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The Dinner Group

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Despite what the rest of the world might think, Ryujin is not a delinquent. Sure, she dozes off during class and occasionally gets into fights, but that’s because she’s already ahead of the rest of her classmates in regards to reading and defending the band kids from the jocks who think it’s funny to give them wedgies. 

She can’t help but think that wedgies are so 90’s of them. The least they could do is come up with an interesting punishment, but she supposes their brains wouldn’t be able to comprehend anything that they haven’t already seen in outdated media.

She’s not entirely surprised that she’s given another Saturday detention, it’s the third time this month, but it’s becoming a nuisance to explain to her parents why she has to skip out on family meals so often, and by explain, she means lie. They think she’s helping kids study for extra credit, and at this point she’s terrified to tell them the truth.

She is, however, surprised to find that she has a group of new faces waiting for her inside the library. She’s usually stuck with that senior boy that calls himself a rap monster or that foreign Thai girl that keeps sneaking her cats into class with her, but neither are here and Ryujin is left to assume that they’ve been behaving for once.

Or, on a more believable note, they just didn’t get caught this time. 

She recognizes Chaeryeong and Lia right away. Chaeryeong is the head cheerleader despite only being a Junior, the one that comes up with all of the dance numbers for assemblies, and the only one that is actually talented on the squad. Lia, a senior, is the school’s princess, always bouncing around the halls as boys flock to her. Ryujin isn’t particularly fond of either of them.

At a table behind the two known as high school royalty is a girl that Ryujin vaguely makes a connection to the debate team. She has sharp eyes that should make her intimidating, but when they catch Ryujin’s gaze, she’s offered a kind smile. It’s enough to have Ryujin walking over to take the seat next to her.

She sits carefully, ignoring the back of Chaeryeong and Lia’s heads in favor of turning around to get a better look at the last girl.

She can’t even pretend like she knows this last girl sitting alone behind her and debate team girl. She’s definitely younger than the rest of them, a freshman maybe? It would explain why Ryujin can’t place her face.

The girl frowns and Ryujin forces herself to turn back to the front, hoping she didn’t freak the kid out with her staring.

“Hi.” The girl next to her smiles, offering a hand. “I’m Yeji.”

Ryujin stares at the outstretched hand because what type of high schooler shakes people’s hands? “Uh… Ryujin.”

She finally accepts the handshake, not keen on hurting people like Yeji’s feelings. She seems kind, and Ryujin will take any sort of kindness she can get in detention. It’ll counter the two hours of boredom nicely.

Yeji opens her mouth to say something else, but Ryujin will never know what is was because the doors slam open, startling all of them. It must have especially scared the freshman, she squeaks louder than any mouse Ryujin has ever heard. Not that Ryujin has heard many mice squeak though; she tends to steer clear of rodents.

“Ladies!” In walks JYP himself, the man that runs the whole shindig. “Welcome to Saturday detention. I don’t know what all of you are here for today-” He throws an amused glance at Ryujin. He probably assumes that she’s here for another fight. He wouldn’t be wrong. “-but I’m sure today will help you cleanse yourself of your mistakes.”

Ryujin really wants to dislike the man, but he’s really not all that bad. The guys in charge above him? They’re pretty shitty, but Principal Park genuinely seems like he cares about the students, more or less. Ryujin has spent plenty of detention days talking to him to know that he really does try to help.

Yeji raises her hand. “Principal Park? I’m not sure I should be here. I think there’s been a mistake.”

He raises a brow. “Oh? So you weren’t caught sneaking the answer sheet to a test yesterday?”

Yeji’s expression tuns sheepish. “Well-”

“Yeji, I’ll make you a deal.” He raises a hand, ever the one for dramatics. Yeji perks up. “I’ll let you go home-”

Ryujin balks. He’s just going to let the girl leave after getting caught trying to cheat?

“-but you’ll be removed as the captain of the debate team.”

The girl gasps. “No! I need that spot for my college applications!”

The principal hums, nodding sagely. “I see. It seems you’ll have to pick your punishment then. A saturday detention or…”

Yeji sighs, head drooping. “Right. Detention it is.”

He grins, obviously pleased with himself. Ryujin can practically feel the smugness radiating from the man’s body. Still, she approves of his methods. He’s letting her get off pretty easy with only detention. Anyone else might’ve just removed her spot as captain.

“Anyway-” His dopey grin is back. “-I have an assignment for all of you today.”

Her eyebrows fly up, surprised by this new development. He typically lets them sit and stew in their thoughts. 

“I’d like the five of you to write me an essay and tell me why you’re here and why you’re going to do better.” His gaze lands on Ryujin last, a hopeful glint in his eyes.

She wonders what’s the best way to tell him that he’ll definitely be seeing her again after this unless he does something about the bullying going on among the jocks and band kids. There’s probably not a kind way to do it, and that’s what has Ryujin keeping her mouth shut.

There’s a groan from behind her. The freshman doesn’t seem pleased.

“And what if we don’t regret what we did?” Chaeryeong sits up straight in her chair. Ryujin can’t help but stare at the strong shoulders poking out from her sleeveless shirt. 

Principal Park’s grin never slips. “Then write why you don’t regret it. I’m here to teach you to do better. I can’t do that if I don’t understand why you’ve done what you did.”

Chaeryeong’s stiff form relaxes ever so slightly.

“There are pencils and paper on the front desk when you’re ready.” He looks around for a clock. “Your time starts now. I’ll see you in two hours.”

He leaves them quickly, quicker than usual. Ryujin is curious what has him leaving so hastily.

Lia is the first to get up from her seat. Ryujin had almost forgot her with how quiet the girl has been. She hears the scrape of a chair from behind and assumes the freshman has gotten up too. Lia glances back at the sound and motions for the younger girl to sit again. “I’ll get us all paper and pencils.”

Ryujin raises an eyebrow at the sweet smile she gives them. “You’re actually gonna write the essay?”

Lia tilts her head. “You’re not?”

“No,” She says simply. “What’s he gonna do? Give me another detention? I’m already here just about every week.”

