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the inevitability of us

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The first time, oh boy, is classic.

“Hi.” 

Jeongyeon looks up from flipping a coin almost immediately, the voice speaking to her squeaky and unfamiliar. There, a girl roughly her age, stands in front of the stall she’s sitting behind. She’s dirty and there’s grime smeared across her cheeks, her tunic tattered and roughened and knees scarred. Her eyes, however, are bright. She’s skinny, just skin and not a single strip of muscle with how all her bones jut sharply under her skin and threaten to pierce through, and Jeongyeon feels her tiny heart sink. Just a little. 

An orphan, she guesses. After all, they are anything but uncommon in this area. It’s a morbid thought to have, to think that this poor girl wouldn’t even make it to the end of this week given her current state, how she feels like she could merely poke her and all her bones would shatter underneath, but it’s all Jeongyeon can spare her. In this life, you can only take what you’re given, and there’s not much worth in begging for something better. 

Jeongyeon is no better, however. Once, she looked like that, too. The only reason she found a home was that she was caught stealing — a few dried dates to get her by for the night — and had begged with her life that the gruff-faced man wouldn’t drag her by the arm and toss her into the raging waters of the Eastern Sea. Had she not had her height nor growing bones sturdy enough to carry crates upon crates of loot seized across the far Northern lands, then that might’ve been her fate. 

(Though she wonders if it would’ve really mattered in the end. It wasn’t like she had something to live for anyway.)

The man who takes her in is not a saint — merely a poor merchant hoping to make ends meet some way or another — and he is not kind, he is not giving, he is hardly a paternal figure, but he is enough. She doesn’t know his name, she supposes he doesn’t have one, but he tells her to call him Da anyway. Jeongyeon’s heart feels full regardless. It is the very first time she remembers belonging.

“Hi,” is all Jeongyeon replies with. Goes back to flipping the coin.

Most kids are usually desperate enough to ask for something, anything, but it is usually food. Jeongyeon is usually kind enough to spare small portions of stale bread when Da’s not looking. She supposes this skinny kid’s here to do the same. 

Then, it happens all too fast. The stick thin girl moves with a speed Jeongyeon doesn’t expect, maneuvering behind the goods stall and shoving Jeongyeon back and towards the ground with a strength she doesn’t expect either. Immediately, the coin in her hand is taken, along with some other things — probably the leftover loaf of bread Da had told her to eat the minute he’d given it to her — and when the girl runs away, she knocks over parts of Da’s new shipment and they break pathetically across the ground beneath her.

The skinny girl goes as fast as she had come. Almost as if she was never there. Just Jeongyeon on the ground, and Da’s broken goods at her feet. She has to blink to make sure all of this is even real.

Then, the panic hits. Da won’t be happy—

There are heavy footsteps that come behind her, and the scratchy intake of breath that comes afterwards only has her breath catching and blood stilling. 

Well. 

Maybe she should’ve finished the bread.

 

-

 

I hate her, is the only thing Jeongyeon can think when Da’s done with her and the back of her legs sting with a different kind of pain. It’s not the same as all the other times — it’s not achey, the kind of hurt that licks up in waves and keeps her in one place and doesn’t let her sleep. It’s more than that. Something more intense, something more—

It's white hot, a kind of searing fury that gathers and balls up real tight in the pulsing cavity beneath her chest. Like a fire that flickers, but will never go out. It’s rage, it’s madness, it’s a type of emotion Jeongyeon’s never experienced before, not until this, however.

It’s this:

It comes and goes, surging at the back of her head, when she thinks of tawny eyes, riveting with a type of fervor that Jeongyeon’s starting to despise. It should be impossible for a girl to have eyes that burn brighter and hotter than white stars to be housed in a body that couldn’t compare, couldn’t even contain a fraction of the vigor that a brittle bone skeleton wouldn’t be able to withstand. It should be impossible, but here she is: coin stolen, body beaten raw, and nothing but a thought of how a single malnourished girl with fire eyes can bring up such a rotten feeling within her.

I hate her, and then everything burns brighter.

 

-

 

The second time they meet, Jeongyeon raises the stakes.

It’s childish of her, really, to keep a grudge against a little orphan girl with a body built upon breakable bones. She should know better than to be stooping to the level of a girl who probably didn’t know any better, but she doesn't. In the end, Jeongyeon is a child, too.

In this life, however, that is not how it works, not when the people here fight for all they can, even if that means at the expense of someone else. It’s kill or be killed, really, but both Jeongyeon and the little girl mustn’t need to worry about that. Not at this age, not in this lifetime. 

(Not until later, that is.)

“Hi,” Jeongyeon says, mimics the way the girl had spoken to her first thing. She finds her in a decrepit alley swarming with children and homeless adults alike, yet the girl crouches in a faraway corner alone. Jeongyeon’s nose wrinkles.

The girl’s gaze shoots up to meet hers, and then there it is: the brightness, the brown, the life that swirls within wide pupils. Jeongyeon swallows. I hate it.

“Hi,” the girl repeats. From here, she looks a thousand times smaller, like Jeongyeon could fold her up and put her in the tiniest box possible and she’d be able to fit with ease. Jeongyeon almost feels bad.

In turn, she crouches as well to meet the girl at an eye-to-eye level. Her face is a lot more cleaner. “What’s your name?”

The girl’s head tilts out of confusion, only for Jeongyeon to copy her motions. “Sana.”

Sana. Sana. Jeongyeon wonders who gave her that name. Her biological parents? The head priest before she was kicked out to the streets? Or herself? Sana. It's a pretty name.

Jeongyeon decides to cut to the chase. “Where is my coin?”

“Gone,” Sana says, and it’s ridiculously courageous and stupid of her at the same time. “I pawned it.”

Sana shuffles a little in her spot, and Jeongyeon realizes she’s only trying to hide something underneath her tunic. 

Jeongyeon’s bigger and stronger, so she has no problem pushing the little girl back and to the ground to see what she’s trying to hide. It isn’t much, just a few pieces of bread, really, but it’s enough to make the heat within her chest rise once again. There it is.

“Did you pawn it for this?” Jeongyeon asks, and it’s a lot nicer than she’s feeling. “For this bread?”

Sana tries to scramble back up, but Jeongyeon’s limbs are longer, and there’s an arm that holds her little body down. She doesn’t say anything.

“I’m asking you a question,” Jeongyeon presses her arm harder against the girl, watches the way she winces, then tries to squirm out of her hold.

By now, there are other people staring at them. No one interferes. Neither of them are worth it.

“Yes,” Sana answers, face twisting into a scowl. She’s moving enough to make Jeongyeon’s arm waver from its position. Jeongyeon wonders where such a tiny body gets all of this strength from, but that thought is shot immediately to the ground, when not even seconds later, the girl bites her forearm. Hard.

It’s enough to have her yelling out in pain and letting go, and Sana’s quick to try to get away, but Jeongyeon’s even quicker, even with the reddening bite mark on her forearm, and she grabs the back of Sana’s collar and sends her down to the ground once again. 

It isn’t worth it, Jeongyeon knows this much in the end, to be ruffling it up with some orphan girl that was probably doing all she can to stay alive. It isn’t worth it, but here she is, doing exactly that. Her chest burns. She stands up, hovering over a groaning Sana, and wonders if it’s worth it, at least, to maybe fit in at least a single punch. Maybe to the stomach, or else Jeongyeon feels like she might shatter Sana’s entire skull.

Instead, she bends down to pick up the meager pieces of bread Sana was trying to hide. Gives one last look to Sana, whose big eyes are trained on her, even if she gets back up, yet makes not a single move to take back her bread. Jeongyeon only cracks a crooked smile back at Sana and drops them into some puddle of… whatever the hell is on the ground. Mud, dirty water, piss. Whatever. 

Then, she leaves, feels the fire eyes burn holes into her back, which only stokes the fire deep inside of her in return, and grins.

 

-

 

She doesn’t see Sana ever again.

Not in this lifetime.

 

-

 

The second time — it’s probably a coincidence. 

She’s be able to recognize those eyes anywhere. The way it makes the fire in her chest burn hotter, just like it did a hundred years ago. The way only one thought runs through her mind: I hate her.

