Actions

Work Header

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

Chapter Text

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.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“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.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

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.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

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.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

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.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

 “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…”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

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.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

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.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

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.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

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: :(((((((((((((((((((((((((((

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

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.”

Chapter Text

The next Monday

 

“So how were your weekends?” Professor Park asks, kicking some plastic foldaway chairs in Jennie and Jisoo’s direction.

“Good.” Jennie says with a shrug.

Jisoo frowns, struggling to keep it cool and not admit to anything, but she cracks immediately and says, “We didn’t get any studying done.”

Jennie glares at her, but Professor Park only laughs.

“So I’ve heard,” He says, without any other explanation. Jisoo and Jennie frown at him, but all he does is rip open a pack of cookies and flop into his chair. “I’ve been trying to get us a classroom to train in, but the department doesn’t seem to let them out to junior professors, so I tried to get us a study room at the library, but apparently you need to pay for those…”

“There’s an hourly rate.” Jennie says.

“They didn’t used to have that when I was an undergrad!” Jimin squeaks at no one in particular, as he takes an angry chomp out of one cookie. “It’s a public service! It’s supposed to be free!”

Jimin wags the half-eaten cookie at an invisible enemy. “It’s supposed to be FREE!”

“So, uh…” Jisoo asks gently, afraid her professor might throw a cookie at her. “Where will we go then?”

“A coffee shop?” Jennie suggests.

“No, I’m not going to let them wring any more money out of me than they already have,” Jimin mutters, taking another angry bite of his cookie.

Jennie frowns. “So…where?”

“This is going to sound very weird,” Jimin says, lowering what’s left of the cookie. “But we could it at my place?”

Jisoo shrugs. That sounds okay, but her mom would flip out if she spent even a minute in her young male professor’s…house? Apartment? Jisoo figures Professor Park can afford a biggish apartment at least? But then he refuses to pay for the really cheap hourly rates of the library study rooms, so maybe he’s not as rich as he looks? Or maybe it’s a matter of principle? He might be one of those really anti-capitalist types? But his clothes are really nice? Where does he buy them if he doesn’t-

Jennie coughs suddenly, breaking Jisoo back into reality.

“I don’t think…” Is all Jennie says, before trailing off.

“Right. Bad idea, sorry.” Jimin heaves a big sigh. “Do you guys know anywhere we can study for free? Or even not free, just anywhere cheaper than the goddamnmed library-”

“We can bring Jinyoung.” Jisoo offers.

Jimin frowns at her, and Jennie visibly rolls her eyes.

“Like, if you don’t want it to be awkward, we can always bring Jinyoung along,” Jisoo says. “He owes me one anyway.”

“Oh.” Jimin straightens up in his seat. “I suppose we could? If it’s okay with him to sit there and do nothing for a couple of hours.”

“Oh, yeah, sure,” Jisoo nods enthusiastically. “I guess.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Are you okay?”

“Huh?” Jennie blinks, her eyes suddenly coming back into focus. Chaeyoung’s frowning at her, so she says, “Oh yeah, yeah.”

The truth was, everything their Calculus professor’s been saying for the past half hour’s been flying over Jennie’s head. Her mind’s stuck in this merry-go-round of unhelpful thoughts like, Oh god I’m going to be stuck in an enclosed space with Professor Park for a few hours this weekend and I’m not allowed to jump him, and ugh Jisoo’s boyfriend is so bland why is she interested in him at all… ugh.

“Jennie?”

“Huh? What?” Jennie pulls on a smile for Chaeyoung and Lisa, who are giving her weird looks. The class is over and the professor’s gone and Jennie hadn’t even noticed.

“Chaeng was asking you where you wanted to have lunch,” Lisa explains, sniffing the air. “Are you stoned or something?”

“…No.” Jennie says, answering too late to sound believable.

“I feel like frozen yogurt.” Chaeyoung hums, rubbing her tummy.

“For lunch?” Lisa laughs.

“No, for dessert,” Chaeyoung pouts. “So we have to eat somewhere cheap so we can get expensive dessert.”

Jennie just nods, watching Jinyoung slink his arm around Jisoo’s shoulders. Gross.

Well, he’s also got an arm around Doyoung’s shoulders, but that’s not the point. Jennie sighs. She’s not going to make it to Saturday.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Saturday

 

Jisoo’s been around the block around eight times, but she still hasn’t found anywhere to park her car. It’s not that the spaces are full – There are hardly any other cars in the area, probably because it’s just so seedy.

Jisoo sighs and parks by the side of Professor Park’s apartment building, hoping to every god that her tires aren’t slashed and her car’s still there when she gets back out.

She doesn’t pull out her phone till she’s inside the building, which is damp and kind of mildew-y around the corners. She does everything in her power not to scrunch up her nose at the smell, but she’s not superhuman.

Jisoo: I’m here.

Jennie: Ok.

Jennie: Wait, you’re alone?

Jisoo rolls her eyes as she climbs the stairs, because the elevator’s broken. Not that she would’ve taken it anyway, tiny elevators are the worst.

Jisoo: Something happened to jinyoung’s ex and he had to bring him to the hospital I’ll explain later

Jennie: What???

Jisoo: u know what, it’s not worth explaining

Jisoo finally reaches the sixth floor and knocks, sweat streaming down the sides of her face, on the door to the first unit.

Professor Park opens the door on the second knock. “Hi! Come in, I’m sorry about the mess...”

He grimaces as he lets Jisoo into the tiniest apartment she’s ever seen. But it’s really clean, like weirdly clean, like he’d just thrown out half his earthly possessions to make his apartment look clean.

“What happened to Jinyoung?” Jennie asks, getting up off the couch too eagerly.

“He’s fine.” Jisoo’s working really hard not to scrunch up her nose, she really doesn’t want to offend Professor Park, but her nose is being so offended by whatever she’s smelling right now.

“What happened?” Jimin asks.

Jisoo sighs. She doesn’t really believe Jinyoung’s story, but she’s got nothing else to say to them. “He told me that his ex got into some “accident” so he had to bring him to the hospital-”

“His ex is a guy?” Jennie asks, lifting one eyebrow.

“What’s wrong with that?” Jimin asks defensively.

Jennie lowers her head, her face getting slightly red.

“Jinyoung’s like, super gay.” Jisoo makes a face, then catches the stern way her professor’s looking at her. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Anyway, he’s fine and his ex is fine… I think.”

“oh.” Jennie says, her mouth puckering into a tiny little o.

“That’s good.” Jimin sighs. “But uh, if you guys aren’t comfortable with being alone with me-”

“Oh no, it’s okay,” Jennie waves her hands almost too enthusiastically. “It’s not like you’re one of those creepy old guy profs or anything-”

Jimin flushes. “Thanks, Jennie, I appreciate it, but-”

The bedroom door opens a crack, and a kind-looking man’s face peeks out. “Do we leave now?”

“Yes, you were supposed to leave an hour ago.” Jimin groans at the man, who looks familiar to Jisoo, but not familiar enough for her to match a name to his face.

“The lady’s still picking out clothes.”

Jennie and Jisoo exchange uncomfortable, confused glances.

“Tell her to- You know what,” Jimin turns to the girls. “I’m sorry, excuse me, just go sit at the table for now…”

Jisoo watches their professor disappear into the bedroom. A few slamming drawers and hardly muffled shouts later, Jimin comes back out dragging behind him the kind-looking man and a disheveled, pretty woman with dripping hair.

The woman whacks Jimin with a soaked towel. “You try taking a shower in under an hour!”

“Literally everyone takes a shower in under one hour!” Jimin snaps back at her.

“Come on guys, there are other people here,” The other man glances nervously in Jennie and Jisoo’s direction.

Jimin takes a deep breath and turns back to the girls. “Sorry. Jisoo, Jennie, these are my… they’re my… uh…”

He frowns into space, like his brain’s just shorted out.

“I’m Hoseok,” The kind-looking man says, holding out a hand for either Jisoo or Jennie to shake. “And this is Yoonji. We also go to the university, so I guess that’d make us schoolmates?”

“I guess?” Jisoo shakes his hand, slowly remembering where she’d seen them before. They were the ones in Jimin’s office. His…friends? Who happened to borrow his shower today?

“They’re my roommates.” Jimin says flatly.

Roommates? Jisoo makes a face. It doesn’t seem right for a professor to be rooming with a bunch of students, though. Even if they do look kinda old for students.

The woman reads Jisoo’s expression with a grin. “Oh come on, Jimin, you don’t have to be ashamed of us.” Yoonji winks at Jisoo. “We’ve been sleeping with Professor Park for the extra credit.”

“Min Yoonji!” Jimin, face completely red, whacks her on the arm. He turns to Jisoo with an apologetic look. “Please don’t mind her, she’s a lying bitch and never knows when to shut up- She’s not even my student. I swear.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m a grad student.” Yoonji laughs. “And Hoseok’s majoring in literature-”

“-and you two are leaving,” Jimin says, playing sheepdog as he pushes Yoonji and Hoseok towards the door. “Christ, Yoonji, if they file harassment cases against me it’s all your fucking-”

“Wait a second,” Yoonji braces against the wall. “Wasn’t the boy supposed to be here so you don’t get creepy old guy cases filed against you?”

“Oh.” Jimin turns back to the two girls standing around, fidgeting. “Shit.”

“Are you girls comfortable being stuck in here with this guy?” Yoonji shouts at them, hitching a thumb in Jimin’s direction.

“Uh…”

“Yeah? I guess?”

Yoonji starts laughing, and Jimin’s face only gets redder.

“Yoonji could stay with you guys,” Hoseok offers. “Just so you feel more comfortable? And she can help with the training, she’s really smart-”

“Awww, I love you too.” Yoonji pinches Hoseok’s cheek. She turns to Jimin. “What do you say, Professor?”

“I told you not to call me that.” Jimin mutters. He looks back at Jisoo and Jennie. “Are you guys okay with that arrangement?”

Jisoo doesn’t care what Jennie thinks, she’s seen the way Jennie sneaks glances at Jimin’s ass during class – Jennie would probably want to throw Jisoo out too so she can be alone with Professor Park for a couple hours. So, no. Jisoo would rather have this random female stranger around, just to be safe. Does that make sense?

“Yeah.” Jisoo says, before Jennie can say anything.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie takes a deep breath. You can make it through this damn day, Jennie, you can do it.

“…anyway, if the emcee of the Decathlon is still the same guy, he talks really slowly so you’ll have a lot of time to think before the timer even starts,” Professor Park explains to Jisoo, running his hands through his hair again, for the millionth time on this damn day.

Jennie feels like she’s going to combust if she’s trapped in this goddamned apartment any longer. She thought her long-running thirst crush on Professor Park was bad enough, but now that she’s met his insanely hot roommate (?), Jennie feels ready to embrace death.

Yoonji’s shirtdress is so short, and she keeps leaning over Professor Park’s lap so the hem keeps riding up over her thighs and Jennie feels like an absolute creep for not looking away fast enough.

A thirsty, thirsty creep.

“Break it up into the vector components,” Yoonji leans over Professor Park’s lap to take Jisoo’s mechanical pencil from her. Jennie looks up at the ceiling, mentally counting to a hundred for her own sake. “It’s easier to add so you don’t have to fuck around with the angles so much.”

“I like the angles.” Jisoo snaps, snatching her pencil back. “It’s faster than breaking it up.”

Jennie watches in mild amusement as Jisoo scrunches up her nose for only a second before scribbling down the answer. She knows that face, it’s Jisoo’s I’m Doing Mental Math face.

“No way.” Yoonji folds her arms.

Jennie can feel the static crackling in the air between Jisoo and the older woman. Yoonji’s been meddling with Jisoo’s reviewing for the past four hours or so, which is pretty much an open declaration of war when it comes to Kim Jisoo. Jennie know she ought to do something before Jisoo blows up, but she doesn’t even know where to start.

“What do you mean?” Jisoo asks, eyes narrowed.

“No way you solved that in like, a second.” Yoonji scoffs.

Jimin clears his throat, checking Jisoo’s paper against the answer key in his hands. “She’s right, though.”

“What in the whole fuck.” Yoonji frowns at Jisoo like she wants the latter exorcised or something.

Jisoo just shrugs. “I’ve had years of Mathlete training, what do you think-”

“Math-what?!” Yoonji throws her head back and starts laughing. “I have never ever heard someone say that out loud! Mathlete! Oh god what a trip- That’s so lame- Oh god, my stomach hurts…”

Jisoo chews on the inside of her cheek, flashing Yoonji an irritated look.

Jennie knows that look. That’s Jisoo’s I’m About To Go Mental look. Okay, time to stop Jisoo from attacking Professor Park’s super hot roommate.

“So, uh, Miss Yoonji,” Jennie sits up to physically form a wall between Jisoo and Yoonji. “You’re a grad student, right? What department?”

Yoonji’s still wiping tears from her eyes, muttering ‘Mathlete’ under her breath.

“Mechanical Engineering. Same as me.” Jimin answer for her, giving Yoonji a sharp, disapproving look. “She doesn’t act like it, but Yoonji’s getting her Master’s degree in a few months.”

Jisoo glares at Yoonji, who’s still a snickering heap on the couch. “They give those out to just anybody these days, don’t they?”

Yoonji sits up, face completely straight. “Say that again, Princess.”

Jisoo folds her arms. “What? That you act like trash-”

Jennie blinks – she blinks once and suddenly Yoonji’s fist flies right in front of her face, straight towards Jisoo’s.

Chapter Text

Present

 

Jennie presses her back against the couch when Yoonji’s fist flies in front of her face, straight towards Jisoo’s smug pout.

“Yoonji.” Jimin says, in a weirdly calm, even voice.

“What?” Yoonji draws her hand back to her side. “I wasn’t gonna hit her. I love my brother-in-law too much.”

Jennie heaves a sigh so big she sinks into the couch. She quietly thanks every god that she doesn’t need to wrangle Jisoo off this poor woman on this damn day.

Jisoo frowns. “I knew you looked familiar.”

“Wow,” Yoonji whistles. “It sure took you a while to figure out I was Yoongi’s identical twin sister.”

Jennie’s brain’s still in a wrinkle when Jisoo rolls her eyes and says, “You can’t be identical, you’re different genders.”

“Okay, smartass, but have you seen my brother? He’s just the-”

“Yoonji.” Jimin says again, in that really low, calm voice that has Jennie sweating in the airconditioned room.

“What?” Yoonji snaps back at him.

“The kid’s like ten years younger than you. Lay off.” The corner of Jimin’s mouth turns up into a smile. He stretches his arms up then slings one around Yoonji’s shoulders. “I think we’ve done enough reviewing for one day, don’t you think guys?”

“Yeah.” Jisoo mutters, beginning to stuff her things back into her backpack.

Jennie’s a little stunned, trying to figure out whether Professor Park and his roommate are dating or just really comfortable with each other and whether she can find some way into that arrangement.

“How are you guys getting home?” Jimin asks.

“We can drive you guys home,” Yoonji offers. “It’s pretty dark out-”

“It’s fine, I brought a car.” Jisoo puts up a hand to stop her.

Yoonji and Jimin exchange nervous glances. “Where did you park it?”

“Like, literally beside this building?” Jisoo makes a face at them as she slings her backpack over one shoulder.

“Oh.” Yoonji sighs. “Good.”

“The street next to ours is full of um… sketchy people.” Jimin explains.

“Yeah, anyway.” Jisoo rolls her eyes and mutters. “You need a ride home?”

Jennie frowns and points at herself slowly. “Me?”

“Yeah, duh, these two are already home,” Jisoo slips into the other strap of her backpack. “Come on, I’m hungry.”

Jennie tosses all her things into her backpack and turns back to Jimin and Yoonji with a quick bow, not really sure why she’s doing it at all. “Thank you for letting us use your place.”

“Oh…uh, sure?” Yoonji frowns slowly.

“You’re welcome, Jennie,” Jimin nudges Yoonji, giving her a sharp look that says, Where are your manners. “Take care going home.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“You never stop sucking up to teachers, do you?” Jisoo mutters as she rolls to a stop at a stoplight. The street is empty, but the light is red, so she’s just drumming her fingers impatiently on the wheel.

“Pardon?”

Oh thank you so much for letting us into your house Professor,” Jisoo mimics, in a kind of good approximation of Jennie’s voice. “Ugh.”

“It’s not sucking up, it’s just being polite,” Jennie mutters.

“Sure, whatever.” Jisoo mutters back.

They sit there in silence as the closed shops and dimly lit houses zip past the window – Jisoo’s driving a little bit over the speed limit, but it’s not like anyone’s watching.

Jennie looks down to find Jisoo’s phone vibrating.

There’s a call coming in from Jisoo’s mom, but Jisoo’s just driving like she doesn’t hear anything.

“Hey, Jisoo-”

“Yeah, I know.” Jisoo cranes her neck to check if any cars are coming down the avenue, but there aren’t any. “Your house is just a few blocks from here, right?”

“You can just drop me off at the corner-”

“And what’re you gonna do? Walk?” Jisoo scoffs. “There aren’t any more buses out at this time.”

“Yeah, I’ll just walk-”

“And then you’re going to get mugged and it’s going to be a whole other mess, so…yeah, nope.” Jisoo pulls the car into a sharp turn. “I’m going to drop you off at your place, so just thank me and shut up.”

Jennie turns to window to try and stifle a smile.

“Thanks, Jisoo.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

A week later

 

Jisoo pulls her car to a stop and switches off the lights. She closes the door carefully, and starts tiptoeing to the gate. She tosses her bag over then starts climbing it – it’d make a loud creaking noise if she tried to swing it open like a normal person.

Jisoo’s phone’s stopped vibrating, which she hopes means that her mother’s given up and gone to bed.

Jisoo opens the door a crack and starts shimmying in sideways.

“Kim Jisoo.”

Jisoo freezes – partly out of fear, and partly because her boobs have gotten stuck in the door. Stupid boobs.

“Hi, Mom.” Jisoo says slowly.

“What are you doing there?” Jisoo’s mother asks, flicking the lights on.

“N- Nothing.” Jisoo pushes the door opens some more to squeeze herself through.

“Do you know what time it is?”

“No.”

Her mother clicks her tongue. “Where have you been?”

“Studying.” Jisoo says. It’s not untrue…

“Your Decathlon training ran this late?” Her mother checks her phone with a doubtful look on her face.

“Yes.”

Her mother clicks her tongue. “What’s the name of the professor training you?”

“Um… Professor Park.”

“Park what? You’re going to have to be more specific.” Her mother narrows her eyes at Jisoo. “Which college? Which department?”

Jisoo gulps. It’s pretty late, and her brain’s still fizzled out from trying to memorize white people’s names in World History, but she’s getting the feeling she shouldn’t reply.

“Well?” Her mother asks, staring at her so hard that Jisoo feels like she’s going to catch fire.

“Park Jimin.” Jisoo replies, avoiding her mother’s eyes. “He’s in the Mech Eng department.”

“Hm.” Her mother says. “Prof. Choi is still the dean of Engineering, isn’t he?”

Jisoo’s stomach sinks. Or maybe it’s just reacting to her forgetting to eat dinner. Either way, she has a bad feeling about this.

“I’ll give Prof. Choi a call tomorrow.” Her mother says. “Your final exams are next week, this Professor Park ought to know that.”

Jisoo nods slowly as she pads backward to the stairs.

“Are you still failing organic chemistry?”

Jisoo nods silently. She doesn’t even know how her mother found that out, but her mom seems to have friends in every department of the university.

“At least have the respect to answer your mother, Jisoo.”

“Yes, Mom.”

Her mother clicks her tongue again, then sighs. “Go to sleep, Jisoo, you can’t be late for class tomorrow.”

“Yes, Mom.”

“And tell your professor that you won’t be attending your training this week, you need to focus on your final exams.”

Jisoo frowns, but she still replies, “Yes, Mom.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo glances behind her when she sees Chaeyoung wave in her direction. No one’s behind her, so she must be calling Jisoo over? What for?

“Come sit with us,” Chaeyoung pouts at her, patting the empty seat next to her.

“Uh, what about…” Jisoo looks around, but Jennie hasn’t arrived yet. Well, she lives nearly across town, Jisoo figures it takes her an hour to commute to school – Why is Jisoo even thinking about this? She doesn’t care.

“Jennie’ll sit next to Lisa.” Chaeyoung says, as if she’s read Jisoo’s mind.

Lisa grins and props her feet up on the desk next to her. “Reserved.”

“Uh, okay, I guess.” Jisoo sits down gingerly. She sees Doyoung pass by on his way to the back row, eyebrows raised so high and eyes so wide he looks hilarious, but Jisoo ignores him.

Chaeyoung gives Jisoo’s arm a tight squeeze. “I missed you so muuuuch!”

“I didn’t go anywhere.” Jisoo scoffs. “We’re still classmates in everything.”

“But you’re always sitting with the boys.” Chaeyoung rolls her eyes.

“Only because you guys ditched me-!”

We ditched you?” Lisa rolls her eyes twice as hard. “You know for a second there, we really thought you were dating Jinyoung.”

Me? Dating Jinyoung?” Jisoo makes a face. “Do I look like a gay man to you?”

“You have your angles.” Lisa shrugs.

Chaeyoung elbows her roughly. “Don’t listen to her, Jichu, you’re really pretty.”

“Loads of gay men are pretty, too.” Lisa shrugs again.

The door swings open, and everyone tucks away their phones in a panic, thinking Professor Park’s made it right on time – but it’s just Jennie.

Jisoo tucks her feet to the side, turning her face away as Jennie shuffled into their row, saying “Excuse me” every other second.

Jennie flops into her seat, panting.

“You okay, man?” Lisa asks.

“Y- Yeah.” Jennie nods. “I missed the bus so I… haha I ran here.”

Jisoo knows she shouldn’t say anything, but that doesn’t really stop her. She rests her chin in her palm and looks away, like something on the wall’s really interesting. “I could pass by you in front of the train station so you don’t need to take the bus.”

When nobody says anything for a solid minute, Jisoo looks back at her friends to find them frowning at her. “What?”

“That’s…really nice of you, Jisoo?” Chaeyoung says slowly, like she’s not sure what’s coming out of her mouth.

Jisoo huffs and turns away again. “No, I’m just being practical.”

“Aww, Jichu, you’ve gone soft.” Lisa reaches over Chaeyoung’s shoulders to pat Jisoo on the shoulder.

Jisoo jerks her shoulder away. “Don’t touch me.”

“Thanks, Jisoo, but I don’t want to trouble you or anything. I know you don’t like waking up early,” Jennie smiles, and Jisoo pulls her mouth into a scowl to keep it from curling up into a smile.

The door flies open, distracting the others long enough for Jisoo to turn her face away before it gets warm.

“Hey everybody,” A familiar, but misplaced voice drawls at them. The voice’s owner lifts one leg to kick the door closed behind her, before dropping a laptop gracelessly onto the professor’s desk. “Professor Park can’t make it today because of some emergency meeting bullshit-”

Yoonji clamps a hand over her own mouth. “Oh fuck, I can’t swear, right?”

Jisoo and Jennie exchange mildly worried looks.

“Anyways,” Yoonji fiddles with the laptop in an attempt to connect it to the projector. “I’ll be giving the lecture today, so just sit your asses down and be quiet for like twenty minutes, k?”

Yoonji looks up and squints at her confused audience. Her eyes zero in on Jennie, who’s fiddling with her hair and looking away. “Jennie Kim! Help me!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“So I see you’ve got your little girl gang back,” Jinyoung puts an arm around Jisoo’s shoulder as the latter walks out of the longest and most profane lecture she’s ever had to sit through.

Jisoo makes a face at him, but he nods over to Chaeyoung and Lisa, who are standing around, waiting for Jennie to finish helping Yoonji disconnect the laptop from the projector.

“We never broke up.” Jisoo scoffs at him, shrugging his arm off her shoulder.

“Sure, whatever,” Jinyoung says.

“You’re weirdly chill about Jennie Kim these days, what’s up with that?” Doyoung cuts in, resting his chin on Jinyoung’s shoulder.

Jisoo only scowls at him before glancing back at Jennie. She and Yoonji seem to be having a heated discussion about something, and they keep looking back in Jisoo’s direction. Why? Are they talking about her? They’re definitely talking about her. But what about her? And why?

“If she weren’t chill about it, she’d have killed Jennie by now,” Jinyoung chuckles. “How many hours do you guys train-”

“How’s your ex doing?” Jisoo asks a little too loudly.

Jinyoung heaves a sigh. “He’s alive.”

“Yeah, haha, thank god, am I right?” Doyoung’s face flushes bright red.

Jisoo narrows her eyes. “What the hell happened?”

“Doyoung’s boyfriend ran him over with a minibus.”

“He didn’t run him over! He just grazed him!” Doyoung’s red to his ears now. “And he’s not my boyfriend!!!”

Jisoo doesn’t have time to listen to Doyoung and Jinyoung argue about their dumbass boy problems. She gives them a quick “See you around guys” and walks over to the girls.

Chaeyoung immediately latches onto Jisoo’s arm like she’s got no plans of ever letting go. “Where do you wanna eat lunch?”

“Chaeng, it’s literally 9 in the morning.” Lisa laughs.

“But I’m already hungry.” Chaeyoung whines.

“Same.” Jisoo says.

Jennie jogs up to them, waving at Yoonji as the latter walks off, lugging the laptop. “Thanks for waiting for me, guys, you really didn’t need to.”

Lisa nudges Jennie in the ribs. “How do you know the hot substitute teacher? Can you introduce me?”

“Jesus, Lisa, calm the fuck down.” Jennie laughs. “She’s Professor Park’s girlfriend. She helps out with our training sometimes.”

“Damn it.” Chaeyoung groans. “I knew he was too good to be single.”

Lisa cranes her neck to watch Yoonji kick a door open down the hallway. “Would you happen to know if she’s also into girls?”

“She’s like, thirty years old, Lisa.” Jisoo scrunches up her face.

Lisa shrugs. “Still fair game.”

“She’s taken, Lisa,” Jennie laughs. “So, where are we gonna eat? I’m starving.”

“I want pancakes.” Chaeyoung says.

“Waffles.” Lisa suggests.

“I want waffles,” Chaeyoung says, changing her mind in an instant.

“There’s the waffle house near the library.” Jennie says. “I think it opens at 9.”

“I can drive us there.” Jisoo offers. “My car’s just parked out back.”

“Perfect.” Chaeyoung sticks one thumb up.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo’s phone is vibrating in her bag, but she ignores it and chomps into her crispy golden waffle. She’s having a weirdly good time with her friends (Jennie included?) and she doesn’t need her mom to come in and ruin her entire day.

“Are you going to stop your tutorials this week?” Chaeyoung asks, before trying to stuff a quarter of a waffle and a whole strawberry into her mouth.

Jisoo had forgotten that Jennie was still juggling her review class thing on top of their regular training and workload. At this point, Jisoo’s convinced that Jennie’s a crackhead who doesn’t sleep.

“No, it’s nearly finals week, we need that good shit!” Lisa whines.

Lisa is probably a crackhead too, Jisoo figures.

“Yeah, I can’t drop it now,” Jennie rips her second waffle in half. “Besides, I think Professor Park’s gonna stop training for finals week. Right, Jisoo?”

Jisoo shrugs. “Hopefully.”

“I’m sure Professor Park’ll do that, he cares about our grades and stuff.” Jennie shoves half the waffle into her mouth.

“He’s perfect.” Chaeyoung heaves a long sigh.

“Hey, I think your phone’s ringing.” Lisa nudges Jisoo’s foot with hers under the table.

Jennie looks up from her plate with a concerned look.

Jisoo ducks into her bag to avoid Jennie’s eyes. She digs around for her phone and lays one finger on the red button to hang up. Then she notices the number calling isn’t her mom.

“Uh, I’ll just take this.” Jisoo gets up slowly, holding her phone to her ear as she picks the call up. “Hello? Professor Park?”

“Yoonji, please-”

Jisoo frowns as she lets the door to the waffle house shut behind her. “Hello?”

“What the hell did you tell your crazy-ass mom?” Yoonji spits into the other end.

“What?” Jisoo frowns.

“Don’t play dumb, you fucking brat-!”

“Yoonji!”

There’s a loud rustle as the phone seems to be thrown from one pair of hands to another. Jisoo holds her phone away from her ear until the scuffling and muffled shouts grow quiet.

“Hello?” She asks gingerly.

“Hello?” Hoseok’s voice asks on the other line, gentle, but tense. “Jisoo?”

“Hi.”

“I’m sorry for what Yoonji said awhile ago.” It sounds like Hoseok’s cupping his hand around the microphone to muffle out Jimin and Yoonji shouting at each other. “But, uh, if you had any problems with the way Jimin was teaching you guys, you should have just talked to him directly. He’d understand.”

Jisoo frowns. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh.” Hoseok takes a deep breath. “I… uh… Your mom called up someone on the school board to complain about uh, Jimin? You didn’t know about that?”

Jisoo feels her heart drop right to the floor. “No.”

“Well then, uh,” Hoseok clears his throat softly. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Me neither.”

“I’ll hang up now, I guess.” Hoseok says. “But please talk to your mom. Please.”

Jisoo would rather face Yoonji’s full wrath, whatever that’s like, but she can hear Hoseok breathing on the other end, waiting for her to answer. “I will.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

Jisoo steps back into the waffle house with a smile plastered on her face. “So, what’s up, guys?”

The other three stare at her blankly.

“What did your mom want?” Jennie asks.

“Nothing.” Jisoo waves a hand dismissively with an ugly, awkward laugh. “I forgot my keys to the house at home.”

“So are you gonna have to like, break in?” Lisa laughs.

“No, the maid will open the door for me.” Jisoo says.

“Oh.” Lisa makes a face. “Right. You’re bougie.”

Chaeyoung chokes on a strawberry laughing. Jennie starts patting Chaeyoung’s back to try and keep her friend from dying via strawberry.

Jisoo laughs with them until she glances down at her phone.

12 new messages from Mom.