She expects a scoff or a look of disgust, but Lia merely nods, like what Ryujin is saying makes total sense to her. “Well, I’ll get you one just in case, but none of us will say anything if you don’t do it.”

Lia doesn’t wait for a response, turning on her heel. Ryujin suddenly realizes she’s never actually had a conversation with the senior, and now her entire view on the girl has changed with the single interaction. She hadn’t excepted Lia to be so… chill.

When Lia returns, setting down a paper and pencil gently in front of her, Ryujin manages to give a small thank you. Yeji avoids Lia’s eyes, but thanks her with a tiny voice. 

“Thank you!” The freshman behind her is loud, but in an endearing way. Ryujin figures she might at least get some entertainment today with the girl here. “I’m bad at essays though. I wonder if I could just draw a picture.”

Ryujin turns around with a smirk, noting the way Lia’s lips turn up in a grin when she passes her for her own table. “Depends on how good you are. Can you draw Principal Park in those awful see through pants of his?”

The freshman blinks. “I can draw stick figures.”

Ryujin guffaws. “I’d stick with writing the essay.”

That gets a smile from the younger girl. It makes her look adorable, and now Ryujin feels like she needs to watch over this girl. “I’m Ryujin. Wanna come sit with me and Yeji?”

“I’m Yuna. I’d love to sit with you.” Yuna wastes no time, grabbing her paper and pencil, and drags her chair over to the middle of Ryujin and Yeji.

The first thing Ryujin notices is how tall the girl is. “Are you a freshman?”

Yuna plops down in her seat, taller than both Yeji and Ryujin. Yeji leans around Yuna and gives Ryujin a look. Ryujin has to hold in a laugh at the incredulous reaction at the height difference between them.

“Yep!” She pops her lips. “I know, I’m a little tall for my age.”

Ryujin wants to see Yuna stand next to Lia. Lia isn’t particularly short, but she’s terribly petite, and Ryujin thinks it would be funny to see the senior be dwarfed by the freshman. Although, now that she’s thinking about it, Yeji is a senior too. She’s probably not having fun next to the tall girl. 

Well, Ryujin is amused at the very least.

“A little.” Ryujin agrees. “So what are you in for?”

She wants to cringe as soon as the words come out of her mouth. It sounds terribly like a pick up line, and although Yuna is very pretty, she is certainly not Ryujin’s type. She gives off little sister vibes, in the most respectable way possible. Thankfully, the younger girl doesn’t seem to take it like that.

Yuna pauses, glancing at the paper. “Um… I don’t know.”

Chaeryeong must hear them because she scoffs. “Did they throw you in for dumb reasons too?”

The cheerleader turns in her seat. Ryujin’s breath catches for a short moment, overwhelmed by the fierce scowl on her lips. There’s something terribly intimidating about Lee Chaeryeong, and she isn’t sure if it’s just because Ryujin thinks she’s attractive or because of the unnatural way that she commands the attention of a room.

Yuna slowly nods. “Something like that.”

“What did you do then?” Ryujin directs her question at the cheerleader.

Chaeryeong narrows her gaze in her direction. “Does it matter?”

Ryujin shrugs. “No, but I’m curious.”

She should shut that down right now, there’s no good to come out of trying to strike up a conversation with the biggest jock of the school. Ryujin doesn’t like jocks. And yet…

“I kicked one of the girls off the team.” Chaeryeong states confidently. “Her mom got angry and called the school. Her family endorses a lot of our events so now she’s back on the team and I’m getting punished.”

Ryujin hums, decidedly interested. “Did she deserve it? Getting kicked out?”

The girl is silent for a few uncomfortable seconds as she searches Ryujin’s face. Ryujin doesn’t know what she’s looking for, but she decides to trust Chaeryeong with how honest her response sounds. “Yes, she did.”

She flips her head back around, hair flying. Ryujin isn’t used to seeing her hair down, usually it’s pulled up in a ponytail for cheer. It makes her look less scary, and a lot prettier.

“Good.” Ryujin finally says. “At least someone stands up for what’s right. Too bad everyone else thinks money is more important.”

Chaeryeong doesn’t respond, but she see it, the way her shoulders relax. She hadn’t even noticed how tense she looked until then.

Ryujin clears her throat, turning to Lia next. She’s already watching Ryujin in interest from the previous conversation. “What about you princess? What did you do?”

Lia frowns at the nickname, resembling a kicked puppy. Ryujin feels bad now. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Ryujin feels like an ass for making the girl so sad and decides her curiosity isn’t as important as making sure the girl feels comfortable. Ryujin may not be fond of the popular crowd, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to be a jerk to them without reason.

It’s not like Lia or Chaeryeong have ever personally done anything to her, or to anyone else really now that she’s thinking about it.

