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does sana think she's better than this? than fighting in the middle of a train, roughing up a rival school's students, dirtying her trousers and effectively bruising her bare hands?

no. no, she doesn't.

her fists belong right alongside nayeon's in the midst of thrashing and determined bodies. she belongs in the public eye, ruining her pretty girl facade and chasing the thrill that fights present her with. the adrenaline rush that she craves so badly in every inch of her being.

and maybe it doesn't sit quite right with her that this is who she's become. a brawler, a failure, an incompetent fighter. maybe it should bother her that she no longer cares what other people think of her. she only cares about her friends and who remains of them. each and every one. nayeon, jeongyeon, momo, tzuyu - she was loyal to them. she would do whatever it took to make them happy, to see them safe.

she's not always sure they're on the same page as each other, but the way nayeon dashes forward and knees the guy attacking from sana's blind spot assures her otherwise. when the last of the attackers are knocked out, sana commends herself to do what she must, and searches them for their wallets.

nayeon snorts, dusting off her hands and lounging back into one of the train benches, "and you tell me i have low morals."

"this is fair; winner takes all. unlike you, my fair maiden, who cheats when playing pool." nayeon scoffs at her, crossing her legs and staring out the window, sana mindlessly pocketing ¥440 from an unconscious kid.

"i think you have double standards, captain."

sana shakes her head, searching the last guy and finding ¥700, stuffing it into her wallet easily. at least she had enough to pay for yakisoba when they got back. she didn't eat it often.

she retrieves her crumpled pack of cigarettes from her back pocket, slotting one between her lips and gently bringing the flame from her lighter to it (the same lighter tzuyu got her during sophomore year, the black one with the spiraling dragon on it).

"you're going to die from lung cancer," she remarks, sana's eyes barely catching her gaze.

"you're going to die a virgin. who's the real loser?"

nayeon kicks her in the knee for that one, and when sana hobbles out of the train's doors, she knows she deserved it.



"do you believe in love, sana-yah?" momo asks from sana's floor, putting aside her chemistry notes and staring up at the girl, who was in turn having a staring contest with the ceiling.

sana hums, removes her smoke from her mouth and puffs lazily into the air. her eyes are focused on a particular crack in the ceiling and she can't find it within herself to pay more attention to the crack than momo. even if momo is being a love struck fool, she can't just ignore it.

that's inhumane. sana is a full blown fuck up, but she isn't a monster.

"probably. is this leading to a chemistry pun or..."

"you're lame," she counters, rummaging around in her shorts' pocket until she finds a nickel, lobbing it at sana's stomach, "it's about quantum mechanics, actually."

sana barks out a laugh, fiddling with the nickel between her nimble fingers. she flips it into the air and watches as it drops to the floor with a dull thud.

"was there a point to this?"

"yeah. but i don't wanna seem soft."

"tzuyu's the soft one, you can't take that title from her. spit it out, hirai."

"there's a girl." she spits it out all in one breath, no space for hesitation in the confines of sana's apartment. "she's way out of my league, though."

sana shifts over to one side of her bed, moving her ashtray and patting the empty space. momo's warm body fills it instantly. when she slides a cigarette into her mouth sana sits up and lights it for her, opening her balcony's sliding door and pulling back the curtains.

the sun is barely hanging in the sky, a disco ball on a thread. it shines splinters of orange into sana's place and she welcomes the homey feeling.

"girls don't like people like us," sana says simply, letting it hang in the air, just the same as the cigarette smoke.

"don't you mean people like you? as in me?"

sana sighs, too familiar and too uncomfortable with this conversation. there's a queasy feeling in her stomach when she stomps out the butt of her cigarette on her balcony. she turns back and meets momo's eyes, wishing they had never derailed from their chemistry study session.

"no, momo," she drags, stepping into the room and growing cold as the room darkens with the suns departure, "us. people like us."



sana's surprised she hasn't been expelled yet. what with the whole in-transit train fight, the fight that proceeded to happen after that one at the train station, and then the fight that followed at the park with her whole gang against nakazawa's; she's sure that the principal has heard all the details. she would like to believe all of that was enough to keep her off school grounds for the rest of her life.

apparently not, since machida quote on quote believes in her, and he's allowing her and all her friends to stay in school as long as they chip in at least some effort in regards to their grades. when he calls her and jeongyeon into his office, he stares at her black and blue knuckles the entire time he's lecturing them. jeongyeon gives her shit for it afterwards and sana jokes that she'll turn her eye the same color as her hands.

they head up to the roof afterwards, jeongyeon crashing onto the couch that isn't occupied by tzuyu and momo, flicking her lighter up and lighting the cigarette in her mouth. nayeon sits nearby on top of the rails with her feet dangling dangerously over the edge. if she lost her balance, even barely, she'd go careening over the barrier. sana lets her know as much.

"you're gonna fall off if you swing too far."

"i know."

she presses herself insistently against nayeon's back, looping her arms around her stomach and hoisting her backwards and into her chest, resting her chin on nayeon's shoulder. the older girl flinches in sana's grasp and confirms what sana had been thinking.

nayeon might act like she's ready to die, but she isn't. she's as afraid of death as the rest of them.

"then stop sitting here and play ping pong with me," she concedes, lifting nayeon's body easily from the rails and plopping her feet back down on the roof's flooring, "i'm not gonna let you kick your own ass forever."

nayeon only smirks, tossing a paddle to sana before grabbing her own and the ball. she slaps the ball across the table, not surprised when it zooms right by sana's arm.

"so i can kick your ass, but not mine?" she asks, sana passing the ball back to her side of the ping pong table after fetching it.

"exactly."

nayeon slams the ball against the table again, sana rallying it back towards her twice. it last about 2 minutes before nayeon inevitably hits the ball too far to the right and sana doesn't have the will to chase it.