3 new messages from Prof. Park

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie knows it’s not any of her business, but Jisoo’s been frowning at her phone all day. Jennie folds her hands in her lap. It’s not any of her business. She’ll only antagonize Jisoo if she brings up anything about Jisoo’s mom, and she’s just gotten on Jisoo’s good side.

Jisoo’s driving her home from school, for fuck’s sake. When did she ever think that would happen?

“So, uh,” Jennie says quietly. “It was nice of Professor Park to cancel our training this early so we could study.”

Jisoo steps on the brakes, hard. Jennie throws her hands out to brace against the dashboard.

“Sorry.” Jisoo mutters.

“You okay?”

Dammit Jennie.

“Yeah.” Jisoo mutters. She stomps on the gas when the lights turn green.

Jennie holds onto the edges of her seat as the car speeds ahead. “I know it’s not my place to ask, but did something happen?”

“Yeah. It’s not your place.” Is all Jisoo says.

Dammit Jennie.

Jennie, against all basic instincts of self-preservation, pipes up again. “My mom’s been ragging on me for going home so late lately. I bet yours has been going ballistic.”

“Hmph.”

“Our moms are practically the same person sometimes.” Jennie shrugs. “Remember in seventh grade-”

Jisoo steps on the brakes. “This is your place, right? Get out.”

“Jisoo…”

“You’re right. My mom’s gonna bitch at me if I get home late today.”

Jennie doesn’t unclip her seatbelt or make any motion to leave.

“Hurry up, I don’t want to get caught in traffic.” Jisoo grumbles. “Get out.”

Jennie’s pretty sure that Jisoo’s going to get herself into an accident if she leaves her now, so she stays put.

“God damn it, Jennie, just get out of my fucking car!” Jisoo gives Jennie a rough shove.

“What happened?” Jennie says, bracing herself so she doesn’t hit the door.

“Why do you care?” Jisoo snaps at her. “Just go!”

“We’re friends-”

“Chaeyoung and Lisa are my friends.” Jisoo says flatly. “Now get out of my car, so I can go home-”

Jennie unclips her belt and pushes the door open. “You know what, fuck you. You’re so fucking rude and I don’t know why all of us even bother being nice to you when you never give anyone anything in return. You deserve whatever crap is pissing you off so much. Fuck you.”

Jennie slams the door hard enough to rock the sedan, then spins on her heels and walks away. She can hear Jisoo’s car still stalled there by the curb, but she’s not about to turn around now. She goes straight into the apartment building and stomps up the stairs.

“Mom, I’m home!”

Jennie frowns when she finds her mother sitting at the kitchen table. Usually at this time, she’d be watching a late afternoon drama, leaving Jennie to scramble to make dinner.

“Jendeuk.”

Jennie steps closer. Her mom’s reading something?

Her heart stops when she sees the little yellow booklet in her mom’s hands.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Her mother throws the bank book into Jennie’s face. A folded-up sheet of paper tumbles out as it falls to the floor.

Jennie picks up her bank book and the receipt for a downpayment on a studio apartment near the university. She’s sure her mother already knows what she’s done, so she says nothing.

“Explain yourself!” Jennie’s mother grabs her roughly by the shoulder to drag her to her feet. “Where is this money from? Are you selling drugs? I break my back to send you to a good school so you don’t end up like the lowlifes around here-”

“I’ve been tutoring people at school.” Jennie mumbles, folding the receipt back into the bank book.

Her mother’s face contorts further as she smacks Jennie on the ear. “Speak up! Talk like an educated person!”

“I’ve been tutoring people at school!” Jennie says, raising her voice above her mother’s. “And editing essays online! And doing whatever fucking job I can find! To get away from you! I’m sick and tired of all of you treating me like shit all the fucking time!”

Her mother raises her hand again. Jennie shuts her eyes and clenches her jaw to brace for another hit, but it never comes.

Jennie opens one eye to find her mother still holding one hand up, but it’s started trembling.

“…Mom?”

“Don’t you dare talk to me like that ever again.”

Jennie folds the bank book shut and pockets it.

“You want to leave that badly? After all I’ve done for you, you ungrateful brat?” Jennie’s mother grabs Jennie by the collar of her jacket. “Fine! Leave! But don’t think I’ll ever take you back!”

Jennie manages to grab her backpack before her mother throws her out into the hallway. The door slams in her face, blowing up dust from the rough concrete hallway.

“I hate you!” Jennie screams at the shut door. She gets up and kicks the door. “I’m never coming back!”

Jennie kicks over the umbrella rack as she walks down the hallway.

Just as she steps out into the street, it starts to rain.

Chapter Text

Eleven years ago

 

“I heard her dad walked out on them.”

Jennie knew better than to listen in on her classmates’ conversations, but when they were whispering this loud, there was no way she could miss what they were saying. About her.

“I wonder why.”

Jennie flips the page of her textbook like she’s studying, but she can’t focus on the words.

“My mom says her dad found another woman.”

“Really? That’s crazy.”

Jennie curls her fists around her book. She’s got half a mind to just burst into their little circle and tell them all about how fed up her dad was with her mom’s shouting at him all the damn day, and how much Jennie had wanted to go with him, but the stupid law made her stay with her mom.

“What are you guys talking about?” Jisoo asks, her pigtails bouncing as she trots over.

One of the girls glances in Jennie’s direction, so Jennie frowns down at her textbook.

“Jennie’s dad.”

Jisoo makes a face. “What about him?”

“He left Jennie and her mom.”

“So?” Jisoo folds her arms. “My dad leaves us all the time, especially when he has a big case-”

“No, no, Jisoo, this is different! Jennie’s dad left them permanently.”

“How do you know that? Did you ask him?” Jisoo scoffs. “He might come back.”

Jennie perks up at the idea. Jisoo’s right, like she usually is. Jennie’s dad might come back after a while, once this fight blows over and her mom stops being angry at him.

Jennie smiles as she goes back to her textbook.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Jennie drums her fingers on her phone, leaning deeper into the bus shelter to avoid the rain. She only hopes that her laptop hasn’t gotten wet, and that her dad will pick up.

He doesn’t.

But her laptop’s dry, thanks to the Physics notes and sanitary napkins scattered in her bag that absorbed all the rain.

Jennie weighs her options:

  1. She can try and sneak into Chaeyoung and Lisa’s dorm

But she can’t stay there for very long or she’d get found out. The International Student Dorm isn’t very kind to random stragglers. Jennie scratches that option out.

  1. She could ask one of her other friends, one who has a house of their own

But Jennie can’t think of anyone else, which is pretty sad, but she doesn’t have time to be sad. She’d got to find somewhere to take a hot shower and do some quick laundry, at the very least, because her clothes are damp and she’s getting cold.

  1. She could call Professor Park – a longshot at best

Jennie scratches that out. She feels like they’d actually let her stay over, but she knows they live in cramped conditions, and besides, she doesn’t want them to know about her condition.

  1. She could beg the landlord to let her stay at the studio two months earlier than she’d planned.

Jennie flops onto the bench of the bus stop. That’ll have to do.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“You’ve been teaching the others, right?”

Jennie tries not to laugh at how it long it took for Professor Lee to catch on. “Is it that obvious?”

“Well,” Professor Lee says, collecting the things on her desk. The rest of the class is shuffling out of classroom, completely ignoring them. Jennie’s asked to stay after class that often. “At first I thought it was my doing, then I realized they were all doing the same thing, and it wasn’t the thing I was teaching… and then Dong-geun cracked and told me all about it.”

“Typical Dong-geun behavior.” Jennie laughs.

“Yeah.” Professor Lee laughs. “Anyway, I just wanted you to know you’re doing a good job. So good, it looks like the finals are going to be a breeze.”

“…Thanks, Professor.”

“I’m just being honest here,” Professor Lee says. “You could probably take over my job. But please don’t, I’ve got kids to feed.”

“Don’t worry, Professor, I’m going straight to med school after this,” Jennie assures her.

“Med school?” Professor Lee nods slowly. “I’m sure you’ll do great there.”

“Speaking of which,” Jennie checks the time on her phone. “I’ve got to get to my Physics class soon or I won’t get there at all.”

“Of course, don’t let me keep you. That’s in the next building, isn’t it?”

“Yeah.”

Jennie finds Chaeyoung, Lisa, and Jisoo waiting for her in the hallway. Jisoo’s arms are folded and she’s facing the window, but she’s there – which is incredibly weird to Jennie, but she doesn’t question it.

Lisa nudges Jennie with her elbow as they walk out of the building. “Miss Jennie Kim, isn’t that what you were wearing yesterday?”

Jennie flushes bright pink. “Who made you the Fashion Police?”

“Don’t the Fashion Police only stop people from wearing bad outfits?” Chaeyoung asks.

“Yeah.” Lisa wraps an arm around Jennie’s neck in an affectionate chokehold. “I’m the Random Hookup Police.”

“R- Rando- What?” Jennie sputters, promptly choking in Lisa’s chokehold.

“No bullshit, Miss Jennie Kim,” Lisa tightens her grip. “Tell us who it is, Miss Jennie Kim.”

“Stop calling me that,” Jennie laughs, clawing at Lisa’s arm to try and break free.

“You didn’t tell us you were seeing anyone!” Chaeyoung pouts.

“She’s not, it was just a hookup, right, Miss Jennie Kim?” Lisa narrows her eyes accusingly.

Jennie waves her hands in the air, as if to erase what Lisa’s insinuating. “I-”

“I dropped her off at her place last night, she didn’t hook up with anyone.” Jisoo cuts in. “She was probably just too lazy to take a bath. Ew.”

Jennie gapes at her. Well, there’s one way to explain things.

Jisoo adjusts one strap of her backpack. “Let’s go, we’re gonna be late for Physics.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Let’s go out for dinner,” Chaeyoung says, the minute their last class ends.

“There’s a new Marvel movie out,” Lisa adds, shaking Jennie’s arm. “THOOOOR!”

Jennie freezes for a moment, calculating the money she has left. “Uh, you guys go ahead.”

“Yeah, I’ll pass too.” Jisoo says, shoving her things into her backpack, still without casting even a sidelong glance at Jennie. She’s managed to spend the whole day with them without looking at Jennie once. Jennie’s not even hurt anymore, she’s kind of amazed.

“Fine.” Chaeyoung twines one arm with Lisa’s. “We’ll go without you.”

“We’ll spoil the whole movie for you.” Lisa sticks her tongue out at Jennie and Jisoo.

“Go ahead.” Jisoo rolls her eyes at them. “I heard Thor dies.”

Chaeyoung and Lisa look genuinely hurt as they shuffle out of the classroom. Jennie slings her backpack over one shoulder and is almost to the door when she hears Jisoo cough behind her.

Jennie turns around. “Did you say something?”

“No.” Jisoo makes a face, looking down at her shoes. “Did you need a ride home?”

“Uh.” Jennie panics. “Sure, thanks.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie’s sweating, trapped in Jisoo’s car as it crawls halfway across the city, further and further from her studio apartment and closer to the house she definitely can’t go back to.

Jisoo turns another corner in complete silence. Jennie doesn’t know why Jisoo never plays music in her car, but she wishes she would, because the silence is making Jennie more nervous.

“You can drop me off there. At the bus stop.” Jennie says, when she spots a bus stop up ahead. She could just take this bus all the way back to her apartment, and never have to explain anything to Jisoo. Perfect plan. Okay, not so perfect, it wastes the little money Jennie has, but she’ll take it.

“No.” Jisoo says flatly. “Your house is just a few blocks from here, why would I do that?”

“Um, I…” Jennie’s brain is failing her. THINk, bRIAN, THINK! “Uh… I need to buy something before I go home.”

“Why didn’t you say anything earlier?” Jisoo asks, just as the bus stop passes by on their right. “Well, it’s too late now.”

“Oh.”

Jisoo comes to a stop by the curb outside Jennie’s mom’s apartment.

Jennie sits there, fiddling with the seatbelt like she’s having trouble taking it off.

“What?” Jisoo grumbles. “Is it stuck?”

Jennie’s desperately trying to come up with a plan. Well, she could always walk to the bus stop from here and take the bus then. She’ll just have to wait until Jisoo leaves so Jisoo doesn’t see her. Good plan. Not perfect, but still good.

“Nope. Nothing.” Jennie unclips the seatbelt and hugs her backpack as she climbs out of the car.

Jisoo leans over the console for a moment, her mouth drawn into a line.

“Did I forget something?” Jennie asks nervously.

“No.” Jisoo sighs. “I just wanted to say I was sorry for being a bitch yesterday. I was mad at my mom.”

That makes two of us.

“Oh, it’s okay.” Jennie says. “Thanks for the ride.”

“I knew you’d say that.” Jisoo shrugs and reaches over to close the door.

Jennie shifts her weight from one foot to the other as she watches Jisoo drive off. She waits for Jisoo to turn the corner, then counts a minute before heading to the bus stop.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie punches in the code of her apartment and steps in.

She dumps her bag on the floor, in the corner. She puts down the plastic bags from the convenience store onto the floor next to it, squatting as she empties the contents. Shampoo, soap, a small towel, a U-shaped neck pillow, a toothbrush, a thin t-shirt, a set of underwear, a bottle of water, and a cold, dry sandwich. She lays down on another part of the floor – she’s got nothing but floor at this point, because the apartments that were unfurnished were cheaper to rent.

Jennie sighs. Her mom’s house wasn’t nice, but it had a bed and a kitchen stocked with food.

She sits up and reaches for her sandwich. She pulls her notebook out of her backpack and starts reviewing, squinting at how bright the one naked bulb on the ceiling was.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

The next morning

 

“Thought you could fool us, huh?” Lisa sneers, sidling into the seat next to Jennie’s.

“What?” Jennie asks as innocently as she can.

Two nights in a row? How great is this person?”

“What?”

“You just changed your shirt, but everything else is the same.” Lisa says, tugging on the edge of the thin t-shirt Jennie had picked up from a secondhand shop.

Jennie’s tempted to correct her and say that her underwear’s different, too, and the cheap garter is scratching the hell out of her.

“Lisa, stop bugging her.” Chaeyoung says. “If she wants to tell us what’s up, then she’ll tell us. Right, Jennie?”

“Yeah.” Jennie smiles at Chaeyoung.

Jisoo slips into the seat next to Jennie just as the door opens.

“Hi everyone,” Jimin says gruffly, all but dropping his laptop onto his desk. “Sorry I couldn’t make it last time, something came up.”

He doesn’t joke about the substitute teacher like they’d expect him to, or apologize for her.

“Jennie Kim and Kim Jisoo, please stay after class.” Is all he says before starting the most drawn-out, soulless lecture they’ve ever heard him deliver.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie can feel Jisoo bristling next to her as they stand before Jimin’s desk. He hasn’t said anything in nearly two minutes, or cracked a smile, or even run a hand anxiously through his hair.

“I’m sorry about my mom.” Jisoo says at last. “I don’t know what she did, but-”

“She called up a friend of hers from the university’s board to complain about me keeping you guys so late. She was worried I was bringing you out clubbing,” Jimin says in the same flat, lifeless voice he’d used to give the lecture. “And as things turn out, I don’t have any proof I didn’t take you out clubbing instead of training. Hah.”

“Did you get fired?” Jennie asks.

“Just from coaching the Decathlon team.” Jimin gives her a half-smile. “I’m on some kind of probation now, so any hopes of me getting a promotion anytime soon are up in the air.”

“I’m sorry.” Jisoo drops into a neat, 90-degree bow.

“It’s not your fault, is it?” Jimin draws circles into the lid of his laptop with one finger. “Or is it?”

Jisoo only purses her lips.

“If you had a problem with me, you should’ve told me straight up. You know, how adults deal with things.” Jimin says. “You two aren’t kids anymore. You can’t keep running to Mommy-”

“She didn’t make her mom do that.” Jennie cuts in defensively. “Jisoo’s mom is just like that, Jisoo can’t control her.”

Jimin looks up at the two of, looking from one to the other as if he’s trying to find some reason to call bullshit. “Well that sucks.”

“It does.” Jisoo says through clenched teeth. She bows again. “I’m so sorry about everything, Professor. If I had known she was going to do that, I’d have tried to stop her.”

Jennie’s never seen Jisoo like this, and she’s more than a little confused.

“If it’s really not your fault, then I can’t blame you.” Jimin heaves a long, sad sigh. “Well, good luck on your finals. Guess you’ve got that much more time to study, right?”

Jisoo bows again as she picks up her backpack, but Jennie stops on her way out the door. “I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but what about the Decathlon?”

“What do you mean?”

“What happens now?” Jisoo asks, picking up on Jennie’s line of thinking.

“I don’t know,” Jimin shrugs. “The national round’s in two weeks, so the board should appoint a replacement for me by then.”

Jennie flinches at the way he says the word ‘replacement.’

Jisoo frowns. “But-”

“But what, Jisoo? Unless you can get your mom to drop the case she’s filed against me, there’s nothing we can-”

“So the board’s gonna appoint someone else to pretend to be our coach just for the Decathlon and take all the credit for your training?” Jennie scowls.

“That’s so crappy.” Jisoo adds.

Jimin laughs suddenly, making Jisoo and Jennie jump in surprise.

“That’s assuming you guys win. You’re so sure you’re gonna win,” Jimin leans back in his seat and laughs. “Is that my fault?”

“Yeah.”

“Kinda.”

Jimin smiles at them, genuinely. “You guys better take home the trophy.”

“Yes, sir!” Jisoo bows again, but she misjudges her distance from the desk and bonks her forehead loudly on the wood.

Jennie snorts, and Jimin bursts out laughing again.

“You guys are the worst,” Jisoo whines, rubbing her forehead.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

The next day

 

Jennie rubs her eyes, blinking at the morning sun beaming directly into her damn eyes.

She reminds herself to buy a set of shades or blinds when she has the money to start spending on furniture.

Whoever’s knocking on the door doesn’t seem like they’re going to give up anytime soon, so Jennie peels herself off the floor to look through the peephole.

A tall man she doesn’t know is standing in front of the door, knocking purposefully.

One part of Jennie knows she shouldn’t talk to strangers – maybe the last vestiges of her childhood. The rest of Jennie doesn’t have any more fucks to give, so she opens the door.

“Hello,” The man says. “I’m Lee Jaehwan, I’m Mr. Lee’s business partner.”

Business partner? Is that what they call it these days?

“Hello, sir.” Jennie gives him as respectful a bow as she can muster without taking off the chain on the door.

“I just came by to ask how you were doing, if you needed anything or…” He trails off after getting a glimpse of the empty room behind Jennie. At least, empty aside from the neck pillow and towel spread on the floor. “Did your furniture not make it?”

“What?”

“Your furniture. If you need a reliable delivery service, I have a friend-”

“Oh, no, haha,” Jennie laughs, closing the door a little more and shifting to block his view the best she can. “No thanks, I’m fine.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, haha,” Jennie smiles at him. “It was nice of you to ask, but yeah, I’m fine.”

“Okay.” He nods slowly. “Anyway, if you need anything, just give us a call. We live a few blocks away, so we can do even late-night emergencies – You have my number, right?”

“I have your partner’s number.”

“Oh no, he’s useless. Just call mine.” He smiles and slips a business card through the crack Jennie’s left in the door.

“Thanks.” Jennie takes it. She’s just closed the door when the knocking starts up again.

“Hello?” She asks, opening the door a crack again. Mr. Lee Jaehwan is still in the doorway, but now he’s joined by the landlord, Mr. Lee Junghwan. The latter Mr. Lee is pushing the first Mr. Lee by the face, and holding out a bottle of wine in Jennie’s direction.

“Housewarming gift!” Mr. Lee Junghwan squawks at her, waggling the bottle of wine.

“She’s a college student!” Mr. Lee Jaehwan squawks at his business partner.

“That means she’ll love it!”

Jennie takes the bottle before Mr. Lee Jaehwan can take it back. “Thanks!”

“Sure! Drop by our bar if you need any-”

“Call me if you need any-”

“Thanks again!” Jennie closes the door.

Jennie carries the bottle over to where her bed is set up – it’s that neck pillow and a dry towel as a blanket. All things considered, she’s not doing too badly for someone who’s gotten thrown out of the house. She hasn’t slept in a real bed for three days, or changed clothes for that matter, but her friends just think she’s hooking up with some rando they don’t know. It’s not an ideal excuse, but at least they don’t know what’s really going on. No one can know what’s really going on. Jennie would die if someone found out she was living like this.

At least she’s got this bottle of lukewarm wine.

Jennie settles down onto her towel blanket and starts unscrewing the cap of the wine. Thoughtful of the landlord to give her a screw-cap bottle instead of one with a cork. He must’ve been a college student once, obviously.

Jennie lifts the lip of the bottle to her lips and throws her head back as she takes a long gulp of wine. It’s a Saturday morning, two weeks ahead of finals, might as well accept Mr. Lee’s housewarming present warmly.

She could be doing worse.

Jennie’s squinting down the bottle, trying to see how many drops are left, when her phone rings.

Jisoo is calling.

“Ay yo ay yo,” Jennie picks up the call with a giggle. “What up, bruh.”

“Lisa?” Jisoo asks on the other end.

“No,” Jennie laughs. “It’s me, dumb-dumb.”

“Okay, whatever.” Jisoo huffs. “Do you want to meet up to review? I think we should keep it up even if Professor Park’s out of the pict-”

“Sure!” Jennie grins. “Your place or mine?”

“Uh…”

Jennie rolls on the floor. “Kidding! My place is a fucking mess! I don’t even have a table to study on!”

“You okay…?”

“Yeah.” Jennie laughs.

“You need me to pick you up someplace?”

“My apartment, pleeease!” Jennie says. “Unit 8D, Shangri-La Apartments, the one near the campus…”

“What?”

Jennie laughs again. “Get a paper or something dumb-dumb! Unit 8D, Shangri-La Apartments…”

“Don’t you live at-”

“KIM JISOO!” Jennie squeaks. “GET IT TOGETHER! Unit 8D, Shangri-La Apartments… Oh, Jisoo.”

“Jennie what the hell-”

“Huuuurrry!” Jennie hangs up and flops flat onto her back, looking at the empty wine bottle. “What a dumb-dumb.”

Chapter Text

Two years ago

 

“I don’t drink.” Jennie says firmly. “And you shouldn’t either.”

“Killjoy.” One of their classmates jeers, passing the bottle of smuggled soju down the row. Jennie keeps looking frantically at the door, expecting the teacher to come in at any time.

“I’m the class president.” Jennie sighs. “If you guys get caught doing this dumb shit, it’s gonna somehow be my fault-”

“Bingo!”

“Guys, please.” Jennie groans. “Just stop. Don’t throw away your futures and all that shit.”

Her classmates choke on their own spit laughing.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Jisoo knows – she’s not an idiot – she knows this is probably an elaborate prank on Jennie’s part. More likely, on Lisa’s and Chaeyoung’s part, with Jennie just agreeing to whatever dumb shit they have planned.

But for some reason, she gives them all the benefit of the doubt and knocks on the door of Unit 8D of the Shangri-La Apartments.

“Hello?” Jisoo makes a face as she knocks again. “Jennie?”

There’s a low thud from inside the unit, and footsteps dragging towards the door.

Jisoo braces for the worst. She can hardly stretch her imagination far enough to think of what the worst could be, but she’s ready for anything.

Except, maybe, for a pink-faced, smiling Jennie flinging her arms around Jisoo.

“Hiya Jichuuu!” Jennie giggles against Jisoo’s neck. The strong, undeniable smell of alcohol wafts up to Jisoo’s nose.

“Are you fucking insane?” Jisoo flinches away from her, shoving Jennie towards the door.

“No-ho-hope!” Jennie giggles. “I just had a whole-ass bottle of wiiiiine!”

Jisoo glances around nervously. She doesn’t know why she’s afraid of someone hearing Jennie’s noisy, drunk ass, but she is.

“Get inside!” Jisoo hisses, dragging Jennie into the apartment.

Jisoo closes the door behind her. She can’t believe that Jennie’s drunk at ten in the morning, or that she’s the one who’s got to deal with this, or that Jennie lives this fucking dump?

It’s not even a dump, it’s just an empty room with a towel on the fucking floor! What in the whole-

“Jichuuuu,” Jennie sings to some crackhead tune that doesn’t exist. She flings her arms around Jisoo again. “Jichu Jichu Jichuuu!”

“What the hell is this place?” Jisoo asks, trying to pry Jennie’s arms off of her.

Mi casa,” Jennie waves a hand graciously around the empty space. “Would you like a tour?”

“No, what the fuck- What the fuck are you doing here?”

“This is where the kitchen isn’t, and this is where the master’s bedroom isn’t…” Jennie says, skipping around the empty room. She kicks open the creaky door to the bathroom, which is really just a shower head on the wall and a bare toilet. “This is the master’s bath…”

“Jesus…” Jisoo frowns at a growing pile of trash in a convenience store plastic bag in the corner. “How long have you-”

“A few days… Three days? Three days!” Jennie giggles. “The landlord brought me wine today, do you want some?”

Jennie picks up the empty bottle and flips it over, then frowns when only a drop falls out. “Oh no! No more!”

Jisoo backs up against the door. “What the fuck happened to you?”

“I had wine.” Jennie flops onto the floor with her legs crossed.

“Yeah, I can see that.” Jisoo mutters. “But what happened to you?”

“Ohhhhh,” Jennie grins. “Mom kicked me out. This is my home now. My cribz.”

Jisoo’s face contorts in a cocktail of confusion, disgust, and pity. “Oh god.”

“But it’s a secret!” Jennie leaps up and grabs Jisoo by the collar, pinning her against the door. “Shhhh! It’s a secret! Nobody can know!”

“But-”

“Shhhh!” Jennie’s spit sprays in Jisoo’s disgruntled face.

“Jen-”

“Shhhh! Secret!”

Jisoo shoves Jennie off, letting her fall to the floor with a heavy thud. “Look, I don’t know what kind of crack you snorted or smoked or whatever-”

“You don’t smoke crack.” Jennie says, breaking out into giggles.

“You would know that.” Jisoo nods slowly. “Of course you would.”

Jisoo twists the doorknob and opens it a crack. “Anyway, I’m gonna go now-”

“NO!” Jennie slaps her palms flat on the door on either side of Jisoo’s face. “Stay!”

Jisoo can almost taste the alcohol on Jennie’s breath. The wine must’ve been 70% rubbing alcohol or something. “Jennie…”

Jennie leans forward, too close for Jisoo’s comfort. “Stay with me.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Ughhhh…” Jennie rubs her temples as she tries to push herself to her feet. “God what the fuck…”

The front door of her apartment opens. “Oh good, you’re sober.”

“Hungover, more like.” Jennie groans. She accepts a bottle of water and starts chugging it. The light from the window has gone a bit dim and orangey. “How long have I been out?”

“Like eight hours? I’ve never seen anyone get knocked out by fucking grape juice, but you never fail to amaze, Jennie Kim.”

Jennie’s eyes suddenly come into focus, and she finds Jisoo smirking at her, squatting a few feet away on the floor of Jennie’s crappy, bare apartment.

“Shit.” Jennie breathes. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“You invited me over.” Jisoo rolls her eyes. “Not to baby-sit your drunk ass, but-”

“No no no no,” Jennie shakes her head furiously, then immediately regrets it. The room doesn’t stop shaking. “You shouldn’t be here. You’re not supposed to know-”

“Well it’s too late for that, isn’t it?” Jisoo holds out another bottle of water. “Water?”

“No no no no…” Jennie scrambles to her feet and presses herself against the window. “Please get out of here-”

“Wow, is it too hard to say Thanks, Jisoo.” Jisoo huffs, putting down the convenience store bag as she gets up. “Fine. I’ll go. Just drink all the water in that bag.”

“Don’t tell anyone about this.” Jennie begs. “Please.”

Jisoo lifts an eyebrow. “Chaeyoung and Lisa don’t know?”

“Nobody knows.” Jennie makes a face. “Except you.”

Jisoo takes a deep breath. “Well, it’s not really my style to tell everyone you’re living in a sad little box. No offense.”

“I don’t think there’s a non-offensive way to describe this place.”

Jisoo just nods as she turns towards the door.

“Wait,” Jisoo says, one hand already on the doorknob.

“What?” Jennie asks.

“You didn’t bring anything when you left your place? Like clothes – nothing?”

“I was kicked out, Jisoo, I didn’t exactly have the luxury of packing-”

“Right.” Jisoo nods slowly. She turns the doorknob, then freezes again.

“What is it?” Jennie snaps. She’s getting more and more embarrassed with each passing second that Jisoo just stands there, clearly judging her crappy living conditions.

No clothes?” Jisoo turns to Jennie with a look of pure disgust.

“Nope.”

“Not even another set of underwear?”

“I’ve been buying from the convenience store-”

“Oh my god, just stop.” Jisoo puts up a hand to shut her up. “Don’t say it.”

Jennie scowls at her. “Look, if you’re just gonna judge me, just fucking leave, okay? Things are crappy enough as they are.”

Jisoo opens the door. “Come on.”

“Come on what?”

“Come on, dumbass, we’re going shopping.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“I can’t believe we’re doing this, but then again, I totally can.”

Lisa sighs as the girl behind her in the line bumps into her again and doesn’t apologize. Lisa shifts to elbow her surreptitiously, but Chaeyoung shoots her a stern look.

“Don’t fight people,” Chaeyoung mouths.

“She started it,” Lisa mouths back. Lisa gives up and steps away from the girl. She doesn’t like crowds in general, but this line for some actor’s fanmeet is the worst thing she’s ever voluntarily trapped herself in.

“Who are we lining up for anyway?” Lisa asks, tiptoeing to look over the heads of the other girls in line to try and see the man sitting at the table up front.

Chaeyoung elbows her roughly. “Only the most handsome actor in the whole world!”

Lisa frowns. “…Michael B. Jordan?”

“No, you dumbass!” Chaeyoung hisses at her. “Kim Taehyung!”

“Okay, okay,” Lisa puts her hands up to try and calm Chaeyoung down. “But after this we really have to start studying for Physics.”