“That’s fine.” Ryujin shrugs, pushing her feet until her front chair legs are off the ground. “You don’t have to. Like I said, just curious.”



```



Lia crumbles up the paper in her hand and sinks into her chair. She’s already restarted her essay three different times and now her paper is covered in smudges. She eyes Chaeryeong’s paper; the girl is glaring at a half finished sentence. She hasn’t even finished her first paragraph.

Yuna and Ryujin are whispering to one another behind her about some of the other students at school. There’s a faint scribbling from behind, leaving Lia to assume that Yeji is the only one making any actual progress on their assignment.

“Hey.” Lia picks her chair up and turns it around. “How is your paper going?”

Yeji stops dead in her tracks. She glances up, cheeks turning colors. Lia hadn’t meant to embarrass her. “It- uh- good. It’s going good. Yours?”

Lia smiles, hoping to calm her obvious nerves. “Not too good.”


She tosses a glance behind her at the crumbled ball on her desk. Yeji spots it instantly, an amused glint in her eye. 

“Well, rolling your paper into a ball doesn’t seem like the best way to go about this, but to each their own.” Yeji’s smile makes Lia feel like they’re sharing a secret. She likes that.

“Maybe it’s an artistic choice.”

Ryujin snorts, leaning around Yuna. “The freshie tried going down the artist road. Look what it got her.”

Yuna proudly holds up her paper. Lia doesn’t know what to expect, but a stick man wearing large pants while riding a horse is not it. “That’s… a nice horse?”

Yuna lets loose a wail, pouting. “It’s a unicorn!”

She points to the line atop the horse’s- unicorn’s- head, and ah yes, Lia sees it now. Definitely doesn’t look like a horn, but she sees where Yuna was going with it. It’s cute in a terrifying sort of way.

“Ah, my mistake.” Lia nods wisely. “It’s a very nice unicorn.”

Yuna gives her a wide grin, pleased with the compliment. She catches the odd look Ryujin gives her, but ignores it. She’s quite aware of what Shin Ruijin thinks of her, even if she’s been trying to hide the looks. Lia appreciates the girl trying to pretend like she doesn’t think Lia is a brat at the very least. The rest of the school doesn’t care enough to give her that.

She appreciates Yuna’s presence here. She doesn’t seem to really know any of them, and it’s nice to be treated normally for once. Sure, Chaeryeong hasn’t said anything about Lia’s status, but Lia thinks that has more to do with Chaeryeong’s annoyingly polite nature than anything. 

And then there’s Hwang Yeji. Lia has known her for years now, and yet she can count the number of conversations they’ve had on one hand. Yeji has never gone out of her way to be overly nice to her, but she’s never been rude in any way, even when their teachers and students favored her for student council president over Yeji. 

Lia thinks she would have been angry had the roles been reversed. She knows for a fact that Yeji works harder than most people in their grade, the girl will probably graduate at the top of their class, but people value the wrong things in high school. She had been voted in before she even knew who had nominated her.

Lia doesn’t question why she’s so locked in on everything that is Hwang Yeji. She’s known for years why her eyes follow the girl in the hallways as she slips past the crowds, or why she advocated for a larger budget for the debate team, even when everyone else wanted to give the extra money to the boy’s football team. There’s no question about it, Lia is infatuated.

“You’re probably doing a lot better than me.” Lia leans forward, settling her arms on the table. “You’re the smartest here.”

She ignores the indignant yelp from Ryujin and Chaeryeong, much more interested in the blush blooming across Yeji’s cheeks. Lia wonders why anyone would have a crush on her when this beautiful girl in front of her exists.

“I don’t know about that,” Yeji mumbles, going back to her writing.

Lia lays her chin in her arms to hide her growing smile. She imagines she looks quite silly, staring at Yeji like a smitten school girl, but that’s what she is, right? Sue her, she’s finally getting a chance to talk to Yeji without the entire school watching her.

“That’s the attitude I’d expect from the top of the class.”

Yeji freezes once again, for just the quickest of moments, before resuming. “How do you know I’m top of the class?”

She has to bite back the first retort on the tip of her tongue. It might be creepy to tell Yeji that Lia knows most things about her. “Doesn’t everyone know?”

Yeji glances up at her, a confused glint in her eyes. “I guess. Just didn’t expect Princess Lia to know anything about me.”

The nickname doesn’t sting like it had when Ryujin said it. Yeji doesn’t make it sound like an insult.

Lia shrugs, not certain if Yeji even catches the motion. She’s entirely focused on the paper in front of her, her pencil scribbling away. She’ll probably be finished soon and the rest of them, unless Chaeryeong has made some sort of progress while Lia has been away, aren’t even close to having an idea on what to write.

She takes a curious look around the room to see if anyone else has done any more of the essay, but instead, she catches Ryujin’s knowing look. Lia blinks at her, curious. Ryujin merely eyes Yeji in return, and Lia feels something in her stomach drop. Rjuin must sense her panic because she raises her hands in a placating manner and shakes her head.

Lia isn't completely sure what it means, but she thinks that it means Ryujin know’s that she has a desperate crush. She also thinks Ryujin means to keep herself because the younger girl leans back in her chair and closes her eyes.

She sighs deeply, the air moving Yeji’s paper. Lia giggles at the surprised look Yeji gives the sheet.

Yeji meets her gaze after hearing the sound and a bubble of emotion builds inside of her at the sharp gaze. She doesn’t know why, but she tells Yeji a secret. “That’s not even my real name, you know?”

She’s aware the others can hear her, it’s impossible not to in such a tiny room, but this is meant for Yeji and Yeji only. It might be the only part of her that she can share with the girl she’s been infatuated with for years that hasn’t already been told through the rest of the school’s mouths.

Yeji stares, face blank. “What’s your real name?”

“Jisu.”

There’s a silence around them. Lia imagines the others are watching them curiously. Yeji is watching her curiously.

“Why?”

Lia blinks. “Why what?”

A series of emotions cross Yerji’s face and Lia can only imagine the questions she wants to ask her. Why don’t you go by your real name? What made you go by Lia? Why Lia of all names?

“Why are you telling me? ” There’s an emphasis there that Lia doesn’t like, like Yeji thinks she’s not good enough to know Lia’s secret.

Lia swallows, leaning back. She bites at her lip nervously. “ Do you remember that day that I won student council president?” She waits for a nod of confirmation. “I apologized to you because the only reason I won was because people treat it like a popularity contest. I asked for your forgiveness.”

Yeji remembers, she can tell by the uncomfortable look on her face. Lia hadn’t looked like the pretty little princess that the school thinks she is that day. She had been a mess, crying into Yeji’s shoulder because she thought the girl would hate her for stealing her rightful spot.

“I remember,” Yeji whispers. 

“You-” Lia sits up straight, ignoring the two she sees in her peripheral that are watching her. “-you told me not to apologize for what they did, for who I am, but I don’t like Lia very much.”

The rest of the school loves Lia, and she doesn’t understand why. Lia, to them, is some sort of pretty girl with no problems because her daddy can buy her anything she needs, throw her any party she wants. Lia isn’t the girl they think she is, but they don’t care about what she thinks. They care about what she is. A symbol.

Yeji sets her pencil down with a frown. “Is this Lia?”

“What?”

“Is this-” Yejii leans forward, gesturing to her. “-Lia?”

She nods her head, because of course she’s Lia. “Yes.”

Yeji hums, brow furrowed. “Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but I like this Lia.”

Lia freezes, warmth flooding to her cheeks. “Oh.”

There’s an abrupt silence as Yeji picks her pencil backs up. She looks as if she might say something else, and Lia is on high alert as she waits, but Yuna is the one to finally break the silence.

“I like this Lia too!” Yuna’s grin falls. “But I guess it’s the only Lia I know so…”


Lia can’t help the sweet smile that break out across her face. “Thank you. Both of you.”

Yuna reaches over and squeezes her hand. It should be weird, Lia thinks idly, being touched and talked to like this by a stranger, but there’s just something so charming about Yuna. Lia thinks she must be super popular within her grade with a smile like that.

Lia doesn’t think Yeji is going to say anything else, already focused on her essay once again. She leans back into her original position, chin in her arms as she drops back onto the table. Yeji’s ears redden just so slightly at the intensity of Lia’s stare, but she can’t find it in her to be ashamed of the obvious ogling.

Lia drags her foot over to Yeji’s calf and gives a gentle caress, laughing when the girl nearly drops her pencil in shock. “Thank you, Yeji.”



