Seulgi doesn't know when it happens, but somewhere along the way things begin to feel different. She thinks this is something she should have noticed, but the truth is that, in some weird way, there was always a certain inevitability that followed Joohyun. It was never a matter of how or why, always just a when.
So when Joohyun reaches over one day, casually wiping a smudge in Seulgi's lipstick, and Seulgi notices the way her entire body goes rigid and her heartbeat pounds in her ear, she's not that surprised. Joohyun is beautiful, any sane person would have this kind of reaction. It's not that outside the realm of possibilities.
What is surprising, though, is the way Joohyun seems to linger, eyes dropping to Seulgi's parted lips for a brief moment before she seems to remember herself, blinking in rapid succession as she steps back. Her eyes don't meet Seulgi's for the rest of the day, and when Seulgi lays a hand on Joohyun's shoulder later, Joohyun tenses like Seulgi's touch burns. Her eyes are dark and hopeful when they meet hers; it makes Seulgi’s breath hitch and her palms sweat. She wants to ask Joohyun what’s happening but doesn’t, too afraid of the answer she might get.
It doesn’t stop her from replaying the moment later on, going over it again and again in her mind until it’s been burned in her memory. It almost makes Seulgi hopeful for something she’s only ever dared to dream about in brief moments of indulgence.
Like maybe Joohyun—
No, Seulgi thinks, stopping herself from getting too far ahead.
Some things are just better left alone.
Seulgi wakes to the feeling of water dripping onto her forehead. At first she thinks it’s a leak from the floor above her. An alarming thought that has her eyes shooting open so suddenly she’s momentarily blinded by the light filtering into her room. Seulgi’s eyes snap closed, fingers rubbing at them as water continues to fall on her—faster and more incessant.
When her eyes adjust, there is no leak. In fact, there’s no roof at all. Squinting, Seulgi eyes what appears to be a swirling grey mass hovering just above her. Out of it comes the source of the water still persistently falling onto her, droplets seemingly increasing in speed and size with each passing second. Confusedly, Seulgi reaches towards it. Her hand passes through easily, the dark colors briefly shifting to compensate for the temporary wind before gathering once again into a little cloud above her. When she pulls her hand back, it’s damp and cold.
This is just a dream, she thinks, and closes her eyes again. If she goes back to sleep, it will be gone. Except the droplets continue and Seulgi has a brief thought that her sheets are getting wet before she tampers it down. Her sheets can’t get wet because the cloud doesn’t exist.
Outside she hears the unmistakable sound of the others waking up. Seungwan’s in the kitchen beginning breakfast, Yerim is in the living room watching TV, Sooyoung is fussing about looking for her jacket, and Joohyun is—
The droplets suddenly surge, a full rainshower beginning over her. Seulgi sputters for a moment, heart racing and cheeks warm despite the sudden shower she wasn’t planning on taking so soon.
“Okay,” Seulgi decides, no longer able to ignore what’s happening right over her head. “So this isn’t a dream.”
The rain continues and Seulgi eyes it warily. Her sheets are soaked and her shirt clings annoyingly to her skin. She feels the beginning of a headache start to form at her temples, and she breathes deeply, remembering the mindfulness techniques she’s been practicing. Instead of the negatives, Seulgi tries to redirect her thoughts elsewhere, reorganizing and restructuring as she tunes into her surroundings once more.
One breath in, one breath out.
Outside Seungwan is in the kitchen, finishing breakfast and starting on coffee. Her voice filters through the walls, smoothe and melodic.
Yerim is in the living room, commenting idly on the show playing on the TV. It’s an early rerun of an old variety show, Seulgi and Yerim usually watch together, and Seulgi can almost imagine the episode clearly.
Sooyoung is fluttering about, bothering Seungwan and answering Yerim. She’s found her jacket, but she doesn’t know what shoes to wear.
“All right,” Seulgi breathes and feels her heart rate settle. She’s calmer already, thoughts clearer, and above her the rain begins to slow. “Everything is okay.”
Just one more breath.
Joohyun is walking down the hallway, calling for her. She sounds concerned as her footsteps draw nearer, and Seulgi can imagine the pinch between her brows, the frown on her face.
Seulgi’s breath catches, an exhale stuck in her throat.
Above her, the storm begins to thunder.
“Everything is fine!” Seulgi yells, after she’s run out of her bed and tripped shoulder first into her bedroom door.
The storm continues its quiet raging, thunder rumbling every so often, soaking Seulgi to the bone. A puddle is beginning to form at her feet, and Seulgi frowns at the feeling of wet socks.
“Seulgi?” Joohyun calls again from outside, no doubt confused by the sudden ruckus coming from Seulgi’s room, and Seulgi presses herself a little more firmly against the door. “Are you okay?”
“Yes!” Seulgi answers just as thunder booms once again. Dutifully, she ignores it and hopes Joohyun does as well. “Everything is fine!”
“Are you sure? You sound kind of weird,” Joohyun says, concernedly. Seulgi swallows back the instinctive feelings of guilt, still working on accepting the fact that Joohyun’s allowed to worry about her and it’s not a burden for her to do so.
“Yes! I just missed my alarm so I’m kind of in a rush. I’ll be out in a minute!” It’s a flimsy excuse if Seulgi’s ever heard one, but Joohyun usually leaves things alone if she can tell Seulgi’s not in the mood. And right now, Seulgi’s really not in the mood.
“Okay, if you say so.”