"bet you 300 yen nayeon wins," jeongyeon murmurs to tzuyu, flicking her cigarette off the side of the building.

"you're stupid. you're bound to win."

"and?"

tzuyu stares at the blue and white table, glares at the ball as it passes her line of sight.

"double it and you're on."



sana goes to the weights gym afterward, jeongyeon (with an extra ¥600 in her pocket) tagging along and offering to buy her dinner afterwards. sana gladly accepts. she wouldn't know what to do without jeongyeon's company, and the offer of free food can never be tossed away. she needs all the extra cash she can get.

it's about to close by the time they walk through the doors, an older woman staring them down like a vulture.

"you come here to train? you'll have to pay for a membership first."

sana glances over at jeongyeon, notices she's left to go hang outside, blowing bubbles into the passing air. she shakes her head and takes note of all the equipment around the room. there's a particular bench that she's eyeing, one with at least 240 pounds on the bar. if she could lift that, she'd never have to worry about rival gangs kicking her ass ever again.

"how much?"

the older woman stares at her, wiping her forehead with a stray rag and quirking an eyebrow sana's direction.

"huh?"

"how much for a membership, coach?" sana knows it's obvious how she's eyeing the weights, the bar that she could squat with no problem, the pull up bar that would further her strength. she needed it to protect her friends; to protect herself.

"30,000 yen a month."

sana's heart does a double take, freezing inside her chest. she can't afford that. she can barely feed herself most days, let alone pay ¥30,000 yen upfront. she needs this and yet it's so far out of her reach.

"i can't pay that much, coach. what about 1,000 for every day i come in?"

coach smiles at her, shaking her head.

"i can't just lend the weights out like that. come back when you can pay me in full."

sana nods, beaming her biggest and brightest smile, saluting on her way out the door, "i'll be back, miss."

the minute she hits the outside air, jeongyeon looking at her with confusion swimming in her eyes, she nearly dry heaves. she hates this. nothing's fair. and instead of jeongyeon asking any questions she just keeps blowing bubbles, music from the nearby convenience store flooding their ears.

sana's grateful for her. she's grateful for all of them, but jeongyeon is more understanding than anyone she's ever met. maybe it's the fact they both have questionable morals. maybe they're both bonded by their hatred for intimacy. sana doesn't know. she doesn't bother to dwell on it too long.

"yakisoba? my treat," jeongyeon says, her hair curling at her shoulders, and it's all sana needs to hear to smile at the taller girl with all the genuine delight in her heart.

sana allows jeongyeon to lead when they walk towards the restaurant. it's unusual and yet jeongyeon doesn't say a word. she simply links her hand with sana's and walks.



sana keeps visiting the gym after school (when she bothers to attend), the coach there eventually relenting and allowing her to train there so long as she was looked after. her coach, sunmi, was eager to help her with the weights as long as sana provided her part of the bargain. she didn't normally have the money, though.

she only had 1,000 yen to spend when she cleaned the pockets of unfortunate individuals. luckily for her - only luckily because she got paid - was ikijima's henchmen waiting outside her house almost every day. she'd kick the shit out of them, say she was sorry, then go about collecting whatever they had on them.

even then, she didn't always have the luxury of scraping by. food wasn't cheap and she was hungry more often than not. she also wasn't going to ask for jeongyeon's or anyone else's help. if she couldn't aid herself financially, no one would.

so if she had the extra cash, she'd hit the gym, sunmi watching over her and counting her reps, ensuring she didn't push herself too far. if she didn't, then she stayed home and studied. she had to keep up her grades for machida's sake. no other principal would give her the leniency he had.

sometimes momo dropped by to help her with chemistry. other times tzuyu would stop in just to give her company, a word not passed between them. she appreciated their patience and vowed to do better by them.

unless, well, other girls were involved.

it had been almost 2 weeks since momo had told her about her crush. sana had paid no mind to it, keeping the information at the back of her mind. she figured it wouldn't make some kind of premiere introduction into her or their lives.

she was wrong.

they were at her place, sana reading over an ad for a job at the video store, jeongyeon and momo sitting on the floor while tzuyu sat next to her on the bed, nayeon perched on her desk. momo had told them everything, including the girl's name and how she was, in momo's words, extraordinarily pretty and beautiful beyond comprehension.

nayeon's the first to criticize her, as per usual, "your vocabulary has extended itself, momo. you been hitting the books as often as captain here?"

jeongyeon snickers from her place on the floor, momo tossing a pencil at nayeon's knee in protest and sana huffing as she put down the job ad.

"books are good. if you read one you'd know, dumbass."

"nayeon can't relate. only thing she reads is manga," jeongyeon prepares herself for the oncoming onslaught, cringing and holding up her arms to protect herself.

"hey, shut up! manga's cool," she says feebly, hiding her reddening face in her hands before jeongyeon can make more fun of her.

momo almost screams. she really just needs help with how to approach the girl of her dreams. she doesn't have a single idea of how to flirt, let alone keep up a conversation with a girl that has the power to make her physically implode.

"anyways, can you guys help me or not? i'm not here to judge you, so can you please not judge me?" momo asks, her voice sounding more like a plea the more frustrated she gets.

"you're asking for a date. with myoui mina. please let that sink into your head."

"listen if she rejects me, that's that. i just want to know if i have a chance."

sana sits up, grabbing her cigarettes off her desk and taking the pack with her when she steps onto her balcony. the early sunday morning sky is eclectic to see her, brightening up with the return of the sun. sana doesn't think that any of the decisions that she can make when she returns to her room are good.

she wonders when she started to care whether her choices are good or not.

she sticks a smoke between her teeth, lighting it and watching as the smoke drifts away on the wind. it takes her all of three seconds to decide what she's gonna do, but she stands out on her balcony for much longer, letting the smoke coat her lungs and ruin her from inside out. not that it matters. she was ruined long before she started smoking.

she re-enters her room, momo's hopeful face turned to her as jeongyeon and nayeon wrestle on the floor, tzuyu commentating their match.

she grins at momo and gives her a thumbs up. it's the best she can do.



