Actions

Work Header

the land before the water

Work Text:

Day 4 and their rations are abysmal. Being stranded on an island with just one other person is one thing, but when that one person is your ex, things get... tricky, to say the least. Jeongyeon has been scavenging the skies and scouring the ripples in the far horizon for any sign of a boat or a plane, but the results have been - disheartening.

 

She's currently stoking their last fire log, brows knitted as she begs the embers to burn for a little longer, lest the snores from beside her quiet. By pure luck, the black box from the plane had washed ashore with them to - wherever the fuck this is. There's a set of flint and steel in their inventory if necessary, but Jeongyeon had hoped that they'd be rescued long before that point.

 

All she can do right now is fixate her gaze on the fire, on their whittling packs of freeze-dried mystery meals, and just - pray. Jeongyeon had never been much for religion, and she still isn't sure how she feels about it now, but at least for the sake of Sana - she'll crane her neck as high as it can go, until the moon might see her plea, until her face burns with its craters. With that, the last flame dies, and Jeongyeon is left to inhale the ashes, her calloused, hard-worn fingers gripping the bumps of a thin birch stick.

 

/

 

"Careful," Jeongyeon shoots out, eyeing the tear-shaped drip sagging at the foot of Sana's orange popsicle, swaying to and fro like a clock pendulum. Only a matter of time until it hits zero.

 

Sana snatches the melted drop in a single sweep of her tongue, polishing it off with a flirty bite at the popsicle's crest. "There," she says, satisfied with herself.

 

Jeongyeon casts her a wary glance, cheeks flushed from the assailant that is the lemony sun, turning her spit sour and her car into a hotbox. The air conditioner is a deflating balloon at best, and it'd take hours to clean the stain, Jeongyeon's polyester upholstery taking no prisoners.

 

"So, have you thought more about the road trip I mentioned last week?" Jeongyeon brakes the car before a crosswalk. Grade-schoolers hop across like kangaroos, trickles of sweat running down their tanned skin. They avoid stepping on the white lines.

 

"Oh, um - I haven't asked my parents yet," Sana's face swivels away from hers, eyes out the window, popsicle forgotten.

 

"Can you ask them soon? I need to check with my dad if I can borrow his car, otherwise I'll have to- "

 

"Oh crap," comes Sana's voice, then the glovebox opening and friction scraping and grating, like trying to use an old broom.

 

Jeongyeon turns her head, cackling at what she sees: Sana furiously rubbing at a dark circle on her baby blue skirt. Sana sighs after a few moments, but something about it sounds not like resignation but more like relief; like she'd just been saved.

 

"It's okay, it's laundry day tomorrow anyway," Sana says, going back to happily eating her popsicle.

 

"I don't know how your clothes aren't all worn out by now, with how often you wash them," Jeongyeon shakes her head.

 

The rest of the car ride goes by as normal, and when they're parked in front of Sana's house, she doesn't forget their goodbye kiss.

 

"See ya tomorrow," Sana murmurs against Jeongyeon's lips, before bolting out and to her front door before Jeongyeon can do or say anything else.

 

When she's three houses down the street, Jeongyeon notices a twinkle in her periphery; it blinds her, and it takes just a second for her to realize that Sana'd dropped something, again. Probably took it off while she was trying to rid herself of the sticky residue decorating her fingers and gluing itself to her joints. With the small pileup behind her, Jeongyeon decides that it's best to just pull over here and run it over by hand rather than try and juggle a u-ey.

 

Jeongyeon's hand hovers over Sana's front door, knuckle at ready for a series of melodic, dull knocks. Clutched in her other hand is the promise ring she'd given to Sana on her last birthday, hula-hooping around her pinky.

 

/

 

Jeongyeon has been fiddling with the flint for an hour, but she can't quite manage to conjure a spark. Next to her, Sana's battling with the icy frost of the hemisphere, and Jeongyeon is really, really trying. Pearls of sweat trickle down the cliff of her jaw and puddle into spots on her shirt. She grits her teeth, tries again. The sky is gray with the sun nearly out of view, its Maleficent sneer descending below the horizon, razor-sharp molars the last to go.

 

She's attempting to follow the mini Survival 101 guide that'd been squashed against the walls of the black box, discolored and misshapen and faded enough that she has to squint to read it. The pictures inside the book only vaguely matched the instruments accompanying it but Jeongyeon makes do. She has to, anyway.

 

"Maybe I should try."

 

Jeongyeon whips her head toward Sana, mouth drawn into a scowl. "Are you out of your mind? Look at yourself."

 

Sana's sporting a makeshift arm sling, cobbled together with a large strip from the tail-end of Jeongyeon's long-sleeve, her wounded shoulder an effect of the crash. But still, her face says, and she looks scared.

 

Jeongyeon exhales a weighted breath. Irons out the frustration wrinkled into her forehead and punctured in her pupils, beating up Sana's worries as best as she can, even with the wimpy bush of tinder in the space between them.

 

"No," Jeongyeon says. Sana still needs to heal, after all.

 

Sana sighs, and her nod raises a white flag in surrender.

 

Jeongyeon tries again, and again, until finally the obsidian black sky is shot with a blaze. Their campsite is lit with a deep red and orange, and Jeongyeon can see the glow bloom across Sana's face, assuaging the cold flush on her cheeks, and the sparkles climbing into her eyes.

 

Jeongyeon is so proud of herself.

 

/

 

They're down to their last two water bottles, and the coconuts on the island are starting to take a dismal toll on their bowel systems. Jeongyeon decides to investigate the perimeter of the land for fresh water. Really, she should have done this earlier, but that little hope of being rescued had still prodded at her brain and snaked its way into her rationale.

 

What she finds is even better: a small cave a ways yonder from their current campsite. They'll have to cross some ocean ripples, and watch out for the rocks and sharp coral poisoning its shallow floor, but - the cave's ground is dry, and relatively warm, and the enclosure will protect them from the wind and any tropical storms that might pass by. And the best part? A small stream flowing through the edges of its walls, its sight an oasis after a long run. Water, she ekes out. Her parched lips whisper a sigh of relief.

 

Jeongyeon decides to linger there for a little while longer, the trickling water gracing her with some peace of mind. She thinks of home: her dog Nanan constantly tipping over her food bowl, waking up an hour early for office-wide coffee runs, how she always messed up at least one person's order and - shit - she's probably lost her internship. But she can just work with her mom until -

 

Suddenly tears threaten to break. Her family must be looking for her. Now the trickle doesn't sound so wonderful, and being alone doesn't feel so great. She heads back to Sana, letting the afternoon sun beat her tears to salt.

