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I like the way that words come out your mouth
It takes me many miles to make them out
And strawberry sits superbly with you
Go on and lick me love I'm jelly in my shoes


 

It was supposed to be a simple, if not an ordinary occurrence in her life—to return to an empty dorm room and sleep away the little inconveniences of the day, or wait until her roommate returns from extra-curricular activities. But it seems like nothing is ever simple for Kang Seulgi, for when she enters, she finds Bae Joohyun sat on her bed.

   She stares, or rather, gapes—it doesn't matter though, seeing as a stranger is in her room—mouth open, a look of faint idiocy on her face because that is extremely attractive in the presence of extremely attractive seniors (it really isn't). Seulgi's only ever met Joohyun once before, a memory she'd happily douse in bleach and hope it'd sanitise the goddamn embarrassment, even if Son Seungwan sees a saint in the girl—all starry-eyed and smitten. Joohyun is still a stranger, an unfamiliar territory.

   "What're you doing here?" Seulgi demands, and in her defence, she did try—even if her voice doesn't rise. After all these years of delivering the best presentations in class, she's still slightly docile, easy, and somewhat shy—her mortal weaknesses.

   Joohyun is bored, perhaps, but Seulgi isn't sure, doesn't have enough material to come to a conclusion, hasn't ever had a proper conversation with her to draw support from—she could be happy, confused, or even content—Joohyun's expression gives away nothing and Seulgi doesn't trust people who aren't expressive. "What does it look like?"

   "You're on my bed," she says, shutting the door behind her rather reluctantly, pressing the flat of her palm against it just to have something to do.

   It's quite odd to feel powerless in such a situation—it's her room, her bed and she's the one standing yet the rules of dominance are reversed, despite Joohyun's relaxed position. Seulgi isn't equipped for anything of the sort, and she definitely isn't equipped to deal with the enigma that is Joohyun.

   An eyebrow raised in question, Joohyun says, "But does it have your name on it?"

   She presses her palm harder against the door, clearly agitated. "No, but—that is my bed." She's caught in a trick school-yard bullies use to steal your lunch or your favourite pen, and people her age wouldn't fall for it anymore—except that she's Seulgi and Seulgi is incredibly gullible. Unfortunately.

   "Do you have any evidence?" Joohyun dismisses her.

   "All my stuff is on it!"

   Joohyun pushes herself off the bed, amused at Seulgi's reaction. "Calm down, sweetheart."

   But she doesn't catch the amusement behind Joohyun's words, a little too interested in gripping the strap of her bag—until the skin over her knuckles stretches taut and white—as if doing so might make her less of a target. Seulgi does wonder at times if she really grew up since she hasn't let go of childish associations. Of course, she doesn't know that no one ever does but she'll continue to berate herself until further notice.

   Uncomfortable, Seulgi makes her way to the desk she shares with Seungwan just for a breather—Joohyun is intense and Seulgi, on principle, stays away from anyone who makes her feel anything but comfortable, which includes people other than her immediate family and occasionally, Seungwan. Joohyun stalks towards her, all predatory confidence until they're stood face to face, at which Seulgi stumbles and proceeds to right herself by catching the top rail of the chair—face angled down to not look at her.

   "It's considered rude to look at the floor when a person's standing right in front of you." Her tone is light and completely different from before, now quite obvious in her teasing. Seulgi peers up at her and catches Joohyun's lopsided smirk—and it's irritating because her behaviour finally falls into place. She frowns and stares right back at her. Joohyun is small and delicate yet she radiates a stupid kind of arrogance just to annoy people.

   Joohyun moves away once the door clicks open and it's Seungwan on the other side—she offers Seulgi a small smile in lieu of an apology like she knows Joohyun would act the way she did. Pulse still beating like an off-beat metronome at the base of her throat, Seulgi can't manage to say anything before Joohyun walks away and pulls Seungwan with her, closing the door behind her.

   She prays to anyone—Zeus, Jesus, God, literally anyone willing to listen—that she doesn't have to interact with Joohyun until after graduation.

 


 

Seulgi doesn't like to admit it, but. Joohyun stole Seungwan away from her, and it's basically the biggest injustice in the whole world (truly, like, everyone knows about it).

   Came into Seungwan's life like a bloody comet, all shiny and completely periodic in giving her affections—swept Seungwan away one day, unexpectedly, armed with that versatile smile and doe eyes innocent enough to make one swoon. Came out of nowhere with a smug casualness that Seungwan raved about for weeks—and the way she initiated it reminded Seulgi of one of those unplanned Wattpad stories you find on the daily, and still.

   Stole Seungwan from their routines and late-night conversations about their families—how they'd fall asleep to an anecdote and wake up to unopened curtains and dim lights, an ode to each others' fastidious behaviours. Now Seulgi just wakes up to an empty room and her own petulance like molasses in the air—because she still remembers that godawful day Seungwan had thought to introduce her to Joohyun, that pretty senior she could wax poetry about for hours on end, that fateful day Seulgi hadn't brushed her hair and hadn't even worn any BB cream, clad in a ratty T-Shirt with two goddamn holes in it. Only because she was eight minutes late to class. Had faced Joohyun's arrogance first hand when she'd said, "Did you get that shirt from charity?"

   Of course, she remembers it. Of course, she hasn't worn that shirt since.

   Of course, she's annoyed when she realises Seungwan's not anywhere in the room and her bed's already made. Of course, she isn't jealous of her roommates' new friendship. Not at all.

 


 

It seems her prayer from that day had gone unanswered because as she returns to her room, she sees Joohyun stood in front of the door—arms folded across her chest, hair pulled up in a bun and honestly, looking very, very distracting—Seulgi isn't a sinner per se, never voluntarily caused someone harm but this punishment makes her feel as though she committed first degree murder and never tried to repent for it.

   It also seems Seungwan isn't with her after all and something akin to pettiness twists in glee in her stomach. Maybe she is some sort of a sinner—just a little lower than the common thief.

   "There's no need to get excited, I mean—it's just me," Joohyun says, head tilted to the side in curiosity.

   Seulgi fumbles for the keys in her jeans pocket, annoyed at her fate that she mumbles without realising, "More like you're full of yourself."

   "What was that?" She leans forward, crap—she'd heard.

   "Nothing." Seulgi quickly opens the door, in hopes to bury herself out of embarrassment—it's always in front of beautiful people that Seulgi manages to be weird and awkward—not like she has enough time by herself to be weird enough that she's got to go out of the way to behave like a goddamn idiot. Joohyun follows Seulgi inside like it's her right—clearly unbothered, perhaps a little cocky. "Do you need anything?"

   "Seungwan."

   "Well, she isn't here."

   "Fantastic observation but where is she?"

   Shrugging, Seulgi slumps onto her bed and opens her laptop in an effort to ignore Joohyun when she does the same. She regards Joohyun thoughtfully for a while until, "Y'know, we're not really friends."