"do you ever get tired of wearing that uniform?" tzuyu asks from somewhere to her left. sana's too tired to look at anything else besides the mess unfurling in front of her.

momo's actually talking to mina and a couple of her friends. without combusting on the spot. sana applauds her in her head, even if her outward appearance says otherwise.

she's tired. after everyone left her house on sunday, she went and applied at the video store. she worked 8 hours a day mondays, wednesdays, and fridays. between balancing nakazawa and ikijima's constant attacks, hitting the gym, doing her schoolwork and her normal work, she was spent.

every last part of minatozaki sana was expended and used. she didn't know if she could get out of bed to attend her morning classes, yet here she stood, at 7 pm on a tuesday, watching her best friend make a mess out of herself as she asked for a date.

she supposes that her smoking doesn't improve her appearance. she's confident her eye bags are deeper than the grand canyon. she'll have to forgo studying tonight in favor of sleeping. she needs fucking rest.

"no," she answers, glancing at tzuyu's sock clad legs and navy skirt, "do you get tired of yours?"

she doesn't expect an answer in return, stubbing her cigarette out on the wall behind her and dropping it. she removes her blazer, hanging it off her shoulders as she shoves her hands in her pants pockets.

"sometimes," tzuyu replies, tugging at the collar of her blouse. sana's glad she doesn't wear the girls' uniform. she can't imagine not having pockets or not being able to wear her blazer during the school day. sure, most of the girls look good in it, but sana doesn't find it practical. she prefers her long pants and white dress shirt.

she's knocked out of her reverie when momo bounds back over to them both, a gleeful smile on her face. sana's eyes follow over momo's shoulder one retreating figure and one still standing there, smiling softly when she catches sana's gaze.

mina. she has to be mina. sana knows she's never seen her before. sana also knows that mina is too good for her. maybe momo isn't as bad off as she is.

"double date this friday. please, please, please come with me. she specifically asked for you and i am extremely opposed to asking jeong."

sana's face contorts in confusion. who asked for her? for why? (what would anyone want with some useless mistake of a teenager?)

"i'm going out with her friend jihyo since we have a lot in common. she's also super pretty," momo rambles, appearing lost for a second as she reminds herself of the point of the conversation, "oh! and mina wanted me to ask you to come too! that way jihyo doesn't feel weird alone with me and mina, and mina has someone else to talk with."

sana's head is spinning. she has become the epitome of what all washing machines are. spinning and cycling until her head pops off.

but she can't refuse momo. she loves the damn girl so much. and jeongyeon would not be anything more than a possible one night stand with mina.

sana knows too fucking well that mina deserves more than jeongyeon, more than herself. she agrees to momo's proposition anyway, laughing when the older girl squeals with more excitement than her body should be able to hold.

sana can't make herself meet tzuyu's eyes once on the walk home. she didn't want the questions and the lectures she knew were going to come out of tzuyu's mouth. she knows that tzuyu was simply caring for her, but sometimes, sana needed no one to look out for her.

that's just how it is.



it takes everything within herself not to cry. not when she's repeatedly getting punched in the gut by one of ikijima's goons who's getting lucky with his hits. not when the knuckles on her left hand tear open from cutting across the asshole's face too many times. not when there's so much pain brewing inside of her that she could erupt at any minute.

she knocks him out with one swift punch to the nose, the bone cracking under the pressure of her weighty fist. working out with sunmi had payed off after all. now, she had not only strength, but endurance. that came in handy for the long haul fights.

his body hits the asphalt without a sound, sana staring down the other two guys with all the fierceness and exhaustion her eyes can exude. they scramble off after pitifully dropping their wallets. she supposes it was meant as a peaceful gesture, ensuring she wouldn't bust their faces in too, but instead it has her vowing to break their bones the minute she sees either of them.

fuck, she's tired. she hasn't slept well for the past two nights, not even on tuesday when she gave up on studying and putting extra effort into her grades for a little bit of sleep. sana truly believes that no amount of sleep will cure the exhaustion that's settled deeply into her bones.

she doesn't dwell on it. she can't. (thinking about something makes it real. if she admits that she's not okay, what then? who is she at that point?)

she stands up after collecting their wallets, pocketing the cash the bloody guy in the street had and silently entering her apartment. she strips herself of her blazer, hanging it on her desk chair as she trades her uniform trousers for sweatpants. she tugs her tie off her neck and throws it in the corner of the room, unbuttoning and removing her bloodstained dress shirt from her body.

sana hates how vulnerable she feels when she's barely clothed. she resolves to get the shirt cleaned tomorrow (another 400 yen down the drain) and pulls an overly large hoodie out of her closet, burying herself in it. her wounded knuckles snag on the inside of the sleeves and it stings, a hiss escaping her lips.

she has work tomorrow. and a double date. and tests the day after. she doesn't need all this stress on her shoulders.

she picks the odyssey up off her bookshelf (a recent gift from nayeon, who insisted that she'd never read it despite the dog-eared pages) and picks up her ashtray, setting it down on her bed as she lights a cigarette and lays back against her pillows.

there's a wish in her mind that the odyssey will keep her distracted. she wants this book to fill her with hope as she in turn fills her lungs with smoke.



bruises are blooming painfully on her abs when she wakes up. she knows this not because her stomach is nearly fully purple, but because there's a killer ache when she sits up. she also notices that she fell asleep reading, the odyssey falling off her chest and onto the floor as she moves around.

glancing at her alarm, she sighs, realizing that it's ten thirty and that she's definitely missed her morning classes. she doesn't have the patience to deal with school anyway. she'd probably lash out at someone. it was for the better that she slept too late.