 

When Jeongyeon sees her, nestled on the shore and gingerly checking her wound, one last memory surges through her in a ripple. It's just a second long, almost negligible: a flash to six years ago. She hadn't been really doing anything, just lying in her bed, staring up at the ceiling, teetering the tightline between sentience and her dreams. But it was then - when her mind was void of the day's worries - that she thought of Sana. Missed her. Although her dreams had always betrayed her, at least in the dead of 2am she woke on instinct for her bedside glass of water to wash it all away.

 

She wonders if Sana sometimes thought of her too. In the land before the water.

 

Sana catches her eye then, and smiles. There isn't really anything in it, but she thinks there doesn't have to be either.

 

The trek to and from the campsite and the cave is an hour round-trip, and it takes several trips to gather all of their supplies. Sana had insisted on following behind her like a lost puppy despite Jeongyeon's numerous attempts to tell her to just sit or lie down or do something that's nothing!

 

"It's my arm that's hurt, Jeongyeon. Not my leg," Sana'd crossed her arms as best as she could, and held her posture with a cocked brow.

 

Jeongyeon had been too tired to retort to that, and so obliged. She tilts their things at an angle, taut against her abdomen, feigning that Sana's weak hold on the other end is actually helping. The pressure creases red lines onto her skin, but that's just as well.

 

They trudge through garbage-ridden sand, their plimsolls becoming wet sponges when they cross the water, discomfort seeping between their toes. But they make it to the cave in one piece, nearly losing a flare gun to the biting ocean in the process.

 

The first night is spent sharing the last package of what Jeongyeon guesses is dry beef strips, their chewing and badly-concealed stomachs growling against the cave walls, sounds crafting their own conversation. The fire burns hot between them, and the water boiling wafts the tiniest sense of respite.

 

/

 

Jeongyeon tries to make it homey.

 

Key word tries, but she thinks the emerald leaves she's strung around the cave have a certain aesthetic, imbuing the fissures imprinted into the walls with a kind of life; the kind that allows her to not think about how long this really might act as a home. She hangs jewels of purple flowers off of them for Sana. They curve into necklaces, albeit uneven, but pretty enough, and hey - it's the thought that counts, right?

 

Their sleeping bags lay on either side of the fire, close enough to feel the warmth but far enough to prevent any accidental mishaps. Extra leaves reside under Sana's bag, offering as much support as Jeongyeon can manage. Tucked into her corner are a bundle of extra sticks and tinder, as well as their box of supplies. She makes a mental note to dig out a latrine some ways into the forest tomorrow.

 

Jeongyeon takes one last look around, until her eyes land on the quiet awe brushed across the face of a just-entering Sana; with her bright eyes that sparkle gold, and teeth that cutely peek out when she turns to Jeongyeon with a big smile. Jeongyeon returns it instinctively, her lips tugged up on a puppet line.

 

As Sana continues to circle the cave, investigating every crack like she's seeing a new world wonder, Jeongyeon really feels the sense of home sweet home that people talk about.

 

/

 

Jeongyeon's really fucking tired of coconuts. She can tell Sana is too, not that Sana would ever mention it, but she can see it in the hesitance and the grimace every time they take bite after bite of the meaty fruit. Their jaws chomp like metallic clockwork, steely teeth wheeling through its gears to scarf down their only source of nutrition. Jeongyeon decides it's finally time to try her hand at fishing, opting to lay out the fishing net first in a sort of random spot close to their cave.

 

In a few hours, she's looking plainly at a lone cookie wrapper and two tiny crabs stuck in the mesh grid by their claws. Well, it's better than nothing, she supposes. And a few hours later, it'll turn out that crab shells elicit the same dull chew as every other meal.

 

Jeongyeon exhales, finally hefting out the conjoined pieces of a long pole, and the roll of fishing line from the black box. "Guess it's fishin' time," she mutters, eyes scanning the area for something she can use as bait.

 

"Here," Sana drops a silver earring into her palm; it glimmers with every move.

 

"Sana, I don't think fish are interested in eating earrings."

 

Sana rolls her eyes. "They like shiny things," she says. "I used to go fishing with my dad."

 

"Oh. Okay." Jeongyeon exits the cave at that, and a low thanks floats back just audible enough for Sana to hear.

 

/

 

Fishing is boring, Jeongyeon learns. Extremely, utterly, otherworldly boring. She's been sitting in this same spot for what feels like hours, ass deflating, hot sand granules traveling into cracks she'd rather not think about, and no fish or other sea critters seem to want to tug on her bell. Maybe she's been using the wrong bait, because she'd be kidding everyone around her if she agrees that that flimsy little poop-colored worm she'd found under a rock seems appetizing.

 

Then she feels a strong pull. Might as well have been a whale on the other end considering the amount of veins currently popping in Jeongyeon's puny arms, but her resolve is strong because damn if she'll have another coconut for dinner. And with one last heave with her entire upper body, the medium-sized yellowtail comes hurling at her, floundering in the sky before landing gracefully in the sand.

 

Sana talks her through the de-gutting and cleaning process as best as her memory allows her, Jeongyeon failing to hold back a yuck the entire time, and with that - dinner is served.

 

"Could use some salt."

 

Jeongyeon looks up. Sana's gaze is fixated on the fish, picking the bones out between her forefingers.

 

Jeongyeon isn't sure if that was a joke, considering this is the best meal they've had since they've been here, but seeing the tiny smirk spread across Sana's lips, she chooses to add, "maybe we should've sprinkled in a bit of sea water."

 

Sana's teeth begin to show at that, and Jeongyeon's expression turns smug. They sleep peacefully that night, satiated smiles adorning their faces. Jeongyeon doesn't think about how comfortable this all is.

 

/

 

Jeongyeon isn't amazing at math, but judging by the terrible odor her body is emitting, she thinks it's been a couple of weeks, at least. Of course, a hot shower isn't an option, no matter how much she longs for one; the ribbons of summer rain, the wispy billows of steam, the fresh dew scented with her favorite shampoo - she misses it now more than ever.

 

She eyes the black box seated a few meters away, innocent and inviting, and an idea whirls its way into her brain. It'll take all day, but she thinks she can acquire enough water to fill it up for a makeshift bath.

 

Jeongyeon's muscles relax as she lowers herself into the container. There isn't much space to move at all, knees nearly taped to her chest, but she'd boiled the last pot of water to produce at least a lukewarm bath, and with the fire nearby - it's nice. The water enters her bloodstream in gentle waves, massaging her blood cells until they calm to a simmer.

 

She doesn't fail to notice the shuffling from the other end of the cave, and the hard swallows that bounce off the walls until they settle heavily between them.

 

Jeongyeon can sense the tide change.

 

/

 

It's another day until she hears it - during breakfast, as she's attempting to scour out a fish bone lodged between her two front teeth. Toothpicks were a throwaway back home, but here, Jeongyeon has learned to miss even the smallest of luxuries.

 

"Jeongyeon?"

