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If You Weren't So Stupid (I Could Have Loved You)

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Present

 

“Not to be dramatic,” Jisoo says, slumping against the nearest brick wall. “But please kill me.”

“Sure, how do you wanna go?” Lisa asks, cracking her knuckles.

Chaeyoung elbows her in the ribs, then frowns at Jisoo. “What’s wrong?”

“The results of the org chem midterms are out.” Jisoo says, holding up her phone.

“Oh hahaha fuck.” Lisa slumps against the wall next to Jisoo. “I bombed that one so hard.”

“Really? Where?” Chaeyoung takes the phone from Jisoo, scrolling up and down their teacher’s email in a panic. “She posted the scores? On the bulletin board? Where everyone can see them?”

Lisa wipes one tear from her eye. “Hahahaha what a bitch.”

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“You’d have thought someone was handing out free food or something,” Jisoo mutters, elbowing her way through the crowd collected ouside their professor’s office.

“Or free coffee.” Chaeyoung whimpers as she turns sideways to avoid someone’s elbow.

“Or free sleep.” Lisa squeezes between two hefty guys.

Jisoo whirls around to give Lisa a dry look. “What the hell.”

“What?” Lisa shrugs back at her.

Chaeyoung shrugs too. “I’d totally get free sleep if I could.”

“Excuse me, excuse me, sorry, excuse me,” A tired voice cuts through the crowd. Jisoo’s back straightens out involuntarily. She’d recognize that voice if she were deaf.

Jisoo rolls her eyes as the crowd parts like the Red Sea for a bored-looking girl scrunching up her shoulders in mild disgust, like she doesn’t want to touch anyone.

Jisoo holds up an arm to stop her. “There’s a line, Jennie.”

Jennie frowns and looks around. “Uh, where?”

“Anyway, we got here first.” Jisoo huffs.

“We cut in, too, Jisoo.” Chaeyoung hums from behind Jisoo.

Jisoo whirls around, elbowing an unsuspecting male classmate in the ribs as she does. “Whose side are you even on?”

“Mine.”

Jennie laughs into the back of her hand, disguising it as a cough. “You guys go ahead, then.”

“It’s not like you need to know if you passed or not,” Jisoo rolls her eyes. “You’re just making the rest of us feel bad.”

Jennie rolls her eyes back at Jisoo. “I’m not-”

“Sure you aren’t.” Jisoo folds her arms. She doesn’t know why she’s acting like this, it’s not like Jennie’s really trying to start anything – Oh wait, she knows why. She doesn’t want to see her grade. Of course.

“Jisoo, can you not?” Jennie groans.

“I’m not doing anything.”

“You’re pissing me off.”

Jisoo clenches her jaw. “You’re pissing me off.”

“I don’t have time for this. Excuse me.” Jennie nudges Jisoo lightly with one hand.

Jisoo rolls her hands into fists. “Did you just push me?”

“What are you, eight years old? I said ‘Excuse me,”

“Bitch.”

“You started– You know what, I really don’t have time for this.” Jennie sighs. “Get out of the way. Please.”

“Wow, so polite.” Jisoo steps aside anyway, making a face at Jennie as she passes.

Jennie makes her way to the bulletin board, the entire crowd clearing for her as she comes near. She takes one look at the board, then says, “What the fuck?”

The crowd in the hallway starts dispersing, casting quick glances in Jennie’s direction as they whisper to each other in hushed voices.

Jennie peers closer at the bulletin board, frowning. “Is Prof. Lee in?”

“I think she’s in the office.” One of their other classmates says, looking at his 16/130 score with a resigned look on his face.

Jennie shuffles past the quickly dispersing crowd to knock on the professor’s door. “Prof. Lee? It’s me, Jennie.”

Jisoo watches Jennie slip into the professor’s office before turning to Chaeyoung and Lisa. “Ugh, look at her. She’s probably upset she didn’t get perfect.”

“She should be happy with what she’s got.” Chaeyoung pouts. “Or donate some of her points to the needy.”

“Uh, yeah, maybe not.” Lisa says, staring at the bulletin board. “She didn’t pass.”

What?” Jisoo doesn’t know what she’s feeling. Happiness? Pure joy? “Jennie Kim didn’t pass?”

“Not by a longshot.” Lisa steps aside to let them see the bulletin board.

“If Jennie didn’t pass, then nobody did,” Chaeyoung groans.

Jisoo squints at the bulletin board. The professor had squeezed the entire class’s names on a single sheet of paper, and Jisoo’s beginning to regret leaving her glasses at home. However happy she feels about Jennie Kim flopping for the first time in human history, Chaeyoung’s right – if Jennie failed this exam, then Jisoo’s score is probably negative.

Jisoo’s vision, as if controlled by some bitchy movie director, decides to focus just then.

Kim Jendeuk, ID No. XXXXXXXX…………………………………………………52/130

Kim Jisoo, ID No. XXXXXXXX……………………………………………..………128/130

Jisoo squeals, jumping two feet off the ground. She’s beyond happy now. “Oh my god I could die right now.”

Lisa and Chaeyoung rest their chins on her shoulders. “What happened? What did you get?”

“Ha ha bitches!” Jisoo says, wiggling her shoulders in a victory dance. “Your girl pulled through!”

“Oh!” Chaeyoung pulls Jisoo into a bear hug. “Congrats!”

“Did you guys pass?” Jisoo asks her, trying to squint at the board again, but her eyes have given up.

“No, but like, I’m the fifth highest so…” Lisa shrugs. “It’s good? I guess?”

“I’ll do better next time.” Chaeyoung says, her smile never cracking. She goes back to squeezing Jisoo like a half-empty toothpaste tube. “I’m so proud of you!”

“Thanks, Chaeng,” Jisoo wants to cry. This is the best day of her entire life, hands down. When she gets home, she’s going to toss out all her medals and trophies and just pin this damn sheet of paper on the wall.

The door to the professor’s office opens. “I’m so sorry, Jennie.”

“It’s all right, Prof. Lee. It was just an honest mistake,” Jennie says, holding the door open for their professor.

“Excuse me, girls,” Prof. Lee says, reaching out to pull the sheet of paper off the bulletin board. “There was a misprint.”

“What?” Chaeyoung asks, her voice cracking with hope.

Prof. Lee pins up a new sheet of paper, then apologizes softly before going back into her office.

Jisoo doesn’t care what Jennie’s brown-nosing got her. Jisoo beams at her friends. “Ramen? Yes? Yes? Second serving of noodles are on me!”

Chaeyoung and Lisa turn from the bulletin board to Jisoo very slowly, their mouths drawn in a line. “Jisoo?”

“What?”

Lisa points one finger onto the new sheet of paper.

Kim Jendeuk, ID No. XXXXXXXX…………………………………………………128/130

Kim Jisoo, ID No. XXXXXXXX……………………………………………..………52/130

“What?”

“Sorry, Jisoo.” Jennie says quietly from behind them.

Jisoo ignores her, then tries to ignore the sound of Jennie’s sneakers padding away down the hall.

Chaeyoung hooks her arms around one of Jisoo’s. “…Ramen?”

Jisoo only sighs in reply, blinking hard.

“Second serving of noodles are on me?” Lisa offers.

Jisoo brings up the sleeve of her sweater to try and dry her eyes discreetly, but she’s sniffling so loud that it’s echoing down the hallway.

“I’ll pay for your whole bowl,” Chaeyoung offers, squeezing Jisoo’s arm tighter.

“No thanks.” Jisoo says. “I think I’ll just go home.”

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Jisoo shuts her bedroom door behind her, leaning against it. Her phone’s been buzzing with messages in the pocket of her bomber for the past half hour, but she hasn’t felt like picking up in the past half hour.

She squirms out of her bra and tosses it onto her desk before flopping face-first onto her bedcovers.

She puts her phone up to her face.

143 new messages in group: I don’t care guys just give this group a name so I don’t send the whole class ugly my selfies

Lisa: u wanna drink? lets drink

Chaeng: we have class tomo >:(

Lisa: k

Chaeng: jichu bb text us when u get home

Jisoo locks her phone and tosses it somewhere else on the bed. She’s got no right to feel bad, really – Chaeyoung’s score was worse than hers, and she’s the one comforting Jisoo. Chaeyoung’s always failing, but she manages to pull through. Failing one exam doesn’t mean you fail the whole class, right? Even if it’s the midterms?

You failed once and you wanna quit already, Jisoo rolls her eyes at herself. You weak bitch.

But that’s just the thing. Jisoo’s never failed an exam in her entire life. She doesn’t know what she’s gonna say to her parents, knowing full well that she doesn’t have to say anything to them at all, but she knows they’re going to ask, because they’re her parents.

Jisoo rolls over to stare at the ceiling. It’s not that dark out yet, but the glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling are shining at her, reminding her of the time when she was a child prodigy who recreated the constellations visible in the sky during her birthday using glow-in-the-dark stars.

Jisoo rips one sock off her foot and throws it right at Taurus. “Bullshit.”

She rolls over onto her side, mutes her phone, then shuts her eyes, groaning.

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3 Years Ago

 

“This is unacceptable.”

Jisoo watches the beads of sweat collecting on the principal’s forehead.

“Mrs. K- Kim, your daughter’s d- done really well,” The principal stutters out. “She’s consistently been second highest in the entire-”

Second?” Jisoo’s mother leans back in her seat. “I didn’t raise my daughter to be second best.”

“Ah- Uh- O- Out of 300 students, number 2 is virtually the same as first-”

“She’s going to be applying to university next year. Do you know how tough the competition is these days?” Jisoo’s mother says, never once glancing in Jisoo’s direction. Which is all for the best, because Jisoo’s chewing her lips raw with anxiety. “When the admissions offices see her application, they’re not going to think, Oh, second out of 300 is virtually first. They’re going to think, This girl isn’t the best. We don’t want her.

Jisoo fiddles with a hangnail.

“Mrs. Kim,” The principal says, taking deep breaths. She looks almost as nervous as Jisoo feels. “I understand what you’re saying, I completely understand. But I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do-”

“Hm?” Jisoo’s mother lifts her eyebrows.

Jisoo tugs at her hangnail.

“How long have my children gone to this school?” Jisoo’s mother asks.

“I, ah…” The principal furrows her sweaty brow. “I’m not entirely-”

“Nearly 15 years.” Jisoo’s mother says. “I’ve been sending my children to this school for nearly 15 years now. And every year I’ve given this school a generous donation- I would say that we have a pretty good relationship at this point, don’t you think, Principal Ko?”

The principal grimaces. “Of course, Mrs. Kim, we truly appreciate your-”

“I’ve always believed that relationships should be give and take, Principal Ko.” Jisoo’s mother folds her hands in her lap.

“Of course.”

There’s this long silence, where Jisoo tugs the entire hangnail off and instantly regrets it.

“Who’s first in the batch?” Jisoo’s mother asks.

“Jennie Kim.” Jisoo answers quietly, earning a soft, sympathetic look from the principal. Her mother doesn’t even look at her.

“How much has Jennie Kim’s mother donated to this school?” Jisoo’s mother asks.

“Nothing, Mrs. Kim.”

“I’ll donate double- What? Nothing?” Jisoo’s mother frowns. “That’s not possible.”

 

Jisoo’s pulling on a loose thread on the edge of her school skirt, waiting for her mother to finish trying to negotiate with the principal. She’d excused herself to “go to the bathroom” and not returned in a half hour.

The door to the principal’s office opens and slams.

“I can’t believe that woman. After all I’ve done for this school! Come along, Jisoo.” Jisoo’s mother takes Jisoo by the elbow and starts dragging her towards the school’s parking lot. She stops to glower at a brass plaque by the new auditorium, where her name is chiseled among the top donors. “Unbelievable!”

Jisoo clips her seatbelt on in silence as her mother starts her car.

“You need to work harder, Jisoo,” her mother mutters, punching on the gas without looking. Luckily, no one was in the way. “You need to beat Jennie Kim, or you won’t get into a good university.”

Jisoo thumbs over the raw skin left behind by her hangnail. “I will.”

“If you don’t get into a good university, you won’t get a good job, then you’ll end up like your brother.”

Jisoo turns to stare at her reflection in the sideview mirror. “I know.”

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Present

 

Jisoo wakes up to find something vibrating under her elbow. She’s not entirely sure what’s going on or where she is, until she sees the vague outline of stars in the ceiling.

She rubs her eyes, frowning at the light streaming in through the window.

She pulls her phone out from under her elbow to find someone calling her.

“Chaeng?” Jisoo mumbles, rubbing her eyes some more.

“Kim Jichu!” Chaeyoung hisses in a panicked whisper. “Where are you!?”

“M’at home… why?”

Chaeyoung lets out a low whine. “Prof. Park is here!”

Jisoo sits up. “Shit.”

“Get your ass here now!” Lisa hisses from somewhere near Chaeyoung.

“Shit shit shit.” Jisoo scrambles for her school bag and car keys. “Shit shit shit.”

She runs out of her room, still on the phone with Chaeyoung. “Is he taking attendance yet?”

“Not yet,” Chaeyoung whispers. “Not yet please come here now!

“I’m going to fucking fly there.” Jisoo runs out of the house and hops into her car. “Shit shit shit shit.”

 

Jisoo’s already illegally parking in a slot reserved for Professors Only when she realizes she’d run out of the house without a bra.

“Shit.” Jisoo slams the door shut. Her stomach grumbles. She hadn’t had breakfast, or dinner, and she’s not wearing a bra. “Shit shit shit.”

She checks her phone, and Chaeyoung’s been sending her panicked messages about every little thing Professor Park’s doing.

Chaeng: JICHUUU HE’S STARTING TO TAKE ATTENDANCE!!!

Chaeng: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

Jisoo looks over at the silver secondhand Nissan parked next to her car. She would never admit it, but she knows it’s Professor Park’s car. Chaeyoung found him cute, so naturally the three of them lowkey stalked him for an entire semester before taking his class.

Chaeng: JICHUUU WER U????

Jisoo frowns at the Nissan for only half a second, before giving it the hardest kick she can.

The car wobbles, then starts screaming out its alarm loud enough for the entire country to hear.

“Oh shit.” Jisoo scrambles towards the building.

Chapter Text

Jennie leans back in her seat, chewing on the end of her pen. She knows that everyone thinks she took this elective because it’s got a reputation for being the hardest elective in the university, and she’s lowkey glad that everyone does.

The truth is that the professor’s got a really nice ass, and he’s always wearing these really crisp slacks that stretch across his thighs when he sits on his desk, and he has such thick thighs – Oh god, Jennie frowns at herself. These are the thoughts of a sexually repressed person.

Jennie’s too busy being embarrassed at herself to notice one of the janitors pop in through the door.

“Professor Park?”

The professor spins around where he’s sitting on the corner of his desk. “Yes?”

“Your car…” The janitor opens the door a little wider, and the sound of a car alarm screaming pours in from the hallway.

Professor Park’s eyes widen for a split second, then he’s gone, flying out the door like his life depends on it.

Jennie shifts in her seat. She doesn’t know why she subjects herself to one hour of torture just staring at Professor Park every other day, but here she is.

She’s flipping through the few notes in her notebook when the door wings open again. She looks up to find Jisoo tiptoeing in nervously, like the other 100 or so students can’t see her.

Jisoo whips her head around trying to look for empty seats, until her eyes settle on the last empty seat with a scowl.

Jennie shifts onto her opposite armrest when Jisoo dumps herself next to her.

Jisoo tries to flatten out her skirt, but the denim’ crumpled like crazy, along with her shirt. Her hair is sticking out of her ponytail at odd angles, and there’s a dried-up trail of drool on the edge of her mouth.

Jennie makes a face. “Isn’t that what you were wearing yesterday?”

Jisoo’s face flushes right up to her ears. “So what if it is?”

Jennie shrugs and pulls out her phone to check for new messages.

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 “Anyway,” Professor Park stumbles into the classroom out of breath a few minutes later. “Where were we?”

His class shrugs back at him. They’d already gotten lost at some point, or were out to cut their losses and stopped listening.

He glances at the power point slide projected on the board behind him. A large part of his mind’s still on his car, which now has a tiny dent in the door, probably from when the asshole next to him opened their door. He knows his car is technically a secondhand piece of shit, but he’s still working his ass off to pay off the loan… “I assume everyone here’s got some grasp of thermodynamics, right? Even just the basics?”

He looks back at the class hopefully, to find blank stares or faces smiling down at their phones in their laps.

Jimin sighs. It’s not like he can stop them. He spent most of his last semester in university sexting his girlfriend under his desk. He’s about to turn back to his laptop when he notices an unfamiliar face in the second row.

He’s always believed in giving extra credit to anyone who never misses a class or arrives late, but he didn’t realize that saying that at the start of the semester would mean he’d always have these stragglers sneaking in after the bell.

This girl looks like she literally rolled out of bed and into her seat. Typical straggler behavior.

“Name?” Jimin asks.

“Um.” The girl replies. “Kim Jisoo.”

He picks up the attendance sheet and frowns down at it. “Kim Jisoo…Kim Jisoo…not here.”

“She was in the bathroom during attendance.” The kid next to her says.

Jimin lifts an eyebrow, but he can’t read this kid. University students are getting scarier and scarier. Jimin gives up and hands the attendance sheet to Jisoo. “Sign.”

Jisoo beams at him as signs her name at the bottom of the list.

Jimin takes the attendance sheet back and tosses it onto the desk. “Anyway, back to thermodynamics…”

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Jisoo exhales slowly. “Thanks, man.”

“No prob.” Jinyoung’s just scrawling aimlessly on his iPad, occasionally taking down one or two words that Professor Park’s saying. To the untrained eye, Jinyoung seems like he’s bored and not paying attention, but Jisoo’s known him long enough to know that he’d probably be able to recite the whole lecture back at her later. He isn’t really bored – that’s just his face.

Jisoo covers a fist with her shirtsleeve to rub the dried-up drool off her face. “I owe you one.”

“Lab groupmates gotta look out for each other.” Jinyoung says, stretching his arms. “Food? Will you buy me food?”

