"I'm staying here."
"There's no room."
Jung Heewon gives Sooyoung an evil little stare and just ignores her, pushing right past her through the door.
"Hey. Hey! There's already three of us in here, and if you think I'm about to put up with you AND Yoo Sangah every day, you're out of your damn mind. Why don't you go shack up with your soldier boy? Trouble in paradise? Even someone that big should have space for you in his be- Fuck!"
Sooyoung crouches just as Jung Heewon's hand lashes through the space where her head had just been and buries itself in the foyer wall. There's a long moment of silence. They stare at each other.
"Sooyoung, what was that sound? Oh, it's Heewon, hello. Why is your hand in the wall?"
With a quiet crumble of drywall, Jung Heewon extracts herself and smiles at a mildly bemused Lee Sookyung watching from the hallway. "Ah, I'm sorry about that, I'll make sure to fix it. Is there anywhere I can put my things?"
Lee Sookyung smiles back. A shiver runs down Sooyoung's spine.
"Of course! You can have the room next to Sooyoung's."
Living with Jung Heewon sucks, and she hates it.
Living with another person would suck no matter what, and Sooyoung's currently living with three Whole Other Human Beings, which she has... never done. She has almost certainly never done that. This is very cool and independent and not sad at all on Han Sooyoung's part; as everyone knows, writers are always most inspired when they are completely alone with their thoughts. But Jung Heewon in particular wakes up every morning at 6 AM and starts banging about her room doing whatever it is that maniacs who wake up that early do and it is absolutely ruining her thoughts.
"Han Sooyoung, wake up," says the maniac outside her door. "There's breakfast."
"Mngngh," Sooyoung responds and turns into an amoeba.
"It's already 8. Wake up while there's still food on the table, or starve."
Sooyoung doesn't bother saying anything to that at all. She hears Jung Heewon's steps fade away down the hall, then snatches from her quiet conversation with Yoo Sangah. Somewhere outside her window, there's a bird singing. Sunlight pours warmly across her sheets.
This is miserable.
Sooyoung sulks for another 10 minutes before pulling herself out of bed and out the door. Jung Heewon is still at the table when she walks into the dining room, her plates almost empty. She doesn't look at Sooyoung. Yoo Sangah smiles at her, but says nothing. From the kitchen, Lee Sookyung calls out,
"Sooyoung-ah, when you finish eating, remember it's your turn to wash the dishes."
"What, ahjumma, we have a dishwasher, though?"
Lee Sookyung is silent for a moment, then-
"Sooyoung. In the kitchen after breakfast."
Jung Heewon snorts into her smoothie. Sooyoung flips her off.
Sooyoung is like, ninety percent sure Jung Heewon is stalking her.
She'd heard about some incarnation raising minor amounts of hell in a downtown district, claiming that the proper future had been distorted and how they were all going to die gruesome deaths unless they made contact with the First Apostle Who Knew The Truth Of This World and yeah, there was no way she was going to let that just continue. Sooyoung didn't even know who this guy was! She was confident she'd silenced all of the saps who'd known of that particular identity of hers. Maybe this one had heard something from one of the original apostles...?
Anyway, on her way back to base, Sooyoung had the horrible experience of running into Jung Heewon. Almost literally! What the hell was she doing standing in the middle of the road like that? Did she think this was some kind of crappy American Western?
"Han Sooyoung. Where have you been?"
Sooyoung's eyebrows flew into her hairline. "Uhh. Why do I have to tell you shit?"
"It's a simple question." Jung Heewon's hand rested very unsubtly on the hilt of her sword. "You left at 6 this morning. Since when do you ever wake up that early?"
Oh God, Sooyoung knew living with her was an awful decision!!! All because she decided to be proactive and shut that guy up as soon and as quietly as possible!!! She's been betrayed by her own sleep schedule, fucking goddamnit.
"I went for a jog. Or maybe I went and murdered someone-" oh, no, that's too honest, dial it back, "-and yet, either way, it's none of your business. Leave me alone, Jung Heewon. Living in the same house doesn't make you my fucking keeper."
Jung Heewon's spine went so stiff with rage, she could probably rip it out and beat Sooyoung to death with it. But she didn't. Instead she spun on her heel and walked away, and Sooyoung let out a breath, glad that she wouldn't have to be dragged into another fight that day.
Turns out Jung Heewon was just bottling it all up to explode over it later! Great!