 

"Huh?" Jeongyeon responds absentmindedly, tossing the bone into the small pit of fire.

 

"Would you mind bringing up a bath for me?"

 

Jeongyeon pauses, looks up. Sana is drawing circles into the sand with her pointer finger, eyes overly focused on the oblong spheres.

 

"Tonight," Jeongyeon tells her, then decides to wander around the island for the remainder of the day; until the sun sets, until night falls, and she drowns in the shadows of the moon.

 

She makes sure to boil three pots of water for Sana, steeping a handful of calendula flowers she'd found into the last one. She's pretty sure that it's one of those herbs that have anti-inflammatory properties, so it should help Sana's still-healing shoulder. Plus, it just smells good.

 

"All ready for you," Jeongyeon mutters, offering Sana a weak smile as she walks past.

 

She can hear Sana sigh from behind her, then the dissonant waves crashing against the gritty interior of the box. A sizzle hisses from the flame.

 

Jeongyeon's brows come together in worry (and maybe, a bit of curiosity). She braves a glance over her shoulder. Sana seems to be struggling, confined to the space and the minimal mobility of her arm, cursing under her breath. Jeongyeon doesn't take a moment to think about what she does next: walks over on pure instinct, and places a gentle, strong hand over Sana's.

 

Sana bolts up in recoil, staring up at Jeongyeon. "What are you doing?"

 

"Let me help."

 

"I can do it myself," Sana huffs, flailing her good arm in a sad, laughable way. She sighs. "Okay."

 

"Okay." Jeongyeon proceeds to rip off another portion of her shirt, then folds it into a small square to act as a washcloth.

 

The brief moment of silence is palpable. "I'm sorry you always have to take care of me."

 

"I don't mind."

 

"Still," Sana speaks in a softer tone, "you shouldn't have to be so strong."

 

Jeongyeon doesn't think she's very strong at all, and so doesn't reply. She begins with the bad shoulder, peeling back the gauze like a stamp to a letter she'll never send. The wound doesn't look infected - good.

 

Her breathing hitches when they brush skins. This is the first time they've really touched since Jeongyeon had originally dressed the wound, and it's this that causes the reality of the situation to dawn on Jeongyeon. Still, she'll focus on the task at hand, she tells herself, even as her lungs feel like they're being vacuum-sealed.

 

Jeongyeon tries her best to flush the grime away, erase the toxins of the crash and illuminate the darkness outside until Sana's skin is an unruffled, velvety candle, its wick Jeongyeon's hand. Goosebumps cultivate and bloom into themselves, starting at the nape of Sana's neck and meandering down to parts unseen, settling into the wafers between her toes.

 

Sana's skin radiates silver. Jeongyeon wades across the expanse of Sana like a spindle atop a record player, circling round like rediscovering an old song, and all you want to do is play it over and over again. Then she untangles the knotted threads of Sana's hair - black roots growing and bleeding into a dyed scarlet, its molten hue burning her fingertips.

 

Neither of them speak. The scent of the calendula floats into their atmosphere, bubbling into their own diaphanous cloud. The steam envelops them, and Jeongyeon forgets where she is for a moment. Right now, her hands are soaking in the path of memory lane - where she's holding Sana's hand as they lie on their favorite hill during one of their late night escapades.

 

The moon shines brightly above them, and the stars reflect a kind of magic. Sana's hands feel a little greasy; probably from the french fries they'd gobbled up in Jeongyeon's car earlier.

 

"Do you ever think about life after college?"

 

Jeongyeon rubs at a spot on her thigh where a particularly long blade of grass had chafed against her. "Not really. Why?"

 

"Sometimes I try to think about what my life will be like five years from now, and the only thing that I can really picture is you," Sana says, "crystal clear."

 

Jeongyeon nearly calls her cheesy, but Sana's tone of voice seems to be bathed in the kind of serenity that makes her heart vessels twine together in marriage. Her body is an ice sculpture, palmed by a warm hand, melting into new shapes and sizes as time goes by, until all she can think about is a small box in her palm.

 

Jeongyeon decides to call her cheesy anyway. "Are you still going to be this cheesy?" she chuckles, earning a light smack on her arm. "But I can't say I don't feel the same way."

 

"I know."

 

Jeongyeon is splashed back when she hears a sharp intake of breath, like a tornado whizzing past her. She has to suppress her own gasp when she sees where her hand is; just cascading down into the pool, right above Sana's chest. Not too close, but not very far either. She motions upward toward Sana's neck as casually as she can, pretending not to notice when Sana shudders.

 

Sana's cheeks tint cherry when Jeongyeon offers her the washcloth, motioning slightly lower so Sana gets the hint. Jeongyeon's pupils focus on the sparks from the fire.

 

"I think I'm good now."

 

"Okay. Do you need help wi- "

 

"No," Sana blurts, "I'm okay. Thank you."

 

Jeongyeon nods, moving out of the way so Sana can get out.

 

"The flowers - what are they called?"

 

"Calendula," Jeongyeon says.

 

"They're nice."

 

"Yeah."

 

Jeongyeon drains the water from the box into the ocean, catching the calendula bundle just before it falls. She tosses the sprigs into the fire, and the fumes live in their dreams through the night.

 

/

 

Jeongyeon takes to long walks along the beach. Her toes feel nice in the sand, and the wind feels nice in her hair, and the coastline paints itself to a vacation postcard, and maybe - not being in Sana's space feels safer. She burrows into the granules like a small rodent.

 

Now that the immediate danger of just surviving is gone, it's exponentially more difficult to keep her thoughts from straying toward Sana. There are more fish on the other end of the island, she'll say. Sana will just bid her good luck, and whether she believes Jeongyeon or not doesn't really matter.

 

The walk back feels like trudging through a lava pit. Sana is always situated under a palm tree near their cave. She's made it hers, it seems. Maybe napping, maybe just resting her eyes. It's not like there's much else to do. Sometimes she'll just be sitting, an unmoving statue, staring out at the ocean in musing. It's these times that her eyes always find their way to Jeongyeon's, some hundred yards apart, but still - there's something there.

 

"Did you know Wrigley's was the first product to have a barcode?"

 

Jeongyeon stops mid-chew. "Uh, no?" comes out dumbly.

 

"Well, it was," Sana says, "in 1974."

 

"Oh. That's cool, I guess."

 

"Yeah."

 

A few moments pass. "A single noodle of spaghetti is called a spaghetto."

 

Somehow, that cracks Sana up until she's nearly choking on their dinner. Jeongyeon laughs from afar, handing her some water, taking measures to grasp it with just the tips of her fingers.

 

It's a pretty lame fact, Jeongyeon admits. She saw it on a poster somewhere; probably that Italian restaurant her sister likes, although Jeongyeon thinks more for the cute waiter than the food, which is mediocre at best. But she's glad it made Sana laugh.