Jisoo rolls her eyes.

“Fine.” She says. “I guess you don’t want instant ramen?”

Jinyoung’s mouth curls into a smile. “Bingo.”

“Screw you.” Jisoo frowns, trying to calculate how much is left in her credit card. “I’ll buy you dinner but just like a burger or something.”

Jinyoung grins. “Thanks, Jisoo.”

He leans on his desk to look over Jisoo to her other side. “Wanna join us for dinner, Jennie?”

Jisoo elbows him roughly in the ribs.

Jinyoung doesn’t flinch. “Jisoo’s paying.”

“No.” Jennie doesn’t even look up from her notebook. “Thanks.” She adds, as an afterthought.

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Jisoo reaches over and smacks Jinyoung lightly on the arm the minute they’re out of the classroom and Jennie’s out of earshot. “Jerk.”

Jinyoung only grins at her. “What’re you talking about? I saved your ass back there.”

“No, I’m talking about inviting Jen-”

“I was gonna wait for her to show up then ditch you two. Thanks for being such a good wingman,” Jinyoung says, in an offensive approximation of Jisoo’s voice.

“Fuck you, I don’t sound like a fucking Minion.” Jisoo folds her arms over her chest. She remembers she’s not wearing a bra, and her eyes widen. “Give me your jacket.”

Jinyoung frowns. “Why?”

“What happened to lab groupmates gotta look out for each other? Give it to me pleaaase,” Jisoo hops around anxiously.

“Okay, okay,” Jinyoung shrugs his jacket off and tosses it at Jisoo’s face.

Jisoo’s just zipped it up when Chaeyoung and Lisa walk out of the bathroom, nudging each other.

“Hey Jisoo, hi Jinyoung,” Lisa says, with a lilt to her voice that Jisoo doesn’t like.

“Hey,” Jinyoung says.

“Oh my god you nearly gave me a heart attack,” Chaeyoung jumps and wraps Jisoo up in a bear hug. “What happened to you? Why were you so late?”

“I slept in.” Jisoo tries to wriggle out of Chaeyoung’s arms.

“Mm-hm. Slept in.” Lisa pulls up a part of Jinyoung’s jacket at the back. “Isn’t this what you were wearing yesterday?”

Jisoo pulls the jacket back down. “Leave me alone!”

“Yeah, Chaeng, let’s give them some space,” Lisa gives Jisoo a heavy wink, prying Chaeyoung off. “See you around, Jinyoung.”

“Sure.”

Jisoo scowls at the two as they go, whispering to each other and screech-giggling every two seconds.

“Do they really think… that you and I…” Jinyoung frowns. “Your friends sure are dumb.”

“You know you’re insulting yourself too, right?” Jisoo says, folding her arms. Her friends are dumb-dumbs, they’re her dumb-dumbs.

“We’re not friends, we’re just… forced acquaintances by virtue of having all the same classes together.”

Jisoo scoffs. “You sound like Jennie, you nerd.”

Jinyoung scoffs. “You sound obsessed with Jennie, you loser.”

Jisoo kicks him in the shin. “I’m not.”

Jinyoung laughs. “Whatever helps you oversleep at night.”

Jisoo kicks him again. “You’re the worst lab groupmate ever.”

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Half A Semester Ago

 

“Because nobody in their right mind wants to check thirty lab reports,” The lab instructor says, scrolling aimlessly down her phone on the first day of class. “I’ll be breaking you up into threes.”

Chaeyoung immediately reaches out and grabs Lisa’s and Jisoo’s hands, mouthing, “Pleaaase.”

“Uh…” The instructor looks up and adjusts her glasses. “Do you guys wanna choose? You know what, just pick your lab groupmates, you’re gonna be stuck with them for a whole semester.”

Chaeyoung pulls Lisa and Jisoo towards her, wrapping her arms protectively around them. “Done.”

Jisoo watches the rest of the glass clump into groups, some people arguing who among the four or five them ought to be kicked out, until the class is sorted out.

Well, mostly.

Jisoo watches Jennie cross and uncross her legs, looking around with that bored expression she’s always got, like she’s trying to find two other people in class good enough for her and there just isn’t anyone that fits the bill.

“Does no one want to be groupmates with her?” The instructor laughs, patting Jennie on the arm. “Are you guys crazy? Come on guys, now’s your chance to be stuck with her for five months!”

Jennie grimaces.

The instructor starts scouting out the class, until she finds Jinyoung and Doyoung sitting near the back, pretending not to notice anyone. “You! You two! Go over there and join the pretty girl!”

“Ugh. Boys these days.” The instructor settles back in her seat in front of the class. “Anway-”

“Wait, that’s not fair!” One of Jisoo’s classmates whines. “They’re the top 3 of the class! They can’t all be together!”

The instructor looks at Jennie, Doyoung, and Jinyoung, sizing them up for a moment, before saying, “Fine. Split up.”

“But-” Doyoung protests, standing up.

“Split up!” The other classmate whines at him, earning an eyeroll from Jinyoung.

“You know what,” The instructor groans. “Let’s just do it randomly.”

The entire class groans.

 

Jisoo finds herself sitting between Jinyoung and Doyoung, who probably sabotaged the whole random thing, but she doesn’t care. She pouts across the aisle at Chaeyoung, who’s sandwiched between Jennie and the classmate who’d complained about the groupings in the first place.

Jisoo’s phone buzzes in her pocket.

Chaeng: save meeee

Jisoo: sorry bb :((((

Lisa: at least ur with jennie I’ve got to carry these two urrrghhh

“Jisoo, right?” Doyoung says, snapping her back to, well, outside her phone. “Could I have your phone number?”

Jinyoung snorts. “That’s one way to get it.”

“I mean!” Doyoung kicks Jinyoung in the shin, flustered. “So we can contact each other! For lab reports!”

“Sure.” Jinyoung hands his phone over to Jisoo. “Number?”

“’Kay.” Jisoo takes the phone and starts typing her number in while Doyoung folds his arms.

“Oh come on!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Jisoo can hardly listen in any of her afternoon classes because Doyoung’s in them. He’s been giving her weird looks for the past two classes, and even without opening his mouth he’s so loud. Chaeyoung and Lisa had run to the back to the classroom every time and not let Jisoo sit with them, motioning wildly for her to sit next to Jinyoung, who’s acting like he’s neither seeing nor hearing anything going on around him.

Jerk.

“Isn’t that-”

“What I was wearing yesterday? Yes.” Jisoo grumbles, trying to take notes, but the teacher’s already erasing the entire board.

“I was gonna say, Isn’t that Jinyoung’s jacket, but yeah, by all means, admit to not taking a bath.” Doyoung shrugs.

“Screw you.” Jisoo mutters.

“So, what,” Doyoung carries on. “Have you two finally cracked and started dating without me?”

Jiyoung chokes, then coughs into the back of his hand. “Were we supposed to start dating with you?”

“No- I mean,” Doyoung’s brow furrows. “I thought the three of us were gonna be together in the Singles Club forever.”

“Do you know how sad that sounds?” Jinyoung and Jisoo ask at once, before frowning at each other.

Doyoung huffs and folds his arms, settling into his seat. “You guys are the worst lab groupmates ever!”

Their professor glances at Doyoung for a moment with an irritated expression, then shrugs and decides it’s not worth the trouble of telling him off for being a noisy piece of shit in class.

“For the record,” Jinyoung says, doodling in the margin of his notebook. “I’d never date either of you.”

Doyoung folds his arms and huffs like he’s been gravely insulted. “You could’ve just said the two of you weren’t dating.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Hurry.” Jisoo grabs Jinyoung by the arm, dragging him to her car before anyone else can see them alone together and jump to conclusions. She opens the passenger side door for him. “Get in!”

“Wow. Chivalry’s not dead.” Jinyoung deadpans, getting in.

“I’ve got to pass by my place before we get dinner.”

Jinyoung pauses in the middle of clipping his seatbelt on. “I don’t know if you don’t get sarcasm or whatever, but I’m really not interested in you-”

“No! It’s not like that!” Jisoo slaps him on the shoulder. “I just need to get a bra.”

Jinyoung frowns. “W- Wha-?”

Jisoo steps on the gas without explaining herself.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Oh god.” Jisoo sinks in her seat in their tiny café booth.

Jinyoung looks up from his sandwich. “What?”

“J-e-n-n-i-e.” Jisoo spells under her breath.

“Oh god indeed.” Jinyoung says, lifting his eyebrows innocently as Jennie and what looks like her mom walk into the café.

Jisoo and Jennie exchange one quick, awkward glance before looking away.

“You planned this.” Jisoo accuses under her breath, poking at her pasta with her knife.

“As much as I’d love to take credit for this, I didn’t.”

The waitress directs Jennie and her mom to the table next to Jinyoung and Jisoo, who’s covering her face with the dessert menu.

“…uncle’s just been elected the head of the board,” Jennie’s mom says, tucking her purse safely in her la as she sits down.

Jisoo turns to the window, shielding her face with the dessert menu.

“Hey piggy,” Jinyoung says, the grin on his face leaking into his voice. “You’re not done eating yet and you’re already thinking of dessert?”

“Shut up.”

Jisoo hears a rustling noise next to her.

“Kim Jisoo?”

Damn it. Jisoo keeps the menu up in the hopes that Jennie’s mom thinks she’s mistaken.

“I think she’s busy, Mom.”

Damnit Jennie. Jisoo lowers the menu and gives Jennie’s mom a toothy smile. “Oh, hi, Mrs. Kim.”

“Nice to see you again, Jisoo dear,” Mrs. Kim says, with a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes, which are darting accusingly in Jinyoung’s direction. “Who’s this?”

Jisoo keeps her smile on, saying absolutely nothing. Jennie’s mom’s smile is slipping, and Jinyoung’s chewing slows to a stop. He looks up at Jisoo as if to ask what he ought to do, but she doesn’t even look in his direction.

“Park Jinyoung.” Jennie says at last. “He’s fourth in the batch, Mom.”

“Fourth, huh?” Mrs. Kim gives Jinyoung a slow elevator look.

Jinyoung plasters on a smile and gives Jennie’s mom a slow nod. “Nice to meet you, ma’am.”

Mrs. Kim ignores him, turning to Jisoo. “Does your mother know about him?”

“No.” Jisoo makes a face. She realizes her mistake and adds, “There’s nothing to know… about him.”

“I see.” Mrs. Kim clutches her purse.

Jinyoung coughs loudly, and Jisoo nudges his glass of water towards him, frowning.

“You know what, I think you were right, Mom,” Jennie says suddenly. “We should have Japanese food tonight.”

Jisoo stares down at her plate as Jennie and her mom get up and leave the café, much to the bewilderment of the perky waitress.

“Wow.” Jinyoung releases a long breath. “What the hell. Was it just me or did Jennie introduce me by my fucking grades? What the hell. Did you hear that?”

“Welcome to my life.”

“What the hell.” Jinyoung shakes his head like he’s got water in his ears. “That’s so weird. So weird.”

“Tell me about it.” Jisoo groans, praying to every god that Jennie’s mom won’t rat her out to her mom. Are their moms even on speaking terms? She hopes not.

“So,” Jinyoung says, picking up the dessert menu out of Jisoo’s hands. “What’re we getting for dessert?”

Jisoo’s phone buzzes in her pocket.

She frowns at it.

Mom: Where are you? Who are you with?

Chapter Text

Three years ago

 

“So, uh, how’s school, Jisoo?” Jisoo’s brother asks.

Jisoo pokes at a wonton bobbing around in her soup. Honestly, she’s drowning in requirements and she has a final exam she’s not studying for because she’s in a five-star hotel having this awkward dinner with her mother and her brother, whom she hasn’t seen in years.

“Good, I guess.”

Jisoo’s mother puts her chopsticks down. “Jisoo’s representing her school in the National Math Olympiad next week.”

“We’re only at regionals, Mom.” Jisoo says quietly.

“Oh, you’re definitely getting past regionals, Jisoo.” Jisoo’s mother says sharply. “Aim for the national title already.”

“Okay.”

Jisoo’s brother picks up his wine glass, swirling it around slowly but not taking a sip. “That’s great, I guess.”

“Thanks.” Jisoo says. She can’t stop staring at her brother, because it’s just so weird to see him in nice clothes, with a nice haircut – The last time she’d seen him, he was being thrown out of the house in his basketball shorts. Well, granted that was a pretty extreme case, but it was nice to see that he seemed to be doing well.

“How’s your, um,” Jisoo casts a wary look in her mother’s direction. “How’s work?”

“Good.” Her brother nods slowly. “I guess.”

They push their food around in silence.

“Dr. Kwak’s daughter just got home from the US.” Jisoo’s mother says.

“Oh.” Jisoo doesn’t know her.

“Good for her.” Jisoo’s brother says. He probably doesn’t know her either.

“I heard she’s very pretty these days. Perhaps you’d like to have dinner with her sometime,” Jisoo’s mother says pointedly.

Jisoo’s brother’s forced smile cracks. “Do you do this to Jisoo, too?”

“Do what?” Jisoo’s mother asks, taking a sip of wine.

“Set her up on dates with random people she doesn’t know or care about?”

Jisoo stops playing with the wonton to watch the vein on her mother’s neck bulge out a little. She doesn’t really know why her brother was thrown out in the first place – she was pretty young then – but she’s starting to get an idea how it happened.

“Jisoo won’t date until after she finishes her residency.” Jisoo’s mother says sharply.

“Oh. I didn’t know you wanted to be a doctor.” Jisoo’s brother glances in Jisoo’s direction. Jisoo looks down at her soup self-consciously. “Well, that shoudn’t stop you from-”

“She’s very serious about her studies,” Jisoo’s mother says. “She doesn’t have time for boys.”

“The more you ban her from doing it, the more she’s going do it, Mother.” Jisoo’s brother smiles at her. “Don’t listen to her. Find someone who makes you happy.”

Jisoo looks up at her brother in mild awe, while her mother bristles with pent-up rage next to her.

“Kim Seokjin!” Her mother snaps, getting weird looks from the couple at the next table. “You ungrateful-!”

“Sorry.” Jisoo’s brother stands up abruptly with an apologetic smile. “I just came from a shoot and I’m really tired. I think I’ll go on ahead, you two enjoy your dinner.”

Jisoo watches her brother straighten his coat before walking out of the hotel restaurant. She turns to her mother slowly, and the first thing she sees is that vein on her mother’s neck throbbing like it’s about to explode.

“Don’t listen to your brother. He’s a college dropout and a failure.” Her mother says, not even bothering to put things nicely. “No dating ‘till you’re thirty.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Jinyoung looks up from the dessert menu. “You okay, Jisoo?”

Jisoo’s lowered her phone into her lap and started whipping her head around, looking all over the café in a panic.

“What’s up?”

“My mom… knows…” Jisoo mutters, stuffing her phone into her bag. “I have to go.”

“We haven’t paid-”

“Bill please!” Jisoo gestures frantically at the waitress.

“Thanks.” Jinyoung frowns as he accepts the bill from the waitress. “Can’t you just explain to your mom that-”

“My mom’s not like that! There’s no explaining to her!” Jisoo hands her credit card over. “She doesn’t see reason!”

“Well shit.” Jinyoung thanks the waitress again. He follows suit when Jisoo gets up, but she pushes him back into his seat.

“No. You stay.” Jisoo pushes her half-eaten plate of pasta towards him. “Eat.”

“Um. Thanks?” Jinyoung frowns at Jisoo as she dashes out of the restaurant.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Chaeyoung stumbles down the hallway and down the stairs, sliding around in her fluffy slippers. She squeezes past a group of girls talking about a party last weekend, practically skating down the tiled floor of the dorm hallway. “Excuse me!”

She starts hammering her fists on the door at the end of the hallway. “LISA! LISA! LISAAA!”

Lisa opens the door. “Shhh, Chaeng, the whole building’s going to be pissed at us again.”

“Did Jisoo’s mom call you?” Chaeyoung asks, hopping around in her bunny slippers.

“Y- Yeah, why?”

“What did you say?” Chaeyoung asks, shaking Lisa by the shoulders.

“That she was with you.” Lisa says. “Studying.”

“Nooo!” Chaeyoung wails, slumping dramatically against Lisa’s door. “I told her she was studying with you!”

“Oh crap.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo all but tumbles back into her house, panting against the wall while one of the maids locks the front door behind her.

“Kim Jisoo.” Her mother’s still wearing the crisp navy-blue dress she’d worn to work, her white doctor’s coat tucked under one arm.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Where have you been?” Her mother frowns as she walks towards Jisoo. “Your friend Chaeyoung said you were with Lisa. And your friend Lisa said…”

“…That I was with Chaeyoung.” Jisoo groans.

Her mother purses her lips. She uses two fingers to pinch the collar of the jacket Jisoo’s wearing. “I didn’t buy this for you, did I?”

Damn it. Jisoo grimaces. “No, you didn’t.”

“It’s not very nice.” Her mother tugs at the collar some more, frowning at the tag behind Jisoo’s neck. “Or ladylike.”

“Oversized jackets are in these days,” Jisoo says, flinching away from her mother gently.

“Who’s PJY?” Her mother asks, tugging at the tag on the collar. Jisoo doesn’t see it, obviously, but she knows Jinyoung lives in a dorm and he probably put his initials all over his clothes to… assert his ownership. He definitely would.

“Who…” Jisoo’s sweating. Why is she sweating. Why is her body against her. “Park Jinyoung. He’s my classmate.”

Her mother narrows her eyes. “Kim Jisoo…”

“I just borrowed it because I was feeling cold-”

“You know the rules.”

Jisoo puts her hands up like she’s being arrested. “I know! We’re not dating! I swear! Actually I think he’s gay!”

Her mother purses her lips, visibly flinching at the mere mention of the word.

“He’d better be.”

“Seems like it. Very much so.” Jisoo nods too enthusiastically.

Her mother folds her arms. “I don’t want you hanging out with those kinds of people.”