At the sound of retreating footsteps, Seulgi breathes a sigh of relief. The storm persists, but the thunder tapers off. The cool wood of the door against her forehead is a welcome respite, but only for a brief moment as Seulgi can feel the moisture from the rain begin to collect there. Pushing off, Seulgi eyes herself in her vanity mirror. Her hair is a sopping mess on her head, her clothes like a second skin against her, and, floating just above her, the stormy cloud swirls about, single droplets falling and landing squarely on her head.
Seulgi grimaces as she watches the water slide gracelessly down her forehead and onto her cheeks. Wiping it off gently, Seulgi sighs and remembers mindfulness.
“All right,” she says. “This is fine.” And then a little more resolutely, “Everything is fine.”
Nodding surely to herself, Seulgi smiles determinedly and begins her day—rain drops be damned.
Everything is just fine.
“This is not fine!”
Seungwan’s eyes are practically bulging as she stares at the cloud above Seulgi. Next to her, Sooyoung’s jaw has dropped while her eyes swim with amusement. Seulgi knows from experience that Sooyoung is one second away from laughing in her face, and she mentally readies herself for the onslaught. Beside Seulgi, Yerim is on her toes, poking curiously at the cloud with intense wonder. Seulgi swats limply at her, but Yerim is an unmoving presence. Through all of this, Joohyun has stayed further back, watching it all unfold, but Seulgi can see the slight crease between her eyebrows, the subtle frown on her face as she alternates between staring at the small storm and Seulgi’s face.
Accidentally, Seulgi meets Joohyun’s eyes. They soften instantly, sympathetic almost, and Seulgi swallows. As if on cue, thunder rumbles and the rain rises in intensity. Yerim yelps, jumping back to avoid getting wet. Sooyoung finally loses her control, guffawing loudly at the put out look on Seulgi’s face. Seungwan lets out a strangled yell, hands gripping frantically at her hair. Meanwhile, Joohyun continues to look on silently, unyielding in her own intensity.
Somehow, Seulgi decides, that’s even worse.
If it were possible, their manager looks even more distressed than Seungwan did. Tentatively, she raises her hand as if to reach for the cloud before thinking better of it, hand falling warily to her side.
“This is—” she begins but cuts herself off. “How did—” she tries again but snaps her mouth shut. She regards Seulgi pensively, equal parts confused and concerned.
Seulgi twiddles her thumbs nervously. Her own personal storm is no longer raining, but the grey cloud looms ominously above her anyway. Seulgi’s hair is still wet, her clothes still soaked, and idly she wonders if she might get sick from a storm she seemingly created for herself.
“All right,” their manager says after a long moment. She crosses her arms and speaks with the kind of confidence that could only come from years of handling a group like theirs, “I’m going to make some calls. In the meantime, do not leave this dorm. We don’t know what we’re dealing with yet and the last thing we need is a bunch of rumors going around.”
Seulgi nods. She can do that. “Okay.”
Their manager looks to the rest of them. “You all will go about your schedules as normal. We’ll figure out something to say later, but for now just try to keep things quiet.”
A chorus of agreements ring out, Seulgi wincing at the loud tone of Seungwan’s voice beside her. Sooyoung is the first to shuffle out the door, already late for her own schedule, and she makes sure to send Seulgi a quick thumbs up as she slips her shoes on.
“Don’t get rained on too much today!” Sooyoung yells, already halfway out the door with a voice far too chipper for their current predicament.
“Good luck!” Yerim says, clapping Seulgi on the back before quickly leaving as well, the door already slamming shut behind her before the sting fades from Seulgi’s back.
Beside her, Seungwan is a comforting presence. She squeezes Seulgi’s shoulder softly, whispers reassurances that it will all be okay.
“Just hang in there!” Seungwan says. “Take all the time you need,” she adds, giving Seulgi one last meaningful look and then retreats back to her room to finish getting ready.
Seulgi barely has time to contemplate the implication behind Seungwan’s words when there’s a cough from in front of her. Their manager still stands there, grimacing slightly but otherwise collected.
“Don’t worry,” she tells Seulgi, “we’ll get this sorted out.” She speaks firmly but Seulgi notices the way she eyes Seulgi’s rain cloud with caution, like she doesn’t know what to make of it.
Against her will, the clouds give in to rain again and Seulgi sighs, wondering if the thunder will come back too. It’d be nice if this storm came with a weather forecast, at least then Seulgi could prepare for herself for the inevitable downpour—arm herself with a raincoat or an umbrella or something equally waterproof.
“I’m just going to…” their manager drifts off, watching in fascination as thunder roars threateningly from the little cloud. Shaking her head out of her stupor, their manager eyes Seulgi again. “I’ll contact you later,” she declares and then turns around, pulling her phone out as she does.
Seulgi can just barely make out her saying their A&R department head’s name into her phone before the door closes behind her. Seulgi can’t shake the sudden guilt that overwhelms her. All this trouble just because Seulgi had to go and get herself a literal storm waging above her head. A loud clap of thunder rings out and Seulgi jumps, startled. She glares up at the rain cloud, willing it to stop, but only gets a face full of water for her troubles. Sighing, Seulgi flicks the water away forlornly.
“Hey,” she hears and then feels a hand wrap around her arm, warmth flooding against her skin. Subconsciously, Seulgi leans into it. The presence Seulgi has actively been ignoring until now has finally made herself impossible to ignore, and Seulgi feels her heart stutter just as another roar of thunder sounds overhead. Joohyun gives her a searching look that Seulgi does her best to smile reassuringly at. The other girl just squeezes her arm softly and says, “If you need anything just ask. I’m here if you need me.”