 

/

 

Jeongyeon finds out that she's terrible at ring toss.

 

To save her from embarrassment, Sana drags her back into the bustle of the fair, commenting that these games are always rigged anyway. Jeongyeon heartily agrees, popping a bit of cotton candy into her mouth, eyes glinting as she feels it dissolve on her tongue like a mirage coming into view.

 

This is their first official date.

 

Jeongyeon had thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to show off a new, dashing side to Sana, but instead the both of them just turned out to be dreadful at games. But even with the pummel from the sun and the overpriced food and the bile constantly halfway up her throat, it's nice just - being here with Sana. After months of dancing around each other, Jeongyeon had said maybe going to the fair together would be fun, and maybe it was her clammy hands and refusal to meet Sana's eyes that gave her away, or maybe Sana just knew that it'd be different from one of their usual hangouts. Sana's always been able to read her like a book.

 

When the sky begins to turn a pretty shade of violet, they decide to ride a tandem paddling boat into the sea. There were older couples, younger couples, parents with their children also buoyant in the water around. The air is quiet.

 

Sana looks especially beautiful in this light, with eyes smiling like the sun, and laughs like a calming breeze.

 

Jeongyeon wants to kiss her. Badly.

 

/

 

Over time, Jeongyeon grows more skilled at fishing and had begun to set traps on dry ground for any land animals. Once, she'd caught a squirrel; they're quite gamy, she learned. Sana's arm grows healthier, too. Not completely healed, but enough to be helpful. Sana's self-appointed job is bringing dry brush back to their cave, and checking on the traps and fishing nets every now and then.

 

"Herrings communicate via farts."

 

Jeongyeon turns toward Sana, eyes scanning down the slope of her nose to its sharp curve, stopping just short of the cliff. They're lying under Sana's tree. "Where'd you even learn that?"

 

Sana shrugs. "Fishing was really boring. I think the owner of the bait shop felt sorry for me because he just randomly gave me a trivia book one day. I guess I remembered everything after a while."

 

"Why didn't I- I mean when did.. " Jeongyeon trails off.

 

Blue jays sing from above, their daytime tunes ringing a little too hoppy.

 

"It was after."

 

Oh.

 

Jeongyeon lets the silence suspend between them.

 

"Why'd you go if it was boring?"

 

"Because he was there," Sana reasons. "If something was really interesting or funny, I'd tell him and we'd laugh so much we'd almost rock the boat over."

 

Jeongyeon paints a picture in her head. Sana and her dad in open water. Pretty sky. No distractions. Snatches of laughter in the air.

 

He'd always been nice to her. He only worked three days a week, so on his off days, he would wave at her from the window when she dropped Sana off after school. Sana always looked happier on those days. Sometimes he would open the door before Sana could get to it, an easy smile across his face and a hand ready to land heavy on Sana's shoulder, anchoring her. Jeongyeon wonders if he knew. About them.

 

"How is he?"

 

Sana hums in question, tilting her head to meet Jeongyeon, whose eyes had already gone back to skating along the veins on the leaves overhead.

 

"Your dad. How is he?"

 

Sana seems to muse it over. "He's okay, I think. He's into rock climbing now. 'I'm not getting any younger, sweetie!'," she chuckles. Jeongyeon feels her heart heavy. She must miss him. "He asks about you sometimes."

 

Jeongyeon tenses, breath taut against the roof of her mouth. "What do you say?"

 

"The truth," Sana faces back upward, too. "That I don't know."

 

Jeongyeon doesn't know how to respond to that so she just - doesn't. Her chin dips subtly, swallowing the information.

 

They continue to lie there for some time. It's quiet enough for Jeongyeon to hear Sana's breathing even out. Jeongyeon thinks she'd fallen asleep.

 

"I'm glad it's you," wafts into her ears as soft as a whisper. Sana's eyelids slowly open, like a key unlocking her diary. "That I'm stuck here with. I'm glad it's you."

 

Jeongyeon doesn't know how to feel, or what to feel; there's just multicolored static fizzing in her brain, impossible to fine-tune. Her lips speak for her.

 

"Me too."

 

/

 

Jeongyeon struggles to get a firm hold on the oxygen mask dangling in front of her, teasing her like a go-go dancer. She'd made a mistake. The kid sitting next to her had been an inanimate object since the original warning flashed at him in the middle of some comedy with Na Moonhee, like the most unsuspecting jumpscare. He can't be more than sixteen years old, and Jeongyeon wasn't about to let him die from just sitting there, watching as his life withers away. So, she'd taken the five extra seconds to secure his mask on.

 

She manages to grip the yellow cup with a second to spare, before the plane starts to nosedive downward at a rate that makes everyone scream and yell and curse all throughout the cabin. Her heart sinks to her stomach, pounding fists against her nerves and there's only one thought coursing through her brain at this moment: we're falling.

 

The stewardesses are yelling at everyone to put on their life vests, and even they look scared. Jeongyeon glances outside of her window, seeing the spoilers flap against the main wing, like flailing birds in the arms of imminent danger. Then a small shift down, and she blanches. She's never been great at swimming, even with the calm waters below as still as the dead of night. A lion will always wait for its pounce.

 

When she hears it, it doesn't fully register. Now she's the dusty lamp in the corner of the room, body wooden in time. It's only when a stewardess forces her into position, through the ringing in her ears and the ever-constant blurred screaming around her, does it finally break in.

 

"Brace for impact!"

 

They say that when you think you're going to die, your mind shuffles through all of your loved ones, constructing a hurried goodbye note despite the next-to-zero chance that they'll actually be able to read it. It's a load of bullshit, Jeongyeon thinks; a pipe dream. This is an external circumstance, completely out of her control. It's unfair.

 

All she'd meant to do was take notes at some seminar her boss made her go to. Maybe do some sight-seeing, eat some local foods. Instead she gets hurled into this fucking disaster.

 

When she's sure that they're going to crash soon, at any moment, some unknown force tells her to look to her left and what she sees takes her breath away: Minatozaki Sana's eyes boring straight into hers. Then the blunt force of a thousand rocks strike against her scalp, until all is dark in the eye of the storm.

 

/

 

"Water's almost always the first ingredient listed on shampoo bottles," Jeongyeon says, playing with her earlobe idly.

 

"Bulls are colorblind."

 

"Pluto was named by an eleven year old girl."

 

"Sometimes Pluto is closer to the sun than Neptune," Sana bounces off of her, "the last time was from 1979 to 1999."

 

That stops Jeongyeon. Sana's always won these little fun fact back-and-forths, and this time isn't any different, but something about that particular fact towers above the rest.

