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i need you (on the passenger side)

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i.

 

There are typically three things that Jihyo notices when her eyes first open in the morning—the first being her blaring alarm curling into her dreams and yanking her into consciousness. Second is the sun poking her irises like the thumbs of a toddler. And third, most importantly, her never wavering determination to persevere. 

 

Her days start in the most mundane of ways, she thinks happily. It’s nice like this, waking up at the same time, breezing through the same morning routine before catching the same bus to her same workplace and—

 

Well, she likes familiarity. So what?

 

“Good morning, beautiful,” she says to her reflection in the mirror, lips quirking up in a laugh at her own silliness. “You’re Park Jihyo,” she states firmly as she points her pink hair brush at herself. “You are smart and strong and capable and you are going to kick Mr. Minatozaki’s ass at the next annual evaluation.” She pauses for a few thoughtful moments, brush midway through her hair. “Figuratively,” she adds, for good measure.

 

The bus is especially quiet today, and Jihyo lets herself believe it’s the universe cutting her some slack—lets herself take it as a sign that today will be a good one. 

 

It takes exactly five minutes to walk from her bus stop to the entrance of her building, but today it feels like the sidewalk shrinks and scrunches and she makes it in three. She decides today will definitely be a good one, then, as she bows her head in greeting to the security guard at the front door and heads for the elevator. 

 

It purrs to a stop at her floor and the only sound in its emptiness is her heels clicking against the floor. She takes a deep breath and sighs, allows herself to swing her bag just a little bit. 

 

“CEO, one day,” she mutters to herself as she settles into her chair—the uncomfortable one that comes with a demotion from manager to disposable. 

 

Tzuyu is already fumbling with her monitor by the time Jihyo makes her second trip from the photocopier, and the unusual punctuality from her… boss, only serves to brighten her already vibrant mood.

 

“Good morning,” she greets, finds that annoyance doesn’t quite fill her smile the same way it does on most days.

 

“Did they change my monitor again?” Tzuyu mumbles in greeting, and Jihyo allows herself an internal eye roll at the question. 

 

“It’s been the same for the past three months,” she informs with minimal irritation seeping into her tone. 

 

“Ah,” Tzuyu nods, “of course.” But her eyebrows are still furrowed and her fingers are still fumbling around the screen in search of the power button that is not where she’s touching and— 

 

“Here,” Jihyo half-snaps. “It’s here.” Watches Tzuyu’s eyes light up gleefully in time with the monitor.

 

“You’re the best,” she says, means it, too, and Jihyo feels a pang of guilt at the resentment boiling in her gut. Tzuyu really is sweet.

 

“Don’t mention it,” she sighs. 

 

She’s saved—saved, being a tentative term—when the erratic sound of heels clicking against the floor enters the office once more and Dahyun turns the corner with wide eyes.

 

“Mina isn’t here yet, is she?” Are the first words she gets out and Jihyo really does roll her eyes this time. 

 

“No, you haven’t missed her.”

 

“Good, good,” Dahyun sighs, pats her immaculate hair down like it matters. Jihyo’s lips curl into a smirk as she thinks about whatever strange thing the woman will do to catch Mina’s attention today.

 

“Good morning,” Mina’s voice rings through the office before Dahyun has a chance to close her compact mirror and Jihyo thinks she hears glass crunching in Dahyun’s haste to put it away.

 

“Good morning!” She calls quickly. Jihyo’s shoulders vibrate with laughter.

 

“Good morning,” she answers, then nudges Tzuyu who is so close to her screen it looks like she may be on the verge of falling in.

 

“Good morning,” Tzuyu mumbles, eyes still focused on… whatever it is that she’s doing.

 

Jihyo likes it when she gets distracted, when she allows Jihyo to complete their work without interruption.

 

“Today is a big day,” Mina reminds. “I hope you’ve all prepared.”

 

“Absolutely, Ms. Myoui,” Dahyun nods quite seriously and Jihyo mashes her lips together as she sees the amusement in Mina’s eyes.

 

“I’m glad, Dahyun. Let’s do well today.”

 

Dahyun looks about ready to pass out at the acknowledgment as she sinks deeper into her seat and Jihyo thinks maybe a demotion was worth this type of entertainment—it’s not, but enjoying the little things is the only way she can make it through her day.

 

Nayeon strolls through the office next, slurping coffee through her straw and tapping away on her cellphone and Jihyo tries to ignore her, she really does, until Nayeon flicks her ear in passing and she hisses in pain.

 

“I’ll file a report on you, Im,” she threatens with no real bite and Nayeon flashes her big bright grin.

 

“I missed you, Jihyo,” she pouts. “You didn’t come for drinks on friday.”

 

“Oh, yes. What was that? Your…” Jihyo trails off, pretends to count on her fingers, “fourth self-declared resignation party?”

 

Nayeon’s grin only grows at the words and she leans forward to wrap her arms around Jihyo. “Third, actually. But I decided I couldn’t leave, this office needs me.”

 

“Nayeon,” Mina's voice comes from behind them. Nayeon perks up quickly, detangling herself from Jihyo as her smirk melts into an innocent smile.

 

“What’s up, boss?” She calls back with a cool nod of her head. Dahyun looks outraged by the lack of formality from her coworker, the way she does every morning, but Mina’s laugh is enough for her to settle into barely more than a heated glare. 

 

“Important day,” Mina reminds sternly, but her expression is kind and Nayeon rocks on her heels like a child.

 

“I’m all prepared,” she promises, adds a mini salute just to see Mina laugh before she finally, finally, makes her way to her desk.

 

Jihyo hears Dahyun scoff under her breath, jaw tensed and cheeks flushed as she rolls her eyes and, when her eyes meet Nayeon’s, the chuckle slips past Jihyo’s lips before she can stop it. 

 

“Park,” she hears Mina call from behind her, cranes her neck to meet her eyes. “You look like you could use a coffee,” Mina says with a worried pout as she plays the part of the perfectly concerned boss, but her eyes are mischievous and amused and Jihyo’s glare is sharp enough to wound. 

 

“You’re an ass,” she mumbles just loud enough for her friend to hear it and Mina’s laugh rings out melodically until she reaches her office. 

 

“Alright,” Dahyun mumbles to herself. “Watch and learn, ladies.” And then she waltzes from her desk to Mina’s office with a cool smile and all heads turn to watch. 

 

It’s not any different from every other day since Dahyun transferred departments and Mina got her promotion—the way Dahyun butters her up with a treat and a compliment and Mina flusters under the attention. Dahyun salutes her at the end, something that makes Nayeon laugh particularly hard, and then harder still when Dahyun doesn’t move until Mina awkwardly salutes back. 

 

Dahyun slips back into her seat with a proud smile. “Nailed it,” she mumbles under her breath, bright smile etched onto her cheeks as she begins typing. 

 

The sound of whistling breaks through the office then, and no one needs to look up from their computers to know who it is. 

 

“Ah,” Chaeyoung sighs once she turns the corner. “An office full of beautiful women—good morning to me.”

 

Jihyo’s smile is fond as Chaeyoung makes her way around, greets everyone individually, because that’s just how she likes to start her days. She stops to clink her coffee cup against Nayeon’s with a boisterous cheers! before she finally makes her way to her desk. 

 

Other people begin to file in after that—the ones that get to work minutes before it’s time to clock in—and eventually the office is buzzing with life and Jihyo finds it easier to deal with Tzuyu’s constant stream of questions. 

 

“Where’s Yoo?” Mina calls out suddenly, heels clacking against vinyl flooring and making the less experienced employees stare wide-eyed and stupid-looking. “And Hirai?” She continues, voice filled with something easily mistaken for anger. Jihyo knows, though, can see the light exasperation hiding behind her hard boss exterior. 

 

“They haven’t texted me,” Chaeyoung mumbles with a frown. 

 

Mina scans the office one last time before turning to head back through her doors when Chaeyoung calls out. 

 

“Ms. Myoui!”

 

“Yes, Chaeyoung?” Mina turns around with a sigh. 

 

“You’re looking very beautiful today,” Chaeyoung answers, cheeky grin on her face that pulls at her dimple and Mina’s smile is glowing. 

 

“Something in the air today,” she replies slyly before disappearing into her office. Jihyo makes a mental note to discuss her newfound narcissism the next time they go for coffee. 

 

“Sorry! Sorry!” Jihyo hears echoing through the walls of the office before Jeongyeon bursts into the space. “Sorry we’re late,” she heaves out as she collapses into her chair. 

 

Mina peeks her head out and squints her eyes. “Where’s Momo?” She asks and watches as Jeongyeon rolls her eyes. 

 

“She texted me when I was already on my way to work saying that her car wouldn’t start, so I had to turn around and pick her up.”

 

“And she is…?”

 

“Downstairs. Getting breakfast,” Jeongyeon huffs. 

 

“Noted,” Mina sighs. 

 

“Good morning, Jeongie,” Nayeon sings. “You look like shit.”

 

“Did you guys hear something?” Jeongyeon asks, looks at everyone but Nayeon. 

 

“So funny,” Nayeon drawls with a roll of her eyes. “Really, a true comedian, Yoo.”

 

“Must be a pest,” Jeongyeon says then, face scrunched up in disgust as her gaze locks on Nayeon. “A big, ugly, pest.”

 

Nayeon’s cackle turns heads and Jihyo flushes in the colours of embarrassment that Nayeon has never in her life felt. “You can call me a lot of things,” she says with a smirk, “but ugly isn’t one of them.”

 

“Who’s ugly?” Momo asks through a mouthful of bagel and they all collectively grimace at the sight. 

 

“You, speaking with your mouth full,” Dahyun huffs, not looking up from her monitor. 

 

Momo pouts deeply as she takes her seat next to Chaeyoung, already looking on the verge of whining about workplace bullying. 

 

“There, there,” Chaeyoung says with a pat on her arm. Momo perks up and smiles and Jihyo thinks if she had a tail it would be a whirlwind of excitement. She’s a woman of simplicity, good for her. 

 

“Hirai,” Mina’s voice echoes, and now, Jihyo thinks in amusement, the tail would cower between Momo’s legs. 

 

“Good morning,” Momo says meekly and Jihyo can already see Mina’s resolve melting with each passing second that she’s forced to look into Momo’s pleading eyes. 

 

“Don’t do it again,” is what she settles for saying, yet somehow Momo still looks thoroughly reprimanded. 

 

“God,” Jeongyeon huffs when Mina is out of earshot. “She has such a soft spot for you.”

 

“What?” Momo asks, eyes wide and innocent like she really doesn’t see it. 

 

Jeongyeon stares at her for a long moment before cracking into a chuckle. “Just get to work, Hirai,” she says playfully. 

 

Despite all their early morning struggles, the central group of the office does manage to do their jobs—exceptionally well, at that. They fall into the same routine as every other day of the week and Jihyo finds that she barely minds doing half of Tzuyu’s work. 

 

It’s a few hours into the morning when Mina finally makes her way out of her office again, rounding up the team heads for the conference room. 

 

Jihyo puts a hand on Tzuyu’s shoulder and sighs. “Tzuyu,” she starts. “Please, please, bring somebody competent to this team,” she stresses every syllable and watches Tzuyu mindlessly nod along. “Because we need another capable person on this team to make it even stronger, right?”

 

“Right,” Tzuyu nods, firmly now. “I got this. Interviews should be simple. Right?”

 

Jihyo hesitates for a moment, swipes the lint off of Tzuyu’s shoulder. “Right,” she mumbles. “Okay, you got this, don’t keep Mina waiting.” She says, watches as Tzuyu gets up and straightens her clothes out and tries to suppress the nerves panging around her insides. 

 

Dahyun and Nayeon follow Tzuyu, both looking hard and determined and it does nothing to quell Jihyo’s worries. 

