Gotham is a city with a sickness.
Maybe it’s something in the water, something in the smog that drapes itself across the skyscrapers like a bodybag over a steel cadaver.
But there’s the joke, Nayeon thinks. It’s not dead yet.
For a scavenger and a stray like her, there are still scraps left.
Tonight, Nayeon is looking for better prey. Jeongyeon will be disappointed, but she’s used to that now. The hard edges of their — what to call it? Partnership? — have been worn down over the years. It’s friendly. And what Jeongyeon doesn’t know won’t kill her.
Nayeon stretches her arms over her head, the leather pulling tighter around her body. Below her, the atrium of the museum presents itself like the vulnerable, fallow underbelly of a hare. She unsheaths her claws from her glove, carving a circle across the now-tender glass.
The actual pleasure of burglary isn’t just in the trespassing. Any idiot can hop a fence or break-in an apartment door. Those are simple, silly boundaries.
The idiot looks at a building and simply sees the paths the architect intended for the idiot.
But burglary is usually a tribute to the true, artistic spirit of the person who sculpted a structure of concrete and steel out of one blank square of space on Gotham’s map. This is something Jeongyeon will never understand. Nayeon has made her peace with that.
Sometimes, however, burglary is like the divine punishment of mistakes. Nayeon’s eye has been trained for the blind spots of corners, the misplaced windows, the forgotten skylight left ajar on the roof.
An atrium over a museum is too easy. It’s as bright and easy as a dish of milk left out.
Nayeon snorts at the thought as she lowers herself into the pristine, jarringly white interior of the museum. She stalks through the halls, her steps light and invisible on the white marble tile, before coming to the jewelry displays.
It’s all gaudy, ridiculous stuff. Nothing Nayeon would wear, but it sells.
Gotham has really given up, just leaving priceless jewels laying around for any old thief to snatch.
It’s too easy.
Which is why, when Nayeon delicately lifts the necklace from its blue velvet cushion, the alarms blare.
Nayeon hates loud noises. Jeongyeon has always said that’s ironic, considering what type of person she is, but her heartbeat rockets and an instant sheen of sweat coats her body beneath the leather jumpsuit and —
Oh fucking hell. It’s Jeongyeon.
“Well, I can’t say I’m surprised,” the other woman says. She’s perched up on one of the signature gargoyles that dot this city like chicken pox. Nayeon has always thought that Jeongyeon would be out of a job in any other city in America. There just isn’t an explanation for why every architect agreed to make the perfect environment for a bat obsessed—
“Nayeon,” Jeongyeon huffs. “Put it back.”
Nayeon spins the necklace around her fingers. “No.”
“You don’t even need the money.”
“True,” Nayeon grins. “But it would be nice.”
The alarms are still wailing.
“Better get going quick, Jeongie. Wouldn’t want them to know you let me go again.”
With one last frown, Jeongyeon grapples away, swinging back out to Gotham. There are better villains to hunt. That’s the entire spirit of their pact. Nayeon doesn’t snap any necks, Jeongyeon doesn’t arrest her. Easy.
Another condition of Nayeon’s agreement with Jeongyeon is that she’ll go to therapy for her ‘kleptomaniac tendencies.’
In all fairness, it’s Nayeon’s opinion that some addictions are responsible for keeping people alive. Anyone who survives in Gotham doesn’t do so without some substance, some obsession, some easy feedback of pleasure that lets them clear the monotony of living in Hell on Earth.
Myoui Mina sits across from Nayeon in an antique armchair, glasses pushed to the end of her nose.
“I stole something from the museum,” Nayeon begins, in a drawl.
Mina scratches lightly at her notebook with a fountain pen. “Did you try not to?”
“Nope.” Nayeon pops.
“Ms. Im,” Mina sighs. “Your time slot could be better used for a client that actually wants to change their behavior. Every week you sit across from me and list everything from low-level misdemeanors to life-in-prison felonies. I’m beginning to think what you really want is just companionship.”
Nayeon scoffs. The nerve. “I’m paying you, aren’t I?”
“Yes, but ethically I’m compelled to end our professional relationship.”
“Ethically,” Nayeon screeches. “You’re dating the Joker!”
