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i did, i did, i do

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When she finally stumbles through the door to her own room after bading mumbled ‘goodnight’s to Seungcheol and Wonwoo, the first thing Mingyu does is flop face-first onto her bed. The mattress is cheap, and it sinks beneath her weight as she groans unintelligibly into a stray pillow about the trials and tribulations of the past day. The pillow remains silent, unperturbed by her dramatics.

“I need a job,” is what she’s been saying for the past few minutes, and the atmosphere of the room seems to be sagging with disbelief after hearing that mantra for the umpteenth time. “I need a job so I can live a long, fulfilling life and not end up in a ditch somewhere,” she continues, but her voice gradually compresses itself into a thin, barely audible mumble as she tries to convince herself to do anything that doesn’t involve hiding from the world.

Instead of hatching a practical plan, she begins to chew on her lip and pace about the room with great speed. As fast as her feet will take her, really. Wonwoo and Seungcheol will definitely give her hell for stomping about the apartment above theirs despite her knowledge of their thin ceilings, but managing her unemployment seemed to be a far more pressing matter than appeasing her 2 dorky landlords.

When she does finally stop pacing around long enough to scribble something on a piece of lined paper that dangles precariously from a jutting nail the wall, the newest addition reads “GET A JOB.” And then in smaller, meeker font,: “Please. Try this time :(“.

///

When Mingyu finally steps into the bar, she’s greeted by the most beautiful person she’s ever seen. The other girl is wearing a short, clinging dress of emerald green silk, and from where she’s standing, Mingyu can see two rhinestones glinting from beneath the bottom layer of her lashes. She blinks at Mingyu, and the way the slivers of yellow light reflect in her eyes is both indescribable and intense; they bring a heat worth writing sonnets about. (Not that Mingyu has the time nor the intent to write fragmented poetry about this girl, but beauty does tend to make one delirious with desire - the kind that will move mountains and part oceans just for a flicker of a smile. That, she has more experience with.)

“What can I get ya?” is what the girl greets her with, effervescent and twinkling even beneath the dim lights of the bar. Her dark hair, cut into a sleek bob, falls in gentle waves around her face but does absolutely nothing to soften the blow of her obvious beauty.

“A job, for starters,” Mingyu tries to joke, then grimaces when she sees the girl’s smile fade. Failing, already. Her heart thumps uncomfortably in her chest, ever-aware of how she seems to only ever be able to say the wrong words.

“Can’t help you there. Gotta consult with the big boss,” she replies apologetically, still polishing a large wine glass as if this was all but a small disturbance to her day - which it probably was. Mingyu, eager to avoid more anxiety, pointedly avoids looking at the way 2 of the bartender’s long fingers rub at the inner rim of the glass with great intent. She also definitely avoids looking at the way the girl’s mouth curls up into a teasing grin when she notices the deliberate distance, the soft pink of her lips warm and playful.

“Any idea where I might find him? I’m a little desperate, honestly,” Mingyu admits.

The other girl cocks her head for a second, as if sizing Mingyu up before she replies. A little shock of pleasure runs through Mingyu; the thrill of being totally perceived. “Probably through the back. Best of luck,” she responds dryly, raising an eyebrow. “If he asks about your past experience, please just lie. Lord knows I could use another set of hands around here.”

“Will do,” Mingyu answers warily, unsure as to whether the girl’s pulling her leg or genuinely so understaffed that she’ll take whatever comes her way. Either way, she seems to like Mingyu enough (or: she’s getting paid enough to pretend she does) and that’s enough for her at the moment. “Thanks, uh…,” Mingyu trails off. She’d never gotten the girls’ name.

“Just call me Hao,” the girl - Hao - answers, and that same small smile has worked its way up to her mouth again so of course Mingyu can’t help but grin back.

“Hao,” she repeats, cherishing the way the word fills her mouth with a sweetness she cannot name. “Okay.”

“Best of luck, um..” now it’s her turn to fumble, the first crack in her otherwise cool exterior.