```

 

Chaeryeong has just about had it with Lia’s flirting. She wishes someone, Ryujin preferably, she looks like she’s strong, would knock Yeji over the head. Maybe the hit would smack some sense into her and she’d figure out that Lia has a big, fat crush.

Although, she’s starting to think that it might go both ways with the colors Yeji’s face is turning, especially now that Lia is trying to feed her. 

“Hey.” There’s a kick to the back of her seat. “Where’s your lunch?”

She turns, staring down the girl behind her. Ryujin doesn’t seem effected in the slightest. “I forgot it.”

No, that’s not correct, she’s just on a diet. She has to look pretty more than ever. If the dumb girl’s mother decides that detention isn’t enough of a punishment, she’s going to be fighting to keep her place as captain, but they can’t get rid of her if she’s best fit for the position.

Ryujin grunts, letting her chair fall to the ground. Chaeryeong is waiting for the moment she falls backwards. Really, she thought the teachers cut that type of behavior out in middle school, but here Ryujin is proving that theory wrong. 

“You’re going to snap your neck if you keep doing that.” She props her elbow on the back of her seat, settling her chin atop her fist. “And you’ll scar Yuna for the rest of her life.”

Ryujin snorts. “You won’t be scarred?”

“I’m a cheerleader, I’m desensitized to broken bones.” She gives a cheeky smile. Chaeryeong 

is hilarious, and she knows it. 

The rest of her squad never seems to understand her humor, but this miscreant must appreciate it because she laughs. “And here I was, about to share my lunch with you.”

Chaeryeong raises a surprised eyebrow. “Oh.”

“Yeah, ‘oh.’” Ryujin rolls her eyes. “I guess I still can if you promise not to laugh when I eventually break my neck and die, especially considering someone is going to have to console Yuna.”

“I’m not particularly fond of laughing at idiots that want attention.“ Chaeryeong tosses a glance at the sandwich on the table. “Or tuna.”

Another lie. She does like tuna.

“Oh really? What if I just want your attention? Does that change anything?” Chaeryeong feels her heart skip at the blatant flirting. Ryujin probably means nothing by it, but it still takes her by surprise. “Also, I totally saw you eyeing over here a minute ago. So… either you really want the tuna or you really want m-”

“Fine, I’m hungry, okay?” Her cheeks feel hot.

Ryujin smirks, but doesn’t dare make a comment. She slides one of the halves closer, and even offers up the container of watermelon to her. The fruit is neatly sliced, it reminds her of how her mother used to do hers when she was little.

“Did your mommy make you lunch?” She’s picking for a fight at this point. It should be rude, after all, the girl did offer up half her lunch for Chaeryeong, but Ryujin just smiles, like she’s enjoying the banter just as much as Chaeryeong is. 

“I’m a big girl that can make her own lunch. Does your mommy still make you lunch?” She’s never found someone that she enjoys arguing with like this before.

“Only on the days of my very important championships. You know, the championships where I bring home gold medals?” Chaeryeong plops a grape into her mouth. “I guess you wouldn’t know anything about that though. You aren’t in any sports, huh?”

Ryujin frowns. “No, can’t say my ego needs stroked every single day of my life like most jocks do.”

Oops. Chaeryeong has hit a nerve. “Do I look like I need my ego stroked?”

“Yes.”

It’s a blunt and honest reply. It should probably hurt, but more than anything, Chaeryeong feels exposed. She’s never even had a real talk with this girl and she already seems to have Chaeryeong clocked. It’s unnerving.

“Doesn’t it get tiring?” Ryujin stuffs the last of her sandwich in her mouth, leaving an unflattering image as she continues to speak. “Having to be somebody to have someone?”

“Who says I have anyone?” It’s too honest, and although Ryujin seems ready to latch onto that statement, Chaeryeong turns around in a hurry. “Thanks for lunch.”