 

“You’re not interviewing?” She asks Chaeyoung, tries to distract herself. 

 

“Nah,” Chaeyoung shrugs. “No one from our team was let go.”

 

“Nice,” Jihyo sighs, spinning in her chair a little bit as she stares at the too-bright lights above her. 

 

“Tzuyu’s been preparing for this,” Chaeyoung says then, quiet and soft like she only wants Jihyo to hear. “I know she’s spacey, but she wants to impress you.” Her expression is earnest and Jihyo feels something in her chest crumple uncomfortably. She laughs then, because it might dislodge whatever is stuck, or because she doesn’t know what to say—she isn’t sure. But Chaeyoung turns back to her monitor and Jihyo sighs until she’s dizzy before turning back to her own. 

 

Interviews take some time—enough that Jihyo feels a grumble in her stomach and forces her tired eyes away from her screen to eat something and get a coffee before they get back. 

 

Tzuyu waltzes next to Jihyo with a bright smile and a hop in her step and Jihyo feels like maybe she was right about today being good. 

 

“Guess who pulled a new member for our team?” She mumbles through her smile and Jihyo laughs breathlessly. 

 

“Tzuyu! Great, I knew you could do it.” And a little white lie has never truly hurt anyone, not when Tzuyu’s smile grows ten times larger and her chest is puffed out with pride. 

 

“The competition was tough this time, but I think I made a good choice,” Tzuyu sighs into her coffee. 

 

Jihyo thinks back to Chaeyoung’s words and smiles encouragingly. “I’m sure you did, I trust you.”

 

[...]

 

Sometimes, Jihyo wishes she were psychic. 

 

“You hired who? ” She screeches, voice bouncing off the empty cubicles and early morning silence in the air. 

 

Tzuyu looks at her with her eyebrows drawn so closely together they may as well have become one. “Minatozaki Sana…” she mumbles like Jihyo is being absurd. 

 

“Tzuyu…” Jihyo huffs. “Do you know who that is?” When Tzuyu shakes her head no Jihyo feels like her eyeballs may bulge right out of their sockets. “Minatozaki,” she emphasizes hands clasped together tightly. “Minatozaki Sana. As in daughter of Mr. Minatozaki.”

 

And like a lightbulb is switched and Tzuyu finally comes home, her eyes light up in recognition as her cheeks heat up in flames and Jihyo slumps back into her seat with a whine. 

 

“You hired the daughter of the CEO of the company.”

 

Tzuyu winces slightly, still trying to remember which button turns her monitor on. She nods and smiles when the screen lights up to a picture of her two dogs. 

 

“Oh!” she sits up and clasps a hand on jihyo’s arm. “I told her you would be her personal assistant, too.”

 

“Tzuyu...” Jihyo grumbles. “Do you know what a personal assistant is?”

 

“Of course,” Tzuyu answers with a wave of her hand, momentarily forgetting her password. “If she has questions you’ll personally assist her.”

 

“That’s not—” Jihyo cuts herself off with a sharp intake of breath. “You know what? It’s fine,” she says, voice a few octaves too high to actually be fine. “I’ll deal with it.” Like I deal with everything, she thinks. 

 

“See, this is why you’re such a good employee, Ji,” Tzuyu mumbles, already on her fifth password attempt. 

 

Jihyo grumbles under her breath before reaching over and typing kayabutter123 into the password box. Tzuyu gasps gently and murmurs a quiet thank you as the machine starts up. 

 

She’s about five minutes into staring blankly at her screen and trying to list different ways to get out of this situation when Nayeon walks into the office with a laugh already tumbling from her lips. 

 

“So, Park,” she giggles, and Jihyo wants to smack the smug smile from her face—would do it if they weren’t at work. “A little birdie told me you’ve been promoted to babysitter for Minatozaki’s daughter.”

 

Jihyo bites her tongue and leans forward in her seat, staring at Nayeon’s head intently. 

 

“What?” Nayeon asks, runs a finger through her hair nervously. 

 

“Oh, I just thought—is that a grey hair?” Jihyo asks with a pout. 

 

Nayeon gasps loudly and pulls out her cellphone camera immediately. Jihyo cracks barely ten seconds later, loud laughter making Nayeon scowl. 

 

“You’re too easy, Im,” she sighs. “Thanks, though, I needed a good laugh.”

 

Nayeon looks like she’s on the verge of saying something evil when she’s cut off by a sudden influx of people wandering into the office. “Saved by the staff,” she grumbles, though her eyes are still narrowed into a glare until Jihyo sticks her tongue out in a rare act of immaturity that has Nayeon beaming. 

 

“You never told me who you hired,” Jihyo notes, finally feeling relaxed enough to get back to her work. 

 

Nayeon huffs and sighs dramatically. “Well, I was desperate with the cuts they made to my staff so—”

 

And as if almost on cue, a short woman comes bounding into the office and drops her purse at the desk next to Nayeon’s. 

 

“Good morning, boss,” the woman greets with an impish smile that feels quite reminiscent of Nayeon’s own. 

 

“Ah,” she sighs. “Yes, this is Kim Yerim. Yerim, this is Park Jihyo.”

 

“Call me Yeri,” the woman says as she reaches over to shake Jihyo’s hand. “Nice to meet you.”

 

“Nice to meet you, too,” Jihyo reciprocates with a nod of her head. Nayeon already looks exasperated and Jihyo feels her own energy levels increasing tenfold at the sight. 

 

So much so, really, that she doesn’t even realize that it’s ten minutes past clock-in time when somebody finally takes the seat next to her. 

 

She looks up distractedly, has to do a double-take when she notices it’s a new face and—wow, she’s pretty. Jihyo thinks she must look a little bit stupid when she sees amusement in the woman’s eyes, but she can only find it in herself to be slightly embarrassed. Because pretty women do deserve to be admired, after all. 

 

“Hi, I’m—” She cuts herself off when the woman places her purse on Jihyo's keyboard and sighs. 

 

“Jihyo, right?” The woman asks. “Tzuyu mentioned you during orientation. I didn’t realize this job would come with a personal assistant,” she laughs, speaking so fast Jihyo can barely keep up. “I’m Sana, but I’m sure you knew that. I think we’ll be good friends.”

 

Jihyo takes a moment to register everything, can barely focus on the mangled mess of letters accumulating on her clean document as a result of Sana’s purse pressing against her keyboard. When she does finally gather herself, though, she feels frustration bubble past her boiling point and shoves the purse back into Sana’s hands.

 

“We’re co-workers,” she says harshly. “Not your personal assistant, and definitely not your friend.”

 

God, she needs a raise. 

 

[...]

 

Jihyo likes to believe that she’s a good person. 

 

She doesn’t drink or smoke excessively, she’s dedicated to her job, loyal to her family and friends. She donates to charity when she can and—well, she stopped going to church by the time she was seventeen, but she likes to believe that if a God exists, they would respect her decision to follow what she truly believes in. 

 

Overall, she believes she’s a good person—average at worst. 

 

Yet the universe continues to fuck her over. 

 

“She said that?” Jeongyeon chuckles, palm planted on the table as she watches Jihyo glare into her cup of coffee. 

 

“Word. For. Word,” Jihyo says between gritted teeth. “But everyone wants to be my friend,” she imitates Sana in a whiny voice. 

 

“Wow,” Jeongyeon whispers, amusement etched into every fibre of her smile. “And it hasn’t even been a full day.”

 

“Don’t remind me,” Jihyo groans heavily. “It’s going to be like having a Tzuyu with an attitude.”

 

“You sound like a mother of two.”

 

“Two children would be more preferable, actually.” 

 

“If it makes you feel better, drinks on me this Friday,” Jeongyeon offers with a reassuring pat on her back. Jihyo looks up at her with a grin that makes her eyes crinkle. 

 

“You’re the best, Jeongyeonnie.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Jihyo!” 

 

Jihyo whines at the shout and turns her head to see Sana fast approaching. 

 

“Ms. Minatozaki,” she greets bitterly. 

 

Jeongyeon laughs awkwardly and mumbles a goodbye before turning on her heels and getting as far away as possible. 

 

“You’re so formal,” Sana pouts in a way that is much too cute for a woman her age, but Jihyo finds that it only irritates her more. Why does she need to be acting cute?

 

“We’re co-workers,” Jihyo reminds, and swears that Sana’s melodic giggle that follows is the most grating sound on the planet. (It’s not.)

 

“We could be friends, too,” she says, then. 

 

Jihyo huffs at the words. “Did you need something?” 

 

Sana’s expression suddenly turns embarrassed, like she wasn’t quite expecting the question. “I don’t know how to work my computer still and Tzuyu—”

 

“Doesn’t know either,” Jihyo interjects. “Okay,” she relents as she gets to her feet. And then, if only because she’s feeling irritable, she asks, “shouldn’t you know these things? As the CEO’s daughter.”

 

Sana huffs as she trails behind her and Jihyo feels a tiny, minuscule, immature spark of pride at being able to evoke such an expression. 

 

“It’s not like I ever thought I would be an office worker,” Sana replies, and something about the words don’t settle well in Jihyo’s mind. 

 

“Right, because you’re too good for that?” She finds herself snapping, once again feeling slightly childish as she revels in the embarrassed look on Sana’s face. 

 

“I didn’t mean it like that,” she’s quick to say. “Of course office staff are important,” she tries to amend, and Jihyo feels bad, almost, because she really does sound sincere. But the damage is done and Jihyo can only roll her shoulders and turn toward Sana’s computer as she explains the basics—again. 

 

[...]

 

The day goes by slowly. So achingly slow, that by the end of it Jihyo feels like she’s missed an entire month of the outside world. 

 

“You sure we can’t bump drinks night up to a Wednesday?” She asks Jeongyeon and Nayeon, only half-joking as they wait for the elevator. 

 

“So you can somehow find a way to blame me for your inevitable headache tomorrow? No way,” Nayeon scoffs. “Besides, you’re not the only one struggling. I really thought this job would be smooth sailing after Blondie quit and Chaeng turned into a hippie at that healing camp she went to last summer.”

 

“Ah,” Jihyo perks up when she presses the lobby button. “Right, my only source of joy today was knowing that you were going through the same hell as me.”

 

“You two are mean,” Jeongyeon mumbles. “Sana and Yeri aren’t that bad,” she adds. 

 

“You’re a traitor, Yoo Jeongyeon,” Jihyo says with a flick to Jeongyeon’s shoulder. 

 

“And you don’t get an opinion,” Nayeon tacks on. “You didn’t get any new annoying additions to your team.”

 

You hired Yeri,” Jeongyeon points out with a laugh. “That’s on you.”

 

Nayeon grumbles a few insults under her breath that only make Jeongyeon’s smile widen as they finally exit the building. The sun is just barely starting to set and Jihyo feels almost in awe at the sight, not used to leaving the office before the stars have settled into the night sky. 

 

“You need a ride home, Hyo?” Jeongyeon asks and Jihyo is quick to say no. 

 

“I’m okay, the bus is coming in—”

 

“Jihyo!” They hear from a distance and Jihyo groans heavily. 

 

“Sure you don’t need a ride?” Jeongyeon asks again and Jihyo rubs her temples as she nods. 

 

“I’m fine, go on,” she shoos them away and is almost immediately bombarded with Sana’s obnoxiously sweet-smelling perfume. “What is it?” She asks, headache already beginning to pulse in the deepest corners of her skull. 

 

“I just wanted to apologize again, for earlier,” Sana says and—okay, Jihyo wasn’t really expecting it. But the apology just serves to remind Jihyo of how Sana is clearly aware of the differences between the two of them, whether she’ll admit it or not, and she feels something ugly brewing in her chest. 

 

“Is that all?” She asks, looks down on her watch and sees she has at least ten minutes to walk to her bus stop. “I’m running late.” A little white lie. 