   A smile made of all things sweet and wonderful, full of childish promises and somewhat coy, "We could be." She tilts her head to the side again and Seulgi feels her blood rush with empty adrenaline. "Tell me something about yourself."

   She wasn't expecting the question that she blurts out the first thing that comes to mind, "Um—I'm an Aquarius?"

   "I'm not interested in your birth chart," she says, words tumbling, toneless and unbothered. It's never easy to understand what she needs—what she wants by being here, with her effortlessly sardonic voice and smiles mixed with secrets and conviction.

   Seulgi's cheeks grow warm—stupid, stupid, stupid—and focuses her attention back on the laptop, just vaguely aware that Joohyun is right there, so very real that she can't bring herself to be normal enough to not get teased every other sentence. A moment later and Joohyun brings one arm overhead to pull at it gently with her other hand, all graceful and unaffected, like she's utterly bored and it's the only thing left to do—instinctively, Seulgi's gaze darts to her lean torso, and yes, objectively (of course), Joohyun has a great figure, which she apparently wants even girls to look at.

 


 

"I don't think I like Joohyun."

   A truly simple admission, Seulgi really doesn't like her—Joohyun's too heady of a person, almost dizzyingly haughty. Seulgi's about to throw a wad of crumpled paper at Seungwan who hasn't even bothered to dignify her with a response apparently fixated on an essay that's due on Thursday, when she holds up a hand. "Is it 'cause she's hot?" She counters like it's a bloody fact.

   Seulgi scrunches her nose—doesn't even know where that came from. "No, it's 'cause she's full of herself and sarcastic like, all the time. I don't know how you can stand her."

   "She always says you're pretty, though." But it seems Seungwan isn't even interested, bouncing back ideas and statements unrelated to whatever that's said—and it can't really be a lie, Seungwan isn't cunning enough to come up with something on the spot.

   "You didn't tell me where you disappeared to last weekend," Seulgi says instead, uncomfortable.

   "A junior asked me whether I could help them in English."

   "And?"

   Seungwan turns to look back at her, arm placed on the top rail of the chair—there's nothing unaffected about her, cheeks a faint pink, trying to appear unimpressed. "We met up in the library to study."

   "Alright, but why are you blushing?"

   "I'm not!" Seungwan protests, which in turns makes her cheeks even redder.

   "So, who was it? Do I know him?" She continues, intrigued, but Seungwan turns around and proceeds to put on a pair of headphones—effectively ignoring all of Seulgi's questions. "You can't avoid me for too long, Wan. We live in the same room."

 


 

Joohyun is annoying for lack of a better word.

   Since a couple of days, she's taken to sit with Seulgi and Seungwan in the cafeteria and ever since then, Seulgi feels that strange tingle on her skin that's indicative of when someone stares at you. Not that she has any evidence to support her claim, she just knows it's Joohyun—whenever she looks up, Joohyun is turned towards Seungwan but there's a small smile at the corner of her lips—and it's goddamn devious.

   Food is almost a sacred thing for Seulgi, she doesn't like to talk whilst eating and she definitely doesn't want to be stared at like some animal in captivity—food is more important than people and if she were rude, she'd have left to go eat somewhere in peace.

   But unfortunately for Seulgi, she isn't the kind of person to make anyone else feel uncomfortable because of her—even if said person is Joohyun.

   She peers up at Joohyun only to find her already looking back, Seulgi frowns and they challenge each other for a moment until Joohyun's mouth quirks up in a lopsided smile which doesn't make her look attractive at all (it does—a lot). When she gets up, the chair grates against the floor. "I'm heading back—enjoy your little date."

   Joohyun blinks at her with a look of faux innocence—it's her face that ultimately disarms people, so open and trustworthy—she could successfully lure victims back to her place if she were a murderer and no one would suspect a thing.

 


 

Seulgi didn't sign up for this (or maybe she did, her memory isn't that good).

   Yet here she is—stood outside the auditorium door with Joohyun as they wait for Seungwan's return.

   She finds herself usually frowning in Joohyun's presence, doesn't care nor remember that her mother had told her to never frown because she'll never get a man that way. She's seventeen, for god's sake, not old enough to think about marriage. Joohyun twirls a lock of hair between her fingers, trying but failing, somehow, to look aloof—it's the first time she's seen her look affected by anything.

   "D'you have a problem?"

   Joohyun's eyes flick up to meet hers—sharp and frank in their scrutiny that Seulgi almost wishes she hadn't asked. "Do you think I've got a problem?"

   Leaning back against the wall, she looks away. "No."

   Closing the distance between them, Joohyun reaches forward and tugs at Seulgi's tie, inspecting it for a moment before saying, "Y'know, this tie doesn't suit a lot of the girls here, but it looks good on you." She tugs at it harder, a little more teasingly that Seulgi loses her balance and stumbles closer to Joohyun—close enough that she could see the halogen lights reflected almost amber in Joohyun's eyes. "And you're right, I do have a problem."

   Seulgi feels her cheeks heat instantly—she cannot blush in front of Joohyun, she cannot. Oh god, she probably is. "Could you stop?"

   A simple smirk that borders on guileful. "I would if you look at me." Seulgi rolls her lips into her mouth, obviously flustered but finally meets Joohyun's gaze—she regards Seulgi curiously before pushing her back. Lightheaded, she pulls her phone out and fumbles through the app screen to seem busy until her heart doesn't feel like it'd jump out of her throat.

 


 

It's not how she remembers it—now quiet, dark and imposing in the hours after curfew—and neither as safe as it usually is in the morning, anything could be here, just lurking out of sight, in the shadows. A completely rational thought.

   Seulgi isn't necessarily afraid of the dark, no, she's not four, she's more or less afraid of what could be there—even if she knows there's nothing there. Tangled earphones clutched in her hand like rosary beads in the hands of a priest (forgive her, she's seen The Exorcist one too many times), she moves towards the back where the tree they usually frequent to is located at. A little far off is a vague, dark blob, picking up—rocks? perhaps—and flinging them in the air with force and anger—and Seulgi, predictably freezes. Even her heart and lungs stall for a tense moment until she steps back and a horrifying crunch cracks through the atmosphere.

   Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no—she can't die in a goddamn boarding school at the hands of some inexperienced and clumsy serial killer, nope, definitely not. She'd prefer to go at the hands of Hannibal if possible.

   "Who's there?"

   ShitJoohyun.

   "It's—it's me, Seulgi," she stammers—she'd blame the cold but it's not that cold yet and she doesn't want to admit that she—maybe, kind of—stammered because of Joohyun.

   Once her eyes start to adjust to the darkness, she can see something undeniably different about Joohyun—untamed and wild, like if Seulgi were to say something just slightly out of line, she'd find a horse head in her bed come morning. Joohyun looks like the kind of girl Seulgi's mother had warned her about—or did she say that about boys?—but unfortunately for her, she can't remember since she's more intent on not getting murdered tonight. She also looks like she just rolled out of bed, with mussed up hair and pyjama shorts decent enough to only be worn while sleeping.