Seulgi swallows at her earnestness, and Joohyun’s eyes widen imperceptibly. If it were anyone else, they maybe wouldn’t have noticed, but after over a decade of being next to Joohyun, Seulgi’s gotten good at reading all the miniscule expressions that cross her face; is even better at hearing all the things Joohyun doesn’t say. The scary part of that isn’t realizing that that’s how far they’ve come in their relationship, but at the knowledge that it works both ways. No one ever told Seulgi that being seen so clearly by another person could feel more burdening than not being seen at all.
“We’re all here if you need us,” Joohyun amends, quietly.
Seulgi nods, smiling as she pulls her arm free from Joohyun’s grasp. She ignores the way Joohyun’s eyes watch it happen and the way Joohyun’s hand lingers in the air afterwards as if waiting for Seulgi to come back to her. Seulgi hears another clap of thunder, isn’t surprised when the downpour becomes heavier against her, and backs away from Joohyun ever so slightly.
“I know,” Seulgi answers, blinking at the water rushing over her eyes. Joohyun’s face is obscured through the rain and, in a way, that’s almost easier. Seulgi doesn’t even know when or why it even became hard to look at Joohyun to begin with. “Thank you.”
When she finally gets a break from the rain, sometime near lunch, Seulgi contemplates if she still needs to take a shower or if being rained on for the better part of the morning is enough.
She sends a text to Seungwan asking what she thinks, and Seungwan promptly responds that rainwater is, in fact, not a replacement for shampoo and body wash. So it’s with some slight reluctance that Seulgi gets in the shower to wet her hair again, only willingly this time. Afterwards, with a towel around her hair and in clothes that aren’t drowning in water, Seulgi almost feels normal.
She sits on the couch and puts on a random drama, mindlessly scrolling through her instagram. She goes through her tagged photos for the first time in a while, appreciating the random edits and art her fans want her to see before moving onto her feed to like a few pictures from her friends, commenting on some of them and watching in amusement at how quickly fans react. Seulgi scrolls far enough that she lands on Joohyun’s latest post, just a simple set of photos of her in a white shirt in front of a nondescript background, and she maybe stares for too long. It’s weird to look at a photo of Joohyun and be suddenly struck with the thought of how beautiful she is. Seulgi isn’t normally one to be caught staring, but she’d be lying if she didn’t admit that sometimes Joohyun was hard to look away from. It’s as Seulgi’s pondering this, thumb hovering over the like button, that she feels water land on her forehead. She’s only confused for a moment before Seulgi remembers with a jolt.
The grey clouds above her swirl threateningly, droplets falling intermittently, and Seulgi doesn’t waste any time in shoving the raincoat she’d pulled out earlier over her body. She turns back to her phone, screen lighting up once again to Joohyun’s photo and Seulgi feels her head suddenly empty at the sight of Joohyun’s small smile.
Just like that, the downpour starts and Seulgi yelps, tucking her phone into her pocket—away from the rain and away from sight of Joohyun looking back at her.
Seulgi contemplates a variety of other things she could be doing, but the rainfall has her weirdly lethargic. She moves back to her room, lying on the small space of floor between her bed and the door so that she doesn’t get her fresh sheets wet, and puts a record on to fill the silence with more than just the steady sound of rain. Seulgi stares up at the storm hanging over her for a long while, intrigued by the way the droplets condense and spread as they travel the short distance between the cloud and her. From this view, the light just barely catches them, and Seulgi can almost pretend like they don’t exist at all. It’s a strangely cathartic experience, if Seulgi’s being honest, so she decides to just let it happen.
That’s how Sooyoung finds her hours later, stomach empty with a puddle of water around her body.
“Um,” Sooyoung begins and then seems to think better of it. The others don’t usually venture into her room too often. It’s too small for more than one person to be in it comfortably, and they all like to let each other have their own space when possible. They spend most days together, anyway, giving each other that last bit of privacy in their own rooms is the least they can do, but something about Seulgi’s current position must say those unspoken rules no longer apply because Sooyoung hovers closer carefully.
“Have you eaten?” Sooyoung asks, toeing at Seulgi’s limp form. Seulgi leans up on her elbows, ignoring the moisture seeping through her sleeves as it digs into the surrounding puddle. The rain isn’t too bad anymore and Seulgi’s been mostly contemplating more design ideas for her room for the last hour, but she won’t deny that she paints a rather pathetic picture to any outsider.
“Not yet. Want to get chicken and pizza?” Seulgi asks even though she doesn’t really feel like eating. Sometimes it’s just easier to go through the motions.
Sooyoung grins. “Okay, but you’re paying.”
She skips away happily, phone already out with the delivery app opened. Seulgi blinks, mind still catching up. She opens her mouth to protest but ultimately decides against it. Sometimes, it’s also just easier to let Sooyoung do what she wants to as well.
In the end, Seulgi does pay but regrets it when she soon finds that it’s rather hard to eat when all her food just gets wet from the rain. Pushing the sopping pizza aside, Seulgi settles back against the couch with a defeated pout. Over the course of the meal, Sooyoung has inched further and further away from her to avoid getting wet, and now she sits on the floor opposite the couch, eyeing the storm cloud warily as she eats her chicken.
“You’re getting the couch wet,” Sooyoung points out.
Seulgi grimaces. “Sorry.”
Sooyoung shrugs, but doesn’t offer anything else on the matter so Seulgi supposes she doesn’t care all that much. “What do you think it means?” Sooyoung asks, gesturing to the cloud with her half eaten chicken. “Like, how did you even get it? Do you think it’s contagious?”
“I don’t know,” Seulgi answers because it’s the truth. She’s been considering these questions all day and it doesn’t make any sense to her either, but the more she thought about it, the more of a headache she got. And the more of a headache she got, the stronger the rain seemed to get, so Seulgi supposes that in some way it’s at least connected to her. “I think it responds to me,” Seulgi verbalizes for the first time and Sooyoung hums thoughtfully.