 

Sana’s shoulders slump at the words but she nods. “Yeah, that’s it,” she sighs. “Goodnight, Jihyo.”

 

“Goodnight,” Jihyo nods curtly before speed walking down the sidewalk. 

 

Something swirls into the pulses of her headache—something that feels a lot like guilt. 

 

She decides that’s a problem for another day. 

 

 

 

ii.

 

 

 

The days seem to drag on endlessly now. Jihyo’s alarm is too piercing and the sun is too bright and her determination has dimmed to a simmer on the backburner. 

 

It seems like all her energy now is divided between doing what Tzuyu can’t and trying to force Sana to hold her own. 

 

“Are you sure you can’t just promote me?” Jihyo whines as she slumps against her couch. 

 

It’s one of those Fridays—the kind that resulted in Mina driving them back to Jihyo’s apartment to pop open a bottle of wine and take a swig before Jihyo had time to get some glasses out. She takes another before handing it to Jihyo. 

 

“We’ve talked about this,” Mina sighs. “They’re just waiting for an opportunity to demote me. If they think I’m playing favourites then…”

 

“I know, I know,” Jihyo groans. She knows, too, that anything suspicious on Mina’s part will result in her losing the position she worked so terribly hard for. Stupid men and their misogyny, she thinks grimly. 

 

“But your numbers have been great,” Mina tries to amend. “You’ll have your promotion by the next annual and if they try to argue it, we’ll threaten to launch a full investigation into workplace discrimination!” 

 

Jihyo’s eyes go wide at the words before laughter puffs against her cheeks. 

 

“Are you already drunk?” She asks, laughing harder when Mina scowls. “Oh, Minari,” she sighs again, brows furrowed as she thinks about the past week at work. “I might die from working with Sana.”

 

Mina’s laugh is a sweet sound behind all the mockery. “You’re very dramatic, did you know that?”

 

“I’ve never met somebody so entitled, Mina,” Jihyo says with a scowl. “She asked Jisoo to go for a coffee run today and then apologized because she thought she was dressed like an intern.” 

 

Mina winces hard at the words and takes another gulp from the bottle. “She’s a nice person,” she argues weakly. “Just very… detached from reality.”

 

“Whatever,” Jihyo huffs hard as she reaches forward to grab two controllers from the coffee table. “Want to play a few rounds?” 

 

As if Mina would ever say no. 

 

[...]

 

“You seriously still don’t know how to use Excel?” Jihyo asks as her lips droop into a frown. 

 

Sana’s face is set into a scowl as she crosses her arms tightly. Jihyo feels horrified as a tiny voice in the back of her head says the woman is attractive when she’s angry. “You seriously still don’t know how to colour-coordinate your outfits?” She shoots back. The tiny voice dies in a fizzle as annoyance surges through Jihyo’s blood. 

 

“This is your job, Sana,” she huffs. “I’ve showed you what to do multiple times.”

 

“Then it won’t hurt to show me again,” Sana quips with a sickeningly sweet smile. 

 

Jihyo looks at her in disbelief before she wordlessly stands up and pulls on the back of Chaeyoung’s chair. “Cashing in the favour you owe me for breaking my favourite mug,” she hisses into her ear and Chaeyoung sighs heavily at the words. “Chaeyoung will show you how to use Excel. I’m going on my break. 

 

[...]

 

Jihyo feels the stress tighten in her muscles as she rolls her shoulders. 

 

“Hey, Ji,” she hears from next to her. Her head perks up as she sees Seulgi leaning against the water cooler. 

 

“You’re back!” Jihyo gasps, wrapping one arm around the woman in a half hug. 

 

“Got back over the weekend,” Seulgi nods with a laugh. “I feel like I’ve been gone so much longer than a month.”

 

“How was the vacation?” Jihyo asks as she sips on the water that’s handed to her. 

 

“Oh, same old,” Seulgi shrugs. “But I missed the office drama.”

 

Jihyo lets out a loud laugh at the words. “Not much to miss out on,” she says, leaning against the wall next to her. 

 

Seulgi nudges her shoulder against Jihyo’s and nods her head across the office. “Who’s that?” She asks with a tiny smirk already curling at her lips. Jihyo follows her gaze and a fire burns in her chest as she sees who Seulgi is looking at. 

 

“Sana,” she scowls. 

 

Seulgi lets out a puff of air. “You didn’t tell me we got a hot new—”

 

Minatozaki Sana,” Jihyo hisses out with an aggression that even she’s startled by. 

 

“No way,” Seulgi breathes out, licks her lips nervously when Sana stands up to walk in their direction. “Good morning, Ms. Minatozaki,” Seulgi nods her head politely and Sana’s infuriating giggle is absolutely overjoyed. 

 

Her smile is so wide it takes up half of her face and Jihyo wants to tell her she looks stupid like that—because she does. With her stupid perfect teeth shining against the light in her signature blinding smile and her stupid hair falling perfectly and her—

 

“Good morning,” she sings as she passes and Jihyo wonders what the consequences would be for insulting your boss’s daughter during a shift—and then wonders if it’s still worth it. 

 

It is, but she still bites her tongue. 

 

“And she’s your desk buddy?” Seulgi asks once Sana’s out of earshot. “How’s that going?”

 

Jihyo grumbles as an answer and Seulgi’s hearty laugh is enough to say she understands. 

 

[...]

 

Sana’s laugh is loud and obnoxious and Jihyo’s glare is cold. 

 

“Are you serious?” Sana asks through a smile when she sees the stony expression. 

 

“Why would I be kidding?” Jihyo growls. 

 

“I don’t stay late, Jihyo,” Sana laughs again—laughs like Jihyo is cute and a little bit pathetic and Jihyo could scream, really. “I already told Tzuyu that before she hired me. Daddy said I don’t need to stay after hours.”

 

“Well, I need you to stay and help me work on the notes for this presentation—our presentation,” Jihyo stresses, feels a headache throbbing at the corners of her vision as she remembers Tzuyu carelessly partnering the two of them together for one of the biggest sales of the year. 

 

You’re our best employee! she said. It’ll be good experience for Sana, she said! Jihyo huffs at the memory. 

 

“Well, I, have plans tonight,” Sana shrugs with one shoulder. “We can finish tomorrow, during work hours,” she adds as she drops her phone into her purse and slings it over her forearm. 

 

“Sana,” Jihyo mumbles as the woman gets up. “Are you seriously—”

 

“Goodnight, Jihyo!” Sana calls over her shoulder. “See you tomorrow.”

 

Jihyo’s whine is so high-pitched that she thinks it may attract a few dogs, maybe a few wolves to put her out of her misery. She leans forward and thuds her head against her desk a few times. 

 

“Stupid,” she groans to herself. 

 

[…]

 

The bar down the street from their office is almost always bustling with tired workers every Friday and this week is no different. Jihyo, Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Chaeyoung and Momo squeeze themselves into a booth nearest to the bar and order too much food for the five of them to work through as they down beer after beer. 

 

“Busy season is kicking my ass,” Chaeyoung groans. “I don’t know how you’ve been a manager for so long,” she says to Nayeon. 

 

“The first year is the worst,” Nayeon promises. “You adapt.”

 

“I, personally, am very comfortable with my lowly employee position,” Momo pipes up, lifting her glass to Jeongyeon and Jihyo to clink their own against. 

 

“Not that I can really reap the benefits of a lesser workload,” Jihyo laughs mirthlessly. “I’ve got Tzuyu giving me half of her work daily and Sana is just… incorrigible might be too much of a compliment.” 

 

“I still think you’re too hard on her,” Jeongyeon says after a heavy sip from her glass. 

 

“I agree,” Chaeyoung hums. “She’s actually not so bad once you have a decent conversation with her.”

 

Jihyo rolls her eyes so deeply that she worries they may get stuck in the back of her head for a moment. “You guys don’t have to work with her constantly,” she argues. “And maybe I would’ve liked her more if she didn’t call me her personal assistant five seconds after meeting me,” she adds, pouting when the words pull laughter from the women around her. “And what about Nayeon and Yeri?” She points out in a petulant attempt to shift the attention from herself. 

 

Nayeon puts her hands up in surrender. “Hey, Yeri may get on my nerves but I can appreciate that she’s a quick learner. No problems here anymore.”

 

Jihyo squints her eyes at the girl before sighing. “At least one of you had to have had a bad experience with Sana. Momo?” 

 

She looks expectantly at Momo, frowning as she notices the sudden nervous look on her face, the way her eyes keep darting to the bar’s entrance. “Momo?” She repeats. “What is—” She turns her head when she sees Momo’s hand lift in a sheepish wave, feels her heart drop to her ass when she finds Sana just walking through the doors of the bar, eyes alight with recognition as she waves back at Momo. “You invited her to drinks night?” Jihyo hisses. 

 

Momo laughs awkwardly. “I didn’t know you hated her so much!” She whisper-yells across the table. “I thought we were all on the same page—hi, Sana!” 

 

“Hi, guys,” Sana beams, and Jihyo hates how stupidly good she looks for their dingy little after-work bar night. “Jihyo,” she nods curtly. 

 

Jihyo rolls her eyes. “Sana.” 

 

“Oh,” Nayeon laughs evilly. “Fun.” 

 

//

 

Jihyo hates how competitive she can be sometimes. Hates it right now because it’s the only reason that she’s standing opposite Sana at the pool table in the middle of her favourite bar, slightly woozy off of beer. 

 

She isn’t even quite sure how it got this far—something about Nayeon and a challenge and a pool champion title that Jihyo had to live up to and couldn’t possibly turn down. Not when Sana was looking at her like she could actually win, at least. 

 

So they’re each down to their last ball, and Jihyo would’ve had the perfect shot lined up if Nayeon hadn’t fake sneezed to make her miss entirely. But she doesn’t feel murderous just yet, because Sana’s shot is nearly impossible from any angle and she feels a smug sort of satisfaction when she sees the frustrated pout on her face as she tries to work out a solution. 

 

“Wow, Minatozaki,” she laughs gently, “I didn’t know you could focus for this long.”

 

Sana’s lips curl into a smirk at the words, eyes never leaving the table as she bends forward and shuts one eye, pulling the cue back before—

 

She sinks her last ball. And the eight ball is lined up just right. And Jihyo feels her heart sink with it into the pocket of the pool table as Sana stands up with a proud smile. 

 

“You know, Park,” Sana sighs. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you had one of these,” she says, waving her cue stick around, “up your ass twenty-four-seven.”

 

Jihyo makes a childish face at Sana when their group erupts in laughter, placing her cue down on the table before retreating to the bar to sulk for the rest of the night. 

 

She’s going to kill Im Nayeon. 

 

[…]

 

Sana may be the only person more easily distracted in the entire office than Tzuyu. Every time Jihyo glances to her left she’s met with an empty seat and Sana’s faraway giggling as she tries to charm half of their co-workers into liking her and Jihyo absolutely hates it. 

 

“Woah,” Nayeon’s voice rings from ahead of her. “Who pissed in your Cheerios today?” 

 

“What?” Jihyo snaps, eyes narrowed into a glare before the words register in her brain. “I don’t even eat Cheerios.”

 

Nayeon rolls her eyes at the words. “Okay,” she grumbles, “who pissed in your Raisin Bran?” 

 

“Ew,” Sana chimes in, suddenly right next to Jihyo, “who eats Raisin Bran?”

 

“Jihyo! Weird, right?

 

“It’s not weird,” Jihyo huffs. “It’s a popular cereal!”

 

Sana looks at her blankly for a moment before turning to Nayeon with a brilliant smile. “Have you been to that new coffee shop downstairs yet?” She asks, positively glowing when Nayeon says no. “We should go, like, now. I hear they have the best—”

 

“No,” Jihyo says sharply. “No. You should work on this pitch, like, now,” she huffs. “I know this is all just a game to you, Sana, but this is my job. My one source of income. I need to do well to succeed. Which means you need to take this project seriously.” 

