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It is actually painful, how cool Namjoo thinks Yoonji is.

Painful because Namjoo is embarrassed. Painful because she doesn't even know why it is that all of these small things about Yoonji add up to so much. She doesn’t know why, she just knows that this is only her first semester but she's already met the coolest person she'll ever meet for the rest of her university career.

It's so cool how Yoonji wears all black all the time, but not like she's making some kind of statement or trying to fit some image--she just like, owns it. And it's so cool how she clearly cuts her own hair, her bangs choppy and uneven and stark against her pale forehead. And it's cool how she wears big clunky headphones all the time, so Namjoo can usually spot her around campus quickly even though Yoonji is tiny and might otherwise disappear in the crowd.

Or possibly Namjoo has just trained herself to be able to find Yoonji within seconds, and the headphones don't have anything to do with it.

Namjoo has never before thought twice about people who only wear black, or cut their own hair, or wear headphones. If someone had asked her months ago to describe her definition of coolness, it wouldn't have included any of those things. And yet.

Unfortunately, the coolest thing about Yoonji might also be the thing that guarantees Namjoo doesn't have a chance in hell at ever being her friend. Or, to be accurate: Namjoo only knows about this cool factor because she completely blew any shot she might have had at being Yoonji’s friend. And this thing, the coolest of all, is Yoonji’s stoic, level-headed stare when she's arguing with you, and the way she makes her points without raising her voice or getting upset. The way she says just enough words to make her argument directly, instead of rambling on uselessly like Namjoo. The way she shrugs and looks away, like she doesn't care that Namjoo got the last word and doesn't care about who won the argument, when their professor of Philosophy of Pop Music shuts down their discussion to get back to his lecture.

When the class ends, Yoonji dumps her books in her bag and stands and leaves the room without glancing back even once at Namjoo. How is she so cool. How did Namjoo fuck this one up so badly.

Philosophy of Pop Music is an upper level course, and Namjoo had to get special instruction from the professor to be allowed to take it her first semester. The class is partly graded on participation, so she tries to speak up when she has opinions during discussions, which is almost always. And she has developed an instinct to double down on those opinions and speak up harder when questioned, mostly from a lifetime of other students--usually boys--being dismissive even when no one else in the room knows their shit better than her.

So: she had argued back when Yoonji brought up a counterpoint to her point in class discussion. So: she'd gotten a little defensive and carried away. So: she'd ignored the professor's attempts to mediate and had shut down Yoonji’s argument harder than necessary, even though Yoonji was making some good points, even though Yoonji was not matching Namjoo’s level of passion in their disagreement because she was way. Too. Cool.

Namjoo regrets all her words less than five minutes after their argument is over. She watches Yoonji’s retreating back as she leaves the classroom with a sinking heart. Yoonji is never going to like her now.

***

It is actually painful, how cool Namjoo thinks Yoonji is.

But the pain doesn’t stop there. What turns out to be far more painful and stupid by a large degree is that Namjoo likes Yoonji so much that it catapults her into awareness of her own gayness like a dog in a rocket getting launched into space: clueless and dumb as an animal removed from its ecological niche.

Namjoo didn’t really date in high school, but back then she’d thought it was because she was so driven to do well in her classes that she hadn’t made the time. But if anything, she’s even busier in university, and she still hasn’t spent any time looking at boys. One boy asked her out a couple weeks into the semester, but she didn’t realize what was actually happening until he’d already walked away and she’d accidentally declined. (Not that she’d had any real desire to say yes in the first place.)

A few weeks after Namjoo took one look at Yoonji and decided that she must be the coolest girl in the entire world, they’re talking before class. Because Namjoo had come up with some pathetic excuse to start a conversation, and Yoonji is apparently putting up with it. There’s the smallest of frown lines between her eyebrows as she tilts her head, her lips pouting out just slightly as she talks about Michael Jackson’s global influence, and for a moment Namjoo feels actually lightheaded. Dizzy and acutely aware of blood pounding at her temples, in her chest. Yoonji isn’t just cool: she’s cute, and so pretty, and holy shit so this is what it’s like to look at someone and want to kiss them.

“I’m sorry,” Namjoo blurts out, interrupting Yoonji in the middle of her sentence like a lunatic. Yoonji pauses with her lips still in a pout shape. Namjoo doesn’t even know what she’s apologizing for--oh, it’s because she’s scrambling to her feet and gathering her books to escape, that’s why. “I’m sorry, I gotta--just remembered--”

“Uh, you okay?” Yoonji says, and Namjoo does something with her head that could mean yes or no, it’s anyone’s guess. She feels like the whole room must be staring at her as she hurries out the door as other students in the class are trailing in, but when she risks a glance over her shoulder the only person looking at her is Yoonji.

Namjoo takes refuge in the bathroom and splashes water on her face, feeling dramatic and useless. There was no reason for her to run out like that, except that she hadn’t wanted to try and process a sexuality crisis in the middle of class, while Yoonji was still speaking to her. Yoonji and her cute mouth. Yoonji and her pretty hands, long fingers gesturing while she talked. Fuck.