“Like you can control it?” Sooyoung asks.
Seulgi shakes her head. “No like it’s linked to my feelings.”
Sooyoung’s brows furrow. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” Seulgi begins, unsure. She hasn’t exactly put two and two together just yet, but Seulgi did notice one common denominator in every instance of rainfall. A single person who, without fail, clouds her mind and creates a storm of emotions inside her. The implications behind that are far too much for Seulgi to want to deal with just yet, though. So instead, Seulgi says, “Earlier I was getting kind of stressed about all of it and then it started raining, which made me feel worse, which made the rain worse, and so on and so on.”
Sooyoung gives her a long, searching look. “So it rains when you’re upset?”
Seulgi’s eyes widen. “No! Not like that.”
Sooyoung only quirks a brow at Seulgi’s outburst and Seulgi huffs, strangely defensive at what Sooyoung’s implying. It doesn’t help that the rain begins to fall even faster; almost like it wants to prove to Sooyoung that she’s right—not that Sooyoung even needs the extra validation.
“I think it’s just connected to my feelings in general,” Seulgi specifies. Sooyoung just nods, and, because the sudden openness of this conversation has made her unusually embarrassed, Seulgi continues, “Like this morning when Joohyun almost came into my room and I panicked so the thunder—” Seulgi cuts herself off at Sooyoung’s curious expression, coughing to fake casualness. “There was just...thunder is all.”
“Interesting,” is all Sooyoung says but gives Seulgi a look like she knows there’s more.
Seulgi frowns and adds, unnecessarily, “I don’t think it’s contagious, though.”
Sooyoung snorts, the tension in the room dissipating. “I hope not. I don’t think I’d handle it nearly as well as you are.”
Seulgi perks up, feeling herself relax again. “You think I’m handling it well?”
Sooyoung makes a face, but Seulgi can see the slight flush on her cheeks—almost like she hadn’t meant to say that last part out loud. “Gee, no need to make a big deal out of it. I just meant that you’re pretty calm about it is all.”
Seulgi beams at her but doesn’t say anything more, knowing just that much was already more than Sooyoung had intended for her. That doesn’t mean she won’t look smug about it, though, and when Sooyoung notices she scoffs, flicking a piece of chicken at Seulgi in annoyance. Seulgi just keeps smiling until finally Sooyoung stands.
“You know what? I think I have a solution for this wet couch problem,” she says and then leaves the room determinedly. Seulgi doesn’t have time to ask what she means because soon Sooyoung is coming back with what looks like a white cloth hanging from her hand.
Sooyoung throws it over her and, by extension, the couch without any preamble. “A tarp!” Sooyoung answers, spreading it carefully over the rest of the couch.
Seulgi pulls it down to free her face, glaring at Sooyoung who finishes tucking it over the arms of the couch, looking far too pleased with herself as she does. It’s not the worst idea, Seulgi can admit, but the execution could have been nicer. That doesn’t stop her from kicking gently at Sooyoung anyway. She keeps the tarp over herself regardless because maybe, and she’s loath to admit this, it offers nice coverage from the rain. Carefully, Seulgi picks up her previously abandoned pizza slice, feeling her hunger return in spite of the rain still falling.
Across from her, Sooyoung gives her a small grin and Seulgi returns it. They don’t need to talk about it, but Seulgi thinks Sooyoung might understand that there are things Seulgi’s not ready for just yet. For now, Sooyoung’s steady presence is enough.
Yerim comes home not too long after and makes a beeline for the food. She doesn’t even bat an eye at Seulgi under the tarp or the cloud hanging over her head, just quietly offers Seulgi a drink from the fridge, settling in next to Seulgi so that their arms brush. Sooyoung moves to the floor in front of the couch eventually, too, arm warm against Seulgi’s leg. They eat and talk and maybe get a little too loud for the late hour, but it’s nice and Seulgi laughs and doesn’t think about Joohyun or her feelings or the rain at all.
She doesn’t even notice that it’s stopped.
Seulgi’s never really been one to have trouble sleeping. Normally, she’s so exhausted from everything that she falls asleep as soon as she hits the bed, but after a day of not doing anything her mind is more awake than it’s ever been. Something about lying in the dark of the room, on a bed still slightly damp, is the perfect environment to let her thoughts run rampant. And the more her thoughts drift away from her, the harder it seems to rain. Seulgi’s bed has barely recovered from the morning’s previous downpour and she doesn’t want to have to suffer through the trials and tribulations that come with picking a new mattress, so it’s without any hesitation at all that Seulgi leaves her bed.
Seulgi only briefly considers sleeping on the floor before she’s quickly tossing that thought away. There’s barely any space there and there’s a perfectly good couch in the living room that already has a tarp on it—something as close to waterproof that Seulgi’s going to get. Quietly, so as to not wake the others that are home, Seulgi ventures out into the living room. Navigating with her phone light, she settles comfortably on the couch, appreciating the sound of the rain as it lands on the tarp. Seulgi pulls her legs to her chest, focuses on the feeling of the tarp against her cheek, and wonders idly where this sudden heaviness in her body came from.
She doesn’t know when she falls asleep, only that when she wakes it’s to the feeling of something soft pressed to her exposed cheek. On instinct, Seulgi grabs for it, if only to figure out what it is and maybe keep it there if she can. The slightest sound of an inhale has Seulgi opening her eyes. Joohyun kneels before her, hand trapped against Seulgi’s cheek where Seulgi had reached for it, and the image is so startling, Seulgi almost thinks she’s in a dream. Whether it’s because of the last remnants of sleep still clinging to her, or the shock and confusion at seeing Joohyun so close to her, Seugli makes no effort to let her go, nor does Joohyun make any effort to move.
