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Black Butterflies & Déjà Vu

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Sana knew for sure from a very young age, but the only one she ever trusted inherently with the secret was Tzuyu.  

She and Tzuyu grew up together, next door neighbors, who used to watch cartoons every morning and ride their bikes down to the lake twenty minutes from their houses, splashing around and baking under the summer sun. It was always fun for Sana, the most simple and fun times of her childhood, and she ended the afternoons by clinging onto Tzuyu, head nestled into her shoulder, or arm hooked through hers, or their hands laced together. It didn’t matter what kind of touch it was, but Sana felt more than off if she wasn’t near her at least once, if Tzuyu didn’t smile at her and roll her eyes good naturedly and invite Sana to spend the night.  

She figured it out the most definitively during a week that Tzuyu spent with her grandparents. Although Sana had other friends, none of them were as close to her as Tzuyu, and the scraps of affection she got from other people- a quick morning hug from her mother, a wave and a smile from her father before he left for work- weren't enough to sustain her. That was the first time that it really made her sick: she was rendered to a nauseous and weakened state three and a half days into Tzuyu’s absence, throwing up at an alarming rate and worrying her mother sick. It had never been this bad before, so Sana didn’t quite understand what was going on, but she knew as she lay shivering under her heavy blankets, sweat slickening her skin and her muscles growing weaker, that it was dire, and it was no coincidence.  

Tzuyu came home a day earlier than she was supposed to, and straight over to Sana’s place when she heard about the state Sana was in. At that point, Sana could barely lift her head, the fatigue settling over her with absolution, but the sight of Tzuyu was enough to stimulate her, especially with the blazing concern there.  

“Oh, Sana, you look...can I sit?” Tzuyu whispered. Her hands were shaking slightly, but her tone remained steady as Sana mumbled an affirmative. The second that she sat beside Sana and placed a hand on her blanketed shoulder, some of the throbbing in Sana’s head alleviated. She could think again.  

“I’m so sorry I wasn’t here to help through all this.” Tzuyu lamented. She looked so worried, a crease in her forehead that Sana just wanted to rub away like she usually did, and she snaked a hand out from under the blanket to attempt to reach up. “I don’t know what I could’ve done, but something, brought you juice or medicine or-” 

Sana gripped Tzuyu’s hand with her last reserve of strength.  

The nauseous waves rolling throughout her stomach died down.  

“You missed me?” Sana whispered, attempting a smile in her rasp of a voice.  

Tzuyu stared down at her, confusion and something darker flashing in her eyes.  

“Of course I did.”  

Sana closed her eyes, pressing Tzuyu’s palm to her cheek.  

The lethargy holding a death grip on her began to recede.  

“I should give you your space, really, I shouldn’t be intruding-” 

“No!” Sana gasped. It was the most passionate she’d been in days, and wasn’t surprised to see Tzuyu jump back in alarm. “No, Tzuyu-ah, please don’t go. I need-” 

“What do you need?” Tzuyu asked, rubbing her thumb over Sana’s shoulder.  

“Please. Stay with me- cuddle up with me.” 

Tzuyu rolled her eyes, and a flash of panic erupted in Sana’s chest. If Tzuyu left, if Tzuyu stopped wanting to comfort Sana and instead gently poked fun at her the way she usually did, Sana wouldn’t be able to handle it. Her body would physically shut down. She couldn’t take that again.  

“Sana, you’re sick, and probably contagious. I shouldn’t have gotten this close to begin with, but-” 

Sana sat up hurriedly, pushing herself through the waves of wracking pain from such sudden movement, and grabbed the front of Tzuyu’s shirt. 

“You can’t leave. If you leave, I’ll-” 

Her swallow was thick and loud in the silence. The look on Tzuyu’s face indicated that she was listening, even if she wasn’t taking Sana quite seriously yet.  

“I’ll deteriorate.” Sana whispered. It sounded melodramatic to say die, even though she had a strong instinctual feeling that if it got bad enough, that was exactly what would transpire. “I need...I need you, and your attention, and you to be close. I need you to love me.” 

“I do love you, Satang, but you’re being really clingy-” 

“I have a condition.” Sana blurted. There it was, out in the open for the first time....ever. Even her parents didn’t know, and since they were a tight knit family all throughout Sana’s childhood, she never needed to bring it up to them. Although sometimes she wondered if she was the only one who had to survive on energy like this, or maybe it was genetic...she didn’t know how to even bring up the subject.  

Tzuyu looked at her blankly, raising one eyebrow. “Yeah...?” 

“Not this. Everything you’re seeing is caused by it. It’s-” Sana swallowed hard.  

“Relax, Satang.” Tzuyu told her firmly, rubbing up and down Sana’s arms gently. It was that simple affection that leached the last bit of tension in Sana’s stomach and allowed the next words to spill forward.  

“If I go without affection- physical and emotional- for too long, I’ll die. It fuels me, like food for anybody else. It’s my energy source.” 

There. She’d said it.  

Tzuyu pulled her hands back. Sana had been expecting this, the bemused expression, the lips parting as if to ask Sana what in the hell she was talking about.  

“You’re serious.” Tzuyu said slowly, studying Sana more closely than she ever had before. Tzuyu was famous for her piercing looks, the ones that could strip anyone to the bone and expose exactly what Tzuyu was searching for. All Sana could do was stare back calmly, her throat working, glancing down at her hands when Tzuyu’s gaze became too heated to focus on.  

“Dead serious.” 

“You actually think you’re, what, some kind of love succubus? How high was your fever?” 

“It’s not a fucking joke, Tzuyu-ah.” Sana snapped. “Do you think I like living like this? Do you think I enjoyed the past week without you, not sure if I was dying without you? It scares the hell out of me sometimes, and it’s so lonely at points, because I had no one to tell, and now that I'm telling you-” 

Tzuyu looked stricken.  

They’d never been good at fights, one of them usually apologizing within a few hours of the argument (almost always Sana, Tzuyu hated to admit she was wrong) and making up in minutes. Who else would they spend their time with, and have movie marathons with, and count stars at night with?  

There was never a secret Sana felt uncomfortable telling Tzuyu before, and that made this one- the most significant of them all- the most important for Tzuyu to believe.  

Tzuyu was looking down at her own hands now, the quiet becoming borderline stifling, but she spoke again before Sana snapped and begged her to speak.  

“All those times when you got really homesick on camping trips, and puked in the bushes, and made me sleep in your sleeping bag with you...that wasn’t just homesickness?”  

Sana shook her head slowly.  

“And that time we didn’t speak for like three days because you broke my bike, and you crawled in my bedroom window looking sick as a dog....you didn’t start looking better until I gave you at least five hugs and told you I forgave you.” Tzuyu seemed to be thinking out loud now. Sana didn’t interrupt, just nodding when Tzuyu glanced up at her.  

“This is crazy.” Tzuyu muttered.  

That same flash of panic from before returned, twice as bright and sharp.  

“Tzuyu-ah...”  

“But, you need me.” Tzuyu finished quietly. She pushed lightly on Sana’s shoulder until she scooted away, making room for a Tzuyu-sized gap on the bed. Tzuyu settled herself back against Sana’s pillows. Sana’s eyes widened when Tzuyu patted her lap.  

“And whether I think all of this is believable or not, that doesn’t change us.”  

Sana could’ve sobbed with relief as she nestled into Tzuyu’s side, burying her face in Tzuyu’s neck and exhaling softly. It wasn’t just the physical touch that calmed her system- although that was a major part of it- but the affection she could feel pulsing off of Tzuyu in waves, how she took Sana’s hand and rubbed her thumb over her knuckles.  

“You’re my best friend, Tzuyu-ah.” Sana mumbled into her neck, squeezing her arms around Tzuyu’s waist firmly. “You’re not allowed to leave, okay?”  

Tzuyu chuckled, long and low, and rested her cheek against the top of Sana’s head. “Yes, ma’am.”  

As Sana grew older, Tzuyu remained her best friend, but she realized fairly soon that it wouldn’t be practical to have Tzuyu as her only source. So she branched out, turning on the famous charm and making connections anywhere and everywhere she could. With this method, Sana collected a small but strong group of people that she knew she could go to.  