It’s one of the unfortunate little quirks of living in Gotham. It’s a big city, but the people never change. Especially in a business like Nayeon’s, you end up knowing all the dirty little secrets of even the most prim psychologists.
“Jihyo is lovely, thank you for asking.” There’s a flash of something else in Mina’s eyes. Something wild, even when her voice is so soft.
“Well, do me a solid and keep sending the bills to Batwoman.” Nayeon rises from the chaise she was splayed out on, pushing past the door before Mina can make any other moral stands.
Nayeon has friends. Jeongyeon, basically. And her little sidekick can be funny. And Jeongyeon’s butler has a soft spot for Nayeon, she swears it. And —
Another component of the deal with Jeongyeon is to attend Sunday dinner every week at her mansion.
It’s a classic ‘my family is dead’ move. Nayeon has suggested that Jeongyeon get a therapist too, solve her own swarm of issues, but the woman just smirks into her wine glass.
Fucking rich people.
Tonight, Jeongyeon’s butler has prepared prime rib.
Personally, Nayeon prefers chicken or fish or just not having to be in the presence of other people, but it’s a free meal.
Jeongyeon sits at the head of the table, cutting her steak meticulously into smaller and smaller pieces.
The butler, Tzuyu, hovers beside her, a handkerchief already pulled from her pocket.
Chaeyoung, Jeongyeon’s annoyingly loyal sidekick, is smacking happily on a dangerously large slice of meat.
Chaeyoung’s mouth pops closed, but she reaches across the white tablecloth for the bottle of ketchup.
“Please don’t,” Tzuyu whispers, but it’s too late. The prime rib is smothered in sauce now, all natural flavor down the drain.
“How was therapy?”
Nayeon chews thoughtfully. “You know, I think we made a breakthrough.”
“She’s joking,” Tzuyu whispers helpfully in Jeongyeon’s ear.
Tzuyu had offered to drive her back into the city, as the butler always did, and Nayeon rejected the offer, as she always did. It was nice to be out at night, even just in her street clothes. It was a brisk night, the light pollution from inner Gotham making the whole sky glow orange.
She’s passing one of the city graveyards when her shoulders tense.
It’s one of the weird quirks that have become instinct. That her body sometimes senses something before her mind does.
In this case, it’s a woman over a grave.
No. She isn’t weeping. She’s holding a shovel.
Curiosity gets the best of Nayeon. She slips her mask out of her bag — just in case — and quickly scales one of the drooping willows over the graves.
The woman has offensively bright red hair. She hacks at the earth, a pile of dirt rising with each strike. Her outfit, where it isn’t stained with soil, is an iridescent green.
Nayeon is aware of Poison Ivy. It’s hard to not be with how much Jeongyeon complains about her. But the reality is that Nayeon has never actually met the woman. It’s against her personal code of criminal ethics to work with anyone else.
“Grave robbing,” Nayeon calls from her perch. “I didn’t know you were into that type of thing.”
The other woman, unconcerned, peeks over the top of the hole. “A girl has to eat.”
“You’re disgusting,” Nayeon scoffs, slinking down the branches to pad across the soft, horrifyingly lush grass.
“There’s actually —” Poison Ivy grunts as she flings another shovelful up, nearly hitting Nayeon, “radiation in this coffin. It’s hurting the —”
“The plants, yeah. I’ve read through your criminal record.”
“Oh, so you’re a fan?” Again, Poison Ivy gets on her tiptoes to stare up.
Nayeon is about to reject this, but she hears wood crack open and then a squeal of delight from below. Just as Nayeon prepares another quip about the other woman’s obvious perversions, she hears the too-close wail of a police siren.
“That’s probably for me,” Poison Ivy sighs, lifting herself out of the open grave. In her hands, she cradles a large, purplish mushroom.
Red, blue, and white lights flash through the trees, fracturing the calm dark of before.
Nayeon leaps back to the willow. “I’m assuming you have an escape plan.”
“Not really,” Poison Ivy smiles.
“What kind of half-baked necrophiliac are you, not having a —?”
“Then save me.”
Ten minutes later Nayeon shivers on an apartment complex rooftop, Poison Ivy peeking over the edge, mushroom still cradled in her arms as if it’s a child.