Sana seems to recognize her too, though she doesn’t say anything. She deals her fruit that rots within the next day. 

Probably payback for the bread, Jeongyeon thinks.

 

-

 

The third, the fourth, the tenth— they’re all the same.

The fifth time sees Jeongyeon tricking Sana out of her pouch of gold.

After the twelfth time, Sana sells her a sick chicken that nearly wipes out all of Jeongyeon’s own with disease.

Jeongyeon and Sana do all these things to spite each other, even if they hardly know each other. The only thing Jeongyeon knows about Sana is that she has fire eyes and is the only person she’s ever met — again and again — that does anything but quell the burning within her chest. Sana only knows that Jeongyeon’s possibly the most annoying fuck ever and won’t leave her alone. No matter how many lives they see each other.

 

Jeongyeon hates her. Sana hates her.

It’s as fun as it can be, ruining each other’s lives, solely because they hate each other’s guts. They even laugh about it afterwards. It’s schadenfreude at its finest.

By the thirtieth time,

It is routine.

 

-

 

It’s petty at most.

In this life — Jeongyeon doesn’t remember how many its been — Sana steals her husband. She loses her home, the warmth of a life she’s loved, her everything. Jeongyeon swears she'll ruin Sana’s life next time.

In the next, Sana is a Northern farmer. It’s a quaint lifestyle, albeit something rather a little too mundane for the likes of Sana, Jeongyeon thinks. She probably hates it.

Jeongyeon is the rain deity. She’s worshipped for her generosity, for the fortune and prosperity she provides to those who believe, but it’s like Sana knows. Sana scorns upon her name and Jeongyeon can only laugh in the high heavens. There you are. 

In turn, as usual, Jeongyeon denies Sana’s crops of rain and makes her life miserable until she parts.

By the next, Sana takes her wife this time, but Jeongyeon’s too impatient to wait for a next life. She destroys their love out of pure vengeance, and boy, it is ugly.

And also the start of something that even thousands and thousands of years wouldn’t be able to tie down.

 

-

 

Jeongyeon’s lost track by now — maybe it’s the seventieth time already? — but she supposes she had it coming for her.

It is only fair, after all, for Sana to take her life when her daughter was involved in the crossfire, which was purely Jeongyeon’s doing, but whatever. She'll let her have that.

After that, Jeongyeon doesn’t put the transgressions past Sana anymore. 

Neither does Sana.

Fate is a finicky thing. By now, it is obvious that Sana and her are tied together by some otherworldly reason— reason be it, perhaps, to hate each other forever. They meet each other every lifetime. They always somehow find each other without fail, and it would’ve been romantic, really, if they weren’t destined to feel nothing but fury for each other.

Jeongyeon hates Sana. Sana hates Jeongyeon. Fate’s order and everything, and that’s all there is to it.

 

-

 

Then, it happens again.

Sana is a descendant of the almighty Horus. Basically, a god, if you will. Jeongyeon is the Persian raider that sends a golden spear through her eye.

And again.

Jeongyeon’s the “chosen one,” a sacrifice for some higher deity this time around, but she doubts it’s by mere chance. Sana’s here for god’s sake. She rigged this shit.

Sana is the Aztec princess. She grins when they carve her beating heart out for the Gods right in front of her.

And again.

They’re comrades by trade this time. They’re as amicable as they can be, when they’re minding their own business and two hundred feet away from each other, but are still the only ones who get written up for always getting into petty squabbles in the mess hall nearly every week. Someone gets a black eye, the other a missing tooth. Then vice versa until they’re running out of body parts to break. The country they fight for is on the fast track to defeat, and it’s already common knowledge that once the war is over, they’d be shipped thousands of miles away to probably get killed anyway. Jeongyeon supposes she has nothing to lose after all, so she shoots Sana on the battlefield. Then herself.

(Sana, to this day, will not shut up about how such a foul play it was.)

And again

You get it.

 

-

 

Sometimes, they’re not even fortunate. 

They simply see each other in passing and kill each other on sight. 

 

-

 

In this lifetime, Jeongyeon’s a mercenary turned war hero turned war criminal. It’s funny, really, how she ends up running for her life after agreeing to side with a struggling war state and then seizing nearly the entire peninsula for the now-emperor from conquest after conquest. He told her that she was getting ahead of herself, and she just thinks he’s jealous of her charisma. And to think all she wanted to do was to go home and drown herself in fifty goblets of wine and then some.

There’s a hefty prize for her head, and of course, Sana is the first one hot on her heels. That sadistic bitch would’ve done anything to have her dead, and she did, slaughtering nearly half her men when they refused to let her whereabouts be known. Jeongyeon thinks she doesn’t even care about the prize. Just wants her blood on her hands, would even bathe in it if she could. 

When they see each other, faster than Jeongyeon can even recognize her and— 

Sana’s already got the end of her bronze dagger deep into her stomach. She feels it rip through skin and tissue and it hurts, of course, because growing up with years and years of military training doesn’t prepare you to get stabbed no matter what, but the look of satisfaction on Sana’s face is even worse. 

“Hi, Jeongyeonie,” she merely says, grin curling as she presses a little harder, makes Jeongyeon choke a little more. There is no urgency, no remorse, of course not, because Sana will never regret killing her. “Sorry about this. I wish we could’ve had more time to chat, but they wanted you dead for a lot of drachmae! Good thing that’s my job, right?”

If Jeongyeon wasn’t dying, she would’ve scoffed. Sana wasn’t a bounty hunter by choice. It’s not her type of trade — too barbaric, too many instances to get her hands dirty and cut herself short before she could get to Jeongyeon. In fact, she’s almost a hundred percent certain Sana merely became one just because Jeongyeon, rather unfortunately, ended up with a price tag on her head. 

“Next time,” Jeongyeon can only manage, tongue metallic with the blood that spills from her mouth. She tries to convince herself that it’s a glorious death, how she had salvaged what was left of a once crumbling empire and killed left and right like it was nothing to regain all semblances of glory back, but not really. Dying by Minatozaki Sana’s hand? She’ll need at least a hundred years to get rid of the thought, but even then, Sana will never let her live it down.

“Sure,” Sana knows what she means anyway, lets Jeongyeon’s body slump pathetically against her as the dagger finally hilts, and the rest of it comes clear out of Jeongyeon’s back.

 

-

 

“Told you,” Jeongyeon says, tears off her mask and lets it clatter to the ground next to Sana’s head. The knife is thick with blood when she pulls it out of Sana, and it drips in a way Jeongyeon’s starting to like. In this lifetime, at least. “Next time.”

“That’s not fair,” Sana laughs, but it doesn’t do her any good when the motion makes her blood start leaking a little faster. “You picked to be a serial killer just to get back at me.”

“I didn’t pick anything.”

“Now, Jeongyeonie, I’m bleeding out on your living room floor right now,” Sana says, “so there’s really no reason for you act all mysterious right now. I know that ugly mask was a choice.”

Jeongyeon doesn’t say anything. She thought that mask was a good choice.

“Next time, you could do without all the stalking. It’s kind of creepy, you know?” Sana’s smiling and it kind of scares Jeongyeon at how out of place it all is: Sana, bleeding out and dying underneath her, and all she does is smile. “Thank you for all the attention though.”

Jeongyeon wonders how Sana’s even managing to talk so much still, but she supposes people never really change. Hundreds and thousands of years later, no matter which one of them is at the brink of death, Sana is still as talkative as ever.

“The fact that you went through all my social media, and even killed my ex-boyfriend to get to me—“ Sana coughs and winces, and Jeongyeon only watches the way Sana’s blood starts to gather in the dip of her stomach, even as her bloodied fingers try to press against the wound. “That’s kind of sweet. Are you in love with me?"

“I hate you.” Jeongyeon deadpans.

“Liar. You love me,” Sana’s grin is bloody. Her words are sarcastic. Jeongyeon grips the handle of the knife harder, knuckles white, and Sana notices. Three stabs to the abdomen was bad enough, a fourth one definitely wouldn’t have this conversation going on anymore. “Kidding. Though with the way you’re so obsessed with getting back at me, someone might think so.”

Jeongyeon ignores Sana’s words. She hums and lets the bloody knife drop to the floor next to Sana’s body. She gets up and off of the girl, only to sit next to her, eyes trained on the way the blood’s starting to pool underneath Sana’s body.