Momo was the best cuddler, even above Tzuyu. She was a very touchy person herself, and never minded when Sana came over and flopped right into Momo’s bed, using grabby hands to indicate what she wanted. Sana felt like she could let herself go a little more with Momo than she could with anyone else, except Tzuyu, and enjoyed the nights where Momo had nothing else to do and they could stay up into the wee hours, drinking and talking and being happy.   

Nayeon had been Sana’s first kiss, even if it was a giggly and slightly awkward affair that happened in Tzuyu’s closet when they were fifteen and sixteen. They never really dated, as Nayeon was a freewheeling spirit and Sana didn’t want to risk getting too attached to anybody, but Nayeon was always good for a movie and a sleepover. Sana always woke up with Nayeon clinging to her back like a koala, and then they’d make breakfast together, Nayeon’s smile radiant as a sunbeam while she left pecks on Sana’s cheek just because she could. Sana trusted her. 

Mina was just....wonderful. She was a good friend of Tzuyu’s that Sana met only about a year or so ago, but they’d clicked so instantly that Sana knew this girl would be in her life for ages to come. Her personality wasn’t as straightforward as Nayeon’s or Momo’s, but it was clear that she craved physical affection as much as anyone. She just didn’t come out and say so, instead choosing to rest her head on Sana’s shoulder and press in close while they played video games together, or allow Sana to fall asleep in her lap while Mina worked on her Lego sets. It was quiet and comforting, but still brimming with the best, deepest kind of affection.  

Sana was content with her life, and never worried about running out of energy anymore. These were the kind of people that stayed in your life infinitely. Sometimes Tzuyu asked her if she ever thought about a real relationship, but Sana always waved her off. The highs that came with that kind of bond were euphoric, she heard, but the risk of the crashing lows weren’t worth it. What if she couldn’t recover once she reached that kind of love? She didn’t know what would happen, and without a certainty or any safety net to fall back on, Sana wasn’t willing to risk it.  

She, of course, never accounted on meeting Jihyo.  

 

 

Looking back, it was really Nayeon’s fault in the first place. She could’ve had anyone come over and help her set up her new entertainment system, but it was hard for Sana to say no to Nayeon, with her pouty lips and pleading eyes. Plus, she figured, this way she could get in some snuggling and not have to wait around for Momo to come back from vacation in a few days. So, it was a win win.  

As Sana had gotten older and understood more of her condition, it became easier to stave off the weakening of her body. Still, the longest that she figured possible was around a month, and didn’t want to know what happened if she went any longer than that. Healthier to stay in her little circle.  

When she arrived at Nayeon’s apartment, two things became instantly evident.  

Nayeon was making a mountain out of a molehill over this entertainment system. The pieces were scattered around Nayeon in a haphazard circle, the box thrown off in the corner, and Sana found Nayeon examining a series of black boxes, coiled wires nestled in her lap. It didn’t seem like she’d made any progress since calling Sana thirty minutes ago.  

And as for the second thing...Nayeon must have a new roommate. There was a new jacket strung over the back of the couch, a pair of shoes Sana didn’t recognize under the hook by the front door, pieces and fragments of someone Sana didn’t know dispersed around the room. She shucked her own jacket off and hung it beside the foreign one before picking her way through the mess to sit beside Nayeon.  

“Did you finally accept an application?” Sana asked. She reached over and took the stereo amplifier out of Nayeon’s hands. Nayeon glanced up at her with a brief pout.  

“Accept what for what?” Nayeon replied, frowning as she picked up another part, a part she clearly hadn’t bothered going through the instruction manual for.  

“For a new roommate. It looks like you’ve got someone new hanging around.” Sana waved at the jacket and shoes.  

Nayeon’s brow furrowed, and then her eyes lit up before she chuckled.  

“Oh! Yeah, actually, it’s only been a few weeks, but we hit it off. She’s neat, quiet, doesn’t mind if I watch TV late out here, and-”  

Nayeon was interrupted by the front door opening, an unfamiliar figure stepping through and slipping their shoes off before closing the door behind them.  

“And there she is.” Nayeon finished. She held a hand up as the girl looked up.  

“Minatozaki Sana, meet Park Jihyo. My new roommate. We were just singing your praises.”  

Sana knew all about the intricacies of feelings, of lust (although that gave her a different kind of energy than pure love) and how they could spark almost instantly, drawing people together. She’d never been in love, choosing to close herself off from that depth, but she was good at reading people, at understanding what they would be to her with a simple conversation or only a few times spent together.  

Jihyo was going to be significant to her. It was as clear in her mind as if it’d been painted there.  

“Hello.” said Sana brightly, springing to her feet and abandoning the cables she’d been uncoiling, putting a hand out. “It’s nice to meet you, Jihyo.”  

Jihyo glanced at her fingers, nodding stiffly, and strode past the mess on the floor without acknowledging Sana’s gesture. Embarrassment prickled at her, swarming over her face and down her body, and she shoved her hand unceremoniously in her pocket.  

Nayeon was glaring at Jihyo now, who was busying herself in the kitchen with taking out pans and cooking spray and various utensils.  

“Jihyo-ah, don’t be rude. Sana is a guest in our home.”  

Jihyo looked up from the pan she was holding, indifference written all over her face, and her mouth twisted the slightest bit before her eyes flickered to Sana.  

She had a lovely face, really. Dark, unfathomable eyes, tanned skin, a certain elegance and strength to her jawline, lips that Sana couldn’t seem to stop staring at. She wondered what it would be like if there was energy and light dancing within those eyes, if Sana smiled at her and Jihyo smiled back, and then- and then-  

“Charmed.” Jihyo finally said.  

Oh, Lord.   

Just that one word made Sana’s chest buzz, something bright and hot stirring in her stomach as Sana swallowed. Jihyo’s voice was pleasant- much more than pleasant- with a touch of huskiness and richness. Sana could get caught up in this kind of girl.  

Nayeon put her hands on her hips, eyes narrowing sternly, before she sighed and turned to Sana.  

“Don’t mind Jihyo. She’s a little...not a people person. But she’s nice, really, if you get to know her. If she lets you. And it wouldn’t kill her to have another friend besides me and Chaeyoung.” Nayeon added loudly, looking pointedly at Jihyo.  

“Are you cooking?” Sana asked Jihyo. She winced at the lilt her voice took on, an indication of her nervousness, but Jihyo didn’t seem to be paying attention.  

“Baking.” Jihyo said, her head in the fridge as she pulled out ingredients.  

Nayeon rolled her eyes again before giving Sana a small smile and a shrug, holding out a wire as if to make up for it. “Jihyo’s modest about it, but she’s one of the best bakers you’ll ever meet. She should be in competitions, really.” 

Jihyo snorted. Sana could see the tiniest curving of her lip, wanted to see what it was like when Jihyo smiled all the way, when Jihyo was happy. She was stunned at how much it meant to her. How could she feel this fascinated by someone she barely knew?  

“What are you making?” Sana asked hesitantly.  

Jihyo paused in slicing up a block of butter, the knife poised over the plate as if she weren’t sure whether Sana was serious. Something about the quiet surprise in Jihyo’s eyes sent a pang through Sana’s heart.  

“Apple strudels.” Jihyo answered quietly. That seemed to be the end of it, even as Sana stood there with wires constricting her fingers and wrists and hoped Jihyo would say more, but Nayeon nudged her impatiently in the side and pointed at her media cabinet. It was pretty classy looking, with sleek walnut wood and more attention to it than possibly anything else in this apartment. Sana tried to focus on helping Nayeon’s set up, on losing herself in Nayeon’s natural sunniness the way she usually did, how she felt lighter and more energetic the longer she listened to Nayeon talk.  

But then Jihyo spoke up again, the room starting to become toastier and smell faintly of apples and cinnamon.  

“You can have some too, if you want. If you’ll be here long enough.”  

Sana’s head jerked up from where she was plugging in Nayeon’s Playstation, unsure if she’d heard what she wanted to hear or Jihyo was already losing a little of her prickliness. But, judging from the flushed look on Jihyo’s face, and how she was determinedly not facing them as she washed her hands, Jihyo had definitely extended the invitation.  

“She’ll absolutely be here long enough!” Nayeon chimed in, slinging an arm around Sana’s shoulder and pulling her in. Sana’s breath caught as Jihyo turned around again, eyes narrowing slightly at them, and she felt the need to hide. Something about Jihyo’s gaze made her feel like Jihyo would be able to break her down if she wasn’t careful, take Sana completely apart, and she could never risk losing control.  

