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siyeon likes to think she’s attuned pretty well to all of her members, even the two newest ones. but some of them are easier than others, and out of everyone, siyeon thinks yoohyeon is probably the language that she’s the most fluent in. 

maybe it’s all of the time they’ve spent together since their trainee days working vocal runs until it hurt to even think about singing. maybe it’s the extra choreo practices they put in together, staying at the company building until the sun has already started rising, trying to help each other get everything perfect and control their limbs exactly the right way. 

maybe they just get each other.

whatever the case, siyeon senses how off yoohyeon is without the other girl even having to mention it. she’s quiet throughout dinner, talking just enough to keep anyone from being concerned. she pushes her food around on her plate to make it look eaten but every time she actually makes an effort to take a bite she looks a little bit sick.

she also heads to bed earlier than anyone else, which is not really that unusual. it isn’t unlike her to read a book in bed for an hour or two, or play pubg on her phone until three in the morning. but she doesn’t bring a book with her, or her headphones, and she still looks kind of ill when she disappears into her bedroom. 

siyeon waits maybe ten minutes, then yawns and tells the others she’s going to turn in too. and well, she is actually fairly tired. they all debut as dreamcatcher in exactly a week, and they’ve been working hard to prepare. everyone is tired, but they’re also all energized by excitement. when siyeon leaves them, bora is teaching handong sleazy korean pickup lines while minji tries to intervene and gahyeon and yoobin look equal parts amused and horrified.

no one notices that she enters bora and yoohyeon’s room instead of her own.

yoohyeon is sitting in bed, the lights off except for the nightlight and her phone screen, which illuminates her face in an eerie glow. she looks at siyeon and her brows furrow, “siyeon unnie? what’s up?”

“you’re not doing great.” siyeon replies. it should be a question, but it isn’t phrased like one. it doesn’t need to be.

yoohyeon’s face hardens, but her emotions are betrayed in her wide, dark eyes. they tumble through like turbulence and she finally settles on wariness, maybe a little defensiveness. “i’m just tired. we’ve been busy, you know? i’m okay.”

siyeon kicks her slippers off, to the side so that bora won’t trip over them when she comes in. and then she climbs the ladder and leans forward, resting her arms on top of yoohyeon’s legs under the blanket. “you don’t have to lie to me.” 

nothing accusatory. it’s almost painfully gentle, really. 

but siyeon and yoohyeon get each other, and it runs deep. they both carry with them the rough current of minx’s hiatus. they’ve swallowed it down, smoothed the surface over, but the rocks and the rapids still exist beneath the crystal clarity on top. 

siyeon has seen yoohyeon at her worst, and vice versa. it doesn’t really get worse than 14 hours at a pc bang and 4 shots of soju deep, clinging to each other for stability because even the distractions can’t make the ache go away. it doesn’t get worse than lying together on the practice room floor, muscles all practiced out and exhausted, crying the gross kind of tears that burn and bring snot and flushed cheeks, wondering if there’s even a point .

siyeon knows.

she knows what yoohyeon is going to say before the “what if it’s like minx all over again?” slips from her mouth.

for a moment, siyeon doesn’t reply with words. she climbs into the bed, jostling yoohyeon’s ridiculously long limbs out of the way to make enough room. but they make it work, both on their backs, staring at the patterns in the ceiling with their shoulders pressed tight together.

“it won’t be.” siyeon replies.

“how do you know that?”

a pause, a shrug, “i don’t. but we have to be optimistic, you know?”

yoohyeon swallows thickly. siyeon can hear it, the way she forces down the lump in her throat. the silence dredges on for a long moment, then finally yoohyeon breathes out, “that’s really hard when i’m so scared.” she exhales shakily and adds, “how are none of you scared? you all seem so calm and i feel stupid.”

siyeon reaches for her and finds her hand. their fingers link together and she’s the one that squeezes tight, so yoohyeon doesn’t have to feel weak for being the first one to seek out that comfort. “i’m terrified.”

“you don’t seem like it.” yoohyeon says.

“i’ve barely slept in a week. i’m anxious all the time. i’m scared too.” siyeon says, and it feels nice to admit it. she’s been shouldering her own fears like a burden for a while, and it’s nice to not feel alone.

“oh.”

it’s just one word, but it cycles through so many emotions. and siyeon is doing the comforting here, but part of her needs this too. so she releases yoohyeon’s hand, but it’s so she can pull her in close. “can i sleep here tonight? it’s easier to go through these things together.”

and yes, a lot of this is her making the first move so yoohyeon doesn’t have to. but she also craves the comfort, so it’s not like she’s losing here by encouraging it. yoohyeon definitely has caught on to what she’s doing, but siyeon can hear the faint uptick of a smile in her voice when she says, “yeah, but i get to be big spoon.”

“oh no, my worst nightmare.” siyeon says, dramatically.

yoohyeon giggles and lightly punches her upper arm. siyeon looks at her and taps yoohyeon’s lips gently with her finger, “there it is.”

“what are you talking about?”

“you’re smiling. that’s what i wanted.”

“god. you’re a loser.”

yoohyeon rolls her eyes, but the smile is still there. she might be blushing, but the glow of her phone flashlight still shining off beside the pillow makes it hard to tell. siyeon rises up, pressing a brief peck to yoohyeon’s mouth. just enough to feel the smile against her lips. 

the blush is certainly there after that. she can see it against yoohyeon’s neck and all the way up to her ears. her own cheeks feel warm and she rolls over, back to the taller girl. “okay, well if you’re so determined to be the big spoon, you better get on it. i’m not very patient.”

