressed her lips together. Looked from Jeongyeon to Chaeyoung and back again. Nodded. “Can we talk?”

Jeongyeon’s fingers dug harder into her arms for a second then she gestured towards the kitchen, and Dahyun followed the older girl. Watched as Jeongyeon opened the fridge and grabbed a soda, settling on the kitchen counter.

“I don’t think I thanked you properly.” Dahyun leaned against the wall. Jeongyeon kicked her feet slightly. “And now I can put an apology on top of the thank you .”

“You don’t have to apologize.” Jeongyeon took a gulp of her soda.

“I do.” Dahyun insisted. “It was a shitty thing to say. I’m just.. Sick and tired of being weak, and needing people to watch over me, and I took it out on you because you care. And that’s not fair.”

“Well, you’re right about that, but honestly, just because you tell me I’m annoying for caring, doesn’t mean I’m gonna stop, you know that right?” Jeongyeon reached out and poked Dahyun’s stomach with a toe.

“So we’re good?” Dahyun asked with a small smile.

“I am. But you. You need to get this shit under control again.”

“I know.” Dahyun sighed. “God, I just…”

“I know.” Jeongyeon poked her stomach again, and Dahyun tried to catch the foot, but Jeongyeon retreated it too fast. Offered Dahyun the soda and shook her head with a smile as Dahyun took a gulp, feeling the bubbles down her throat. Handed it back to Jeongyeon.

“So what did you do about your hot roommate?”

“Getting food.” Jeongyeon hopped down from the kitchen counter and wrapped her free arm around Dahyun’s shoulders, dragging her back out into the living room. Ruffled Dahyun’s hair just for good measure.

“You two cool?” Chaeyoung asked from the couch, raising an eyebrow at them as Dahyun tried to step on Jeongyeon’s foot to get her to stop messing up her hair.

“The coolest. Way cooler than you.” Jeongyeon said, trying her best not to laugh. She obviously didn’t see Dahyun as much of a threat. Did however end up leaping out of the way to avoid Dahyun, spilling soda down her shirt in the process.

“Oi, Kim Dahyun!” Jeongyeon huffed, letting go of Dahyun to grab a kleenex from the side table by the couch, drying over the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip on the front. Dahyun just rolled her eyes effectively - so she was sure Jeongyeon saw - and flattened her hair before joining Chaeyoung in the couch.

“I’m gonna kill you someday.” Jeongyeon promised.

“Yeah, yeah.” Dahyun waved her off and turned to face her best friend, swallowing a yawn. “So how’s the wife?”

Chaeyoung chuckled, pulling Dahyun’s legs into her lap, playing with the rips in Dahyun’s jeans. “Panicking about how amazing she is, as always.”

“Vocal tests?” Dahyun asked, leaning her head against her arm, adjusting as her back pressed into the corner of the couch, preventing her shoulder blade from digging into the armrest.

“What else?”

“I don’t understand her.” Dahyun shook her head. “Subjects she’s not great at she’s always really chill about but as soon as it’s something she’s ace at she gets so many nerves she can barely function.”

“It’s simple.” Chaeyoung shrugged. “There’s too many expectations. If it’s just herself she’s risking letting down but if she’s risking letting anyone else down she just becomes a mess.”

“Ahh… And that’s why you’re dating her and not me.” Dahyun scrunched her nose.

“Very true.” Chaeyoung mused, a smile on her lips.

“Ew. Okay new subject, I did not sign up for soft Im Nayeon hours.”

“But they’re my basic mood.” Chaeyoung pouted. “I love her…”

“Trust me, I know, that’s kind of why I have a new roomie now.”

Chaeyoung gave a loud laugh and squeezed Dahyun’s knee to make her squirm and kick. “Don’t you dare say you’re unhappy with your Sana.”

“I’m not- She’s not my-”

“Are we talking Sana?” Jeongyeon asked, flopping down on the Chaise next to Dahyun. “Cause I want in.”

“We’re not talking Sana.” Dahyun whined, squirming as Chaeyoung kept trying to grab her knee. “Sto- stop that!” Dahyun pulled her legs back, hugging them, squeezed into a corner between her friends.

“We’re talking Sana.” Chaeyoung said decidedly.

And so they did. Even if Dahyun refused to be a part of the conversation.

 

 

Momo grabbed the last dumpling. Dahyun moped. Momo gave it to Dahyun.

“I don’t get it.” Chaeyoung rolled her eyes when Dahyun happily chewed on the dumpling, opening a soda. Momo was sitting between Dahyun and Jeongyeon in the couch, while Chaeyoung sat cross-legged on the chaise, a box of take-out noodles in her lap.

“What don’t you get?” Momo asked as she reached for the bowl of buckwheat noodles.

“You spend five minutes bickering about who should get the last one and then the minute she pouts you give it to her?”

“Don’t question the way of the dumpling.” Dahyun shrugged.

“But-”

“Do not,” Dahyun pointed at her with the chopsticks, “question the dumpling.”

“I just-”

“Well, it’s simple.” Momo said as Dahyun narrowed her eyes at Chaeyoung, raising an eyebrow.

“Simple?” Chaeyoung said, snorting at Dahyun.

“I just can’t resist her.” Momo cooed, wrapping her arms around Dahyun as she took a gulp of soda. “She’s way too cute!”

Chaeyoung frowned slightly at them, then shook her head and held up her hands in defeat. Dahyun felt the familiar warmth creep up her neck as Momo started kissing her cheek.

“Momo, come on, we’re eating here.” Jeongyeon complained, looking up from her phone instead of just eyeing them every thirty seconds. She had been texting on and off for the past half hour.

“You’re just jealous.” Momo smirked.

“Am not.” Jeongyeon said neutrally, pocketing the phone.

“Don’t even deny it, I noticed you staring at me.” Momo said, her arm around Dahyun.

Jeongyeon turned her attention firmly to the rice cake she was eating. “What, am I supposed to not notice you? It’s not like you’re trying to be discreet!”

“Well, if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right?” Momo grinned.

“Then don’t complain.”

“Not complaining.” Momo said with a shrug and pressed another kiss to Dahyun’s cheek. Dahyun chuckled and took another gulp of soda.

“I swear you’re worse than Nayeon with the kissing.” Jeongyeon grumbled. “I’m seriously regretting letting you move in.”

“You’re just afraid you can’t handle it.” Dahyun said and poked at Jeongyeon’s leg with her toe.

“Not in any way afraid.”

“Yeah? So you wouldn’t cower if I did this to you?” Momo asked, and reached under Dahyun’s chin, turning her face so they were barely an inch apart. Dahyun met her gaze unwaveringly, feeling both Chaeyoung and Jeongyeon stare at them with breaths held. In their defense Dahyun hadn’t been this close to a girl, ever. At least not what they knew. Yet, as they stared at each other, there was something in Momo’s eyes that made Dahyun’s trust in Momo fade just a little.

“I swear, if you two start making out...” Jeongyeon warned.

“I could never.” Momo chuckled and her breath hit Dahyun’s lips before drawing back. And Dahyun couldn’t help feeling slightly relieved. Any wrong movement in that moment and Momo would’ve actually kissed her. Not that it would’ve been the end of the world, but Dahyun couldn’t help the stupid dream of who she wanted to get her first kiss from. Every kiss. Momo caught her eyes again, and winked. Then leaned back, into Jeongyeon, who automatically wrapped an arm around her shoulders, tapping a rhythm on her arm.

“Thank god, I was about to barf up my food.” Chaeyoung noted, her eyes flickering from Jeongyeon’s fingers to Dahyun’s face.

Dahyun looked at her with indignation “You have nothing to let any of us hear.”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Chaeyoung mumbled and shrugged.

“Couch sex.” Dahyun simply said, her eyes narrowed at her best friend.

“You seriously cannot keep holding a grudge for that, it was one time!” Chaeyoung said exasperatedly.

“Wait, what?” Momo asked.

“Dahyun once saw Nayeon’s naked ass on accident.” Jeongyeon explained, then turned her head at Chaeyoung. “Did you actually not know she was home or was it just an excuse?”

“We actually thought she was at rehearsal.” Chaeyoung didn’t look nearly as ashamed as Dahyun would’ve liked.

“I will never get over that sight.” Dahyun mumbled.

“Oh come on, Nayeon has a nice butt, it couldn’t have been that bad.” Momo noted dryly.

“See?” Chaeyoung gestured at Momo, her eyes still on Dahyun. Then she frowned and looked at Momo. “You checked out my girlfriend?”

“I checked out all of you. Yours is nice too.” Momo didn’t seem the least bit ashamed.

“I… thank you?” Chaeyoung looked slightly confused.

Momo drank of her soda with a shrug and leaned into Jeongyeon, resting the back of her head in the crook of the older girl’s neck. “You’re welcome. I only give praise where praise is due.”

Dahyun finished her soda and looked at the clock. And the magic was broken at once, reality hitting her like a wave without warning. It was almost eight. Late… Very late. And if she had to get home in time to revise, then it was… wait, when was the test again? What even was the curriculum? She felt Jeongyeon’s eyes rest on her and sent her a smile before getting up.

“What are you-”

“I drank almost three sodas, my bladder is bursting.” Dahyun lied.

“Rip…” Chaeyoung hummed, closing the empty take-out box.

With half an ear still on the conversation - Chaeyoung had started questioning Momo’s taste in music, Dahyun walked into the bathroom. Locked the door and stared into the mirror. Taking a few calming breaths, she drew out her phone and looked at the list she had made earlier. If she could excuse herself within an hour she could get home before ten, then she could probably get two hours of revision in before heading to bed. At least. It might be a little late, but it was going to be necessary. The test would count for 40 percent of their grade, and right now, Dahyun couldn’t remember a single thing they had been through. Her analysis of music to underline emotion had been written with too much haste this morning, but it wasn’t due until the next day. If she hurried she could look it over and hopefully finish some before Tzuyu came over to study for the test together. Counting on her fingers, Dahyun made a mental note of the order in which she should do everything to get through it. Turned on the faucet and held her hands under the cold water. Had always hated how the nerves gave her clammy hands. Hated that she had to force herself to keep it together like this instead of just being able to deal. Or tell them.

 

 

But sometimes plans don’t turn out the way you plan it. Sometimes, intention to study and get home in due time get overshadowed by the magic of laughter and maybe an unspoken wish to escape. And sometimes that magic causes you to end on a coffee table reenacting Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

“Our chief weapon is surprise, surprise and fear, fear and surprise-” Dahyun rambled, pointing at the three girls in the couch.

Jeongyeon had stopped functioning properly the moment Dahyun had started her impression and Chaeyoung was pretty much crying with laughter by now, sniffling and wiping her eyes, a hand on her stomach. Only Momo, though chuckling, seemed less immune to Dahyun’s stupidities. Still, seeing their faces, knowing that the laughter that rang through the house was caused by her, was a rush Dahyun had missed more than anything in the past six months. It was intoxicating, addicting, and Dahyun felt like flying. As if she had no limits and no problems.

“Our two weapons are fear and surprise, and ruthless efficiency- our three weapons are fear, surprise and ruthless efficiency-” Dahyun continued, pinning Momo down with a look. It was obvious that she was questioning Dahyun’s sanity, but eventually the laughter poured from her like a bursting stream in the spring.

“Our three weapons are fear, and surprise, and ruthless efficiency... and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…”

Dahyun flicked her fluxx goal card unexpected things at Momo before finishing Ximinez’ monologue and jumping down, bowing deeply, Jeongyeon and Chaeyoung clapping loudly.

“-I’ll come in again!” Dahyun said, making to jump back onto the table, causing Chaeyoung to actually slip from the couch onto the floor but Dahyun stayed down and offered her a hand. If she could do nothing else for the rest of her life, Dahyun knew that she would just like to make Chaeyoung and the rest of her friends laugh this much. Chaeyoung and Jeongyeon were still trying to steady their breathing and dry their eyes. However, Momo had stopped laughing. And the look she sent Dahyun seemed to deflate her. But Dahyun merely kept smiling, even if her stomach was turning uncomfortably once more.

Not that it made much of a difference now, as a still chuckling, half crying Chaeyoung announced that she was going home to her nervous wreck of a girlfriend.

“Bring her next time.” Momo suggested.

“Oh, please don’t.” Jeongyeon interjected, playing with the sleeve of Momo’s shirt.

“I’ll tell her you said that.” Chaeyoung noted, getting to her feet and stretching.

“I’m not afraid of her.” Jeongyeon insisted, to which both Dahyun and Chaeyoung raised their eyebrows.

“Well, it’s girlfriend care time, you all be good.” Chaeyoung waved at them, but stopped halfway on her way to the door, staring back. “Wait, Momo-”

“Yeah?”

“If you’ve checked out all of us, you’re the best to give an unbiased opinion. Best butt?”

Momo snorted, obviously taken aback by the question but answered almost immediately. “Mina, obviously.”

“Damn, and here I thought I’d have a good point to bring back to the wreck.”

“She’s a close third.” Momo shrugged.

“Who’s second?”

“Me.” Momo grinned unabashedly.

“I… fair.” Chaeyoung shrugged, and then she was off.

“What about you?” Momo asked, getting up from her position of halfway squashing Jeongyeon. The oldest girl took a thankful opportunity to go pee, finally able to move.

“Me?”

“You could stay here?” Momo suggested softly. Her mood change made Dahyun frown. Made her actually consider it.

“I should really get home,” Dahyun mumbled. “I have a lot of school work and I need to sleep.”

“Don’t pretend with me, Dahyunnie.” Momo said it quietly, but her gaze was intense.

How could she know? Maybe her eyes saw more than she let on, or maybe Dahyun was just too obviously exhausted by now. But somehow, Dahyun couldn’t keep her mask on with Momo. Just melted into her outstretched arms and let the older girl care for her. Wondered how she did it. How she had broken through a barrier in mere hours that she could still put up in front of the others. Momo somehow just… saw.

“Okay… Thank you.” Dahyun mumbled. And Momo took that as a yes to staying.

 

 

Momo’s bed wasn’t as soft as Sana’s, but it was far more crowded. There was barely room for the both of them and all twelve of Momo’s massive stuffed toys that made her own stuffed squirrel seem pathetic in comparison. But Dahyun quickly recognized the pastel teddy bear she had used and picked it from the pile.

“I thought I was going to be your cuddle buddy!” Momo complained immediately. Dahyun laughed at her ridiculous pout and changed into the pyjamas Momo handed her.

“What is it with you and Sana and cuddles?” Dahyun asked as she climbed under the covers and waited for Momo to join her, placing the bear back in the pile.

“Not sure. Just makes me feel safe to have someone to protect I guess?” Momo shrugged, shifting her footing as she struggled to put her shirt on the right way.

“Mh, I guess.”

“As a kid I’d always cuddle my teddies but as I got older I cuddled Sana instead whenever she came over. Kept her safe, you know?”

“You were really close, huh?” Dahyun muttered.

“We are still. But I guess there were times where we were almost inseparable. Or more like I wouldn’t let her go.” Momo finally got both arms out of the t-shirt and pulled at the front to get it to fall right, skillfully clipping off the bra underneath before crawling into bed, turning on her side to look at Dahyun.

“... Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.” Momo shrugged.

Dahyun swallowed, couldn’t look Momo in the eyes. It was a thought that had occurred to her repeatedly over the past weeks. That there might be a history there. “You and Sana… Have you-”

“What, dated?”

Dahyun nodded, her cheeks warm.

“No.” Momo chuckled. “No, she kissed me once but-”

“She kissed you?”

“She was afraid that she would be bad at it” Momo shrugged. “She’s not, by the way. But she’s just… she tries to hide it all behind her laughter. Not that she isn’t happy, but her family has never been the easiest subject.”

“Her mom has been ill, right?” Dahyun frowned. Knew only what Momo had told the first night and then what Sana had mentioned a little while back.

“She has. A lot. Almost… a few times. She’s good now though but it always kind of broke Sana whenever she was in a bad period. But because everyone else around her just left, she never told me about the bad periods. So I had to learn how to read her to help her and now I think I know her too well sometimes.”

“You know a lot about people. I mean I can fool those two goofs on a good day, but you see right through me.”

“Well, that’s because you’re a lot like her. Sana. You both hide behind your smile.” Momo said.

Dahyun frowned. She was nothing like Sana. But Momo also wasn’t wrong in her observations. Dahyun’s smile was her best mask. An actress in her ace game when she could just bring out that smile. So she nodded at Momo and let the older girl tug her closer and curl around her. She hummed as Momo ran her hand up and down Dahyun’s arm, and Dahyun couldn’t hold back a chuckle as a ridiculous thought entered her mind.

“What?” Momo mumbled.

“Well, for someone who’s never kissed a girl, I sure have gotten into bed with quite a few by now.” Dahyun said, a nervous giggle bubbling out under her breath.

“Well, it’s your own fault that you haven’t kissed anyone yet.” Momo said against Dahyun’s neck.

“What, do you wanna kiss me?” Dahyun laughed.

Momo didn’t answer.

Dahyun turned in her arms, her stomach jolting at a sudden thought. Had she read it wrong, with Momo and Sana?

“Do you?”

“No.” Momo looked sincere. “And you know that.”

“I…”

“I get that you haven’t told me what’s going on, we’re not that close-”

“We literally couldn’t get closer.”

“Dahyun.”

“Sorry.”

“I know we’re not that close. But just promise me that you’ll try to get better before anything else. Make it your first priority.”

Dahyun nodded against Momo’s neck, without even bothering to protest. Knew that Momo was right. Sighed and closed her eyes as Momo stroked Dahyun’s hair and wrapped a leg over Dahyun’s.

“I have to be up by seven. I need to head home, I have a paper due.” Dahyun said with a yawn.

“Why did you stay here then?” Momo asked softly, confusion in her voice.

“... I don’t like sleeping alone.” Dahyun mumbled.

Momo hummed and rubbed circles on Dahyun’s back.

“Sleep now, then.” Momo said and tugged Dahyun closer.

 

...

 

In another bed, in another part of town, Chaeyoung was trying to get her breathing under control, shuddering as she crawled under the covers for warmth. Heard Nayeon’s breathless chuckle next to her and turned her head.

“You know, you should join next time.” Chaeyoung said, running a hand through her tousled hair.

“What, so that was a solo show?” Nayeon frowned.

“No, I mean join when Jeongyeon and Momo invite us over.” Chaeyoung rolled her eyes.

“Why?” Nayeon asked with little interest.

Chaeyoung sighed. “Look, I know you and Jeongyeon aren’t exactly on the best of terms-”

“She’s hiding something, I know it.” Nayeon huffed.

“Then talk to her.” Chaeyoung shrugged. “You’re best friends.”

“It’s not that simple this time.” Nayeon turned onto her side, away from her girlfriend.

“Nayeon.” Chaeyoung tugged at Nayeon’s shoulder, turning her back around. Kissed her swollen lips once.

“She’ll come to me when she’s ready to talk.”

“Momo asked for you.” Chaeyoung noted.

“She did?” Nayeon asked.

“She did. So… Join me next time?” Chaeyoung asked again.

“Mh… I guess.” Nayeon smiled. “And I guess I can suffer through Jeongyeon being a dick.”

“You love her and you know it.” Chaeyoung shook her head.

“Mh… Maybe.”

“You love her. And I love you. But right now, I’m gonna write.”

“I always did inspire you.” Nayeon grinned.

“Oh, definitely. My own personal muse.” Chaeyoung leaned down and pressed her lips to her girlfriend’s just for a second before getting out, grabbing a shirt and panties on the way. Laughed as Nayeon wolf whistled.

Chaeyoung tugged her shirt town over her knees as she turned on the lamp beside the couch Grabbed a notebook. One of many. And old one, almost full. And Chaeyoung wondered what would happen if Nayeon ever broke her promise to never look in them until Chaeyoung asked her to.

 

A snort left Dahyun as the sound of her phone woke her, sun creeping past the blinds. She tried turning to grab her phone to turn off the alarm, but Momo was holding onto her so tight, their legs tangled and Momo’s strong arms preventing her from moving.

“Momo…” Dahyun mumbled and poked gently at Momo’s arm. It worked. Somewhat. Momo didn’t wake, but her grip loosened just enough for Dahyun to be able to reach behind her and grab the phone. She turned off the alarm and tried waking Momo, quickly realizing that it was going to take too long. So instead Dahyun just started moving Momo’s limbs, enabling her to sneak out of the bed. Momo grumbled and turned around, her back to Dahyun, hands gripping at the foot of the pastel teddy bear, instinctively pulling it closer. And Dahyun allowed herself a second to look at her sleeping friend.

The bathroom was empty and Dahyun thought she heard Jeongyeon talking in the kitchen. She rubbed her eyes and tried to fix her face and hair somehow, grabbing what she recognized as Momo’s hairbrush. The feeling of the brush running over her scalp woke her a bit. With a groan she tied her hair in a lazy bun.

It was already ten past seven and the pressure of the assignment, of everything... It was too early for her heart to betray her like this. With all the force she could muster, she grabbed the sink, clenched her teeth. Begged for the pulse in her ears to shut up.

She was just a little bit behind, that was all. And one bad grade wouldn’t be the end of the world. She was gonna be ok. She was ok. With a sigh she turned on the faucet and let the cold water run over her wrists and hands, cooling her down. She was ok.

 

When she entered the kitchen she found Jeongyeon leaning against the sink, on the phone, chuckling. She looked at Dahyun and covered the mic on the phone with her hand. “Slept well?”

Dahyun nodded and grabbed a cup of noodles, filling the pot with water and getting it to boil. “You?”

“Like a rock.” Jeongyeon yawned and returned to her phone conversation. “No, she’s still sleeping.”

Dahyun saw her smile softly. Shyly?

“Yeah, tonight?” Jeongyeon asked, sipping from her coffee. “Deal. Yeah, I’m gonna run. Bye. You too.”

Dahyun frowned. “Who was-”

“Jihyo.” Jeongyeon explained and took a bite of toast.

“Sorry to just steal your food and your roomie and then bail, but I have an assignment due at noon. And Tzuyu is coming to revise with me.” Dahyun poured the now boiling water over the noodles and closed the lid on them.

“Don’t worry about it, you do you.” Jeongyeon insisted. “You seem better.”

“I am, I’m really good. I honestly don’t know what came over me the other day, it was so weird.”

Dahyun looked at her watch.

“I’m gonna change real quick.” She added before Jeongyeon could comment. Heard her call Dahyun’s name but ignored it.

Making as little noise as possible, Dahyun snuck back into Momo’s room, Momo still fast asleep with her back to Dahyun. Dahyun quickly shimmied out of the borrowed pyjamas and put on her clothes from last night. Heard Momo mumble in her sleep as Dahyun tippy-toed out of the room again, closing the door gently.

“Do you at least have an easier schedule after this exam?” Jeongyeon asked as Dahyun sat down with the cup of noodles, opening it to judge if they were done. They weren’t.

“Yeah, well, I’m going to have more shifts again but classes are going to hopefully get easier.” Dahyun nodded.

“Good.” Jeongyeon sounded hesitant. “And how about-”

“Jeongyeon. I’m good.” Dahyun grinned and gave her the thumbs up.

Dahyun opened the lid again, not willing to wait more. The noodles were slightly chewy but they tasted good and she ate fast, Jeongyeon scrolling lazily through what looked like instagram, but Dahyun wasn’t sure from the angle.

“Jeong?” Dahyun said as soon as she was done with the noodles.

“Mh?” Jeongyeon looked up from her phone. “What?”

“I just… Thank you again for having me over. It was so much fun. I’ve missed it a lot. Missed you. Outside of work, I mean.”

“Yeah, me too.” Jeongyeon poked gently against Dahyun’s hand. “You should come over more.”

“I will.” Dahyun nodded and got up. “Tell Momo I’m sorry I had to leave?”

“Sure.” Jeongyeon smiled. Followed Dahyun to the door.

 

 

“I’m not sure this is right.” Dahyun mumbled.

“I’m not sure this is right either.” Tzuyu groaned.

“We’re gonna fail.” Dahyun whined.

“We’re gonna die.” Tzuyu agreed.

 

Tzuyu and Dahyun sat on the floor on either end of the coffee table in Dahyun’s living room. Dahyun let her head fall onto the table, her forehead on a piece by Sondheim.

To hell with Sondheim anyway.

He was a git.

Well.

No, Dahyun didn’t mean that.

Not really.

Just right now.

 

The clock read three in the morning, Friday rising with the sun in a few hours, and they had spent hours going over the assigned sheet music. Dahyun couldn’t focus. Couldn’t visualize. If she could just play it out, she would be able to figure it out. Instead, they listened to the pieces over and over, with lyrics, without lyrics, making notes and comparing. The coffee pot was empty and a mouthful of cold coffee was all that was left in Dahyun’s mug. She drank it anyway, wincing. Had never really liked the taste of black coffee, much less cold.

“But the assigned essay could be on any one of these, right?” Tzuyu asked, pointing to a long list of musical pieces.

Dahyun lifted her head, resting her chin against the coffee table instead of her forehead.

“Yup.”

“We’re screwed.”

“We need more coffee.” Dahyun sighed. She didn’t get up. Neither did Tzuyu.

“And you’re sure you shouldn’t sleep instead? What good is it even to go over this so late?”

“I can’t sleep even if I want to, but you should sleep. Take my bed.”

“No way, if you’re staying up, so am I.” Tzuyu insisted. “We die together, remember?”

“Yeah. But I really need to figure this out. I’m sure I could figure it out if I could just...” Dahyun clenched her fist, stretched her fingers then clenched her fist again.

“Wait.”

“What?” Dahyun looked up at Tzuyu. Her eyes sparked.

“... I have an idea.” Tzuyu mumbled, then got up with an energy Dahyun didn’t fathom or could ever hope to muster at this hour. Dahyun merely watched as her friend disappeared into her room and returned with an squared notebook and scotch tape, opening the notebook on an empty page.

“Can I use this?”

“Sure.” Dahyun looked at her, trying to find out what the hell was going on.

“Can you hand me that?” Tzuyu pointed at a black pen by Dahyun’s hair.

“... Sure.” Dahyun lazily swiped it across the notes. Watched as Tzuyu started counting squares on the paper and drawing lines. Slowly, a picture formed. One that made Dahyun’s eyes grow big and heart race as she realized what Tzuyu was doing. Made her stomach turn as she raised her head from the coffee table and looked. Tzuyu ripped out the page and drew the same on the next page.

Dahyun opened her mouth to protest.

“This is going to work.” Tzuyu stopped her, reading the expression on Dahyun’s face right. To say that Tzuyu looked stubborn would be the understatement of the century. She looked downright  fierce in her determination.

“But Tzu-” Dahyun said.

“Just try.” Tzuyu said, ripped out the second page and got up, placing the pages on the table in front of Dahyun, gathering the sheet music in stacks to make space. Took the scotch tape and connected the two pieces properly, then taped them to the coffee table.

“I’m not sure I can. It’s not the same.”

“Try.” Tzuyu insisted.

Dahyun studied the pages Tzuyu had drawn on. It was a piano, drawn in almost real scale, not with all octaves but most, which worked for the most pieces. This was silly. But Tzuyu was looking at her with a fire in her eyes, and Dahyun carefully placed her fingers on the make-believe notes, adjusting to the scale.

“Okay, now this one.” Tzuyu said and held up the hardest piece in front of Dahyun. “I’ll play the music on my phone when you’re ready and you just play along.”

“I-”

“You can do this, I know it. You’re a genius.”

“I’m a doof and you know it.” Dahyun argued.

“You’re a goddamn genius when it comes to music, and you know it. Dahyun, I’ve never seen anyone with your talent.”

“Tzuyu...” Dahyun croaked.

“You can do this.” Tzuyu said firmly.

“I don’t…”

“Try.”

“Then… okay, at least let me just try without music. I’m not used to this.” Dahyun said, admitting defeat. Probably might as well have given in to the younger girl from the start.

 

It felt awkward, wrong. Her fingers were so used to the distance from a one key to the next that she had to try several times to scale it down. It was muscle memory and it would be a hard opponent.

“Okay.” Dahyun sighed.  “Okay, try.”

It was much against her will that Tzuyu turned on the music and Dahyun tried to play along, barely needing to read the sheet music.

 

The first time was awkward. She kept making the chords too big, fitting a real piano, kept slipping behind when she had to adjust. Ignored the jolts. Knew that Tzuyu had drawn it in less than full scale out of kindness, but somehow it made it harder. Was just a cruel reminder of a crushed dream.

 

The second time was better. Somehow.

 

The third time she played with tears in her eyes. Tears that dripped onto the paper and smeared the penned lines. Played with Tzuyu’s hands squeezing her shoulders, asking if she wanted to quit. Played with a shake of her head..

 

The fourth time Dahyun cracked it.

Yelped out loud and nearly crumbled one of the pieces of paper. Her hand ached already, but she ignored it. Instead she grabbed the sheet music and noted down exactly where the change in music caused the mood shift and  added a little note at the bottom of the page about why. And as she looked up, she found that Tzuyu beamed, her eyes shining as Dahyun explained enthusiastically, pointing between the chords she made with her hand and the sheet music and the lyrics.

“Okay. So here, we expect her voice to climb in tone to increase drama, right? Because the song dictates it. Right?”

“But it doesn’t, when she sings true it goes down, but the music is swelling.” Tzuyu pointed to the point in the sheet music.

“Anticlimax.” Dahyun said. “But we remember this song as dramatic. Because of the music that proceeds the lyrics. But the lyrics aren’t contributing to that.”

 

They knew the theory of this, had gone through it some weeks ago, but finding the exact point in the songs that was hard. And Dahyun had been so familiar with the piece that she had assumed the structure instead of actually listening to it. But because her hands could observe the song separately from the lyrics, she noticed the difference.

 

The exhilaration of the breakthrough felt almost like being high, and Dahyun was so enchanted by her own discoveries that she managed to get through three more pieces this way; Dahyun playing along on the imaginary piano, albeit still fighting the muscle memory, and Tzuyu playing the pieces on the phone and noting down every time Dahyun said. “Here, contradiction.” and “Here, affirmation.”

 

Still, at five in the morning Dahyun went into the kitchen and drank an entire glass of water with her painkillers and cursed at herself. Grabbed a pack of choco pies.

“You should really sleep.” Tzuyu leaned against the door, looking at her.

“So should you.” Dahyun smiled. Struggled to open the pack, her hand trembling terribly. Watched with little protest as Tzuyu grabbed the pack and opened it.

They shared the pack.

 

Neither went to bed that night.

 

 

It was hard to decide whether it had been worth it, staying up all night.

To save their grade, it definitely had. Dahyun had used several of the points from the night’s revision in her essay and had been happy with the effort she had put into it, when she finally handed it in.

But now? Now she was stumbling across the curb, her feet refusing to carry her much further. Didn’t notice if anyone was home. Didn’t notice if she remembered to close to door to her room. Didn’t bother to take off her jeans. Didn’t crawl under the covers. Just curled into a ball around the squirrel plush, lying on top of her bed.

 

Cried into it until she fell asleep.

 

 

Dahyun sat up with a jolt.

A blanket fell off of her shoulders, gathering around her legs. Heart in her throat, she looked around, blinked her contacts into focus. It was dark. The door was closed and no light was visible around the edges. Was it night? Must be.

With sweaty palms, Dahyun grabbed her phone, still in the pocket of her jeans, but it had run out of battery. Cursed and fumbled with the charger.

What time was it?

Her hand still ached. And it broke her heart. Despite herself, last night she had thought maybe. Just maybe. And she blamed herself for letting Tzuyu get her hopes up. But loved Tzuyu for trying. All this time, she had thought that she would get used to her new normal, with Sana, with Momo, with her work and less classes. More bills. The tiny but painfully present scar on the side of her left hand by her thumb.

It was all so stupid. She was so stupid. And so weak. Useless. For months she had been carried around by her friends. Kept standing only because Jihyo forced her to sleep. Calm only with Mina’s hands cupping her face telling her sweet little lies. Smiling only when her friends did.

But sleeping also when Sana wrapped her body around her. Calm when she held her hand. Smiling whenever Sana did. But she had neglected everyone else because of Sana. Had forgotten to call Jihyo. Had spent way too little time with Chaeyoung. With Jeongyeon.

She had relied so much on her friends and given so little in return.

What if she would always just be the one who had to be picked up, who could never stand on her own. Who could never get back up. Not properly. Not back to who she used to be.

 

More than anything she wanted to become the girl she used to be. The one who dragged Chaeyoung out of bed at three in the morning to get snacks and watch the sun go up, kaw’ing at the birds as they flew by. To be the one to always choke on her food because she was laughing so hard. The girl who sang karaoke offkey with a wooden spoon in front of her howling friends.

 

The one who would always be at the center of the laughter.

 

Not at the center of everyone’s worries.

 

It was so stupid. So stupid of her to have worried them so much. She had just kept convincing herself she just needed a few nights of good sleep to be fine. To catch up. But who was she even kidding anymore?

 

Tears fell before she could stop them. Her heart clenched painfully in her chest. She was way too exhausted. Way too stressed. Way too confused and tired of all this. Had to keep breathing, but her breath was shallow and the dizziness was threatening to overpower her.

 

She was useless.

Powerless.

 

More than anything, she just needed a little bit of control. Something she could grasp onto, something steady. And Sana had been so willing to let her escape into her light. Had crawled under her skin in a matter of days, hours, minutes.

And now her bed was so cold, and Sana wasn’t there, and she was forced to face the reality. That she wasn’t there yet. That all their hard work to keep her afloat wasn’t working. That all of her attempts to fight were failing.

 

But what was she supposed to do? Not pay her bills? Not complete her education?

 

Just give up?

 

It was this exact thought that made Dahyun freeze, made her grab her phone, begging that it had charged enough to turn on and allowing her heart a moment’s relief when it did.

 

1:34 am.

 

She thought it might be too late, but the call was answered almost immediately.

“Dahyun?”

“I… I’m not ok.”

Chapter Text

Grey. Everything was gray. The train was cold, loud, unwelcoming and perfect for the occasion. Perfect for a trip through town in the dead of night. With a sigh, Dahyun leaned against the window. The clammy sweatshirt stuck to her arms, still wet from the short walk from her home to the station.

 

“I… I’m not ok.” Dahyun said quietly. Hadn’t been sure she could get the words out, but now that she had, it felt like a burden lifted from her shoulders.

“No, you’re not.”

“I don’t know what to do.” Dahyun sighed, running a hand through her hair. Rubbed her tired eyes. They hurt. Probably the lenses. “I’ve just tried not to let it bother me, and mostly it hasn’t. I’ve been fine like ninety percent of the time.”

“Have you though?”

The speed that argument came at, stung more than Dahyun wanted to admit. “Yes. I mean. I’m sorry. I’m just tired and stressed but that’s college for you, right? I don’t know. I’m just being overdramatic. It’s probably nothing. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m-”

“Dahyun.”

Dahyun took a deep breath. Recognized the gravity in her voice and nodded to herself. “Yeah?”

“It’s 1:30 in the morning.”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t-”

“Stop, that’s not what I meant.”

“Then what?” Dahyun frowned. Was maybe just a bit more confused still than she wanted to admit.

“You’re calling me at 1:30 in the morning saying you’re not ok. Finally. And now you’re trying to take it all back?”

“I just. I got scared, that I wasn’t over everything. That I wasn’t better.”

“But you’re not better, are you?”

Dahyun looked down at her knees and remembered for a moment all the things that had made her call in the first place. Knew that she had to stop running.

“No. I’m not better.”

Silence.

“How long have you known?” Dahyun asked.

“A while. I’m not sure. I was going to ask you to come over tomorrow- today- if you hadn’t called me yourself. I just knew there was no point trying to get through to you while you were studying for that exam.”

“I’m never going to play again.” Dahyun clenched her hand. It still ached horribly and the nerve jolted almost as if just to underline a point.

“I know.”

For a moment Dahyun didn’t answer. Just got up, out of the bed. Out of her room. Took step after step to relieve at least some of the pain. Winced when she turned on the lights in the bathroom, locking the door after her.

“Dahyun?”

“Can I…” Dahyun’s voice caught in her throat as she took out the lenses, placing one in each room in the little case, flushing them with salt water. Put on her glasses and looked at herself in the mirror. Saw how the tears glazed over her eyes almost immediately. “Can I come over? I don’t know what to do.”

“Do you want me to pick you up?”

Dahyun considered the offer for a moment. Longed for a little melancholy, honestly. “No, I’ll take the subway.”

“At this hour?”

“Trains do ride at this hour.”

“I know that.”

She sounded hurt, and Dahyun felt the guilt settle in every fiber of her body.

“Sorry. I just.”

“I get it. Just be safe.”

Dahyun nodded. Unlocked the bathroom. Walked into the dark hallway.

“I will.”

 

 

She wasn’t alone anymore, in the train compartment. A crowd of four people had entered at the last stop, tipsy and high-spirited. Played loud music and laughed. Music so loud that it deafened the sounds of the four-hand piano piece that played from Dahyun’s headphones. But there was no point in telling them to turn it down, so Dahyun merely covered her face with the hood of her sweatshirt and turned up the music, leaning her head against the window of the train.

Still, laughter broke through the song. Dahyun turned up the sound more, and disappeared in the memory of it. It was the first piece they had learned to play together, playing in the piano room during lunch breaks. It had been a wonderful moment, when they finally did it. Played it to perfection together. Student and teacher. Padawan and Maestro. A girl and her best friend in the entire world. Even now, with her aching hand, for the first time fully accepting that they would never play together again pressing down on her, it brought her comfort. She could almost feel the cool keys of the piano. Closed her eyes. Let herself be swept off by the song. Let herself engulf in the smell of cookies and the sound of Chaeyoung’s laughter. Her favorite sound, even overtaking the sound of just the right key finishing a song, leaving the heart satisfied and full. Yeah… Chaeyoung’s laughter was better than that.

The train stopped and started.

Dahyun counted the stations.

Knew exactly when she would have to get off.

Knew this trip well.

Even if she rarely took it with a smile on her face.

Promised herself to change that.

 

 

Low-angled rays of sunlight poured through the living room window, bathing the room in a cold light. Dahyun wrapped the blanket tighter around herself.

“Dahyun?” Chaeyoung’s voice was soft, too caring. Too worried even if it was obvious that she tried not to be.

“Chaeng-chaeng!” Dahyun smiled at her. Knew it was a mask. Just hoped that Chaeyoung would let it slide. And besides, most of the time, Dahyun could get away with the mask. Was too good of an actress to let the pain show. Good enough to fool her best friend. “What’s up?”

“How’s the pain?” Chaeyoung asked, joining Dahyun in the couch.

Dahyun shrugged and gnawed at her lip. The doctor had taken off the bandages this morning. It had been bad to look at her hand first in a cast and then in bandages after the surgery. But now that it was exposed, it was somehow worse. It was all pink and irritated, and Dahyun had to stop herself from scratching it every five minutes.

“Stop that.” Chaeyoung mumbled and covered her hand. Dahyun had been staring at it again. For a moment Dahyun considered just letting it slide. Laugh it off. But she couldn’t.

“What if it won’t heal?” Dahyun whispered as she leaned into her best friend. Admitted her fears for once.

“It will.” Chaeyoung assured her. Nosed Dahyun’s temple and ran her thumb softly over the scar. Soothed the itching sensation and made it hurt a little less. “Did you sleep?”

Dahyun shook her head and felt tears prickle in the corners of her eyes. “I had to write the email. To my teacher. Tell her I couldn’t rejoin the class.”

“It’s for the best.” Chaeyoung hushed. “You’ll get back to it. You can always apply to take the class next year.”

Dahyun nodded. Then shook her head. “... The doctor said it’s unlikely that I can ever stretch my fingers enough to hit the wide chords without being in pain. Like the add-nine chords?”

“But even so, you might be able to play most songs once this heals properly.” Chaeyoung argued. Dahyun looked at her, hoping that the affection that soared through Dahyun’s heart would cut through the sense of hopelessness and frustration that filled the air between them.

“I don’t know if I can settle for less.” Dahyun admitted.

“Give it time.” Chaeyoung hummed and wrapped an arm around Dahyun’s shoulder. Held her close for a moment, then spoke again. “And in the meantime, I think I found a solution to the sleeping problem. You know, take the edge off?”

“You suggesting I drink it off? Or take benadryl?” Dahyun drew back a bit to look at her.

“No. I mean, benadryl could be a solution, but listen. I found these things at the drugstore. They’re not sleeping pills. They’re something called… Argh, what was it… uh, melatonin I think. Yeah, that. And there’s like no side effects to them. They even come with flavors, you know, as chewing tablets. It’s basically just something we already make in our brains but by adding more you get extra sleepy. So maybe it can counteract the anxiety enough so that you can fall asleep easier?”

Dahyun looked as Chaeyoung pulled out her phone and looked it up. It looked legit.

“I guess it’s worth a try. Otherwise I’ll just have Tzuyu supply me with benadryl. She always has them lying around for her hay fever.”

“Making the kid into a drug dealer. Brilliant idea, Kim Dahyun. Look, just try them, okay?”

“Okay, first of all, she’s a month younger than you are. But fine. I’ll try.” Dahyun nodded and leaned into Chaeyoung again.

“Good cause I already bought you a bottle. One pill before sleep, like half an hour before.”

“Let me guess, you got the strawberry flavored ones?” Dahyun raised an eyebrow, the air between them lighter somehow.

“Of course.” Chaeyoung shrugged.

Then she switched the window to YouTube, and insisted on showing Dahyun at least five different videos of cats being stupid.

 

Dahyun laughed that day.

Loved Chaeyoung.

 

 

Dahyun had barely knocked before the door was flung open and arms were around her, brown hair blocking her vision and a raspy whimper in her voice. It didn’t matter that Dahyun was drenched from the pouring rain outside, Jihyo didn’t shy away for a second. Just held Dahyun close, arms so tight around her neck, her body pressing against Dahyun’s.

“I’m ok.” Dahyun mumbled and held the older girl tight, running a hand down her back.

“Shut up.” Jihyo mumbled, lips pressing into Dahyun’s hair. And Dahyun knew that she was crying. Could hear it in Jihyo’s breath and feel the older girl’s attempts to control her own shaking.

Dahyun held her tighter. Didn’t say anymore. Just let Jihyo hang onto her.

It should be awkward standing in an empty hallway at 2:30 in the morning, but it wasn’t. It was just… Jihyo. And for the longest time they stood there, arms around each other, their silent conversation impossibly more sincere than the promises they had made the night of Chaeyoung’s birthday.

Eventually, Jihyo’s grip loosened, and she drew back, wiping Dahyun’s cheeks before she dried her own. Gave a wet laugh and shook her head. “You’re such an idiot.”

“I know. A dumb little butterfly, right?” Dahyun made little flapping motions with her hands, just to hear that laugh again, if only but once.

“The dumbest.” Jihyo sniffled. “You’re both... So dumb.”

“Wait… Both?” Dahyun frowned and looked past Jihyo, into the apartment.

Tzuyu was sitting in the couch in her favorite hoodie - the one with the big paw print on the front - wrapped in a fluffy pink blanket, her hair in braids and a steaming mug of tea in her hands. She looked at Dahyun and smiled, shaking her head. Dahyun knew what she was thinking. Idiot. And Dahyun was inclined to agree.

“Well, as a whole, you still take the prize.” Jihyo said dryly as she pulled Dahyun into the apartment, “But right now I’m inclined to mark both of you as idiots. To think that you convinced each other-”

Jihyo seemed lost for words. Then she clicked her tongue and seemed to make up her mind.

“No, you know what? No more scolding. Just... sit down next to fool number one over there.”

Jihyo gestured at Tzuyu, the youngest looking somewhere between sheepish and slightly offended.

Dahyun felt a bit like laughing. Ashamed of their stupid ass decision, yes, but also just a little bit like laughing at Jihyo. Just because she was being such a mother trying to deal with her kids after they had chosen to color with crayons all over her wall. And it was ironic, simply because her natural state in life was anything but motherly. It was just… loud. Weird. And Dahyun missed that side of her, however humorous her current exasperation was.

While Jihyo mumbled under her breath and disappeared into the kitchen, Dahyun turned to join said fool number one on the couch. But just as Dahyun made to sit down she noticed a stack of fluffy fabrics on the armrest. Gave a chuckle and eyed the pile.

“Don’t even try to resist, she’s been in a mood ever since I called.”

“You called her?” Dahyun grabbed the clothes.

“I maybe sorta broke down a little after the test. Too tired I guess… And I didn’t want to disturb you in case you were sleeping.” Tzuyu shrugged and sipped from her tea.

“So you’re good?” Dahyun frowned. “You and Jihyo I mean? I thought for a second- you know, the party? I thought maybe you’d been arguing, but I didn’t wanna pry.”

“No, we’re good.” Tzuyu nodded. “Just a misunderstanding.”

“That’s good.”

“Yeah.” Tzuyu sent Dahyun a shy smile, then looked at her clothes. “You should change. You’re drenched.”

“Oh, right.” Dahyun looked down at the fluffy clothes in her hand. Sent Tzuyu a smile and turned from her, poking her head into the kitchen to Jihyo, kissing her once again tearstained cheek before borrowing the bathroom to change.

There was a tranquility about Jihyo’s place that allowed Dahyun to distance herself from the panic and confusion that had overwhelmed her. Everything somehow just became easier when wearing Jihyo’s fluffy pyjama pants.

 

When she came back out of the bathroom, Jihyo was there, waiting for her with a mug of steaming hot tea. Took Dahyun by the arm and sat her down beside Tzuyu, wrapping her up in the blanket and then put a cup of chamomile tea in her hands. She looked down at Dahyun and Tzuyu with crossed arms and raised eyebrows, sniffling.

“You’re both idiots.”

Dahyun looked over at Tzuyu who in turn looked at Dahyun, both smiling slightly.

Jihyo shook her head and told them to drink their tea. Found pens and paper and chocolate, went to stand in front of them and had both of them move over a bit, sitting down between them.

“Did you figure out things with work?” Jihyo looked at Tzuyu.

The paper in her hands already had a schedule on it. Tzuyu’s, from the look of it. Why she worked so much when she only had to pay for a small college dorm room, Dahyun didn’t get. She rarely bought herself anything.

“I think we’re all set.”

“And your head?”

“Me and my head are good.” Tzuyu emptied her cup of tea, holding it tightly between her hands.

“Your head?” Dahyun frowned.

“She means all my thoughts running around in there.” Tzuyu leaned forwards a little to look past Jihyo.

“You should try to sleep then.” Jihyo said. “Use the bed, we’ll fit.”

“Jihyo…” Tzuyu said quietly. “I don’t-”

“It’s okay.” Jihyo reassured her. “I’m ok.”

“But-” Tzuyu tried, but as Dahyun caught her eye she clamped up. The blanket fell from around her as she got up.

“We’ll join you soon.” Jihyo said softly.

“Mh,” Tzuyu eyed Dahyun again, “Just... don’t let her lie in the middle. She kicks.”

“I know. I’ll be the middle.” Jihyo said, and for a moment Tzuyu pressed her lips together tight, in an obvious attempt not to smile, though her exposed ears revealed her. Moved just a little bit.

“Goodnight, Tzuyu.” Jihyo said quietly. Smiled fondly at the younger girl.

“Goodnight, Jihyo.” Tzuyu hummed and walked into the kitchen with her cup.

 

As soon as the door to Jihyo’s room closed, Dahyun felt her heart attempt to bring her out of the calm, but she leaned on Jihyo and let the older girl take her hand. Let her rub over the scar. Let her help.

“Okay, now. How about we start from… well, the start.”

“Would you like me to lie down on the couch so you can play shrink? Hear all about my troubled childhood?” Dahyun asked jokingly.

She felt her heart race and heard the rain hammering against the windows. She really wasn’t sure how it would go over if she had to tell everything. It was easier just to keep avoiding it.

Jihyo looked at her, squeezed her hand and told her to drink her tea.

 

Somewhere, between the fuzzy pyjamas, the smell of chamomile and Jihyo’s soft humming, Dahyun started talking. Told about everything that had gone down since Sana moved in. About everything that had happened since Dahyun stopped coming over.

 

Couldn’t look Jihyo in the eyes. Talked to the tea instead, staring at it as it turned cold between her hands.

 

 

“So you’re… back where you were before Chaeyoung moved out?”

Dahyun nodded. “I think I am.”

“Except this time you’re also in love.” Jihyo really couldn’t help that dumb little smile on her face, could she?

Dahyun pressed her lips together. “I don’t… know if I’d say ‘in love’. But I like her….”

“You’ve rambled about her for forty five minutes, I think we’re well beyond a schoolgirl crush here, Dahyun.” Jihyo raised an eyebrow and then took the half-empty cup of cold tea from Dahyun and placed it on the table. Took Dahyun’s hands instead.

“... I guess that’s a fair point.” Dahyun sighed, squeezing Jihyo’s hands. Knew that she held on more for herself than for Dahyun. “But how can those two things even be happening at the same time? How can I be sure that Sana isn’t just a projection or whatever it is shrinks say about these things? I barely know the girl.”

“I think the fact that you worry about exactly that, proves that it’s not the case. And you do know her. You’ve lived together for what? A month?”

“Yeah, that’s about right. But it’s just inconvenient.” Dahyun groaned. “I like her so much.”

“I’m glad.” Jihyo hummed.

“Why are you glad? This is not what I need right now at all!” Dahyun groaned, leaning on Jihyo.

“Maybe it is. Because for the first time you’ve started reaching out on your own. Not because we nag you. And I’m not saying she’s gonna fix you. I’m definitely not, that’s not her responsibility. I’m saying you’re changing because you’re letting someone in for once. Way in there.” Jihyo let Dahyun’s right hand go, to poke gently at Dahyun’s forehead.

“Not my heart?”

“No, we all live there, but you’re letting her into that odd brain of yours. And it’s okay to like her. It’s even okay to be in love with her. Just try to get your life under control before trying to get her into bed.”

“I-” Dahyun felt her cheeks burn immediately, and from Jihyo’s chuckle it showed clearly. “I mean, I-”

“You really are such a useless lesbian, huh?” Jihyo said in an amused tone.

“I really am,” Dahyun sighed and shook her head with a smile. “How do you even do it? I mean, how do you get past the fear that everything is just gonna change and fall to the ground?” Dahyun asked.

“I… have no clue.” Jihyo admitted quietly. “Alcohol was my solution and look how that turned out.”

“Oh God no, I’m never gonna drink again.” Dahyun groaned.

“Right, you keep believing that.” Jihyo clicked her tongue and held Dahyun tighter. “Now I think I have solutions to some of your problems, but it will have to wait until tomorrow, because this is going to require help from everyone. I mean, it’s not exactly an easy situation you’ve put yourself in. Well, I would say, he put you in but you won’t let me blame him-”

“It was an accident.” Dahyun interjected.

“Still hate him.” Jihyo mumbled.

“Don’t.” Dahyun begged. “We’ll never know whose fault it actually was.”

“Fine… But you’re okay with me recruiting the group?”

Dahyun shrugged. “It’s probably better they all know about… about everything anyway. They’ve been worried.”

“Yes, we have.” Jihyo kissed her hair. “Come on. It’s almost half past three, we’re going to need all of the few hours we can get.”

“I’m sorry to have kept you up like this…” Dahyun said and stifled a yawn.

“I’m not. I just want my happy, stupid, little Dahyunnie back.” Jihyo got up and pulled Dahyun with her.

“Are you sure I shouldn’t sleep out here? Sure, your bed is big, but three people? Isn’t that a bit much?” Dahyun frowned.

“I’ve had Jeongyeon and Nayeon in it more times than I can count and those two practically fight in their sleep.” Jihyo said dryly.

“Do you plan to get all of us into bed by the end?” Dahyun joked, her eyes drooping, hiding another yawn behind her hand.

“In one way or another.” Jihyo winked and dragged Dahyun with her.

 

 

Dahyun could hear the rain. Only the rain. How it fell around her, onto her, soaking her to the bone. Felt how the water ran down her back and down her face. Could feel the hairs sticking to her face and her heartbeat in her throat.

But no matter what she did, Dahyun couldn’t go faster. Barely moved no matter how fast she moved her legs.

“Dahyun.”

The voice was distant, barely audible through the rain. Called for her over and over. Then cursed. Cursed?

 

Dahyun woke.

 

For a moment she was two places at once. Out in the rain and safe in whoever’s arms were around her. Whoever she had been kicking. And then she was fully awake. All at once. Except her face was still wet with the rain… with tears. And the realization made her body shake worse than it already was, and she tried to hold on to whomever was keeping her safe, but her left hand was still in a cast and the other was awkwardly stuck against her own stomach.

“Hey, Dahyun! It’s okay, I’m here!” The voice was raspy with sleep but undeniably belonging to Nayeon.

Dahyun couldn’t respond. Couldn’t think. Could just press herself into Nayeon’s body, somehow halfway sitting, halfway lying in her arms, the older girl leaning into the corner, tugging Dahyun impossibly closer.

“It was just a dream.” Nayeon said soothingly. “It was just a dream, you’re okay. You’re safe.”

But Dahyun just shook. Tried to listen to Nayeon’s voice, but couldn’t stop shaking. Bit down on her lip to stop the sobs, and tasted blood. But Nayeon didn’t walk away. Didn’t stop talking.

It had been almost a month, and still, nothing seemed to be better. She was supposed to get the cast off in three days, and then have the surgery. But she wasn’t ready. Wasn’t ready at all. Because one thing was having her stress relief, her biggest passion, taken from her for a month. Another thing was risking that they took it away forever. That he had taken it away from her. But it wasn’t his fault, she could’ve just looked. The only thing she could do to cope, was just to blame the rain. Otherwise she’d have no-one left to hate but herself. Poor little Dahyun who couldn’t be alone. Poor little Dahyun who was so caught up in her own misery and fear that she barely sensed the world around her. Poor little Dahyun who hadn’t gotten through a single night in a month without a nightmare, hadn’t gotten through a single day without an unexplainable panic attack. Who winced every time a car passed by her. And it was all so stupid. She was so stupid. It was just an accident. Just bad luck, and she was so… weak.

Somewhere between it all, Dahyun passed out, a whimper leaving her as she drifted off, still shaking in the older girl’s arms, exhausted to the point where she couldn’t stay awake even for a second longer.

 

Nayeon was still there when morning came.

 

 

Something was warm against Dahyun’s face as she woke, and she realized that it was sunlight. The storm had passed and made way for a strong spring sun. The scent of lilac filled Dahyun’s nostrils, coming from the sheets and the pillow. Jihyo. But the bed was empty. And voices were coming from the living room. Jihyo and Tzuyu were up, it seemed, and had let her sleep. For a minute, Dahyun merely stared up at the ceiling fan before turning to check her phone, almost poking herself in the eye as she put on her glasses. Subconsciously she noted that it was half past ten, but her eyes fell only on the single email notification on her screen. No other messages. Not that she had expected any. But the name on the email kept claiming her attention. Nothing good ever comes from an email from a professor when it’s subject is ‘concerning missing assignment’. Had Dahyun forgotten to hand it in? Maybe she had. But there was no room in her head to deal with it, her skin flushing with heat that quickly settled in the shells of her ears, her cheeks and her arms. She had definitely written it. Clutching a hand to her chest, Dahyun tried to get her heart to stop beating so fast. Logically Dahyun knew how to handle a situation like this, even if she had never been in it before, but her brain could barely connect far enough to realize whose laughter was forcing its way through the sound of her pulse rushing in her ears.