   "Oh, tragic," Joohyun says, voice deadly soft.

   "You shouldn't be out here."

   "Neither should you."

   "No, I mean," she gestures to her hoodie to get the point across but continues, "you shouldn't be out here without a jacket or hoodie." In a sudden realisation, "D'you want mine?"

   Joohyun deflates in a matter of seconds, strings cut, shoulders slumping, whatever anger that bubbled in her veins dissipates with it—she looks terribly small for a girl who just made Seulgi feel fearful for her life some minutes ago. "Why would I want your hoodie?" She saunters over, steps only a little hesitant and Seulgi immediately tugs it off her head, hair now completely disarrayed. "Wouldn't you feel cold?"

   "I'm already hot, so."

   Joohyun laughs despite herself, and Seulgi likes this, wants to hear her laugh more often—feels this inexplicable need surge in the pit of her stomach to make Joohyun smile like this again, all pure and unrestrained mirth. "That you are," she adds after shrugging it on and Seulgi finds herself unable to form sentences, utterly confused by this whiplash of emotions (she also likes seeing Joohyun in her hoodie, much more than she ever imagined—not that she ever thought about it, really). "But I didn't think you were that desperate to see me again."

   "I'll see you, anyway." She shrugs, shy.

   Pulling at the sleeve of the hoodie, Joohyun peers at her thoughtfully like she's got something on her mind—it's a new occurrence and Seulgi instantly catalogues it for future reference—it's also very adorable. Power dynamics feel more balanced here, on the same level. "Who's your date for the formal?"

   Seulgi smiles innocently, "Is that your way of asking me out?"

   "You're smart, Seulgi. I'll let you figure that one out by yourself."

 


 

It doesn't take long for the weekend to pass as Saturday and Sunday whirl away in a commercial induced fog and Seulgi is still left swamped with unfinished essays.

   All of her study materials lay scattered on the bed, organised by importance, but there's a strange fuzziness that clouds her mind, borne entirely out of boredom. Just as she's about to smack her head repeatedly against that biology textbook she'd rather stab repeatedly with a wooden stake, her phone lights up with a text.

   12:54 PM, Joohyun: Seulgi?

   12:56 PM, Seulgi: yeah

   She should've just smashed her head in, there'd be no more school, no more biology, no more Joohyun—probably a little more fire than usual, since she's such a sinner. But she isn't that opposed to texting, so.

   12:58 PM, Joohyun: Come get your hoodie before I decide to give it to charity.

   Of course. Seulgi's almost tempted to just say sure but—it's her only black hoodie (only, it's almost sad) and she does cherish it a lot.

   01:02 PM, Seulgi: you can come over anytime

   01:02 PM, Joohyun: No.

   01:06 PM, Seulgi: fine where's your room

   Yawning, she falls back on her bed and contemplates her situation—she'll have to go and engage in... actual conversation... in someone else's room. How disgusting. "I'm gonna go get my hoodie back from Joohyun," she says in a monotone, with no intention of going anytime soon, just to let Seungwan know if she doesn't make it back.

   "Tell her I said it's not cold enough to steal your hoodies!"

 


 

Joohyun's room is the mirror image of the room Seulgi shares with Seungwan, except... the other side, with the other bed, is suspiciously empty and rather lonely—and as most students are required to share and as far as rumours go, those that don't have a roommate anymore have usually gotten into trouble. Or are trouble, basically.

   Seeing Seulgi's interest in the empty half of the room, Joohyun comments, as though bored, "She transferred last year, apparently, she felt threatened by my sexiness." Based on Joohyun's laughter, Seulgi didn't react very well to that information. "I just—no," she manages, "it's adorable that you believed me."

   She wants to say that she hadn't (she did), instead she asks, "Isn't it weird to sleep alone?"

   "Why, are you offering?" Joohyun's got a cheeky smile on her face as she collapses onto on her bed, soft posture, no hard edges that Seulgi has to turn her attention to the desk that's got a pile of neatly arranged books on it—she's only caught the name of one title, The Character of Consciousness when she remembers—

   "I just came to get my hoodie." She rubs her arm awkwardly, not knowing what boundaries they have, what she's allowed to do.

   "Do you have anywhere to be?" After Seulgi's response of just shaking her head no, Joohyun says, "Good, we should hang out."

   Oh no, Seulgi isn't keen to hang out with people who look like they could commit homicide any given day. "But you're Seungwan's friend," she states, and now that she's said it out loud, sounds really stupid.

   "So, does that mean we can't be friends?" Joohyun thrusts out her bottom lip in an irresistible little pout—lips painted an irresistible shade of red.

   "No, I didn't mean that—"

   Joohyun pats her bed. "Come here."

   Seulgi goes to sit on the edge, uncomfortable with the need to remain unaffected and rigid—calculating the amount of distance between them. She flips through some topics they could talk about before settling on, "I'm not sure what your intentions are considering you had to blackmail me for some company."

   "Jesus Christ, you caught me. I love to blackmail cute girls like you just to get them in my bed—is there anything that doesn't escape your notice, Poirot?"

   It's clear that she's being sarcastic, that she doesn't mean it anything more than a simple joke at Seulgi's expense but it still stings—harder than it should've, crumbles whatever that was left of her resolve. She looks around the room, counting the seconds before peering at Joohyun just as she bites her lip, focused on her phone and Seulgi's thoughts completely wash away in a mess of garbled nonsense—Joohyun catches her looking and just raises a brow in question. "Um—your lip stain..." She manages, and clears her throat, "it's really..."

   Joohyun's curiosity is palpable and it makes Seulgi's cheeks tingle. "You could try it."

   "I should go," she says in response, "Wan is probably worried where I've gone."

   Seulgi averts her gaze when Joohyun gets up because she's worn shorts yet again and she doesn't want to get caught staring anywhere lower than Joohyun's face—even if it's okay to look at someone just to appreciate their beauty, regardless of gender. She really isn't interested in crossing that line. Honestly. Joohyun drops the hoodie on her lap and Seulgi gets up in a sudden motion, catching it from falling on the floor.

   "Next time," she drags her gaze over the length of Seulgi's body, "I won't blackmail you into my bed—I'll let you make your own choice."

   Seulgi doesn't waste any time to leave.

 


 

Seulgi's lying on her stomach on Seungwan's bed, scrolling through her instagram feed for the fourth time—it's gotten repetitive to the point of insanity—when Seungwan's phone pings with a message.

   They aren't losers per se (they probably are), but any messages they do get are from family and other miscellaneous friends and Seungwan's amused little chuckle isn't a justified response for any of their texts. Peering up at her curiously, Seulgi asks, "What's funny?"

   Embarrassed, Seungwan clicks the power button out of habit to close the screen. Very suspicious. "Nothing, was just a meme," she gestures with her phone, a guilty look on her face as she tries to remain impassive but fails, horribly.

   Seulgi shuffles closer, her own phone left forgotten on a stray pillow. "Yeah? Someone sent you a meme and you smiled like..." she trails off, in search for an apt simile. There must be one out there. Unfortunately, Seulgi isn't much of a writer.