 

The pair in front of her fall quiet, looking thoroughly reprimanded and Jihyo looks between them with a challenge in her eyes, daring either one of them to make a joke. 

 

“Okay,” Sana relents, much to Jihyo’s surprise. “I’ll get it done.”

 

Nayeon’s eyes are blown wide as Sana takes her seat and Jihyo looks back at her just as bewildered. Was a little firmness all it took to get Sana to listen? And if so, Jihyo thinks she needs a kick in the ass for not trying it sooner. 

 

[…]

 

Jihyo’s eyes are tired and red and her mouth feels as dry as the plant that sits withering on Momo’s desk. Her back aches from sitting in her chair for hours and she’s lost count of how many times her feet have fallen asleep. 

 

“Tzuyu,” she calls, “I need you to—”

 

“Sorry, Jihyo. I can’t,” Tzuyu interrupts as she stares at her blank desktop screen. “I’m very busy.”

 

“Busy with what?” Jihyo hisses. 

 

“Brainstorming,” Tzuyu sighs, “lots of thinking. Very busy.”

 

Jihyo thinks she may be on the verge of some serious heart problems with the amount of stress that surges through her. 

 

“Okay then,” she mumbles. 

 

She looks at her screen, presentation staring back at her mockingly and she groans. Then she looks at the seat next to her—the empty one that was supposed to be filled by Sana at least twenty minutes ago. She stands with a sigh as her joints pop and crack and she grimaces as she thinks there may be an indent in her seat from how long she’s been sitting there. 

 

It takes another ten minutes for Sana to come rushing through the doors. Her hands are empty and she looks slightly out of breath and Jihyo realizes how different this is from every other time she’s been late. Times where she would come waltzing through with a smile and a freshly purchased coffee. 

 

Jihyo thinks she maybe, genuinely hadn’t meant to be late. 

 

“Sorry,” Sana mumbles once she settles into her seat. “Woke up late.” And Jihyo believes her. A strange feeling of empathy burns in her chest and she takes a long sip from her water bottle. 

 

The day only seems to get stranger when Jihyo takes her break and Sana comes wandering into the break room not far behind her. Jihyo looks up from the sandwich she packed for herself to see Sana fiddling with a container in her hands and rocking nervously on her feet. 

 

“What?” Jihyo sighs. “What is it?”

 

Sana avoids her eyes for a few more seconds before mumbling out, “can I sit here?” and Jihyo tries not to let the surprise show on her face at the question. 

 

“Uh,” she lets out dumbly. “Sure.”

 

It’s awkward. Horribly, horribly awkward as Sana sits across from her and takes out her lunch and they eat without speaking—without even looking at each other. Jihyo distantly thinks that universe must really hate her, because the break room is unusually empty aside from them and silence permeates the air, makes the room so sickeningly suffocating and—

 

“What is that?” She finds herself asking in a sudden desperation to breathe. 

 

Sana’s eyes go wide as she looks up from her container of food and right at Jihyo. “Fruit salad,” she says, pops a piece of watermelon in her mouth as she does. 

 

“That’s all you’re eating for lunch?” Jihyo pushes, tries to sound curious and not judgmental but Sana’s suddenly sour face says she may have failed. 

 

“Yes,” Sana snaps out. “I just threw together whatever was in my fridge because I had no breakfast. Or dinner,” she adds. 

 

“Why?” Jihyo finds herself asking despite the fact that she shouldn’t really care. 

 

Sana looks guarded, Jihyo notices. She looks back down at the fruit on her fork and huffs. “I was working,” she mumbles, so quiet that Jihyo wouldn’t have heard her if the room hadn’t been so silent. The same strange feeling of empathy settles in her chest. “That’s why I woke up late,” Sana continues. “And why I’m so hungry—trust me, you are the last person I want to be spending my break with.”

 

Jihyo bites her tongue before the insult can slip from it and she sighs heavily. Without saying anything, she places the uneaten half of her lunch on the lid of her container and slides it across the table to Sana. 

 

“I don’t need your food,” Sana grumbles as she looks at the sandwich. 

 

“Just eat it,” Jihyo groans. “You’re annoying enough when you’re not hungry.”

 

Sana makes an affronted sound that Jihyo’s never heard before—one that makes her lips quirk into a smile before she can stop herself—but she still picks up the sandwich, still takes a bite. 

 

Sana hums happily at the taste and Jihyo’s strange feeling of empathy turns into a horrible feeling of fondness. 

 

[...]

 

The days become more bearable following the peculiar lunch break—slightly so, but it’s an improvement.

 

Sana doesn’t come late anymore, doesn’t act dumb to get on Jihyo’s nerves anymore, and Jihyo finds that their sales pitch is becoming increasingly easy to work on when she doesn’t have to spend every other minute making sure Sana hasn’t messed anything up.

 

Though she won’t admit it to anyone, Sana has even proven to be… fun

 

“You cannot be serious,” Jihyo says through a barely contained laugh as Sana angles her monitor for her to see the childish drawings scrawled across her powerpoint. “Delete that,” she continues, pretends to sound stern but Sana just flutters her lashes and, for once, Jihyo finds that it doesn’t completely irritate her.

 

“Made you laugh,” Sana sings with a smile that makes her look ten years younger. “Besides,” she says as she rearranges her screen. “That’s not the actual presentation so don’t worry, boss.”

 

Jihyo’s lips quirk up at the words as she leans back in her seat. She sighs heavily before asking, “do you think the changes will make it better?” 

 

Sana clicks through a few slides and then shrugs her shoulders. “I think the new presentation sounds better—your points make more sense and it flows better in this arrangement.” 

 

Jihyo stares at the side of Sana’s head with her mouth a little bit open and her eyes a little bit wide. 

 

“What?” Sana asks with a nervous laugh when she sees Jihyo’s expression. 

 

“Nothing,” Jihyo says, moves her gaze to her monitor again. “That’s just the longest sentence I’ve heard you speak that actually revolves around work.”

 

Sana scoffs and pushes against Jihyo’s shoulder and she has this pout on her face that makes something flutter in Jihyo’s chest—makes her feel things that she absolutely should not be feeling. 

 

“I can be professional,” Sana says with narrowed eyes. 

 

“You spent your first two weeks here sampling all the types of coffee we had in the break room,” Jihyo deadpans and Sana grins something so charming that Jihyo thinks it shines. 

 

“See? Professional.”

 

Jihyo’s mouth opens to shoot back something teasing that would have Sana huffing and rolling her eyes, but her phone rings once and then twice and—

 

“Shit,” she hisses out as she sees the time. “I forgot I have to pick my sister up from school.” Her hands are already moving to log off of her computer and pile her things haphazardly into her purse before she can blink. Her hands still to a stop as she turns to Sana with desperate eyes. “The presentation,” she mumbles. Sana presses a gentle hand to hers, eyes crinkled around the edges with kindness. 

 

“I’ll transfer everything over, don’t worry,” she promises and Jihyo’s thoughts are already running so rampant about the time and the day and one simple task she had and—“seriously,” Sana continues. “I got it, Jihyo. Go tell Mina.”

 

Jihyo stands there for one second, and then two, and then she lets out a defeated sigh. “I’m really sorry,” she mumbles out through the apprehension in her gut before turning on her heels to rush from the office. She can text Mina about it later, anyway. 

 

[...]

 

Sunlight spills into Jihyo’s bedroom and wakes her abruptly. She groans, heels of her palms digging into her eyes before she feels a small head of hair in the crook of her elbow and pats a hand down on it gently. 

 

“School time,” she hums when her sister blinks her eyes open sleepily. “We have to stop at home first.”

 

The bed jostles as her sister darts off of the mattress and Jihyo rolls on her back with a sigh, head tilting to glance at the photo of her mother’s smiling face on her night table and feeling too heavy from the events of the previous evening. She shakes the thoughts from her head and curls forward until she’s sitting up. 

 

Breakfast, she thinks. Breakfast will make everything better, she figures, moving to rifle through her cabinets until she finds the pancake mix. She sleepily adds all the ingredients together and manages a decent stack before her sister comes bounding out from the bathroom and sits excitedly at the table. 

 

“Eat up,” Jihyo says with a smile. “I’m going to get ready then we’ll leave, okay?”

 

“Okay,” her sister agrees through a mouthful of pancakes and syrup and Jihyo grimaces at the sight before she disappears into the bathroom to wash her worries away under the scorching heat of the shower water. 

 

[…] 

 

Jihyo’s car rolls to a stop in front of her family home and she blows hot air between her lips before gesturing for her sister to get out. She smooths out the perfect edges of her suit, running over the lines for her presentation later as they walk up to the front door and she rings the doorbell incessantly until her father opens it, still half-asleep. 

 

“Good morning,” Jihyo says, stepping past him and toward the kitchen to find lunch and a snack for her sister. “You’ll be good to pick her up after school today, right?” She calls from the other room, frowning at the abundance of empty liquor bottles that sit next to the counter. 

 

“Yes,” her dad sighs, leaning against the doorway of the kitchen and rubbing his eye with his hand. “I’m sorry about yesterday,” he says through the sleep in his voice. “It’s just—”

 

“Hard,” Jihyo interjects sharply. “I know. I’ll drop her off on my way to work,” she adds, packing the lunchbox in her sister’s bag before pulling her back toward her car. “See you later.”

 

“Bye, daddy!” Her sister calls from the backseat. 

 

“Bye, honey,” her father smiles with a wave. “Bye, Jihyo,” he adds. “Have a good day at work.”

 

“I will,” Jihyo mumbles as she closes the car door and pulls out of the driveway. 

 

[…]

 

Mina stops Jihyo just before she can get to her desk and Jihyo’s smile is strained when their eyes meet. “Good morning,” she says. 

 

“Hey,” Mina mumbles, voice low among the chatter of the office. “Look, I’m sorry that I forgot what day yesterday was. You could’ve taken the whole day off if you wanted—”

 

“No, I couldn’t have,” Jihyo says. “My promotion is riding on this presentation. And it’s fine, I didn’t expect you to remember anyway.” 

 

Mina’s eyes are still filled with apology and Jihyo feels so terrible for letting her personal frustrations get the best of her. “It’s fine, really,” she sighs. “I promise.”

 

“Okay,” Mina says, voice uncertain and concerned. “Today will go great,” she promises. “You guys worked hard.”

 

Jihyo presses her lips together and nods, grateful once Mina finally allows her to pass and seat herself at her desk. 

 

“Cutting it close to clock-in time, Park,” she hears from next to her. 

 

“Good morning, Sana,” she says, bored as she boots her computer up. “Ready for today?” She turns her head to Sana expectantly. 

 

“You’ll be doing all the presenting, right?” Sana asks, relaxing when Jihyo nods. “Then I’m ready as ever.”

 

“Great,” Jihyo grumbles under her breath. 

 

[…]

 

There’s a special type of embarrassment that comes from making an idiot out of yourself in front of people that hold your future in their hands. It’s something so morbid that Jihyo feels bile rising to her throat as she stammers through her speech and sees the uneasy faces of the people she’s supposed to be wooing. 

 

She tries to save it, she really does. Tries her best to ignore the fact that the slides are entirely out of order, that inappropriate jokes have been written in the margins and infographics have been replaced with entirely irrelevant photos that Sana had found funny yesterday. 

 

She stops the PowerPoint after a few embarrassing slides, trying to salvage the presentation with her speech alone but she knows she’s lost the partnership long before it’s over. She cuts it short to save herself the misery of having to get to the winning punch while knowing there’s nothing left to win. 

 

“We appreciate the time you took for this meeting, Ms. Park,” the head of the team says, lilt in his voice like he’s not quite sure of what he’s saying. “But unfortunately, we aren’t certain that this company has what we’re looking for.”