“you’re so demanding.” yoohyeon says, but the phone flashlight turns off and then yoohyeon is pulling her in and wrapping around her a bit like a very tall koala. siyeon finds her hand again where it rests against her own stomach and laces her fingers through yoohyeon’s once more.

another pause, where they both settle in, relaxing against each other. siyeon has started to drift off, the tendrils of sleep just beginning to wrap around her, when yoohyeon breathes out close to her ear, “unnie?”

“yeah?”

“no matter what happens, we’re going to be friends forever, right?”

siyeon squeezes yoohyeon’s fingers gently. “ best friends. you’re never getting rid of me.”

the next morning, when they come in to the kitchen together, summoned by the smell of whatever bora is making for breakfast, minji comments on how well-rested they both look.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“what do you think?”

siyeon looks up from the puzzle game she’s playing on her phone, surprised by minji’s voice. it’s late, and the leader has been gone all day, so this is the first time siyeon has seen her since well before noon.

minji leans in the bedroom doorway, arms crossed over her chest. to anyone else, it would just seem like she’s relaxing against the doorframe. but siyeon can see the tension in her posture, and as the question resonates in her head, she can feel the faint little tremors of uncertainty there too. 

her eyes travel upwards, and she realizes what minji is asking about. her formerly-brunette hair is now a vivid, cherry red. it’s a startling change, but siyeon decides in an instant that she loves it, the way it frames minji’s face and makes her dark eyes look sharper, foxlike and intelligent.

“damn.” she allows, whistling through her teeth.

minji rolls her eyes, but a smile tugs at her mouth, “you’re so greasy.”

“what?” siyeon asks. “you just look really good. i think it’s the best hair color you’ve ever had.”

minji’s smile softens. she reaches up and runs a hand through her hair, the ruby strands tangling around her fingers. siyeon watches with adept attention, liking the contrast of red against minji’s skin. “it’s just an extreme change.”

“sometimes extreme is good.” siyeon replies. then her eyes drift to her phone again, “speaking of that, it’s extremely late. can we go to sleep?”

minji steps into the room and closes the door, obviously agreeing with the suggestion. 

“where’s yoobin?”

“yoohyeon’s room.”

“i don’t know why i even bothered asking.”

minji gets ready for bed, brushing her teeth before returning to the bedroom and changing into her pajamas and taking off her makeup. siyeon rolls over on her side to watch her, a gesture that doesn’t feel wrong or unfamiliar at all anymore. the amount of times they’ve shared showers or slept in only underwear in the summers and the raw sense of comfort they have around each other has left her entirely unphased by minji, even if looking at her does make her chest feel sort of tight every time, in a way she isn’t certain how to explain.

minji is moisturizing her face when she catches siyeon’s eyes in the mirror, “you’re being gross.”

“i can’t look at a pretty girl?” siyeon replies.

minji scoffs, but they both know she’s a sucker for compliments and praise, so she doesn’t deny it. “yeah, yeah. you could take a picture though. it’ll last longer.”

“i have my phone right here, and it has a pretty good camera,” siyeon points out with a greasy smile. minji doesn’t even turn to look at her when she grabs a stuffed animal from the dresser and throws it at her, hitting siyeon right in the chest. “ow, abuse.”

“your sleazy jokes are abusive.” minji retorts, but she’s still smiling, her lips all soft and moisturized and still stained just slightly from her lipstick. and she looks even more stunning now. her hair is so bright and colorful and looks so silky, perfectly framing her face all soft and bare of makeup, her cheeks fluffy, lips plush and eyes dark. siyeon thinks maybe this is what mermaids look like when they come up out of the sea to bask in the sun.

minji turns off the light, and siyeon is a little disappointed. but it’s okay. she hears minji climb in to her bunk, and she immediately slips out of her own bed and crawls up the ladder to join her. minji is pressed close to the wall, leaving siyeon space, a wordless acknowledgement that she already knew the younger girl would be joining her.

siyeon happily takes her spot, propping her head up on her elbow. minji’s clip-on bed lamp is still turned on, casting a dim glow, and siyeon smiles at her in a way that probably looks dopey, “you look like ariel, actually.”

“you think so?” minji asks, genuinely curious.

siyeon reaches for her, letting the soft cranberry strands pool through her fingers and against her palm. “yes.” when she looks at minji’s face again, there’s the faintest flush there, and siyeon leans in and nudges her nose against the older girl’s. “no need to be self conscious.”

“you know i’m just not used to dyeing my hair.” minji says, “i always feel a little thrown off by it for a few days.”

siyeon rolls her eyes, “you could bleach it or cut it all off and still manage to look beautiful.”

minji smiles, their faces still close enough together that she looks a little bit odd, sort of like a funhouse mirror. “that means a lot coming from the most beautiful person i know.”

“aish!” siyeon shoves her shoulder lightly, “now who’s being greasy?”

minji just smiles wider, with her teeth. and she’s so pretty, with her skin all soft and dewy and her hair so bright since the dye is fresh. there’s a little bit of a flush to her cheeks, probably from siyeon’s compliments, and it all succeeds in highlighting her eyes so they glimmer like deep pools of liquefied amber.

siyeon leans in and kisses her, her fingers still lost in ruby tresses that they’ve woven into. 

it’s slow and lazy, in a way that can only come from years of trust and comfort, evolved from siyeon’s nervous first kisses to the heated pressure of actual making out. this is somewhere in the middle, simmering like a summer afternoon. minji’s lips taste like toothpaste and the mint is crisp and soothing. her hand falls to siyeon’s hip and squeezes, and siyeon responds by sucking lightly at her bottom lip and tangling her fingers more into the hair at minji’s nape.

when they break apart, minji arcs an eyebrow lazily, “what was that for?”