 

The planets have been around for billions of years, each forming their own relationship with the sun, Pluto hanging on by a thread. But for a small blip in time, it'd secured its place in the solar system, flourished its connection with the sun. Jeongyeon wonders - if Pluto had held on tighter, would it still have had to leave? Did the sun just let her go? Was it a short fling, or a love to remember for an eternity?

 

"Oh, by the way," Sana says, crouching behind their tree, "I found these on the eastern part of the island."

 

Jeongyeon's jaw slackens.

 

"I know I'm not supposed to go off on my own but- "

 

"Bananas," Jeongyeon says, her eyes dripping liquid awe. Cradled in Sana's palms is a bouquet of ripe, delicious bananas, fit for a queen.

 

Sana beams, chest puffing with pride. "I heard they're really good warm, too."

 

"I'll start the fire."

 

Later, when Jeongyeon is halfway down her second banana, she notices Sana acting a bit different. Not odd, but her eyes linger on Jeongyeon for a second more than normal, like someone surveying a familiar face across a grocery store, too nervous to approach.

 

Like she wants to say something.

 

/

 

Jeongyeon's hand hovers over Sana's front door, knuckle at ready for a series of melodic, dull knocks. Clutched in her other hand is the promise ring she'd given to Sana on her last birthday, hula-hooping around her pinky. When her fist begins to pivot, an exchange of subdued voices reverberate from inside; dampened by the door, but still loud enough to make out.

 

"I made an appointment for you this weekend to get your passport. It'll take a while, but we can go shopping after, and have dinner at that place you like. How's that sound?"

 

A small bout of silence occurs after this, and even from here Jeongyeon can feel Sana toeing around the subject. "Can we do it some other time? I'm busy this weekend."

 

Jeongyeon isn't generally one to snoop, but something about Sana's tone makes her ears crane at their own will.

 

"Sana, we're leaving in a few months." Jeongyeon feels the air pull from her lungs. What? Heavy steps shuffle against the wooden floor inside. "There isn't time to wait."

 

"I know, but," Jeongyeon can hear Sana sigh, "I want to make the most of the time I have left here." Jeongyeon's eyes start to prickle.

 

"Sana, you can make new friends in Canada." Jeongyeon's jaw drops. A ball of twine lodges itself in her throat, slowly unraveling its rough edges. "It'll take some time to adjust, but you'll settle soon enough. How have those English classes been going?"

 

She'd told Jeongyeon that those were dance classes. Jeongyeon bites her tongue into a bear trap, thinking it might bleed.

 

"They've been fine."

 

Sana's mom sighs. "I'm sorry, honey. The job offer's too good for your dad to pass up and we really need the money. I can throw you a goodbye party if you want?" she edges gingerly.

 

A moment passes, though to Jeongyeon it might have been a lifetime. Finally, Sana answers. "Okay."

 

"Alright, good. Do you have anything you want in particular? New shoes?"

 

The sound of their slippered feet wane further and further away as they continue their conversation out of earshot. Jeongyeon's heart splatters all over the pavement, its jagged shards carelessly kicked around like they're a nuisance. She leaves without a word, as quiet as she'd come, ghost of a body in delay behind her.

 

It's a regular afternoon when the storm hits. Not a physical one, but something that smacks Jeongyeon in the face just the same.

 

Jeongyeon had just finished igniting their fire of the day when she sees what looks like a duffel bag riding the waves not too far out, like a treasure chest. She rolls up her pants as high as they'll go before wading in to investigate.

 

Minatozaki Sana, its tag displays clearly. Her eyes light up, reflecting the gold of the morning sun. She drags it to shore immediately. The change of clothes and whatever else Sana has stowed away in there should be useful, or at least nice enough to remember that they actually have lives outside of this island, that they're actual people.

 

"Sana!" she calls out, not bothering to look up. There are a few kelp leaves snagged into the zipper, but Jeongyeon rids of them soon enough. They fall back into the ocean ugly and deformed, but loved nonetheless. Folded semi-neatly are two pairs of pants and three shirts that'd probably gotten tumbled in the sea, like some odd laundromat. In the corner lay a few packages of half-eaten gummies that seawater had crept its way into prior.

 

Then she notices something shiny, peeking out from a small inner pocket. Probably more earrings, she supposes. Sana's always loved jewelry.

 

But - her fingers pause when they grip what feels like something round, and metal.

 

She plucks it out. Feels her heart dangle on the ground of an EKG and her stomach rumble like thunder. Between her fingers is a silver band, adorned with a large diamond delicately crusted on top and more small diamonds than Jeongyeon can count aligning its edges. The broken telephones in her ears refuse to stop ringing and when she catches a glimpse of an engraving on the inner side - she flatlines. Two initials with a small heart gracing the middle. Jeongyeon can feel the time between them.

 

"What is it?"

 

Jeongyeon hears Sana's footsteps paddling nearer in the sand and sees her shadow grow into a monster in front of her, tall and large and vicious.

 

"Found this," she says flatly, lifting up the ring to her ear. Showing it off.

 

A sharp intake of breath sounds from behind her. Jeongyeon scoffs. Suspicion confirmed.

 

Jeongyeon tosses the ring back into the bag haphazardly and runs off into the forest, head held low the entire time, Sana's pleas with her to wait fading further and further into the distance.

 

She can't handle this.

 

So, she runs.

 

The next morning, Jeongyeon arrives on time as usual. All seems normal, save for her white knuckles against the steering wheel and Sana's odd choice of sunglasses. Jeongyeon tells her that they're pretty, that the shape compliments her face. Sana just mumbles a thanks, unaware that Jeongyeon can see right through them - the dark curtains screening out the wine-red puffy eyes, swollen and drunk with lies.

 

The drive to school is quieter than normal, scattered with sparse small talk. Sana seems to find the signs outside the window fascinating, despite seeing them five days a week. Her fingers drum against the door's armrest, manicured nails clacking rhythmically against the material.

 

It's annoying.

 

Jeongyeon wonders how many times this has happened. How many days has Sana said that she was tired, and Jeongyeon just believed her, completely oblivious? Jeongyeon feels her face twist into anger at the thought. She grips the wheel harder. The bones on her hands bulge into mountains.

 

The 15-minute car ride seems to span for an hour, Jeongyeon's blaring honks becoming another passenger.

 

"So, what did your parents say?" Jeongyeon says when they arrive, lifting her emergency brake with a grunt. "About the road trip?"

 

Jeongyeon has a habit of putting her foot in her mouth, letting it take control on a whim. But at least in her favor, her voice comes out light and balanced, the words coming out as casually as she can manage.

 

Sana pretends to fumble with the seat buckle, unclasping it like a child. Jeongyeon makes sure to slam her door. "They actually planned a surprise trip for us. Back to Japan."

 

"I see." Jeongyeon isn't sure if she's constructing some kind of test. She begins to trudge her steps, slowing to a muddy pace because clearly the other girl wants to take her sweet time. "How long will you be gone for?"