Jisoo frowns. “What kind-”

“They’re bad influences.” Her mother says. “Just stay with Chaeyoung and Lisa. Those girls are okay, even if they lie.”

Jisoo doesn’t say anything, but nods.

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Jisoo wakes up lying on her bed, with her organic chemistry textbook over her face. She’s pretty sure she’s drooled into it but she couldn’t care less. A comfortable shade from the morning sun is the most she’s ever gotten out of this goddamned textbook.

Morning…sun???

Jisoo throws the textbook aside and sits up. She checks her phone.

07:12 AM

Jisoo heaves a sigh and flops back against the pillows. Just enough time to wash her hair and have breakfast.

3 new messages from Park Jinyoung

128 new messages from group: I don’t care guys just give this group a name so I don’t send the whole class ugly my selfies

Jisoo stretches as she checks her messages.

Park Jinyoung: Is your mom really mad?

Park Jinyoung: Sorry if I got you in any trouble.

Park Jinyoung: Oh and btw I have your credit card, you left it at the restaurant. Dumb dumb.

Jisoo frowns and types out some quick thanks before switching to the group chat.

Chaeng: JISOO WE ARE SOOORORRY :(((((((((((((((

Chaeng: we r dumbass stupids im so sorryyyy :(

Lisa:  yea sorry we fucked up

Lisa: r u still alive jichu

Lisa: did ur mom kill u

Chaeng: NOT FUNNY >:(

Lisa: dude shes not replying

Chaeng: JICHUU BB :((((((((((((((((((

Chaeng: maybe she’s mad at us :(((((((((

Lisa: i mean

Lisa: who wouldnt be

Chaeng: :(((((((((((((((((((((((((((

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Jisoo opens the door to their organic chemistry lecture hall and manages to take one step before being tackled by a wild Chaeyoung.

“Jichu bby I’m so sorry.” Chaeyoung buries her face in Jisoo’s shoulder.

“It’s not a big deal, Chaeng, it’s ok-”

“Did we cockblock you? Sorry for cockblocking you.” Lisa says, patting Jisoo on the arm.

Jisoo throws her a dirty look. “You guys weren’t blocking anything-”

“Excuse me.”

Chaeyoung and Lisa step aside to let Jennie pass, but Jisoo stays right where she is, right in the doorway.

“I said,” Jennie grips the bottle of iced coffee in her hand. “Excuse me.”

“Did your mom tell my mom that she saw me last night?” Jisoo asks.

“No.” Jennie makes a face. “She couldn’t care less about who you’re dating. Could you move aside a bit?”

“I’m not dating anyone.” Jisoo says defensively.

“Good for you.” Jennie rolls her eyes. “Can I pass?”

“Don’t you always?” Jisoo mutters, stepping aside.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo manages to convince Chaeyoung and Lisa to sit next to her today – actually she bribes them with milk tea, because she knows those two leap at the offer of any kind of food.

“With pearls?” Chaeyoung asks.

“Yes.”

“Yes!” Lisa pumps her fist and high-fives Chaeyoung.

Jisoo’s busy calculating the money left on her credit card – which is still with Jinyoung, since he’s sitting all the way in the front row, next to Jennie – when Professor Lee walks in.

She lowers a stack of papers on Jinyoung’s desk. “Get yours and pass.”

Jisoo’s heart short-circuits for a second before she realizes that these are just the midterms, and she already knows her score, and she’s done crying about it or feeling bad.

Lies.

She gets her paper back and has to blink back tears at all the red marks all over it, and the giant 52/130 on the front page, encircled and underlined once in red ink.

“So,” Professor Lee says, when the back row have gotten their papers back. “If you hadn’t seen your results yet, I suppose you’ve seen them by now.”

Professor Lee sits on her desk and folds her hands in her lap. “Well? Comments, questions, violent reactions?”

Someone raises their hand.

“Yes?”

“Sodium hydride and water.” The guy snorts.

Professor Lee rolls her eyes. “Give me your paper, Dong-geun. I’m giving you a 0.”

“Nooo, Professor, pleaaaase,” Dong-geun says, clutching his paper to his chest. “I only have thirty points as it is.”

Professor Lee laughs. “Anyway, so I guess you all know now how bad things are.”

Jisoo winces.

“Other professors love watching their students fail, they make impossible exams to groom their egos, but I think that makes you a crappy professor.” Professor Lee shrugs. “When my students fail their exams, that means I’m just saying random stuff up here, but they’re not getting any of it. Something’s wrong, and we need to fix it.”

Professor Lee wiggles a little to sit comfortably on her desk. “So I’m gonna take this time to go over the way we’ve been doing things for half the semester – Am I going too fast, do you want more exercises, whatever you guys think will help you get through this class, because the way things are looking now, I’m gonna see all of you again next semester.”

She catches sight of Jennie thumbing the corner of her exam paper mindlessly. “Well, most of you, anyway.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Professor Lee gives them all a quick wave before leaving after class.

Chaeyoung clutches her chest. “I think I love her.”

“We all do.” Jisoo says. “You’re not special.”

Jisoo watches Jennie walk up to the front of the class. Jisoo narrows her eyes.

“So, um,” Jennie says timidly. “Excuse me!”

Nobody minds her. Part of Jisoo feels bad when probably half the class shuffle past her, but the rest of Jisoo is thinking, lol.

“Try, Shut up fives, a ten is speaking,” Jinyoung suggests to her, fishing through his backpack.

Jennie stares at him for a whole minute before laughing.

“Um, anyway, guys, I uh…” She rummages around her backpack and pulls out a stack of pink flyers. “I don’t know if you guys are interested, but I’m gonna start um, tutorials for org chem or whatever you need.”

Lisa nudges Chaeyoung, and they both start towards the door, Jisoo following a few steps behind.

“It starts on Monday, just at the library…” Jennie’s face is flushed as pink as the flyers now. “It’s just 2000 won an hour, it’s super affordable, just um, text if you guys are interested.”

“Do you wanna go?” Chaeyoung whispers to Lisa.

“Yeah, why not?” Lisa whispers back.

Jisoo’s about to snap at them when Jinyoung taps her on the arm.

“Card.” Is all he says, sliding Jisoo’s card into her hand with all the discretion of a stage magician.

“Thanks.” Jisoo says, watching her friends go up to the front of the class and take flyers from Jennie.

“Thanks.” Jennie says, forcing herself to give them a smile. She locks eyes with Jisoo, who’s got a scowl plastered on her face. Jennie pulls back the flyer she’d been extending. “Oh, you don’t need this, Jisoo.”

“Yeah.” Jisoo brushes past her and out the door.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“I’m sorry, Jisoo,” Chaeyoung says, laying a hand gently on Jisoo’s forearm during lunch. “But I’m gonna go on Monday.”

“Go where?” Jisoo asks, mouth full of instant ramen.

“To Jennie’s tutorial thing.” Lisa says. “I’m going too. Sorry.”

Jisoo feels like she’s just been Julius Caesar-ed (she took one class on English literature last semester and that play is all she can remember), but she just keeps chewing her noodles. “Why’re you guys apologizing to me?”

“Uh…” Chaeyoung frowns.

“Because you’re our friend and you hate her?” Lisa says. “For some reason.”

Chaeyoung stirs her soup with a plastic spoon. “Why do you hate Jennie so much?”

Jisoo frowns, chewing thoughtfully on a dehydrated carrot that hadn’t completely rehydrated itself.

“Because she’s annoying. She thinks she’s so great, and she’s always pulling that fake humble shit and I’m so tired of her bullshit, I’ve put up with her for so long,” Jisoo groans. “You guys weren’t there for high school.”

“Kinda glad I wasn’t, if it was that bad.” Lisa says.

“She’s a lot better now, I guess,” Jisoo says, but only because she feels bad that her friends feel bad about this whole thing. Honestly, she hasn’t seen anything change about Jennie since high school, except maybe that her boobs have gotten bigger.

Jisoo bites down on the carrot. Why does she even care?

“You sure you don’t wanna come with?” Chaeyoung asks. “We’re all having a crappy time with org chem. It might help.”

Part of Jisoo – that small, annoying part of Jisoo that won’t just shut up – knows that Chaeyoung’s probably right, but the rest of Jisoo would never, ever admit it.

“You think I’d actually spend time with Jennie Kim on my own free will?” Jisoo scoffs. “And fucking pay her for it?”

“Right.”

“You guys go without me if you really wanna try it.” Jisoo waves a hand dismissively. “And if she pisses you off, I warned you guys.”

Chaeyoung and Lisa exchange worried glances.

Chapter Text

Present (Monday afternoon)

 

Jisoo cracks her neck. She can’t believe their evil Calculus professor decided to give them a surprise mock exam on a Monday, but that’s how the devil’s mind works, she guesses.

Jisoo cracks her neck again. Taking tests always takes a toll on her neck – her mom probably knows a good orthopedic, but there’s no way in hell Jisoo’s asking her mom for anything anytime soon.

“I need ice cream.” She twines her arms around one of Chaeyoung’s. “Let’s get ice cream.”

Chaeyoung turns to her with the most pathetic pout Jisoo’s ever seen.

“What?” Jisoo frowns. “Are you suddenly lactose intolerant?”

Chaeyoung only pulls her pout harder. “Jichuuuu…”

“We’re going to Jennie’s tutorial thing,” Lisa explains, tugging nervously on the straps of her backpack.

“Oh.”

Chaeyoung rests her head on Jisoo’s shoulder. “Sorry Jichu. Let’s get ice cream tomo?”

“Chaeyoung will pay for your ice cream.” Lisa offers.

Chaeyoung shoots her a dirty look. “Hey!”

“It’s ok, guys.” Jisoo says, shrugging Chaeyoung off gently. “I’ll just get ice cream on my own.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo tries people watching from the convenience store, but her soft serve tastes like tap water.

She gives up and tosses it into the trash, only half-eaten, on her way out.

She checks her phone. No messages. Obviously. That’s what happens when you’ve only got two friends, and they decide to go somewhere without you.

Jisoo: What time are you gonna fini

She frowns at herself and deletes the message. She’s not that gross and needy. It’s just one day.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“What do you mean there’s another one today?” Jisoo asks, folding her arms. Professor Park’s been giving her the stank eye for talking over him for the past few minutes, but she doesn’t really care. Sorry, Professor Park.

“We didn’t finish everything last time.” Chaeyoung explains.

“And this is gonna be kind of a regular thing.” Lisa says.

“It’s actually really nice of Jennie to spend so much time on us, actually,” Chaeyoung says.

“She doesn’t seem as bad as you say she is.” Lisa shrugs.

“Wait, guys, I’m listening to Professor Park.” Jisoo purses her lips, scrabbling down whatever Professor Park was saying.

“Oh. Sorry.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“So, how regular is this gonna be?” Jisoo asks, sitting in the hallway outside their Physics Class one afternoon. She, Chaeyoung, and Lisa are passing a tiny bag of chips among themselves, because their previous class had gone an hour overtime and they hadn’t had time to get lunch.

“MWF.” Lisa says.

“But she’s also free on Thursdays for Calculus,” Chaeyoung says.

Jisoo straightens her back indignantly. “I could teach you Calculus.”

“Oh, uh…” Chaeyoung laughs awkwardly. “Sure, Jisoo, that’s really nice of you to offer.”

“You guys could go to my place, my dad’s got a case and my mom’s got a conference in the US all week,” Jisoo says.

“Thanks, Jisoo,” Lisa casts a wary glance at Chaeyoung. “But we already promised Jennie we’d go this whole week.”

Jisoo doesn’t say anything.

“Maybe next week?” Chaeyoung holds the bag of chips out to Jisoo, giving her an apologetic smile. “Chip?”

Jisoo takes the bag and turns it over. A few crumbs and crystals of salt tumble out. “It’s empty.”

“Oh.”

“Sorry.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Jisoo.” Jinyoung says, sounding mildly agitated. “Jisoo. Jisoo!”

Jisoo ignores him and keeps watching Chaeyoung laugh at something Jennie just said, like they’re friends or something.

“JISOO!” Doyoung squawks.

Jisoo ignores him, because Lisa’s saying something on Jennie’s other side – Lisa’s not even their groupmate!!! – and now Jennie’s laughing.

“Your notebook’s on fire!” Jinyoung snatches the lab notebook out of Jisoo’s hands and drops it onto the floor, stomping out the fire in the corner of the notebook. Doyoung reaches over and turns the burner off.

“Oh my god.” Doyoung clutches at his heart, wheezing. “Jisoo, why?”

Jisoo glances at the scorched lab notebook on the floor, coughing lightly at the smoke still coming off it.

She shrugs and looks back at when Chaeyoung, Lisa, and Jennie are giving her quizzical looks. Jisoo huffs and bends over to pick up her notebook, but she miscalculates her weight on the skinny lab stool and tips over.

Doyoung catches her, then stumbles backward into Jinyoung, who grunts as he pushes them back upright.

“Are you drunk?” Doyoung asks, straightening his jeans out.

“What the hell, no.” Jisoo scowls.

“Stoned?” Jinyoung asks.

“Screw you guys.” Jisoo tosses the charred notebook onto the lab bench and folds her arms. “What were we supposed to be doing anyway?”

“Not setting shit on fire.” Doyoung suggests.

Jisoo opens her mouth to clap back at him, but Jinyoung’s faster.

“How long are we supposed to heat the sample?” Jinyoung asks, picking up their test tube in a holder.

“5 minutes with shaking.” Jisoo and Doyoung reply at once.

Jisoo folds her arms tighter and goes back to watching Jennie make Chaeyoung and Lisa laugh, which is just not. Possible. Jennie doesn’t have a funny bone in her body, Jisoo thinks. Well, she’s got two funny bones – She can’t tell a joke! Or even get a joke! Why are Chaeng and Lisa laughing with her and not at her???

“Hey, Jisoo, wanna try pulling your weight?” Doyoung asks, motioning a hand at the warm test tube in the rack.

“Funny thing to say for someone who didn’t finish their part of the last lab report.” Jisoo snaps at him.

Jinyoung snorts.

Doyoung shrinks away, muttering, “I had emergency choir practice.”

“Sure.” Jinyoung laugh-coughs against the back of his hand.

Jisoo watches Chaeyoung wrap Jennie up in a bear hug, resting her chin on Jennie’s shoulder. Jisoo’s scowl only gets deeper.

“Are you guys free tonight?” Jisoo asks, out of the blue.

Doyoung and Jinyoung stare at her.

“Free… for what?” Doyoung asks, frowning.

“Just, uh… We can hang out?” Jisoo flushes. She doesn’t know what possessed her to even ask them that, but it’s un-possessed her and now she’s embarrassed. “I mean, if you guys wanna. Watch a movie or just get coffee or something.”

Doyoung and Jinyoung laugh, then cough to try and cover it up.

Lab groupmates gotta stick together!” Jisoo hisses, grimacing.

“Okay, okay, calm down,” Jinyoung pats her gently on the back. He turns to Doyoung. “Any emergency choir practice today?”

“Nope.” Doyoung says slowly, looking back and forth between Jinyoung and Jisoo with a suspicious look on his face.

“Let’s hang out with poor, lonely Jisoo.” Jinyoung says, patting Jisoo on the back some more.

Jisoo swats his hand away. “I was just trying to be friendly, you assholes.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

13 Years Ago

 

“Hi!” Jisoo clambers up the jungle gym, her patent leather shoes slipping and sliding on the bars. “I’m Jichu!”

The girl sitting under the jungle gym looks up.

“What’re you doing down there?” Jisoo asks, dangling from the top of the jungle gym. When the girl doesn’t reply, Jisoo drops down onto the rubber tiles next to her.

Jisoo cocks her head to one side, watching the girl poke at the air like she’s pressing buttons. “What’re you doing?”

The girl ignores her, making a whizzing noise with her mouth as she pretends to turn a dial.

Jisoo sits down next to her in silence, watching her pretend to flick some switches.

Jisoo hugs her knees and rocks on her butt. “Are you playing submarine?”

The girl shakes her head. She makes more whizzing sounds as she pretends to turn a steering wheel.

Jisoo frowns. “Airplane?”

The girl shakes her head again.

Jisoo sighs and stands up to climb out of the jungle gym.

“Wait, stop!” The girl says, holding out a hand to stop Jisoo. “You’re going to die if you go out there!”

Jisoo frowns. “Are we in space?”

“Yeah.” The girl says, pretending to flick a few switches with a click of her tongue. “This is my space shuttle.”

Jisoo sits back down. “Nobody owns space shuttles. They just fly them.”

The girl scowls. “It’s my space shuttle.”

“You can be the captain, but the govement still owns it.” Jisoo folds her arms.

“Fine.” The girl flicks a few more imaginary switches. “I’m the captain then.”

“I can be your first officer,” Jisoo offers. “Captain…?”

“Jendeuk.”

Jisoo frowns. “Captain Jendeuk’s not catchy.”

Jendeuk frowns. “Then what?”

“Don’t you have a nickname?” Jisoo asks, bringing her knees up. “Like my name is Jisoo, but everyone calls me Jichu because when I was littler I said Jichu even though my name is actually Jisoo-”

“I don’t have one of those.”

“Umm… what about… Deukie…” Jisoo shrugs.

“Deukie sounds stupid.”

“Fine!” Jisoo huffs. “What about Jennie? Captain Jennie?”

Jennie smiles. “That sounds nice.”

“KIM JISOO!”

Jisoo jumps at the sound of her mother’s voice. Jennie only frowns.

“What are you doing, sitting like that?” Her mother reaches into the jungle gym and pulls Jisoo to her feet. “You’re wearing a skirt! Everyone can see your underwear!”

Jisoo flushes, mostly out of frustration. She brushes dirt off her dress’s petticoat. “It’s ok.”

“It is not okay! What are you doing here anyway! I told you to stay with your brother!” Her mother starts pulling her out of the jungle gym.

“Ow, ow, Moooom!” Jisoo whines, climbing out of the jungle gym with her mother pinching her arm. “I was just trying to be friendly!”

Jisoo turns back as her mother drags her off. “Bye, Jennie!”