“Though you’re not the only one who did some stalking,” Sana admits. Her voice is too carefree for this moment. It’s jarring. “You wanted to talk to me, didn’t you, doctor Yoo? That’s why you stabbed me here,” she presses harder, grimaces as her blood continues to filter out in currents past her fingers, “so I’d die slowly and we’d get to have this nice conversation. You’re so easy to read, Jeongyeonie!”

Jeongyeon had meant for it to be surgically precise, blame the doctor in her, but perhaps not for the reasons Sana’s touting at. Maybe? When Jeongyeon doesn’t say anything, Sana keeps talking. "You could’ve just asked me out for coffee, really. It would’ve been cute.” 

Sana’s blood reaches her shoes. Jeongyeon merely reaches over to press two fingers underneath the bend of Sana’s jaw. Her heart is slowing. Soon. 

“Don’t do anything weird with my dead body, Jeongyeonie. I’ll come back from hell and haunt you if you do.”

Silence follows, and Jeongyeon already knows Sana doesn’t like it. “Aren’t you going to say something? Any last words? C’mon, Jeongyeonie, your life is going to be so boring without me after this. The least you could do is—"

“I hate you,” is what Jeongyeon says. It’s the only thing she says. 

Sana laughs. Again. It’s annoying. Jeongyeon wonders if she’s doing it on purpose, just to irritate her, or maybe she’s had enough with how passive and vague Jeongyeon is being in this lifetime — it’s probably too boring for Sana, but she’s dying and doesn’t really have much in her left to gauge an interesting reaction out of Jeongyeon one last time — and she’s only laughing because that’s all there’s really left for her to do. How characteristic of her.

Sana sucks in one last single breath and it looks like it’s nearly taking everything in her to do so. Even then, her grin is wide, slicked with blood straight across. It suits her.

“Hate you too,” and then, she’s gone.

 

-

 

In this lifetime, like many others, Jeongyeon’s smack in the middle of a war. She’s a captain this time, even has a fancy patch on her bicep to prove it, but perhaps none of it even matters anymore, not when she’d sent her team wayside and decided to scout ahead herself and getting into this exact situation she’d beg some higher deity to not happen:

The transmissions are static and losing out in her ear, and she doesn’t realize she’s gotten herself trapped until something, someone, kicks the door behind her shut and—

Someone tackles her first thing. It’s rough, it’s painful, and Jeongyeon feels her brain rattle in her skull as she’s sent to the ground along with the person on top of her. Her gun’s kicked out of her hands almost immediately, and she’s quick to reach for the hidden switchblade beneath her vest, but even then, the person above her is faster. Her wrist is caught, slender fingers moving quickly to grasp her hand still, and grip so tight that Jeongyeon feels all her bones crushing together. 

“Hi.” 

The waves of familiarity crash right into her, unforgiving. She feels light-headed already.

When Jeongyeon looks up, it’s her. 

Sana. 

Sana, with a battered, military grade helmet that’s too big for her head and the enemy uniform that’s clearly seen better days, slimy with blood that’s either hers or someone else’s. Sana, with one of her eyes screwed painfully shut and blood all over her face and leaking profusely from her head, yet a grin sits clear across her face. Cheeky. White. Familiar. Jeongyeon hates it.

She feels her blood boil at the mere sight of her, years and years worth of pure hatred starting to fill her to the brim all in that one moment.

“It’s you,” she snarls, writhing underneath, but Sana keeps her locked into place, skinny knees digging painfully into her sides even through her thick kneepads. Sana lets go of her hand and Jeongyeon’s quick, a fist flying across Sana’s face that only has the girl laughing right afterwards. She doesn’t even punch back. Instead, she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and spits off to the side, blood and saliva thick across her teeth. 

Jeongyeon’s fist shakes. It’s enough to shock her, really, that Sana didn’t retaliate. That Sana didn’t stab a pocket knife through her palm to keep her still. That Sana didn’t kill her immediately. Uncharacteristically, Sana merely pushes her fist down next to her head, fingertips gentle against her wrist, and uncharacteristically, Jeongyeon relents.

“It’s nice to see you too,” Sana murmurs, smile barely there, yet Jeongyeon sees it: how crooked it gets at the corner, the implications of how nasty it really is just underneath. Her fingers ghost down the column of Jeongyeon's throat before she presses harshly into the hollows of her neck. It’s cold and wet and sticky. Blood. “Did you miss me?”

“You fucking wish,” Jeongyeon spits out and Sana only laughs again. It’s scary.

“My, my, my,” Sana tuts. Then, her hands go everywhere, down her arms, down her sides, before she’s feeling up her biceps. “All this fighting’s made you so tough, Jeongyeonie. It’s kind of cute.” 

“Don’t,” Jeongyeon breathes harshly through her nose, wonders if she can square one more punch across Sana’s face, "call me that.” 

Suddenly, there’s indistinguishable yelling in the background, a few rounds of gunshots, and the sound of frantic footsteps getting closer and closer.

Sana whines petulantly, just like the child she’s always been, and bounces a little in her spot on top of her stomach and Jeongyeon wonders how she can even find time to act like this in the midst of a fucking war.

“Sorry, Jeongyeonie, I’d love to catch up more, but it looks like our time here is cut short,” Sana pouts, though the look on her face is the complete opposite of her actions: she reaches down to her holster and tugs out her pistol in one swift motion. It’s shiny and it glimmers in the darkness, even more so when Sana suddenly lets out the most annoying giggle Jeongyeon’s ever heard in this life, and even runs her tongue clear across the pristine edge of the pistol’s top slide. 

She’s insane, Jeongyeon can’t help but to think, but the way her stomach feels, how it sinks and how it fills with something so inexplicable, like it has for the past hundreds of years, is inevitable.

She presses the head of the pistol to Jeongyeon’s forehead with an ease that’s a little too scary, far too practiced. Like all the muscles in her body have been groomed and wired for this exact purpose.

You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this moment,” Sana gushes. She sighs in content when she gently pushes some of Jeongyeon’s floppy bangs off to the side with the muzzle. “To have you under me like this, begging me to spare your life, begging me to—”

“I’d rather die, you crazy bitch!“

“—let you live this lifetime, just this once."

The footsteps get louder, closer, and the rough shouts of “captain!” are far more obvious now. She wonders how it’d turn out, if her squadron was a little more competent, a little faster, to break down the doors and find her completely helpless underneath the one girl that she’d have no second thoughts about shoving a grenade into her mouth. But here she is: doing exactly not that.

“Oh,” Sana says belatedly, positively preening at her answer. “Lovely. That makes this so much easier, Jeongyeonie.”

Sana only cocks the gun, annoying grin spread wide across her face. Presses the muzzle harder against her forehead. Enough to bruise or maybe break skin, but Jeongyeon supposes that it doesn’t matter at this point. The footsteps are even louder, closer, and Jeongyeon hears the door creak.

“See you next time,” Sana says and it’s so thick and sweet and Jeongyeon can’t help that sudden spurt of heat that pools beneath her chest like it always does every single time Sana does this, can’t help but to crack an equally shit-eating grin that makes even Sana falter for the quickest second, “bitch.” 

She pulls the trigger. 

 

-

 

As more time passes, the craftier they get. Fate, in motion, only causes more intricate incidents. They’re approaching times where killing each other on the spot isn’t of normal routine, and that hatred burns out into something that isn’t death anymore.

They learn to live in the same lifetimes without mauling each other to death or causing misfortune left and right, but it’s still there, like it always is. It being: the bright white that Jeongyeon sees at the mere thought of Sana, how it crackles and burns down her spine, and then stokes itself into her core, into the fire that’d never die. Then, it’s the chestnut brown, the rifts within coffee eyes, the unexplainable feeling that builds up in her stomach and claws its way up through to the pulsing bundle of muscles in her chest. 

Jeongyeon hates it. It only comes with Sana. 

Jeongyeon hates Sana, so she attributes the feeling to hate. Yes. It is hate.

(Though hate doesn’t bubble up your heart like that, does it?)

 

-

 

There are others. Jeongyeon meets them slowly, as does Sana, spanned across hundreds and thousands of years until they’re all connected, just like her and Sana.