she opens the door to her apartment and stumbles down the stairs, approaching the payphone outside and dialing her work, calling in sick. her boss is disappointed but he's glad she made the call. upon hanging up, she rushes back to her room, not enjoying the combination of the sweltering heat and her gigantic hoodie.

she changes into her uniform, changing out her usual white dress shirt for a tank top and draping her blazer on the backs of her shoulders. she heads out like this, down past her school and past the restaurant jeongyeon frequented, all the way to the convenience store next to the train station.

she stands outside while she fishes around in her pocket for ¥440, depositing it into the vending machine and waiting impatiently for her fix. she ties her hair back lazily before she ducks down to grab the new pack of cigarettes she'd been gifted with, shoving it in her front pocket before heading inside the store.

she had earned ¥8,000 this week from working two shifts at the video store, and from all that, ¥3,000 went towards her gym membership. not to mention the money she'd won off the few guys she'd fought consistently over the past few days. she had well over ¥6,000 and still she was being frugal.

she buys two sushi roll sets, a decent bottle of cologne, and a pack of juice boxes for ¥2,300. exiting the store she just about collides with someone clearly in a hurry, navy skirt swishing around her legs until she has to abruptly stop to account for sana's presence.

it takes all of two seconds for her to recognize the face in front of her. it takes all of one second for her brain to start screaming. it takes all of .25 seconds for her mouth to play follow the leader with her brain before she clamps her teeth down on her tongue.

"oh, hey. i hope that's not what you're wearing for tonight," she teases, and her voice is soft and quiet and heavenly and sana wants to fucking die.

"contrary to the rumors, i do have some class. i'm just running errands right now."

"you should wear your hair back more often. you have sharp features," she comments, her eyes straying from sana's cheekbones and resting on the scar that went down her left eye, "i gotta go or i'll never make it back before lunch is over, but i'll see you tonight?" she beams and sana swears she would prefer being in a coma than having to take the brunt of this girl's pretty, gummy smile.

"yeah, of course," she replies, immediately regretting how enthusiastic she sounds. she pushes sana's shoulder lightly when she passes by, sana dazed and functioning on autopilot when she speaks up next. "hey, mina, catch."

mina turns around in time to catch the juice box sana had haphazardly tossed her way, smiling and giggling as she shakes the box in her hand, yelling out "later, sana-chan!" before running back in the direction of the school.

sana makes a promise to herself to do better. if not for herself, then for that stupidly pretty smile that belonged to myoui mina.

she's gonna need a new shirt.



momo's hands tug on her sleeve as she appraises sana's choice in fashion. she was wearing her normal school uniform, blazer on the back of her shoulders and her tie loose around her neck. she traded out her normal white dress shirt, though, for a silky forest green button down. if momo asked her about the price, she'd avoid answering her, because she really didn't want to admit to how much she'd spent on the damn thing.

(¥3,600. more than she ever wanted to spend on herself.)

"you know we're going to a burger joint, right? like, you dressed really fancy for a simple double date."

sana nods her head as they arrive at the door to the restaurant, pulling her new pack of cigarettes and depleting it by two. she hands one to momo and at the same time lights both of their smokes, breathing in deeply and settling her back against a window. momo follows suit as she props herself on her left knee against the wall and takes light drags from her cigarette.

sana knows she's nervous when she goes through an entire smoke in under three minutes. she lights another, hoping that the smell won't cling to her stronger than her cologne did. she wanted to smell good despite her bad habits. all to help momo have a good date with a girl she likes.

maybe she's doing it for mina, too.

that thought sticks in her head until the two girls arrive, clad in their usual uniforms with slight alterations. mina changed out her skirt for a pair of (illegally) short shorts, and jihyo was wearing a light yellow sweater instead of the normal blouse. they looked adorable and sana could practically feel how momo was fawning over her date.

sana wouldn't do the same. she held the door open for all three of them, following in last and taking her seat beside momo in the booth they'd been sat at, allowing no time for her to appreciate mina's beautiful face. jihyo was pretty, too, but sana could barely look at mina without her brain turning into a puddle. it was ridiculous.

she loses herself in the food that she knows momo is paying for, eating it up and savoring it because she knows damn well she doesn't have enough money to afford food over the weekend. she'd have to wait until after monday's shift. then she could eat securely again.

the conversation flows across the table easily, with momo parading on about dance and manga and anything else that came to her mind when she thought of the word 'love'. the two girls listen intently and laugh at all the appropriate times. jihyo smiles at momo when she isn't being a total goof, and sana knows they'll be okay. she doesn't know if she can say the same for her and mina until mina inadvertently forces her to participate in the conversation.

"captain here was our best dancer until she quit," momo says, loud enough for the whole restaurant to hear even though it's only the four of them, "best fighter, too. i think you continue to hold that title. quitting dance and karate never let you down, cap."

nodding, sana laughs a little, trying her best to remain a good sport about this whole thing. the rib cage within her chest is begging to be carved open and her heart set free. she doesn't know what she wants or needs. she really doesn't like this whole situation. she should've sat on the outside of the booth.

"captain? why do they still call you that?" mina inquires, her voice louder than sana's heard it before. she likes mina's softer voice. it doesn't feel like a police interrogation if mina's speaking softly. sana visibly shrinks, wanting to throw her whole body weight on the window and break it just to get out.

"i don't really know. i guess it stuck after a while." she side-eyes momo, blatantly asking her best friend for help. momo's a little dense when it comes to girls, but thank god she's as alert as a hawk when it comes to sana.

"it made sense to call her captain, regardless of her nonexistent position in the dojo or the studio. she's a leader and we love her for that."

sana chokes on her drink, water coming out of her nose as she's recovering from the unexpected comment. she's not used to her friends being open and genuine, especially momo, who was worried about coming off as soft about a week ago. apparently, that's no longer a worry of hers.