 

Sana bites her lip, looking anywhere but at Jeongyeon. Her new subject of interest is the faded lines on the asphalt. "I don't know."

 

Jeongyeon wants to laugh, and scoff, and really just - call Sana out on her bullshit. But she'll play this little game, whatever it is. "Why wouldn't they tell you?"

 

Sana sighs like she's given up, like she knows that Jeongyeon knows. "I don't know, Jeongyeon."

 

Jeongyeon stops, pulls out the ring from her bag. "You forgot this," Jeongyeon says, putting it in Sana's line of sight. "Some promise huh?"

 

"What are you talking about?"

 

"I went to go return it yesterday after I dropped you off. I heard everything."

 

"You were spying on me?"

 

"You've been lying to me," Jeongyeon spits out.

 

"I haven't been lying to you! I've just been.. omitting the truth."

 

Jeongyeon gives her a look. "Dance classes?"

 

"Okay, I have been lying to you." Sana's voice turns small. "I just didn't want to hurt you."

 

"Lying to me hurts me more."

 

Sana's fingers slide underneath her sunglasses, rubbing at her eyes. "What if you visit? Or I can visit. It isn't that far."

 

"It's on the other side of the world and we don't have that kind of money."

 

"I can find a part-time job!"

 

"You need to focus on school. Do they even know about me? Why would you come all the way back here just for a friend?"

 

"What if-what if I live in a dorm here? Or I can ask to stay with my aunt nearby."

 

"Sana, you can't leave your parents."

 

"Why am I the only one fighting for this relationship?" Sana rips off her sunglasses and Jeongyeon can finally, tangibly feel her tears, brimming with salt and pain and hurt.

 

It hits Jeongyeon then. That they're both just pawns on opposite ends of the board, victims to the world's hand.

 

"It'd be fine at first. We'd send letters, video chat, talk on the phone," Jeongyeon says. "But over time, they'd grow less and less until they eventually just - stop. I don't want to go through that. I don't want you to go through that. It'd hurt too much."

 

"So you're not going to even try?"

 

A long moment passes, Jeongyeon's heart suspended en flight. "I'm sorry."

 

Jeongyeon runs, and runs, and runs. Until her legs melt to jelly and - she has no idea where she is. It's pitch black, and the only form of life exists in the eerie sounds of the forest around her. She squints her eyes, trying to spot a big tree, or the ocean, anything to help her find her way. Then a drop sprinkles into her hair, then two, three, quickly fattening into a heavy downpour. Small animals sprint past her in a flurry, probably trying to seek shelter from the storm. A lightning strike turns out to be her only source of light.

 

Jeongyeon starts laughing. She starts laughing uncontrollably because she didn't think it could get any worse. Hot liquid begins to spill from her eyes, mingling with the rain and turning to scalding acid. Everything is just so fucked and the worst part is - she doesn't even have a right to be angry. She's barely even sure what she's angry at (this is a lie, although she'll deny it for as long as she can). The answer is right there, just a slip of her tongue under; not deep down, just there, brushed off like a piece of dirt when really it encompasses all of the space in her heart. What's even worse is that she knows Sana feels the same way.

 

A shout catches her attention then. It’s blurred, and she can't tell how far away it is in this shit weather, but it's there: someone calling out for her. Jeongyeon starts to run toward it, mind lifting, only to have luck spite her as her foot snags on something on the forest floor. The last thing she sees is a tiny spark before her eyes flutter closed and she passes out.

 

/

 

Jeongyeon rustles, her sleep-addled brain finding refuge atop what feels like a burnt marshmallow. It's when her pillow shifts does she realize that it's the rough material of hard-worn jeans. There's heat emanating from them, and despite her throbbing headache, it feels like the best sleep she'd gotten in a long, long time. She feels nimble fingers brush her hair back and a warm piece of fabric settle on her forehead, saturated with an affection all too familiar. Jeongyeon lets out a whimper, burrowing further into the warmth of a belly.

 

"Good morning," drifts down from above, "did you sleep well?"

 

Jeongyeon is too exhausted to do anything else but offer a weak nod. She cracks open an eye and spots the shadow of a crackling fire, realizing she's back at the cave.

 

"You hit your head on a branch," Sana tells her, "I found you unconscious on the floor."

 

Jeongyeon lets out a groan. So that's why her head hurts like a bitch.

 

"Here," she feels Sana stretch over her to grab something, "found this in my bag."

 

Sana brings a small tablet to her lips that Jeongyeon guesses is a painkiller of some kind. She swallows it gratefully, allowing the trickle of water Sana feeds her after to drizzle down her chin. There's a wet spot on Sana's jeans now; it's probably uncomfortable.

 

Jeongyeon speaks for the first time, her voice croaking like an old machine long-due for an oiling. "How did you find me?"

 

"Waterproof flashlight."

 

Jeongyeon's lips form into a circle, exhaling an oh.

 

Sana seems to hesitate, her voice becoming small. "Why did you run off like that?"

 

Jeongyeon's chest tightens, all of her memories flashing back to her. She doesn't answer, instead just doesn't move at all.

 

"Is this about the ring? Why would that- "

 

"Shut up, Sana."

 

"Jeongyeon.. it's not what you think," Sana sighs, "I'll tell you a story, okay? Please just listen."

 

Sana inhales a large, wobbly breath before she starts.

 

"I met someone when I started college. Her name was Mina. We were roommates. She was so nice, and pretty, and understanding. All I could ever want. Over time I fell in love with her, and she loved me back."

 

"Sana, I don't need- " Jeongyeon starts to protest, but Sana just speaks louder, over her.

 

"She asked me to marry her, right after graduation, and I said yes," her voice lilts up at that. "I was so happy and so excited. We had plans to move in together. I'd gotten a job offer here, and she was going to follow me a few months later. But.. on the day of the wedding, something snapped in me. I don't know what it was, or why, and I knew it wasn't just cold feet. I don't know, it just felt like- like something was out of place. Like I shouldn't be there, like I just woke up from a dream. So I left her. At the altar."

 

Jeongyeon can't help the gasp she lets out.

 

"Yes, I was that bitch," Sana sighs, and her voice sounds more like sorrow than regret. "That was six months ago. After that she flew back home without telling me, and that's why I was flying to Japan. To return the ring. It didn't feel right mailing it."

 

Sana exhales. "So that's it." She brushes a thumb over the peak of Jeongyeon's cheek, and Jeongyeon realizes that she's been crying. "You don't have to explain anything right now." Sana lands a kiss on her forehead, feather-light. "Just go to sleep."

 

And Jeongyeon does, the moonlight illuminating her and Sana's shadows to adhere to each other, forming into one.