   "Like what?" Seungwan taunts as Seulgi rolls onto her back in frustration, hands pressed to her forehead.

   "Lost my train of thought."

   Another message and Seungwan's fingers twitch with the urge to unlock her phone and see, instead she says, "Good, let it derail and crash in some ditch."

   "That's morbid."

   "Is it morbid, Seul? Is it really? Not if it gets you to shut up."

   Seulgi just rolls her eyes and tries another tactic. "I wanna see, was it a classical art meme?" Honestly, it isn't funny anymore that she doesn't even know who Seungwan tutors—it's downright disrespectful.

   Hopping off her bed, Seungwan calls back, "I'll show you when I get back."

   "What!?" Seulgi sits up straight, in utter dramatics, "Were you setting up a rendezvous with your secret admirer?" Grabs a pillow at random and flings it at Seungwan's general direction—but it misses, predictably. "Why don't you stab me in the back as well?"

 


 

There's a knock at the door that Seulgi doesn't want to answer—she's in the middle of watching one of her favourite films and is no mood whatsoever to deal with anyone on the other side since Seungwan left to go on some stupid rendezvous.

   But there's another knock, much softer and resigned than before that she goes to open the door after pausing the film. She shouldn't be surprised but she is, unfortunately—to find Joohyun stood outside. A couple of weeks have passed since they last met but she can still feel the way Joohyun's gaze made her skin feel oddly electric—she should've doused that memory in gasoline and burnt it—yet it's ever-present, nagging, like phantom pain, not quite there but there still.

   "Is Seungwan here?"

   Oh. She's here for Seungwan.

   Of course. They're not friends, she feels stupid for assuming something that isn't even true.

   "Nope."

   "Can I come inside?" Joohyun asks, voice bordering on watery and muted.

   Seulgi shifts to the side and Joohyun makes her way to Seungwan's bed—face entirely blank, trying to appear unbothered by the turmoil that churns under her skin—in all the time she's known Joohyun, she's never seen her look so real—that if Seulgi were to touch her, she'd just dissolve under the weight of her thoughts. Lips pursed in thought, Seulgi wonders what to say.

   She finally settles on, "Are you okay?"

   There's something so raw and open about her—almost afraid of the words that might tumble out in the form of cloaked apologies meant for someone else. But in another moment, the veil is drawn again and Seulgi is left grasping for something that isn't there anymore. A tired smile colours Joohyun's face. "Sincerity doesn't suit you."

   "Alright," she says, clipped and moves over to her bed.

   "Don't do that."

   Seulgi whips her head to see Joohyun frowning up at her. "What?"

   "That thing you do like, don't be so goddamn gullible. I'm never really serious, okay?"

   "Thanks for giving me another reason to feel dumb around you."

   Joohyun looks stunned, "I'm sorry?"

   "Don't worry," she shrugs, sitting with her back against the wall, made comfortable by the many pillows she's placed there, "it's not like you're the only one." Joohyun falls silent at that and it's the kind of silence Seulgi's never associated with her—wary and stretched thin—she looks over to see Joohyun and she seems so lonely, just sat there on a lonely bed, with only the quiet air as company. "Hey," she says, albeit a little softly and gestures at Joohyun to come sit by her.

   Joohyun rolls her lips into her mouth in contemplation until she shrugs off her shoes to sit next to Seulgi—the bed is so small that there's no amount of personal space left for them to sit comfortably—shoulder to shoulder, hands close enough to hold. Seulgi feels her body heat up, a flush creeping up her cheeks.

   "I think you're very thoughtful and smart to not react to all the dumb shit I say," Joohyun says, she's so close that her voice sounds mellow and warm, "you just give me a lot of room to tease you and I can't help myself."

   "I don't mind."

   "Right. Of course, you don't." She watches Seulgi scrub through the film to reach the start. "What're you watching?"

   "Pan's Labyrinth. It's in Spanish, though, so you'll have to follow the subtitles."

 


 

As the film ends—the quiet rolls for an agonising second before the soundtrack plays with the credits, and Joohyun squeezes Seulgi's hand in a manner of restraint—it's a tight hold, an anchor, in hopes to gather up the waves that threaten to crash at her sanity.

   "Huh," Joohyun says, voice wavering at the edges, ready to dissolve into oblivion.

   Seulgi can't seem to let go either, likes the power the gesture exudes, likes its solidity and the dull edges of Joohyun's hand in her palm—likes how half-way throughout the film Joohyun had curled up next to her, skin pressed against skin, to tangle her leg with Seulgi's—likes the goddamn intimacy like a touch starved baby. But there are too many likes in the equation that she almost yearns for the times where Joohyun would tease her—prefers those simpler moments without any emotional weight.

   "You didn't like it?"

   Joohyun clears her throat and says, "I did but—why did it have to end that way? Ofelia didn't deserve to die like that. Or die, period."

   "Technically, the film literally opens with her death, so..."

   A subtle shift in posture and Joohyun's looking at her, close enough that when Seulgi looks back—she can see the faint flush of her cheeks and the mark near her eyebrow barely visible under BB cream—she finally let's go of Seulgi's hand. "You're not sad!" Joohyun says, accusatory and eyes narrowed in suspicion.

   "I've seen it a couple of times," Seulgi replies, the corners of her mouth twitching as she fights against a smile, "and besides, she returns to the underworld—it's not really that sad if you see it that way."

   Joohyun sniffles and scrunches her nose in disdain—Seulgi finds it alarming how she's started to find most of Joohyun's antics absolutely adorable. "I'm not sad but I officially hate you for making me watch it."

   "Shocking," she says, smiling in that genuine way which makes Seungwan call her a 'strangely cute teddy bear'—eyes almost crinkled shut in joy.

   Sniffing, Joohyun shuffles to the middle of the bed, mopey, voice a little screechy, overly dramatic, "You're not supposed to be sassy, that's all on me. I'm the sassy one in the duo." That provokes an unexpected laugh out of Seulgi. "Stop laughing and mourn Ofelia's death with me," she mutters, bringing up a hand to wipe at her eye harshly, annoyed at herself—Seulgi doesn't necessarily understand why but an urge tugs at her, and she obliges—catching Joohyun's wrist and pulling her in for a hug, one arm around her shoulders, Joohyun's muscles stiffen, so when Seulgi pulls away and sees Joohyun look like a startled rabbit, she doesn't find it odd at all (maybe a little oddly endearing). "What was that for?"

   Seulgi just shrugs, "You looked like you needed it."

   Joohyun scoffs, indignant. "'Kay, just don't get caught giving out free hugs to every degenerate out there. Save some for me."

 


 

No one really seems to care that the month is close to its end—caught in a disparaging cycle of renewed time every day, every month, every year—as they all chatter needlessly about the formal, even in the goddamn library. Kind of wonders why Joohyun had asked her about it.