Minus the whole “hating-each-others-guts-part,” of course.

(That’s for Sana only.)

 

-

 

Jeongyeon doesn’t remember the first time she met Nayeon, but it doesn’t matter in the end. She starts showing up as much as Sana, though thankfully, not with any ill intent. God must’ve thought she needed a friend. Jeongyeon can’t deny that it was a little lonely, after all, how most of her lives were spent dutifully trying to kill Sana or getting killed by Sana.

But like how Sana is bound to Jeongyeon by ugly means, Nayeon is bound to someone else with something that Jeongyeon had only wished she had in passing. Love. Jeongyeon wonders what that’s like.

Her name is Mina, Nayeon had told her in one lifetime, and she’s the girl I’ve been destined to love every single lifetime we meet. Neat, huh?

It must be nice.

 

“Think of it like this,” Nayeon says. They’re regular high school students this time. This is the most normal it’s been. Sana, of course, is here too, and she’s academically ranked number one and Jeongyeon’s number two. She's been trying to knock her off of that spot for the longest time ever. Of course, they hate each other here too. Nothing new. “At least you’re not duking it out in the middle of the courtyard with scissors here? How many lifetimes have you spent doing exactly that anyway?”

“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Jeongyeon crushes her finished carton of milk. Sana, as if on cue, walks past their lunch table, eyeing Jeongyeon down as she flips her hair all flamboyantly and shit. “She’s killed me with scissors before.”

Nayeon can only laugh, loud and annoying. “Could you just imagine if you were like… idols? And had to be in the same group? You think she’d kill you with a lightstick or something?”

 

-

 

“I will kill you.”

Nayeon’s smile is apologetic. “Listen, I was sixteen and saying a bunch of random shit lifetimes ago. I didn’t know it was actually going to happen. At least we don’t have a lightstick yet?"

In this life, since fate loves to fuck with her so bad, they are idols. In the same group. Jeongyeon’s starting to think the big man above is only interested in making her life even worse.

Sana, of course, is here. Along with Nayeon. And Mina. And five others Jeongyeon recalls seeing throughout a multitude of lifetimes.

Which is a good and bad thing. Good because at least Nayeon’s here and suffering with her, and bad because Mina is here as well which means one, they’re definitely fucking behind the scenes and defiling everything in their shared dorm because they’re literally meant to be together, and two, Mina is way too smart for her own good. It makes sense, she supposes, since Nayeon is so fucking dumb sometimes, but that just makes this entire thing a lot of more harder than it was supposed to be:

“I think Mina’s onto us,” Jeongyeon murmurs against skin. They’ve locked themselves in the nearest utility closet after a late night dance practice. It’s the only stretch of free time they can have together, away from inquisitive eyes (Mina) and a loud mouth (Nayeon), and away from everything and everyone that knew. 

This is the only time they’re as close as they can be, all the other times only spent in each other’s presence just because they have to and they at least have to make it seem like they don’t hate each other on camera, in front of masses and masses of people no less.

“Minari’s always been so damn observant,” Sana purrs when Jeongyeon finally moves her fingers somewhere useful, “but so what? Who cares if she finds out?”

You see, this… wasn’t really supposed to happen. Sana’s just hot. She’s always been hot. Jeongyeon, for one, is practically useless when it comes to hot girls, even if she was bound to hate said hot girl's guts forever. Long story short, they were the only ones awake one random night, Sana had just gotten out of the shower, Jeongyeon had nearly overheated at the sight, and then they start arguing for god knows what reason because they always do that now that they can’t kill each other off the bat. Then, Jeongyeon ends up on top of Sana and then yeah.

Ever hate someone so much you want to fuck them? Yeah. Jeongyeon and Sana do. It’s fine.

Hate sex is definitely a thing. Jeongyeon and Sana still hate each other. They will always hate each other. It’s just sex, after all, but just this time purely driven by hate. It works out.

“Uh, me?” Still, Jeongyeon nips at her collarbone, presses kisses up the column of her throat. “Nayeon? Dahyun? You know, I think she saw me kill you once. I see it in her eyes."

“What, you think Nayeonie’s going to make fun of you because you’ve been fucking the girl you hate the most?” Sana laughs and this time, it makes a different kind of feeling in Jeongyeon rise. She’s warm all over. “That idiot will probably high five you.”

Jeongyeon thinks hard for a second. Well, Sana isn’t wrong

“Now shut up,” Sana says, deep sound in her throat. Her hands end up at either side of Jeongyeon’s head, fingers carding through short locks, before she pulls her in for a bruising kiss that tastes a hell lot like hate and a little bit of something else Jeongyeon hasn’t had the time to decipher yet. Regardless, it all makes the heat in Jeongyeon’s body flare up tenfold, that same kind of fire from every single lifetime growing even hotter in her belly, as Sana speaks against her mouth, “and fuck me.”

 

-

 

“Jeongyeon!” Nayeon bursts through her door without knocking, a whining Mina in tow, and a hand high up in the air. “Congratulations!” 

Jeongyeon looks up from her phone. She only stares at the two, confused. Nayeon’s all up in her face the next minute, telling her to high five her, which she does, although she has no idea why. “What are you talking about?”

“Mina here,” Nayeon says, stepping back with the said girl tucked underneath her arm and struggling to escape, “says you and Sana are doing the do. Banging the bang. Beating the drum. Fucking, really, but Mina’s too shy to say that word.” 

“Nayeon!” Mina, after much difficulty, finally relinquishes herself from Nayeon’s grasp. “I told you it’s a secret!”

“Mina, baby, there are no such things as secrets when you’ve known each other for at least three hundred lifetimes now.” Nayeon grins triumphantly. “It’s finally good to know that Jeongyeon’s getting some! So maybe it was a good thing I brought the whole idol thing up two lifetimes ago.”

Mina only pinches the bridge of her nose. “I’m so sorry, Jeongyeon. I shouldn’t have told her.”

“We’re practically best friends, Mina,” Nayeon scrambles over to put Jeongyeon in a headlock, “God’s decree and everything. There’s no way you could’ve kept this from me, especially not that fact that you,” she ruffles Jeongyeon’s hair, calls it some kind of “I-lived-more-lifetimes-than-you” superiority that gives her the right to do so, “are boning the girl you’re fated to hate."

Jeongyeon only groans, trying to pry Nayeon off of her. “That doesn’t mean anything! I still can’t stand her. She’s only lucky I can’t kill her here without getting sent to jail for it.”

At that, Mina looks confused. Rightfully so, but Jeongyeon decides to ignore it. Damn Mina for being so fucking smart all the time! Nayeon, however, is still missing the main point.

“I know!” Nayeon jostles her, still insistent in keeping Jeongyeon under lock. “Hate sex is a thing! I know, trust me, I read fanfics too! I’m just happy you’re finally doing something, you know? To be honest, I thought you were a virgin like, two hundred times already. No offense."

“Oh,” Jeongyeon says, though it seems like she’s just been doused with cold water when she registers Nayeon’s words. Did she really seem like a virgin? Two hundred times no less? Jeongyeon wants to lock herself in her room for three days now. “Uh, thanks, I guess?” 

Nayeon and Mina leave moments later, probably up to whatever soulmate things they’re always doing, and not even ten minutes after that, her phone pings.

The message reads:

tonight

It’s from a number Jeongyeon was forced to save, and that’s it. No follow up message, no nothing. It’s not like they text each other. It’s work related 99% of the time, and Jeongyeon can swipe her thumb once and reach the very first message sent between them and then that’s the entire conversation spanned through three years of being in the same group. This is new. 

Jeongyeon hates it.

 

-

 

“You were right,” Jeongyeon says. The room is pitch black and she’s hovering above Sana, the girl stripped nearly bare underneath her. “She did high five me."

Sana merely laughs, her “I told you so” drowned out when she drags Jeongyeon’s face down for a harsh kiss. The moonlight bleeds through the cracks of the blinds and washes all over their bodies. It makes Jeongyeon gulp, how the glow highlights all the best and worst parts about Sana. 