Namjoo looks up at herself in the mirror, at her long hair in a ponytail and her wide nose and big mouth. All these features she’s never been quite comfortable with, never known how to make them look sexy or whatever. She doesn’t look any different than any of the million other times she’s stared at her own reflection, but somehow it feels different now; an odd wiggly little puzzle piece sliding into place, and suddenly the person in front of her makes a bit more sense.

It’s a lot to process, or it should be. Namjoo overthinks everything, her busy mind always presenting twenty scenarios as potential truths when anyone else would see only one, but somehow this feels… simple. Simple in a way nothing else ever has. While she’s already planning for what books she’s going to look for to learn more about this new part of herself and deconstruct it to hell and back, for once she’s not questioning the revelation itself.

Namjoo likes girls. She likes Yoonji.

***

Namjoo likes Yoonji so, so much. Likes her in an embarrassing way, in a distracting way, in a way that makes her stare at Yoonji’s exposed knees when she wears a skirt to class and then feel like a creep. Namjoo doesn't even know if Yoonji likes girls, and if she did, why would she like Namjoo? She'd probably like a girl that also wears all black and isn't as tall as a stork and doesn't argue with her in class and doesn't, oh my god, break her headphones by stepping right on them in the hallway.

Yoonji is crouched down on the floor, digging through her backpack for something, her huge headphones on the floor next to her feet instead of hanging around her neck. It’s a busy, crowded hallway, and it’s not that Namjoo didn’t see her or wasn’t paying attention--she never sees anything else these days, not when Yoonji’s in her sight line. But she sees Yoonji and her legs just start naturally veering towards her side of the hallway like there’s some lesbian gravitational pull, except that now she’s walking against the flow of hallway traffic, and she bounces off someone’s shoulder and has to veer sharp to the left to avoid someone holding a coffee cup, and then she hears a crunch and looks down and--

The headphones don’t look super broken at least. Namjoo stepped on the plastic that connects the speakers, not the speakers themselves, so maybe…. Maybe it won’t be as difficult to fix? Namjoo has never wished harder for a time machine to take her back to thirty seconds ago.

“Oh no,” Namjoo says as she steps back, as Yoonji takes the headphones and stands up slowly. Namjoo can’t see her face. “I am so--so fucking sorry, it was an accident, I… I can buy you new ones--”

“You don’t have to buy me new ones,” Yoonji says. When she does look up, her face is so blank that she almost looks bored. “These are pretty expensive, so that would be a lot to ask.”

Namjoo’s stomach lurches. “I always see you wearing them. I know how much you like listening to music, I feel awful. Let me help?”

Yoonji blinks. And now Namjoo feels like a stalker, in her consternation letting it slip that she pays close attention. She watches her own hand reach out and hover somewhere near Yoonji’s forearm, almost touching, before she pulls herself back. Yoonji’s eyes track the motion before flicking back up to Namjoo’s face.

“The headphones should still be under warranty, so I can get them replaced for free,” Yoonji says. She gives a spiky shrug. She doesn’t say that it’s fine, or that she’s not mad, or any of the other empty conciliatory phrases someone else might say just to smooth out the conversation. Namjoo admires that even though it also makes her want to sink into the floor.

“I really am so sorry,” Namjoo says. Their class starts in five minutes. Namjoo doesn’t want to go, even though she already missed one class this semester because she’s gay. “Can I make it up to you sometime? I could buy you a coff--um--”

Halfway through her sentence, Namjoo realizes that she is asking Yoonji out without meaning to, and the rest of her words stick in her throat. Yoonji just raises an eyebrow.

“You don’t need to buy me anything,” she says. “But I’ll always accept coffee. We’re going to be late for class.”

Yoonji slips the busted headphones back around her neck and grabs her backpack. Namjoo follows her into the classroom, her head buzzing in a confusing place between mortification and optimism.

***

Before Namjoo can gather the courage to bring Yoonji coffee or, even harder, suggest going out for coffee after class, she runs into her outside of class. Off campus, on a Friday evening, when Namjoo is least expecting it. She’s coming back from a shopping trip to her favorite bookstore across the city, walking through the busy food district that borders her university campus, when she sees Yoonji waiting in a line outside an ice cream shop.

Namjoo spots Yoonji easily, her eyes in her usual pattern of scanning the streets for short goth girls. But Namjoo almost doesn’t recognize her, because she doesn’t expect to see Yoonji in a flock of gangly teenagers, all still in their brightly colored school uniforms. Three teenagers, all talking to Yoonji excitedly while the four of them stand in line for ice cream.

Namjoo is crossing the street to get closer before she’s thought twice about it, too curious about what this is. From a few feet away, she can see Yoonji frowning while she listens to the kids trying to talk to her, but not an angry frown, just an intent listening face. The teens, it looks like one girl and two boys, seem to be very animated, waving their hands around and laughing as they tell some story. The skinnier boy leans into his shorter friend, slipping his hand into the back pocket of his friend’s uniform pants.

