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First bite

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Chae was drunk again. Kyun could smell it as soon as she entered their home.

It was well past happy hour though so hey, Kyun could give her that at least.

She shut the door behind herself and set down her bags, but didn't feel any lighter.

"Chae?" She called out, as she slipped off her heels.

She came into their bedroom and Chae was slumped against their bed, long legs sprawled out on the hardwood floor. It looked like she'd gotten to almost all the bottles in their liquor cabinet; the proof scattered around her.

Kyun caught a glimpse of her father's knife thrown across the far wall; blade reflecting light. Kyun didn't know why she still kept it.

"Chae?" She said again, in the doorway.

Sometimes, it felt like Kyun was still a witness. This time to Chae's ruin, the three months after her release, and the four years since everything came to light.

The problem with being a witness was that they expected her to testify. What was Chae Seon doing since her father's suicide? Since he made her help him kill all those women? Has she taken after him? What's she done now?

No comment, was the short answer for it.

They didn't owe the press or anyone anything.

Chae had served her sentence and took over her father's company, or what was left of it. She was building them back up from the ground and trying to right their wrongs.

It'd all led her here, collapsed on their bedroom floor.

Kyun watched her for a second, before Chae would realize she was home. Outside, Chae was stoic and in control.

Now Chae's hand was shaking, gin spilling out of the glass and all over her. She hissed, and that was when Kyun noticed the blood and the gash across her palms.

"Jesus Christ," she gasped, and in a second was at her side.

Kyun had taught herself to handle at Chae's most self-destructive, straight through to the eye of it. Of her.

They were both still learning the waters of the aftermath together. Most days felt like maybe they could wash their hands of it.

But sometimes Chae drank like she couldn't stop, like she was trying to blur images only she could see.

Chae was like her parents, in some ways. As much as that hurt to say.

When they'd started to see Chae's mom (or what was left of her) at the psychiatric hospital she had bad days too.

Sometimes she'd screech at the sight of Chae and slap her away, crying that's not my baby that's a demon.

Kyun was there for those aftermaths too.

That'd been first time when Chae didn't stop at the first bottle.

The alcohol sometimes left her angry, in a way even Kyun couldn't recognize. It always made her think about an animal let out a cage with no way of getting back in.

An ex caged animal just now understanding that maybe they should've been left behind bars.

Chae finally looked at her, dimly, like she could be anyone. Like maybe she wished Kyun was anybody else. So she wouldn't be the one to have to see her like this.

"Kyun?"

"Yeah, it's me, Chae. Kyun." She rubbed circles on her back, trying for the both of them to keep her voice steady. "It's Kyun."

The rim of the glass bumped against Chae's lips unsteadily when she tried to swallow more down. It was sort of like watching someone try to drown themselves.

"So this is your idea of a day off." Kyun tried to laugh, gripping Chae's shoulders.

It felt like all she could try to do was smile when Chae was like this, when her broad shoulders felt small and trembling.

Chae ignored her. She raised the glass again, more successful this time.

"Can you stand?" Kyun asked gently, wanting to ease the alcohol away.

She extended a hand to her to do that. Chae batted it away like usual and tried to stand without her help.

She reached her feet and her full weight leaned against Kyun. She dropped the empty glass to the floor and it broke into three neat pieces.

That was gonna be fun to clean later.

Chae stumbled forward, into her, her bloodied hand catching at the collar of Kyun's dress. In the back of her head Kyun knew that the blood wouldn't get out easily. But other things came first.

"Chae, you gotta help me." She grunted, wrapping her arms around her middle. "I can't do this alone."

Chae didn't reply, but Kyun felt her blunt fingertips grip at the back of her neck.

Kyun managed to hoist her up, their pace slow as she took her away from the mess she'd left behind in their room- broken glass and smeared bloody handprints left on the wood floor.

She dragged Chae to their bathroom, and turned on the light.

Kyun caught her breath. Chae slumped down against the wall, her hand grasping for a bottle that wasn't there.

"Let's get you into a warm bath, okay?" Kyun offered breathlessly. "I just gotta clean your hands first."

Kyun reached for their first aid kit above the sink, opening the mirror. She caught her reflection briefly and ignored it.

She kneeled over Chae, the cold floor under her bare knees. She took one cut hand in hers at a time, silent as she cleaned her wounds. It reminded her of when they were in high school.

"Haven't been here in a while, hmm?" She mused, and looked up for a response. She didn't get one.

Chae smelled like liquor and blood and warm skin. Not unlike back then. Course gin and rubbing alcohol smelled different.

Kyun finished, and offered a steadying hand on her arm. Chae looked at her with bared teeth and had either laughed or she'd started to cry. Kyun couldn't tell. Her brows furrowed as she tried to get her to talk.

"-they're dead," Chae rasped. "It's my fault, it's..."

Kyun didn't know who she meant. Manny? Her dad? Those women? Too many to count.

But Chae couldn't stop counting sometimes.

She'd see a pack of smokes at a corner store or press her knuckles too hard against a punching bag and then all she could think about was how long it took for him to bleed out.

Here on the floor she'd started counting out the seconds again, counting the milligrams of blood that'd filled his lungs, his throat.

Guilt bit at her, guilt and other things.

