Meeting Dawon was the best thing that ever happened to Luda. She was one of the last members Luda ever got the chance to speak to, but somehow, they clicked the most. She could remember every second of it clearly—the way Dawon looked down at her with a soft, kind smile, introducing herself as someone that made Luda feel safe, in the best way. The memory was one of the happiest Luda had, and all the good ones that followed, no matter the circumstances, always had Dawon in the picture.
When they became roommates after the miserable departure of China line, it was painful at first. Painful to know they’d lost their friends, and wouldn’t see them often or at all starting then. Painful to know things would be different, painful to know that they would change. Spending night after night in the comfort of Dawon’s arms made Luda realize that at least they wouldn’t change.
It took her a while to realize it was love. To realize that she loved Dawon. Denial was the option she succumbed to, denying it not only to the other girls, but to herself. She’d look into Dawon’s eyes with nothing but love and adoration, but then look away and say it wasn’t true. She couldn’t be in love with her best friend. But...how did she miss Dawon even when the younger girl was laying beside her? Why was her heart beating out of her chest every time Dawon held her hand?
There was nothing to deny. It was written in the stars, written on her face, written everywhere as though it were a historical fact. The members weren’t oblivious to the truth, in fact they read the message clearly. Dawon was perfect for Luda. They fit together like pieces of a puzzle.
Jealousy was another factor that Luda couldn’t help herself but feel. When Dawon showed affection to anyone that wasn’t her, especially when it wasn’t a member, Luda practically went insane. Everything about loving Dawon drove her crazy, and as the years passed, she couldn’t deny that the pain increased every day. The hopelessness, the yearning. They were the most powerful feelings she could think of.
All ten girls were in one dorm on a rainy evening, since it was their day off and they decided to spend time together. Seola and Soobin were laying together on one of the couches, the younger of the two with her head in the older one’s neck. They’d been together since debut, so it wasn’t an uncommon sight.
Eunseo and Bona, another one of the couples, were sitting on the opposite side, Bona’s head on the taller one’s shoulder while they used their phones. They started dating a little more recently, around Boogie Up era, and they didn’t announce it either, but were rather caught by Exy (who didn’t talk to them for weeks after, meaning the scene she witnessed was likely traumatizing). Funnily enough, it was Exy who sat between them and the other pair, appearing out of the loop.
On the floor in front of a board game was Dayoung, Yeoreum, and Yeonjung, all three of which were suspicious with one another. ‘Suspicious’ is used loosely, as they’d practically confirmed they were together after Yeonjung joined the group, but it didn’t have a label on it. In front of them, Dawon sat casually in a light blue button-up, long-sleeved shirt, along with black sweats. She was on her phone, scrolling through social media quietly as the other members did their own thing.
Luda was the last to get there, wearing one of Dawon’s black hoodies, and heading to her best friend, who hadn’t looked up for a second. Luda moved Dawon’s phone, crawling into the younger one’s lap and snuggling up to her. She laid her head on Dawon’s chest, just below the girl’s chin, and wrapped her arms around her torso.
Dawon chuckled at the action. “Hello to you too, Ludi.”
“Get off your phone, I’m here now!” Luda pouted, holding Dawon tighter, and making the black-haired girl nod, quickly apologizing.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry,” Dawon smiled fondly. “Cutie.”
Luda’s cheeks reddened at the compliment, looking towards the rest of the group, who was still out of it, excluding the maknae line, that grew bored of their game.
“Hey, guys, come on, let’s talk!” Dayoung said loudly, gaining everyone’s attention. “We can ask random facts or play a game.”
“We could play truth or dare,” Eunseo suggested, making Exy roll her eyes, quickly rejecting the idea.
“What are we going to dare people, to make out? To lick the floor? Not a good game for a room full of couples, I’m literally the only single one in here.”
“Please, can’t forget Ludawon are ‘single’ too,” Soobin said it using quotation marks.