“Yoonji unnie, hey!” Namjoo is so curious that she loses some of her usual shyness around Yoonji, and forgets to be intimidated until Yoonji stiffens and whirls around at the yell. Yoonji relaxes when she sees it's Namjoo, but she still has a funny, self-conscious look on her face that Namjoo isn't used to.

“Who's your friend, unnie?” The teenaged girl asks, her wide eyes friendly at Namjoo's approach. At the same time she leans shyly closer to Yoonji’s side. All three of them are sort of crowded around Yoonji, and Namjoo is reminded vaguely of ducklings. She wonders if one of them is a younger sibling--she knows Yoonji is from Daegu, so maybe cousins would be more likely.

Yoonji clears her throat. “This is my friend Namjoo, from university. Namjoo, these brats are Jungsook, Jimin and Taehyung.”

They chirrup hellos at Namjoo. It's funny, she's not far out of high school herself, but seeing these three in their smart little uniforms makes her feel impossibly older somehow. The shorter boy now has his hand in his--friend's?--back pocket too.

“And how do you guys know Yoonji?” Namjoo is not going to let herself get excited that Yoonji introduced her as a friend, since it was probably just more polite than saying classmate. Not that Yoonji is polite when she could be honest instead, but--still.

Three heads swivel to Yoonji to explain. Yoonji hesitates before answering, and Namjoo doesn't understand why until she stands up a little straighter and says, “I volunteer at the LGBT Center. With their high school programs, mentoring and stuff. We met that way.”

Her eyes narrow as she finishes, and Namjoo doesn't look away from her gaze. She realizes that Yoonji has just shown her an act of trust, telling her the truth about all four of them when she could have come up with a safer lie.

The three kids are smiling at Namjoo, like if Yoonji trusts her than they do too, automatically. The shorter of the two boys, Jimin, shifts on his feet and Namjoo notices a small rainbow flag pin on the strap of his backpack. It's the same design as the one Namjoo ordered online herself two days ago, feeling foolish and nervous and giddy and hopeful.

Namjoo smiles at them as wide as she can. “That's cool! Any friend of Yoonji’s is a friend of mine. Can I join you guys for ice cream?”

They get their ice cream, and Yoonji pays for Namjoo's in addition to the kids. When Namjoo protests, Yoonji looks at her and says, “Why not? I'm your unnie too, aren't I?”

And then she winks. Namjoo hadn't known it was possible to wink in a way that was deadpan, but Yoonji winks that way. What does it mean? Namjoo is still thinking about it when Yoonji hands her the ice cream and she nearly drops it.

Once they get their ice cream and sit down, the three kids launch back into the stories from school they were telling Yoonji before Namjoo interrupted. Jungsook shows off the bruises and healing scabs on her knees that she got from her first field hockey practice, and Taehyung proudly tells Namjoo about how Jungsook got special permission to play for the boys’ team because their school doesn’t have a girls’ team. Jimin and Taehyung are all over each other in that way that seems universal to high school sweethearts everywhere. They tease Jungsook, who is apparently the youngest, and all three look at Yoonji like they’re hanging on her every word when she speaks.

Namjoo mostly watches and listens. It feels surreal, that she’s been allowed to join this little circle for the afternoon even though she has screwed up every other interaction with Yoonji that they’ve had in the past few weeks. And it feels surreal watching Yoonji like this, smiling indulgently at her friends and giving Taehyung some direct but kind advice when he complains about not being able to focus on homework, and laughing at Jungsook’s impression of the high school principal. When Jimin is worrying about his upcoming audition for a musical theater role, Yoonji shakes her head and says, “You have a very good voice, Jimin-ah. I think you’ll do well.” Jimin looks at her with wide eyes and then stares at the table, his cheeks coloring while Taehyung snakes an arm around him. It’s clear that Yoonji’s encouragement means a lot, to Jimin and to all three of them.

It’s not cool, Namjoo thinks while she scrapes up the last of her ice cream, that Yoonji has this softer, nurturing side to her. It doesn’t fit the same image that her black spiky outfits and her blunt way of speaking do. It’s not cool but it’s maybe better than cool. Cooler than being cool…. Outkast lyrics pop into Namjoo’s head unbidden, and she giggles around the spoon in her mouth. Then she notices Yoonji looking at her, and quickly puts the spoon down feeling foolish.

But the look in Yoonji’s eyes doesn’t say that she thinks Namjoo looks goofy or dumb. Namjoo doesn’t know what it says, but not that. She swallows and wills herself not to look away, feeling too hyper aware of everything: her heartbeat fragile as tissue paper in her chest, her throat cold from the ice cream, her sticky mouth and how much she wants. Yoonji’s eyeliner is smudged and just slightly uneven, strands of black hair wisp around her face, and her lips glisten when she licks them.