“Why are you…” Seulgi trails, blinking owlishly at her, still too tired to form coherent sentences.
Seulgi feels the faint brush of Joohyun’s thumb against her cheek, so featherlight Seulgi can’t be certain she even feels it at all. She leans into it anyway, appreciating the warmth of Joohyun’s palm, and closes her eyes for a brief moment, relishing in this brief moment of peace. When she opens them again, Seulgi can just barely make out the soft expression on Joohyun’s face, the slight way her lips have quirked up in the barest hint of a smile.
“I just got home,” Joohyun finally answers Seulgi’s unfinished question. “Why are you sleeping out here?”
Reality comes back hard and fast. Seulgi’s suddenly hyper aware of the rough fabric of the tarp beneath her and of the cloud still looming darkly above her. With a groan, Seulgi rests back heavily against the couch, away from the comfort of Joohyun’s palm. Joohyun’s hand follows, though, moving to gently push Seulgi’s hair behind her ear. It’s the kind of intimacy they wouldn’t normally engage in—not so blatantly anyway—but there must really be something about the dark and the fresh haze of sleep that makes things like this more acceptable.
“It was raining too much earlier,” Seulgi murmurs, appreciating Joohyun’s tenderness. “I didn’t want to get my bed wet.” Joohyun raises a brow so Seulgi pinches the tarp between her thumb and index finger, lifting it slightly to show her. She explains, “Sooyoung put down a tarp here earlier.”
Joohyun nods in understanding, rests her hand somewhere just below Seulgi’s ear so her thumb can press just so against the space between Seulgi’s jaw and neck. If Seulgi inhales a little too sharply, neither comment on it.
“But why are you sleeping here?” Joohyun questions. “Why not just bring the tarp to your room?”
Seulgi tenses. Truthfully, that never even registered as an option. The idea of going back to her room and lying in her bed, in the dark, and with a storm waging above her just seemed so unappealing she couldn’t even spare it a thought. For reasons Seulgi can’t explain, it just didn’t feel right to be in her room tonight. Rain splatters against Seulgi’s cheek, shockingly cold but Seulgi only startles slightly. She expects Joohyun to move away to avoid the splash, but if anything, Joohyun edges closer; almost as if she wants to feel some of the rain herself.
“I…” Seulgi swallows, aware that with the way Joohyun’s hand is pressed against her she can feel the movement. The rain makes the contact feel slick, like a current charged with keeping Joohyun away, but Joohyun just pushes her hand more firmly against her in response. Seulgi chuckles sheepishly, smiling as she admits the partial truth, “I didn’t think of that.”
Joohyun hums in acknowledgement. Seulgi can tell Joohyun’s not entirely satisfied by Seulgi’s answer, but thankfully she doesn’t press for more. Joohyun’s always been good about that—at knowing when there’s a clear boundary that’s been drawn or when that boundary has an opening she can push through.
“You should go back to your bed,” she tells Seulgi. “You’ll hurt your back sleeping out here.”
The outburst jolts them both. Seulgi pushes up onto her elbow as Joohyun retreats slightly back. Thunder rumbles menacingly from her little cloud, accompanied by a brief flash of lightning, just bright enough to illuminate the shock on Joohyun’s face and the way her mouth parts and her eyes widen. Seulgi feels a mix of shame and guilt waft over her, but she dutifully holds it back, willing her heart to settle back into something normal.
“I mean,” Seulgi starts, “my bed needs to air out. I’m fine out here.” At Joohyun’s look of worry, Seulgi adds lightly, “Really. It’s actually kind of nice to have all this space around me for once.”
Joohyun doesn’t look convinced, and with the way the thunderstorm is bearing down on Seulgi right now, Seulgi’s not surprised. She looks at Seulgi searchingly and what she finds there must reassure her because she stands then.
“Okay,” she says simply and Seulgi thinks she’s going to leave to her room. Instead, Joohyun just walks to the other end of the couch, lifting Seulgi’s legs so she can place herself underneath them.
Seulgi feels a light wave of panic before she pushes it down. “What are you doing?”
“I’m not tired yet,” Joohyun replies. She glances at Seulgi as she reaches for the TV remote and turns it on, the glow of the TV lighting her face. She looks calm enough, nothing that would suggest she’s lying just for Seulgi’s benefit. “Do you mind?”
Seulgi shakes her head and watches as Joohyun rests more comfortably on the couch. Seulgi knows Joohyun has a TV of her own in her room. Logically, there’s no reason for Joohyun to willingly stay out here; not when she could be doing a plethora of other things before bed, but Seulgi won’t lie and say she isn’t secretly pleased Joohyun’s stayed. Leaning back against the couch cushion, Seulgi lets her eyes focus on the random show Joohyun put on. She concentrates on Joohyun’s hands resting against Seulgi’s calves, squeezing intermittently in some semblance of a massage. It feels comfortable, soothing—like Seulgi found whatever it is she was searching for when she decided to come out to the living room and stay there.
It never crosses her mind to wonder how Joohyun seemed to know that’s what Seulgi needed when Seulgi didn’t even know herself. Seulgi just closes her eyes, the flicker of the TV lighting the drops of rain that splash against her cheek. She falls asleep just as the rain tapers off, never noticing that Joohyun, exhausted from her long day, has been sleeping for even longer.
Against her hopes, her little storm cloud is still there when Seulgi wakes. Also against her hopes, Seulgi’s back aches in at least three different places. Joohyun’s gone when Seulgi wakes, but in her place is a blanket laid carefully over Seulgi’s body that Seulgi’s been unconsciously snuggling into. And if it’s because it smells like Joohyun, well, that’s neither here nor there.