So Sana slid her arms around Nayeon’s waist, pressing her face into Nayeon’s shoulder. She just needed a few seconds to collect herself again, to plant a smile back on, and then she’d be able to face Jihyo. She thought.  

“We’re going to be catching up on our drama now that we’ve finally got this monster put together.” Nayeon planted a kiss on Sana’s temple, pulling a small giggle out of her, and gently disentangled herself from Sana’s grip. “Give me ten minutes to change and freshen up?”  

Oh God, she’s leaving me alone with Jihyo.   

“Sure!” Sana squeaked out, shoving her hands in her pockets and flopping back on the sofa. “Take your time.”  

“Play nice, girls.” Nayeon announced heartily before disappearing down the hall.  

Sana wasn’t opposed to being left alone with strangers. She liked getting to know people, feeding off their energy- literally and figuratively- and learning about them, what made them tick.  

Jihyo was different.  

The silence was stiff and impenetrable, it seemed. Sana listened for the indication that Jihyo was doing anything, but there wasn’t even a squeak of the floorboard or footsteps.  

Finally, she spun in her spot, finding Jihyo damn near escaping down the hall herself. When she noticed Sana looking at her sadly, she at least had the grace to look a little sheepish.  

“Am I that ugly?” Sana asked, managing a chuckle that didn’t sound forced.  

Jihyo seemed confused, stepping back into the room cautiously. “What?” 

“You’ve barely made eye contact with me for two seconds. And I know I can come off...as too much, but we haven’t talked enough for you to know that yet!” Sana pointed at her accusingly, flashing a genuine smile.  

Jihyo’s head tilted to the side. She almost looked like a puppy. The thought squeezed around Sana’s heart.  

“So I’m just wondering, I guess. If people aren’t your thing, I can understand that. But if it’s something about me in particular, well, I’d like to know.”  

The room was really starting to smell wonderful now, and there was such a cheerful tinge to the atmosphere that it seemed just plain wrong for Jihyo to not be indulging in it too.  

Jihyo glanced back down the hall, thumbs hooked through her belt loops, and sighed. Another minuscule step forward. This was good progress.  

“It’s not. There’s nothing. We don’t even know each other, correct?”  

Sana’s optimism was pierced through, losing air as quickly as a balloon. She frowned, resting her chin on her propped arms, and kept her gaze on Jihyo until Jihyo stopped staring at the floor.  

“Would it be so bad if I wanted to get to know you?”  

Jihyo’s eyes snapped up to hers at that. There was growing irritation now, a sharpness that kind of hurt Sana, and she almost shrank back.  

“You don’t.” Jihyo said flatly. “And I- I have enough friends.”  

Sana tried not to let her see how much that smarted, even though Jihyo was right. They didn’t know each other, but. Well. Sana was used to getting what she wanted. And what she wanted right now more than anything was to find out the intricacies of Park Jihyo, how to make that cloud in her eyes disappear, how to make her look...lovely.  

“That’s a lie, Jihyo-ah! You never come out of this apartment unless it’s to go to the store! It’s not healthy to only spend time with Chaeyoung, as fun as she is.”  

Nayeon was coming back down the hall, with freshly scrubbed hair and worn pajamas, and gave Jihyo a prod in the side before scampering to join Sana on the couch. Sana looked back over the couch one more time, frowning a little as Jihyo met her eyes, a muscle working in her throat, but she turned away.  

Sana sighed, curling up into Nayeon’s side and trying to push down her inexplicable frustration, trying to get lost in the drama and Nayeon’s laughter and all the familiar, usual things. But her mind was seizing on little details: the scent of the baking strudels and the darkness of Jihyo’s eyes and how she wanted.   

She was close to falling asleep, between the warmth and the comfort of Nayeon beside her, and almost jumped out of her skin when there was a clatter on the coffee table. Jihyo was setting two plates in front of them, each topped with a few strudels, and folding her arms across her chest as soon as she set the food down.  

“Oh, you’re a real one, Jihyo-ah.” Nayeon groaned appreciatively, dislodging Sana from her shoulder as she reached for a plate. “I’m serious about her baking, she works magic in the kitchen.” 

Jihyo’s mouth twitched again before her gaze dropped to the floor. Sana made a mental note of that while she took her own pastry. Jihyo’s soft spot was her baking skills. Maybe if- 

Wow.   

These strudels were truly epic. Warm, fluffy, melting in Sana’s mouth. She let out a small grunt of pleasure after the first bite, and heard Nayeon snort in laughter before her eyes flew open, cheeks reddening in embarrassment.  

Was that a hint of a smile on Jihyo’s face? Just maybe?  

“She was right.” Sana said when she could speak clearly again. “You’re really great at this.” 

“Thank you.” said Jihyo quietly.  

Nayeon jumped up and scurried off- she reminded Sana of a squirrel sometimes, honestly- to grab her water bottle from her room, and Sana set the plate back on the table. There was a bit of apple sticking to the corner of her lip, and as she licked it off, she wondered if she was imagining Jihyo’s eyes lingering on her face.  

“You know,” said Sana softly. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to bake.”  

Jihyo swallowed once.  

“Yeah?” 

“Maybe...maybe you could give me lessons?”  

Jihyo looked at her stonily.  

“You never thought of watching videos on YouTube? Or cookbooks?” 

 Sana shrugged, unwilling to let Jihyo pierce through her determination again. “I learn better if it’s hands on experience. I’ll do everything you tell me, promise.”  

Jihyo bit her lip, glancing between the plate and Sana. Sana was almost positive she was going to say no, and she’d have to concede defeat, maybe finally understand that she couldn’t always get everything she wanted.  

“Okay.” Jihyo finally said.  

“Yeah?” said Sana excitedly. She bounced a little in place. Jihyo didn’t look impressed.  

“Yeah. How about once a week, is that good? I have Wednesdays and Saturdays free.” 

“Wednesday is good for me.” Sana said eagerly.  

Jihyo nodded, rubbing a hand over the back of her head as Nayeon bounded into the room again.  

“Well, that’s, uh, okay then. I guess I’ll find something for Wednesday.”  

It was at that moment, nestled between the warmth of Nayeon and the comfort of the couch, that Sana decided she would win Park Jihyo’s affection. She needed to see that lovely face light up at least once. It pulled under her skin the way that her body ached whenever she went without too long.  

And maybe, in the end, she’d win her heart too.  

 

“So, what do you think of her?”  

Jihyo looked up from her book, unsure of why Nayeon had planted her hands down over the kitchen island and was staring at her as if her life depended on it. Nayeon had always been a little on the histrionic side, so Jihyo wasn’t entirely surprised. She returned her attention to the story, crossing her feet a little more comfortably at the ankles, and hummed.  

“Think of who?” 

“Sana, obviously.” Nayeon answered with a disappointed look, flopping down on the stool behind the counter and drumming her fingers on its surface. “Did you like her?”  

Jihyo turned a page. “I barely spent any time with her. Specifically alone, because you two were caught up in your drama and I didn’t want to interrupt that.” 

“Oh, stop.” Nayeon scoffed. “You were being your hermit self again, I know you.” 

She and Nayeon had only been roommates for a little over a month, but it was remarkably easy for Nayeon to pick up on things about Jihyo that Jihyo didn’t necessarily want her to. Jihyo supposed Nayeon made it her business to know about people, seeing as she thrived from interacting with them and making them smile, but there were some things Jihyo would prefer to keep to herself. Was it so bad that Jihyo figured that there were a few really worthwhile people to have in one’s life, and the rest were give or take? What was so bad about having a tiny circle? Far less susceptible to damage, and Jihyo was not in the business of opening herself up to potential heartache: platonic or romantic.  

So when she saw Sana for the first time, the odd stirring in the pit of her stomach alarmed Jihyo. Sana was pretty, of course, Jihyo could admit it. She wasn’t blind. There were tons of beautiful girls in the world, however, and probably just as many energetic beautiful girls. Look at Nayeon. Maybe Sana was more to Jihyo’s liking: soft and round but thoughtful eyes, light hair that tumbled past her shoulders, even a gentle and bright voice that affected Jihyo differently than Nayeon’s sunshine tone. But these were all superficial elements.  