Nayeon.

Nayeon’s laugh. Nayeon’s cackling… Nayeon? Why the hell was Nayeon here?

Leaving the phone in the bed, Dahyun untangled herself from the covers and walked out of Jihyo’s little bedroom, trying her best not to look at the little keyboard in the corner that Jihyo had bought after her high school graduation, just to learn how to play for fun.

 

Dahyun did indeed find Nayeon in the living room, but also Mina and Jeongyeon, as well as Jihyo and Tzuyu. And they were all looking at her. Dahyun, busy trying to make sense of it all, just stared from one to the next, their faces expressing worry and care in varying balances. Then Jihyo was there by her side, having jumped from her seat next to Mina, pulling Dahyun by the wrist and sitting her down on the exact seat that Jihyo had just left, leaving her squeezed between Nayeon and Mina. Yet neither of them were supposed to be here right now. So why were they?

“What are-”

“Reinforcements” Jeongyeon said from her seat next to Nayeon.

The frown on Dahyun’s face seemed almost permanent by now. “For what?”

“What do you think?” Nayeon rolled her eyes and put a hand on Dahyun’s knee. “For you.”

For a moment, Dahyun opened her mouth to protest but then remembered what Jihyo had said. Help from everyone . They were here… for her. To help her. But-

“Where’s Chaeyoungie?” Dahyun asked, looking around for her best friend.

“What, aren’t we enough for you?” Nayeon feigned a pout. If she was here, then Chaeyoung surely- unless she was mad at Dahyun for not coming to her? Was it possible that she was actually angry with Dahyun? Guilt tugged at Dahyun’s insides.

“She’s in the bathroom.” Jeongyeon said, obviously sensing Dahyun’s fear, and a wave of relief flushed over Dahyun.

“So you’re basically having a full group intervention for me?” Dahyun tried to relieve the mood, but she could hear the indignation in her own voice.

“Not Momo and Sana. We didn’t know if they knew, and-”

“They don’t.” Dahyun pressed her lips tight together. “I haven’t really gotten around to telling them…”

“Don’t you think it’s about time?” Mina asked.

“I just don’t want them to feel sorry for me. What’s done is done and there’s nothing to do except get on with my life. And they- yeah, they still need to know.”

“They won’t love you less.” Mina said. “And they won’t pity you.”

“How can you know that?” Dahyun asked, finding Mina’s eyes. Had looked into that face so often, but never realized just how much love she found in it until now. Honestly had no clue what she had done to win Mina’s friendship to such an extent. There had never been anything beyond friendship between them, but for some reason, there had always been a mutual instinct to protect and reassure each other. And the words she spoke, her small voice held such power that it almost liberated Dahyun.

“None of us love you less. And none of us pity you. In fact, we all quite admire you.”

Dahyun smiled. Didn’t know what else to do, and couldn’t have helped it even if she wanted to. And just as Mina put a hand on Dahyun’s other knee, Nayeon’s thumb still rubbing soothingly over the left one, a door unlocked and Chaeyoung appeared from the bathroom. One look told Dahyun that she had been crying, her eyes red, and her hair a mess. She didn’t say hi. Barely looked at Dahyun. Yet when she joined the rest, she sat down right in front of Dahyun, back against her knees, and she gave a wet laugh when Dahyun tried to tickle her sides with her toes. Then Jihyo came back from the kitchen, carrying a plate with more pieces of toast than Dahyun could probably eat, all with strawberry jam. And a glass of chocolate milk.

Dahyun shared the toast with Chaeyoung. Drank all the chocolate milk in one go.

No-one spoke, just looked at Dahyun. But she wished they would speak. Wished they wouldn’t just observe her. Because with every passing minute it got harder to believe Mina’s words - that they didn’t pity her. Right now, she just felt silly. They were all being extremely overdramatic. And so was she. It was her fault that they were sitting here - probably ditching school and maybe even shifts, to be here. And for what? A stupid decision to pull an all-nighter. A bit of anxiety. A dream that wouldn’t be more than that. But that was nothing. They all had dreams they would never achieve, right? Knew that Jeongyeon did. Knew that Chaeyoung and Mina did too. Jihyo. If she just passed this exam and get her late assignment- god, the late assignment. She still hadn’t done anything about that. She picked at her cuticles to avoid rubbing her fingers over the scar. Then Nayeon’s hand was in hers.

But it just made her feel more pathetic.

 

None of us pity you

 

Lies.

 



“Dahyun?” Nayeon’s voice was quiet. So quiet that Dahyun barely heard it.

Dahyun had been sitting with her nose buried in her laptop, reading a long research paper on the brain’s perception of major and minor chords in modern music. But now that Nayeon sat down next to her, hugging her knees and biting her cheek, Dahyun closed the laptop and put it onto the coffee table.

“You ok?” Dahyun asked. It was all she could manage.

“Yeah.” Nayeon smiled nervously. “How is your hand?”

“All good.” Dahyun nodded and showed her, clenching it and releasing it. Lied.

Nayeon nodded and took Dahyun’s hand between both of hers. Patted it gently. “Good… good. And- and you’ve been sleeping well recently? Taking your meds and stuff?”

“Of course!” Dahyun smiled. Lied.

She didn’t want to lie. Especially to Nayeon. Nayeon, who had carried her through nightmares time and time again, who kept their secret from Chaeyoung to spare her the worry, even though she thoroughly disapproved of it. Nayeon, who let Dahyun heal on her own terms, merely holding her. Yet she still felt like the same little scared girl she had become that night. Poor little Dahyun who always had everyone worrying about her. No. No more of that. From now on she was going to run on the good old fake it ‘till you make it train. And she was doing well. She could pull this off. Nayeon’s relieved smile told her that.

“So, what’s up?” Dahyun asked, turning in the couch to see her better.

“I-” Nayeon started, then cleared her throat. “God, why is this so hard.”

“What?” Dahyun frowned.

“I want… I want Chaeyoung to move in with me.” Nayeon mumbled.

Dahyun felt her heart stop, if only for a second, then beat harder than before.

Life without Chaeyoung…

She had known it would come sooner or later. The minute she signed the lease with Chaeyoung that she would some day have to find a new roommate. Even if they were barely dating at the time, Nayeon and Chaeyoung were already too stable, too good for each other to not last. But it hurt nonetheless. In that moment, it felt like betrayal. Nayeon was taking something from Dahyun, and Dahyun had failed to let her know she wasn’t ready to give it up yet. And now she was left with all the consequences and no-one to blame except herself.

“Dahyun?” Nayeon asked.

“Huh? Oh. Yeah, it’s-” Dahyun nodded and forced herself to think only about her friends, taking herself out of the equation. “It’s a great idea.”

It was. It really was. For those two it would be perfect to live together. They would both thrive living so close, basically already sleeping over every or every other night, spending most waking moments together. But Dahyun couldn’t help thinking about the other benefit. That neither of them would have to worry about her, if they weren’t here. That she could just get a roommate who didn’t know Dahyun and who didn’t have to ever know her.

They could be happy.

“Are you sure?” Nayeon frowned.

“Yeah! I think it’s brilliant!” Dahyun smiled widely. “And your place is so much better than this. I really think it’s a good idea. I really do.”

 

Dahyun muffled her sobs into the pillow that night.

 

 

There’s a certain point you reach, when your friends stare at you eating toast with jam for too long, and no-one speaks. Dahyun reached that point just around now.

“So,” Dahyun started, putting the now empty plate down next to Chaeyoung on the floor. “What’s the plan?”

“Well, we gotta get you better, don’t we?” Jihyo raised an eyebrow at her.

Dahyun pressed her lips together and tried really hard not to protest. It didn’t work out all that well for her.

“Really, Jihyo, I’m-”

“If you say you’re fine one more time I’m gonna smack you so hard.” Chaeyoung turned and glared at Dahyun.

Dahyun glared back. Then deflated.

“So, I might be a little bit anxious sometimes.”

“More like really anxious most of the time.” Jihyo said dryly.

“And you’re not sleeping.” Nayeon added. “Bet you’re still having nightmares too.”

“And you forget things. All the time. Your schedule, your pencil case, your homework.” Tzuyu looked at her with kind eyes under a stern expression.

“And you freak out about things you never used to freak out about. Details. Little things.” Jeongyeon continued

“Getting panic attacks because you’re so scared of losing your job?” Mina took her hand and squeezed it.

Dahyun looked around at them all. Felt cornered. “I mean-”

“Look, how about we stop listing all the bad things and start figuring out how to fix it?” Jihyo suggested.

Dahyun nodded.

“You’re working a lot at the moment. More than you should with that hand, I mean you’re not supposed to work more than 20 hours when it’s not even fully healed.”

“I have a loan to pay out, and 20 hours barely covers the interest rate, let alone food and rent.” Dahyun admitted.

“The surgery bill, right?” Jeongyeon asked.

“Yup. To fix- to… to operate on the nerve. And to pay for classes.”

“And you’re still doing max credits?” Nayeon asked.

“I have to. I dropped two high credit classes right before exams last semester because I couldn’t play. They offered to let me take the exam this summer but there’s no way. So the credits and the money are out the window.”

“So if you took less classes,” Jihyo started, but Dahyun interrupted.

“I’d be graduating later than expected which means longer time to get a hopefully well-paid job so I can get rid of the bill and not just pay interests.”

“What about summer classes?” Tzuyu suggested.

“Huh?”

“Do a few low credit classes with me, this summer, that way we can both take less subjects next semester.”

“I…” Dahyun couldn’t focus. “I just need to move on with my life. I can’t have it hanging over my head forever, it’s just. It’s bad enough that I can’t play anymore but to have this reminding me every time the month rolls over?”

Dahyun’s throat started closing up and she gulped to try and relieve the sensation. Didn’t work very well.

“You know you can always borrow the money from me.” Mina offered.

“We’ve been over this five times, I’m not taking your money.” Dahyun looked at her. It wasn’t a secret that Mina was well off, but there was no way Dahyun was going to start lending money from her friends. Couldn’t have that in a friendship.

“I can fix the loan.” Nayeon said, to everyone’s surprise, including her own.

“How?” Dahyun stared at her, confused.

“Well, I think I can fix it, anyway.” Nayeon corrected herself and started explaining about creditors and freezing interest and how most creditors are quite willing to lower the interest or freeze it if they see a risk that they might not get their money at all. “They live off of making money because people need more than they have, but they’d rather make a little money than risk you not paying at all.”

“How do you even know that?” Chaeyoung asked.

“My mom explained it to me, how she handled it after my dad left and she had all the debt on the house.” Nayeon shrugged and turned to Dahyun. “Just leave that to me, we’re going to call as soon as their phone hours are open.”

Dahyun looked at her in amazement.

“And I’ve got big boss man Yang-nim handled.” Jeongyeon cut in “He might be an ass but you’re his best waitress.”

Dahyun felt warmth creep up her neck, and she opened her mouth to protest but Mina spoke before she could. “She’s right.”

Jeongyeon continued. “So tomorrow, you and I are going to go talk to him and get the schedule switched around. Mina and I already talked about it, and with two of the others as well, and if it’s okay with you, we’re going to switch so you get more of the half shifts instead of the full ones.”

Dahyun looked from Jeongyeon to Mina and back again. She opened her mouth several times to say something but she couldn’t get a word out. Somewhere in between Tzuyu’s offer and Nayeon’s words about creditors and the fact that Mina and Jeongyeon had talked to the other waiters at the job, Dahyun had forgotten how to breathe. It was all so much. Too much. But they were all doing it for her, and she was being so silly, it was all too much. There wasn’t a need for all of this. She would just be causing them pain and trouble. Jeongyeon and Mina both worked so much already and she was going to cause them an even bigger workload. She felt tears prickle at the corners of her eyes. Hated that she was getting them all to do so much. But she couldn’t let them see.

 

“I’ll be right back.” Dahyun muttered. “Gotta pee.”

She got up and left for the bathroom before any of them could say a word.  As soon as she had locked the door, Dahyun slid onto the floor, clutching her pounding heart. It was all her fault. If she could just be stronger, get everything under control, then there would be no need for all this. The way they were reacting was like she had stopped working altogether but she was working just fine. If she could just get her heart to stop trying to break her ribs; if she could just stop being so dizzy, stop the tears that pressed against her tightly shut eyelids, she would be fine.

 

“Dahyun.”

 

Dahyun looked up, recognizing the voice. But she couldn’t let her see her like that.

“Dahyun. Dahyun, open the door before I kick it in.”

Squinting slightly, Dahyun wondered if there was an actual possibility that such a small person could excess enough strength to break down a door. But she knew that Chaeyoung would at least try. So really, there was no way around it. Didn’t even bother to try and get it together, merely shuffled and reached up, tears trickling down her cheeks as she unlocked the door. It opened gently, and Chaeyoung snuck in.

“Too much?”

“Too much.”

Chaeyoung locked the door again and sat down next to Dahyun, offering her hand. Dahyun didn’t take it, but instead let the weight of her entire body lean on her best friend.

“One thing at a time.” Chaeyoung kissed her hair.

“Mh.” Dahyun mumbled into her neck.

 

Felt safe in Chaeyoung’s arms, in Jihyo’s home.

 

 

Dahyun was barely standing. Could barely see, the darkness so dense that she could barely see a hand if she stretched it in front of her. But she could see the figure sitting on the bench in front of the restaurant. Could feel the arm that linked with hers and tugged her along. Knew without looking that it was Mina’s.

She should’ve known, even without seeing her face, who was sitting on the bench.

“Jihyo? What are-” Dahyun’s voice caught as Jihyo stood up, facing them, her worried eyes searching Dahyun’s face.

“You’re coming with me tonight.” Jihyo said in a small voice. Unusually small.

“Why? I don’t understand?” Dahyun mumbled, swaying slightly. Mina’s grip on her arm strengthened.

“I’m sorry, I had to.” Mina muttered, and let go just as Jihyo’s arm wrapped around her shoulder. Like a kid handed from one parent to the next.

“I’m… Jihyo, it’s two in the morning.” Dahyun squinted at her. Saw Mina walk away without another word, and then heard the sound of a car door.

“I know. And you’re sleeping at my place tonight.” Jihyo said.

Dahyun was too tired to protest. Too tired to defend herself. Too tired.

Jihyo’s body was warm in the freezing January night as she was led to Jihyo’s old red car, and just as they reached it, Mina drove past them, an apologetic look on her face and her lip tucked between her teeth.

Only then did Dahyun understand that Mina had called Jihyo.

 

Dahyun stumbled. Jihyo was the only thing there to hold her up. Patiently, the older girl opened the door to the passenger seat and helped Dahyun in.

“You’re okay. We’re gonna make you all okay again.” Jihyo muttered and closed the door. Got in and drove off, in the opposite direction of Dahyun’s home.

 

They didn’t speak - just listened to Jihyo’s calming playlist.

 

It almost helped.

 

“When do you have class tomorrow?” Jihyo asked as she pulled the covers over herself and Dahyun twenty minutes later.

“I don’t- I don’t remember.” Dahyun mumbled and fumbled around for her phone. It wasn’t there. Where was her phone? Had she even brought it to work?

Tears fell.

“I’ll call Tzuyu in the morning.” Jihyo wrapped an arm around her. “Just sleep.”

“I don’t know if I can.” Dahyun croaked.

“Try. I’m right here.” Jihyo hummed, but Dahyun merely shuffled and turned her back to Jihyo. Hid.

“Don’t tell Chaeyoung about this.” Dahyun begged into the pillow.

“But she’s your best friend.” Jihyo sounded absolutely devastated.

“Promise me.” Dahyun croaked, grasping the pillow as tight as she could, her hand throbbing with pain. “Don’t tell her. Or Nayeon.”

“But I-”

“Just promise me.” Dahyun sobbed.

“Okay… Okay, alright.” Jihyo gave in. “I promise. If you promise to call me before things get this bad next time.”

Dahyun nodded and felt Jihyo’s hand on her arm. Dahyun turned. Buried her face in Jihyo’s neck and let the older girl sing her to sleep.

 

Slept a record-breaking five hours for the first time in four weeks.

 

Mina had to call Jihyo three more times before Dahyun started doing it herself.

 

 

One by one Dahyun’s friends came into the bathroom.

Chaeyoung held onto her the entire time, guiding the conversations; was her pillar.

Nayeon was first. The three of them sat on the floor together and called Dahyun’s creditor. Nayeon explained the situation and Dahyun tried to explain her budget and how much income she could realistically manage, then Chaeyoung cut ten hours off that shift schedule, and Dahyun reluctantly agreed.

It took almost half an hour, but eventually they convinced him to freeze the interest for six months and then keep her on a low interest plan until the end of college.

Nayeon thanked him sincerely. Then called him a cold-hearted shithead the minute they had hung up.

Dahyun loved her.

 

Jihyo brought ice cream and more tea, and sang for her until Chaeyoung called them out for being overly cheesy. Dahyun laughed.

 

Tzuyu brought her calendar and one for Dahyun - had sent Mina down to buy one while Nayeon was helping out. They filled it with time tables and reading plans and time to relax. Then agreed to take two summer courses together to make up for credits so Dahyun wouldn’t feel inclined to take max credits next semester.

Chaeyoung drew little Mickey Mouse ears one the pages where she had put herself on Disney Duty as she called it. Once a week she was going to come over and make sure Dahyun did something fun. And in Chaeyoung’s words, what was more fun than Disney movies and snacks? Nothing. At least nothing when those Disney movies and snacks were accompanied by Chaeyoung.

 

“Can we invite Momo?” Dahyun asked hesitantly. She didn’t know if Chaeyoung had wanted it to be something all by herself, but despite everything, Dahyun found that she missed Momo terribly and knew that no-one loved singing along to Disney music more than Momo.

“Of course. But then we’re buying extra snacks.”

“Oh, definitely.” Dahyun agreed.

 

By two in the afternoon the sun was shining through the little bathroom window. But Dahyun’s stomach was turning at the thought of work. She knew from her scheduling with Tzuyu that she would only be able to manage half the amount of hours she had worked per week the past two months. And getting Yang-nim to agree to that was the least of her problems. It was Mina and Jeongyeon and the other waiters she was worried about.

She could barely manage letting them through the door. There were too many people all of a sudden.

 

It was too warm.

The sun was too hot on her cheek.

 

It took almost an hour. An hour of Mina and Jeongyeon reassuring Dahyun that she wasn’t a bother; that it wasn’t going to burden them to change shifts. Dahyun could feel their determination, knew that they had talked this over before addressing it with her. With her new schedule Dahyun would go from 33 hours per week to 21, one of these being an 11 hour shift and two being half shifts. And Jeongyeon promised to kick Yang-nim’s ass if he didn’t comply, but Chaeyoung just laughed at her and the other two followed.

They all knew Jeongyeon was about as hardcore as butter left out of the fridge on a warm day.

 

 

“There is no way in hell I’m going to wait until morning. I need to see her!”

Dahyun recognized the voice, half-asleep and still quite heavily drugged. But there was no doubt who was shouting, and who she was shouting for. With a shaky smile, Dahyun looked at the clock on the wall. Three in the morning.

Felt pain and love hit her like violent waves.

“Miss, please calm down.” Another voice said, more mature and controlled, but definitely not happy with the situation. “It’s the middle of the night and she’s probably sleeping, she’s been through a lot in the past hours, and it’d be much better if-”

“Please… Please! I’m awake!” Dahyun said as loudly as she could. She paid for it as her body sent a ripple of pain through every fiber in her body. Still, she kept going with all the force she had left.

“Let her in. Please!”

“It’s the middle of the night,” The nurse said exasperatedly, “visiting hours start at nine.”

“Just five minutes please. Please let me see her. Five minutes then I’ll come back at a normal hour.” Jeongyeon pleaded with the nurse.

Dahyun didn’t bother try to keep the tears back. She was too tired. Was too full of love for her friend who had obviously come here straight from work instead of going home.

“Five minutes.” The nurse’s voice was strict but compassionate. “And then you come back at a sane time. During visiting hours.”

 

A surge coursed through Dahyun, but before she could even get through one steadying breath, Jeongyeon slipped between the curtains, providing a little bit of privacy for Dahyun in all her pain. As soon as Jeongyeon saw Dahyun however, her face screwed up, and Dahyun could almost read her mind. And she was blaming herself.

“Jeongyeon… Please.” Dahyun said with what little breath she had left, reaching out with her good hand.

For a moment Jeongyeon looked like she might faint, but her chin and lip trembled and she walked around to Dahyun’s side, taking the hand and sitting down on the red chair next to Dahyun’s bed. She didn’t speak. Just crumbled as Dahyun rubbed circles over her skin with her thumb.

“It’s not your fault.” Dahyun said.

Jeongyeon shook her head violently, and looked up at Dahyun with eyes that sought forgiveness more than anything.

“It’s okay. I’m okay.”

“No you’re not… you’re all… Dahyun, your face. Your arm… y-your hand.”

“I’m okay.” Dahyun repeated.

“H-how long do you have to stay here for?” Jeongyeon whispered.

“I don’t know. It’s just some bruised ribs. And the concussion wasn’t too bad. But the hand is-” Dahyun’s voice broke off.

“It’s just broken, right? Broken wrists can be fixed.” Jeongyeon insisted.

“I don’t know. They talked about a nerve. I’m scared.” She could barely muster the words as they spilled from her tired mind.

“I’m sure it’s going to be fine.” Jeongyeon reassured her, even though they both had the same fear. That this was the end of Dahyun’s life as she had known it, the end of every possible scenario of her future that she had imagined.

 

Jeongyeon didn’t leave.

 

 

Never in her life had Dahyun imagined this part would be so hard. This last part. Even though she would have to tell Momo as well, this was somehow way harder.

Almost ironically, the key stuck in the door as she unlocked the apartment on tired feet, and was met with the sound of the TV and Sana in the couch, wrapped in the pink and yellow blanket, hugging her legs. But her eyes weren’t on the TV.

“Hi.” Dahyun said quietly, taking off her shoes.

“Hey.” Sana’s voice was low, but melodic as ever.

“Can I sit?” Dahyun asked as she walked over to the couch, rubbing over her thumb distractedly.

Sana nodded.

“I-I’ve been worried.”

“I’m sorry.” Dahyun said, sitting down at a respectable distance from Sana. “I should have called.”

Dahyun hesitated, tried to find out how to start; where to start. It was all such a mess. She just knew how the story ended. And it wasn’t in a good way. Not yet anyway. But there was hope now at least, that it eventually could.

Maybe it was this thought, that made Dahyun reach out, or maybe it was just an inability to stay away from Sana for one second longer. But no matter the reason, Dahyun reached out, and tugged lightly at Sana’s wrist, until her right hand was in Dahyun’s left. Then Dahyun turned their hands so the scar faced them both. With a wriggle of the thumb, Dahyun called attention to it.

“I have to tell you something.”

“I figured you would eventually.” Sana said softly, shuffling gently to sit cross-legged, closer to Dahyun. Placed their clasped hands on her thigh. With her free hand she reached out and ghosted a finger over the scar.

“I noticed it a few times. It’s a surgical scar, right?”

“How can you see that?” Dahyun said, her mouth falling slightly open in surprise.

“It looks like the ones my mom has.” Sana shrugged. “Though it’s a lot smaller.”

Dahyun closed her mouth and stared at the blonde girl, the roots showing more than ever.

“Jeongyeon’s sister is an actress.” Dahyun said distractedly, noticing Sana’s little black baby-hairs by her hairline.

“What?” Sana tilted her head, a frown on her face that made Dahyun return to reality.

“Jeongyeon’s sister. She’s an actress, does plays and movies, mostly background work so far. Had a small role in a play back in November, and the last night, Jeongyeon wanted to surprise her and come see the play even though she had already seen it two times. So we agreed to split her shift, because I was working on this huge composition piece at the time, with Chaeyoung and Jihyo. So I was supposed to work on that until seven, then take over her shift at eight so she could go see the last half of the play. It was the best we could fit in, but it was just good enough. Except I completely forgot about time, and I ended up rushing out of the apartment.” Dahyun paused when Sana’s grasp loosened for a second, and Dahyun held on tighter. Looked up at Sana and her eyes glazed over already. As if she knew what Dahyun was about to say.

“It was pouring down and already dark, and the rain drenched me completely. I was freezing, shaking so hard. I could barely see a hand in front of me. And I don’t actually know if it was my fault for not looking properly or his. But there was a car, hit the front wheel of my bike, and somehow miraculously not me, but the speed was enough to throw me onto the street. I broke a rib and got some hairline fractures. Lots of bruises, my arm and chest looked like someone had put military paint on me. But my hand. It hit the edge of a storm drain and the wrist was fractured. The nerve right here was badly damaged.” Dahyun gestured at the scar. “They tried to fix it with surgery, but they couldn’t make it better. Not back to what it was.”

“When was this?” Sana asked in a small voice. Her eyes had given way for tears the second Dahyun had mentioned the car.

“Early November of last year.” Dahyun pressed her lips together. “I got back to work around Christmas and then took full shifts in January so I could start covering the hospital bills and late fees for classes. But that wasn’t really why I’ve been so… Off.”

“I don’t-” Sana’s voice was small.

“Just... watch this.” Dahyun said quietly, holding her gaze for a moment.

Knowing it would break her heart just watching, Dahyun drew out her phone, shuffled through her videos and found the one she was looking for. As she pressed play, she couldn’t help grasping grasping Sana’s hand tighter.

Dahyun was wearing a suit. Black, pinstriped and cooler than the blue dress her mom had suggested. Her long black hair was braided and fell down her front. The camera was shaking slightly. Dahyun’s mom was crying as she recorded it.

Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen .

Sana’s mouth fell open and tears trickled down her already wet cheeks. Dahyun’s eyes had already spilled over the second the first note fell. The note that made her heart break into a thousand pieces. It had been the goal of her life, to play that song. She had started when she was thirteen, given up for almost two years and spent all of her fifteenth year learning it. On her sixteenth birthday she played it in front of two thousand people, to perfection.

A true virtuous she had been called. The one to watch. The shining star in the crowd. That one in a million who might be able to make a living from her talent.

The screen turned black.

The music was over.

“You can’t play anymore?” Sana breathed.

“I-I can’t play anymore.” Dahyun confirmed.

It was the first time she had fully accepted the truth of those words. It was threatening to crush her. But then Sana’s thumb ran across the scar with such purpose that Dahyun was sure Sana was trying to make it disappear. As if her own skin could erase every bad consequence that had come from that one rainy night where someone missed a red light.

“Can you play it again?” Sana asked quietly.

Dahyun nodded, and turned on the video once more, except this time she turned down the music slightly.

And with the sound of her first dream coming true, she told what had happened since the accident and up until last night. Then told about this day too. About the steps she had taken and how much she loved each and every one of her friends. Even admitted that she felt guilty for accepting their help.

Sana didn’t say anything, just listened, her thumb stroking across the scar, healing the pain of it. Until Dahyun’s words died out and there were only the last hour between them.

“What do you want my part to be?” Sana asked. “In this, I mean.”

“Honestly… I don’t know.” Dahyun admitted. It was the truth. She didn’t know. Because what she wanted, she couldn’t have. “I guess… Just you being here? I don’t need anyone to fix me as such, I just have to get everything around me to make sense again. So I guess just… space, you know? Time? For now. Until I can stand on my own two feet again?”

Sana nodded and sniffled. And though her eyes were sad, there was a smile on her lips. But Dahyun couldn’t help notice how Sana let go of her hand, running both hands through her blonde hair, shifting in her seat to once again hug her legs.

“Sana, I-” Dahyun started, but her words caught and she changed directions. Not like this . “I’m really glad you moved in.”

 

“Me too.”

 

The sun set outside the apartment.

Dahyun’s heart was still trying to get closer.

Chapter Text

It takes a village.

But it also takes time.

 

That much Dahyun had accepted by now. She just wishes it were easier to remember that she was supposed to accept help as she stood in front of Yang-nim, red faced and with his finger pressed so firmly against the schedule on the table between him on one side and Dahyun and Jeongyeon on the other. Hard to trust that it was all going to be okay when he spluttered about how hard it was to change a schedule, and that they had no right to talk to the other waiters behind his back to try and change the schedule around him.

But Dahyun stood her ground. With Jeongyeon’s hand calmingly on the small of Dahyun’s back, tethering them together, Dahyun insisted that she needed to change her schedule - right now.

“You have absolutely no sense of how this works, Kim, I just made these plans, I can’t just-”

“I’ll quit.” Dahyun interrupted him with a cool voice and her heart in her throat, making it hard to breathe. Felt how her neck flushed and hoped Yang-nim wouldn’t notice.

“Excuse me?”

“I have a different offer. A coffee shop, offering me the hours I’m asking you to give me and the same pay.” Dahyun said, somehow managing not to let her voice tremble like it wanted to. It wasn’t a lie. But she’d rather not have to take that option, as most of her classes overlapped with the schedule at Jihyo’s work, and she’d have a hard time managing it all. The late hours at the restaurant were better, and she loved the job despite Yang-nim.

For a moment Yang-nim just stared from Dahyun to Jeongyeon and back again, his body deflating slightly and the resemblance to a beet fading slightly.

“You…” Yang-nim trailed off.

“The Black Bean, the coffee house Myoui used to work at has a spot open as one of their trainees backed out.” Jeongyeon confirmed, and Dahyun could hear distant thunder in her voice. Knew suddenly that there was a reason she claimed herself to be tough. That it was only love that kept her from going off on someone who deserved it. And she was about to strike. Dahyun felt it, like sparks in the air around the older girl.

Yang-nim opened his mouth. Closed it again and glared at the two girls. And Dahyun really had to do her best to keep from grinning, because she knew that they had won. Knew that her loyalty and normally sharp mind was enough that Yang-nim couldn’t afford to let her go. Especially seeing as he had personally bullied one of the kitchen boys into quitting and one of the waitresses as well. Which meant that Felix had been upgraded to waiter and they were now two kitchen boys short.

“Give me that.” Yang-nim eventually snapped, holding out a hand for the schedule Mina had written up, signed by all the people involved in this change. Jeongyeon cleared her throat and handed it over.

Dahyun barely breathed as Yang-nim’s eyes scanned the paper, grumbling under his breath.

“There’s nothing but fucking trouble with you, Kim. How about you try and get all your fucking shit together instead of being such a pain?”

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to do here, sir.”

“Don’t you talk back at me, Kim. Don’t you fucking dare.” Yang-nim said in a low threatening voice. Then he sighed. “Fine, okay. I’ll put up the new schedule, but if any one of these don’t turn up for a shift I’m firing both of you.”

“Deal.” Jeongyeon said confidently. “Thank you, Yang-nim.”

Dahyun bit down on her lip hard and they both bowed deeply before exiting the office.

“You good?” Jeongyeon asked, nudging her as the two walked into the kitchen.

“I’m ok.” Dahyun promised, hand on her heart as she took deep breaths. She was ok.

“He’s such a lousy little git.” Jeongyeon shook her head and leaned against the line.

“Who?” Taeyang asked, appearing by the line, his chef’s hat slightly askew. Jeongyeon leaned up and fixed it with a grin.

“Who do you think? Yang-ssi.”

“Of course.” Taeyang rolled his eyes and looked at Dahyun who was still trying to get her breathing under control. “D’you get to keep your job?”

Dahyun nodded. “With a little help from my friends.”

“Good friends. You hold on to them.”

“Oh, I plan to.” Dahyun sent Taeyang a tired smile and turned to Jeongyeon, reaching up to fix her bangs. “Thumb War to see who gets door-duty?”

“You’re on.” Jeongyeon grinned and offered her hand.

 

Dahyun won. And it could’ve all just been bliss from there, if Yang-nim would just do as he usually did, which was drink and stay in his office. But just as Jeongyeon grabbed the broom, the door to Yang-nim’s office opened, and Yang-nim walked out. Yelled a little. Glowered a lot. And Dahyun thought she might never have despised anyone as much as she did him. Especially when he spent the entire shift on the floor or in the kitchen, not only breathing down Dahyun’s neck, but Jeongyeon even more so. And it honestly scared Dahyun. Because Jeongyeon was already busy with her junior year, doing freelance journalism for anyone who would take her stories, and had now taken extra shifts for Dahyun. She definitely did not need the extra stress of Yang-nim threatening to fire her. Luckily, she seemed a lot less fazed than Dahyun, a rock somehow. And when Yang-nim finally left them to close up around midnight, Jeongyeon was right there by her side in the bar, nudging her.

“It’s okay you know. Just let him fume.”

“I’m gonna quit.” Dahyun sighed. “He’s never gonna let it go.”

“You’re not gonna quit. He’s a bastard but who cares? You’re going to stick to your schedule.” Jeongyeon insisted.

 

They didn’t stay and talk on the bench that night. But Jeongyeon walked her home, despite the fact that it was ten minutes in the wrong direction. Hugged her a little tighter than she normally would have, before turning back where she had come from. Disappeared into the darkness of the night.

 

 

Dahyun sighed. It was friday and she had finished her third shift. Nothing was better. Jeongyeon was still getting picked at for every little thing. Dahyun still screwed up and even though Taeyang and Mina and the others kept helping her, it just made her feel even more pathetic. Helpless. This was something she was good at. Was supposed to be good at. And suddenly it was all gone. As if she had suddenly forgotten how to ride a bike.

Dahyun turned off the faucet in her bathroom. Dried her hands. Stared down the bottle of pills on the sink. Looked at the clock. What even was the point of taking half shifts if she was still up at this hour? She had barely slept, and this was the fourth time she had gotten up to try and calm herself.

With a deep sigh, Dahyun turned off the lights and walked out of the bathroom, only to find the lights on in the hallway. And the door to Sana’s room open. Frowning, Dahyun peeked into the room she had so often slept in by now, and found the big bed empty. Then a tap turned on somewhere behind her, and Dahyun’s body jolted at the sound. Maybe she had gone up to get water? But if… then why were the lights on?

For a second Dahyun considered walking back into her room, but decided against it, turning on her heel and walking into the kitchen, lights on here as well. Sana was standing by the sink with the kettle held under the kitchen tap, bottom lip tucked between her teeth and eyes narrowed at the kettle as if trying to judge how much water was in it. Dahyun stared. Completely bemused by the sight of Sana in her huge sweater and pink unicorn cotton shorts. And maybe she could hear the wheels turning in Dahyun’s tired brain, because she turned her face a little bit, eyes smiling as she found Dahyun’s.

“Want tea?”

“Sana, it’s three in the morning.” Dahyun said.

“I know that.” Sana shrugged. “Want tea?”

“Wh…” Dahyun trailed off, not entirely sure what question she was about to ask. Why was she awake? Why was she making tea? Had Dahyun woken her?

“I thought it might relax you a bit.” Sana explained in an unusually small voice. “My mom always gave me tea when I had nightmares.”

“... Okay. Thank you.” Dahyun muttered.

And maybe there’s a point you reach where you get so tired that you kind of forget about all the things that make you hesitate. Or maybe Dahyun just couldn’t stay away for a second longer. But no matter the reason, as Sana put the kettle on its holder and turned on, Dahyun took the few steps to reach her, gently wrapping her arms around Sana’s waist from behind. Could feel that Sana’s hair was still slightly moist from the shower she had been taking when Dahyun got back from her shift. Could smell the lemon conditioner.

“Thank you, Sana.” Dahyun said quietly. Rested her cheek against Sana’s shoulder and heard her chuckle.

“Are you turning into a sober cuddler as well?” Sana asked.

“More like exhausted cuddler.” Dahyun shrugged, letting go again. Her heart had left a very unsubtle reminder that she was currently wrapped around the girl she was very much trying not to fall incredibly in love with. Was currently failing at that quite a lot. But honestly, are you supposed to not fall harder for a girl when she gets up in the dead of night to make you tea?

“Have you slept at all?” Sana asked, swallowing a yawn as she turned to face Dahyun. Ran a hand through her hair and propped the round glasses back up her nose, scrunching it slightly. Dahyun forgot the question, staring at the way her lips twitched when she scrunched her nose.

“Hm?”

“Oh god, you really are exhausted.” Sana smiled softly. “I asked if you slept.”

“Ah, well.” Dahyun shrugged. “A little.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Sana asked, then tugged her lip between her teeth again, brows knotted in an apologetic expression. Right… Dahyun had asked for space. And maybe exactly for that reason did Dahyun actually talk about it.

“I slept maybe forty minutes. Then woke up because I kicked my knee into the wall. And since then I’ve just been thinking.” Dahyun looked past Sana, at the kettle almost boiling.

Sana didn’t ask her to elaborate. Just walked around Dahyun and sat down on one of the two chairs by the tiny kitchen table.

“I could take Jihyo’s offer.” Dahyun wondered out loud, mainly just to reassure Sana, or at least that was what she convinced herself she was doing, as she reached into the cupboard for mugs. “Work with her instead of Jeongyeon and Mina.”

“But you don’t want to?” Sana asked, reaching out to take the mugs, giving Dahyun the large one and taking the smaller one for herself.

“I love Jihyo, it’s not that. But I have a lot of fun at my work now. I mean, the long shifts suck but there are so many good things too. Like when I close up with Jeongyeon and we drink the leftover wine and talk? I love that. And I think finding a job that you actually enjoy, is hard, at least when it’s not what you’re passionate about.” Dahyun said, finding a selection of  tea bags. Took the kettle as soon as the water started boiling. Sat down opposite Sana.

“I get that.” Sana nodded. “But you’re still considering quitting?”

“Mostly because of my boss.”

“Yang?”

“Yang-nim, yeah. He’s such a dick.” Dahyun rolled her eyes and chose a tea bag. Lemon and ginger, unsurprisingly. Watched as Sana chose the same.

“Sounds like it.” Sana nodded.

“I bet his mother was a hamster.” Dahyun mused as she poured the hot water over the tea bags, filling the mugs. “And-”

“And his father smelled like elderberries.” Sana finished with a giggle.

Dahyun looked at her, trying not to look too surprised that Sana knew the quote.

 

A wondrous smell of lemon and ginger spread in the kitchen and filled Dahyun’s nostrils. And Sana was right, the tea was calming. Or maybe Sana was.

 

It took nearly half an hour for them to finish their tea. To finish talking.

 

 

Dahyun gazed into the depths of a mug. Not the same mug she had been examining the bottom of last night, but a mug nonetheless. And this time it wasn’t so much trying to make time go slower so she wouldn’t have to go back to bed without Sana, but more a case of trying to ignore Tzuyu’s worried stare. But there really was no running from the fact that Dahyun had dark circles under her eyes and had kept picking at her cuticles all through the lessons today. That there was maybe a justification for Tzuyu’s worries.

“You’re not taking the medicine, are you?” Tzuyu asked.

“Nope.” Dahyun pressed her lips together and wished she had more coffee so she could buy herself a moment.

“You’re not talking to Jihyo either.” Tzuyu noted.

“Nope.” Dahyun admitted.

“Idiot.” Tzuyu clicked her tongue.

“Yup.” Dahyun nodded and finally looked up. “What am I supposed to tell her? I’m sorry, I’m not doing as well as we agreed ?”

“You don’t get better just because you tell yourself to. Or promise someone to. And with your hand and your stress level, you’re definitely not going to get better overnight.” Tzuyu said.

Dahyun shrugged. “I can wish though.”

“Wishing won’t do you any good here. And you’re a fool if you think Mina and Jihyo aren’t in cahoots about this.”

“Then at least they’re talking, even if it’s about me.” Dahyun grumbled under her breath.

“Oh come on, you know they’ve been doing well for months, don’t you try to deflect.” Tzuyu kicked her shin gently under the table. Dahyun pursed her lips and scrunched her nose.

“Why do you have to always be right?” Dahyun asked.

“Why do you have to always be so damn stubborn?”

“I just don’t-”

“Want to bother anyone, I know that, but if you keep pushing, eventually someone’s gonna leave. You can’t just let us in and then push us right back out. It’s not the way to do things.”

Dahyun looked at Tzuyu. Really wanted to know how in the world someone so young could hold so much wisdom behind the innocent eyes. Wondered sometimes what Tzuyu’s life had been like in general. She never told about it. Never let anyone know about her past or even her family.

“Do you have siblings?” Dahyun blurted before she could stop herself.

“What?” Tzuyu looked slightly taken aback.

“Do you? Have siblings?” Dahyun asked again.

“I… I have a brother, why?”

“I just don’t know anything about you, outside of the nine of us.” Dahyun fiddled with the mug.

Tzuyu nodded and took a sip of her coffee. Why was it her who had coffee left and Dahyun who didn’t?

“You never really ever tell us about your life before Jihyo and Mina found you.” Dahyun pondered.

“No, I guess not.” Tzuyu emptied her mug and put it down. Smiled at Dahyun.

 

And somehow that was just the end of the conversation, and Dahyun knew it, even if it was frustrating. It hadn’t ever really occurred to Dahyun before, but now it felt like some puzzle she wasn’t allowed to solve, and it bugged her. Until she realized that this must be exactly how it felt to have to catch Dahyun only when she fell, because she too had refused to talk about her problems. How it must’ve felt for Jihyo to pick her up after work that first night and how it must’ve felt for Chaeyoung when Nayeon told her how bad Dahyun was doing. And the realization threatened to throw Dahyun out of balance.

 

It’s the weirdest places and the weirdest times you decide to become someone new.

 

 

Look, going out for dinner with a girl like Sana definitely isn’t something you complain about. It just isn’t. Except it was so late now, and Dahyun’s entire body was trying to murder her for suggesting that they go try the new indian place two blocks over. What kind of an idiot was that anyway, running on eight days of a quite failed attempt to get better. It was that non-existing balance between longing to be near a girl who kept pulling away and accepting that you had in fact asked her to, so maybe you should just let her. There was just this thing, where leaving Sana alone was the last thing Dahyun wanted, and holding her impossibly close was the thing Dahyun wanted more than anything else.

Maybe that and sleeping. Combined preferably. But then there’s the whole using your roomie as a safety blanket thing that doesn’t go over very well most of the time, and- and Dahyun just wanted to sit down. Lie down. Sleep.

 

Dahyun leaned against the wall as Sana closed the front door behind them. With a grumble the younger girl tried to kick off her shoes instead of reaching down to undo the laces. Felt Sana look at her and the familiar smile tug at her lips when she met the older girl’s eyes.

“You should just go straight to bed, you look completely beat.” Sana said softly.

“Mhm… good idea.” Dahyun sighed and nodded. Didn’t move but closed her eyes instead, head against the wall. Felt dizzy.

“Dahyunnie.”

Sana’s voice was close. Close enough that Dahyun didn’t dare open her eyes. Did it anyway, and found her just as close as Dahyun had hoped.

“Come on.” Sana said, nodding towards the hallway. Dahyun nodded but didn’t move. Wanted to move, but couldn’t.

“Right…” Dahyun’s eyes swam out of focus, and she felt how her eyes drooped.

“Dahyun...” Sana muttered. Dahyun refocused. Searched her face and tried to stretch out her hand. Wanted to kiss her. Or cry. Either. Both. But she couldn’t move an inch. And Sana seemed to know that. Somehow.

Almost timidly Sana touched Dahyun’s wrist, then closed her fingers around Dahyun’s wrist with a hum and tugged softly. If only to get closer, Dahyun took a step towards her. Immediately stumbled. But Sana just caught her.

“I got you.” She said, a breathy giggle slipping past her lips.

Dahyun’s cheeks flushed faster than usual. Probably with exhaustion as much as the fact that Sana was once again wonderfully around her.

“Always… got me.” Dahyun muttered almost unintelligibly.

Sana giggled again. “Come on. Let’s get you to bed.”

Dahyun took another step, Sana’s arm around her waist, holding her steady. And another. And eventually she ended up in the bathroom, without really realizing it. Looked at the bottle beside her glasses. Resisted the urge to swat it onto the floor for mocking her.

“You could try.” Sana muttered.

“No, it’s fine, I don’t need them.” Dahyun scrunched her nose. Then remembered the mug at the coffee house with Tzuyu. Sighed.

Sana raised an eyebrow, holding Dahyun’s gaze despite the younger girl’s attempts to avert it.

“Dahyun.” Sana said softly. Nudged the younger girl’s hip with a familiarity that woke Dahyun a bit.

“Okay.” Dahyun sighed. “Okay, I’ll try.”

Sana smiled at her. “So Chaeyoung said one of these before you go to bed?”

“Yup, they’re just gonna like… make me extra sleepy or something. People use them to avoid jet lag and stuff.” Dahyun said and watched as Sana opened the lid and dug one out. Frowned at it and gave it to Dahyun.

“They look like vitamins.” Sana noted as the pink pill lay in Dahyun’s palm.

Dahyun took the pill. Chewed it and frowned. “Taste like vitamins too.”

Sana spent a minute reading the inscriptions on the bottle, while Dahyun started washing her face, Sana following. It was almost habit. How they worked in canon, getting ready for bed. First Dahyun and then Sana, washing faces, taking off makeup, taking off lenses and brushing their teeth. But Dahyun only got to enjoy the serenity of their routine for a moment, because the next she was halfway choking on her toothbrush because Sana had attempted to make a face at her in the mirror and had spilled toothpaste on her chin in the process.

Sana whined and cleaned her chin, puffing her cheeks at Dahyun. Dahyun just leaned over the sink and spit out excess toothpaste foam, angling her head to catch a mouthful of water from the tap. Sana followed her and then grabbed the pink hair brush while Dahyun took the black one.

“Is it working? The pill, I mean?” Sana asked as she brushed her long blonde hair.

“I don’t really know. Maybe?” Dahyun tried to notice a difference, brushing through her own hair. She couldn’t really feel a difference in her body. Just knew that laughing with Sana had made her head feel less heavy. But her eyes still drooped. And her muscles still ached.

“I hope it works.” Sana hummed, switching to brush the other side of her hair. Judged the length of the roots.

“Me too.” Dahyun hummed as Sana started taking off the hairs from her brush.

“And if not-” Sana started, but turned to throw the hair into the bin in the corner. Didn’t elaborate.

Dahyun barely dared say it, but did it anyway. “If not?”

“Dahyun. All you have to do is ask.” Sana said, and Dahyun swore she heard defeat in Sana’s voice. A sigh. As if there was a part of the conversation Sana had tried to explain over and over and was tired of repeating.  She didn’t meet Dahyun’s eyes, but merely walked out of the bathroom, turning in the door, looking back at Dahyun. Past Dahyun.

“I really hope you sleep well.”

Dahyun nodded. Sana walked out. Closed the door to her room. And Dahyun wished she wasn’t such a coward. Because even if she couldn’t be more than friends with Sana, she still missed sleeping in Sana’s bed. Missed her arms around her and her breath on Dahyun’s neck. The way her knees felt in the pit of Dahyun’s.

Okay, so maybe not entirely good with just being friends. Because her mind fell to Sana’s smell, to her lips pressing against Dahyun’s cheek. To the giggle against Dahyun’s skin that sent sparks through her. To the feeling of Sana’s chest pressed against her back.

No, definitely not good just being friends.

Her own bed was a better idea. At least until she could get the image of Sana’s body in cotton shorts and- yeah, no, her own bed. Definitely.

Dahyun groaned and walked into her room, plopping onto the bed and burying herself in the blankets, grabbing her squirrel plush. If that pill would just work soon, that’d be mighty grand, honestly. Because the pictures of Sana, the feel of her, was making it really hard not to smile like a goddamn fool one moment and be in total disarray the next.

For a while, Dahyun tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable position. But then slowly her muscles seemed to give in, and eventually she just lay, completely unable to move. Felt numb and dizzy all at once. The melatonin had finally kicked in.

But she didn’t sleep.

Her body was limp and her thoughts were slow, but she couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t think properly, couldn’t turn around, just held onto the squirrel. Honestly, Dahyun hadn’t expected this kind of reaction from it. And honestly it was kind of scary. Not to be able to move. Not to have the energy to even turn. Could just lie there, feeling anxiety in slow motion instead of her normal hundred miles per hour speed.

 

By midnight she was still painfully awake, her body slowly regaining a bit of the energy, enough to turn on her side. And she was getting desperate. It just couldn’t keep being like this. And despite everything inside of her telling her that it was a horrible idea, she longed for another bed. So much so that she somehow ended up standing outside Sana’s door, trying not to knock. Didn’t even know how she had gotten there, but just tried her best not to knock. Tried to remember that using the girl you like, your roommate, as a blankie was a bad idea. That giving into her would be bad at this point and probably falter the hope Dahyun had of asking Sana out once she had gotten her life somewhat under control. It was definitely a stupid-... But she knocked anyway. Because apparently the part of her body connected to the thoughts of Sana’s wonderfully warm body had taken over for common sense. Brilliant.

“Mh?” Said Sana’s voice the second time Dahyun knocked. She had been asleep… Definitely had.

“Can I come in?” Dahyun mumbled at the door, despite her better judgment.

“Of course.” Sana mumbled groggily.

Dahyun opened the door and dragged herself inside, still dozy from the melatonin.

“...Can I sleep here?” Dahyun asked quietly, meeting Sana’s gaze. It was soft and wonderful and Dahyun felt like just that look could save her world.

For a moment Sana just stared. Then she nodded and shuffled to make a comfortable amount of space for the younger girl. And Dahyun wondered when things had changed; when she had stopped pulling Dahyun close on her own accord. Had she been awake that time? Did she know that Dahyun had kissed her neck? Was she aware that Dahyun had to spend every waking moment trying not to think about her? If she knew that Dahyun had kissed her neck that night, that she wanted more- If Sana knew this, then it all made sense. But not in a way Dahyun liked. More in the sense that Sana was being respectful of Dahyun’s feelings. Yet it was the last thing Dahyun wanted right now. Despite knowing it was bad for her to keep seeking out Sana like this, right now she just needed to sleep.

 

She would deal with the feelings later.

 

“Thank you.” Dahyun sighed as she finally got her mind together and crawled under the covers. They were warm, but Sana’s body was too far away.

“You’re welcome.” Sana muttered sleepily. “You’re always welcome.”

Dahyun nodded and turned to look at Sana.

“Can… Sana, I know this sounds stupid. But I’m really tired. And- I just need to sleep.”

“You can tell me.” Sana promised.

Dahyun sighed. “If I ask you to hug me, will you? I mean not if you’re uncomfortable, I don’t-”

“Of course.” Sana broke her off. But she didn’t move to hug Dahyun, just opened herself to an embrace. And every nerve in Dahyun’s body pulled towards Sana. Relaxed as she settled against the older girl. For a moment Dahyun tried to gather the courage, but Sana’s words cut off her thoughts. Almost as if she had sensed that Dahyun was about to speak a truth neither were really ready for.

“Sleep, Dahyunnie.”

So Dahyun merely turned in Sana’s arms and felt the older girl curl around her body. And Dahyun yawned. Let her eyes flutter shut. Knew that it was wrong but loved it anyway. Tried to push off the moment she would have to own up to everything. Or the day where she might not feel this bliss laying in Sana’s arms letting sleep drag her in.

 

God, she hoped that would happen soon.

Or that it never changed.

In retrospect, sleeping with Sana - no, not like that, get your head out of the gutter - wasn’t the worst idea in the world. Even if it might seem like it on the surface. Because of all the stupid ideas Dahyun had carried out in her life, this one made her days so much better. Gave her a chance to sleep with minimal nightmares and for longer periods without waking up. It wasn’t flawless, and it wasn’t always easy to fall asleep, but there was just something utterly calming and comfortable about Sana. And when the shift two days later went by smoothly, Dahyun couldn’t help but think that proper sleep had something to do with it. Maybe also because neither Jeongyeon or Mina were at work, which meant that Yang-nim couldn’t harass them.

 

But whether it was sleep or a lifted pressure, Dahyun’s smile was effortless and her thoughts wandered back to the first movie night she had had with Chaeyoung and Momo the previous night. It had been wonderful and free, Momo and Dahyun claiming one of Chaeyoung’s shoulders each, her freeing laughter in Dahyun’s ears as Momo huddled closer. Momo’s sleepy whine when Dahyun tried to stick a popcorn up her nose for nodding off during an important scene. The melodious taps of Chaeyoung’s fingertips on Dahyun’s arm whenever music played. Momo falling asleep in Chaeyoung’s lap when the credits played.

Just the memory made Dahyun feel lighter inside than she had in weeks.

 

And somehow, that lightness stayed with her from one shift to the next, and it was only the inkling that it couldn’t be this easy, that made her worry, as she opened her locker and grabbed the shirt off the hanger. Saw Jeongyeon buttoning her shirt out of the corner of her eye and changed out of her snoopy t-shirt. Okay, so maybe it was a t-shirt meant for sleeping in, but who cares? It was cute either way, and it wasn’t like anyone cared what she wore outside of work.

“Dahyun?” Jeongyeon asked, closing her locker just as Dahyun started buttoning her shirt.

The younger girl turned and watched as Jeongyeon tied her hair into a little ponytail, checking to make sure she didn’t leave any parts behind.

“Have you thought about what you want to do for your birthday?”

Dahyun pressed her lips together. The subject had actually been resting at the back of Dahyun’s mind for a little while now, and truth was that she had no clue. Except for one part.

“Not really, I just want to spend time with you guys.” Dahyun shrugged and finished buttoning the shirt, reaching for the tie inside her locker.

“Well, I figured that much. And it should be doable, since your birthday is on a Saturday.” Jeongyeon said.

“Oh, that’s true.” Dahyun hadn’t realized this point.

“I mean, I don’t know if it’s your style, but we could go to the sea? Take the train there?” Jeongyeon suggested casually, helping Dahyun with the knot of her tie. Let Dahyun fix hers afterwards.

“That... sounds amazing, actually.” Dahyun mused, imagining it for a moment. It was years since she had gone to the sea, even if it was only an hour away by train. Just hadn’t really found a reason or a timing for it. But this was pretty perfect.

“Well, I talked to Tzuyu. She’s trying to get someone to cover, and I should hear back tonight about getting someone to take my shift too. You and Mina are already off that day, so we just have to check with the rest.” Jeongyeon said enthusiastically, her expression almost immediately turning sheepish. Dahyun nudged her.

“We’ll make it. All of us. It’s nine or none, right?”

“Seems that way.” Jeongyeon nodded. “So you wanna bring Momo and Sana then?”

Dahyun frowned “Of course, why wouldn’t I?”

“No reason, I just thought maybe Sana, but no I’m glad they’re coming.” Jeongyeon tied the apron around her waist.

“Bet you are.” Dahyun smirked.

Jeongyeon’s expression immediately changed, and she sent Dahyun what was unmistakably a stink-eye. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing. Nothing.” Dahyun blew a kiss at Jeongyeon before heading out into the kitchen, leaving her stumped.

It seemed that Dahyun’s work life was slowly nearing a stable equilibrium. Not too bad, not excellent either. Good enough to get Yang-nim off her back. Off Jeongyeon’s too. And that was the most important thing.

 

Yet Dahyun still ran out of energy quite quickly. By eight pm she already felt how her body was slumping more than it should, how she longed for sleep. Felt the tug in her stomach when she realized it wasn’t going to be nearly as easy a shift as the previous. But it was nothing. No shift was even supposed to go as well as the last one right? This was nothing. Yet she still felt that fear take hold inside of her. That she was never going to get back the feeling of being successful that this job normally gave her. With a heavy sigh, Dahyun walked through the doors to the kitchen. The next order was already ready on the line, but she allowed herself ten seconds to rub her tired eyes and groan.