“just to be sure you aren’t doubting how good you look.” siyeon murmurs, smiling with her lips a little kiss-swollen. there's a bit of pride in the expression, too.

minji looks at her and it’s so soft, filled up with a special sort of adoration siyeon knows they only share for each other. her eyes glimmer and siyeon smiles again, especially when minji sighs and shakes her head, “okay, i believe you.”

“say ‘i’m kim minji and i’m really hot,’” siyeon urges.

minji grins, “i’m kim minji and i’m really hot.”

“wow, modest,” siyeon says, but she leans in and presses one more kiss against minji’s mouth, humming contentedly into it.

they break away quicker this time, and minji’s voice is just lightly scolding, “i’m the leader. i’m the one who’s supposed to give you pep talks. don’t take my job.” but siyeon knows that she doesn’t mean it. this is how it’s always been. minji carries all of them and sometimes siyeon steps in to help her shoulder the burden. it isn’t minji’s job to lift the entire sky, all the time, after all.

“i don’t need a pep talk right now, but i think i could use some cuddling. my emotional well-being depends on it.” siyeon says, and minji laughs, soft and low in her throat.

“come here, nerd.”

siyeon does as she’s told, happily. minji presses a singular kiss to her pulse and then guides siyeon to curl up against her, their legs interlocking lazily, mostly facing each other so they can share one pillow. siyeon can feel minji’s breathing lightly on her face and her hair tickles her cheek, but it’s comfortable, and safe. “how’s your emotional state now?” minji asks.

“mm, ask me in the morning.” 

minji just hums in response, and siyeon closes her eyes, surprised how tired she is. the scent of minji’s strawberry hair, the faint, lingering buzz of mint toothpaste on her lips, and the warmth of minji’s bare legs and the arm wrapped around siyeon’s side all work in tandem, a quiet orchestra of comfort. she falls asleep quickly and easily, as though surrounded by the physical embodiment of a lullaby.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

gahyeon’s family is just as loud and vivid as she is. that’s what siyeon has learned over the past several hours. they’ve made her feel incredibly welcome and at home, but all of the yelling and laughter and enthusiasm has made her tired. not to mention the giant dinner gahyeon’s mom prepared, still settling in her stomach.

so, understandably, siyeon is exhausted. she doesn’t think it’s that bad, but they’re halfway through all watching a movie together when she finds that her head keeps lolling to the side occasionally. once or twice it jerks her neck hard enough to ache, and she feels a little disoriented.

she certainly has no idea what the plot of the film is.

she’s not the only one who has noticed her quickly rising weariness, either. after about the third time she startles herself back to wakefulness, gahyeon notices. she leans in close to siyeon’s ear and mumbles, “you’re so old. it’s not even that late.”

“shut up,” siyeon grumbles, and gahyeon laughs.

no one can ignore her laugh, the jolting syllables of sound carrying maybe better than they should. everyone turns to look at them, and gahyeon flashes a sheepish grin, “sorry. i’m worn out though, and siyeon is basically the walking dead right now. is it okay if we turn in?”

“of course,” gahyeon’s father replies, “i set up the air mattress for siyeon.”

siyeon bows gratefully, bidding goodnight to the members of her maknae’s family. and then they make their way up the stairs to gahyeon’s bedroom. gahyeon isn't here much anymore, of course, but it’s still decorated in a way that echoes her personality. string lights spread across one wall, the lights shaped like little cacti. there are succulents in the window sill. the bed is full of stuffed animals.

it seems warm and comfortable, and it makes siyeon more tired. the door closes and she stumbles zombie-like to her suitcase, digging out her pajamas. she strips down and changes right there, something that once upon a time would have made gahyeon uncomfortable, especially since at one point siyeon is entirely nude except for her boyshorts. but by now things like this don’t even phase them, and gahyeon doesn’t really even bat an eye.

after about the third time she misses one of the arm holes for her shirt, gahyeon sighs and steps in, gripping it in her hands, “you’re really worn out, huh?”

“yeah. i ate so much pork belly because i didn’t want to offend your mom and now i think i’m in the middle of a food coma.” siyeon admits.

gahyeon helps her into her shirt, her hands warm and much more dexterous than siyeon’s own. “who’s the maknae here?” but it’s teasing, and she squeezes siyeon’s sides once she’s dressed, right above the curves of her hipbones.

“i’ll beat you up, spongebob,” siyeon retorts, raising her fists in a mock fighting stance. 

“try me,” gahyeon says, and siyeon blinks at her, startled. she didn’t plan this far in advance, and she’s torn. the logical part of her brain recognizes she’s delirious with her food coma and shouldn’t be fighting anyone except perhaps a baby deer, but the rest of her is stubborn and proud.

so she pushes gahyeon.

on a normal day, she could definitely win the fight. but tonight she ends up on her back on the bed. she doesn’t even remember it happening, everything moving too quickly to process. but all of a sudden she’s bouncing off the mattress and then being pinned down.

gahyeon’s hands immediately find the cartography of her ribs, the soft plane of her stomach, curling and tickling relentlessly. it’s the worst kind, too, because siyeon doesn’t even really get a chance to tell her to stop or laugh or scream or anything. she’s immediately breathless, flailing uselessly to try to push gahyeon away, kicking her feet like a turtle on its back and occasionally wheezing out some sort of sound.

it only ends when one of siyeon’s flailing hands catches gahyeon on the jaw. not hard, but hard enough to startle her, and she slows enough to demand, “say you’re sorry, and i’ll stop.”

“what am i sorry for?” siyeon asks, bewildered and choking on oxygen. her lungs ache from laughing, and she’s still wheezing.