“Fine.” Chaeyoung grumbles, tiptoeing to catch a glimpse of the actor. She sees a tuft of his soft brown hair peek out above the crowd, and squeezes Lisa’s arm. “Oh my god, it’s really him!”

“We’d be wasting a lot of time and money if it weren’t.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Son of a bitch.” Jennie breathes, glancing at the price tag of the shirt in her hands. The price looks a little like her rent… for an entire year. She gently hangs it back on the rack, smoothening out the wrinkles wit her fingers before stepping away. She looks back at the bright, smiling sales clerk watching her intently.

“Would you like to try it on, miss?” The clerk asks.

“No thanks,” Jennie smiles apologetically. “I’m just browsing.”

Jennie glances back at the fitting room, where Jisoo’s been taking her time trying on an armful of skirts.

“How about this one?” The clerk asks, holding up a black shirt with fishnet sleeves.

Jennie’s not gonna lie, she’s been looking at that shirt since Jisoo had dragged her into the store, but she honestly didn’t even want to know how much it cost.

“No thanks.”

Jisoo steps out of the fitting room, dumping one half-armful of skirts with the clerk, and dumping the other half on the counter. She turns to Jennie. “What’re you getting?”

“Uh…” Jennie shakes her head. “I’m good.”

Jisoo rolls her eyes. “Uh no, you’re not. You didn’t like anything here?”

“Not really.” Jennie lies.

Jisoo sighs as she digs around her bag for her wallet, drawing out a black credit card. “This is the only store I can ask to close down for us, my aunt doesn’t have any other stores in this mall.”

Jennie grimaces. “You don’t really need to-”

You’re the one who said you didn’t want to run into anyone we knew.” Jisoo grumbles. “And it’s not like I want everyone to see us, either.”

Jennie stuffs her hands in the pockets of her jacket. She’d already considered running way when Jisoo had pulled up to the most expensive mall in the city (“Not a lot of people go there, so it won’t be crowded. I hate crowds,” Jisoo had said), but Jennie didn’t want to hurt Jisoo’s feelings.

Jennie rubs her temples. She’s not even sober enough for this shit yet.

Jisoo puts her card down and smiles at the clerk. “Wait, I’ll just help my friend out.”

Jisoo turns back to Jennie, giving her a quick elevator look. “Size zero?”

“Two, I think.” Jennie says.

Jisoo squints at her. “No, no you’re a zero.”

“I mean, yeah, but my uh,” Jennie gestures awkwardly at her chest.

“Right.” Jisoo huffs and turns to the racks. She starts flipping through the hangers like she’s just going through a textbook. She pulls out three pairs of ripped jeans, a few shirts, a jacket, a skirt, and the black shirt with fishnet sleeves. Jisoo shoves the whole pile into Jennie’s arms without even looking at Jennie. “Try these on.”

“Um…okay.”

“Come out and show us so we can judge,” Jisoo mutters, perching herself on the low couch for trying on shoes.

“Uh, okay.”

“Wait.” Jisoo reaches for a bunch of bras. “Try these on too.”

“Do I… also show you…these?” Jennie asks, taking the bras gingerly.

“No!” Jisoo snaps, her face turning pink. “You wear them under the clothes, duh. As if you’ve never worn a bra before, jeez.”

Jisoo folds her arms and turns to the shoes. “Go.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Hold me, I think I’m gonna pass out.” Chaeyoung whispers, grabbing hold of Lisa’s forearm. They’re near the front of the line, and they can clearly see Kim Taehyung giving people brief hugs and handshakes.

“Don’t pass out, we’ve already paid.”

“Oh my god he’s so handsome in real life,” Chaeyoung grips Lisa’s arm so tightly that Lisa’s hand starts to go numb. “How is he even real?”

“Maybe he isn’t.” Lisa says.

Chaeyoung twists Lisa’s arm in an Indian burn.

“Ow, what the fuck?” Lisa pulls her arm back to rub it soothingly.

“Take it back.”

“I’m agreeing with you! He’s really cute.” Lisa shrugs. “I guess.”

“You guess? You’re not even sure??? He’s the most handsome person ever in the history of ever!” Chaeyoung hisses. “Are you blind?”

“No, I’m gay.” Lisa deadpans.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“What do you think?”

Jisoo looks up, lifting her eyebrows like she hadn’t been paying attention. “Huh?”

Jennie does a little dance, wiggling her arms in the fishnet sleeves of the shirt she’s trying on. “Is this okay?”

Jisoo bites down to keep her mouth straight, but nothing about her is straight right now. “It’s fine, I guess. Are you getting it? I’m hungry.”

“Oh, right, lunch.” Jennie checks her watch. “I’ll just get changed and we can go-”

“No, just wear that.” Jisoo gets up and turns away, because her face is on fire. “Hurry up.”

“Okay.”

Jisoo fishes around for her card again, then glances at the one pair of jeans Jennie’s put on the counter.

“Where the hell is the rest of the stuff you tried on?” Jisoo scowls at her.

“They’re super expensive-”

“I’ve got a 15% discount card,” Jisoo waves a plastic card dismissively. “Just get them all, it’s not like you have anything else.”

“I can’t accept-”

Jisoo huffs and walks back to the fitting room to pick up all the clothes Jennie hadn’t gotten, and dump them on the counter. “We’re taking all of these.”

 

“I can pay for lunch,” Jennie offers. “Since you bought me all thi-”

“Stop. I got it.” Jisoo makes a face at her. Jennie’s being ridiculous. She’s the one who’s broke and got kicked out of her house, she’s not in any place to be offering to pay for anything.

“But I feel bad that you’re paying for everythin-”

“I’m not.” Jisoo laughs. “My parents are.”

“But they worked hard for that money,” Jennie can’t help but shudder.

“My mom rejects poor patients, and my dad defends rich-ass criminals,” Jisoo shrugs. “This is like, blood money. Don’t feel bad.”

Jennie frowns. Wasting blood money doesn’t make things right, but she does feel a little less bad about whatever the hell is going on right now.

“Oh, this place has really good pasta,” Jisoo says, hitching a thumb towards a small Italian restaurant to their left.

Jennie catches a glimpse of the prices on the menu and feels a shiver run up her spine. “We could just eat somewhere outside-”

“Shhh.” Jisoo says, holding a hand up to silence Jennie. She turns to the waitress standing outside the restaurant. “Table for two, please.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Ten years ago

 

Jisoo knocks gently on her brother’s door. “Oppa? I’m coming in.”

Her brother doesn’t answer, so she opens the door and steps in anyway. Her brother’s room is just as neat and smelly as it always is, but he isn’t there. Jisoo shrugs. Maybe he’s out with his friends tonight. He probably is again, because he and their mom had fought the night before.

Jisoo opens a drawer on his desk and pulls out a poorly-hidden chocolate bar.

She slides down the stairs sitting on a throw pillow, chomping on her chocolate bar. Her brother still hasn’t figured out that she’s been taking from his stash of chocolate the past few months. Jisoo grins to herself. Dumb-dumb.

Jisoo sneaks back into her brother’s room for more chocolate the next day. He isn’t there, again. She shrugs and takes the chocolate, thinking nothing of it.

 

“When is oppa coming home?” Jisoo asks, chomping on the last chocolate bar from her brother’s drawer, a week later.

The maids exchange nervous looks while Jisoo’s mother shuts the newspaper irritatedly.

“What?” Jisoo’s mother asks, squinting at her through reading glasses as if she hadn’t heard Jisoo’s question.

“When is oppa coming home?” Jisoo needs him to refill the chocolate in his drawer, pronto.

“He’s not.”

Jisoo peels away some more of the wrapper to get to the bottom of the bar. “For how long?”

“Forever.”

Jisoo stops in mid-peel, frowning up at her mother. “Is he… dead? Like grandma?”

“No.” Her mother takes a sip of her cappuccino. “He just doesn’t live with us anymore. He’s not coming back, and we’re not going to talk about him anymore, understood?”

“Why not?”

“Jisoo, promise you won’t talk or ask about your brother anymore.”

“Okay.” Jisoo nods. “I promise. But why?”

Her mother goes back to reading the newspaper like she hadn’t heard Jisoo.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

“Oh.”

Jisoo looks up from her plate. “What?”

“You came over to study, right?” Jennie asks.

“Yeah.” Jisoo rolls her eyes. “But that didn’t happen, so whatever.”

“Sorry.”

“Whatever.”

Jennie puts her fork down. “Look, I don’t really get why you’re doing all this, but like, thanks.”

“I don’t know why I’m doing this, either.” Jisoo says. “But you’re welcome.”

Jennie smiles.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Eight years ago

 

Jisoo stares at the TV, staring blankly as the news comes back on. She turns to her mother, then her father, who seem too busy checking their phones as they eat their dinner.

“Chew your food, Jisoo.” Her mother snaps, not looking up from her phone.

“Mom…” Jisoo says slowly. “Oppa’s on the TV.”

“What?” Her mother frowns, glancing up at the TV, where a newscaster is reading something about the minister of something or the other.

“He was in a commercial for gum.” Jisoo says. “Dancing.”

Her mother scoffs. “That was probably someone else.”

“No, it was him!” Jisoo insists. “I saw him!”

“Well, it doesn’t matter now.” Her mother says. “Finish your food so you can go back to your homework.”

Jisoo picks up another spoonful of rice, but doesn’t put it in her mouth. “Where is oppa now?”

Her mother pretends to ignore her.

“Where does oppa live now?” Jisoo reaches out and taps her mother on the arm. “Mom, where does he live now?”

“I don’t know.” Her mother snaps. “Why?”

“I miss him.” Jisoo says. She’s only half-lying. She does miss her brother a lot, but she’s also worried about him. It had been half a year since he’d been thrown out when she realized he didn’t have any money or anywhere to live. She couldn’t imagine how he could keep going to university if her parents weren’t paying for his tuition, or how he could eat without any allowance.

Well, at least he’s got a job now, even if it is dancing for a chewing gum brand.

“Finish your dinner quickly.” Her mother says, after a long silence filled in by the low buzzing of the 7 o-clock news. “You still have a lot of homework left.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Jisoo closes the door behind her, flopping onto the ottoman face first. It’s not that late in the afternoon yet, but she’s tired, and she doesn’t know why.

She reaches for her phone and dials without thinking.

“Hello?” The voice on the other line is comfortingly soft.

Jisoo sighs.

“Jisoo? Is something wrong?”

“No,” Jisoo says. “Yes. Kinda.”

“What’s wrong?”

Jisoo rolls over and stares at the ceiling. “Remember the stars you put on my ceiling? Because you were the only one who could reach it?”

“Yeah, we had to do Cassiopeia over probably three times because I couldn’t get the zigzag right.” Jin’s voice sounds like he’s smiling. “Are they still there?”

“Yup.”

Jisoo doesn’t say anything for some time, but her brother doesn’t hang up.

“Can I ask you something kinda offensive?” Jisoo asks.

“…Sure?”

“What was it like when you were kicked out?”

“Wait.” Jin’s voice drops from concerned to stern. “Is mom kicking you out? Come here and stay wth us if-”

“No, no, don’t worry.” Jisoo says. “Mom and I are okay, I mean, as okay as we’ll ever be. I just wanted to know.”

“Oh, good. I’d have gone over there and punched a senior citizen-”

“It’s okay, no need to punch Mom.” Jisoo tries to stifle a laugh at the idea of her brother storming in and getting into a cartoony fistfight with their mother.

“Good. If she ever tries to pull that on you, just call me, I’ll come over and fight her-”

“Thanks, oppa, but it’s fine. Calm down.” Jisoo smiles. She traces Cassiopeia on the ceiling with her eyes. “My friend’s mom just kicked her out.”

“That’s awful.” Jin breathes. “Jennie? Or someone else?”

“Jennie.”

“Does she have somewhere to stay? Our house isn’t big – well, you know that – but we’ve got space for her if she needs somewhere to crash for the meantime.”

“She’s got a place.” Jisoo says, leaving out that it was unfurnished. Knowing her brother, he’d probably drive over to donate his own bed. “Where did you stay?”

“When Mom kicked me out? With Yoongi.” Jin’s voice gets a little quieter, like he’s embarrassed. “I was lucky to have him.”

“Yeah.” Jisoo stretches out on the ottoman. “Jennie doesn’t have anyone.”

“Really?” Jin asks. “Then what are you?”

Chapter Text

Present

 

“Don’t you have an exam tomorrow?”

Hoseok lifts his eyebrows, not looking up from his laptop. He’s not about to let his team down, not even for Jimin.

“What are you, his mom?” Yoonji asks, shooting an amused look in Jimin’s direction.

“No, and that’s an antiquated idea of the woman’s place in the household.” Jimin says.

Yoonji grins and slings an arm around Jimin’s waist. “How many gender studies classes did you sit in today?”

“Three.” Jimin sighs.

“I’m sorry, guys, but can you not block the screen please?” Hoseok says, gently brushing Yoonji’s elbow away from his screen.

“Sorry, sorry,” Yoonji pulls Jimin away, but Jimin’s still grumbling something about Hoseok’s final exam.

Hoseok nods, eyes still trained on his game. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll study.”

 

“You should’ve started earlier.”

“Not you, too.” Hoseok looks up from his book to find Yoonji rubbing her eyes as she fills up a glass with water. He checks the time on his phone. It’s only half past 3.

“I’m just saying, you should be able to get sleep before your exam.” Yoonji says in between gulps. “How much more do you have to go?”

“Two chapters.” Hoseok shrugs. “Out of three.”

Yoonji grins and settles in the seat next to him. “Is it really hard? Just yolo it.”

“My lady,” Hoseok says gently, laying a hand on her thigh. “Nobody says ‘yolo’ anymore.”

“Then what do the kids say these days?” Yoonji asks, tugging Hoseok’s hand further up her thigh.

“They don’t say anything,” Hoseok draws circles in her inner thigh with her thumb. “They just go straight to fucking up the exam.”

“Boring.” Yoonji kicks her chair back and climbs into Hoseok’s lap.

Hoseok grins up at her. “I seriously have to study, I can’t remember half of what happened this semester.”

“Mm-hm,” Yoonji says softly, pressing herself up against him. “Wanna procrastinate some more?”

“Sure.”

“Min Yoonji, leave him alone.” Jimin mutters sleepily, leaning on the doorway to the bedroom. “He can’t fail this exam.”

“He’s about to graduate, they’re not gonna fail him,” Yoonji says, waving a hand dismissively at Jimin.

“Come on,” Jimin says, pulling Yoonji off Hoseok’s lap. “Let him study in peace.”

“You used to be able to study while I was-”

Jimin clamps a hand over her mouth as he drags her towards the bedroom. He stops to plant a kiss on Hoseok’s forehead. “Don’t stay up too late.”

“I will. I mean, I won’t.” Hoseok smiles at him.

He watches the bedroom door close behind them, then looks back down at his book. He’s just staring at the words, not really sure what he’s reading anymore.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Hoseok’s not sure if this is what they call senioritis, but he feels like he’s transcended worrying about his exams. He submits his first exam with a lazy smile, and the proctor only laughs at him as she files his paper into a folder.

Jimin’s waiting for him in the hallway outside with two coffees. “How was it?”

Hoseok only smiles and shrugs.

“That bad?” Jimin frowns, handing over one of the coffees.

Hoseok chugs it.

“Jesus,” Jimin pats Hoseok on the back. “Do you have any other exams today?”

Hoseok holds up two fingers as he throws back more of the warm coffee.

“Shit.” Jimin rubs the base of Hoseok’s back soothingly. “What time is the next one?”

Hoseok holds up five fingers, shaking them.

“…5 pm?”

Hoseok shakes his head, crumpling the empty cup of coffee. “In fifteen minutes.”

Jimin’s eyes widen. “What!?”

Hoseok winks at him. “Wanna have a quickie in your office?”

“Jung Hoseok, if you’re late for your exam-”

“Just five minutes, tops.” Hoseok grabs Jimin by the belt loops of his slacks. “Or bottom, whatever you want.”

Jimin pushes him away and points aggressively down the hallway. “Go to your exam!”

Hoseok pouts, wrapping a finger in Jimin’s belt loop. “After?”

Jimin flushes, looking up and down the hallway anxiously. He frowns at Hoseok. “Fine. Just go!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Two Years Ago

 

“I’m not going away forever, Mama,” Hoseok says, patting his mother’s back. “I’ll just be half an hour away.”

“Mama, he’s 27 years old.” Hoseok’s sister says, arms folded. “It’s about time he’s moved out.”

“What about you?” Their mother snaps at her, still clutching Hoseok to her chest.

“I’m a med student. Things are different.” Hoseok’s sister says, looking up at the gray sky. It’s starting to drizzle so she pulls her cardigan close and turns to go back into the house.

“Go back inside, Mama, it’s raining,” Hoseok says, trying to pry his mother off him as gently as he can.

“It’s just a drizzle, I’ll live.”

Hoseok sighs, patting her on the back. “They’ll be here soon, no need to wait-”

“No, I’m going to be here until you leave.”

“I’ll go home on weekends, Mama,” Hoseok says.

“No, no, focus on your studies,” Hoseok’s mother shakes her head. “Study well.”

“I will,” Hoseok says. “I’ll make you proud.”

“We’re already proud of you.”

A car rolls up to the sidewalk. Yoonji steps out of the passenger’s seat impatiently. “Hi, Mrs. Jung!”

“Hello, Yoonji dear,” Mrs. Jung squeezes Yoonji’s arm affectionately.

Yoonji looks down at the three bags getting slightly wet on the sidewalk. “Is this all of your stuff- Jung Hoseok, are you crying?”

Hoseok wipes his eyes on his sleeve. “Yeah, that’s everything.”

Yoonji grins at him. “Okay.” She picks them all up with a small huff and carries them to the car.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Jung.” Jimin says, after unlocking the trunk for Yoonji.

“Good afternoon to you, too, Jimin,”

“Ready to go?” Jimin asks, resting a hand on Hoseok’s elbow.

“Yeah, yeah.” Hoseok nods, wiping his eyes more aggressively. He squeezes his mother tightly. “Bye, Mama.”

She only nods, sniffling too hard to reply.

“We’ll be back on the weekends,” Jimin assures her, putting an arm around Hoseok’s shoulders.

“No, focus on work and school,” Mrs. Jung shakes her head. “Just come back when you’re hungry, okay? The restaurant’s bigger, but the food’s still the same.”

“Of course,” Yoonji says, hopping up to wrap her arms around Hoseok’s neck from behind. “Let’s go, I’m not sure if I turned the stove off before we left.”

“Yoonji!” Jimin squeaks at her.

“Bye, Mrs. Jung!”

“Bye, Mama.”

Hoseok’s mother waves as the car drives off, still mouthing, “Study well.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Present

 

Hoseok wipes his mouth on his sleeve, checking the time on his watch that he only brings out for exams.

“When’s your next exam?” Jimin asks, panting as he leans back in his chair.

Hoseok puts up 5 fingers.

“Five minutes from now?” Jimin groans.

Hoseok grins. “Nope. 5pm.”

Jimin checks his watch.

“Round two?” Hoseok asks, getting up on his knees.

“Hoseok, I-”

The door flies open, and Hoseok dives under the desk. Jimin rolls behind the desk, opening a folder on his table. “Yes?”

Yoonji stands in the doorway, arms folded, a smirk on her face. “Real smooth.”

“It’s just Yoonji.” Jimin nudges Hoseok with with foot. “Close the door, Yoonji.”

Yoonji kicks the door shut. “So I’ve been asking around, apparently Jin’s crazy-ass mom’s filed an official complaint against you.”

Yoonji lowers three manila folders onto the desk. Jimin frowns as he flips through them. “How did you get these?”

Yoonji winks. “I have my ways.”

Jimin glares at her.

“Relax, one of my drinking buddies works in HR.” Yoonji says, sitting on the corner of the desk. She laughs as Hoseok crawls out from under the desk, helping him up.

Hoseok rubs his nose. “It’s really dusty down there.”

“Tell me about it,” Yoonji rolls her eyes. “I think I ruined a pair of jeans kneeling down there.”

Jimin’s still flipping through the folders Yoonji’s brought over.

“This is complete bullshit.” Jimin groans.

“Yeah, but they can fire your ass for it.” Yoonji bends over, opening the third folder. “Our only consolation is that this university’s drowning in red tape.”

“I’m sure Jennie and Jisoo’ll testify in your defense if we asked them,” Hoseok says, reading over Jimin’s shoulder.

“No, no, we can’t bring them into this. We can’t ask them to do that.” Jimin says.

“Especially not when Jisoo’s mom’s the one who filled the fucking complaint.” Yoonji adds.

“I mean, it doesn’t make sense that Jisoo’s mom would file the complaint. If Jisoo had a problem, she’d be the one filing it herself, right? And her mom isn’t even a student, right?” Hoseok rests a hand on Jimin’s shoulder.

“No, but Jisoo’s uncle’s on the school board.” Yoonji says. “Her mom’s older brother.”

Jimin pauses and frowns up at Yoonji. “I’m not gonna ask how you know this.”

“I should just quit and become a detective.” Yoonji says, patting herself on the back.

Jimin rolls his eyes and tries to brush her off his desk.

“So what are we gonna do?” Hoseok asks.

You are going to your exam.” Yoonji says, checking Jimin’s watch. “Jiminie and I’ll stay here and brainstorm.”

Hoseok shakes his head. “Fuck the exam-”

“Jung Hoseok.” Jimin says, dragging out his authoritative, disappointed professor voice, despite him being the youngest person here. “Go to your exam.”

“Fine.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Hoseok can’t focus on his exam, because he’s worried Jimin will lose his job, which would make Yoonji go completely insane and probably get kicked out, too.

“Thirty minutes left.”

Jimin didn’t do anything wrong – he really cared about the girls and didn’t want to keep them out for so long, but they were the ones who insisted on training more, which Jimin clearly loved.

“Twenty minutes left.”

Jimin’s a great professor, Hoseok thinks. He’s probably one of the best. If anyone deserves to go, it’s his professor in this subject, who showed up only half the semester just to torture them by reading paragraphs off her powerpoint.

“Ten minutes left.”

And Yoonji, she worries Hoseok constantly, because there’s no controlling her – which is all fun and games in bed, but pretty scary when she’s going around prying through confidential information, and god knows how she even does it.

“Five minutes left.”

Hoseok looks back down at his paper, which is still half empty. Or, he figures, half full.

“Please submit your papers.”

Crap.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Hoseok steps out of the classroom to find Yoonji and Jimin arguing in the hallway.

They stop and turn to him with smiles.

“How was it?”

“Good.” Hoseok lies.

“Where do you wanna eat dinner?”

“Mama’s asking me to come home for dinner tonight,” Hoseok lies again.

“Are we invited?”

“Wow, Yoonji, classy.”

“What? Free food is still free food.”

“No, you’re not invited.” Hoseok lies again. “Sorry.”

“We could give you a ride there, at least,” Jimin offers.

“No thanks.” Hoseok waves his hands. “I feel like taking the bus.”

“Okay.” Jimin nods. “See you at home.”

“Bye.”

 Yoonji flings her arms around Hoseok’s neck, kissing him flat on the lips. “Hurry home.”

“I will. See you.”

 

Hoseok’s not sure what his plan is, actually. But he’s made his way over to the math department, and now he’s standing in the hallway while Jisoo and Jennie’s class finish their exam inside. He’s no Yoonji, but he just asked around the biology department for Jisoo and/or Jennie.

He suddenly feels creepy for stalking them. Is this stalking them?

The door opens before he can reconsider his plan and run away.

“Hoseok,” Jisoo says, frowning. “What’re you doing here?”

“Hi, I uh, I just wanted to talk to you,” Hoseok says, trying to rack his brain for a way to not sound creepy. For someone who reads so much dialogue, he’s got nothing. “It’s about Jimin.”

“Oh.” Jisoo shifts her strap on her shoulder. “What happened? Is he okay?”

“Yeah, he’s fine.” Hoseok says. “It’s just that, uh…”

Jisoo’s brow is so furrowed that she could only be completely oblivious. “What is it?”

“Your mom filed an official complaint against him,” Hoseok says.

“An official complaint?” Jisoo’s frown deepens. “About the training still?”

“Yeah.” Hoseok says. “I was thinking you ask her to drop it-”

Jisoo’s face scrunches up in apology. “Sorry, Hoseok, but I really can’t do anything about my mom.”

“Jimin’s job is at stake, okay – I know you might not really get how important that is, because you’re still in college, but he really needs this job,” Hoseok’s starting to talk faster now, like he does when he’s anxious. “And if this kinda case follows through, it’s gonna be really hard for him to find another job.”

“I know,” Jisoo presses her lips together. “But I’m sorry, I already tried talking to her, and she got really angry, there’s really nothing I can do.”

Hoseok’s starting to get frustrated at the idea. He’s not met Jin and Jisoo’s mother, but she can’t be that unreasonable. “But-”

“Hoseok?”

They turn around to find Jennie frowning at them, trying to untangle the zipper of her bag from one fishnet sleeve.

“Hi, Jennie.” Hoseok says.

“What’re you doing here?” Jennie looks from his frown to Jisoo’s. “Is everything okay?”

Jisoo only looks down at her shoes, so Hoseok explains, “Jisoo’s mom filed an official complaint against Jimin.”

“What?” Jennie frowns. “I thought she just called someone on the board and was done with it?”

“No, it turns out she filed an official complaint.” Hoseok sighs. “The university’s just taken a while to process it.”

“Shit.” Jennie turns to Jisoo. “Is there anything you can do?”

Jisoo shakes her head.

Jennie squeezes Jisoo’s arm comfortingly. “It’s okay.”

Jennie turns back to Hoseok. “I don’t know what we can do, but we’ll do whatever we can to help.”

“Thanks.” Hoseok gives them a curt bow. “And uh, good luck on your finals. Sorry for bothering you this week, but I’m just really worried about Jimin.”

“It’s okay. Good luck too.” Jennie says. “It’s your last finals week, right?”

“Yeah.” Hoseok manages to smile. “I’ve just got one more exam, then I’m free.”

Jennie smiles back at him. “Sounds nice.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Hoseok closes the door behind him, locking it. He can hear the shower, so he hopes that both Yoonji and Jimin are in it, so he has time to come up with a good cover story. He really sucks at lying.

“How’s your mom?”

Hoseok’s not sure if he hears something accusatory behind Yoonji’s question, but he just smiles at her and says, “She’s good.”

Hoseok bends over to kiss Yoonji on the forehead.

“Weird, because I ordered dinner from your restaurant, and you weren’t there.” Yoonji hums, not looking away from the TV.

Hoseok stops in mid-step. “Do you not trust me that much? That you have to go and check-”

“You seemed in a crappy mood, okay? I was worried.” Yoonji glares at him.

“Then I’d be out drinking, what’s there to-”

“You would be out drinking. But you aren’t. So where’d you go?”

“Paranoia isn’t a good look on you, my lady.”

“Fucking…” Yoonji stands up, blocking Hoseok’s way to the other side of the couch. “Why don’t you want to tell me?”

Hoseok glares down at her. “Maybe I don’t need to tell you everything.”

Yoonji only glares back. “You told the girls, didn’t you?”

“If you already knew, why did you have to ask?” Hoseok groans, stepping around her to sit down on the sofa and prop his feet up on the coffee table.

“I was just guessing.” Yoonji slaps him on the thigh. “I don’t like guessing, even if I’m always right. Just tell me.”

“Jimin said not to tell them, so I thought-”

“I’m not Jimin.” Yoonji says. “And I’m not about to tell on you.”

Hoseok reaches for the open beer on the table, weighing it in his hand to see if there’s anything inside. He takes a sip.

“So, what did they say?” Yoonji asks.

“Jisoo seems scared of her mom,” Hoseok says, taking another sip.

“Understandable.” Yoonji says. When Hoseok frowns at her, she takes the beer from him to take a swig. “She’s a fucking monster, Dr. Kim. Satan incarnate, that kind of deal.”

“I mean, I know she’s like that to Jin, she kicked him out, but if Jisoo’s still there, she can’t hate her as much, right?”

“More like, Jisoo’s probably trapped there because she doesn’t have a boyfriend like Yoongi who’ll support her.”

“Oh.”

“You probably shouldn’t have told them, because now they’re worried for Jimin, too, but they can’t do anything, either.” Yoonji tilts her head back to finish up the rest of the beer.

“Oh.” Hoseok sighs. “Well, today’s just full of fuckups.”

“You took three final exams in one day,” Yoonji shrugs. “What were you expecting?”

“I didn’t even finish the last one.” Hoseok groans as he slumps down on the sofa. “It was literally half-empty, there’s no way I’m passing.”

“Or half-full.”

“What?” Hoseok frowns.

“You said your exam was half-empty. So it was half-full, right?” Yoonji laughs, then slaps herself in the face. “Ugh, god, I’m turning into my brother.”

“Oh no, that’s awful,” Hoseok says.

Yoonji narrows her eyes at him. “Why? What’s wrong with my brother?”

“He’s not my girlfriend.” Hoseok grins, pulling Yoonji onto his lap.

“Gross.” Yoonji mutters, leaning in to kiss him.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

The next day

 

“Come to bed.”

“I still have another unit to finish,” Hoseok says, taking a sip of water without his eyes ever leaving the textbook open on his laptop.

“Come on,” Jimin says. “You’ve been studying all day. You’ll be fine.”

“I’m not done.”

“You need to sleep.” Jimin rakes his hands gently down Hoseok’s back.

“I’ll sleep after the exam.”

“Wow,” Jimin sits down next to him. “I’ve never seen you this focused.”

“It’s my last exam. I have to do well.” Hoseok says, frowning as he turns the page.

“Just get some sleep, okay?” Jimin kisses Hoseok softly on the temple.

“I will.”

 

Hoseok feels a little bit dizzy from hunching over his exam for so long, and his neck aches. Maybe this is why most people try to get out of college before they’re 27 years old.