Jennie waves silently.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Jisoo watches is mild disgust as Jinyoung and Doyoung split another bowl of extra noodles. Doyoung smiles up at her, cheeks stuffed like a squirrel. “Thanks for the food, Jisoo.”

Jisoo gives him a dry smile. “Sure thing.”

Jinyoung drops exactly three noodles into Jisoo’s bowl.

“Wow.” Jisoo tries very hard not to roll her eyes. “Thanks.”

Jinyoung grins at her before stuffing his mouth with an entire bowl’s worth of noodles.

Jisoo picks up her phone.

Jisoo: When are you guys gonna fini

Jisoo sighs and deletes the message before sending.

“Who’re you talking to?” Doyoung leans on the table to look at Jisoo’s phone, the laces of his hoodie trailing into his soup bowl.

“No one.” Jisoo says honestly.

“How sad.” Jinyoung says, leaning back in his seat as he takes a sip of cola.

“Screw you.” Jisoo picks her phone up again. It’s already half past eight, but Chaeyoung and Lisa still seem to be at their “tutorial.” Or maybe they went out for dinner with Jennie afterwards. Or maybe they just didn’t feel like texting Jisoo anymore.

“Your friends are at Jennie’s review class thing, right?” Doyoung asks, like he’s read her mind.

Jinyoung only frowns at him as he crams some more noodles into his mouth.

“Yeah.” Jisoo mutters. “Why?”

“What are they saying about it? Worth the money?” Doyoung asks.

Jisoo frowns. “Why do you care? You don’t need it anyway.”

Doyoung shrugs. “Maybe I do.”

“Oh please,” Jinyoung scoffs as he stirs the noodles at the bottom of his bowl. “He just hates Jennie.”

“What?” Jisoo asks.

“Ha ha, what?” Doyoung pulls out a fake laugh. “I don’t hate her!”

Jinyoung just lifts his eyebrows in silence.

“I just think she’s a little bit annoying.” Doyoung pinches his fingers together. “Just a little bit.”

“Annoying how?” Jisoo asks, genuinely interested.

Doyoung takes a deep breath. “She thinks she’s so great, and she’s always acting like she’s worried that she’s not gonna pass when we all know she’s always the highest, and then she acts all fake humble like she’s fishing for compliments all the time and she-”

Jinyoung stuffs a piece of charred pork into Doyoung’s mouth to shut him up. “Okay, that’s enough.”

Doyoung whines in protest, trying to chew the pork as quickly as he can.

“He’s right though.” Jisoo says quietly.

Jinyoung sighs. “Does everyone at this table hate Jennie Kim?”

“Do you?” Jisoo turns to Jinyoung with a wide, expectant grin.

Jinyoung swirls his noodles in silence. “Well, I don’t hate her, exactly, I just-”

“He hates her.” Doyoung says, swallowing the chewed-up pork triumphantly.

Jisoo smiles. Maybe her new friends aren’t that bad.

Jinyoung smiles back. “You have something in your teeth. Right there.”

“Screw you.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo looks up the lecture hall to find that Chaeyoung and Lisa aren’t in their usual seats near the back, which is weird, considering they’re usually the first two to arrive.

“Jisoo!”

Jisoo’s line of sight travels downward to the first row, where Chaeyoung is waving at her. She and Lisa are sitting next to Jennie, who’s busy listening to music as she sips a coffee.

Jisoo scrunches her nose up in a kind of apology and climbs the stairs to the fourth row, where Doyoung and Jinyoung are arguing over some inane plot hole in a Marvel movie she’s already forgotten.

“…I mean if she was there the whole time, why didn’t she do anything before!” Doyoung says, accidentally kicking the seat in front of him in his excitement. “Sorry.”

“Because it wasn’t her problem, Doyoung.” Jinyoung groans.

“She’s a superhero! Everything is her problem!”

Jisoo dumps herself into the seat next to Doyoung.

Doyoung frowns at her and points down at the first row. “Your friends are over there today.”

“You’re my friends too.” Jisoo huffs, settling into her seat.

“We’re lab groupmates.” Jinyoung says, from Doyoung’s other side. “Not friends.”

“I bought you assholes dinner.” Jisoo mutters. She reaches across Doyoung to jab Jinyoung in the arm. “I bought you dinner twice.”

Jinyoung gives her a toothy grin. “Right. Thanks again, friend.”

Professor Park skids into the lecture hall, laptop under one arm and coffee in the other.

He slams his things down on the table. “Shit.”

“Sorry I’m late, everyone.” The professor runs a hand through his hair. “I got held up at a… Never mind. Uh, no class today, but before I let you guys go, I’m kinda obliged to promote the annual University Academic Decathlon, which is open to all sophomores to seniors of any college…”

Professor Park hops up to sit on the table.

“You can apply as teams of two, just fill up the application form online…” He looks at the uninterested stares of his students. “If you win in our university’s round, you get to go to the national round held in Busan. One week off classes. No? Still not interested? The international round’s gonna be in Hong Kong this year. Guys. All-expenses-paid trip to Hong Kong. Come on!”

“Is there prize money?” Someone asks from the back.

“₩100,000 each if you win in the university, ₩250,000 each if you win nationals,” Professor Park says off the top of his head. “Don’t know what the prize is for the international one but it’s in dollars and I’m sure there are laptops involved.”

The class lets out a low gasp. Laptops.

Jisoo watches Jennie shift in her seat, scrawling something in the margin of her notebook. Jisoo’s eyesight isn’t good enough to see what Jennie’s writing, but she’s sure she’s calculating the prize money already. Greedy bitch.

Jennie raises her hand.

“Yes, Jennie?”

“When’s the application deadline?”

“Right. Forgot about that.” Professor Park runs a hand through his hair again. “On Thursday.”

“Thanks, Professor.”

“No problem.”

Jisoo purses her lips. She doesn’t really care about the Academic Marathon, or whatever it’s called, since she’s never heard of it until now. She doesn’t care about the prize money, seeing as her dad gives her about that much as allowance. She doesn’t even care about the all-expenses-paid trip, because missing a few weeks of school is bound to ruin her grades.

But now that she sees Jennie turning to Chaeyoung, probably to ask her if she wants to join, Jisoo suddenly cares.

She’s going to win that goddamn Triathlon if it’s the last thing she does.

Chapter Text

Present

 

“So I was thinking…” Jisoo starts.

“Stop thinking, you’re going to start another fire.” Jinyoung says, gently guiding the notebook in Jisoo’s hand away from the open flame.

Jisoo scowls at him.

Doyoung sighs. “What were you thinking, Jisoo?”

“Let’s join the Academic Triathlon.”

“It’s a Decathlon, Jisoo.” Doyoung corrects her. “Ten rounds. And the teams are just two by two, and there are three of us-”

“You and Doyoung can go,” Jinyoung says, not even feigning disappointment.

“No!” Doyoung says too quickly. Jisoo looks hurt, so he adds, “I have a choir competition around the same time, I can’t do it. You two can go.”

Jisoo pouts at Jinyoung, who only rolls his eyes.

“I’ll buy you food?” Jisoo pouts harder, resting her elbows on the lab bench to rest her face in her hands like a flower.

“No amount of food is gonna make me study for something that isn’t even fucking graded.” Jinyoung gives her a fake smile back.

Please? Pretty please?” Jisoo scoots forward to pout ever harder. “I’ll give you my share of the prize money.”

“No.”

“That’s more than ₩500,000, dude.” Doyoung nudges Jinyoung gently with his elbow.

“What do you want?” Jisoo begs.

“Not to study extra shit I won’t even get a grade for.” Jinyoung says, waving her away.

“I’ll give you anything!” Jisoo hisses.

Jinyoung lifts one eyebrow, and Doyoung says, “Come on, Jinyoung, just go with her, it’s just one day.”

“Nope.” Jinyoung narrows his eyes at Jisoo. “Knowing her, she wants to win the whole damn thing.”

“You got me.” Jisoo smiles at him. “Pretty pretty please?”

Jinyoung folds his arms, turning to Doyoung. “You better win your fucking choir competition.”

“We’ll try?”

Jinyoung sighs, shaking his head. “Fine.”

“Wait.” Jisoo grabs Jinyoung by the arm. “You’ll do it? Really?”

“Yeah.” Jinyoung’s face is blank as Jisoo jumps off her lab stool to hug him tight. “Stop touching me or I’ll change my mind.”

“Right. Sorry.” Jisoo backs half a meter away. “Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou-”

“Stop making noise or I’ll change my mind.” Jinyoung grimaces at her.

“Sorry.” Jisoo clamps her mouth, and whispers, “Sorry.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Three Weeks Later

 

Jisoo frowns at the sheet of paper in her hand. There are red marks all over her exam, and a huge, encircled 74/110 written in red on the front page.

“What’d you get?” Chaeyoung asks brightly, from the seat next to her.

Jisoo glances over at the paper in Chaeyoung’s hands. 88/110. Jisoo folds her paper and stuffs it into her backpack before Chaeyoung can see.

“It’s fine.” Jisoo mutters.

Chaeyoung opens her mouth to say something else, but Professor Lee starts talking.

“Your homework for Monday is numbers 15 to 100 on pages 724-727 of the textbook,” She says, scrawling the numbers onto the whiteboard. “Is the weekend enough time to finish that?”

The class grunts noncommittally.

Professor Lee laughs. “You guys have got it, I’m sure. You guys did a lot better in this exam already, so I guess the drills are working?”

She gives them a shy thumbs up.

 

Someone catches Jisoo by the arm on her way out the door. “Hey Jisoo!”

“Hey, Jisoo-”

Jinyoung stops in his tracks, noticing Lisa’s hand on Jisoo’s arm. He ducks his head and checks his phone suddenly.

Lisa glares at him for a moment before turning to Jisoo. “We’re going to try this new wall climbing place on Sunday, you wanna come with?”

“I, um…” Jisoo doesn’t know how to go about asking whether Jennie is part of that “we”.

“The Decathlon is on Saturday, right? So you and Jennie will be free on Sunday,” Lisa grins.

Ah. Jennie is a part of that “we”.

“Oh, I uh,” Jisoo tries to give Lisa a smile but she feels like she looks like a serial killer. “I’ve already got something planned on Sunday, you guys go ahead without me.”

Lisa glances suspiciously at Jinyoung. “You sure? Just text me by Friday if you change your mind.”

“Okay, but- Okay.” Jisoo waves at her as she walks off to join Chaeyoung and Jennie, who’s frowning in Jisoo’s general direction. That bitch.

“So, partner,” Jinyoung says, pocketing his phone. “Why don’t you wanna hang out with your friends?”

“It’s none of your business.” Jisoo huffs, grabbing him by the sleeve to drag him. “We have so much left to review before Fri-”

“Just because they invited Jennie?”

Jisoo stops suddenly. “Yeah, I mean, what’s up with that? They know I don’t like her! And they don’t talk to me for over a month and think everything’s chill!”

“Did you talk to them?” Jinyoung asks, straightening out the sleeve of his jacket.

“I- What? No.” Jisoo frowns. “But they’re the ones who ditched me for Jennie, they should be apologizing to me, I can’t believe- Ugh!”

Jinyoung rolls his eyes as he holds the door to the building open for Jisoo. He catches sight of Chaeyoung squeezing Jennie in a tight hug by the trellis. “Thank you so so so much! You’re such a lifesaver!”

Jinyoung catches a dirty look from Lisa, and nudges Jisoo in the opposite direction.

“What the hell did you do to Lisa?” He asks. “She keeps giving me this look and it’s creeping me out.”

“I didn’t do anything! They left me, they don’t have any right to be like that.” Jisoo frowns up at Jinyoung. “And why would they be mad at you, you’re not even part of this?”

“Beats me.” Jinyoung shrugs, as he takes Jisoo’s textbooks from her while she fishes in her bag for her car keys. “Will you drive today or will I?”

“My shoes are pinchy,” Jisoo pouts.

“Fine.” Jinyoung says, opening the passenger side door for her. “I’ll drive.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Saturday (As in, the day of the Decathlon… I suck at marking time, sorry)

 

Jisoo scrapes up the last of her fried egg and chugs the rest of her orange juice.

“The competition is today, right?” Her dad asks, not looking up from the newspaper.

“Yeah.” Jisoo pushes her chair back as the maid starts picking up her plate. “I’ll be home by dinner, hopefully.”

“It’s all right, have dinner with your boyfriend.”

Jisoo frowns. “He’s not my-”

“Just don’t stay out too late. Your mom’s flight lands at...” Her dad mutters. “When is Daera coming home?”

His assistant looks up from where she’d been using her laptop at the breakfast table. “9 PM, sir.””

“9.” Jisoo’s dad groans. “Just be home before she is.”

Jisoo swallows. “Will do, dad.”

 

Jisoo knew, she knew objectively, that there were like a hundred other teams in this round of the competition, but they looked like so much more in the gymnasium. Over a hundred little foldable tables were scattered around the gym floor, with a pair of foldable chairs on either side of it. Some people were already sitting at the tables, but most of the people were milling about and talking to each other.

“I heard Jennie Kim’s here,” A short guy says to the four guys assembled in front of him like a wall.

“Jennie Kim?”

“She won the Math Olympiad three years straight.”

“Wow. No pressure.”

They all laugh.

“My hands are so cold.” Jisoo says grabbing Jinyoung’s forearm with her clammy, sweaty, hands.

Jinyoung flinches away understandably. “Ew.”

Jisoo stuffs her hands into the pockets of her skirt. “Jinyoung, I’m cold.”

“I told you the A/C in this building was cold.”

“I thought it was okay cold, not like, arctic.”

Jinyoung sighs. “You’re just nervous. Shake it off.”

“Thanks for the advice, Taylor Swift.” Jisoo deadpans. She tugs on Jinyoung’s jacket. “Give me your jacket.”

“Woman, you are so rich, just buy your own damn jackets.” Jinyoung grumbles, shrugging his jacket off to drape it around Jisoo’s shoulders.

Jisoo pulls the jacket close around her. “Are you… nervous?”

Jinyoung grimaces at her. “What do you think, genius?”

Jisoo smiles and nudges him lightly with her elbow. “Just shake it off, Taylor-”

A voice over the sound system cuts her off.

“Will all the contestants please take their seats at the assigned tables. The ______ University Academic Decathlon 20XX will begin in five minutes.”

“F- Five minutes?” Jinyoung’s eyes go blank, like his soul’s just slipped out of his mortal body.

“We got this, come on.” Jisoo squeezes his arm. Her hands are shaking and starting to go numb. She’s suddenly not sure why she did this, as if she didn’t remember what happened the last time she joined a contest like this one.

 

“Team Number 99, Park Jinyoung and Kim Jisoo.”

Jisoo frowns as she takes her seat. She remembers writing her name first in the application.

“And finally, team number 100, Kim Jennie and Kim Doyoung.”

Jinyoung and Jisoo spin around in their chairs to look at the table next to theirs.

Sure enough, Jennie’s sitting there, looking a bit bored, across the table from Doyoung, who gives them an awkward wave. “Hi guys.”

“I- I- I thought you had a choir thing!” Jisoo stammers.

“You lying piece of shit!” Jinyoung all but growls at him.

Jennie simply scoots her seat out of the way as Jinyoung dives to throttle Doyoung.

Jisoo squeaks and all but flies over to try and wrestle him off. “Jinyoung, stop, we’re going to get disqualified if you kill him-”

The voice over the PA cuts her off.

“Please rise for the national anthem.”

Jinyoung drops Doyoung, still glaring at him all throughout the entire national anthem. Jisoo accidentally locks eyes with Jennie, who frowns at her. Jisoo looks down at her boots, embarrassed.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Chaeyoung rips open her bag of popcorn, ignoring the weird looks the people around them are giving her. “So, how long is this gonna take?”

“Idek.” Lisa shrugs, grabbing a handful of popcorn. “This is like a sports event but for nerds, right? With rounds and stuff?”

“How long is each round?” Chaeyoung takes a huge chomp out of the pile of popcorn in her hand. “Wackafoomeedutsosumkin?”

Lisa shrugs again, reaching for more popcorn. “I don’t think this will go past an hour? Like, an hour, tops.”

Chaeyoung nods as she swallows her mouthful of popcorn. “Let’s leave after one hour.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

The Decathlon went on for five hours, with one thirty-minute bathroom break in the middle.

When the first question rolled in, Jisoo felt herself possessed by some kind of spirit, answering every question so quickly and calmly that all Jinyoung did was sit back and watch. The spirit left her once they started announcing the 90 teams going through to the second round.

“Oh god.” The marker rattled in Jisoo’s hand until Jinyoung took it from her. “Oh god.”

“Jisoo, you got everything right, I don’t know what you’re worried about.” Jinyoung said, squinting at the scoreboard that was too far for either of them to read.

“Right. Right. You’re right.” Jisoo muttered, trying to take deep breaths.

The spirit hopped back into Jisoo’s body at the beginning of the second round, which she also blasted through, apparently. Her knees, though she was sitting down, were shaking.

“You okay?” Jinyoung asked.

“I hate competitions.” Jisoo said.

“I get that.” Jinyoung patted her on the arm. “But you’re doing really well.”

Jisoo didn’t even notice what she was doing, much less how she was doing, until she noticed the wide, lazy smile on Jinyoung’s face by the time the semifinals rolled in.

“…going on to the next round are teams 45, 65, 99, and 100.”

The spirit, whatever it was, possessed Jisoo again right up until she realized she was being led up the stage to sit at a table set up there.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Welcome to the finals of the ______ University Academic Decathlon 20XX,” The emcee says, his voice echoing over the sound system. “Team 99, composed of Park Jinyoung and Kim Jisoo, are going up against Team 100, Kim Jennie and Kim Doyoung, for the title and the spot in the National University Academic Decathlon later this year.”

“And, of course, the cash prize.” The emcee waits for the laughter to subside before continuing. “This last round will consist of extremely difficult questions – The first team to get three correct wins. Are you ready, team 100?”

Jisoo watches Jennie give the emcee a half-smile. “Yes, sir.”

“And what about you, team 99?”