Sooyoung and Yerim have also left by the time Seulgi gets up, leaving some time in the early hours of the morning according to Seungwan who hands her a bowl of soup as soon as Seulgi walks into the kitchen. She fields a call from her manager over breakfast, reports that she still, unfortunately, has a personal storm hanging above her, and gets a strict reminder to stay inside and stay quiet. Through all of this, Seungwan is ever watchful, contemplative as she eyes Seulgi from over her own bowl of soup.
“Yes, Seungwan?” Seulgi asks politely, amused at the careful way Seungwan is watching her.
“Nothing,” Seungwan answers, though she abandons her food to rest her cheek against her palm. Seulgi follows suit, pushing her soup aside to rest her elbows on the table. She leans forward teasingly and smiles at Seungwan cheekily, wondering what’s gotten her somber so early in the morning.
“Yes, Seungwan?” Seulgi repeats, tone teasing.
Seungwan rolls her eyes, pushing Seulgi back by her forehead. They both laugh, but Seulgi can tell Seungwan is mulling over her words carefully. Seulgi waits patiently. She knows Seungwan’s always been like this—quietly introspective even in her loudest moments. Seungwan’s always been a force to be reckoned with, but she’s also always known how to approach a situation with caution. If Seungwan has something she wants to say, she’ll say it but only after weighing all her words carefully. Seulgi’s always liked talking to her for that reason. It’s nice to have someone who won’t just fill the silence with empty phrases.
“How are you?” Seungwan finally questions. It takes Seulgi aback somewhat, not expecting Seungwan to jump right into it without any preamble. Seungwan drums her fingers across the table, eyes narrowed as she takes Seulgi in. Seulgi knows what she looks like. There are dark bags under her eyes from only getting a few hours of restless sleep, made worse under the shadow of the hood pulled low over her head. The rain had started soon after Seulgi woke up, when she realized the warmth against her body was from a blanket and not a person, and while Seulgi has more or less gotten used to the periodic drops of water against her, she knows it can still be quite jarring for someone else.
“I’m good,” Seulgi responds truthfully. “Seriously, it’s actually not that bad. The rain even feels kind of nice sometimes.”
Seungwan shakes her head. “I don’t mean the rain—though we’ll get to that later. I mean, how are you? We’ve been kind of busy lately, I know you’ve been tired.”
Seulgi’s brows knit together thoughtfully. “We’ve all been tired.”
“True, but even before all this, you seemed kind of”—Seungwan twirls her hand in Seulgi’s direction—“off? Like you had something on your mind, maybe? I don’t know.”
Seulgi blinks. If she’s being honest, Seulgi thought she’s been perfectly fine up until yesterday when she woke to a literal storm hanging over her. Sure, there were some moments when Seulgi might have been a little more distracted than usual; maybe a little slower to react than she normally was. Seulgi’s even caught herself lost in thought on more than one occasion recently. And yes, Seulgi can admit to having certain things on her mind more often lately, but she didn’t think it was anything noticeable. She didn’t think she was off. Not enough to be called out on it anyway.
It’s not like Seulgi normally keeps these things to herself either. No one’s ever had to really confront Seulgi about anything because she’s usually the one who does it herself. Seulgi practices mindfulness. She does pilates. When she feels stuck she learns something new. If Seulgi has something on her mind, she figures out why and she overcomes it because she has to. That’s just how she’s always been. And even though Seungwan may be right—that there is something, or someone, on her mind—Seulgi doesn’t even know enough about it to be able to explain why.
“I—” Seulgi starts, but isn’t sure what to say. Seungwan’s eyes are sympathetic, even as thunder rumbles threateningly from Seulgi’s storm. Maybe it’s because of the way Seungwan is looking at her, or because the burden she didn’t even realize she’s been carrying with her for so long all of a sudden feels too heavy, but it has Seulgi admitting softly, “I don't really know.”
Seungwan nods, reaching for Seulgi’s hand, and Seulgi lets her take it, unsure if the image of Seungwan in front of her is blurred because of the increased rainfall or because of the tears that have begun to collect in the corner of her eyes.
“That’s okay,” Seungwan says, kindly. “You don’t have to know, but I’m here whenever you’re ready.”
The ease with which she says it has Seulgi momentarily stunned. There’s no expectations with Seungwan’s words, no push for more. Just the easy acceptance that Seulgi’s currently going through something with no easy explanation and that’s perfectly fine. Seulgi didn’t realize it, but it's the kind of understanding she’s been craving. And with that realization comes a breath that feels just that much easier in her lungs.
“Thank you,” she tells Seungwan genuinely, and Seungwan smiles back.
“So,” Seungwan starts, gathering both of their abandoned dishes once the moment has passed, “want to watch something? Or we can keep talking?”
“Let’s watch something; something funny,” Seulgi answers. Her storm is already beating down steadily against her—any more serious conversations this early in the morning and Seulgi’s at the risk of being hailed on.
They end up spending more time looking for something to watch than they do actually watching something, but it’s nice. Seungwan has something to say about almost every show or movie they consider, and Seulgi finds herself enraptured by the soothing cadence of Seungwan’s voice. Seungwan makes cheesy jokes and Seulgi laughs and, slowly, the storm begins to recede, little by little.