Now she was going to die and it wouldn't even be narratively appropriate. She was going to die because Jung Heewon was a temperamental bitch with zero concept of things like "nuance" or "ends justify the means" or "literally who cares if Sooyoung collapsed the Daegu Alliance HQ while there were incarnations still inside, those assholes were trying to kill them anyway???"
"I care! We're not common murderers, Han Sooyoung!" Jung Heewon's head is wreathed in flames, her eyes brilliant and furious. Out of the corner of her eye, Sooyoung sees Yoo Sangah and Lee Hyunsung walking towards them with identical worried frowns on their faces. Belatedly, she realizes that Yoo Joonghyuk had already disappeared from the scene. And with the children all back at the complex.... "Are you going to drag us all into your reckless schemes now that Kim Dokja isn't here to stop you?"
Sooyoung blinks hard.
That. How dare she?
"Stop me? As if he could! And if you're so offended by my schemes, you could've spoken up a long time ago-"
"You're right. I should have. Do you think I haven't been listening to the things said about you?"
Jung Heewon's lips press together in a hard line. Slowly, she raises her sword and levels it at Sooyoung. "I know you're the First Apostle."
Everything seemed to freeze. Lee Hyunsung's eyes grew wide with shock, while Yoo Sangah's face went very carefully blank. Fuck. Fuck, shit, goddamn. Jung Heewon was going to unravel everything Sooyoung had worked so hard to make for herself if she kept going like this. She doesn't to fight Jung Heewon, not now and not like this, but....
Her fists glow violet, and she takes a step forward-
-and she's caught in a net of threads. In front of her, Jung Heewon is in the same state, her blade almost cocooned in a thousand glowing strands. Yoo Sangah steps between them, that infuriating placid expression back on her face.
"Well! This is all very dramatic, isn't it? There's certainly quite a lot for us to talk about. I think we should talk, shouldn't we? You agree with me, don't you, Hyunsung-ssi?"
Lee Hyunsung looks like he wants to die on the spot, actually, but he nods eagerly at her words. He turns to Jung Heewon with a very hangdog look. "Heewon-ssi...."
Jung Heewon glowers back, then closes her eyes.
"Fine. Let's. Talk."
"Wonderful! Heewon-ssi, Han Sooyoung-ssi, I have an idea on how we can settle this!"
This is a terrible idea. It's the worst. Sooyoung hates Yoo Sangah's ideas so much.
The woman herself stands in the doorway of the kitchen with a beatific smile. Just looking at her makes Sooyoung's spine crawl. "This should give you two an opportunity to sit down and talk! Sookyung-ssi and I will be just upstairs, so just give us a call if you need anything."
"I need you to stop this bullshit already."
Yoo Sangah ignores this like it was her profession. "We'll come check on you two in a bit!"
Sooyoung and Jung Heewon stare at each other from opposite sides of the kitchen table. Biyoo floats sweetly above them, cooing to herself. As if to taunt them, the scenario message reannounces itself.
<Sub Scenario - Get Along
Shirt Table >
Clear conditions: The incarnations of <Kim Dokja's Company> are sick and tired of your squabbling! Participants must have a civil, non-violent discussion for at least 1 hour. Participants are not allowed to leave the table.
Time Limit: Until the end of the day.
Compensation: Greater harmony between the members of <Kim Dokja's Company>, permission to leave the kitchen.
Failure: Three months of mandatory dishwashing duty (stacking), repeating the scenario.
There was a faint creak from upstairs.
Jung Heewon pushes her chair back with a loud screech. Immediately, Biyoo starts orbiting around her head at a startling speed, her "Ba-at!" taking on a distinctly warning tone.
Jung Heewon scoots back towards the table, expression mutinous. All of a sudden, Sooyoung feels very, very tired.
"Jung Heewon. I know you hate me. Everyone knows you hate me." She pauses, unsure how to continue. "But you gotta admit you're being a huge goddamn brat right now."
Maybe that wasn't the best way to continue, Sooyoung muses, as Jung Heewon's fingers dimple the metal tabletop. But ah. Sooyoung was never the kind to back down... and neither was Jung Heewon.
"Listen to me. You think I'm a murderous, lying asshole who wouldn't think twice before betraying you guys if it'd save me. Hell, I can't even say you're all the way wrong about that. But you and I... we both made it past the first scenario, didn't we."
There was no response, but Sooyoung thinks she saw Jung Heewon's shoulders twitch.