Jisoo watches Jennie turn to her with a frown. Again. As usual. Why is Jennie always frowning at her?

“We’re good.” Jinyoung says, giving the emcee a warm smile.

The emcee is distracted for a moment before she pulls herself back together to turn to the crowd. “Without further ado, the first question of the final round: Given a circle of the diameter 28.43 cm…”

Jisoo frowns back at Jennie. She doesn’t even get why Jennie would be mad at her. Jennie’s the one who stole her friends and everything.

“Jisoo.”

Jennie looks down at the sheet of scratch paper between her and Doyoung, whispering something.

“Jisoo.”

Jisoo blinks. “What?”

The buzzer sounds. “Time’s up! Put your answers up for the judges to see.”

Jinyoung frowns as he holds up a haphazardly-written number on their whiteboard.

“I’m sorry team 99, that is incorrect. Team 100 got this one right!”

Jinyoung touches Jisoo gently on the arm. “You okay?”

Jisoo nods and picks up the marker. The emcee reads out the next question, and it only vaguely registers in her mind as something about history. The rest of her mind is focused, like it’s sharpened down to a point at a single thought. Was it her fault? Maybe it was her fault. It’s not like she can choose who Chaeyoung and Lisa’s other friends are, and it’s not like it’s anyone’s fault but hers that she only has two friends.

“Jisoo.”

Jisoo frowns, tapping the marker on the board. Maybe she’s just been a crap friend to Chaeyoung and Lisa, that’s why they left her. She’s a crappy person in general and can’t do anything right. It figures.

“Jisoo.”

The buzzer sounds.

Jisoo doesn’t pay attention to whatever the emcee’s babbling on about now, because smirks have just crossed Jennie’s and Doyoung’s faces. Ugh. They’re the worst.

“The next, and what might be the final question is this: In organic chemistry, the Grignard reaction entails the addition of…”

Jennie whispers into Doyoung’s ear and watches as he writes something on the board.

“Jisoo.” Jinyoung’s tone is a little panicked, Jisoo doesn’t mind it much.

Jennie glances away from whatever Doyoung’s writing and locks eyes with Jisoo. She gives Jisoo that eye-crinkling apologetic smile, and it boils Jisoo’s blood.

The buzzer sounds.

“It’s okay, the last question was org chem, we were gonna lose anyway,” Jinyoung says, patting Jisoo on the shoulder. “You did really well.”

Jisoo blinks at him. “What?”

“Congratulations to the winners of the ______ University Academic Decathlon 20XX, team 100!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo feels something warm around her shoulders.

“Jisoo? Are you okay? Are you gonna pass out or something?” Jinyoung asks, one arm wrapped around her shoulders as they walk to the carpark. “Tell me if you’re gonna pass out or throw up, okay, just warn me.”

Jisoo rests her head on his shoulder. It’s weird, but comforting? Mostly weird.

“Please don’t throw up on me,” Jinyoung says, rubbing her shoulder soothingly. “For the love of every god.”

Jisoo blinks in the dim late afternoon light at the silhouette standing by the curb, leaning on the streetlamp. She’d know that silhouette anywhere.

“No, Mom, I know it ran late- I know, I know, Mom. I’m sorry.” Jennie combs through her hair agitatedly. “I’m sorry, okay, Mom? I’m on my way home now! I’m sorry!”

Jennie hangs up and pockets her phone, leaning against the streetlamp. Her shoulders shake lightly with sobs.

Jisoo’s frozen to the spot, staring, but Jinyoung taps Jennie on the arm. “Jennie?”

Jennie turns around, rubbing her slightly swollen eyes. “Huh? Oh, hi.”

“I, uh,” Jinyoung slips his arm off Jisoo’s shoulder self-consciously. “We just wanted to say congrats.”

“Thanks.” Jennie says quietly.

“Is everything okay?” Jinyoung asks. “You need a lift home or something?”

“Oh ye-” Jennie perks up for a moment, then glances at Jisoo. “No thanks.”

“You sure? We can drop you off somewhere? Jisoo’s also got a headache, it was probably the A/C in there or the lights-”

“No thanks.” Jennie says, rubbing her eyes on her jacket sleeve. “Thanks anyway. You guys were also really good today.”

“Uh-huh.” Jisoo mutters.

Jinyoung elbows her lightly, still looking at Jennie. “You sure? The nearest bus stop is pretty far, and it’s getting pretty dark out-”

“I’ll be fine.” Jennie pulls her jacket closer around her. “Thanks.”

Jinyoung looks around the deserted, hardly-lit streets around them. “Are you su-?”

Jisoo rolls her eyes. “Just come with us already. He’s not gonna quit until you hitch a ride with us.”

Jennie opens her mouth as if to protest, then shuts it again. “Thanks.”

“Whatever.” Jisoo reaches into her bag for her car keys and stuffs them into Jinyoung’s hand. “If you’re gonna be all chivalrous and shit, you drive.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

The car slows to a stop outside a tightly-packed apartment complex.

“Thanks.” Jennie says, patting Jinyoung awkwardly on the shoulder.

“No problem.” Jinyoung lies. They’d looped around half the city to find Jennie’s place.

Jennie’s already got one hand on the door handle when she stops and says, “Jisoo?”

Jisoo glances in the rearview mirror at Jennie. “What?”

“I, uh, Chaeyoung and Lisa invited me to go wall climbing with them tomorrow,” Jennie says. “My mom probably won’t let me go at this rate, so, uh, you could probably take my place.”

Jinyoung lifts his eyebrows but says nothing.

“I’ll text Lisa for you, if you want.” Jennie says quietly.

“…Thanks.” Jisoo says.

Jennie only nods and opens the door. She doesn’t wave back at them as they drive away – She just pulls her jacket close around her and walks into the apartment building as fast as she can.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jinyoung shakes Jisoo awake. “We’re here. You got pretty fucking tired, didn’t you?”

“Wh- Yes.” Jisoo wipes drool off her mouth. She squints out the window at her house, where her father’s assistant is opening a gate. “Okay.”

Jisoo climbs out groggily. “Hi, Ms. Kwon.”

“Perhaps you and your friend would like to come in for dinner?” Ms. Kwon asks, holding the gate open with one hand and beckoning Jinyoung over with the other.

Jinyoung takes a tentative step towards the gate. “No thanks. Here are your keys, Jisoo.”

“Thanks.” Jisoo pockets her keys. “Sure you don’t wanna come in and eat? It’s gonna be a while till you get back to your dorm.”

“I, uh…” Jinyoung pretends to think about delicious, home-cooked free food, or cheap street stall food he’ll have to pay for himself. “I could have some water, I guess.”

Ms. Kwon smiles as she guides them inside.

Jisoo heads straight for the dining room, Jinyoung trailing close behind. She stops suddenly, and Jinyoung bumps into her. “What-”

“Kim Jisoo!”

Jisoo can only watch her mother slam down her glass of wine as she stands up. “M- Mom? I thought you were getting home past 9-”

“I was home at 6!” Her mother stomps over in eggplant-colored plush slippers. “Who’s this?”

“This is my friend Jinyoung.” Jisoo blurts out before she can come up with a lie. “We came from the Academic Decathlon-”

“So your father’s told me.” Her mother narrows her eyes. “Did you win?”

“No.”

Her mother clicks her tongue disapprovingly. “Who did?”

Jisoo takes a breath. “Jennie. And Doyoung, our other classma-”

“Jennie.” Her mother echoes, her voice devoid of emotion. “Did you even try?”

“W- We won second-” Jisoo stammers.

Second? Did I raise you to be second? When have we ever settled for second place?” Her mother’s raising her voice now, to a tinny screech. “Where are you going!”

Jinyoung stops on his way to the door. “I was just dropping Jisoo off, ma’am-”

“No. Stay for dinner.” Jisoo’s mother orders, reaching for a bell on the table to call the maids. “Prepare another table setting for Jisoo’s friend.”

Jisoo screws up her face and turns to Jinyoung, mouthing, Sorry.

Jinyoung looks back at her in a mixture of confusion and fear.

Chapter Text

The next school day (Monday)

 

Jisoo trudges down the hallway with her eyes shut. She did nothing all weekend – Her mom had grounded her indefinitely, so she’d had to call Lisa to say that she wouldn’t be joining them after all. Jisoo had lain in bed and watched random American series without bothering to understand them, and before she even realized it, it was Sunday night and she had a shit ton of org chem homework to finish for Monday morning.

Jisoo rubs her eyes and walks right into someone. “Sorry.”

“Sorry.”

Jisoo scowls as she opens her eyes. Day ruined.

Jennie pulls her mouth into a straight line. “How was last Saturday?”

“I was grounded. Couldn’t go.”

Jennie smirks. “Hah. Same.”

Jisoo doesn’t know if the curl at the edge of Jennie’s mouth could really be called a smirk, but it sure looked like one. Smug bitch.

Jisoo walks into the classroom, letting the door shut on Jennie’s face just because. She drops into the seat next to Doyoung, then remembers, and moves a few rows back to glower at the back of his head.

Doyoung turns around in his seat. “Come on, you can’t still be mad about that.”

“We are.” Jinyoung drops his bag onto the floor next to Jisoo’s and sits down next to her. “Asshole.”

“Wha-ha-hat?” Doyoung pouts.

“You said you had some choir competition.” Jinyoung mutters.

“Jesus is disappointed in you.” Jisoo mutters.

Doyoung scoffs. “We’re not a church choir. And besides, I did have a competition yesterday, just not on Saturday.”

Doyoung bounces slightly in his seat as he says, “And we won!”

Jinyoung and Jisoo roll their eyes in sync.

“Congrats.”

“Good on you.”

Doyoung pouts again. “Okay, fine, I’m coming clean: I needed the money for the choir.”

“Sure.”

“Whatever.”

Doyoung kicks in frustration. “I’m being honest, guys, my choir needed money for costumes and transport and the competition entrance fee-”

“Uh-huh.”

“Sure.”

Doyoung folds his arms. “Well anyway, we won, so we’re going on to the East Asian regional championships.”

“Congrats.”

“That’s great.”

Doyoung sighs. “It’s the same day as the National University Academic Decathlon. So I can’t go, and Jennie needs a partner.”

Jennie, from the front of the class, whirls around with her eyes wide. “WHAT?”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo folds her hands in her lap, not looking at Jinyoung on her left, or Doyoung on her right, or Jennie pacing up and down the office of university’s vice president.

“Did you know about this schedule conflict prior to applying, Mr. Kim?”

“Yes, sir.”

The vice president takes his glasses off. “Then why the hell did you do it?”

“B- Because Jennie-” Doyoung gestures widely at Jennie pacing behind him. “Ms. Kim here, she needed a partner and nobody else-”

“Don’t make this my fault!” Jennie snaps before going back to pacing.

“Well,” The vice president rubs his temples. “There aren’t any rules about replacements prior to the national decathlon, so whatever we do about this is completely internal to university and not illegal by contest’s rules…”

“So...?” Doyoung asks, leading the vice president hopefully.

“But our university has never done that in the forty years of this decathlon.” The vice president says sharply, making Doyoung shrink in his seat. “Not in forty years.”

“I’m sorry.” Doyoung mumbles.

“The committee on student affairs has decided to replace Mr. Kim with one of the members of the second-place team,” The vice president folds his hands together thoughtfully.

“Do I have a say in this?” Jennie asks.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Kim, but I’m afraid the committee has already made a decision.” The vice president says. “We looked at the academic standing of the two members of the second-place team, and they’re very evenly matched, you have to understand we had a hard time choosing…”

Jinyoung and Jisoo frown at each other. Jisoo opens her mouth to say something, but Jennie cuts in.

“Evenly matched?” Jennie all but scoffs at the vice president. “I’m sorry, Mr. Vice President, but they’re hardly evenly matched in academic standing.”

Jisoo grinds her teeth. Is she going to have to punch Jennie in the face in front of the university’s vice president? She hopes not.

“I’d rather you keep your opinions to yourself, Ms. Kim.” The vice president puts up a hand to silence Jennie. “The committee already chose Mr. Park.”

Jisoo frowns into her lap.

“Why?”

Jisoo glances over at Jinyoung, who looks exhausted.

“Why?” He asks again, when the vice president doesn’t reply. “Jisoo’s way smarter than I am, and I hardly did anything-”

“If you must know, we felt the team needed to be more balanced-”

“So you picked him because he’s a guy?” Jennie asks, frowning.

“It’s not just that-”

“So you did.” Jennie folds her arms.

“Don’t twist my words-”

Jinyoung stands up. “I’m sorry, Mr. Vice President, sir, but I’m going to have to respectfully decline.”

“If you decline, we won’t have any team to send to the nationals.” The vice president says.

“Send Jisoo.” Jinyoung says flatly.

“But the committee agreed on-”

“I don’t care what the committee said.” Jennie steps towards the vice president’s desk. “If Jisoo’s not my teammate, I won’t go, either.”

The vice president ruffles his toupee anxiously. “Ms. Kim, please consider what you’re saying-”

“I have, and I stand by it. The four of us have a class in fifteen minutes, so we’ll be going now.” Jennie reaches for her bag to sling it on her shoulder. “Let us know if the committee comes to another decision.”

Jennie walks calmly out of the room, holding the door open as she does. Jinyoung, Doyoung, and Jisoo grab their things and, after mumbling apologies and bowing at the vice president, follow her out.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

A few days later

 

“We may or may not but probably will have a quiz next meeting so… yeah. Study.” Professor Park says, disconnecting his laptop from the projector. He looks up. “Oh, and um, Jennie Kim, Park Jinyoung, and Kim Jisoo, could you guys stay behind for a while?”

Jisoo doesn’t stand up till everyone else has shuffled out, including Chaeyoung, who’d shot her a concerned look. She picks up her bag and walks up to the front.

“Um, what did you want, Professor?” Jennie asks timidly, avoiding the professor’s eyes.

Jisoo is honestly confused at this point. A few days back Jennie was spitting fire at the university’s vice president and… standing up for Jisoo? Jisoo is beyond confused, but something in her chest feels warm just thinking about it.

“I heard about your meeting with the old vice prez on Monday,” The professor says, as if he’s read Jisoo’s mind. He notices the way Jennie clenches her jaw. “Don’t get me wrong, that was pretty badass and I’m totally on your side.”

Jennie blushes. “Thanks.”

“So I kinda fought the committee too, and uh, it’s kind of a miracle but they changed their minds. They agreed to a two-woman team-” He smiles when Jennie stifles an excited squeal with her hand. “-as long as I’m the one who trains you guys.”

Jisoo’s eyes widen.

“That’s great and all, but what am I here for?” Jinyoung asks.

“Oh.” Professor Park laughs as he runs a hand through his hair. “I just thought it would look sketchy if I asked a bunch of girls to stay after class. Sorry for making you a scapegoat.”

“No problem.” Jinyoung heaves a sigh. “I thought I was in trouble or something.”

Professor Park laughs again before turning to the girls. “Anyway, just email me your free times so we can schedule the training sessions. I think we’ve got a strong chance to make it to Hong Kong this year.”

Jennie beams at him, and Jisoo just grimaces. She’s not sure what’s happening but it’s… good? Jennie’s smiling at her now, which is really, really alien to her, but… good?

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

12 Years Ago

 

“Jichu?”

Jisoo lets go of her brother’s hand and turns around. “Jennie!”

“Jisoo, wait-”

Jisoo runs and tackles Jennie. “Are you my classmate?”

Jennie coughs, patting Jisoo back. “I think so.”

“Jisoo, stop choking your friend,” Jisoo’s brother pries her arms off Jennie’s neck. He smiles down at Jennie. “I’m so sorry about her, she gets excited really easily.”

Jennie looks up at him, frowning. “Who are you?”

“That’s just my brother.” Jisoo waves him away with one hand, before hugging Jennie again, this time not around the neck. “I’m so happy you’re here! We’re going to have so much fun!”

“In school?” Jennie frowns.

“Yes!” Jisoo lets go of Jennie to hop around. “We’re going to be together and school is going to be so much fun!”

Jisoo’s brother sighs.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Jisoo knocks gently no the door. Nobody answers, so she presses her ear to the door. “Hello? Professor Park?”

She hears loud scuffling and what sounds like a stapler or a puncher falling to the floor, and someone she doesn’t recognize cursing loudly.

“Professor Park?” Jisoo calls again.

The door opens a crack, and there’s some guy she doesn’t know smiling at her. He’s got a pretty nice smile, but still, Jisoo doesn’t know him. “Hi, you must be Jennie?”

Jisoo scowls. “I’m Jisoo.”

“Oh. Sorry.” The guy opens the door. “Come in, Jimin just went out to buy some snacks.”

Jisoo frowns, but steps in anyway. Professor Park’s office is like a repurposed storage room that’s still half storage room and one fourth Professor Park’s desk and one fourth this woman sprawled over a bunch of boxes like it’s it a couch.

“I told you,” The woman rolls over on the boxes, making herself comfortable. “Jennie’s the one with the bigger boobs.”

Jisoo grimaces. She’s not wrong.

“Yoonji!” The man walks over and plucks her off the boxes, setting her down on what looks like Professor Park’s computer chair. “You have to behave, there’s a kid here.”

Jisoo takes an unsure step backward. “I can leave if you want-”

“No, no, it’s okay, Jimin will be back soon.” The man nudges a plastic chair in Jisoo’s direction. “Sit.”

Jisoo obeys, still watching the woman warily.

Said woman scratches her stomach through her button-down dress. “Text Jimin or something, tell him his kid’s here.”

Jisoo places her backpack in her lap and hugs it.

“He left his phone here.” The man says, picking up a small, beat-up phone from Professor Park’s desk. He walks over to the woman and tugs gently at her skirt to try and cover more of her thighs. He turns to Jisoo with an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry about her, she’s really like this.”

The woman sits up suddenly, frowning at Jisoo. “Wait a second.”

Jisoo backs up into the wall, frowning back nervously. “What?”

“Have we met before?” The woman asks.