   Seulgi looks over to the gaggle of girls that are, god forbid, giggling, (do people still giggle?) and just rolls her eyes at their antics. Not that she isn't going, she will—but at least she doesn't give it that much importance. Well, at least someone might spike the punch. Fun.

   "D'you think Joohyun's gonna go to the formal?" She muses out loud, chin in the palm of her hand. Can't even imagine why she said that—hopes that Seungwan is too absorbed in the only copy of Finnegans Wake their library has stocked.

   "She would if she doesn't wanna spend the night alone," Seungwan comments and after some full fifteen seconds have passed, she looks up at Seulgi in surprise, eyebrows raised like she's just discovered some secret—and leans forward as if she's letting Seulgi in on it, "but now that I think about it, it's not such a bad idea."

   "What about you?"

   Seungwan just shrugs and returns to her book, already bored, "I'll go if you go."

   She's simple that way, Seungwan, and it wouldn't be fun if Seulgi didn't have anything to tease her with. "And what about that junior?"

   Her reaction isn't even subtle, puffing out her cheeks in annoyance vaguely reminiscent of a child throwing a tantrum—Seulgi just wants to poke at her cheeks, even squish them—Seungwan is too cute, god. "I don't know. I didn't ask." She juts out her bottom lip, not quite reading, on guard.

   "I can't wait to meet the guy who stole my best friend," Seulgi intones.

   "Well, you'd be surprised..."

   Crossing her arms, she falls back against the chair, rather pouty. "Is it worth not telling me?"

   "Oh, shut up." But there's no bite to it, just avoidance—and Seulgi decides to get the information out of Seungwan some other time—quite soon.

 


 

"Is everything alright?"

   Head resting against the tree and eyes closed, Joohyun is uncharacteristically quiet and maybe, just maybe Seulgi's a little concerned about her—she hasn't been able to understand her behaviour that night, doesn't have any solid reasons to attribute the way Joohyun's hand had felt in hers. She's only got questions upon questions laden on her tongue.

   Sunlight angles straight at Joohyun's face which makes her squint when she looks up to see Seulgi—eyes warm and undeniably golden. "Is it true? Does baby bear actually care about me?"

   And it's so unfair how good she looks whilst squinting. Totally. Decidedly. Unfair.

   The nickname makes Seulgi's cheeks prickle out of embarrassment. "Yeah," she admits.

   "Keep that up Seul and I just might fall for you."

 


 

Come night of the formal and Seulgi's decided to opt for the only dress she'd packed at her mother's insistence—a complete one-eighty from the casual ensemble she wore the last time just to remain comfortable and a little different. Not that she isn't comfortable with the dress on, she is, really—even likes the little flare when she twirls in front of the mirror.

   She does look good, perhaps not on par with Joohyun and that just-kissed-look she's got going on with that awfully sexy lip stain... which Seulgi is definitely not thinking about.

 


 

She hears a song (that's played ad nauseam on the radio) once she enters the venue with Seungwan by her side—students already out on the dancefloor, bodies moving nonsensically, nothing precise—all jumbled movement, thoughtless and quite drunk.

   It's one of those nights, reminiscent of school dances seen in films that leaves her wondering what she might have felt if she had pregamed like the most of them—unaware, happy and actually dancing. Even slightly tipsy. They move over towards an empty spot near the wall where a cluster of juniors are at.

   Seulgi turns to face Seungwan and sees her fidget with the hem of her lace blouse, face angled down, looking at the floor—and reaches over to link their fingers together. Soft. Girls are always so soft. Hands nimble. Remembers the shape and feel of Joohyun's hand in her own—shakes her head slightly. Seungwan pushes away her fringe, making it messy and smiles, grateful. Just as she's about to return the smile, Seungwan's eyes flick over to somewhere behind Seulgi and her expression falters—a mixture of hesitancy and admiration, lips pinched in an uncertain line.

   She turns to follow Seungwan's gaze and sees one of the more popular sophomores coming their way—Seulgi wonders if this is how she dies—she wanted to go to the formal, poor thing—because there's not one good reason why a girl like her would deem it acceptable to be seen with them at a social event. Perhaps, Seulgi is being a tad overdramatic, and obviously, it's all Joohyun's fault.

   And if there were such a thing as cartoonish entities in control of her mind, they've all died with a resounding pop. An extremely logical notion.

   What Seulgi doesn't expect is for the girl to be absolutely bashful up close, it's almost a disgrace, a goddamn insult—she's got nothing to be bashful about. Not in Seulgi's opinion. Until Seungwan tugs her hand away the moment the girl says a shy, "Hey."

   Oh.

   Wait. What?

   "Hi, um..." Seungwan says, voice high-pitched and crackly, "Seul, this is Sooyoung—our junior and uh, this is Seulgi—my roommate."

   Apparently, Seulgi is missing a lot of information. One of the coloured lights hits Sooyoung's face at the right angle when she smiles that Seulgi feels all her thoughts evaporate—Sooyoung is tall and absolutely stunning. By all reasons, it should be unfair, no one should be blessed with that much beauty. There's isn't much left for people like Seulgi when half of the world's perfection is equally divided between Joohyun and Sooyoung. Really, there should be an institution made especially for these sort of problems.

   "It's great to finally meet you! Wan's told me a lot about you." Wait—they're already at nickname basis when it took Seulgi months. Absolutely distasteful. Only Seulgi is allowed to call Seungwan as Wan. There's literally no other exception.

   Eyes narrowed, Seulgi starts, "Really? I don't—"

   But is abruptly cut off when Seungwan places both hands on Seulgi's shoulders and pushes her—rather hard and panicky as nervous laughter spills out from lips pulled in a grimace. "Didn't you wanna get some punch?" Perplexed, Seulgi stumbles ahead—she never said that—"Go get it before the seniors spike it!"

    She turns to look back at them, sees Seungwan's back turned towards her—shoulders shaking with the sort of laughter reminiscent of people found on the verge of a breakdown. Sort of alarming but also very on brand. Seulgi edges through the crowd, through a hazy humidity made of a lust unawares and tangy breaths—hates the way it latches onto her forearms, hates the palpable stickiness, it's unwarranted furiosity.

   Only a few students are around the punch table, solo cups filled with spiked punch to calm the uneasy thrum in their bones. Seulgi doesn't understand why she ever listened to Seungwan, misses the quiet solidarity of someone by her side, paranoid whispers sound in delicate tones against the loud bass of the music.

   Some dance closer, softer, more lovely than others and Seulgi feels a fond ache in her heart—they're few with their adoring looks, an innocent sort of love—she wants that, their image of utmost separation from the world around them, entwined in only their love for each other.

   On second thought, that's stupid and she does not want that—doesn't imagine herself on the dancefloor, hands on someone's waist, lost in the dreamy quality of a slow dance—doesn't equate that image to a certain someone who's been on her mind lately. In an almost achingly consuming way. Nope.

   Absolutely not.