“i don’t know, just say it or i’ll tickle you more.” gahyeon lifts up her hands as a threat.

“okay, i’m sorry!”

the younger girl falls next to her on the bed, laughing. “i win.”

“fuck you.”

“language! i’m a baby.” 

“okay, i’ll remember that next time you want me to buy alcohol for you.”

gahyeon looks at her and pouts, but she’s obviously still trying to suppress a smile. siyeon closes her eyes and takes a moment to collect her breath again, enjoying the deep lungfuls she can actually inhale now. 

“you’re not falling asleep again already, are you?” gahyeon asks.

“mm. i’m already asleep.” siyeon mumbles.

gahyeon elbows her, but it’s light and playful. “i should have told dad you weren’t going to use the air mattress.” 

“what’s that supposed to mean?” siyeon asks, but there’s no actual force behind it. her tongue feels clumsy in her mouth, her brain even more tired since gahyeon decided it would be fun to deprive her off oxygen for a good couple of moments.

her eyes are closed, but she doesn’t need to actually see to picture gahyeon’s face in her mind. a mixture of rolling eyes and a soft, affectionate smile. it’s a look she directs at siyeon quite often. “when do you ever sleep in your own bed back at the dorms?”

“sometimes.”

it’s not very convincing. sometimes is probably generous.

“uh huh.” gahyeon also obviously doesn’t believe her, but she doesn’t try to fight her. the bed shifts when the maknae stands, the weight on the mattress displacing. siyeon opens just one eye, in time to see gahyeon pulling on her own pajamas. siyeon closes her eyes again to give the other girl privacy, and because her eyelids feel heavy anyway.

finally, gahyeon turns off all the lights except one strand of string lights, which she dims to barely-there. then she’s climbing in to bed, “come on. get under the covers so i can tuck us in.”

“now you sound like my mom.” siyeon replies, but she does as the younger girl requests.

“your mom is lovely. thank you for the compliment.”

siyeon snorts, and gahyeon settles in to bed fully. once the other girl is obviously comfortable, siyeon rolls over, entangling their limbs without much grace at all. gahyeon is soft and radiates warmth, much better than any potential pillow. gahyeon’s hand immediately finds her head and starts carding through the chestnut strands of siyeon’s hair, something else that makes her significantly better to cuddle than any inanimate object. 

“you’re like some sort of tree-dwelling creature right now, and i’m the tree. you’re basically a sloth.” gahyeon says, amused.

“i like sloths.” siyeon replies, matter-of-factly.

“i’m glad you like yourself.”

siyeon hums in reply, tugging gahyeon even closer. the fingers still run through her hair, and she can feel sleep pulling through her in waves, in perfect time with the rhythm of gahyeon’s touch. “i love you,” she mumbles, hoping the words are audible in her drowsy voice. 

she hopes she’s actually spoken them out loud.

“i love you too.” gahyeon replies, and the vocalist is pleased that she managed to make herself understood.

satisfied, and no longer strong enough to rouse herself from the grasp of oncoming slumber, siyeon clings to gahyeon tighter and sinks into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

siyeon wakes up to the sound of thunder rumbling so loudly the building shakes, her head spinning from the sharp snap of lightning throwing off her equilibrium.

for a moment, she doesn’t recognize where she is. it’s dark and she’s disoriented, ears ringing and muscles feeling weighed down from sleep. she’s aware that her neck hurts a little because she fell asleep at an odd angle, but it’s not until lightning flashes again that she realizes she must have accidentally passed out on the couch earlier. she and gahyeon were watching a movie, but the living room is dark and silent now, the television occasionally releasing the faintest clicking noise as it settles, a sign that gahyeon went to bed probably only within the last few moments.

siyeon’s teeth sink nervously into her bottom lip. she doesn’t like storms at all, and when thunder shouts against the walls again, goosebumps crawl up her spine. when she rises to her feet, her legs feel wobbly both from her half-sleep and her nervousness. 

when she makes it down the hall, she can see that the light in the room she shares with minji and yoobin is off, signaling that they must be in bed. there’s a faint light blooming from beneath the door next to it, however, and siyeon carefully turns the nob so she can slip inside.

yoohyeon is snoring lightly, sound asleep in the top bunk. the light comes from the reading lamp clipped on to bora’s bed, and when she looks up at siyeon in surprise, the light throws shadows across her face that make her look inhuman. like a mysterious goddess, or a witch with dark magic pumping through her blood. 

siyeon doesn’t ask or hesitate. she just pushes stuffed elephants aside and quietly clambers into bora’s bed, squeezing between her and the wall. “can’t sleep?” bora asks, setting her phone aside. 

“the storm woke me up,” siyeon admits. her bottom lip is still caught between her teeth, and she isn’t really aware that she’s pulled it back in between them until bora reaches out and frees it with her thumb.

“poor thing,” she coos, but there isn’t a hint of condescension. siyeon pouts a little, and bora giggles as she reaches up and turns off the light, plunging them into darkness except for the small night light over on the dresser. there’s no window in this bedroom, so the thunder is quieter, and the entire storm seems further away.

when bora pulls the privacy curtain down, it plunges them even further into darkness. the night light penetrates only through the slats in the foot of the bed, and even a loud roll of thunder makes siyeon’s heart race only a little. it immediately feels as though she has been encased in a fortress, safe from anything outside of the tiny bottom bunk.

she pulls one of the elephants under her head, using it as a pillow. bora rolls to face her, and she looks even more mysterious in this lighting. siyeon can really only see vague outlines of her features and the soft glimmer of her eyes. “it can’t hurt you.” her voice is soft, even though there’s no real fear of waking the sleeping yoohyeon.