Then Yoonji blinks and tucks her hair behind her ear, turning away from Namjoo and back to Jimin, who just asked her about college extracurriculars. Namjoo looks away too, nudging her finished ice cream bowl a little farther away from her on the table, crossing her legs and wondering if she should be feeling embarrassed or weird or just giddy. She feels giddy.

“We should probably go,” Jimin says, clearly reluctant. “Jungsook-ah has an early bedtime.”

“You have the exact same curfew as me!” Jungsook retorts. She throws a balled-up paper napkin and it hits Jimin square in the forehead.

“Aish, don’t start,” Yoonji says. “I don’t care about when any of you go to bed, but I need to be home with no human voices around and every light turned off before 10pm or else.”

“Because you’re a witch, noona?”

“Because I’m a witch, Taehyungie,” Yoonji agrees. “Come on, Namjoo-yah and I will walk you to the metro station.”

It’s a short walk, and the three teenagers walk ahead. Namjoo watches as Jungsook punches Taehyung in the arm for something and he yelps, falling into Jimin. A minor scuffle breaks out between all three, and when Namjoo glances at Yoonji she sees that she’s laughing, her face open and fond.

“I was supposed to buy you coffee,” Namjoo says. “I mean, I was going to, as an apology for the headphones. But instead you just bought me ice cream so--”

“Don’t say we’re uneven. I told you, you don’t need to worry about the headphones,” Yoonji says. Namjoo winces. She had been angling to suggest meeting up for the original coffee next week, but so much for that. She tries not to let it deflate her mood too much. She should just try to enjoy this night for whatever it is, not think so hard about next steps. That really goes against the grain of everything Namjoo is, but she’ll try for Yoonji’s sake.

There’s an odd quiet between them after they wave goodbye to Jungsook, Jimin and Taehyung. Namjoo never minds the quiet, but around most people she feels like she’s doing something wrong if the conversation dies for too long.

But maybe Yoonji likes the quiet, too. Namjoo looks out at the street, listening to the noise of oncoming traffic one block over and a woman talking on her cell phone a few yards away. Someone is out walking their small fluffy dog late, and he’s indulgently letting the little thing drag him this way and that to sniff things instead of walking forward and forcing the dog to keep up.

Namjoo thinks of her lyrics notebook, tucked away in her bag. She doesn’t have any specific words or phrases on her mind, nothing that she has an urgent need to scribble down before it’s gone, but maybe once Yoonji has gone home she’ll take a seat on the nearest bench and just watch this street for a while and try to write, see what she can come up with.

“There’s a bar I like not far from here,” Yoonji says, breaking the silence in her low gruff voice. “Want to get a drink for the road?”

Namjoo turns to look at her. “I thought you had to get home at a certain time or you’d turn into a pumpkin.”

Yoonji’s lips twitch. “If I hung out with those kids as much as they wanted, I would never have any energy left for anything else. And I thought it could be cool to hang out with you, just the two of us instead.”

Namjoo presses her lips together to keep a scream of disbelief inside. She’s sure her eyes must be comically wide though. She nods, and when she trusts herself to speak, says “Yeah, that sounds cool. It sounds, um, nice.”

“Nice,” Yoonji says flatly, and then she does that deadpan wink again, here and gone so quick Namjoo half-thinks she imagined it.

Yoonji takes her to a bar on the corner that is dimly lit and cavelike inside, with exposed brick walls and weird red lighting in several corners. There are skulls placed on various surfaces around the room, most of them fake and plastic but Namjoo spots a cat skull that might be real. There’s a long mirror on the opposite wall from the bar and when Namjoo glances at it she has to do a double take, because at first it seems like she can’t see Yoonji’s reflection--but no, the mirror glass is just very grimy, no vampires here.

“I like this place,” Yoonji says after they get their beers and sit down at the far corner of the bar. “It has a cursed vibe and I never see other college students here.”

“Yeah, it suits you,” Namjoo says, and belatedly realizes what she just implied. “I mean--it doesn’t remind me of you because it’s cursed, it’s just… I meant it in a good way?”

“It’s fine, I’ll take cursed.” Yoonji flips her hair over her shoulder. There’s a soft smile on her face as she sips her beer, and it’s a different kind of smile,there’s something about it. Namjoo’s not used to seeing that look on her face.

“I like your hair,” Namjoo says, out of nowhere. She was trying to think of a way to recover from her last conversational foible and doesn’t know why her brain came up with this topic, but she might as well press forward. “Your um, your bangs? It’s cool that you cut them yourself.”

Yoonji’s brow wrinkles. “I don’t cut my own bangs.”

“Oh,” Namjoo says. Fantastic. They’ve been talking for five minutes and she’s managed to accidentally insult Yoonji twice.

But Yoonji is snorting a laugh into her beer. “It’s fine. My roommate cuts my bangs, and it’s not like she cares much about keeping them even.”

“It looks good. Like yeah, uneven, but in a cool way.” Namjoo is being too transparent, but it's hard to stop. She's got weeks of pent up admiration and now Yoonji is acting soft and approachable and friendly and how is Namjoo supposed to keep it all in?