Below them, the cops are scrambling through the streets, searchlights out. But they won’t find them. Nayeon made sure of it.
“You’re quite the hero,” Poison Ivy smirks, but there’s no toxicity to it.
“Don’t get used to it.”
She’s unperturbed.“Can I have your number?”
Nayeon gawks. “We’re not, like, a team now.”
“That’s not why I was asking.”
It doesn’t even sound like her own voice when she says, “Yeah. Okay.”
Poison Ivy bounces giddily, offering her own cellphone from a hidden pocket in her green suit. Nayeon types in her contact, saving it as simply ‘Catwoman’. Poison Ivy does the same, though she saves her name as ‘Sana’ with a smattering of plant emojis beside it; a mushroom, a hibiscus, a cactus, a four-leaf clover.
They pass their phones back. Before Sana can get another word out, Nayeon hops down, then scales across the rooftops toward her apartment.
Nayeon bursts through the door of Mina’s office, five minutes early for their appointment. “I made a friend,” she pants, sinking onto the velvet chaise.
Mina huffs, flipping to a fresh page in her notepad. “A friend.”
Mina gestures at the space between them, which is usually her consent for a monologue.
“We had one conversation, but I think it went well. She’s a little weird, but, you know. Beggars can’t be choosers and all that.”
“How did you meet?”
“In a park. We went for a walk.”
Mina frowns. Damn that psychology doctorate. “You went for a walk in a park?”
Nayeon shrugs. Jeongyeon really just pays this hack to repeat her own words back to her.
“Did you steal anything on this walk?”
“No,” Nayeon retorts. It’s natural to lie. But — oh. She hadn’t actually stolen anything that day. She had been planning to loot a gas station before she got to her apartment, just to take the edge off, but after she met Sana she had just gone back to her apartment to lay in bed and stare at the blank lockscreen of her phone.
Mina doesn’t need to know any of that.
“Well, this is certainly progress,” the therapist nods, scratching quickly on her notepad. “What’s your plan?”
“My plan.” Two can play at the copycat game.
“For the progression of your friendship.”
“Oh.” Nayeon looks down at her hands. She hates seeing them like this, just bare skin and short-cut nails, instead of leather and steel. “I’m waiting for her to call me.”
“Why can’t you call her?”
What an idiot. “It would be weird.”
“She gave you her number,” Mina says flatly.
“That doesn’t mean—”
“It’s exactly what it means, Nayeon.”
Nayeon paces in her apartment, the weight of the cellphone in her pocket more like a ball and chain than anything else.
She snatches a wilted flower from one of her many Ming dynasty vases — all stolen, of course — and begins to rip the petals off.
Don’t call her.
Miraculously, Nayeon’s phone buzzes erratically in her pocket. She yanks it out, only to see Jeongyeon’s unflattering contact photo light up the screen.
“Fuck it.” She rejects the call and flips through to Sana’s. She hits the call button before she can stop herself, and waits.
The dial tone mocks her.
But then —
“Hey.” Sana’s voice sounds different over the phone, a little higher pitched.
“Hey.” Nayeon bites her lip.
On the other end, she hears a little rustling. Then, “I’ve been wondering when you’re going to call me.”
“I was wondering when you’re going to call me.” Nayeon means for it to be teasing, but her voice is too slow, too dark for that.
“I made the first move.” Sana chirps. “The call was up to you.”
“Well. Here it is.” Nayeon begins to pace again, twisting the stem of the flower in her hands.
“Cute,” Sana sighs. “Oh. Hold on a second.”
Nayeon can hear the other woman place the phone down, and then some inhuman snarls and squeaks.
A minute of confusion later, Sana pants into the receiver. “Sorry, Momo required attention.”
“What’s a Momo?”
“Who is a Momo,” Sana corrects cheerily. “I’ll send you a picture.”
Nayeon’s phone buzzes and she glances down at a picture of a gigantic, gaping Venus flytrap.
“She’s cute, right?”
Nayeon takes another look at the photo. It almost looks like it’s smiling.
“Yeah. Listen, I was actually calling to ask if you wanted to do something.”
Sana hums. “Like what?”