“What’s the quotation for?” Dawon furrowed her eyebrows, making everyone stare at her, blinking, and then proceeding without so much as a word. They ultimately decided on a game of jenga, each block containing a question, which many of the girl’s answered with ease. Bona was asked about the most embarrassing moment of her life, which had to do with cheese (for a reason she didn’t necessarily elaborate on), while Yeoreum was asked about holidays, and the others received something along the lines of it.
Luda’s turn approached, the small girl hesitantly pulling a block out, flinching as the tower moved slightly, but sighing in relief when it stayed up. She heard a couple of cheers around her, making her smile, reading the question.
“Are you often taken care of or do you like to take care of others more?” She looked up as though to think, furrowing her eyebrows. “Care as in take care of someone’s feelings, or physically?”
“Personally, I thought physically when I heard of it, but both can apply,” Seola gave a response, making Luda nod, puffing her cheeks.
“Well, I’ll always take care of people’s feelings but...physically I do like to be taken care of since I’m small!” Luda exclaimed, smiling, and making the others smile with her. Exy pinched her cheek, while Eunseo patted her head.
Luda blushed, hiding away in Dawon’s neck, the taller one laughing and heading to grab her own piece as it was her turn. She did it with ease, the tower not moving an inch while she read the paper on the block.
“Describe your ideal type.”
“Luda,” Dayoung whispered to Yeonjung, who chuckled, nodding.
Dawon ran a hand through her hair, setting the block down as if she knew her answer off the top of her head. “I’ve always wanted someone strong that would be able to protect me, someone taller than me as well, I don’t know, a knight in shining armor.”
The room fell silent, as though it was the most unexpected answer ever. Of course, no one commented on it, but they were shocked, to say the least. Luda felt a pang in her chest, knowing she was quite the opposite of what Dawon described. They moved on with the game, but Luda couldn’t help feeling her heart hurt. For once, Dawon’s arms suddenly didn’t feel like the right place for her. Not when Dawon didn’t want someone there to begin with.
“Ludi,” Dawon’s voice interrupted Luda from her thoughts. “It’s your turn, sweetheart.”
“I...I’m tired,” the older of the two said quietly. “I think I’m going to sleep.”
“All of a sudden?” Dawon frowned. Luda nodded, separating from the black-haired girl with a soft sigh. “Are you feeling sick?”
“No, I’m okay.”
Luda feigned a smile, turning to dismiss herself from the other girls before heading to bed, where she stared up at the ceiling in thought.
It didn’t take long before she heard the door open, not moving an inch even when it closed. She saw through her peripheral vision that Dawon stood beside her, arms crossed, a slight frown on her face.
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
“I already told you, Dawonie...I’m just sleepy.”
“And you think I buy that for a second?” Dawon spoke clearly. Luda turned to look at her without a word, before looking away again. Dawon sighed, walking over to their bed, taking her slides off and getting under the covers with Luda, looking directly at her. “I know you better than I know anyone. You don’t have to lie to me.”
She lifted a hand to caress the smaller girl’s cheek. Luda nuzzled her cheek against Dawon’s hand, a soft sigh escaping her lips.
“Why do you protect me?”
“What do you mean, baby?” Dawon’s voice was gentle, using her other hand to tuck a strand of Luda’s hair behind her ear.
“You take care of me, Dawon,” Luda frowned. “You’re stronger than me, in every way there is to be strong, you’re my...”
Luda paused, shaking her head. “I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“No, Dawon,” Luda’s voice was stern, before it softened once more. “I can’t.”
Dawon was frowning, but she nodded, speaking gently. “Okay.”
She looked into Luda’s eyes, sighing, and leaning in to place a soft kiss on the smaller one’s forehead. She then proceeded to turn the lights off, neither of them saying a word, and feeling more distant than ever. It was the first time since they became roommates that Luda didn’t let herself sleep in Dawon’s arms.