Someone claps him on the back, hurting him more than they probably intended to. “We’re done, man!”

“Yeah.” Hoseok grins at his classmate.

“The exam was a bitch, wasn’t it?”

“Eh,” Hoseok shrugs. Overstudying made it easy.

“Anyway, see you at graduation, bro!”

“See you.” Hoseok opens the door to the classroom for them both.

He waves goodbye to his classmate, then turns to the two tiny figures arguing at the end of the hallway.

“Hi.”

Yoonji jumps up into his arms, making his drop his bag on the floor. Hoseok holds her close anyway. “Congraaaaats!”

Jimin wraps his arms around them both, nuzzling his face into Hoseok’s shoulder.

“I thought you didn’t like PDA at work,” Hoseok says, pecking Jimin on the forehead.

“Fuck that, I’m proud of you.” Jimin mutters into Hoseok’s sweater. “And nobody in this department knows me anyway.”

“My lady, you’re a little…” Hoseok says, his shaking arms saying the rest for him.

“Heavy?” Yoonji scowls at him as she hops back onto the tiled floor. “You’re just weak.”

“I didn’t mean-”

Yoonji squeezes Hoseok and picks him up a fireman's carry with almost no effort. “Eeeeeeeeee! My man’s going to graduaaaaaate!”

Jimin clamps a hand over her mouth, pointing at the Silence! Final exams in session sign on the wall. “So, where are we having dinner?”

“Mom wants me home for dinner to celebrate,” Hoseok says, and when Yoonji gives him a strange look, he adds, “And both of you are invited.”

Chapter Text

Present

 

“Jennie, I think I’m seeing things but…”

“What?” Jennie rubs her eyes. Jisoo’d passed by her apartment in a taxi at 4:30 in the morning to make it to the train station on time – FOUR THIRTY. IN THE MORNING. Jennie was hardly awake, and Jisoo could hardly string words together.

“Jennie! Jisoo!”

Jennie squints at the figure running towards them, waving. Two figures. Three figures. It’s Professor Park, Yoonji, and Hoseok.

Jimin stops in front of them, his face slightly flushed from running. “Where’s the replacement coach?”

“They didn’t appoint one in time.” Jisoo says.

“So you guys are going alone?” Hoseok asks nervously.

“They’re twenty years old, Hoseok, they are adults. They’ll be fine.” Yoonji rolls her eyes.

“What are you doing here?” Jennie asks, her brain hardly catching up to the present

“I just wanted to see you guys off,” Jimin explains. “And wish you luck and all that.”

Jisoo looks at him with watery eyes. “Thank you.”

“Aww, Jisoo, don’t cry.” Jimin pats her on the shoulder.

Jisoo, in that fragile emotional state everyone’s in before the sun rises, bursts into tears. “I’m so sorry about everything.”

“Come on, Jisoo, don’t cry.” Jimin rubs her shoulder. “Do your best, okay?”

Jisoo nods.

“We also brought you guys breakfast for the trip,” Hoseok holds out two paper bags.

Jennie takes them, still unable to comprehend what’s going on. “You cooked this?”

“No, my mom did,” Hoseok says.

“His mom is the fucking best.” Yoonji says. “Make sure you eat everything.”

“We will.” Jennie nods slowly. “The train is like three hours-”

“It’s leaving in a few minutes, right?” Jimin checks his watch. “You should get going. Do you have your tickets? And the papers for the contest? You have your IDs with you?”

Jennie’s still overwhelmed with the sheer number of questions he’s asking, but Jisoo nods and blubbers, “Y- yes, we do.”

“Then good luck,” Jimin claps them gently on the shoulders. “And eat all your breakfast. And do your best.”

“We will.” Jennie and Jisoo manage to pull themselves together to bow one last time, before running to catch their train.

Jimin waves until they’re out of sight, then chews on his lip. “Maybe we should go with them.”

“What are you, their dad?” Yoonji scoffs. “They’re big girls, they’ll be fine.”

“But-”

Yoonji yawns loudly, and Hoseok lifts a hand to cover her mouth.

“Come on, let’s go home.” She says. “I need like 10 more hours of sleep.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Jisoo…” Jennie says gently, as Jisoo cries right into her egg roll. “I know it’s really yummy but-”

“It’s not that,” Jisoo sniffles, wiping her nose on her sleeve. “I’m about to get my period.”

“Oh.”

Jisoo takes a deep breath and goes back to stuffing her face with Hoseok’s mom’s cooking. “But also, this is so good, I could eat it all day for the rest of my life.”

Jennie laughs. “Don’t overstuff yourself or you’re gonna sleep through the competition.”

“I woke up at like 3. I am definitely gonna sleep through the competition.” Jisoo says, before he eyes lock on a lone egg roll in Jennie’s container. “Are you gonna eat that?”

“Yes I am!” Jennie growls, pulls her container out of Jisoo’s reach.

“Fine.” Jisoo grumbles. “Bitch.”

“We had the same amount of food,” Jennie says. “Bitch.”

“I was just asking.” Jisoo says. “Bitch.”

“Sure thing…” Jennie says.

“Bitch.” They say at once, before snorting and bursting out laughing.

Jisoo seizes the moment to make a grab for Jennie’s last egg roll, but Jennie slaps Jisoo’s hand away.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

The night before

 

“The Decathlon is tomorrow, isn’t it?” Jisoo’s mother asks.

Jisoo doesn’t look up from her dinner. “Yes.”

“Are you ready?”

Not as ready as I should be, since someone got our coach fired.

“Yeah.” Jisoo says.

“I asked around, my friends said the team from _______ Women’s University is the one to beat. Who would’ve thought? Back in my time, that university was full of dropouts and throwaway types.”

“Hm.” Jisoo just nods. She doesn’t know the university well, but it’s probably a public university, judging by her mother’s tone.

“Don’t mumble. What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

Her mother huffs and takes a sip of wine. “It’d be really embarrassing if you lost to _______ Women’s University.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Jennie.” Jisoo wriggles her shoulder, but Jennie’s head is tucked so deeply in the crook of her neck that Jisoo can hardly move. “Jennie, wake up. Please.”

“Huh?” Jennie asks, wiping her mouth instinctively on her sleeve.

“We’re here.” Jisoo stands up as soon as Jennie’s off her shoulder. She pulls her mouth into a straight line. “Let’s go, we might be late.”

 

They aren’t late, but just barely.

The cab driver had brought them around in circles, missing the university they were going to by just one, one, ONE (1) turn every time. Jisoo and Jennie had made it just as the registration desk was about to close up, and only had the time to use the restroom once before running towards their seats.

The two girls to their left exchanged glances when Jisoo and Jennie, sweaty from all that running, collapsed into their seats.

Jisoo read the sign on the judgy girls’ table: _____ Women’s University.

“The 55th National Academic Decathlon will begin in a few minutes.”

Jennie taps Jisoo on the hand. “Are you nervous?”

Jisoo draws her hand back. “What kind of a dumbass question is that?”

“No need to be such a bitch about it.” Jennie says, but she’s smiling.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“I can’t believe… this exists.” Jinyoung says, squinting into Lisa’s laptop.

“Idek man, I just found it. Seems legit though.”

Chaeyoung drags her chair around to see the screen better. “They’re only in the fifth round!”

“Are they still there?” Jinyoung asks, squinting at the tiny livestream. “Make it fullscreen.”

Lisa shoots him an annoyed look. “There’s no fullscreen. I already tried.”

“There’s got to be a fullscreen.” Jinyoung turns the laptop towards him.

Chaeyoung drags her chair to get a better view again, much to the annoyance of everyone else in the coffee shop. “I think they’re still there!”

“Hmmm… Yeah, there they are!” Lisa points at their university’s name in the leaderboard. “They’re first place!”

“For now.” Jinyoung says, running the mouse’s pointer over every button around the video.

“Shut up, our girls are gonna win,” Lisa says, folding her arms as she waits for Jinyoung to give up looking for a fullscreen button.

“A-ha!”

“Did they get it right?” Chaeyoung asks.

“No, I found the fullscreen button.” Jinyoung clicks and an ad pops up. “GODDAMMIT!”

“Jesus Crepes, Jinyoung, if my laptop gets a virus because of you…” Lisa mutters, turning the laptop back to her.

Chaeyoung drags her chair again to follow the screen.

“They got it right! They’re moving on to the next round!” Chaeyoung cheers.

“Of course they will, they’re first place.” Lisa says.

The video stutters then, goes the whole screen goes black.

“Nice going, Lisa.” Jinyoung says.

“Shut up.” Lisa glares at him, and she looks like she’s about to say more, but then the screen comes back to life with the video taking up the entire screen. “YES! We did it bois!”

Jinyoung just folds his arms and huffs, while Chaeyoung jumps and screeches when the camera briefly shows Jennie and Jisoo’s faces.

“Guys, guys, we’re gonna get kicked out.” Lisa laughs, looking around at the mildly annoyed people in the coffee shop.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie catches a glimpse of Jisoo stealing another glance at the girls next to them. There could be two reasons why Jisoo keeps looking at them:

  1. They’re just one mistake behind Jennie and Jisoo’s score, and could very well beat them, so Jisoo’s keeping an eye on them.
  2. They’re fucking gorgeous and Jisoo’s just getting distracted.

Jennie nudges Jisoo gently, earning a sour look from her.

“They haven’t asked a math question yet this round, so the next one’s probably math.” Jennie says, to try to drag Jisoo’s attention back to their table.

“The next question,” The announcer reads, “Is from the field of Organic Chemistry.”

Jisoo hands the tablet for answers back to Jennie. “Next time, leave the probability to me.”

Jennie can only afford one annoyed look before focusing on the question the announcer’s struggling to read.

“Booty?… butyl… penthane? Pentane. Butylpentane….uh…”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“What’s happening!” Chaeyoung’s straightened her back all the way to try to see over Jinyoung and Lisa’s heads.

“We’re down two.” Jinyoung says.

“Two what?” Chaeyoung asks.

“Two points, Chaeng.” Lisa says.

“But isn’t each question like, ten points?” Chaeyoung asks.

“Oh fuck.” Jinyoung says.

“Pull throuuuugh!” Lisa says, grabbing her laptop on either side and shaking it.

Someone on the next table clears their throat pointedly.

“OH MY GOOOOD!” Chaeyoung screams, when their university’s name drops one step down to third place.

“PULL THROUUUUGH!” Lisa shakes the laptop again, until Jinyoung stops her.

“You’re making me dizzy.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo feels nauseous.

“You okay, Jisoo?” Jennie asks, resting a hand on hers.

“No.” Jisoo says honestly. The world is starting to spin.

“What’s wrong? Are you gonna throw up?”

“Maybe?” Jisoo says honestly.

“Oh god.” Jennie tries to call one of the officials over, but the announcer’s just started reading the next question.

“This one’s from the field of world history: In 711 AD, which…”

Jennie holds Jisoo’s clammy hand with one of hers while she scribbles down the answer with the other.

“Boards up, please!”

Jennie lifts the board, still holding onto Jisoo’s cold, pale hand.

“______ Women’s University, correct.”

Jennie watches the two girls at the next table exchange smug smiles.

“_______ University, I’m sorry, but at this point in the competition, we’re quite strict regarding spelling, so we can’t accept that.”

Jennie curses silently as she lowers the tablet. She missed a single letter, and now they’re ten more points behind the university in third place.

“And that concludes the penultimate round. These four universities will be moving up to the finals… We will be having a ten-minute break before we being the final round.”

“I think I’m gonna throw up.” Jisoo says weakly.

Jennie waves a hand at one of the proctors standing by their table, but he doesn’t see her. “Excuse me! Excuse me! We need help!”

The girls at the next table stare at Jennie for some time, before waving their hands, too.

The official notices them, and they point at Jennie, whose face is getting red from waving her hands for so long.

“What’s wrong?”

“She’s not feeling well.” Jennie says, patting Jisoo’s hand.

“I’ll take her to the emergency medical staff on standby.” The official frowns at Jisoo’s pale face. He helps Jisoo to her feet, supporting her with one arm.

Jennie stands up to follow, but Jisoo holds up a hand to stop her. “Wait.”

“What? I’m coming with you-”

“No, no,” Jisoo wiggles her hand weakly. She stumbles, looking like she almost fainted. “Finish the decathlon. We have to win.”

“Jisoo, for fuck’s sake, if you could see how you look now…” Jennie sighs. “Besides it’s not like I can do this on my own-”

“The rules say ‘no more than two members.’” A frown’s come over Jisoo’s face from the effort of remembering the rulebook. “So technically…”

Jennie pats the official on the arm. “Please just take her to the medical bay or whatever.”

“Hey!” Jisoo snaps in a burst of energy. “Finish the damn decathlon! Kim Jendeuk! You need to win! Do you hear me?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jennie sighs as the official carries Jisoo away. “I’ll win.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“What’s happening!” Chaeyoung asks, jumping around behind Jinyoung at this point.

“I don’t know, but Jisoo’s not there anymore.” Lisa says, frowning.

“What happened to Jichu?” Chaeyoung gasps.

“Shh, we’re trying to listen,” Jinyoung says, leaning in close to the laptop speakers.

“They said she’s fainted but her condition is stable,” Lisa says, mimicking what the announcer’s saying for Chaeyoung’s sake. “And the judges are deciding whether to let Jennie carry on alone.”

“They should!” Jinyoung growls. “It’s just one more round!”

“Yeah!” Lisa says, sharing a loud, aggressive high five with Jinyoung. She leans in to the laptop, “DO IT, YOU COWARDS!”

“LET HER PLAY!” Jinyoung shouts.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Chaeyoung screams, unable to form coherent words.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“The rules only state that there can be ‘no more than two members per team’.” Jennie explains, standing before the panel of judges. She hopes that Jisoo, even though she was about to pass out, had still gotten her rules right. If not, Jennie was just making a fool of herself.

“I’m sorry, where is your coach?”

“We’d like to speak to your coach.”

Jennie takes a deep breath to stop herself from just clawing at the judges somehow looking down on her while seated.

“Our coach was fired shortly before the competition,” Jennie says. “They weren’t able to get a replacement.”

“So let me get this straight, you don’t have a coach, you’re down one teammate…”

“Are they allowed to enter without a coach?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who has a copy of the rules?”

Jennie takes a deep breath. Jimin walked her through this. “The rules don’t require a coach, just endorsement by the university.”

“Hmm… I don’t think so.”

“Can someone check that?”

“I don’t have a copy of the rules, do you?”

Jennie calms herself down by imagining drop-kicking each of these judges one by one.

“I’m sorry, miss, but where’s your coach?”

“We don’t have a coach, because he got fired a few weeks ago.” Jennie says, trying not to sound overly stern.

“Why?”

Jennie balls her hands into fists. “That’s beside the point. Right now, all I need to know is if my team can continue to the finals.”

“By your team, do you mean just yourself?”

“Yes.” Jennie says, exhaling heavily through flared nostrils. “I’m the coach, captain, and members right now.”

One of the judges laughs. Another seems to be flipping through his tablet to find the rulebook, while a third picks dirt out of his ear.

Jennie’s about to positively explode when someone stops by and drops a booklet onto the judges’ table.

National Academic Decathlon Rules and Regulations (20th Edition), the cover reads.

“Someone was asking for the rulebook?” The owner of the booklet says.

Jennie turns, surprised to find one of the girls from ________ Women’s University standing next to her.

The judges start to rifle slowly through the booklet.

The girl sighs, then takes the booklet from them and flips to the third page. “There. She can still compete alone.”

The judges hum among themselves, like they have no plans of coming to a decision soon.

“Also,” The girl says. “Coaches are not necessary. Article 12. Page 8.”

Jennie watches the judges shift uncomfortably.

“We’ll need some time to come to a decision. Please leave us.”

Jennie turns and leaves, gladly.

 

“Hey, thanks for awhile ago,” Jennie says, tapping the girl gently on the shoulder.

“No problem,” The girl says. “They would’ve been there forever otherwise.”

“Thanks.”

“Besides,” The girl continues. “You were the only other team in the top 4 with girls in it. I would rather lose to you guys than the boys.”

Jennie smiles. A woman after her own heart.

“I’m Jennie, by the way.”

The girl lifts her eyebrows when the announcer comes back over the sound system, saying the judges have come to a decision regarding ________ University.

“I’m Irene.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Pray, bitches.” Lisa gasps at the video on their screen, showing Jennie tensely holding a slate, alone at her table. “Jennie’s gonna need all the help she can get.”

“You should’ve gone.” Chaeyoung pouts at Jinyoung. “So you could sub for Jisoo.”

“I wasn’t registered, there’s no point.” Jinyoung mutters, staring intently at the screen.

Chaeyoung’s been holding her breath for the past few minutes, and gives up, panting for air. “Oh god oh god Jennie, you can do it?”

“You don’t sound sure.” Jinyoung says.

“I’m not!” Chaeyoung screeches at him.

“GOOOOO JEEEEENNIIIIEE!!!” Lisa howls.

“CRUUUUUUSH THEM, JENNIEEEE!!!” Jinyoung screams.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie locks eyes with Irene for a brief moment. Irene and her teammate give Jennie quick thumbs up of encouragement.

It’s nice to know there’s still someone supporting me, Jennie thinks. Even if they’re trying to beat me. Oh god I’m so alone.

“And so, after much delay, we are starting the final round of the competition. All questions are worth 50 points, and each team has 90 seconds to write their answers. Without further ado, let’s go to the first question.”

Jennie picks up the pen, shutting her eyes as she listens carefully. Jennie takes a deep breath, shutting everything out but the tired, slow voice of the announcer reading a question about embryonic development.

Zygote, 2-cell stage, 4-cell stage, 8-cell stage, ????,  Blastula, Gastrula, Jennie writes, scribbling down a few question marks out of frustration.

Jennie frowns, trying to think back to their review sessions. It sounds like blastula and gastrula, but it’s not.

“So after the 8-cell stage… they become more…” Jisoo’s voice and ugly, squeaky laugh echoes in Jennie’s mind. “…m- MORULA!”

Fuck this shit.

Jennie erases the question marks and scribbles down Morula.

“Time’s up!”

Jennie just smiles blankly into space when the announcer says only she’s got the question right, making her “team” jump up to third place.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“I’m lowkey afraid of Jennie now.” Jinyoung says, edging away from the screen a little.

“Highkey same.” Lisa says, watching as Jennie is, for the third question running, the only “team” to get it right.

Jennie doesn’t even flinch as their university climbs up to second place.

“She’s a monster.” Lisa whistles, as the announcer starts reading the next question.

“GOOOOO JENNIEEEEE!” Chaeyoung screams, loud and high-pitched enough to rattle the windows.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie swipes the beads of sweat on her forehead off on her sleeve.

“Well done, ______ Women’s University.” The host peers at Jennie’s slate, and gives her a small frown. “I’m afraid we won’t be able to accept that answer, _____ University. This is the final round, so we must be strict with exact dates, and the Bolshevik Revolution was in 1917.”

Jennie lowers her board. 1916. She’s always been kinda crap with numbers.

She watches Irene’s university’s name climb up the scoreboard. If I lose two more questions, we’ll be tied.

Stop thinking that, Jennie, it’s not gonna help if you headcase out at this point.

Stop talking to yourself in your head, Jennie.

Jennie shakes her head lightly and listens to the next question.

“Our next question comes from the field of genetics.”

Good, biology. I know that. Jennie sighs.

“Given the following diagram of generations P1 through P4, what is the probability of the following phenotype...”

Fuck. More math. Jennie groans quietly, ignoring the sureness with which Irene and her teammate immediately start whispering to each other.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“FUUUUCK!” Jinyoung slams his hands on the table, making the laptop wobble slightly.

“BITCH!” Lisa picks it up before it can wobble off the edge.

“I hate you.” Chaeyoung snakes an arm under Lisa’s to poke an angry finger at the blurry forms of the ____ Women’s University team onscreen. “I hate you both. So much.”

“Sorry, but we’re going to have to ask you guys to leave.” The barista crosses his arms.

“Come on, dude, we’re friends,” Jinyoung says, clapping a hand on the barista’s shoulder.

“You’re roommates with my friend.” The barista shrugs his hand off roughly. “That doesn’t make us friends.”

“Come on, it’s not like we’re doing anything really wrong.” Jinyoung says with a forced innocent shrug.

“Look.” The barista heaves a sigh. “Eight different people have complained about your noisy asses – that’s literally everyone in here right now - you’ve been here for hours, and you haven’t even ordered one drink-”

“I got a water.” Lisa says.

“The water’s free!” The barista snaps. “Could you guys just go watch your anime outside?”

Jinyoung gasps and Lisa looks like she’s about to sucker punch the barista when Chaeyoung grabs them both by the arms and hisses, “We’re missing the last question!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie makes the huge mistake of looking across the table to the next one.

Irene catches her gaze and gives a slow, smug smile.

“And we’ve got a tie!” The host barks out, but Jennie isn’t paying much attention to him. She’s frowning at Irene, who just gives her one thumbs up before turning away. Jennie’s brain is fried for many good reasons, but she really doesn’t get Irene’s deal. “It looks like we’re going to have a clincher round between the lovely ladies of _____ Women’s University…”

Irene and her teammate shoot exhausted looks in the host’s direction.

He falters, but turns to Jennie anyway with a wide grin. “And the amazing one-woman team of _______ University!”

Jennie doesn’t smile back.

“The rules of the clincher round are simple: If you get this one question right, you win this year’s National Decathlon!” The host beams at the audience, who are tired out of their minds at this point and just murmur and sigh in reply. “Not only that, but they also get an all-expenses paid trip to Hong Kong for the International Finals!”

Jennie notices one of the paramedics go up to one of the event’s organizer, whispering something urgently at him. The paramedic keeps making gestures back to the side hallway they’d carried Jisoo out through.

Jennie had been keeping as calm as anyone could, carrying an entire team on her own, but her composure’s starting to cave.

‘…not okay,’ Jennie manages to make out from reading the paramedic’s lips.

The organizer frowns and glances in Jennie’s direction for a second, before turning back to the paramedic and whispering something behind his hand.

Jennie spins in her seat, ready to get up if the organizer looks her way again.

“Without further ado, let’s start the final round!” The host says.

Jennie turns back to face the slate, still watching the organizer talk to his assistants out of the corner of her eye.

“All right, ladies, listen up, I’m only going to read this once.” The host flashes Jennie a smile, but she’s busy craning her neck to try and figure out what the organizer’s saying. “Eyes on your own boards, girls!”

Jennie can’t make out any words, but his frown is not making things look good. Did something happen to Jisoo?

The organizer and two of his assistants head off down the side hallway, walking too quickly for it not to be an emergency.

“This final, clincher question is coming from the field of…” The host pauses, as if waiting for a drumroll.

Jennie’s mind snaps back to the competition for a moment. Please not math, please not any numbers, anything but math…

 “…Calculus!” The host says excitedly.

Fuck.

Chapter Text

“Congratulations…” The host pauses for dramatic effect, grinning down at Jennie, then to Irene and her partner. “… ______ Women’s University!”

Jennie already knew that. She knew she would’ve gotten the question right, if they’d given her more than one fucking minute to answer it.

She ignores the tired, halfhearted applause and walks off the stage as soon as the winners are announced. She knows she’ll feel bad later about losing, but she just can’t think about that right now. She knows she looks bad, storming off the stage and towards the exit as soon as she finds out she lost, but she doesn’t really care about that right now.

“Hi, I’m…” Jennie taps gently on the arm of one of the organizer’s assistants. They’re huddled in the narrow hallway, talking in hushed voices about something. “My teammate Kim Jisoo was the one who passed out awhile ago. I just wanted to know how she’s-”

Jennie’s interrupted by a screeching noise.

“Jisoo?” Jennie breaks into a run.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Baby, please.”

Jimin doesn’t stop pacing, but he looks up to find Yoonji standing in the doorway, arms folded.

“They probably don’t have their phones on them,” Hoseok says, coming out of the bedroom behind her, arms looping around her waist. “You said so yourself, everyone’s stuff is put away in lockers during the competition.”

“But Jisoo-”

“You’re not technically in charge of them anymore.” Yoonji sighs. “Dr. Kim can’t sue you, don’t worry.”

“I don’t care about that!” Jimin says, frowning. “We don’t know what happened to her!”

He flops onto the couch, tossing his phone onto the seat next to him. He’s tried calling Jennie around ten times in the past hour, and he’s tired of hearing that the other line isn’t picking up. He knows.

“I should’ve gone with them.” Jimin says softly.

Yoonji and Hoseok exchange worried looks.

“Come on, baby, you know you couldn’t have, that’s a whole other can of worms like, legally,” Yoonji says, walking over to settle on the couch next to him. The livestream of the decathlon is still on, and the principal organizer’s giving a weirdly long closing statement. Jennie had run off the stage as soon as they announced the winners, and not appeared since.

Yoonji wraps her arms around Jimin’s shoulders, placing a kiss under his ear. “It’s the school’s fault they sent the kids out alone.”

“You’re not helping.” Jimin groans.

“Okay, okay, what can we do?” Hoseok asks, moving Jimin’s phone to the coffee table so he can sit on Jimin’s other side. Hoseok rests a hand on Jimin’s thigh. “What do you want to do?”

“Let’s go to Busan.” Jimin says, staring off blankly into space.

Yoonji drops her embrace. “Are you serious?”

“Yes.”

Yoonji sits up on her feet and shoots a glare over Jimin’s head as if to tell Hoseok, Do something Jung Hoseok, we cannot just go to Busan right fucking now.

Hoseok gives her a nod, then goes back to rubbing up and down Jimin’s thigh soothingly. “What if they’re on their way back, and we’re just heading there, and we miss each other?”

Jimin looks up at him with a frown.

“We’ll have to wait for Jennie to pick up,” Hoseok says. “Then we can fix things once we talk to them.”

Jimin nods slowly.

“Until then,” Hoseok gives Jimin’s thigh a light squeeze. “We just have to wait and keep trying, okay?”

Jimin sighs, but he says, “Yeah.”

Yoonji pulls him into a tight hug. “They’re big girls, they’ll be fine.”

“I hope so.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie doesn’t care how stupid she looks as she runs down the hallway, but she needs to know what happened to Jisoo. Her brain has completely shut down, and it’s just blaring this loud siren in her mind that’s going, WHAT IF SOMETHING BAD HAPPENED TO JISOO, over and over again.

Jennie bursts into a room labeled with a simple red cross. The organizer is there, along with the paramedics, but they’re too busy to answer any questions Jennie might have.

Jisoo’s on a cot by the far wall, but she’s not unconcscious or anything.

“LET ME PLAY! I CAN STILL GO-!” Jisoo screeches, trying to break free of the paramedics trying to hold her down.

“The competition is over, Miss Kim-” The organizer says, as gently as he can.

“WHAT! YOU LET ME SLEEP THROUGH THE WHOLE THING?” Jisoo stops struggling suddenly. “JENNIE!”

Jennie doesn’t know if she’s more relieved that Jisoo’s fine. Well, as fine as she’ll ever be. “Hi.”

“What happened?” Jisoo asks, kicking away one of the paramedics with a bare foot. “Did we win?”

“No.”

“Dammit!” Jisoo’s face scrunches up in a small, dazed frown. It seems like the paramedics had given her something, but whatever it was, it wasn’t strong enough to stop Jisoo from… being Jisoo. “THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT!”

Jennie ducks out of the way as Jisoo flies into a rage. Then she realizes that she and Jisoo don’t have a real adult with them to fix things, so she reaches out to pry Jisoo off the paramedics.

“Jisoo – Kim Jisoo please.” Jennie sighs. She wraps her arms around Jisoo in a bear hug, dragging the latter towards the door. She gives the confused paramedics a quick bow. “I’m so sorry about her.”

“ONLY I CAN BE SORRY ABOUT ME!” Jisoo squawks, as Jennie pulls her into the hallway.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie pulls her and Jisoo’s backpacks out of the locker. The other contestants had already claimed their things, and one of the organizer’s assistants is hanging by the door, waiting for Jisoo and Jennie to finish so they can all go home.

“We lost by one point?” Jisoo asks, sounding angrier than Jennie feels she should be. Then again, Jisoo’s always angrier than is necessary.

“Ten points, technically. One question, but ten points.” Jennie explains, fishing around her beat-up backpack for her phone. Oh god, if it’s been stolen…

“What was the question?”

Jennie cannot deal with Jisoo right now, and her phone possibly being missing.

But Jisoo doesn’t know when to quit. “What was the question?”

Jennie sits down on the bench and starts digging in her backpack with both hands.  Jennie finds her keys, her (mostly empty) wallet, but no phone.

“What was it?” Jisoo presses further, literally poking Jennie in the arm.

“Calculus!” Jennie snaps at her. “Can you just chill for like five minutes! I can’t find my phone!”

Jisoo makes a face and puts her hands up in defeat as she backs off. “And you’re telling me to chill.”

Jennie groans and turns her backpack inside out. Still no phone. “Oh god oh god oh god…”

“I’ll buy you a new one.” Jisoo says.

Jennie gapes at her. “That doesn’t fix anything.”

“What? I was just trying to help.”

“You’re not helping!” Jennie rifles through the receipts and trash from her backpack in a panic. “Can you call it?”

Jisoo sighs and takes her phone out of her backpack. She dials up Jennie’s number and waits. “Hm. It’s busy.”

B- busy?” Jennie sputters. “HOW?”

“Fuck if I know,” Jisoo says, pocketing her phone.

“Help me look!”

“Okay, okay! Calm the fuck down!” Jisoo frowns at the pile of trash Jennie’s digging through, like a regular raccoon. She starts picking through a bundle of scratch papers.

“Hey.” The organizer’s assistant says, scrolling agitatedly down her phone. “You girls nearly done?”

“I can’t find my phone.”

“She can’t find her phone.”

The organizer’s assistant sighs, then frowns at the pile of trash from Jennie’s bag now scattered on the bench. “Could you clean up after yourselves at least?”

“Yeah, we will.”

“Sorry.”