“Maybe go for a walk. In a park.”
Alright. Fuck Mina, fuck Jeongyeon, fuck Sana. Nayeon is about to hit the end call icon when Sana’s laughter floats through the phone.
“Come over, kitten.”
“I don’t know where you —” Her phone buzzes. It’s an address. “Alright. In an hour?”
“In an hour.”
“What should I wear?”
“Something comfortable.” She can almost feel Sana’s smile. Maybe because she’s smiling too.
Nayeon doesn’t actually dress comfortably. It’s a little too vulnerable to turn up to a supervillain's greenhouse in a hoodie, so she comes prepared. Full leather bodysuit, claws, mask, the whole thing. She nabs a bouquet of flowers outside a florist on the way.
Poison Ivy — no, Sana, — lives on the outskirts of Gotham. It’s funny, because Jeongyeon has been searching for the actual location for months, and here it is. A towering, overgrown greenhouse lit inside with purple lights.
Nayeon knocks on the glass door and it immediately swings open. Not because Sana opened it, but because the tendrils of a thick vine have hooked around the handle.
“Hello?” Nayeon doesn’t want to overstep. She peeks her head in. There are misters spraying the plants. All overgrown, all lush. It’s not like anything else in this sick, dying city.
“Hey.” Sana jogs across the lane between plots. She’s dressed in an over-sized, slightly ripped t-shirt, with baggy jeans and worn sneakers. Her hair, however, is as offensively red as always. “You’re hurt!”
Sana snatches the bouquet of flowers from her hands. “Thank God you rescued them,” she mutters, snatching an empty pot and a hoze, quickly filling it and then tenderly placing the flowers inside.
“You’re such a stereotype,” Nayeon half-laughs, wrapping her arms self-consciously around herself. The bodysuit was a mistake. Coming on a little too strong.
Sana just cocks her head to the side, eyebrows furrowed in confusion. “See. Now I’m a cat.” Her face breaks into an easy smile.
After that, Sana gives a way too thorough tour of the greenhouse. Every plant has a name, which Nayeon apparently needs to know, as well as an origin story which Sana relays animatedly, even when it only amounts to ‘I saw it outside.’
Momo is, by far, the most interesting and temperamental of the plants. ‘She’, as Sana dictated, towers over a flimsy mattress in the center of the greenhouse.
“Is it — she friendly?”
“Not really,” Sana smiles affectionately. “I wouldn’t—”
Nayeon pokes Momo’s stem. It’s about as thick as her arm. The wide pink mouth of the plant suddenly dips and well, Nayeon thinks, it was a good life, all things —
Sana snatches her by the shoulders, pulling her back and out of Momo’s reach. But it’s equally dangerous, just in a different way. Sana’s breath is warm against her neck, her fingers curled protectively around Nayeon’s shoulders, her sickly sweet scent emanating.
“Now we’ve saved each other,” Sana breathes. There’s humor to it, but her voice is so quiet it betrays something else. Something Nayeon isn’t ready for.
“Damn it, I just came to collect my check.”
Sana retracts, her lips trying to twist into a smile.
“I mean, because now we’re even. So now you don’t have to pay—”
“I get it.” Sana plops down on the mattress. “It’s funny.”
Nayeon shifts awkwardly, looking for any sort of distraction, until Sana takes pity and gently pats the space next to her.
The woman sits, leaving a fair amount of space between Sana’s legs and her’s. “I’m sorry,” she starts. “I don’t really have any friends. So I’m not really sure how to do this.”
“You want to be friends,” Sana repeats slowly.
Is everyone in this city a goddamn therapist?
“Yes.” Nayeon crosses her legs, as uncomfortable as it is with the tight leather. “Because that’s what you want, right?”
“I think you’re hot.”
If Nayeon had a penny for everytime she heard that one, well. No. She’d still be a thief.
She waits for Sana to take it back, to apologize or fluster or do any of the myriad of things that mean she realizes it was maybe a bit of an overstep. But the woman just smiles, her eyes never wavering from Nayeon’s. They’re a honey color, brown but refracting the light in prisms and —
“Cute,” Nayeon breathes.
This week, Nayeon is ten minutes late for her session with Mina. She likes to keep the therapist on her toes. It’s one of her many acts of rebellion.