Jihyo didn’t need another friend. She hoped she’d made that clear to Sana, even if it took a little....abrasiveness. She was content with Nayeon and Chaeyoung, and wasn’t opposed to spending time around Nayeon’s friend Momo when she visited the apartment sometimes. But outside of that? No.  

And she certainly didn’t need another setup, or whatever this was that Nayeon seemed to be implying. Not after Jeongyeon. Maybe she’d gotten the urge to smile back when Sana turned on the charm, looking up at Jihyo with those wide and imploring and pretty eyes, but Jihyo was used to suppressing those urges. Quite good at it now, actually. Anything that made her feel uncertain, feel like she could become dazed if she forgot herself, had to go.  

Minatozaki Sana was potentially dangerous for Jihyo. And she couldn’t have that.  

“I offered to teach her how to bake, I think that’s far from my usual.” Jihyo retorted, setting her book aside and folding her arms across her chest. She knew better than to feed into Nayeon’s prodding, but she couldn’t help it. Nayeon had this way of getting under Jihyo’s skin that was unlike anybody else. And Nayeon definitely used it to her advantage.  

Nayeon frowned at her from between her hands, which were squishing her face as they propped up Nayeon’s head.  

“I think you’d really like her, honestly, if you just let your guard down. She’s a little hyper sometimes but she’s a good person. Super touchy, but I like that.” 

“And you know this, how?” Jihyo asked. She prided herself on the sheer indifference in her tone, when in reality, a little spark of what only felt like envy had lit within her. Why would she be jealous of Sana and Nayeon? They were clearly close. Maybe very close.  

“We’re like cuddle buddies.” Nayeon waved a dismissive hand, straightening up from the kitchen island and going to rummage in the fridge. “I go over to her place a few times a week and we just watch movies and cuddle up. It’s healthy, you know. Natural.”  

Jihyo chose to ignore the accusing implication in that word and laid her head back on the couch. She was unsure of why there was quiet relief replacing the envy, and didn’t like the feeling. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to get involved- in any capacity- with Sana.  

The thought of disappointing that face made Jihyo feel a little ashamed.  

“What are you teaching her to make on Wednesday?” Nayeon called back, cursing when something fell over with a loud clatter in the fridge.  

Jihyo wasn’t one to break a promise once she made it. She was fairly certain her strength had been built up enough after Jeongyeon to persevere through this. Sana would be pleased, and Jihyo would get Nayeon off her back without compromising her own values. It would all be fine.  

“Monster cookie bars.” Jihyo replied, picking her book back up and trying to ignore the replay of Sana’s smile in her inner vision.  

 

 

“I think we have everything, Jihyo-ah!”  

Sana pushed a lock of hair behind her ear, ponytail brushing the nape of her neck as she looked down the kitchen island. Jihyo was still pulling ingredients out of grocery bags when Sana arrived, but indicated that Sana could help her if she liked.  

“I think so, too.” Jihyo replied, setting a pan in front of Sana and stepping away from the preheating oven. She seemed to be taking care to not get too close to Sana, which made Sana a little sad, but she’d taken the precaution of spending last night and most of the morning with Mina. She could already feel herself getting a little too attached in her fascination with Jihyo, and Sana wasn’t sure what would happen if she started to fall and Jihyo didn’t catch her.  

“So, what’s the first step, master?” Sana asked, placing her hands together and sending Jihyo a bright smile. She wasn’t exactly sure how her plan to win Jihyo’s heart was going to work out. The list went a little like this:  

1.) Be charming and cute, or maybe laidback and sensual if that’s what Jihyo likes.  

2.) Spend time baking together.  

3.) ????  

4.) ????  

5.) Win Jihyo’s heart  

 

Jihyo pulled items toward them- the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt- and pushed them to one side in a group, indicating the mixer in her next motion.  

“We need to blend the peanut butter, butter, and sugars until they’re smooth. Think you can handle it?”  

Sana nodded- maybe a little too enthusiastically, judging from the weird look Jihyo gave her- and started to reach for the ingredients, running through topics in her mind of what might be safe to approach Jihyo with.  

Nayeon was supremely helpful in her texts, advising Sana to simply ‘be herself! Jihyo will warm up to you soon enough. Probably.’ Sana had meant to ask Mina, but Mina sometimes did this thing with tracing her nails over Sana’s back that always gave her a supreme boost of vitality and put her right to sleep, so she’d forgotten. She was on her own with this one.  

But, as Jihyo took out the chocolate chips and M&MS for preparation and Sana blended, all of the topics Sana tried to bring up resulted in pointed, one or two word answers. It wasn’t the first time somebody had been aloof to Sana, but it might’ve been the first time they’d been so aloof without a real reason.  

When Jihyo handed Sana a spatula to spread out the dough in the pan, Sana put down the mixing bowl- maybe a little too harshly- and gave Jihyo a long look.  

“Do I make you uncomfortable?”  

Jihyo glanced up from the M&Ms she was measuring out. Something like a flush painted itself over her skin, and her nose screwed up.  

“What?”  

“If I do, you can just tell me. I’m a big girl, I can handle it. Not everyone in the world is going to like me. But I just wanna know why.” Sana said, and she was a little surprised how her words kept rising in pitch the longer she kept talking. She barely knew Jihyo, her reactions shouldn’t be this fiery.  

But what was so bad about wanting to get to know other people? Jihyo had these amazing eyes and lips and maybe Sana had thought about her much more than was healthy in the days they’d been apart. Something in her expression held this kind of fragile, darkened light, and Sana just wanted to know why.  

Jihyo didn’t say anything for a moment, placing the measuring cup steadily on the kitchen island, and Sana thought that she was going to keep up the same act. Their baking lessons would be carried out in this icy and ridiculous silence. Sana’s master plan would implode before it ever had a chance to get off the ground. This would require ten times the amount of attention than usual.  

“There’s nothing to tell you.” Jihyo said quietly.  

She wasn’t looking at Sana, staring down at her hands. Sana could see the slightest trembling there. They looked so warm and callused and worn. Sana had the fiercest, most sudden desire to wrap her own fingers around them, rub a little love into Jihyo.  

“You don’t make me uncomfortable. I didn’t mean to give that impression. I’m just-” Jihyo took a fast, sharp breath. “Nayeon wasn’t lying. I’m not a people person. And it’s not that it’s about you, it’s just better this way.”  

Sana frowned a little as Jihyo topped off the mixture in the pan with her cup of M&Ms.  

“Why is it better if we have a massive wall between us? Don’t you think that’ll make for some awkward baking?”  

Jihyo’s mouth twitched, just the slightest amount, but it was there. Sana mentally patted herself on the back for this small victory.  

“Opening up to people,” Jihyo said slowly, sliding the tray into the oven and turning to face Sana. “is always a recipe for disaster.” 

“It can be easy. I promise.” Sana said gently. Jihyo seemed like she was ready to bolt at any moment, but Nayeon wasn’t here and Sana was determined to leave this apartment with at least one fact about Jihyo in her back pocket.  

“We don’t have to swap life secrets. Just, you know, fun little things. Like this. My name’s Sana, and I can’t bake, and I like to play open world video games with my friend Mina, and I think arctic foxes are one of the cutest, if not the cutest, animals in the world.” Sana spread her arms wide.  

“See? It’s easy. Now your turn.”  

Jihyo’s arms were folded tightly over her chest, her little wall almost palpable, but Sana could be patient too. She hummed under her breath as she started to clean up scattered chocolate chips. The seconds stretched on around them, and just as Sana was beginning to wonder if Jihyo was really that averted to being Sana’s friend, she spoke up.  

“I can bake.”  

Sana smiled a little in encouragement, pausing in her motions.  

“And,” Jihyo hesitated, running her fingers distractedly through her hair, “I- I like reading. I spend afternoons at the library, weekends. Really, whenever I have time off. One of my favorite things in the world is to get lost in a literary world.”  

As soon as the words left her mouth, Jihyo seemed surprised, like she hadn’t intended to open up that much to Sana. Sana swallowed, fingers clenching over the side of the island.  

“Nice to meet you properly, Jihyo who can bake and likes to read.” Sana told her brightly. She held out a hand.  