“it’s still scary.” siyeon retorts. “it’s just so loud.”

bora smiles in sympathy, and siyeon sees the faintest flash of her white teeth in the barely-light. “you’re cute.”

“i know.”

bora snorts and grips her shoulder, shaking back and forth. siyeon always forgets how strong she is until bora actively manhandles her, and she whines a little, “ow! you’re abusing me.”

but she’s suppressing a laugh, and she knows bora can hear it in her voice. on the next motion, she pulls siyeon in then holds her there, fingertips pressing into her skin through her t-shirt. they’re even closer now, close enough that siyeon can make out the curve of bora’s lips and the arch of her nose and the thoughtful expression on her face. one siyeon knows how to read at this point.

so she isn’t particularly surprised when bora’s hand meanders almost lazily upwards, slipping around her nape and just resting there. she’s small but always warm, and her hand is a burning beacon against siyeon’s skin. her thumb strokes a heated trail up and down the side of her throat. 

“your heart is beating really fast.”

“that happens when i get nervous.”

bora hums, leans in a little more. siyeon can feel her breath against her jaw and she knows she interpreted that look in the dancer’s eyes correctly when bora asks, “are you nervous about the storm, or about me?”

“you don’t make me nervous anymore. i trust you.” siyeon murmurs back.

she glances down at soft lips, sees bora smile. “okay. then i’ll distract you so you can fall asleep.” 

then bora is kissing her, soft and slow. they’re careful to be quiet, but the storm outside does help to muffle the little connections of their mouths. it’s all soft anyway, bora nipping at siyeon’s bottom lip then just as quickly soothing it with her tongue, her fingers still toying with the soft baby hairs at the back of siyeon’s neck

sometimes they just do this for a while, kissing for what could just as easily be hours as it is minutes, until they both fall asleep, neither of them ever sure who stopped first. sometimes it goes further.

bora is set on comforting her tonight, and siyeon lets out a tiny hum when her warm mouth trails along her jaw instead, pressing kisses almost too gentle against the skin. they map out the veins in her neck and right at her pulse, bora sucks slightly, just enough to leave a little mark that siyeon will have to cover in the morning.

siyeon responds with little sighs and slightly heavier breaths, careful to be quiet, to let the storm rumbling outside to muffle it so they don’t disturb yoohyeon. and so they don’t break the sense of peace that has settled over their tiny little fort.

bora’s hand leaves her neck, and siyeon immediately feels cold, the chill crawling down her spine. but she doesn’t think about it for long, because the hand is resting low on her stomach, feeling the flexing muscles of her abdomen.

“oh...but yoohyeon…” siyeon murmurs, even though she doesn’t want it to stop.

bora drags her tongue along her throat then breathes on the wet line when she replies, “don’t think you can stay quiet?”

“i’m not the best at it.” siyeon replies. not that bora doesn’t know.

the older girl chuckles. but she changes their position, rolling on to her back and urging siyeon to settle more on top of her. one hand stays splayed against siyeon’s stomach, but the other finds her lips and two fingers press against them. “i can fix that.”

siyeon takes the fingers into her mouth gratefully, sucking on them gently. her oral fixation isn’t really a secret, and the sense of warm comfort that fills her swells in her body and settles at the base of her spine immediately. she looks down at bora with her eyes wide and doelike, lips wrapped around her knuckles.

bora’s other hand slips past her sleep shorts and into her underwear, and siyeon presses out a low moan around the digits in her mouth.

“shh.” bora soothes her.

her touch is gentle but precise, and two fingers bury deep inside of siyeon’s heat without any real hesitation. it’s all born entirely out of familiarity, and siyeon just breathes heavily and occasionally whimpers around the fingers in her mouth as she rocks against the ones inside of her. it all comes easy, slow and just the perfect amount of desperation, bora urging her along with well-timed thrusts and kisses against her throat.

siyeon bites down on her fingers some when she shudders above her, but bora doesn’t mind. doesn’t complain at all. she just carries her through it until siyeon is done shaking. and then she gently eases her touch away, pulling siyeon against her fully instead. 

“do you feel better?” bora asks softly.

“i feel safe.” siyeon mumbles against her collarbone, feeling sleepy and hazey.

“you are safe.”

those are the words that siyeon hears as she drifts off to sleep, rocking back in forth gently in her head like the soothing swells of the ocean.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

it’s not very often happyface splurges enough that they get hotel rooms with more than one bed. siyeon, of course, doesn’t mind, but it’s surprising to her that she and dongie have separate beds this time around.

there’s still a sort of awkward distance between them at times. it’s smoothed over a lot in the past few months, but sometimes their friendship is clumsy. not because of any dislike towards each other. siyeon is just an awkward person, and with the still-lingering language barrier, a lot of her bizarre humor falls flat and the way she talks is confusing. but she does adore handong, and that’s why she offered her the coveted bed closer to the bathroom.

but that’s left her closer to the air conditioner, and the cool air seems to have found its way under her blankets, crawling in beside her like a lover she never asked for. siyeon stares at the ceiling, debating for a long time and shivering as she does. but finally, she speaks up, her voice quiet, “dongdong?”

“hm?” the response is barely there, but it’s audible.

“are you awake?”

“sort of.”

siyeon bites her bottom lip, “i’m cold.” it’s not really what she wanted to say, but for some reason she feels nervous.

“do you want to come get in bed with me?” dongie asks, and siyeon feels herself blush, the heat pooling all the way down to her collarbones.