“Did you call your friend,” Mina starts, pushing her glasses down her nose.
“Yes. But not because you told me to.”
“Right.” Mina jots something down. Probably a note to ask Jeongyeon for more money. “So what happened?”
“We went to the zoo.”
Mina simply nods.
“And we talked. I don’t know. It was nice.”
Again, Mina is silent. Nayeon has figured out this is one of her techniques — just let other people do all the talking. Unfortunately, she always falls for it.
“I think she has a crush on me. And you’re going to ask me how I feel about that. And I’m going to say that I don’t know how to feel, because I basically don’t know her at all. But it might be nice. To be with someone again.”
It had been two years since her thing with Jeongyeon ended. Since then it was nothing but casual flings and some colorful trips to the —
“Does she know you’re in recovery?”
“Why would she need to know that? Also I am not recovering. You’re doing a shit job.”
Mina is immovable. “Did you steal anything this week?”
Nayeon huffs. “No, but that doesn’t mean anything. I’ve just been busy.”
“She texts me a lot.” Sana sends pictures of her plants almost constantly, demanding a stream of emoji reactions for each one. She also sends links to fairly depressing articles about the environment. Nayeon has read every single one and responded with appropriately angry rants about Gotham’s water management policies.
“You, a kleptomaniac, are not stealing things because a girl is texting you?”
Before Nayeon storms out, she makes sure to give a diatribe about how a PhD doesn’t mean shit anymore in the convoluted inflation of —
For the next week, it goes on like this. Late at night, when she can’t sleep, she slinks over to Sana’s greenhouse. The woman is always busy, but it’s nice to watch her make her rounds, watering the plants and cooing to them and feeding Momo rats.
Momo has actually become acclimated to Nayeon’s presence, to the degree that she can safely sit on the mattress for extended periods of time without fear of being lunged at.
It’s one of these nights, Nayeon splayed out, Sana busying herself with compost pile, that Jeongyeon calls. Again.
Nayeon’s been rejecting her, but —
“Where the fuck are you?”
“Hey to you too,” Nayeon grins against the receiver. “Miss me that much?”
Sana looks over her shoulder, eyebrows quirked.
‘Batwoman,’ Nayeon mouths.
“I’ve been calling you.”
“I’ve been ignoring you. Guess that’s how it works, huh?”
“Joker is on a rampage at city hall.”
“Alright, fine. I’m very busy —” Nayeon catches Sana’s smirk. “But I’ll see if I can fit you in.”
She hangs up before Jeongyeon can curse.
“Hero duties,” Sana asks gently.
“I hate that word.” Nayeon gets up off the bed. She’s been toning down her attire bit by bit. Today she’s just in an oversized hoodie and trackpants, but the leather tracksuit is underneath. Just in case. It’s hot as hell, but now it’s come in handy.
Before she leaves, Sana snatches her arm and presses a brief, warm kiss to her cheek. “Be safe.”
That’s the fun part, Nayeon thinks, as she scales city hall’s walls. Everything with Sana is new. With Jeongyeon, they had played the hot and cold game for years before it — well, it didn’t exactly go well.
But with Sana, even at such a slow pace, every conversation and look carries something exciting. It’s actually fun.
By the time she gets inside, Jihyo has already been arrested. She sits in her purple pinstripe suit on a pulled out chair, Jeongyeon pacing in front of her while Chaeyoung catalogues the Joker’s many handguns.
“Seems like you got it all figured out,” Nayeon drawls, coming up to lean into Jeongyeon’s side. It’s still a bit too natural. Something about the suit makes her feel like her old self, when it was like this.
Jeongyeon, however, stiffens and shifts away. “A lot of people got shot.”
Jihyo mumbles against the handkerchief stuffed in her mouth. Nayeon prances up, bending down to whisper, “I’ll say hi to Mina for you.”
The therapist looks a little worse for wear this week. There are bags under her eyes, a twitch in her fingers, as she tiredly begins their session.
“Sucks about Jihyo,” Nayeon starts. She can’t resist.
“She’s mentally ill.” Mina clicks her pen erratically. “She needs help not Arkham.”