"This is a really fucked up world we're living in right now, you know that. I'm not some.... It's not like I want-"
Sooyoung bites her tongue. Jung Heewon sighs.
"I know, Han Sooyoung. I don't- I don't hate you. It's true," she insists when Sooyoung couldn't hold back a scoff. "I don't trust you most of the time. I don't think you're honest with us. I think you see the rest of us as stupid and naive. But then, I can't say Dokja-ssi wasn't a bit like that either."
Sooyoung doesn't know whether she should feel offended or vindicated by that last part, to be honest.
"You should've told us who you were. Dokja-ssi should've told us who you were. The two of you are so- Ugh. You make it hard to be around you sometimes. I don't care if everyone else just accepts your decisions. If you want me to understand why you do the things you do, you have to explain yourself."
Jung Heewon's eyes look like they were lit from within, as though a flame burned behind them that threatened to scorch through Sooyoung.
"If you can do that... then I can listen."
Sooyoung swallows. She listens to the quiet movements from upstairs. Then she smirks.
"Oh, you'll listen to me, huh? You willing to take commands from me? You gonna let me boss you around in a fight?"
"That is literally not what I said at all."
"I'm gonna go ahead and take it that way, anyway. Super touched by your newfound loyalty. Great talk!"
Biyoo gives a pleased little bleat and vanishes into thin air just in time to dodge Jung Heewon's lunge towards Sooyoung's now empty chair.
It's a little easier, after that. Not great, but. A little easier.
Sharing a body and mind with someone is never going to be a normal experience, but Sooyoung and Yuri manage pretty well despite everything. Their ambitions align in surprising ways, namely surviving whatever garbage the story threw their way as they struggle against an omniscient, omnipotent force that treats them like dolls a child bangs together during playtime. Life as it is these days. The two of them are more similar than they had expected. It's enough for them to exist side by side, SooyoungandYuri, even as she watches her other companions sink below the water in their new roles. She watches Jung Heewon and Lee Hyunsung arrive years after she did, watches as they try and fail to pull her out of the strange balance she'd made with Yuri. She turns her away silently when Jung Heewon makes her final appeal, no one at her side, her foreign new hands wrapped around SooyoungandYuri's arms in a very familiar and painful grip.
She knows what she's doing; she doesn't need them to rescue her. But....
It is lonely.
From her throne she watches them cling to each other and felt. She feels... confused? She doesn't need them! She doesn't need anyone to stay by her side to keep her sane. Not like it worked for those two anyway. Sooyoung watches the light of Jung Heewon's soul disappear into her new life as Erich Striker despite Lee Hyunsung's best, faltering efforts and thinks: if she was in his place she wouldn't have failed to protect her.
...What a strange thought. It's not like Jung Heewon trusted Sooyoung more. But she couldn't help thinking it, anyway.
“If I have to give another interview, I’ll scream, I swear.”
Sooyoung barely looks up from her laptop screen. "Do it on camera and I'll get Kim Dokja to pay you a bonus. We'll sell the story to tabloids ourselves. 'Fanatic of Justice Finally Snaps Under the Pressure`."
Jung Heewon aims a half-hearted swat at the top of her head, misses, and collapses onto the right side of Sooyoung's bed, head towards the footboard. Sooyoung frees her leg from under Jung Heewon's back and tucks it under herself. Heewon's face is half buried in her sheets.
"It's almost over, Han Sooyoung."
"You aren't excited?"
"I'm being cautious. That idiot says he's got a plan for the Last Scenario, but the day I trust him that easy is the day I walk into the ocean and never come back."
Jung Heewon makes a strange, choked sort of laugh, like the air got caught in her throat. When Sooyoung glances over at her, she can see fine creases in the corner of Heewon's eye, her neck stiff with tension even as she smiles.
...Somehow, it reminds her of Jung Heewon's state during Journey to the West: paralyzed with guilt and inaction, vibrating with the need to do something, anything, yet knowing there was nothing she could do. Sooyoung closes her laptop.
"...You all right?"
"Why do you ask?"
Sooyoung rubs the back of her neck, feeling very wrong-footed. "I dunno, I just... That shit in <Oz> got pretty intense, and then there was the fight with those Outer Gods right after. A lot's been going on. We haven't really gotten the chance to talk since the picnic. So. Uh-"
"How badly does saying all this hurt you?"
"A fucking lot, so just answer me already."
Jung Heewon laughs again, and something coiled tight within Sooyoung's chest loosens to hear it. Jung Heewon tilts her chin into her chest, peering at Sooyoung through her eyelashes. Her smile is slight and genuine.