Joohyun comes home just as Seulgi and Seungwan are in the middle of a performative rain dance. At least, that’s what it had started as. After slipping on a puddle left behind by Seulgi’s rain, Seungwan—who was the only one without a schedule that day—had gone to the store and come back with a variety of tarps of all shapes and sizes. They’d laid them down all across the floor and furniture in the living room and kitchen, their dorm looking like a living construction zone when they’d finished. At least, now it was mostly waterproof and Seulgi didn’t have to worry about accidentally causing any injuries. Once that had been settled, Seungwan decided to look into alternative ways to make rain clouds go away. While her search was inconclusive at best, the idea of a rain dance hadn’t seemed that outlandish at the time. That is, until Joohyun had walked in just as Seungwan was attempting to crawl onto Seulgi’s back.
“This isn’t what it looks like,” Seungwan says as Seulgi straightens on instinct, sending Seungwan into a tangled heap on the floor. She groans and Seulgi gives her a look of apology, helping Seungwan to her feet.
“We’re trying to make the rain go away,” Seulgi explains. Joohyun only tilts her head, but otherwise doesn't comment. For whatever reason, Seungwan and Seulgi tend to bring out the weirder sides of each other. They cause far less trouble than Sooyoung and Yerim do, but Joohyun’s bore witness to enough of their schemes to no longer be surprised by any of it.
Joohyun focuses her attention on the tarps littering the floor instead. “I see you’ve been redecorating.”
Seungwan nods enthusiastically. “The rain was getting everything wet. We didn’t want anyone to accidentally get hurt.”
Conveniently, Seungwan leaves out the part where she almost did get hurt. Seulgi guesses that she doesn’t want to make Joohyun worry, or, even worse, that Seungwan doesn’t want to make Seulgi feel even guiltier about it than she already does. Seulgi shifts uncomfortably and, like clockwork, the rain begins to fall more quickly. She meets Joohyun’s gaze from across the room but is quick to look away. In the light of day, there’s too much in Joohyun’s eyes for Seulgi to be able to stare at for too long.
“And look!” Seungwan exclaims, brushing aside the sudden tension in the room. She raises a black sleeping bag from the floor next to the couch. “Now Seulgi can sleep in her bed tonight! It’s 100% waterproof. I double checked,” she announces, pleased with herself.
Seulgi flushes. She hadn’t told Seungwan that the reason she didn’t sleep in her bed last night was less about the rain and more about being lonely. It’s something Seulgi barely wants to admit to herself, much less another person, and Seungwan doesn’t have any reason to believe there might be something else. Seulgi just hopes that between the hood of her raincoat and the rain pelting down on her, her burning cheeks aren’t noticeable. But when Seulgi looks up to see the way Joohyun is looking at her with her brow quirked, Seulgi knows she hasn’t gotten so lucky. To her credit, Seungwan is none the wiser, rambling on about the sleeping bag’s features and the various other things she’d inadvertently ended up buying during her impromptu shopping trip.
“It sounds like you’ve had a busy day,” Joohyun comments.
She moves further into the room, stopping to sit on the arm of the couch, and, subconsciously, Seulgi tracks each of her movements.
“Seungwan had a busy day,” Seulgi says. “I just laid down a lot.”
Which is true. Seulgi had spent the better part of the day lying on the couch, staring up at her rain cloud. With her schedule suddenly cleared and no space to practice, Seulgi didn’t have the energy to do much else nor did she have the motivation to make her want to try. Instead she lay there and let the afternoon crawl by until Seungwan came back and Seulgi felt obligated to at least pretend to want to do something.
“Rest days are good too,” Joohyun tells her kindly, Seungwan nodding enthusiastically in agreement.
Their responses quell some of that lingering shame that had been burning red and hot inside of Seulgi since earlier; the one that told her if she wasn’t being productive, then she was wasting her time. It’s a feeling Seulgi knew intimately, but where once she’d normally be able to tame it before it got out of control, today it was just easier to let it fester. Seulgi doesn’t say any of that, of course. She just shrugs, offering them a grateful smile before moving to sit on the couch as well.
Joohyun slides so that she’s next to Seulgi, seemingly unphased by Seulgi’s storm that’s been varying in intensity.
“How was your day?” Seulgi asks her.
Joohyun rests her head back on the couch. She turns to face Seulgi, and Seulgi mirrors her. From this angle, Seulgi can see the way exhaustion clings to her—the dark shadows under her eyes, the heavy set to her shoulders. It makes her wonder how late Joohyun must have stayed up last night just to keep her company. Before Seulgi can linger too long on that thought, Joohyun hums. “Boring. I just had meetings today.”
“No wonder you’re back so early.” It’s a quiet murmur shared just between the two of them. Joohyun gives her a small grin, the corner of her mouth raised just so.
“I’m not sure 8pm is what most people would consider early,” she muses.
Seulgi offers her an easy smile. “Aren’t you the one who’s always saying I’m not like most people?”
Joohyun just rolls her eyes, pushing at Seulgi lightly.
Seulgi isn’t usually one for such shameless teasing, but there’s always a strange sort of thrill that comes with eliciting any sort of response from Joohyun. Maybe it’s because Joohyun can be so unbothered at times that when Seulgi can coax out something genuine from her, it feels almost like she’s won something. Seulgi’s not even that competitive, but getting one up on Joohyun is its own kind of reward. Or maybe it’s because Seulgi knows no matter what she does, Joohyun will let her get away with it. Seulgi’s seen firsthand what it’s like to be on the receiving end of Joohyun’s anger, but never has it been directed at her. That knowledge on its own is enough to make Seulgi wonder what else she can get away with; how far she can push Joohyun before Joohyun pushes back.
“Okay,” Seungwan says eventually, snapping Seulgi out of the bubble she’d managed to create for her and Joohyun.