(good, sana thinks, because she shouldn't have to hide her true self from anyone)

the three girls laugh at her as she brings a napkin up to her face, gently wiping away at her embarrassment, her face heating up from all the extra attention. she carefully moves the hand that's not holding the napkin down and under the table, punching momo lightly on the thigh. coughing and smiling, she makes an excuse to escape, pretending that it's really late out when they've only been there for an hour and a half. it works, evidently, because jihyo has to get home early and they were planning on leaving soon anyway.

they exit the burger joint, momo close to jihyo's side and talking to her for some time before they turn to sana and mina, clearly happy.

"i'm gonna walk jihyo home since she lives farther than i thought, and i don't trust these streets at night. are you two cool with walking home together?"

sana pointedly looks to mina, expecting her to brush her off and walk herself home or suggest that they go separate ways. instead, she meets mina's piercing gaze and her stomach does twenty consecutive barrel rolls.

"we're cool," she assures momo, her heart skipping eight beats at once when she catches the smile forming on mina's face, "totally cool."



it turns out that mina lives in one the houses a couple blocks away from sana's apartment, where the lights are abundant and the lawns are worth more than sana's life. the walk there from the burger joint isn't long at all but sana finds that it gives them time to properly talk one-on-one.

"you don't seem too keen on the whole idea of being intimate, sana-chan. am i wrong?" mina leans against a light post, stopping their walk and allowing sana to nod, a grimace guarding her face. "i'd like to hear your philosophy on why."

mina crosses her arms and sana takes a minute to look up from the asphalt, staring ahead where the starry sky blinks back at her. trying to speak, she coughs, her throat dry from all the anger boiling at her core. taming the beast within her isn't easy, but she cages it, fearful of herself.

"i think it's stupid that everything in life is a competition," she spits, barely containing the urge to shove her fist through a wall, "we constantly have to fight for attention and affection. to be noticed. we always have to show up someone else."

sana pauses and tugs at the hem of her shirt, realizing the amount of conformity she went through simply to impress this girl. she doesn't know if it was worth it. she doesn't know if this conversation is worth anything to either of them.

"it's unfair that there's a consistent battle that we have to compete in. everything's just a game." she concludes, meeting mina's gaze and finding softness there, a softness that makes her heart wrench and her teeth grind.

she doesn't like this. she feels weak.

sana isn't weak.

"you sound as if you don't like fighting, at least, not in a situation where it's possible for you to lose." mina's voice is gentle, not apprehending, but sana still feels like she's being cornered. she can't take this for much longer.

"do you like losing, mina-chan? does anyone?"

"no, but that's not the point, is it? you're afraid of losing. you don't like leaving that kind of thing up to chance," the way mina's eyes break down every wall she's built causes her to cease all movement, not bothering to blink or breathe for a couple of seconds. mina causes her to be vulnerable. mina has her boundaries broken down.

weak.

"so what? maybe i prefer it that way. never engage with people, never engage in a subconscious competition, never have to lose. what does that make me then? honestly." she's irritated, the viscous hatred boiling deep within her chest crawling up to her tongue. she can't find it within herself to feel guilt.

mina asks, mina receives. she knew what she was getting into she second she looked at sana. nothing should come as a surprise to her.

so it completely catches sana off guard when mina answers her calmly, "i think it makes you a coward, sana-chan."

sana can't stand to talk with her any longer, nodding her head towards the street that would eventually lead to both of their houses. mina takes the hint and removes herself from the light post, linking her arms with a resistant sana and slightly tugging the girl along as sana lights a cigarette in her mouth.

the smoke pours from her mouth, and mina doesn't notice the tiny smile on sana's sleep deprived face.



walk the damn girl home. sana just wanted to walk the damn girl home, but no.

she forgets. she's minatozaki sana. nothing can be easy for her.

she should've known. how stupid of her.

originally, she tried to sneak mina and herself past her apartment, avoiding all the ruffians that hung around outside. except tonight, ikijima's men weren't there, and instead stood an unimpressed bae joohyun next to one of her unnamed lackeys. the girl next to her was pretty, but sana couldn't put a name to her, and she knew exactly what that meant.

another one of the gangs trying to test their members against her. test their strength. if you can take down osaka's infamous minatozaki, then you're good to go. you've proven yourself worthy.

she hates this. hates who she is, what she's known for.

hates that mina got caught up in it.

"minatozaki, you can't ignore me. especially not when i have an official challenge here for you," she smirks, having the tall girl next to her step forward and glare nervously down at sana, "maybe she should fight your girl. she'd probably be a bigger problem than - "

taking a step forward, her hand rests itself dangerously above joohyun's heartbeat, applying steady pressure and keeping mina safe behind her.

"leave her out of this. your match is with me and me only. now back up, and let her fight me." she pushes back joohyun, the leader understanding and falling against the brick wall of sana's apartment complex. mina and sana share a look, sana hoping that her apologies get through to her as she hands off her blazer.

get this over with, walk the girl home. simple enough.

"my name's park sooyoung. i'm going to claim victory for joohyun."

"good for you."

sana allows sooyoung to take the first swing, taking the blow directly to her ribs. she didn't expect the taller girl to aim lower, so she throws her lead fists into the girl's sides repeatedly, clocking her directly in the cheek once and knocking her onto the asphalt.

she wastes no time climbing on top of her, taking advantage of the position and landing constant punches against the girl's pretty face. sooyoung fights back, kicking sana square in the back and causing her to fly off of her. sana quickly readjusts herself, standing straight as the clumsy girl manages to kick her in the knee. following her kick, she uses her sharp knuckles to punch sana in the face and cut her above her eyebrow.

there's no mercy when she uses that same leg to knee sooyoung in the stomach, no hesitation when she uppercuts the girl as she hunches over, no flinching when something cracks loudly across the street's silence.

sooyoung lays there, peaceful and unconscious. sana almost joins her when there's a sudden intrusion in her shoulder, pain ripping itself through her muscles.