“You good?” Taeyang asked, poking his head out from the kitchen. How that man managed to hear her through all the noise coming from the kitchen, Dahyun would never get.

“Tired, so tired.” Dahyun admitted, stretching her neck and yawning. “But yeah. You?”

“Almost set the place on fire just now, but otherwise I’m good.” Taeyang shrugged.

“Well, I won’t complain if you do.” Dahyun grinned.

Taeyang’s laughter boomed through the kitchen and the sound made Dahyun liven up.

“Just tell me if you need a hand, if you ever decide for it.” Dahyun added, just to keep it going a little longer. Then she stuck her tongue out at him before walking off with the dishes for table 6, his laughter ringing in her head for almost half an hour, making her smile and stand up straighter.

The second weekly movie night took place at Chaeyoung’s place, but despite the promises that Nayeon was going to join, she ended up cancelling last minute because of a school project. But while Dahyun just found it unfortunate, Chaeyoung seemed downright vexed. And seeing as the only other reason for her grumpy mood would be Dahyun snatching the spot in Momo’s lap, Nayeon’s absence seemed a far more likely cause. It was understandable, but she really didn’t have to take it out on them. The entire time through dinner, she seemed downright jealous. Or at least unapproving of them. Especially when Dahyun leaned further into her and felt Momo’s nose against her temple.

“Had a good day?” Momo asked quietly.

“Mhm,” Dahyun hummed lazily. “Finished the essay.”

“Good job.” Momo praised, patting Dahyun’s stomach until Dahyun couldn’t help but chuckle.

“Do you mind keeping it PG for once?” Chaeyoung interrupted them with a grumble.

“What are you so annoyed for?” Dahyun asked, maybe a bit too impatiently, but it was getting on Dahyun’s nerves by now.

“I’m not annoyed, you’re just gross.” Chaeyoung insisted, starting the movie, settling in the couch, though she made sure to keep out of reach.

“You’re being a grump.” Dahyun insisted.

“I’m tired. And I honestly just wanted to have Nayeon here so I didn’t have to be third wheel to,” Chaeyoung gestured exaggeratedly at them, “that.”

“If you come closer you can have cuddles too.” Momo offered gently, no jokes in her tone, merely honest concern.

“No thank you.” Chaeyoung crossed her arms and pulled her feet up on the couch, curling into a tiny ball of obvious dismay.

Momo stopped patting Dahyun’s stomach. Drew away completely. And Dahyun was stuck between the desire to reassure Momo that she hadn’t done anything wrong and the need to comfort her best friend for whatever had made her so despondent.

“Did Nayeon say something?” Dahyun asked, crawling down from Momo’s lap, to settle between her and Chaeyoung instead, her attention on the youngest girl rather than the opening scene of the movie. Chaeyoung shrugged, but didn’t resist when Dahyun wrapped an arm around her.

“I just wanted her here tonight.” Chaeyoung mumbled and sighed, shuffling to lean into Dahyun.

“Things still weird?” Dahyun asked. Knew that it had been a transition for the pair to move in together, as they now not only shared a major, but also an apartment, and often only saw each other and Jihyo during the day.

Chaeyoung shrugged. “We just never talk about anything but school.”

“You can always just move home.” Dahyun poked Chaeyoung’s cheek.

“My room is kind of occupied.” Chaeyoung said dryly as if she could ever consider leaving Nayeon just for a bit of miscommunication.

“I’ll throw her out.” Dahyun said without hesitance. Felt Momo shuffle beside her.

“Sure,” Chaeyoung snorted, “so instead of actually moving on then you’re just gonna throw her out? Not likely, miss bottom culture queen.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Dahyun drew back.

“I mean that you’re too whipped to ever throw Sana out.” Chaeyoung rolled her eyes.

“Not if it’ll get my best friend back.” Dahyun insisted.

“It’s okay, Dahyun.” Chaeyoung’s tone changed “We’re gonna be okay, it’s just, I’m in a weird mood.”

“You don’t say.” Dahyun raised an eyebrow at her.

“Shut up.” Chaeyoung chuckled.

The air lightened with Chaeyoung’s laughter, and Dahyun turned to Momo whose eyes were very much fixed on the screen and whose lip was tucked between her teeth.

“Momo.” Dahyun said quietly, tugging at the older girl’s sleeve.

“You’re not gonna throw her out, right?” Momo asked, not taking her eyes from the screen.

“Of course not.” Dahyun reassured her.

With a nod, Momo faced them, a slightly sheepish smile on her lips, and Dahyun pulled at her arm until she settled with her head in Dahyun’s lap, the other arm still around Chaeyoung.

“Can I get a fish named Pudge too?” Momo asked from Dahyun’s lap a few moments later, as the little orange fish happily swam across the screen with a peanut butter sandwich in its mouth.

“Do you have any clue how to deal with tropical fish?” Chaeyoung asked from her place on Dahyun’s shoulder.

“Nope.” Momo admitted. “Can I get one anyway?”

“Then no.” Chaeyoung let her hand rest on Momo’s hair, chuckling under her breath when Momo’s grumble turned into a hum at the affection.

“We’ll get you a fish plushie for your birthday and you can call it Pudge.” Dahyun promised.

“But my birthday isn’t until November!” Momo huffed.

“Well, then you have something to look forwards to, won’t you?” Chaeyoung said, stroking lazily over the dusty pink hair, almost just brown by now.

“Mrph. I guess.” Momo mumbled and Dahyun wasn’t entirely sure if she was happy or complaining. But she was adorable no matter what.

 

They got through the first 45 minutes of the movie without any more problems. But slowly, almost as if just to punish her for having calmed both of her friends, the worries crept up on Dahyun, and she checked her phone to make sure of the classes she had tomorrow. Made sure when her shift was. Made sure she hadn’t gotten any more emails. Checked her schedule again.

“Should we pause?” Chaeyoung asked the third time Dahyun reached for her phone.

“No, it’s fine.” Dahyun mumbled, checking if anyone had texted her. No-one had.

“Give me that.” Chaeyoung said determinately, and Dahyun pressed her lips together, hesitating but eventually handing the phone to Chaeyoung. She pocketed it and grabbed Dahyun’s hand instead.

“You’re ok.” She whispered, rubbing circles on the back of Dahyun’s hand.

Dahyun nodded. “I’m ok.”

 

 

Dahyun wasn’t ok. It was all shit and she was late on her assignment again, and when the hell did her life turn into this? She was right, it had all been too easy. It had been going so well and this was just the price because of course she wouldn’t just be able to recover just like that. And she was once again using Sana and it wasn’t fair to her and it wasn’t fair to Dahyun because she was just falling faster and harder and- And god, if she could just breathe! Just breathe! But she couldn’t even move. Couldn’t think. Just stared at the papers in front of her as the words swam and her throat closed up, hands in fists around fabric of her yellow pyjama pants. Felt how the glasses slipped further down her nose.

You’re ok .

Dahyun couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. Leaned forwards and rested her head against her knees. Shook terribly and wanted to escape the pain her heart kept sending through her.

You’re ok .

Breathing. Breathing was… Hard. And the glasses pressed against her nose at an odd angle, stuck between her nose and her knees. But somehow… Somehow it was easier to breathe. If she just focused on the glasses. How it felt.

She was late. Again. And she was a failure. Had given up on ever getting back to the thing she loved. And now she had nothing. Had nothing she was good at. And what was even the point in taking a degree in music if you couldn’t even play? Maybe she should just… The glasses pressed harder against her nose and pulled her from her thoughts.

You’re ok .

Dahyun took a deep shaky breath. Gasped and whimpered. Took another deep breath and held it. Maybe too long. But it was hard to count. And then another. Clutched her chest and focused on the feeling of her heart hammering through her ribs, into her palm. How her finger hooked around her collar bone. Breathed.

Breathed.

Was ok.

Even if she didn’t know what to do. Even if she was a failure.

No.

No, she wasn’t a failure.

She was ok.

 

Dahyun breathed.

 

Going to work with a post-panic headache wasn’t exactly the thing Dahyun felt most like doing. But there was no choice. So here she was, smiling politely as she listened to the customers at her table list their orders, nodding and noting down as they spoke. Read the list out loud for them, pointing at each member of the party according to the order and then asked for drink orders. Then took the order into the kitchen and handed it to the kitchen boy who immediately handed it to Taeyang.

With a tired sigh, Dahyun rubbed her temples, listening with half an ear as Taeyang boomed the order to the kitchen. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw how the door opened, and Mina’s back appeared, the older girl walking backwards with a load of dirty dishes, a strand of hair in her eyes. She blew at it impatiently and set the dishes on the table for another kitchen boy to handle.

For a second it looked like she was just gonna hurry back out, but then she stretched her arms above her head and leaned back, stretching her back.

“Mina?” Dahyun asked, grabbing the opportunity. “Do you have a minute?”

“Sure, what?” Mina said, breathing deeply before lowering her arms to fix her hair.

“I was thinking,” Dahyun started, “Jeongyeon suggested a little while back that we could go to the sea for my birthday. And I talked it over with Tzuyu and Chaeyoung and they think it’s a good idea as well. But I don’t want people to make a big deal of it. Like, I don’t want presents or anything. I just want to spend the day with you guys.”

Mina nodded. “I get that.”

“But I’m just scared they’ll ignore it and make a big deal about it anyway. Especially Jihyo and Nayeon. They always spoil me too much, and I’ve already been so much trouble for everyone… caused so much worry-”

“Dahyun. You’re not troubling anyone. But I can talk to them about the presents thing, if you want?” Mina suggested, rubbing her neck. Winced, apparently finding a sore spot.

“Would you?” Dahyun asked thankfully.

“Of course.” Mina nodded, rolling her head.

“Sleep bad?” Dahyun frowned.

“Maybe? I think I just slept in a weird position.” Mina huffed and shrugged. “But yeah, I’ll definitely talk to them.”

“Thank you, Mina. Really. I don’t think I’ll get through to them on my own, they’ll just think I’m being humble or something. But it’s not that. I just don’t think I’d deal very well with a lot of attention on me right now. And I know that’s coming from the ultimate party clown. But right now, I just want to make sure everyone has a good time and not be in the spotlight.”

“You have been on the front of everyone’s minds for a while. So I get it.” Mina smiled.

Dahyun opened her mouth to answer, to say sorry, but then Taeyang poked his head through the hole in the wall by the line and reminded them of the dishes that waited for them. With flushing cheeks Mina apologized and hurried over to take the ones assigned to one of her tables. There were two dishes waiting for Dahyun as well, and despite her fluster, Mina waited just the few seconds it took for Dahyun to grab her dishes, and they walked out of the kitchen together. Not even five steps into the restaurant, however, was their path blocked. Blocked in a way that made Dahyun’s heart skip a beat. In front of them stood the familiar face of a twenty-something year old man - one of the men who had gotten a habit of harassing Mina over the past few weeks. They were a crew of five guys who frequently visited the establishment seemingly with no other purpose than to get drunk and hit on Mina.

“Hey there.” He grinned, an aura of arrogance surrounding him in a way that made Dahyun slightly nauseous.

“Can I help you?” Mina asked politely, her eyebrow twitching and her arms visibly strained from carrying four dishes at once.

“I was wondering when you get off?” The guy shrugged.

“I’m sorry, that’s not really relevant information.”

“Then how about your number?”

“No, I’m sorry, I’m not gonna give you my number. And if that’s all, then I need to get these dishes to my table.” Mina’s smile didn’t reach her eyes anymore, frozen like a mask.

The man’s jaw clenched.

“Please let me pass.” Mina said.

“Oh, come on, why won’t you go out with me?”

Mina swallowed, then steadied herself despite the strain.

“I can’t date you, as I’m already seeing someone. Please don’t ask me out again.” Mina’s voice was too polite for what the man deserved, but before he could figure out an answer, Mina had walked around him and Dahyun followed her.

“Nice.” Dahyun praised. She had suggested that lie for a while but Mina had refused to use it up until now.

“Hopefully that’ll get them off my back for a while.” Mina sighed. Then she turned to her part of the floor while Dahyun continued ahead to her part.

If there was one thing she would give just about anything to change, it would be to have Mina be left alone. It was manageable the first months, but if it didn’t change soon, someone had to do something. It was way worse here than what Dahyun knew her to have experienced at the coffee house. It wasn’t just bordering on harassment anymore. It was.

Chapter Text

There were many amazing things about having Chaeyoung as a best friend. But nothing more so than the fact that she always had room. Room for your worries or your weirdness or just room. And right now, room was exactly what Dahyun needed. Somewhere to study that wasn’t her own apartment.

It had become a weird mix at home. Of Sana giving her too much space during the day, often disappearing for hours longer than her studies required. And then all the wordless hours during the night where she would open herself and let Dahyun in - even if only physically. Where she would hold Dahyun so tight the younger girl sometimes wondered if she was afraid Dahyun was going to leave. But the conversations in the mornings, during Dahyun’s study breaks, in the evenings before bed - those were practically gone. And right now Dahyun needed to not think about why Sana was acting so damn weird.

It turned out to be Dahyun’s luck, that she was so used to the noise from when she lived at home with her parents and brother and later living with Chaeyoung and partly by extension with Nayeon, because right now Chaeyoung’s place was in no way quiet. Not even by a long shot. While Chaeyoung barely made any noise, sitting in the opposite end of the couch with her own homework, Nayeon did. Loud singing came from the bedroom, the older girl practicing for an audition for a play downtown, with the same company that Jeongyeon’s sister had done plays with in the past before she moved to Busan a month ago.

But the sound of Nayeon’s singing wasn’t even the loudest part. The loudest was Momo. Momo who was for some reason already there when Dahyun showed up, sitting on one of Nayeon’s pillows with a batch of popcorn, watching a movie as if this was just her own place. And when Dahyun had asked why she was here, Momo had simply shrugged and commented that she had agreed to teach Nayeon some dance tricks for the audition and then came a bit early. Like four hours early according to Nayeon’s very meticulous schedule. But it didn’t really seem to bother Momo at all.

But it bothered Dahyun a bit. Because if Sana wasn’t in their apartment, and wasn’t with Momo like she had assumed, then where was she? Not- not that it was any of Dahyun’s business, but Dahyun just wasn’t under the impression that Sana had other friends, honestly. She never talked about anyone else anyways.

But Dahyun managed nonetheless. Wrote an entire essay, occasionally nudging Chaeyoung’s foot with her own just to make her smile.

 

The movie was almost over when Nayeon finally came out of the bedroom, settling on the floor beside Momo with a slightly disgruntled look on her face. Dahyun closed her laptop and watched as Chaeyoung did the same.

“Still not good enough?” Chaeyoung asked, leaning down to poke the tip of Nayeon’s nose.

“I can sing it just fine, but I can’t sing it like me. It doesn’t sound like me.” Nayeon complained.

“Well, maybe if you just let it rest for a while, do something else-”

“That’s sorta what I’m doing.” Nayeon said, an unexpected chill in her voice.

“I know, babe.” Chaeyoung said softly and drew back.

“Did you want to teach me some moves?” Nayeon asked, nudging Momo.

“What? Oh, yeah.” Momo drew her eyes from the screen and put the popcorn down on the floor, getting to her feet quickly. Helped Nayeon up by the hand.

“You two done with work?” Momo asked.

Chaeyoung nodded and Dahyun followed.

“Is it okay if I teach her in here then?” Momo was already finding the music on her phone. Chaeyoung nodded and grabbed the pillow from the floor, placing it in her lap.

“We’ll just go out if we get sick of you.” Chaeyoung shrugged and sent Nayeon a dimpled smile. For a moment Nayeon’s eyes flickered but then she just smiled back. Genuinely.

While Momo started the music, Chaeyoung huddled closer, pulling at the corners of the pillow. Dahyun tried not to listen to Momo’s instructions too much but instead let Chaeyoung tug her down until she lay with her head on the pillow in the younger girl’s lap, looking up at her face.

“So, any progress?”

“With what?”

“Any of it?” Chaeyoung shrugged. “Not just the roomie situation.”

“Well, definitely no progress there.” Dahyun said. Knew that it was a blatant lie as Chaeyoung was currently not informed of the fact that Dahyun was sharing a bed with said roommate.

“Ah well, can’t expect that much of you.” Chaeyoung shrugged. Dahyun reached up and flicked her nose. Chaeyoung whined.

“But it’s going better at work.” Dahyun said, then scrunched her nose. “For me at least.”

“What do you mean?” Chaeyoung frowned, glancing over at Nayeon and Momo.

“Mina’s getting a lot of attention again.” Dahyun sighed. The music stopped.

“I thought that died down.” Nayeon said in a worried tone.

“It did, for a while. But it just flared back up the past weeks.” Dahyun looked up. Both Momo and Nayeon were looking at her with concern.

“Is anyone doing something to stop it?” Momo asked, her frown deepening. She shifted slightly and crossed her arms.

“Yang-nim isn’t doing shit, and there’s not much the rest of us can do except try to solve the situations when they arise.” Dahyun pressed her lips together for a moment. “But at least she’s finally just saying that she’s taken.”

“Oh.” Momo looked surprised. “That’s-”

“She’s not, she’s just saying it to get people off her back.” Dahyun elaborated.

Momo nodded and shifted her footing.

“I just wish there was something more I could do.” Dahyun huffed, rubbing her temples.

“You’re there for her, right?” Momo asked.

Dahyun nodded. “Always.”

“Gay.” Nayeon rolled her eyes.

“Not for her, but accurate.” Dahyun grinned. Nayeon gave an acknowledging shrug and walked back to where they had been practicing before.

“True, keep to one girl at a time.” Chaeyoung poked her nose.

Dahyun’s eyes flickered to Momo but she too had gone back to the music. Dahyun stuck out her tongue and tried to reach Chaeyoung’s finger but she pulled away too fast, and Dahyun chuckled.

 

 

You know those days where everything is just… right? Yeah, me neither. They don’t exist. But there are incredible days. Sometimes it’s not even days where your life changes. For Dahyun it was just the fact the weather was amazing and Sana was home early for once, and didn’t immediately escape to her room for once. Maybe because of this, Dahyun had gathered the courage to ask Sana if she wanted to go get ice cream, and gotten to see the smile that lit up Dahyun’s world. And now they were here, in front of the big ice cream display, so many variants that Dahyun could barely contain herself. Could feel the sparks bouncing off Sana like they always did when she was the happiest.

“I’m incredibly tempted to get the biggest one and only do scoops with chocolate.” Dahyun said, captivated by the ice cream in front of her. Ri ght now all she wanted was chocolate, but three scoops of that was a bit embarrassing to order, even for her. She had done it once and the lady had not been able to keep from laughing.

“You could do a mix though.” Sana suggested, sunshine in her voice but a serious tone, as if she really took it as a worthy dilemma. “You know, one with chocolate, one with vanilla and chocolate pieces, one with caramel and chocolate?”

“That’s- That’s brilliant.” Dahyun looked around at her, gaping. “You’re a genius, has anyone ever told you that?”

Sana chuckled and shrugged. “It happens.”

“Good, you deserve it. That’s pretty much the best idea I’ve ever heard.”

Sana’s smile grew, and she looked around at the girl behind the glass display.

“Two cups with three scoops each.”

Sana ordered for both, and Dahyun looked with unfazed gluttony at the massive scoops piling one on top of the other, filling every single wet chocolate dream she had ever had.

 

They found a table outside in the sun and Dahyun squinted, having forgotten her sunglasses. Sana quickly moved around so Dahyun got the sun in her back instead of her face. Dahyun shook her head, a grin plastered on her face as Sana put on a pair of huge sunglasses and started doing silly faces. Was this really all it took to get her in a good mood? Ice cream? If so, Dahyun should’ve done it days ago. But honestly, that wasn’t really the reason she had asked Sana to come for ice cream. It was mostly a need to get them both out of the apartment and away from the tension so Dahyun could say what she had meant to.

“So,” Dahyun began, allowing herself one wonderful scoop of pure chocolate ice cream before continuing, “it’s my birthday this Saturday.”

Immediately, a warmth that had nothing to do with the sun settled in her cheeks. At the exact moment she had mentioned the word birthday, her mind had gone to their tradition - between the friends - a tradition Chaeyoung had started and quickly carried over to all the others. And she remembered what Sana had once said about getting a kiss from Dahyun for her birthday. Wondered if she would get one from Sana. Hoped so. Even if it’d only be a kiss on the cheek, Dahyun missed them. They were less wet than Momo’s; softer and a lot more heart-racing.

When Dahyun looked up, she found that Sana’s head was tilted and Dahyun realized she must’ve overheard Sana’s answer.

“Well, we’re going to go to the sea and I was wondering if you wanted to come?” Dahyun talked to the ice cream on Sana’s spoon. It felt weird. She had just casually mentioned it to Momo the other day at Chaeyoung’s, and that had been it. But this felt so different. She took a spoonful of ice cream, waiting for Sana to answer.

“I was actually afraid you weren’t going to invite me.” Sana admitted quietly.

Dahyun’s head snapped up, spoon still in her mouth, Sana’s eyes hidden behind her sunglasses,

“Wha-” Dahyun’s words caught.

Sana chuckled and Dahyun realized she must look ridiculous. She took the spoon out before she spoke this time.

“Why would you think I didn’t want you there on my birthday?” Dahyun asked.

“Well, a few days ago, Momo asked if we should all take the train together and I didn’t know what she was talking about so I was afraid since you didn’t ask me that you didn’t want me there. I’m stupid, I know.”

Dahyun pointed her spoon at Sana. “Hey, you’re not stupid. It’s valid, I waited to ask you until last. I just... No, of course I want you there.”

“Then… Yes, I’d like to go.” Sana beamed, her cheeks pushing the sunglasses up slightly. Dahyun thought quietly, that nothing or no-one could make Dahyun feel this good just by being there, and wondered if she could be allowed to spend the rest of her life making Sana smile like that. Spent the next ten minutes making Sana laugh at her passionate speech about the difference between light, white and dark chocolate. And even if the day wasn’t flawless, it was definitely still wonderful. And Dahyun realized as they walked home, both a little too full, that perfect wasn’t flawless.

Perfect was a balance, just enough bad for the good to seem amazing and just enough good to handle whatever bad might come at you. The balanced scale.

 

 

It was little sparks; all these little moments of uplifting that made the difference. It wasn’t that she was all better. But slowly. Ever so slowly, it had helped. The anxiety had died down a little over the past month and she wasn’t fighting her own body nearly as much. Even the nerve bothered her less. Though this was easily attributed to the fact that she was both sleeping more and working less. But the best part, was that her friends were starting to relax more around her. Didn’t send her nearly as many worried looks and texts. Apparently just the fact that she had let them in, helped this.

But there was still one, who hadn’t backed down. One whose big worried eyes still rested on Dahyun every five minutes when she thought Dahyun wasn’t looking. Tzuyu.

There was still half an hour left of their class, and Dahyun had caught her for the third time with those puppy eyes and an involuntary pout, and Dahyun raised an eyebrow. It was all she could do as the lecturer never allowed talking when she was teaching - which was fair, but inconvenient when you just wanted to tell someone that it wasn’t necessary that they worried so much.

The fourth time Dahyun nudged Tzuyu and it made her smile somewhat. Dahyun made sure to return it, and noticed that Tzuyu’s phone lit up in her lap, a message appearing. Dahyun didn’t try to read, but had a funny suspicion that it was coming from Jihyo. Because if anyone was in cahoots with Tzuyu, it’d be Jihyo. And Jihyo also happened to be the one Dahyun had seen the least of in the past weeks, mostly out of embarrassment that she hadn’t really progressed as much as she would like. Not that she had stayed away entirely but- yeah, she might want to try and make time to see her soon. As in, today.

 

It had been Dahyun’s plan to up and leave, calling Jihyo on the way out so see if she could come over immediately, but Tzuyu stopped her in her tracks, fiddling slightly with the hem of her shirt sleeve.

“Do you wanna go for coffee?” Tzuyu asked, her eyes searching Dahyun’s face carefully.

“I… I mean sure, but I was going to check if Jihyo was home, can we just go to her place instead?” Dahyun asked.

“She’s at work.” Tzuyu said. “New trainee.”

“Again?” Dahyun frowned.

“It’s hard to replace Mina, I guess.” Tzuyu shrugged, a little smile on her lips. “Will you go for coffee with me then?”

The smile turned into a pout. An actual honest to god pout. From Chou Tzuyu.

Dahyun sighed heavily. “Fine. Okay. But two conditions.”

“Yeah?” Tzuyu made way for Dahyun to walk past, following her out of the lecture hall.

“We’re going to The Black Bean, I want to see Jihyo even if she’s working.” Dahyun insisted. This was the kind of day she wanted to share with Jihyo. Show that she was doing better.

“... Okay.” Tzuyu nodded. “And the other.”

Dahyun narrowed her eyes and raised an eyebrow, stopping Tzuyu to look her straight in the eyes.

“You are never ever allowed to pout at me again. Especially if Jihyo tells you to. Not even if the world is burning; it’s an unfair move and you know it.”

Tzuyu’s eyes moved as she smiled. “Okay.”

“We’re friends, you don’t have to use tricks to get me to spend time with you. When you do stuff like that, for Jihyo, that’s not you being my friend. I need someone who’s gonna help me keep Nayeon’s ego at a manageable level and someone who can distract the dogs while I run away, not someone who walks around with a net, ready to catch me. We got past that, right? I’m talking about things now, so I need you to adjust. I need my Chou-tzu, not Jihyo’s lapdog.” Dahyun explained.

“I’m not-”

“She’s been ordering you to look after me right?” Dahyun crossed her arms.

Tzuyu looked sheepish.

“And you’re just trying to do it well so she’ll be happy and not worry too much about me because she doesn’t want to push herself on me, right?”

“I-” Tzuyu averted her gaze-

“That makes you her lapdog. I won’t throw you under the bus to her, but I need you to be on my side as much as hers, okay?” Dahyun shook her head with a smile.

“... Fine.” Tzuyu sighed. “Yeah, you’re right.”

“So, this brother of yours, hold old is he?” Dahyun changed the subject, linking her arm with Tzuyu’s.

“Two years older than me.” Tzuyu said with a small smile as they walked out of the building.

“And he’s your only sibling?”

“Yeah, but I haven’t seen him a while. It’s not often I have time to go back.” Tzuyu’s voice was small.

“Wait, is that why you don’t talk about them? You miss them?” Dahyun asked, looking up at the younger girl.

Tzuyu nodded. “I have my family and my dog back home but I just… I rarely see them.”

“Why didn’t you stay in Taiwan then?”

“I always liked the culture here and I wanted to attend college somewhere that wasn’t Taiwan, so I took lessons to learn the language. It just wasn’t until I got here that I realized how hard it was being here all alone.” Tzuyu said quietly.

“Is that why you kept showing up at the coffee house? You were lonely?” Dahyun asked.

Tzuyu nodded. “Jihyo was so kind. It was easy to just try and stick with her.”

“Thank god for Jihyo, huh?” Dahyun chuckled.

Tzuyu shrugged timidly. “I think I would’ve gone home if it wasn’t for her.”

“Remind me to give her a huge hug. I love having my Chou-tzu here.” Dahyun nudged Tzuyu and changed subjects again. “Have you seen that video of puppies being plopped into deep snow?”

The smile on Tzuyu’s face told her that she had, but seemed more than eager to see it again.

 

 

You’d think Dahyun had been gone for months with how much Jihyo beamed at the sight of them entering the shop, and she swarmed around them when she could, making comments and otherwise smiling at them whenever she caught their eyes while serving the other customers.

They sat together for an entire hour until finally Tzuyu announced that she had to go home, leaving without much of a goodbye. It turned out to be really bad timing though, because five minutes later Jihyo came over, asking if Dahyun wanted to come out back while she had her dinner, and Dahyun accepted happily. Knew that she wasn’t supposed to be in the back room meant for staff, but as Jihyo was in charge it wasn’t too much of a problem.

“I’m glad you came.” Jihyo said happily as they settled at the little table, Jihyo with a plastic box of rice and curry. Took a big bite and sighed happily, humming as she chewed. Dahyun smiled.

“I thought it was time.” Dahyun said.

Jihyo nodded and pointed at her with the chopsticks. “So, how are things?”

“They’re good. I think. I mean it’s not perfect and I had a thing a few days ago but I solved it myself. But it just mostly seems fine by now?” Dahyun let her mind wander back over the past month. “Work is a lot better. I don’t screw up as much.”

“S’good.” Jihyo nodded, her mouth full of curry. It smelled delicious, and Dahyun couldn’t help eyeing it.

“Yeah, it’s… I mean I sometimes think I’m making no progress at all and then sometimes it seems too easy?” Dahyun shrugged. “I’m sleeping well and I’m getting my stuff done on time, and my body is just cooperating.”

“What about your head?” Jihyo asked, offering Dahyun a bite of the curry which the younger girl happily accepted.

“It’s a struggle, but just the fact that I’m here telling you stuff should be a sign that it’s at least getting easier.” Dahyun shrugged.

“I’m glad.” Jihyo smiled. “You don’t have to worry about it being easier though, that’s a good thing. Just take it.”

“Mh, I guess.” Dahyun accepted another mouthful of curry.

“Trust me. You take the good where you can get it.”

“Fine,” Dahyun swallowed and took a sip from Jihyo’s water bottle. “Did you find out if you can get off work saturday?”

“I did! It took a bit of work but I managed to trade my shift.” Jihyo beamed.

“I hope it wasn’t too much trouble. But I’m actually a lot more excited than I had expected.”

“Finally enjoying the tradition are we?” Jihyo smirked.

“I haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about.” Dahyun said dryly knowing exactly what she was talking about.

It had been a while since Dahyun had gotten this feeling of excitement when thinking about Sana. Since she had invited Sana to the birthday, she had cheered up quite a lot, and had even given the occasional hug, though she still disappeared for large parts of the day and rarely spent time in the living room, preferring her room to Dahyun’s company apparently. But the prospect of getting to spend an entire day at the sea with all her friends - all of them - was enough to get through anything life might throw at her at the moment.

 

 

There was just the thing with life, that it didn’t actually seem to be in the business of screwing her over at the moment. Not that Dahyun was in any way complaining, but with three days to her birthday, Dahyun’s biggest worry had been looking at train tickets and getting further ahead of her study schedule so she wouldn’t worry too much about school during the trip.

Even working a shift with both Mina and Jeongyeon didn’t really worry her much, as Yang-nim was back to drinking whiskey in his office, never leaving it. The only thing that worried Dahyun was how tired Mina looked, and wondered if she’d make it to closing time. It was she and Dahyun who were closing up tonight. And Dahyun’s worries only multiplied when Mina walked through the doors to the kitchen and slumped against the wall with a sigh.

“You okay?” Dahyun asked with a frown.

Mina shook her head. “They’re here again. I can’t deal with it tonight. I already had to endure lunch with my parents today, I didn’t need this on top of everything.”

“What do you mean ‘endure lunch’, I thought you had a good relationship?” Dahyun asked.

“We do but- ugh, it’s complicated, I’ll explain later.” Mina pushed herself off the wall and walked over to the line, looking at the dishes belonging to one of her assigned tables like she wanted to magically wish them away. Before she could grab them however, Jeongyeon joined them, an expression of pure revulsion on her face. It was obvious that she had noticed Mina’s harassers as well.

“I know.” Mina said before Jeongyeon had even opened her mouth.

“One day I’m going to kill them.” Jeongyeon grumbled.

“No you’re not.” Mina took the dishes.

“No I’m not. But I want to.” Jeongyeon huffed.

“Me too.” Dahyun added.

“Me three.” Mina sent them both a small smile and walked out.

“We could try and do something about it. You know, for real.” Dahyun suggested as Jeongyeon drew out a power bar and offered half to Dahyun. The younger girl took it gratefully, sighing at the taste of food.

“I wish, but you know Yang-nim isn’t going to do shit.” Jeongyeon said contemptuously.

“I hope it’s just a flare up.”

“They’re idiots, they’ll grow tired of tailing her around eventually. Kinda makes me regret recommending her for the job back then, though.” Jeongyeon corrected her bangs and rubbed a hand over her cheek and down her neck.

“She needed a job and this was an open position, it would’ve been wrong not to recommend her.” Dahyun reassured the older girl.

“I guess. Yeah, you’re right.” Jeongyeon rubbed her neck, finished her half of the power bar and washed her hands.

“Dahyun, you should get back out.” Taeyang broke the conversation.

“Right, sorry.” Dahyun said, standing up straight again, nodding to herself before walking out. Even if there were no dishes to be served there was still a floor to be maintained, so Dahyun headed back out, taking a round in her section, making sure everyone had enough to drink and were pleased with the quality of the food. Still, she couldn’t help keeping an eye on Mina who was on door duty, her lips slightly pink but a professional smile on her lips. It was obvious how tired she was, and Dahyun had endless amounts of respect for how strong she was.

“Excuse me, miss?” Said a kind female voice from a nearby table in Jeongyeon’s section, pulling Dahyun from her thoughts. Maybe it was Dahyun’s slightly distracted mind tonight, but she couldn’t help notice how pretty the lady who had called for her, was. She was around thirty, probably, with her dark hair in a bob around her face, sitting opposite a slightly younger woman with light brown hair falling onto her shoulder.

“May I help you?” Dahyun asked politely, drawing out her notepad just in case.

“Can we get another sparkling water for my friend? Your Kimchi is wonderful but very spicy.” She winked at Dahyun.

Dahyun nodded and smiled. “Plain or with taste?”

“Plain, but with a piece of lemon please?” The younger of the two women said.

“Of course. I’ll be right back with it.” Dahyun said, and turned from them.

But just as she did so, the sound of voices caught her ears and hatred burned immediately in the pit of her stomach. Four men stood by the little podium by the entrance where the reservation schedule always lay. They were standing too close to Mina, and looked like they were headed out, one of them busy putting on his cotton coat. Dahyun edged closer in case she needed to step in, close enough to hear their conversation. She looked around but didn’t see Jeongyeon, wondering if that might be for the best; not that she really believed Jeongyeon would ever actually hurt them. But you never knew. And the thunder that had rumbled in her voice when she had forced Yang-nim to change the schedule for Dahyun still rang in her ears.

Keeping one eye on the door to the kitchen, Dahyun stepped closer once more - close enough to hear the conversations.

“But-” The obvious leader of the group said, but was cut off by Mina, no patience left in her voice.

“No. My final answer is no. I’m not available and even if I was I wouldn’t want to go out with you.”

Dahyun took another step. Vaguely remembered something about sparkling water with lemon, but it’d have to wait. This was the kind of situation that made Dahyun wish the restaurant could be reclassified so they could be entitled to a bouncer.

“But I’d treat you better.” The man insisted. Dahyun held back the urge to smack him.

“I highly doubt that.” Mina said with obvious distaste and raised eyebrows. Dahyun frowned. It wasn’t an unjustified tone, but it definitely was unusual for Mina to be that obviously disgusted with them.

“Come on, he can’t be that amazing, your fella. Is he an idol or something?” The man grinned, just as the door to the kitchen opened and Jeongyeon walked backwards through it with a dish in each hand. Dahyun’s heart picked up, and she knew that she should probably do something. Anything. But she was frozen on the spot, as if in the eye of a hurricane forming visibly around her. Could taste it in the air.

“What about him then?” The leader gestured at one of the others. Jeongyeon’s direction was aimed right at them, coming closer and apparently not noticing, her eye on the bowl of soup in one hand, trying not to spill.

“No. I’m not dating you.” Mina said loudly, obviously losing his patience as the suggested suitor had come forwards. Jeongyeon stopped in her tracks, finally noticing. Dahyun allowed herself a split-second to notice the way Jeongyeon’s eyes narrowed, lightning bolts in her eyes.

The leader opened his mouth but Mina cut him off.

“I’m not dating you either. Or either of you two.” And then, to Dahyun’s complete disbelief, Mina turned her face and looked past Dahyun, at Jeongyeon. “You, I am dating,” then turned back to the four guys. “But none of you.”

Dahyun stared. Clearly her mind had stopped working. Obviously there had been something she had completely misheard. Except Mina’s pink cheeks had turned bright red. And turning her head, Dahyun found Jeongyeon’s face to be as pale as Mina’s was red. Dahyun looked back at Mina. Then at Jeong. And then at the four men. They too looked as dumbstruck as Dahyun felt.

Instinct took over for Dahyun’s stunned mind, and she gently pushed Mina out of the way, placing herself between Mina and the four men, barely reaching their shoulders. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was getting Mina away from them, even if it meant putting herself on the line.

“You heard her. Now, you’re very welcome to have a drink or some food at our restaurant, but you need to leave her alone. She’s not interested.”

The leader looked at her, then at Jeongyeon, and lastly at Mina, a disgusted expression on his face.

“Dyke…” The leader said dryly.

Dahyun wanted to scream. Clenched her fist, face hot with anger, but he walked out before she lost control, the other three following him obediently. There was nothing left to do now except just try and control her racing heart. And when she looked back to check on Mina, she wasn’t there. And neither was Jeongyeon. But Dahyun just managed to see the back of a head with blonde hair disappearing into the kitchen.

Her entire body shaking, Dahyun looked around, to see how many had noticed. It didn’t seem too bad. Didn’t seem like people minded it too much. But she was alone on the floor now, still trying to wrap her head around the events of the last five minutes. Then she remembered the sparkling water, and hurried around the bar, finding a glass and a bottle of sparkling water, grabbing a fresh lemon and a cutting board. Focused on cutting a slice without cutting into her own shaking hand holding the lemon in place. Then put ice and the lemon slice in the water and walked over to the pretty women at Jeongyeon’s table. Apologized for the wait as she poured but received only understanding smiles from the women. Years later, Dahyun would still remember those smiles, for the kindness they expressed, even if she was just a waitress to them.

More than anything, Dahyun wanted to check on her friends, still in the kitchen, but there was no time. So instead she let her body take over for her mind and made rounds on all three sections of the restaurant. She manned the place for a good ten minutes before there was a proper excuse to head into the kitchen, a load of dishes in each hand, and found her friends there, Mina clenching her water-bottle, eyes red and Jeongyeon with her back to Dahyun, hand rubbing Mina’s arm. Dahyun stopped in her tracks and suddenly wished she hadn’t come out here after all. It felt like she was somehow invading their space, even if they weren’t doing anything. Because the way they looked at each other proved without a doubt that it was indeed true. And honestly Dahyun felt more stupid for not seeing it than surprised that it was real. They didn’t seem to have noticed her, so Dahyun made a deal of stacking the dishes for the kitchen boy, as loudly as she could, and as intended, caught Mina’s attention, yet she looked mostly like she wanted to avert her eyes. Dahyun smiled. As softly and brightly as she could, and made sure to give her a thumbs up as well. Saw how Mina’s eyes glinted and crinkled at the edges as she gave a wet laugh, hiccuping slightly. The laugh made Jeongyeon turn as well, her cheeks flushed and a sheepish expression on her face. Dahyun rolled her eyes and walked over to the line without a word, taking the dishes for one of Jeongyeon’s tables. Saw her mouth thank you before walking back out. Dahyun just shrugged and winked at her even though it failed. Couldn’t very well salute with three dishes, but it made Jeongyeon smile and Mina giggle, so Dahyun didn’t mind.

 

 

It didn’t really come as a surprise to Dahyun that it was Mina who ended up leaving at eleven, and Jeongyeon who stayed behind. Mina had been exhausted at the start of the shift, and the outburst had done nothing to make it easier for her. But now the place was quiet and closed, the last tables cleaned, and a silence had settled between Jeongyeon and Dahyun in the changing room. The only two left. Jeongyeon hadn’t talked much at all. And Dahyun hadn’t pressed the subject. It wasn’t any of her business, even if she had to admit that she was curious.

It was Jeongyeon who spoke first, just as Dahyun took off the tie, hanging it on a hook inside her locker.

“I’m sorry.” Jeongyeon sighed, pulling at her hair tie to let her hair down, running a tired hand through it to make it fall somewhat decently after having been pulled back for most of a day.

“It’s okay.” Dahyun said genuinely. “But are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just.. Dahyun. I’m sorry.” She looked up with tired eyes and ran a hand over her forehead, scratching at her scalp. “I… We didn’t want you to find out this way.”

“It’s okay, I get it.” Dahyun assured her and started working the buttons of her shirt.

“We wanted to tell you, but we never really got around to it. There was never a right time, and,” Jeongyeon’s face screwed up. “it was kind of nice, having it to ourselves? Not worrying about the consequences. But by now we should have said something.”

“Wait, never got around to it?” Dahyun frowned, taking the shirt off, grabbing the one she had worn before her shift and pulling it over her head. “How long has this been going on?”

“A while.” Jeongyeon sighed. “Longer than we intended. Originally we just wanted to take a few weeks to figure it out, then tell people. Tell-”

“Jihyo?”

“Yeah.” Jeongyeon grimaced. “But it just dragged on.”

Dahyun sat down on the bench besides Jeongyeon “When you say a while and dragged on , are we talking like a month or-”

“Three.” Jeongyeon sighed. “Little more than three.”

“Hold on. You mean to tell me you’ve been together since February and you told no-one?” Dahyun gaped at her.

“We should’ve.”

“No, I’m not judging, I’m impressed.” Dahyun snorted.

Jeongyeon looked sheepish, and this time she couldn’t help the smile that tugged at the corners of her lips.

“How the hell did…” Dahyun started but trailed off at the look of Jeongyeon’s smile. In that moment, several truths occurred to Dahyun at the same time, and she maybe turned to face Jeongyeon a little too fast, because the older girl flinched and scooted a few inches to the opposite side of where Dahyun was sitting. “You lied!”

“I thought we already established that.” Jeongyeon frowned.

“No, that morning! That morning when I had slept over, you said you were talking to Jihyo. You were lying! You’re wearing the same stupid grin as you are right now, you were talking to Mina!”

Jeongyeon studied her hands very thoroughly. “I was.”

“She stopped driving here,” Dahyun continued, “which means she’s been staying at your place?”

“Sometimes.” Jeongyeon shrugged, then grinned. “Most of the time.”

“But what about Momo?” Dahyun tried to put the pieces together.

“What about her?” Jeongyeon frowned.

“Well, she lives there, how did you- oh… she knows.” Dahyun felt completely out of the loop. Of course Momo knew.

“She found out the first night.” Jeongyeon chuckled. “Caught Mina in the kitchen midnight munching. But Mina got her to keep tight.”

“So all the teasing…”

“Is the exact same kind of teasing she’s giving you for not moving on Sana.” Jeongyeon raised an eyebrow at Dahyun.

“She knows about- of course she knows about that.”

“Momo knows a lot of things.” Jeongyeon shrugged.

“I’m gonna have to disown her.” Dahyun grumbled.

“Then you’ll have to disown Sana as well.” Jeongyeon said, more confident now.

“Sana knows?!” Dahyun yelled. Hadn’t meant to yell but honestly.

“That morning after Chaeyoung’s birthday party, she showed up at like seven, and honestly none of us had the energy to wriggle out a lie at that stage of the hangover. She didn’t really seem to care, just promised not to tell. We had wanted to tell Jihyo that night and then- I tried to get Jihyo one on one but she refused. Just wanted to get drunk. And then when Nayeon told us that Jihyo didn’t stay over we got paranoid and pushed it again.” Jeongyeon explained.

“Okay, so-” Dahyun started then cut herself off. “No, never mind.”

“What?”

“I’m just curious, but it’s none of my business.” Dahyun shook her head.

“You can ask, it’s about time I get used to talking about it anyway. It was fine when it was just Momo, and Sana to a degree, but now… it’s time.” Jeongyeon cringed. “So. What do you want to know?”

“How long have you liked her?”

Jeongyeon shrugged. “Not really sure. I mean there was the party right after she had started working there, back in October, and I sorta felt like something could’ve happened but then I just got back with Jiyeon for a while. But I kept thinking about her? So I broke up with Jiyeon finally a month after, and I’ve just been trying to get over Mina and get Jiyeon out since then.”

“Why get over Mina?” Dahyun asked without thinking, then answered her own question. “Jihyo, right, go on.”

“Well, there’s nothing more to it.” Jeongyeon shrugged.

“Oh come on, you clearly didn’t get over her, so something must’ve happened, right?” Dahyun pressed, slightly worried that she was pushing too far now. But the dumb grin on Jeongyeon’s face was enough to tell her what had happened.

“Go Mina.” Dahyun said with an acknowledging nod. “Did she show up outside your window with a boom blaster and tell you you’re an idiot?”

Jeongyeon gave a single laugh. “No, but she called me thick, or slow or something. It was just after a shift and she was talking about wanting to get asked out and- honestly, I didn’t even know she liked me until she was kissing me all of a sudden.”

“Bold.” Dahyun said.

“Quite a lot bolder than you’d expect.” Jeongyeon agreed, studying her shoes very carefully all of a sudden.

Dahyun narrowed her eyes. “What do you-”

Once again, Jeongyeon’s eyes was enough to tell Dahyun the truth.

“Wow, go Mina.” Dahyun gaped.

“Shut it.” Jeongyeon grumbled.

“What, did you even bother to actually ask her out first?” Dahyun chuckled, Jeongyeon’s cheeks burning.

“Of course I did!”

“And that was your bright idea?” Dahyun snorted and shook her head.

“Shut up, it wasn’t my idea.” Jeongyeon looked utterly flustered, fiddling with the hem of the apron still around her waist. Dahyun examined her face in amazement. How had she not seen it? It was so obvious now that she knew.

“You love her.” Dahyun said quietly.

Jeongyeon looked up at Dahyun finally and nodded. “Yeah.”

Dahyun didn’t press the matter further, Jeongyeon’s cheeks still red though her gaze was firm. It was enough teasing, and it was late. Very late.

Dahyun got back up. “I’m happy for you, you know?”

“Thanks, Dahyun.” Jeongyeon smiled vaguely, running a hand through her hair. Sighed and got up as well.

Dahyun finally changed the lower half of her outfit, stepping out of the skirt and into her slacks while Jeongyeon gathered her stuff without changing. Dahyun looked into the depths of her locker, her mind drifting.

“Dahyun?” Jeongyeon asked.

“You asked once,” Dahyun started, talking into the locker, “if I would tell you if there’s someone I liked. Really liked. And I know now you were talking about yourself, but I think I need to say this out loud, if you don’t mind.”

“Of course.”

“I’m in love with Sana.” Dahyun swallowed hard. “For real. We haven’t- I mean, we aren’t. We’re just friends. Almost, at one point, but no.”

Jeongyeon didn’t try to get her to elaborate when she failed to get more words out. Just waited.

Dahyun finally turned to face Jeongyeon. “It sounds so weird to say, but yeah… I’m in love.”

“It gets easier.” Jeongyeon reassured her. Dahyun grabbed her bag and closed the locker.

“I haven’t been taking my meds.” Dahyun admitted as they walked out, Jeongyeon making sure they had locked up properly. “I tried one night but I still couldn’t sleep. I just turned into a zombie. I couldn’t do anything, and it was quite scary to be honest.”

“So, you’re still not sleeping?”

“Oh, I’m sleeping fine, most days. Just. Not. In my bed.” This time Dahyun looked away.

“I thought you said you were just friends?” Jeongyeon asked dryly, stopping on the sidewalk where they went their separate ways..

“We are!” Dahyun said quickly. “I just- I mean it’s- it’s complicated. When Momo lived here I slept with Sana - not like that!” Jeongyeon was chuckling, but Dahyun kept rambling. “We’ve never even kissed. On purpose. But I slept in her bed because I couldn’t sleep in the living room and it was the best sleep I’ve gotten in my life, and then ever since I’ve been sleeping there on and off. But since we started this whole get-Dahyun-back-on-track thing... since then it’s been on.” Dahyun rambled.

“So, you sleep in her bed and she doesn’t mind?”

Dahyun shrugged. “No.”

“Is it intimate?”

“I just said we haven’t even kissed.” Dahyun grumbled, feeling her cheeks. Could’ve fried an egg on them.

“I mean is it you laying on one side and her on the other, or?”

“Or.”

“So you cuddle.”

“...Yeah.”

Jeongyeon nodded. Then without a warning turned in the direction of her own apartment and started walking. Turned her head and grinned back at Dahyun.

“Kiss her, Kim Dahyun.”

And she was gone.

Dahyun stared into the darkness and then up into the street light. Every single argument, every reason not to act, seemed weak suddenly. Jeongyeon was right. It was time to try. Even if it didn’t end well, it was time to try.

 

 

Maybe it was the fact that Mina got to express her feelings in her mother tongue or maybe it was just Momo’s weight against her back, but it helped.

Momo had been asleep on the couch when Mina got back to Jeongyeon’s apartment. Instead of waking the older girl, Mina had snuck into Jeongyeon’s room, changed out of her waitress uniform and into one of Jeongyeon’s shirts - her favorite, and one of the pairs of sweatpants she had lying in Jeongyeon’s top drawer. Already had a third of her closet here, somehow, her own bed unused for almost a week now. But right now she wished that she had done everything differently. That she had been honest about her feelings for Jeongyeon from the start. That she had never quit the job at The Black Bean, that they had told people, that she hadn’t snapped tonight. But there was another part of her, the one who held much regard to the space-time-continuum, that knew that if she went back, she might not be sitting here on Jeongyeon’s bed, in her silly Calvin and Hobbes shirt, wishing she could see the stars from the windowless room. So instead, she merely drew the covers around her and stared into the mattress, trying not to overthink everything.

It didn’t go over very well. Mina had never been the best at being alone with her thoughts, with her fears.

Momo must’ve heard her. Heard her mumble her worries to the mattress and possibly the occasional sniffle. Because all of a sudden she was there, and crawled between Mina and the covers, hugging her from behind, providing pressure and comfort. Told her to tell the worries to her instead of the mattress. And Mina did.

In the darkness, Mina told Momo about her outburst in the restaurant and how she had just exposed them to god knows how many people and Dahyun. And her fears that they wouldn’t be able to keep it a secret for much longer. Her fear of what they would have to face when they told.

And Momo just listened. Didn’t leave, even when Mina had calmed down and started fiddling with the hem of the black shirt instead. At some point however, it became quite clear to Mina that the older girl wasn’t staying for Mina’s sake, as such. She had fallen asleep. With her arm limply around Mina’s waist, laying in her lap, and her cheek pressed against Mina’s shoulder, Momo was simply sleeping. There was something utterly apparent about Momo, and it was only now she realized why it hadn’t been weird for Dahyun that first time they all met Momo. That being stuck to Momo was never weird, but just welcoming. And Mina made a mental note to thank Dahyun for bringing Momo along that time.

A giggle bubbled over Mina’s lips when Momo gave a single quiet snore, and Mina reached down to wrap Momo’s arms tighter around herself. Felt Momo squeeze her waist. Then she drew out her phone, making sure the angle didn’t hit Momo’s face, and found the book she had been reading this morning. She was going to wait up for Jeongyeon anyway, so it wasn’t too bad to just sit like this. Even if it started to hurt her back after an hour. Nevertheless Mina stayed awake, watching how the time passed, waiting.

 

It was almost three in the morning when the front door finally sounded, and a few moments later, the door to Jeongyeon’s bedroom creaked open, and Mina sighed, a smile on her face as Jeongyeon looked at the two girls on the bed, a dumbstruck look on her face in the semi-darkness.

“The hell?” Jeongyeon whispered with a lopsided grin, crossing her arms.

“She was comforting me and fell asleep like this... I might need some help moving her.” Mina explained quietly. Jeongyeon covered her mouth, her body trembling with chuckles. And Mina had to do the same. Tried to control herself to avoid waking Momo. In two strides, Jeongyeon was by her side.

“Just lay her down.” Jeongyeon whispered, chuckles still bubbling under her voice. Mina nodded and moved out of Momo’s arms, getting her down on the bed by Jeongyeon’s help. Then they covered her with Jeongyeon’s blanket.

“Cat’s out, huh?” Jeongyeon settled on the edge of the bed, taking Mina’s hand between both of hers.

“I’m sorry.” Mina sighed heavily.

“I’m kind of relieved, actually.” Jeongyeon said quietly.

“Why?” Mina asked, feeling Jeongyeon shift on the bed.

“I think it’s time.” Jeongyeon smiled. “Take the leap.”

“Yeah?” Mina reached up and cupped the older girl’s cheek. Felt her turn her face in Mina’s hand and press her lips to Mina’s palm.

“Yeah.” Jeongyeon confirmed.

“I still didn’t mean to snap like that.” Mina said.

“There’s nothing we can do about it now. What’s done is done.” Jeongyeon squeezed her hand. “I cleared it with Dahyun as well. She’s not mad, just surprised.”

“I guess that means we hid it well.” Mina smiled.

Jeongyeon chuckled and nodded, pressing another kiss to Mina’s palm.

“At least we won’t have to arrive at separate times anymore.” Mina let her arm fall down to settle over Jeongyeon’s heart.

“Or listen to them teasing me about Momo.” Jeongyeon gestured towards the sleeping girl in the other end of the bed.

“That was kind of funny though.” Mina giggled.

“I mean, like I’d ever go for her.” Jeongyeon rolled her eyes.

“I would.” Mina joked.

“Right, sure, so I’m what? Burnt leftovers?” Jeongyeon raised an eyebrow.

“No, you’re my girlfriend, and I love you.” Mina said softly, feeling how Jeongyeon leaned closer. Let the hand on the older girl’s chest wrap around her neck and returned Jeongyeon’s kiss chastely.

“Do you wanna borrow Momo’s bed or try to move her?” Jeongyeon asked when she pulled back.

“Nah, let her sleep, we’ll just huddle close.” Mina said, chuckling just as Momo gave a loud sigh and turned onto her side, almost as if to make more space for them.

“Alright, I’ll be back then.” Jeongyeon said quietly, pecking Mina’s lips before getting up, grabbing a clean night shirt from her dresser and the boxers neatly folded on the chair by the desk.

 

In another part of town, about at the same time, a girl watched another girl sleeping, making a choice before closing her eyes and letting sleep take her away, the side of her palm touching the side of the other girl’s.

Chapter Text

Dahyun woke to the smell of burnt toast.

With a scrunch of the nose, Dahyun turned onto her side and fumbled to find her glasses. The realization of what day today was, hit the now twenty one year old girl just as the room came into focus, dim lights shining from the edges around the blinds and from underneath the door. Tugging her lip between her teeth to contain her grin, Dahyun freed herself of Sana’s sheets. Then she stretched, corrected her shirt and walked out of the bedroom, masking a yawn.

It was weird, honestly, and at the same time not weird at all. She had been awake for maybe all of three minutes, yet her body was in a state of confliction already, sleep barely having left her body yet somehow every nerve on high alert, stomach jolting excitedly every few seconds. And it certainly did nothing to calm her down to find Sana in the kitchen, by the fridge, in Dahyun’s Kobe sweater - the one with the stain - and her pink shorts, hair in a lazy ponytail and glasses slid halfway down her nose. She was pouting. Not at Dahyun though, but at the toaster. And then at the burnt toast on a plate besides it. Dahyun chuckled. Couldn’t help it. How a girl who actually wasn’t that bad at regular cooking could get into such an endless fight with a piece of electronic equipment, Dahyun would never understand. But it didn’t matter. Because the self-aware amusement in Sana’s face as she looked around at Dahyun, was everything.