 

Jihyo feels her mouth open and close a few times, pure dread shuddering through her system at a pace so slow she feels like she’s drowning—like she’s being pulled apart and submerged in it. Her heart is beating, probably, but she can’t feel it anymore, can’t feel most of her body, really. Her mouth is dry even as she licks at her chapped lips. 

 

She nods politely, though, still forces a quivering smile onto her lips, bows her head as each member leaves the conference room until she’s alone—until she can sink to the floor and put her head in her hands and feel the weight of her entire day come crashing down on her. 

 

Except she’s not alone. 

 

“Jihyo...” Sana trails off, eyes wide and nervous as she takes in the sight before her. Takes in a side of Jihyo she’s never seen before. 

 

“Just go, Sana,” Jihyo mumbles, voice hoarse and gravelly as she tries to keep her tears at bay. 

 

“Jihyo, I’m so sorry. I must’ve transferred the wrong presentation and—“

 

“Just go, Sana,” Jihyo raises her voice, barely quieter than a shout. “Have you ever stopped to think that your actions have consequences?” She asks, standing to her full height that suddenly seems much taller as Sana shrinks in front of her. “Or do you just not care? Because this is just daycare for you until your daddy thinks you’ve had enough of a humbling experience working as lowly office staff, right?” 

 

“I-I...” Sana’s words trip and fumble before they can leave her mouth and Jihyo laughs bitterly as she falls silent once again. 

 

“Right,” she nods. “That’s what I thought.”

 

The last thing she sees before she slams the conference room door behind her is Sana’s pleading gaze and watery eyes. 

 

[...]

 

Mina gives Jihyo the next day off and it’s spent curled under her blankets in the dead silence of her house. Despite her worst fears, the ground has yet to open up and swallow her whole, but she thinks that may just be another way for the universe to mock her—make her live through the humiliation of a failed sales pitch. 

 

It’s all she can think about—the failure. And thinking about the meeting makes her think about Sana’s guilt stricken eyes and the way Jihyo lashed out at her and then Jihyo feels her gut double over in an uncomfortable amount of shame. She hadn’t realized she could be so cruel. 

 

She lets out a loud groan, feels entirely stuck in a loop bouncing between two thoughts that make her feel nothing but a sick sense of embarrassment. In a huff of frustration, she sits up and throws the blankets off of her, noticing it’s long past sunset before she forces herself out of the pool of self-pity and into her shower. 

 

[…]

 

“She’s really beat up about it.”

 

Jihyo glares at Nayeon under the dim lights of the bar and over the sugared rim of her glass. 

 

“What?” Nayeon asks. “She is! Walking around all day looking like a kicked puppy and staring longingly at your desk.” 

 

“You’re not helping, Nayeon,” Jeongyeon interjects, dipping a fry into ketchup before shoving it into the other girl’s mouth. “Look, you have every right to be pissed,” she continues once Nayeon is thoroughly distracted by the food on their table. “But she really didn’t do it on purpose.”

 

“That doesn’t change the fact that my chances of being promoted have plummeted to zero,” Jihyo says, slurping on her straw before pushing her glass toward Nayeon in a silent plea for a refill. 

 

“You’re really racking up a bill here,” Nayeon points out through a glare despite the fact that she stands to move to the bar immediately. 

 

“Anyway,” Jeongyeon continues. “I said you have every right to be pissed. But you also don’t get to make up stupid scenarios in your head to justify being rude to Sana.” 

 

Jihyo glares at her, too, hoping if she does it long enough then one of them will stop trying to make her feel sympathy for her co-worker. She doesn’t tell either of them that guilt has been coiling in her stomach since she left work yesterday. 

 

“Hey,” Nayeon says as she slides Jihyo’s new drink toward her. “How about you come to my friend’s birthday party with me next weekend? Maybe it’ll make you feel better. It’s in a super flashy club downtown—somewhere we’d never be caught dead, which is why it sounds like fun!”

 

“What the hell?” Jeongyeon pipes up. “Where was my invite?” 

 

Nayeon flutters her eyelashes at Jeongyeon and leans her chin on her palms. “Would you also like to accompany me to my friend’s terribly excessive birthday party, Jeongie?”

 

“Yes,” Jeongyeon hums, “I would.”

 

“Great, you two can go together then,” Jihyo says with a fake smile. 

 

And Nayeon, quite literally, laughs in her face. “You’re coming, Hyo,” she says. “Even if I have to drag you out of that apartment.” 

 

Jihyo rolls her eyes as she takes an angry bite of a chicken wing. 

 

“Whatever.”

 

[…]

 

Jihyo has always been a stubborn person, ever since she was a child. She’s always had a problem admitting when she’s not right simply because she so seldomly is wrong. 

 

But something is different this time. The guilt eats at her stomach all weekend, no matter how many rounds of Mario Kart she tries to play to distract herself from it. It’s like a constant sinking pit just waiting for her to fall in completely and she thinks she has to do something to fix it, if only to ease her own conscience. 

 

So, she wakes up extra early on Monday, stops by a coffee shop and buys the most disgustingly sweet looking pastry she can find because a little voice in her head tells her that it’s something Sana would love. Not that she pays much attention to what Sana enjoys, anyway.  

 

She places it carefully by Sana’s seat, contemplating leaving a note for the briefest moment before she realizes that’s both incredibly corny and even more embarrassing. Sana will know, anyway. And if she doesn’t, then at least Jihyo can make her day a little bit better anonymously. Maybe. 

 

It’s agonizing, waiting as the office fills up slowly with no sign of Sana at all. She doesn’t want to think about all the sympathetic glances her way, the fact that the news of her disastrous pitch has definitely already circulated throughout the office. She works furiously on her backlogs and finds herself zoning the rest of the office out entirely until the seat next to hers is pulled back and she can feel a pair of wide eyes glued to the side of her head. 

 

She only spares Sana a brief glance, trying to steady the racing of her heart when Sana still doesn’t look away. 

 

“Jihyo,” Sana starts. “I really am so sorry, and—”

 

“It’s okay,” Jihyo says, guilt swirling in her stomach again at the apology. 

 

“It’s not. I know that meeting was really important to you and I messed everything up because I wasn’t paying attention—”

 

“Sana,” Jihyo interjects once more, finally tearing her eyes away from her screen to meet Sana’s. “It’s really okay, I promise. It was a mistake.”

 

Sana seems to be shocked by the sincerity of the words, only able to muster a nod before she settles into her seat. 

 

Jihyo goes back to her work, trying not to think about the strange feeling that warms her chest when she notices Sana’s smile from the corner of her eyes as she picks up the pastry with an excited hum.

 

 

iii.

 

 

Things after that don’t really get better—but they don’t really get worse, either. 

 

Sana is already well-accustomed to her duties and she doesn’t need to ask Jihyo for help constantly anymore, so they don’t speak much. Jihyo feels like she has an itch to scratch, like she needs to find a reason to converse with Sana but can never quite make up the right excuse—can never quite get over the simmering resentment long enough to come up with a genuine greeting. 

 

And she hates it. Absolutely hates that she and Sana had only been on objectively good terms for a few days before the presentation debacle, yet Jihyo still misses the girl’s company. So what if Sana’s completely unfunny jokes helped her pass the time faster? Or if Jihyo began to find Sana’s laughter more pleasant than the horrible, grating sound she convinced herself it was at one point. 

 

“You’re so strange,” Nayeon says when Jihyo throws her head back and groans after Sana leaves to take her break. “Just talk to her,” she pushes, poking her finger sharply into Jihyo’s cheek. 

 

“Ow,” Jihyo winces. “And no. I’m still mad.”

 

“Liar,” Jeongyeon pipes up, eyes fixed on her computer screen. “You’re just scared.”

 

“What would I be scared of?” Jihyo scoffs incredulously. 

 

Nayeon rolls her eyes. “Uh, that you might actually like her now that you know she’s not evil?” 

 

“Don’t you have work to do?” Jihyo asks, rolling her chair forward until she can’t see Nayeon’s face anymore. 

 

“You’re going to have to speak to her eventually,” Nayeon shrugs as she moves back to her desk. 

 

“No, I won’t!” Jihyo calls back. 

 

“Yes you will!” 

 

[…]

 

Jihyo makes a face in the mirror as she pulls at the material that clings to her skin in unfamiliar places. She looks good, she knows—is able to have at least that much confidence. But she hasn’t gone out in so long that a layer of dread seems to cover the night ahead of her and she’s not sure she’s ready to peel it back just yet. 

 

But, of course, she has no choice in the matter once two fists begin to pound unrelentingly at her door and she suddenly regrets letting them up to her apartment at all. 

 

“Holy. Shit,” Nayeon mumbles, jaw dropped as her eyes rake over Jihyo without shame. “I forgot you’re sexy.” 

 

“You’re disgusting,” Jihyo huffs despite the way her cheeks redden at the compliment. 

 

Jeongyeon hums, stepping into Jihyo’s living room and taking a look at herself in her full-length mirror. “I look better than both of you,” she decides with a teasing grin. 

 

“You wish,” Nayeon scoffs. “Can you two hurry up? They’re going to start playing the good music soon.” 

 

“All music is good music when you’re drunk,” Jihyo shrugs, fastening her second hoop into her ear and making sure she has her keys and cellphone. “Okay, ready.”

 

“Perfect,” Nayeon grins something terribly devious as she curls a piece from Jihyo’s hair around her fingers. “Time to get shitfaced!”

 

//

 

The club is as over the top as Nayeon had described it—all decadent chandeliers and brilliant neon lights filling up the modern slopes of the booths that line the outer edges of the room. Jihyo whistles low once they make it past security. 

 

“This place is crazy,” she mumbles in Nayeon’s ear. 

 

“Right?” Nayeon says through a laugh. “Come, it’s an open bar.” 

 

“Is this friend loaded?” Jeongyeon asks in exasperation. “And if so—why haven’t you introduced us sooner?” 

 

“We went to college together,” Nayeon tells them over the pounding bass of the music. “She’s really sweet, but a total trust fund baby.”

 

Jihyo’s eyebrows raise at the words, shrugging gently once the first round of shots is lined up in front of them. She holds her own out for the other two to clink their glasses against. “To rich friends,” she mumbles, downing the shot with a grimace before signalling to the bartender for another. She was never very good at taking on clubs sober. 

 

“Nayeonnie,” they hear from somewhere behind them, barely louder than the music that nearly makes the floorboards creak. Nayeon spins in her seat and her eyes light up in excitement before she’s wrapping a very, very beautiful girl in a tight hug. 

 

“Happy birthday,” Nayeon squeals, doing a few hops and Jihyo takes both of their shots while Nayeon is distracted. She was never very good at meeting new people sober, either. “Sooyoung, these are my friends Jihyo and Jeongyeon. Guys, this is Park Sooyoung—the birthday girl.” 

 

“I’m so glad you guys could make it,” Sooyoung says, and Jihyo is surprised by the genuine kindness in the words—is even more surprised when Sooyoung leans down to wrap them both in a hug. 

 

“Happy birthday,” Jihyo says once they pull apart and hopes her smile is half as dazzling as the woman in front of her. 

 

“Thank you,” Sooyoung says, about to say something more when a hand wraps around her arm and another curls around her neck and a familiar giggle washes over Jihyo before she registers who it is. 

 

“Sana?” She asks against her will, using all her strength not to gawk at the sight of the woman. Sana’s laughter cuts short as she meets Jihyo’s eyes. 

 

“Oh, you two know each other?” Sooyoung asks, looking at Sana in gentle confusion. 

 

“We work together,” Nayeon pipes up. “I didn’t know you’d be here, Minatozaki,” she adds playfully, putting an arm around Sana in a half hug that finally breaks her eye contact with Jihyo. 