The best: 

They should not be where they are now, but she really can’t help it, when her fingers trace the ridges of her ribs, the stretch of her abdomen, the swell of her breast. It’s like muscle memory, really, how she knows, how her fingertips fall into the dips she had pocketed away and memorized by heart. A thousand lifetimes ago, she had driven a spear through here. Ten lifetimes further, she had forced an arrow through here. A hundred more, a bullet pierced through here.

The worst:

Sana’s so, so beautiful. Not even the fact that Jeongyeon hates her can deny that. It’s the breathless kind of beautiful, the type that kind of knocks the air out of your lungs in one go, but also the type that makes that one funny feeling build up in the crevices of her tummy, the one that makes her feel so full and wound up that it does feel hard to breathe. Jeongyeon hates it, hates her. At least she still knows this much.

It should be fire, it should be fury, it should be rage— it should be everything that’s nearly thirty thousand years in the making. Yet here they are, locked up around each other, just like they always are. To an outsider, this would be anything but hate. To Jeongyeon and Sana, it is only hate.

“I hate you,” Jeongyeon whispers against her mouth, just to grasp back that one last bit of reality she had left. In the end, this is what they are after all.

Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. It is all they are, all they know.

“I know,” Sana says. She feels her grin against her lips. “I hate you too.”

And there it is: that feeling. It builds up like a crescendo, deep in her chest, and it crashes through everything and leaves behind nothing. White hot, a burn at the back of her head. It seeps deep into her veins, only to feel like the same kind of poison she’s getting so used to swallowing. Her heart pounds loud in her ears.

It is hate, Jeongyeon convinces herself, even when the heart beneath her ribs quivers and shakes within its confines and tells her it’s something else, something she’s forcibly blurring into oblivion, something that hadn’t been wired within kismet—

Something Jeongyeon mustn’t cross the lines of. Yes.

Hate. Obdurate.

After all, here’s what it’s like to live thousands of years upon years:

You get really good at lying.

 

-

 

Sometimes, Jeongyeon wonders what it’s like to be tethered to someone like Nayeon, to know that each and every lifetime, Nayeon will be here, will be waiting, will be destined to only be with one person. It must be tough to be conditioned to love only one person, but Nayeon doesn’t seem to have any problem with it. Mina must be lucky.

Briefly, Sana flashes in her mind. It comes as fast as it goes, and Jeongyeon pointedly ignores it.

 

-

 

In this lifetime, she’s given the life of a socialite. It’s one of her better lives, really, because she doesn’t get very many of those. For one, she gets to go to all these fancy parties and rich people gatherings and drink all of the expensive champagne and eat the thousand dollar hors d’oeuvres like they’re nothing. And to think that before, lifetimes and lifetimes ago, she had to grovel for a pittance of moldy bread! Second, her life is cushy and easy. She gets to own as many pets as she wants without anyone stopping her, and she doesn’t need to worry about some girl unfortunately tied to her for life, storming in and brutally murdering her. High society is nice.

Hell, she doesn’t even know where Sana is. She has to be here somewhere, but Jeongyeon hasn’t met or even seen her yet. Thank god.

“A plus one was mandatory for this party,” a voice speaks up from next to her, “so what are you doing here alone?”

The downside to this life, however, is this. She can’t believe it sometimes, how she’d even get hit on when she’s currently settled at the bar and in the middle of trying to figure out how many flutes of champagne it’d take for her to get drunk. That, and how the men here really can’t mind their own damn business.

A plus one was mandatory, the unknown person is right, and she had come per Chaeyoung's (another girl who’s starting to show up more and more in her lifetimes, serving as that “one-friend-that-only-calls-you-if-she-needs-you”) request, but even that was quickly sent to hell when not even ten minutes after stepping into the party, Chaeyoung had caught sight of Tzuyu and promptly left her in the dust.

(Chaeyoung and Tzuyu… are interesting. It must suck, however, for Chaeyoung to be bound to a girl that will never be hers.)

When she turns around, ready to reject the poor guy, she expects anything, really. A gruff face that’d remind her of many years ago, a clean-cut one that’d maybe have her wavering for the longest second, or one that’d pass off as her grandfather or something of that caliber. Anything but this:

It is a clean cut face that’d have her wavering for the longest second. The smile is next. It’s wide, it’s toothy— it’s way too familiar. Then the eyes follow: worn with time, yet the childish glint that flashes from beneath the brown is something Jeongyeon would’ve been able to discern from anywhere.

“Nayeon?”

Mr. Clean Cut Face’s smile drops immediately.

Jeongyeon bursts into laughter. 

 

-

 

“Shut up,” Nayeon growls under her — his? — breath, nursing a sad glass of rum and coke. “I was hoping I wouldn’t run into you this lifetime, but who am I kidding, I see you every fuckin’ time. Are you sure we’re not the ones bound by love?” 

In this lifetime, Nayeon is a man. Which is, mind you, really fucking funny. Never in the hundreds and thousands of lifetimes she’s lived had she even thought of fathoming this moment.

If anything, this just means Nayeon probably did something that seriously pissed the big dude above off and now she’s being punished. Jeongyeon wonders what she’s done to fuck up so insanely bad. 

Jeongyeon stifles a laugh and it has Nayeon glaring at her. “You wish.” 

Now that she’s given the chance, she gives Nayeon a once over: angled jaw, defined shoulders, bunny teeth, and a starch suit and tie. At least she’s handsome, she’ll give her that much.

“How’s Mina taking this situation?”

“Oh,” Nayeon rubs the back of her neck. “Mina? She’s… uh, my best friend, so I think… she’s fine with it?”

“Best friend? Since when did you ever remain just friends with Mina?”

“Mina…” Nayeon purses her lips, even fiddles with her fingers. “She’s… she’s a lesbian.”

Oh.

So in this lifetime: Nayeon is a man and Mina is a lesbian.

Oh, how this just keeps getting better and better.

Jeongyeon falls into another fit of laughter and Nayeon only groans, downing the rest of her drink and ordering yet another one.

“Are you done?” Nayeon says exasperatedly, when Jeongyeon’s nearly heaving at how much her stomach hurts and how so fucking funny all of this is. Easily one of her most favorite lifetimes already. 

“I’m good,” Jeongyeon tries, manages only one look at Nayeon before nearly giving into laughter again. “It’s just— what the actual hell did you do?"

“I… uh, might’ve cursed him out in the worst way possible,” Nayeon says, scratching the side of her head. “In hindsight, it definitely wasn’t a good idea, but this? Really? You think if I piss on some random shrine of his again, it’ll get worse?”

“I don’t think it can,” Jeongyeon snickers. “He gave you a dick and made the girl you’re tied to a lesbian. What, you want to be her dog next?”

Nayeon actually ponders for a second. “A dog wouldn’t be bad. I don’t think I’d mind.”

“Maybe next time then?” Jeongyeon grins. “How is all of this,” she motions at Nayeon’s body, “working out for you though?"

Nayeon hums. She’s thinking again. “It’s not that bad,” she swirls her drink, “but it’s not that great either.” 

“Oh? Please enlighten me."

“Well, the convenience of pissing anywhere and everywhere is amazing,” she drawls, stupid grin on her face, “and they really weren’t lying when they say that your right hand is your best friend. If you know what I mean.”

Jeongyeon rolls her eyes. “You’re insufferable. Even more so as a man.”

“What? You asked!”

“I meant with Mina,” Jeongyeon sips her drink. “How is it working out with her?”

“It’s… fine, I guess.” Nayeon’s smile is small. “I’m fine. She’s fine. She even has a girlfriend."

“So much for fate, huh?”

“Fate doesn’t matter. Whatever he says, goes.” Nayeon knocks back half of her drink.

“Do you… wish it was you?"

Nayeon’s thoughtful for a second. “No,” she shakes her head. "I’m fine where I am.”

“Being Mina’s gay best friend?” 

“Correction, not gay.” Nayeon sends her a look, though her eyes are resigned. “But yes, being her friend is fine. I’m fine.”

Jeongyeon only hums, deciding not to ask anything else. It’s not her fate to question. Instead, she finishes the rest of her drink and makes Nayeon order her another one. Though one thing sits at the back of mind, sticking out like a sore thumb, and she can’t help but to ask, just this once:

“Any idea where Sana is?” She clears her throat, trying to act as uninterested as possible. “Please say jail."