 

/

 

Jeongyeon's head is burning. Sweat dews on her hairline in puddles, and it definitely isn't from the white heat of the sun or the red heat of the fire. No, it's the burn that accompanies a thousand needles into her skull and a chill biting through to her core. She feels a warm caress shrinking the pain into teeny manageable clumps, enough to induce murmurs from Jeongyeon and a focus so sharp she doesn't hear the voice trying to tune in at first.

 

" .. feeling okay?"

 

Jeongyeon exhales, and the wobble that comes out just makes her feel worse. She attempts to steady herself again but loses her footing halfway through, ending in a whimper. "Hurts."

 

Jeongyeon hears a sigh from above that sounds more like a puff, and she can imagine Sana's face right now: lips puckered into a frown and brows coming together in worry. Jeongyeon feels a fondness swimming through her ache, memories moseying into the foreground of her consciousness, stealing the spotlight.

 

"I think you have a fever," Sana says, pressing the back of her hand onto Jeongyeon's forehead.

 

"Oh," Jeongyeon manages, "that sucks."

 

Sana rattles something nearby; it's loud. Jeongyeon vaguely wonders with her dazed brain if Sana'd found a maraca somewhere.

 

"I have eight tablets left," Sana sighs. "Your fevers usually last three or four days, so it should be enough. But with the conditions here, I don't know if- "

 

Jeongyeon tunes out of Sana's rambles, instead choosing to center on her breaths grazing across Sana's jeans.

 

In, out, in, out.

 

She wonders if Sana can feel it.

 

Then she notices that they're in the same spot they were when she went to sleep.

 

"Have we been like this all night?" Jeongyeon asks, interrupting whatever Sana was saying.

 

"Huh? Oh, yeah." As if nothing's wrong with that.

 

"Did you sleep at all?"

 

"A little bit.."

 

"You could've just put me in my sleeping bag. What if you get sick too?" Jeongyeon chastises.

 

"Okay, you don't get to give me shit right now. I just wanted to keep an eye on you. Now," Sana shoves a tablet into her mouth, “take this." Jeongyeon complies, the water gushing strength through her throat. "I'll mash up some meat and try to make some kind of soup. It won't taste very good, but it should be easier to swallow."

 

Jeongyeon nods and doesn't respond, more out of laziness than actual fatigue.

 

The soup really doesn't taste good. But it doesn't taste particularly bad either. Just really, really bland.

 

Jeongyeon hears a small whir beside her, and particles falling back into a pot. Sana gusts one last breath onto the spoon, checking the temperature with her own lips before bringing the spoon to Jeongyeon's, nuzzling its crest into the nook between Jeongyeon's top and bottom lip.

 

The fire crackles next to them. Jeongyeon can feel its sparks draw nearer, then disappear altogether into the ether. The ocean breeze makes the trees dance.

 

"Thank you," she says. The sound of metal against metal clangs through her ear canal as Sana scrapes away the last of her meal.

 

Sana replies with nothing more than an ah, utensil hovering half-full with lukewarm soup, its dusty complexion creating a faint rim in the dip of the spoon.

 

This goes on for the next few days: Jeongyeon stirs awake every few hours, eyes in a baggy droop. Sometimes Sana's awake, sometimes not. The hour is hardly the same but the fire is always well-fed and lively. The best times are when she wakes up to a warm cloth bathing her forehead, soaking up the sickness. It feels nice - being taken care of.

 

On the third day she suddenly gets worse. It feels like there's a bed of hot coals residing in her brain like a tumor but the rest of her body has icicles running down its length. Sana's been in a panic all day and by sunset, the medicine bottle is empty. Jeongyeon feels sorry for burdening her.

 

She's standing on the edge of a hazy dream when the sound of zippers makes her bristle. Like buzzing wasps, they nick at the comfort of her skin while she's left to squirm in torment. When she opens her eyes, it's to the view of Sana's under-jaw descending rapidly down to her position on the floor, locking around the curve of Jeongyeon's shoulder. Sana's breath is uncomfortably hot against her ear, but she doesn't argue.

 

"Hug me."

 

"Huh," Jeongyeon breathes.

 

"Hug me. My body heat will warm you up."

 

"What? No, there isn't enough room- "

 

"I combined our sleeping bags," Sana says, pulling her closer. "I'm not letting go so just - hug me, okay?"

 

Jeongyeon wilts. Her arms come to rest snugly into the small of Sana's back and her nose nuzzles further into Sana's neck. It's warm there; enough to permeate through her entire being, enough to thaw away the blanket of blue. Sana laces their legs together and by sunrise, Jeongyeon feels good enough to stand on her own. Sana still follows her around, linking them together into a coil. At night they spring together fully, tightly. The sleeping bags stay combined.

 

/

 

They turn domestic. It's sickening (terrifying).

 

Sana's taken over the fishing while Jeongyeon tends to the game and traps. Jeongyeon learns that she's been overcooking the fish all this time as she sinks her teeth into the tender meat that was once as hard as rubber. Somehow Sana manages to imbue a smoky flavor as well -

 

"Just poke a stick through the middle and place it a few inches above the fire," Sana says, satisfied with herself.

 

"Why didn't you tell me this before?"

 

Sana shrugs. "You were already doing so much."

 

Jeongyeon lays out their sleeping bag onto a large rock near the cave to air out, making sure to check it for the odd crab that likes to crawl into its corners. Sana had shot up when she felt one trot up her calf, nearly ripping their bed and inching much too close to the hot sparks of the fire.

 

This strange place has become a temporary home for Jeongyeon. Sometimes she has these crazy thoughts where she isn't sure if she wants to leave; when Sana smiles at her with the ocean in her eyes and a leaf she doesn't know is stuck in her hair.

 

Jeongyeon finds it interesting, fate. Maybe a little funny too, although she isn't sure whether that laugh is derisive or not. Her and Sana had been oceans apart for many years and it happens to be just that that brings them back together again, wave by wave as the current swims on. From a dark blue to golden ripples, basking in the sun.

 

/

 

Desire and longing aren't all too different, Jeongyeon thinks.

 

They both lay in wait under a single sheet of cellophane - thin and transparent and all too ready to pounce. Just one rip and they come alive.

 

Longing is when Sana is beside her, fire rumbling in front, knees just an inch apart, the space between them aching to be closed. Jeongyeon considers doing it a number of times and she unconsiders it more times than that. Sometimes it'll be an accident (she tells herself) so she won't have to think about it: the way her breath hitches, the way a blush crosses Sana's cheeks, burning hotter than the flames.

 

The line between desire and longing is the baths piling, night by night. Sana doesn't need her help anymore, which Jeongyeon can't tell is a good or bad thing; not being able to robotize herself means having to be present in the moment, hearing the sighs and hiding her swallows.

 

Pure desire is right now.

 

Sana has lowered herself into the small tub as usual. Jeongyeon feels the same crimson rise to her ears and bleed into a tingle along her spine.