"Well. You and I both know it. We're up shit creek and Dokja-ssi keeps hiding the oar." Sooyoung bites her lip. "But I think we'll figure it out. We have you on our side, don't we, genius author?" One hand reaches out to hook itself around Sooyoung's free ankle and shakes it, lightly.
"Beautiful genius author," Sooyoung retorts, kicking her hand away, and Heewon only hums. She's still smiling.
And then, of course, everything goes astronomically, spectacularly right to goddamn hell. Then they try to fix it, and it gets even worse.
Looking at Jung Heewon these days is too much for Sooyoung sometimes. A person was never meant to look at someone else's face and see so much of themselves in it. It was wrong. Perverse. She wanted to claw at Heewon's eyes, scream at her: How dare you look at me like that? Who are you to know me so well, to feel the grief I do?
Fucking Kim Dokja. See the state he's left them in.
Jung Heewon seems aware of the irony in this particular situation. Her suitcase stands behind her silently as she waits in the doorway of the small apartment Sooyoung rents, a five minutes walk away from the nearest subway station. She rides the subway these days. She endures the empty air within and the empty view outside on her way to and from work. Though not Line 3; she knows Jung Heewon doesn't ride that line either. It's very convenient for the two of them, just as Yoo Sangah has her convenient new car to drive instead, and Lee Sookyung conveniently lives with Persephone where she won't have to leave the house and worry about transportation at all.
Sooyoung watches her, the foyer light haloing Heewon in a dim, orange light.
"...I'm staying here."
Sooyoung flinches, very slightly, and hopes Heewon doesn't notice.
"And if there's no room?"
"Guess I'll be sleeping in the park tonight."
"Ha ha, you're very funny. Get your shit inside already, it's fucking cold out. Pick whatever room you want, just don't bother me about needing sheets or something. Yoo Sangah bought all the things from some catalog with my credit card. I don't know where anything is in this place, and I'm gonna keep it that way as long as I can."
“Sooyoung, wake up-”
“IT’S 6 AM. GO FUCK YOURSELF.”
“You have class in two hours.”
“How are you still this bad at waking early? We’ve already been through this song and dance for over three years.”
A rude gesture flicks itself at Heewon’s general direction from within the nest of sheets on Sooyoung’s bed.
“...I’ll be back at 7. If you aren’t awake by then, I’ll drag you downstairs by the feet. Sweet dreams!”
Sooyoung and Heewon are sitting on opposite ends of the very big and slippery sofa Yoo Sangah bought, watching a drama neither of them remember the name of, when Sooyoung takes a deep breath and asks,
“So… you and Lee Hyunsung.”
The glare that Jung Heewon turns on the side of her head is almost as hot and scalding as the ones she used to give her when she was convinced Sooyoung was actually some kind of demented serial killer getting off on convincing people she’s secretly a good person. It would be pretty impressive if Sooyoung didn’t know Heewon kind of sort of liked her by now. Probably.
“What about us.”
“Jung Heewon, don’t be dense. You know what I’m asking. I thought you two were planning to get married and shit.”
Heewon raises an eyebrow. “So that time I overheard you trying to get Sangah-ssi to bet on when we’d break up?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I've been you two's biggest fan for years,” Sooyoung lies, then ducks under the cushion Heewon throws at her head.
“...Not that it’s any of your business. Hyunsung-ssi and I… well, not every relationship works out. You must know that.”
Sooyoung, whose romantic experience could be summed up into three blind dates and an awkward yet vaguely sensual handshake from her pretty project partner in expository writing, does not know anything like that. Like fuck she’s going to let Heewon know that, though.
“Tch, of course. It’s just… I dunno, you guys just seemed really steady. You… fit.”
“We fit. Yeah, we did. But not for the right reasons. I love Hyunsung-ssi, and I know he loves me, too.”
“We love each other. And we love-” Jung Heewon takes a quick, wet breath. “We loved Dokja-ssi.”
Sooyoung’s hands curl into fists in her lap. Again. Fucking again. Heewon continues, sounding a bit damp even as she turns her face away, looking out towards the dark windows.
“It wasn’t fair to either of us to stay together when we knew it couldn’t work. We did try. It’s just that trying isn’t enough, not really.”
Isn’t that the truth.
...Fucking Kim Dokja.