This time, when Jihyo’s glance dropped to it, she actually smiled. It was the tiniest curve of her mouth, but it was there. Sana’s heart stuttered, seizing on that and tingling with the surplus of energy left over from Mina.  

Jihyo took her hand.  

Sana’s skin tingled this time, a certain kind of electricity thrumming under the surface that she was stunned to recognize.  

When Nayeon had kissed her that first night, pressed against Tzuyu’s closet door and a giggle bubbling between them at the first awkward peck, Sana had felt a prickle in her nerves. She’d learned to separate these tingles, understand them as her absorbing process, and they had different levels of strength. As Nayeon kissed her again, the laughter disappearing into the darkness and Sana’s hands tentatively pulling on Nayeon’s shoulders, the intensity flared up.  

When she’d slept with Momo the first time, there was practically an inferno within Sana’s chest as Momo whispered “I love doing this- I love you, Satang.” while she was still inside Sana. Sana didn’t necessarily return that feeling, but soaking in Momo’s intensity and euphoric affection had been the best Sana ever felt- like the true meaning of life.  

But this?  

Just a simple touch and small smile from Park Jihyo?  

Its flare almost matched that night with Momo.  

Sana just barely managed to keep herself from snatching her hand back, offering Jihyo a slightly uneven smile before stepping away and hurriedly cleaning up the rest of the mess.  

“How- how long until the cookie bars are done?”  

“It’s supposed to be until they’re golden brown. Maybe twenty minutes?” Jihyo answered absently. Sana knew she was looking at Sana with a puzzled expression, knew she didn’t understand the abrupt shift in Sana’s demeanor, and Sana couldn’t really explain it to herself, either. This was exactly what she’d been chasing after.  

But, the goal remained the same. 

Sana invited Jihyo to watch a few episodes of the drama she and Nayeon were currently obsessed with, promising she’d catch Jihyo up on all the little details, and was surprised when Jihyo actually agreed. Sure, there was a considerable amount of space between them, and Jihyo seemed more confused than entertained most of the time, but Nayeon returned an hour later to them sharing a plate of cookie bars and Jihyo actually asking questions about the show.  

So, Sana didn’t mind Nayeon’s yelling that they were spoiling the show and she’d at least think they’d have the decency to save her a few cookie bars. She left with the knowledge of how cute Jihyo looked when her ears turned red from Nayeon’s pouty whining and a Ziploc bag of half-smushed cookie bars, Jihyo’s small smile burned into her mindset.  

When she called Tzuyu that night to update her on the situation, Tzuyu didn’t seem too fazed about it. That was the good thing about being best friends with Tzuyu: the whole world could be coming down around them, and Tzuyu would calmly kick her way through the ashes to pick Sana up, dust her off, and battle on.  

“So, you touched her, and it felt electric.” Tzuyu supplied.  

Sana took a deep breath, counting the cracks in her ceiling for the hundredth time while she held onto the phone like a lifeline. “Yeah, but you know it’s not like-” 

“Not like a cliché.” Tzuyu sighed sagely. “I think the question you have to ask yourself is, do you want to win her affection because it feels like a prize, or because you genuinely want Jihyo to care for you?  

Sana had Jihyo’s number now, for practical reasons as Jihyo had stated to her. For coordinating about baking, and for them to let each other know if they wouldn’t be able to make it for some reason. Those digits were mocking her from the recesses of her phone, enticing her to text Jihyo, just something casual.  

U up? No, that was stupid. Something Nayeon would do. Jihyo would probably block her.  

I really enjoyed our lesson today! So formal, and too close-ended.  

How were my baking skills? You never let me know what you thought of the bars...  

“Sana?”  

Sana snapped back to reality.  

“Sorry, I was thinking about something. But to answer your question...”  

Sana hesitated.  

“She just looks like she needs someone to love her, Tzuyu-ah.” Sana said quietly. “She has these eyes... and this fragility, and this roughness to her voice. I think she’s been hurt before.”  

“A possibility.” Tzuyu hummed. “But I thought the goal was to get her affection for you?”  

Sana rolled over onto her side, putting Tzuyu on speaker and scrolling to her contacts until Jihyo’s number was present. The little blinking cursor in the message bubble was taunting her. Her fists tightened.  

“It was.”  

 

 

Jihyo was pissed at herself for not recognizing the signs as quickly as she should have. Her defenses were being pierced without her consent, hell, maybe not even her knowledge.  

It started with that little text Sana sent. Jihyo had been reading when it’d come, close to turning the lamp off and settling in for the night, and all it had been was a question about the show. Had Jihyo liked it? Should Sana recommend shows like it?  

And while Jihyo’s thumbs were hovering over the keyboard, deciding how to answer, Sana had added a little something else.  

By the way, you look especially cute when you’re concentrating on baking 😊  

Just a simple sentence with a stupid emoji, but Jihyo’s heart had flipped over. Then she’d cursed herself for reacting at all and sent off a more stiff reply than maybe the situation called for. It hadn’t derailed Sana, of course. Jihyo was starting to think that nothing discouraged Sana.  

So they’d kept going back and forth, Jihyo admitting she’d enjoyed the show and wouldn’t mind watching more like it, and Sana sending little lists of recommendations, and then it transitioned into them talking about possible recipes for their upcoming lesson, and then Sana asking Jihyo for book recommendations.  

Well, that was her forte. How could Jihyo refuse? Nayeon wasn’t as into reading as she was, and Chaeyoung preferred graphic novels, so Jihyo never had anyone to give her favorites to. It was hard for her to be open about this to begin with, partly because it was hard to explain what books did to her mind. How could she accurately describe what certain phrasings made her feel, how pictures were painted so vividly, how there were some paragraphs that she wanted to hold close to heart and consume, and practically drown herself in their beauty?  

The only one who’d ever understood that was Jeongyeon. Jihyo couldn’t risk going down that road again. She distracted herself with putting together lists for Sana, just three or four books at a time, but Sana was a quick reader, coming to the baking sessions with a raving on her lips and an exuberance in her expression that caught Jihyo off guard. She could tell that Sana got it, when hardly anyone Jihyo had ever met truly knew.  

That should’ve been the first definite red flag, but Jihyo ignored it. What was so bad about swapping books and shows while making cupcakes and banana bread? There was nothing. She liked the smiles Nayeon gave them when she came home from work while Sana was still over, even if the strange prickling under her ribs whenever Nayeon pulled Sana against her was annoying.  

The second sign was Jihyo genuinely looking forward to Sana coming over now. She prepared ahead of time more diligently than she ever did for anyone else, choosing things that she figured Sana might like, even putting together a pile of books for Sana and tying them together with a silly yellow string she found in Nayeon’s drawer. It looked more festive this way, and Sana was nothing if not festive.  

The smile on Sana’s face when she arrived that afternoon made Jihyo feel like she couldn’t breathe. Standing there, holding onto the counter for legitimate support but trying to play it off, and watching Sana skim the spines and dust covers was awakening parts of Jihyo that should’ve been long buried.  

“Oh, I can’t believe you went to all this trouble for me, Jihyo-ah. Thank you!” Sana beamed at her, causing a subtle flush to ripple across Jihyo’s face right on cue, and leaned over. Before Jihyo could collect herself in enough time to back away, Sana had already kissed her cheek.  

“Which one should I start with? They all look great, but am I in the mood for a drama, or a comedy, or psychological thriller...”  

Sana’s rambling was interrupted in Jihyo’s mind by a faint but persistent buzzing. The place where Sana’s lips had touched her was smarting, hot as a stovetop, and Jihyo wondered in a panic if her conflict was written all over her face. This couldn’t be happening again.  

One Jeongyeon was enough for a lifetime.  

“We should get to baking.” Jihyo said briskly, ignoring the pout Sana gave her and starting to take out the measuring cups. “I thought for this week we could make vanilla shortbread. Nayeon’s had it before, she’ll like to see it when she comes back.”  

Sana was quiet. Sana being quiet was never a good thing, because it meant she was mulling over Jihyo’s words and figuring out a way how to read between them. Jihyo needed to be more careful from now on. Sometimes it was easy to forget how perceptive Sana was.  

“Here, would you put the flour, sugar, and salt in the food processor?” Jihyo strode over to the fridge to grab the butter, determinedly keeping her back to Sana as she rooted through the cabinets for the vanilla.  