   She spots Joohyun a little away from the crowd, on her phone—in a beautiful white dress just a little above her knees. And if Seulgi were drunk, she'd call her hot but she isn't, so she settles for pretty instead. She lingers near the table in hesitation—she can't stay here all night, can't go back to Seungwan—stuck in limbo. Joohyun is alone, she's alone, and perhaps, they could be alone together.

   "Your date ditch you?" Seulgi says, louder than her usual tone just in case but it seems Joohyun operates on some other frequency of sound because she startles, head whipping around in an instant—oddly rabbit-like in her surprise, before pushing her shoulders back. It's also odd the way she does that, all practised ease and cheery confidence like she wants you to look, to admire, to worship. She feels her cheeks grow warm upon noticing the subtle shift of muscle in Joohyun's collarbone. Lord help her.

   "No, I came alone," she says, voice saccharine, eyes wide and girlish, impossible to resist, "and if I hadn't—no one and I repeat, no one would ditch my ass."

   Seulgi nods, she truly believes it—Joohyun isn't the type of person anyone would ditch, a being far too precious in a world where commodities are adored more than people. "I don't doubt that." Guilt rises up her throat for the times she'd hoped to avoid Joohyun behind a laptop screen because Joohyun looks away, clearly affected by Seulgi's sincere comment, a slight blush dusted across her cheeks (which she isn't sure is makeup or an actual reaction or the goddamn lights).

   "Where's your date, anyway?" She manages, looking up at Seulgi despite the fact that she's worn heels for the evening, eyebrows pinched in faux annoyance, "Did he get lost stalking you while you were trying to find me?"

   "I'm here with Wan but she sent me to get some punch before it's spiked, so."

   "Ah, you've been replaced baby bear. Your only chance to socialise would be if you were to stay with me."

   "There's no other place I'd rather be." Tilting her head to the side, the way Joohyun does, so curiously endearing—she considers for a while, seeing an incredulous spark light up Joohyun's face (or maybe it's just the lights for all she knows), then, "Would you like to dance?"

   A deliberate smirk, as lopsided as always. Full of this awareness, like she knows something that Seulgi doesn't. "I'd like to."

   Just to clarify, Seulgi adds, "With—with me?"

   "Alright," Joohyun says, indifference wrapped over the syllables, perhaps a little bored, she catches Seulgi's wrist, "I'll dance with you."

   Her palm is indecently warm, almost feverish, as she leads Seulgi onto the dancefloor, pulling her awfully close once they stop—it's not even one of those traditional slow songs but Joohyun places her hands on Seulgi's shoulders, swaying just slightly to the music until she places her own on Joohyun's waist. She never expected there to be any touch involved when she'd asked, had hoped for just a friendly dance, a sort of unrestrained fun with sloppy movements—wasn't prepared for the intimacy, neither for the way her heart stutters like there's some sort of drug rushing with blood and especially not for Joohyun's dizzying attention.

   Joohyun is quite angelic, even under the cheap rented lights, and Seulgi figures that's the only reason why her legs feel like overcooked noodles. She's never touched perfection before.

   "What made you want to dance with me?" Joohyun's got a sweet lilt to her voice, only perceptible up close—soft and heady like rich honey.

   She shrugs, "You looked lonely."

   Her voice drops to a low drawl. "Nah. I'm sure there's another reason." Eyes dangerously intent, simmering, calculating every gesture, movement, expression. Curious.

   "You're right. I'm actually in love with you."

   "There are other ways to say that," Joohyun says, an eyebrow raised ever so slightly out of instinct, gaze falling imperceptibly on Seulgi's mouth.

   "What other ways?"

   Peering up at her rather coy, Joohyun settles on, "You should've just kissed me."

   It's in the discordant silence that drums against her ears, where all sound is faded away except for the loud thump of her heartbeat, that Seulgi asks, "Without your consent?"

   "Asking for consent is boring, baby bear, it strips away the magic of the moment. Don't tell me you're one of those SJWs."

   "Would it be so bad if I was?"

   Joohyun scrunches her nose, "Your attractiveness could drop to a four."

   Pulling away as soon as the song ends, her skin is hot from where it connected with Joohyun's—feels absurdly intoxicated over nothing, wants the surety of actual alcohol nicking away at her sanity.

 


 

By the time she drifts back to Seungwan, the night has settled into a murky sort of lethargy—Joohyun right beside her.

   Sooyoung is, by all means, possessive, for lack of a better word, an arm slung around Seungwan's shoulders, speaking in delicate tones words that are only meant for them, inside their personal galaxy. Not realising, or caring about the clusters of stars that hurtle around them—lost in a co-dependant, binary system.

   Head at a tilt, Joohyun regards them with an odd expression, entwining her fingers with Seulgi's—and Seulgi returns it, fully—holding onto her hand in a tight grasp, a little sweaty, just out of the need to maintain a connection. No other reason, really. "I think we should leave these two love birds alone," Joohyun remarks casually and proceeds to drag Seulgi along with her to the other side of the room.

   Every song played after their dance is mellow and sated, as even friends sway together, locked in trivial embraces—the dreamy buzz of alcohol now faded and inconsequential. Seulgi had wanted that, had seen people her age and younger flushed with a certain happiness borne out of the absurdity of getting drunk. But she isn't made for that, apparently. Joohyun's got a raw, wistfulness about her as she looks back at Seungwan and Sooyoung that Seulgi tugs at her hand, curious, "Where are you lost?"

  She jerks her hand away, wiping it on her dress—it's fascinating to see her demeanour change so quick, a flip from surprise to the superiority she exudes as she starts eyeing Seulgi up, just slightly seductive, "I'd say in your eyes but..."

   Oh god, not again. "Could you not?"

   "What, against flirting now, are we?"

   Seulgi isn't but she isn't really acquiescent about it, either—especially not when Joohyun tends to... enjoy Seulgi's reactions. "No... I wanna talk to you normally."

   "So, in your opinion flirting isn't normal?"

   "I didn't say that!" Seulgi says, frustrated—annoyed by the circular aspect of their conversations.

   Joohyun grins in realisation. "Sorry," she sneers yet there's no acerbity behind it, just simple jest and bites the red plush of her lip, almost coy as she continues, "we could skip this and go back to your room."

   Choking on an intake of breath, Seulgi says, "Joohyun."

   "There's literally no innuendo in that sentence! I meant that as innocently as possible," she remarks, fingers latching onto Seulgi's upper arm, expression cutesy and almost kittenish, "I'm serious—we should totally skip this. It's even more boring than your 'SJW' need to ask for consent before something as simple as a kiss."

 


 

It's the word lethal that comes to Seulgi's mind once Joohyun leads her outside, mesmerised by the way even nature bends to accommodate her—moonlight soft and muted against Joohyun's cheeks, shadows left to accentuate ethereality—Seulgi is left awestruck.

   Not really, but.

   Joohyun stops more or less near the spot where they met that night after curfew, taking off her heels to lie down on the ground—hair distressed, specks of wayward grass cling to her dress. They aren't friends, Seulgi doesn't know what they are—what labels to use lest anyone asks—concerned about the feelings that churn wildly beneath her navel.