She tallies that over the course of the scenarios, both rounds, and the time spent in between, Sooyoung has been living in close proximity with Heewon for almost a decade now. Which is terrifying! This is very scary, in small part because Sooyoung has noticed her sleep schedule improving due to this which is a level of control no one is ever allowed to exert over her REM cycle, and in very large part because....
Out of convenience, Sooyoung has been living in Kim Dokja's hospital room for months now. This is not proper medical facility visiting protocol. But Lee Seolhwa owns this clinic, and no one gets to tell her what to do. Everyone in <Kim Dokja's Company> knows to look for her here, either in a chair beside the bed or curled up on a unstable little army cot in the corner that could only support children or Sooyoung herself. She barely uses it anyway; more nights that not, she falls asleep in the chair, her computer open and idling in her lap. She feels the consequences of that in the morning when she wakes to find one of her companions shaking their head at her across the bed.
One morning, though. One morning, she feels someone lifting the laptop off of her, and then lifting her off the chair, and she doesn't... react at all. All those years learning to twitch the moment someone touches her rendered meaningless because with her head lolling against their shoulder, Sooyoung recognizes the smell of a cold cream she's only ever known Jung Heewon to use. She's watched her rub it into the bend of her neck and the spaces between her fingers on many, many mornings. Heewon's skin dries and cracks easily; she's overheard her complain about it to Yoo Sangah in their living room. Their living room, not the one in the house they shared with Yoo Sangah and Lee Sookyung those three years. Yoo Sangah had come to their apartment and sat on their sofa and brought them a single bottle of a weird high-end soju for the two of them to share. It was nasty as hell. They'd mocked Yoo Sangah's horrible fondness for bitter alcohol later that night, intent on polishing it off before 2 am.
"You keep sleeping in the chair and your neck will get stuck that way." Sooyoung stares at Heewon as she's laid down on her cot and a pillow is tucked beneath her head. Heewon stares back, unimpressed and apparently unaware that Sooyoung's brain was making a number of increasingly horrible connections at warp speed.
"I got you breakfast," she continues. She's brought sandwiches smelling of warm eggs and brown sugar with her. Sooyoung watches as Heewon sits down in the newly vacated chair with one in her right hand. The other reaches down into the plastic bag at her feet and pulls out a carton of lychee flavored milk. Heewon hates the stuff, refuses to keep it in the fridge. "For you." As if it has to be said.
Sooyoung's neck fucking hurts and her stomach's growling even though her appetite is completely shot and she doesn't know if Yoo Joonghyuk will ever come back and bring Kim Dokja home in his wake. When she opens her laptop again, she knows she'll hate seeing all the words on the screen even as she continues to write them. She knows Shin Yoosung will be here in the evening after school with her latest edits.
She knows how happy she is to see Heewon here, with breakfast and milk that she hates buying and remembers that Sooyoung loves. She wants to see it again, at home, their home. When Yoo Joonghyuk's back. When Kim Dokja's back. She knows exactly why she feels that way.
"I like the strawberry flavor better."
"No, you don't."
No, she doesn't. She says, "Thanks."
She says, "Heewon."
Heewon looks at her. Her eyes are luminous, lit from within, even as sunlight brightens the room.
"I bet it does."
"You can rewarm this later."
"C'mere for a sec."
Heewon c'meres, once she's wiped her fingers clean on a napkin. Sooyoung grabs her hand and presses its warm, rough palm against her cheek. Her lips barely brush against the bones of Heewon's wrist. The smell of cold cream fills her nose. The tips of Heewon's fingers twitch once, twice against her scalp. Then they slip into her hair to curve along her head.
"...If Dokja-ssi were awake right now, he'd be laughing at you."
"Fffffuck that dude. Think I didn't catch him staring at Yoo Joonghyuk's ass all the time? When he's back, I'll poke his eyes out. Bam, instant karma. I'd like to see him laugh then."
"Don't be ridiculous. Only poke one out, two would be going overboard."
"Hmmmmkay. Get off now, your hand's sweaty."
Heewon pinches her cheek hard enough to make her eyes tear. "You little shit. You're going to be doing all the chores at home for about a year once we're done, just letting you know."
Sooyoung already knows, but she'll permit the reminder just this once.
"Wake me up again in... an hour."
"You have forty-five minutes. If Lee Jihye drops by, I'll defend your laptop."
Still such a bitch about this. Sooyoung guesses that'll have to be enough. The room grows warmer with the rising sun, and Sooyoung goes back to sleep.