 

“Sana’s the one throwing this party for me,” Sooyoung says, squeezing Sana’s cheek fondly before her name is called from a few seats down and she frowns apologetically at the group before her. “Sorry, birthday girl duties. Come find me later so we can dance together!” She calls out before gliding down the bar with Sana right behind her. 

 

“You did this on purpose,” Jihyo glares at Nayeon who puts her hands up in defence. 

 

“No way! How was I supposed to know Sana was best friends with Sooyoung?” She asks incredulously. 

 

“I have to side with Nayeon on this one. I don’t think she’s smart enough to come up with a plan like this,” Jeongyeon adds from where she sits, stirring the straw in her drink and watching Jihyo’s conflict in amusement. 

 

“Okay, let’s not go that far,” Nayeon pouts. 

 

Jihyo groans, waiting impatiently for a bartender to notice her pleading face. “I’m not drunk enough for this.” 

 

//

 

At some point in the night, Nayeon gives up on trying to drag Jihyo from the bar to the dance floor and begrudgingly takes Jeongyeon instead when a throwback song comes on that Nayeon just has to dance to. Jihyo is fine with it, anyway, moving down the bar until she finds the quietest spot and nursing her long island iced tea while she sulks. 

 

“Drinking alone?” A familiar voice comes up behind her. Jihyo barely has to turn to know who it is, but some part of her is eager to set her eyes on Sana after their brief encounter earlier. Maybe it’s the excessive number of shots she downed in a row—or maybe she just really wants to see Sana’s outfit again. For research purposes, or something. 

 

“Do you have any friends that you haven’t bought by pulling out daddy’s credit card?” Jihyo asks around the straw between her lips. The words don’t hold much bite, because her eyes are already starting to glaze over and Sana looks immaculate in the brief pulses of the club lighting and her breezy laugh is like… like a siren’s song and—

 

Jihyo is drunk, okay?

 

“Do you have any friends that aren’t your coworkers?” Sana asks back, and it feels playful for once—like they’re friends, even. Maybe in a different lifetime, Jihyo thinks. 

 

“Got me there,” she sighs out, watches as Sana takes the seat next to her at the bar. 

 

“So, since you’re drinking on my tab, does that mean I’ve successfully bought you?”

 

Jihyo catches sight of the teasing glint in Sana’s eyes when she notices how pretty they look—a light brown that changes with each neon colour that pools in them. Jihyo shrugs, slurping until there’s nothing but ice left at the bottom of her glass. 

 

“Do you want to dance with me?” She finds herself asking, and she’s sure Sana’s surprise is reflected in her own expression because she has no idea where the question came from. 

 

But—“okay,” Sana says, and Jihyo’s surprise only grows when she finds herself following the girl from her quiet corner of the bar and into the roaring heart of the club. 

 

Dancing in a club is easy—bodies packed so tightly together there’s only enough room to sway and twirl to the beat of the music, a drunken fog settling nicely until no one notices how absolutely stupid they may look. Jihyo finds that she doesn’t really mind how close Sana is pressed into her personal space because the song that’s playing is absolutely atrocious and Sana’s laugh is even prettier from up close. 

 

She doesn’t mind at all, really, until Sana gets caught halfway between a twirl, pressed back into Jihyo by the wave of bodies moving them closer and then Jihyo chokes on her own tongue when Sana seamlessly starts grinding back into her. She stands like a piece of cardboard for a second, unsure of where to put her hands or how to move her body before Sana’s lidded eyes turn to meet hers under the fluorescent lights and gentle hands circle her wrists to guide them against Sana’s waist. 

 

Jihyo sucks in a breath, emboldened by the permission and then the DJ is playing something too sensual for her to feel awkward dancing to, so she spins Sana around, pulls her tight against her in a moment of confidence. Sana raises an eyebrow at her, lips pulled into a brilliant smile as they rock against each other and the rest of the club falls to nothing around them. Sana’s hands slide down to graze the small expanse of exposed skin that Jihyo’s bodysuit leaves on her hips before her fingers curl into the loops of her pants to pull them impossibly closer. Jihyo’s breath hitches, eyes darting between Sana’s hazy ones and the way her tongue slides across her lips like she’s waiting for something. 

 

It wouldn’t be so bad, she thinks—kissing Sana. She might enjoy it even—maybe, probably. Definitely. Another wave of the overexcited dance floor pushes them so close that Jihyo can only focus on one part of Sana’s face and her eyes lock onto her lips like she might die if she looks away. And then they’re even closer, and closer, and—

 

“Jihyo!” 

 

Jeongyeon’s voice rips through the bubble she and Sana had been wrapped in as her hand pulls at Jihyo’s elbow and her eyes are wide. “What?” She asks, still slightly dazed and confused but Jeongyeon didn’t even seem to notice how close she was to Sana and that alone is cause for concern. 

 

“Where the hell have you been?” Jeongyeon asks, pulling Jihyo away from the heat of the dance floor and toward the exit where a pouting Nayeon stands. “Nayeon started puking after Sooyoung dared her to do tequila shots,” she explains. Jihyo nods along to the words but doesn’t pay much attention, head craned back to catch a last glimpse of Sana but is sorely disappointed when she sees the other woman has already been swallowed by the crowd once more. 

 

She sighs heavily, drunken fog slowly clearing as she slings an arm around Nayeon’s shoulders. “Let’s get you home, pukey.”

 

[…]

 

Neither of them bring up the night at the club. Jihyo isn’t quite sure if Sana was just too drunk to remember, or if she’s kind enough to avoid bringing it up in a room full of the nosiest people on the planet. 

 

Part of her feels completely embarrassed that she had lost her inhibitions like that. That she had danced like that with Sana—that she had thought about kissing her! Just thinking about it makes her face burn, hands covering her cheeks to hide the blush because this is the last thing she should be thinking about when she’s at work. 

 

But another part of her feels… disappointed. Wonders what would’ve happened if Nayeon wasn’t so competitive that would drink herself sick before losing a dare. Would Sana have actually kissed her? 

 

Not that it matters. Because they’re co-workers. And that’s entirely unprofessional. 

 

And Jihyo doesn’t like Sana, anyway. It’s just simple curiosity—the disappointment that comes from missing out on kissing a pretty girl. Not specifically because she didn’t kiss Sana . Sana just happens to be a pretty girl. A very pretty girl. 

 

Jihyo groans into her open palms and wishes her brain would just stop talking. 

 

[…]

 

There are times where Jihyo is certain Sana does remember, though. When she sees the glint of teasing in her eyes that looks the same in both the glaringly white lights of their office and the dark, hazy neons of the nightclub. 

 

It can be entirely embarrassing, sometimes. Most of the time. 

 

“Where’s my chair?” Jihyo asks, already bored as she looks between Nayeon and Jeongyeon because they’re the only two that are childish enough to play a prank as immature as hiding her chair. 

 

But, to her surprise, Sana rolls backward and looks up at Jihyo, struggling to control her smile as she pats her lap. “Had to get your chair sent back for repairs. This is your temporary seat.” And it’s so bad, such a terrible, terrible line that Jihyo should be ripping at the seams with laughter. But Sana’s eyes take on that dangerous, playful glint and Jihyo swallows heavily, cheeks red and blushing as she tries to scoff like she’s unaffected. 

 

“Very mature, Sana,” she sighs. “Where’s my chair?” 

 

And then Sana pouts when it doesn’t work, looking up at Jihyo through long eyelashes before rolling herself to the other side of the room and coming back with Jihyo’s chair. 

 

The pout is somehow much, much worse than anything else Sana could’ve thrown at her. 

 

[…]

 

They become sort of, kind of friends at some point. Jihyo begrudgingly admits that she judged Sana too harshly and it results in boisterous cheers from her friends who then demand that drinks are on Jihyo for the endless rants they had to sit through. 

 

“You two just have some weird tension,” Jeongyeon says on their fourth round, when her tongue is loose and her inhibitions are free and she’s not worried that Jihyo will take her words the wrong way. Not that she ever is particularly worried about that.

 

“What?” Jihyo laughs. 

 

“She means you two need to fuck, or something,” Nayeon pipes up, substantially more inebriated than either of them because, despite her persistence when it comes to drinking, she’s the biggest lightweight of them all. 

 

Jihyo chokes on her beer. “Why are you so vulgar? And horny. Why do you think everybody needs to fuck?” 

 

Nayeon smiles until her eyes disappear and her teeth take up half of her face. “Because a good fuck solves almost every problem.” 

 

“Well, there’s no problem anymore,” Jihyo mumbles, pink cheeks luckily undetected in the dim lighting of the bar. She thanks every good force in the world that neither of the two idiots in front of her know what happened in the club. 

 

Jeongyeon narrows her eyes at Jihyo for a moment, leaning forward over the table before she slaps a hand down against the surface with an obnoxious laugh. 

 

“Oh my god,” Jeongyeon breathes out. “You want to sleep with her!” 

 

“What?” Jihyo squeaks, voice much too high and nervous and then Nayeon is joining in the laughter, one hand clutching Jeongyeon’s wrist in a death grip and the other smacking at Jihyo’s idle hand on the table. 

 

“You so do!” Nayeon manages to get out between breaths. “Oh, this is too good.”

 

“Oh my god,” Jihyo whispers, head cradled in her hands as the laughter rises to unprecedented levels. She’s sure a few heads have turned in their direction, sure that her face is as red as the apple Dahyun offered Mina today. 

 

God, she hates her friends. 

 

[…]

 

Nayeon and Jeongyeon bring an entirely new issue to the forefront of Jihyo’s thoughts and she thinks she could kill them for it. 

 

Being disappointed that she and Sana hadn’t kissed was one thing—a drunken moment of FOMO, if nothing else. But actively thinking about the possibility that she might be genuinely attracted to Sana in other ways is so terribly distracting when she realizes there could be some truth behind it. 

 

She knows Sana is pretty, obviously. A conventional type of beauty that somehow manages to be unique all on its own. And sure, maybe the night at the club had gotten more heated than either of them expected. And maybe she had to take a cold shower before bed because even the sight of Nayeon hurling her guts into the toilet wasn’t enough for Jihyo to forget the way she felt when Sana was grinding to the beat against her and—

 

“Good morning, Jihyo.”

 

Sana’s hair is twirled into a bun, clipped delicately at the top of her head and the top few buttons of her white shirt are undone so the light brushes against her neck and Jihyo gulps down her nerves as her eyes dart away from Sana’s collarbones and back to her computer screen. 

 

“Good morning, Sana.”

 

She’s so fucked. 

 

[…]

 

So, she maybe wants to kiss Sana. And maybe a little, pathetic part of her wouldn’t be opposed to sleeping with her, either. But that’s normal, right? Sana is pretty, and Jihyo has eyes. It’s just a part of life to acknowledge when you find someone attractive. 

 

It doesn’t have to mean anything. 

 

“I’m just letting you know this as your boss,” Mina says as she carefully spoons sugar into her coffee. “But if something does eventually happen between you and Sana, you’ll need to disclose your relationship to HR.”

 

Jihyo lifts her head from her laptop, looking at Mina in bewilderment from across the kitchen counter. “Where the hell did that come from?”

 

An innocent smile plays on Mina’s lips when she shrugs. “I’m just saying. You two seem to be on good terms now.”

 

“And?”

 

“Very good terms,” Mina presses like it’s supposed to mean something. Jihyo stares at her blankly until Mina rolls her eyes over the rim of her coffee mug. “You seem like you like her.”

 

“I do like her,” Jihyo says, “she’s nice, I was overly rude for no reason, blah blah—we’ve been over this.”

 

“No, you idiot,” Mina finally says, leaning forward on her elbows until her eyes are levelled with Jihyo’s. “I think somebody had a crush.”