“Sure.” Nayeon leans back on the chaise, stretching her arms. “Let’s talk about me.”
Mina slumps, but dutifully pulls out her notepad.
“My friend and I are doing well.”
“Are you still only visiting her at her home?”
Nayeon frowns. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything.”
“It seems like this girl has been a good distraction for you,” the therapist says cautiously. “But an important component in any relationship is sharing yourself. Letting her into your space, your apartment, could be a good step in establishing that.”
The irony of taking relationship advice from the Joker’s girlfriend is not lost on Nayeon.
But, all things considered, if Mina can make it work with a total psychopath, Nayeon can make it work with a more stable supervillain.
She calls Sana a few nights later, simply saying ‘come over’ and hanging up. That way, if there’s a rejection, she’ll be fine. She’ll be totally okay. She’ll get over it. She’ll —
Sana texts ‘where lol.’
Half an hour later, Sana is standing outside her door. Through the peephole, Nayeon can see that she’s cradling a small purple pot with a cactus in it.
Jeongyeon had never come over. She would have hated the decorations — all stolen, all priceless.
But Sana dances through the apartment, grinning up at the Edward Hopper paintings and royal jewels and terracotta soldiers. She places the cactus on the windowsill, instructing that she shouldn’t keep the curtains closed during the day anymore.
“I don’t really have anything to cook.” Nayeon hunches in front of the fridge. “But I do have some day old take-out.”
They eat on the couch, little bits of rice dropping down and getting wedged between the cushions.
“You stole all of this,” Sana asks between bites, gesturing at the living room with her chopsticks.
“Even the food,” Nayeon grins.
“I’ve been wanting to ask you,” the other woman hums, dabbing at her lips with a napkin. “Why are you friends with Batwoman?”
“I’m not.” That’s the instinctual response. Not the honest one. “Well. It’s sort of complicated. We used to have this thing, and then we didn’t, but we’re — I think we care about each other on a basic, human level.”
Sana nods thoughtfully, then tucks back into her food.
The silence is not comfortable. Not anymore.
Fuck Mina and her stupid degree. That was clearly the wrong thing to say, even if it was true.
Nayeon is festering when Sana reaches out, laying her hand on Nayeon’s knee.
“How did you feel when I kissed you?”
“You didn’t kiss me.”
“I did.” Sana smiles. It’s almost sad. “On the cheek.”
“Oh.” Nayeon bites her lip. Does Sana want the truth? Or will it just lead to another silence?
“Because I want to kiss you again,” Sana continues, her honey-colored eyes imploring. “But I don’t want to misread this.”
“It felt good.” Nayeon blurts. “I thought about it all night. I was smiling like an idiot the whole time I —”
Sana cups her cheeks, angling Nayeon’s face delicately. “Make it even.”
Nayeon stretches upward, because Sana is sitting up on her knees. Her lips are soft, gentle, but playful. The kiss changes every few breaths — simple at first, but then there’s a dart of tongue and a hand in her hair and Sana’s legs frame Nayeon’s hips.
Nayeon arches up, wanting more contact, more skin against skin. The leather bodysuit she’s wearing beneath her button-down and jeans strains against her muscles.
Sana must feel it too, the layers, and she retracts slightly. Her face is flushed, but her eyes are calm.
“What will it take,” she pants, “for you to let your guard down?”
There isn’t an answer. Not an easy one, anyways, not a short one. She tells Sana this. Because honesty, or whatever.
“I can wait,” Sana murmurs, her hands smoothing Nayeon’s hair back down.
Miraculously, it isn’t awkward. They watch a documentary and Sana holds her hand through the whole thing. When both of them begin to helplessly yawn, Sana presses a too-brief kiss to Nayeon’s lips and slips away.
When Nayeon wakes up in the morning, awkwardly curled up on the couch, the first thing she does is part the curtains beside the cactus. Usually she likes to keep them shut. Any old weirdo with binoculars could peek in and see her collection. She really can’t stand burglars.
She’s dreading her next session with Mina, so she makes sure to arrive twenty minutes early. They might as well both suffer.
She explains the basics of her night with Sana, all while Mina writes furiously on her notepad.