“I thought we were past this.” Sana finally said.  

Her tone was borderline monotone. Jihyo didn’t like to hear her talking that way. Sana was seamlessly expressive, and should always be bringing the world the joy of her emotion and exuberance and shine, even if Jihyo didn’t let herself indulge in it.  

“Past what?” Jihyo asked, pulling her hair back. This wasn’t too hard. If she kept eye contact to a minimum, and her space from intersecting with Sana’s-  

“Past you not wanting to be near me. Past you being hot and cold about our interactions. You know, I don’t say anything about it, but that hurts, you know.” Sana said fiercely.  

Jihyo stopped pouring the vanilla into a teaspoon, taken aback by the intensity in Sana’s voice. When Sana had arrived, she’d been quietly ecstatic, but that was foolish. It was foolish to forget herself, open herself up to possible pain, but at the cost of Sana being upset? Sana didn’t deserve upset.  

And, Jihyo thought concernedly as she really looked at Sana, she looked a little paler than usual. Maybe a bit haggard? Was she not sleeping? Or eating? Nayeon would know, she should ask about it once she got home.  

“I don’t mean to hurt you.” Jihyo said quietly. “I’m sorry if I seem- I seem...”  

She searched for the word, wasn’t sure how to phrase it without seeming wholly weak, and shook her head and gave up, adding the vanilla to Sana’s concoction.  

She jumped almost out of her skin when Sana’s hand clamped onto her arm.  

“You seem,” said Sana distinctly. “Like you’re fighting so hard against something that could be good if you just let it. Why do you do this? I don’t understand it. Sometimes I look at you and I think that you’re warming up to me, that you’re enjoying what we have here-” 

What they had. Whatever was building between them. Dull panic throbbed at Jihyo’s temples, but she didn’t want Sana to let go. She couldn’t muster up the strength to step away, either.  

“But then you shut down again and I think better.” Sana laughed bitterly. She dropped her hand, to Jihyo’s disappointment, and hugged her arms around herself. “Am I that unremarkable? Just a dime a dozen girl?” 

“No.” Jihyo whispered. “No. You’re anything but- I just-” 

Sana’s eyes flickered to hers.  

They were expectant and dark and wanting. Jihyo wanted too, even though it was a bad idea, even though she knew what would happen if she allowed herself to do this, and someone like Sana didn’t deserve to be caught up in Jihyo’s confusion and inner turmoil.  

No, not someone like Sana.  

Just Sana.  

“You’re what?” Sana whispered back. There was an urgency pulsing between them now, and Sana’s cheeks were more flushed now, a strength to her expression that hadn’t been there even a few minutes ago.  

“It’s not that I hate you. I don’t hate you. It’s just- people are hard, and they can be scary, but it’s worse with you, it’s harder with you because-” 

Jihyo was saying all the wrong things, and the words were spilling out of her like water from an upset glass, but she couldn’t seem to stop, to plug herself up even though if she wasn’t careful her heart would fall between her and Sana, and she couldn’t trust Sana to want it. She couldn’t trust anyone to want it.  

Sana stared at her bewilderedly, and Jeongyeon’s face flashed into her mind.  

“You- don’t want me?”  

Jihyo was confused by the words. They didn’t sound right like that, not when it came to her and Jeongyeon. They had two years of euphoria and love and security together. Why was Jeongyeon pulling on her jeans with that horrible, horrible look of boredom?  

“We had a good run, Jihyo-ah. But you and I?” Jeongyeon gave her a pitying look. “We were never meant to last, don’t you think? We’re just too different. And you’re too...”  

Jihyo crawled over the bed, desperate to hang onto what little of Jeongyeon she could still keep, clutching the hem of Jeongyeon’s shirt in her hands. “I’m too what?”  

Jeongyeon’s nose wrinkled, and she uncurled Jihyo’s fingers from around the hem before slipping the shirt over her head.  

“You’re too needy. I used to love it about you, but Jihyo....you can’t make a person your entire world. Eventually they’ll move out of your orbit, and you’ll be spun off track.”  

Jihyo had never hated the way her name sounded more than it did like this, dripping off of Jeongyeon’s lips with such apathy.  

“Because of what?” Sana was demanding, stepping too close to Jihyo.  

Jihyo’s mind was spinning, running to scary places, Sana’s natural scent billowing over her along with the faint scent of vanilla and sugar, and she let out a squeak when Sana’s fingers gripped her sleeve.  

Jihyo started to tell her to let go, that they weren’t having this conversation and they needed to get back to baking, but one look into those eyes and Jihyo’s thoughts betrayed her.  

“I could let myself care about you. I do care about you, and that’s terrible, because-” 

Oops. Maybe that was too much. The wounded look on Sana’s face was slicing Jihyo’s heart into tiny, tiny pieces. She pressed herself back against the island.  

“Is it so bad to care about me, Park Jihyo?” Sana spat. “Is it so awful for you to feel genuine connection to someone, in a way that isn’t like Nayeon or Chaeyoung? I am truly sorry that caring for me is causing you such emotional distress, but let me tell you something.”  

Jihyo couldn’t back up any farther, but the force of Sana’s fury- and something else, something more bitter that rose bile in Jihyo’s throat for causing- was washing over her now, and she wished she could take it back, just to see Sana smile again, to see Sana smile because of her, even if she was too scared to smile back.  

“I notice the little things that you don’t let yourself talk about- the way you let me lean on your shoulder during the dramas, the subtle gasps when I brush your arm, the light in your eyes when you’re talking about books- and I adore those parts. I adore you, even though it’s probably not in my best interest to do so, because when you let yourself be vulnerable with me, it’s so goddamn soft and warm and I just want to be with you.” 

Sana stopped talking abruptly, clapping her hands over her mouth and stepping away from Jihyo this time. Jihyo’s lips parted, the blood pulsing in consistent, heavy increments at her temples and through her head, and she just wanted to touch Sana.  

She just wanted to let Sana adore her.  

She wanted to adore Sana back.  

But, of course, none of those things came forward. Jihyo merely swallowed and looked down at the floor, arms crossed tightly over her chest.  

“That’s it?” Sana said quietly. “You don’t even have anything to say about it? Do you even care about me? Do you want me at all, Jihyo?” 

“N-no.”  

“Look me in the eyes and say that.”  

Jihyo’s gaze met Sana’s.  

It was like this woman held the universe in those eyes, stripped down and laying herself bare for Jihyo, and all Jihyo had to do was step forward and take it.  

Instead, she swallowed again and dug her nails into her forearm, breaking eye contact first.  

“Jihyo-ah...” Sana sounded so sad.  

Jihyo wasn’t sure how it happened, who moved forward first or who pulled who (probably Sana, Jihyo was stubborn to the end), but Sana’s arms were encircling her shoulders and her fingers were sliding into Jihyo’s hair, and it was warm and soft, just like Sana described, and they were kissing.  

For one everlasting moment, Jihyo was happy. She was with Sana, and the world wasn’t breaking apart around her, and things were okay.  

“You’re too needy. I used to love it about you, but Jihyo....you can’t make a person your entire world. Eventually they’ll move out of your orbit, and you’ll be spun off track.”  

Jihyo broke apart from Sana so quickly that Sana stumbled, gasping a little and twisting her fingers together. If Sana stayed here one more second, Jihyo was going to combust, or she was going to fall apart in Sana’s hands and she couldn’t do that.  

“You should go.” Jihyo said stiffly. She knew how to use her voice like a weapon, like a blade, and hated herself for seeing just how it cut into Sana.  

“But-” 

“Please.” Jihyo interrupted savagely. “Please leave me alone, Sana.”  

There was a moment’s hesitation, hanging thick between them, where Jihyo thought Sana would push aside her frustrations and stay, but Sana simply nodded once and grabbed her bundle of books, disappearing out the door before Jihyo even had a chance to look up from the floor.  

The scent left lingering behind just seemed to be mocking Jihyo now.  

 

 

 

“Baby, are you going to come out of there?”  

Sana didn’t move out from under her cocoon of blankets. It was safer in here. Warmer. Would be pleasant, if her body wasn’t aching to be close to someone. Specifically Momo, who was more likely than not frowning down at her as she knelt on the bed beside her.  

“Go’way, please.” Sana mumbled into the fabric.  

“I can’t do that. I have to make sure you’re okay.” 