Not to be that sort of person, but this lady’s pretty hot. Jisoo would have remembered. “I don’t think so?”

The door opens, and Professor Park walks in with an armful of chips, drinks, and cookies. “Get down from there before my student files for sexual harassment, Yoonji.”

“Make me.”

“Hoseok, can you please bring her outside?” Professor Park asks the man currently trying to organize his desk.

“I’m not a dog.” The woman folds her arms.

“Come on, my lady,” The man reaches around the woman’s waist and hauls her up under his arm, carrying her out of the room. “Good girl.”

A baffled Jennie holds the door open for them as they pass, the woman still whining about being treated like a dog.

“Um.” Jennie frowns at Jisoo, who can only shrug.

“Sorry about them.” Professor Park rubs his temples. “Anyway, come in, have a seat.”

He kicks a few boxes out of the way to reveal another plastic chair for Jennie. He hands Jisoo a bag of shrimp chips and a soda.

“Thanks.” Jisoo says, tearing into the bag.

“No prob.” Professor Park kicks some more boxes out of the way to get to his seat behind the desk. He reaches for a folder marked DECATHLON SHIT and flips through the pages. “I guess you two don’t need any introductions? Seeing as you’ve been classmates since high school?”

“Kindergarten.” Jennie corrects him.

Professor Park makes a face. “Wow. That’s…”

“Rough.” Jisoo mutters.

“I wasn’t gonna say that, but sure.” Professor Park leans back in his desk. “Well, anyway, you guys know me, I’m your teacher, but for the training stuff could you just call me Jimin? Professor Park is honestly too much.”

“Okay…”  Jennie winces. “Jimin.”

“I can’t do it.” Jisoo says. “You’re too old.”

“I’m not that much older than you!” Jimin stomps one foot. “I just graduated two years ago! I’m not even thirty!”

“Yeah, thirty is like, ancient.” Jisoo says.

“I already said I’m not-” Jimin takes a deep breath. “You know what, whatever. Just call me Jimin. Okay?”

“Okay.”

“Fine.”

Jimin sighs as he leans back in his chair. “Okay, let’s get started for real now. I have a plan, but do you guys have any suggestions?”

“Well I, uh,” Jennie reaches into her bag and pulls out a campus notebook. She opens it to the first page, which is covered in multicolored notes.

What a show-off. Jisoo squints at it to try to read it, but she can’t.

“The Decathlon has 5 major subject areas, right?” Jennie says, pointing at them with a pink pencil. “So I’ve divided them between me and Jisoo based on what we’re good at-”

Jisoo scowls. “How would you know what-”

“You’ve been classmates since kindergarten.” Jimin rolls his eyes. “She knows.”

Jennie nods at him then continues. “Jisoo’s better than me at Math and Physics, so she’ll focus on those, and I can do Chemistry and Biology. We’re both pretty weak at Social Sciences-”

“Speak for yourself.”

Jisoo.” Jimin warns her, frowning at her. “Go on, Jennie.”

“Yeah so we’ll just both try to cover all of Social Sciences to be safe.” Jennie says. “How does that sound?”

“Good.” Jimin smiles. “I was kind of thinking the same thing in the long run, but for now I want you guys to focus on the subjects you aren’t good at.”

Jennie frowns. “What?”

“You study Math and Physics, and Jisoo studies Chemistry and Biology.” Jimin says, gesturing it with his hands. “And both of you study Social Sciences, no difference there-”

“But shouldn’t we play to our strengths?” Jennie asks.

“You will, but for the first week I want you guys to build on your weak points.” Jimin says.

“You want us to suffer.” Jisoo says.

“Well, yeah, sure, it’s fun to watch,” Jimin laughs. “But I want you to both have a good foundation to build on before you really suffer. Maybe you can help each other out this week?”

Jisoo and Jennie exchange unsure glances.

“Meet up during your free time and study together, it really helps.”

Chapter Text

Present, a few days later

 

Unknown Number: Hi this is Jennie please save my number

Jisoo rolls her eyes and pockets her phone.

“So how’s training coming along?” Doyoung asks, chugging an iced coffee as they walk to their lab class together.

“Don’t pretend you care, you snake bitch.” Jisoo snaps at him.

Snake bitch.” Jinyoung repeats, laughing.

Doyoung looks offended. “I told you guys, I felt bad for Jennie-”

“Whom you said you hated.” Jinyoung says.

“For like ₩100,000.” Jisoo adds.

“Okay, hold up, let me explain myself.” Doyoung slings his arms around their shoulders and holds fast so they can’t wriggle out. “My choir needed to pay for the-”

“You know what,” Jisoo says, flicking Doyoung’s arm off his shoulder. “I’m starting to think you don’t even have a choir.”

Jinyoung starts laughing.

“I’ve never seen your choir,” Jisoo goes on. “And you never tell us about the people in your choir – you just say ‘choir’ all the time.”

Doyoung slides his arm off Jinyoung’s shoulder, scowling. “My choir’s real, you bitch.”

“What are their names?” Jisoo asks.

Doyoung clears his throat. “Taeyong, Taeil, Jaehyun, Mark, Johnny, Kun, Taeil, Winwin, Jungwoo, Haechan, Taeil, Yuta…”

“Jisoo!”

Jisoo frowns. She opens her mouth to say something to Doyoung, but he and Jinyoung have slipped away. Jisoo turns back to face Jennie, who’s walking towards her.

“Did you get my text.”

“I dunno I haven’t checked in a while,” Jisoo lies, pulling her phone out of her pocket and unlocking it. “Oh. There it is.”

“I got your number from Chaeyoung, if that’s okay.” Jennie says.

Of course Chaeyoung would.

“It’s not a problem.” Jisoo saves Jennie’s number under Jennie Kim.

Jennie nods as she pulls her phone out of her pocket. “Are you free on Saturday for training?”

“Um.” Jisoo technically is, but she doesn’t want to have to put up with Jennie on a Saturday. She already does that five days a week. “I’d rather not on the weekend.”

“Oh.” Jennie frowns at the calendar on her phone. “I’ve got tutorials tomorrow to Friday after school, and I don’t know what time that’ll finish…”

Jisoo knows that Jennie’s tutorials finish anywhere from 7 to 9, so they’d be studying well into midnight if they started then, but she won’t be forced to give up her Saturday.

“I’ll wait.” Jisoo folds her arms.

Jennie gapes at her for a moment. “You’ll… go to my tutorials?”

“No.” Jisoo scowls. “Just text me when you’re done so I can pick you up.”

“P- Pick me up?” Jennie’s mouth stays open. “Where…are we gonna study?”

“I don’t know!” Jisoo’s face flushes. She hasn’t spoken to Jennie for this long in years, and it’s driving her insane. “A coffee shop! Wherever!”

“We could just use the study room I rent for my tutorials.” Jennie says.

“Then we will!” Jisoo pulls her mouth into a straight line. She spins on her heel and starts walking towards the college building. “Just text me!”

“When? Tomorrow? Thursday?” Jennie calls out. “Friday?”

“Friday!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Friday

 

8:51 PM

Jisoo stares at her phone until the screen turns off.

“Drink your coffee, the ice will melt.” Doyoung says, sitting on the barstool next to her, sipping a lukewarm cup of water. The café behind them is full of students from their university, in various states of sleeping and studying.

Jisoo glances at her blended coffee drink. The whipped cream was beginning to droop. “It’ll live.”

Doyoung fixes the drink with puppy eyes.

“Just drink it already, she won’t even notice.” Jinyoung says, sitting on Jisoo’s other side.

“I can’t, my choir’s got a show tomorrow and I have a solo.” Doyoung whines.

“Sucks for you.” Jinyoung rests his elbow on the tabletop to watch Jisoo watching her phone intently. “No booty call yet?”

“Screw you.” Jisoo says.

“Wait a second,” Jinyoung checks his watch. “Why’d your mom let you out so late if you’re grounded?”

“I said I was studying with friends. Studying’s not fun.” Jisoo mutters.

Jinyoung frowns. “You know moms never buy that. She probably thinks you’re at a party or something.”

“If she did,” Jisoo rolls her eyes. “Why’d she let me go?”

Jinyoung pokes her in the arm. “Maybe she’s lowkey telling you to get a life.”

Jisoo jabs him in the ribs. “Maybe you need to highkey leave me alone.”

“Maybe you-” Jinyoung notices something outside the café window. “Sorry Jisoo.”

“What?” Jisoo asks, right before Jinyoung puts his arm around her and starts laughing.

Jisoo flinches at how close his face is to hers. “What?”

Jinyoung drops her shoulders and watches out the window. “Sorry. My ex was walking by.”

“Your what?” Doyoung asks, eyes wide. He nearly knocks over his lukewarm water. “I didn’t know you had an-”

“It was high school, okay?” Jinyoung says. “I was stupid then.”

“You’re still stupid now.” Jisoo makes a face at him.

“At least I’m not waiting for a text that isn’t gonna-”

Jisoo’s phone bleeps. She picks it up, beaming triumphantly at Jinyoung.

Mom: Come home before 9.

“Crap.” Jisoo says.

“Well shit.” Jinyoung says, looking over her shoulder.

“That’s rough.” Doyoung says, looking over her other shoulder.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Lisa holds the door open for the last of their org chem classmates filing out of the study room. “Hurry, hurry, Professor Jennie’s got another schedule after this.”

Jennie laughs. “What are you, my bouncer?”

Lisa lifts an arm, flexing her bicep. “I could be.”

Jennie laughs again, just until she gets tackled by Chaeyoung.

“Can we stay here while you and Jichu study? We’ll be quiet.” Chaeyoung pouts.

Jennie makes a face. “Why would you want to do that?”

“We miss Jichu.” Chaeyoung says.

“She hasn’t replied in the gc for ages.” Lisa groans, leaning against the door. “Not since she started dating that dumb fish-lipped son of a-”

Lisa!” Chaeyoung half-gasps, half-laughs. “Don’t be so mean to him!”

Jennie sighs.

“When Jisoo doesn’t want to talk to you anymore, she just doesn’t.” Jennie picks up her phone and starts typing out a message. “That’s just how she is.”

Jennie: Just finished now. Sorry.

“What do you mean?” Lisa asks.

Jennie smiles at her. “Nothing, don’t mind me.”

“You were friends with Jichu?” Chaeyoung asks.

“Yeah, when we were kids.” Jennie types into her phone again.

Jennie: Where are you? Sorry the tutorial ended so late.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

No one opens the door for Jisoo when she gets home, so she slides out of her boots and tiptoes, hoping for the best. She only gets as far as the landing before bumping into her father’s assistant.

“Oh, hi, Ms. Kwon.”

“Good evening, Miss Jisoo.” Ms. Kwon gives her a curt nod.

Jisoo nods back, then tries to shuffle past her.

“Have you told your mother that you’re home already?” Ms. Kwon asks, lifting one eyebrow. “I believe she’s in the library.”

“I, uh…” Jisoo grimaces. “I texted.”

“I could tell her for you.” Ms. Kwon offers.

“No thanks,” Jisoo pats Ms. Kwon awkwardly on the arm. She shifts from one foot to the other. “I need to pee. Excuse me.”

Ms. Kwon steps aside as Jisoo shuffles past.

Jisoo closes her bedroom door behind her, panting as she leans against the door. She could never be a spy. She tosses her bag onto the ottoman and pulls her phone out of her pocket.

2 new messages from Jennie Kim

“Oh shit.” Jisoo gasps.

Jennie: Just finished now. Sorry.

Jennie: Where are you? Sorry the tutorial ended so late.

Jisoo: IM SO SORRY

Jisoo: MY MOM FORCED ME TO COME HOME

Jisoo: CAN WE DO THIS TOMORROW

Jisoo: ILL PAY FOR BREAKFAST LUNCH DINNER WHATEVER

“Shit.” Jisoo tries to delete that last message but it’s already sent. She flops onto her bed. She’s such a disaster. She can just imagine Doyoung and Jinyoung laughing at her so hard they have to sit down, and Doyoung’s going to say something like, Oh god stop I’m going to pee.

Jisoo’s phone buzzes.

She grimaces as she opens the message.

Jennie: Sure haha breakfast seems good

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

The next day

 

Jisoo rubs her eyes. Her alarm is ringing somewhere, but she can’t remember where she put her phone before passing out last night.

She fumbles around the bed until she finds her phone on her nightstand, plugged into the charger.

Jisoo gives it a tug, and finds that it hadn’t been plugged into the wall socket. The battery is at 4%.

“Shit shit shit sorry, Jennie.” Jisoo plugs the phone into the wall then picks up the call. “Hello?”

“Jisoo?”

The voice on the other line is definitely not Jennie.

“Hello? Jisoo? Are you there?”

Jisoo rubs her eyes some more. She’s not even fully awake yet, but this person sounds familiar?

“Jisoo?”

“Maybe she’s still asleep.” Another voice says.

“But she picked up.” The first says.

“Let’s call someone else.”

The first person sighs. “Jichu? Are you there?”

Jisoo crawls off the edge of the bed to put the phone closer to her ear while plugged in. God, it’s almost like a landline.

“Seokjin-oppa?” She asks, unsure.

“Oh thank god.” Her brother sighs. “I thought for a second there I’d gotten the wrong number.”

“Why are you calling me?”

“I’m so sorry to bother you, but are you free today?”

Jisoo rubs her eyes. “I guess?”

“Oh thank god.” Her brother sighs again, so loud it rustles into the microphone. “Could you um, would you be able to-”

“Explain things to her properly.” The second voice says. Jisoo still doesn’t recognize him.

“Right.” Her brother laughs at himself, wheezing into his phone. “I know we haven’t seen each other in a while, Jisoo, but um, since the last time we saw each other, I’ve kind of… My boyfriend and I have adopted a daughter.”

Jisoo’s face scrunches up. Of course he would.

“And we have an emergency to deal with today and I don’t know what time it’ll finish, and my boyfriend’s sister isn’t free and our other friends aren’t free, and we can’t bring our baby girl with us-”

“You want me to baby-sit her?” Jisoo asks.

“Yes! Yes, please? We’ll even pay you, but um,” Her brother chuckles self-consciously. “Don’t expect much.”

“It’s ok.” Jisoo frowns. “She’s…my niece, isn’t she?”

The other line is quiet for some time. “Yeah, yeah, I guess so. I’m so sorry to bother you, Jisoo, but can you really do it?”

“Sure.” Jisoo says.

The second voice, which she assumes to be her brother’s boyfriend, is muttering something.

“Right, right,” her brother says. “I can pick you up from the house in an hour, maybe?”

Jisoo can hardly imagine what kind of commotion her brother suddenly showing up at the house would cause. “No, it’s fine. I have a car. Just text me your address.”

“Oh, right! You’re grown up! You can drive now!” Her brother laughs so hard the phone knocks into something. “What year are you in now?”

“Second year uni-”

Her brother’s boyfriend is saying something again.

“Okay, okay. I have to go now, Jisoo. I’ll text you.” Her brother says. “Thanks in advance for helping us out, this really means a lot to me.”

“Sure thing.” Jisoo says.

She shakes her head after her brother hangs up. That was weird.

Her phone buzzes.

1 new message from Unknown Number

2 new messages from Jennie Kim

“Oh shit.” Jisoo gasps. She’d completely forgotten about Jennie. It’s not like she cares what Jennie thinks, but flaking on her two days in a row is a bit much, even by Jisoo’s standards. Jisoo combs her fingers through her hair, tugging at the ends. “Oh shit oh shit oh shit, what do I do?”

Unknown Number: Hi Jisoo! This is Seokjin-oppa! Our address is [attached Maps link]

Unknown Number: Thank you again so much!

Jisoo: Would it be okay if I brought a friend with me?

Jisoo chews on her lip when her brother takes too long to reply. She goes and saves his number, and checks on Jennie, who’s just asking her to pick her up at the coffee shop, and her brother still hasn’t replied.

Jisoo’s phone buzzes.

Seokjin-oppa: What kind of friend?

Seokjin-oppa: Sorry. It’s ok with me, but my boyfriend’s worried. You know

Jisoo: It’s just Jennie. Do you remember Jennie Kim?

Jisoo taps on the volume button while waiting for her brother to reply. She imagines his gruff-sounding boyfriend is starting a fight over this, and she hopes she’s not ruining their relationship or anything.

Her phone buzzes.

Seokjin-oppa: Your friend from school? You still hang out? That’s so cute!

Seokjin-oppa: Also yes, you can bring Jennie with you. Our daughter’s kind of a lot for one person.

Seokjin-oppa: Not that she’s bad! She’s very good! She just gets excited easily.

Jisoo sighs. Her brother hasn’t changed.

Jisoo: Ok we’ll be there in an hour.

Seokjin-oppa: Great! See you soon Jichu!

Jisoo puts her phone back down on her bedside table and stretches her arms. She’s not entirely sure how she’s gotten into this mess – She doesn’t know jack shit about taking care of children, what the hell was she thinking? Maybe Jennie knows something. I mean, Jennie knows everything, right?

Oh shit. Jennie.

Jisoo calls up Jennie’s number. “Please pick up please pick up-”

“Hello?”

“Oh, hi, uh, hahahahahahaa….” Jisoo trails off into awkward laughter.

“You okay, Jisoo?” Jisoo can hear Jennie frowning through her phone. “What’s up?”

“Um… So about our study thing today…” Jisoo grimaces.

“We can do it later if you want. After lunch?”

“No, no, it’s okay, I mean, I’m already awake.” Jisoo laughs again, mostly at herself. “It’s just… is it okay with you…”

“We don’t need to do this if you don’t want to, Jisoo, we can just study on our own-”

“Do you remember my brother?” Jisoo blurts.

Chapter Text

Later that morning (oh god)

 

Jennie picks at the zipper handle of her jacket. The green paint is chipping off in big chunks that she’s collecting in her palm.

She shifts in her seat, glancing at Jisoo, who’s humming along with the radio as she turns the car into a side street. She’s tapping her hands on the steering wheel, and it sounds like she even knows some of the words.

Jennie smiles and taps her finger on the door handle along to the music.