She ignores the sigh from behind, picking her pencil back up. She’s only on the second paragraph.



```

 

Yuna taps her fingers against the desk, not sure what to do now. Yeji looks to have finished her paper, but her attention is on the girl who still hasn’t returned to her own table. She doubts Lia would appreciate her cutting into her flirting, even if she seems sweet. Chaeryeong has been ignoring all of them for the last ten minutes, and Ryujin is pouting as a result. She looks funny with a pout.

Yuna doesn’t really know any of them outside of gossip that she’s heard. She feels a bit left out being the youngest, although she always tends to feel left out, but they’re all welcoming enough, especially Ryujin. Which is strange to her because anytime she hears Ryujin’s name through the gossip mill, people make her sound scary.

Ryujin, along with Lia, is the least intimidating here. Chaeryeong has a scary glare that makes her feel like Chaeryeong is looking right through her soul, and Yeji has a nasty stare that makes Yuna feel a little unnerved, but even then she feels perfectly accepted by them.

Yuna pokes at Ryujin’s side, but there’s no reaction. The older girl’s gaze is stuck on the head cheerleader.

She sighs, beyond bored now. She wonders if she should try her essay again, but there’s no words coming to her brain that would help her write. Yuna decides she just needs some inspiration.

She stands a little too quick, her chair sliding backward until it slams into the table behind them. All four of them glance at her in surprise. She ignores them in favor of stomping toward the front door.

“Hey!” Chaeryeong whisper yells, like she thinks Yuna might get caught if she’s any louder. “What are you doing?”

Yuna spins. “Going on a trip. Care to join me?”

Ryujin is the first  to take the bait, practically rolling out of her seat. “Count me in.”

“You can’t just- Hey!” Chaeryeong is following Ryujin quickly, Ryujin dodging her swipes.

Yuna eyes the other two, but they don’t seem keen on following. Yeji shakes her head, and with that, Lia is glued to her seat. Yuna just prays that they don’t come back to find the two making out or something.

Ryujin is on her tail as she leaves, Chaeryeong attempting to talk them out of their adventure as she follows with less enthusiasm.

“You should not be doing this. You’re going to get in trouble.” 

Ryujin laughs. “You mean we are going to get in trouble.”

Yuna can’t see her, but she can imagine the scowl Chaeryeong throws at Ryujin. “ I am supervising you two.”

“Oh come on!” Yuna grabs both of them by the arms. “You’re acting like we’re going to vandalize the school or something. I just need my phone for inspiration.”


Ryujin snorts. “Inspiration for what?”

“The essay!” Yuna shoots them both a mischievous grin. Chaeryeong looks entirely unconvinced, but Ryujin’s eyes slowly widen.

“You know what?” Ryujin eyes them both. “I think I have something to inspire us too.”

Yuna decides the look in Ryujin’s eyes is undoubtedly trouble, but it’s exciting, and that’s all Yuna was really looking for today.

 

```

 

Yeji has long since finished her essay, and now she doesn’t really have anything to distract her from the girl in front of her. She doesn’t know why Lia has been watching her so intently

“Did you need help with your essay?” It’s the only sensible reason she can come up with. All the other options involve Lia, on some level, being interested in Yeji as a person, and that wouldn’t make any sense.

Yeji can’t remember them talking many times, and the only time she can remember having a full conversation with the girl is the time Lia cried into her shoulder because she beat Yeji for student council president.

It had stung, of course it had, Yeji worked for that spot for years, but it wasn’t Lia’s fault. To her knowledge, Lia’s friends had signed her up without her permission and only found out after she won. It would be silly for Yeji to blame Lia for something like that.

Lia tilts her head in confusion. “Why would I need help?”

Yeji shuffles uncomfortably. “Isn’t that why you’re-”

She chokes, realizing what she was about to ask. She was really about to ask Lia, the most popular girl at their school, if she was flirting with someone like Yeji. There’s no way.

“Why I’m what?” 

Yeji shakes her head. “Nothing. Sorry.”

An awkward silence fills the air and Yeji curses herself. She’s nothing if not an expert at making things uncomfortable.

“Do you think they’re going to get caught?” Luckily, Lia doesn’t seem to notice and barrels on.

Yeji throws a quick look at the door. It’s been a couple minutes now. “I don’t know. Ryujin is with them and she’s here all the time, right? Surely she knows how to get them back without running into trouble.”

Lia doesn’t look entirely convinced, and honestly, Yeji isn’t either. It was kind of dumb of them to leave when there’s only an hour left. Surely they could have sat in their seats for another sixty minutes.

“Maybe.” Lia bites her lip in thought. Yeji has to force her eyes up onto her cute nose instead, afraid to get caught looking where she shouldn’t be. “I would feel better if they would hurry.”

Yeji wants to question her as to why she feels so worried for a group of girls she barely knows, but that would be a bit hypocritical of her. Yeji herself feels an unnatural pull toward the other three. To Lia as well.

“Hey, Yeji?” Lia taps her arm. “Do you want to get dinner after this?”

Yeji blinks slowly. “What?”

Lia laughs nervously, a shy smile gracing her lips. “Did you want to get something to eat after this? I’m starving.”

“Like… all of us?” Yeji, for just a moment there, thought that maybe she was asking her on a date.

Lia hums. “Uh- yeah. I like you... guys.”

Yeji nods enthusiastically. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

She doesn’t have a lot of friends that she sees outside of school. She’s far too involved in her education to be distracted, but there’s something about the other four girls. She figures it wouldn’t hurt to have a few hours of fun.

Lia is surprised by her acceptance, but she hides it well. Had Yeji not been watching closely, she would have missed the little lift of her eyebrow, but Yeji had  been looking. Very intently even. She doesn’t know what’s come over her today. It’s not like her to get so involved in a pretty girl like this.

“Is it just me or do you feel oddly at ease with them too?” Yeji has to wonder if it’s just her.

“No, I feel it too.” Lia admits. “I don’t know why.”

Yeji opens her mouth, but the doors slam back open suddenly. Yeji is confused when only two of them return. Both seem out of breath, like they’ve run a marathon just to get here, although Yuna is definitely struggling more than the head cheerleader.