“Oh, I thought you’d never ask,” Nayeon says, grin growing on her face. It’s annoying. Jeongyeon hates how it reminds her of someone. 

Then:

Nayeon raises her hand right in front of her face, and right there, snug on her fourth finger, sits a shiny silver wedding band. “She’s my wife.”

Jeongyeon can’t even try schooling her shock. She feels her jaw drop, and this time, Nayeon’s the one laughing.

She supposes if Nayeon couldn’t have Mina this lifetime, she would’ve settled for someone else. It seemed like fate let her have at least that. It’s not typically in her nature to be single, after all, even if she isn’t with the girl she’s destined to be with. Maybe it would’ve been Momo, since everyone, including Mina, knew Nayeon had a different kind soft spot for her. It could’ve — should've — been anyone else. Anyone but Sana.

Something shifts in her chest. Her stomach feels weird. Jeongyeon doesn’t like this. 

This, as in Sana being with Nayeon? Or that Sana had rather tie herself down — with Nayeon out of all people — than spend yet another lifetime butting heads with her?

Whatever! Her head’s starting to hurt and she’d rather not have Sana, fucking Sana, be the last thing she’s thinking about.

She hates Sana. Sana hates her. It’s fine. Nayeon can have her all she wants for god’s sake.

Though, her mouth moves faster than her brain, and she still can’t help but to ask:

“Was it arranged?”

Nayeon shrugs, gaze on her curious. “Not at all.”

“Did she know it was you?”

“Of course,” Nayeon laughs, “not. With me looking like this? Be honest, would you have known?”

“Fair point,” Jeongyeon says, scoots a little closer to Nayeon. “How likely will a scandal ruin her life?”

“Very likely.” Nayeon’s grin is wide. She doesn’t move away.

“Even better,” and by now, their knees knock. Nayeon’s cologne is strong and the alcohol is very evident in her breath. Jeongyeon wrinkles her nose. She’ll deal with it. “And you?”

“I’ll look like an asshole no matter what, but I can buy myself out of it." Nayeon’s already slipping the ring off her finger, tucking it into her suit pocket. Their foreheads knock.

“Great,” she reaches up to take a grasp of Nayeon’s tie, the material soft against her fingertips, "then don’t mind if I do,” she says, notes the brief glare of a camera lens from some far side of the cocktail lounge, before tugging at Nayeon’s tie and closing the barely-there distance between them anyway.

 

-

 

“I like it better when you’re a girl,” Jeongyeon notes the next morning. Her head hurts, she's naked, and her body aches.

“And I like it better when I wake up next to Mina,” Nayeon grumbles next to her, gruff. “Let me sleep.” 

“You know,” Jeongyeon says all of a sudden, "Sana stole my husband before. And my wife.”

Nayeon hums, sleepy. “Did she?”

Jeongyeon only makes a noise of confirmation. She stares up at the ceiling.

“Well,” Nayeon’s words are muffled with the way she’s pressing her face deeper into the pillow, “you sure know how to keep a grudge, I’ll give you that."

Nayeon forces herself up without another word, only getting up to fish her boxers from the ground and slip them back on. Then, she’s back on the bed. “It was cold,” she offers when she turns to face Jeongyeon, grin sheepish. Her eyes are droopy. “And I think I owe you a pillow talk.”

Jeongyeon doesn’t say anything, only gives her a look, so Nayeon continues. “I’ve always wanted to ask, and when I mean always… I mean like, lifetimes and lifetimes ago. You and Sana… how’d that happen?”

There’s a stretch of silence that follows. The only noise that comes next is the one that Nayeon makes when she digs her face into the pillow again.

“It’s like how you and Mina are connected,” Jeongyeon says, finally, “but rather than love, it’s hate for us.”

“I get that,” Nayeon says, turning back to face her, “but how did it start? There had to be something, right? A beginning. You can’t tell me you were born and the minute you saw Sana, you were like ‘oh, I hate her so much so I’m gonna kill her over and over again.’ Not even Mina and I started out like that."

Jeongyeon thinks for a second. “How did you and Mina start out?” 

Nayeon’s brow raises when she changes the subject, but it is Nayeon after all, and she doesn’t miss any chance to talk about herself. Even more so when Mina is involved.

“Oh, the first time?” Nayeon says, and then she’s laughing. "She was the priestess that kicked me off a cliff because some phony, hundred-year-old Oracle told her to.”

Jeongyeon is surprised. She had heard bits and pieces about it, mostly when Nayeon and Mina bicker playfully about it, but never thought it’d be as dramatic as they said it was. She supposes it suits them — fated to love in every lifetime met (sadly, except for this one) — it was bound to start out with a bang, at least. “Wow, how tragically romantic. Falling to your death and falling in love with the woman who killed you at the same time. You sure Shakespeare didn’t write about you two?”

“He chose Romeo and Juliet instead,” Nayeon rubs her temples. “Maybe our names were too hard to say?”

“That,” Jeongyeon laughs, “or how brutal it actually is? I think drinking poison in the name of true love sits better with people than having your skull cracked open and—“

“I’ll stop you right there,” Nayeon holds a hand up. “Mina told me it was anything but pretty, so we’ll leave it at that. Now, you and Sana…”

Jeongyeon’s back to staring at the ceiling. She lets a brief moment of silence pass before she speaks. “She stole my coin."

Nayeon is silent. Jeongyeon saw it coming.

“Are you serious?” Nayeon scoffs, moments later. “A coin? She stole what, a cent, from you from however many years ago, and you’re still this pissed at her about it?”

“Yes,” Jeongyeon says. 

“Is that it? The coin?”

“Yes.”

“So let me get this straight,” Nayeon’s sitting up now, gesticulating wildly with her hands. “She stole a coin from you. A fucking coin. And then you guys just started killing each other like it was nothing?”

“Well, no,” Jeongyeon shrugs. “It just… kind of built up to that throughout the years? I forgot who started it.”

Nayeon can only laugh, even as she gets up from bed and starts putting back on her clothes from last night. “A coin, huh?”

“Yes, just a coin,” Jeongyeon says.

It’s not the only thing, Jeongyeon can’t help but think, but not like Nayeon needs to know that.

 

-

 

(Nayeon and Sana do not divorce, even as the pictures of Nayeon and her spread like wildfire the minute they’re dropped. Nayeon does buy herself out of it, even publicizes some dramatic ass, poetic apology about how Sana deserved better that swoons half the internet population. They even have kids. Nayeon still inherently pines after a girl that isn’t hers, and Sana’s… just Sana. She must be fine.)

In hindsight, it’s a nice life, but it’s boring. Jeongyeon hates this already, even if the food’s good.

(It’s way better when Sana’s chasing after her, even if the only reason she’s doing so is just to spite her.)

 

-

 

Jeongyeon had felt it coming, really, but chose not to think anything of it.

Thousands of years, thousands of lifetimes, yet none of them prepared Jeongyeon for this.

In the next life, they meet — or not meet — at a café.

Sana’s tucked away in some nook away from the midday crowd. She’s typing away at her laptop. In this life, she wears glasses. It looks… different on her. In a good way. Jeongyeon hates that she even thinks that.

Jeongyeon knows she sees her, too, when the minute she steps through the doors, Sana’s gaze shoots up to meet hers, just like clockwork. It’s the longest minute of staring — curious at most — before Sana tears her gaze away and goes back to her work.

Sana does not speak to her. Jeongyeon doesn’t bother in passing either.

She’s got a good life this time. She’s sure Sana does too.

It’s weird. How nothing in her body drives her to do anything to provoke Sana in this life. How she just goes.

Then, that is it. 

 

-

 

It happens again, a lifetime later:

"One hazelnut latte for Yoo Jeongyeon," a voice hollers out and she's all slow steps to the counter, eyelids droopy from the lack of sleep last night. Maybe she shouldn't have crammed all those music theory notes last minute.

The barista is a pretty girl with the brightest set of brown eyes she’s ever seen in all the lives she’s lived and an awfully cheeky smile that Jeongyeon's become acquainted with far too many times. Of course she has to work at the coffee shop Jeongyeon frequents the most. Of course.

"Thanks," she murmurs when she takes her coffee. Their gazes lock for the longest second. Sana offers her a smile nothing short of practiced and wishes her a good day.