Jennie’s starting to sweat. “Jisoo, can you try calling it again?”

“What’s gonna change in the last five minutes?” Jisoo asks, but she pulls out her phone and tries calling anyway. Jisoo pulls the phone away from her ear when it starts beeping. “It’s still busy.”

“Who the hell has my phone?” Jennie whines.

“Fuck if I know.”

“Oh god, I have so much shit in the phone-”

The organizer’s assistant stops. “Wait, is your phone kinda small and crappy? Cheap phone case with roses on it?”

Jennie frowns at the description but she says, “Yeah?”

The organizer reaches into her purse and pulls out an old phone in a battered, floral case. “It was making a racket during the competition so I-”

Jisoo snatches the phone from her. “You know it’s illegal to take out shit without asking us, right?”

Jisoo hands the phone to Jennie, whose shoulders sag with relief.

“It’s like, theft. We could report you to the police and shit.” Jisoo says, still squaring up at the organizer’s assistant.

The latter only rolls her eyes. “The boss told me to turn it off, it was making too much noise.” The organizer’s assistant looks over Jisoo’s shoulder at Jennie, who’s silently thanking a god or something. “Your boyfriend’s probably pissed off or something.”

“I don’t have a-”

“She doesn’t have a-”

Jennie and Jisoo exchange awkward looks.

“Oh.” Jennie unlocks her phone, which is still ringing. “Hello? Professor Park?”

“You know what, it’s past my official time, so whatever.” The organizer’s assistant leaves them, letting the door slam shut behind her.

Jisoo’s suddenly aware that she’s alone in a room with Jennie. Not that it matters. It’s not like Jennie’s going to attack her or anything.

“Hi, yeah, Jisoo’s here with me.” Jennie says, leaning towards Jisoo so the latter can listen in. Jisoo’s shoulder’s stiffen up. “She’s fine. Do you wanna talk to her?”

Jisoo takes the phone eagerly, leaning away from Jennie. “Professor Park? It’s me, Jisoo.”

The sigh of relief on the other end is so long that Jisoo shifts her weight around on her feet while waiting for Jimin to actually say something. He doesn’t.

“Sorry we lost.” Jisoo says.

“What? Screw that, you guys did great.” Jimin laughs nervously on the other end. “How are you feeling? What happened to you? Are you okay now? Do you want me to come pick you guys up?”

“I, uh…” Any response Jisoo has to any of those questions gets choked up in her throat. He sounds just like her brother.

“I’m sorry, I was just so worried when I saw- Did you sleep late last night? Have you had anything to eat since breakfast? Are you sick?”

“I’m fine, Professor.” Jisoo says, as firmly as she can, to try and stop his flood of questions without having to expose herself.

“What did the paramedics say? What was it?”

Jisoo blushes. “I have stage fright.”

“Oh. That’s- That’s awful.” Jimin coughs discreetly. “I can go there and pick you guys up so we can head home together. Do you want me to?”

Jisoo looks up to find Jennie’s face a few inches from her own, as Jennie listens in on the call. Jennie shakes her head furiously. “No thanks, we can get home fine on our own.”

“Are you sure?” Jimin asks.

A muffled voice near Jimin says, “For fuck’s sake. They’re big girls, Jimin, let them go.”

Jisoo and Jennie exchange knowing looks. Yoonji.

“We’ll be fine, Professor.” Jennie says into the microphone, leaning in until her face is uncomfortably close to Jisoo’s. “We’ll give you a call or something when we get home.”

It takes a while, and some muffled arguing on Jimin’s end of the call, but eventually he says, “Okay. Take care, you two.”

“We will!” Jisoo says brightly, trying to edge away so she can’t feel Jennie’s breath on her face.

“See you next week, Professor.” Jennie says, edging away as well, her face getting a little flushed.

“See you. Also, please just call me Jimin.”

“Sure.”

“See you next week, Jimin.” Jisoo laughs, feeling her own breath bouncing off Jennie’s face. She needs to get away. This is awful. Jisoo jerks away awkwardly, turning to face the lockers. “I’ll just pass by the toilet.”

“I need to go, too.” Jennie says, getting up.

No, Jisoo whines internally. I was trying to get away from you. That’s not the point. Ugh. Stupid Jennie.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo stuffs her hands in her pockets. The sun’s just set, and it’s cold as fuck as she and Jennie walk to the train station.

“Are you cold?” Jennie asks.

“N- n- n- no.”

Jennie shrugs her jacket off. “Here-”

“N- no!” Jisoo says, as forcefully as someone with chattering teeth can. “Let’s j-j-just go into the t-t-train station!”

Jennie lifts her eyebrows curiously, but says, “Okay,” anyway.

Jisoo powerwalks to the station, only to find that it’s just a degree or two warmer than the outside. Fuck. She has never felt this fucking cold. What the hell is wrong with her.

“You okay?” Jennie asks. She’s still offering her jacket.

Jisoo uses one shaky hand to push it away. “N-n-no thanks.”

“Jisoo, just take it-”

“Jennie?”

Jisoo and Jennie turn around to find two women waiting at the side of the station. Jisoo doesn’t recognize them immediately, but eventually her frozen brain picks up and tells her it’s the two girls from the winning university. Does Jennie know them? How?

“Oh hey, Irene.” Jennie says warmly.

So Jennie does know her? But how? Where did they meet? How come Jisoo wasn’t invited?

“You must be Jennie’s teammate, Jisoo? Am I right?” Irene gives Jisoo a concerned look that has Jisoo’s cheeks warming up a little, at least. “How are you? What happened?”

“I’m g-good.” Jisoo says weakly.

Irene smiles, then grabs her teammate by the arm. “This is Seulgi, by the way. She’s shy today, god knows why.”

“I’m shy every day, bitch.” Seulgi mutters, barely above a whisper. She doesn’t look up to meet Jisoo or Jennie’s eyes, but says, “Nice to meet you.”

Jisoo nudges Jennie on the elbow. The next train is due in around 5 minutes, and she desperately wants to go home and eat. And get away from Irene as soon as possible. Jisoo doesn’t trust excessively beautiful women on principle. It’s kept her alive till now, so she guesses there must be some good reason behind it.  

“You guys are heading back to Seoul, aren’t you?” Irene asks. “Let’s sit together.”

No, Jisoo groans internally.

“Sure.” Jennie says.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

The train runs so smoothly, or Jisoo’s so exhausted that she falls asleep before it’s even out of the station.

She wakes up to Jennie laughing awkwardly at something Irene’s just said.

“Sure.” Jisoo hears Jennie say. “Actually just give me yours, I don’t memorize mine. I’m crappy with numbers.”

“What, really?” Irene asks, laughing as she borrows Jennie’s phone.

Jisoo opens her eyes a crack. How long has she been asleep? Not long enough for people to trading numbers, obviously. What is this Irene’s deal? What kind of a name is Irene anyway???

Jisoo does everything in her power not to roll her eyes when Jennie does a quick bow as she gets her phone back. Oh please.

Jisoo yawns loudly, stretching her arms above her head so forcefully that Irene and Jennie have to duck out of the way.

Seulgi looks up from the book she’d been reading, eyebrows raised. “Oh. We’re nearly there.”

“I can’t wait to get dinner.” Irene flops back against her seat. She turns to Jennie with an easy grin. “Do you have any plans for dinner?”

Jisoo narrows her eyes. Does she mean just-Jennie-you or both-of-you?

“Oh, I dunno,” Jennie laughs again, and it grates against Jisoo’s soul like Styrofoam rubbing against each other. “We didn’t really plan anything, so I guess not.”

“Cool. Let’s get dinner together.”

Jisoo frowns. This Irene person could not be vaguer with her damn invitations. Is Jisoo invited? Is Seulgi coming along? Or is she just asking Jennie out?

Why does Jisoo even fucking care?

“You okay, Jisoo?”

Jisoo blinks, straightening out her expression. Irene’s talking to her? Why? Is she threatened? Because she, Jisoo, is very threatened.

“Oh, uh, yeah. I’m just sleepy.”

Jisoo fakes a yawn that isn’t going to win her any Oscars. Jennie shoots her a look that very clearly says, What the fuck, Jisoo.

Jisoo only shrugs as she gets up to leave.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

As soon as they get into the station, Jisoo says, “I’m going to the bathroom.”

Jennie only lifts her eyebrows. “Sure.”

“come with me.” Jisoo says as quietly as she can, pointing with her eyebrows in the direction of the bathroom.

It takes a whole second for Jennie to say, “Oh.”

Jisoo grabs her by the arm and starts dragging her away, ignoring Irene saying, “We’ll wait here for you guys,” in the background.

Jisoo shuts the door to the bathroom beind her.

“What’s up, Jisoo?” Jennie asks, checking to see if Jisoo’s hand made a mark on her arm. “Are you feeling sick again?”

“How do you know Irene?”

Jennie gives her a confused look, but says, “I met her today? Like you?”

“Don’t go out with her.”

“Um, excuse me? What the hell?” Jennie says. “She was inviting both of us-”

“Really?” Jisoo arches her eyebrows. “Didn’t sound like that to me.”

Jennie rolls her eyes. “Either way, I can have dinner with whoever I want-”

Whomever.” Jisoo corrects her.

Jennie just stares back.

“Anyway!” Jisoo coughs, looking at the empty tissue dispenser to avoid Jennie’s gaze. “We don’t know her! How could you go out with her?”

“Um… loads of people do that?” Jennie says. “This isn’t even that bad, at least we know what university she’s from-”

“What if she’s lying?” Jisoo gasps. “What if she’s one of those catfish people-”

“I don’t think that word means what you think it means,” Jennie says as gently as she can, but her brows are furrowed. “Look, you don’t have to go to dinner with us if you’re so afraid of Stranger Danger or whatever-”

“Hah! See! You don’t even want me to come!”

“Jisoo!” Jennie half-shrieks in exasperation. “What’s wrong with you? No, you know what, what’s wrong with Irene?”

“I don’t trust her.” Jisoo says.

“You don’t even know her.” Jennie rolls her eyes.

You don’t even know her.” Jisoo says right back at her.

“Which is why I’m going out with her. To get to know her.” Jennie folds her arms. “Are we done?”

“No.” Jisoo huffs. “I actually needed to pee.”

“Then hurry up!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo falls behind Jennie and Irene, who are laughing about something the emcee of the decathlon had said. She walks beside Seulgi, who just smiles at her and goes on bobbing her head to the music she’s listening to.

Seulgi seems nice enough. Seems.

Jisoo huffs as she climbs the steps to the main lobby. There aren’t many people in the station at this time, but she sees a small crowd waiting in the lobby.

Oh. Oh god. She knows those people.

“Jisoo!” Chaeyoung waves. “Jennie!”

Jennie and Jisoo exchange embarrassed looks.

Chaeyoung wiggles the giant banner she, Jinyoung, and Lisa are holding up. It reads, CONGRATULATIONS JISOO AND JENNIE! WE LOVE YOU! UWU against an almost fluorescent pink background. Professor Park is there too, arguing not-so-quietly with Yoonji about where they’d parked their car, while Hoseok calmly drapes his arms around them both. Behind them, off to the side by a little, is Jisoo’s brother, with Yoojung sitting on his shoulders, tugging at his hair and complaining about how hungry she is. Yoongi stands next to them, holding Jin’s hand as the two of them reassure Yoojung that they’re all going to eat dinner soon.  

Jisoo takes a deep breath, closing her eyes. I am not going to fucking cry in the middle of a train station. Am I gonna get my period? Why am I so fucking fragile?

“Jisoo!” Jin starts running, Yoojung holding onto his hair to keep from falling off his shoulders.

Jisoo can only stand to look at him for a second, before she starts crying.

“What’s wrong, Jisoo?” Jin asks gently, wrapping her up in a bear hug.

Jisoo just chokes and sniffles against his sweater while Yoojung tries to kick her legs free from this Kim sibling sandwich.  

“Why is Auntie Jisoo crying?” Yoojung asks, prodding Jisoo’s shaking head with one small foot.

Jin starts sniffling. “I don’t know.”

“We l-l-lost!” Jisoo bawls against Jin’s chest.

“It’s okay, Jichu, you did your b-best,” Jin sputters, sniffling loud enough for it to echo in the lobby.

“And you’re okay, that’s what matters.” Yoongi adds, patting Jin and Jisoo on their backs.

“I’m very, very p-p-proud of you,” Jin blubbers.

“I love you too,” Jisoo blubbers right back.

Yoongi sighs, but he’s smiling. He looks up at Yoojung who says, “I don’t get it.”

 

“You guys know we lost, right?” Jennie says, picking up the edge of the banner.

“Chaeyoung made the banner.” Jinyoung says.

“It’s her fault.” Lisa agrees.

“What!” Chaeyoung stomps a foot. “You guys said it was nice awhile ago!”

“I never said anything like that.” Jinyoung says.

“Same.” Lisa says.

Jennie laughs, then catches Jimin’s gaze and bows deeply. “Sorry we weren’t able to avenge you, Professor.”

Jimin snorts. “Are you kidding? You nearly fucking won on your own!”

“Aren’t those the bitches who won?” Yoonji whispers loudly, nodding in the direction of Irene and Seulgi, who are standing by a distant column, talking quietly.

“Yeah, they’re our friends,” Jennie says. She glances at Jisoo for a second. Jisoo and her brother seem to have chosen right here and now to have a mutul breakdown. It would’ve been sweet, if she hadn’t been pissed at Jisoo for being unreasonable about Irene. “Well, they’re my friends at least.”

“They’re pretty hot.” Lisa butts in, not as quietly as Jennie would’ve liked.

Irene looks over, eyebrows raised.

Jennie’s face flushes. “Jesus, Lisa.”

“Could you introduce me, is all I’m asking.” Lisa shrugs.

Jennie’s about to say something when Hoseok cuts in, “Have you had dinner?”

“No, not yet.”

“Great!” Hoseok says, and Jennie frowns at him for a moment.

“Hoseok’s mom owns a restaurant.” Jimin explains.

“The best restaurant.” Yoonji adds.

“We’re all going there for dinner after this,” Hoseok beams. “Dinner’s on the house.”

“Oh,” Jennie glacnces back at Irene, who’s alone now. Seulgi must’ve gone home on her own. Jennie and company were taking a long time. “It’s just that I told um, I told Irene I’d be having dinner with her-”

Ohhh.” Everyone says in low voices.

“Go on your date!”

“Don’t mind us!”

“You deserve it, bitch.”

Jennie buries her face in her hands. “Thanks guys, but please.”

“Go get em, tiger,” Lisa says, whirling Jennie around on her feet and patting her shoulders like a coach about to send their protégé into the ring.

“What the fuck, but thanks.”

Jennie walks over to Irene, ignoring the loudly whispered cheers of encouragement from her friends behind her.

“Hi.” Jennie says, with a little wave. “Sorry for making you wait so long, my friends are just… very… yeah.”

Irene smiles. “No problem. I think it’s sweet they came out with a banner and everything.”

“Yeah.” Jennie looks back at Chaeyoung’s neon banner. It’s an eyesore, but an eyesore from the heart.

“So I guess our dinner date’s off, huh?”

Date? Jennie manages to stop herself from choking on her own spit. Jisoo was right. That bitch. “N-no, I mean, they’re all going- I don’t have to- Where do you wanna go?”

“Anywhere’s good.” Irene shrugs. “Where do you want to go?”

Jennie looks back at her friends making their way out of the building, giving her not-so-discreet thumbs ups and more… inappropriate hand signs courtesy of Lisa.

“Anywhere away from them.” Jennie says, face flushed as she tries to turn Irene away before Lisa does anything else.

“I think it’s sweet they’re so supportive.” Irene says.

“It’s embarrassing.” Jennie scrunches up her face. “We didn’t even win.”

“Winning isn’t everything.” Irene shrugs.

“Says the person who won.”

Irene grins, extending a hand. “Fine. I’ll pay for dinner. Deal?”

Jennie shakes her hand. “Deal.”

Chapter Text

A mild traffic jam and one round of jjajangmyeon later

 

Jisoo had never been to any of the restaurants in this part of town – partly because there’s nowhere safe to park her car here, and partly because her mom had scared the fuck out of her with stories about typhoid and meningitis – and now she’s seriously regretting it.

Hoseok’s mother cooks like a god.

“Pass me some more of the beef please,” Jisoo whispers, nudging Lisa gently with her elbow.

“YOOO!” Lisa calls out to the opposite end of the table. “MISS KIM JISOO WANTS MORE MEAT!”

“EYYY!” Hoseok calls back, dancing around in his seat as he starts passing the beef.

Jisoo blushes down at her plate in mild annoyance. Whatever. She still gets more beef.

The door to the function room slides open, and Hoseok’s mom pops her head inside. “Is everything okay here? Do you guys need anything else?”

Hoseok sits up and looks up and down the table like a meerkat. “Anyone want anything?”

“Beer pleeeeaaase,” Yoonji says, giving Hoseok’s mom an uncharacteristically sweet smile.

“Of course, my dear daughter-in-law,” Hoseok’s mom says, returning the smile. She counts the people sitting around the table for a moment and says, “Two buckets?”

“Yes please!” Yoonji says brightly, like she’s already had something to drink.

“Coming right away,” Hoseok’s mom promises, closing the door to the function room gently.

Jisoo goes back to her beef, working through the little mound she’s built on her plate.

“So,” Jinyoung says, from Jisoo’s other side. “It’s okay with you that Jennie’s on a date?”

“With a complete stranger?” Jisoo huffs. “No.”

“Hm-hm.” Jinyoung hums, reaching for more pickled radish.

“Oh, here.” Yoongi says, passing the plate to him.

“Thank you,” Jinyoung says with a small bow.

“But it’s not like I care what Jennie does, it’s her own damn life.” Jisoo says, taking a few slices of pickled radish from the plate. “But like, common sense, don’t go out with a complete stranger.”

“She’s not a complete stranger,” Lisa butts in. “We know what university she’s from.”

“Still!” Jisoo huffs, stuffing her mouth with some more beef.

“You know what I think?” Jinyoung asks.

“I don cawe whad u thigk.” Jisoo says, mouth full.

“You’re just jealous because Jennie has more game than you could ever hope to have.”

Jisoo chews and swallows the beef in a hurry. “How’s your ex, Jinyoung?”

“Ho ho ho!” Lisa laughs, raising a hand for Jisoo to high-five, but Jisoo ignores her. Lisa turns to Chaeyoung, who high-fives her happily before going back to her second plate of jjajangmyeon.

Jinyoung mumbles something.

“What was that?” Jisoo asks. “I didn’t quite catch-”

“He’s got someone new.” Jinyoung mutters.

“Oh shit,” Lisa laughs, going in for another high five with Chaeyoung.

“Shut up, Lisa, when was the last time you got laid?” Jinyoung snaps at her.

Jin clears his throat loudly from across the table, nodding at Yoojung, who’s blissfully trying to lick her plate clean.

“Sorry.” Jinyoung says in a small voice, bowing as low as he can without dipping his nose in his noodles. Chaeyoung and Lisa mock him, bowing into their noodles with little snorts. Jisoo rolls her eyes and goes back to her beef.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Somewhere else

 

Jennie’s not been this fidgety over dinner, not since she stopped having dinner with her mom. But for some reason, it feels the same, like someone’s watching her every move, ready to pounce on every little thing she might do wrong.

“You okay, Jennie?” Irene asks.

Jennie sighs. It’s not fair to Irene that Jennie’s got all these problems sloshing around in her head. Irene doesn’t need to deal with that.

“Yeah, I’m just…” Jennie pokes at an olive on her plate. She hates olives. “Nothing.”

“It’s cool.” Irene waves her fork dismissively. “I’d be exhausted too if I had to carry the whole damn team on my shoulders.”

Jennie rolls the olive to the side of her plate. That’s not what she’d been thinking, but she says, “Yeah.”

She’s not sure what she’s thinking, anyway.

“Personally, I think you should’ve won just for that.” Irene says. “It was such an insane handicap-”

“Sorry, but can we not talk about the decathlon?” Jennie says. “It’s not that I’m bitter or anything, but… yeah.”

Irene grins. “Sure. So, do you wanna do small talk? I can do small talk.”

“Small talk sounds great.” Jennie laughs.

“Okay, here goes.” Irene cracks her neck, then puts on an obviously fake smile. “What kinda movies do you like, Jennie?”

Jennie chortles on her water, before putting on a similarly plastic smile. “Anything but horror.”

“Aw, that sucks. I love slasher flicks.” Irene says.

Jennie frowns.

“Don’t worry, I’m not a serial killer or anything.” Irene says, waving it off with a laugh. “Oh god that’s such a serial killer thing to say.”

“That’s what Jisoo was afraid of.” Jennie says.

“Really? She thought I was a serial killer?” Irene laughs so hard she has to wipe her eyes. “That’s really cute.”

“Yeah, well, that’s Jisoo.” Jennie pokes the olive. “She’s always paranoid about the weirdest shit.”

“I think it’s fair to assume everyone you don’t know is a serial killer.” Irene puts on a straight face, nodding. Her face cracks, and she bursts out laughing again. “Oh, Jisoo.”

“Once when we were in gradeschool, we went trick-or-treating in school, but Jisoo didn’t want to take any candy because she was afraid of anthrax.”

Anthrax?” Irene chortles. “Oh my god!”

“She’s really like that!” Jennie says.

Irene wipes her eyes. “So you’ve known Jisoo since gradeschool?”

“Preschool.” Jennie makes a face. “We’ve been classmates since preschool.”

“That’s crazy.” Irene shakes her head. “Did you like, agree to go to the same university and everything?”

“Actually, no…” Jennie says. “We were trying to get the same scholarship.”

“Who got it?” Irene asks, taking a sip of her iced coffee.

“Both of us got one half each, eventually. Jisoo’s mom made this case and brought it up to the board and stuff.” Jennie smiles, remembering the image of Jisoo’s mom stomping up the school steps in her spindly heels, sputtering threats to sue everyone within a ten-meter radius of her.

“Ugh.” Irene says. “I hate those kinds of people.”

“Oh, no, don’t get me wrong. I don’t like those people, either. And Jisoo’s not like her mom. At all.” Jennie waves her hands nervously. “Jisoo’s a decent person.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo doesn’t know how she feels about drinking with her professor, but she’s not an embarrassing, dance-on-the-table drunk anyway.

Chaeyoung is, though.

“Go Chaeyoung! Go Chaeyoung! Go Chaeyoung!” Lisa and Hoseok chant as Chaeyoung wiggles around to the old music playing over the restaurant’s speakers.

Jinyoung and Jimin are getting into a heated argument about Pokemon, with the latter regularly bringing up, “Were you even born when…”

Jisoo reaches for her bottle, but Yoonji snatches it up before she can drink.

“How many bottles have you had?” Yoonji asks.

“Stop policing her, Yoonji.” Yoongi says, taking the bottle from Yoonji and giving it back to Jisoo.

“We were supposed to get three each only.” Yoonji mutters. “That’s her fifth.”

“Jesus, Yoonji,” Yoongi laughs, ruffling her hair. “Go bother one of your boyfriends.”

“I’m not the kid, she is.” Yoonji mutters, storming off.

Jisoo throws back the rest of her beer, then leans back, resting her head against the wall.

“Yoonji’s not that wrong, though.” Yoongi says gently, settling into the seat next to Jisoo. “Maybe you shouldn’t drink that much if you’re still not feeling that great.”

Jisoo nods slowly.

“Is something wrong?” Yoongi asks.

“No.”

“Okay.”

Jisoo surprised that he doesn’t press her further, but she appreciates it. They sit there in silence, watching Jin brush Yoojung hair as she sleeps in his lap somehow, despite the noise.

“I’m worried about Jennie.” Jisoo says quietly.

“Why?” Yoongi asks, just as quietly.

“She’s out on a date with someone we don’t know. And she gets drunk really easily. And she makes really crappy decisions.” Jisoo says. “Not that I make good ones, either. Anyway, I’m just worried.”

“That’s understandable.” Yoongi chuckles. “But, you know, the more you try to hold someone back, the more they’re gonna get pissed and do it anyway.”

“I know.”

“You could just check in on her later. Ask her to text when she gets home,” Yoongi shrugs. “Things like that.”

“I know.” Jisoo says, tapping her feet on on the floor. “Don’t you think it’s dumb to date someone you just met?”

“Not really.”

“Wouldn’t you rather date someone you’ve known for a long time?”

“Usually,” Yoongi says. “If that much time goes by without you dating each other, there’s a good reason why.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know, I’m not good at this stuff. Sorry.” Yoongi says, suddenly shrinking in his seat from mild embarrassment. “You should ask your brother.”

Jisoo just nods.

“But… um…” Yoongi scratches his neck. “Thanks for trusting me with this stuff. Even if I’m really crappy at it.”

“You’re not.” Jisoo assures him. “And you’re pretty much my brother too now, right?”

Yoongi smiles at her. “Yeah, I guess so.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Where do you wanna go now?”

Jennie shrugs, licking her ice cream. She and Irene had stopped by a convenience store after dinner for soft serve. On one hand, Jennie’s having a good time. Irene’s nice, easygoing, and possibly the most beautiful human being that Jennie has ever met.

On the other hand, there’s something eating at Jennie’s stomach, which ought to be too full of spaghetti to be bothered.

They’ve turned off the street and into a little park, where the summer flowers are just starting to come into bloom. It smells nice. This is nice, Jennie tells herself. But she’s not sure why she has to keep telling herself that.

“Just tell me when you wanna go home, I won’t be offended.” Irene says, chomping into her wafer cone. “We’ve both had a long day. I get it.”

Jennie feels bad.

They walk on in silence, Irene following the border of the path, which is lined with bricks.

“Irene?”

“Yeah?”

Jennie pauses long enough for her ice cream to dribble on her fingers. “Sorry for being like this.”

“You don’t need to apologize.” Irene says. “But maybe we should call it a night. So we can both rest?”

Jennie doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t know what to say.

“I guess you won’t go on another date with me, huh?” Jennie says after another too-long pause.

“What the hell are you talking about?” Irene makes a face. “This is probably the most decent date I’ve had in ten years.”

Jennie frowns. She wonders when Irene had started dating to have been dating for ten years, but she guesses it’s none of her business.

“I’ll go out with you again, if you still want to, after we sleep this fucking decathlon off.” Irene pokes her eyebags. “I haven’t slept properly in like 2 weeks. You?”

“More than that, probably.” Jennie figures she hasn’t slept properly since she entered college.

“Your coach is that tough?”

“Oh no, he’s not. He’s really nice, actually.” Jennie says.

“Wait.” Irene frowns. “I thought you didn’t have a coach.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“One, two, three, four… Yeah, we haven’t lost anyone.” Jimin taps Chaeyoung, Lisa, Jinyoung, and Hoseok on the shoulders as he counts them.

“You sure? We can fit one more in the back,” Jin says.  

“It’s okay, their dorms are near our place,” Jimin says, shepherding the drunk college students into the back of his car. Yoonji’s standing by the passenger’s seat, arms folded and tapping her foot, because Jisoo had drunk so much of the beer that she, Yoonji, couldn’t even get tipsy.

Jimin closes the door on Hoseok’s ass. “Besides, it’s already way past Yoojung’s bedtime.”

Jin smiles. “Way way, more like. Drive safe, Jimin.”

“You too, hyung.”

Jin walks back to their car, where Yoongi’s busy strapping Yoojung into her carseat. Yoongi lifts his eyebrows.

“We have space for one more.” Yoongi says.

“Yeah, but I think Jimin feels personally responsible for all the kids or something.” Jin laughs as she gets into the car. “It’s very cute.”

“Yeah.” Yoongi climbs into the passenger’s seat. He looks in the rearview mirror. “You okay back there, Jisoo?”

“Yyyyup.” Jisoo says groggily, squinting down at her phone.

Jin turns to Yoongi, mouthing, “How much did she drink?”

Yoongi screws up his face. “Too much.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie lays on the futon in her apartment. Jisoo had lent it to her, saying, “It’s from my brother’s room, so it’s a little gross but anyway, Mom won’t even notice it’s gone so, yeah. Take it.”

Jennie had already texted Irene good night, but she was nowhere near falling asleep.

She needs a drink, but she’d already finished out the wine her landlord had given her, like an idiot.

Everything feels weird and off-balance. She had almost forgotten about the competition earlier, but she’d rather not think about it. She feels like she’d let everyone down, herself included, even though she knows, objectively, that she did a good job.

She doesn’t even know why she’d wanted to win, but she did.

Honestly, Jennie doesn’t know why she does anything. She used to just do everything her mom wanted, out of a weird sense of owing her something, when she doesn’t owe her mom anything for raising her. That’s not how it works. Her parents were supposed to raise her.

Jennie turns onto her side, then the other side. Her phone bleeps.

1 new message from Jisoo

Jisoo: Text me when you get home

Jennie squints at her phone for a moment, then replies.

Jennie: I’m back in my apartment now.

Jisoo answers immediately.

Jisoo: Good

Jennie lifts her eyebrows. What the hell does Jisoo mean by that?

Jisoo: *Good night

Jennie’s face eases up. She even smiles.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jin pulls the car to a stop outside his parents’ house. It hasn’t been his house in so long, but for some reason, it looks exactly the same.

“Are we home?” Yoojung asks, rubbing her eyes. “Where are we?”

Jin chooses his words carefully. “Jisoo’s house.”

“Just go back to sleep, Yoojungie, we’re still far from home,” Yoongi says, reaching back to pat Yoojung’s leg, but she’s got her face pressed against the window.

“It’s so big and fancy!” Yoojung gasps. “I like your house, Aunty Jisoo.”

Jisoo laughs as she unclips her seatbelt. “It’s not my house. It’s my parents’ house.”

Yoojung frowns for a moment, so deeply you can almost see the gears turning in her mind.

“If you’re Daddy’s sister… then… your parents are Daddy’s parents?”

Yoongi looks nervously in Jin’s direction, but Jin places a reassuring hand on top of Yoongi’s.

“Yeah, they are.” Jin says.