“I hate this song.” Jisoo mutters, switching off the radio.

Jennie frowns. Sometimes Jisoo makes absolutely no sense.

They drive for another forty minutes or so in complete silence, creeping further away from the city, until the houses are low and the streets are narrow.

They pull to a stop outside a cramped-looking two-story house with a very small, unruly front garden. Jennie lifts her eyebrows. Not that she’s got any right to judge, but she didn’t expect Jisoo’s brother to be living in a place like this.

Jisoo shuts off the engine and steps out of the car without saying anything to Jennie.

Jennie sighs and follows her into the garden.

“They don’t even have a doorbell.” Jisoo frowns at the door before knocking on it. “Seokjin-oppa? We’re here!”

The door flies open. “Oh! Come in, come in.”

Jennie can’t help but smile. Jisoo’s brother hasn’t changed much in the ten years since she last saw him. He’s not as skinny as he used to be, but it just makes him look happier.

“Hello, Jisoo!” Jisoo’s brother gives her an awkward bear hug.

Jisoo pats him on the back. “…Hi?”

“Jennie!” Jisoo’s brother beams at Jennie. “You’re all grown up! And you’re so pretty!”

“Thanks.” Jennie looks down at her feet. Jisoo rolls her eyes.

“You’re pretty too, Jichu, don’t worry.” Her brother pats her on the shoulder.

A groggy-looking, smaller man comes down the stairs with an armful of brown envelopes and folders. He looks from Jisoo to Jennie, then back to Jisoo. “You must be Jin’s sister.”

“You must be his boyfriend.” Jisoo says.

“Min Yoongi.” He extends a hand for her to shake, then turns to Jennie. “Jamie?”

“Jennie.”

“Right, sorry.”

Jisoo’s brother squeezes his boyfriend’s shoulder affectionately. “Yoojung’s in the kitchen right now, she’s just having breakfast.”

Jennie and Jisoo follow him through an archway that’s almost too low for him, into a small tiled kitchen. There’s a little girl sitting at the table, propped up on a plastic booster chair, spooning her rice porridge out onto the kitchen table.

“Yoojungie!” Jisoo’s brother squeaks, scrambling to get a paper towel.

“Daddy, look,” Yoojung grins, pointing at the table. “I made an art!”

“It’s… Creative, I guess.” Jisoo’s brother grimaces. “Can Daddy clean it up now?”

“No, I want to show Dad,” Yoojung scoots in her seat, sliding off her booster seat. She lands onto the floor with a thump, then starts running out of the kitchen.

“Yoojungie, wait!”

Jisoo’s brother sighs and turns back to the girls with an apologetic smile before running after his daughter. “Yoojungie!”

Jennie glances at Jisoo.

“Don’t look at me like that, this isn’t my fault.” Jisoo grumbles.

Jennie frowns. That’s not what she’d meant, but this was definitely Jisoo’s fault.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Jisoo has our numbers,” Jisoo’s brother says, guiding his boyfriend to the front door with one hand on his waist. “Just call us if anything comes up.”

“We won’t be able to come back right away.” Yoongi says.

“We’ll try.” Jisoo’s brother tightens his grip on Yoongi’s waist, still smiling at Jennie and Jisoo. “Anyway, we’ll be back by around seven or eight at the latest.”

“Don’t forget to let Yoojung have a nap at 2 or you’ll regret it,” Yoongi says, giving the girls a smile that’s apologetic at best. “Then she takes a bath at 5, and has dinner at 5:30. She should be in bed by 7.”

“Okay. Got it.” Jisoo gives them two thumbs up.

“Thanks again for doing this for us,” Jisoo’s brother gives her a hug, then pats Jennie on the arm.

“Come on, we’re going to be late.” Yoongi says, checking his watch.

“Okay, okay,” Jisoo’s brother holds him around the waist again to lead him out the front door. Jin turns and shouts, “Bye Yoojungie!”

“Bye Daddy!” Yoojung comes running from the kitchen, her face and torso smeared with rice porridge.

“Say bye to Dad also!”

“Bye Dad!” Yoojung waves, and Yoongi’s face softens as he smiles at her.

“Bye bye, Yoojungie. Be a good girl.”

Yoojung nods and stands barefoot in the doorway, waving at them until their car disappears down the street.

She turns back to Jennie and Jisoo with a wide grin. “Do you want to see my art?”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Five minutes later

 

Jennie groans and looks up at the ceiling to find another splotch of rice porridge on it. She doesn’t know how Yoojung had managed to get it up there, or even get it to stick on the ceiling, but it’s there and it’s another problem Jennie doesn’t know how to deal with.

“Help me out here!” Jisoo hisses.

Jennie looks at her, trying to wrangle a kicking and screaming Yoojung. The minute they’d walked into the kitchen and found it covered in rice porridge, Jisoo had picked up a paper towel and started cleaning up. Yoojung had gotten red in the face trying to get her to stop “ruining her art,” and when Jisoo had insisted she needed to clean the kitchen, the 5-year-old had gone into a full-blown tantrum.

“Wha-” A large goop of rice porridge falls from the ceiling right onto Jennie’s face, cutting her off.

Jennie screws up her face, cringing.

“Jennie!” Jisoo hisses. She turns back to the kid, patting her gently on the arm to try to soothe her. “I’m sorry, Yoojung, we really had to clean up the mess you made-”

“IT’S NOT A MESS! IT’S MY ART!” Yoojung screams at her, kicking one of the chairs so hard it tips over. “YOU RUINED IT!”

“I didn’t mean to, Yoojung, I-”

“I HATE YOU!” Yoojung kicks the entire chair over. “I WANT MY DADDY!”

“Daddy’s not here-”

“I WANT MY DAAADDY!” Yoojung wails, probably loud enough for the neighbors to be considering calling child services.

Jisoo scowls at Jennie. “Jennie! Help me!”

“What am I supposed to do!” Jennie hisses back, feeling around for a paper towel to wipe her face with.

“I don’t know! Do anything!”

“I can’t even see!” Jennie wipes the rice porridge off her face. There goes that cat eye she’d spend ten minutes on. She tries to wipe the porridge out of her hair, but it just spreads out some more, so she gives up.

She walks over where Jisoo’s trying to wrangle the wild toddler. Jennie gets down on one knee next to Jisoo.

“Yoojungie,” She says, as sweetly as she can. “Aunty Jisoo didn’t mean to mess up your painting. She’s sorry, isn’t she, Jisoo?”

“Yeah.” Jisoo says. “I’m sorry.”

Yoojung stops crying for a moment and looks into Jennie’s pleading eyes.

“We can make a new painting, if you want?” Jennie offers.

“I DON’T WANT A NEW ONE!” Yoojung picks up her spoon, still full of rice porridge, and throws it at Jennie. It splatters porridge all over the front of Jennie’s shirt. “I LIKE THE OLD ONE!”

Jennie blinks. Jisoo covers her mouth, trying and failing to stifle back a few mean chuckles.

“You know what,” Jennie glowers at Jisoo as she stands up. “She’s totally your niece.”

Jisoo frowns at her. “What do you mean by that?”

“She’s just like you.” Jennie grimaces, putting her hands up in defeat. “Not my problem.”

She turns and walks towards the bathroom, ignoring Jisoo shouting behind her, “She’s not even my biological niece!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

10 Years Ago

 

“…and then the lightbulb will turn on.” Jisoo says, looking proudly at her groupmates. She’s just delivered a short presentation on potato clocks, complete with a few pictures and diagrams that she printed from the Internet.

“I think,” Jennie says slowly, gently. “That maybe we should do a different project.”

“Yeah.” One of their other groupmates agrees.

“Everyone’s done the potato clock already.”

Jisoo stomps her foot. “But the potato clock works!”

“It’s boring.” Their other groupmate shrugs.

Jennie watches Jisoo clench her fists. Jennie steps between them, saying, “The potato clock is really cool, but I think we can look at other projects?”

Jisoo huffs. “Like what?”

“Um,” Jennie opens her Science notebook. “We can mix cornstarch and water-”

“We’re going to cook?” Jisoo rolls her eyes.

“No, it makes a non-Newtonian fluid, so we can compare the behavior of Newtonian fluids and non-Newtonian fluids-”

“No, no, we should do the potato clock. I think that’s boring and too complicated.” Jisoo waves a hand at Jennie dismissively.

“It’s just cornstarch and water.” Jennie says, starting to get annoyed.

“That’s boring!”

“The potato clock is even more boring!” Jennie snaps back, unable to hold back any longer. “We’re not going to get a high grade for doing something that someone does every year!”

“Nobody did this last year!” Jisoo shouts, shaking her photos of potato clocks.

“People do that everywhere!” Jennie shouts. “It’s overused and unimaginative!”

“You’re overused and unimaginative!” Jisoo shouts back, her face getting redder and puffier.

“That doesn’t even make any sense!”

“Guys, stop.” One of their groupmates says, putting a hand between them. “Jennie’s right.”

“I want to do Jennie’s idea.”

“Jennie’s idea is better.”

“FINE!” Jisoo shouts, the tears welling up in her eyes spilling over as she crumples up her printed photos of potato clocks. “DO WHATEVER YOU WANT!”

She throws the crumpled-up balls of paper right at Jennie’s face and storms off, rubbing her eyes on the sailor collar of her uniform.

Jennie blinks, not sure if she’s surprised or hurt.

“Are you okay, Jennie?”

“Jisoo’s so crazy, don’t mind her.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Jennie looks in the mirror, combing through her wet hair. She hasn’t been forced to wash her hair with hand soap since she was in middle school probably, but Jisoo’s brother seems to make rice porridge with craft glue, and it just wouldn’t come off otherwise.

She peels her shirt off and holds it up in front of her, trying to inspect the damage. Jisoo’s brother probably puts a dash of contact cement in his porridge. Probably.

She turns the tap on and puts a little bit of hand soap on her shirt before starting to scrub it together. She knows that the house might have a washer and even a dryer somewhere, but she doesn’t want to bother Jisoo and her niece. She can still hear vague noises from the kitchen, and it’s been at least ten minutes.

Someone knocks gently on the door.

Jennie frowns. “Who is it?”

“It’s me.” Jisoo says softly, probably pressing her face against the door. “And Yoojungie. She has something to say to you.”

Jennie glances at her reflection, panicking. Her shirt’s still covered in suds, so she can’t put it back on, but she can’t very well go out there in a bra and jeans like a Guess model.

“Uh…” Jennie leans against the door. “Could you do me a favor first?”

“…Sure? What is it?” Jisoo says.

“Could you hand me my jacket from the couch?”

“…Sure?”

Jennie listens to Jisoo’s footsteps – followed by smaller, more excited footsteps – as they fade away and return.

Jisoo knocks gently on the door. “Here.”

Jennie presses her body flat against the door as she opens it a crack and sticks only one hand out. She feels around for her jacket, grabs it, then pulls it back in and shuts the door before Jisoo can even blink. “Thanks.”

“…Sure?”

Jennie zips the jacket up to the very top before opening the door again. A mildly confused Jisoo and Yoojung are standing in the hallway, frowning at her.

“You took a bath?” Jisoo asks, peering into the bathroom, which doesn’t even have a shower.

“I just washed my hair.” Jennie explains. “In the sink.”

“We have a shower upstairs.” Yoojung says pointing up. “That’s where I take baths.”

“Thanks, but…” Jennie grimaces. “The damage is done.”

Jisoo takes that as her cue to pat Yoojung on the back. “You had something you wanted to say to Jennie, right?”

“Yeah.” Yoojung looks down at her toes, wriggling them. “I’m sorry for throwing food at you. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Jennie gets down on a knee so she can smile at Yoojung. “It’s okay, I know you didn’t mean it. Just don’t do it again, okay?”

Yoojung nods. “Okay. Hug?”

“Uh, yeah, sure.” Jennie holds her arms open.

Yoojung steps forward and hugs her. “Are you still mad at me?”

“No, I was never mad at you.” Jennie says, frowning as she rubs Yoojung’s tiny back. “Why did you think I was mad?”

“Aunty Jisoo said so.”

Jennie glares up at Jisoo, who’s pretending to be really interested in a family photo on the wall. “I was mad at your Aunty Jisoo, not you.”

“Oh.” Yoojung steps back and pulls on the edge of Jisoo’s skirts. “You have to pologize also.”

“I don’t-” Jisoo catches Jennie’s death glare and sighs. “Fine. I’m sorry for whatever I did, Jennie.”

Jennie wants to roll her eyes at Jisoo’s deadpan “apology,” but it’d be bad example for the kid. She puts on her nicest voice and says, “It’s okay, Jisoo. Just don’t do it again.”

“Now hug.”

Jisoo chortles. “What?”

“Oh no, Yoojung, we’re not that close, we don’t hug each other.” Jennie says, waving her hands in distress.

“But you only met me today and you hugged me.”

Jennie curses in her mind. Stupid smart children. Why can’t all children just be equally stupid and easy to deal with? “Um…”

“That’s different, Yoojung, everybody hugs kids- Oh god, that sounds bad.” Jisoo buries her face in her palm.

“Hug.” Yoojung’s brow is furrowed.

“It’s different, with grown-ups,” Jennie says slowly. “Grown-ups don’t just hug all the time.”

“My Dad and Daddy do.”

Jennie curses Jisoo’s affectionate brother and his stupid, cute boyfriend.

“Your parents are together, Yoojung, that’s different.” Jisoo sticks her tongue out like a little kid.

“Oh.” Yoojung looks down, her frown growing deeper. “But why?”

“Because other grown-ups just don’t want to hug each other, okay?” Jisoo snaps. “We don’t like each other, so we don’t do that.”

“You…don’t like each other?” If Yoojung could frown harder than she’s doing now, she’d look like a little raisin.

Jennie stands up and mouths, ‘Goddammit Jisoo, you made her upset.’

‘I’m just stating facts,’ Jisoo mouths back, hands up in surrender. ‘Not my fault.’

‘She’s a kid.’ Jennie mouths back.

‘That’s not my fault either.’ Jisoo mouths back.

Yoojung sniffles. “Why don’t you like each other?”

Why indeed, Jennie sighs internally. She glares at Jisoo one more time before kneeling to Yoojung’s level again.

“Your Aunty Jisoo isn’t comfortable with things like hugging,” Jennie says, ignoring Jisoo’s offended gasp. “She’s like a cactus? You know what a cactus is?”

Yoojung shakes her head.

“Um, it’s a kind of plant covered in um, ouchy spines because it doesn’t like being touched.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s like that.” Jennie says. “That’s just how it is.”

Jisoo folds her arms. “I’m not like that. I hug my friends all the time.”

Jennie sighs. Right. Jisoo’s got a boyfriend now. She doesn’t know how she could have forgotten, considering he’s always stuck to Jisoo like a leech.

“She’s your friend, right?” Yoojung asks looking up at Jisoo as she points at Jennie.

“No.”

Yoojung sniffles harder, and Jennie glares at Jisoo, mouthing, ‘Goddamn it, Jisoo.’

“Fine.” Jisoo steps up to Jennie and tucks her arms under Jennie’s to reach around and wrap around Jennie’s back.

Jennie blinks and backs up into the bathroom door, but Jisoo doesn’t let go. Jisoo smells so nice. She smells like tiny wildflowers and freshly baked cookies and – She just smells so nice, and her breath is so warm next to Jennie’s ear, and her hands are soft against Jennie’s tense back that Jennie’s brain completely shorts out. She doesn’t know what she should be doing, so she hugs her back, letting her face almost rest on Jisoo’s shoulder.

Jennie’s brain starts working again and screams one word at her, over and over again: Boyfriend.

“Sorry.” Jennie says, pulling her arms back to herself and stepping away.

Jisoo turns away quickly. “I should go finish cleaning the kitchen.”

“Yeah. I should finish washing my shirt.” Jennie says, stepping back into the bathroom.

“I should go play golf!” Yoojung announces, running down the hallway.

“We should go after her.”

“Yeah, we should.”

Chapter Text

Present

 

By the time Jisoo finishes scraping up the last of the rice porridge of the ceiling, Yoojung’s tugging on her shirt.

“Aunty Jisoo.” Yoojung says.

“Yup?” Jisoo tosses the dirty rag into the sink. Five points! Or four points? How does basketball work?

“It’s lunch time.” Yoojung says.

“What? But it’s just like… 10?” Jisoo makes a face, then catches Jennie leaning against the archway, arms crossed.

“It’s 12:30.” Jennie says.

“Urrghghh,” Jisoo groans, dragging her feet to the refrigerator. Her brother’s stupid sticky rice porridge just wasted four hours of her life.

“I can cook, if you don’t want to-” Jennie offers.

Jisoo puts a hand up to shut her up. “My brother left some food to heat up.”

“Oh thank f--- That’s great.” Jennie censors herself quickly, looking at the top of Yoojung’s bouncing head.

Jisoo pulls out a stack of plastic containers labeled as Lunch with little blue stickers with white bunnies on them. She sighs. She misses her brother.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

11 Years Ago

 

Jisoo studies the situation carefully. She’s been waiting for the right moment to ask her mom for something, but her mom needs to be in a good mood to say yes.

Her dad’s not home for dinner for one, which usually puts her mom in a good mood. Her brother’s too busy eating to say anything that’ll make their mom angry, which is good.

Jisoo sits up on her feet to make herself taller. “Mom?”

“What is it, Jisoo?”

“Can I bring lunch to school?” Jisoo asks.

Her mother purses her lips around a tiny bite of beef, chewing slowly. She takes a minute or so to swallow before asking, “And why? Doesn’t your school have a cafeteria?”

“Yes it does,” Jisoo says, flopping back onto her heels, suddenly less confident. “But my classmates bring food from home-”

“The cafeteria has warm food,” Her mother interrupts her. “Why would you want to eat cold food from home if there’s warm food you can buy in the cafeteria? Is your allowance not enough?”

“It’s enough.” Jisoo says, shrinking in her seat. “But everyone at school brings lunch-”

“Are you going to do it just because everyone’s doing it? That’s stupid, Jisoo.” Her mom takes off her reading glasses to rub her temples. “You’d be giving the cook more work than she already has.”