Sana stifled a cough, ignoring how swollen her throat felt, and closed her eyes. Okay, maybe she’d been worsening since last week, when she’d spun on her heel and power walked out of Jihyo and Nayeon’s kitchen, the steely look in Jihyo’s eyes crippling her. But she wasn’t totally spiraling. Being around Nayeon was too hard right now, so she’d spent the weekend at Tzuyu’s house, basking in Tzuyu’s concern and doting, but it wasn’t Tzuyu’s touch she was craving. Or Momo, or Mina’s, or Nayeon’s. So she wasn’t where she should be.  

“I’m fine.”  

The top of her cocoon was peeled back, accompanied by a protesting whine from Sana, and Momo was in the exact position Sana imagined. She pushed hair out of her eyes impatiently and laid down, wriggling around until she could spoon Sana, worming one arm expertly in between the layers until it was warm and present around Sana’s waist.  

“There’s no use lying to me.” Momo murmured, pressing a small kiss on the tip of Sana’s ear. Her shoulders relaxed a little, allowing herself to indulge in Momo’s affection, and her throat hurt a little less now. “It’s clear in your body and your emotional state, Satang. And...Tzuyu would kill me if I let anything happen to you.”  

Sana reached down and grabbed Momo’s hand. She needed something solid to hold onto, just to steel herself for a few minutes. Momo squeezed her fingers gently.  

“You guys can’t fix this.” Sana sighed. “I can’t, either.”  

Momo was silent for a moment. Then her head rested against Sana’s blanketed back.  

“You wanna tell me about her?”  

Sana closed her eyes, throat tightening again, wondering how to even encompass the situation into simple words. Jihyo was utterly frustrating and reticent and the worst. She barely even liked to snuggle.  

And she was thoughtful, and a bookworm, and smiled at Sana’s jokes that no one else would, and always, always responded to her messages, and found compliments for every single thing that Sana baked.  

Why was Sana falling in love with her? Why was she hoping to win the heart of somebody who clearly didn’t want her? It didn’t matter that Jihyo looked at her sometimes when she thought Sana wasn’t paying attention, with this awe and maybe something like adoration. Maybe Sana just saw what she wanted to see.  

“I fucked up, Momoring.” Sana whimpered. She curled further into her cocoon, grateful for Momo’s steadiness and warmth behind her now, holding onto her hand as tightly as she dared. “I let myself get too close, hope to get too close, and she didn’t want me. And what if I can never get the same amount of energy again? Will I just live a half live? Be hollow?”  

“Hey, hey, hey.” Momo whispered, nudging Sana until she was on her side and could look Momo in the face. Momo’s hands came up to clasp her face, thumbs wiping gently at the tears welling under Sana’s eyes, and leaned forward to press a kiss onto Sana’s forehead. Her throat loosened again, burying her face into Momo’s shoulder.  

“If this girl really didn’t want you, then she didn’t know what she was missing out on. She doesn’t understand how amazing of a person you are, and Satang? Look at me. You are more than just what she might’ve been for you. You’re wonderful because you’re you, and you’re going to find someone, some day who appreciates that the way they should.”  

Sana knew Momo didn’t really understand her ramblings about energy, but was grateful for the pep talk anyway, the small bit of vitality she could feel rushing through her when Momo pulled her in for a hug and laid her cheek on top of Sana’s head. It was warm here, and safe, and maybe if she just stayed here, she would never have to think about Jihyo again, and what she might’ve lost forever.  

Her heart wasn’t getting with the program.  

 

 

“You’re an idiot.”  

Nayeon was blunt as ever, which didn’t rouse Jihyo enough to stop furiously rolling out her dough. But there was a certain sharpness to her tone that Jihyo wasn’t used to.  

“You care to elaborate why, or are you just going to insult me because you find it amusing?” 

“You and Sana had a fight, didn’t you?” Nayeon said lowly.  

Jihyo’s hands only faltered a bit. She cleared her throat pointedly before returning to her work.  

“Call it what you want. I suppose she told you the details?” 

“No, actually, she didn’t, but I’m not stupid, Jihyo. You two were joined at the hip for the last month, and then all of a sudden, the apartment doesn’t smell like a bakery anymore and Sana’s mysteriously always got an excuse to not come over here to watch our show. Whenever I see her, she’s got this lost look. Sana being sad is-”  

Jihyo’s chest constricted hard as Nayeon shook her head slowly.  

“Do you even want to know how she’s doing?” 

“Don’t. Don’t do that.” Jihyo warned her, setting the rolling pin aside and laying her hands flat on the counter. Nayeon was staring at her hard, not a trace of amusement on her face. It almost looked dangerous. She hadn’t realized Nayeon was capable of such darkness. But, it was for Sana, after all. Sana was the kind of girl who everyone loved and protected.  

Just not Jihyo, apparently.  

“Don’t do what? Tell you the truth? Ask you the truth? I didn’t want to be involved at first, because Sana’s just bubbly around people and it seemed harmless, but I can tell. She likes you. She really likes you. More than I’ve ever seen her like anyone. She doesn’t even seriously date, Jihyo, she doesn’t hold herself down for anyone. And you’re out here-” 

Jihyo’s gaze snapped up to Nayeon’s.  

“I care about her.” Nayeon said quietly. “We don’t have to be together for me to love that girl, but I’m not your competition, Jihyo. Neither is anyone else. The only one standing in your way is yourself.”  

She pointed at Jihyo sternly, but before Jihyo could think of a biting retort to fling back at her, Nayeon was stalking out of the room.  

Jihyo looked down at the cookies she was supposed to be making from scratch. She didn’t know how else to let her frustrations out. Baking and books were her outlets, and sitting down to read just reminded her of Sana now.  

It was true, what Nayeon was saying. Hurting Sana should be a crime, really, and that was all Jihyo could seem to do. It would be better if she just kept out of Sana’s life, so there was no risk of that happening anymore.  

But if she did that...would she ever be able to settle the nerves that were stirring in her stomach at night? Would the dreams that she had of Sana never become reality? And would she be satisfied with living the way she did before?  

Jihyo knew the answer to those questions within her gut.  

She swallowed hard.  

Not everyone is going to be like Jeongyeon.  

Some people are worth taking a risk for.  

Jihyo reached for her phone in her back pocket, automatically going to her message log with Sana, and bit her thumbnail, debating sending a text for an entire ten minutes.  

Fuck it. She’s worth it.  

 

 

“If it was me,” Tzuyu grumbled into Sana’s lap. “I wouldn’t forgive her. She doesn’t deserve someone like you.”  

Sana chuckled, petting Tzuyu’s hair as she tossed her phone onto the bed. “You’d say that about anyone who wanted me, Tzuyu-ah.”  

“What if she hurts you again?” Tzuyu questioned, sitting up but not letting go of Sana. She’d been more tactile than ever tonight, always with one hand touching Sana or telling her light compliments. Sana knew it was because she’d been sicker than Tzuyu had seen her in a long time, but after a massive cuddle session with both Momo and Mina, she was feeling....stable. Okay. She could manage this.  

Whatever this with Jihyo was supposed to be.  

“Maybe she will. And maybe she won’t. You have to let me find out for myself.” Sana told her, nudging Tzuyu’s chin with her thumb and smiling when Tzuyu huffed. “I can’t always let you protect me.” 

“I would if I could.” Tzuyu muttered.  

Sana threw her arms around Tzuyu’s shoulders, pressing her face into Tzuyu’s neck and breathing in her scent. This was home for her, the ultimate source of comfort, and Sana knew no matter what happened with Jihyo- what she might want to happen- Tzuyu would be here as her safe harbor. Always.  

“You’re the best.” Sana whispered.  

Tzuyu’s hand came up to rub Sana’s, not saying anything but a certain warmth settling over Sana and loosening the knot her stomach was in. Before either of them could think of something else to say, her phone buzzed.  

“Oh...she’s here.” 

Tzuyu gripped her hand hard. “You sure you don’t want me to come scare some sense into her?”  

Sana laughed and pecked Tzuyu on the cheek. “Not this time, but I’ll remember that offer.”  

She thought she’d done a remarkable job of keeping stoic when she’d gotten the Can we talk? text from Jihyo. Tzuyu had stolen her from Momo’s apartment to spend the day together, and Sana was grateful for someone who didn’t feel the need to have her talk about her feelings. Her body had been in a stagnant sort of state, but she was handling things.  