They don’t speak to each other more than the same latte Jeongyeon orders almost every morning and the fading name tag pinned to Sana's shirt.

Jeongyeon eventually graduates, and she doesn't see Sana again. In this lifetime at least.

 

-

 

She supposes this was going to happen sooner or later. 

She wonders if Sana just got tired. Nearly thousands of years together, perhaps half of them spent hellbent on ending each other’s lives, gets pretty boring real quick. It’s the same thing over and over again anyway: they live, they hate, then the cycle repeats, over and over again until the stars fall and the world breaks down into atoms.

Killing each other was easy. It’s when the hatred burns the brightest, when the God above them is beyond pleased at how two souls, linked purely by animosity, are going at it in the best way possible. Hating each other was easy. When all they’d do is just butt heads and fight it out until only one person is left standing. Repeat.

Everything was easy. That’s the point. Remorse was never a requisite, rather a concept best left forgotten. They could always get away with doing the shit that they do to each other because that’s how it’s always been. Jeongyeon can hate Sana as much as she wants, can kill her if she really wants to, but this… this is different.

It’s change. Jeongyeon’s not used to that.

It has nothing to do with fate, nothing to do with how much they want to send each other twenty feet into the ground, and nothing to with the way that Jeongyeon’s starting to lose sight of all of that. God, she wants to scream into a hole.

It's romanticization and poetry  in the end, even here, she’s being a goddamn classicist  because no one ever talks about the tunnel vision, the increased effort to drag oxygen into the lungs. How the heart thrashes and pounds and warps in the chest, wild against the ribcage, how desperately the body tries to fight the way it’s not supposed to feel and how miserably it fails. 

 

-

 

It’s not hatred. Not anymore.

It’s—

 

-

 

It’s not in the next life, but rather one that’s nondescript. Jeongyeon is a sports columnist for some huge daily newspaper, yet is still struggling to find her own little place in life. Sana is her boss’s daughter.

They're cordial at most, yet destructive when left to their own devices. How would her boss react? When he finds out Jeongyeon’s been fucking his daughter on his desk after hours? She supposes it comes with the fact that they haven’t interacted in nearly three lifetimes now. Sana, as always, looks good as ever. Jeongyeon, as always, is still absolutely useless against the hot girl she hates.

They’re not anything, really. Reverse soulmates? Haters-For-Eternal-Life? Jeongyeon’s not even sure what title would go on them. She even says she hates — sorry, strongly dislikes — Sana when someone asks.

The premise is weird, but here's how it goes anyway:

Jeongyeon, for once, has finally come to terms with everything. Everything. It might’ve taken, what, six lifetimes to do it, but whatever. She chooses the absolute worst way to go about things.

“I think you know what’s up,” Jeongyeon says, gulps down that last ounce of beer left in the can. Lets the empty can sit on the nightstand, right next to Sana’s phone.

Sana shifts next to her, clad in only a shirt Jeongyeon thinks is her’s. She’s sleepy. “Hm?”

Jeongyeon cracks another cold one open only moments later, offers some to Sana but the girl declines. “This...” she notes the bitter aftertaste, trying to pick and choose what she wants to say the most. “Us. What do you think?”

It’s silent, save for the drowsy laugh Sana directs at her. Jeongyeon takes another swig.

“I think,” Sana chooses her words carefully, “it was bound to happen."

Jeongyeon's always been rough at the edges. Vague, if there’s a word for her to personify. Never one to talk about feelings, but oftentimes the type to act impulsively on them. Is it feelings? Has it always been feelings? Jeongyeon doesn’t say anything more, skitters around the one thing she wants to say at best, but Sana knows what she means anyway. Like she always does. A thousand lifetimes, after all, give them at least this.

Jeongyeon’s starting to feel warm all over. She convinces herself that it’s the alcohol starting to pump in her veins, and definitely not the way how the mere thought of auburn locks and caramel eyes have her reduced to the likes of a fourteen-year-old girl in the midst of figuring out a grade school crush. She did not live thousands and thousands or so years for this. It’s already bad she can’t even tell Sana the l-word. Can’t even force herself to say it.

She takes Sana’s words into account, even as she moves to press the girl into the plush of the mattress, hands at either side of Sana’s head. The girl reaches up to thread her fingers through her hair, scratching at her scalp gently, before she pulls Jeongyeon down and knocks their foreheads together on purpose. It hurts, but it has Sana laughing anyway.

I think, Sana’s smiling up at her so, so bright and it makes the burn at the back of Jeongyeon’s head feel ten times hotter, I think it was too.

 

-

 

That night, late night, stars bright, she kisses Sana in a stupor of drunken insensitivity, and it’s only then that the harsh reality starts to burn bleak within the crevices of her ribcage.

Jeongyeon calls it love. Sana calls it inevitable. They call it insanity.

 

-

 

(“Jeongyeonie.” In this life, she doesn’t tell Sana to stop calling her that. Not that Sana ever listened though.

“Yeah?”

“I just wanted to let you know,” Sana rubs a thumb against her cheek. “You suck at confessing.")

 

-

 

In the end, Jeongyeon quits. It’s rather unfortunate, really, how she wanted to see how long it’d take before her boss had found out she was fucking his daughter, but bigger things had called for bigger solutions. Jeongyeon, for one, didn’t feel like writing about sweaty men tackling each other till no end for the rest of her life. Even Sana was starting to feel the repercussions from getting screwed on top of her own father’s desk, with the damn family picture there and everything.

She’s got a fancy degree from a fancy school anyway, so finding a new job isn’t hard. She lands an editorial gig for some big name magazine and the pay is way nicer and so are the people. It gets her a bigger living space, and she doesn’t have to cheap out and buy marked down beers on Saturday anymore. Her fridge gets constantly restocked and she can finally pay for Netflix without cutting her subscription every two months or so. Even her cat gets to live in luxury, majority of her first paycheck funneled into all the cat things she’s always wanted to spoil him with.

Oh, and Sana’s here too. 

“Would you prefer succulents? Or do you think orchids would look better? Personally, I want a cactus.“ Sana’s scrolling through her phone next to her, glasses drooping from her nose.

“Why on earth would you want a cactus? It’s literally a green ball of spikes. Isn’t that dangerous?”

“It’s cost-effective.” Sana notes, getting up and settling right up against her back, chin rested on her shoulder. On her phone screen is a catalogue of house plants. “Cost, as in they’re cheap and generally easy to take care of, and effective, as in if you do some dumb shit, I can just kill you with it.”

Jeongyeon’s silent, waiting for the “just kidding!” to come seconds after. It never does.

“I hate you,” Jeongyeon says when she feels Sana press a smile against her neck, yet she still ends up picking a plant anyway. A cactus. Sana laughs.

“Yeah,” Sana says, voice filled with mirth. It’s a pretty thing to hear. “I do too."

 

-

 

It’s a story, really. Shakespeare must be turning in his grave.

How people go from hating each other and killing each other to being with each other and picking house plants together. So much for fate, huh?

 

-

 

In this life, Jeongyeon is a starving artist who makes weird tracks on Soundcloud for fun because she once thought she could’ve made a living through it. Sana is an escort that only comes around when she wants to and eats all the cup ramen in her cupboard. It’s not the best life for either of them, but it’s a good one.

They meet through unorthodox circumstances — Jeongyeon is drunk and dialing random numbers and lamenting about how so fucking lonely she is and how she hasn’t seen her in this lifetime yet and Sana shows up at her doorstep not even hours later — but hey, they still find their way to each other. No matter what.

“Can I ask you something?”

Sana makes a noise next to her. The blankets she’s wrapped all up in is practically useless. Her back is bare and it’s starting to distract Jeongyeon.

“Do you remember the first time we met?”

Sana doesn’t reply.

“When you were an orphan. I was at a trade goods stall and you—“

“Yes,” Sana pipes up, suddenly. “I remember.”

“Why did you take my coin? All you wanted was the bread, right?"

Sana rolls over, laying flat on her stomach. She ponders for the longest minute. “I felt something. Like a tug. I didn’t know what it was. I’ve never felt anything like that before. It was like… telling me to mess with you and I was like, what, maybe eight? Hungry and homeless? Bored, maybe. I just did it. I had nothing to lose.”