Lia is the one to pose the question. “Where’s Ryujin?”



```



“How do we always end up back here, Ryujin?” Principal Park is giving her the disappointed parent look. “Don’t you get tired of detention?”

Ryujin doesn’t offer a reply, simply slumping further into her chair. Most would be intimidated by the man looming over her, but she’s been in this position many times before and his glare has lost it’s scariness.

“Ryujin.” He sighs, running a hand over his tired face. “If you keep up like this, we’re going to end up suspending you. We should have already, but I’ve fought for detention instead.”

Ryujin blinks up at him, masking her surprise. “Why?”

“Because you’re not a bad kid.” He leans against the desk, resembling a tired old man more than the powerful Principal Park. “But you have to work with me. You can’t keep getting into fights.”

“I can’t just let them hurt other students.” She bites back. “There’s a serious bullying problem here if you haven’t noticed. If you won’t do anything then someone has to.”

“You think I haven’t noticed it? Ryujin, I’m trying my best, but I’m still an employee of the State, just like everyone else with a job here. I wish they cared more about education than money, but they don’t and when the people who bring money into the school are the bullies....” Ryujin feels like someone hit her in the gut when he sighs. The sound is full of resigned anger. “I’m trying, really. I wish there were more students like you here, but there’s not, and that’s why I fight so hard to keep you in detention instead of suspending you.”

Ryujin stews for a minute. She wants to be angry with him, because he’s still a coward, but one with a good heart. Is it shitty that he leaves the dirty work to people like Ryujin? Yes. Does he have more to lose than Ryujin for sticking up for kids? Probably. She's not sure if that should make a difference, but it makes her a bit more sympathetic.

“Is that why Chaeryeong is here? That girl’s mom has money and her money is more important than any morals we might have?” 

He nods. “Yes. I didn’t want her back, but the higher ups said we needed the endorsements.”

Rujin scoffs, shaking her head angrily. “That’s stupid.”

“It is.” He agrees simply.

There’s a silence that takes over, and it’s not pleasant. Both of their emotions are running rampant, but neither wish to lash out at someone that isn’t the real problem. It’s aggravating because Ryujin just wants to yell at the unfairness of it all, but she can’t.

“So what now?” Ryujin sighs, accepting that she’ll have to be punished for sneaking away. The only good thing coming out is that the other two got away. 

“Now-” His eyes dart to the door and back to her. “-you go back and write your essay so I don’t have to give you another detention.”

She laughs incredulously. “What? Your not making me come back next week?”

“Oh I’m sure you’ll find someone to punch before next weekend.” He waves a hand. It’s a dismissal. “Now go.”

Ryujin doesn’t waste time jumping up. “Oh, I’m sure I will.”

She darts out the door, ignoring the dramatic sigh he gives, and races back to the library. She can’t wait to get back and write that dumb essay so she doesn’t have to be here next Saturday. Hopefully cat girl and the rapping monster won’t miss her too much if she misses out on one.

She bursts through the door, instantly regretting it when her shoulder begins aching. The others jump at her entrance.

“Ryujin!” Chaeryeong rushes over, grabbing at the shoulder she’s holding in pain. “Oh my gosh. Did he hurt you?”

Ryujin blinks. “What? No, Park wouldn’t hurt a fly. I just hit the door.”

Chaeryeong scoffs, worry morphing into exasperation. She punches Ryujin’s aching shoulder. “You’re an idiot.”

“An idiot that saved your ass.” Ryujin smirks, watches as Chaeryeong’s expression softens. “You’re welcome.”

There’s a tiny thank you as she passes by the cheerleader and heads toward the youngest of the group. Yuna is practically vibrating in her seat with how excited she is to see Ryujin. “You made it!”

Ryujin doesn’t bother telling her about how she most definitely did not make it and got caught, instead pulling Yuna up and reaching into her pocket. “And you have something of mine.”

Yuna giggles, leaning her hip over so Ryujin can get a better grip on the baggie. “I can’t believe you brought that to school.”

Yeji and Lia gasp when Ryujin finally drags the bag of weed out of Yuna’s tiny pocket. She really wishes someone would start making jeans with pockets that would fit more than a single quarter.

“Why do you have that?” Yeji, for the the first time since detention officially started, jumps up from her seat in alarm. “Ryujin! You could get expelled for having that.”

Ryujin rolls her eyes. ”Come on, it’s weed .”

Lia shrugs when Yeji gives her a look, as if asking for help. “It’s not that bad.”

Yeji wails, looking to Chaeryeong, searching for anyone that agrees with her sentiment. Chaeryeong looks conflicted for a moment, finally deciding on indifference. Yeji, defeated, gives up.

Ryujin turns on her heel, heading straight for the sitting area. She might as well find a comfy couch to sit on, right? “You guys are free to join. I don’t mind sharing.”

Yuna is the first to follow again, looking like a puppy dog looking to please it’s owner. She settles onto the loveseat across from the larger couch, Yuna almost dropping into her lap. Ryujin has to shove her away at the last minute.

She expects Chaeryeong to follow like before, but to her surprise, its Lia that skips over and drops onto the floor by their feet. She gives a little pat to Yuna’s leg, giving Ryujin an expectant grin.

Ryujin grabs the joint she rolled yesterday, pulling a lighter out of her pocket. Yuna claps excitedly as she lights it. Ryujin wonders if the girl has ever even seen weed before today. 

Chaeryeong and Yeji slowly make their way over after they’ve made a round, their curiosity winning over. Both sit on the floor next to Lia, but far away enough that they aren’t touching any of them.

Ryujin offers them both a hit when it’s her turn, trying to be polite. Yeji shakes her head, but Chaeryeong eyes it curiously. 

“Yuna, up.” Ryujin pushes her up, ignoring the little yelp that comes from the youngest when she slides onto the ground next to Lia. She pats Yuna’s previous seat, motioning for Chaeryeong to join her. “Come here.”

She’s hesitant, but does as Ryujin asks, carefully stepping in between Lia and Yuna before dropping onto the couch. 

Ryujin would never force any of these girls to do something that they wouldn’t want to, that’s not her, but Chaeryeong looks too curious for her to just sit there. She would rather Chaeryeong try this around people that won’t take advantage of her, and yes, Ryujin is implying that the cheerleader’s friends are the questionable sort.

“Do you want a hit?” Ryujin aks.

Chaeryeong wiggles a bit, but nods her head shyly. “I don’t know how…”

“It’s okay.” Ryujin leans into her personal space. “I’ll show you.”



```

 

Yeji frowns, watching Chaeryeong giggle and fall under Ryujin’s arm. The cheerleader is giving her heart eyes, and although Yeji feels like the weed is the only thing allowing Chaeryeong to let her guard down, she’s happy they’re not shooting off insults at one another. Good for them for finally doing something about all that sexual tension, it’s better than them hiding their flirting with passive aggression.

