Jung Heewon is at work. This in itself is normal — Jung Heewon works almost as often as she breathes — but for some reason, it stitches itself into Na Mikyung’s brain nonetheless, following her around as she tries her best to enjoy what should be a relaxing day off. It follows her to her chipped #1 Sister mug: to her couch, her laptop, her goddamned countertop , conspicuously empty without Jung Heewon casually balancing atop of it.
“Ha,” she mutters to herself, flipping through around thirty channels before she turns the television off and begins pacing again. Back when she and Cho Eunseo were dating, she’d found herself missing her in the crevices of her home, too, so it’s nice, she supposes, thinking of someone else instead.
The only issue is that she and Jung Heewon most decidedly aren’t dating — and Jung Heewon probably doesn’t even want to — and she’s not going to ruin a perfectly good friendship by texting her something crazy like i miss you also we should kiss because she’s feeling clingy and doesn’t want to go down to the bar — and —
Now that she’s thinking about it, there’s probably more than one issue.
She decides that she’ll let herself sulk, if only for a little, so she orders bland takeout and takes a bland bite and watches bland television for half an hour. The love interests are annoying and already together, which is boring, and all she can think about right now is watching an episode of this show last week with Jung Heewon, who cackled every time the male lead said anything.
Cheesy ballad instrumentals play as the leads gaze into each other’s eyes, rain falling around them and somehow missing them altogether. Na Mikyung promptly takes a picture to send to Jung Heewon, who replies with Coming over in thirty don’t watch without me .
Na Mikyung tilts her head back, closes her eyes, and acts as if she can’t feel something in her heart slotting into place.
“The door’s open,” she calls upon hearing someone knock. Jung Heewon walks in with her hair dripping. The stupid drama really missed an opportunity by not having them get wet, because she looks so beautiful that Na Mikyung stops breathing for just a moment.
“You’re gonna get robbed if you don’t lock it.” Jung Heewon runs an arm through her hair. “Sorry,” she adds, wringing out her wet shirt (and Na Mikyung looks away — then back — then away — then back like she’s spectating a tennis match between her common decency and her unfortunately human instincts). “The umbrella stopped working.”
“Stopped working,” Na Mikyung repeats. “Right. Guess I returned it for nothing.” Her voice sounds weak even to herself. Jung Heewon seems to notice it too, because she tosses her an equally bewildered and amused grin.
“It’s the thought that counts,” she offers as she throws herself onto the couch, her arm casually slinging over the top, just above Na Mikyung’s shoulders. The almost-weight is pleasant. If Na Mikyung were just slightly more pathetic, she’d say it’s almost like Jung Heewon’s meant to be here: her legs pressed against Na Mikyung’s own, her hair smelling faintly of both rain and orchids, her hand, warm and comforting even as it rests a tantalising centimeter away from Na Mikyung’s bicep. She’s not pathetic, though, so instead she allows herself to short out for exactly three and a half seconds before she returns to Earth.
“You know,” says Jung Heewon casually, staring at the television like she’s trying to find something new to make fun of, “lately I’ve been over here almost as much as the bar.”
Na Mikyung shorts out again. Does that mean Jung Heewon’s here more often than her own apartment? That can’t be it — it’s ridiculous — but she does work around eight hours a day and spend six or seven on average here, which means logically, that leaves only ten hours at most to be at home, at least five of which are spent sleeping, and —
She has to be going insane. Why, she thinks resignedly, is she doing math for this?
“Yeah?” she responds out loud, definitely a little too late. “Maybe you should start paying rent.”
Jung Heewon snorts. “I haven’t even slept over yet; I’m not paying.”
Na Mikyung tries incredibly hard not to think about a sleepover with Jung Heewon. “You eat all my food.”
“I make you real food with real ingredients,” replies Jung Heewon easily even as she grabs a bite of Na Mikyung’s now cold takeout. “If anything I’m your live-in chef.”
“Well — ” Na Mikyung glances at her as she happily munches on cold, flavorless chicken. Her hair is beginning to dry, and it falls over her face in shiny, dark waves. Part of Na Mikyung wants to brush it back, but instead she folds her hands in her lap and squeezes them together. “I guess.”
When Jung Heewon laughs, it’s loud and a little smug and so bright that Na Mikyung’s simultaneously struck with the need to look away and the inability to do so. She stares like an idiot transfixed with a solar eclipse for entirely too long before she clears her throat.
I missed you, she almost says, achingly bare in all the ways she doesn’t know how to harness. I want you here all the time.
“The finale’s next week,” she says instead, and Jung Heewon’s smile is piercing enough to strike its way through Na Mikyung’s chest, down her heart and out her back.
Given that Jung Heewon works at a bar, it would make sense for Na Mikyung to go there when she wants to get drunk, see the bartender in question, or pursue a combination of both. It’s strange, then, that Jung Heewon is here, sitting on Na Mikyung’s countertop and mixing cheap alcohol.
“There’s better beer at the bar,” Na Mikyung points out, though watching Jung Heewon flip a dangerous number of glasses is objectively more enthralling than watching her argue with the millionth drunk customer that night. “We could always go there.”
“Careful, or I’m gonna start thinking you hate having me over.” Jung Heewon isn’t good at hiding her emotions — her grin is strained even as she does some sort of maneuver that ends with six full glasses in under four seconds.