Days passed by with Luda overthinking what happened that night. She and Dawon had minimal conversation and exchanged a few words, but aside from that, everything changed. It felt like they didn’t talk at all. Luda could practically hear her heart shattering every time Dawon walked into the room, but nothing could’ve hurt worse than one of the days in their schedule. Luda, specifically, was promoting with her Chocome unit, meaning the other girls often went home or stayed at the dorms.
Luda walked into the dorm with Dayoung and Yeoreum, only to stop at the door when she saw Dawon sitting at the couch with one of their staff members. She was smiling, and he was holding her hand, which was not a pretty sight. They stopped talking as soon as the door closed, looking over to the three girls that entered. Dawon’s eyes immediately met Luda’s, and with that, the slightly older girl shook her head, turning around and running outside. Dayoung and Yeoreum flinched.
“Luda...” Dawon’s voice was barely above a whisper, before she raised it. “Luda!”
She pushed past her friends, following behind the smaller girl who hadn’t made it too far after exiting. “Luda, please! Please.”
Luda stopped in her tracks, looking up at the downcast sky and closing her eyes, letting tears fall down her cheeks. She’d never felt weaker in her life. Her heart hurt at the mere memory of what she’d seen, and she wasn’t sure she wanted to listen to whatever Dawon had to say.
“Please talk to me.”
Taking a deep breath, the smaller girl turned around, meeting her best friend’s eyes. Dawon gasped softly at the tears, shaking her head, and walking closer to Luda. The brunette backed up before Dawon could touch her.
“What do you want to hear, Dawon?”
“Everything. I want to know what made you so upset that night, what’s making you upset now. I want to know the reason you haven’t talked to me in days, I want to know why it’s changed, why we’ve changed. I want to know why you’re crying,” Dawon was delicate, as always. “Please. It hurts so much to see you cry, you have no idea.”
“It’s hard, okay?” Luda was trying to hold back more tears. “I don’t know what to say, I don’t know if I should say it...I don’t know if I want to ruin it more.”
“You can’t assume you’d ruin anything, Luda, you-“
“Yes I can!” Luda raised her voice, cutting Dawon off.
“Why? You can’t leave me out of the loop and expect me to not ask questions, Luda!” Dawon yelled back. “You can’t expect me to stay quiet while you fucking ignore me for no good reason and run away just by looking at me!”
“And you’re expecting me to put this friendship on the line just to give you answers?” Luda was in disbelief.
“You’re putting it on the line now.”
“Fine, then!” Luda laughed dryly, tears brimming in her eyes. “It was hearing your ideal type that upset me. Happy now?”
Dawon furrowed her eyebrows, voice slightly lowering at the answer. “What?”
“It’s the complete opposite of me and it hurt to hear because it confirmed that I don’t have a chance. You want someone capable of protecting you, but I’m not even strong enough to carry a gallon of milk. You want someone taller than you, and I’m by your shoulders. You want a knight in shining armor, and I’m a poor excuse for a princess. I can’t be what you want and it breaks my heart, so I ignored you,” Luda’s voice was shaking, looking at Dawon, whose expression was unreadable.
“What are you...” Dawon spoke quietly. “What are you saying?”
Luda inhaled sharply, looking around as she tried to blink her tears away, which she couldn’t do so successfully. Her eyes met Dawon’s, expressing hurt and raw emotion, voice breaking as she spoke. “I’m in love with you, Dawon.”
Dawon’s eyes widened in response.
“I’m so in love with you that it hurts to breathe. I’ve been ignoring you, yet thinking about you every second of the day no matter what I do. Being with you makes me feel happy, it makes me feel safe, it always has. It feels like I’ve loved you forever, but when these things happen it...it hurts so much,” Luda was crying, and it made Dawon’s heart ache, remaining silent as the smaller one finished. “I wish I were what you wanted. Maybe that way you’d love me too, and maybe that way everyone could be happy, but I just...I can’t let you hold me when I know it’s not what you want. I ran away from you because I was scared, okay? Seeing you with the staff made me just...acknowledge how much he fits your standards in comparison to me, and it hurts. Loving you like this hurts. I’m sorry.”