“I thought you didn’t have parents.”

“Oh, I do. I’m just not… close to them.” Jin says, speaking as carefully as he can. “So we don’t go to see them often.”

“Why?”

Yoongi squeezes Jin’s hand.

“They don’t like me,” Yoongi says quietly.

“No,” Jin says defensively. “They don’t like me.”

“They don’t like anybody.” Jisoo says finally, slinging her bag on her shoulder. “They’re mean people.”

“Jisoo,” Jin warns her.

“What?” Jisoo says. “She might as well know.”

Yoojung’s frown is so deep at this point.

“There’s a time and place and a way to say things,” Jin says. “Even if it’s true.”

Jisoo takes a deep breath and opens the door. “Thanks for the ride, oppa. Good night.”

“Good night, Jisoo.” Yoongi says, when Jin doesn’t reply.

Jisoo closes the car door. She knows she has no business in what Jin tells his kid, but she can’t for the life of her understand why he would protect their parents. Their parents don’t deserve it.

Jisoo’s about to close the gate when a hand stops it. She looks up with a frown. “Why…?”

Jin doesn’t say anything, he just follows her into the house.

Sure enough, her mother’s waiting in the hall, dressing gown wrapped around her, under her crossed arms.

“Kim Jisoo, where have you-” She begins sternly, then she catches sight of Jin behind Jisoo. “W-what are you doing here?”

Jin steps in front of Jisoo and bows deeply. “I’m sorry Jisoo’s coming home so late. We brought her and her friends out for dinner to celebrate.”

“To celebrate what? She lost!” Their mother almost spits out. “If she hadn’t given up before the finals, maybe-”

“She passed out!” Jin snaps. “You don’t care about that?”

Jisoo puts a hand on Jin’s arm to try to stop him, but she’s seen him fight their mom before. There’s really no holding him back now.

“Don’t try to make it look like I don’t care about my own daughter.” Their mother snaps. “As if you know anything about-”

“I have a daughter of my own.” Jin says calmly.

Jisoo’s expecting her mother to be surprised at least, but she doesn’t even flinch.

“Oh, that.” Their mother clicks her tongue. “You think you know everything now, because you’ve been playing house with some other person’s child? It’s disgusting. It’s child abuse, you know. What you’re doing.”

Jin’s hands curl into fists at his sides. Jisoo’s expecting the worst – he gets really angry when he gets angry. But then he sighs. “I didn’t come here to fight you, Mom.”

“Hm.” Their mother hums incredulously.

“I just wanted to let you know that you have a granddaughter-”

“She’s not my granddaughter.”

Jin laughs. “I don’t know what I was expecting. But I’m ready to forgive you, Mom, I don’t know why-”

“Maybe it’s because I’ve never actually done anything wrong.” Their mother huffs. “I’ve only been looking out for my children.”

“I guess that’s what we all think we’re doing.” Jin puts his hands in his pockets. “If ever you change your mind, I think she’d actually like to meet you.”

Their mother stands there, mouth agape, but she doesn’t say anything in return.

“I think I’ll go now, we needed to get Yoojung to bed hours ago,” Jin laughs. “She’s going to be so cranky in the morning.”

“…Her name is Yoojung?” Their mother asks.

Jin lifts his eyebrows. “Yes.”

“It’s a nice name.”

“It is.” Jin says. “She’s a nice kid, too. Bye, Jisoo.”

“Bye, oppa.” Jisoo says, accepting a warm hug from her brother.

“Bye, Mom.”

“Bye.”

Jisoo closes the door and locks it after Jin, watching through the window as his car drives away. Jisoo’s mother pulls her dressing gown closer around herself.

“How old is she?”

“Jin-oppa’s daughter?” Jisoo frowns. “Around five, I think. Why?”

Her mother doesn’t reply. She simply heads up the stairs and shuts the door to her room softly. Jisoo’s left standing in the hallway, not sure what’s going on.

Her phone buzzes.

1 new message from Jennie.

Jennie: Good night, Jisoo.

Chapter Text

A few days later

 

“GUESS WHO HAS A BOYFRIEND!”

Jisoo and Jinyoung move their coffees away from Doyoung, who’s just gotten back from his choral competition in Japan. Jisoo doesn’t even know if their choir won, but it seems like Doyoung did. Somehow.

“NOT YOU!” Doyoung pokes Jinyoung in the forehead, and Jinyoung makes a movement to punch him.

“NOT YOU!” Doyoung does the same to Jisoo, who just jerks away and says,

“I don’t want a boyfriend.”

“THAT’S RIGHT!” Doyoung announces, bowing left and right as if he’s receiving thunderous applause from an entire fucking stadium. “ME!”

Jinyoung rolls his eyes and sips his mocha. “Hooking up with some Japanese twink isn’t the same thing as-”

“Excuse you.” Doyoung snaps. “One, he’s not a Japanese twink, I know one too many of those. Two, we didn’t hook up, we’re classy.”

“Does he even know he’s your boyfriend?” Jisoo asks.

“Well,” Doyoung coughs. “Not yet, but-”

Jinyoung and Jisoo laugh so hard they can’t breathe.

“Guys! But! We kissed!” Doyoung insists, his face getting red. “I’m going to see him later!”

“In your dreams?” Jinyoung chokes out between laughs.

“Nice.” Jisoo coughs, her chest starting to hurt from laughing too hard.

“GUYS! S-STOP!” Doyoung sputters, stomping his foot.

The barista serving an old woman nearby clears his throat, giving Doyoung an irritated look.

“Doyoung, please.” The barista says as he passes their table. “Shut up.”

Jinyoung and Jisoo laugh so hard they have to sit on the floor, bracing themselves against their chairs as they gasp for air like fish on dry land.

“Guuuys,” Doyoung whines, as quietly as he can. “Stop being so mean.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“If you get any tips, they must go into the tip jar. We divide them equally amongst all the staff at the end of the month.”

Jennie nods. Her apron’s tied a bit tight around her waist, but if she wore it any looser, the notepad and pen would weigh it down to her ankles.

“And if we catch you hoarding any tips,” The restaurant’s manager says, narrowing his eyes at Jennie. “You’re fired.”

Jennie nods again, even if that rule feels a little disproportional.

“You aren’t permitted to take any breaks until you’ve completed three hours.”

Jennie raises her hand gingerly, as if she’s in class or something. “Um, what if I need o use the bathroom, sir?”

The manager narrows his eyes at her again. “Just don’t drink water.”

Jennie’s tempted to say something back, but she just bows her head and nods politely. Her rent is due in two weeks, she reminds herself. Rent is due in two weeks.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Chaeyoung shields her eyes from the sun with her hand, trying to read off her phone, but it’s too bright out.

Jennie: How’s the weather there?

Lisa: hot

Lisa: like me :P

Lisa: ughhh i cringed too akjhdflds

Chaeyoung flops onto her beach chair, glad the umbrella’s giving her some shade, at least. She turns her phone on its side and takes a photo.

Chaeng: <sent a photo>

Jennie: WOW

Lisa: I thot u said u lived 3 hours from the beach

Chaeng: yea

Chaeng: we drove 3 hours here

Chaeng: duh

Jisoo: I wanna go to the beaaaaach :<

Lisa: come here!!!!!!

Lisa: im so fucking bored my cousins are all babies

Chaeng: BABIES??

Chaeng: PICS PLS

Chaeyoung bounces around in her seat as Lisa sends a flood of cute baby photos. She wishes she had baby cousins. Or any kind of cousins. Or anyone to talk to, for that matter.

Chaeyoung looks out at the beach. Her dad’s off somewhere playing golf, and her mom’s having a brunch with her friends. Her sister’s off with her new boyfriend, not even bothering to tink that her single-since-birth little sister might be lonely.

A tiny crab creeps up onto Chaeyoung’s foot.

“Oh, hello,” Chaeyoung gives the crab a little wave.

The crab tilts upward, as if it’s looking at her.

Chaeyoung smiles. “I’ll call you Lisa.”

The crab scurries away.

“Lisa! Wait!” Chaeyoung drops everything, phone included, to run after the sand-colored crab. “Lisaaaaaaa!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“I can’t believe,” Jisoo says, carrying three shopping bags on each arm. “That Doyoung really has a date.”

“I bet he’s just at home blowing us off.” Jinyoung says, pushing open the door to one of Jisoo’s favorite stores for her. “Think about it: Doyoung? A date? Not possible. How could Doyoung get a date before me?”

Jisoo rolls her eyes. “As much as I hate to say it, that’s very possible.”

“You’re supposed to be on my side.” Jinyoung grumbles, casually going through some shirts on a rack.

“I’m not on anyone’s side except mine.” Jisoo huffs, pulling out a yellow blouse, then realizing it’s got this ugly green bow on it. She puts it back on the rack in a hurry. “Doyoung has more friends than you. More friends mean more probability of-”

“Don’t bring statistics into this.” Jinyoung flops onto the couch by the shoe section. “I just can’t believe that Kim fucking Doyoung has more game than I do.”

Jisoo grins at him. “Say that again, I’m gonna record it.”

“Fuck you.” Jinyoung gets up and pulls a shirt off the sale rack. “Doesn’t Jennie have this shirt?”

Jisoo pretends to be too busy going through another rack. “Hm?”

Jinyoung holds the hanger out at an arm’s length. “Yeah, Jennie definitely has this exact shirt.”

Jisoo busies herself with the next rack, ignoring him.

“I didn’t think Jennie would shop here,” Jinyoung says, looking down at the marble floors. He turns to Jisoo. “You’re here pretty much every day, right? Have you ever run into Jennie?”

“What?” Jisoo scoffs, pausing when she sees the black net-sleeved shirt Jinyoung’s holding. “Uh, no.”

“Buy it.” Jinyoung says with a smirk. “She’ll be so pissed off.”

Jisoo makes a face. “I’m not that petty.”

The sales clerk walks up to them with a bright smile. “Miss Jisoo, it’s always nice to see you here!”

“Hello,” Jisoo says with a polite smile. She ignores Jinyoung’s struggle not to laugh at how often she seems to go to this one shop.

The sales clerk links arms with Jisoo. “You never brought your really pretty friend back here,”

Jisoo avoids Jinyoung’s curious expression. “Huh?”

“What pretty friend?” Jinyoung asks. Tactless bitch.

“Oh, she has this friend she brought shopping here a few weeks ago,” The sales clerk says excitedly. “She looks like a model!”

Jinyoung shoots Jisoo a curious, slightly accusatory look.

“It’s always so nice to see really pretty people try our clothes on,” The sales clerk says with a sigh. She turns to Jisoo. “Did she not like the pieces she got?”

“Oh no,” Jisoo says with an akward laugh. “She loved them, don’t worry. I just, I don’t think she can, uh… the clothes here are really expensive.”

Jinyoung coughs.

Ah.” The sales clerk pouts. “but you paid for her last time, right?”

“Did she?” Jinyoung asks. “What was the occasion?”

“Birthday.” Jisoo says sternly.

“Jennie’s birthday’s not for a few months.” Jinyoung lifts his eyebrows.

“That’s her name!” The sales clerk says, patting Jisoo’s arm affectionately. “Miss Jennie! Please bring her back sometime, Miss Jisoo.”

Jisoo grimaces at the clerk, trying and failing to ignore Jinyoung’s wide smirk behind her.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie collapses into a seat on the bus. She’s starting to think that maintaining three jobs for the summer isn’t a sustainable idea, and she still hasn’t made it to her third job.

But rent is due in two weeks, and that’s going to put a huge dent on her savings. She hasn’t even started thinking about how she’ll pay for her tuition – at least she’s got half a scholarship to depend on. Jennie’s afraid she’ll have to come crawling back to her mom, but her pride would never let her do that.

An old woman, arms full of plastic bags, hobbles up onto the bus.

Jennie looks around, and finds that all the other seats are full. She sighs and stands up, offering her seat to the old woman.

The woman smiles and thanks her, huffing as she lowers herself gently into the seat.

Jennie grabs onto the nearest pole to steady herself as the bus starts off again. Jennie sighs.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Let me get this straight,” Jinyoung says, tapping his chopsticks on the edge of his bowl. Jisoo’s had her head ducked into her bowl of ramen, slurping it up like Jinyoung isn’t even there.

“You bought Jennie a couple hundred thousands’ worth of clothes for no fucking reason?” Jinyoung says, tilting his head down to catch Jisoo’s gaze.

Jisoo shuts her eyes.

“Are you going to explain, or do I need to jump to conclusions?”

Jisoo slurps loudly and shakes her head.

“Okay.” Jinyoung says, leaning back in his seat. “Sugar mama?”

Jisoo sputters, choking on a noodle.

“Shit, Jisoo, no need to fucking die over this,” Jinyoung says, reaching out to pat Jisoo’s back gently. He puts his chopsticks down. “Let’s make a deal.”

“No.” Jisoo manages to say, after downing half a glass of water.

“Come on,” Jinyoung says, shaking her by the elbow. “You tell me this one embarrassing thing, I’ll tell you one embarrassing thing I-”

“Who says it’s embarrassing!” Jisoo says. “I was being nice!”

Jinyoung fixes her with a blank expression. “How gracious of her Majesty to condescend to us peasants-”

“Shut up, or you pay for your own dinner.” Jisoo grumbles.

Jinyoung bows with a flourish. “As you wish, Your Majesty.”

Jisoo’s face is red to the ears at this point. “She got thrown out, okay? I’m not supposed to tell anyone, so don’t tell anyone else-”

“Holy shit.” Jinyoung gasps. “Where is she living now?”

“She’s renting this place near the university, she didn’t have any furniture or anything, okay? So I helped her out.”

Jinyoung stops, blinking at Jisoo.

“That was really decent of you, Jisoo.” He says.

“Why are you so surprised?” Jisoo says, scowling at him.

“Because I am,” Jinyoung says, resting a hand on Jisoo’s shoulder. “I thought you were just a spoiled brat, but you’re a spoiled brat with a heart of gold.”

Jisoo frowns.

“24-karat gold, probably.” Jinyoung grins.

“Fuck you.” Jisoo grumbles. “So what was the embarrassing thing you were gonna tell me?”

Jinyoung pales.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“How are you doing, Jennie?”

Jennie’s been sweating her ass off scrubbing black bean sauce off all the dishes, wondering how black beans could wreak so much damage, but she smiles. “I’m fine, Mrs. Jung.”

“Just call me Auntie, everyone does,” The owner of the restaurant says. “And you can take a break, you know, it’s all right.”

Jennie would like to collapse, if it’s all right by her boss. “Thanks… Auntie, but I’m still good.”

“Okay, just rest when you need to. You came from another job, right?” The owner frowns in a kind of deep concern Jennie’s not seen in ages.

“Yeah, but it’s pretty light,” Jennie says, waving off the three hours she’d spent on the road, delivering pizzas. “I’m really fine, Mrs.- Auntie.”

The owner pats Jennie affectionately on the arm. “All right. Could you pass by the house upstairs after your shift?”

Jennie wonders if she’s done something wrong already.

“Oh no, don’t worry, just for a cup of tea or coffee, I just want to see how you’re doing.” The owner smiles. “Just knock on the door.”

“I will, M- Auntie.” Jennie nods eagerly.

“I’ll see you later, then, Jennie.” The owner pats Jennie’s arm again, then turns to leave.

Jennie sighs. If she were younger and cuter, she’d have thrown herself at Mrs. Jung’s feet, begging to be adopted.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“No.” Jisoo says, slamming the car door shut after her.

Jinyoung opens the passenger side door. “Jisoo, my ex told me about his new boyfriend. He was practically showing off! What was I supposed to do?”

“No. No.  No.” Jisoo huffs. She turns to him. “Well? Are you getting in?”

Jinyoung frowns. “Wait, I don’t get-”

“I’ll give you a lift home.” Jisoo says, starting the car. “But I’m not gonna go do the other thing.”

Jinyoung climbs into the passenger’s seat, closing the door gently after him. “Thanks.”

Jisoo pulls out of the parking space. “Just sit there and keep quiet. I’ve hit my quota of Bullshit From Jinyoung for a day.”

Jinyoung only manages to keep quiet through two stoplights.

“Have Chaeyoung and Lisa gone home yet?” He asks.

“Yeah. Last Tuesday.”

“So that’s why you’re hanging out with me.” Jinyoung nods. He sinks in his seat. “God, I really do have less friends than Doyoung.”

Jisoo rolls her eyes. If he thinks making a whole scene with tears and sad violins is going to make her change her mind, he’s wrong.

“You’re my friend, too, you bitch.” Jisoo mutters. “Still doesn’t mean I’ll go on a fake-ass date with you.”

Jinyoung smiles at her, but he still looks sad. “I was actually gonna ask Doyoung first, if it makes you feel better.”

“Oh, so I’m your second choice? I do feel a lot better, thanks.” Jisoo grumbles.

“I was your second choice too-”

“Third choice, technically.” Jisoo says. “Chaeyoung and Lisa are two different people.”

“Oh, right. I forget that sometimes.”

Jisoo laughs, turning the corner onto Jinyoung’s street. Jinyoung shares a room with some guy named Jackson, in a boarding house full of guys she no longer knows the names of.

“Your roommate isn’t up for playing pretend boyfriend?” Jisoo asks.

“Uh…” Jinyoung makes a face. “Let’s just say that bringing Jackson would be a little more pitiful than going solo.”

“A horrible thing to say about a guy who has the ability to dunk your toothbrush in the toilet.”

“He’s nice! I like him!” Jinyoung says. “But he’s not… for me.”

“And I am?”

“You’re perfect girlfriend material,” Jinyoung says, with a smile that feels a little greasy to Jisoo. “Rich, smart, rich, heart of 24-karat gold, rich-”

“Okay, that’s enough.” Jisoo pushes him to the door. “Get out.”

Jinyoung gets out with a little wave. “Night, Jisoo. Thanks for dinner.”

“Good night sleep tight,” Jisoo says. “Don’t let Jackson bite.”

Jinyoung’s look of pure horror is worth everything.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

 A few more days later

 

Jennie has a problem.

It’s not that she’s slowly building up a huge energy debt from working nearly twenty hours a day, seven days a week – Well, that’s also a problem, but it’s not her pressing problem.

Irene’s just asked her out on a date.

It’s not a huge surprise, seeing as Jennie’s been eating up every minute of her few breaks, and the few hours she’s supposed to be sleeping just to call Irene. Irene doesn’t like messaging, because she texts really slowly, and likes to call instead – which Jennie finds incredibly cute.

Except when Irene’s waiting on the other end of the line for Jennie to answer her.

“I mean, it’s cool if you don’t want to go out.” Irene says. “I was just thinking, since it’s summer and all, and my training’s not started up again…”

Jennie doesn’t know how to explain to Irene that she’s got no time for a date. She’s already told Irene everything else, from her dad walking out on them when she was a kid to her mom forcing her to cut ties with Jisoo to focus on studying when Jisoo started to get higher grades than her – everything except the fact that she’s been thrown out and is now trying to scrape together enough to pay rent and go to school.

And eat. God, Jennie hasn’t eaten since lunch, and it’s probably past midnight now…

Jennie’s stomach grumbles loudly, and she hopes Irene didn’t hear it.

“No!” Jennie says. “I do want to hang out, I’m just a little, uh, busy with my um…work…”

“Summer job?”

“Yeah.” Jennie nods enthusiastically, even if Irene can’t see. “Summer job.”

“When’s your day off?”

Never.

“It’s not really…” Jennie says. “My hours are weird.”

“Okay. I could just visit you at work?”

Nope.

“They’re kinda strict…”

“Jennie.” Irene’s voice sounds tense. “You can just say you don’t want to-”

“No, no,” Jennie wants to kick something. “I’ll see you on Friday? I’ll be free at 6.”

“Really?” Irene sonds so hopeful that Jennie melts into her futon. “Where do we meet?”

“I don’t know,” Jennie sighs. “Anywhere’s good.”

“There’s this restaurant I’ve been meaning to try.” Irene says excitedly. “I’ll text you the address.”

“You’ll text?”

“I do it sometimes, you bitch.” Irene laughs.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo wakes up at noon, as she has been for the past few days, and lumbers downstairs to beg the cook to make her pancakes. Her mother might think she’s being a disgusting slime mold of a human, but there’s a routine to all this – wake up, eat, nap, try to watch a movie, get bored and watch The Office again, then nap again, wake up for dinner, then sleep again till noon the next day. Her mother just doesn’t understand.

Jisoo finds said mother sitting at the dining table, frowning down at a piece of paper while she stirs her coffee. Whatever it is, it’s non of Jisoo’s business. Jisoo turns to the kitchen.

“Kim Jisoo.”

Jisoo frowns. Her mother can’t possibly be on her Stop being a slob agenda. Jisoo’s made it crystal clear that she intends to do absolutely nothing this summer. “Yes, Mom?”

“Sit down here.”

Jisoo walks over slowly, and pulls out a chair somewhere along the middle of the dining table. Her mother’s glaring at her through her reading glasses.

Jisoo’s too afraid to ask what’s wrong.

Her mother simply throws the sheet of paper in Jisoo’s direction and returns to stirring her coffee aggressively.

Jisoo picks up the paper and straightens it out. It’s addressed to her. She’s about to get angry at her mom for going through mail that’s addressed to her, but then one line catches her eye.

Your grade in Principles of Organic Chemistry did not satisfy the grade requirements of the President’s Scholarship.

Jisoo reads on.

…your scholarship is hereby revoked beginning in the first semester of this coming school year. Should you wish to appeal this decision, please contact the Office of Scholarships…

Jisoo doesn’t dare look up at her mother.

“I knew that worthless competition was a distraction,” Her mother says. “How could you neglect your studies like this? That’s all you have to do.”

Jisoo stares down at the letter, like she’s rereading it, but really, she’s trying not to cry.

“Other people your age have to work and study, but all you have to do is study! And you can’t even do that well!” Her mother takes a deep breath, but doesn’t calm down. “Organic Chemistry! If you can’t even pass undergraduate chemistry classes, you can forget med school!”

Jisoo blinks hard, watching one of her tears blur her name on the letter.

“I’ve given you everything, Jisoo! Everything!” Her mother practically spits out. “All you have to do is hold up your part! And study well! Is that really so hard?”

“I’m sorry, Mom.” Jisoo says quietly.

“Stop mumbling! Did I teach you to mumble?” Her mother stirs her coffee so hard that some spills out onto the walnut table. “No more of your hanging out. And forget your trip to Greece next month. You’re going to stay home this summer and study.”

“But-”

“You already know what classes you’re taking next semester, don’t you?” Her mother sneers. “Have a little initiative.”

“Mom-”

“What? You think I’m being unfair?” Her mother stands up. “I haven’t even started yet.”

Jisoo watches her pick up her purse and start towards the door. “W- Where are you going?”

“To the bank.” Her mother says. “I’m having your credit card cancelled.”

 

Jisoo rubs her face on her pillow, reaching for her phone. Her eyes are so puffy from crying that she can hardly read the message, but then it starts ringing.

“H- Hello?” Jisoo asks.

“Jisoo?” Jinyoung’s voice on the other end softens. “Are you okay?”

“Yes.” Jisoo turns the phone away from her as she sniffles.

“Are you sick?”

“No.” Jisoo will never admit she’s been crying all day, much less the fact that she lost her scholarship. “What’s up? Why are you bothering me?”

“Jeez.” Jinyoung laughs. “I’m bothering you because I have no other friends-”

“I’m not going on that goddamn double date, Jinyoung.” Jisoo groans. “Besides, I’m grounded.”

“Why?”

Jisoo’s eyes widen. Fuck. “Mom thinks I hang out too much.”

You? Really?” Jinyoung laughs. “Does she know much normal college students go out-”

“Whatever, Jinyoung. I’m not going on your stupid date, stop bothering me.” Jisoo hangs up and tosses her phone somewhere else on her bed.

And starts crying again.

She wishes Chaeyoung and Lisa were home, but she can’t hang out with them anyway. All she has is Jinyoung, which is sad. She could call her brother, he’d definitely be on her side, but Jisoo knows that she’s in the wrong this time. Her mom’s justified in being angry over her grades, they’re really crappy.

But does she have to be so angry? And cancel Jisoo’s vacation? And Jisoo’s credit card? Really?

You’re being a spoiled brat, Jisoo slaps herself on the cheek. Other people have to work. Like Jennie, probably.

Jennie can work and get high grades.

But that’s because she’s just plain better than me, Jisoo whines internally. I’m not actually smart. Like, at all.

Jisoo flops over onto her back, feeling gross that she feels so sorry for herself, but there’s a weird kind of comfort in just accepting the fact that you’re a crappy, stupid person and everything is your own fault.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Friday

 

“Jinyoung,” Jisoo had said over the phone as soon as she woke up Friday morning, feeling an out-of-body sort of calm after three days of moping and pretending to study for her mom. “Do you still need a date?”

“I thought you were grounded.” Jinyoung had said on the other end.

“I am.” Jisoo says. “But I want to go out.”

“Um.” Jinyoung pauses on the other end. “I’m all for your late bloomer rebellious phase and all, but if your mom tries to sue me-”

“She won’t.” Jisoo says forcefully. “I’ll pick you up at 6.”

“Uh, thanks?”

When Jinyoung eventually hangs up, Jisoo plugs her phone in to charge it, and sets to plotting on hwo she’s going to steal her confiscated car keys back and sneak out of the house.

And, of course, what she’s going to wear.

 

Jisoo’s touching up her makeup when Jinyoung steps into the car.

“Wow, Jisoo, you look…”

“Great?” Jisoo asks, her eye twitching as she tries to brush her falsies and yer real eyelashes together. “Gorgeous? More beautiful than you’d ever imagined?”

“I was gonna say ‘like a pampered young trophy wife,’” Jinyoung says proudly, patting her arm. “But sure, whatever you say.”

 Jisoo jerks her arm away. “Bitch.”

Jisoo changes the destination on her phone to the restaurant Jinyoung’s ex had planned this godforsaken double date to be at.

“Wait,” Jinyoung says suddenly, nearly making Jisoo drop her phone. “Let’s be a little late. So it looks like I don’t really care that much.”

“No, fuck you, I’m hungry.” Jisoo slips her phone into her holder and starts driving, turning up the music to drown out Jinyoung’s desperate whining.

 

Jennie’s afraid. What if Mrs. Jung finds out she didn’t have any family emergency, and was just skipping work to go out on a date? What if Mrs. Jung fires her? Or worse, what if Mrs. Jung’s very disappointed in her?

Jennie wouldn’t be able to live.

“Jennie!” Irene’s sitting on a bench across the fountain. The sun’s just setting, and Irene’s wearing this light blue dress that seems to glow in the light, and Jennie forgets what she was worried about.

“Ireeeene!” Jennie practically runs over and topples into Irene.

Irene wraps her arms around Jennie’s waist, snuggling her nose into Jennie’s exposed shoulder. Jennie’s suddenly very glad she wore this specific, off-shoulder shirt. And that she owns this shirt in the first place.

Thank you, Jisoo, and your unlimited credit card.

Irene sighs, squeezing Jennie tightly. “It’s so weird to actually see your face.”

“Yeah,” Jennie smiles. She can see a few people giving them weird looks, but she honestly couldn’t give a shit. “It’s nice weird, though.”

“Yeah. Nice weird.” Irene laughs and lifts a finger to gently push Jennie’s face away from hers. “Let’s eat dinner first before we do anything else, okay?”

Jennie’s face gets warm. “I- I wasn’t-”

Sure you weren’t,” Irene stands up and extends a hand. “Let’s go?”

Jennie takes her hand. “Let’s just get a fast dinner so we can go straight to the anything else.”

“Someone’s happy to see me,” Irene laughs, squeezing Jennie’s hand as they walk.

“You wouldn’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve seen someone outside of work,” Jennie laughs, before catching herself when Irene frowns. “I mean, I’m just- I’m happy to see you.”

“Okay.”

 

“Hold my hand,” Jinyoung whispers in an urgent hiss as they walk to the restaurant.

Jisoo rolls her eyes, but takes his hand in hers. “It’s sweaty,” She whines, even though his hands are fine, really.

“Suck it up.” Jinyoung whispers. Then she drops his hand and he turns to her with a pleading expression. “Sorry, sorry, I’m sorry my hands are filthy and disgusting, Your Majesty, please play along.”

Jisoo rolls her eyes again and takes his hand. “Stop calling me Your Majesty.”

“What do we go with? Honey? Sweetie? Love- Oh god, I think I just threw up in my mouth.” Jinyoung makes a gagging noise.

“What about…” Jisoo pretends to think. “…You call me Jisoo and I call you Jinyoung?”

“Okay. Perfect.” Jinyoung uses his free hand to give her a thumb up. “When did we start dating?”

“Twenty minutes ago.” Jisoo says.

Jisoo. Play along.” Jinyoung sighs. “What about when we became lab partners?”

“We were lab groupmates,” Jisoo scoffs. “And Doyoung was there.”

“Fuck Doyoung!” Jinyoung grumbles. “Here’s the story: You and I became lab partners and instantly fell in love or some shit.”

“They’ll never believe that. Not if your ex knows you at all.” Jisoo says.

Jinyoung groans. “Then what?”

“We had an ill-advised hookup and decided to just go with it because someone’s afraid of being alone.” Jisoo says. “Seems more your style.”

“What the hell do you think I am?” Jinyoung frowns.

“A very needy person with no friends.” Jisoo purses her lips, lifting one perfectly shaped eyebrow like she’s challenging him to argue. He can’t.

Jinyoung pushes the door to the restaurant open, holding it open for Jisoo, who smiles at him graciously.

“Thanks, honey.” Jisoo manages to say without snorting.

“No problem, darling.” Jinyoung manages to say without cracking up entirely.

They look around the restaurant until their eyes fall on two people sitting in the far corner. Jinyoung nudges Jisoo with his elbow. “Hey, Jisoo…”

“I know. I saw.” Jisoo says tensely.

 

Jennie glances up as she takes a sip of her water, and proceeds to choke on it.