“In a cool way,” Yoonji echoes, and laughs. “Really?”

“Yes, really. Come on. You look cool, you must know that already, right?”

Yoonji rolls her eyes and drinks her beer. “A lot of people find me intimidating,” she says. She still has that odd little smile on her face, like she’s shy or something. “I don't like it when people try to talk to me, so usually I'm fine with it. But not you. You don't act like you think I'm too cool for you. It's nice.”

“Oh my god.” Namjoo chugs her beer to keep herself from laughing hysterically. She chokes hard and sloshes beer down her chin, onto her shirt. Great.

“Here.” Yoonji holds out a napkin to her, which Namjoo takes, muttering a thank you. She thinks about trying to go along with this misconception that Yoonji somehow believes, this crazy idea that Namjoo isn't intimidated by her. Maybe it would make her seem cooler to try and act that way. But ultimately, Namjoo just is not built to live a lie.

“I'm sorry, but I definitely was intimidated by you. Uh, still am. Not in a negative way,” Namjoo adds hastily when Yoonji frowns. “I'm glad we're hanging out, I really wanted to hang out with you. I think we have a lot in common and you're so smart and hardcore and cool.” Good god, did Namjoo really just describe someone as hardcore to their face? She should be sedated, but Yoonji’s mouth is in a weird shape that might mean she's trying hard not to smile.

“You didn't argue with me in class like you found me intimidating,” Yoonji says.

“Yeah, that’s an exception though. Talking about music bypasses my sense of shame.”

“That’s hot,” Yoonji says. The inflection of her voice stays even and her expression doesn’t change. She sips her beer. All the blood in Namjoo’s body floods to her cheeks.

“Um,” she says. “Thank you?”

Yoonji nods. “You’re the smartest person in that class. You probably know that already. The professor knows it, it’s why he’s started cutting you off in discussions recently. He doesn’t want you to start bringing up concepts that he can’t properly explain because he’s an unprepared lazy-ass and doesn’t care as much about the subject as his top student.”

Namjoo grips the edge of the bar, digging her fingernails into wood. “Thank you,” she says again, quieter this time. It doesn’t feel like enough. She feels more seen by Yoonji with that one statement than she has by… probably anyone, ever.

Yoonji looks at Namjoo with dark expressive eyes and sharp cheekbones, her cute lips pursing out. Namjoo can see one pale collarbone where the loose neck of her dress has slipped down. She wonders if her desire is written all over her face. It feels like it is.

They drink their first beer and talk shit about the professor and the class, and drink their second and talk about music. They almost get into another argument when Namjoo is baffled by Yoonji’s affection for jazz and Yoonji gets more defensive than Namjoo would have thought. But it’s easy enough to find common ground, and Yoonji’s perspective on things is just as direct and interesting and thoughtful as Namjoo always found it to be during class discussions.

At some point, they started inching closer to each other on their bar stools, and Namjoo isn’t aware of how much she’s leaning in to Yoonji until their knees bump together. Namjoo glances down and feels suddenly far more drunk than two beers would suggest, because Yoonji is not moving her leg away. Her bony knee is bare and her skirt has ridden slightly up her thigh, and it’s just skin it’s just some girl’s skinny leg but Namjoo wants to reach out and touch so badly. She thinks about sliding her hand up Yoonji’s skirt and immediately feels like she’s about to be arrested by the thought police.

Yoonji must catch her looking, because she shifts her leg and presses her knee, and a little bit of her leg, suggestively against the outside of Namjoo’s thigh. It has to be deliberate, but Namjoo doesn’t know how to process what’s happening. Before she can react--lean into it or reach down to stroke her thumb over Yoonji’s knobby knee like she desperately wants to--the moment is over, Yoonji no longer touching her and tilting her legs back into her own personal space bubble.

“Sorry about that.” Yoonji coughs, and for the first time that Namjoo has ever seen (or at least ever noticed), she looks embarrassed. “I must have read things wrong. Didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

One of the many articles that Namjoo read in the first blurry 48 hours after she came out to herself had mentioned “lesbian sheep syndrome,” which apparently is what some people call it when two women are both attracted to each other but neither will make the first move. It’s ridiculous that Namjoo’s brain is throwing this up now, but she can’t help but think of it, feeling frozen to her seat. It kills her that Yoonji, amazing brave Yoonji who mentors queer teenagers at the LGBT Center and thinks that Namjoo is the smartest person in their class, is nervous about hitting on Namjoo because she thinks it will make her uncomfortable.

It makes Namjoo want to scream with rage about the patriarchy and social conditioning and heteronormativity and how stupid it is that they can’t just reach each other’s minds and cut through all the bullshit. Also, she just realized that she’s been sitting here thinking all of this instead of correcting Yoonji’s mistaken belief that Namjoo doesn’t want her legs all over her.