Jisoo looks down at her food.

“My friends’ moms make their lunches.” She says quietly.

Her mother goes back to eating her dinner like she didn’t hear Jisoo, but Jisoo’s brother puts his spoon down. He pushes his chair back and picks up his jacket off the backrest.

Jisoo’s mother frowns at him. “Where are you going?”

“Out. I’ll be home by midnight.” Jisoo’s brother’s already putting his jacket on.

“I told you I didn’t want you seeing that boy again-”

“He’s my boyfriend, Mom.” Jisoo’s brother laughs. “I have to see him.”

“Seokjin!” Their mother snaps. “Not in front of your little sister!”

Seokjin winks at Jisoo before leaving the dining room, swinging his car keys on one finger.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo skips down the stairs the next morning, still tying the bow of her uniform. She’s checking her hair in the mirror in the front hall when her brother peeks out the door to the kitchen.

“Are you leaving for school now?” He asks.

Jisoo’s honestly surprised to see him up so early. She tugs on her backpack straps. “Yeah.”

“Can you wait five minutes?” Her brother asks.

“Um.” Jisoo checks the digital Hello Kitty watch on her wrist. “I guess so?”

Her brother sticks one thumb up out the door. “Great!”

Jisoo sits on the lowest step of the stairs, watching the minutes tick by on her watch.

Three minutes later, her brother comes out of the kitchen in his smelly pajamas, hands behind his back. Jisoo makes a face at him. Her brother’s so ugly and gross.

“I…um…here.” Her brother brings out round blue container that looks like a metal jug. There are little white flowers all over the blue paint, and little brown bunnies rolling in them.

Jisoo stares at him, her mouth slightly open.

“I put your name here so you don’t accidentally switch it with the other kids,” Her brother turns the jug around to show a bright pink sticker with the name KIM JISOO in thick black letters. “And…” He unscrews the cap of the metal jug and takes out three plastic containers from inside.  

“I made you some beef with broccoli, and there’s rice, and a scrambled egg…” He shows her the containers one by one. Her puts them back in and screws the cap back on. “Sorry I wasn’t able to make any side dishes, I woke up late.”

Jisoo frowns, and her brother looks worried.

“Sorry, I’ll make side dishes tonight so you can bring them tomorrow-”

Jisoo hugs her brother around the tummy, smelly or not.

“Are you… crying?” Her brother pats her on the head. “Come on, Jichu, you have to go, you might be late for school.”

Jisoo nods into his smelly white T-shirt. She hugs him tighter. “Thank you, oppa.”

Seokjin bends down and hugs her back. “Sure thing, Jichu.”

Jisoo takes the metal lunch box and starts stuffing it into her backpack, shoving her notebooks to one side to make room.

“Hey! Be careful with that, I used my own money to buy it!” Seokjin says, bending over to help her fit it into her backpack. “There. Go to school now, you’re going to be late.”

“Bye-bye oppa!” Jisoo hops into her school shoes, waving as she opens the front door.

“Bye-bye, Jichu!” Her brother leans on the front doorway, squinting in the morning sun as he waves at her. “See you later!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Jennie scoops a small portion of the steaming hot food onto Yoojung’s plate. “Let it cool before you eat it or you’ll burn your tongue.”

Yoojung only frowns at the plate for a second before pushing it away. “I want fries.”

Jisoo’s already got a steaming hot spoonful of her brother’s beef and broccoli in her mouth. She chews and swallows as quickly as she can to snap, “Your daddy cooked this really yummy food for you and you don’t like it?”

Yoojung pouts. “Daddy always gives me fries for lunch.”

“Uh, yeah, I doubt that.” Jisoo rolls her eyes. Her brother would never mix French fries with his cooking. Not the brother that she knows, at least.

“But he does!” Yoojung folds her arms.

“Yeah, I don’t think so.” Jisoo says.

“Jisoo, please.” Jennie cuts in, sitting down next to Yoojung. She cocks her head to one side to smile at the 5-year-old. “What kind of fries does your Daddy give you? Does he buy them from outside or does he make them?”

Yoojung frowns. “I don’t know.”

“Maybe because he doesn’t.” Jisoo says, in a quiet, sing-song voice.

Jennie flashes a scowl in Jisoo’s direction. “Don’t antagonize the toddler, Jisoo.”

“Okay, whatever.”

Jennie smiles back at Yoojung. “What do the fries look like?”

Yoojung frowns harder, and Jisoo sighs loudly in the background.

“They’re this long.” Yoojung holds up her hands around five centimeters apart. “And they’re skinny.”

“Like fries.” Jisoo groans.

“Shut up, Jisoo.” Jennie grumbles.

Jisoo looks affronted, but Yoojung starts laughing. “You said a bad word!”

“Oh crap, I did.” Jennie buries her face in her hands. “Crap.”

“Aunty Jisoo,” Yoojung tugs on the edge of Jisoo’s shirt. “Aunty Jennie said another bad word!”

Jisoo shakes her off. “She’s not your aunt.”

Yoojung frowns, like she’s wrinkling her brain trying to work out the fact that Jennie’s not her aunt.

“Can you please eat lunch, please?” Jennie begs, pushing Yoojung’s plate towards the her.

“I want fries. Daddy gives me fries for lunch.” Yoojung pushes the plate away. “I always have fries for lunch.”

Jennie takes a long, deep breath then stands up. She grabs Jisoo by the sleeve, ignoring the latter’s protests, and drags her out of the kitchen.

“What do we do?” Jennie asks in a hushed whisper.

“If she doesn’t wanna eat, then that’s her problem-”

“Jisoo, don’t pretend you don’t care if your own goddamn niece eats lunch.”

“Fine. I care. Fine.” Jisoo huffs, folding her arms and looking at the wall so she doesn’t see Jennie’s triumphant expression or whatever. “But what will we do?”

“You have a car,” Jennie says. “You can go out and buy fries-”

“There’s no fast food anything around here, I feel it.” Jisoo groans. “I swear to god, that kid is so spoiled.”

Jennie fixes her with an exasperated look. “As if you’re not.”

“I- I- I’m NOT spoiled!” Jisoo raises her voice, earning a flick on the arm from Jennie.

“Keep your voice down.” Jennie hisses. “So what’s the plan?”

“I don’t know, I guess I’m gonna go out and drive around until I find someplace that sells French fries-”

“Aunty Jisoo.” Yoojung’s suddenly behind Jisoo, tugging on the hem of Jisoo’s shirt.

“What?” Jisoo whirls around. She takes a deep breath and softens her tone for the kid. “I’m sorry, Yoojung. Did you want something?”

“I just remembered,” Yoojung says. “Daddy keeps the fries in the fridge.”

“Good!” Jennie says. “Let’s check the fridge, Aunty Jisoo.”

Jisoo scowls at her. “Sure, Grandma Jennie.”

Jennie shoots her a death glare.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“I can’t believe…” Jisoo says, watching Yoojung stuff her face with another “fry.”

Jennie’s eyes are tearing up from the effort of stopping herself from laughing. “Your brother- He really- I can’t-”

Yoojung holds up the Tupperware labeled FRIES. “Do you want some, Aunty Jisoo? They’re super yummy!”

Jisoo smiles at her and puts up a hand. “No thanks, Yoojungie, I’m full.”

“Suit yourself.” Yoojung reaches into the Tupperware and pulls out a tiny, fry-cut piece of raw carrot.

Jisoo cannot believe that her brother has been duping his child into eating raw carrots for her entire life, but at the same time, she admires his dedication to getting her to eat healthy.

“They’re really yummy with ketchup.” Yoojung explains to Jennie, who’s just nodding with her eyes shut to stop herself from laughing. “My Dad says fries and ketchup are a perfect pair!”

Jennie nods in strained silence. Jisoo sighs. Of course her brother’s boyfriend would be in on this.

“Hey Aunty Jisoo, you know what’s great?” Jennie says, struggling to keep a straight face. She holds up a piece of raw carrot. “Dipping your fries in ice cream.”

Jisoo bites down on her lip to stop herself from laughing at the mental image of a lone sliver of raw carrot sticking out of a soft serve sundae.

“Fries and ice cream!” Yoojung jumps in her seat. “That sounds super duper yummy!”

“You could even say they’re a perfect pair.” Jisoo snorts.

Jennie excuses herself to laugh in the hallway.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo doesn’t understand how quickly time moves in her brother’s house, but it’s moving too fast. By the time she and Jennie have washed and dried all the dishes, it’s time for Yoojung’s nap. It takes Yoojung around thirty minutes to fall asleep, after asking Jennie to read some book about a red tomato, then asking Jisoo to read it, then asking Jennie to read it again, then Jisoo…

Jisoo drops onto the couch next to Jennie.

“Is she asleep?” Jennie asks in a careful whisper. She’s already bringing out her laptop and a few notebooks to study.

Damn it, Jisoo thinks. Now I have to study too.

“Yeah.” Jisoo starts bringing out her own notebooks and tablet.

“Thank god.” Jennie cracks open one notebook. She flops back onto the couch pillows. “I have no idea how my mom survived raising me on her own.”

“I… My mom hired people to do all that shit for her, so yeah.” Jisoo says, bringing up their freshman chemistry textbook on her tablet.

“That’s pretty sad.” Jennie frowns at Jisoo, who pretends not to notice.

“I forgot how much I hated inorganic chem.” Jisoo says, already feeling like giving up at the textbook’s table of contents.

“What?” Jennie makes a face as she fishes around her backpack for a pencil. “Inorganic chem is so fun! Org chem is the real bitch.”

“Says the only person in the class who isn’t failing.”

Jennie’s cheeks darken. “I’m not the only one, Doyoung’s also doing okay.”

“He’s Doyoung. He memorizes everything.”

“Point taken.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo wakes up to something tugging at her shirt. Her eyes shoot open, assuming the worst, but it’s just Yoojung, tugging on the hem so hard it’s like she’s trying to strip Jisoo.

Jisoo frowns at the darkened room around them. The sky outside the window looks a bit closer to purple than blue, and Jennie’s asleep on her shoulder.

Jisoo freezes. Jennie’s asleep on her shoulder.

Jennie’s mouth is slightly open, and she’s snoring very, very quietly. The notebook and pencil she’d been holding are on the floor, and her arms are wrapped around her knees, propped up on the couch next to Jisoo.

“Aunty Jisoo, I’m hungry.” Yoojung says, tugging on Jisoo’s shirt.

Right.

“Um.” Jisoo wriggles her shoulder gently. “Jennie.”

Jennie groans, nestling her face into the crook of Jisoo’s neck. “No.”

“Jennie, wake up.” Jisoo says, sweat starting to collect on her forehead. She hates this. She really hates this. “Get off!”

She jerks away to drop Jennie on the couch.

Jennie sits up and rubs her eyes. “Shit. What time is it?”

“Aunty Jennie said a bad word.” Yoojung laughs, covering her mouth.

“She’s not your aunty.” Jisoo says, in a sharper tone than she meant for it to come out. Jisoo checks her phone. “Oh fuck it’s 6:30.”

“Aunty Jisoo said a bad word!” Yoojung giggles. She sits down on the couch next to them. “I’m hungry.”

Jisoo and Jennie exchange panicked looks.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie wraps Yoojung in her towel like a burrito, then picks her up and starts hauling her to her room.

“Wheee!” Yoojung laughs, as Jennie whisks her down the hallway.

“Okay, where do you keep your pajamas?” Jennie asks, flicking the light on in Yoojung’s lavender room. “We have to be fast, you have to be in bed in 20 minutes.”

“But I haven’t eaten dinner yet.” Yoojung frowns.

“Aunty Jisoo’s working on that.” Jennie hops around from one foot the other as she runs through the drawers in Yoojung’s dresser. “Underwear, check, socks, check, bottoms, check, top, check.”

“Oh no, those don’t go together.” Yoojung says, pointing at the pajama top and bottom Jennie’s brought out.

“It’s called style.” Jennie insists, helping Yoojung get dressed.

“DINNER’S READY!” Jisoo screams from downstairs.

“Yes!” Jennie gasps.

Yoojung’s only got one sock on when Jennie carries her into the kitchen.

“Eat quickly.” Jisoo says as gently as she can, putting a bowl of soup and a tiny plastic spoon in front of Yoojung.

“How much time do I have?” Yoojung asks warily, picking up the spoon.

“Five minutes.” Jisoo replies.

Yoojung gasps. “Five minutes? I can’t-”

“You don’t need to finish in five minutes,” Jennie says quickly. “Just start.”

Yoojung nods and starts slurping up the soup like she’s being held at gunpoint.

“Not so fast, you’ll get indigestion.” Jisoo warns her.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Yoojung’s just fallen asleep when the doorbell rings.

Jennie closes the book about the tomato. She turns to Jisoo, mouthing, “Is that your brother?”

Jisoo checks her phone and nods.

Then tiptoe downstairs and put on wide smiles for Jisoo’s brother.

“I’m sorry we’re so late,” He says. “We left as early as we could but someone had to forget his-”

“It was a mistake, Jin, I already said I was sorry.” His boyfriend mutters, closing the door behind them.

“All I’m saying is, you could’ve mentioned it earlier, maybe before we were on the highway-”

“I didn’t remember before we were on the highway-”

“That’s not my fault.” Jisoo’s brother rolls his eyes before turning to Jisoo. “Is she asleep?”

Jisoo’s glad he didn’t ask what time she fell asleep, because it was just a few minutes ago. “Yup.”

Jisoo’s brother sighs and smiles at her and Jennie. “Thank you guys so much for watching her, I know she can be a handful.”

“And whose fault is that?” His boyfriend mutters.

“You’re the one who spoils her all the damn time-”

“Oh please, I leave the house for five hours and suddenly our daughter’s convinced she’s a princess-”

“Um.” Jisoo cuts in. She and Jennie have already thrown all their things into their bags and started edging towards the door and away from the bickering men.

“Oh. Right.” Jisoo’s brother says.

“You guys should get going, it’s a long way home from here, isn’t it?” His boyfriend adds.

“Just around an hour.” Jennie shrugs.

Jisoo’s brother pulls out his wallet. “How much did I promise you?”

“Oh, no it’s fine.” Jisoo blurts out, waving her hands wildly. Her brother’s house is so small and cracked and sad that accepting any kind of money from him would feel like robbery.

“Yeah, it’s okay, we don’t need anything,” Jennie adds.

Jisoo’s brother frowns at them holding out a short stack of crumpled bills. “Please, it’s not that much, but-”

“Really, oppa,” Jisoo pushes the money gently back to him. “Thanks, but we really can’t take this.”

“Let’s go,” Jennie says quietly, already slipping into her shoes. “Bye, Mr. Kim, bye, Mr. Min. It was nice meeting you.”

“Just call us Jin and Yoongi.” Yoongi makes a face.

“-oppa.” Jisoo’s brother adds pointedly. He tries to give Jisoo the money one more time, but she squirms out of his reach.

“Bye, oppa!” Jisoo waves.

“Bye,” Jennie says.

“Bye.” Jisoo’s brother looks a mix of frustrated and sad as they open the front door. “Come back anytime you like, I’m sure Yoojung wants to see you two again.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Wait!”

Jisoo stops, one hand on the handle of her car door. Jennie’s on the other side of the car, eyebrows lifted.

“Wait!” Yoongi pants, bending over with his hands on his knees.

“You okay?” Jisoo frowns at him.

“Yeah, I just hate running- Here.” Yoongi thrusts a crumpled wad of bills into her open bag before she can protest. “Please just take it, don’t act gracious or anything, I know our kid’s a spoiled brat and it’d be criminal not to pay you-”

“She’s not that bad.” Jennie says. Jisoo frowns at her. Why’s Jennie being so nice all of a sudden? “She’s just like Jisoo was around that age.”

Jisoo shoots Jennie a dirty look. “I was not that bad. Besides, you didn’t even know me when I was Yoojung’s age.”

Jennie nods and smiles. “Sure, Jisoo, whatever you say.”

Jisoo huffs. “Just get in the car.”

Yoongi stifles back a laugh. “You guys take care going home, alright?”

“We will.” Jisoo assures him.

“Thanks.” Jennie smiles.

“And come back soon, okay?” Yoongi says. “Jin’s too embarrassed to say it, but I’m sure he misses his baby sister.”

Jisoo purses her lips, then says, “I don’t think-”

“Why do you think he was so hell-bent on adopting a baby girl?” Yoongi asks.

Jisoo stares at him for nearly a whole minute, before blinking away the sting from her eyes.

Yoongi laughs awkwardly and says, “Anyway, I know you’re busy with your own college shit, but if you find any free time, just drop by, okay?”

Jisoo tries to nod, but her eyes are stinging really hard.

“She will,” Jennie answers for her. “I’m sure she misses her big brother too.”

“You’re invited too, Ja- Jennie.” Yoongi grins, like he’s about to clap himself on the back for getting her name right. “Take care, you two.”

“We will.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo steps on the brakes at a stoplight and wipes her eyes on her sleeve.

“You okay?” Jennie asks. “I can drive if you aren’t-”

“I’m fine.” Jisoo says gruffly. “And you don’t even have a license.”

Jennie folds her arms. “I wasn’t going to get us caught, duh.”

Jisoo’s about to snap back when her stomach grumbles.

“Damn it, I’m hungry too.” Jennie frowns. “We didn’t have dinner, did we?”

“Nope.”

Jisoo speeds ahead as soon as the light turns green.

“Let’s stop somewhere for dinner.” Jennie says. “How much did your brother’s boyfriend give us?”

 Jisoo would roll her eyes, if she weren’t driving. Typical greedy pig Jennie. “Dunno. It’s in my bag.”

Jennie pulls out the wad of bills and starts counting in the dim streetlight whizzing by. “This is enough for dinner, nothing fancy. What do you feel like?”

“A burger.” Jisoo shrugs. “And fries.”

Jennie snorts. “Fries?”

Jisoo snorts, nearly missing the next red light. “Yup. With ice cream.”