 

“Oh,” Jihyo mumbles, trying to think of why Mina could possibly think that. Besides the fact that Jihyo has started to pick sweets up for Sana in the mornings or how sometimes they split Jihyo’s lunch because she always brings something from home and Sana can’t cook to save her life. Or maybe Mina got the crazy idea from the playlist of songs Jihyo has on her phone that Sana likes to add to every once in a while, or the million and one hearts that Sana put next to her own contact name that Jihyo still hasn’t gotten around to deleting.

 

Mina’s words run on repeat in her brain for a few moments before she grimaces. “Oh, shit.”

 

[…]

 

Jihyo decides that Mina is reading too deep into things. That she and Sana are nothing more than… friendly friends and that Sana just makes it easy to get carried away because she’s so affectionate by nature. Hearts in a contact name and shared lunches don’t really have to mean anything at all. 

 

“You’re late. Again,” Jihyo sings as Sana slips into the seat next to her. “You’re lucky Mina isn’t here yet or you’d get an earful.”

 

“That’s impossible, Mina loves me,” Sana hums smugly. “And, you have to try this,” she says, sliding the cup in her hand over and Jihyo looks at her skeptically. 

 

“What is it?”

 

“A new drink. It reminded me of you.”

 

“Why did it remind you of me?” Jihyo asks slowly, already knowing she’s going to regret it when she hears the answer. 

 

“Because it’s bitter,” Sana answers with a sly smile, flutters her eyelashes just to get a reaction and Jihyo huffs as she removes the lid from the cup to take a sip. She winces prematurely, not quite sure why she’s even trying the drink to begin with, but her wince softens into a hum and she eyes Sana suspiciously.

 

“It’s sweet,” Jihyo mumbles. 

 

Sana’s eyes are fixed on her monitor. “I know.”

 

“But you said—“

 

Sana’s typing never wavers, but the corner of her lips lift into the faintest of smiles. “I know.”

 

Jihyo feels her cheeks burn as she tries to focus on the jumble of words in front of her. 

 

So, maybe she likes when Sana pulls stupid lines on her like it’s as easy as breathing. That’s normal, too, right? She sighs heavily when she sets the cup back down next to the other girl. 

 

Stupid Sana. 

 

[…]

 

Jihyo normally doesn’t mind the snow. She likes the festivities that winter brings—the pretty lights and seasonal drinks and the outfits that are much easier to style. And living in a city means that the snow on the roads typically doesn’t live to see the morning. 

 

Typically. 

 

She groans as she trudges along the icy sidewalk, bundled up in an embarrassing amount of sweaters that she rips off almost as soon as she steps foot into the building. She knows her hair is a mess, sadly twirls it into a bun through the mirror in the elevator before she gets to her floor and switches her snow boots for her heels, dropping the wet shoes in a plastic bag in the lunchroom. 

 

“Snow boots?” Sana’s whimsical voice giggles behind Jihyo. “Isn’t that a little bit dramatic?” She teases from where she leans against the doorway. 

 

Jihyo frowns at her. “I had to walk in the snow. You think I would’ve made it here in heels?” 

 

Sana stands straight at the words, concern overpowering the amusement that resided on her face. “You didn’t drive?” She asks. “Are you crazy?”

 

“Insane,” Jihyo corrects as she steps past Sana and toward her desk, rubbing her cold hands together. “My car doesn’t have snow tires and I wasn’t going to risk an accident early in the morning.” She spins in her chair to glance at Sana who still stands behind her, mug of coffee in her hands and small pout on her face. “It’s fine,” Jihyo laughs. “The bus stop is close to my apartment. And the sidewalks should be cleared by the time I go home.” 

 

“Oh,” Sana scoffs, waving a dismissive hand as she takes the seat next to Jihyo. “No. I’ll drive you home.” 

 

“It’s fine, Sana,” Jihyo says again. “Really. I live closeby.”

 

“Then me driving you home won’t be inconveniencing anyone,” Sana argues with a shrug and a smug smile and Jihyo knows that any argument would be futile. 

 

“Okay,” she sighs. “Thanks.”

 

Sana gives her a wink and a million dollar smile and Jihyo thinks this girl might be the death of her. 

 

//

 

As luck would have it, the snow begins to fall in a thick layer as soon as they hit the road and Sana drives at a whopping 20km/h in fear of any type of collision.  

 

“People are crazy on the road in bad weather,” she tells Jihyo like she needs justification for why she’s whiteknuckling the steering wheel and scanning every inch of the road repeatedly. 

 

They pull up to the curb of Jihyo’s building safely enough, but something in Jihyo’s stomach churns with anxiety when she thinks about Sana driving home alone in the snow. 

 

“How far do you live?” She asks. 

 

Sana’s eyes go wide like she wasn’t expecting the question, cheeks pink as she undoubtedly tries to come up with a lie that will make her travel seem less significant. “Like, right down the road?” She says uncertainly. Jihyo narrows her eyes at her until she laughs sheepishly. “It’ll be fine,” she promises. “I have snow tires and all wheel drive. I’m set,” she says with a pat against her steering wheel. 

 

Jihyo frowns thinking about how Sana would be well on her way home by now if she hadn’t driven Jihyo home. Frowns deeper at the idea of Sana driving through her obvious fear. 

 

“Why don’t you just pull into visitor parking and come up until the snow clears?” She suggests before she can tell herself what a terrible idea it is. 

 

But there really is no other alternative, is there? 

 

“It’s okay!” Sana says with a laugh, like Jihyo’s worrying is entirely unnecessary.  

 

So, Jihyo pulls out the big guns. 

 

She pouts. “Please?”

 

And it’s almost like a power trip, when Sana melts immediately. 

 

//

 

Sana loves sugar. Jihyo already knew this from the few times she’s shared drinks with the girl, the endless sugary snacks Sana seems to carry with her at all times. But she realizes it’s like, borderlining on a health concern when Sana pours sugar into the hot cocoa Jihyo makes for them once they get up to her apartment. 

 

“How do you not have cavities?” She asks in awe, watching Sana smile shyly over the mug. 

 

“I brush my teeth very well.”

 

Jihyo laughs a little at the words, settling into the corner of her couch while Sana takes the other side. It’s not as weird as Jihyo expected it to be. Sana is an extrovert through and through, able to carry a conversation like it’s her job and Jihyo is content to listen to her talk about anything under the sun as she sips on the warm drink in her hands. 

 

It’s not until an hour later that they decide to finally peek outside and Jihyo grimaces at the sight of the empty roads caked with snow. She flicks the TV onto the weather channel, watching intently as they talk about the conditions. 

 

Heavy snowfall expected late into the night. Recommend that people stay off the roads. Unsure when the snow will clear. 

 

Jihyo sighs, glancing up at Sana who’s still peering out the window, chewing harshly on the inside of her cheek. She knows what she’s going to do next is inevitable, maybe, but it doesn’t calm the swarm of nerves in her stomach when she calls, “hey,” and Sana’s worried eyes fall onto her. “Just stay the night,” she says, watching Sana’s eyes widen. “If I knew the snow would get this bad I never would’ve let you drive me home.”

 

“No,” Sana mumbles, letting the curtain fall shut again as she moves to sit in the lazy boy next to Jihyo. “I would’ve driven you regardless,” she says, and Jihyo feels something warm burst in her chest. 

 

So, maybe she likes it when Sana does nice things for her, too. 

 

“Then you’ll stay?” She pushes. 

 

Sana hesitates for a moment, glancing back at the window before turning to Jihyo with a small smile. “Okay,” she nods. “Thanks.”

 

“Okay,” Jihyo breathes. “I’ll get you—uh, something more comfortable to wear?” She says it like a question when she remembers they’re both in their work clothes, standing before Sana can say anything and trying her hardest not to think about what she’ll look like wearing Jihyo’s clothes. 

 

She comes out of her room in sweatpants and a t-shirt that she drowns in, placing a similar ensemble on the armrest next to Sana before showing her the bathroom. She pulls out two wine glasses as she waits, wondering if Sana likes red or white but her brain stops working altogether when Sana comes back out and she’s in Jihyo’s clothes and—yeah, Jihyo is absolutely screwed. 

 

“They fit,” she says dumbly, watching Sana’s eyebrows raise in amusement before she clears her throat and gestures to the wine in front of her. “Friday night drinks at home?” She offers. 

 

Sana clasps her hands together excitedly, helping Jihyo bring everything to the living room as they take their seats once more. She snaps a picture of Jihyo pouring the wine and grins deviously when she looks back up. 

 

“Nayeon is going to be so jealous,” she says, and Jihyo can barely find it in herself to be worried that Nayeon is going to know Sana spent the night at her house when Sana’s laughter at whatever Nayeon says in return sets Jihyo’s stomach on fire. 

 

And then Sana curls back into her seat, wine glass dangling between her fingers as she sets her sights on Jihyo with a devilish smile. “Park Jihyo,” she hums. “Tell me something about yourself.” 

 

Jihyo chokes out a laugh. “Is this your poor attempt at getting me to play twenty questions with you?”

 

Sana shrugs, taking a long sip from her wine. “That depends.”

 

“On?”

 

“Would you play with me if I asked?” 

 

Jihyo studies Sana’s face for a moment, letting her sip of wine slide smoothly down her throat and taking her time before she answers. “I’m an Aquarius,” she says, laughing when Sana’s eyes brighten considerably. “Favourite colour?”

 

“Pink,” Sana says easily, lips pursed as she thinks of her next question. “Worst date you’ve ever been on?” 

 

Jihyo grimaces. “It was before I knew I was gay. Enough said.”

 

Sana scrunches her nose sympathetically and Jihyo laughs at the sight.

 

//

 

They go back and forth after that, asking the most absurd questions they can think of as the night grows old, wine chipping away at their reservations and making them bolder than they should be. 

 

“Why did you get demoted?” Sana asks when it’s much later, looking at Jihyo upside down from where her head hangs over the armrest of the couch. “Or is that a sensitive subject?”

 

Jihyo narrows her eyes in a half-hearted glare. “I don’t mind telling you,” she says finally, trailing off into a laugh. “But it’s kind of trash talking your family.”

 

Sana’s laugh is hollow and over exaggerated and Jihyo doesn’t think she’s ever heard the sound from the other woman before. “Please, I haven’t seen my father in person in nearly a year. Be my guest.”

 

“Oh?” Jihyo hums. “What about all those times you’ve threatened to call your dad on someone?” Jihyo asks teasingly, her eyebrows raised and wine swirling in her glass slow enough to make her dizzy. 

 

“Empty threats,” Sana giggles hard. “I don’t think he cares too much about whether I think my coworkers are rude.” 

 

Jihyo blows out a low whistle followed by a chuckle. “You are quite the actress, Ms. Minatozaki.”

 

Sana sits up at the words, sitting cross legged and picking at non-existent lint on her t-shirt. Jihyo sits up straight as she feels the atmosphere in the room shift to something more serious. “You know, it’s a little weird,” Sana mumbles quietly. “I know a lot of people would kill to be in my position—parents that never cared what I did, funded all of my bad habits without knowing. I know it’s selfish, sometimes, that I wish I had something different...” she trails off. “But then again, I’ve never really been selfless,” she sighs with a tight-lipped smile. 

 

“Hey,” Jihyo pipes up, lifting one shoulder to her ear in a half-hearted shrug. “You offered to drive me home in the snow even though you looked like you were going to pass out the whole time. That’s pretty selfless, isn’t it?”

 

Sana scoffs. “I wasn’t going to pass out,” she argues. “The roads were dangerous!” Jihyo gives her a knowing look as she leans forward to refill their glasses. “And it was your turn to answer, by the way,” Sana adds expectantly. 

 

Jihyo sinks deeper into the couch, lips pursed in thought. “My mom passed away two years ago,” she finally says—quickly, like ripping off a bandaid. “Right around busy season. I got two days of leave and then was expected to be back in top condition for work. But, obviously…” She trails off, nodding awkwardly in lieu of the rest of her sentence. “Anyway, my numbers started going down. I had to take care of my sister more often because it hit my dad hard and then—boom, demotion during the annual evaluation.”