   The night descends into a chill only associated with it and Seulgi begins to wish she'd worn a hoodie, even if that very fashion statement would've demoted her to the social status of a leper. A much better fate than, say, dying of the goddamn cold—follows Joohyun's example and lies down next to her, just to mooch off of her body heat, honestly. Joohyun looks rather content, eyes tracing the over faint constellations above.

   "So," Joohyun says, pulling at her earlobe, at a loss for conversation, "let's talk about stuff." There's a tremor there, hidden beneath that sweet voice—like she hadn't thought about the possibility of this situation, like she's nervous.

   "I'm interested in you." And it's true, she is—truly, deeply, hopes to tuck away every word in a special box to reminisce over after years and years, trying to recreate the exuberance of the moment in the depths of her mind. Perhaps with someone else, someone new. Someone who isn't... Joohyun.

   But doesn't like or understand this awful lack which comes with that thought.

   "Seul, Seul. I get that I'm irresistible but don't flirt."

   "I'm not flirting, Joo—it's true," Seulgi mocks, a nickname (unintentionally butchered) slips out unaided.

   "Out of all the nicknames in the world and had to you pick Joo." Exasperated, Joohyun palms her face out of embarrassment for Seulgi, then continues, voice muffled, "Oh god, what am I going to do with you?"

   Quite honestly, Seulgi has never gotten the chance to be witty—so, she leaps at it with all the grace of a dopey cub, which is to say, there was none. "Anything you want," she says quietly, words almost warbled out of nervousness. Great, Seulgi, just great.

   Joohyun stalls at that, turning to meet Seulgi's eye. "You lured me out here just to flirt with me, didn't you?" Her tone is serious, contrasted against the amused slant of her little smile. Even under the absence of light, her beauty is lethal.

   Staccato heartbeat quivering at the base of her throat, Seulgi holds Joohyun's gaze for only a moment before she turns rather abruptly—cheeks prickling with the discomfort of an unintended blush. "You're self-obsessed."

   "Ah, seems like I finally made you uncomfortable."

   Seulgi scoffs half-heartedly, "You could never."

   Another second and Joohyun's got Seulgi pinned beneath her, hair falling like a curtain made of all things delectable and fruity. "Not even now?" Joohyun says, voice low and throaty—Seulgi's heart stutters and jumps and jumps and falls. Right there, right in this moment.

   "No," Seulgi manages to squeak.

   Getting up, Joohyun laughs—one of those genuine ones that feel so full and rich, like molten gold—and before Seulgi could do anything, she says, "God, you're adorable."

   Her heart jumps again, even if it isn't quite her own anymore.

 


 

Lying in her bed seems lonely, with no one to hold onto, no warmth mingled beneath the covers and—that's completely fine, because. Because Seulgi doesn't like having anyone near, can't stomach the fact when she can hear someone breathe next to her, can't handle lingering hands on her shoulders or waist. Except for certain exceptions.

   And that's not okay. At all. She's built a goddamn brand out of it. Everyone knows.

   "Wan?" A mumbled 'yeah' from Seungwan, sort of muffled against the pillow. Seulgi borrows some seconds just to compose her thoughts, hadn't expected her to be awake—but they swirl and fold together, unrecognisable. "Have you ever liked someone?"

   There's a rustle of fabric and in the soundless hum of the night, it sounds too harsh for unintended ears. "Is that a trick question?"

   "No, I'm just curious."

   A dog barks outside somewhere over the din of silence, and Seungwan breaks it by saying, "I've liked a lot of people. Why?"

   "How'd you find out." No question, just a statement weathered by temperament.

   "You just do? You care about them, want to care about them. I like you, I like my mum—I generally like most people even if I don't wanna necessarily take care of them, except I want to, eventually."

   Seulgi shuffles onto her side, one arm beneath her head and vaguely makes out Seungwan's outline. "No, I meant... I meant romantically."

   "Oh no, no, no, no." She shoots up, sitting up straight, pitch rather maniacal. "Nope."

   "Are you okay, Wan? Do you need to see the nurse?" Before Seulgi can react—or see it, really, a pillow hits her right in the face.

   "Go ask Joohyun! You both seem to have it out for me."

   She could... but the thing is, she can't really... do that. Doesn't want to.

 


 

And as far as Seulgi's luck extends—Seungwan will apparently do it for her.

   Seulgi's nodding along to a statistics concept Joohyun is trying to explain to the both of them—Seungwan jots some notes in a quick scrawl infamous for being illegible to everyone except her and Seulgi is... trying to listen, she really is, but misses important bits of information as she focuses on steadying her breath and... something. So, it doesn't make her look like she's lost somewhere else (she is, definitely, lost).

   Seungwan taps the pen against her jaw, a question forming in the crinkle of her brow. "Do you think our Seul here has a crush on anyone?" She asks like this was what they were just talking about, and the thing is—she's serious.

   "What?" Joohyun blinks rapidly, at a sudden loss for words.

   "A couple of days ago she asked me if I ever liked anyone—'romantically', that is." Seungwan looks through her notes as if they might have the answer to the conundrum. At the next flip of the page, Seulgi sees some haphazard cubes drawn next to equations.

   That's it. They're not friends anymore, it's over. The goddamn audacity. "I'm right here," Seulgi says.

   "And she asked—ouch!" Seulgi kicks Seungwan in the shin, hard.

   Seulgi peers up at Joohyun and sees her expression settle into one of neutrality, completely blank. She says out of the need to correct Seungwan, "I don't have—"

   "Just kiss him, yeah? It's as simple as that," Joohyun cuts her off, tone even over the varying syllables, indifference like barbed wire. Seulgi guesses her face is marred by a frown when Joohyun adds, "What? At least you'll find out whether you like him or not. Boys don't care about consent, Seul."

   Irked, she kicks at Seungwan's shin again when she's about to speak up—eliciting a groan instead. "Consent matters regardless of gender."

   Joohyun can't seem to remain indifferent at that, ends of her lips curling in a smirk. "Yeah? Well, I won't mind. I'd gladly kiss you. You don't even have to ask."

   Rolling her lips into her mouth, Seulgi gets up abruptly, a slight flush clear on her cheeks. "I just remembered I've got something really important to do."

 


 

Seulgi doesn't necessarily like to react to anything Joohyun says or does—hates feeling like a bloody marionette pulled to and fro at someone else's disposal, helpless and agitated, hates the heady rush that monopolises her body at a simple touch. Basically, there's a lot of... hate... perhaps a strong dislike. Not aimed at Joohyun but. Still there.

   Joohyun's voice is like a potent spell, somewhat mystical—causing Seulgi to feel enchanted, powerless, and limp like a docile little cub. It's utterly agonising.