It's my fault, it's-

Kyun grabbed ahold of her face in both her hands and lifted it to her and the images flickered out.

She brushed at the corner of the one eye Chae had left. Her other thumb carded over the closed lid; over empty socket.

"It's alright," Kyun whispered quietly. Her face was still in her hands. "It's not your fault, it's not."

Kyun didn't know if that was true or not. On most days she could say no. Absolutely not.

Then whenever she'd see Sua's face fall and whatever she'd been saying trail off cause she saw someone who almost looked like her brother- it was harder.

She tried to get Chae's sweat and alcohol soaked shirt off, but she refused to work with her. Limbs heavy, body trembling.

Kyun sat back on her heels, panting from the effort, and it was then she realized it: she was crying. Chae almost never cried.

"Chae," Kyun called out, voice too quiet and close to breaking.

She rested her hand on Chae's chest, and god- she wanted to help. She wanted to reach in there and take away the past few years of Chae's life, the fear and the guilt and all of it.

She wanted to bring her dad back to life and make him mend the damage he'd done.

Kyun ran her fingers through Chae's damp hair. She cried too, her knees slipping and aching against the hard tile.

Chae's arms circled her waist. Kyun held her tightly as she cried, the sound muffled against her chest.

"He was right, he was right he was right,"

I'm like him.

Kyun rested her cheek on the top of her head.

"It's not your fault," She whispered again, drowning her out. "I'm here. Chae. It's alright."

The blame was his. It was hard, but at the end of the day Chae had been a kid, and Dongsoo Seon was the one who-

And then all of a sudden Chae stopped crying as fast as she started. Kyun felt the shift, her body going tense under hers.

Chae pushed her away, not harshly, but Kyun fell back from her in surprise anyway. Chae's face was twisted with anger, her eye still red-rimmed.

She couldn’t stand it.

"Get out, Kyun," she told her, voice cracking.

Kyun stared back at her, stung despite
knowing she was drunk and hadn't meant it.

"Get out Kyun," Chae repeated, moving to pull her knees up to her chest and her head between them. "Get out."

Briefly, Kyun thought about when Chae’s mom had reached out and grabbed her wrist. She’d whispered warningly to leave before it was too late. 

"No," Kyun rose to her knees then, tears biting at her eyes. "You don't get to push me out. Im not going anywhere.”

It was all about deserve, in Chae's head. She didn't deserve Kyun, and she didn't deserve this.

It pained Kyun.

Hadn't she been listening all these years? Love wasnt something earned by being good enough or not.

"It's not about deserve, Chae." Kyun finished softly. "You know that."

It was like all the fight in Chae was gone as fast as it started. She sniffled into the crook of her arm, weak against the hard tile again.

Her hands grasped for Kyun and found purchase at her dress, leaving bloody handprints in the fabric. She tugged and slowly Kyun let her.

"I'm sorry," she croaked, throat raw.

She really was.

Kyun shook her head, laughing faintly.

"You promised you'd stop apologizing to me." She scolded, wiping her eyes.

"Sorry," she muttered under her breath again.

Chae lifted her heavy arms above her head and Kyun peeled the soaked shirt off. Chae's torso was littered with raised scars over lean muscle.

They eventually finished undressing her; the last of her clothes in a pile on the floor. Chae stood there bare as Kyun turned the faucet on to the tub and steam filled the bathroom.

"Okay, come on," Kyun reached out and let her lean against her as she got her into the bathtub.

Chae sunk into the warm water slowly, and the tension in her frame lessened almost immediately.

Kyun's hands combed through her hair soothingly and over skin.

She was talking softly, maybe something like it's okay or the bath was long over due- but Chae couldn't focus long enough to understand.

The liquor had settled in her along with something worse.

Kyun caught a spot of red in the bubbles, and looked over Chae's bare shoulder to see her already picking at the bandages and split skin.

"Chae," she sighed, tired.

It was like she used to do when they were younger.

Blunt nails dug into the gash and Chae watched as the bindings went pink. Her focus shifted to her watery reflection staring up at her.

It was getting harder and harder to not see her dad in there too.

It was all right under the skin. Something so sick and wrong her mom had wanted her dead.

It was all she could see sometimes, even when she shut her eyes closed.

Like sinew pulled taunt between her teeth, white nerves dragged from muscle.

Like that cat her mom talked about sometimes, like it was still alive.

Chae had been surprised by how far her hands had even sunk into its's fur before she'd been stopped by flesh, and she'd wanted to go further, but she hadn't known how yet.

It'd felt like butterflies, like sitting upside down too long, like hot fever chills, like-

Her hands shook as she forced them apart.

Kyun shifted, face to face with her. "Chae?"

Chae reached and rested her thumb against Kyun's bottom lip. She smeared her lipstick and it mixed with the blood; all across her mouth. It was so red it was dizzying.

Looking at Kyun helped.

Kyun's lips parted, the blunt edge of her teeth testing her thumb.

Her tongue was pink. Pink, the same as stomach lining and like the blood Chae spat into the sink after biting down on her tongue too hard; pink like a Valentine.

It almost hurt to kiss her.

"I love you." Kyun whispered when they separated.

Kyun had nothing but sincerity written all over her face. Always had.

Chae believed her. She had to.