 

Sana frowns so deeply that Jihyo worries her face may get stuck like that. “You couldn’t have talked to any superiors?” She asks. Jihyo smiles at the naivety. 

 

“I did,” she hums. “I fought the case all the way to the top—your dad.”

 

“Of course,” Sana nods with a roll of her eyes. “Zero sympathy, I’m assuming?”

 

“None,” Jihyo laughs. “Anyway, that was also why I had to leave work that day to pick up my sister. My dad spends the whole day at the cemetery on the anniversary and it’s just so much easier to keep her with me.”

 

Sana’s eyebrows furrow together at the words before realizations dawns on her and—“Oh, shit,” she winces. “The sale was the day after—”

 

“Don’t start,” Jihyo groans. 

 

“I’m definitely going to hell,” Sana mumbles into her wine. 

 

“No, you’re not,” Jihyo says, head tipped back in laughter. “Well, not for that at least.” 

 

“Hey!”

 

//

 

Jihyo isn’t quite sure how they start playing Mario Kart, but they do. Sana suggests that the loser strips an item of clothing until Jihyo reminds her with burning cheeks that they’re both in barely more than two pieces and that game would end very, very quickly. 

 

So, they decide to share secrets, because learning about each other becomes something of an addiction the more they unravel and Sana whines loudly when she loses for the third time in a row. 

 

“You’re cheating,” she decides. And then, “I didn’t want to work for the company.” 

 

Jihyo looks at her patiently, gently. “Then what did you want to be?”

 

“A teacher,” Sana laughs, shy for reasons that Jihyo doesn’t understand. “It’s kind of silly.”

 

“I could see it,” Jihyo promises. “I think you’d do well.”

 

Sana smiles in a peculiar way, like she doesn’t know how to react to the words. “Next round is mine, Park,” is all she says, and Jihyo can’t help the fondness that spills from her throat in a laugh. 

 

She feels something bubbling up in her chest as they speed through the track that she knows like the back of her hand. Something that she’s been trying to ignore for way too long, she realizes with a dreadful, internal groan. It makes her think about how much has changed between her and Sana since they first met, how quickly Sana won Jihyo over despite all their initial conflict. 

 

So, maybe she wants to kiss Sana. And maybe she wants to sleep with her. And maybe she like likes Sana and maybe—maybe she wants Sana to know. 

 

She slips purposely on a banana at the far side of the track and Sana jumps off the couch in sheer excitement when she finally wins, pointing a finger at Jihyo with a brilliant smile and wine-tinted cheeks. “Fess up,” she says. So, Jihyo does. 

 

“I want to kiss you really badly.”

 

Sana stops her jumping, lips parting slightly and eyes just the tiniest bit rounder at the words and Jihyo stands to her feet before she can stop herself. 

 

“I don’t really know when it happened—well, yes I do. It was that night at the club, or maybe before and I didn’t realize it but that’s not the point,” she rambles on and on, surely beet red by this point as Sana stares determinedly at her mouth like she’s trying her best to understand the words that are coming out of it. “I realized this is going to be very awkward if you don’t feel the same,” she whispers. “You can still have my bed.”

 

“Jihyo?” Sana says. 

 

“Mhm?”

 

“Just shut up and kiss me.”

 

//

 

Later, when they lay side by side on Jihyo’s bed, all swollen lips and dopey smiles, Sana curls her palm over Jihyo’s fingers with a sigh. 

 

“I’m sorry for acting dumb and making your job hard for so long.”

 

“I’m sorry for calling you incorrigible behind your back.”

 

“Hey…” Sana pouts. 

 

“Even?”

 

“Even.”

 

//

 

(The next morning, Jihyo notices three things as she wakes up. First, the sun spilling in waves between her curtains and rousing her into consciousness. Second, her unwavering determination to succeed. And third—

 

“Good morning.”

 

Sana’s sleepy brown eyes crinkling with her smile.)




END.













Jihyo runs her sweaty palms down the thighs of her pants, flattens any creases that might’ve made a home in the collar of her shirt in the five minutes since she last checked it. Her head tips back as Sana pours a sip of water into her mouth to prevent her lipstick from smudging and she looks up at the girl worriedly. 

 

“Stop making that face,” Sana says sternly. “You’ll be fine.”

 

“They’re not going to promote me,” Jihyo groans. “They’re probably going to find a way to demote me again. To, like, a mail courier, or something.”

 

“I think you get more dramatic every day,” Nayeon pipes up from behind Sana, face covered in amusement as she watches Jihyo go through every stage of grief before she’s even been given bad news. 

 

“I’ll probably be demoted,” Tzuyu hums. Jihyo turns in her seat to frown at the girl. 

 

“Hey,” she starts. “Don’t say that.”

 

Tzuyu shrugs. “I don’t mind. This job was only fun because I got to work with you.”

 

And Jihyo feels that twisted sense of guilt again—the one that bubbles up whenever she’s reminded of how kind Tzuyu really is. 

 

“We’ll get to work together again,” she promises. “And I—uh, I have fun working with you, too,” she adds awkwardly, ignoring the laugh of disbelief shared between Sana and Nayeon. 

 

“Did I miss it?” Momo's loud voice booms through the office as she rushes to a stop in front of Jihyo. 

 

“Nope,” Jeongyeon hums. “Just in time.”

 

“Oh, dude,” Momo barks out in a laugh. “You look like you’re about to hurl.” 

 

“Maybe because you’re all crowding around me,” Jihyo huffs as she digs her fingers into her temples. 

 

“We’re just trying to share our good vibes with you,” Chaeyoung adds in, eyes shimmering with playfulness and a boisterous laugh that Jihyo childishly mimics before she spins back around to face her desk. 

 

Dahyun peeks over the top, looking at Jihyo sheepishly. “Uh, good luck,” she says, reaching a closed fist over the divider. “I hope you get that promotion,” she says once Jihyo taps her own fist against it. 

 

Jihyo softens at the words. “Thanks, Dahyunnie,” she mumbles gently, receiving a broad smile before Dahyun disappears behind her computer once more. 

 

“Park,” Mina’s voice calls from a few metres away. Jihyo raises her eyebrows expectantly and sees Mina’s promising smile. “Good luck today.”

 

“Thank you,” Jihyo breathes, watches Mina give her an assuring nod before she disappears into her office. “Shit. It’s time to go,” she says with a heavy sigh, standing to her feet and adjusting the watch on her wrist before Jeongyeon’s hand stops her. 

 

“Hey,” Jeongyeon calls, waiting for Jihyo’s nervous eyes to meet hers. “You’ll kill it,” she promises. 

 

Jihyo returns her smile weakly. “Or they’ll kill me,” she sighs before she’s being tugged away by Sana. 

 

She talks a few deep, calming breaths when they come to a stop out of the meeting room down the hall, feeling her nerves calm just slightly when she meets Sana’s eyes. 

 

“It’s going to be fine,” Sana says like she just knows, and Jihyo wish she could ask her how. Wish she could take some of that confidence for herself. “Go get ‘em,” Sana adds, darting forward to press a kiss to the corner of Jihyo’s lips before patting her butt and sending her inside. 

 

//

 

Jihyo is used to rejection by now—the dreadful sinking feeling that fills her gut when she connects the dots hidden beneath the kind words to understand that no, she won’t be getting the promotion. She feels herself zoning out as the two men speak at her, talking about numbers and salaries and sales and things that she doesn’t have to capacity to understand when all she can think about is how stupid she was for getting her hopes up. 

 

“We’re sorry, Ms. Park,” she hears finally, putting on her best appreciative smile as she nods in understanding. “We know you were hoping to get your old position back this year, but the loss of that sale was extremely detrimental.”

 

And it takes everything in her not to scoff at the fake sympathy. She nods again, finding difficulty speaking as she moves to stand up. 

 

Just before she reaches out for a handshake, an insincere thank you on the tip of her tongue, the door to the meeting room swings open and Sana steps in and Jihyo feels her stomach swoop as she sits back down. 

 

“I’m sorry, I was just passing by and I couldn’t help but overhear. Did I misinterpret that, or was Ms. Park just being reprimanded for the falling through with a partnership from earlier this year?” Sana asks like she’s really concerned. Jihyo grips the arms of her chair tightly, completely unsure of where she’s going with this. 

 

“That partnership would’ve been one of the biggest gains of this year,” the man on the left says, clearly bored and irritated by Sana’s appearance. “It was a colossal deficit to lose it.”

 

“I’m assuming you were the one who cleared the sale in the first place, then?” Sana prods, smiling when the man nods. “Well, then, I’m sure you’re aware that the company who you believed would profit us so much has had a 23.1% rise in greenhouse gas emissions in the past five years. And, for us, that would mean an eventual decline in public interest as climate change and renewable energy sources become more important than ever.”

 

“Well, I—”

 

“And if you were aware of this, then surely you must’ve been aware of TDOONGs mission to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions substantially in the next five years. Which means you put a great deal of emphasis on a partnership that would set our goal back by years.”

 

The two men share a glance, stammering over themselves as they try to refute Sana’s words. Jihyo knows she looks absolutely stupid, staring slack-jawed at the woman, but she can’t find the strength to shut her mouth when she’s so in awe of the confidence she’s exuding as she speaks. 

 

“I think my father would be very, very interested in knowing why the people he leaves in charge aren’t doing their best to uphold the TDOONG values. But, I also know Ms. Park would’ve done a wonderful job of vetting the prospective partner had she been the department head taking the project on.”

 

“Your father?” The gruff man on the right asks with a scoff. “Who’s your father?”

 

Sana smiles all sugary sweet and innocent. “The CEO of this company.”

 

The reaction is near immediate—the men straighten their backs, drop their scowls. “Ms. Minatozaki,” they say almost in unison. “There’s no need to involve your father in this matter. We can arrange an opening with Ms. Myoui and move Ms. Park to a department head position for the upcoming term.”

 

“Excellent,” Sana sighs. “I’m glad we could work this out.”

 

//

 

Jihyo feels hysterical laughter bubbling up her throat as she pulls Sana farther away from the meeting room and into a small nook before she bursts into giggles. Sana’s smile is entirely unabashed—teeth on display in a wide grin as she watches Jihyo laugh before she’s being pulled in for a hug. 

 

“I can’t believe you just did that,” Jihyo mumbles. “You are the most infuriatingly entitled person I have ever met,” she sighs, forehead pressed to Sana’s shoulder as her own body shakes with disbelieving laughter. 

 

“Is that a compliment?” Sana asks, curling a stray piece of Jihyo’s hair around her finger. 

 

Jihyo looks up at her through narrowed eyes. “Yes. Yes, it is.”

 

Jihyo looks up and down the hallway, leaning up to kiss Sana and revelling in the surprised squeak the girl lets out before she melts into it. Jihyo hums in content, feeling Sana’s warm hands slide against her back. 

 

“Will you go out with me?” Sana asks when they pull apart, brown eyes wide and curious and Jihyo is nodding before the words are fully out. “Tonight?”

 

Jihyo nods again. “Of course,” she says. She’s about to say something terribly cheesy, like, whenever you want me or something worse, maybe when a throat clearing behind them makes them pull apart and Seulgi’s face is red from the other end of the hall. 

 

“This might be an awkward time to remind you that you do need to disclose any workplace relationships to me at some point,” she says meekly, eyes fixed on the ground. 

 

Sana sighs like she’s walking on air, Jihyo’s hand firmly grasped in her own as she walks up to Seulgi and pats her on the back. “No need, Seul,” she hums. “I quit.”

 

Jihyo follows behind her with an apologetic smile to Seulgi. 

 

So, maybe she likes absolutely everything about Sana. So what?