“how did you know?” 

there’s a sleepy laugh from the other bed, “i’ve heard about it from the others. you sleep with everyone.”

siyeon’s blush darkens. she’s glad the lights are off, because she’s sure it’s the color of summer strawberries now, sweet and sticky along her cheekbones. “i wouldn’t put it like that…”

“what do you mean?” 

“it’s like...the wording you used kind of sounds inappropriate?” siyeon replies, unsure how to explain the innuendo of handong’s statement. she just climbs out from under her blankets and feels her way over to handong’s bed in the dark, trying her best not to slam her toe into an object of furniture. they have dance practice in the morning, and she doesn’t really need to be trying to do choreography with a broken phalange. 

her attempt at being careful backfires the instant her hand comes to rest on something round and soft. “oh shit, i just grabbed your ass, didn’t i?”

“just a little.” handong replies, and siyeon thinks she can hear amusement underlining the syllables, “maybe the fact it sounded like an innuendo wasn’t inaccurate, huh?”

“shut up!” siyeon says, and she isn’t sure whether to laugh or feel absolutely mortified, so she does a weird mixture of both. the bed is warmer though when she slips under the blankets, the space heated by handong’s own body. siyeon lets out a sigh mostly involuntarily, already feeling better than she did in the bed by herself.

once she’s settled, she can feel handong shift next to her, rolling on to her side with her back to the vocalist. siyeon can make out her outline in the dark, the rises and falls of her like topography in the shadows. “okay. well, goodnight, siyeon.”

“goodnight, dongdong.” siyeon replies, rolling over herself so her back is facing the other girl as well. she closes her eyes and tries to sleep, but the foot or two of space between them feels like an entire ocean. she rarely sleeps in her own bed, and when she climbs under the covers with one of the other members, they pretty much always cuddle. so after several moments of trying to catch sleep and feeling it slip through her fingers like handfuls of fireflies, she speaks up again, “um...can we cuddle?”

a pause, and she worries handong might be asleep. but then the other speaks up, “you want to?”

“if it’s okay with you.”

handong rolls over again, and siyeon does as well. the other girl is on her back, and siyeon rests on her side, looking at her the best she can in the absence of light. “i’m surprised you want to. i know you’re, you know, closer with the others.”

“do you think i don’t like you?” siyeon asks, realization coloring her voice.

she can see the blurry movement of handong shaking her head, “no, it’s not that. i just feel like we...aren’t close? you always keep your distance.”

“i don’t want to make you uncomfortable.” siyeon admits, sheepishly.

“well, you don’t. so now you know.” 

siyeon accepts that, scooting over to rest her head against handong’s shoulder, face tucked slightly into the crook of her neck. her arm wraps around handong’s waist, across the arches of her hipbones. handong’s hair is just a tiny bit damp from her shower still, and she smells strongly like lavender. “i like you a lot, dongie.”

“i like you a lot, too. sometimes i feel like i don’t fit in as well since i’m not korean and since i wasn’t around from the beginning. so i got worried that i would...annoy you, maybe?” it sounds nervous, soft, and siyeon hums lightly in acknowledgement.

“and i was worried i would annoy you . so i guess we’re both dumbasses.”

handong laughs softly, a sound siyeon can feel because she’s right against the curve of her throat. “i guess so.”

siyeon feels like there’s still a sort of tension, though, something that still pulls through them and keeps them from relaxing entirely. she wants to fix it, and she isn’t entirely sure how. 

“you’re one of my best friends, just like everyone else in the group. and i care about you a lot. okay?” she says, softly.

handong’s arm that’s wrapped around her runs up and down her back slowly. “that means a lot to me. you mean a lot to me. i know i don’t always get your jokes but you make me laugh and you make things brighter.”

siyeon smiles, feeling warmth fill her at the statement. and then she tilts her head and presses a kiss to handon’s neck. 

it’s light enough she can play it off if necessary. and there’s a pause where the younger girl seems to be trying to figure out whether she felt it or not. but then her fingers slide under siyeon’s shirt and continue rubbing her back, along her bare skin this time, and siyeon takes it as acceptance.

another kiss, this one firmer, a little warmer. handong sighs softly, and siyeon decides that it’s a very pretty sound, so she does it again. and again. her lips map handong’s neck out gently but affectionately, occasionally hot and open mouthed. her hand slips under her shirt and rests against toned abs, and that’s when handong murmurs, “siyeon.”

siyeon pauses, fully expecting to be stopped for going too far. but instead she’s met with, “your hands are really cold. maybe we should make sure you’re warm.”

she doesn’t really know how she ends up on her back, but she does. her eyes have adjusted, and she can just faintly see handong’s face above her, can just barely see her lips move when she says, “you came to sleep with me because you’re cold, right?” 

and then her shorts are being eased down her legs and lips are finding her own. handong tastes like cherries and dark chocolate, sinfully sweet and just a little bit bitter. her thigh presses against siyeon’s clothed center and siyeon bends her own leg so handong can find friction. 

they move together like that, slow undulations of their hips, made lazy with a haze of sleepiness siyeon didn’t realize she’d started feeling until handong’s warmth bleeds into her own body. little moans and breathless whimpers press into their slow, deep kisses, and siyeon feels as though she’s melting into the mattress in the best way.

it’s only a few moments before she finds release, arching against handong’s muscular thigh and feeling the other girl slick and shuddering similarly above her. then handong comes to rest on top of her, their legs still tangled and their breath still soft but rapid from exertion. “there. now you’re warm.”

“very.” siyeon replies, mumbling tiredly.

“i told you that you were just coming over here to sleep with me.” handong adds, but it’s through a drowsy, half-asleep giggle.