"wow. you fight fair, minatozaki," sana realizes all too late that it's a blade burying itself within her, the grin evident in joohyun's voice as she releases her grip on the handle, "unfortunately for you, i don't."

there's nothing sana can do to stop her as mina worriedly rushes to her side, joohyun walking off with sooyoung's body.

sana really fucking hates the world right now.



the world is forgiven by sana for a split second, but only because she's grateful for the fact she was right outside her apartment. she begins hating the earth once more when she's forced to allow mina into her apartment because she insists on helping sana and refuses to leave her alone.

if anything, this is the one time she'd want to be by herself. yet here they are, mina stressing herself out over the stupid knife in her shoulder, sana wondering how they got here from the burger joint earlier.

there's no understanding within her mind for why mina's helping her. anyone else and they would've left her to sort out her wound alone. she kind of wishes mina would do exactly that.

"you have a first aid kit, right?" sana nods to the dresser next to her desk, the only two things in the room besides her bed and bookshelf. she takes a seat on the bed when mina lightly pushes her down onto it.

"in there. you don't have to do this, you know. it's really not a big deal."

"if you won't care about yourself, someone has to," mina assures, carrying over the newly retrieved med kit to a disheveled and bloody sana. there's blood dripping down her eyebrow from where sooyoung had cut her, so she only has one eye open as she watches mina's careful movements.

"i need you to take your shirt off, sana-chan."

those are the words that sana was dreading. those are the words that cause sana to freeze up, her one eye becoming panicky as she stares back at mina's persistent face.

"can't we clean the wound without removing my shirt?"

"sana-chan, it's gonna get in the way-"

"please, there's got to be another way to do this. cut the shirt. something."

mina's eyes almost appear sad for a second, but they remain determined as she places a calm hand on the side of sana's neck. there's no pressure from mina's palm but sana's breathing feels greatly restricted. her skin heats up at the contact and she hopes to god that mina doesn't notice.

"i'm not going to hurt you, okay? i promise. i'm only going to remove the knife from your shoulder, disinfect the wound, and then patch it up. you're lucky i'm training in medicine," she remarks, smiling gently at sana and soothing her nerves.

mina removes her hand from her neck, sana slowly unbuttoning her ruined shirt and allowing mina's deft fingers to help rip it where the knife is still embedded within her. she knows that's she's shaking because the buttons aren't coming undone as easily as they were when she put the shirt on.

a cold sweat overtakes her as she has to face reality, that she's both going to have mina see her at her most vulnerable and also have that same girl pull a blade from her skin. the knife that joohyun would regret stabbing her with.

she was going to get revenge. she had to survive dealing with mina first, though. and god, that was proving to be difficult. it didn't help that she couldn't get her own damn shirt off. stupid shaky hands.

"let me help you," that soft voice said to sana, nimbly undoing the buttons on her shirt and sliding it off her shoulders, revealing the stab wound where the knife made home, "alright, do you have your own knife somewhere? or any large piece of metal?"

"under the bed. don't tell me you're going to stab me again."

mina stands up and smiles, shaking her head as she retrieves sana's engraved knife, walking over to where sana's blazer lay crumpled on the floor and searching it for her lighter. upon finding it, mina holds the blade over the fire, allowing the better part of the tip to heat up.

"worse, actually. i have to close the wound immediately, and since stitches won't work in this case, i'm cauterizing it. you might want to bite down on something." sana reaches for her pillow instantly, holding it between her teeth as she watches the knife turn nearly red. mina waits for it to cool for a second and then swiftly removes the blade that was in her shoulder.

sana clenches her teeth around her pillow, the wound oozing after being reopened before mina moves the hot knife to it, closing it up in spurts as she works around the entrance. with her teeth grinding, sana screams into her pillow as mina quickly pours the saline solution found in the med kit over the closed burn. sana's hands shoot out, desperate for a grip on anything, one hand fisting her bed sheets and the other finding mina's unoccupied hand.

sizzling sounds pop up from her skin. she's in so much goddamn pain and she's so fucking tired that she could sleep for three days straight but mina's still here, holding her tense hand and looking up at her with the softest brown eyes she's ever seen. in any other situation, she'd pass out, but tonight she's scared. scared of being alone, scared of being found, scared of being real.

normally, she only feels alive when fighting, yet that's not the case right now. not with mina around.

mina asks her about spare clothing and sana directs her to her broken closet door. handing her an overly large hoodie, sana slips into it, practically drowning in it. she's warm. safe.

"...thank you." she manages to mumble. her throat is hoarse and her jaw hurts but she can't sit in silence with someone that actually cares about her right before her eyes.

"you're all taken care of now," she says with a smile, shifting from where she's kneeling on the floor, "i should head home, but i can't stand the thought of leaving you like this, sana-chan."

her heart thuds itself against her ribs, a grandfather clock insistently telling the time.

"then don't," her words are quiet, but the hand pulling mina into her bed is strong, and her eyes are determined and sharp, "stay. please."

her voice breaks when she utters "please". mina understands and crawls into sana's bed with her, laying on her back as sana turns on her side. it's awkward until sana notices that she's the one who has to make the moves here. mina won't pull anything because she's scared of hurting her.

weak. sana in mina's eyes is weak.

that's when she crashes their lips together, mina hesitating to kiss her back before sana pulls herself away. regret attempts to flood her senses, but her loneliness prevails, and she wraps her arms around mina's abdomen. sana pulls her further into her embrace, resting her chin on mina's shoulder.

"don't remember me like this, mina-chan."

there's a soft breath that slips from mina's lips after sana falls asleep on top of her. sometimes mina forgets how fragile strong people are. she presumes that this is the world helping to remind her.

mina rests her hands over sana's on her stomach and allows her eyes to close, ready to wake up way earlier than sana would in order to go back home. her parents would be furious. she should probably care, but mina couldn't care less.