“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” Sana whined. “I wanted to make you a birthday breakfast; show you that I’d learned how to use this thing but it won’t cooperate!”

“Did you offend it or something?” Dahyun turned the burnt toast, holding back chuckles. Then grabbed the toaster and turned it upside down in the sink to get out any charred crumbs. There were lots.

“I don’t know, but it hates me. I should’ve just gone for scrambled eggs and bacon. That I can do.” Sana huffed.

“Well, how about I make toast and you make that? We have plenty of time before we leave.” Dahyun offered.

“But I was supposed to make you breakfast.” Sana complained. “It’s your birthday and- oh god, I haven’t even wished you a happy birthday.”

Dahyun’s stomach jolted excitedly and she couldn’t help the grin. “It’s okay, Sana.”

“No, I’m screwing it up already- I-I just wanted to be the first to wish you happy birthday.”

“You’re not screwing up anything. My mom hasn’t called yet so you’re good - you’re still the first.” Dahyun assured her.

Sana nodded and fiddled with the hems of the sweater’s sleeves. Pulled them over her hands. Then in one swift motion Sana wrapped her arms around Dahyun and hugged her tight, then quickly released her again. “Happy birthday, Dahyunnie.”

It took a few seconds for Dahyun to register what had happened. Or rather, what hadn’t. But it wasn’t like Dahyun had asked for a kiss. Or felt entitled for one. But she had hoped.

Sana quickly turned to the fridge, opening it to find eggs and a pack of bacon. Dahyun tried not to feel too down, but her stomach didn’t listen, a knot settling in it despite her best efforts. If this was another one of Sana’s attempts to give Dahyun space… But there wasn’t any use in just standing around.

“Should I still make toast or would it ruin your plan?” Dahyun asked Sana’s back.

“I- uh. Sure.” Sana said, cracking an egg into a glass and then another. Checked the glass for shells and then turned on the stove, heating a pan.

“You’re wearing my shirt again.” Dahyun stated, just trying to keep the conversation.

“Sorry.” Sana said. “I wo-”

“No, it’s fine, I didn’t mean you should stop,” Dahyun cleared her throat “I was just- you look cute. In it. My shirt.”

Sana turned her head, a wide smile on her face and her voice full of sunshine. “I look cute?”

“You always look cute.” Dahyun dug into the pantry for more toast. Didn’t look at Sana but heard her giggle. Then, just as she was getting up, Sana’s arms were around her once more, hugging her from behind. And Dahyun felt like she might just melt in Sana’s arms, the older girl’s giggle in her ears, wriggling them both from side to side.

If it hadn’t been for the phone, Dahyun might’ve turned. Might’ve taken her hand and asked. But the phone did ring, so Dahyun didn’t ask. Just felt Sana’s arms disappear and turned to pick up the phone.

 

 

The urge to run away threatened to take the best of Jeongyeon. It was really only the constant reminder of why she did it, that made her stay put. For almost three months she had managed to forget about the consequences, but it had gone on too long now. Everything past the first few weeks were too long, and anything past the day Mina told the older she loved her was definitely too long. But there was nothing to do now but swallow her pride and face her friend. One of her oldest, dearest friends. A girl with a bracelet matching Jeongyeon’s own, around her left wrist.

She saw Jihyo from a distance, a frown forming on her face when she recognized Jeongyeon. The older girl got up, trying to prepare herself. Dug her hands into the pocket of her jeans and took a deep breath. Faced the confusion in Jihyo’s eyes.

“Jeongyeon?” Jihyo asked, “I thought… Mina called and asked me to come. I thought- Is she okay?”

“Yeah, she’s good. Just-... Can we sit?” Jeongyeon asked. Jihyo’s frown deepened but she nodded and sat down on the bench. Jeongyeon joined her. Looked over the river. Tried to find a place to begin. She knew how to end it, but it felt like her mind was an empty page and she didn’t know what the first word should be.

“Jeongyeon?” Jihyo asked, placing a worried hand on Jeongyeon’s arm.

Jeongyeon tried to ignore her racing heart. Groaned and leaned forwards, Jihyo’s hand slipping from her skin, burying her head in her hands.

“What-”

“Jihyo. I really need you to be okay with this.” She said, turning her head in her hands to look at Jihyo out of the corner of her eye. Couldn’t properly face her afterall. But she had to.

With a sigh, Jeongyeon sat back up, looking straight into Jihyo’s worried eyes.

“I’m seeing someone.”

“What? That’s great!” Jihyo beamed, and Jeongyeon cringed, causing Jihyo’s brows to furrow once more. “Wait, why wouldn’t I be...” She trailed off. Searched Jeongyeon’s eyes.

Jeongyeon nodded. “I never meant to fall for her. I promise, I never-. But I did. Jihyo, I fell for Mina.”

It was as if Jihyo had sensed the truth but hadn’t quite put the reality of it together until Jeongyeon said Mina’s name. Her eyes flickered and she opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again. Looked away, out over the water. She squinted slightly.

“Jihyo.”

Jihyo shook her head, and Jeongyeon once again felt the urge to run. To run and hide behind Mina and bury her face in the soft black hair. But she couldn’t. She had wanted to do this on her own. It was Jeongyeon who had picked Jihyo off from the curb that night. Jeongyeon who had seen Mina running away. Jeongyeon who had carried Jihyo inside. Had stayed with her through all of the heartache. Never once had she imagined that she might actually fall of the girl who had caused so much pain in the heart of her best friend.

“Who asked who?”

“What?” Jeongyeon frowned and sat back up. It was the last question she had expected. She had feared questions like how could you and why did you do it , but not this.

“Uh. She asked me to ask her, I guess? It’s complicated.”

“But she made the first move?”

“Well, I mean, yeah. She- she kissed me.”

“I’m glad.” Jihyo said softly, staring out over the water again. Swallowed and nodded to herself. But there was still a melancholy in the air around her.

“Are you okay?” Jeongyeon asked, a confused chuckle tumbling past her lips as she spoke.

“What? Oh, yeah. I’m fine.” Jihyo said, her voice distant somehow. Then she got up. “Thank you… for telling me.”

“You don’t have anything more you want to know?” Jeongyeon asked.

“It’s really none of my business, but… There’s one thing.” Jihyo looked down at her, an almost sheepish expression on her face.

“What?” Jeongyeon asked.

“Does she laugh?”

Jeongyeon couldn’t help it. She smiled.

“... All the time.”

For a moment, it was as if the peace of the world had settled on Jihyo’s face. She reached out, offering her hand to Jeongyeon. Yet the moment Jeongyeon took it, Jihyo’s eyes grew distant once more, but Jeongyeon felt the way Jihyo’s hand kept her close, reassuring the older girl.

“I was so scared to tell you.” Jeongyeon murmured as they walked along the river.

“Did Nayeon convince you to?” Jihyo asked quietly.

“She doesn’t know yet.” Jeongyeon admitted. “I couldn’t put her in that position. I couldn’t ask her to keep a secret from you.”

“That’s noble.” Jihyo said. “She’s going to kill you.”

“I’m aware, thank you.” Jeongyeon cringed.

Jihyo’s hand clenched a little tighter and Jeongyeon let the younger girl decide the path.

 

 

It was almost a sign. It really was; the sky being so everblue and the sun shining warm and bright down on them as they walked onto the platform as the first two of nine. Even if there was still half an hour until the train left, Dahyun had insisted that it would be thoroughly impolite to arrive last minute to her own birthday party.

It was only nine in the morning but Dahyun’s day had already been great. Sana’s scrambled eggs had been wonderfully tasty and the toast golden and crispy. Her mom had sung happy birthday over the phone and Sana had poked her cheek as they got ready in the bathroom, side by side, giggling at each others’ four-eyes. Had talked about their experiences with the beach, Sana rarely going there and Dahyun going often until she started playing piano seriously.

Side by side, Sana and Dahyun sat down on the bench, waiting for the others to show, knowing full well that the only one who was usually in good time was Mina.

“Are you excited?” Sana asked, timed to the exact second where the awkward silence had threatened to settle. As if she was determined for it not to do so. Dahyun loved that about her.

“Very much.” Dahyun nodded. “It’s been a while since I’ve done something out of the ordinary for my birthday.”

“How do you usually celebrate your birthday?” Sana asked.

“It depends. When I was younger it was just with my parents and my brother but the past three years I’ve mainly celebrated with the my friends.”

“Nothing big?”

“Nah, I mean my sixteenth was big because of the concert I showed you, but the other years have been pretty mellow.” Dahyun shrugged.

“Then why did you decide on going to the sea this year?” Sana was obviously trying to keep the conversation going, even if it wasn’t needed.

“It was Jeongyeon’s idea, actually. And I thought it’d be fun.” Dahyun said, and added with a nod in the direction of the stairs up to the platform “And speaking of Jeongyeon.”

The blonde hair had been hard to miss as Jeongyeon ascended the stairs, and Dahyun couldn’t help smiling at the sight of Mina slightly behind her, their fingers laced and a soft smile on her face, Jeongyeon’s head turned back to look at her. They were seemingly deep in conversation.

“Ah, they’re finally telling people!” Sana said in a hushed but excited tone.

“Yeah, I gue-” Dahyun’s words caught and she turned to Sana with narrowed eyes. “About that. I have a bone to pick with you.”

Sana looked mostly like a deer caught in headlights as she rambled her explanation.

“They asked me not to tell anyone, and I really didn’t know why they were hesitating but I just…” Sana trailed off as Dahyun started laughing. “You’re teasing me.”

“I am.” Dahyun admitted with a grin, getting to her feet just as Jeongyeon and Mina reached them. Out of the corner of her eye, Dahyun saw that Sana had gotten up too, but her vision was immediately blocked by Jeongyeon’s arms around her, wishing her a happy birthday.

“Thank you.” Dahyun said timidly as Jeongyeon held her a little longer than usual before drawing back, arm still around Dahyun’s shoulder as Mina stood on her toes, hands around Dahyun’s head and pressed a kiss to the younger girl’s forehead.

“Happy birthday, Dahyun.” Mina said in her usual quiet tone, pressing their foreheads together before drawing back, Jeongyeon’s hand immediately finding Mina’s.

Dahyun raised an eyebrow ignoring the shy blush settling in her cheeks. “So what, you’re using my birthday to tell people?”

“If you don’t mind?” Jeongyeon asked.

“Not at all.” Dahyun said, hesitated and then continued. “Jihyo knows, right?”

Mina pressed her lips together. Nodded. “I didn’t know that you knew.”

“She told me. You’re all good.” Dahyun sent her a grin. “Just don’t be grossly cute, I don’t want to barf up the birthday cake.”

“Hadn’t planned on it.” Jeongyeon said flatly.

Dahyun saw Sana shuffle beside her and maybe stepped half an inch closer to her. Discreetly. Definitely without Jeongyeon noticing. Definitely ignoring her smirk.

“Well, you’ve already overshared so I don’t really trust you.” Dahyun picked up the conversation in an attempt to distract. Thankfully, Jeongyeon was good at dishing out but easily flustered when it came back to her.

“I didn’t overshare, you guessed!” The older girl huffed.

“Guessed what?” Mina asked, clearly not a part of the conversation.

Dahyun smirked, ignoring Jeongyeon’s slight shake of the head, the older girl retreating her arm from around Dahyun’s shoulders. Three months of secrecy deserve a bit of good teasing. So Dahyun turned to Mina with a shrug and a completely neutral voice.

“That your first date was you dragging her into bed.”

Mina’s eyes widened and she looked at Jeongyeon, swatting her arm in embarrassment. The older girl had clearly not told her about this.

“She guessed!” Jeongyeon defended herself.

“That’s not just something you guess. You must’ve said something to-”

“I just said you’re surprisingly bold.” Jeongyeon interrupted.

“It was actually more the fact that she clamped up when I asked for details, that gave it away.” Dahyun shrugged, having a little mercy on Jeongyeon.

“Mh…” Mina grumbled, but Jeongyeon just tugged her closer, pecking her lips until she started giggling, lips splitting in a grin that prevented her from keeping the kiss going.

“Okay, you’ve already broken my rule of not being gross, thank you.” Dahyun said as dryly as she could. “Can I uninvite you?”

“Nope, too late.” Jeongyeon grinned.

“Then why didn’t you bring some proper company at least? Where’s Momo?”

“Oh, she’s taking the bus, we slept at Mina’s.” Jeongyeon explained.

“Excuse me, who slept at whose now?”

Jeongyeon froze, her eyes wide at the distinctive voice. Mina’s hand slipped from Jeongyeon’s, but Jeongyeon fumbled and grasped again, looking halfway like she was gonna faint and halfway like she was planning her own funeral already. And sure enough, without the rest of them noticing, Nayeon and Chaeyoung had reached them, the younger girl a few steps behind the red haired girl. It was like seeing a crash about to happen. Except, to the surprise of everyone, probably herself included, Jeongyeon merely turned to face Nayeon and shrugged, her eyes firm on the older girl’s.

“I slept at Mina’s.”

Nayeon’s eyes narrowed and her brows knotted as the two oldest friends stared at each other. Then, to the obvious surprise of every member of the party, Nayeon shrugged.

“Okay.”

“Okay?” Jeongyeon asked, her face expressing the same confusion that Dahyun felt.

“Yeah, whatever. I mean, good for you, right?” Nayeon seemed completely unfazed.

“You’re just gonna let her off the hook?” Dahyun asked before she could stop herself.

“I’m just surprised she actually meant it when she said she wasn’t into me.” Nayeon shrugged again. “Anyways, Isn’t this your day?”

“I... Yes, but-” Dahyun looked around to Jeongyeon but there was no help there. She merely shook her head in a ‘don’t tempt the fate’ kind of way, and Dahyun pressed her lips together. Let Nayeon and Chaeyoung hug her on turn, Nayeon placing a kiss on her temple and Chaeyoung on her cheek. The younger checked for lipstick marks for good measure as she wrapped her arm around Dahyun, waiting for the last three.

 

For a moment Dahyun merely observed as Mina tentatively asked Nayeon how the audition went. Listened as Nayeon complained about how prejudiced the instructor had been, and that she was still waiting to hear back. Listened as Chaeyoung tried to turn Nayeon’s worries around though without much success. But her mind kept slipping out of focus. And she kept trying not to look back at Sana who was standing a few steps behind them. She had stepped back to send a text but then hadn’t joined back up. If Dahyun could just catch her eye without the others noticing too much. But Jeongyeon’s eyes were constantly on her, a reminder that Dahyun had in fact not done what they had talked about. In the end, Dahyun gave up and checked the clock on her phone instead of looking at Sana. Still fifteen minutes until the train took off.

 

Tzuyu showed up a couple of minutes later, coming up the stairs looking like a model. She always did, but in a sundress and sunglasses she completely stole the scene. It wasn’t unnoticed by Dahyun that the youngest’s eyes flickered to Mina and Jeongyeon’s hands, lazily twined, but she didn’t comment. Merely walked around the group to wrap Dahyun in a hug from behind before settling with both arms around Chaeyoung’s neck. Rested her head on top of Chaeyoung’s to the shorter girl’s obvious ambivalence, caught between a smile and a frown. She could never really be mad at the younger girl, even when she made the height difference so obvious.

“Slept well?” Dahyun asked the youngest.

“Lots.” Tzuyu said calmly. “You?”

Dahyun nodded and dared to steal a glance at Sana. She just hadn’t expected Sana’s eyes to find hers, and definitely hadn’t expected the small smile that played around the older girl’s lips. But Dahyun didn’t shy away. For once. Merely nudged her head in a gesture for Sana to come closer. And she did. Took a few delicate steps, until she joined the circle. She stood so close to Dahyun, that a single shift would mean that their arms would touch. And she barely had to stretch to hold her hand. But Dahyun did neither. Just felt the warmth and light emitting from Sana as she smiled at Dahyun, and decided that it was good enough. For now.

 

With five minutes to the train leaving, Jihyo finally showed, her brown hair repeatedly getting caught in the wind and a smile on her face. Dahyun noticed how Mina’s hand slipped from Jeongyeon’s once more. Noticed how Jeongyeon didn’t take it this time. Shifting her weight, Dahyun saw how Jihyo looked from Dahyun to the others, ending with Jeongyeon. Tried not to notice how soft Sana’s skin was against her arm. Instead she watched how Jihyo swatted Jeongyeon over the back of her head as she passed her.

“Hey!” Jeongyeon glared.

“Get a grip, Yoo Jeongyeon.” Jihyo merely said, clicking her tongue, raising an eyebrow at the older girl’s hand, limply hanging next to Mina’s. Not touching.

“I just-”

“Yeah, I know. Get a grip before I take back my blessing.” Jihyo shook her head with a grin.

“Your blessing…” Jeongyeon muttered under her breath, yet couldn’t stop the dorky smile that spread as Mina’s hand once more found hers.

Jihyo’s smile faded as her eyes travelled across the faces of the rest of the party and Dahyun felt Tzuyu’s arm slip from around her neck and a gentle push at her back. Dahyun took a step forwards, towards Jihyo. Then Jihyo’s eyes found Dahyun’s and she stretched out her arm, grabbing Dahyun’s and closing the distance between them in a hug so warm and tight that it almost took Dahyun’s breath away. Made her miss Jihyo even if there was no space between them.

“Happy birthday, butterfly.” Jihyo murmured, lips brushing against Dahyun’s cheek.

“You ok?” Dahyun asked, arms around Jihyo’s back.

“Yeah. She told me this morning.” Jihyo muttered. “I’m happy for them.”

Dahyun nodded and held Jihyo tighter. Held her longer than she had done any of the others.

 

Jihyo had told her one night, when Dahyun had shown up without warning in the middle of the night, covered in snow with flushed cheeks and frozen tears on her cheeks. They had talked for longer than they ought to that night, and Dahyun had asked her if she had ever been in love. And Jihyo had. She calmly told Dahyun about being in love with Mina back in high school. How she had kissed Mina in a bathroom at a graduation party and how Mina had kissed her in front of the house a few minutes later. Then about Mina breaking into tears because she hadn’t returned Jihyo’s feelings after all. And Mina running off, leaving Jihyo on the curb with a broken heart.

It had been Jeongyeon and Nayeon who had gotten her through the heartbreak. Who had tried to freeze out Mina for what she had done, but Jihyo who had held on to Mina. Made them invite her to everything and made them love her.

But the story didn’t stop there. Time and time again Jihyo had managed to convince herself and the others that she was over it, that she didn’t blame Mina for her mistake. Got an apartment in the same building as Mina. Got a job together. Folded laundry together. Cooked together. Laughed together.

And then a girl had asked out Mina at the coffee house.

And Jihyo broke a cup.

After that, Mina had taken then consequence. Had accepted Jeongyeon’s offer to see if she could get hired at the restaurant. Had moved far away, to the other end of town. And eventually things seemed to settle down for real. But it had taken most of two years.

 

The memory of Jihyo’s story made Dahyun’s stomach turn uncomfortably. Would that be her story too one day - if she kissed Sana? Would she eventually have to see Sana holding someone else’s hand? Could she ever be happy for Sana and another person, like Jihyo was? The thought made her dizzy and she turned instinctively to look at Sana, Jihyo’s arms slipping from around her neck. Felt how she stepped back and saw her wrap her arms around Nayeon’s back instead, head on the oldest’s shoulder. But Dahyun’s attention was still on Sana. Saw the frown and then the smile that tugged at the corners of Sana’s lips as Dahyun smiled at her. Discreetly, Dahyun moved back to her original place in the circle beside Sana, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu on her other side. Because in that moment, Dahyun couldn’t stand to be apart from Sana. It wasn’t a choice.

If someone later asked her when she knew, it would be this moment, when she let her index find its way into Sana’s palm and feel her hand close around it.

 

Momo arrived thirty seconds before the train did, meaning that they had to hurry to board the train - none of them willing to get on without Momo there - and that Dahyun had Momo hanging off her as they boarded, the older girl pressing kisses to her cheek and neck and shoulder.

As the doors closed behind them, Dahyun squirmed with embarrassment and Momo laughed into her skin before pulling back, looking around in the train carriage. She sat down in an empty seat, dragging Dahyun onto her lap, arms around her waist. Then Nayeon sat down next to them and Mina and Jeongyeon opposite, while the other four took the four-seat on the other side. Without really noticing it, Dahyun’s eyes fell on Sana, sitting by the window talking to Chaeyoung. Then Nayeon’s voice cut through Dahyun’s thoughts and she looked down, answering her question about how long the ride was.

Underneath Dahyun, Momo was already dozing off, forehead leaned against the window and a lazy smile around her lips.

 

 

The trip took almost an hour. Momo had slept the entire way, arms around Dahyun’s waist. Dahyun envied that ability; just to be able to sit down and decide to sleep. Who wouldn’t love that?

The first ten minutes, Dahyun and Nayeon had spent discussing overlapping curriculum in their respective classes and then pondered about whether Momo would wake if Dahyun stuck a mini-marshmallow up her nose. Dahyun was tempted to try, but opted against it despite Nayeon’s encouragement. Mostly because Mina had kept eyeing them, as if she might try and kick them if they tried. Not that she ever would. But Dahyun certainly had gained a lot more respect for her temper in the past few days. Definitely not a boundlessly patient angel.

 

After the decision to not test the width of Momo’s nostrils, they just sat peacefully together, basking in the sun streaming through the window. Still, Dahyun occasionally caught herself gazing at Jeongyeon and Mina. Mina was playing a game on her phone and Jeongyeon kept trying to distract her, blowing air in her face and poking her cheek. And Mina would grumble at her warningly but couldn’t keep the smile off her face for very long.

When Jeongyeon started tapping the screen however, Mina huffed, waving her hand away from the screen. Jeongyeon pouted, a sight Dahyun had never expected to see and hoped never to see again, but Mina’s expression just softened at the sight. Still, she shook her head with a smile and asked Jeongyeon to go annoy Nayeon instead. For a moment Jeongyeon seemed to consider it, but settled for resting against Mina’s shoulder, trying to nap.

Dahyun let her eyes rest on them. Just as she had seen the possible devastation in Jihyo’s side, she saw in Jeongyeon’s the possibilities. Because Dahyun wanted nothing more than for Sana to look at her the way her two friends looked at each other. But then there was Jihyo again; the vision of Sana kissing someone that wasn’t Dahyun. The jealousy pulled at her stomach, rearranging the organs uncomfortably, knotting them together. She couldn’t really stop Sana from doing that. Kissing someone else. Dahyun wasn’t kissing her, so why couldn’t someone else? Dahyun’s organs tried to do a double knot around each other.

In the end Dahyun settled for trying not to think too much about Sana… Or Jihyo. Which was hard, as Jihyo’s voice was loud and Sana’s laughter cut through the buzzing conversation as if Dahyun’s ears were tuned just for that sound.

 

It wasn’t until the doors opened and they huddled out, met by the sound of seagulls and the smell of salt, that Dahyun actually managed to free herself of the worries that had crept up on her in the train.

Her arm linked with Jihyo’s, Dahyun walked until they reached the beach. Took off her shoes and let her toes dig into the warm sand, the group heading towards towards the water. They stopped about halfway down, depositing bags and towels in a pile. Some had brought bathing suits and others just settled for drying off their clothes later.

The wind played in Dahyun’s hair as she folded the shirt she had worn outside her bathing suit, and she could hear Jeongyeon and Chaeyoung joking around behind her. Then Jeongyeon came running at full speed, Chaeyoung chasing after her, first to reach the sea. Chaeyoung squealed loudly when Momo ran after them, catching Chaeyoung and almost toppling her over before they had even reached the edge of the sea. Jeongyeon’s laughter could probably be heard from a mile away, and so could Chaeyoung’s whine.

As she and Jihyo walked towards the water, Dahyun looked back and saw Sana talking to Mina, still by the pile. She was so quiet today, Sana. So calm. Not at all her giddy self. And Dahyun still hadn’t worked up the courage to ask for a birthday kiss. But it didn’t matter right now. All that mattered was that Jihyo had caught her staring and nudged her teasingly.

“Shut up.” Dahyun mumbled.

“Do it.” Jihyo whispered.

“What?”

“You know.” Jihyo made kissy lips and the sounds to match and Dahyun’s face flushed, pulling her hair in front of her cheeks to hide the red in them.

Jihyo laughed, but then squealed loudly when Dahyun decided to fight back, poking the older girl’s side and then pulling her arm, forcing Jihyo to run into the sea with her.

The water was too cold and absolutely wonderful and they ran without slowing, until they were knee-deep.

“Come on!” Jeongyeon called from further out, waving at them with both arms. She and Momo had thrown all caution away, their clothes soaked as they waited for the others. Chaeyoung wasn’t nearly as soaked, as she was currently safe from the waves on Momo’s back, legs around her waist and a grin on her face.

Looking back at land, Dahyun saw Mina and Sana walking slowly into the water, Nayeon staying behind with Tzuyu.

“It’s so cold!” Mina complained, though her smile was wide and her complaints were interrupted by giggles from both japanese girls.

Momo and Jeongyeon were still calling for them. Eventually Jeongyeon grew impatient and walked in, pulling Sana and Jihyo out by the wrists. They both protested with loud yelps, but there was no mercy and out they went.

“Wanna go?” Mina asked calmly, standing by Dahyun’s side.

For a second more Dahyun watched the giggling girls further out, and then nodded. With Mina’s hand in Dahyun’s, the two walked further out together, gasping at the cold water whenever a wave hit them where they were still dry. About ten feet further out, Sana’s scream sounded and grabbed Dahyun’s attention. Sana was running as fast as she could through the heavy water, Jeongyeon charging after her, murder in her eyes. In an obvious attempt at gaining an advantage, Sana changed direction, heading straight for Mina and Dahyun, where the water wasn’t as deep. Yet about three feet from them her eyes revealed a change of mind and she instead hurried around Mina, using the younger girl as a human shield.

“Oi, Sana-ya!” Jeongyeon’s voice thundered.

Sana merely giggled and hid her face in Mina’s back, squealing as Jeongyeon grabbed a hold of her arm to pull her from Mina.

“What did you do?” Dahyun asked with a chuckle at Sana.

“I tried to kiss her and she got really mad!” Sana squealed, turning herself and Mina as Jeongyeon’s efforts to pull her away intensified. But Dahyun didn’t pay attention anymore, her heart having dropped into her stomach. Watched as if through a veil as Mina bravely defended Sana from Jeongyeon.

 

They spent another ten minutes in the water until suddenly Momo dropped Chaeyoung into the water, seemingly forgetting her in her attempts to avoid Sana and Jihyo’s attacks, Jeongyeon wrapped around Dahyun, Mina taking the liberty to do some actual swimming. From the water Chaeyoung reemerged with loud complaints and her black hair in her face, pulling a strand from her mouth.

“What the hell?!” Chaeyoung yelped, brushing her hair back.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” Momo apologized, Sana’s arms around her waist, trying to pull her down in an act of revenge for the injustice done to Chaeyoung.

It only turned into a small amount of fighting though, as Jeongyeon noted the goosebumps on Dahyun’s arms and started pulling her in, the others following naturally.

When they arrived back on the beach, Tzuyu and Nayeon had unpacked the food and towels, and Dahyun flopped down on hers, feeling the power of the sun on her cold skin, drying her off already. On her left, Nayeon was protesting as Momo was leaning on her, her clothes and hair wet against Nayeon.

“Go away.” Nayeon scowled, repeatedly nudging Momo, who just leaned harder.

“Well, you refused to get in so I’m bringing the ocean to you.” Momo insisted.

Nayeon didn’t seem impressed in the slightest, and eventually her voice cut through the conversation, cold and tired.

“Momo, I’m serious. Go away.”

And Momo did. Moved around to sit next to Sana instead, Sana’s arm immediately around Momo’s, offering closeness and a kiss to the older girl’s forehead. Dahyun tried not to look.



 

The sun threatened to set over the water, and Jeongyeon buried her feet further into the sand. Looked at the waves arms resting on her knees, fiddling with the bracelet on her left hand. Heard the steps though muffled by the sand and saw the feet to her left. Waited.

“Hey you.” Nayeon’s voice was soft as she settled in the sand next to Jeongyeon.

“Hey…” Jeongyeon muttered.

“I really wanted to let it go.” Nayeon stared over the water, hugging her knees. “I just…”

“I get it. It was wrong; keeping it a secret. I mean considering-”

“That she’s the love of Jihyo’s life?” Nayeon asked dryly.

Jeongyeon cringed. Nodded.

“I’m not mad about that.” Nayeon shrugged. “You can’t help who you fall for.”

“Then what?” Jeongyeon asked with a frown.

“I’m not mad at all, actually. But there’s something. I’m feeling something.”

“About your own life or mine?” Jeongyeon asked.

“Oh it’s definitely about you, but it’s not anger. It’s more… hurt?”

Jeongyeon’s heart skipped a beat and she looked at her best friend. Found her looking back finally, eyes flicking between Jeongyeon’s.

“You knew.” Jeongyeon concluded, heart slowly sinking into her stomach. Of course Nayeon knew. Nayeon always knew. Had known about the girl Jeongyeon had had a crush on when they were just kids. Had known about Jiyeon long before Jeongyeon even knew and had known all the bad things about her as well without Jeongyeon ever telling it. Of course she knew.

“I was so mad.” Nayeon admitted, her voice small and fragile as it never was. “I kept trying to get you to tell me, but you never did. But the worst thing is that I was mad at myself too, for being mad at you. Because I knew why you didn’t tell me. I knew your reasons were… you being you - noble. But I was still so mad at you for not telling me. For not putting me in that spot you were trying to spare me from. But now… now I’m just hurt that you didn’t tell me one on one. That I had to find out in front of all the others.”

“I’m sorry.” Jeongyeon whispered. It was all she could do. Apologize.

“No secrets, remember?” Nayeon’s voice cracked as she took Jeongyeon’s hand, their bracelets bumping against each other.

Jeongyeon nodded.

“You’re such an idiot Yoo Jeongyeon.” Nayeon croaked.

“Yeah.” Jeongyeon sighed. “I really am.”

“But the worst thing is that you’re fucking allowed to be. You had every reason to be hesitant, every reason to spare me, to make sure Jihyo would be- wouldn’t be- damn it why did you have to fall for her?”

“So you are mad about that.”

“No I’m just- you always make things so damn complicated, I mean you just got away from Jiyeon and that thing was a wreck. And now this? You’re allowed to choose an easy life sometimes you know? Couldn’t you have tried not to fall for a friend?” Nayeon sighed.

“Trust me, I really tried.” Jeongyeon said.

“I know you did, you sappy fool.” Nayeon said the last part under her breath, rolling her eyes before she continued. “That’s how I found out. Your attempts to hide your goofy ass smile is a dead giveaway.”

Jeongyeon glared. “I’m not-”

“Yes you are exactly that obvious; to me. Chaeyoung and the others, they had no clue.” Nayeon held her hand a little tighter.

Jeongyeon didn’t protest. Knew there was no point anyways.

“No secrets Yoo Jeongyeon.” Nayeon repeated, her voice trembling.

“No secrets Im Nayeon.” Jeongyeon said, reaching over with the other hand to rub Nayeon’s arm as the older girl broke the eye-contact and looked down at her knees.

“It’s not getting better, is it?”

Nayeon shrugged. Then shook her head and gave a shivering sigh. Looked over the water again. “Can’t do anything to stop it either.”

“You’re gonna be ok.” Jeongyeon assured her.

“What do you know, you’re a goddamn idiot.” Nayeon grumbled. It wasn’t an insult. It was just her way of saying that she knew Jeongyeon would always be there for her. Even if she hadn’t allowed Nayeon to do the same.

 

Through all the good days, and especially all the bad, most of their lives, it had been them. Nayeon and Jeongyeon against the world. Sometimes against each other too but never for too long and never for real. Even when they fought it took only a word or a pleading look and arms would wrap around shoulders holding the other safe. And Jeongyeon regretted having kept this from Nayeon. Even more than having kept it from Jihyo. Because it was only now that she realized how much she had missed being able to talk about this with Nayeon. How hard it had been to breathe with the secrets between them.

With a sigh, Jeongyeon wrapped the older girl in her arms and watched the sun slowly setting. Kept Nayeon safe from her worries; even if only for a while.

 

 

The sound of the waves and crackling of the fire accompanied the night, but were rudely interrupted by Dahyun’s disgruntlement, as the first round of judgment in Mafia went on.

“I’m not mafia! I promise I’m just a citizen!” Dahyun protested, staring across the bonfire at Chaeyoung with a stubborn scowl. She bit down on her smore and felt it stick to her lip and teeth.

“Because Jeongyeon totally wouldn’t make you mafia because it’s your birthday, right?” Chaeyoung said sarcastically, the bonfire reflected in her eyes as the two friends scowled at each other from across the slowly dying flames.

“Exactly!” Dahyun insisted, shifting in the sand. To her right she felt Momo snuggle closer and wrapped an arm around her instinctively. Felt how she laid her head in Dahyun’s lap.

“That’s the worst argument I have ever heard.” Chaeyoung glowered.

“I’m serious, I’m just a citizen! Look at Mina, she’s not talking and she’s always mafia.” Dahyun counter argued.

“Wh- I’m not always mafia!” Mina protested.

“Dahyun’s kinda right.” Nayeon shrugged.

“No she’s not, babe, be on my side please.” Chaeyoung looked like Nayeon had just betrayed her in the worst way possible.

“Nah, Dahyun’s right. I say we kill Mina.” Nayeon insisted, and Dahyun received a burning glower from Chaeyoung at which she merely grinned.

 

Dahyun survived the first elimination, but Mina didn’t and like always she blamed Jeongyeon. But the older girl merely sat down behind her, chin on Mina’s shoulder.

“Night has fallen.” Jeongyeon said over the disgruntled huffs of her girlfriend.

They all did as ordered and closed their eyes, but Dahyun quickly opened hers when the mafia was called. So did Sana. Really, Dahyun should’ve known. Should’ve known that they would be paired, and sent Jeongyeon a scowl. She looked thoroughly amused. So much so that she quickly buried her face in Mina’s shoulder to avoid laughing out loud. Dahyun made a note to kick Jeongyeon’s ass as soon as the game was over, but then looked at Sana who was pointing at Chaeyoung questioningly. Dahyun shook her head. It would be too obvious. Sana shrugged and then pointed at Momo, her head in Dahyun’s lap, but Dahyun said no to that too. If Momo was either policeman or doctor, Dahyun would find out from her movements. Instead, Dahyun pointed at Tzuyu, and Sana seemed to consider for a moment. Then she nodded and quickly closed her eyes. Dahyun followed.

Patiently they waited for the doctor to be called, and even longer after that for the policeman. Dahyun knew almost with a hundred percent certainty that it had something to do with the fact that Jeongyeon was sitting so close to Mina.

“Jeongyeon! Focus!” Dahyun eventually snapped.

The sound of a giggle from Mina and a snort from Nayeon accompanied the flustered voice as Jeongyeon called out the policeman, and then thirty seconds later called for them all to wake. Announced Tzuyu’s untimely passing. Dahyun watched as the youngest sighed and leaned back on her towel, hands behind her head, looking up at the night sky. The rest, however, did not share Tzuyu’s calm.

“I vote that we eliminate Jeongyeon.” Nayeon said dryly.

“I second that.” Dahyun agreed.

“Hey, I’m the MC, you can’t eliminate me!” Jeongyeon protested.

“You promised not to be gross.” Dahyun objected, combing through Momo’s hair, the older girl seemingly half-asleep.

“That was my fault more than hers, actually.” Mina admitted sheepishly.

“Then we’ll eliminate Mina.” Jihyo shrugged.

“You can’t eliminate her, she’s already dead!” Jeongyeon insisted.

“How many votes on Mina?” Jihyo asked, completely ignoring Jeongyeon.

They all voted to eliminate Mina again and Jeongyeon looked exasperatedly at them.

“You’re all fucking morons, but fine . Night has fallen.”

Dahyun waited, and this time opened her eyes to look straight at Sana when Jeongyeon called on them. Sana’s eyes glinted as she pointed up at Jeongyeon. Dahyun barely held back a chuckle when she followed Sana’s lead. Jeongyeon on the other hand looked like she was about to shout at them.

“The Mafias are reminded that they cannot kill the MC.” She said impatiently, thunder rumbling in her voice

Jihyo laughed and so did Sana and Mina. Dahyun then pointed at Chaeyoung and Sana agreed.

Chaeyoung wasn’t dead when they all woke.

“Okay, so mafia tried to kill the doctor, right?” Jihyo asked.

“Seems that way.” Momo shrugged and turned in Dahyun’s lap to look up at her. Dahyun poked the tip of her nose and felt Momo catch her hand. Twined their fingers and kissed the back of Dahyun’s hand. If she didn’t know that Momo was perfectly aware of Dahyun’s feelings for Sana, the younger girl might’ve been a lot more flustered. But now Dahyun just chuckled and let Momo do what she wanted.

“Would you two like a room?” Sana asked from across the bonfire.

Dahyun snapped her head up to look at them, but it was Momo who answered. “You could just join us.”

“No thank you.” Sana said dryly.

“So, who do we eliminate this time?” Jihyo asked, stopping the bickering before it had even begun.

“I vote Dahyun!” Chaeyoung said, quickly taking the cue from Jihyo.

“Why me again!?” Dahyun complained.

“Because I’m the doctor and you want me off because I tried to eliminate you in the first round!” Chaeyoung deduced.

“I second that!” Sana suddenly said, arm in the air, a complete change in her mood. “I vote Dahyun!”

“Stop trying to eliminate the birthday girl!” Dahyun groaned, scowling at Sana, but she was just beaming back.

Dahyun wasn’t as lucky this time, and was eliminated.

 

As Jeongyeon led the group through another round, Dahyun watched as Sana woke when the mafias were called, waving cheekily at her before killing Momo. Then Chaeyoung woke and saved herself for good measure. Nayeon woke last, the policeman, and asked to know what Sana was. She could barely keep from laughing, but Dahyun just scowled and played with Momo’s hair. She had used some of that washable color recently to make the pink more visible again. It suited her.

“It’s morning.” Jeongyeon said, her head still on Mina’s shoulder. “And Momo, you’re dead.”

Momo mumbled her accept and shuffled again to look away from Dahyun and instead look at the bonfire.

“I vote to off Sana.” Nayeon said as soon as the accusations began.

“Why?”  Jihyo asked.

“Because it’s obvious Momo isn’t a threat and she still decided to kill her.” Nayeon argued with a shrug.

That was logic Jihyo could agree with. And thus Nayeon, Jihyo, and Chaeyoung won the first game. Mafias Nayeon and Tzuyu won the next and Mina and Chaeyoung won the third, both as citizens who somehow managed to get Jihyo eliminated in the final round. Momo fell asleep for real during the third and it became their cue to break it off and head home.

They threw sand at the embers and shook the towels, packed up empty marshmallow bags and used plastic cups. Gathered bottles. Gathered containers with leftover food. Gathered the night in memories before they left; Took pictures over the water, all nine of them fitting in one frame somehow.

 

Dahyun walked between Jihyo and Nayeon, allowing both to place more kisses on her cheek than she had ever gotten before. And she knew that they were still worried about her, but at this moment, their worries didn’t trouble her. It just made her love them even more. With their arms around them, she watched as Jeongyeon carried a sleeping Momo on her back all the way up to the station. Watched as Mina and Sana talked enthusiastically about how close they had lived to each other in Japan and all the memories they had of places they had both seen. Watched Chaeyoung waddling awkwardly with Tzuyu hanging around her neck with drooping eyes.

Even if it wasn’t extremely late, the air and the salt had left them all more tired than usual. Still, it had inarguably been one of the best days Dahyun had had in a long time.

Almost perfect.

 

 

Dahyun closed the door to the apartment and took off her shoes. It was late, almost twenty to midnight, and she was so tired. Had almost fallen asleep several times on the train, safe in Jihyo’s arms. With a sigh she placed her shoes neatly beside Sana’s and followed her into the kitchen. Leaned against the jamb and looked at the older girl.

“Did you have fun today?” Dahyun asked, her lenses dry and cheeks flushed from being outside all day.

“So much fun.” Sana said calmly, pouring a glass of water for herself. “Thank you for inviting me.”

“You’re… welcome?” Dahyun felt awkward. Her mind was unfocused and her heart racing, as if trying to counteract the enervation. She checked the clock on her phone and read through a few messages from classmates and family, the phone unused for most of the day.

“I’m gonna go to bed.” Sana said, bringing her back to the small kitchen.

“Oh. Okay.” Dahyun pressed her lips. “Me too, I guess.”

Sana nodded and walked out of the kitchen, the half-empty glass on the kitchen counter. Dahyun followed her.

 

They didn’t talk. Just stood side by side in the bathroom, an unspoken-ness between them like a wall. Dahyun finished first, but lingered. Waited for Sana. Let her walk out of the bathroom while Dahyun changed to pyjamas, and then waited until Sana opened the door to her bedroom, she in pyjamas as well, her ponytail almost undone and the glasses propped on her nose.

For a moment Sana hesitated in the door, then opened it more then crawled into bed, her arm against the far wall. Dahyun took a deep breath. Chickened out and crept under the covers. Checked her phone and put it in the charger on the nightstand and took off her glasses.

With her heart in her throat, Dahyun watched as Sana reached across her with her own glasses before settling back in her side of the bed. Almost ostentatiously far away. She was staring up at the ceiling, but Dahyun was staring at her. Stared at the way her mouth opened slightly and then closed.

Dahyun’s heart beat in her chest, trying to break free. Trying to get closer. And her pulse rushed so loud in her ears that she barely heard her own words as she said them.

“You didn’t give me a birthday kiss.” Dahyun breathed.

She had spent entire the day wondering if she’d ever have the courage to say it out loud, but now that she had, it felt like her entire body was about to implode. Felt her organs trying to rearrange themselves again, and felt like running.

For a few moments, Sana merely stared at the ceiling. Then she closed her eyes.

“No, I didn’t.”

Dahyun bit her lip and shuffled, turning onto her back. Stared at the ceiling, instead of at Sana. The fear was taking over. But then Sana spoke into the darkness with a voice so quiet that Dahyun barely recognized it.

“I didn’t think you’d want me to.”

Dahyun’s stomach jolted, instinctively turning her head to look at Sana. She was looking back. Mirrored Dahyun in her figure, though her eyes weren’t expressing the confusion Dahyun felt. Something barely visible in the darkness. Something that mirrored Dahyun’s. Fear.

“Why-” Dahyun’s throat closed up and she swallowed.  “Why wouldn’t I want you to?”

Sana’s eyes softened. Glazed over. And Dahyun watched as she pressed her lips together and then exhaled, before speaking, her voice quiet.

“You never kissed me.”

Dahyun blinked, her mouth falling slightly open. Wasn’t it Sana who hadn’t kissed Dahyun? Had been completely fine with kissing Jeongyeon and Momo and had kissed Mina’s cheek in the train too. It wasn’t the other way around. Was it?

Sana’s voice trembled as she spoke. “I told you that you could kiss me if you wanted.”

Dahyun’s mind went completely blank for a second. “I thought- I thought you were kidding.”

“I wasn’t.” Sana whispered.

“Oh.” Dahyun breathed, her heart threatening to break her ribs as she realized exactly how much of a fool she had been. Immediately her mind started its usual train of explanations to make the truth seem less obvious. But it was right there, in Sana’s eyes.

No more what if s. No more hesitation. No more fear.

Because there were four minutes to midnight.

“Sana?” Dahyun asked.

“Yeah?”

Dahyun allowed herself all of one breath before continuing. “Can I have a birthday kiss?”

Sana’s eyes flickered between Dahyun’s, but she didn’t smile. Just nodded and took a shaky breath. Shuffled closer and raised herself up on her elbow. Leaned in, aiming for Dahyun’s cheek, but the younger girl stopped her with a touch of her shoulder. Gently pushed her back and met the confusion in Sana’s eyes with a bravery she didn’t know where had come from. Had probably always been there, just never used very much.

“No.” Dahyun said. “Not- not that kind of kiss.”

“Then…” Sana’s voice died and she frowned.

“Sana.” Dahyun said firmly. “I’m asking you.”

Sana’s eyes narrowed for a second, then went big, shining as a smile spread on her lips. And then she giggled. Giggled until it turned into a laugh that ricocheted off the walls and rang in Dahyun’s ears, and her head fell onto Dahyun’s shoulder, blonde hair against the younger girl’s burning cheek. Three minutes.

“Why are you laughing?” Dahyun asked desperately. Could feel every second passing as Sana laughed.

“I don’t know-” Sana said breathlessly, overpowered by a new fit of giggles. “I’m sorry- I just. This is so-.”

“Well, it’s not like I’ve ever done this before,” Dahyun said in a fluster, “I get credit for even asking.”

Sana’s laughter died almost immediately, only a few breathy remnants of laughter as she raised her head and looked at Dahyun, confusion in her eyes.

“What do you mean you haven’t done this before?” Sana’s eyes searched Dahyun’s face.

Dahyun looked at Sana, begging her not to make her say it out loud.

“You’ve never kissed anyone?” Sana guessed.

Two minutes.

“Technically? No.” Dahyun muttered shyly.

“Technically?”

Dahyun cleared her throat and resisted the urge to hide behind her own hair, then rambled.

“Well, Tzuyu says it doesn’t count, and I guess she’s kind of right, but you accidentally kissed me once, though not on the lips - I mean, yes, but not fully but- but I don’t think you even-”

“I remember.” Sana said quietly, a small smile playing on her lips.

“Oh.”

“But Tzuyu’s right; it doesn’t count. A kiss has to be… well, it has to be…”

“Sana,” Dahyun broke her off. “My birthday is almost over.”

Sana nodded and swallowed. Knotted her brows and stared at Dahyun so intensely, that the younger girl forgot how to breathe. “You’re asking me… to kiss you. Properly. On the lips.”

“If you want to.” Dahyun breathed. Felt how her inside turned to jelly as Sana inched closer.

“I really,” Sana cupped Dahyun’s burning cheek, her eyes soft, “really want to.”

One minute.

And then Sana took the last step. Closed the distance and pressed her lips against Dahyun’s so firmly, that every grain of doubt Dahyun had ever had about Sana’s feelings, disappeared.  And even though Dahyun had suddenly forgotten everything she had learned from books and movies that you’re supposed to do when a girl kisses you, it didn’t matter. Her instinct took over. She angled her head on the pillow, moving her lips against Sana’s, feeling how the older girl inhaled sharply. Wrapping her arms around Sana’s neck, Dahyun savored in the softness of Sana’s lips and the intensity of the pressure, as if the older girl was afraid it would all go away if she let go. Tugged Sana closer and felt a smile spread on Sana’s lips that made it feel like fireworks had gone off inside of Dahyun’s heart.

Honestly, Dahyun thought she had known what to expect from a kiss, but it had never been this. She had always been focused on the technique, and never of the way it felt to be so close to someone. To have someone want you without words and for every single automatic function to go out of order to the point where Dahyun had to draw back just to catch her breath. Felt Sana’s nose against her own and her breath on Dahyun’s lips as she spoke quietly into the darkness.

 

“Happy birthday, Dahyun.”

Chapter Text

Jihyo pressed the button. Held it in. Watched how the screen turned black and swallowed the sob. Pressed her face into the pillow and let the phone fall to the floor, hearing it land with a thump on the rug. Then she let the darkness take her away.

 

 

“Happy birthday, Dahyun.”

Dahyun chuckled as Sana’s hand slid from the younger girl’s cheek, moving down to rest on waist.

“Not sure it’s my birthday anymore.” Dahyun murmured, squirming slightly, the hand on her waist making her aware of the fact that her shirt had crawled up. But Sana just tugged it back down over the hem of her pyjama pants, covering her.

“Late birthday present then.” Sana whispered shyly. “If you want me.”

“You-” Dahyun’s voice caught in her throat, “you have no idea how much I want you.”

“Yeah?” Sana’s voice was the sunshine that filled the dark room, thumb of her hand running over the fabric of Dahyun’s shirt.

“Yeah.” Dahyun confirmed. “I think I’ve been trying not to fall for you since the first night you fell asleep on me. If I’m honest.”

“Wait, really?” Sana drew back a bit, Dahyun’s hands slipping from around her neck, the younger girl settling for cupping Sana’s face. Her cheeks were warm, and Dahyun couldn’t help but feel the pride in knowing that she was the reason. Wanted to kiss Sana again, but didn’t. Just ran her thumb over Sana’s cheek.

“I think so. It’s hard to know exactly when… but you had me pretty much from the start.” Dahyun admitted.

“So it wasn’t just you being easily flustered by nature?” Sana asked, amusement in her voice.

“Well, yeah, I guess I do get… but still you were pretty much all I could think about.” Dahyun shrugged. “Channel Sana.”

Sana’s laughter filled the room, and she shook her head, a soft smile around her lips as her eyes found Dahyun’s once more. “Goof.”

“Mh, but a cute goof.” Dahyun shrugged. Moved one hand around to Sana’s back, the other tucking a hair behind Sana’s ear.

“Very cute.” Sana agreed.

Dahyun wanted nothing more than to just lean up and kiss Sana again. To lose all sense of time and place in the rush of Sana. To feel the need to get impossibly closer despite the complete lack of air between them. To feel Sana’s body against her own, and taste her on her lips.

But she didn’t. She just stared up at Sana. It was so complicated. And honestly not at all a clever move - kissing your roomie. But there wasn’t a choice anymore. She had done everything to avoid falling for Sana. Well, okay, not everything . Well, okay, she hadn’t tried very hard at all, or she wouldn’t be in Sana’s bed in the first place. But they had taken a step tonight (more like jumped off a cliff) and as long as Sana was there, it didn’t matter that it was messy.

“So… What now?” Dahyun asked quietly. Wasn’t sure what she wanted to happen, and definitely had no clue what Sana wanted.

“I don’t know.” Sana said honestly, sitting up properly, her hand still resting on Dahyun’s waist. “I mean we could just sleep and talk in the morning, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep.”

Dahyun nodded, propping herself up on her elbows, then realized Sana at this distance was only visible as a blurry dark figure, and she reached back for her glasses. Put them on and saw Sana clearly, though she wasn’t wearing hers.

“It sorta feels like the kind of situation that calls for hot chocolate.” Sana mused. “Maybe a blanket.”

Dahyun chuckled and nodded. “So no sleep?”

“You can try if you want?” Sana suggested.

“No, you’re right, hot chocolate is definitely needed.” Dahyun offered Sana her glasses and she took them with a smile.

“Isn’t that your base mood though? Chocolate?” Sana asked in an amused voice as she put on the glasses.

“I’d act offended at that accusation, but you’re right.” Dahyun shrugged, watching as Sana combed through her hair, gathering it to a ponytail, then nodded in the direction of the nightstand, at a black hair tie laying on the edge. Dahyun took it and handed it to her.

“Thanks.” Sana smiled, then stretched and crawled over Dahyun’s legs, out of the bed. Offered Dahyun her hand and tilted her head a little. Dahyun looked at her. Then at the hand. Hesitated for the smallest second but then reached out and took it, letting the older girl pull her out of bed.

On bare feet, Dahyun’s stomach jolting excitedly, they walked out of the bedroom and into the kitchen, Sana’s hand in Dahyun’s, the older girl’s grip loose and casual but still wonderfully there.

“I think I still have a few of those fancy hot chocolate on a spoon packs. Jihyo gave some to me for christmas but I never got around to them.”

“Hot chocolate on a spoon?” Sana frowned.

“Yeah- here, let me show you.” Dahyun let go of her hand, digging into the pantry for two of the total five packets. Showed them to Sana. Each see-through pack contained a thick plastic spoon, the head halfway disappeared in a block of chocolate, one a layered white and dark chocolate with nougat sprinkles and the other milk chocolate, marshmallows and cinnamon.

“Fancy.” Sana noted, taking the white chocolate one.

“They taste really good. I just haven’t had any in ages because they’re best if you share them.” Dahyun smiled shyly, then opened the fridge. “No milk…”

“We can run down and get some at the corner-store?” Sana suggested, putting her pack with the spoon on the little kitchen table.

“It’s okay, I have regular cocoa powder we can use with water.” Dahyun quickly said.

“It’d take five minutes to get milk.” Sana raised an eyebrow.

Dahyun looked down at her pyjama pants for a second, then nodded. “Okay.”

“I’ll be right back then.” Sana said, rushing out of the kitchen.

When she returned a minute later, Dahyun still stood with the spoon in her hand, but Sana was wearing sweatpants instead of shorts and Dahyun’s Kobe sweater.

“You really like that sweater, huh?” Dahyun shook her head as Sana pawed her sleeves and dug them into the pockets of her sweatpants.

“Yeah, I mean…” Sana started, her voice dying and her cheeks tingeing, a shy smile on her lips as she met Dahyun’s eyes. “It smells like you.”

Dahyun’s cheeks warmed immediately, as well as her neck and ears. “... S-smells like me.”

“Yeah.” Sana nodded, giving a tiny shrug of the shoulders. “Plus you said yesterday I look cute in it.”

Dahyun chuckled and put the spoon besides Sana’s, giving herself a few moments to gather her bravery. “You always look cute. I said that yesterday too.”

“You did.” Sana said, then walked over and wrapped her arms around Dahyun from behind, just like yesterday morning. Didn’t move though, just held her tight, her lips close to Dahyun’s ear.

“We’re gonna be waddling to the store if you keep holding on like that.” Dahyun said quietly.

“Mm.” Sana hummed, head leaning more against Dahyun’s. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Asking me.” Sana mumbled. Then she leaned around and kissed Dahyun’s cheek, staying on her skin for longer than she ever had, her slow breath hitting Dahyun’s cheek before she drew back. “I owe you so many of these.”

“You don’t owe me anything.” Dahyun turned in her arms.

“I do. One for every time I wanted to but wasn’t brave enough.”

“Then I owe you at least a month’s worth of kisses.” Dahyun admitted. “But we don’t have to keep track of anything. We can just… do whatever the heck we want.”

“Hm… well, then I want hot chocolate.” Sana grinned. “And kisses.”

“Both we can manage.” Dahyun said shyly, heart fluttering as Sana pecked her lips just for a second even though their glasses collided slightly.

 

 

“I’m sorry. I need space. I need to think... I’m- I’m so sorry.”

 

 

Dahyun adjusted on the couch, stirring the spoon around the warm milk, watching as the chocolatte slowly melted off the spoon, coloring the milk.

“I really shouldn’t be letting you stay up this late.” Sana hummed. Grabbed the pink and yellow blanket off the armrest and laid it over both their legs.

Letting me stay up…” Dahyun muttered under her breath, shaking her head.

“I’m supposed to be helping you!” Sana insisted. “You know, making sure your sleep isn’t bad.”

“Well, I’ve been sleeping just fine.” Dahyun grinned, stirring a little harder, until it made a little vortex in the middle, then disrupted it by randomly moving the spoon across it. Smiled slightly at herself.

“I noticed, you’re pretty much dead every time I try to wake you.” Sana judged the amount of chocolate left on the spoon to the color of her hot cocoa, then raised the mug to her lips and sipped.

“I like your bed. It’s soft.” Dahyun muttered, drinking a little even if it wasn’t quite strong enough yet.

“And here I thought it was my cuddles you liked.” Sana pouted.