“yeah, yeah. whatever you say.”

the air conditioning runs all night, but siyeon dreams of sunshine and warmth and gardens filled with lavender.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

siyeon loves her job. she loves the spike of electric adrenaline that pulls through her every time she walks out on a stage. she loves the sugar-sweet happiness of applause and of meeting fans and of being someone alongside six of her favorite people in the entire world. 

but god, if it isn’t absolutely exhausting sometimes.

dreamcatcher are in the middle of a promo cycle, and it’s at the point where they’re all in desperate need of rest. the dark circles under their eyes are like little slivers of deep space covered up by talented makeup artists. all of their energy is used on stage and at fansigns, and behind the scenes they’re all tired muscles melting into any available surface.

there’s an underscore of happiness, of determination, but it can’t quell the ache of hard work and stacked three-hours-of-sleep nights.

so when they find themselves with a singular half-day off in the middle of promotion, none of them really know what to do with themselves. it’s a rare lull in the chaos, likely the only one they’ll get until promotions end in a couple of weeks. 

bora and minji go to visit a spa of some sort and rest their tired muscles. yoohyeon ends up deciding to disguise herself in an oversized hat and a face mask and read in the corner of a cafe for a while. gahyeon and handong go out to eat some food they probably shouldn’t have during promo, but gahyeon can get anything she wants from their managers.

that leaves siyeon and yoobin, alone at the dorm.

they work well together alone, both preferring the quiet of their shared room to going out of participating in the constant everything that the other, exuberant members always give off. usually they just chill in their individual beds, siyeon playing games on her phone or watching movies on her laptop, yoobin reading a book or writing in her song notebook.

but siyeon is too tired to even bother doing more with her phone than plugging it in to charge, and when she drags herself out of the bathroom after washing her face, yoobin doesn’t even have a book cracked open as she lounges in her bed. she looks over at siyeon lazily and gives her a slight smile before she shifts into a more comfortable position and closes her eyes.

siyeon gets the hint, reaching for the light switch and bathing the room in a pseudo-darkness broken only by the yellow glow from the hallway bleeding under the door and some light from outside leaking in through the curtains. 

her bleary vision focuses on her own bed. it’s a mess, because even though she’s generally fairly neat, she doesn’t keep up with it when they’re this busy. the towel from her shower that morning is bunched up near her pillow, which means it’s probably still damp. she has a bunch of laundry weighing down her blankets. and she doesn’t like to sleep alone, anyway. 

so it’s an easy choice.

yoobin, for her part, doesn’t seem surprised by siyeon pushing her towards the wall some so she can climb into the bed. she just hums out a little sound and moves, making space for siyeon to slide under the blankets.

“do you have socks on?” yoobin asks, her voice all muffled from the pillows. siyeon rolls to face her and her cheeks are all puffy and soft and she looks very youthful without any of her carefully curated stage makeup.

“hm?”

“do you have socks on? your feet are always cold.” 

siyeon answers by pressing her sock-covered feet against yoobin’s shins. the rapper makes another sound, but it’s content. “good.”

“i’m not a monster.” siyeon replies.

“you sure? remember that time you had a bad dream and punched yoohyeon?” 

“that was four years ago!” 

yoobin just laughs, a little rougher and lower than normal. something about it makes siyeon’s stomach feel funny, filled up with an entire kaleidoscope of butterflies. “i have a good memory.” then she lightly scuffles her legs against siyeon’s. “roll over.”

siyeon does as she’s told, but not before leaning in. she can’t help it. yoobin’s face is so soft and her features seem almost doll-like and delicate. so she leaves a small kiss nestled beneath the curve of yoobin’s cheekbone. the younger girl opens her eyes briefly, but then a soft smile pulls at her mouth.

siyeon smiles back before settling fully with her back to yoobin. she’s immediately pulled into an embrace, reminded how strong yoobin is by how easily she just manhandles her how she wants her. it feels warm and secure, especially when yoobin noses against her nape and presses a kiss against the very top of her spine.

“do you have an alarm set?” siyeon asks.

“nah, i’ll get up whenever bora unnie comes home and inevitably wakes us up.” 

siyeon chuckles and closes her eyes, falling asleep to the comforting feeling of yoobin’s arm tightening around her waist and her steady breaths against siyeon’s skin. 

it’s dark and dreamless, the best kind of sleep. no stress, no thoughts, just the comfort of resting, floating in a seemingly endless sky blank of stars. siyeon can practically feel the energy bleeding back into her body, weaving itself into the tapestry of her exhausted muscles. and even in her dream she can feel the strong, grounding presence of yoobin’s arm wrapped around her and holding her close.

unnie .

yoobin’s voice gently penetrates her dream, winding around her like the warmth of her touch.

unnie .

this time, siyeon starts to stir, and by the third time yoobin says the word, siyeon is blinking awake. it’s barely light outside, she realizes, the yellow afternoon light now red and purple. yoobin is above her and leans in and gently kisses her cheek a few times, all the way from near her ear to the corner of her mouth. “time to wake up.”

“do i have to?” she grunts, trying to remember what it feels like to be an actual person.

yoobin laughs, “well, if you want dinner before minji eats it all, then yeah.” and then she’s squeezing siyeon’s hip and carefully climbing over her to go secure herself some food.

siyeon lays there for a moment, letting wakefulness fill her once again. but even though she still groggy, she realizes how well rested she feels. refreshed and no longer dead on her feet. it’s the kind of sleep she’s been chasing the past few nights of scattered rest, the kind she hasn’t been able to achieve even though she’s been desperate. but maybe this is the solution she’s been searching for.

before she joins the others for dinner, she grabs her pillow from her bed and sets it next to yoobin’s. 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“you took today pretty hard, huh?”

it’s gahyeon who asks the question, and it’s not really surprising that it’s her. she isn’t really afraid to force siyeon to face her difficult emotions or call her out when she’s being dumb, so the fact that she points it out in front of all of the others, though jarring, isn’t really...shocking or unexpected. 