“I’m not uncomfortable! I like your legs.” The words tumble tangled and fast out of Namjoo’s mouth, and she feels like a marionette moving in jerks and false starts when she reaches out to grab Yoonji’s hand. “You didn’t read anything wrong, it’s okay, you can keep doing--that. Whatever you were doing, whatever you want to do.”

It’s nonsensical. It’s mortifying. Namjoo has never put herself out there like this and with every beat that passes with Yoonji just staring at her, the more she wants to just disappear. But then Yoonji squeezes her hand, and says, “We should get out of here. Do you want to go home with me?”

***

Yoonji’s roommate, the one who likes giving bad haircuts, is not home tonight. It’s just the two of them in Yoonji’s small dorm room, with an Epik High poster on Yoonji’s side of the room and a Sonic Youth poster on her roommate’s side. Namjoo gets the first kiss of her life sitting on Yoonji’s bed, Yoonji straddling her lap, one knee planted on either side of Namjoo’s hips.

It’s a good kiss. It’s a great kiss, Yoonji’s lips warm and dry against hers before Namjoo gasps and the kiss deepens. She can feel Yoonji’s tongue brushing over her bottom lip and her teeth. Yoonji tastes faintly of beer, and Namjoo realizes she must taste the same way. She thought she would feel shy about her first kiss whenever it happened, but Namjoo’s tongue is deep in Yoonji’s mouth and her arms are wrapped around Yoonji, her fingers clenched in the slouchy material of Yoonji’s dress.

When they separate, Namjoo has to gulp down air. Yoonji laughs softly and kisses her jaw. “You have to breathe through it. I don't want to suffocate you.”

“You're not suffocating me,” Namjoo says, and tries to pull Yoonji in closer but they're already chest to chest, there's no closer to get to. “Sorry, I'm just inexperienced.”

“You don't have to apologize for that.” Yoonji shifts to look Namjoo in the eye and smiles, kind and warm and pretty. Namjoo's heart skips several beats.

“Okay, well, I take it back then,” Namjoo says, and Yoonji laughs. She pushes Namjoo down on the bed and undresses her with steady, efficient hands. Before Namjoo can gather her flustered thoughts into action, Yoonji has stripped off her own dress, too. She’s not wearing a bra underneath and Namjoo nearly chokes at the sight, at the round curves of her small breasts rising out from her bony chest. Yoonji settles herself over Namjoo’s hips again, and when she leans down to kiss her Namjoo reaches up to touch, brushing her fingers over Yoonji’s nipples and gasping when it makes Yoonji grind down against her.

For a while that’s all they do, Yoonji bucking against Namjoo’s thigh and leaning into Namjoo’s hands on her breasts. They both still have their underwear on, and Namjoo can’t help but groan when she realizes that she can feel how wet Yoonji is on her thigh, even through cotton fabric. Yoonji presses her leg down over Namjoo’s groin and rubs, and Namjoo feels sparks of heat going off through her whole body. She arches and pushes back, and the friction is so good, so rough and hot and real.

Yoonji squirms down Namjoo’s body far enough to get her mouth on Namjoo’s breasts, scraping her teeth lightly over her sternum and then sucking a nipple into her mouth. Namjoo can see the top of her head, her hair all mussed and falling everywhere, tickling Namjoo’s skin. She reaches out on an impulse, tucks a strand of hair behind Yoonji’s ear and then clutches her shoulder, squeaks when Yoonji grazes her with her teeth.

Yoonji flicks Namjoo’s nipple with her tongue one last time before looking up. “Can I?” she asks, her hand moving down Namjoo’s body. Namjoo nods a million times and bites her lip hard when Yoonji slips her hand down into her underwear, rubbing her lightly at first and then harder, the heel of her palm grinding down when Namjoo hitches her hips up.

“Tell me what feels good,” Yoonji murmurs, and Namjoo feels the low raspy rumble of her voice all over. Yoonji’s finger slips inside of her and Namjoo thinks she’s going to fully lose it--no one else has ever touched her there and this is Yoonji and it feels so damn good, somehow so much better than any way she’s ever touched herself.

“It all feels good,” Namjoo manages to choke out, and Yoonji gives her a huge grin that shows all her teeth. Yoonji smiling at her like that while fingering Namjoo is too much, too overwhelming, and Namjoo has to squeeze her eyes shut tightly and turn her face to the side.

She rocks up against Yoonji’s hand and Yoonji adds a second finger, pushing in and then sliding out again in a slow, lazy rhythm. Yoonji has beautiful long strong fingers and Namjoo feels it deep, keeps pushing her hips up to get them deeper. Her clit is throbbing, the dull spread-out pressure from Yoonji’s palm lighting her up. She’s worried that she’s clutching too hard at Yoonji’s shoulders, but Yoonji isn’t complaining. She’s still grinning down at Namjoo like she loves watching whatever the hell is happening on Namjoo’s face, and it’s maybe 10% embarrassing but 90% incredible, to have Yoonji looking at her like that.