Dahyun chuckled and stirred the spoon more.

“Well?! Isn’t this when you’re supposed to say but it is you I like, Sana ” Sana’s eyes glinted in contrast to her sulky expression.

“No, because if you know what I’m going to say, then there’s no fun in me saying it.” Dahyun teased.

Sana huffed and put down her mug, stirring the spoon, leaving the chocolate in a current. “You’re impossible, Kim Dahyun.”

“You sure?” Dahyun argued with a grin, holding onto her mug with both hands, keeping the contents from spilling over as she shifted to lean into Sana. The older girl’s arm was around her immediately.

“Mh…” Sana grumbled.

“I do like your cuddles, Sana-chan.” Dahyun drank from her hot chocolate, holding the spoon off to one side with a finger. She had had one too many spoon related eye-pains in her life to let it happen again.

“I like your cuddles too, Dahyunnie.” Sana hummed, fingers playing with the sleeve of Dahyun’s shirt distractedly.

“Good thing Chaeyoung isn’t here right now.” Dahyun mumbled, feeling the cocoa and Sana’s touches lul her slowly into a state of languor.

“Why?”

“Because I’d have to apologize for every single time I made barf-noises at her and Nayeon being overly cute.” Dahyun nuzzled closer, masking a yawn.

“Tired?” Sana asked.

“Comfy.” Dahyun hummed, a lazy grin around her lips.

“We can go back to bed? Sleep?”

“No… No, we should talk.” Dahyun emptied her hot chocolate mug and put it down. Sana was still drinking from hers.

“About us?” Sana asked.

“Yeah. I honestly have no clue what to do here.” Dahyun admitted.

“Me neither.” Sana drank from her hot chocolate. “But we could just try it out? What you said - do whatever the heck we want?”

“Date?” Dahyun suggested.

“I-I mean,” Sana’s stuttered slightly, but then her smile filled with sunshine, “If you want? I’d like that.”

Dahyun nodded. She definitely wanted that. Definitely…

 

 

“No, please don’t go. Please stay… I know I yelled, just please- please we can figure this out!”

 

 

Dahyun woke with a start, her leg buzzing uncomfortably. With a sharp inhale, she opened her eyes to daylight, looking around the living room. There was noise. Low but definitely there. The TV was running, and she was on the couch. Must’ve fallen asleep at some point. What time it was, Dahyun had no clue. But it didn’t matter. Even didn’t matter that her back and neck were sore, and that her leg was still asleep. Because Sana was right there next to her, sleeping, hand resting on Dahyun’s waist. And she was Dahyun’s. Well… No, technically they weren’t- they were dating. Whatever that meant. Wait, was Dahyun expected to take Sana out on dates and stuff? Like to fancy dinners and that sort? Probably, as it was with dating. She’d have to ask Chaeyoung for advice on that though, cause honestly she didn’t have a clue how, and Chaeyoung was always brilliant at taking Nayeon out on dates, even now.

Right now however, wasn’t about dates and worries, but only about huddling closer to Sana, hearing her mumble in her sleep. About Dahyun settling her head in the crook of Sana’s neck and let her head fill with the smell of Sana’s skin and the smell of last night’s bonfire in her hair, masking the lemon scent that normally made her mind go blank. Then a sudden realization hit her. That she was now, for the first time, completely free to lean up and kiss Sana if she wanted. To finally give in to all of the feelings she had fought ever since the first night her lips had almost touched the skin of Sana’s neck, to the time they actually did, and every night after that. She didn’t have to hold back.

Yet somehow it still made her heart beat as fast as it usually did, looking at the skin, knowing it was okay to just give in. And she did it. Angled her face and nuzzled her nose against Sana’s neck before pressing her lips to the skin. For a split-second she almost drew back, as if she had done something wrong, but the next she merely recognized the bubbling in her stomach as excitement, drawing back only to adjust before pressing another kiss to Sana’s neck. Heard her hum and felt her fingers twitching at Dahyun’s side. Dahyun felt how the chuckle in Sana’s throat vibrated against her lips and then her free arm reaching over to hold Dahyun, twining her own hands at Dahyun’s side.

“Tickles…” Sana mumbled, sleep in her voice, giggling under her breath.

Dahyun just hummed as an answer and kissed the older girl’s neck once more, this time parting her lips just a little bit. Nibbled at the skin and felt Sana stretch her neck, giving more access.

“You’re gonna have to wake me this way every morning for the rest of our lives…” Sana said lazily.

“I’d promise to, but we both know you wake before me.” Dahyun drew back, finding her eyes.

“I guess I’ll wake you that way then.” Sana shrugged, and before Dahyun knew what had happened, Sana had angled her face and pressed her lips to Dahyun’s neck. She was right. It did tickle. Tickled and tingled and made Dahyun laugh and squirm and fill with electricity. But Sana drew back too soon, the mischief in her eyes making way for an obviously sudden thought, taking space in her head.

“What?” Dahyun asked.

Sana shrugged. “I’m just- I never really thought I’d get to do that.”

“What? Kiss my neck?” Dahyun chuckled nervously.

“Anything with you. I never actually… I had given up on you.”

“You what?”

“Yeah, after Chaeyoung’s birthday I did everything I could to get over you because I didn’t want to lose you as a friend and I didn’t want to risk losing the others - I mean, I know they’re your friends first so if things got awkward I just-”

“You were afraid to lose all of us?”

“I never had friends other than Momo.” Sana whispered, her voice shivering. “I was popular but I never had anyone I could count on or felt at home with other than her, and I always just thought it was enough, but then… I know it’s not a thing but I kinda fell in friend-love with all of you.”

Dahyun stared at her. She looked impossibly small, pawing her shirt, licking her lips nervously. And Dahyun wanted to comfort her. Wanted to keep her safe and wanted to make sure she knew that they weren’t all just Dahyun’s friends, that they were Sana’s friends too. But then she said something that made Dahyun’s heart sink.

“I’ve barely slept all night, scared that if this goes wrong - I’ll lose them all.”

 

 

“I’m sorry, I think I need to… I need to figure this out on my own. I’m gonna… I’m gonna go.”

 

 

In Dahyun’s defense- No, there wasn’t any defense, this was just a shit move. That much she was very well aware of, but it didn’t change her direction. Didn’t change the fact that she had in fact just nodded and said ‘oh’ when Sana had told her about her hesitations and fears concerning them - whatever they even were. Didn’t change the fact that she had made up an excuse to meet Chaeyoung as soon as she could and had hurried out of there, heart in her throat and stomach heavy as lead.

She should’ve stayed. Should’ve listened and calmed Sana and tell her it’d be alright - that their decision last night wasn’t going to have any consequences for her friendship with the other girls. But she hadn’t stayed. Had fucked up, her mind so full of the truth she couldn’t lie about. That Sana was right. That if things turned ugly, most likely scenario would be Momo and Sana drifting away from the group again. And it wasn’t that Dahyun thought it would go ugly, but right now, walking away from the apartment and from Sana, it was just all a big fat line under the undeniable fact, that Dahyun was more than capable of screwing everything up for them.

She didn’t have a single clue how to date someone, much less be in an actual relationship. And what if it just turned ugly like Jeongyeon and Jiyeon? She knew perfectly well that crushing on your roommate was pretty much the biggest no go in college life. But downright falling in love with her? Kissing her? That was just... So damn stupid. Even if this - what she was doing right now, was definitely worse.

Still, she couldn’t stop her feet as they walked the last few blocks towards Chaeyoung’s place. And she knew. Trust that she knew very well what kind of a verbal can of whoopass Chaeyoung was gonna open when Dahyun told her this. But she needed some perspective. Needed someone who would yell but also take her concerns seriously and provide solid advice, judging but not letting it change anything between them. And that description only fit on Chaeyoung.

It felt so weird, so wrong, so completely misplaced to walk towards a place in the hopes that someone was gonna kick you back where you came from. But it didn’t change facts.

 

The walk seemed longer somehow, even if she was walking faster than she ever had. Had to stop herself from running. As if that wasn’t what she was doing. Just with one foot still on the ground.

 

As she reached the tall building, Dahyun hesitated. Considered walking away and never telling Chaeyoung any of this. Still, she walked right up to the front door, about to press the button just when a girl opened it from the inside, and Dahyun took the opportunity. Walked inside and up to the third floor. As she knocked, she became aware of the fact that it wasn’t even nine in the morning and that she hadn’t texted ahead of time. Still, even if nobody was home, she had to take the chance.

 

But someone was home.

 

“Nayeon? What-”

 

 

“You can’t be serious! You can’t seriously be considering- you can’t just throw it all away!”

 

 

She really didn’t want to do this. Really wished she could’ve just solved it on her own. But she had to admit now, that it just wouldn’t do. She had to tell someone. One more text, one more call, and she was going to cave. To give in. And she didn’t want to. Well, that wasn’t the truth. She wanted nothing more than to give in, but she shouldn’t. Because it would never be what she wanted.

A sigh built all the way from Tzuyu’s stomach and fell from her lips as she turned around the corner. But her path was rudely blocked halfway through a step and she stepped back to avoid a collision. But it wasn’t someone walking the opposite direction, but rather someone who seemed to have stopped dead in her tracks in the same direction as Tzuyu.

“Wh- Chaeyoung?”

The shorter girl turned with a start and looked up, her eyes unfocused and her brows knotted.

“Tzuyu.” Chaeyoung said, a fragility in her voice that she was clearly trying to mask. “Hi.”

“Hi.” Tzuyu said, feeling the frown form on her face. “Are you okay?”

“What? Oh, yeah, I’m good. Just on my way to Dahyun’s place.” Chaeyoung gave a weak smile. “Actually, I should get going.”

Tzuyu considered for a moment to just let it slide. To go back home and stare at her phone, at the conversation that had led her on this path in the first place.

“... I was actually on my way there too.”

“Oh?” Chaeyoung’s eyes wavered and she scratched over the sleeve of her shirt. Adjusted the neck.

“Chaeyoung, are you sure you’re okay?” Tzuyu pressed. Knew already that she wasn’t but if it was only Dahyun who could do something in this situation, that was fair too. Wasn’t like Tzuyu had known Chaeyoung - or any of them - for very long.

“I’m-” Chaeyoung started, but froze in the middle of a shrug, her eyes searching Tzuyu’s face.

And when she spoke again, her words hit like a sudden gust, revealing the storm around them.

 

 

Somehow the streets seemed lonely despite the crowd, and Jihyo sighed. Wanted to go back to bed but her feet refused to carry her that way. Knew where they wanted to go and didn’t have enough strength in her to stop herself. Maybe if they could just talk it out? But would she have the courage to do so? Would she even be there?

 

 

“Nayeon? What-” Dahyun frowned as Nayeon opened the door slightly, her eyes red, clenching the door with both hands.

“Dahyun? Oh. Hi. C-Chaeyoung isn’t home...” Her lip trembled.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing. Nothing. What did you want?” She smiled. It didn’t reach her eyes.

“I uh… I just needed to talk to Chaeyoung.” Dahyun hesitated. Something was definitely wrong. “Are you sure you’re ok?”

“Of course. But it’s not a good time right now, I’m sorry, Dahyun.” Nayeon’s voice was high pitched.

Did Nayeon really think for a second that Dahyun believed her, looking like that? Did she think Dahyun was stupid? Whatever it was, she was absolutely terrible at hiding it. Like she was breaking right in front of Dahyun’s eyes. And Dahyun wanted to overstep. Wanted to pass every invisible barrier between the two of them, to take Nayeon in her arms. Make her better. Make it go away. Whatever it is that was causing her to look like this. But she had never passed that barrier before. It had always only been Nayeon caring for Dahyun. Nayeon rarely allowed anyone in. Never Dahyun.

“Nayeon-” Dahyun started.

“I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Nayeon said, her voice still high pitched, a fake smile plastered on her face.

Dahyun wished that Nayeon would allow her. Would reach out and ask for Dahyun’s arms. But she didn’t. Didn’t reach out, merely grasping the edge of the door tighter, her eyes glazing over. Then she shut the door in Dahyun’s face and the lock clicked.

 

Dahyun stood perplexed and stared at the white door. The hell? It was barely nine in the morning and Nayeon was clearly upset. But not only that. It was barely nine and Chaeyoung was up, and out of the apartment, after getting home at around midnight? When in the world had that ever happened before? That younger girl only ever woke early if she had classes. But it was Sunday. Snuggle day. Pizza for breakfast day.

For a moment Dahyun considered her options. If Chaeyoung wasn’t here… then where the hell was she? Should Dahyun chase after her? Try to find her? She was Chaeyoung’s best friend after all, and something was clearly wrong. Very wrong. Yet she couldn’t take her eyes off the white door. Jeongyeon would surely be better at handling this. Definitely. It just wasn’t Jeongyeon who was here. It was Dahyun. And as much as she was Chaeyoung’s best friend, this was about Nayeon. About the way her voice cracked, the redness in her eyes and around her nose. The salt remnants on her jawline. Her swollen lips.

 

Could Dahyun overstep? Should she? Maybe she should just call Jeongyeon, even if Nayeon would probably hate her for it.

But just as she considered it, she heard it.

A sob.

Okay; to hell with boundaries and bonds and best friends and bubbles.

“Nayeon!” Dahyun said with as much force as she could muster without shouting, knocking insistently on the door.

No answer.

Dahyun hissed and knocked harder. “Nayeon! Let me in!”

“I’m fine.” Nayeon said through the door, her voice breaking. She was obviously standing right on the other side of it.

“Yeah, right.” Dahyun snorted and knocked again. “ Let me in.

“No.” Nayeon said.

“Why not?” Dahyun asked impatiently. “Nayeon, open the door.”

“Just go away.” Nayeon’s voice was barely audible anymore. “Please.”

Dahyun felt her stomach turn at the fragility in Nayeon’s voice, but she had learned a thing or two in her years of knowing Nayeon. There was only one thing that worked.

“You have exactly three seconds to open the door or I’m calling Jeongyeon.”

“You wouldn’t.”

“I will. Nayeon, I swear to god if you don’t let me in, I will.” Dahyun threatened.

“I hate you.” Nayeon’s voice shook worse than ever.

“No you don’t.” Dahyun said firmly. Knew that she had broken through, finally.

“No I don’t.” Nayeon sighed, her voice so low that Dahyun might’ve just imagined it.

Then without a warning, the door was unlocked and opened, and Dahyun barely had time to register the room before Nayeon fell into her arms.

“What the-” Dahyun gasped as all the air was blown out of her, trying to somehow wrap the sobbing girl in her arms.

 

Nayeon seemed to have broken completely, grasping at Dahyun’s shirt, wet tears falling helplessly onto Dahyun’s neck. Her body shook with every sob, and Dahyun could do nothing but attempt to close the door and slide to the floor without letting Nayeon fall. With every gram of the older girl’s body weight against her, and Nayeon’s knees giving way under her, moving was not an option. So really, this was the most she could do.

“It’s okay.” Dahyun tried, letting her own problems be cast aside.

Honestly, she was well aware that everything was probably as far from okay as they could be, but Nayeon at least didn’t object. Didn’t reject her. Just sobbed, clinging onto Dahyun for dear life.

“You’re okay.” Dahyun whispered, working a hand around to tug Nayeon’s hair behind her ear.

Nayeon shook her head, her cries turning inaudible from lack of breath. New tears still fell onto Dahyun’s neck and Nayeon’s shoulders shook horribly.

“You’re okay.” Dahyun said again. It was all she could think of doing. Remembered how Mina had held her own face and made her say it with her, but Nayeon was clinging so hard that it was completely impossible to get through to her.

“Nayeon…” Dahyun tried.

Nayeon shook her head again. And Dahyun nodded. Wrapped both arms around the older girl again and hugged her as tight as she could. Softly shushed her and rocked her ever so slowly. But nothing worked. She wasn’t enough. Wasn’t able to calm Nayeon down, much less make it hurt less. Whatever was hurting. Didn’t have a single clue how to help, and knew that Nayeon wouldn’t be able to to verbalize her needs. But Dahyun had to keep going.

“Nayeon.” Dahyun tried again, without really knowing what she wanted to say afterwards. But it didn’t matter. Because one single syllable from Nayeon’s lips made Dahyun know exactly what she needed. And it wasn’t Dahyun.

“Jeong-”

Nayeon’s voice broke halfway through, but it was enough.

But Dahyun wasn’t. Wasn’t enough. Couldn’t stop Nayeon from crying. Couldn’t make anything better.

 

It felt like something broke inside of Dahyun, and in that moment she was sure that it was something that wouldn’t ever heal. She wasn’t good enough. Wasn’t able to help. Couldn’t make a difference. Was always the one who needed others. But who needed her? And Dahyun hated that this was her first thought. That she was such a small person that she worried more about being good enough than being there for Nayeon. Because of course she needed Jeongyeon. They had been friends longer than any other member of their little group. And Jeongyeon had always been the best person to handle Nayeon, had always known what buttons to push and when to stop, how to make her laugh and how to make her smile even when she was crying.

And Dahyun didn’t.

She had never been able to get under Nayeon’s skin, see her soul. And the same with Jeongyeon. There was a part of those two reserved for only each other. And that had to be okay. Dahyun had to accept that. But still... Dahyun just wanted to be enough for once.

Now, however, wasn’t the time to dwell on that, because Nayeon was still sobbing into her neck, and Dahyun still had no clue what was going on.

 

Swallowing her hurt and all her bubbling confliction, Dahyun dug out her phone and called Jeongyeon.

 

“Hello?” Mina’s gentle voice answered.

“Mina… I-is Jeongyeon there?” Dahyun asked, trying her best to keep her voice under control.

“Dahyun? Are you ok?” The smile in Mina’s voice had faded and replaced by worry.

“No, I mean, yes, I’m fine. It’s Nayeon. I just- Is Jeongyeon there?” Dahyun asked, trying her best to remember to stroke Nayeon’s back, the older girl’s sobs somehow worsening all of a sudden.

“She’s in the shower.”

“Oh- I...” Dahyun didn’t know what to say to that.

“Is someone crying?” Mina asked through the phone.

“Y-yeah.” Dahyun stuttered, Nayeon’s tears trickling down her skin, soaking the neck of Dahyun’s shirt. But her own cheeks were wet too. Hadn’t even noticed the tears.

“I’ll get Jeongyeon, hold on.”

Dahyun whimpered her thanks. Then there were steps. The sound of a door being opened. And Dahyun heard Mina’s voice call Jeongyeon’s name. A faucet being turned off. Then Mina’s muffled voice spoke, and Dahyun was almost sure she heard her own and Nayeon’s names despite Mina’s obvious hand over the microphone.

“Dahyun?” Jeongyeon’s voice sounded clearly through the phone. “What’s wrong?”

“Nayeon. It’s Nayeon. She won’t stop crying. I can’t- I can’t get her to stop crying. She’s asking for you.” Dahyun gritted her teeth, hearing the spite in her own voice. Hating herself for it.

“Shit. Do you know what happened?”

“I don’t know. I-” Dahyun’s voice cracked. “I don’t know what to do, I just found her like this and I-I can’t get her to stop crying.”

“Chaeyoung. She’s not there, is she?”

“No- I… Jeongyeon, what’s going on?” Dahyun felt completely lost. Hopeless and left in the dark. If something was wrong with Chaeyoung- god, if something was wrong with Chaeyoung, then why didn’t Dahyun know about it? Had Chaeyoung tried to spare Dahyun, like Dahyun had spared Chaeyoung about her nightmares?

“It’s- I’m on my way.” Jeongyeon just said.

“Thank you.” Dahyun heard the tremble in her own voice. Couldn’t blink away the tears. Felt useless.

“Dahyun?”

“Yes?”

“What about you? Are you okay?”

Dahyun stifled a sob. Even in all this mess with Nayeon, Jeongyeon still took the time to worry about her.

“Yes.” Dahyun whispered.

“I’m at Mina’s, so I’m half an hour out, but I’ll hurry.”

“Thank you.” Dahyun whimpered. Hung up. It was everything she could, just to try to stop crying herself, much less getting Nayeon to stop crying.

 

 

“I don’t know. I don’t know what to do here. I love you, you know I do, but I can’t just- I need to take it seriously.”

 

 

It wasn’t the direction Chaeyoung had counted on taking when she had left the apartment. Had planned on finally fessing up to Dahyun and get her butt kicked back to Nayeon like she wanted. But it just hadn’t turned out that way, and honestly, there was something about Tzuyu that made it easy - safe even, to confide.

“I saw her from my bus one day. Nayeon, I mean.” Chaeyoung looked down at the sidewalk, letting Tzuyu lead them, unaware of the direction. Didn’t care much.

“She was heading into the main building in the arts and music department at uni, but I got a glimpse of her and I just couldn’t get her out of my head.”

“Love at first sight?”

“No, she had a big ass stain on her shirt.” Chaeyoung sniggered, but her face fell almost immediately, a tug of the stomach reminding her of why she was currently heading further and further away from Nayeon.

 

Chaeyoung could still see it, as if it was just happening now. Nayeon’s hurried steps, the cute black plain skirt and the oversize t-shirt with some american rock band logo that Chaeyoung didn’t recognize at the time. The coffee cup in her hand and the coffee stain down her front. The way her nose scrunched and her smile when she recognized her classmate whom Chaeyoung later learned to have been Jihyo.

“The next time I saw her I hopped off the bus. Missed my class and snuck into one of the college lessons. And I had meant to watch her, find out who she was, but I ended up getting really interested in the lesson.”

“Is that why you chose it as your major?”

“Pretty much.” Chaeyoung nodded. “Jihyo saw me after the lesson. That girl knows everyone apparently. She asked if I was a high school student, and I admitted that I was. But then when Nayeon showed up next to her I completely failed.”

“How so?”

“I got really flustered and I think I asked how she got the stain off her shirt, even though she was wearing a completely different outfit.” Chaeyoung admitted shyly. “She looked so confused and I started rambling and I’m pretty sure she thought I was insane.”

“But you turned it around.”

“Actually, it was Jihyo. I was checking the time on my phone, because I knew I was late to second period, having already skipped first, and she saw my phone picture. Recognized Dahyun.” Chaeyoung explained.

“She knew Dahyun?” Tzuyu asked, and stopped in her tracks in front of a building Chaeyoung recognized as the younger girl’s dorm. Chaeyoung looked at her, but Tzuyu merely offered her hand, and Chaeyoung took it. Let herself be led into the building.

“They’d met once through Jeongyeon. Jihyo said they’d met when Jihyo was picking Jeongyeon up from a shift. Apparently they had a concert to get to some while away and drove there overnight, after Jeongyeon’s closing shift, to save money.”

Tzuyu nodded, leading Chaeyoung up the stairs. Then up another flight. “So it was love at first sight then.”

“I don’t think so. I think I just thought she was really beautiful and it freaked me out.”

Tzuyu nodded again.

“I fell for her quite quickly though. I don’t really remember how it happened but suddenly Dahyun and I were a part of the group, and it just escalated.” Chaeyoung smiled, even though she was losing her breath a little from the third flight of stairs.

“So you were together before you got out of high school?” Tzuyu asked.

“We got together a few days after I turned eighteen.” Chaeyoung nodded. “Where are we going?”

“The roof.” Tzuyu said calmly.

“The roof?” Chaeyoung asked.

“The roof.” Tzuyu confirmed. Chaeyoung frowned, but in Tzuyu’s face was only trust-invoking peace. And Chaeyoung let the younger girl lead her up and out into the air, overlooking the city. Felt the breeze blow through her, softly inciting the words from her.

 

“I knew she would never date me before I turned eighteen. And I didn’t see her on my birthday or I would’ve asked her out there, but the minute I did see her, I asked her on a date. Took her to a movie. It was a complete failure, and we were broke and it was pouring down when we finally got out, and I was sure it couldn’t get any worse. That I had completely lost any chance of impressing her. But even as we stood outside, getting completely soaked by the rain and I was trying to make the conversation drag out so she wouldn’t just leave, she kissed me. Told me I didn’t have to try so hard. And we ended up going to her place. She let me shower and get warm, let me borrow her clothes and sleep on her couch. My parents were absolutely pissed, but I didn’t really care. I was ride or die for her from that day, honestly.” Chaeyoung breathed. Then felt the tears welling up in her eyes. “I love her… More than I ever thought I would love anyone. I need you to understand; I never meant for any of this to happen.”

 

 

“What do you mean? Chaeyoung I don’t understand. Because it sounds to me like you’re considering it - that you’re actually considering… Are you?”

 

 

“Nayeon, please, tell me what’s wrong?” Dahyun tried, but Nayeon just sobbed harder.

They had been sitting on the floor of Nayeon’s apartment for the better part of ten minutes, but nothing was getting better. Maybe she should have never pushed. Maybe she should’ve just stayed the hell away.

It was embarrassing. That she couldn’t do anything. That the tears were still trickling down her cheeks into Nayeon’s hair. Because what kind of tears were they? Tears because her own pride was hurt, because she couldn’t be enough? Tears because she had never bothered getting close to Nayeon? Or tears because she too was scared? Not just scared for whatever was up with Nayeon, but for what was going to happen with Sana. Scared of the consequences. Scared of her own reactions. Even now, with her sobbing friend in her arms, she still couldn’t let go of her own problems, and it made her stomach turn. Was she really that selfish? That pathetic? Probably.

 

But what good was pathetic when Nayeon was still crying and Jeongyeon was at least twenty minutes away? There was no use in being mad at herself, because Nayeon was hurt. And even if Dahyun wasn’t good enough, she could still do something. But what? Just hold her here? It hadn’t helped so far, and though her instinct was to just hold Nayeon tight and hope it calmed her, it wasn’t working at all.

There was another idea simmering in her head, even if it seemed almost ridiculous. It was just something she had seen in a movie once. Had afterwards read a little about how water affected the mind. But would it work? Did she even have it in her to do it? Just getting Nayeon on her feet seemed impossible, and there was no way she could carry the older girl. But she had to try something. Couldn’t just sit here for another twenty minutes.

 

With all the strength she could muster, Dahyun moved, feeling Nayeon cling to her. Tried to stand, knees threatening to give in immediately.

“Nayeon.” Dahyun whispered. Just to get Nayeon to do something. And miraculously, astoundingly, felt a bit of Nayeon’s weight lift. Knew that she was supporting at least some of her own weight.

“One step at a time.” Dahyun said, trying not to let her voice crack. “You’re okay.”

Nayeon didn’t answer, but maybe there was a sigh between the sobs. Somewhere. Dahyun liked to think there were. Tryingly, Dahyun took a step, and Nayeon did too. Slowly, Dahyun steered them into the bathroom, dragging the stumbling, trembling Nayeon along.

 

“I’m going to turn on the shower and put you under it.” Dahyun said. Mostly as a warning for the older girl.

Nayeon didn’t object, didn’t comment, just hung around Dahyun’s neck in the middle of the little bathroom.

“I’m going to take your phone.” Dahyun warned before reaching into Nayeon’s pocket, finding the phone, retrieving her own afterwards. Quickly sent a text to Jeongyeon telling her to just let herself in when she came. Jeongyeon had had the extra key since Nayeon and Chaeyoung moved into the apartment a few months ago.

“I’m turning on the water now.” Dahyun said.

Briefly, she wondered if she should take off Nayeon’s clothes first, but Nayeon clung to her so tight that it was impossible. Instead she just turned them around so Dahyun stood as a barrier between Nayeon and the shower head. Then she reached behind and turned the faucet. Immediately her body jolted in objection as the cold water hit her and she shielded Nayeon from it. It took everything for her to keep still as the cold water soaked her hair and back, waiting for the water to heat enough. Quickly however, the water got too hot, and she reached back awkwardly, blindly adjusting the temperature.

“I’m going to sit you down now.” Dahyun warned. She had halfway expected questions, protests, anything. But Nayeon just nodded, clinging tighter as Dahyun dragged them both further under the showerhead, so it eventually hit Nayeon as well.

 

Dahyun’s thighs objected as she tried to slowly squat to gently sit Nayeon down, but she ignored the pain. Just felt her jeans soak through as she sat down on the wet floor. With difficulty, she bustled them until Nayeon was situated in her lap, the younger girl leaned against the wall under the water tap.

 

At first there was absolutely no change. Nayeon still seemed completely inconsolable. But then, little by little, it worked. And finally, Nayeon gave a shuddering sigh, and her breathing calmed. Little by little, the older girl relaxed, the water soaking them to the bone, washing the salt from their faces.

 

 

“You really want me to say it?” Chaeyoung asked, eyes seeking mercy as they found Tzuyu’s.

“I’m not asking anything of you.” Tzuyu insisted.

Chaeyoung nodded. She knew it was true. It wasn’t Tzuyu claiming the truth from her lips. It was the place. The concrete and the air and the white clouds. It asked for her utmost trust, giving nothing in return, and Chaeyoung found that the act of giving in brought relief to her soul as the words fell from her lips so easily that she realized they must’ve been begging to be let out all this time.

 

“I fell for Momo.”

 

Chapter Text

Chaeyoung sighed. Nodded. And then she felt it. How her body started to shake and her throat closed up. The inability to breathe and the tears that trickled mercilessly down her hot cheeks. All morning she had been calm. Collected. Through all Nayeon’s desperate yelling and crying, through the noise of her own mind and the buzz of the city as she walked through it. But now, in the quiet, she finally let her mind stop thinking and let her heart feel. Even if every second threatened to end her.

 

 

The water was cool on Nayeon’s burning skin, but she barely registered it. Wasn’t aware how long they had been sitting there, and only barely registered that it was Dahyun’s arms around her, Dahyun’s wet hair against her cheek. Just felt empty and confused. Never had she felt this much and this little at the same time. Like the constant breaking of plunging waves followed by the water drawing back in mercy - only for a new wave to rush over her. Constantly glimpsing unpredictable consequences in a chaos of lines and color that never really surmounted to anything but the sound of Chaeyoung’s laughter and the feeling of rain against her face and Chaeyoung’s wet lips. The feeling of a hand on her hip guiding her through a dance.

Another wave broke, and Nayeon buried her face, her body too tired to react but her mind trying to flee. And Dahyun read her somehow, wrapping her tiny arms tighter around the older girl. A feat, Nayeon would never since forget and would always love Dahyun for.

Nayeon was deaf and blind and numb in Dahyun’s arms, but it didn’t matter. She didn’t matter. Was nothing without Chaeyoung. Alone in the emptiness of her absence.

“I didn’t know what to do.” Dahyun’s voice said distantly, though Nayeon could feel her vocal cords vibrating, cheek pressed against the younger girl’s neck. And she was about to answer that it was okay, but she couldn’t get the words out.

“You’re doing well.” Another voice said, barely audible over the sound of the shower. A voice Nayeon recognized as if in a dream. It hadn’t been Nayeon that Dahyun had been talking to. It was Jeongyeon.

“I just couldn’t get her to stop crying.” Dahyun admitted, and Nayeon noticed that her voice broke. Sounded like it did those nights where she would lie in Nayeon’s arms, endless apologies falling from her lips and tears dripping onto Nayeon’s pajama pants.

“It’s okay. It’s a good idea.” Jeongyeon’s voice sounded again. Closer this time.

Another wave. What wouldn’t Jeongyeon demand of Nayeon? How could Nayeon ever live up to whatever they wanted from her. But she would have to. If they made her tell them, she would have to. Because it had been Nayeon who had asked for Jeongyeon. She who had opened the door and thrown herself and all of her problems at Dahyun. She owed them an explanation, but merely the thought made her want to cry and scream and throw up. But her body was void of energy. Empty.

A hand touched Nayeon’s arm. Softly. Undemanding. And Nayeon still flinched. But then it was gone and instead the water got warmer.

“I’ll make some food.” Jeongyeon’s voice said. Then the stream of water was interrupted and a shadow fell over them. Nayeon shivered and drew back enough to see Jeongyeon’s lips pressed to the top of Dahyun’s head, and the redness in Dahyun’s eyes. It was too much. All too much. And Nayeon closed her eyes again. Let her head empty of thought, waiting for the next wave. Felt lips on her temple and the weak sob that built through her throat and slipped past her, a last heaving effort from her body before it gave in and she leaned limply against Dahyun, completely at the mercy of her friend.

“What should I do about her?” Dahyun asked.

“That. Exactly what you did?” Jeongyeon’s voice sounded more distant now.

Nayeon felt how Dahyun nodded and then her arms once more tightening their hold on the older girl. Nayeon’s heart beat right for the first time in weeks.

“Nayeon?” Dahyun asked tentatively.

Nayeon tried to talk, to acknowledge her, but it was no more than a mumble.

“Jeongyeon is here.”

Another mumble.

“Do you want to talk to her?”

Nayeon shook her head ever so slightly, fingers fumbling to grasp at something, anything, and found the wet fabric of Dahyun’s shirt, making fists around it. She couldn’t yet stand to own up to her best friend. As if it made everything too real somehow. And Nayeon understood in that moment why Jeongyeon had kept pushing off the moment where she had told Nayeon about her relationship to Mina. Because telling Nayeon more than anyone meant owning up to the mistake it had been to hide the relationship in the first place. Because beneath the tangled hands and the beads around their wrists there was a soul-baring mercilessness that both of them needed from each other and both feared. And it was this that bound them together no matter what.

“Do you want to talk to me?” Dahyun asked, softly carrying Nayeon back to the bathroom, to the shower and to her arms.

Nayeon shrugged on reflex but then shuddered and huddled closer, whispering into Dahyun’s wet skin.

“We screwed it up…”

“We’re going to figure this out.” Dahyun promised. Didn’t demand an elaboration but merely kept Nayeon safe.

Then Jeongyeoon’s voice was back, louder this time. But Nayeon still couldn’t acknowledge her.

“Do you want food now or later?” Jeongyeon asked.

“... Now. I think it’s time to get out of the shower.”

Nayeon tightened her grip on Dahyun. She wasn’t ready. Didn’t want to face reality yet.

“You’re okay, it’s okay. We’re just going to get you dry and warmed up, okay?”

Nayeon whimpered helplessly. Wanted to stay here.

“Jeongyeon?” Dahyun asked, turning her head in the direction of the door. Nayeon clung to her.

“Yeah?”

“We need dry clothes.”

“Oh, right. I’ll get some.”

Footsteps revealed that Jeongyeon had left once more, and again there was just the sound of Dahyun’s comforting hushes and the rush of the water from the shower head.

“Thank you.” Dahyun said a few moments later and once more there were footsteps. Nayeon knew that Jeongyeon had been there with clothes. Wondered if she would ever be strong enough to face Jeongyeon.

“I’m going to turn off the water.” Dahyun warned. As if she was scared that Nayeon would break at any sudden movements, and honestly, there was a risk that she would. Had absolutely no strength left in her body. But she nodded. Felt Dahyun stretching and then the force of the water lessen and disappear, only a few droplets landing on Nayeon’s head.

“Can you stand?” Dahyun asked. Nayeon nodded once more, but kept clinging to Dahyun for a moment. Then on trembling legs, using the wall and Dahyun’s shoulder for support, Nayeon stood up. For what felt like an eternity she stood there, wondering when she would fall apart, until Dahyun’s arms were once more around her.

“Good. You’re doing good.” Dahyun praised, and Nayeon could do nothing but nod and hope that there was just a tiny ounce of truth to the words.

For a moment, they just stood there, but then Dahyun’s hands found the hem of Nayeon’s shirt and tugged gently. Instinctively Nayeon took a step back, her entire body protesting to the movement. Dahyun immediately retreated her hand, an apologetic look in her eyes as Nayeon searched them in confusion.

“I’m sorry.” Dahyun hurriedly said. “You- you need to change. You can’t stay in the wet clothes, you’ll just get sick.”

Nayeon nodded, swallowing once. Felt her body fall back, emptiness rushing over her again.

“I can turn around or leave if you want?”

“No, it’s-” Nayeon’s voice broke and she shuddered. Felt her knees buckle and grabbed Dahyun’s arm for support. “You can help.”

“Okay.” Dahyun said, though she looked like she found it awkward. Nayeon did too. But there was no way Nayeon could muster the energy to get out of the clothes by herself. Could barely stand. But with the help of Dahyun, Nayeon got the shirt over her head. The air hit Nayeon’s clammy skin, and she shuddered, but couldn’t move. Could just watch in a haze as Dahyun found the zipper in the side of Nayeon’s skirt and pulled it down. How she hesitated before tugging it down, the black fabric falling around Nayeon’s feet.

It was almost too much for Dahyun to see Nayeon stand there, shivering in the middle of the bathroom, clad only in underwear, soul bared.

“Dahyun?” Nayeon asked as Dahyun turned to grab a towel, wrapping it around Nayeon’s shoulders.

“Mh?” Dahyun asked, rubbing Nayeon’s arms and shoulders dry.

Nayeon looked at her for a moment. Saw the goosebumps on her arms and the red hair sticking to her face. The redness in her eyes.

“Thank you.” Nayeon breathed.

Dahyun stopped mid-motion, hands on Nayeon’s arms, holding the towel around her. Then she nodded and looked down at the floor, a smile on her face.

“Is this how it feels?” Dahyun asked quietly.

“Huh?”

“Your bubble?” Dahyun looked back up. “I always wanted to know how it felt.”

Nayeon couldn’t help it. Couldn’t stop the smile that tugged at her lips. And even if emptiness took over a mere second later, the memory would never fade. And maybe that’s what happiness is sometimes. A glimpse in the darkness, even if it never grows beyond that.

Little by little Dahyun dried Nayeon’s limbs, her back and her face. Wrapped a different towel around the long red hair and set it, preventing it from dripping down her back.

Then Dahyun hesitated, fiddling with the towel.

“Y-your bra. It’s- I’m gonna turn around and- uh.” Dahyun pointed to the dry shirt and underwear on the top of the hamper.

Nayeon looked with a frown as Dahyun turned her back on the older girl. How she shifted her footing and tugged at the neck of her own drenched shirt.

It wasn’t that Nayeon didn’t want to. But she just didn’t know how. Had lost the ability to get her body to connect to her mind, and just stood. Tried to at least twitch her finger but it didn’t get to more than that. Couldn’t even say Dahyun’s name to ask for help. And the feeling of incompetence threatened to knock the air from Nayeon’s lungs. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, she couldn’t even reach behind herself and unclip a damn bra? Was she nothing but a shell without Chaeyoung? How would she even manage?

“Nayeon?” Dahyun asked, when nothing happened.

“I-” Nayeon choked on her words. Felt the threatening waves in the horizon and wished that she could just keep feeling nothing. That she could stop thinking about Momo, about Chaeyoung, about anything. That she could just stay in the quiet of Dahyun’s arms, where it was safe. But there was nowhere warm. Nowhere safe.

“H-help.” Nayeon whispered. Let the wave crash over her and pull her down. Felt fresh tears burn her tired eyes and pool under her chin. Felt Dahyun’s hands on her arms, holding her up without hugging her.

“You’re ok.” Dahyun shushed. Quickly reached behind Nayeon and freed her of the soaked bra and the underwear as well. Covered her with the blanket and hugged her around it, so Nayeon remained dry and safe. Rubbed over her back and took off the towel wrapped around the red hair, letting it fall damp down Nayeon’s back. Ran her hand through Nayeon’s hair and pulled her to the surface with a force and a love that made Nayeon see clearly and made her calm despite the gravity of her realization.

“We got in a fight this morning.” Nayeon started, talking to the wall behind Dahyun. “Kind of. I hadn’t slept. At all. I kept seeing them in my head, being all cuddly and cute. And I… I guess it’s been coming for a while. We’ve been so busy, we’ve barely spent a minute not talking about school, so it makes sense that she-. The only time we actually got to be girlfriends was whenever we were all together. And I started noticing that she forgot to kiss me goodnight. And that she was always so happy when she came home from your movie nights. And they hung out here a lot too, and don’t get me wrong, I love having her here it’s just- I never imagined that I would- that she would- that we- she’s just been here a lot and-”

“She-. Nayeon… You’re talking about Momo aren’t you?”

Nayeon jolted at the name, but nodded. Felt like she was about to fall from the cliff but kept steady. “She’s been helping me with my dance and basically just… hanging around a lot. But Chaeyoung, she- I’ve been so scared. That she was starting to slip away from me, even before you brought Momo and Sana into the picture and- and then yesterday.”

Nayeon heard the shivering sigh from Dahyun, as if she was preparing herself for the inevitable. And Nayeon knew the delicacy of the situation. That Nayeon was just now telling something that could change the entire way Dahyun thought about her best friend, if she didn’t do it right. But Nayeon didn’t have to say it. Just felt Dahyun nod and hush her. As if she didn’t want to hear the truth. Or maybe just wanted to spare Nayeon the pain of saying it.

But she said it anyway.

“I confronted her because I was terrified that she had fallen for Momo.”

“You don’t have to.” Dahyun tried.

“Yes I do.” Nayeon whispered. “Because I was right…”

Dahyun’s arms were stronger around Nayeon’s towel-clad body, and it was good they were, because Nayeon felt one last wave about to hit, threatening to wash away the pieces of her heart on it’s withdraw. Yet she kept talking.

“I got… so hurt. I’m not really sure what happened, it was over in no time, and then she was just gone? But the worst part is that I couldn’t even be mad at her for falling for Momo, I mean- I get it, it’s- it’s… But I took it out on her. I didn’t know what else to do, and I know it’s horrible of me- I just felt so hurt and alone and-”

“You’re not horrible.”

“I’m just so scared of losing her.”

“You love her. It’s natural.”

“But that’s the thing… I’m-” Nayeon finally drew back, holding the towel tight around her body. “I’m not sure I do. I mean, I love her, she’s- but I’m not sure I’m in love with her. But I’m so scared that I have to let her go, give her to someone else. That she doesn’t love me anymore. I-I got so jealous. But I don’t have the right to be if I’m not in love with her- If-”

“Nayeon.” Dahyun said. “Stop. You keep contradicting yourself.”

“What do you-” Nayeon looked at her, but couldn’t keep focus. Felt the plunging wave pull her under, the realization of her own heart too much to deal with. Would probably faint any second.

“You say that you’re not in love with her anymore. But you’re a mess at the thought of losing her and you got so hurt that she fell for Momo. That really doesn’t sound like someone who’s falling out of love. So why do you say that?”

“I… It’s so confusing. I’m so confused.” Nayeon whimpered.

“Why?” Dahyun pressed.

“Because I’m not sure who I was jealous of.” Nayeon breathed.

 

 

“I didn’t know yesterday! I only found out when she kissed Mina goodbye and I- I wanted her to kiss me goodnight too. But I’m not going to- I mean, I don’t- Nayeon, I don’t know what to do here.”

 

 

Sometimes Tzuyu imagined that if she just looked far enough into the horizon, that she could see it. Could see her home, the spacious apartment and her father’s humming as he cooked. The sound of the washing machine buzzing in the bathroom and the subtle thumps of the ball her mom threw gently across the room. Tiny toes on soft feet skittering across the hardwood floors and the sound of rubber caught between sharp teeth. The happy barks of her best friend when she came home from school and the feeling of his soft fur against her skin, his impatient pitter-patters on the floor when she made to go for a walk.

 

It was her secret - the roof. And here she had told many a secret aloud. Secrets about homesickness and frustrations and the worries she held for her friends. About love at first sight, and believing in fairytales.

“I don’t even know how it happened.” Chaeyoung sniffled, her back pressed against Tzuyu’s front, eyes on the horizon and Tzuyu’s arms around her frame. “I remember thinking she was stunning when I first saw her but nothing more than that. But then- the more time we spent together the more I liked it. Liked how calm and playful she was all at once. Liked the air of wisdom and lightheartedness she held. It was such a welcome change from all the stress at home that I just let myself lean on it. Especially when she started coming over. And I loved how she could make Nayeon calm down even when I couldn’t. How she filled the place, like a breeze in a room that’s been closed too long.

“It doesn’t have to be some big gesture.” Tzuyu said gently, remembering how hard it had been to learn the written language here. Remembering the heart on the cup and the hand that drew it. “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

“That’s a quote from Winnie the Pooh.” Chaeyoung giggled hoarsely. Sniffled.

“I know. My mother used to read them to me when I was a kid. I always liked Pooh’s wisdom.”

“It’s very apparent. Like you.”

“Mh, I think I’m like him, more than he’s like me.” Tzuyu smiled, nosing Chaeyoung’s hair. Felt her shivering sigh and how she leaned closer.

“I just don’t know what to do. I mean, two years… And I do love her, I’m crazy about her, I just- I can’t deny that I like Momo too. But if I like Momo then doesn’t that mean I shouldn’t be with Nayeon?”

Tzuyu didn’t answer. Knew that it wasn’t her Chaeyoung was talking to. It was the roof.

“I want to be with Nayeon. I love her. I love every day with her, even if it’s hard. And I don’t understand why I fell for Momo in the first place. At first I didn’t think much of it because she just naturally fell in sync with all of us and I thought it was amazing to have another friend. I just feel like it’d be wrong to stay with Nayeon when- when I feel like this.”

Tzuyu hummed. Waited for Chaeyoung to keep going but the shorter girl just stared out over the city.

 

“This roof is kind of magical, you know?” Tzuyu then said quietly.

“Yeah, it demands your heart…” Chaeyoung sighed. “And now you know it too.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“What then?” Chaeyoung asked.

“It allows you to stretch the limits of your imagination. Like when I stand here I can see all the way back home. Even if I can’t, I can still see it. And I can see- well. You should try it, try stretching the limits of your imagination. Imagine you can get exactly what you want even if it seems completely far fetched and impossible.”

Chaeyoung nodded. Looked down and kicked her feet into the concrete, before looking back up.

“I want Nayeon. And Momo.”

Tzuyu nodded. Held Chaeyoung tighter and kept her afloat as the truth washed over the shorter girl. It was probably impossible to know exactly how Chaeyoung felt in that moment, but for Tzuyu it was enough to merely know that she made it better by being there for Chaeyoung in all this confusion. Even if they hadn’t known each other too long, and even though Tzuyu had mostly stuck to Jihyo and Mina in the start, there was a natural confidentiality between her and Chaeyoung.

“Tzuyu?” Chaeyoung asked, her voice trembling. “Does it make me a bad person? T-that I want them both?”

“No.” Tzuyu said. “None of what you want up here makes you a bad person. And even down on the ground it still doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you a person with an incredible heart, to love so much. Even if it hurts. Even if it’s hard. Even if it might not end how you want, I’m proud of you for owning up to your heart. So no. It doesn’t make you a bad person.”

“How can you know?”

“I have to believe that it’s brave to love. Otherwise I might not be brave enough to keep wanting what I want.”

Chaeyoung nodded and clutched Tzuyu’s arms tighter.

A breeze ran through their hair and souls and Chaeyoung’s voice accompanied it.

“What do you want, Tzuyu?”

 

 

“But you knew you liked her and you kept that from me! You probably knew yesterday as well and you still let yourself carry her around like-”

 

 

If Dahyun was asked to describe the current situation, she would honestly have a hard time doing so. Because after Nayeon’s last confusing words she had clamped up completely and in the end Dahyun had merely given up and helped Nayeon get into dry warm clothes before changing out of her own drenched ones. With a frown, Dahyun noticed that the clothes she was currently stepping into were not Chaeyoung’s - which she had initially expected as they were the same size. But the clothes were unmistakably Nayeon’s. Jeongyeon had probably known that any reminder of Chaeyoung might make Nayeon break. But honestly, at the moment it felt like just a breeze might make her fall and break into a million pieces. Or maybe she had already broken and was merely held together until someone removed a piece. Maybe there was nothing left but a shell. Dahyun couldn’t know. Nayeon had closed the bubble around her again, and Dahyun wasn’t sure how to get back in. But she had to keep trying.

“Come.” Dahyun said quietly when she was finally standing in Nayeon’s sweatpants and big t-shirt. Nayeon looked up at her with dead eyes.

Nayeon didn’t answer, but Dahyun led her out of the bathroom anyway, her own and Nayeon’s phone heavy in her pocket.

The hallway smelled wonderfully like soup and tea, and Dahyun felt her eyes burning with lack of sleep, her mind buzzing in an attempt to decipher the situation. To figure out what was going on in Nayeon’s head. It didn’t seem like she had much of a clue herself, honestly. But there was definitely something up. Something major.

“Do you want food?” Jeongyeon asked as Dahyun sat Nayeon down in the couch, tucking a blanket over her legs, covering her feet.

“I think so. Nayeon?”

Nayeon’s eyes were distant and her reactions slow as she found Dahyun’s. A tear fell silently down Nayeon’s cheek, and Dahyun wiped it away.

“Do you want food?”

“...Chaeyoung.” Nayeon whispered. “I… I want-”

“I know.” Dahyun said soothingly, tugging Nayeon closer. Felt the older girl’s head fall against her chest and shuffled for a better angle. Ran her hands through the red unkempt hair. Then turned to look at Jeongyeon. “I think we should try with food. Or maybe just tea?”

“I’ll bring both.” Jeongyeon said with a nod.

“Thank you.” Dahyun said, sending her a tired smile. “I didn’t know-”

“Just keep doing that.” Jeongyeon assured her. Then walked into the kitchen.

The distant sound of bowls and cups accompanied Nayeon’s shivering sigh. “I don’t know what to do.”

“We’re going to figure this out, okay?” Dahyun hummed. “Whatever this is.”

“Mh…” Nayeon mumbled.

“Can I ask you- I’m just trying to understand the situation…”

“It’s okay.” Nayeon nodded as Jeongyeon returned with soup, walking back and forth until the coffee table had three bowls of miso soup and three mugs of what smelled like lemon tea. Something jabbed at Dahyun’s heart. Guilt. In all the mess she had forgotten about the shit she had done to Sana and the reason she had come here in the first place. But there wasn’t anything she could do until she had things with Nayeon sorted. All she could hope was, that the idea that had been budding in her head wasn’t completely off. Even if it was a situation she had never personally come across before.

“Nayeon…” Dahyun started gently, feeling Jeongyeon settle on Nayeon’s other side, keeping a respectable distance to the older girl. “Nayeon, you said you didn’t know who you were jealous of. That you don’t think you’re in love with Chaeyoung anymore… Do you like Momo?”

Nayeon didn’t react. But Jeongyeon did. Shifted in the couch and caught Dahyun’s eyes, a bewildered expression in her eyes. A silent question formed on her lips but Dahyun just held up a hand to keep her from commenting out loud.

“Nayeon, please just- just think about it. Do you like Momo?”

Nayeon whimpered.

Dahyun tried to think back. “Yesterday at the beach, when you stayed behind with Tzuyu-”

Nayeon pressed herself closer to Dahyun and hid her face. Dahyun had definitely struck a chord, but it only convinced Dahyun even more, that she had to keep going.

“Who were you jealous of?”

“I don’t know.” Nayeon whispered against the Dahyun’s t-shirt. “I-I don’t-”

“It’s okay, Nayeon. You’re okay. Just think about it for a second. You say you don’t know who you’re jealous of. Are you scared of losing Chaeyoung or are you scared because you think both of you fell out of love with each other, and both fell for the same girl instead?”

This time Jeongyeon couldn’t keep quiet. “Dahyun, what-”

“Sh, I’m getting there.” Dahyun said quietly. Her mind was finally working at an appropriate pace.

“We both- I… fell.” Nayeon finally whispered. Dahyun felt the older girl’s tears seeping through the cotton and onto her skin under it.

“So you like Momo.” Dahyun concluded.

“I-I… I didn’t mean to. And if- I mean, Chaeyoung, she- they know each other much better, I shouldn’t-”

“You don’t want to stand in the way of them, because you think they mean more to each other than you mean to them?”

Nayeon nodded.

“So you’re trying to figure out how to take yourself out of an equation so the two girls you like can be together without it killing you?” Dahyun asked.

Nayeon nodded. “I… yeah.”

Dahyun reached down, taking one of Nayeon’s hands, running her thumb over the palm.

“Is there any possible way you can imagine the possibility that you’re still deeply in love with your small adorably cheesy girlfriend, and you two just happened to fall for the same girl as well as each other?”

The silence that fell after, seemed to last forever. Nayeon’s reaction was completely absent, almost as if she hadn’t heard it, and Jeongyeon sat with narrowed eyes, staring at the wall like she was trying to see the connection. Then her eyes widened and she looked from Dahyun to Nayeon and back again. Dahyun merely shrugged. It was the best possible explanation she had been able to come up with, when piecing all of Nayeon’s jumbled thoughts together. The only picture that made any sense. Except there was still the risk that Chaeyoung didn’t feel the same. That she had actually fallen out of love with Nayeon, though Dahyun highly doubted it. But that was a question for later. The first step was getting Nayeon to accept it.

“I’m… so confused.”

“Just try to imagine it. It hurts so bad to see Momo with Chaeyoung, right? But- but what if it weren’t just them. What if you could be there with them?”

“That’s… that’s not-”

“Just imagine it. If you could have both of them?”

Nayeon shuddered and then she finally raised her head. Looked around and found Jeongyeon’s eyes. For the longest moment they just looked at each other.

“No secrets, Im Nayeon.” Jeongyeon said quietly.

“I know.” Nayeon whispered.

“You always see the worst possible outcome.” Jeongyeon tilted her head a bit and tucked a hair behind Nayeon’s ear.

“I feel so stupid.” Nayeon whispered. “I had no clue.”

“That’s because you never think you’re allowed to be loved.” Jeongyeon hummed. “Idiot.”

“Jerk.” Nayeon mumbled, a tiny speck of light in her voice. Then Nayeon reached and let Jeongyeon take the older girl’s hand between both of hers, and turned her face to Dahyun.

“What if I am… what if I like Momo and love Chaeyoung still?” The tiny hope in Nayeon’s voice made it somehow even more fragile.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what will happen. But you need to talk about it. You and Chaeyoung. You need to tell her how you feel. You owe her that.”

“But what if she doesn’t love me anymore?” Nayeon’s voice shivered.

“Did she say that?” Dahyun asked.

“No.” Nayeon shook her head slightly. “But what’s the likelihood of-”

“Probability has no place in this.” Jeongyeon said.

“Of course it does, if she doesn’t feel the same then I’m kinda fucked.” Nayeon’s voice rose, regaining some of her strength somehow, even if the soup and tea both sat untouched on the living room table.

“Talk to her anyway.” Dahyun insisted.

“What am I supposed to say?” Nayeon asked desperately. “Hey Chaeng, do you happen to be poly?”

 

“I think so.”

 

 

Of course she was there. Of course she was sitting there with the wind playing with her black hair and a paper cup of tea in her hands. Jihyo should’ve known she would. And if she kept walking in Mina’s direction, she would surely notice.

So Jihyo turned. Walked back where she came from, leaving the seat next to Mina empty . What wouldn’t she have to admit to if faced with the gentle face she had loved so much once?

 

 

None of them had heard the door open. But there she stood, with swollen eyes and trembling lips, her hand clutched firmly in Tzuyu’s and the taller girl’s other hand on her shoulder. So small in her confusion, body trembling all over.

“Y-yeah, I think I am.” Chaeyoung whispered.

The room fell silent, all eyes on Chaeyoung. And she just stood there in the door, with tears streaming silently down her cheeks, and Dahyun felt the need to catch her. To wrap her up in her arms and keep her safe from all the hurt and confusion she was going through. But Nayeon’s grip was so tight on her arm, and the oldest was still so fragile in her manners that Dahyun feared she would simply shatter if Dahyun made any moves.