The taller girl listened to every word, not even flinching when she felt the rain drops beginning to fall. Luda hadn’t stopped crying, but she gained the strength to walk past Dawon as though to head inside after her confession. It was like she knew Dawon’s answer.
Luda turned to Dawon, who shook her head, maintaining their slight distance and speaking sincerely.
“I don’t care about things like that. Ideal types. Mine is just what I grew up expecting, what I would’ve liked then, what I’ve always had in mind, but...it doesn’t mean anything.”
The smaller girl nodded at Dawon’s words, before continuing to walk, as though the words didn’t give her hope at all and she’d rather not have heard them. Dawon grew frustrated with herself, quickly talking once more.
“It doesn’t mean anything because it’s in the past, Luda. Because I...I met you.”
Luda turned around, eyes softened as she looked at Dawon, who nervously spoke while the rain began to fall a little more.
“I met you. You’re different to anything I ever wanted in life. You’re right, I did want someone stronger and protective and I am typically someone who likes being taken care of, but the truth is, when it comes to you, I don’t care anymore. I want you, Luda, even if you don’t fit a standard I created for myself to make it easy. I want you, and I’d use my strength for you, to protect you, to take care of you. I’d hold you every single night and I’d give you all the love and attention you ask for even if I never imagined it being that way. Luda, I would give everything in my life for you if you asked it of me. I’d do anything. I’d be your knight in shining armor every day if that’s what you need, because I love you too,” Dawon felt breathless. “I love you, Lee Luda. I love you.”
Luda, with tears in her eyes and on her cheeks, smiled through the emotion, running up to Dawon and smashing her lips against the taller one’s for a passionate kiss. It was pouring rain as their lips collided, Luda’s fingers roaming through Dawon’s hair while the younger one held her waist. It felt magical, as though it was meant to happen it, as though they needed it to. Luda felt like she was on top of the world, unable to tell whether the drops on her face were tears or the rain. All she could focus on was Dawon’s sweet lips against her own, and their melodic rhythm that neither wanted to give up even as time passed. It was only when they ran out of breath that they pulled away, foreheads resting together, while Luda wrapped her arms around Dawon’s neck.
“I love you,” she was crying quietly, making Dawon frown, lifting a hand from holding Luda’s waist and using it to cup the smaller one’s cheek instead.
“I love you too, Ludi,” Dawon said lovingly. “Please don’t cry, princess.”
Luda nodded, smiling through her tears, making Dawon sigh, pulling her in for a hug and kissing her head softly. “Let’s go inside, okay? I don’t want you getting sick.”
They went into their dorm drenched, heading straight to separate bathrooms to get dry as soon as possible. Dawon finished first in the hallway’s bathroom, going to the room she and Luda shared and waiting for the smaller girl, who was only a few minutes.
“Come here,” Dawon opened her arms for Luda, who jumped into them for the first time in a while, snuggling into the taller one’s neck.
“I love you,” Luda said quietly, and adorably. “I’m sorry I cried so much, I was just...so relieved that you love me too.”
“I always have,” Dawon said genuinely, making Luda separate enough from the embrace to look into Dawon’s eyes. They smiled at one another. “Please don’t ever ignore me like that again. I don’t know how long I can go without you in my arms.”
“I won’t, I promise,” Luda held up her pinky. As Dawon took it, the older one sat up on Dawon’s lap, connecting their lips for a long, sweet kiss.
“I love you,” Dawon gave Luda another peck after they pulled away, followed by another, and another. Luda giggled at the action, looking in Dawon’s eyes.
“You wouldn’t leave me for someone who is your type, right?”
“I already told you that’s in the past and doesn’t matter anymore,” Dawon laughed at the pouting girl.
“Okay, but, I just have to make sure you like me.”
Dawon rolled her eyes playfully, proceeding to smile, kissing Luda’s cheek.
“Lee Luda, I wouldn’t want anyone else.”