“Are you okay?” Irene asks, handing Jennie a handful of tissues to wipe up her mouth.

“Just-” Jennie coughs. “-went down the wrong way.”

“Take it easy, Jennie,” Irene laughs, reaching out to dab water off Jennie’s chin. “We’re not in any rush.”

Jennie glances up again. What the fuck is she doing here?

Chapter Text

Please don’t notice me, please don’t notice me…

Jennie ducks her head down, practically buring her face in her food as he looks around nervously. Irene frowns at Jennie, then turns and looks around the restaurant. “Who’re you hiding from? Is your professor here?”

Jennie curses internally when she hears the footsteps clacking over. She’d recognize those footsteps anywhere.

“Jendeuk.”

Jennie pretends not to notice her, but she comes closer and stops at their table.

“Jendeuk.” Jennie’s mother says sternly.

Irene looks over at Jennie, the smile slowly fading from her face.

“Hi, Mom.” Jennie says, clenching her jaw.

“We need to talk.”

Jennie looks down at her plate, avoiding both Jennie’s and her mother’s eyes. “Not now, Mom.”

“Don’t make a scene, Jendeuk.” Jennie’s mom taps one foot. “Come with me. Now.”

“Mom.” Jennie takes a breath. “I’m busy right now.”

“Kim Jendeuk.” Jennie’s mother grabs Jennie by the arm. “You can’t just run away like that and expect me not to-!”

“You kicked me out,” Jennie hisses, looking around the restaurant. A waiter’s given them a concerned look as he shuffles to pass around Jennie’s mom. Jennie can agree with her mother on one thing and one thing alone – she doesn’t want to make a scene in the middle of this restaurant.

And especially not in front of Irene.

“Jendeuk, please – Don’t make me beg, I’m your mother.

Jennie feels like saying something mean, like, “Shouldn’t you be used to people walking out on you by now?”

Irene’s face has gone a little pale, and she’s looking around like she doesn’t want to be there. Of course, she doesn’t.

Jennie doesn’t know what to do.

“Jennie,” Irene says tensely, keeping her head and her voice low. “Just go. I’ll wait for you here.”

 

“You’re not going to say hi?” Jinyoung asks, when Jisoo ducks behind him.

Jisoo starts pushing him from behind. “No, no, let’s go straight to your ex-”

“They’re at the next table.” Jinyoung says, without a hint of sarcasm.

Jisoo has a sudden urge to just lay flat on the floor and play dead. She doesn’t want to deal with this. “Oh god…”

“C’mon, just say hi, it’d be rude not to,” Jinyoung reaches behind him and takes Jisoo by the wrist. “You don’t need to explain anything.”

“That’s gonna make it worse!” Jisoo hisses at him. “They’ll jump to conclusions!”

“Jisoo, calm down,” Jinyoung’s practically dragging her at this point, her heels scraping against the floor. His ex and his ex’s current boyfriend look up and give Jinyoung confused, but friendly smiles. At the next table, Jisoo’s brother puts his menu down and frowns in their direction, still managing to look friendly. Jisoo’s brother’s boyfriend turns around in his seat to see what’s up, then gives them a vague smile.

“I’m calm! I’m so fucking- Oh, hi, oppa.” Jisoo nearly trips on a carpet and catches herself, giving her older brother and his boyfriend a little wave.

Yoongi kicks Jin under the table, and only then does Jin wave back and say, “Hi.”

When Jisoo stands there, frozen, for what feels like an age, Jinyoung extends a hand to Yoongi. “I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Jisoo’s friend-”

“’Course I do.” Yoongi shakes his hand. “Joonjae, right?”

“It’s Jinyoung, actually.”

“Oh.”

“It’s fine, I get that all the time,” Jinyoung assures Yoongi, like a liar. “Have a nice dinner.”

“You too.” Yoongi says, as warmly as he can with his head bowed in sheer embarrassment.

Jinyoung has to manually break Jisoo’s staring match with her brother, taking her by the shoulders and turning her to the next table. “Hey there, Jaebum.”

“Hi Jinyoung,” Jinyoung’s ex smiles brightly, his eyes nearly disappearing. “This must be your girlfriend?”

“Jisoo.” Jisoo says.

Jinyoung’s ex just smiles more, if it were possible. “Nice to meet you, Jisoo. I’m Jaebum.”

“Thanks.” Jisoo says.

Jinyoung rolls his eyes and pulls Jisoo’s seat back for her, if only just to force her into her seat.

“You haven’t met Youngjae yet, have you?” Jaebum asks, making a gesture to the equally cheerful guy next to him.

Jinyoung does his best not to put on a scowl. “No, we haven’t met.”

Youngjae’s smile is so kind and sweet that it takes every ounce of fortitude in Jinyoung’s body not to visibly gag. “I never got to thank you for taking Jaebummie to the hospital-”

“You’re welcome.”

Jisoo’s just staring at her glass like she’s trying to shatter it with her mind.

“Do you want to see the menu?” Youngjae asks her, breaking her out of her telekinetic state.

“Thanks.” Jisoo says, taking the menu from him. “But I’m not hungry.”

Jinyoung nearly heaves a deep sigh, then catches himelf and plasters on a smile. “I’ll just order for the both of us, okay, Jisoo?”

Jisoo nods slowly, staring at the picture of the fried chicken, which is slightly off-center, but not in an artistic way.

“Yes.” Jisoo says, feeling her brother staring at her even if she’s not looking his way. The hairs on the back of her neck keep bristling, and het gut keeps churning – Why does she care so much? It’s not like her brother’s going to snitch on her or judge her. And besides, he’s been out of her life for years, it’s not like he can really step in and beat the crap out of Jinyoung or something (though Jisoo wouldn’t mind seeing that).

It’s lying to her brother, she figures. She can’t do it.

“So where did you two meet?” Jaebum asks. “Don’t be offended, but Jinyoung hasn’t told me anything about you, Jisoo.”

Jisoo opens her mouth to say something, though she’s not sure what, but Jinyoung saves her with a, “I didn’t think it was the best time when I was rushing you to the emergency room.”

Jaebum lowers his head. “Right.”

Youngjae turns his 1000-megawatt smile in Jinyoung’s direction. “He means thanks.”

“Sure.” Jinyoung shifts in his seat.

The conversation heads someplace that sounds vaguely sports-like to Jisoo, but she’s not paying attention. They could be talking about anime for all she knows.

She turns her head slightly to the side, catching her brother’s gaze.

Boyfriend?’ Jin mouths at her, pointing at Jinyoung without an ounce of discretion.

No oppa please stop.’ Jisoo mouths back, making a little gesture with her hands to shoo him away.

“Jisoo?”

Jisoo looks back at Jaebum, who’s looking at her expectantly, like he’d asked her a question.

“Sorry,” Jinyoung says, patting Jisoo’s hand so gently he’s barely even grazing it. “Jisoo didn’t get a lot of sleep last night.”

Jisoo shoots him a dirty look. What the hell does he mean by that?

“Oh.” Jaebum’s entire face glows bright red, like a tomato. “I… Sorry.”

Jisoo keeps a polite smile aimed at Jaebum and Youngjae as she crushes Jinyoung’s toes under her heel. Jinyoung flinches, retaliating by trying to kick Jisoo’s feet, but she lifts them out of the way just in time.

“Jisoo-” Jinyoung says tensely. “-darling.” He sighs, turning to Jaebum and Youngjae with a faltering smile. “Could you excuse us for a little while?”

“Sure.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Yup, just peachy,” Jinyoung says, helping Jisoo to her feet. He pulls her towards the bathroom, her heels clattering clumsily on the floor.

“Hey, hey,” Jisoo skitters to a stop in the dimly lit hallway leading to the restaurant’s bathroom. “What the hell?”

“Do you want to leave?” Jinyoung’s voice cracks.

“Um, yes!” Jisoo’s voice squeaks. “I didn’t even wanna be here in the first place!

“Me neither!” Jinyoung groans. “Jaebum’s new boyfriend is obnoxious-”

“You mean he’s really cute and probably a freshman?” Jisoo asks.

“Don’t fucking-”

Jisoo cups one hand around her mouth and shout-whispers, “Park Jinyoung got bumped off for a freshman!”

“Fuck you, man,” Jinyoung swats Jisoo’s hand away. “Come on, let’s just cancel our food and go.”

“This was your stupid idea.” Jisoo scrunches up her nose. “And I’m super hungry.”

“Just play sick or something-”

“I’m not sick, I’m hungry-”

“Channel it into playing sick-”

“Screw you-”

“Hi Jisoo.”

Jisoo’s soul nearly exits her body. “H- Hello, Seokjin-oppa.”

Jin gives her a very, very strained smile, then shoots daggers at Jinyoug through his eyes.

“Hi.” Jinyoung says, backing away from Jisoo and into the opposite wall for good measure.

“Are you guys in line for the toilet?” Jin asks, and it’s an innocuous enough question, but his delivery makes it sound a little more like, Hey Jinyoung are you ready to die?

“N- No, we’re not.” Jinyoung stammers, pressed so close to the wall that he’s nearly two-dimensional.

“You’d better not be,” Jin says cheerfully, passing between them to go into the restaurant’s bathroom.

Jinyoung’s knees nearly crumple when Jin closes the door. “Jisoo, please, let’s go.”

“I have to explain to my brother-”

Jin chooses that exact moment to step out of the bathroom, wearing an amiable, murderous smile. “Hi again.”

“Oppa, we’re not dating!” Jisoo says nervously, and Jinyoung just looks heavenward like, God, why.

“I know,” Jin says. “I know a fake boyfriend when I see one.”

Jinyoung laughs nervously. “Oh, good.”

“Not good.” Jin’s lips purse into a very disappointed little w. “I don’t know why you guys are doing this, but take it from me, this kind of shit never ends well.”

Jisoo grimaces. “It’s just one time-”

“It’d better be.” Jin’s expression softens. “Oh god, I sound like our mom.”

“Yeah, you even looked like her for a second there.” Jisoo says.

“I did not,” Jin says indignantly. He straightens himself up, looking down at Jisoo from the tip of his nose. “Meanie.”

Jisoo grins, wrapping one arm around one of Jin’s affectionately. “Aw, oppa, don’t worry, you’ll never look like Mom, you’re handsome.”

“This conversation seems headed somewhere pretty offensive,” Jinyoung says. “I’d rather not be here when it does.”

Jin smiles at Jinyoung. “It’s okay, I was gonna let you guys go now anyway. Just… Don’t do the fake boyfriend thing, okay? It’s really never worth it.”

“Okay.”

“Got it.”

“Have a nice dinner, you guys.” Jin squeezes Jisoo’s arm gently, and pats Jinyoung on the arm before he leaves the hallway.

 

“I- Irene?”

Irene looks up from her phone to find Jennie sitting down across the table from her, her eyes puffy and her nose a little red.

Irene slides a hand over the table, laying her palm face up as she fixes Jennie with a concerned look.

Jennie sighs and takes Irene’s hand as she blinks up at the ceiling a few times.

“We can leave, if you want.” Irene suggests. “We haven’t ordered yet.”

“Yes please.”

Irene holds tightly onto Jennie’s hand as they walk out of the restaurant, apologizing politely to the waiter as they do. She doesn’t ask Jennie anything as they walk aimlessly through the streets, or say anything even though she could really use some dinner sometime soon.

“Irene?” Jennie says, her voice cracking a little.

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry for ruining our date.”

“You didn’t ruin it.” Irene says. “Do you wanna talk?”

“Nope.” Jennie takes a deep breath, tugging on Irene’s hand to spin her so they face each other. “Irene, can you not bring this up, like, ever?”

Irene thinks about it for a moment. On one hand, she’s got to respect boundaries, but on the other hand, this seems pretty serious. “Okay…”

“Thanks.” Jennie grins as she leans forward to kiss Irene on the cheek.

Irene stands there, hoping she doesn’t look as surprised as she feels.

“Your place is near here, right?” Jennie asks, twining their arms together.

“’Yeah…”

“Let’s just go there.” Jennie slips her fingers between Irene’s. “We can have dinner delivered.”

“Jennie,” Irene’s mind is swimming with every possible way to interpret that. “I’m not a sex-on-the-first-date kind of person. Just so you know.”

Jennie grins. “It’s a good thing this is our second date, then.”

 

“Jinyoung did what?” Jisoo asks, glancing over to judge Jinyoung as she sips her iced coffee.

“He didn’t want his hair to get wet, so he -” Jaebum hacks a cough from trying so hard not to laugh. “-brought an umbrella into the swimming pool!”

“Jaebum,” Jinyoung whines, lowering his very red face. “Please shut up.”

 Youngjae’s nearly slid off his chair from laughing. Jaebum reaches out to steady Youngjae by the arm, but the latter’s still laughing too hard to sit upright.

Jisoo wipes one tear from her eye. “Jinyoung, you are so very fucking weird.”

“As if you’re any less weird,” Jinyoung scoffs. “If Jennie were here, we’d be milking her of all your embarrassing childhood-”

“This is Jennie Kim, right?” Jaebum asks, eyebrows raised.

“Yeah, why?” Jisoo asks.

“Oh, Youngjae’s a huge fan.” Jaebum pats Youngjae on the back while the latter catches his breath.

“Fan… of Jennie?” Jisoo frowns. “As in the Jennie Kim who goes to our school?”

“Y-Yeah!” Youngjae beams at them. He seems to do that an awful lot. “From the Academic Decathlon? It’s this quiz bee-”

“Jisoo was there too.” Jinyoung says. “She was Jennie’s partner at nationals.”

“Oh, really?” Youngjae grimaces. “I’m sorry, I didn’t recognize you…”

“It’s okay, I was gone for most of the competition anyway,” Jisoo waves a hand dismissively, realizing she’d put on kind of a lot of makeup.

“You did really well, too,” Youngjae practically jumps in his seat. “You were probably the most solid contestant in Math in the entire competition.”

Jisoo’s heart flutters. These are the compliments she needs. “Thanks.”

“You mean you watch the Decathlon for fun?” Jinyoung’s judgment is clear on his face, and Jaebum shoots him a sharp look.

“Y-yeah, it’s pretty unusual, I know,” Youngjae chuckles at himself. “But it’s kinda like following a sport, I guess? Except people train their brains instead of their muscles?”

“Yes.” Jisoo smiles. That’s a nice way to put it that doesn’t make her sound like a complete nerd. Okay, no, it definitely does. There’s no redeeming the academic decathlon.

“Oh, uh,” Youngjae laughs self-consciously again. “Can you tell Jennie I think she’s really cool? If that’s okay, I mean.”

Youngjae has just climbed to the top of Jisoo’s Cutest Human Beings Ever list. “Sure.”

“It’s a shame you guys didn’t win.” Youngjae says. “I didn’t really feel the other team much – I mean, not just because they’re not from our university – but something feels kinda off about them? No offense.”

“Off how?” Jisoo rests her chin in her hands, leaning forward.

“I mean, I’m not judging their school, my mom actually went there, but they’ve never even made it to nationals like, ever,” Youngjae’s making these wild hand motions. He’s really into it. “And one of their members is taking this course that isn’t even listed in the school’s undergraduate programs-”

“How do you know that?” Jinyoung asks, trying very hard not to make a face.

“Which one?” Jisoo asks, ignoring Jinyoung. “Irene or Seulgi?”

“Irene?” Youngjae’s frown worries Jisoo. “There’s…no…Irene?”

“What?”

“Hold up, what do you mean there’s no Irene?” Jinyoung says. “I even fucking met her-”

“Jinyoung, calm down-” Jaebum starts.

“There’s no one named Irene on the ______ Women’s University team.” Youngjae says flatly. “I’m pretty sure about that.”

“Then who…” Jinyoung turns to Jisoo, who’s just staring down at her iced coffee like she’s waiting for it to speak or something. “…the fuck is Irene?”

Chapter Text

The next morning

 

Jennie rubs her eyes, which have hardly adjusted to the light.

Light? LIGHT? Shit fuck shit I’m late for work!

Jennie scrambles out from under the blanket and slides off the bed – bed? I don’t have a bed.

“Good mooorning!” A voice carries from the next room. Room? My place doesn’t have rooms.

Jennie realizes she’s wearing nothing but an oversized t-shirt that doesn’t belong to her, and she’s standing on a plush carpet that doesn’t belong to her, beside a bed that doesn’t belong to her, in an apartment that is way too nice to belong to her.

“Hi, uh, I – Where are my clothes?” Jennie calls out, digging around the crumpled sheets.

“I put them on the table.” Irene peeks her head through the open doorway. She gestures over at a shiny white desk, where Jennie’s clothes are folded neatly on the table. “How do you like your eggs? Sunny side up or-”

“No thanks, I mean-” Jennie tries to dress herself as fast as she can without sacrificing her dignity. She’s still tugging the zipper up on her jeans when she hops out of the bedroom and into a huge, clean, white living room. Irene’s in the kitchen, frying hash browns and eggs over a pretty glass induction top, wearing an apron, and looking generally like an ad for a perfect kitchen.

Jennie takes a deep breath to button the top of her jeans. “Sorry, Irene, but I’ve got to go to work. Sorry.”

“Work?” Irene turns around, spatula still in hand. Her spatula even matches her frying pan. It’s beautiful. “Oh, right, you have a summer job. I’m sorry, I forgot. Are you late?”

“Not that late,” Jennie lies, running around like a headless chicken to collect her things.

“Shit. Sorry, Jen.” Irene leans over to slide Jennie’s phone and wallet across the counter to her. “I didn’t want to wake you up, you looked so pea-”

“Bye Irene, I’ll call you later, sorry.” Jennie says in one breath, pausing only to kiss Irene on the cheek before stuffing her feet in her sneakers and running out the door.

“Jen! Your socks!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo doesn’t even remember sneaking back into the house when she wakes up. It’s not quite noon – it’s half past 11:30, which is huge for her – but she can already feel her mother’s judgment raining down on her like a hailstorm. Jisoo stops at the bathroom to splash her face with cold water before trudging down the stairs.

She hears voices in the dining room, which is weird. Her dad’s not coming home from his business trip for another week or so, so her mom should be alone.

Jisoo pushes the door to the dining room open.

“Aunty Jisoo!” Yoojung skids off her chair, leaving it to wobble in place as she runs barefoot across the carpet to tackle Jisoo.

Jisoo bends over to hug her, pleasantly confused. “Hi, Yoojungie.”

Her mother and her brother are sitting at the opposite end of the table, stirring coffees amiably. Jin smiles. “Morning, Jisoo.”

Morning?” Her mother scoffs. “Nearly half the day is gone.”

Jisoo hobbles forward with Yoojung still wrapped around her legs. “Uh… what’s going on?”

“Jin and Yoojungie came by for breakfast,” Their mother smiles at Yoojung, her entire face softening like warm dough. She turns to Jin with a slightly sterner look. “Will you be staying for lunch?”

“I don’t t know,” Jin says, tapping his teaspoon gently on the side of his cup. “I promised Yoongi we wouldn’t be long.”

Their mother lifts her heavily penciled eyebrows but says nothing.

“I like your house a lot,” Yoojung says, tugging Jisoo’s nightdress down as she tries to climb her aunt. “It’s so pretty!”

“It’s not my house,” Jisoo reaches under Yoojung’s armpits to hoist her up, but it takes pretty much all of Jisoo’s strength to do that. “Whew, you’re getting heavy, aren’t you?”

“Daddy said it’s because I like rice so much,” Yoojung smiles. There’s a space in her upper row of teeth.

“Oh hey, you lost a tooth!”

“Yeah!” Yoojung grins wider to let Jisoo see her in all her gap-toothed glory. “The tooth fairy gave me fifty bucks for it.”

Jisoo whirls to fix her brother with a wide-eyed stare. “Fifty?”

Jin laughs nervously. “Hey, Jichu, why don’t you show Yoojungie around the rest of the house?”

Yoojung’s jaw drops. “There’s more?”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie’s that close to getting on her knees to beg her boss for mercy. She settles for a 90-degree bow. “I’m sorry, sir, it won’t happen again-”

“Pack up your things and get out of my sight.”

Jennie can’t believe this. She’s never even been late.

“Did you hear me?” Her boss asks.

“Yes, sir.” Jennie straightens up from her bow to grab her things off the chair. “I’m sorry I bothered you, sir.”

It’s only when Jennie’s standing outside on the sidewalk, taking a deep breath of the smell of fried food from the exhaust, that she realizes that she’s not going to be able to pay the rent if this job doesn’t pay her for all the work she’s done the past couple of weeks.

She has a few options:

  1. Try begging her dad again for money, even though that’s a dead end if there ever was one.
  2. Try begging one of her other jobs for an extra shift – Maybe Mrs. Jung would help her, but Jennie doesn’t want to abuse her kindness
  3. Crawl back home to her mother, like she wants Jennie to

Jennie visibly cringes at the third option. She can still hear her mother’s irritating, grating voice from the night before, telling Jennie she’s setting herself up to fail. That nobody in this world cares for Jennie but her own mother.

Even fucking Irene couldn’t wash the memory out. Jennie feels a little sick from using Irene like that, but there’s no way Irene couldn’t have known what Jennie had been doing last night. Irene’s smart. And kind. And really, really gorgeous. And amazing in bed.

Jennie decides that she doesn’t deserve her.

Her phone starts buzzing in her pocket. Jennie glances at the name, then sighs and answers, “Hello?”

“Oh shit, is it not your break yet?”

“No, it is.” My break is indefinite now, Jennie thinks. “What’s up?”

“I just wanted to check in on you. Everything okay?”

“Yeah.” Jennie picks a leaf off a nearby tree. “Actually, I quit my job.”

“What? Why?”

“Are you free?” Jennie asks.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m just at home, my training’s not till after lunch, but…What’s going on, Jen?”

“I’ll go to you. Let’s hang out.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“This is the back garden, there’s another garden on the side with the pool-”

“We have a pool, too.” Yoojung says proudly, swinging Jisoo’s hand.

“Really?”

“Yeah,” Yoojung says. “Dad bought it just for the summer. It’s pretty huge. Dad and I can fit in it, but Daddy can’t.”

“Well,” Jisoo pushes the sliding door open with one free hand. “This is our pool.”

Yoojung gasps and drops Jisoo’s hand, jumping down the steps and into the side garden. Jisoo runs after her. “Yoojung, wait!”

Yoojung’s already rolled up her leggings and sat herself at the edge of the pool, dipping one little foot in. “Ahh,” She exhales leaning back on her hands. “This is nice.”

Jisoo laughs as she sits down next to Yoojung. Jisoo dips one foot in the pool – which is still cold – followed by the other. It does feel pretty nice.

“I should’ve brought my swimsuit,” Yoojung grumbles, kicking the water with a splash.

“I think I’ve got some of my old ones you might fit into,” Jisoo says. “I mean, if they’re still okay.”

“Really?”

Jisoo suddenly regrets saying anything. “I- I mean, your Daddy said you might be going home soon, so maybe you won’t have time to swim-”

Yoojung kicks the water again with a bigger splash. “But I wanna swim.”

“You can just come back-”

“But Daddy said we might not come back anymore,” Yoojung whines. “Because Dad doesn’t want us to be here.”

“He doesn’t?” Jisoo asks, swinging her feet in the water.

“Yeah.” Yoojung frowns down at the blue water. “Dad and Daddy were fighting about it.”

Jisoo doesn’t know what to say to that. I grew up hearing my parents fight a lot, too? It’s no big deal? Things are different for Yoojung. Her parents are actually in love with each other, as far as Jisoo knows.

“Do you think my parents are going to break up?” Yoojung asks, as if she can read Jisoo’s thoughts.

“No, of course not.” Jisoo says, feeling confident about it.

“They were very angry yesterday.” Yoojung says. “Dad was shouting.”

“I’m sure they sorted it out, Yoojungie.”

“I never heard Dad shout before.”

Jisoo’s a little less confident when she says, “I’m sure they sorted it out between them. Don’t worry about it.”

Yoojung just nods, kicking around in the water a bit more, but her heart’s not really in it.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Jen?” Irene opens the door. “What-”

Jennie steps in and slings her arms around Irene’s shoulders. “I’m sorry.”

“What for?” Irene makes a face.

Jennie pulls her into a tight embrace. “You’re too good for me.”

“Jennie Kim, you hardly even know me.” Irene laughs nervously. “What happened at work-”

“Is it selfish of me,” Jennie says, turning her head to breathe gently on the base of Irene’s neck. “To keep going back to you even if you’re too good for me?”

“You’ve got to stop thinking that.” Irene says, tilting her head slightly to give Jennie a little bit more access.

“But you are,” Jennie runs her tongue along the base of Irene’s neck, stopping only to plant a slow, wet kiss.

“If you came here to fuck away your work-related frustrations,” Irene says slowly. “Then-”

“I’m sorry.” Jennie rests her head on Irene’s shoulder before pulling away. “I’ll just go, I know.”

“I was gonna say, Yeah, sure, go ahead.” Irene laughs, taking Jennie’s sweaty hands in hers. She leans forward to kiss Jennie briefly on the lips. “Why would I complain?”

“Because I’m using you?” Jennie asks.

“Aren’t we using each other?” Irene reaches around to slide her hands under Jennie’s ass.

“Are we?” Jennie can’t help but gasp when Irene pulls their bodies flush against each other.

“Are we not?”

Jennie’s too confused to answer, but she’s also so, so turned on.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo stands by the gate, still in her pajamas, but she doesn’t care. She watches Jin strap Yoojung carefully into her carseat, placing a stuffed alpaca gently on her lap.

“Oppa.” Jisoo says, when Jin ducks out of the car and closes the door.

“Yeah?” Jin ruffles his hair to put it back in place.

“Don’t fight in front of Yoojung.”

Jin’s mouth falls open. “I… We thought she was asleep.”

“How can you expect her to sleep when you two are shouting at each other in the next room?” Jisoo says. “Your house is tiny.”

Jin purses his lips. “I know.”

“Is everything okay with you and Yoongi?”

“…Yes.”

“Oppa, you’re really bad at lying.”

“What am I supposed to say? That my boyfriend’s making me choose between him and my family?” Jin leans against the gate post, heaving a long sigh. “I’m sorry, Jisoo, you didn’t need to hear that.”

“I…” Jisoo reaches out and squeezes his arm affectionately. “This might sound weird, but it’s really important to me that you two are happy. I want to help, but I know there’s nothing I can do.”

Jin smiles weakly. “Thank you, Jisoo.”

“Just call me if you need someone to baby-sit Yoojung.” Jisoo says. “Apparently that’s the only thing people can do when they’re grounded.”

Jin reaches out and pulls Jisoo into a brief hug. “I will. I love you, Jichu.”

“Love you too, oppa.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“What do you mean we’re starting an hour earlier?” Irene’s trying to hook her underwear on with one hand, holding her phone to her ear with the other. “Five minutes earlier I can do, even thirty minutes earlier, but an hour? Mr. Lee’s got to be fucking kidding…”

Jennie hands Irene her bra. ‘Training?’ Jennie mouths.

Irene makes a face, but nods. “Yeah, yeah, Seulgi, calm down. I’m on my way. Give me like twenty minutes. I know he’s starting already, but what can I do? Give me fifteen minutes. Tell him I’ll be there.”

Irene tosses her phone aside onto the couch, turning to Jennie with an apologetic look. “Sorry I have to run out on you, Jen.”

“Well, I was the one running out on you awhile ago…” Jennie says, holding Irene’s jeans out to her.

“If this fucking academic decathlon keeps acting like it’s a real sport, I’m gonna fucking snap,” Irene mutters under her breath, shimmying into her jeans. “They’re not paying me enough for the shit they keep pulling with these sudden schedule-”

“Wait, they’re paying you?” Jennie laughs. “We actually had to spend our own money, while you’re out here getting paid-”

“Shh, it’s a secret!” Irene hisses, but she starts laughing, too. “Yeah, the university’s kinda desperate for the media exposure, I guess. Seulgi and I have a monthly stipend from this shit. It’s not much, though.”

“Not much is better than nothing.”

“True,” Irene says, buttoning up her shirt. “But don’t wish for this shit, they’re training us fucking bald.”

“You’d still be cute bald.” Jennie says with a smile, though honestly, she would do anything for that monthly stipend. She’s wonderin why their school doesn’t have the same program – Probably because it’s illegal, this whole thing sounds illegal.

“Aww, Jen, flattery’s gonna get you nowhere,” Irene says, but she kisses Jennie on the cheek as she reaches for her keys. “Do you need me to drive you somewhere?”

My next job? Jennie thinks. But how to be discreet about it?

“Yeah, I’m meeting my friend at this bookstore near the university.” Jennie says. Nailed it.

“Anyone I should be jealous of?” Irene asks, hitching one eyebrow up.

“N- Nuh, no, nope.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo can’t believe her mother seems to have completely forgotten about her losing her scholarship, just because Jin had brought his adorable daughter to meet her. Then again, Jisoo definitely can. Her mother’s going to gloat about this for… ever.

“Where are you going?” Her mother had asked, catching Jisoo on her way out the door.

“Just out. Window shopping.” Jisoo had assured her, but it didn’t make any difference. Her mother let her go just the same.

Now Jisoo’s driving aimlessly around the university, wondering whether she’s got any grounds to appeal for her scholarship. Probably not. She reaches for her phone.

“Hey Jinyoung let’s hang out.” She says in one breath when he finally picks up.

“Uh, I’m kinda busy right now.”

“Jinyoung, it’s summer and I know you’re a lazy bitch-”

“I’m on a date, you judgmental piece of shit.” Jinyoung hisses, like he’s got a hand cupped around his phone’s mic.

“W- What? You?” Jisoo gasps so hard she forgets to step on the brakes at a hump and barrels right into it. “Don’t tell me you’re trying to steal Jaebum back-”

“No, what the fuck?” Jisoo can imagine Jinyoung’s expression right now. “I don’t want- You know what, whatever. No, not you, Mark, I’m talking to my dumbass friend- Jesus. I’ll talk to you later, Jisoo.”