Pleasure builds slowly and then all at once, and Namjoo has to clutch at Yoonji’s shoulders for dear life as her legs start to shake. Yoonji leans down and drops kisses on her ear, her neck and collarbone. “Are you going to come for me?” she murmurs against Namjoo’s skin. Namjoo can’t believe the answer isn’t obvious.

“I’m close,” Namjoo manages to get out. “Just keep--keep doing that--”

Yoonji presses her hand down so hard that it almost hurts, but instead it makes Namjoo surge. She’s never in her life made a sound while masturbating, but some wire gets crossed in her brain and she actually shouts, clinging to Yoonji’s skinny frame as the orgasm pulses through her, lingering and long and so good.

It's nice to have Yoonji over her, her shoulders blocking the streetlight coming in through the window as Namjoo comes down. It feels protective, like if a bomb went off in this room right now Yoonji would be shielding Namjoo's body from the worst of the blast. Not that Namjoo would want her to, and in this hypothetical scenario she would be trying to roll them over so that she could be the one shielding Yoonji. And why is this where her mind chooses to go post orgasm?

Yoonji removes her hand when Namjoo stops shaking, settling on her back next to her. Namjoo curls into Yoonji’s side, her heartbeat thudding pleasantly at her pulse points and a tingly warmth still floating through her body.

“Wow,” Namjoo says, and feels like a total cliché. She kisses Yoonji and Yoonji kisses back, their mouths sliding together easy and open. Namjoo touches Yoonji’s chest and her stomach tentatively, then less tentative when Yoonji moans loud right into her ear.

“I've never done this before,” Namjoo mutters against Yoonji’s neck as she wiggles her fingers beneath the elastic of Yoonji’s underwear. Useless to say it because it's definitely obvious, but oh well. She just wants to make it good for Yoonji, and she worries that she won't be able to.

“Well you're doing fine so far,” Yoonji says, her voice a little higher than Namjoo has ever heard it before. She's got one arm thrown around Namjoo's shoulders, keeping her close. Namjoo is happy to stay close.

She feels how wet Yoonji is against her fingertips and her brain turns to white static for a second. Namjoo feels entirely unqualified to do this, not because she doesn't know how vaginas work but because it's Yoonji and that itself is just overwhelming. Namjoo can smell her a little bit, she can smell both of them and maybe it should be gross but instead it turns some lizard part of her brain on even more.

“Fuck,” Yoonji hisses when Namjoo circles what she's pretty sure is Yoonji’s clit. For a second Namjoo thinks that the curse word means she's doing it wrong, but then Yoonji clutches her arm with an iron grip and thrusts against Namjoo's hand. Emboldened, Namjoo moves the tip of her index finger between Yoonji’s labia. She's so wet, so slippery there and Namjoo is helplessly turned on again.

“Just keep--yeah,” Yoonji says in a slightly strangled voice when Namjoo puts pressure on her clit again. Namjoo is fascinated watching her arch and writhe on the bed, watching the way faint light from outside the room glints off the pale skin of her breasts. Yoonji is so hot and slick around her fingers, and this feels like it has to be some kind of simulation, like there's no way that Namjoo herself could be making Yoonji feel this good.

The surreal feeling grows, because Yoonji says “Fuck, you're so hot,” while staring right at Namjoo and with Namjoo's fingers inside her, so she's probably not talking about someone else. Namjoo swallows and maybe whimpers a bit, her hand pressing down against Yoonji’s groin.

“Yoonji, you--I like you so much.” Shit. Namjoo had meant to tell her she was hot too, or say something that fit the mood instead of just blurting out this big, clumsy truth at the weirdest possible time. But Yoonji doesn’t laugh at her, just grabs Namjoo’s head to be at the right angle for a kiss, a kiss as clumsy and artless as the confession Namjoo just uttered. But that’s okay, because even as Yoonji’s teeth scrape over her bottom lip and then her chin, Namjoo knows that her fumbling is accepted here. Accepted and maybe even appreciated.

It’s different doing this for someone else, instead of herself. Namjoo hasn’t penetrated her fingers very deep, because Yoonji quakes underneath her every time Namjoo moves her knuckles between Yoonji’s labia, and Namjoo doesn’t want to change what she’s doing if Yoonji likes it shallow like this. She keeps her thumb and the heel of her hand moving in small circles against Yoonji’s clit, and she doesn’t know what might be too much pressure or too little, she’s just using what usually feels good for herself.

“I’m going to come,” Yoonji says, her voice like gravel skidding out on the road. Namjoo feels her clench and tremble around her fingers, and that’s a whole other level of mind-blowing sensory input that Namjoo didn’t realize she’d be getting. She tries to continue rubbing Yoonji through it, and then Yoonji’s whole body clenches up and her fingers clench down on Namjoo’s back and she makes a nearly silent breathy noise in Namjoo’s ear.