"i won't, sana-chan."



waking up, she rubs her eyes, and winces when there's red hot pain flaring throughout her arm. she pushes her face into her pillow and groans, tossing and turning in her bed to get warm. it takes a minute for her brain to start fully functioning, to register that mina's no longer there and the sun is shining brightly through her windows.

her body shoots up, spine cracking as she withholds a yell from moving too fast with the newly healing scar on her shoulder. reading her alarm clock tells her that it's far too fucking late for her to be waking up. it's 5 pm on a saturday and yet she can't will herself to get out of bed for more than a minute.

she heads out onto her balcony with shaky legs after grabbing her cigarettes, popping one into her mouth and lighting it with the same lighter mina had used last night. she contemplates chucking it over the balcony, but she holds back. she couldn't if she wanted to.

tzuyu gave her that lighter. she would refill and reuse the damn thing until it broke or malfunctioned. it was a gift, and sana was not ungrateful, despite how much she hated that it was now also associated with mina.

standing out on her balcony gives her time to think. she smokes and watches as pedestrians stroll by, oblivious to her and the damage she causes. she's invisible to the public unless they want to find her.

invisible. weak.

anger propels her bare foot to smother her cigarette into the cement. she's desperate for an adrenaline rush, something that will send her straight out of the shitty mood she's in. something to excite her and think of things outside of her own problems.

she throws on a stray white t-shirt and switches out her trousers for black sweat shorts, not caring enough about her image or health to bother wrapping her knuckles or her shoulder.

regardless of her injuries, she now has business with joohyun and the rest of her gang. she'd have to eventually issue out an official challenge. sana will protect herself and her friends by ruining joohyun and hers.

piece by fucking piece.



there's no need for her to get out of bed the next morning. not when her knuckles sting like hell, not when there's two bloodstained shirts crumpled in the corner of her room, and especially not when there's an incessant knocking sound on at the door. she waits for it to stop until a voice sounds through the wall.

"since when did you lock your door?" the voice asks, annoyed. sana would ask who it was, but it would be pointless, considering no one else within a five mile radius could heighten their voice to the likes of nayeon's. "mina told momo about what happened. i'm here to comfort you, asshole! i brought beer!"

"you know where the extra key is!"

indeed nayeon does, the sounds of her rummaging through the potted plant outside evident through the thin walls of sana's apartment. sana lays there in waiting with her arm stretched across her eyes. if the sun pierces her eyesight any longer she'll get a headache, and she doesn't need to add that to her growing list of problems.

(the list currently includes: dealing with her friends being overly attentive and kind, mina possibly becoming a permanent part of her life, healing from the scarring occurring on both her face and shoulder, and putting joohyun back in her place. the sooner all of those were out of her way, the better.)

"somehow this place is still as barren as always," says nayeon as she enters the room, bags in her hands making her close the door with her foot, "i stand corrected. apparently you now hoard bloody shirts in the corner of your room."

sana laughs and then groans from the pain erupting in her ribs, "shut up... i haven't had the time to get rid of those."

"yet you had the time to go to jeongyeon's house and try to act out your revenge?"

sana stares at her, wide-eyed and contemplating. jeongyeon didn't tell her, did she? no. jeongyeon would never. maybe nayeon was psychic. her brain didn't have enough willpower to try and figure it out.

"don't get mad at jeong, by the way. only reason i knew was because i heard some interesting groans of pain coming from behind the bar as i was leaving. not too many people willingly fight in joohyun's territory. and no one else groans quite the way jeongyeon does." sana rolls her eyes as nayeon sits on top of her desk, setting down the two bags and reaching into the heavier one.

tossing sana a bottle, she opens one for herself. eyeing the blood stains on sana's bed sheets earns her a glare from the grumpy girl. she arches a single eyebrow and sana relents, her back hunching as she sips greedily from her beer.

"i gave back what she dealt. revenge isn't always just."

the look nayeon gives her tells her that she wishes there wasn't any revenge involved at all. but what was sana supposed to do? let joohyun stab her and get away with it? what would that make her?

with a sigh nayeon drinks from her bottle, tipping it towards sana as she asks, "what are you doing, captain?"

for once, sana doesn't have an answer.



skipping school for two days does not, in fact, prove itself to do anything for her mental well being. she still feels as shitty as she did when she drank with nayeon, as low as she felt when she punched one of joohyun's goons until he inevitably passed out.

working at the video store helps to take her mind off things. nayeon was nice enough to leave the beers in her apartment, too, so she had that going for her. there was no motivation for her to work out, so she didn't, and she kept her door locked. no one to bother her, no one for her to bother.

her back hits her bed and all the air in her lungs escapes her. her exhaustion has only worsened.

one more day won't hurt.



completely lying to herself and hoping for the best surprisingly isn't the best coping mechanism.

she feels even worse. she can't fucking attend school, she can't face her friends, she can barely maintain her control over her own territory, not to mention her goddamn heart that kept wanting to beat itself out of her bruised rib cage.

no amount of sleep leaves her well rested. everything ranging from her body to her soul hurts. and so she drinks, because she has nothing else to do anyway, and at least when she's drunk she feels worth.

that is, until, there's rasp knocking on her door. knocking that doesn't stop and somehow matches the pounding of her heart.

maybe it'd be nice to have company. not that she has a choice when the lock on her door rustles itself open, the person standing on the other side of the door clearly hesitating before entering her room. the clock tells her that it's 11 am and she briefly wonders which one of her friends decided she was more important than their classes.

none of them, she realizes, when mina's face appears in her clouded vision. she'd been avoiding everyone in her life, and now the person she wanted to see least was standing in her room like she belonged there.

fuck, maybe she did belong there. sana couldn't dwell on it for long. the alcohol took her confusion and swirled it into frustration deep in her gut, firing up her defensive instincts.