Jisoo sputters something in reply, but Jinyoung hangs up on her before she can form coherent sentences.

Jisoo pulls over and dials the next number angrily. “Doyoung! Let’s hang out!”

“J- Jisoo?” There’s someone talking in the background behind Doyoung, and their voice sounds pleasant as fuck.

Dammit.

“Are you with your boyfriend too?” Jisoo asks.

“Yeah, Taeil’s here.” Doyoung says slowly. Jisoo can practically see the lightbulb ping into existence above Doyoung’s head. “Too? Who else- You have a boyfriend?”

“What the fuck? Of course not! I don’t even want a boyfriend!” Jisoo grumbles. “But you and Jinyoung both have-”

Jinyoung? Who on this godforsaken earth would actually date Park Jinyoung?” Doyoung scoffs.

“Some guy named Mark, apparently.” Jisoo huffs. “What happened to us staying single together forever?”

“You’re the one who kept saying it was sad as fuck,” Doyoung says.

“It was! But it’s worse that you two ran off and left my ass! Gosh!” Jisoo hangs up on Doyoung and drops her phone back into the cupholder, sighing. She’d take even a boyfriend right now, just anyone to sit next to her and listen to her problems.

Jisoo catches sight of her favorite café near the university and pulls over. Coffee will fix everything.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie looks up from Irene’s cute ‘I’m bored entertain me’ selfies she’s been sending from their training room. The bell had just chimed, the first time in over a week that someone’s gone into the store during Jennie’s shift.

“Hi-” Jennie pauses.

“Oh, hi. Are drinks allowed in here?” Jisoo asks, gesturing towards the iced coffee in her hand.

“I guess so,” Jennie shrugs. Her boss hadn’t told her about any rules to enforce on the customers, maybe because there aren’t enough customers to even warrant rules in the first place.

Jisoo hums in reply and starts leafing around the thriller section of the bookstore. “So does this job cover the rent?”

“No.” Jennie says, wondering why she’s admitting to it suddenly – Oh wait, Jisoo’s seen her house. Jisoo can’t possibly judge her further. “I have two- one other job. At a jjajangmyeon restaurant.”

“Really?” Jisoo asks, craning her neck to take a sip from her drink rather than bringing the straw to her lips. It’s a little cute, but it puts all the books seriously at risk. “Every other day or every day?”

“Every day, including weekends.”

“Yikes.”

If anyone else had said that to Jennie, she’d have smacked them up the side of their head, fuck if the iced coffee spills all over the books. But Jennie knows that’s Jisoo’s way of being sympathetic, so she lets it slide.

“I’m pretty sure my dad would take an intern or something,” Jisoo runs her finger along a few spines. “Might pay better, with less weird hours.”

“Wouldn’t he need a law student?”

“Oh. Right.” Jisoo takes out a book, reads the back, screws up her face, and puts it back.

“Your mom’s a doctor, though, right?” Jennie lifts the divider between the front and back of the counter. “Does she need a receptionist or something?”

“My mom and I aren’t on the best of terms right now.”

“What happened?” Jennie asks, squatting to pull a book out of one of the lower shelves. It’s a secondhand copy of Battle Royale.

“Oh, sorry, it’s not like… It’s not on the level of your mom,” Jisoo says. “But I, uh, she’s really fucking pissed at me because I lost my scholarship.”

The scholarship we had to share? So that means…

“That’s awful.” Jennie manages to say without sounding completely insincere. “What happened?”

“Org Chem happened.” Jisoo takes the Battle Royale that Jennie’s holding out to her. “What came first, the book or the movie?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” Jennie shrugs. She could probably remember if she tried, but she’s too distracted. “Can’t you appeal for the scholarship?”

“I don’t think so? I broke the rules pretty clearly. There’s nothing left to argue about.” Jisoo tucks the book under her arm as she moves on to the biography section. “Unless you’re my mom, then there’s always something to argue about.”

“She’s taking it that badly?”

“Yes and no.” Jisoo’s moved on to the culinary section, staring hungrily at a small stack of rainbow macarons printed on the cover of a cookbook. “She was really ready to fucking skin me alive – you know her – but then Jin-oppa showed up with Yoojung and everything turned out… okay? Weird.”

“Really?” Jennie pulls out a collection of Gothic short stories and holds it out to Jisoo, who takes it with a grin of sheer delight. “If I were Jin-oppa I’d never let my daughter near that woman. No offense.”

“Neither would I. Full offense.” Jisoo tucks the Gothic short story anthology under her arm, next to the Battle Royale. “I don’t know what’s gotten into him?”

“Do you want a basket?” Jennie holds out a small woven basket.

“Thanks.” Jisoo accepts it with a smile, tucking the two books neatly inside the basket. She turns back to the self-help section, barely skimming the titles. “Like, he fought with Yoongi. As in, fought fought. Yoojung heard them fighting and everything – He wouldn’t do that, right?”

Jennie’s tempted to admit that she doesn’t know Jisoo’s brother well enough to make a judgment like that, but Jisoo’s giving her this slightly desperate, puppy dog look that Jennie can’t ignore. “I don’t think he would.”

“And Yoongi, he’s really, he’s so in love with my brother, Jennie, it’s ridiculous,” Jisoo laughs, then sighs. “He’d never fight with Jin if it weren’t something important, and this is pretty important, I mean, my mom was trying to break them up for years. She’s probably still going to try now, if Jin-oppa starts paying attention to her again – This doesn’t make any sense! Why would he want our mom back in his life? After all the crap she’s put him through?”

Jennie stops running through the history section. “Maybe…”

“Maybe what?” Jisoo whirls around suddenly, knocking over a stack of arbitrary best-sellers. “Don’t tell me you agree with-”

“Maybe it’s not her he wants Yoojung to know better.” Jennie says.

“Then what the fuck-”

You, Jisoo.” Jennie does everything in her power not to roll her eyes. Jisoo doesn’t deserve that. “Remember what Yoongi said about your brother wanting to adopt a girl? Because of you?”

Jisoo’s busied herself trying to re-stack the bestseller books, blinking furiously. “B- But- He doesn’t- He doesn’t need to bring Mom into this, he’s throwing everything away, he’s being stupid-”

“Let me,” Jennie says, gently taking the books from Jisoo’s shaking hands.

“If he just wanted to talk to me then he should just talk to me! He’s ruining everything!” Jisoo cries, as she knocks over another pile of books on sale. She tries and fails to put the books back in their pile. “He’s making things more difficult than they need to be!”

“If he’s anything like you, Jisoo,” Jennie says as she stacks the books neatly, nudging them to the side with her feet to keep them out of Jisoo’s reach. “He’s not doing it on purpose.”

“What do you mean by that?” Jisoo narrows her reddening eyes at Jennie. “I don’t- I’m not like that!”

“No offense, Jisoo, but you have to admit you do have a habit of blowing things out of propor-”

“I do not!” Jisoo balls her hands into fists, knocking over another pile of books in the crammed bookstore.

Jennie groans internally as she gets on her knees to pick up the books. “Okay, fine, I’m sorry I worded it like that, but you have to admit-”

“No!” Jisoo stomps, like an actual toddler. “You don’t have any right to talk down to me like that, you don’t even know the woman you’re seeing has been lying to you-”

“What the fuck?” Jennie drops the book in her hands and glares up at Jisoo. “Are you talking about Irene?”

Irene isn’t even her real name.” Jisoo scoffs. “Her name is Bae Joohyun-”

“Where the fuck are you getting this?”

“Jinyoung’s ex-boyfriend's new boyfriend-” Jisoo must notice the way Jennie’s brow furrows trying to understand the connection. “-Anyway it doesn’t matter! She still lied to us-!”

“She just gave us a fucking nickname and you’re saying she lied to us? I tell everyone I’m Jennie but we both know my “real name” is Jendeuk-”

“That’s different!” Jisoo stomps her foot again. “She isn’t even our age! She’s a grad student!”

“Where the hell are you getting all this-”

“Ask her if you don’t believe me.” Jisoo slams the basket down on the counter.

Jennie takes deep breaths to keep herself from shouting. “Are you going to take those?”

“No, I don’t have any cash on me.” Jisoo says, turning to the door.

“We do take credit cards!” Jennie shouts after her, kicking over the last neat pile of books in frustration. “You snobby bitch!”

Jennie notices the iced coffee on the counter. She glances out the door to see Jisoo’s car driving away. Jennie grabs the cup and takes a long, angry sip.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jennie can’t sleep that night. She’s exhausted from her shift at the jjajangmyeon place, and from the sheer emotional drain of talking to Jisoo earlier that afternoon, but when she lies still and closes her eyes, she doesn’t drift off into sleep.

She reaches for her phone.

“Hello?”

“Hey, I’m sorry about awhile ago.”

Chapter Text

Still the same evening

 

“Hey, I’m sorry about awhile ago.” Irene says, cutting herself off with a yawn. “I don’t usually ditch people like that-”

“It’s fine.”

“Is everything ok, Jen?”

“Yeah.” Jennie lies. “I’m just sleepy.”

Irene’s laugh is so warm it makes Jennie smile. “Then go to sleep, genius.”

Jennie wishes she could. She wishes she could just drop this whole thing and not let Jisoo win.

When did this become a competition?

“Irene, where did the name Irene come from?”

Irene laughs again. “Are you quizzing me on etymology or…?”

“No. Your name. How did you end up with the name Irene?”

“I don’t know,” Irene sounds like she’s smiling. “I like it better than my actual name. It’s more me. You’d get that, right, Jennie?”

“I didn’t pick my nickname.” Jennie says flatly. “Jisoo did.”

“Did she? That’s really cute.”

“Yeah.” Jisoo’s also accusing you of all sorts of crap, which you probably wouldn’t think is very cute. Or maybe you would. You don’t seem to take Jisoo seriously.

Not that it matters to me.

“Well, any more questions?” Irene asks, laughing again.

“What major are you taking? And what year are you?”

“Is this an interview?” Irene laughs again. “Do you usually grill people when you’re drunk?”

“I’m not drunk.” Jennie says. “Just curious.”

“Well, I’m taking Developmental Psychology,” Irene says. “And I’m in my first year.”

“Really? You don’t look like a freshman.”

Ouch.” Irene laughs. “You didn’t have to go for the throat like that.”

“You’re way too hot to be a freshman.” Jennie adds. Nailed it?

“Jennie Kim, what did I tell you about flattery?” Irene says, but she’s giggling on the other end of the line.

“What? I’ve never met a freshie who looks-”

“I’m not a freshie, Jen!” Irene’s hiccupping from laughing too hard at this point. “I’m a PhD student! First year of my PhD!”

Jennie stares at the celing.

“Jen? Are you there?” Irene stops laughing and heaves a long sigh. “I knew you’d freak if I told you how old I really was.”

“I’m not freaking out.” Jennie says, and she’s being honest. She’s worse than freaking out.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“Baby?” Yoonji pats Jimin’s chest urgently. “Baby, are you awake?”

“I am now,” Jimin grumbles, rubbing his eyes. “What time is it?”

“I don’t know.” Yoonji says.

“What’s up?”

“Baby, am I old?”

Jimin lies still for a second, and that second feels too long for Yoonji, but then he bursts out laughing hard enough to shake the entire bed. Hoseok stirs in his sleep.

Of course you’re old!” Jimin chortles out.

“I hate you.” Yoonji pounds one fist against his chest, knocking the breath out of his lungs. “You’re supposed to say, No, baby, you’re not old, you’re pussy’s still real tight-”

“That’s got nothing to do with age,” Jimin scoffs as he runs one hand down Yoonji’s naked body. “But yeah, you’re pussy’s good and tight and so wet-”

“A kid on the train called me Aunty!” Yoonji sputters out, shoving Jimin’s hand off her. “AUNTY!

Jimin laughs so hard he rolls off the bed and hits the floor with a thud.

“H- What’s happening?” Hoseok asks, eyes still shut.

“Some snot-nosed little punk on the train called me Aunty.” Yoonji whines, kicking the sheets around.

“Calling teenagers ‘snot-nosed little punks’ is very Aunty-like behavior.” Jimin says from the floor.

Yoonji grabs the nearest pillow (the one Hoseok’s currently laying his head peacefully on) and hurls it at Jimin’s face.

“My lady,” Hoseok wraps his arms around Yoonji’s to pacify her. “Please don’t fight it’s too… late? Early? I don’t know.”

“The kid called me Aunty, Hoseok, do I look like a fucking Aunty?”

“Yoojung calls you Aunty.” Hoseok murmurs, burying his face lazily in Yoonji’s hair.

“That- That’s- Yoojung is a toddler, it’s different! This was an actual teen. With pimples and everything.”

Jimin snorts from where he still hasn’t gotten up off the floor.

“Shut up, Park Jimin, nobody cares what you think!” Yoonji barks, trying to break free from Hoseok’s embrace.

“Shhh, Yoonji,” Hoseok nuzzles his face deeper into her hair. “You were already old when I met you.”

Yoonji gasps, and Jimin just bursts into laughter.

“I hate you both.”

A sudden light in the room stops her from attacking either of her boyfriends. “Whose fucking phone is that?”

“Mine…?” Jimin crawls to the beside table and picks up his phone. He squints at it. “What…”

“Who is it?” Yoonji asks.

“It’s uh…” Jimin squints harder. “Jennie Kim?”

“Is she drunk?” Hoseok laughs.

“Ooh, let me see the sloppy drunk sexts!” Yoonji says, bouncing around in excitement.

“No, fuck you guys, it’s not like that.” Jimin scrolls up and down the message, like that’ll help him understand it better. “It’s about… What the fuck.”

“Oh just give us the damn phone, you know I hate suspense,” Yoonji manages to break free from Hoseok’s arms. She snatches the phone from Jimin’s hand and squints at it. “Holy shit, Hoseok, our kids are back in the game!”

“What?” Hoseok’s smile shines brightly in the bluish light from Jimin’s phone. “Why?”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Two days later

 

“So, to make a long story short, ________ Women’s University not only entered a graduate student, which is against the rules, but they also offered their team members a nonexistent scholarship to enter the school for the express purpose of joining the Academic Decathlon, which is, put simply, illegal.” Jimin says, pressing the clicker in his hands. The slideshow projected behind him fades to black. “Any questions?”

The vice president raises a hand. “Assuming that even half of your “evidence” is true, it’s still just over two weeks till the competition. I doubt a decision will be made-”

“The rules clearly state that the first runner up of the national leg will take the place of the winning team, in the event that the winning team’s been found cheating.” Jimin flaps a booklet of the rulebook pointedly. “Which, even if you take our evidence with a whole sack of salt, they most definitely have.”

“Even so, the team would have to train in two weeks.”

“Concern yourself with getting the committee to rule against ________ Women’s University, Vice Principal,” Jimin says with an easy smile. “Leave the training to me.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Three days later (Nine days to the competition)

 

Jisoo had been confused when she’d gotten a call from Professor Pa- Jimin, but she’d answered it anyway. That had been almost twenty hours ago, and now she’s sitting in a classroom that’s empty save for herself, Jimin, and Jennie.

She’s still very much confused.

Jisoo raises a hand. “I don’t get it.”

Jimin frowns at her. “We haven’t even started yet.”

“I don’t get anything.”

Jimin sighs and sits on his desk. “You and Jennie are going to Hong Kong for the International Decathlon after all. Do you get it now?”

“But… why?”

“Stop questioning it, and start reviewing,” Jimin says, placing a ring binder down before Jisoo. He puts a different one in front of Jennie, who stares at it, eyes wide.

“You made this overnight?” Jennie asks, leafing through the pages.

“No, I actually…” Jimin’s cheeks go pink. “I made it a while back, because I was so sure you guys would make it to the internationals.”

“Everything is happening too fast.” Jisoo says.

Jimin claps her on the back. “Get used to it, Jisoo, the next two weeks are going to be exactly that.”

“What?” Jisoo frowns.

“Exactly.” Jennie says.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

“I’m sorry, sir, but I’m going to have to be gone for the next few weeks,” Jennie explains, scuffing her shoe on the tiled floor of the bookstore.

“What for?”

“I’m going to compete in the International Academic Decathlon-”

The bookstore owner gasps. “So we did get in after all! Wonderful!”

“Yes, it is.” Jennie smiles. She didn’t think anyone followed the academic decathlon scene, but she figured if anyone did, they’d be the owner of a small secondhand bookstore.

“Take all the time you need!” The bookstore owner says.

“You’re not going to ask me to quit?” Jennie asks.

“No, of course not!” The bookstore owner laughs. “And you can take those books you’ve set aside for yourself.”

“Wha- For free?”

“Yes! It’s the least I can do for someone representing our country,” The bookstore owner pumps his fists excitedly. “I really hope you girls show everyone we’re a force to reckon with!”

“We’ll do our best, sir. Thank you.” Jennie bows deeply, knocking over a pile of books. “Oops.”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll fix that.” The bookstore owner chuckles. “Go, go! Train well!”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Six days later (Six days to the competition)

 

Jisoo’s mother is delighted to hear that they’re making it to the international leg after all, but honestly, she’s only happy because __________ Women’s University had cheated to get to where they were (“That’s the only way they could’ve won anything” Jisoo’s mother had said when Jisoo told her the news).

Hoseok’s sitting on a desk, appraising the boxes and boxes of food Jisoo’s mother had sent over to the training session. Yoonji rips off the card before he can read it. “Thanks, Dr. Kim Daera, you absolute bitch.”

Hoseok gasp-laughs.

Yoonji, please be productive.” Jimin sighs, handing one of the boxes to a clearly starving Jennie and a much hungrier Jisoo.

“It’s not unproductive to be honest about that ass-faced bitch.”

“Yoonji- You know what, this is hopeless.” Jimin opens a box of his own.

“The food is ten times better knowing that we’re wasting her money,” Yoonji sighs dreamily as she tears into her own box of lunch.

“Hear, hear.” Jisoo mumbles, mouth stuffed with rice.

“Okay,” Jimin looks over his shoulder at the ring binder open on his desk. “We’ve made some good headway with Math – thanks for the help, Jisoo.”

“Sure thing, Coach.” Jisoo shoots him a finger gun.

Yoonji and Hoseok start laughing while Jimin screws up his face. “You’re really Jin-hyung’s sister, aren’t you? Anyway, we finally made it through Organic Chem, thank you, Jennie.”

“No prob, Coach.”

“Tomorrow we’re going to focus on social sciences, up till Friday, then on Saturday, Hoseok’s going to walk us through Western Literature.” Jimin shudders at the idea of Western Literature.

“If I can still remember it,” Hoseok laughs.

“You literally just graduated a month ago.” Yoonji says.

“My lady, I’m joking.” Hoseok pats Yoonji’s ass affectionately.

“You’d better be.” Jimin says gravely. “We’re counting on you.”

Hoseok swallows, forcing the smile on his face to stay. “Don’t worry about it, Coach.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Jisoo yawns, blocking her mouth with one hand and stretching the other. It’s only a little past eight in the evening, but all their training has her ready to fucking sleep. She notices Jennie standing by the bus stop. “Hey, Jennie!”

Jennie waves.

“Do you need a ride home?” Jisoo asks.

“Nah, no thanks,” Jennie shakes her head. “My place is out of the way.”

Jisoo frowns, trying to map things out in her mind, but her brain is beat. “It’s okay, I was going to go out and buy myself some hot chocolate anyway. I could pass by your place.”

“Really?” Jennie smiles. “Thanks.”

“So, wait,” Jisoo scrunches up her face once she gets the car out of the parking lot. “What’s nearer, Polaris Café or your place?”

Jennie scrunches up her face. “I honestly- My two brain cells can’t do this.”

Jisoo laughs, a squawking, unguarded laugh that makes Jennie grin.

“If you have two brain cells left, then I only have one,” Jisoo says, turning into a random street. “Let’s just get hot chocolate.”

“Oh, no thanks,” Jennie says quickly. “Polaris is kinda…”

“Don’t worry your two brain cells over it, it’s my treat.” Jisoo says, still chuckling to herself as they enter a busy avenue. “Two brain cells…”

Jennie turns to Jisoo, laughing only because Jisoo’s still not over this old-ass joke. “Watch the road, Jisoo.”

“Yup, my one brain cell’s on it.”

 

“…you didn’t see Yoonji’s face, she looked like she was going to kill him,” Jennie laughs, holding the door to the café open for Jisoo.

“Thanks. And she probably was.” Jisoo says. “Knowing her.”

“Come on, she’s not that bad.” Jennie lets the door shut slowly behind her. “I mean, if she were, how come Jimin and Hoseok…”

“How come Jimin and Hoseok what?” Jisoo turns away from the menu and back to Jennie, eyebrows raised. Jennie’s not looking her way, though.

“Hi.” Irene smiles at them, even giving them a small wave, but her smile doesn’t reach her eyes. She’s clearly pissed.

Jisoo turns to the counter nervously. “Hi, could I have two Ghana hot chocolates please?”

“For here or to go?”

Jisoo glances back at Jennie awkwardly asking Irene how she’s been. Jisoo turns back to the barista. “To go, please.”

 

“So… Irene…” Jennie tries not to grimace. “Sorry I haven’t been online much-”

“I heard you guys are going to Hong Kong.” Irene says, picking up her mug of coffee to take a long sip, staring Jennie down as she does. “Congrats.”

“Sorry I didn’t tell you-”

“Save it.” Irene holds up a hand to shut her up. “You told them about me, didn’t you? You ratted me out?”

“I- It wasn’t just me, turns out there are fans of the decathlon who-”

“It wasn’t just you. So it was you.” Irene lowers her cup down onto the table with a loud clatter. “You know I only told you all that personal stuff about me because I thought that you had the basic human decency not to broadcast them to the whole-”

I wasn’t the one who was accepting money to join-”

“Oh, sorry, Jen, I’m not perfect.” Irene scoffs. “As if you’ve never taken the easy way out in your entire life.”

“I’ve never!” Jennie gasps.

“Sure. Keep telling yourself that.”

“She really hasn’t,” Jisoo cuts in, handing Jennie a cardboard cup of hot chocolate while she blows on another. “Have you seen the place she lives in? And she works a whole bunch of crappy, honest jobs just to-”

“Does that make her better than me?” Irene rolls her eyes. “It isn’t noble making life more difficult for yourself than it needs to be. It’s stupid.”

You’re stupid.” Jisoo says flatly, looking Irene straight in the eye. She turns to the door. “C’mon, Jennie, I’m so fucking sleepy.”

Jennie grips her hot chocolate and follows Jisoo out the door without taking another glance in Irene’s direction.

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

Three days to the competition

 

“We’re going to be cutting it close, which could be a good thing or a bad thing,” Jimin says, handing out printed copies of the decathlon’s three-day itinerary. “We’ll be landing in Hong Kong the night before the first qualifying round, so we’ll have a night to rest, but not enough time to get too comfortable.”

“Do we even have a hotel reservation?” Jisoo makes a face. “Has Yoonji bought the plane tickets?”

The door to the classroom flies open, slamming against the wall with a bang. Yoonji waltzes in and slams a slightly crumpled stack of papers on the table between Jimin and Jisoo, as if on cue.

“Done, bitches!” Yoonji crosses her arms smugly. “Our flight’s at 8pm on Sunday, hotel rooms are booked, registration papers filed – I even got one of my friends to insure us for half the price.”

“How…” Jimin frowns at her.

Yoonji makes a lewd gesture involving her holding an invisible… cylinder to her open mouth. Jisoo gasps.

Yoonji.” Jimin says, his face turning completely pink. “God, Yoonji, at least pretend not to be a slut around the kids.”

Yoonji looks at Jisoo, whose eyes are so wide they look like they’re about to fall out.

“Wait, Professor- I mean, Jimin?” Jennie asks, frowning down at her copy of the itinerary.

“Yeah?” Jimin says, holding up his own copy of the itinerary to cover Yoonji attempting to mime oral. “What’s up?”

“What’s this… Formal?” Jennie asks, reading off the paper.

“Oh, it’s a Formal Night.” Hoseok explains, glancing over Jennie’s shoulder. “Kind of like a prom… but for nerds I guess? Everyone wears fancy clothes and stuff.”

The blood drains from Jennie’s face. “F- Fancy clothes?”

“I have a bunch of extra gowns,” Jisoo says offhandedly as she scans the itinerary. “Just borrow one.”

A bunch of extra gowns,” Yoonji echoes, trying very hard not to laugh. “Do you have anything I can borrow, Princess Jisoo?”

“I don’t have anything age-appropriate for you.”

Jimin snorts, and Hoseok coughs to hide his snickers.

“I swear to god if I didn’t love your brother…” Yoonji mutters, pretending to wring Jisoo’s neck from a distance.

Jimin clears his throat. “Anyway, that’s enough about the arrangements, let’s get started, we’ve still got the Cold War onwards to cover.”

ˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣˣ

One day before the competition

 

Jennie looks around her apartment. It’s a lot less dismal-looking than it was when she moved in over a month ago, thanks to the random pieces of furniture Jisoo had managed to sneak out of her house.

Jennie has a futon, a beside table with drawers, a clothes rack, a whole desk set – God alone knows how Jisoo single-handedly snuck that one out.

Jennie unplugs her phone from the wall. She’s still got a few minutes before Jisoo picks her up on the way to the airport.

She sits on her chair, swiveling around to face the window. What she did to Irene was a dick move, there’s no two ways about it. But then Irene had also cheated – But then Irene had won the competition fair and square. At least, as far as Jennie knew.

Jennie sighs and looks up at the water stains on the ceiling. They’re sort of in the shape of Africa, and before she knows it, her mind draws in the borders and starts labeling the countries and their capitals.

Morocco, Rabat, Algeria, Algiers, Tunisia, Tunis, Libya… is it still Tripoli? Egypt is Cairo, definitely.

Oh god I’m still on academic decathlon mode.

The buzzer to her door rings.

Jennie jumps up and frowns, peeking into the peephole.

Jisoo’s standing there, checking her phone, but she’s not alone.

A small hand bangs on the door. “Aunty Jennie!”

Jennie undoes the chain and opens the door slowly. “Hi…?”

“Hi Aunty Jennie!” Yoojung jumps into the apartment and wraps her arms around Jennie’s legs.

“Are you ready to go or…?” Jisoo asks, still looking at her phone.

“Why is…” Jennie trails off, noticing Jisoo’s brother standing behind them. “Oh, hi, Jin-oppa.”

Jin smiles. “Hi. Are you ready?”

“Um… yeah. Sure. I mean, come in. Sorry everything’s such a mess…” Jennie steps aside to give the Kims space to crowd into her apartment.

Jennie pulls Jisoo aside while Jin kneels to help Yoojung out of her sandals.

“Why did you bring your entire family here?” Jennie hisses as quietly as she can. “You know this place is-”

“Oh please, Jin-oppa’s seen worse, and Yoojung will like any house that isn’t her own.” Jisoo hisses back. “Also I didn’t want to drag your luggage around myself.”

As if on cue, Jin stands up, brushing off his knees. “So where are your- Is that my desk?”

Jennie’s face becomes a very lipstick-y shade of pink. She suddenly realized why Jisoo’s mom hasn’t noticed that any of this furniture was missing. She turns to Jisoo, who looks similarly embarrassed.

“Um… you see, oppa…” Jisoo says slowly, stepping in front of the desk as if she could block it with her body. She can’t. “It’s kind of a long story…”

“I’ll put them back once I buy my own furniture, I promise!” Jennie blurts out, dropping into a full bow.

Jennie doesn’t hear any reply from Jin, so she looks up timidly.

Jin starts laughing. “No, just keep them, it’s good someone’s using them rather than them rotting in that house.”

He turns to Jisoo. “How’d you get them out past Mom?”

“I paid Jinyoung to carry them.” Jisoo flips her hair over her shoulder.

Jennie snorts at the idea. “Good old Jinyoung.”

“He can carry the entire desk on his own?” Jin whistles. “That’s… I’m a little scared of him now.”

“Don’t be, he’s a loser.” Jisoo waves a hand dismissively. She looks around the room, her eyes stopping at the one piece of luggage on the ground. “Is this it?”

“…Yeah?” Jennie scuffs her socks against the floor. “Is it supposed to be more? We’re only there for three days, right?”

Jin starts laughing again, much to Yoojung’s utter confusion. “Why are you laughing, Daddy? What’s so funny? I don’t get it!”

Jin brushes Yoojung’s hair affectionately while he grins at Jennie. “You should see how much Jisoo’s bringing.”

 

Jennie did not expect her evening to be mostly wrangling Jisoo’s three giant pieces of luggage (plus her own) while trying to follow Jisoo as she skitters across the airport in her heeled sandals.

“Jennie, hurry! The gate’s closing soon!”

Jennie glances at one of the clocks on the wall, but it’s showing the time in Moscow. Fucking useless. “What gate are we?”

“We still have to check in! Just follow me!” Jisoo practically shoves a white backpacker out of her way. “I told Oppa not to take the long fucking way it’s always traffic- Oh my god shut up!”

That last bit was directed at the PA, where a woman’s announcing the last call for their flight to Hong Kong.

“Come on, Jennie, RUN!”

“I’m running, I’m running!” Jennie said, pushing the cart with all their things while Jisoo pulls it forward.

 

“Where the hell are they?” Yoonji hisses, hugging her neck pillow to her chest.

“They can’t have backed out at this point, right?” Hoseok says, tipping back and forth on his heels.

“Sir? We’re going to have to ask you three to board the plane now,” Someone from the ground crew says.

“We’re still waiting for two.” Jimin says sternly, and the ground crew backs off.

Just as another ground crew member reaches out to close the gate, Jisoo and Jennie come into view through the glass wall, screaming, “WAIT! WAIT!” as they push their carry-on luggage down the hallway.

“WAAAAAAIT!”

Yoonji starts laughing, but Jimin shoots her an angry look, so she lowers her head and clings to his arm in an uncharacteristically docile manner.

Jisoo and Jennie burst into the gate.

“We’re here!” Jisoo gasps.

“We made it!” Jennie pants.

Jimin exhales, long and loud. “Let’s go.”