But Dahyun was wrong. Nayeon didn’t break.

 

“Chaeyoung… I’m- I’m so sorry.”

Nayeon’s croaking voice grasped the attention of everyone in the room, but even if every pair of eyes were suddenly on her, hers were locked firmly on the crying girl in the door.

“You didn’t do anything wrong.” Chaeyoung whispered.

It’s amazing, Dahyun thought, how much the tiniest step can mean. Just those few words were somehow enough to let relief take over for the tension filling the air. As Tzuyu gently led Chaeyoung into the room, ignoring the fact that they both still wore shoes, both Dahyun and Jeongyeon made to get up, to give space for Chaeyoung. But Nayeon grasped them both so tight that Jeongyeon hissed and Dahyun winced. A complete contrast to the almost inaudible voice.

“Stay. Please.”

“We can’t fit four on the couch.” Jeongyeon said quietly.

Nayeon looked like she was about to burst into tears again, but then nodded. And to Dahyun’s complete surprise, let go of Jeongyeon, and not Dahyun. Chaeyoung didn’t take Jeongyeon’s seat however. Fiddled with the hem of her shirt, her eyes big and watery as they found Dahyun’s.

“You can do this.” Dahyun assured her. “Come.”

Chaeyoung gulped, staring at the seat beside Nayeon. “I don’t-”

“Chaeyoung. Please.” Nayeon whispered, shakily holding out her hand to Chaeyoung. Not insisting, just offering.

For a moment Chaeyoung just stared at it. Then she nodded and reached out. It was like seeing the last piece of the puzzle being set. The second their fingers touched, Chaeyoung let out a sob and grasped Nayeon’s hand, holding on as if she would never let go. As if she had never wanted to let go in the first place.

“I’m so sorry.” Chaeyoung said in a broken voice, trembling as she stood. “I’m so sorry, I never meant to- I never meant for any of it. I swear I never meant to fall for her, I didn’t-”

“I didn’t either, Chaeyoungie. It just happened.”

The mere fact that the words had actually left Nayeon’s lips seemed to come as a surprise to every single person in the apartment, including Nayeon herself. For a moment she just sat with her mouth slightly opened, then closed it tight, her eyes glazing over for god knows which time.

“You-”

“Apparently.” Nayeon whispered, the ghost of a smile playing at the corners of her lips.

Chaeyoung nodded. Then sighed. And then, without a warning, her knees seemed to give way under her, and she sank to the floor in front of Nayeon, leaning her forehead against Nayeon’s knees, their hands still clasped tightly. And for a moment Dahyun felt like this might be her cue to leave, but Nayeon’s hand was so firmly grasped around her own that it was impossible to do so. And then Chaeyoung’s hand found Dahyun’s free one, trapping her effectively with them, but found that she didn’t mind. If it offered them comfort and support to have something to lean on other than just each other, then who was Dahyun to deny them that.

“I should’ve told you the moment- I just didn’t- I didn’t know and I’m sorry I left. I should’ve talked to you instead of running.” Chaeyoung mumbled at the floor.

“I wish I had known too.” Nayeon mumbled. “I just miss us so much, and I think instead of realizing my own feelings I just saw all the things in Momo that I wasn’t offering you.”

“Nayeon.” Chaeyoung raised her head, lips trembling as she looked at Nayeon. “You offer me the world.”

Nayeon sniffled. “If… If you want her, and if she likes you back. Then- then it’s okay. I won’t mind.”

“What do you mean?” Chaeyoung asked with a frown.

“I mean- I just want you to be happy. And if she makes you happy then- then it’s okay. And if you want me still that’s okay too.”

“I don’t want anything without you.” Chaeyoung said immediately. “Nothing. And- and I don’t want her without you either.”

“What if she likes you?”

“It’s both of us or none.” Chaeyoung insisted. “I know that- that open relationships and all but… I don’t want that. I only want it if she wants both of us.”

Nayeon’s shoulders relaxed visibly and she nodded. Interlaced their fingers. Dahyun felt the grip on her own hand loosen, though it was still there. And Dahyun knew somehow, that Nayeon would let her know when she was ready to let go.

“What’s the likelihood of that though?” Nayeon whispered.

Chaeyoung shrugged. “Probably none.”

“I’d say it’s about the same likelihood as both of you falling for the same girl.” Jeongyeon shrugged, finally breaking into their conversation. “I mean if that isn’t fate or whatever, I don’t know what is.”

“Yoo Jeongyeon talking about fate? Who are you?” Nayeon raised an eyebrow and Chaeyoung gave a wet laugh.

Jeongyeon just shrugged and turned to Tzuyu. “Don’t you work on Sundays?”

“What? Oh- yeah, I just… I don’t know. What time is it?”

“Eleven.” Jeongyeon said. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m good. But my shift starts in an hour and it’s at the other end of the city so I should probably get going if,” Tzuyu found Chaeyoung’s eyes, “if it’s okay with you?”

Chaeyoung nodded, leaning her head on Nayeon’s knees. “Thank you.”

“I could say the same to you.” Tzuyu said calmly. Then she looked at Jeongyeon. “Get her to eat something if you can.”

“Of course.” Jeongyeon nodded, giving the now lukewarm bowls of soup a glance. “I’ll just reheat these.”

Tzuyu nodded, then leaned down and pressed a kiss to the top of Chaeyoung’s hair before walking past them. With a hand on the front door she turned and found Dahyun’s eyes. “Let me know how it goes, okay?”

Dahyun nodded. And then Tzuyu was gone.

“So where do we go from here?” Chaeyoung asked as Jeongyeon started carrying bowls and cups back into the kitchen.

Nayeon shrugged. Both still held onto Dahyun’s hands, albeit loosely so.

“Can I suggest something?” Dahyun asked.

Both nodded and mumbled something in agreement.

“Maybe don’t ask Momo out yet? Maybe go back to just being girlfriends for a little, just at least the next week? Just the two of you, like you used to. Gross dates and everything. Just this time do it on your own couch instead of mine…” Dahyun trailed off, realizing she was sitting on said couch. “Actually, ew no, scratch that. But seriously, just try being the two of you and then if you still want to date her, then you can worry about all the probability stuff.”

Dahyun looked form one to the other, but they only had eyes for each other. So instead she settled for drawing soothing patterns on the back of their hands. Tried to glue them back together somehow, even if she was increasingly confident that they already were.

“I could be game for that.” Chaeyoung said quietly.

“Sounds good.” Nayeon agreed.

“And now?” Chaeyoung asked looking up at Dahyun.

“I vote that you find the worst straight rom-com and cringe at it together and promise me never to become the couple in those movies.” Dahyun grinned down at her.

“We can’t promise that.” Nayeon hummed.

“I know you can’t.” Dahyun squeezed her hand. “But will you promise me that if you still like Momo after all of this, you’ll at least talk to her about it? There’s no harm in asking her out, even if it’s risky. I mean I know she’s into girls, but even if I don’t know how many girls, there’s always the possibility.”

Chaeyoung and Nayeon looked at each other, then nodded. Then Chaeyoung looked back at Dahyun. “Okay. But why are you so set on that?”

“Not sure.” Dahyun admitted. “I think I just want you guys to be happy. And Momo’s- well, she’s Momo. And if you guys like her and each other enough to get this upset about it, then I think it’s worth trying out? I don’t know why, but I just… there’s something about Momo. Makes me want the best for her.”

Both Chaeyoung and Nayeon smiled, and Dahyun used the moment to guide their hands together, removing herself from the equation. Watched with relief as their fingers tangled effortlessly.

“She gets under your skin.” Nayeon said softly, looking down at Chaeyoung.

“Very much.” Chaeyoung agreed, nodding against Nayeon’s knees.

“You two good?” Dahyun asked as she made to get up.

“Yeah…” Nayeon smiled, then looked up at Dahyun. “Thank you. I-I mean it. Thank you so much. I don’t think- I don’t think it would’ve been the same outcome had it been anyone else.”

Dahyun felt her cheeks flush and pressed her lips together. Nodded and got up. “Is it okay if I intrude a little longer? I’m starving. I hadn’t had breakfast.”

“Why not?” Chaeyoung frowned.

“Oh- I…” Dahyun bit down on her lip. “I just forgot.”

“Well get some soup before you leave then.” Nayeon insisted. Dahyun nodded.

 

 

“No! Of course not! Nayeon, I wouldn’t do something like that. You know me. I’m not a cheater.”

 

 

The tea was once more hot, and the soup warming on the stove. Jeongyeon had heated the tea in the microwave, and now Dahyun sat with the mug between her hands in Chaeyoung and Nayeon’s little kitchen. Looked down at the kitchen floor and clenched tighter around the ceramic.

“You ok?” Jeongyeon asked, sitting down opposite Dahyun. Tzuyu had left for work a few minutes earlier.

“I’m so tired.” Dahyun admitted. “And so confused.”

“About the whole…?” Jeongyeon gestured out towards the living room where Nayeon and Chaeyoung sat.

“No.” Dahyun sighed. Let herself remember the night before for the first time since leaving this morning. God, she had really just left, and just after Sana had revealed her own fear like that, trusting Dahyun. “About Sana.”

“What about her?”

“I…” Dahyun’s face screwed up in something that was both a smile and a cringe at the same time, but it was enough for Jeongyeon to realize the truth.

“You finally told her.”

“It’s- it’s more what she told me, actually.” Dahyun stared into the depths of the mug.

“Wait, she does like you, right?”

Dahyun nodded. “That’s kind of the problem.”

“Why would that be a problem?” Jeongyeon asked.

Dahyun looked up to see the frown on Jeongyeon’s face, but just then, the phone on the table buzzed, and Dahyun looked.

11:23 am Sana: Are you ok?

11:23 am Sana: I’m sorry, I don’t mean to pry, I just got worried.

Dahyun smiled. Couldn’t help it. Wanted nothing more than to go home and fall into Sana’s arms and let her wash away all of Dahyun’s fear. But Dahyun had done the exact opposite to Sana. Had left her alone with hers instead of soothing it. Instead of assuring Sana, she had just let her own panic take over. What kind of pathetic- no. No, this wasn’t the way to handle this. She couldn’t just tear herself down. The only thing she could do was face what she had done.

“Can I ask you something?” Dahyun asked.

“You already are.” Jeongyeon shrugged.

“I mean-”

“I know. Go ahead.” Jeongyeon took a sip from her tea and encouraged Dahyun to do the same.

The taste of lemon felt like home.

“When you and Mina - when she kissed you…”

“Yeah?”

“Did you worry? I mean, you two were friends for so long before and it could get so complicated and with Jihyo and-”

Jeongyeon looked at her, obviously trying to read Dahyun’s face.

“All the time. The entire time we walked home together that night. The entire next day. But I just knew I wanted to be with her. I couldn’t imagine going back to not being with her. And even if things were so freaking complicated I had to try.” Jeongyeon said. “I had to take that chance. And even if there wasn’t Jihyo or anything else, there’s still the risk that it might not last. But even if I can’t be with her forever, I’m taking the chance that I might. I’m taking the risk of going through what Nayeon was, by being as happy as I am now. It’s all just risks. But it’s all chances too. You just have to trust your gut.”

“I just… I thought I had every risk figured out, but now that I’m actually on the other side of it- god, I hadn’t foreseen this at all. I had been so focused on my own feelings in this that I never stopped to think-”

“What?” Jeongyeon frowned.

“She’s scared.” Dahyun hunched her shoulders.

“Of what?”

“Of all of it going wrong. Of losing us. Not just me, but all of us?” Dahyun shrugged.

“But she likes you?”

“... A lot, apparently.”

“And you kissed her?”

“I asked her to kiss me, does that count?” Dahyun asked, failing miserably at hiding the stupid grin on her face at the memory. It was unbelievable how her heart reacted so strongly just to that, but it did. Raced happily in her chest.

“Yeah, I mean you got a kiss, right?”

“... I did.” Dahyun nodded. Took a sip of tea and tried not to notice the smirk on Jeongyeon’s face. “Shut up.”

“I’m not saying anything.” Jeongyeon grinned.

“Good because you’re going to have to yell.”

“Why?” Jeongyeon frowned and Dahyun cringed. Jeongyeon’s eyes narrowed. “Dahyun, what the hell did you do?”

“I maybe sort of ran out on her this morning? After she told me she hadn’t asked me out because she was scared of losing you guys as her friends if things got awkward?”

Jeongyeon stared, for what felt like forever. “You did what?”

“I know, it’s bad. I just- I never saw this coming. That there might have been a reason- that maybe she actually did like me and just had hesitations and fears?! I don’t know why, but in my head I was the only scared one here. But I should’ve known, right? I mean Momo said it, that Sana hides behind her smile. And it’s not like I didn’t notice that she had acted different since Chaeyoung’s birthday-”

“What happened at Chaeyoung’s birthday?” Jeongyeon interrupted Dahyun’s rambling.

“She sort of maybe told me I could kiss her if I wanted to?”

“You-” Jeongyeon seemed completely lost for words.

“I’m a useless lesbian, we’ve established this at least ten times in the past two months, just help me out here please.” Dahyun groaned, letting her forehead lean against the kitchen table. Felt the cold surface soothe her warm skin. She was tired and embarrassed and mad at herself, and a cold kitchen table was the last thing she had expected to help. Yet it somehow did.

“So the reason you were here this morning was to get Chaeyoung’s help?” Jeongyeon asked.

“Yeah.” Dahyun nodded into the table.

“Hang on.” Jeongyeon said. Then to Dahyun’s utter horror, she got up and walked around the table, pulling Dahyun up by the shoulder, ignoring her protests. And with a surprising amount of force for the designated weakling of the group, Jeongyeon heaved Dahyun from her chair and out into the living room.

“Chaeyoung?” Jeongyeon asked, hands firmly around Dahyun’s arms.

Chaeyoung looked up from the couch, having sat with her head on Nayeon’s shoulder. Her eyes were unfocused and her mouth slightly ajar.

“Can you please tell your best friend that she’s a dumbass who needs to go back and make good with Sana?” Jeongyeon asked impatiently.

“Huh?” Chaeyoung seemed completely out of it, her eyes traveling between Jeongyeon and Dahyun.

“Dahyun, you’re an idiot, go make out with your roomie.” Nayeon said, turning her head as well.

Dahyun pressed her lips tight together. Wanted to protest and give in all at once. Looked at Chaeyoung for help but found only an expression of light humoring.

“Make out? Are you finally getting some?” Chaeyoung asked.

“No cause she ran out on the girl who, surprise, likes her.” Jeongyeon tutted. Dahyun knew without looking that she was rolling her eyes.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake.” Chaeyoung yawned and looked Dahyun straight in the eyes. “Go home and talk to her.”

“You’re one to talk.” Dahyun grumbled.

“Hey, I’m here. We talked. You literally have no argument, get your butt out of my apartment.” Chaeyoung insisted.

“But how can I convince her that she’s not going to lose you guys if we don’t work out?” Dahyun asked.

“She’s afraid of losing us?”

“She… yeah? I mean I knew she didn’t have a lot of friends but I was surprised too. She really likes all of you.”

“Just tell her if you guys break up, we’ll date her.” Nayeon shrugged, as if the whole polyamory issue hadn’t caused her hours of heartache and complete disarray.

“Hell yeah.” Chaeyoung agreed.

“I’m not going to tell her that.” Dahyun said firmly, then turned to look at Jeongyeon. “But… I mean, if she actually kissed me then- then she must be willing to take the risk, right?”

Jeongyeon shrugged and nodded. “She’s perfect for you, and honestly you two fit so well it’s hard to imagine you’d find someone like that again just around the corner. And you’re right; if she kissed you then she must think you’re worth it. Heck if I know why though, you’re literally just a nerd. She has weird taste.”

Dahyun scowled.

“Go. Now.” Jeongyeon nudged her.

“My clothes- they’re still wet.”

“Screw that, come get them later. Just go home.” Jeongyeon insisted.

“But-”

“Maestro?”

Dahyun turned at the name and looked at her best friend’s tired eyes. At the soft smile on her face.

 

“Go home.”

 

 

“Damn it. Damn it, Chaeng… Why did you- What did I do wrong? I don’t-... Have you kissed her?”

 

 

It was barely noon, but for all Dahyun knew it might as well be midnight. She felt jet-lagged and feverish. The sun was warm against her face and arms, and her entire body ached with the strain of supporting Nayeon.

 

Everything with her friends was so complicated and while it seemed like they had worked things out, there was no knowing if Nayeon and Chaeyoung would get through it. And if they did, then there was the next issue of Momo. What if she didn’t like them back? Or what if she only liked one of them? There were so many “ if s” and it was too hard to foresee the consequences of it. But that wasn't important. It wasn’t about the big picture.

 

It was just about the next step.

 

As she walked the familiar sidewalk back to her own apartment - to their apartment - it was these words Dahyun kept repeating to herself. Just the next step. The next choice. It was simple math. If one choice had two options, and the next as well, then how fast wouldn’t she get to an almost unlimited amount of possible outcomes of her life? It would be completely impossible to foresee every one of them, to decide beforehand which path would give her the best life. All she could do now was choose what she felt was most right using what information she currently had and most importantly; her gut. And her gut seemed pretty damn sure of this one.

She had just refused to listen to it for the better part of two months.

 

 

“... You’re not crazy. I wish you were, trust me. But you’re not crazy. I do… I do like her.”

 

 

Pressing her lips together tightly, she unlocked the door and stepped into her apartment. Their apartment. The living room seemed empty at first sight, but as she closed the door, she recognized the sound of feet on the wooden floors. Keeping her eyes in the direction of the hallway, Dahyun kicked off her shoes, nudging them aside with the side of her foot. Shifted her weight as Sana appeared from the hallway, the pink and yellow blanket wrapped tight around her shoulders and her glasses still on her nose. Hadn’t changed out of her pajamas. She didn’t speak. Just looked at Dahyun with slightly furrowed brows. Dahyun noticed with a jab of guilt that her eyes were red. Wanted more than anything to just wrap her arms around the older girl.

It was Sana who broke the silence.

“You never answered my text.”

Dahyun cringed. “I know. I-I didn’t really know what to say. Other than sorry. I don’t know. A lot of stuff went down and… It just seemed like a poor excuse at the time. Still seems like it. But I am sorry. So sorry… for everything. I shouldn’t have walked out on you like that.” Dahyun took a trying step towards Sana. She didn’t back away. “I should’ve stayed.”

“Yeah, you should have.” Sana nodded. “I was really worried.”

“I’m sorry. I panicked.” Dahyun took another step.

“I figured as much.” Sana said quietly. “I just wish you had trusted me to help you.”

Dahyun felt an uncomfortable jab in her gut. “Sana, I’m so sorry.”

“You’ve said that already.” Sana said, though she still took a step towards Dahyun.

“I know.” Dahyun cringed. “Can I explain?”

Sana nodded. Took another step. If Dahyun reached, she would be able to touch Sana.

“I have been so caught up in my own head, about the risks I would be taking by going for something more than friendship with you. And I never stopped to think that maybe you actually liked me as much as I like you. That you had reasons not to try, just like I did. And I had definitely never expected it to be the fear of losing our friends.”

“Our…” Sana said quietly, as if she was tasting the word on her tongue for the first time.

“Of course. And if it makes you feel any better, Chaeyoung and Nayeon offered to date you if I screw up… and I now realize I have to apologize for telling them your worries without asking you. God, I’m already screwing up.” Dahyun sighed.

“It’s okay. You went to Chaeyoung?” Sana asked.

“She’s the best at kicking my butt when I deserve it.” Dahyun crossed her arms, making fists around the fabric of Nayeon’s shirt.

“So you guys have been talking all this time?”

“N-no, a lot of stuff went down- I… I didn’t have a chance to talk to them about you until about twenty minutes ago.”

“Stuff?” Sana tilted her head.

Dahyun felt her body shiver and nodded. “But it’s okay now. The main thing is that I got scared, and I handled it wrong, and I’m sorry for that. I mean, I can’t promise I won’t get scared again and I understand if you don’t- if… but if you want, I can promise that I’ll try to tell you when I’m scared instead of running.” Dahyun wanted to look away. Felt sick at the thought that she might have ruined things with Sana in less than twelve hours.

But then Sana unfolded her arms, hands around the corners of the blanket. “I like that plan.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah…”

Dahyun sighed. Felt the relief flushing through her every muscle as she took the last few steps, falling into Sana’s arms. Felt how Sana caught her, wrapping the blanket around them both.

“You look exhausted.” Sana muttered as Dahyun wrapped her arms around Sana’s waist, leaning into her.

“I am.” Dahyun mumbled. “Nayeon cried on me for the better part of an hour.”

“What? Why?”

 

Dahyun told the entire story of Nayeon and Chaeyoung, leaving out only the identity of the girl they had fallen for. Told it into Sana’s neck and felt how all the worries left her one by one, with each word. And Sana hummed in response and ran her fingers through Dahyun’s still damp hair.

 

“You should probably try to sleep, maybe take a nap?” Sana suggested when Dahyun mentioned for what was probably the fifth time how tired she had been.

“No…” Dahyun hummed.

“Why not?” Sana asked.

“I want ice cream.” Dahyun mumbled, probably not fully awake.

Sana giggled. “We have some in the freezer, I think.”

“No, I want to take you out for ice cream.” Dahyun drew back a bit, trying not to slump too much. “If you have time... If you want?”

“I’d like that.” Sana beamed. “After you’ve slept, you’re about to pass out.”

Dahyun stared at her, repeatedly blinking her eyes into focus.

“What?” Sana giggled.

Dahyun shook her head. Pressed her lips tight together.

“You promised you’d talk to me.” Sana tried to pout but she was smiling too much for it to really work.

“I really want to kiss you.” Dahyun muttered.

Sana giggled, her lips splitting in a shy grin. “You can.”

“O-okay.” Dahyun bit down on her lip. Sana raised her eyebrows, obviously trying to hold her giggles in.

Nothing happened. The reality that she could lean up and catch Sana’s lips was overwhelming. And it would have no other consequences than satisfying the butterflies that had filled every space of her body. Two months of daydreaming and going back and forth in her head. All that for this moment.

“Dahyunnie.” Sana said impatiently.

“Mh?” Dahyun’s eyes snapped up to meet Sana’s, warmth settling in her cheeks.

“Will you just kiss me?” Sana’s voice was sharp but her eyes soft.

Dahyun chuckled nervously. Nodded and leaned in. Felt her heart soar and Sana’s bubbly laugh against her lips.

 

 

“Chaeyoung? I know this is probably just my catastrophe thinking brain again, but I need to know something. And I need you to answer me as if I wasn’t crazy. Because the more I saw you tonight the more I started to believe that I’m not crazy. That- that…. Chaeyoung? Do you like Momo? Romantically?”

 

 

With a splutter, Dahyun turned off the faucet and reached for the hand-towel. Felt the fluffy fabric and held it to her soaked face, scrunching her nose in an attempt to avoid sneezing. She had very effectively gotten water up her nostrils while washing her face.

“Here.” Sana said in an amused tone, handing Dahyun a few pieces of toilet paper. Dahyun chuckled and took them. Blew her nose free of water, disposing of the toilet paper before washing her hands. Let the cold water run over her wrists for a little before drying them.

“Thank you.” Dahyun grinned.

“You looked like you needed it.” Sana giggled, brushing the blonde hair. “God, I need to go get my roots done. Or maybe dye it another color?”

“Honestly, I think anything would look good on you.” Dahyun grinned.

“Red?”

“Oh, definitely.” Dahyun said with a grin. “But I mean, I love the blonde too.”

“Yeah?” Sana looked at the tips, judging the amount of split ends before running a hand through it.  “I think I might stick with blonde a little longer.”

Dahyun nodded, not really sure what to say, but instead busied herself taking out her lenses. It was a difficult balance, and she wasn’t really an expert in flirting. But Sana didn’t seem to expect an answer. Just unlocked her phone and set a reminder to make an appointment.

“Done?” Sana asked as Dahyun closed the lids to her lens case and propped the glasses onto her face.

“Yup.” Dahyun stared at the sink. Allowed herself a second before looking into the mirror, finding Sana’s eyes staring at her through the mirror. For a split-second it felt awkward, but then Sana bumped her hip against Dahyun’s and she crossed her eyes, sticking out her tongue. Dahyun couldn’t help but laugh. Felt the tension leave her body and offered Sana her hand.

“Goof.” Sana said under her breath as she gently forced Dahyun’s fingers apart to interlace them with her own. Then she leaned in, pressing her lips to Dahyun’s cheek. Stayed on Dahyun’s skin for longer than she ever had. Something inside Dahyun’s heart was trying to play a very exciting and unfamiliar song.

“I’m assuming I still get my cuddle buddy even if we’re also kissing buddies now?” Sana asked with a glint in her eye as she dragged Dahyun from the bathroom across the hall.

“I, uh-” kissing buddies? “Sure, I mean-”

“You don’t have to.” Sana quickly assured her, hand on the door to her room.

“No, I want to, it’s-” Dahyun cleared her throat. “Kissing buddies, I haven’t heard that term before.”

“Well, technically you haven’t asked me out yet so I didn’t want to assume we’re dating.” Sana shrugged as she opened the door, leading Dahyun inside, turning on the little nightstand light instead of the ceiling light. “Kissing buddies was the best I could come up with in the moment. Better than roommates with benefits I think.”

The way she said it was so casual, and maybe that was the entire reason Dahyun’s brain turned directly onto the white noise. Dating… asking her out… benefits ?

“What benefits?” Dahyun asked without realizing what she had actually said before she said it. Then felt her cheeks burn as Sana let go of Dahyun’s hand and shook her head with a smile, stealing a chaste kiss. Then crawled onto the bed and shuffled under the covers.

Dahyun still stood in front of the bed with furrowed brows and her cheeks flaming. Stared at the spot she used to sleep in.

“I’m not going to jump you.” Sana clicked her tongue, “Come on, we barely slept last night and I need my cuddle buddy.”

Dahyun nodded slowly. Cleared her throat and crawled onto the bed, under the covers. Turned onto her side and faced Sana. Studied her face.

“I think this day might have been one of the weirdest days of my entire life.” Dahyun said.

“You did well though.” Sana said, shuffling closer under the covers.

“Not with you.”

“You owned up to it and apologized, and now we’re past that.” Sana smiled. Tapped a finger to the tip of Dahyun’s nose.

Dahyun nodded and smiled. Found that it was effortless. Then she too shuffled, until her knees met Sana’s and then she let her hand rest on Sana’s waist. Noticed how the corners of Sana’s lips twitched right before she angled her face, leaning in to kiss Dahyun. But she never got that far; because next second her glasses collided with Dahyun’s and she jerked her head back with a giggle. Took off her glasses and propped herself up on her elbow. Leaned over Dahyun to place them on the nightstand and then carefully took off Dahyun’s as well, placing them next to her own.

When she leaned back for the second time, she was still at an angle, leaning on her hand. And the way she looked down at Dahyun made the younger girl’s heart swell. But she didn’t get to take in the moment for long, as next second Sana’s fingers combed through Dahyun’s hair and she leaned in, properly kissing Dahyun this time. It sent sparks through Dahyun’s limbs as she closed her eyes, giving in to the feeling.

Everything was Sana. The taste of her lips; how they moved so softly against Dahyun’s. Her hand in Dahyun’s hair. The way she leaned into Dahyun, humming as the younger girl grasped at her shirt. And despite the fact that they had spent the better part of a month pressed closely together as they slept, Dahyun wanted more closeness, more of everything Sana was offering. Almost as if she had read Dahyun’s mind, Sana changed the angle. Deepened the kiss.

 

She tasted like mint and sunshine.

 

 

Jihyo let herself fall onto the bed. Grasped with her hand for the phone and felt the cool screen against her fingertips. Grabbed it and pressed the button. Waited for the screen to turn from white to the picture from last night that she had set as her lockscreen. The nine of them at the beach. Typed the password and opened her messages. Stared at the last conversation.
11:49 pm Tzuyu: I love you
11:50 pm Jihyo: I'm okay
11:50 pm Tzuyu: I know you are
11:50 pm Tzuyu: I still love you.
11:52 pm Jihyo: Please, Tzuyu
11:52 pm Jihyo: I'm giving you space...
11:52 pm Tzuyu: I appreciate it
11:56 pm Tzuyu: Make me give in
11:56 pm Tzuyu: Make me cave
11:58 pm Tzuyu: Just this once...
11:59 pm Jihyo: No

Chapter Text

Cotton-like white clouds soared effortlessly across the sky and the city felt alive around Dahyun as she walked the familiar street towards the restaurant. For some reason she kept looking up at them, as if she wanted to be taken away with the wind as well. The past day had just been so confusing and wonderful. With everything changing around her somehow being stuck in limbo, and it made her stomach tug every now and then. It was just about the last thing she wanted, to deal with her brain overthinking everything. Really, the only thing she wanted was to finish this shift and go crawl under the covers and nuzzle into Sana’s neck. To feel her arms holding Dahyun safe and listen to her calm breathing.

That reality however, was still eleven hours away.

Jeongyeon’s body was visible from a long way away, looking like a goddess in the bright summer light as Dahyun approached her. She was just sitting there, on their bench, leaned against the back of it, her long legs crossed and face turned to the sky. The sun shone in her blonde hair and she ran a hand through it before adjusting her bangs. Then, just as Dahyun reached her, she sighed heavily and closed her eyes.

“Long shift last night?” Dahyun asked.

Jeongyeon looked around at her and shrugged. “Worried about Nayeon mostly, but yeah, it was a long shift. Boss man Yang-nim was in a hell of a mood. Accused Mina of leading on some guys when he caught a bit of conversation between them on his way out.” Jeongyeon huffed.

“What?” Dahyun gaped. “She would never.”

“I know.” Jeongyeon nodded. “It’s complete shit.”

“It’s harassment.” Dahyun growled. “Is it the same guys?”

“Nope. Two new ones.” Jeongyeon cringed. “I’m gonna kill them.”

“No you’re not.” Dahyun said, reaching down. Put a calming hand on Jeongyeon’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

“You all keep saying that.” Jeongyeon grumbled.

“That’s because we know you.” Dahyun said as Jeongyeon got to her feet. Dahyun retreated her hand and changed the subject. “Nayeon’s doing okay though. I mean, I hope. I only talked to Chaeyoung a little yesterday but they seemed okay.”

“Yeah, I talked to her this morning.” Jeongyeon nodded as they walked around the building. “It’s still a bit awkward, but they’re going to go to a movie tonight just to get away from the apartment a bit.”

“That’s a good idea. Chaeng cancelled on movie night tomorrow, too.” Dahyun opened the door to the back entrance and held it for Jeongyeon. “I think she wanted to get a bit of distance from Momo while they figure things out. So it’s just Momo, Sana and I.”

Dahyun opened her locker and grabbed the black sneakers she wore at work. Kicked off the shoes she had worn on her way here and pushed down the yellow sweatpants she usually wore.

“How did the Sana thing go?” Jeongyeon asked, and Dahyun allowed herself a moment to appreciate the irony that Jeongyeon had actually literally caught her with her pants down.

“I uh,” Dahyun cleared her throat as she stepped into her skirt, zipping it at the side. “Good.”

“And?” Jeongyeon obviously wasn’t satisfied with just a wave-away answer.

“I don’t know?” Dahyun admitted, though omitting the mention of the term kissing buddies . It still made Dahyun blush. Instead, she pulled off the t-shirt and dug into the closet for her work shirt. It was a warm day, and Dahyun already dreaded the long sleeves in the hot restaurant.

“But you’re dating?” Jeongyeon asked as she started buttoning the white shirt.

“Technically, no?”

“You haven’t talked about what you are?” Jeongyeon’s voice was sharp. “Dahyun, you share an apartment. You’re legally bound to the same place, you better have a-”

“We did talk.” Dahyun interrupted Jeongyeon. Knew that she was only being like this because of her history with Jiyeon. “She wants me to ask her out, I think?”

“Why haven’t you?”

“I don’t know how. It’s not that I don’t know how , I mean, I know how, it’s just… I don’t want to make it some cheesy date? I asked her out for ice cream but I don’t think she understood it as a date?” Dahyun buttoned the shirt and started working the knot of her tie. “Maybe it’s just not the kind of date she wants to go on?”

“Ice cream sounds good, and it’s not about the date she wants, it’s about the date you want to take her on. So just ask her again and make sure she knows it’s a date.” Jeongyeon shrugged, teeth tight around a black hair tie as she gathered the blonde hair in a ponytail.

Dahyun nodded. Jeongyeon was right; it was just hard to keep it in mind. Hard to keep from overthinking things. But it didn’t have to be some big steak dinner for it to be a date. It just had to be something they did that was about them - about dedicating their time to each other in some setting.

With her mind on Sana’s huge goofy smile the last time they had gone for ice cream, she and Jeongyeon walked through the door to the kitchen. Jeongyeon stopped immediately, and Dahyun almost collided with her back. Walked around her and looked at the scene. At first glance there was nothing new about it, but then Dahyun noticed the two things that were very different. First was the sight of Felix in a waiter’s uniform instead of his usual kitchen boy attire; a sight that merely pleased the girls. He deserved it, especially after having helped them out the night of Dahyun’s panic attack. But the thing that really changed things, was the sight of petite Joohyun in a tall chef’s hat.

“Wha-” Jeongyeon’s words caught in her throat. “Where’s Taeyang?”

“Out sick.” Joohyun said, a worried expression on her face.

“Oh, well, if you see him, tell him to get well soon.” Jeongyeon said.

Joohyun nodded.

Then Jeongyeon turned to Dahyun. “Rock paper scissors for door duty?”

Dahyun shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal, but at a nudge from the older girl, she grinned and held out her fist.

 

Jeongyeon won, but it didn’t matter. She let Dahyun have it anyways. It wasn’t a secret that it had always been Dahyun’s favorite part, and maybe Jeongyeon knew that tonight, Dahyun had the energy to face the inevitable anxiety that came with managing the floor when it was as packed as it was tonight. Especially as it was the end of the month and nights like these always ended with people drinking away the last change at the bottom of their wallets.

But Dahyun managed. Somehow managed without a single mistake, finding energy from the almost constant happy bubbling in her stomach and the reminder that she would be going home to sleep in Sana’s arms afterwards. That thought in particular made it impossible not to smile. So who cared if the customers thought she was just being polite?

 

Honestly, with almost everything, Dahyun had feared for a worse night than it turned out to be.

 

They had expected the kitchen to be late, with Taeyang being out, but Joohyun stepped up that night in a way they had never expected. Taeyang had always taken extra care of her, for some reason that they had never quite seen coming. Not that she wasn’t talented, but she didn’t seem like an obvious choice as his right hand woman. She had always just been quiet and hardworking. But in his absence she had become a Taeyang in miniature, her voice impossibly louder than Jihyo’s. It demanded the respect of everyone around her. Every tall man and boy in that kitchen listened as her orders ricocheted off the walls like bullets.

 

The cinema was too cold, and while Nayeon had expected it, it was obvious that Chaeyoung hadn’t. There were goosebumps on the girl’s thighs and she kept shuffling in her seat.

Nayeon bit her lip. It had been obvious that she had wanted to bring back memories of their very first date, with dinner and a movie. Though this time she had chosen movie and dinner, and had chosen different places for both. A different genre for the movie. And it wasn’t raining this time. But she was still nervous. That much Nayeon knew for sure. And she could’ve just suggested that they leave the movie and go sit in the shade - let the warm air outside heat Chaeyoung back up. But she didn’t. She couldn’t bear to ruin Chaeyoung’s plans. Knew the girl’s love of spoiling Nayeon and didn’t want to take that away from her.

Chaeyoung shuffled again, wrapping her arms around her knees. The man beside Chaeyoung sent her a look, and Nayeon felt like snapping at him. Instead she moved forwards a bit and pulled off the long-sleeve she had worn

“Here.” Nayeon whispered, gently tapping on Chaeyoung’s arm to get her attention. The younger girl looked around.

“No, it’s okay-” Chaeyoung started as Nayeon tried to hand Chaeyoung the shirt.

“I won’t have you coughing in my face the next week.” Nayeon merely tutted, swatting away Chaeyoung’s arms and pulling the shirt over her legs. Neither of them could help but giggle at the slightly ridiculous sight of Chaeyoung’s legs clad in the shirt, the knees peeking out of the neck and the arms hanging limply at the sides.

“Won’t you be cold?” Chaeyoung asked, relaxing visibly at the warm shirt.

“I’ll just hold your hand for warmth.” Nayeon said. Reached over and took the younger girl’s hand, kissing the back of it before interlacing their fingers. “Relax, Chaeyoungie. Don’t try so hard.”

Chaeyoung chuckled nervously and leaned closer, their bare arms leaned against each other.

Nayeon turned back to the movie. Felt the thumb running over her skin and the way it made her heart beat faster. It always beat faster for the girl next to her. Always had. And it occurred to Nayeon how ridiculous she had been to think that she had ever for a moment loved her less. But if Dahyun hadn’t mentioned the possibility of having a heart that held more than one romantic connection, she would’ve probably still have believed her mind telling her that it wasn’t possible. But honestly, she wouldn’t have minded it if it was Momo and not some stranger on Chaeyoung’s other side. And for a moment Nayeon imagined it. Imagined Momo there in the man’s seat, holding Chaeyoung’s hand. Helping Nayeon keep her warm.

It was hard to decipher exactly what kind of feeling it was that surged through Nayeon. But it made her tighten the hold on Chaeyoung’s hand.

“You okay?” Chaeyoung whispered.

Nayeon nodded. Leaned in and pressed her lips to Chaeyoung’s cheek in the darkness. It didn’t matter that the world was falling apart on the screen in front of them. It was coming together in theirs. With Chaeyoung’s cheeks puffing under Nayeon’s lips.

 

There were probably a million things Nayeon could’ve said in that moment. But she didn’t have to. It was enough just to hold her.

 

 

“Has anyone ever told you that you’re annoying?” Dahyun said as she dodged the tip of the broom aiming for her side. It was slightly past two, and Jeongyeon had just effectively gotten the last two guys out of the restaurant, locking up after them. Dahyun had been cleaning for the past half hour, though only the section used specifically for dining guests.

“Do you forget I grew up with Nayeon?” Jeongyeon asked with an unapologetic grin.

“I don’t get how she could stand you all those years.” Dahyun rolled her eyes. Jumped aside as the broom came for her once more.

“Have you met Nayeon? Not like she had a lot of options.” Jeongyeon said dryly. Dahyun chuckled, knowing it was a lie. No matter how much they actually needed each other, neither of the two oldest ever admitted it. Always held onto the story that they were only friends out of pity of the other. But the bracelet on Jeongyeon’s wrist told a different story. Never once had Dahyun seen Jeongyeon without it. Nayeon and Jihyo either for that matter.

“How many tables left?” Dahyun asked, curling a paper table cloth into a ball, attacking the table with a wet dish cloth.

“Six, I think. Then the floor, but I’m almost done sweeping so I’ll wash it in a minute.” Jeongyeon made an almost softball-like sweep with the broom at a napkin under one of the round tables. A leftover from her high school days. Then she turned to Dahyun again. “Did you count the bar?”

“Yup, it’s all there.” Dahyun confirmed. They had to check the bar each night to make sure that all the bottles of hard liquor was still there.

“And the register?” Jeongyeon counted on her fingers, obviously going through a checklist in her mind.

Dahyun frowned. “I think… no, I forgot that.”

“I got it.” Jeongyeon said quickly and leaned the broom on a table and walked around the counter to the bar.

“Did you know that Taeyang was sick?” Dahyun asked as Jeongyeon opened the register.

“Nope.” Jeongyeon shrugged. “But I’m sure we’d be notified if it was something serious.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Dahyun mumbled, letting Jeongyeon count the money.  Instead she made herself useful, and grabbed the paper table cloths from the remaining few tables. She hummed along to the music playing from the loudspeakers as she wiped the tables clean, gathering everything up and carrying a big load out into the black trash-can in the kitchen. Returned and grabbed the mop. Danced stupidly with the broom, singing whatever song played in the background. Just to make Jeongyeon laugh. Felt like she could fly when it did. Then Jeongyeon swatted her lovingly over the head and told her to be quiet while she finished counting.

“You want to get home soon too, right?” Jeongyeon raised an eyebrow.

“Shut up, I’m allowed to be happy.” Dahyun grumbled and lifted a chair she had missed at one of the last tables she had cleaned. Turned it upside down and sat it on top of the table with the others. Then mopped the floor underneath it.

Jeongyeon didn’t comment. They both knew she was right. The prospect of getting home quickly made her thoughts stray to Sana. And every thought was an exhilarating, terrifying realisation that Sana was hers somehow. That she could make Sana smile, make her heart flutter, make her giggle and blush. Really, how anyone could get anything done when in love was a mystery to Dahyun. People used to say it was just because it was a new thing, and maybe it was. But honestly, as distracting as it was, it was also the most wonderful feeling and Dahyun doubted that she had ever felt as good as she did right now. Even with everything else going on. It just didn’t feel that important right now. Like it would all work out. With her classes, and the job. Even her friends seemed to be in good places again despite the scare with Nayeon and Chaeyoung. And Dahyun too was in a good place, with Sana.

 

“Dahyun?” Jeongyeon asked, pulling Dahyun back to the restaurant.

“Yeah?”

“You seem better.”

“I am. I’m… I’m ok.”

And she really meant it.



 

The lights were off in the apartment when Dahyun came home and Sana’s contacts case was closed. A part of Dahyun was glad that she hadn’t waited up. Even if it would’ve been nice, it wasn’t good for Sana’s sleep schedule to stay up every time. So instead of Sana waiting up, Dahyun simply tried to hurry as much as she could in getting to bed. Which, turned out, was not the brightest idea she had ever had in the middle of the night. Changing clothes with a toothbrush in her mouth definitely was not a thing Dahyun was going to attempt again. The toothbrush caught in Sana’s shirt and stuck under her tongue uncomfortably as she tried to put it on, nearly spilling toothpaste on it. Quickly leaning over the sink, she pulled the neck of the shirt over the handle of the toothbrush and grabbed it, spitting out the excess toothpaste before pulling the shirt down properly. Then rolled her eyes at herself in the mirror and took out her lenses. They stuck to her finger, and she felt how her eyes drooped.

Even if both she and Jeongyeon had been eager to get home, they had still sat on the bench for a few minutes, talking. And Jeongyeon had acknowledgingly told that other than Jihyo and Chaeyoung, no-one had gotten under Nayeon’s skin like Dahyun had yesterday. That getting to the point, where Nayeon opened up about something that scared her that much, meant that Dahyun had forever earned a special place in Nayeon’s heart.

But her praise had come with a warning. That Nayeon’s trust was not to be taken for granted; that it was something entirely special. Dahyun knew that already. She had always wanted that trust, always been compelled by the push and pull of Nayeon’s personality, but had never known how to go about it.

For a while Dahyun had been sure that she had gained Nayeon’s confidentiality those nights when she would talk Dahyun back to sleep, but it got obvious within a few weeks that there was still a bubble around Nayeon that practically no-one had access to. But Nayeon was the kind of person that made you wish you had. And now that she did, it made Dahyun swell with pride. Made her feel useful. Made her feel like she was finally once more strong enough to be someone else’s support. And it was this that held off all the monsters at the back of her head telling her that she still had exactly zero percent of her life figured out.

Because it was wrong. She had this. Had her friends. Had Sana.

 

Dahyun smiled at herself in the mirror at the thought. Propped the glasses up on her nose and combed through her hair. Then she remembered that she was supposed to send Jeongyeon the habitual “I’m home. Goodnight!” text and quickly typed it up. Noticed that Jeongyeon had sent hers ten minutes earlier and added a “Sorry, I forgot to text” .

Then she tippy-toed across the hall from the bathroom to Sana’s room. Crept under the covers and was almost magnetically pulled towards the warmth that Sana’s sleeping body emitted. The older girl hummed in her sleep as Dahyun pecked her lips once and whispered a goodnight before turning onto her side. Gently she pushed her back against Sana’s front, and felt how Sana’s arms wrapped around her waist.

 

She fell asleep almost on the spot.

 

Woke less than five minutes later.

 

How the hell could she have forgotten about Tzuyu? About the pact? And they had even seen each other after the kiss. Albeit not in Dahyun’s proudest moment but still. She had promised. Her only hope was that no-one had accidentally told the younger girl by accident.

She cursed under her breath at her own forgetfulness and reached for her phone and glasses, trying not to let the light hit Sana’s face as she opened the chat with Tzuyu.

 

3:12 am Dahyun: I did it, Chou-Tzu! I kissed Sana!

 

Dahyun bit down on her lip, allowing herself five seconds to stare at the message before turning off the screen again and reaching to put it back in the charger, placing her glasses on top of it. But just as she moved back into Sana’s arms she heard the breathy giggle. Felt lips brush over the skin of her neck. Shivered.

“You’re really cute, do you know that?” Sana whispered.

“I thought you were asleep.” Dahyun murmured, her skin burning where Sana’s lips brushed. What exactly was the point of having that many nerves in the nape to cause this amount of reaction?

“I was until you kicked my leg.” Sana giggled.

“Sorry!” Dahyun grimaced.

“No worries, it wasn’t very hard this time.”

“This time?” Dahyun asked in a slight panic, turning in Sana’s arms to face her. “I’ve kicked you before?”

“Only when you have nightmares.” Sana hummed, reaching up to let her fingertips run along Dahyun’s hairline.

“Oh.” Dahyun bit her lip. “I thought… You told Tzuyu that I didn’t kick?”

“You didn’t back then. It’s only been the past month maybe? I think after that night at Jihyo’s?”

Dahyun nodded. “I’m sorry still. Jihyo says I bike in my sleep.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right.” Sana mumbled. Leaned up and pressed her lips to Dahyun’s forehead. Dahyun couldn’t help but tug at Sana’s shirt, wanting her closer. Every move was so gentle and caring, and Dahyun longed for her safety.

“I’m still sorry for kicking you though.” Dahyun said quietly.

“You don’t have to apologize for something you don’t have control over. At least not when it’s not hurting anyone.” Sana said as she drew back, finding Dahyun’s eyes. The hand previously in Dahyun’s hair travelled down her arm, under the sheets. Settled on Dahyun’s hip. Dahyun kissed her; just once. Properly but not deep.

“Do you still want to go for ice cream with me?” Dahyun asked.

“Midnight munching?” Sana asked with a slightly comical grin. “You crave ice cream at the weirdest of times.”

“I can’t deny that, but it wasn’t what I meant. I meant- I meant a date. Ice cream; but as a date?”

“You’re asking me out?”

“I actually did before but I don’t think you saw it as that.” Dahyun muttered shyly. “So yeah. I’m asking you out.”

“I’d like that.” Sana smiled. “But not tonight.”

Dahyun tutted. “I didn’t mean-”

But she never got further. Sana had just giggled and kissed her in a way that made it very hard to think. At least think about anything but the need to keep kissing her. Except Sana drew away, having the audacity to laugh when Dahyun hazedly tried to keep the kiss going.

“Sleep, you goof.” Sana insisted, stroking Dahyun’s cheek and kissing the tip of Dahyun’s nose.

“Fine…” Dahyun huffed. “Goodnight, Sana-chan.”

Sana grinned and shook her head. “Goodnight, Dahyunnie.”

Shuffling, Dahyun managed turn back onto the other side, Sana tugging her close until they were huddled together, Sana’s hand once more on Dahyun’s hip. But just as Dahyun closed her eyes, the hand on her hip found the edge of her shirt and a finger stroked over Dahyun’s skin.

“Okay?” Sana’s voice asked.

Dahyun nodded. Felt her heart against her ribs and tried very hard not to appear as flustered as she was when Sana’s hand crept under her shirt, settling on her waist. Honestly, Dahyun wasn’t sure if it had been meant as a calming gesture for Dahyun, but it most certainly wasn’t. But it seemed to be for Sana. Because before Dahyun managed to gather her thoughts enough to form an actual sentence about the matter, she could hear Sana’s deep calm breath near her ear, feel the warm puffs in her hair and the slow rise and fall of Sana’s chest. So instead of Dahyun saying anything, she merely listened to Sana’s breath and tried to follow it. Closed her eyes. Felt the slight twitch of Sana’s hand and smiled into the pillow.

 

The kettle clicked, and the sound of boiling water quieted. Tzuyu turned her head on the pillow to look at it. Hazedly she sat up, the phone previously on her stomach, slid into her lap and the screen turned on. She couldn’t help but autoread the messages on the locked screen.

 

11:43 AM Jihyo: Sorry, I’m working today.

11:46 AM Jihyo: But you could stop by?

 

Tzuyu cringed. The message was a response to Tzuyu’s earlier message asking if she had time today. It wasn’t that Tzuyu didn’t know it was stupid to keep asking. To keep letting Jihyo pull her in and to keep hoping. She knew the outcome already, had known it for over a month, but it didn’t make it any easier to stay away.

She had always been a hopeful child. The kind of child who believes the best, and that everything would work out in the end, if she just kept going. And maybe that was why it had been so hard to stay away; to keep her own promise to take some space to get over the older girl. Which was why the best possible decision here would be to pour the boiled water over the cocoa powder in the mug beside the kettle, and not walk out the door towards The Black Bean.

 

But sane decisions and a hopeful heart sometimes don’t really work together. And often it’s the heart that wins.

 

“Tzuyu!” Jihyo’s smile was brilliant and beaming when Tzuyu opened the glass door to the little coffee house ten minutes later. The bell above the door plinked happily. It didn’t know better. And apparently neither did Tzuyu, or she wouldn’t be here.

“Hi.” Tzuyu said, trying not to let it show how her heart swelled at the smile on Jihyo’s face.

“The usual?” Jihyo asked, but Tzuyu shook her head and nodded in the direction of the little queue by the register. Jihyo grinned apologetically and pinched the bridge of her nose. It seemed she had completely forgotten about it.

Tzuyu joined the queue. It gave her an excuse to watch Jihyo work. She had always loved that. Seeing how Jihyo managed so many things at once without ever missing a step. It was one of the things that had drawn Tzuyu to her in the first place. The desire to know what went on in the girl’s brain to make her able to multitask at this level.

The queue moved forwards and Tzuyu watched at a new angle. Watched the muscles on the girl’s arms work as she rustled the ice blender. How the brown ponytail whipped softly around her face as she turned, and the chest rising and falling at a pace that revealed that she was hurrying. She always did. Always worked as fast as she could and then fell apart when she came home. Not that many people knew that. Tzuyu hadn’t known it either for the first few months. But then one time Tzuyu had stuck around until closing, and Jihyo had let her sit there while she closed up. Had taken Tzuyu home with her when she was done and had fallen asleep on Tzuyu’s arm almost immediately. Of course she had apologized profusely when she had woken an hour later, but Tzuyu had just shrugged and told her about the drama she had watched on her phone in the meantime. They watched the next episode together. And the next. And Tzuyu thought she could watch every episode of anything if Jihyo leaned on her arm meanwhile.

But she wasn’t leaning on her. Had stepped back and let Tzuyu get the space she needed but didn’t want.

The queue moved again, and Tzuyu’s stomach tugged.

Space.

 

“The usual?” Jihyo asked when it was finally Tzuyu’s turn.

Tzuyu nodded distractedly. Then took a deep breath. “To go.”

Jihyo’s smile faded and made way for a frown. “I thought-”

“Something came up, I just wanted to stop by anyways.” Tzuyu lied. Hated the way Jihyo’s face fell. Wanted to find a way to make her smile again. But she didn’t. The thing in her stomach that knew the truth wouldn’t let her.

“Tzuyu…” Jihyo’s voice revealed that she knew it was a lie. “It doesn’t have to be like this.”

“It does.” Tzuyu said. “Because you-”

“I know. But I miss you as my friend.” Jihyo said quietly. Then she took one of the plastic cups and wrote on it.

 

Tzuyu

 

No heart.

 

 

“How long until Momo comes?” Asked Dahyun loudly from the couch, turning her head in the direction of the hallway.

“Ten minutes-ish.” Sana replied from the bathroom. “How far are you?”

“Still an entire piece left to analyse, but I’ll do it tonight when she’s gone.” Dahyun closed the laptop, the sheet music lying between the screen and keyboard. A door closed and the soft sound of bare feet on wooden floors revealed that Sana was coming back.

“Have you heard from Chaeyoung?” Sana asked, plopping down on the couch next to Dahyun, eyes glued to her phone. Crossed her legs on the couch and typed.

“Uh, I talked to her a bit around lunch, she said their movie date went well.” Dahyun smiled, then frowned as Sana’s eyes were still flitting across the screen of her phone. “You ok?”

“Yeah, mom had a check-up but it didn’t show anything. I’m just answering my dad, he never tells me anything unless I make him. Doesn’t want to worry me.” Sana glanced up at Dahyun and sent her a shrug and a smile before turning her eyes back to the phone.

“They sound like good people, your parents.” Dahyun hummed, grabbing her own phone as well. Tzuyu hadn’t answered, but Chaeyoung had sent her a meme and she snorted at it. Answered it with the shake of her head.

“They’re really good people, I’m fortunate.” Sana said, shutting off the screen on her phone and shifting to lay her head in Dahyun’s lap. “I’m actually thinking about going back for a visit soon. When the semester ends.”

“That sounds like a really good idea.” Dahyun put away the phone, and looked down at the girl in her lap.

“I know… like, I know it’s fast, but I don’t go back that often, and I was thinking, maybe… Would you like to come with me?” Sana asked.

“What? Go to Japan with you?” Dahyun frowned.

“Yeah. Once exams are over.” Sana shrugged, a shy smile on her face. Dahyun’s heart soared. Then her stomach turned and she sent Sana an apologetic look.

“I signed up for summer classes with Tzuyu.” She pressed her lips together.

“Oh… Well, next time then. If you want.” Sana poked Dahyun’s cheek and tickled distractedly under Dahyun’s chin.

“Yeah, I mean really do want to go, it’s just with classes and-” Dahyun said apologetically.

“Maybe around Christmas if I can save up for it?” Sana asked, sitting back up, her eyes shining hopefully.

“Y-yeah, I think I’d like that. Besides, if you go home for Christmas, I’ll have to go with you, or you won’t get a birthday kiss.” Dahyun teased, wiggling her brows at the older girl.

“I get a birthday kiss?” Sana asked hopefully.

“Of course. I got mine, right?” Dahyun grinned.

“Mh, you did. But my birthday is so far away.” Sana murmured with a pout.

“It is.” Dahyun went along, the butterflies in her stomach telling her where it was going.

“But until then what am I going to do?” Sana legit stuck out her lip this time, batting her eyes at Dahyun.

Dahyun laughed and leaned in until there was only a few inches between them. “You’ll have to manage I guess.”

Then she drew away.

“Meanie…” Sana grumbled.

“Oh, come on, you’ll live.” Dahyun chuckled.

But before Sana got to answer, a knock on the door pulled them back to reality. A second later, Sana had jumped to her feet, though her expression made Dahyun frown. She looked almost… nervous? But it was just Momo right?

 

 

“You forgot about the dumplings?” Momo whined.

Dahyun turned on the kettle and leaned against the kitchen table. Momo was pouting at her.

“I’m sorry. I meant to go get them but I had trouble finishing my analysis and it’s due tomorrow at noon.” Dahyun said as Sana opened the pantry and started digging out cup-a-soups and snack bags.