   Because—Seulgi isn't into girls. Nor boys. Hasn't felt so damn contradictory since years. Hasn't smiled at a stupid text before like some infatuated teenage girl, but wait—she is a teenage girl. Maybe—maybe it's because she's always wanted to be like Joohyun, self-assured and rather egotistical, quick-witted. Yes, that must be the reason—can't be attracted to Joohyun because that's a completely insane thought in itself.

 


 

It's quite comical—absurdly Chaplinesque in the way Seulgi just runs the other way upon seeing Joohyun around—literally anywhere.

   It's also quite stupid but that doesn't cross her mind until she's about light years away, trying to calm the rising pulse that rings hollow in her bones—all too consuming. She isn't normal, can't be normal when normalcy equates to boys with their ill-fitted leather jackets and cigarette stained lips. Not to flirtatious little girls with their crooked smiles and cherry lips.

 


 

   On her way back from the library, Seulgi finds Joohyun stood outside her room—she stops, ready to backtrack and run when she feels a lassoed tug at her heart, the pull coarse and sharp—as it slams against her ribs in a forward lunge, rather wild. Much worse than the time she saw Joohyun even after she prayed, which she still did recently as well but properly felt it thrown back at her.

   Can't avoid her now that she's in the way. Can't go back. Can't stay here.

   She trudges ahead, a tepid smile on her lips and offers a small wave in greeting once she's close enough. "Wan's at the library," Seulgi says, out of habit since Joohyun is never here for her specifically.

   "I'm hurt, Seul," Joohyun clutches at her shirt in mock pain, lips pouty with something like an adorable coercion. "Can't I come to see you?"

   Seulgi opens the door in record time, never once missing the keyhole—which is astonishing considering how clumsy she usually is. "You—you can," she stammers out, confused about the way her tongue had lolled over the stretch of vowels and the way Joohyun's voice had formed on her veins like frost that burns.

   "I thought we were past all that," Joohyun calls behind her.

   Going inside, she turns to see Joohyun lean against the doorframe. "Past what?"

   Joohyun's pocketed her hands in blue jeans tight enough to be illegal—it's like they're painted on for god's sake—and brings her shoulders up in an awkward shrug. "I hadn't seen you since some time, so I came to check on you," she says and like it was rehearsed, she adds, "to see if you were fine—and you are, so, I should go."

   She's turned on her heel to head out when Seulgi's throat constricts, guilty, she blurts, "Joohyun?" She turns to look back at Seulgi, who's got nothing to say except, "I'm sorry."

   "What for?"

   For a thousand things, for all the wrongs, for all the stupidity and lack of confidence—but she can't voice these thoughts that cluster at the back of her skull, congregating as if to gripe about her. "I—I just need some time."

   Joohyun furrows her brow, sort of impatient, "Don't forget your friends just 'cause of some boy, yeah?"

 


 

Seulgi exhales a deep, shaky breath.

   She's stood here before, once, and had a solid reason for that—but now, now she wants to see Joohyun before going home for the break. Never felt a want so visceral, thoughts so agonising, heart so charmed. Different wants pulse in her wrists, she aches to itch at them, make them leave but also act on every inhibition that falls in layers like static on skin.

   So, Seulgi knocks at the door before she decides it's easier to not see her for weeks rather than confronting the thought as to why. Terrified of the din of silence that lingers in the hallway. Seconds mould into minutes and the door opens, finally—she takes in Joohyun's sleep-mussed hair, narrowed, tired eyes and pursed lips. In an instant, as if just remembering, her expression melts into something much more precious.

   "Hey," Joohyun murmurs, her wide, absolutely goofy and sideways grin still in place.

   Seulgi gapes probably, yet again—doesn't remember when that same smile became lovable and so damn adorable. "Um," she blurts, struck by her charm, "it's winter break soon."

   Eyebrows raised and slightly amused, Joohyun adds, "I know."

   "And I wanted to see you before that."

   Joohyun runs a hand through her hair a bit self consciously—Seulgi wants to do that as well, catalogues it somewhere in the most dazed part of her mind, needs to feel Joohyun's hair like freshly woven silk between her fingers—and opens the door further to let Seulgi inside. She just stands there, a little awkward and flustered, words dry in her mouth—not knowing what to say next. Isn't sure what to do with this abundance of feeling rushing inside her chest.

   "Come sit, you look uncomfortable." Joohyun's already on her bed, expression expectant. Of course, she's curious.

   Hesitant, Seulgi goes and sits right beside her—a first, then wipes her palms on the fabric of her jeans, knees close enough to touch. "I wanted to talk to you."

   "Go ahead."

   "About my crush," she clarifies.

   "Alright," Joohyun says, slowly, unsure. Picks at a stray strand of linen, an air of nonchalance, but it's the look in her eyes that betrays—rather dim and indifferent, unfocused, like she'd rather not be here.

   A low rumble rings in Seulgi's ears, it's not right, Joohyun shouldn't look sombre and—and rejected. Should be happy, coloured by her wonderfully annoying smirks and sassy attitude. "Um—uh... I..." Seulgi starts, voice so raspy that she has to clear her throat to say more, "can I—can I kiss you?"

   Joohyun finally peers up at her, eyebrows furrowed and incredulous. "What?"

   "Can I kiss you?"

   "Yeah but—" she cuts herself off, confused, "you should really kiss him to find out," sits up straighter, face angled towards Seulgi's, "not that I'd mind..."

   And Seulgi leans in, eyes shut.

   A light press of lips and lightning crackles behind her eyelids and thunder jolts through skin, quick and strangely pleasurable—she pulls away in another second, left immovable as the thunder heralds springtime rain in her heart. Joohyun moves in—deft and experienced—and captures Seulgi's lips in a kiss that tastes like oranges that she when puts her weight back on her arms in surprise, feels them give away, and falls back on the bed, pulling Joohyun with her by the fabric of her shirt.

   Haphazard touches mapping skin, in such a hurry to know, to remember, to familiarise. Her hands find Joohyun's waist, placing them underneath her shirt, going higher and higher until Joohyun's breath hitches in her mouth—in response she turns it more raw and visceral, head tilted for more room to explore that a moan crawls up Seulgi's throat. Heat bristles against the air—so goddamn feral. She inches her hands up until she can feel Joohyun's bra strap, fumbles with the hook when Joohyun pulls away with a gasp. Eyes scrunched closed, lips wonderfully rosy and just kissed—oh my god Seulgi just kissed her, made her feel that way, she did that.

   "Seulgi," she exhales, out of breath and so beautiful, "Seulgi. Fuck. Why'd you do that?"

   Seulgi's hands tremble slightly, affected by what just happened—pushes Joohyun's hair away, thumb tracing the pink of her cheeks. "'Cause," she manages, devastated by the flush of Joohyun's face, "I've—I've got a massive crush on you."

   And she's swept Seulgi into another kiss—more frantic than before, bodies pressed, the weight of Joohyun's body on top of her utterly blissful to the point of insanity, hearts fumbling for so much more. There aren't enough Pringles in the world to make her feel as giddy as Joohyun's mouth does.

   This is what eternity feels like—on Joohyun's lips, under her.