"what the fuck are you doing here?" her voice catches on her words, dragging them in the mud and causing her to slur.

"you haven't been to school in three days. your friends won't talk to me, except for jeongyeon, who tried pitifully to hit on me. that went well for her," she smiles and something within sana wants to scream, "since no one would tell me where you were or how you were doing, i asked momo if i should visit you."

mina sits on the end of her bed, staring blankly at the wall in front of her as she sighs. sana can't feel anything other than molten anger spewing it's way around her mouth as she stares at mina's back. she sits up, crossing her legs and voting to stare down at her lap instead.

"i was worried, that's all. you got stabbed less than a week ago, sana-chan. just here to make sure - "

"you don't have to make sure of goddamn anything."

god, she hates the way she says it. spits it, rather, her rib cage thrashing against her chest. it hurts - to keep every single little thing inside. it's worse when you explode on the person who deserves it least.

"...sana?" mina turns her head warily, eyes concerned as they look upon sana's shaking frame. she's clenching her jaw so hard that her teeth grind and the sound reverberates throughout the apartment.

"i'm not your fucking pet, mina. i don't - i don't - ", sana physically trembles, tripping over her own anger that flits from her tongue, "i don't need your misplaced pity. you're not my therapist, you're not my mother, you're not my fucking girlfriend. i don't get it. why the fuck do you care?"

there's instant remorse that hits her, a brick thrown at her gut, guilt spreading throughout her body like wildfire. it's enough to spring tears from her dry eyes. those same eyes watch as mina's face crumbles, and her heart absolutely shatters.

"i don't. forget it."

mina shoots up, wiping at her stinging eyes. her hand lands on the doorknob and twists it with all the anger her body can hold. the door flies open and she already has one foot out the door when sana's fingers cuff around her ankle, burning her skin where she grips.

sana's not sure what compelled her to do it; what lunged her body onto the floor. there's a storm of emotions curling inside of her, popping and snapping and exploding. she was never good at identifying her feelings in the first place, but this is beyond her comprehension. all she knows is that she doesn't want to drive mina away forever. and she'd prevent her from doing so whether her drunk and numb body wanted her to or not.

"i'm sorry! fuck, please," sana's throat slips up on her words, the alcohol stunting her speech, "don't go. i'll beg if you want me to. you wanna see me act like a circus monkey?" she hiccups a laugh in between her desperation. she feels so futile on the floor, completely at the will of mina's patience. "y-you want me to make a fool of myself? i'll d-do it."

initially she hadn't noticed mina's shaking fists. they're all she can focus on when they stop clenching, deep breaths exiting mina's heaving chest, her head turning back to look at sana's sprawled body and bloodshot eyes.

"i don't want you to do any of that, you asshole." mina sighs again, her patience worn. she closes the apartment's door quietly and steps back inside, relinquishing sana's hold on her. she kneels down next to her body and gently lifts her by her shoulders. once she has sana sitting upright against the frame of her bed she takes her seat in front of her, wringing her hands and searching sana's eyes.

"you just - you have to stop fucking pushing me away. you can't do that. it's not helpful for either one of us," sana nods at her words, every single one a rock thrown at her bleeding heart, "i need you to promise that you're gonna stop deflecting with me, okay? i can't do this if all you do is fuck with my head."

"p-promise. i swear on my pathetic life." sana reaches her pinky finger out to mina and with a sad smile, she wraps her own finger around it. mina curls the rest of her fingers around sana's hand right after. she holds her gently, careful to avoid the cuts on her calloused hands. "i'll do anything for you to forgive me for the past couple of days."

"anything?"

"it's all i can offer you. i don't have a lot of money, and i'm not good at much, but i can do favors."

mina seems to think about it for a second. mulls it over in her head while absently playing with sana's fingers. this does nothing for sana's already massively confused emotions and erratic heartbeat.

"i do have... one thing that you can help me with. depends if you can ice skate, though." sana's eyes widen. she'd never skated before, whether on ice or on land. she barely went swimming. her feet were used to being planted firmly on the ground, no slipping or mess-ups, only sana and the grip her shoes had on the asphalt.

"i can't, but what do you need me to ice skate for?"

"i have a competition next weekend, actually. i need a partner who can lift me and i haven't exactly found one - "

"i'll learn," sana interrupts, her face serious despite her drunk state, mina's gaze fueling her to keep going, "don't worry about it. i'll be there."

"you sure? you really don't have to - "

but sana's already on her feet, wobbling slightly with her balance fucked to hell, assuring mina who has far too much love to give and almost too much patience to deal with an asshole like herself. she chants "yes, yes, i'm okay with it" to mina until she gets her out the door, sana standing inside her apartment still and staring awkwardly at mina who stands a foot outside her door.

"if you need me i'm usually here, and if not then, well, i don't know where i am. and, uh," she stumbles forward and locks her arms tightly around mina, enveloping the girl in a hug that she hopes conveys all her emotions that she can't express. "thank you. for being patient. for caring about me for some reason."

mina pulls away and smiles before she speaks, her gums showing and knocking sana's breath out of her lungs, "you're a thug, but you're not a horrible person. i'm hoping one day you'll see that yourself, sana-chan." sana mumbles, something that sounds like a "maybe someday" as mina walks away and out of her apartment building.

slamming her door shut proves to be the easiest thing she could've done today. the second easiest thing is her back collapsing against it and sliding down until her thighs hit the floor, a smile shining on her face.

sana passes out without thinking once about her bed. she's too busy thinking about mina.



the following day her friends get the shock of their lives when she bursts through the door on the roof, startling a smoking jeongyeon and a napping momo wide awake. nayeon and tzuyu both turn to her, alert and on their guard when she yells what she thinks is one of the most important questions of her life.

"how the fuck do you ice skate?"