“This is actually good,” Mina hums, flipping to a fresh sheet. “Boundaries are a fundamental part of building a healthy relationship.”
“I’ve never exactly been good with boundaries.” Nayeon thinks of buildings. Without walls and roofs and awnings, burglary wouldn’t actually be possible. You need the physicality of it, the puzzle. Otherwise you’re just conquering empty space, which is the same as politely walking on a sidewalk. Which Nayeon will never get caught dead doing.
“This is an opportunity for you,” Mina stresses. “Do you actually have an answer for why you won’t let your guard down?”
“Well, it’s not like last time worked out super well.”
Mina nods. She’s heard this before. The trademark Jeongyeon Rant.
“But Sa — this girl isn’t Jeongyeon.” Nayeon knows she’s playing right into Mina’s hand here. But whatever.
“Exactly!” Mina claps her hands together in a rare show of emotion. “This is a clean slate, and so far you’re doing very well.”
“Don’t get too excited.” But Nayeon is smiling. Desperate not to meet Mina’s eyes, she glances around the room. On the windowsill, there’s a small cactus. “Wait. What is that?”
Mina turns, following Nayeon’s pointed finger. “Oh. That’s just a gift.”
“From a client?”
“No.” Mina clicks her pen. “From a friend. Well. An ex.”
Nayeon is aware that what she does next is not exactly in line with the whole ‘being a good, sane person’ deal.
But fuck the deal.
The second Sana picks up the phone, she starts. “Is that your slick little move Sana? Go over to a girl’s house with a cactus, leave it on the windowsill, marking your territory like some sort of sexy dog that —”
“Kitten,” Sana whines into the phone. “I just woke up.”
“It’s the middle of the goddamn afternoon,” Nayeon spits. Then, small. “Did you have a rough night?”
“Yes, I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”
Nayeon rages again. “You’re a two-timing, tree-hugging —”
“You saw Mina’s cactus,” Sana hums. “I didn’t know you were going to therapy.”
“I’m in recovery,” Nayeon seethes.
“Mina and I broke up when she met Jihyo. It’s sweet that she’s still taking care of Hal.”
“Hal.” Somehow, this is the most shocking revelation.
“Have you named your’s yet?”
“No.” Nayeon chews her lip. “Maybe.”
“Tell me,” Sana croons.
After that, it’s different. A whole burden of truth was laid out, and they piece it together side by side. Sana talks about her break-up with Mina, and Nayeon talks about her break-up with Jeongyeon.
At the next Sunday dinner at Jeongyeon’s mansion, everyone comments that she is ‘chillingly upbeat.’
“I’m in love,” Nayeon blurts. She half means it as a joke.
Tzuyu instantly pours Jeongyeon another glass of wine.
“With who,” Chaeyoung asks, smacking on her pork chop.
“A very pretty girl,” Nayeon smiles. “Thank you for demonstrating interest in my rich inner life.”
Before she leaves that night, Jeongyeon pulls her aside to the library. “I wanted to say I’m happy for you.”
“An empty platitude, but I’ll take it.” Nayeon tightens her coat around herself. She’s not wearing her bodysuit under her clothes. Because she’s going to Sana’s after this. Because she’s ready.
In the purple light that bathes the greenhouse at night, Nayeon is itching for Sana to touch her.
But the other woman, god damn her, is busy potting pitcher plants.
“You’re neglecting me,” Nayeon whines, flopping on the mattress. Hopefully it’s enticing.
“This is a delicate process,” Sana calls. There’s dirt smeared on her cheeks. “Give me ten minutes.”
“Five,” Nayeon bargains.
Sana is done in seven. It’s a happy enough medium. She comes to drift by the bed, an uncharacteristic timidness shaking her hands as she takes off her gardening gloves. “What’s that face?”
“What face.” Nayeon exaggerates a frown.
“That whole — your eyes. I’m suspicious.”
“I’m not wearing my bodysuit.” Nayeon lifts the front of her shirt up, just to show the skin of her stomach. It’s marred with indents from the toll of constant, tight leather.
Sana’s face lights up. “I can’t even tease you.”
Nayeon hooks her fingers in Sana’s worn belt loops. “You should still tease me.”