And then that text. That simple message from a girl she was fairly certain she loved, and was immensely frustrated with the fact that she didn’t know if Jihyo even liked her, and yet here she was.  

It was for closure, really, and self peace. Sana was strong enough now to not fall apart without Jihyo. She would just....prefer that Jihyo didn’t make her feel like she was going to again. She couldn’t risk becoming so focused on one person’s energy anymore.  

Jihyo was waiting outside in her nice little silver car, fingers clenched tightly around the steering wheel, and Sana was a little surprised at how nervous she seemed when Sana climbed in.  

“Is- is it okay if we go to my apartment?” Jihyo asked quietly.  

Sana nodded once. She’d prepared a whole speech in her head for a plethora of lines that Jihyo might throw at her, but now that she was here again, those eyes and lips were dismantling her yet again.  

The drive was quiet, although not awkwardly so, to Sana’s surprise. Jihyo seemed focused on driving, although her right hand was laying on the compartment between her and Sana’s seats, and Sana got the impression that maybe Jihyo would even want her to reach for it. But she forced herself not to. Jihyo knew how she felt. It was time for her to take the initiative for once.  

Sana was as comfortable in Jihyo and Nayeon’s apartment as she was in her own, and she sank onto their couch, hands sliding on her knees, and watching as Jihyo put her keys in the dish before turning to face her, swallowing thickly.  

There was a little tic working in Jihyo’s throat. It was almost endearing.  

“I’m sorry.” Jihyo mumbled.  

It was quiet and muffled, but it was rampant with emotion, all the emotion Sana had been longing to hear for the last month and however many days. She straightened up a little, raising her eyebrows.  

“I was really, horribly rude to you and I didn’t want to be, I wasn’t trying to be. I just can’t fucking express myself sometimes and it comes out like that, but that’s no excuse. I didn’t want you to leave me alone. I wanted-” 

Jihyo stopped, taking a sharp breath, and Sana’s nerves tingled, awakening in a way they hadn’t in ages, a hint of vitality singing within her.  

“There was a girl once that I loved.” Jihyo said quietly. “Her name was Jeongyeon, and she was- God, I thought the world revolved around her. I loved her so much that I thought it was the end, you know? It wasn’t possible to love someone like that and- and not have them understand it, to...”  

Jihyo trailed off. Sana’s heart constricted at the pained, pinched look on her face.  

“She didn’t want me anymore. Two years down, and she didn’t want me. Didn’t want my love, my body, nothing. It was just over.” Jihyo shrugged, a fresh rawness pooling in her eyes, and Sana sucked in a breath. She wanted that agony to go away. She wanted to soothe Jihyo, wanted, wanted, wanted-  

“And she told me I was too clingy. Too needy.” Jihyo continued softly. She almost looked lost. “I love too hard, I need too hard, and I realized then that I was going to just be opening myself up again and again to pain if I kept doing that. So I closed myself off. I shut down, just like she advised. I didn’t love anymore. I didn’t need anymore. I just...was.”  

Jihyo pushed her hands through her hair, a small and choked laugh escaping. “And I was doing so well. I thought I was content. Then I met you. This odd, quirky, bright star of a woman who had the sun in her eyes and a kind word for everybody, even me. And you were patient with me. You tried to understand me. You....you were lovely to me when I was nothing but cruel to you.” 

“Jihyo-” Sana started, but Jihyo held a hand up, striding towards the couch.  

“I don’t have the right to ask you this after the way I spoke to you, but you were right then. You’ve always been right about me, that was the scary part. I do adore you. I think I have from that moment you stepped foot in my kitchen. But it’s more than that, it’s just...” 

Jihyo’s eyes met Sana’s.  

The last of the fatigue shuddered and died within Sana, a calm and lovely peace, tingling with vitality, settling in its place.  

“I love you.” Jihyo whispered. “More than I‘ve ever loved anyone. More than Jeongyeon. And it doesn’t make sense, because it’s been such less time, but my heart feels safe with you. I feel safe with you. You probably don’t feel safe with me, but you deserved to hear it. I do love you.”  

Sana stared at her, hardly breathing.  

Jihyo winced, looking away. “Am I that bad now? Am I-”  

“Come here.” Sana breathed.  

Jihyo’s expression was incredulous, and a little awed, but she simply nodded and took a tentative step toward Sana. Then another, and another, until Sana rolled her eyes and reached out to yank Jihyo forward, who landed unceremoniously on her lap.  

Sana allowed herself to bask in Jihyo’s warmth for a moment, for the vulnerability she could feel pouring off of her in waves, in the euphoria that was pouring through her own veins, and she let her hands travel where they liked, where she’d been longing to let them touch. Her fingertips glided over Jihyo’s collarbone, over her bare forearms, over the soft skin at the nape of her neck, and finally threading gently through Jihyo’s hair.  

“How do I look?” Jihyo asked, laughing a little but uncertainty still lingering in her expression.  

Sana tilted Jihyo’s chin down at the same time she leaned up, and this time, the kiss was nothing but gentle.  

“You’re going to have to bake me a hell of a lot of apology cookies.” Sana whispered into her ear.  

Jihyo giggled.  

She actually giggled. It was rich and light and everything Sana had been wanting to hear from her. Her head swam with exultation.  

“I love you too.” Sana murmured, pressing a soft kiss to Jihyo’s cheek.  

Jihyo was beaming now.  

Sana had been right all those weeks ago.  

A happy Jihyo was a brilliant, radiant Jihyo. Almost too beautiful for words.  

Sana was utterly content like this, jumping at Jihyo’s suggestion of curling up together and watching another episode of their show, tucking her face into Jihyo’s neck and confirming that Park Jihyo was indeed a fantastic cuddler.  

Nayeon came wandering in from her afternoon nap twenty minutes later, rubbing blearily at her eyes, and when she saw Sana and Jihyo curled up together on the couch, all she said was “It was about damn time Jihyo pulled her head out of her ass.” before stealing the rest of Jihyo’s cookie plate on the counter and running away down the hall, laughing.  

Sana would trade every last cookie in the world for the gentle kiss Jihyo pressed into her hairline immediately after.  

 

 

They had a routine now, Sana and Jihyo.  

Sana would come over, making sure to spend at least some time with Nayeon so she didn’t feel neglected, and then wander into Jihyo’s room. She was usually spread out on her bed with a book, glasses on and a scrunched forehead that Sana found utterly adorable.  

When she noticed Sana walk in, Jihyo would smile- a full and radiant smile that Sana never got tired of looking at-, put a bookmark in place, and roll onto her back, holding her arms out.  

This was Sana’s favorite place in the world now: nestled under Jihyo’s chin, ear resting against Jihyo’s chest and hearing the pulse of her heartbeat, their legs twined together, and Jihyo murmuring soft things against her, with enough love spilling between them to make Sana feel like she could live forever.  

And because she loved Jihyo with everything she had, Sana felt finally ready to be honest with her about the most important thing in her life. She was good at sharing herself with Jihyo now, but there were little components that she was still hesitant about. Jihyo was still learning how to accept Sana’s love too, understanding that Sana genuinely wanted to be with her, didn’t mind if Jihyo told her she loved her 50 times in an hour, didn’t mind if Jihyo left marks all over her body and whispered “Mine” after each one. Sana liked being claimed when it came to Jihyo. Who wouldn’t want to be hers?  

“Jihyo-ah?” Sana whispered. The sun was starting to bleed out of the room, and she knew if she didn’t say something soon, Jihyo would fall asleep.  

“Yes, baby?” Jihyo murmured back, her arms tightening around Sana. Sana pressed her face further into Jihyo’s shirt for a moment, gathering the strength she needed, and then sat up, reaching out to hold Jihyo’s face in her hands.  

Jihyo looked up at her, eyes full of trust and want and a sincere love that had Sana’s heart positively aching. Was it even possible to be this in love and be loved back?  

“I have something I need to tell you.”  

 

 

 

I lose my voice when I look at you,  

Can’t make a noise though I’m trying to tell you all the right words,  

Waiting on the right words  

Just another lovesick afternoon, black butterflies and déjà vu  

Hoping for the right words, waiting for the right words.