“Do you want to try?” Lia holds the blunt out. “You don’t have to, but it’s fun to let loose sometimes.”

Yeji’s instinct is to say no, but she falters at the unwavering kindness in Lia’s gaze. “I- okay.”

Lia looks surprised, but she lets a joyful giggle slip out. “Okay, come here!”

Yeji crawls over, tensing when Lia uses her thighs to sit up properly. She waits for her to remove her hand, but she never does. It doesn’t move upward either, not that Yeji was thinking about it doing that in particular or anything.

“Just a tiny puff. You have to swallow it or you aren’t going to feel it.” Lia puts the tip to her mouth.

Yeji blinks owlishly, sucking in ever so slightly. She coughs almost immediately as the foreign smoke hits the back of her throat. Lia’s hand is quick to move itself from her thigh to her back, patting it a couple times.

It burns a bit, not like she thought it would have. The coughing hurt more than anything. “That’s…”

When she doesn’t say anything else, Lia offers it again. “One more?”

Yeji agrees. She doesn’t cough nearly as bad, but it’s still a little rough on her. Lia passes it off to Yuna, who passes it to Ryujin, who holds it up to Chaeryeong’s lips for her like Lia had done for Yeji, and then it’s finished. Yeji is glad it didn’t make it’s way back to her, because she’s already starting to feel paranoid that someone is going to walk in and catch them.

She does slowly loosen up, her worry fading as she listens to Yuna’s endless giggles. Chaeryeong and Rujin get touchier the longer the sit together, trading soft caresses when they think the others aren’t looking. Lia’s hand finds it’s way back to Yeji’s thigh at some point, and she only realizes when Lia gives it a gentle squeeze.

“So-” Yeji squeaks out when she feels Lia’s fingers begin swirling patterns into the fabric of her pants. “-why are you guys really here?”

The question seems to sober all of them, and Yeji almost regrets asking, but then Ryujin groans, leaning forward. “You all know why I’m here. Another fight.”

Chaeryeong reaches an arm around her waist, leaning her chin onto her shoulder. “You shouldn’t be here. You stand up for people.”

Yeji is curious as to how she can know that for sure. A lot of people suspect it, but Yeji only knows that it’s true because Rujin once stuck up for one of the younger kids on the debate team. She was present to watch the entire fight, and although Yeji can’t prove that’s how her other fights go, she suspects Ryujin is often the protector in those situations.

Ryujin eyes Chaeryeong suspiciously, like she thinks she might be being made fun of. “Tell that to the school board.”

Chaeryeong laughs spitefully. “Oh trust me, that would just make it worse. They’re not fond of me either.”

“Oh yeah?” Ryujin leans into Chaeryeong’s hold, inching her face closer. “Why’s that?”

Chaeryeong eyes her for a long moment. “Because I kicked their money maker off the team for calling me a dyke.”

Ryujin’s eyes widen at the admission, and Yuna lets out a gasp. Yeji lays her own hand atop Lia’s when Lia’s hold tightens.

“Rumors are a special kind of evil.” Ryujin eventually mutters.

Yeji watches in anticipation as Chaeryeong’s eyes slip down from Ryujin’s eyes and to her lips. There’s a charge between them suddenly, and Yeji really feels like they shouldn’t be watching such an intimate moment.

“Who said they’re just rumors?” The cheerleader breathes out.

She knows that she isn’t imagining things when she hears Ryujin’s breath catch in her throat. She especially knows she isn’t imagining things when Lia and Yuna’s heads whips around to give each other a shocked look.

“I forgot to study.” Yeji yelps, trying to diffuse the tension between the two on the couch.

Ryujin looks over, annoyance clear on her face. “What?”

“I forgot to study.” Yeji takes a glance at all of them, shrinking under their gazes. “I never forget to study, but I did this time, and I can’t fail a test. Being the top of the class, it’s the only thing that’s going to get me the scholarships I need.” She leaves out the part where the reason she so desperately needs to be the top of her class is because she lost the presidential race to Lia. It would only make her feel worse about the situation. “So I stole the test answers. Because I need to be on top.”

She waits for the mocking to come, because that’s what everyone does. They tell her she tries too hard or that she’s too invested in her studies, but Yeji is just persistent. She knows what she needs to do to get out of this town, to get away from all the jerks who have made fun of her for years.

To her surprise, she’s met with understanding.

“That sucks.” Chaeryeong frowns. “A few tests shouldn’t determine our worth for the rest of our lives, but they kind of do, don’t they?”

Yuna makes a noise of agreement, reaching over to leave a pat to the hand she still has laying on Lia’s. Yeji wonders if she should pull away when Yuna finishes her comforting, but Lia doesn’t seem to mind the touch so she keeps it there.

“I uh-” Lia blinks slowly, leaning into Yeji’s side. “-I hit a boy.”

Ryujin looks decidedly more interested at the revelation. “For real? That’s so cool.”


“Yeah. Cool.” Lia chokes out, uncomfortable with the praise.

“Why did you hit him?” Yuna asks innocently.

“Because he touched me.” Lia sinks her face into Yeji’s shoulder, like she’s embarrassed by the admission.

Ryujin sits up straight, knocking Chaeryeong off her. “Excuse me? Why the fuck are you here and not him?”

Lia attempts to push deeper in Yeji, but it’s physically impossible. Instead, Yeji raises an arm and let’s Lia’s cheek fall onto her neck. “Because no one believes the girl with a reputation.” 

“That’s bullshit.” Chaeryeong seethes.

Lia doesn’t respond, merely glances up to meet Yeji’s gaze. Yeji thinks she’s looking for something, but she’s not sure what.

“Even if the rumors about you are true-”

“They’re not!” Lia interrupts her.

“I know.” Yeji tells her honestly, because if Lia says they aren’t, then they aren’t. “Even if they were, that doesn’t give someone the excuse to touch you.”

She doesn’t even know what that means because Lia won’t clarify, not that any of them push her to. It could mean someone tapped her on the bottom as they walked by or… it could mean something much worse. 