“Can you find one with chili for me?” Dahyun asked and Sana nodded, sticking her head into the pantry, shuffling the bags and packets around to find it.

“Can’t we just skip the dumplings?” Sana asked.

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that.” Momo grumbled.

Just as Dahyun was about to make an attempt at consoling the disappointed Momo, Sana gave a shriek. Two packs of choco pies and a bag of shrimp chips fell to the floor and Sana jumped back. Dahyun kneeled to pick up the packs, handing them to Sana who was chuckling at herself.

“There’s not gonna be enough food in a cup-a-soup.” Momo complained when Sana started putting soups on the kitchen counter.

“Make two?” Sana suggested with a shrug.

Dahyun got up, and Sana did too, handing Dahyun a packet of chili soup.

“I’ll buy double dumplings next time, ok?” Dahyun offered. Momo scrunched her face, then agreed.

The water was almost at boiling point and Momo found mugs.

“Do you have more kinds?” Momo asked as Sana closed the pantry.

“Nope, just these.” Sana nodded at the packs. “But the chili one is for Dahyun. Not that you like those anyways.”

Momo turned the soups and Sana took up a vegetable soup one. Dropped it. Dahyun picked it up before Sana could get to it and got an apologetic smile. But Dahyun just nudged her. Not that this seemed to make her any less fidgety. Definitely nervous. If only Dahyun had a clue why.

Momo didn’t seem fazed, just chose a chicken noodle one.

“Have you heard back about the audition?” Sana asked as she placed the vegetable soup back on the counter and took a minestrone one instead.

Momo shook her head, peeling the plastic off the cup soup. “It’ll be a few weeks until the actual announcement, it was an inside scoop. But should be late july.”

“Audition?” Dahyun frowned, leaning against the kitchen counter, opening hers too.

“Yeah, a senior at school told me about an audition held each summer for this really amazing dance team. They take in seniors every year and most join the squad full time afterwards.” Momo smiled shyly. “It’s this mix where you do back-up dance for different groups as well as performances as a dance crew. And they teach dance as well.”

“Wait, so they want you to audition?” Dahyun asked.

Momo nodded and bit her lip to keep from smiling too hard.

“That’s awesome! And that they approached you personally too!” Dahyun nudged her, and the smile grew.

“I’m not the least bit surprised.” Sana said with a smile in her voice. “I’m actually surprised you weren’t asked last year.”

“But I was only a sophomore then! And they’d never allow juniors on the team anyways” Momo argued. “I wouldn’t have gotten in even if I had tried out.”

“But-” Sana frowned and seemed to taste a sentence on her tongue. Then narrowed her eyes. “Did they ask you?”

“I-” Momo seemed caught, her cheeks tingeing. She suddenly got very busy opening the lid to her soup and staring at the water heating in the kettle.

“Hirai Momo, why didn’t you audition last year if they asked you to?! And why the hell didn’t you tell me about it?” Sana’s voice cracked a bit at the last sentence, and the tone made Momo look up.

“I didn’t think I was good enough then. I would’ve stood out so much on that team.”

“You’re better than half the full timers on the squad, were back then too!” Sana’s voice was soft even if her words were sharp, and she tugged at Momo’s arm. “Damn it, you could’ve been that legend who people talk about. The only junior to ever join the squad. If you’d just for once believe that you’re good enough. That you’re better than good enough.”

Momo looked at her feet, kicking the floor gently. “I just didn’t feel ready to be that girl.”

“Momo…” Sana muttered. Then took the girl in her arms and held her tight. “You have to bloody promise me you’ll take the audition this time. Okay?”

Momo nodded into Sana’s shoulder. Sent Dahyun a shrug and a careful smile.

“She’s right.” Dahyun just said.

 

They waited until the water boiled and Dahyun opened her packet, emptying the contents into a large blue mug with Eeyore that Jihyo had gotten her a few years ago. Side by side they prepared the sups.

The domesticity of it made Dahyun miss Momo more than she had expected. Afterwards, they settled in the couch, with soups and snacks - Dahyun had argued in favor of choco pies and Momo had grabbed a bag of tako chips and spicy rice cakes.

 

Dahyun somehow ended up in the middle, squashed between Momo and Sana; Sana got the blanket - Momo got Dahyun. Not the worst thing to happen, Dahyun thought with a chuckle settling for being Momo’s cuddle buddy. At least this could maybe make up for the lack of dumplings. Had it been any other day, they would have just pushed the schedule and gone down to get some, but she had to finish the analysis tonight. Exams were right around the corner and she couldn’t afford to start pushing the study schedule she and Tzuyu had worked out. There was so much to study still. So many exams, and for what? A career she would probably never get anyways? With a gulp Dahyun reached for her soup. Just to distract herself from the way her heart started racing. Exams weren’t exactly as hard for her to manage as they were for some of the others (Nayeon), but recently the thought of exams had been harder to deal with than usual.

But then the movie moved past the opening credits, and the sound of Sana wincing brought her back.

“Careful!” Dahyun said instinctively, looking over at Sana who sat with a pained expression and the cup in her hand.

“It was warm.” Sana complained, feeling her tongue carefully. She looked absolutely ridiculous, squinting in an attempt to look at her tongue. Dahyun smiled at her. How could anyone look so adorable and so ridiculous at the same time? Sana noticed her and scrunched her face.

“You never learn.” Momo rolled her eyes at Sana and shuffled under Dahyun to wrap an arm around the Dahyun’s waist. Sana frowned but Dahyun reached over with her foot, sneaking it under the blanket and poking at Sana’s side with a toe. She giggled and squirmed, but it faded sooner than usual. Sana’s weird mood was back. Dahyun let the chili taste burn down her throat and leaned more into Momo, feeling her fingers tap over Dahyun’s waist. It felt odd. She knew that Momo never meant anything romantic about her advances on Dahyun, there was something in the mood that made her take Momo’s hand and hold it instead of letting it rest on her waist. Momo didn’t seem to mind.

Without really meaning to, Dahyun’s thoughts fell on Chaeyoung and Nayeon and she wondered if Momo ever meant anything romantic about any of her advances. She knew that there had never been a romantic undertone with Dahyun, but what about Chaeyoung? Had Momo even considered either of their two friends as a possible love interest?

 

Momo moved slightly underneath Dahyun and grabbed the second cup of soup. Dahyun took the moment to gaze at Sana, but she was avidly following the movie, drinking from the soup. It didn’t seem to be as hot anymore.

“I like this part.” Sana said with a hum.

“I know.” Momo hummed.

Dahyun had never watched the movie before, but obviously the other two had.

As soon as she had finished her soup, Dahyun put the cup down and adjusted herself in Momo’s lap. Stole a glance at Sana and found her looking back. The expression on her face was unreadable, but as then her eyes was back on the movie, lip between her teeth. Dahyun frowned.

“Oh god, do you remember how much you used to like her?” Momo asked Sana, when one of the minor characters got some screen time. Sana nodded and hummed.

“Who, her?” Dahyun asked, pointing at the screen in the direction of a blonde girl.

“Yup.” Sana said neutrally.

“She’s cute.” Dahyun noted, trying to catch Sana’s eyes. It didn’t work.

“You’re cuter though, Dahyunnie.” Momo said, her voice so close to Dahyun’s ear, it made her squirm and giggle.

“Do you mind?” Sana murmured at Momo, not looking at her.

“I can’t help it, my Dahyunnie is just too cute!” Momo moved Dahyun’s hair to the side and rested her head on Dahyun’s shoulder.

Your Dahyunnie?” Sana asked, her brows raised but her eyes glued to the screen, almost defiantly so.

“Sana.” Dahyun said quietly. There was definitely something up.

“Well, she would be my Dahyunnie if she would just let me.” Momo kept going.

“Well, maybe you should just stop trying.” Sana said coolly.

“Well, maybe you should start trying.” Momo grumbled. Dahyun blinked once. Twice. Looked from Momo to Sana and then understood.

“Momo.” She said, just as quietly, letting Momo’s hand go. “Let her be.”

Sana hadn’t told Momo. For whatever reason, Sana hadn’t told her best friend about them. And it wasn’t Dahyun’s place to do. But she couldn’t just do nothing. Couldn’t bear to watch the way Sana’s nostrils flared and her eyebrow twitched. So as discretely as she could, Dahyun crawled off Momo’s lap, ignoring the older girl’s confused pout, and settled between the two girls, slightly squashed.

That was the first step. Next was waiting until the right moment before shifting to lean a little closer to Sana. Not enough to make Momo suspicious but enough to catch Sana’s attention.

“Can I?” She asked Sana quietly, tugging at the blanket.

Sana nodded, expressionless, but helped adjust the blanket so it covered Dahyun’s legs as well. Sana’s shoulders relaxed a bit, and Dahyun waited again. Momo had stopped looking at Dahyun, returning to the movie, though the mood was definitely tense.

It felt like she had waited for hours, though according to the lack of change in plot it was only minutes. But finally, Momo’s face revealed that she had engrossed herself in the movie enough, and Dahyun quickly ran her fingers over Sana’s arm. Less than a second. But it caught Sana’s attention and she looked around at Dahyun. Silently, Dahyun raised her eyebrows and nodded her head ever so slightly in the direction of Momo. Sana shook her head quickly and then pressed her lips tight together.

“Okay.” Dahyun breathed, barely a whisper. Whatever reason she had to hold back, Dahyun respected it.

Instead, Dahyun tried to focus on the movie. Tried not to console and hug Sana like she wanted to. And Momo was still pouting slightly next to her. Honestly, Dahyun wished someone would do something.

Anything.

And then Sana did.

She sighed so loudly that both Momo and Dahyun turned to stare at her. Then she placed a hand swiftly but delicately around Dahyun’s neck, her thumb brushing at the skin behind Dahyun’s ear.

“What’s- what’s going on?” Momo tried, but Dahyun barely heart her. Just stared into Sana’s eyes as they looked for confirmation. And Dahyun nodded, almost too subtly to notice. But Sana took a sharp inhale through her nose and leaned in to kiss Dahyun. Firmly so.

This time there was no way of overhearing Momo’s outburst.

“What the-! Wait!” Momo said loudly, shifting in the couch so fast that Dahyun felt it and lost track of the kiss. But Sana had already drawn back before Dahyun got to adjust. Her cheeks were flaming red.

“What the hell was that?!” Momo asked in disbelief.

Sana shrugged and her voice was so small that Dahyun barely recognized it. “I-I did something about it.”

“When?! You didn’t tell me about it!” Momo asked, obviously offended. “Unless - wait this isn’t your first kiss is it?”

“No of course not.” Sana snapped, her voice gaining in strength. And almost as if to prove a point she wrapped her arms around Dahyun and tugged. Dahyun chuckled and obliged, lifting herself onto Sana’s lap, mirroring how Dahyun had sat with Momo before. Except she didn’t move the hand Sana placed on her stomach.

“Then why haven’t you told me?!” Momo crossed her arms with a pout.

“Well, I was going to tell you tonight if you hadn’t been so flirty with her!” Sana’s voice was back to it’s normal volume and she pressed her hand harder against Dahyun’s stomach. Almost possessively. Strangely, Dahyun found that she didn’t mind this side of Sana. At all.

“I was trying to make you jealous!” Momo continued the argument

“And why would I be jealous of that?” Sana asked dryly.

“You were so jealous!” Momo snorted.

“Was not.” Sana insisted.

Dahyun’s chuckled. Couldn’t help it. They argued like sisters fighting over a toy, except they were fighting about Dahyun. But they were sisters. That much Dahyun was aware of by now. Maybe not by blood, but most definitely by bond.

“You’ve been rambling about her for weeks and you never did anything!”

“That doesn’t mean you have to be so lovey-dovey, it was disgusting!” Sana grumbled

“So you were jealous.”

“Shut up.” Sana pouted. Dahyun took one of Sana’s hands not on Dahyun’s stomach and tangled their fingers. To her joy, Dahyun felt Sana’s body relax at the gesture.

“Well, I had to do something.” Momo said, a pout in her voice “You two were getting nowhere, and I accidentally overheard Mina and Jeongyeon talking about Dahyun liking you, so I figured if I made you jealous enough you’d either punch me or do something about it.”

“Well, you were too late, I already did something about it.” Sana’s hand in Dahyun’s tightened.

“I can see that.” Momo said, visibly deflating. “When?”

“After we got home from the beach.” Sana said.

“You were going to tell me tonight?” Momo asked.

“Of course.” Sana said. “You’re my best friend, and you listened to all my rambles. I wasn’t intending on keeping it from you, I just… I’m telling you now.”

“I don’t understand why you didn’t tell me immediately, though.” Momo sounded hurt.

“You don’t have to understand.” Sana said dismissively. Dahyun felt a knot in her stomach, realizing just how much Sana probably liked her. Realizing just how much she must’ve hurt, to not turn to Momo for help. But then Sana’s lips pressed against her cheek, and she whispered in Dahyun’s ear.

“It’s okay. I’ve got you now, that’s all that matters.”

Dahyun nodded and took a deep breath. It was still scary though, having someone like you so much. It was a huge responsibility, a huge risk.

“Relax.” Sana said quietly. “You’re okay.”

“Okay?”

Dahyun pressed her lips together. Then sat up a big and looked at Momo. “It’s my fault that she didn’t tell you. We- I sort of freaked out.”

“Oh.” Momo said, her brows knotting

“Don’t.” Sana immediately said, a warning in her voice. “She’s good to me. Amazing. She just got scared. She’s allowed and you can’t love her any less for it. Especially seeing as I chose not to tell you because of that exact look right there. But she owned up anyways. Knowing how protective you are of me. So don’t.”

Momo exhaled, then nodded. “Okay.”

“Forgive me for not telling you?” Sana asked.

“Mh, I guess.” Momo raised an eyebrow. Then her lips spread in a soft smile.

“Good, then I forgive you for trying to smooch my girlfriend.” Sana grinned.

Dahyun’s stomach did a somersault, and she clenched Sana’s hand hard, turning in her lap to stare at her. “Your what now?”

“Well I know we’re dating and stuff, but girlfriend just has a nice ring to it. I mean, if you want to be my girlfriend?”

Dahyun’s body threatened to burst with butterflies, and she cleared her throat several times before managing words. “I-uh. I… yes? Yes.”

“Good!” Sana beamed, pecking Dahyun’s warming cheek.

Dahyun grinned stupidly. Girlfriend...

“Can I still kiss her?” Momo asked, genuine concern in her voice, pulling Dahyun from the fifth repetition of the word inside her head.

“That’s not my decision” Sana shrugged and looked at Dahyun. “I don’t own her.”

“Cheek kisses and stuff is ok by me.” Dahyun grinned. Momo beamed and immediately scooted closer, leaning up to plant a wet kiss on Dahyun’s cheek. Dahyun dried her cheek with a huff and ruffled Momo’s hair.

 

The movie had progressed too much for Dahyun to get back into it, but it didn’t matter. She was kept plenty busy with Sana and Momo trying to get prime cuddle rights.

They were still just sisters fighting over their favorite toy. And Dahyun laughed. Let them bicker. Because they all knew that there was no fight. Dahyun was Sana’s. Had been from the first night they both called this apartment theirs.

 

 

Chaeyoung sighed. Shuffled under the sheets and stared up at the dark ceiling. It was all so confusing, and she felt like running back to the rooftop just to talk it out with the fresh air up there.

“Talk to me?”

Chaeyoung started and turned her head.

“Did I wake you?” Chaeyoung asked quietly.

Nayeon shook her head, shuffling until her head rested on Chaeyoung’s bare chest. “I didn’t fall asleep.”

Chaeyoung closed her eyes and sighed heavily. It was the last thing she wanted to admit after the night they had just had.

“You still like her.” Nayeon breathed.

Chaeyoung nodded and opened her eyes. Looked down at her girlfriend and felt like crying. But Nayeon’s eyes weren’t sad. In fact, there was a soft smile on her lips and a glint in her eyes from the streetlights forcing through the edges of the blinds.

“I do too.”

Chaeyoung sighed. “I just really hoped I didn’t.”

“I know.” Nayeon said comfortingly, shifting under the sheets to lie better halfway on top of the younger girl, head resting over her heart. Chaeyoung knew she was listening to it.

“Do we act on it?” Chaeyoung asked. Didn’t know what answer she would prefer.

“Do you want to date her?” Nayeon asked peacefully, drawing heart’s on the skin of Chaeyoung’s shoulder.

“Yeah. I mean… Yeah I do.” Chaeyoung swallowed hard. “But both or neither. I mean I’d be fine if-”

“No. Both or neither. That’s the deal.” Nayeon said before Chaeyoung got further.

“How long should we wait to ask her?” Chaeyoung asked, warmth creeping up her neck as Nayeon turned her head to kiss the skin on Chaeyoung’s collarbone.

“I don’t know. I know Dahyun suggested a few weeks, but honestly I’m not even doubting this anymore.” Nayeon said before moving her lips to the crook of Chaeyoung’s neck.

“I agree. But how-” Chaeyoung trailed off breathily as Nayeon’s lips reached the pulse point right under Chaeyoung’s jaw. “How does it even work, if she- if she wants?”

“No clue.” Nayeon shrugged, adjusting herself to kiss Chaeyoung’s lips once. “I just know that I like her. And I love you. And I think as long as we hold onto that, it’s just taking a step and seeing where it leads us. And then the next.”

Chaeyoung nodded. “So we’re doing it? Asking her out?”

“I think we should, yeah.” Nayeon nodded, kissing the tip of Chaeyoung’s nose before settling next to her, laying on her side, facing Chaeyoung.

Chaeyoung turned as well. Felt Nayeon’s knees against her own and shuffled closer. “I just wish I knew if she’d even be into that. You know… More than one partner. It’s not so much whether she likes us, I just don’t want her to feel uncomfortable…”

“I worry if she likes us.” Nayeon admitted. “I worry that you won’t like it if I want to kiss her.”

Chaeyoung smiled softly. Leaned her forehead against Nayeon’s and tugged at her waist.  Tangled their legs together. Needed her closer.

“I can’t imagine how I could ever not like it if you wanted to kiss her.” Chaeyoung murmured. “I think, as much as I want her, I want you to want her too.”

“I really do.” Nayeon admitted timidly. And Chaeyoung felt free and wonderfully not, all at the same time. Then she caught Nayeon’s lips. Tried to express all of the love that was threatening to burst her heart, in that one kiss. In the urgency of her lips and the fingers that dug into the skin of Nayeon’s waist. Then she drew back. Found the eyes of the girl she loved more than anything.

“Let’s say that everything goes well,” Chaeyoung muttered, “that she does want to go out with us. How do we- you know- if she wants to kiss?”

“It’s Momo, of course she wants to.” Nayeon joked, but then added in a more serious tone, “You should kiss her if she wants to.”

“I love you.” Chaeyoung murmured, her stomach tugging in a way she couldn’t figure out the reasoning behind. Nervousness? Fear? Maybe just excitement.

“I know. You should still kiss her.”

“Promise you will too, if she wants?”

Nayeon nodded. “I promise.”

“God we’re talking about this like she actually even once thought about it.” Chaeyoung chuckled breathily.

“Well if she doesn’t want to, she’s missing out. We’re awesome.” Nayeon said steadfastly.

“I can’t deny that. I mean-” Chaeyoung gestured not at all shyly at the lack of clothes under the sheets. Nayeon snorted and shook her head with a grin. Then her arms tugged Chaeyoung closer and she sighed against the younger girl’s chest.

“You’re the best part of my world, you know that right?” Nayeon’s words were muffled and sleepy, but Chaeyoung heard it.

Chaeyoung could’ve said it back, but knew that it hadn’t been Nayeon’s intention. So instead Chaeyoung just leaned down and kissed the top of the tousled red hair and then leaned her chin on it. A peaceful sigh hit Chaeyoung’s chest. Then Chaeyoung’s mouth moved, quiet words in melody falling from her lips without really realizing it. Nayeon moved closer. And Chaeyoung sang her love to sleep.

Chapter Text

When she was four, Dahyun fell from a tree. She had crawled as high as she could, like any kid does when they’re four and it’s almost the end of summer and you’re in denial about things like school and the leaves falling soon. But the branches at the top had been frail and it snapped under her. She had broken her wrist then, and her mother had scolded her. Ten weeks later, the moment her wrist was okay, she fell from the same tree and broke her leg. When her father asked her why in the world she got back up there, Dahyun explained that she wanted to try flying. And really, how do you argue with a four year old who just wants to see the world? That year for Halloween Dahyun sat in a wheelchair with a bird costume, her leg in a cast and her father cawing along with her as he wheeled her around.

For Dahyun’s fifth birthday, her parents had bought her a cheap plastic keyboard. Pink and cute with buttons that made funny sounds. It wasn’t an instrument she had been introduced to before; she had just seen it in the toy store and liked pressing the little hearts. But somehow the sounds made by the white and black keys woke something in the little girl. A calm and an escape that she had never found before.

She had broken the keyboard from wear within a year.

The day she had shown up in the kitchen with snot and tears on her little face, holding the keyboard tight and announced that it had broken, her parents made a decision. Took her to a teacher and was immediately told to invest in a piano. Somehow the little goofy girl had taught herself to play, and that she had, as the teacher called it: perfect pitch. Shyly the girl had told her parents and the teacher that her brother had taught her the do-re-mi song, and then she had just tried playing.

When her parents couldn’t afford a piano, the teacher had allowed them into her own home. Had let the little girl sit in her living room for hours on end, playing with fingers too small for the heavy keys but a focus and talent she had never seen.

The teacher’s house became Dahyun’s freedom, and she would go almost everyday after school to forget. To let the music swallow up every bad word said to her from the other kids at school. They called her weird. Called her stupid. Called her a four-eyed loser, a goodie-two-shoes, a nerd. But the piano took all of that pain away.

When her teacher moved away, Dahyun moved into the school’s music room. Let the unfamiliar keys take away her frustrations and longing for the smell of lemon tea that always filled her teacher’s living room. And for years, passing from one grade to the next, even to the new school, Dahyun found consolation in the solitude of the piano.

Until someone sat down next to her. Told her she was good and asked to be taught.

Chaeyoung was perfect in every way imaginable, in Dahyun’s opinion. She was small but fierce, yelled at older kids for hurting younger ones. Didn’t care that she was shorter than both. Drew pretty pictures for Dahyun on post-it notes and brought cookies and kimbap from her grandma. And it didn’t matter that they were a year apart. They fit like puzzle pieces.

Most importantly though, was the fact that Dahyun made her laugh. For the first time, there was someone who wasn’t her parents or her brother, who found her funny. And Chaeyoung laughed. Sometimes laughed until she cried. Clapped her hands excitedly when Dahyun left the keys behind and started doing her Mask impression. When she showed a new dance move that had gone viral. The sound of Chaeyoung’s laugh bouncing off the walls in the music room became Dahyun’s favorite sound.

But somewhere along the road, Dahyun had stopped being that person. The one whose day had failed if she hadn’t gotten a friend to choke on their soup or accidentally get soda up their nose from laughing. Somewhere along the road it had just become a matter of getting through the day. Since the day she lost the feeling of her fingers against the heavy keys. Since the day her world shattered with the sound of bones breaking against a storm drain.

Yet, right in this moment she was sure that she could get to the day where she could live happily without it. Maybe. Because right now she was sitting in Sana’s bed and Chaeyoung was laughing so hard through the phone she could barely get a word out.

“I’m serious!” Dahyun insisted. “He was staring me down, and I got so intimidated!”

“Y-you can’t be scared of a ten year old!” Chaeyoung laughed, trying hard to catch her breath every few words.

“I’ve never seen a kid get so offended over being handed the kids’ menu!”

“Are you serious?” Chaeyoung sounded like she was about to keel over.

“You weren’t there, you can’t judge me!”

Chaeyoung just kept laughing until she finally seemed to regain some self-control. “I can judge all I want. I have best friend privileges.”

“You can’t use those for everything.”

“Sure I can. Like I’m using my best friend privileges tonight to make sure that you come over tomorrow night.” Chaeyoung said casually.

“I… uh, sure, but it’ll have to wait until after dinner. I’m meeting up with Tzuyu after class and according to the revision schedule we’re going to kick a good piece of Miranda-butt tomorrow.”

Chaeyoung snorted. “Well, you have fun with that.”

“I will. So, eight-ish at your place tomorrow?” Dahyun asked.

“Yes. Oh, but actually,” Chaeyoung added, “I’m not inviting you unless you bring Sana.”

“Am I not good enough anymore?” Dahyun feigned offense.

“No, I definitely prefer your girlfriend over you.” Chaeyoung said dryly. Dahyun’s stomach jolted at the mention of girlfriend. Dahyun hadn’t gotten used to it at all. Somehow it hadn’t been completely real until she had told Chaeyoung half an hour ago.

“Dahyun?”

“Huh?” Dahyun realized that she had zoned out.

“Useless lesbian…” Chaeyoung muttered under her breath before repeating the last sentence that Dahyun had apparently overheard. “I said I’m guessing she’ll find it weird if I just invite her over without you.”

“Oh. Why do you need her to come?”

“We uh…” Chaeyoung’s voice died but the shyness told enough.

“Oh, right. Just a sec.” Dahyun said and covered the microphone. “Sana?”

“Hm?” Sana said, looking up from her phone. She was sitting on the chair by her desk, cross-legged in shorts and a slightly sweaty t-shirt. She had only just returned from a run five minutes earlier, and was just waiting to cool down before showering. And honestly? Dahyun didn’t mind the sight at all.

“Uh,” Dahyun cleared her throat. “Chaeyoung wants me to bring you with me to her place tomorrow night.”

“Sure? We should be done at the studio by seven.” Sana nodded, brows furrowing for a second before putting her phone down on the desk.

“Can you make it by eight or should we push it?” Dahyun asked, adjusting the pillow behind her back slightly.

“No, eight is fine, I’ll just need to shower before we go.” Sana shrugged, turning in her chair to face Dahyun fully.

Dahyun returned to Chaeyoung, though her eyes were still on Sana. “She’s game. We’ll be there.”

“Good. Good…” Chaeyoung gulped audibly. “How much does she know? About… Momo?” Chaeyoung said, suddenly more quiet.

“Some. Not every detail, and not who it is. But I did tell her, you know, the terminology. I’m sorry, I didn’t think to ask you, I mean-”

“No, you’re good. It makes this easier, actually.” Chaeyoung said. For a moment neither said anything, but then, out of nowhere, Chaeyoung yelped. “Fuck, I gotta run. We have class in like twenty minutes.”

“Then hang up and run, you fool.”

“You’re the fool” Chaeyoung retorted.

“Bye!” Dahyun insisted, chuckling.

“Right, bye!” Chaeyoung said quickly. Hung up.

Sana giggled from her chair as Dahyun muttered a few pretense-insults at the ended phone call.

“What?”

“You’re absolutely ridiculous...” Sana shrugged, getting up from her chair, correcting the shirt.

“Chaeyoung said the same thing, but I really don’t get it.” Dahyun said with feigned innocence.

Sana shook her head with a smile, and walked across the room, staring down at Dahyun with an unreadable expression.

“Your class is at ten, right?”

“Yup. Just-aah!” Dahyun yelped as Sana had tugged her down by the hips and snatched her phone. Before Dahyun had managed to react, she felt the bed dip on either side of her and Sana’s lips on hers. She tasted like salt and her skin was warm and clammy, but Dahyun didn’t mind.

Dahyun’s hair was still damp as she stumbled into class thirty seconds before the lecturer did.

“You ok?” Tzuyu whispered with a frown as Dahyun sat down, her cheeks flushed and her brain stuck on channel Sana.

“Huh? Oh right, yeah, just overslept.” Dahyun pressed her lips together and found her pencil case, the notebook with sheet music lines, and her laptop, trying to balance everything on the small table in front of her seat.

“Really?” Tzuyu asked with a frown.

“Y-yeah.” Dahyun found Tzuyu’s eyes, the younger girl’s eyebrows raised discreditingly.

“Right. If you say so.” Tzuyu said dryly and turned her head as the lecture started.

“What do you mean?” Dahyun whispered, leaning closer.

“You have a hickey.” Tzuyu rolled her eyes, placing a finger on her own neck, right below the jaw, near the ear. But she didn’t look at Dahyun.

“Oh.” Dahyun felt her ears and cheeks heat up immediately, and she felt the point on her own neck, but couldn’t feel anything. Didn’t doubt for a second though, that Tzuyu was speaking the truth. The memory of Sana’s mouth finding its way around to that exact point, and staying there for quite a while, was still vividly playing on channel Sana. It really made it hard to focus on the teacher, and in the end she gave up and focused on twirling the pen in her hand instead. A compromise between Sana and the lecture.

This, however, did not change the fact that the second the lecturer announced a ten minute break, Dahyun grabbed her phone. She had felt it buzz twice during class. She bit down on her lip as she read.

10:25 am Sana: Momo told me to scold you for making me dance the wrong steps.

10:55 am Sana: Won’t make it home before you head to work, so just telling you now that you’re super cute and I’ll wait up for you.

Dahyun grinned and answered.

11:03 am Dahyun: Just telling you now that you’re on your way to earning the award for cheesiest girlfriend.

11:03 am Dahyun: You don’t have to wait up though, I’ll just join when I get home.

“Ew.” Tzuyu said dryly.

“Reading my texts?” Dahyun asked with a raised brow looking around at the taller girl.

“No, your face.” Tzuyu noted dryly, no hint of amusement on her face, which was unusual. Though she might tell some hard truths, Tzuyu was usually always just a happy and soft kid. But this seemed to honestly bother her for some reason. There just wasn’t time to ask her now, and Dahyun settled for sending Tzuyu an apologetic smile before writing a final text to Sana.

11:05 am Dahyun: Oh and next time you decide to give me a hickey, please let me know.

“Sorry.” Dahyun said when Tzuyu clicked her tongue, “I just- sorry. I did promise not to turn into one of those people, didn’t I?”

“Yes, you did.” Tzuyu nodded, but a smile played around her lips, adding; “But it’s okay. I can’t blame you.”

“It’ll probably pass, it’s just new and- yeah…” Dahyun grinned shyly.

“I get it. Just do like this,” Tzuyu reached around Dahyun and arranged her hair so it fell down her front on one side instead of down her back. “Then you can’t see the mark.”

“Thank you, Chou-Tzu.” Dahyun sighed, then dug into her laptop case and drew out a piece of paper full of notes. “You know the schedule we came up with yesterday…”

“Yeah?” Tzuyu looked inquisitively at her.

“We have your birthday packed with classes and studies. I know it’s the last day of classes but are you sure you don’t want to at least take the night off and have a dinner or something? Get people together?” Dahyun asked.

“Everyone’s going to be busy with exams by then.” Tzuyu’s said with a shrug.

“But I’m sure Chaeyoung and Jihyo and-”

“Dahyun,” Tzuyu interrupted, “I think it’s best if we just stick to the schedule.”

“Can I at least celebrate with you? We can cook dinner together.” Dahyun tried.

Tzuyu didn’t react. It almost seemed like she was dead set on no-one celebrating her.

“You always care too much about not being a bother.” Dahyun sighed, taking her hand. “Let me celebrate you at least. I mean, I know everyone would love to; you’re our baby, and you’re turning twenty. It’s an important birthday.”

Tzuyu smiled shyly. “I guess.”

“So, can we have a birthday?”

Tzuyu nodded. “Just you… not-”

“Not anything fancy. Just you and me and dinner.”

“Okay.” Tzuyu finally agreed.

“And Jihyo and Chaengie?”

Tzuyu shook her head fast, “No, just you.”

“Okay. Okay, Tzuyu. Just me.”

Dahyun’s phone buzzed again, and Tzuyu withdrew her hand. Grabbed her pen and clicked it. For a moment Dahyun hesitated, then turned the phone and looked at the messages.

11:10 am Sana: Sorry! I won’t do it again!

11:11 am Sana: Without telling you.

Dahyun felt her face split in a wide grin as she hurried to answer. Heard Tzuyu huff.

When Dahyun turned to look at Tzuyu again, she was staring straight ahead, but before Dahyun got anywhere, the lecturer cleared his throat, a steaming cup of coffee on the desk. For a moment Dahyun considered taking Tzuyu out for coffee after the last lecture, but then she wouldn’t make it to work on time. It’d have to wait.

7:15 PM Tzuyu: Hey?

7:15 PM Jihyo: Hi

7:18 PM Tzuyu: You busy?

7:18 PM Jihyo: About to have dinner, why?

7:19 PM Tzuyu: Just found a movie I want to watch. If you want?

7:23 PM Jihyo: I thought I was giving you space?

7:23 PM Tzuyu: I know.

7:27 PM Tzuyu: I miss you.

7:28 PM Jihyo: I miss you too.

7:28 PM Tzuyu: That’s a no then?

7:28 PM Jihyo: Yeah…

The sun was slowly setting as Dahyun pressed the doorbell to Nayeon and Chaeyoung’s apartment on the outside of the building. Sana squinted as sun rays hit the glass in the door and shone too brightly into her face.

“Eeyup?” Came Chaeyoung’s voice from the voice panel above the doorbells.

“Hi!” Dahyun said, angling her face towards the voice panel. Knew from experience that it didn’t work too well. “I brought Sana, like you asked!”

“Good, she can come in.” Chaeyoung said.

The door buzzed and Dahyun pushed. Sana giggled at god knows what as they walked side by side up the stairs. The sound never failed to make Dahyun smile. In fact, she might love that sound just as much as Chaeyoung’s laughter. Not that she’d ever admit either.

“Do you know why they asked me to come?” Sana asked as they came up the stairs.

“Yeah, I do, but I think it’s up to them to explain.”

“... Okay?” Sana frowned.

“It’s nothing bad. I can promise that much.” Dahyun reassured her, nudging her as they walked along the hallway towards the girls’ apartment. Sana nodded and hummed.

The door was already open, Chaeyoung leaning against the jamb.

“Hey, maestro.” Chaeyoung said with a dimpled smile. “Hi, Sana.”

“Hey, champ.” Dahyun grinned back, letting Chaeyoung hug her.

“Ouch, champ? What am I, terminal?” Chaeyoung grimaced as she let Dahyun go and hugged Sana too.

“Okay. Hey, Son Chaeyoung, you big idiot.” Dahyun shrugged, heading inside, the other two following her.

“Go home.” Chaeyoung rolled her eyes, closing the door behind the three of them.

“Where’s the missus?” Dahyun asked.

“Uh, kitchen probably.” Chaeyoung shrugged, looking around the living room, her lower lip sticking out before she called out, “Babe?”

“Kitchen!” Nayeon answered.

Chaeyoung tilted her head and shrugged at Dahyun, a grin on her face.

“So, how do we avoid this being incredibly awkward and really formal?” Asked Dahyun with a grin as she and Sana followed Chaeyoung into the kitchen. Nayeon was standing in Chaeyoung’s sweater, watching the kettle boil. On the counter stood a pack of tea-bags and a bowl of strawberries, washed and with the stems removed.

“I don’t really think there’s any way around awkward.” Chaeyoung shrugged and started pouring the boiling water into four mugs. Nayeon grabbed the bowl from the counter.

“Avoid what being awkward?” Sana asked with a frown. “The thing they want to talk about?”

Nayeon and Chaeyoung looked at each other. Then at Dahyun.

“Uh, let’s sit down first.” Dahyun said, pulling Sana gently out of the kitchen, to the couch, the other couple following with tea and strawberries.

Sana looked like she was about to say something, but decided against it. Just settled in the couch next to Dahyun. Her gaze fell briefly to Dahyun’s neck, and she corrected Dahyun’s hair, a smile pulling at the corners of her lips. Dahyun pressed her lips together tight and determinately looked anywhere but at Sana. Even now, in this atmosphere, Sana still managed to power through to the front of Dahyun’s mind. But this wasn’t the point. The point was dealing with the two obviously nervous girls next to them; Chaeyoung sitting on the coffee table and Nayeon on the couch. Nayeon’s hand rested on Chaeyoung’s knee and she shuffled in her seat. Chaeyoung cleared her throat.

“So…” Dahyun said, breaking the silence when none of them did. “I thought you were going to wait to ask her?”

“We did.” Chaeyoung nodded. “But we talked it over a lot and honestly, as soon as we both addressed our feelings, it turned out there was nothing to solve between the two of us. We’re still us. And we might as well get it over with if she’s not interested, instead of waiting around and making it more awkward.”

Dahyun looked from Chaeyoung to Nayeon and back again. “Mh… I mean, you have a point but-”

“This is what we want.” Chaeyoung insisted, taking Nayeon’s hand.

When just observing them, it was obvious that they were back to their old gross selves, but Dahyun still couldn’t help but comment. It really wasn’t meant as nagging. She just worried. About them. About Momo. If they dragged Momo into something and then it turned out they weren’t stable after all… Dahyun could hardly bear the thought of all the misery it could cause.

“I just don’t want to risk you getting hurt. Or M-... her.” Dahyun said. Had almost said Momo’s name. It wasn’t her place to do.

“Dahyun.” Nayeon said, touching Dahyun’s arm gently. “We can’t ever undo it and we won’t be the same people, but it feels right again. It feels like we’d be good, that we’d be us with or without her. We’d just prefer it be with her.”

Dahyun nodded. “Okay then.”

Nayeon smiled and then looked back at Chaeyoung, suddenly grinning. “And I know we didn’t really break up and I don’t recommend it as such, but make up sex is amazing. A few hours of that and-.”

“Okay, I really don’t need to hear this part.” Dahyun interrupted loudly, the shells of her ears burning.

“Oh, come on. I understood back when you were single and pure, but you’ve got a girl now too, it’s about time you learned to talk about it.” Nayeon clicked her tongue impatiently. Sana shuffled beside Dahyun and then her hand very gently wrapped around Dahyun’s arm.

“I know all there is to know about that, thank you very much,” Dahyun grumbled. “I just don’t like to picture you two doing it. I already have your bare butt burned into my retina. I really don’t need any more details than that, thank you very much.”

“We didn’t know you were home, ok?!” Chaeyoung tried, her cheeks almost half as red as they had been that day.

“You still didn’t need to have sex on the couch!” Dahyun huffed.

“Okay, Sana, please teach that girl a bit less church girl attitude.” Nayeon rolled her eyes as Dahyun’s face flushed. “It’s just sex. When you have it you should be able to talk about it.”

Dahyun didn’t answer. But Sana did. In a voice so small and shy Dahyun barely recognized it. “We haven’t- uh, we haven’t gotten to that part yet, actually.”

Sana hid her face in Dahyun’s hair, and Dahyun felt the warmth of Sana’s face on her neck.

“Oh, sorry, I just assumed the hickey and-” Nayeon cleared her throat. “Anyways.”

Dahyun felt like burying herself. One thing was knowing about Nayeon and Chaeyoung’s sex life, but something entirely different was her own. It hadn’t ever been something she had considered seriously. Not to say that she hadn’t daydreamed or-. But- but there was a very long way from that to actually considering the prospects of sex. She just hadn’t put those particular pieces together yet. That at some point she might actually have sex. With-. Yeah, no. She definitely hadn’t thought that far. Not until now at least. And as soon as it was there, the picture of what Sana looked like under her clothes, was extremely hard to get out of Dahyun’s head. As in, quite impossible.

“Yo!” Chaeyoung called, pinching Dahyun’s knee so hard she yelped and jolted. “Earth to Kim Dahyun.”

Dahyun whined and rubbed her knee, scowling at her best friend. The sudden movement had caused Sana to draw back but the moment Dahyun calmed, Sana’s chin found Dahyun’s shoulder.

“Okay?” Sana’s voice asked in a whisper. Dahyun nodded subtly. Had Sana sensed what had just gone on inside Dahyun’s mind?

“Let’s just get back on track.” Chaeyoung’s voice badly masked her amusement. She had definitely sensed Dahyun’s sudden train of thought. Then again, Dahyun was sure it had been as visible on her face as if it was a billboard commercial for gay panic.

“So. Sana.” Nayeon started, turning in the couch, her knees bumping against Chaeyoung’s.

“Yeah?” Sana asked quietly from Dahyun’s shoulder. Shuffled a little closer.

“We know Dahyun has told you about our… our… situation.” Nayeon bit her lip.

“Situation?” Dahyun raised an eyebrow.

“It’s awkward!” Nayeon complained but then sighed. “Fine. We like Momo. As in… Like her. Romantically.”

Sana took her time answering, but eventually let out a soft “Oh.”

“Yeah. And this is where it gets awkward. Because to be honest, we don’t really know her that well. I mean, she’s our friend and we do know her, but we don’t know her like you know her.”

“You want to know if you think she’d say yes if you asked her out?” Sana asked, raising her head from Dahyun’s shoulder and shuffled, her hand sliding down Dahyun’s arm. Found her hand and let a finger rest in the palm of it.

“Basically, yeah.” Chaeyoung breathed.

“Well, I’ve never seen Momo have more than one girlfriend at a time. I don’t really know though. She’s never expressed herself as polyamorous. But I think-. I think if anyone would be open to it, it’d be Momo. If worse comes to worse, she’ll just be flattered. She doesn’t ever get awkward with people. She’s very open. She’s quick to dislike if someone does shit, but she’s never really awkward. So if it’s the friendship you’re scared of losing, there’s no reason to. She hasn’t expressed openly that she likes you guys romantically, but I know she thinks you’re both really cute and sweet and she likes you a lot. At least platonically. So I think it’d be worth a chance?

“But you think we should ask her?” Chaeyoung looked cautiously hopeful.

“Oh, totally! I mean, if nothing else you’ll have it out in the open.” Sana said encouragingly. Dahyun tugged at Sana’s finger and laced their fingers together.

The relief on Nayeon and Chaeyoung’s faces were more than just noticeable. It was obviously an important stamp of approval to get.

“What- I mean, if she says yes, what do you think she would like, for a… date?” Nayeon asked, her hand so tightly in Chaeyoung’s that it made her knuckles whiten.

“Food.” Dahyun said immediately.

“Yes, definitely food.” Sana grinned. “If she ever seems shy or anything, just feed her.”

“Okay. Well, we almost figured that one since we’ve learned that a restock is necessary when she’s been over. But is she more casual or into fancy dates?” Chaeyoung asked.

“Casual. Definitely casual.” Nayeon said. Sana nodded in agreement.

Cold water trickled down Dahyun’s wrists. She wasn’t sure how long she had been standing there. Just listened to the water and her own breathing. Tried to change the channel inside her head but it didn’t work.

“Dahyun?” Sana knocked on the door, making Dahyun jolt. She shut off the water and dried her hands, allowing herself a few breaths before opening the door for Sana.

“Yeah? I’m done if you need-”

Sana shook her head, cutting her off. “You’ve been in there for twenty minutes.”

“Oh.” Dahyun looked down. She must’ve zoned out. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

“It’s okay. But… Can we talk?” Sana asked nervously.

“Yeah.” Dahyun nodded, frowning slightly.

She felt Sana’s hand gently grabbing around her wrist, tugging her along. And Dahyun let her. It was almost eleven o’clock. They had only gotten home from Chaeyoung and Nayeon’s place half an hour earlier, but Dahyun had immediately excused herself to the bathroom under the pretense of needing to go to bed fast. Couldn’t find out how to sort through the images in her mind that somehow both excited and scared her. Channel Sana had gotten a very different meaning all of a sudden. But right now, as Sana settled them on the edge of the bed, Dahyun’s mind filled with worry instead. It wasn’t like Sana at all, to make no noise at all.

Sana looked down at her hands. “What Nayeon said. I need to talk about that.”

Dahyun felt heat creep up her neck. “About-”

“I’m not ready.” Sana said it so fast, the words seemed to trip over each other. “I know I play a good game and all but I’m not ready.”

Dahyun looked at her. There was worry and insecurity in Sana’s face, her eyes flickering between Dahyun’s and her lips pressed together so tightly the skin around them turned white.

“Oh.” Dahyun breathed. Saw how Sana’s face fall and couldn’t stop herself from reaching around, cupping her cheek. She felt stupid for once again forgetting Sana’s side of this. Hadn’t even considered that she might not be the only one who wasn’t a hundred percent sure of the pace.

“Sana. It’s been five days. And I don’t know how this normally works, but honestly, I’m not in a hurry.”

Sana’s face relaxed as Dahyun spoke, leaning into Dahyun’s hand, her eyes softly glistening. She turned her face slightly and pressed her lips to the edge of Dahyun’s palm, and it made Dahyun’s world stop for a second.

“I just don’t want to let you down.” Sana whispered. Dahyun turned on the bed, holding the other hand to Sana’s face as well, her cheeks squishing slightly. A breathy giggle slipped past Sana’s lips. There was something in the way she looked at Dahyun that made the younger girl feel dizzy. There was a tender-hearted unspokenness in her gaze that made Dahyun feel like she meant everything to Sana in that moment. Like she held all of Sana’s trust somehow.

“Do you want to slow it down?” Dahyun asked rubbing her thumbs softly over Sana’s cheeks.

“No.” Sana shook her head slightly in Dahyun’s hands. “No. But we should talk about it again. Before anything happens. Maybe just let whatever happens, happen. I mean, I want to it’s just… not quite yet.”

“Like I said, it’s not even been a week. I hadn’t even considered it, honestly. I know we’re adults and we can do what we want and there’s no rule to the steps and the pace, but I’m honestly not in a hurry.”

“So we’ll just… stay here a little?” Sana asked hopefully.

“For as long as you want.” Dahyun smiled.

Sana sighed, closed her eyes and her trembling lips parted in a smile. Dahyun moved her hands to rest around Sana’s neck instead. “I think I’m scared because I like you so much. And because… well. I know it’s an outdated heteronormative social construct with no actual meaning to it, but somehow it still has some meaning in my head, and it’s so silly that I care but it does make things scarier, makes me feel more responsibility that you’re- that…” Sana trailed off and swallowed.

“That I’m a virgin?” Dahyun said outright, feeling the warmth on Sana’s neck.

“... Yeah.”

“I get that.”

“I just don’t want to take something from you that you don’t want to give, and I know it’s the same every time you’re with someone but in my head it’s still special.”

Dahyun nodded. Didn’t stop Sana but merely let her speak until she finally looked down at her hands. Gently Dahyun slid her hands down to hold Sana’s.

“Can I ask you something?”

Sana looked up and nodded.

“So, you know quite well by now that you’re the only person I’ve ever done anything with. But if I’m to take this right- just- well, Momo said something and I’m not assuming but-”

“Am I gonna have to kick her butt?”

“No, she just mentioned once that you two had kissed because you were afraid that you wouldn’t be good at it.” Dahyun muttered.

Sana huffed, puffing her pink-tinged cheeks. “I am gonna have to kick her butt.” She muttered under her breath.

“No, I just wanted to know. Seeing as you’re worried about my virginity, am I to take that as a note that you’re not?”

Sana nodded. “Yeah.”

“So you’ve had other…” She wanted to say girlfriends but didn’t want to assume. “partners?”

“As in sexually?”

“As in romantically.” The shells of Dahyun’s ears felt like they were burning again.

“Oh. Well, yes.” Sana nodded.

“Okay, I was just curious.”

“You don’t want to know details? Like how many or something like that?”

“If you want to tell me, sure, but it’s not something I’d ask you to say if you don’t want.” Dahyun shrugged and was happy to find that she meant it. She had always feared that she would be the jealous type, but it didn’t matter at all that Sana had had other partners. It just mattered that she was Dahyun’s now.

“I don’t mind telling you.” Sana said quietly.

Dahyun nodded and shifted on the bed to face Sana fully. “Okay.”

“Well,” Sana looked up with a small shrug, “I’ve had four partners before you. Three of them, I dated. The first when I was sixteen. That was quite serious on my part. I loved them a lot. But there were things they wanted to go through alone, with their identity, and when they found themselves I wasn’t a part of their life anymore. Then there was a girl at seventeen, mostly casual, easy, as opposed to my first love, but in the end she wasn’t good for me. And then a boy shortly after moving here, only for two months though. He, on the other hand, was good to me.”

Dahyun nodded. “Why did that last one end then?”

“I never got past the initial crush. And when I found myself choosing Momo over him every time, I broke it off. He felt more than I did and it wasn’t fair to string him along. I want someone I’m crazy about. Someone who makes my world spin.”

The soft smile around Sana’s lips and her intense eyes staring at Dahyun was enough to take the younger girl’s breath away. Dahyun looked down at their hands, a grin spreading on her lips, heart swelling in her chest.

“And me?” Dahyun asked, heart pounding.

“Yes.” Sana said quietly, tangling their fingers. “You. And I’m definitely crazy about you. This is a lot more than just the initial crush. Was that way sooner than I had expected. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever liked anyone that fast. And right now, I’m just really glad you asked me to kiss you.”

Dahyun felt her heart soar and grinned stupidly, finally looking up at her. “I’m sorry I didn’t figure it out sooner.”

“Who cares.” Sana shook her head. “You can kiss me all that you want now.”

“Yes I can.” Dahyun bit the inside of her cheek and gave her most charming smile. “I actually think I’d like to do that that right now.”

“Yeah?” Sana giggled but then drew back as Dahyun leaned in. “But… I really need to pee first.”

Dahyun laughed as Sana pecked her lips and hurried up, stopping in the door, looking back at the younger girl.

“You make my world spin, Kim Dahyun.”

1:34 AM Jihyo: You up?

1:34 AM Tzuyu: Sadly yes.

1:34 AM Jihyo: Can’t sleep?

1:35 AM Tzuyu: Nope...

1:35 AM Jihyo: Can I call?

1:38 AM Tzuyu: Sure

“But I don’t want to drop out or change majors.” Dahyun felt her heart pounding in her chest.

“Are you sure? Don’t you think it might be worth considering, honey?” Dahyun’s mother said through the phone.

“I have considered, and this is what I want to do.” Dahyun said desperately. Wasn’t even sure who she was trying to convince anymore.

“When you were four you wanted to fly. Some dreams just don’t happen. And dreams can change too.” Dahyun’s mom argued.

Everything had been fine. The day had gone so smoothly. And now? Now it was getting increasingly hard to breathe. She had called her mom, just to catch up. They had talked about everything and anything; about Dahyun’s brother and the next family dinner. Dahyun had even almost told her about Sana, but then the subject had switched to the subject of exams instead.

“Flying was a child’s dream.” Dahyun said as calmly as she could muster.

“So is this. You’ve held onto it since you were seven.”

“I can do this.” Dahyun insisted.

“I know it’s hard to admit, sweetie, but you have to acknowledge that a composer has to be able to play. You can graduate but you’ll never get a job creating music if you can’t play.”

“I’ll figure something out, okay? I-I need to leave, I’m sorry, my roommate is back with dinner.”

It wasn’t a lie. The door had in fact just opened, and Sana had stepped through with a bag of take out. Dahyun didn’t wait to say goodbye. Merely hung up, knowing it was wrong. But she couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t hide the way her face crumbled as the phone dropped limply into her lap.

“Dahyun?” Sana asked, leaning down to take off her shoes, placing the bag of takeout by the door. “Are you ok?”

Dahyun opened her mouth. Tried to speak but felt her throat close up uncomfortably. Then she shook her head. And in one second Sana had left the shoes and the food behind and hurried to kneel in front of Dahyun, hands cupping her face as Dahyun broke in her grasp.

It was too much.

She knew that the issue of her future was there, in front of her. Had let it simmer under the surface for a while but ignored it. Yet with her mom’s voice ringing in her ear it just got much too real. It was like her brain was trying to figure out her entire future in one moment, not having a single clue what she was going to do about any of it. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t see any options, couldn’t wrap her mind around a single thought. The only thing she could register, was that her body was slipping forwards. Next thing her senses were taken over by Sana’s body around hers, pushing her back onto the couch.

“Sh…” Sana’s voice was somewhere to her left, but she couldn’t figure out which part of Sana was which. Just grasped blindly, the tears forcing through closed eyelids. Fabric. Dahyun made fists around it and felt tighter pressure. Then a movement of her own body and Sana’s voice in her ear.

“You’re okay. Just breathe.”

Just breathe. That was all she had to do. Just breathe. She should’ve given up back then. Should have admitted defeat. Changed while she still could. And now she was too far in to switch. Just breathe. If she didn’t have music, what was she? Just a goofy girl with a weird brain. A brain wired to music, to see music in every aspect of life, her soul connected so effortlessly to every tone that channeled from her mind through her fingers. And who was she if she couldn’t be that girl anymore?

Dahyun gasped, her lungs forgetting how to breathe for her. Felt how her ribs were threatening to break. Felt pathetic. Wasn’t she supposed to have gotten past this? Wasn’t she supposed to be better?

“Breathe.” Sana said softly. “Come on, Dahyun, just breathe with me.”

A hand closed around one of Dahyun’s wrists and pried it off. Then placed it higher on Sana’s shirt so Dahyun’s palm was flat against the fabric and Sana’s own on top. Sana’s chest rose and fell under Dahyun’s hand.

“Breathe with me.” Sana repeated.

Dahyun nodded and felt hair against her forehead and cheek. Was she leaning on Sana’s shoulder?

“Breathe.” Sana reminded her.

Right, breathe. Dahyun tried. Sobbed and gasped and tried again. Felt the rapid heartbeat under her palm and the steady rise and fall.

“Breathe.”

Dahyun nodded again. Tried to follow the rhythm set by Sana’s ribcage. She felt dizzy and disoriented, but focused all her energy on Sana. On her voice. Her hand insistently pressing Dahyun’s against her chest and the gentle nuzzle of a nose against her ear. Breathe. Breathe. It couldn’t be that hard. It was just breathing. Just… breathing.

“I’m-”

“Sh, breathe first, speak later.” Sana insisted.

Dahyun nodded into her hair. It was so stupid, so pathetic, to react this strongly to something she knew was coming. But it wasn’t a choice. She didn’t choose the jabbing pain in her heart or the way her her body trembled. And all she could do was just keep breathing. Sana’s heart rate seemed stronger than before, but somehow slower too. And Dahyun focused on the light rhythm against her palm. Breathed. Breathed.

“You’re okay.” Sana whispered. Pressed her lips to Dahyun’s cheek. “You’re okay.”

“I’m okay.” Dahyun nodded.

“You’re okay.” Sana’s voice was full of pride and comfort, and Dahyun tugged her closer. She was still on the floor, though awkwardly, her shins against the floor but otherwise leaned over Dahyun.

“I-I’m not ready to give up.” Dahyun’s voice trembled as she spoke.

“Then don’t.” Sana muttered.

“I don’t want to.” Dahyun felt another wave threatening to crash. “But I can’t play.”

“You can play some, right?” Sana asked, finally moving off the floor, albeit awkwardly, keeping Dahyun’s hand on her chest as she sat down next to Dahyun instead.

“Y-yeah.” Dahyun nodded and opened her eyes slightly. Looked at the hand over her own on Sana’s chest.

“Then don’t give it up. Keep playing what you can.” Sana insisted.

“What if it’s not enough?” Dahyun whispered.

“Then you keep playing anyway.” Sana said quietly. “Even with a limp, you can still walk.”

“What?” Dahyun asked hazedly.

“Nothing.” Sana shook her head.

“What do you mean we forgot an entire day?” Dahyun whined.

Tzuyu compared the calendars. Looked down the curriculum list and pointed out the mismatch.

“We’re so screwed.” She muttered under her breath.