 

But tonight a different dialogue proceeds.

 

"Jeongyeon," Sana says. "Can you help me?"

 

"Oh, does your arm hurt again?" Jeongyeon scrambles up from her spot, feet in a scurry.

 

Sana looks straight at her when she answers, locking their eyes.

 

"No."

 

Oh.

 

 

 

Later, when they lie to rest, Jeongyeon intertwines her fingers with Sana's. Not for warmth or comfort, but just because it's hers.

 

/

 

One night, it just spills out.

 

"Why did you say no?"

 

Jeongyeon's voice possesses a thickness to it, a tension that at its core carries a naked want.

 

Sana's teeth pause around the piece of meat she was about to break off. "It just didn't feel right."

 

"But why?" (Jeongyeon should really be older than this).

 

"I already told you. I don't know why you're being so accusatory," Sana exhales. "Is there something else you want to say?"

 

"Yes."

 

"What is it?"

 

Jeongyeon's courage suddenly evaporates. She returns to her usual silence, hoping Sana will forgive her like she always has.

 

But Sana snaps. "Can you just say what you're feeling for once?" She begins to get up but -

 

"I love you."

 

Sana stills, her body in an awkward crouch. "What?"

 

"I love you," Jeongyeon says, stronger. "I don't think I ever stopped."

 

The air is silent. Jeongyeon's chin is on her chest and her eyes are squeezed shut. A few seconds later, she senses something warm occupy the space next to her.

 

"You don't know how long I've been waiting to hear you say that."

 

Jeongyeon lets out the breath she didn't know she was holding, feeling her eyes start to prickle. Her voice is wet when she replies.

 

"But I don't think we should be together."

 

Sana's fingers lift her jaw, coax her. Her eyes stream liquid hurt when they finally meet.

 

But Jeongyeon pulls away, like she always has.

 

"Sana what will happen once- if we get back home? I haven't seen you in six years. We have different lives. I don't know who you are now or even know where you live!"

 

"Seoul," Sana begins, her voice level. "Minatozaki Sana. 24. Just got my bachelors in PR and Advertising. Developed an allergy to mushrooms." She steps into Jeongyeon's personal space. "Loves Yoo Jeongyeon."

 

Jeongyeon just continues to spew words from her mouth. "I live in Suwon. It'll never work."

 

"Jeongyeon that's only 30 minutes away."

 

"I work really early! And last I remember, you're a terrible driver." She flourishes her arm across their surroundings. "Look at where we are. This is just some weird, shitty fairytale land. How do I know that when we get back, you won't- " she stops herself.

 

The silence hurts.

 

"Jeongyeon," Sana says softly, edging closer and forcing Jeongyeon to meet her eyes, "I wouldn't hurt you again."

 

Jeongyeon exhales, her breath coming out as a whimper.

 

"It's not you that I'm worried about," Jeongyeon tells her.

 

"I don't understand- "

 

"You were wrong before," Jeongyeon starts. "I'm not strong. The world - it's a fucked up place. I don't know if I can handle losing you again."

 

"So you're not going to even try?"

 

Those words again. It's here. Where Jeongyeon makes a choice. A decision as important as life or death. Jeongyeon thinks about the past six years: the pain, the healing, the things she's experienced here.

 

Sana looks straight at her. Right into the depths of her soul.

 

And it's like the answer was there all along.

 

"Friends," she says, finally. Time. "We can be friends." Give me time.

 

Jeongyeon opens herself up, exposes her spine. Sings her wordless chorus.

 

Sana walks up to her. Caresses Jeongyeon's cheek with her thumb, peering into her eyes. Reads her.

 

Hears everything she needs to know.

 

"Friends," she echoes. Her smile is blinding.

 

/

 

The next morning, when Jeongyeon wakes with her legs tangling and melting into Sana's like licorice, she wonders if last night's conversation had even happened. The sun is brighter than usual today, acting as a beacon for their kingdom of dreams - once buried and turned to ruins but now raining down in golden ladders.

 

Sana begins to stir, warm breaths settling into the concave of Jeongyeon's clavicle. Jeongyeon wishes she'd slept for a while longer - Sana is really pretty when she sleeps.

 

"Jeongyeon," Sana whispers, clear as day. Jeongyeon hums in response, too lazy to speak. The rising heat of Sana's skin seeps into her. "Can I.. kiss your cheek?"

 

Sana finally looks up, eyes wet with hope. "Friends can do that, right?"

 

Jeongyeon smiles at her. "Yes," she answers. "Friends can do that."

 

Sana's lips are warm, shy across her skin. Jeongyeon kisses her forehead, catching Sana off guard and letting loose a squeal. Sana is so cute.

 

Jeongyeon loves her.

 

When they're having breakfast, goofing around and throwing small bones at each other, Jeongyeon hears a distant whirr from somewhere outside. Her eyes widen when she registers what it is: the unmistakable sound of fluttering helicopter blades. She races to the black box, pulls out the flare gun with shaky hands.

 

The helicopter's rapidly disappearing tail-end is the first thing Jeongyeon sees when she stumbles out, heavy feet staggering in the sand. She fires straight up without reservation. With a prayer. The shell erupts in a lightshow, a host of sunburnt orange soaring into the baby blue sky in streaks.

 

Sana is calling out her name when a miracle happens.

 

Jeongyeon is short of breath at the sight, her lungs in a frozen lull beneath her ribcage.

 

The helicopter is turning around.

 

It's turning around, slowly but surely, and now Sana's arms are swung over Jeongyeon's shoulders and her feet are bouncing up and down in a sand explosion.

 

Jeongyeon is as stiff as a plank in a time haze watching the propellers fan round and round. When the force of it hits her - a hurricane that clears her eyes and flurries her hair, Sana's beaming face is in front of her yelling -

 

"We're going home! We're going home!"

 

Jeongyeon's heart feels like it's going to simultaneously beat out of her chest and settle into a cozy, unwavering room.

 

"I can't believe it," she says, finally.

 

Sana's laughter floats to the ether, light and airy and full of glee. She comes into Jeongyeon's personal space, hands curtaining them into a sweet darkness.

 

"We made it," she whispers, breath skating across the curve of Jeongyeon's lips.

 

Jeongyeon breaks out into an ear-to-ear smile, nose-crinkling and encompassing pure, raw happiness. "We made it," she returns.

 

Someone from above calls out to them then, megaphone reverberating through the sky, their voice a glowing gift.

 

 

 

When they're situated inside the helicopter, knees touching and hands locked together, aviation headsets unsecured - Jeongyeon doesn't need ears to hear what Sana says to her.

 

Jeongyeon brushes her thumb across Sana's knuckle, prints a permanent spot. "I love you too.”

 

With that, they ascend. Halos around their heads and the rising sun in their eyes.