A surge of protectiveness comes over her. She pulls Lia closer, ignoring the tiny yelp that slips from the girl’s lips as she pulls her into her lap.

“You don’t have to tell us who, but we’re here if you want to.”

Lia watches her with something akin to awe, but Yeji shakes it off because there’s nothing in particular about her that should leave Lia in awe. “Maybe one day I’ll tell you.”

Yeji pretends that the indirect admittance that she’ll be speaking to Yeji again in the future doesn’t send a shiver of excitement down her spine. “Okay.”

Chaeryeong doesn’t let the foul mood fester, turning to Yuna. “And what about you? Are you a fighter, too?”

Yuna’s cheeks turn red. “No.”

Yeji leans her cheek against Lia’s temple. “Did you cheat on a test?”

She feels Lia smile. “Kick someone off the cheerleading team and make a mom angry?”

Yuna actually smiles at that, despite the still embarrassed look on her face. “No.”

They four of them wait for something, anything. Yeji shares a curios glance with Ryujin, both of them wondering what has the usually boisterous girl acting so strangely.

“I didn’t have detention today.” Yuna finally whispers.

Lia sits up, staring in confusion. “Sorry?”

“I don’t-” The youngest shakes her head, face heating up. “-have detention. I just… I don’t have any friends and it’s hard always lying to my parents, telling them my friends are just busy or that I have too much homework to go see any of them.”

Ryujin blinks slowly. “So you snuck into detention instead?”

Yuna swallows, and Yeji realizes that it’s probably her dignity she’s gulping down. “Yes.”

“Because you don’t have friends?” Chaeryeong asks, seeming completely baffled by the admittance.

Yuna shrugs. “People don’t like me. I don’t know why.”

Yeji has a feeling that it’s not Yuna’s personality. The girl is sweet as pie and possibly the most accidentally charming person she’s ever met. Which leaves one possible reason for the dislike; jealousy.

“Well.” Chaeryeong eyes all of them. “I guess we’re all friends now, aren’t we?

Yeji doesn’t know how to respond to that, thankfully Ryujin does.

“Yeah.” The scrapper of the group nods fiercely at Chaeryeong, a reassurance not just to Yuna, but to Chaeryeong as well. “We are.”

Yeji hums in agreement. She’s never had many friends, but she likes these four a lot. 




```

 

They’re at the five minute mark, and Yuna is pretty sure she’s a genius. The others are trusting her to finish off their Saturday detention with a bang, and she’s certainly giving this essay her all. She hopes Principal Park is impressed.

“Do you think we’ll get in trouble for this?” Yeji asks, fidgeting with the now ruined essay she had finished earlier in the day.

“Too late to wonder.” Ryujin snorts. “You already tore your essay to pieces.”

Chaeryeong shrugs. “You could tape it back together.”

“No.” Lia grabs her elbow. “We’re trusting Yuna.”

It’s a first, that’s for sure. Yuna thought they were just trying to make her feel better earlier with the friend thing, but here they are, trusting her with such a large responsibility. It’s nice.

Yeji nods. “Yeah, you’re right.”

Yuna marks her last period down, holding up the paper for the others to see. “All done.”

Ryujin gives her a thumbs up, shuffling back to her seat. Chaeryeong follows not long after, having given Yuna a gentle grin of approval. Lia waits for Yeji to finish reading the entire essay, pulling her away when she starts making grammatical corrections.

Yuna feels a little lonely sitting at her original seat in the back, but one by one, the others toss her approving glances. It helps.

Principal Park is a whole minute late, but when he saunters into the room, he’s quick to dismiss them, obviously ready to go home himself. They waste no times in jumping out of their seats, leaving the paper and pencils on the tables.




```



Lia grabs at Yeji’s hand when the five of them finally step into the sweet sunlight of the outdoors. She makes a mental note right there never to take fresh air for granted again. The dusty, old library did her lungs in, or maybe that was the cannabis, actually.

“So.” Lia twirls around, intertwining Yeji’s fingers with her own. “Dinner?”

Yeji nods, gaze settling on the other three. “You guys hungry?”

Ryujin grumbles, swinging an arm around a protesting Chaeryeong’s neck. “Starving. Where are we going?”

“I want noodles.” Yuna supplies, long legs stumbling down the stairs to catch up with them, phone in hand.

Lia watches in dismay, her plans for a date completely destroyed. She should have known better than to expect Yeji to figure it out in the time between her initial request and now.

“Who says I want to go anywhere with you?” Chaeryeong glares at Ryujin, still not making any moves to tear Rujin’s arm away, looking terribly comfortable with it there.

Ryujin smirks deviously. “I’ll pay if you go.”

Chaeryeong scoffs. “That sounds like a date.” Ryujin raises an eyebrow, eyes suggestive. “Oh… okay. Sure.”

Lia’s eyes light up. Ryujin is a genius. “Will you pay for me, Yeji?”

Yeji, her dear, oblivious Yeji, grins sweetly. “Sure. Yuna, do you need me to pay for yours too?”

Yuna perks up, stepping between them to hug Yeji fiercely. “Oh! Yes, please! I don’t think I even have enough money to buy a drink.”

Lia sighs, accepting defeat. She’ll just have to spell it out for Yeji one day.




```




Dear Principal Park,

 

With all due respect, none of us deserve to be here today. We understand that there are rules and regulations you have to follow, but that doesn’t make them right. We’re all just students fighting to get through high school, desperate to make something of the lives we’re given.

A reputation is given to every student that walks through those doors, and we refuse to to bow down to them. We are not just a delinquent, or cheerleader, or debate captain, or princess, or friendless loser. We are more than that.

This is the only essay you’ll be receiving, and if we have to come back for another detention, so be it, but we won’t write you your essay.

 

Sincerely,

 

Yeji, Ryujin, Lia, Chaeryeong, and Yuna




Jinyoung glances over the single essay with a wide grin. Kids like this are the reason he became a teacher in the first place. There’s no way he would punish them for simply sticking up for what’s right.

However, one thing does catch his attention.

“Who the hell is Yuna?”