“So you’re telling me that our exams start in less than two weeks and we’re a day behind?” Dahyun buried her head in her hands. It was hard enough to keep up with schedule as it was when she wasn’t allowed to study as much as she felt like she had to, but to have forgotten an entire day’s worth of studying in their plan made it all seem completely impossible.

“We’ll just have to draw up a new table, maybe skip lunch with Jihyo and a movie night.” Tzuyu suggested.

“No way, I can’t skip lunch with Jihyo, I haven’t seen her since my birthday. I promised! Movie night, yes, and we can use a few nights here as well,” Dahyun pointed at one of the so-called buffer-nights they had fit in “but please, can we just fit in Jihyo?”

Dahyun couldn’t bear the thought of cancelling on her. She finally had good news and then she was just going to blow her off? No way. Even if she had to work half the night away she would do that rather than miss out on Jihyo’s tight embrace and bright smile. Dahyun even had the perfect plan to bring out the laugh that sounded so much like a crackling fire. There was just no way.

“There’s no room, Dahyun.”

“Tzuyu. There has to be. We have to fit her in.” Dahyun begged.

“Fine. But do I have to come as well?” Tzuyu asked.

“Do you not want to?” Dahyun frowned.

“I… Of course, but I just think I should study instead, that’s all.”

“You’re coming. I’m not picking you up from a breakdown in two weeks because you haven’t done anything but study. It’s good for the brain to get out a bit! And other than your birthday, it’s now the only unscheduled time for the next month.” Dahyun kept begging.

“I just-... no, you know what? Fine. You win. I’ll go but then we’re studying on my birthday after dinner too.” Tzuyu said, her voice almost overly stubborn.

Dahyun frowned at her. “Are… you okay?”

“We’re a day behind, do you think I’m okay?” Tzuyu asked impatiently.

“No, I mean other than exams.” Dahyun said.

“I’m fine. I’m fine, I promised.”

They moved things around for almost half an hour, but eventually they had a schedule that fit all of their classes, including the two extra Tzuyu took. At the look of it though, Dahyun felt bad for insisting on dragging her to Jihyo’s after seeing how busy Tzuyu’s schedule was.

“So we’ll study tonight and then figure out if we need this buffer night.” Dahyun said finally, pointing at the last empty spot on Tzuyu’s schedule.

“That’s the plan.” Tzuyu said mutely.

“Good, then just let me text Sana that I won’t be home until late, then I’m all yours.” Dahyun drew out her phone, finding her chat with Sana. Automatically reread the past two messages and grinned.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Tzuyu blurted suddenly.

“What?” Dahyun looked up, halfway through the text.

“You promised to tell me when something happened with Sana.” Tzuyu put her mug down.

“I… What? But I did tell you.” Dahyun put her cup down as well and looked Tzuyu with a frown.

“After you told Chaeyoung. And probably Nayeon and Jeongyeon too.”

“How…”

“I called Chaeyoung that night to make sure she was okay, and she accidentally mentioned it. She didn’t mean to, but I pretended to know already so she wouldn’t feel bad.” Tzuyu looked down at their notes, her voice flat.

Dahyun just stared. Wasn’t sure her brain was working properly. Surely her sensible, happy, wonderfully reliable Chou Tzuyu wasn’t sulking because Dahyun forgot to tell her about a kiss for one day. It couldn’t be. But here she was. In what was obviously someone else’s reality.

“I’m sorry. Everything was just so hectic with Nayeon and I just- I didn’t know it was that important to you. I honestly didn’t. I texted you as soon as I remembered.”

How was this even an issue? Maybe if they had been twelve. But they were adults! Or pretending to be adults at least.

“Mh. I guess.”

“Tzuyu.” Dahyun reached across the table. Took her hand.

Tzuyu didn’t pull away.

Instead she did was was impossibly much worse, and almost unbelievable.

She fell apart.

“Whoa, hey, it’s okay!” Dahyun exclaimed as Tzuyu’s face crumbled. As fast as she could, Dahyun moved around to her, wrapping her arms around her as best she could from the awkward angle.

“I’m just tired, I’m sorry.” Tzuyu murmured into Dahyun’s stomach, trying not to sob. “I’m just tired and it’s exam nerves. I just don’t know how I’m gonna make it. I don’t even know why I got so hurt that you didn’t tell me, I think I haven’t done anything but study for days on end and then dealing with Chaeyoung, which of course I’m happy to do but-”

“Tzuyu, you’re rambling.” Dahyun couldn’t help but chuckle slightly, at the incomprehensible situation of her Tzuyu crying into her shirt, at their go to coffee shop.

“I just wish I didn’t feel like everyone was slipping away from me.” Tzuyu mumbled.

“We’re not.” Dahyun insisted. “We’re right here, it’s just exams and stuff piling up.”

“It feels like it, though. And I don’t know how to- I’m so- I don’t know.” Tzuyu seemed completely unable to gather her thoughts.

“If you feel like this why do you keep insisting not to have a birthday, not to go to Jihyo’s with me?”

“It’s nothing, just-. Just don’t slip away, okay?” Tzuyu said quietly.

“You sure? I’m not going anywhere.” Dahyun hugged her harder.

“Good.” Tzuyu sighed shakily. “That’s all I need.”

“We’re gonna get through this. Summer classes won’t be very hard at all and you and I are going to go for iced coffee and we’ll have movie nights, all of us! And I’m gonna teach you this new amazing dance” Dahyun tried to reassure her.

“Please, not the backpack kid.” Tzuyu hiccuped.

“Why not? It’s fun!” Dahyun whined.

“Anything but the backpack kid.” Tzuyu insisted.

“Can I at least teach you to do a proper dab?”

“No.”

“I’m offended, like to my very soul, Chou Tzuyu.” Dahyun drew back to look down at her. Wiped away a single tear and momentarily wondered how she managed to look flawless even when distressed like this. “But I guess I’ll survive. I’ll have to live with never seeing you dab. But then again. I have all summer to convince you.”

“Thank you, Dahyun. There’s so much on my mind right now. Not just fear of losing you guys. And it’s making it so hard to focus.”

“What things? You know you can tell me about it.”

“It’s… I’m not ready to talk about it. I don’t know, it’s just... I’ll find a time when I’m ready, okay?” Tzuyu tucked her hair behind her ears.

“Okay.” Dahyun said. “But you know I’ll never judge you, right? And I’ll always be here.”

“I know.” Tzuyu smiled, making her eyes crinkle. Sniffled again.

“But if you ever decide you want to talk-”

“I know. Thank you. We should get started though.” Tzuyu said with a deep breath.

“Yeah, we should.” Dahyun smiled and finally finished the text. “You’re an odd one Chou-Tzu.”

“I know.” Tzuyu smiled. And despite the fierce determination that settled on her face, there was nothing intimidating about her. Just puffy red eyes and ears sticking out like an elf’s.

“Okay then. Well, are you ready to kick some exam butt?” Dahyun asked, moving back to her seat.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready.”

Chapter Text

In the moment she stepped inside, it was unclear to Tzuyu why she did it. But immediately there was something about the little coffee house that reminded Tzuyu of home. Something about the yellow cushions on the chairs, the shape of the little tables and the smell of freshly baked bread. Reminded Tzuyu of her mother’s cafe, of her smile and the soft barks of her dog running up to her. But most of all there was something about the girl behind the counter that made Tzuyu do something she’d never done so far in all the months she’s spent in this country. Something that made her walk up to the girl with the intent of talking. Practiced the words in her head. It was just coffee. Just coffee.

“Hi, may I help you?” The girl asked as soon as Tzuyu reached the little counter. Her smile was wide and genuine, and her eyes glinted and crinkled around the edges. Warmth; as immediate as stepping outside from a cool room into the burning sun. Almost too overwhelming but at once addictive. Never had Tzuyu experienced a presence as strong as the one of the girl in front of her. It made her forget her purpose, and she fumbled with the zipper on her bag, trying to remember what she had practiced in her head.

“I- uh. Ice latte. No- I mean. That- uh. Fra- Frapp-” Tzuyu tried. Stumbled on her words and felt her throat close up uncomfortably. Pointed at the sign.

“Frappuccino?”

Tzuyu nodded. “Uh. I- Cookies and cream… please. To go.”

“Do you want whipped cream on it?” The girl asked, kindness pronounced in every syllable.

Once again, Tzuyu nodded.

“And what name should I write?”

“Tzuyu.”

“How do you spell that?” The girl scrunched her nose slightly.

Tzuyu tried to explain, but failed once again. She hated this language. Hated how it made her seem stupid. She wasn’t stupid. Sure, a little airheaded and naive sometimes, but not stupid. It was just that these characters didn’t come natural to her. It was easier when everything was a picture. Not this spelling thing. She tried to remember the characters but even then it was hard to explain how to write it.

Eventually the girl took mercy on Tzuyu and wrote a heart on the cup instead. Tzuyu felt her cheeks flush and the girl chuckled.

“Feel free to sit down, I’ll call you when it’s ready.” The girl said kindly.

“Thank you.” Tzuyu said. It felt like her tongue curled the wrong way and was about to get stuck, but the girl merely beamed at her.

As she waited, seated at one of the tables closest to the counter, she felt her eyes trail the girl. Felt how her heart skipped when the girl caught her eye, and almost jumped when her name was called. Too soon.

“Tzuyu?” The girl called. And Tzuyu wondered how she could hear that sound again. Her name on the tongue of a voice that wonderful. And only when Tzuyu took the plastic cup did she remember that there was no name on it. Just the heart. She had remembered it.

 

Tzuyu didn’t leave. Instead she sat for nearly an hour in the little coffee shop, watching the girl, trying to remember every single korean word at once and coming up empty. But it didn’t matter. It was enough just to be in her presence. Especially when she laughed; because her laugh didn’t follow any rules. It rose and fell in volume and frequency, out of rhythm, like the crackles of a fire.

 

The next day, she gave the girl a piece of paper with two character written on it.

The girl wrote it on the plastic cup. Then drew a heart. Grinned and grabbed a pen from a little holder beside the register. Then she turned the paper and wrote two different characters and handled them back. Jihyo.

“I already remember your name, Tzuyu.”

 

It had been instantaneous. Not like a flower that slowly breaks through the ground, growing and budding into a sudden bloom on the first warm day of spring. It was more like getting hit over the head with a baseball bat.

 

 

There was a cherry tomato in Dahyun’s salad. It stared at her. Or maybe it was Jihyo. Honestly, Dahyun wasn’t quite sure. But someone was definitely staring at her. And she preferred the idea that it was the tomato. Because telling the story of how she got Sana to kiss her got more and more embarrassing every time, and the smug expression on Jihyo’s face was almost more than Dahyun could bear.

Then her expression changed and her fork clattered onto the plate.

“What?” Dahyun asked, finally stopping her staring contest with the tomato.

“I’ve got to pay up to Jeongyeon.” Jihyo noted. Her face transformed slowly from a frown to an almost impressed expression, eyebrows disappearing up behind her bangs and lips splitting in a disbelieving grin.

“Excuse me?” Dahyun asked. “Pay up to what?”

“I bet her a bottle of wine that Sana would make the first move. She bet you would.” Jihyo snorted.

“Thanks for the confidence.” Dahyun said dryly.

“Oh no, I just thought Sana would be a lot more upfront about her feelings.” Jihyo explained conversationally and sipped from her water.

“Yeah, well, she was. I just didn’t get it at first and, no. It’s a long story.” Dahyun shrugged and then grinned. “But anyhow; good news for once.”

“I’m happy for you.” Jihyo smiled, then shook her head. “Dahyun with a girlfriend, who would’ve thought? And such a catch. You do know how insane that is, right? The universe really paid back for all the shit with her.”

Dahyun just cleared her throat. “Yeah...”

“Not just that though, like the girlfriend thing is definitely good news. But you’re being our stupid little Dahyunnie again. All of your dumb jokes - yes, they are dumb don’t give me that face. And your smile too. It’s all coming back. That infectious energy we all missed.” Jihyo said warmly. Reached a hand over and grabbed Dahyun’s bad one. Rubbed her thumb over Dahyun’s. Tzuyu twitched slightly in her seat, then looked at the clock on her phone. There wasn’t much time left until they had to get back to Tzuyu’s dorm to revise, and Dahyun knew she was getting antsy about it. Had been on the edge about the lunch even before they had left for Jihyo’s place, but had at least hidden it well as soon as they had arrived.

“It’s okay.” Dahyun said quietly, reassuring Tzuyu. “I’ll just stay with you for dinner, then we don’t have to hurry out now.”

Tzuyu nodded, her eyes shifting to look at Jihyo, her brows furrowing slightly.

“Please promise you won’t take so many subjects next semester?” Jihyo pleaded at Tzuyu. “Not while you work as well.”

Tzuyu gave a half-smile, but it didn’t reach her tired eyes. “I’ll consider it.”

“I just don’t want to see you break.” Jihyo’s voice cracked. Her hand squeezed tighter around Dahyun’s and then let go. Dahyun watched as Jihyo reached instead for Tzuyu’s, moving her chair slightly as to better reach. Tzuyu eyed Jihyo’s arm for a second, her fingers jolting slightly before letting Jihyo grab them. Dahyun frowned.

“When is the last exam?”

“June 22nd for me. 19th for Dahyun.” Tzuyu said.

Dahyun blinked, observing the scene as if from behind a lens. As if she had been set outside of the scene the second Jihyo’s hand had touched Tzuyu’s. And Tzuyu’s voice trembled slightly as she spoke, and she leaned away, her eyes darting to the clock on her wrist watch. Was she really that stressed? Well, she had broken down over nothing just a few days ago, but this was almost an unrecognizable Tzuyu.

Dahyun reminded herself to stay with Tzuyu until she slept tonight. It had been stupid of her to accept Tzuyu’s offer to take summer classes together, but she only realized that now. She should’ve insisted that Tzuyu take a break, go back home, spend some time with her family for once. Jihyo seemed to have noticed the odd behavior as well, for she leaned towards Tzuyu, her face full of worry. It wasn’t a secret that Jihyo had a soft spot for the youngest girl, but in that moment, Jihyo’s gaze felt almost intimate.

A part of Dahyun wanted to look away, but she couldn’t. Was so puzzled by the scene, that she just kept looking from Jihyo to Tzuyu and back again.

“How about we all go out on the 22nd then, when you’re done with the exam?” Jihyo pleaded. “We can go dancing or to karaoke? Maybe just have a game night?”

Tzuyu shrugged. Then she retreated her hand, grabbing at the hem of her shirt instead, pulling it further down. For a moment, Jihyo’s hand looked empty, as if its sole purpose was to hold Tzuyu’s. But the next moment the air changed and Jihyo nodded, moving the chair back to its previous position around the table, and Dahyun was once again a participant in the scene and not just an onlooker.

“When do Sana and Momo leave?” Jihyo turned to face Dahyun, moving her chair back.

“Uh,” Dahyun tried to gather herself, “I think they were aiming for the 30th? But Momo has to be back for an audition though, so it probably won’t be more than a week.”

Originally it had just been Sana planning to go home to Japan, but seeing as Momo had been mumbling for weeks about missing her sister, Sana had suggested they both go home. And Dahyun was happy for them, really. She was. It was good that they were going back to see their families, and one week was nothing, nothing at all. Yet the thought made something grab a hold of Dahyun’s heart.

It was like Jihyo had said. She was getting back on track. She could feel it. And a lot of it was Sana’s doing. Despite knowing it wasn’t an ideal solution, Dahyun had used Sana as her comfort, had used her to sleep properly instead of taking her meds like she was supposed to. But she hated those pills. And she loved sleeping with Sana. So really, what was the big deal? Well, this. The fear in her heart so strong it made her lose her appetite, just at the thought of Sana being gone for a single week. It wasn’t how it was supposed to be. So maybe… maybe she wasn’t better at all.

“Dahyun?”

“Huh?”

“I asked about Mina and Jeongyeon. Weren’t they going somewhere?” Jihyo asked with a frown.

“Oh, right. Yeah, Jeongyeon is taking her home. Me and another kid at the restaurant took their shifts. From the 28th until the 3rd I think?”

“They’re getting serious then.” Jihyo noted.

“Those two have been serious from the start.” Dahyun noted, finally sticking a fork in the tomato and eating it.

“I wouldn’t know.” Jihyo shrugged, her eyes stuck on a point behind Tzuyu’s head.

“I didn’t either, I just know what Jeongyeon told me the night I found out.” Dahyun said, touching her arm to get her attention, but she didn’t look.

“They barely told me anything.” Jihyo muttered. “I think they were afraid I was still in love with Mina.”

“They were.” Dahyun confirmed. Judged the need to comfort Jihyo over the need to protect their privacy.

“But I’m not. I’m… I’m not in love with her.” Jihyo said, her voice almost pleading. “I haven’t been for a long time. I promise.”

“It’s- Jihyo, it’s fine. You don’t have to defend yourself. It would be okay even if you were.” Dahyun reassured Jihyo.

“But I’m not.” Jihyo insisted.

“Okay. Okay, then just talk to them.” Dahyun said. “Jeongyeon is one of your oldest friends, you’ve known each other what? Ten years? Twelve? Just talk to her.”

“And say what? Hey, so I know I said I was fine but it really hurt that you didn’t trust me ?” Jihyo said sarcastically.

“Yes.” Tzuyu said, entering the conversation with a steadfast expression. “Tell her exactly that. Without the sarcasm. It’s a valid feeling.”

And once again there was a moment, a single second, where Dahyun felt like she shouldn’t be a part of this, that she was butting in on their moment. Because there was such a tenderness between them, that it made the room feel smaller. And Jihyo’s voice filled it just with a sigh.

“I wish it were that easy.”

 

The next second everything was back to normal.

 

 

“And what about you?” Mina asked as Dahyun told the night sky about her worries for Tzuyu. The stars glinted and cool night air breezed through Dahyun’s hair, helping her aching roots recover from eleven hours of a tight ponytail.

“Me?” Dahyun asked, still staring at the stars, until she felt a hand cover hers and squeeze it. Then turned to return Mina’s gaze.

“Your stress, your anxiety, everything?” Mina asked directly.

Dahyun tried to keep Mina’s gaze fixed. Managed somewhat.

“It’s not that bad anymore.”

Mina didn’t ask her to elaborate. Dahyun did anyways.

“I think the fact that I can sleep without being exhausted helps the most. It’s like when I’m exhausted everything hurts much more. But by now I can pretty much handle it. Breathing deep, a hand to hold, cold water. I try to make routines about it. Emphasis on try.”

“And panic attacks?”

“Two this past month, neither very serious. So barely anything.” Dahyun shrugged.

Mina hummed sceptically.

“But… I do think I need some advice if you have time?” Dahyun looked at her.

“Sure.” Mina leaned back, crossing her legs, looking at the clock on her phone before pocketing it.

“Well, I talked to my mom recently. She…” Dahyun felt her throat close up, cleared her throat several times. “She suggested that I switch majors. I’m just not sure. But she has a point, I mean, who ever heard about a musician who can’t play music? And Sana said I should keep trying, but the more I think about it the less sure I get that I’m actually able to. I mean, I haven’t played in months and I don’t even know if I could get back to half the ability I used to…”

“What would you change majors to then?”

“I don’t know. I have no clue what my life is supposed to be if it’s not about music.” Dahyun whispered. She looked down at her shoes, leaning her arms on her knees.

“What about singing?” Mina asked. “I mean, I know you can drum as well but I’d imagine that’s the same problem, holding the drumstick? But singing won’t have that problem.”

“What? Like Jihyo? Or changing over to the musical theater line?” Dahyun turned her head to Mina, frowning.

Mina pursed her lips before answering. “No, not that exact way but-”

“Good, cause I don’t have half as good a voice as her.” Dahyun interrupted.

“You have perfect pitch, Dahyun. That’s a gift. And you understand music. In here.” Mina held a hand to her own heart. “If you keep taking all of the musical history lessons and composing classes that you can without having to play, and then fill the rest with vocal training and creative writing classes, you might be able to make a stronger case for yourself later? You know, compose that way?”

“Song-writing?” Dahyun frowned.

“Yeah? Maybe? I’m not saying it’s the only solution, I’m just saying, keep your eyes open. You can still be a composer if that’s what you want.” Mina smiled. “Or maybe take classes that could lead you more in the direction of producing?”

A cold wind blew Dahyun’s hair into her face and she tugged it to one side. “That’s… something to think about. But I’m not- I’m not a poet like Chaeyoung. I’m weird, lopsided. I’m not deep.”

“That’s not true. I’ve heard you play your own stuff.” Mina gave her hand a squeeze. “You’re definitely a poet. It just hasn’t been translated to your words. Chaeyoungie is very poetic in the classical sense, descriptive and romantic. You’re lopsided, yes, but that’s needed. Someone who can tell the stories that don’t stay inside the lines.”

“But changing majors… Changing my entire life. It’s scary.” Dahyun sighed.

There was hesitation in Mina’s voice when she spoke. “I know. But your life is already different, you just haven’t chosen which path to follow yet, in this new life. Trust me, I know.”

“I know you do, that’s… that’s why I wanted to ask you.”

“Oh.” Mina licking her lips nervously.

“Can I ask- I mean-. How did you know when to stop?”

“Ballet?” Mina leaned forwards, looking at her feet pointing out in almost perfect 90 degree angle. “I never really stopped. I still do it. For myself. That’s when it got fun again. I just found something I liked more.”

“But why not stick to that dream instead?” Dahyun frowned. “I mean, I know things kind of went weird after high school, but you could’ve still applied for the ballet academy?”

“I could, but it honestly wasn’t Jihyo that made me change my life. I just changed, by myself. It was scary, I mean, I had never chosen to quit anything. And I was perfect at this. I know it sounds arrogant but I really was. Ballet was the thing I knew how to do perfectly. But I wouldn’t have been me if I had stuck to an old dream instead of letting me live my new one.” Mina said.

“And you don’t regret it?”

“In the darkest hours, sure. But most of the time, not at all.” Mina said. Then she lifted the balls of her feet and gently tapped the tips of her shoes into the asphalt a few times. Smiled to herself and looked around at Dahyun. “You’re going to be alright, Dahyun. Whether you fight from here or change to become someone new. It’s just a matter of taking the decision.”

“That’s the hardest part though.” Dahyun sighed.

“I know.” Mina said.

 

 

Dahyun yawned. Stretched and blinked down at the pages she was currently not doing very well at reading. Yet just as she picked up the pen and made to write down a note in the margin of the book, her phone started beeping in the couch next to her. With a groan, she put down the pen and picked up the phone.

“Hello?”

“Dahyun?” Chaeyoung’s voice sounded through the phone.

“No, it’s Santa, what do you want?” Dahyun yawned again. She hadn’t slept too well last night. Had gotten home late and gotten up too early.

“Well, Santa, I have to go on your naughty list-”

“Christmas cancelled, I’m hanging up, bye .” Dahyun interrupted quickly, grimacing.

“No! Wait, I do have to talk to you.” Chaeyoung said.

“... Fine. What’s up?” Dahyun said, pretending like she actually would’ve hung up on the younger girl.

“I’m going to have to cancel today.”

“What?” Dahyun sat up more in the couch. “Why?”

“I’m not even halfway done for the day, and I know we agreed just to have it be this afternoon so we can study tonight, but there’s just.. No way. I’m sorry.”

“I mean, I can’t really argue with that.” Dahyun grumbled. “It’s fair.”

“I’m sorry.” Chaeyoung said again. And she really sounded it.

“It’s fine. Just take care of yourself, okay? And say hi to Nayeon from me.”

Will do ,” Chaeyoung promised. “ Bye, Santa!

Dahyun groaned and ended the call. Then she returned her attention to the book and continued writing notes for the chapter she was reading. Only three more and she’d be done. There was so much theory, so many dates to remember and composers and important lyrical and musical breakthroughs. However, just as she was trying to find a section about a hundred pages earlier, the sound of a key in the lock distracted her and she looked in the direction of the front door as it opened. Sana’s laughter burst through the door before she did herself. Momo followed. A bright smile spread on Momo’s face as Dahyun caught her eye. She threw her bag onto the floor, kicking off her shoes, and ran the length of the room to the couch. Dahyun barely managed to close her book and stow it away before Momo was over her, her skin clammy from dancing and her bangs sticking to her forehead.

“Ew! Get off!” Dahyun laughed and tried to keep Momo at a distance, but the girl was too strong for Dahyun who eventually had to give in. With a happy chuckle, Momo wrapped her arms around Dahyun’s neck and nosed her cheek.

“I guess I’m showering first then since you’ve decided to steal my girlfriend.” Sana noted as she put her shoes neatly by the door, picking up Momo’s stuff too, arranging them.

“Fine by me.” Momo grinned as Sana walked towards them.

“Behave.” Sana swatted Momo over the hair with a playful smile, getting her to draw back from Dahyun a little. Dahyun grinned as Sana gently tucked her face upwards by the chin and kissed her firmly. Almost as if proving a point; one that Dahyun definitely didn’t mind, as the tip of Sana’s tongue ran over Dahyun’s lip. Next second she had drawn back. Then she turned on her heel and walked into the hallway. It wasn’t a choice to stare as she walked away. Especially when she turned her head at the corner and sent Dahyun a smug grin. She was definitely way too aware of what she was doing to Dahyun.

But then she was gone and the door to the bathroom opened and closed.

Dahyun turned to Momo; found her patiently waiting with a soft smile on her lips.

“What?” Dahyun snorted.

“You really like her, don’t you?” Momo asked softly.

“Yeah... I do.” Dahyun grinned shyly.

Momo hummed happily,

Dahyun chuckled. “Had a good day?”

“Mhh, we’re almost ready. We added a really hard move, and it worked super well.” Momo grinned as Dahyun wiped Momo’s bangs away from her forehead.

“When is the exam?” Dahyun asked

“Two on the seventeenth and then this on the nineteenth. So we’ll have lots of time to work on it still.” Momo adjusted and stretched, the shirt creeping up. Dahyun poked at her exposed abs and Momo whined, pulling the shirt back down with a pout. Dahyun just chuckled.

“Is Chaeyoung coming?” Momo asked, reaching for her phone.

“No, she cancelled last second.” Dahyun said. “Why?”

“Nothing. Just wondering why she wasn’t here yet.” Momo shrugged and released Dahyun’s neck, laying down with her head in Dahyun’s lap instead. Looked up at her with curious eyes.

“Have you…” Dahyun considered not asking, but there was something in Momo’s eyes that made her continue. “Have you talked to them lately? Nayeon and Chaeyoung?”

Momo shrugged. “Not much. I asked if I could come over a few times but they were busy. I mean, it’s not like they have to hang out with me all the time, but I like being there. I miss them a bit?”

“Huh.” Dahyun raised an eyebrow and grabbed her phone.

“Huh what?” Momo asked.

“Just… Give me a minute.” Dahyun lifted Momo’s head and got up, leaving her confused in the couch as she grabbed her keys and put on Momo’s flip-flops before heading outside. Walking down the stairs, Dahyun pressed the last call and sat down on the last step in the hallway.

“Dahyun?”

“Chaeyoung. I need a very honest answer.”

“To what question?” Chaeyoung sounded confused.

“Have you asked out Momo yet?”

Silence. Long, heavy silence.

“We- no. Not yet.”

“Okay. Next honest answer.” Dahyun narrowed her eyes at the sky. “Are you actually busy tonight?”

A pause. Then Chaeyoung sighed. “No.”

“Is Nayeon?”

“No.”

“Thought so. Is there any way I can convince you two fools to come over and have movie night with us?” Dahyun asked.

“But we-”

“Momo misses you.” Dahyun said softly.

“I… we- okay.” Chaeyoung gave in. Dahyun tried not to laugh out loud, but shook in silent amusement at her lovestruck best friend. “Okay, you win, we’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

“Thank you.” Dahyun turned off the call and shook her head at it. Of course it was a delicate situation, but honestly, pulling away from Momo entirely wasn’t a way to handle it.

 

 

The sky looked like it might give up holding all the water in and just burst open, but for now it was still dry, even if it was grey. For a second, Jeongyeon considered walking back upstairs for an umbrella, but in the end decided just to hope that the clouds would hold it until they were got to work.

“Do they know about me?” Mina asked, as they turned the corner.

“Seongyeon and Seoyeon know a lot, but my parents don’t. I mean, they know I’m dating you but I haven’t told them much about you as a person.” Jeongyeon said.

“Well, I’m glad I’m not brought home as some surprise element.” Mina giggled, taking Jeongyeon’s hand. Twined their fingers.

“I wouldn’t do that to you.” Jeongyeon scrunched her nose.

“So that means using you as my reason to finally come out to my parents is a no?” Mina asked, insecurity in her voice. Had she been planning exactly this?

“No, I don’t mind at all. I just mean that my sisters can be a bit much and I don’t want them to embarrass you.”

“Oh, come on, your sisters are lovely, I have met them once. And Seongyeon was a senior when I was a freshman, so it’s not like you’re introducing me to total strangers.”

“Mm, true. But were you planning on bringing me home?” Jeongyeon inquired.

Mina shrugged. “Maybe? I mean, it’s not like I haven’t considered telling my parents, it’s just that I never really had a reason to.”

“I wouldn’t mind it.” Jeongyeon said, holding Mina’s hand maybe a little tighter at the thought that she was a reason.

“Good. I might then… Did you hear back from Jihyo, by the way?” Mina asked.

“Nope. I mean, yeah, but not anything substantial.” Jeongyeon cringed. It was all just weird. She had seemed completely fine with everything, but slowly, Jeongyeon had gotten the sense that maybe she actually wasn’t. It wasn’t a secret that they had definitely handled it wrong, their relationship, but it was almost like there was more to the matter than just Mina falling for Jihyo’s best friend instead of Jihyo herself. She seemed almost… bitter? And that trait was one Jeongyeon had never experienced with her oldest friend before. And it was definitely one that made the beads on her bracelet feel heavier.

“You ok?” Mina asked as they stopped to wait at a red light.

“Yeah, just wondering.”

“About?”

“Jihyo. I’m going to try to talk to her soon - really talk to her.”

“Yeah, I think you should.” Mina nodded.

 

The lights turned green.

 

 

It took exactly nineteen minutes from the call ended until Dahyun let Chaeyoung into the apartment, Nayeon trailing after her sheepishly.

“Oh, look what the cat dragged in.” Dahyun grinned at them, wrapping an arm around Chaeyoung’s shoulder.

“That makes you the cat, then?” Chaeyoung asked, raising her eyebrows, then added a “Hey Sana.” at Sana in the couch, getting a happy wave back.

“Well, I definitely had to drag you he-” Dahyun jolted. Arms wrapped around her from behind and Nayeon’s head rested on her shoulder.

“Sorry.” Nayeon muttered.

“It’s fine. You ok?” Dahyun asked quietly. Nayeon nodded and hugged Dahyun tighter. Chaeyoung on the other hand, wriggled out of Dahyun’s hold and kicked off her shoes, nudging them with her feet until they stood next to each other.

“Your hair smells like lemons.” Nayeon noted quietly.

“Oh, yeah. Well, five minutes earlier and you would’ve caught me in the shower.” Dahyun said, reminding herself to tie her hair into a bun later. She could feel the damp stain on her back where Nayeon’s shoulder pressed the hair against Dahyun’s shirt.

“No thank you.” Chaeyoung noted dryly as they walked further into the room. “I’ve seen enough of your pasty butt to last me a lifetime.”

“Don’t judge my pasty butt, thank you very much, it’s sensitive to critique.” Dahyun huffed, earning a chuckle from Nayeon and a last squeeze before she let go to take off her shoes as well.

“I think you have a cute butt.” Sana noted from the couch, getting up to greet both Nayeon and Chaeyoung with a hug. “Very cute.”

“Uh, I, well-” Dahyun tried, but never got further as Sana chose this exact moment to pat said butt and walk away chuckling.

“How you managed to tap that with those skills, I will never understand.” Chaeyoung noted dryly as they slowly made it to the couch.

“You and me both.” Dahyun noted with a snort.

“She’s actually quite a skilled flirt when you’re not there.” Sana called from the kitchen.

“I… Thanks, babe!” Dahyun croaked as loudly as she could muster. Felt how her cheeks burned.

“Always here to help!” Sana chuckled.

“Dahyun? A flirt? There’s a sentence I don’t believe.” Chaeyoung said.

“Would you like to be uninvited, because you’re on thin ice.” Dahyun stared her down as best she could. Which wasn’t really very impressive considering that she was in fact, if all truths were to be told, an eighth of an inch shorter than Chaeyoung. Not that she’d ever admit it.

“Wasn’t it you who made us come here in the first place?” Chaeyoung complained.

“Well, yeah, because you’ve been pulling back from Momo,” Dahyun said the last part in a low enough voice that only the three of them heard. Nayeon tugged her lip between her teeth and looked smaller than ever.

“Okay, how about we make a deal?” Chaeyoung offered, reaching for Nayeon’s hand. “I don’t talk more about your insane luck with that girl-”

“Oh, by all means, keep talking about that!” Sana called from the kitchen.

Dahyun rolled her eyes.

“Just try not to embarrass us too much?” Chaeyoung asked.

“Of course, wouldn’t dream of talking about your own pasty butt in front of Momo.”

“Whose pasty butt?” Asked Momo, appearing from the hallway, drying her hair in a Doreamon towel.

“Mine!” Sana called from the kitchen but Momo’s attention was on the guests.

“Aah, you came!” She beamed at Nayeon and Chaeyoung before turning her head in the direction of the kitchen, talking to Sana,  “Your butt isn’t pasty. It’s hot.”

“I know.” Sana called with a chuckle. “Help me out?”

Momo shrugged, turned to Chaeyoung and Nayeon and said “I’m glad you’re here.” before disappearing again. Both girls addressed looked both sheepish and slightly flustered and Dahyun couldn’t help but smile at them. It really… really could be good if Momo liked them. If.

Chaeyoung excused herself to use the bathroom while Nayeon just stood. Dahyun walked back and tugged at her hand, pulling her with. The oldest still hadn’t said a single word, and Dahyun sat her down in the couch, settling beside her. Wriggled slightly against her to relieve some of her tension. It earned her a laugh and an arm snuck under Dahyun’s.

“Nothing has changed. She’s still just Momo. You still have the same feelings as you did before. She’s still just goofy, cuddly, meat loving Momo.” Dahyun said quietly. Nayeon nodded, leaned her head on Dahyun’s shoulder.

“I’m glad you’re here.” Nayeon mumbled.

Dahyun chuckled and adjusted so Nayeon leaned more comfortably on her.

 

 

“Chaengie, hand me the rice cakes?” Momo asked.

Chaeyoung nodded, and freed herself of Sana’s arm around her shoulder to hand Momo the bag of spicy rice cakes in her lap.

The movie progressed in song and color, Nayeon’s eyes fixed on it. Dahyun almost felt sorry for her, squashed between herself and Momo, but her hand was in Dahyun’s and it seemed to relax the poor girl somewhat. It was a rare sight indeed, to see Nayeon so out of it. She must really like Momo.

“Want one?” Momo offered the bag to Nayeon and Dahyun. Momo didn’t seem to notice anything. She just seemed perfectly content, her head bobbing along to the song, munching on a rice cake as Dahyun dug in for one too, taking the bag from Dahyun.

“You’re forgetting the dumplings, Momoring.” Sana noted just as Momo reclaimed the bag.

“Oh, right!” Momo grinned and put down the bag, reaching for the box of dumplings. Momo grinned and opened the pack. Dahyun grabbed chopsticks and offered them to both Momo and Nayeon.

“Oh, are we sharing with others tonight?” Momo teased.

“I think we can manage. I got double like I promised.” Dahyun shrugged.

“What are-” Nayeon frowned but Chaeyoung interrupted her.

“Don’t question the dumplings, babe. Just take it.”

“I… ok.” Nayeon still looked confused but accepted the chopsticks and the box. They settled for keeping it in Nayeon’s lap so everyone could reach comfortably. Maybe except for Nayeon whose arm, Dahyun noticed, rubbed against Momo’s, when she moved.

“This is the best song in the entire movie.” Momo noted with a nod at the movie, her mouth full of dumpling.

“I agree.” Nayeon noted. Then she stared at the gyoza between her chopsticks. Furrowed her brows.

“They’re not poisonous, come on, try them!” Momo insisted watching Nayeon’s grimace.

“It’s not like I’m taking your dumpling virginity.”

Nayeon mumbled something unintelligible but then put the gyoza in her mouth and started chewing.

“See? Not poisonous. And you’re officially a part of the dumpling squad now.” Momo grinned.

“Wait a minute,” Chaeyoung complained from the cushion on the floor. “I’ve been begging for weeks and the moment she smiles cutely, you just let her in?”

“Sorry Chaengie, you can join starting next week.” Momo grinned, but her actions contrasted her words as she handed the box and her own pair of chopsticks down to Chaeyoung and Sana. Then she she settled back on the couch and leaned on Nayeon. The oldest didn’t seem as bothered by it anymore, her mouth full of dumpling, but Dahyun still saw how her cheeks pinked.

 

The movie ended without Dahyun having understood half the plot. Not that it had been hard. But it was completely impossible for her not to observe her friends, especially Nayeon. Little by little she seemed to relax, and by the end of the movie she was resting her head against Momo’s shoulder, her hand only limply resting in Dahyun’s. But the minute Sana pressed the off button, Nayeon sat right up, grabbing Dahyun’s hand so hard the younger girl winced.

“Sorry, sorry!” Nayeon said, letting go of Dahyun’s hand completely.

“It’s fine, no worries.” Dahyun rubbed her hand.

“You okay?” Momo asked, and Dahyun was about to say that she was, but then looked to see Momo’s eyes on Nayeon.

“What? Y-yeah, I’m…” Nayeon trailed off, then smiled nervously. Almost as if just to cover up, but it certainly didn’t work very well.

“You don’t seem like yourself.” Momo frowned, turning slightly in the couch.

“Oh, well- It’s e-exams and stuff. Y-you-”

“Babe.” Chaeyoung’s voice was soft but insisting as she turned on the cushion and found Nayeon’s eyes. “Ask her.”

Nayeon shook her head, but Chaeyoung kept encouraging her.

“Ask who what?” Momo asked.

Nayeon first looked like she was about to panic, turning her head to face Momo, but then she took a deep breath.

“Would you... like to go on a date?” Nayeon’s voice was shrill with nervousness.

“What?” Momo frowned.

“A… a date. Would you like to go on a date?” Nayeon elaborated, calmer.

“But aren’t you two dating?” Momo seemed completely confounded, looking around at the other girls in the living room on turn, finally coming to a full circle at Nayeon.

“We are. But-” Chaeyoung stopped. Cleared her throat and looked at Dahyun, but Dahyun could do nothing but shrug.

Silence filled the room, and nothing challenged it. Momo just looked confused around the room.

“We… are.” Chaeyoung finally said, then took a deep breath. “We are dating. Nayeon and I. But we still want to… To take you on a date. Both of us. All three, I mean.”

“Oh.” Momo said. Looked down at Sana and so did Dahyun. She nodded. Momo swallowed and then looked back at Nayeon. “Can I think about it?”

“Sure, all the time you need. I mean.. I mean, don’t leave us hanging too long. But of course.” Nayeon said, her voice shaking slightly.

“Thanks. I mean, it’s not that-”

“We get it. It’s complicated.” Chaeyoung nodded.

“No, I mean, it’s not complicated, I just haven’t considered it more than friendship, I think because I don’t ever really consider possibilities in people in a relationship. But… I think I just need to think.” Momo explained, a slightly confused expression on her face. As if she was trying to solve a really hard math piece. Which, fair, she was, if she had been told that a couple was two and they already had one and one and now asked to add another one.

“Yeah, just think about it. And no pressure if you don’t feel like it. We just had to ask.”

“But… that means you like me?” Momo frowned.

Nayeon bit her lip. Nodded. Looked for a moment like she was about to say something but then went quiet. Nodded again.

“Oh…” Momo said.

“We should probably get back, I mean… exams.” Chaeyoung said, clearing her throat.

“You don’t have to leave because of me.” Momo said hurriedly.

“We’re not.” Chaeyoung put a hand on her knee and sent her a calming smile. “We both have exams in a few days and we hadn’t planned on staying for dinner anyway.”

“Oh, okay good.” Momo said.

“Nayeon?” Chaeyoung turned to the eldest.

“Huh? Oh, right, yeah.” Nayeon cleared her throat and got up from her squished spot in the middle of the couch. Then helped Chaeyoung up.

“Oh, no, you don’t have to get up.” Chaeyoung said quickly as Dahyun made to get up too. With a nod, Dahyun sat back down, but Momo didn’t. She got up. And before anyone really saw what had happened, her arms were around both Nayeon and Chaeyoung at the same time, hugging them tight.

 

“I’ll think about it. I’ll really think about it.” Momo said, her voice so low that Dahyun barely heard. But the words weren’t meant for her anyways, so it didn’t matter.

 

 

A wonderful breeze flew through the window as Dahyun turned the last page of the curriculum. Exams started tomorrow, and the first subject would be done in three, two, one.

“And it’s officially the birthday of Chou Tzuyu!” Dahyun shut the book.

Tzuyu smiled down at the pages of hers before shutting it as well. Barely managed to compose herself before Dahyun had grabbed her face and pressed a kiss to her forehead. Tzuyu’s cheeks puffed under Dahyun’s hands as her lips spread in a wide smile.

“Now, what do you want to make for dinner?” Dahyun let her go and got up from Tzuyu’s bed.

“Kimbap?” Tzuyu’s eyes shone. “I bought the things we need to make it already.”

“Oh, so you have been looking forwards to your birthday!” Dahyun grinned and followed Tzuyu over to the little corner of her room where a half-sized fridge and a double hotplate stood next to a tiny counter. While Tzuyu started digging ingredients from the fridge and filling the kettle with water for boiling, Dahyun walked into the bathroom to wash her hands. Her phone buzzed just as she had dried her hands.

 

7:14 pm Jihyo: Are you guys done yet? Can I join? I feel bad that Tzuyu doesn’t get a proper birthday party.

 

Dahyun frowned and walked back into the kitchen. “Tzuyu?”

“Yeah?” Tzuyu asked, staring down the kettle, in an apparent attempt to get it to boil the water faster.

“Jihyo wants to come over.” Dahyun said.

“Huh? Oh. Can’t it just be you and me?” Tzuyu tore her gaze from the kettle.

“But why?” Dahyun pressed. What was so bad about having Jihyo join?

“I just can’t handle any more people. I’m so tired. I just want to make food and eat it with you and watch silly dog videos. We have our first exam tomorrow and I really just… Can it just be you and me this time?”

Dahyun frowned, but feeling like they’d had this conversation before, she nodded.

 

7:16 PM Dahyun: Sorry, we’re going to be going all night.

7:17 PM Dahyun: Don’t worry, I’ve got her. She’s good.

 

Tzuyu looked at her gratefully and went to wash her hands. She didn’t return until Dahyun had poured the boiling water into the pot and added rice vinegar.

For almost an hour, they goofed around, cooked dinner, played loud music and laughed until their sides hurt. Did their best to forget about the exam and focused on perfecting their performance of the apple-pineapple song. If only Chaeyoung had been there they might’ve gotten it just right, but this would have to do. Dahyun didn’t have it in her to suggest inviting Chaeyoung.

 

They ended up eating every last piece of kimbap, and then slumped back onto the bed. Dahyun felt how the blood ran from her head into her stomach, leaving her tired and warm, half sitting, half lying down next to Tzuyu.

Dahyun sighed contently and rested her head on Tzuyu’s shoulder.

“She won’t let herself love me.” Tzuyu said without warning.

Dahyun’s head snapped up faster than was probably advised, and she immediately felt dizzy. Blinking a few times, she tried to get Tzuyu’s expression into focus, but the younger girl was merely looking at the ceiling.

“Excuse me, what now?”

“She confuses me so much.” Tzuyu continued.

“Who?”

“I know she loves me. But she won’t let herself.”

“Tzuyu, who?” Dahyun bent down and took up Tzuyu’s field of vision, but Tzuyu merely closed her eyes.

“She seems almost terrified that someone could want her.”

“Who?” This time Dahyun took Tzuyu’s hands in hers, but still Tzuyu’s eyes were firmly closed.

“And then she does stuff like this.” Tzuyu sighed. “Pulls me back in. I mean, I know I’m just as bad at staying away from her but… She still doesn’t keep her part of the deal. And maybe that’s why it’s so hard to stay away. Because I know she doesn’t really want me to.”

“Wh-. Wait. Tzuyu.” There was a puzzle and it was so easy, but she couldn’t fit the pieces. Maybe because she had never seen the picture before getting the pieces.

“I need her to stop sending me mixed signals.” Tzuyu finally opened her eyes, and Dahyun was shocked to find them watery. The look in them gave the last piece of the puzzle. Dahyun understood. Pulled Tzuyu up until she was sitting upright in the bed and then wrapped her arms tight around the taller girl.

“Jihyo?”

Tzuyu nodded into Dahyun’s neck and she sniffled.

“How long has this been going on?” Dahyun asked.

“How long I’ve liked her or how long since anything actually happened?”

“Since- wait, something happened, I’m- when?!”

“Chaeyoung’s birthday.” Tzuyu muttered

“I… What?”

 

 

“Okay, so the thirtieth we can get a flight out around 10, that’s actually decent.” Sana said.

“Yeah, that’s good.” Momo said distractedly. Tried to get her mind to actually notice what Sana was saying, but it was hard. She couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of going out with Nayeon and Chaeyoung. It wasn’t something she had considered. But now that the possibility had been opened to her, she just couldn’t get it out of her mind.

“Momo?” Sana’s voice forced through her thoughts, and Momo looked around at her. “You didn’t hear a word of what I just said, did you?”

“Uh, no.”

“What’s on your mind then?” Sana asked, minimizing the website on her computer.

“Nayeon and Chaeyoung.” Momo said honestly. Leaned her arms on the desk and rested her cheek on her arms, looking up at Sana.

“Still haven’t given them an answer?”

“Nope…” Momo pressed her lips tight together.

“But you know what you want to answer?” Sana asked.

“Yeah.. I think so. I mean… I do know.”

“So it’s a no?” Sana frowned.

Momo shook her head in her arms, trying not to smile too wide.

“It’s a yes? You want to try?” Sana’s lips spread in a grin.

“... Yeah.” Momo breathed.

“Tell them then! God, Momo, please tell them!” Sana said excitedly.

“How?” Momo asked, sitting back up, pulling her legs up, hugging them shyly.

“Call them! Now, please, please call them now!” Sana was practically bouncing in her seat.

“Why are you so excited about this?!” Momo asked, slightly amused and slightly more panicky than before. She knew already that there was no way out of it once Sana had set it in her mind that it was happening now.

“I just want you to be happy!” Sana pouted, though she was still bouncing slightly.

“Ew.” Momo scrunched her nose.

“Oh, stop it, just call them!” Sana giggled.

“... Fine. Fine, will you just sit still, I’ll call them.” Momo sighed. With slightly clammy hands, Momo took her phone from the desk and went into the contacts. Found Chaeyoung’s number and pressed the call button, Sana’s hand slapping against her upper arm excitedly. Momo grumbled and moved away, getting up and settling in Sana’s bed instead.

“Hello?” Chaeyoung’s voice was audibly nervous. Of course she knew that it was Momo calling.

“Hi…” Momo said, then took a deep breath.

“So you’re… uh you’re calling about-”

“Yeah.” Momo breathed.

“Oh.” Chaeyoung swallowed. “Oh, ok.”

“No, no. Chaeyoung, I’m saying yes. I’m just… I’m nervous, but I’m saying yes. I would like to go on a date with you. And Nayeon. You and Nayeon. Together.”

There was complete and utter silence on the other end.

“Chaeyoung?”

“Yeah? Oh, right. Good. Yes, good. Should we… uh, I mean, Nayeon isn’t here right now but-”

“We can just text together about the details?” Momo suggested. “But maybe we should wait until we’re done with exams.”

“Right, exams. God, okay, yeah. After exams… date.”

“Chaeyoungie… Breathe.”

Chaeyoung took an audibly deep breath, then chuckled once. “Thank you, Momo…”

“Hey, you’re the ones asking me out, I should be thanking you.” Momo grinned. She could feel Sana’s eyes on her, but focused on the sheets.

“Well then, you’re welcome I guess?”

Momo gave a laugh and then bit her lip. “I’ll see you soon then?”

“Yeah. See you soon…” Chaeyoung sounded both happy and relieved, and it made something inside Momo bubble. Made her smile down at the sheets.

 

The call ended, but the bubbles didn’t.

 

 

Dahyun chuckled, and Sana drew back. Took off her glasses and put them on the nightstand. Then gently removed Dahyun’s as well and put them next to Sana’s.

“One day my optician is gonna ask how I got my glasses bent out of shape and I’m gonna have to tell her that I knocked them while making out with another four-eyes.” Sana tutted, pecking Dahyun’s lips before laying down on the pillow, shuffling onto her side to face Dahyun.

“Did you have fun tonight?” Sana asked sweetly.

“Mh, she’s really good at making kimbap, she tried to teach me but I don’t know how to roll them tight enough.” Dahyun scrunched her nose, shuffling close enough to Sana for her eyes to come into focus. Which was, luckily for Dahyun, quite close.

“And she seemed to be in a better mood?”

Dahyun frowned. “Well, yes and no. She finally told me what’s been going on.”

“What do you mean?” Sana asked, tucking Dahyun even closer, sneaking her hand under Dahyun’s shirt to rest on her hip.

“You know how I said lunch was kind of weird the other day? Like it seemed like something was up?” Dahyun asked, feeling how Sana’s thumb stroked over her skin. Then felt the hand travel up just a little bit, resting on her waist instead.

“Yeah?” Sana asked.

“Well, there’s a reason. Apparently they had a thing? Or have a thing? Tzuyu wants it to be a thing at least, and Jihyo does too but she’s hella scared, so it’s just sort of push and pull at the moment. Like she won’t let Tzuyu love her but she won’t let her go either.” Dahyun said, shuffling closer and closer until their knees bumped together.

“Wait, so Jihyo and Tzuyu are in love?”

“... Yeah.”

“Wow.” Sana hummed. “It’s all a big mess then, isn’t it?”

Dahyun chuckled and followed as Sana turned onto her back. Then she nuzzled into her favorite spot by Sana’s neck and lifted her leg over Sana’s thighs. Sana’s hand disappeared higher up on Dahyun’s waist.

“Definitely a mess.”

“Mm… then there’s only one thing left here to do.” Sana said in a mysterious voice.

With a frown Dahyun lifted herself up on her elbow to look down and her. “What?”

Sana’s eyes glinted and her hand disappeared from under Dahyun’s shirt to cup her cheek instead.

 

“Kiss me.”

 

 

“Can we talk? If you have a moment…”

“Sure. Sure, I’m-” Jihyo looked around at Dahyun.

The younger girl nodded and seemed to lose focus, “It’s ok, go.”

And so Jihyo got up and followed the taller girl out of the kitchen. Didn’t know what to expect, but certainly hadn’t expected being led into Nayeon and Chaeyoung’s bedroom. Without a word, Tzuyu closed the door, leaving them in darkness.

“Tzuyu-” Jihyo fumbled to find the switch, but a hand wrapped around her wrist. The darkness was still too heavy, and Jihyo’s eyes hadn’t gotten used to it yet.

“Jihyo…” The name fell from Tzuyu’s lips so gently, so softly, that it made Jihyo’s breath catch. Without knowing it, she had somehow waited her entire life for someone to say her name like that. Knew immediately why they were standing here in the dark room, just the two of them and the sound of Jihyo’s hammering heart, threatening to break her.

“Sit with me?”

“But, what about-”

“I-I think I need the darkness... for this.” Tzuyu said, her voice trembling as she tugged tenderly at Jihyo’s wrist. The older girl followed, letting Tzuyu lead her to sit on the edge of the bed. Felt the bed shift underneath her and knew instinctively that Tzuyu was turned in her direction. Every cell in Jihyo’s body was fighting itself.

“I’m in love with you.”

There was no hesitance; no big speech. No mention of why or when or how. And it was so much like Tzuyu, but it still took Jihyo by surprise. Even if she had somehow known it from the moment Tzuyu had closed the door and given them both to the darkness.

“And… I need to know something.” Tzuyu continued, quieter now. As if her courage was slowly taking away her voice.

“What?” Jihyo asked. Knew already what Tzuyu wanted to ask, but still waited for the words to form between them.

“In… In all the time you’ve known me, have you ever- have you ever thought… that there could be more than just friendship in what you felt… for me?”

Jihyo bit her lip, blood racing in her ears and chest hurting with the pace her heart was beating at. Wasn’t sure whether she’d be able to say the answer out loud. Admit it to anyone but her pillow.

“Yes.” Jihyo breathed. Felt Tzuyu’s grip on her wrist strengthen for a second and a breath that caught. Maybe it could happen. Maybe there could be more between them. Maybe Jihyo could be brave, for Tzuyu. And then Tzuyu’s hand let go of her wrist, tracing up her arm instead, over her shoulder and finally found the older girl’s face, cupping it with one hand, and then the other.

 

Jihyo felt no fear.

 

Felt only how Tzuyu pulled her closer, how the warmth emitting from her body was suddenly so close, and then breath hitting her lips.

“I’m going to kiss you.” Tzuyu said gently. Stroked her thumbs over Jihyo’s cheeks.

“Okay.” Jihyo breathed. Waited for Tzuyu to lead her off to whatever blissful ignorance she could offer.

And for a second - that first second where Tzuyu’s lips pressed against her own and Jihyo’s mind went blank, everything was just that. Blissful ignorance. But then there was the taste of alcohol and the knot in Jihyo’s stomach, and she couldn’t get herself to move against Tzuyu’s lips. But couldn’t get herself to pull back either. Just felt the tears fall from her eyes and her lips tremble. Felt the panic in her chest and the sound of a cup breaking against the floor of the coffee shop. The distant noise from a party and the feeling of a cold curb. The sound of her heart breaking into a million pieces and every single bit of effort it had taken her to glue it back together. And here Tzuyu was, threatening to break it all over again, and Jihyo didn’t have the strength to go through it all over again.

The sob that left Jihyo’s throat was involuntary, but by then, Tzuyu had already pulled back, her hands gone, her warmth gone.

“I’m… I’m sorry.” Jihyo cried quietly. “I can’t. I’m not… not like this.”

“Then like what?” Tzuyu asked, her neutral voice and the darkness keeping Jihyo from reading her.

“I don’t know.” Jihyo sobbed, letting the tears pool under her chin and fall into her lap. Didn’t have the strength to wipe them. “But not like this.”

“Okay.” Tzuyu said.

If she had just gotten mad. Or sad. Or frustrated. Anything that would tell in her voice. But Tzuyu just sat there, accepting Jihyo’s fears as if it was no big deal.

“I don’t… I’m not sure I can ever…”

“Okay.” Tzuyu repeated.

“Please…” Jihyo begged, not even sure what she was begging for. Forgiveness? Closeness? The chance to get her heart broken?

But Tzuyu didn’t speak. Just got up, the weight of the bed shifting to Jihyo alone. And then the door opened, revealing Tzuyu’s back.

She was gone. And there was nothing left but Jihyo and the darkness and the need to prevent herself from falling apart.