Na Mikyung leans over and grabs one. “I don’t.” It’s too honest: it hangs naked in the air between them. “I mean — ” There’s no way to salvage this, she thinks, so she just continues, “I like it when you’re here.”
Jung Heewon’s expression softens into something a little embarrassing. “Yeah?”
The dim, flickering light above Na Mikyung’s countertop spills onto Jung Heewon, lighting her eyes a pretty golden. “Yeah,” Na Mikyung manages, feeling as if she’s just swallowed her own tongue. “It’s nice.”
“Cute,” Jung Heewon murmurs, and Na Mikyung already knows she’ll be filing this away to think upon during a small, stupid moment in the future. Now, though, she settles for turning a bright, awful red and sputtering out the beginning to eight separate trains of thought. Her humiliation is worth it, kind of, to see Jung Heewon’s grin.
“I’m not — it’s not like — how do you just — and — ”
“Oh, shit, I have work in twenty minutes — I’ll come over tomorrow?” Jung Heewon interrupts gently. There’s something sure about her tone of voice: like visiting Na Mikyung’s apartment is part of her routine, or like she’s used to carving away time for her in her schedule.
“Uh,” Na Mikyung says. Jung Heewon’s eyes are sparkling. She didn’t know that was possible until today. “Yeah. Right.”
Jung Heewon frowns, suddenly all too close. She holds a hand to Na Mikyung’s forehead and murmurs, “No temperature.” Na Mikyung feels a strange cross between horrifically disconcerted and dazed, so she just stands with her arms limply to her side as Jung Heewon pulls back. “Are you busy tomorrow? If you are, I can just — ”
“No,” Na Mikyung blurts. “I’m free. Promise.” She doesn’t say she’s always free for Jung Heewon, or that even if she wasn’t, she’d change her schedule around to make it work. God, there has to be something wrong with her.
“Yeah?” Jung Heewon raises an eyebrow. Na Mikyung throws on a frail beam in return. “Okay, good. I, um, really have to go now, so I’ll just — ” She motions toward the door. “I’ll get out of your hair. See you tomorrow.”
“See you,” she replies. When Jung Heewon shoots her a wave and a careless smile as she leaves, Na Mikyung seriously thinks she might fall on the floor and die right now.
Instead, she gazes at the still-full glasses on her countertop, the lukewarm amber reflecting fluorescents back onto the ceiling. Her heart aches with something furious and far too painful for someone who’s been gone for one minute.
I want you here all the time, she thinks again, and a phantom fist crushes her ribs.
The finale of this drama is somehow both completely removed from the realm of reality and horrifically boring. It’s so bad that Na Mikyung would probably turn it off immediately were Jung Heewon not here and strangely enraptured with it, gazing at the screen like she’s found a new love.
“It’s so stupid,” she says, though she hasn’t blinked in a worrying amount of time. “Like — they started dating three episodes ago; why are they getting married — ”
“There was a six month timeskip.” Na Mikyung reaches over and picks microwaved popcorn out of the bucket between them, refusing to let herself blush when their hands meet like some kind of gross cliche. (She does blush. Jung Heewon still doesn’t make eye contact, but she’s grinning.) “So they’ve been together for, uh, six months and two weeks.”
Jung Heewon pinches the space between her brows. “Did they get engaged?”
Na Mikyung shrugs. “Probably.”
“This sucks,” Jung Heewon huffs, but she doesn’t tear her eyes away.
Like this, Na Mikyung feels something close to peace — or at least, her version of it, watching the lights play across Jung Heewon’s face and glancing back at the television every time Jung Heewon seems like she’s going to look over. She cycles through three expressions throughout the episode: rage, confusion, and momentary elation. Na Mikyung wonders what it says about her that she’s this good at tracking Jung Heewon’s expressions.
The popcorn bucket is empty by the halfway point, and Jung Heewon moves it aside and shifts so that they’re almost touching. Unlike last week’s easy comfort, she stays a careful few inches away, her hand splayed in the space between them like an invitation.
Maybe it’s not an invitation and Na Mikyung’s just lost her mind. She’s desperate but not quite desperate enough to risk rejection, so she puts her hand beside it — a little smaller, both nail beds short and neat. This is a weird thing to notice. She looks up at the ceiling and ignores the familiar heat pricking at her ears.
Jung Heewon’s hand rests over her own, carefully intertwining their fingers. Na Mikyung glances at her, but she’s staring intently at the screen, pinks and whites shining against her cheeks. “This wedding is boring,” she says.
“Yeah.” Na Mikyung lets her eyes linger — takes a quiet, shallow breath before she recovers. “You think anyone’s gonna object?”
Jung Heewon wrinkles her nose. “Ugh, I hope not — oh, huh. He is.”
“Gross.” Na Mikyung flips her hand over so that they’re properly interlocked and tries not to wonder about what it all means. (If she lies awake at night for hours thinking about it later — well, that’s none of anyone’s business.)
“Gross,” Jung Heewon agrees, turning her face to the side as she flushes a conspicuous crimson.
Right now, Na Mikyung thinks as they sit together in comfortable silence, she doesn’t mind if she’s a little too used to having Jung Heewon here. She wants to keep her around for awhile, anyway.