“Did she watch,” Nayeon pants against Sana’s ear, looking up at Momo hovering above them.
“She can’t watch.” Sana taps her nose. Her stamina is — well. It’s what Nayeon’s used to be. She’s out of practice. “But she’s sleeping.”
“I told you that!”
Nayeon hums. She probably did. Hoping to distract her, Nayeon traces a finger along the stems that thread across Sana’s body like exposed veins.
“Did it hurt?” She’s heard the origin story from Jeongyeon enough times. Apparently, Sana had injected toxins into her blood. Making her one with plants or some other unscientific but nonetheless apparently possible feat.
“Yes. But it was worth it.”
Nayeon nods, but she’s not sure. The leather was less of a commitment, and now she’s not sure she ever even wants to wear clothing again.
“I want to tell you something else. But you need to remember this one.”
Sana presses her thumb to Nayeon’s hipbone. “Did you know,” this is how her facts always begin, “that the continents are moving away from each other at the same rate fingernails grow?”
Nayeon didn’t. But it makes her so suddenly, unspeakably sad she’s not sure what to say.
“We aren’t continents,” Sana whispers as they fall asleep beneath a thin sheet.
“We fucked,” Nayeon announces, barely through the door of Mina’s office. The therapist is on the phone, her eyebrows raising in abject horror at either the physical intrusion or the sonic one. They’re one in the same.
“I’ll call you back,” she harshes into the phone, then refocusing her glare on Nayeon.
“Back to me.” Nayeon collapses on the chaise. “It was sexy. Intimate. Dare I say, good?”
“When I said you needed to open up, I meant it metaphorically.”
“Beggars can’t be choosers, Mina. Unless you’re really good at it.”
Mina takes her glasses off, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I’m supposed to decipher what you mean all the time, but this one is impossible.”
“That’s a good thing.” Nayeon yawns against her elbow. “Because I think I’m cured.”
“You’re not. You’re distracted, but you haven’t actually gotten to the root —”
Nayeon quickly starts tapping on her phone, sending Mina quotes to Sana. “Keep going.”
“See. This isn’t exactly healthy. I’m glad that you haven’t fallen into your old patterns, but it’s possible you’re replacing one obsession with another.”
“Maybe I need an obsession, have you considered that? Maybe everybody needs a little something that makes Gotham, yes, a little unhealthy, but overall still livable. That’s the point right?” Mina has heard this rant before. Nayeon doesn’t care. “To just figure out how to live?”
“That’s an incredibly low bar,” Mina sighs.
Nayeon and Sana are laying on her couch. It’s a bit too small for both to be long-ways, so Nayeon is curled as best she can around Sana’s body, scratching gently under Sana’s shirt.
“Would you let me do lines off you?”
“Of coke?” Sana coughs.
Nayeon grins. “Perfect. Mina says I need a new addiction, so I’m thinking of—”
“Mina said that?” Somehow Sana manages to inflect each word with an abject, unique horror.
“Well, she might have said I need to not be addicted to you. So clearly she meant—”
“Kitten. That was almost romantic.” Sana wraps her arms around Nayeon’s neck in a stifling hug. “But I doubt Mina wants you to start doing coke.”
“Which provides a compelling reason to start.”
Sana just frowns, cupping Nayeon’s cheeks. “Let’s go back to the part where you confessed to me.”
“It’s not a big deal.” Nayeon blows a puff of air straight into Sana’s eye. “You already confessed, so I was just paying you back.”
It goes on like this.
Sana leaves an extra pair of overalls and underwear at Nayeon’s apartment, Nayeon gifts Sana a few vases to keep at the greenhouse. There’s a venn diagram of objects strewn between their two homes, and when Nayeon walks from one to the other, through Gotham, it’s different. Yes, it’s a sick, stupid city. Yes, there are robbers and vigilantes and one particularly ineffective therapist. But nestled in all that, there’s her and there’s Sana.
One night, Sana had a new fact. It was that, when a whale dies, they sink to the bottom of the sea. The dead whale can support eighty years of life, bacteria and scavengers and even sharks coming down to feed.
Gotham is one great steel whale, wall-eyed and rotting, but there’s still enough to take from it. There’s some joy in living in its shadow.