“Mingyu,” she supplies helpfully, “And you said that already.”

“I know,” she responds, and it’s so easy one would think she cared very little about how she came across. This, like everything else in the city, was a performance. “I mean it. Extra hands, remember? And from the looks of it, you’ve got a pretty good pair on you.”

“Do I?” Mingyu wonders out loud, and she can’t help but splay her fingers out in front of her, quietly scrutinising the way at least 3 of them have hangnails.

“Well, sure. Anyone’s who’s got a pair does,” Hao remarks, her eyes flicking momentarily to glance at Mingyu’s outstretched hands in feigned disinterest. Closer now, Mingyu can see that the other girl’s eyes have been lined carefully with shining green eyeshadow, and splashed deliberately in her undereye crease. It gives her the appearance of a very coy cat, strange and sleek and carrying an undeniable air of secrecy. “You’ll be trained anyway, so I wouldn’t worry too much. Just fill the post and you’ll make me a very happy woman.”

Mingyu can think of a hundred other ways she’d like to make Hao a happy woman, but she chooses to keep her mouth shut.

“Better get going then,” Mingyu chirps, gently slapping her palms on the countertop of the bar. “See you around, Hao,” she calls. And without waiting for a response, she ducks through the back and lets her cheeks burn in the darkness.

 

When she emerges ten minutes later, her cheeks are burning for an entirely different reason. The undeniable glow of success warms her entire being, and she feels very much as if she’s just had a fantastic glass of whiskey and could be happily whisked out to go dancing downtown any minute.

As she ambles out the double doors and into the still-empty bar, Hao calls “Don’t you look like the cat who got the cream!”

“You could say that,” Mingyu grins, trying very hard to keep her composure even as she meets Hao’s eyes again.

“I suppose I can safely assume you’re one of us now?” Hao asks, leaning lazily across the bar. The full attention she’s giving Mingyu is enough to send another strange shiver down her spine, and it seems like she might never get used to the totality of her stare.

“You’re the only one here,” she points out instead, and begins to absentmindedly trace circles into a puddle of condensation on the table.

“Technicalities,” Hao scoffs, waving her hand. “C’mon, at least give me a hint so I can start pouring us some drinks.”

“I think you can grab your 6-dollar-est bottle of wine,” Mingyu tells her in lieu of a proper answer, but her eyebrows lift in happy surprise anyway.

“Getting fancy, are we?” Hao teases, but she’s already pulling down one of the red wines from
the rack.

“Now who would I be if I couldn’t treat my colleague to a drink every now and then?”

“Colleague, huh?” Hao repeats, sliding a glass towards Mingyu. She pulls her own towards her, her long fingers spread slightly over the base of the glass. Belatedly, Mingyu realises that her hands are perfectly manicured, and immediately moves to clench her own fists as if suddenly aware of how thoroughly unkempt she seems next to this bright, bubbling girl.

“Would you prefer coworker?” Mingyu suggests.

Hao shudders. “Those both sound like we work on Wall Street and make our fortunes by being accomplices in tricking people into making fraudulent investments.”

“I’m not even gonna try to pretend to understand what you just said,” Mingyu starts, and thankfully - mercifully - Hao giggles. “But I think friends is possibly a good starting point.”

“That does have a nice ring to it,” Hao agrees, stirring her wine thoughtfully. “Alright,” she says, decisively now. Then, she lifts her glass with a great flourish - which makes Mingyu think she might just be used to doing this an awful lot. “To a new friend.”

“To a new friend,” she echoes, clinking their glasses together. As the clear sound of their meeting echoes through the empty walls, Mingyu tries desperately to swallow the hummingbird heartbeat that started in her chest the minute their fingers grazed each other. She angles her eyes towards the plain bartop instead, and definitely doesn’t see the way Hao’s eyes swim through the gates of glass and run eagerly down the open curve of Mingyu’s throat to the deep cut of her dress. Above them, the arc of a crescent moon curves through the night sky, slicing it open just enough for the light to bleed through.