And then it’s over, Yoonji collapsing back on the mattress like all her strings were just cut. Namjoo lies down shakily beside her, trying to be careful not to crowd Yoonji until Yoonji’s arm around her shoulder yanks her in close. Then Namjoo curls up against her side, tangling their legs together and throwing her arm over Yoonji’s middle. Yoonji feels so tiny like this. At different times in her life Namjoo has felt somewhere on the spectrum of awkward to bemused to insecure about her height and her long, graceless limbs, but right now she feels glad of it, like being able to hold Yoonji this way was the purpose behind her body all along.

***

Namjoo spends the night, and wakes up to the sound of a ringtone going off--Yoonji’s phone, not hers. Yoonji uncurls her body from Namjoo’s and gropes out at her bedside table until she locates her phone, grunting when she sees the screen.

“Jin is on her way back,” Yoonji says, yawning and typing out a reply before she tosses her phone to the side again. “In case you want to put on a shirt or something.”

“Wouldn’t I need pants too? I’m not sure of the etiquette here.” Namjoo and Yoonji are both naked save for their underwear. Namjoo’s mind wakes up slowly, and each piece of knowledge about her current state (she’s in Yoonji’s bed, it’s morning, they had sex last night, Yoonji likes her back) is rolling over her in warm, easy waves. She reaches out and fits her hand over Yoonji’s ribs, stroking her thumb over her bellybutton. Yoonji shivers and Namjoo marvels.

“You don’t need pants if you don’t get out of bed. Also, Jin’s not going to care no matter what, so.” Yoonji ducks down to kiss her, soft and close-mouthed, and Namjoo is usually too neurotic to get entirely wrapped up in the moment of doing anything, unless it’s reading or making music or sometimes writing lyrics, but maybe because it’s early or maybe because it’s Yoonji--she gets distracted by kissing and completely forgets about the roommate thing until she hears a key in the door and then the door banging open.

Namjoo squeaks and yanks the blankets up to cover her chest, but Jin crosses the room after barely a glance at her. “Yoonji, you can stop scrambling to hide the altar with the skulls and blood, I know you weren’t really having sex over here and it’s just a cover for the necromancy.” Jin has the broadest shoulders on anyone Namjoo has ever seen, man or woman, and somehow the pink fuzzy top just makes them look broader. She busies herself with setting her bags down on the other side of the room and turns around after the exact amount of time it takes for Namjoo to hastily snatch her shirt from the floor and yank it over her head. “Hello, you must be Namjoo-ssi. I'm Jin.”

It feels very awkward to reach over Yoonji, who has not bothered to put on a shirt nor reacted in any other way to the sudden loud presence in the room, to shake Jin's hand. But Jin's smile is kind and her handshake is soft and warm. Namjoo has a brief flash of guilt of wondering if she subconsciously thought she might get a firmer handshake because Jin is clearly trans, but then Jin straightens and flips her hair and looks down at Yoonji. “Are you going to come out for breakfast or not? Did you get my texts? I can't believe you haven't been reading my texts.”

Yoonji scrunches her nose and part of Namjoo's mind very quietly has a heart attack about seeing that. “I'm not hungry yet. Tell Hobi not to schedule things so early.”

“It's 11am!” Jin laughs, a way more annoying and squeaky laugh than Namjoo would have expected from someone so beautiful. Namjoo is endeared. Or maybe she's just predisposed to like anyone in Yoonji’s life.

“I said what I said,” Yoonji grumbles. “Whatever. Have fun with your girlfriend without me third wheeling for once. I'm sure you'll cope.”

“Fine, be like that and keep the lovely Namjoo-ssi to yourself,” Jin says. Then she actually reaches down to ruffle Yoonji’s hair, which Yoonji just lets happen with her eyes lazily closed. Namjoo could get used to seeing this dynamic, Yoonji at home, Yoonji unguarded.

“Thanks, I will,” Yoonji says, and Namjoo grins at that. Then Yoonji reaches her hand up and Jin gives her a high five, or maybe it's a clasping hands hand shake thing, like what brothers in arms give each other. Jin makes a kissy noise at Namjoo before she's gone again, grabbing her bag and laughing some more as she leaves the room.

“So,” Yoonji says. “That's my roommate.”

“Yeah,” Namjoo says. “She knew who I was?” It’s not so much a question; Jin obviously did know who Namjoo was, but her voice ends in the inflection of a question because Namjoo finds this hard to believe. She wonders when everything will stop making her feel so ecstatic. It’s probably too early to expect that on the first morning after.

Yoonji does the nose scrunch thing again. “I’ve mentioned you once. A couple of times maybe.”

Namjoo settles down next to Yoonji again, resting her head on Yoonji’s shoulder. It is a terrible pillow, way too bony, but she likes it anyway. “That’s nice. That’s sweet.”

“Well. Sometimes I can be sweet.” Yoonji brushes a knuckle against Namjoo’s stomach, over the wrinkled material of her shirt. Namjoo feels the biggest, goofiest smile on her face as she snuggles in closer.

“I know,” she says, trying to make her cheek more comfortable on Yoonji’s clavicle and mostly failing. “I know that now.”