Jeongyeon’s silent.

“The girl at the goods stall? Didn’t even look like she could hurt a fly. It was easy.” Sana grins. “I took it because it was yours. That tug? It made me want to take the things you had, so I did.”

“And so you did.”

“It grew stronger. That tug. Each passing lifetime. The more we lived, the more we saw each other, the more I wanted to take. And take and take and take. Until you had nothing.”

“Wow,” Jeongyeon laughs a little. “That’s some next level bullying.”

“I just took,” Sana admits, “until I realized that I didn’t really want the things you had.”

Jeongyeon watches her carefully. Sana pushes herself up, knees digging into the mattress when she moves to settle herself in her lap without a word. Shirtless and everything. Jeongyeon drops her phone and it bounces pathetically off the bed.

“I didn’t want them anymore,” Sana smiles, even as she sees Jeongyeon gulp. She toys with the baby hairs at the back of her neck, “because I wanted you."

“Cheesy.” Jeongyeon lets her hands sit on Sana’s thighs. She allows just this much. “Do you think he knows?”

“Of course he does. He’s probably more concerned about all the havoc Nayeon’s causing than anything. The stupid things that girl would do for love,” Sana snorts. "Waging wars and destroying cities just to find Mina. Someone needs to get her a Tinder.”

Sana moves to wrap her arms tighter around her neck, body flush against hers and settling for digging her face against the side of her neck. Jeongyeon circles her arms around her waist in turn. She hums.

The things Nayeon does for love, Jeongyeon thinks, even as Sana starts pressing kisses to her jaw, I wish I could too.

 

-

 

The first time Jeongyeon says it, they’re in the midst of a dystopian meltdown. The world is coming to an end — the atomic power source the entire country built itself on top of is on its very last legs, mere seconds, minutes from breaking down on itself and decimating anything and everything within an entire nine million kilometers — just like it always does, and Jeongyeon supposes there’s no other way to go about it. Here, Jeongyeon’s a nuclear weapons mechanic. Sana is the soldier that uses them. Though the titles, the jobs, the life — none of it really matters anymore. They never do in the end.

The flickering hologram on the table has been repeating the same thing for three days already. Leave. Evacuate. Find a better life somewhere else. It’s all promises meant to be broken, hopes that were never meant to be real, and Jeongyeon wonders if there’s even a point in trying to make them all believe in something that never will exist.

Evacuate and find life somewhere else? Jeongyeon wants to laugh. The blast might wipe out a measly four percent of the world, but the radiation will be more than enough to take everyone else with it. 

Most of the people don’t leave. No one has the means of affording to. Maybe this was how it was supposed to be, how they’ve made a little home in a world that’s nearly all machinery and totalitarian rule, how they’re meant to be sitting ducks because humankind had always been selfish, always taking and messing with things and then destroying everything and everyone with it. Out of all the lifetimes she’s lived, it's the only thing that remains consistent.

“Sana?”

The girl looks up from tinkering with her gun. She’s been taking it apart and putting it back together for hours now. Jeongyeon feels bad, wonders if it’s worth it to tell Sana that all her guns and explosives are absolutely no match against sheer, molten power. Jeongyeon shifts in her spot, uneasy.

Soundlessly, the girl gets up and settles down next to her on their shared bed. There’s a hand that pushes Jeongyeon’s messy bangs back, fingers resting at the top of her head, and Sana presses their foreheads together. Her skin is hot and she smells like smoke and grease and metal, but it’s fine, Jeongyeon’s over it. They’ve showered together enough times that Jeongyeon knows it’ll never come out of her skin. Sana and her guns and all. Inseparable.

“Better now?” Sana asks, lips quirking up into a tiny smile. 

“Yes,” Jeongyeon sighs. Makes a sound of content when Sana grins and presses a kiss to the corner of her mouth.

Sana makes a move to go back to whatever she was doing, but Jeongyeon’s grip is tight around her bicep. Her head tilts. “Jeongyeonie?”

She swallows. Her mouth opens and—

“I love you.”

It comes out faster than she can comprehend. Her tongue feels thick right afterwards and everything’s starting to get jumbled, in her throat and in her head. It’s possibly the worst thing she could’ve done, really, when the fact that they’re set to die minutes, hours, days from now. When Jeongyeon and Sana have spent lifetimes upon lifetimes before this very moment scorning each other from hell and back. When fate only had mandated a single thing for them: eternal hatred, for all the years to come. When they are only supposed to hate, not love.

Because being in love with someone like Sana is like being in love with fire — being in love with the smolder, the pain, the smoke that makes her lungs bleed — and finding love in a noxious fume of burning ash and death.

Saying it is different than just being together. It makes it real, makes it tangible, almost. It’s in the air, it’s a declaration for the worst thing possible, the biggest screw you! to the motion of fate. Jeongyeon wonders if God would be riled up enough to wipe them and everyone else out right now.

The heart, on its own, is a vicious thing.

Kismet may have crafted their ties together, but the heart remains a different entity of its own. Jeongyeon thinks that destiny, had it controlled the way her blood pumps and lungs expand, would have no match. Fate cannot control feelings, cannot control the way her heart beats and beats and beats within her chest for a girl it was never supposed to. Cannot control how she yearns, how she hates herself for it, and how badly she wants it. Wants her.

Sana says nothing, only moves close enough for their foreheads to bump and noses to touch. Jeongyeon’s heart lurches in her chest. What can Sana even say at this point?

You shouldn’t have said that. We’re not supposed to love each other. It’s hate, not love. It’ll always be like that. That’s our fate.

“Me too,” Sana whispers, like she’s scared someone might overhear them even though they’re the only ones in a room bolted with metal plates and screws. Jeongyeon’s heart feels like crying. “I love you too."

 

-

 

I hate you.

I love you.

Jeongyeon wonders if they were the same thing in the first place.

 

-

 

It happens a week later. Jeongyeon doesn’t remember if she was sleeping or wiping the grime off of Sana’s cheek or just— doing something.

It’s not the best way to die — obliterated into nothing, not even particulate matter — but it’s painless. 

And at least it’s in Sana’s arms. That’s the best part.

 

-

 

In the next life:

When Jeongyeon’s old enough to start recalling the memories from years and years ago, she knows something is off. It’s weird.

Jeongyeon has always been different, that she knows, so when she thinks of Sana, thinks of where she could be, she knows

Sana is not here. Not in this lifetime. She just knows.

It’s like a soulmate thing, Nayeon had told her once. You may not have met yet, but you just know sometimes. You feel it.

She probably did something stupid early in life, like ride a bike out into the street when there was a car incoming, or maybe she just got stuck with a chronic disease that cut her short a little too early. The outcomes, whatever they may be, are sad, but reasonable. God always did play favorites after all. Jeongyeon doesn’t worry about it. Not much, at least.

But here is the thing:

Sana isn’t in the next either.

Nor the next.

Or the next.

Or the next.

Or the next.

(Jeongyeon even ends it early in nearly half of them. Just to find Sana.

Searching, pining, begging for something that wasn’t this. Sana is not here, not there, not anywhere she looks.

Sana’s just… gone.) 

 

-

 

Fate is not kind.

It is obvious that Sana and her had been tied together by some otherworldly reason— reason be it, perhaps, to hate each other forever. They used to meet each other every lifetime. They used always somehow find each other without fail, and it would’ve been romantic, really, if they hadn’t tested the tides of fate that had brought them together solely based on the hatred fueled in their hearts.

It used to be a cycle — living, meeting, hating, dying — and Jeongyeon used to hate everything about it. Used to hate how unfortunate she was, to be tied to a girl that she’d spent lifetimes and lifetimes hating with every single fiber of her being. She used to hate it so much, used to hate the girl even more, until one day, she didn’t.

It’s what she deserves, maybe, for letting herself get into this. For being in love with someone she was never allowed to have. For thinking that she’d have the upper hand in the end. For thinking that fate would be generous enough to let it slide. Just this once.

Because being in love with someone like Sana is like being in love with fire — being in love with the way it hurts no matter who touches it, the way it flickers and burns out and dies, the way it doesn’t come back once it’s gone.

Jeongyeon hates it.