“what do you mean?” siyeon asks, feeling a little bit flustered since they’re all in the living room trying to de-stress and the rest of the group all turns to look at her too.

“you cried.” bora says.

siyeon flushes deeper, and she knows that there’s no way to hide it. her blonde hair, currently mussed from her own fingers playing with it, doesn’t do much to hide the blush blooming across the span of her cheeks. she looks at her hands, resisting the urge to pick at her nails. she’s kept them long for such a long time now, and she doesn’t want to ruin that by damaging them like she used to. “i didn’t cry .”

they seem to realize they’ve put her on the spot, so gahyeon and bora both back off. which is good, because siyeon feels the frustrated tears rising again, the same ones she had to choke back against yoohyeon’s shoulder on stage in front of all of those people. when she speaks again, she’s sure the tears are obvious in her voice even though she still hasn’t let them fall, “i just thought we really had it this time.”

the silence is awkward and heavy, and then gahyeon says lightly, as though treading on ice spread through with cracks, “sorry for bringing it up. i was just...sometimes you don’t talk about when you’re upset and i thought…” she trails off, obviously uncertain.

“no, gahyeon. you’re right.” minji says. “it’s important to talk about. who all was upset today?”

siyeon looks up and sees everyone looking tense and uncomfortable, the heaviness of being so close but so far weighing down on all of them. 

“me.” yoohyeon speaks up first.

“i was.” handong agrees, quickly.

“yeah, it really sucked,” yoobin says, biting almost nervously at her bottom lip.

everyone else murmurs words of agreement, and minji nods, her gaze sliding over to siyeon’s. their eyes meet, and even though she’s sitting with the posture and speaking with the tone of a leader, she allows siyeon to see the softness in her gaze. the little flicker of weakness she lets through for just a moment, just as a source of comfort.

“i was upset too.” minji admits. “i see how hard all of you work, and it always stings when it doesn’t happen, but especially today when we were closer than ever. but look at it like that: we were closer than ever. we’re going to get our first win one day. and it’ll be worth every hard day like this.”

gahyeon is the one who adds, “well, i’m really proud of all of us.”

“is this when we group hug?” yoohyeon asks, phrasing it a little bit like she’s joking, even though she obviously actually wants it.

“siyeon in the middle.” bora replies, already rising to her feet.

then siyeon is being tugged into a standing position and she’s surrounded by limbs and warmth. she wraps her arms around handong and yoobin and presses her nose into minji’s hair and it’s all just...nice. they stay like that for a long time, no one saying anything. siyeon thinks she hears a couple of the others sniffling, which makes her feel better that a couple of those stupid tears managed to escape and trail down her face.

“i have an idea,” yoobin says, after a while, her voice muffled by whoever she’s pressed against in the hug.

“what idea?” 

“what if we all sleep out here together tonight? we can bring our pillows and blankets. have a sleepover.” she says, and siyeon seeks her out and finds her gaze. yoobin is looking right at her, well aware that siyeon is the one who finds the most comfort in not being alone at night.

she’s surprised when everyone else agrees, quite enthusiastically. as they all head to their bedrooms to grab blankets and pillows and drag mattress covers off their beds, siyeon finds yoobin’s arm and gives a tight, thankful squeeze. the younger girl looks up at her and gives her a soft smile in response, not forcing siyeon to acknowledge it otherwise.

siyeon is in the middle of collecting her pillow when minji leans down next to her and kisses her cheek and says, “i’m proud of you for always working hard” before disappearing to the living room before siyeon has to acknowledge that either.

the living room is a mess of bedding, but siyeon likes the look of the chaos as everyone sets up their sleeping area and preps for bed. when she finally crawls under her blankets, she’s in a pile of warmth. yoohyeon is to her left side, bora to her right. 

handong is above her, their heads almost touching. she gives siyeon a little smile and reaches out to tap her nose, “if you headbutt me in your sleep i might kill you.”

“how can i control what i do in my sleep?” siyeon asks.

“don’t know, but you better learn,” handong replies, but she’s smiling, and siyeon grins back. they’ve been closer ever since that night, and the comfortable lightness between them feels good.

bora has her back to siyeon, but pressed entirely against her. siyeon can turn her head and bury her nose in the hair at the back of bora’s neck, inhale the scent of her shampoo and the familiarity it brings. yoohyeon practically flops halfway on top of siyeon, but she’s light enough that the weight is just comfortable.

all of it is...nice. even the ones she isn’t directly touching are close enough. she can hear gahyeon and yoobin bickering lightly about who gets to use the giant stuffed bear they keep in the living room as a pillow. minji is facing bora and if siyeon wanted to, she could reach out and find her hand. maybe she will, later, if she can’t sleep or she wakes up in the middle of the night.

the floor is not exactly the most comfortable surface. she knows she’s probably going to get kicked or elbowed in her sleep. they have another schedule in the morning, and they have to be up in five hours. but it’s okay.

“i love you guys,” siyeon says, once they all start actually trying to fall asleep.

and she does. she loves all of them, in so many different ways. and they all respond in kind, the six different i love yous wrapping around her warm and genuine, like a patchwork quilt, the only one she’ll ever need. she closes her eyes and exhaustion finally nudges at her, pulling through her quick and soft now that she feels entirely safe.

there’s nothing to be sad about or frightened of. they’ll get through it together. 

they always do.