Seungwan stands in front of them, eying the two of them interestedly. Seulgi blushes, feeling like she’s just been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. She sees the furrow in Seungwan’s brow, the calculating gaze, and wonders what Seungwan could possibly be putting together by staring so intently.
“I think I’m going to go practice for a bit,” Seungwan tells them eventually, when the silence has stretched on into something awkward and tangible. Seulgi almost asks her to stay but thinks better of it.
“Don’t stay out too late,” Joohyun cautions gently, always careful.
“Of course not,” Seungwan answers and then she’s off with a meaningful look in Seulgi’s direction. Like she’s just learned something valuable and she’s trying to pass it onto Seulgi through whatever connection they have. Seulgi, for her part, actively ignores it.
Seulgi barely has time to prepare herself before Joohyun rounds on her, a hand pressed to her shoulder as she moves closer than they’re usually comfortable with. She peers at Seulgi strangely and Seulgi finds herself slack jawed, distracted by the pretty way Joohyun’s eyelashes flutter as her eyes dart across Seulgi’s face. Joohyun leans forward then and Seulgi doesn’t know what to think; doesn’t have time to think anything at all with the way her skin flushes and her heart rate increases. As if on cue, Seulgi hears the thunder above her, feels it vibrate against her sensitive skin.
“Why does it always do that?” Joohyun whispers quietly, so soft Seulgi barely hears it at all.
The rain feels cool against her heated skin; an unusual welcome reprieve. Joohyun gives her one last look and then retreats, and Seulgi feels the exhale she’d been unintentionally holding finally release. Her whole body, coiled tight with tension, sags back into the couch as Joohyun moves away from her.
“Did I do something?” Joohyun asks.
Seulgi tilts her head. “What? Why would you ask that?”
Joohyun motions towards the rain cloud.
“Oh,” Seulgi realizes. “That’s not because of you. It’s just me, I swear.”
“What do you mean?”
Seulgi doesn’t know how to explain; not when she barely understands it herself. But Joohyun’s looking at her with wide eyes, half convinced she put the rain over Seulgi’s head herself, and Seulgi doesn’t know what to do.
“I don’t know,” Seulgi answers, and it sounds like she’s pleading even to her own ears. But for what? Seulgi’s not sure. “It’s just me.”
Joohyun must find Seulgi’s answer acceptable because she just nods then, pats at Seulgi’s shoulder in the way she used to when they were trainees and Seulgi used to beg her to stay for just one more hour, one more hour and then they can go home, please? And then they’d stay for two, while Seulgi danced relentlessly in front of the mirror while Joohyun went back and forth between the stereo, starting and stopping the song at every mistake, exhausted but unwilling to leave Seulgi there alone.
Except now, Joohyun gets up like she’s going to leave.
Without even realizing she’s done it, Seulgi reaches for Joohyun’s wrist. Joohyun pauses at the contact, her eyes razor sharp as they zero in on Seulgi’s fingers wrapped around her. Seulgi lets go instantly, but Joohyun remains rooted in the same spot.
“Uh,” Seulgi mutters because not even she has any idea what she just did that for.
“I was just going to go shower,” Joohyun offers patiently.
Seulgi flushes. “Right. That’s a good idea.”
“Okay,” Joohyun says.
“Okay,” Seulgi echoes.
But Joohyun keeps standing there, eyeing Seulgi from above and all Seulgi can really do is look back. Something passes between them, Seulgi doesn’t really know what, only that she’s sure something has shifted. Just like that, the rain stops. Joohyun stares at the cloud for a moment, raises her hand as if to touch, but freezes. She drops her hand so quickly, Seulgi thinks she might have imagined the whole thing. With another look that Seulgi can barely decipher, Joohyun turns around resolutely to her room.
And if Seulgi wasn’t sure before, she is now.
Whatever the reason for her sudden storm, Joohyun is a part of it.
If Seulgi were asked, she could probably answer just about anything concerning Joohyun. That’s just what happens when you’ve known someone as long as Seulgi’s known Joohyun.
Once, Seungwan had made a joke that Seulgi and Joohyun had so many years between them that they were starting to become the same person.
“Seriously,” she said, eyes widening in sincerity. “Like every time she moves, you move. When you speak, she already knows what you’re going to say. It’s kind of scary.”
“Like you’re twins!” Yerim had supplied.
Sooyoung had snorted then. “Like you’re lovers.”
And everyone had laughed—Seulgi included—because what an outlandish thought that was.
But then Seulgi had looked over at Joohyun to find her already looking back—something dark and curious in her eyes, and Seulgi had swallowed, suddenly warm all over for reasons she couldn’t explain. She’d caught sight of herself in the practice room mirror right after, a similar heated glint in her own eyes that made Seulgi’s cheeks blush so bad she had to lie and say she was tired when Seungwan asked her about it.
Seulgi’s always pondered if Joohyun had noticed it too, and thinks maybe she had but didn’t say anything. Seulgi’s always stopped herself before she could linger on that thought for too long. Some things are just better left unsaid, she reasoned, and she didn’t have the time nor the emotional bandwidth to deal with all of that anyway.
Now, however, she has feelings for one of her oldest friends that she doesn’t know what to do with and a rain cloud that seems to know her emotions better than she does.
Perhaps Seulgi should have put more thought into it back then after all.
Seulgi can count on one hand the amount of times she’s slept inside of a sleeping bag. She doesn’t have anything against them necessarily—can even find them comfortable most of the time—but the rain has been falling down gently on top of her ever since she first tried to go to sleep and the sleeping bag makes an uncomfortable swishing sound every time Seulgi moves and maybe, just maybe Seulgi doesn’t want to be alone in her room again.
She considers, for a brief moment, going back out to the living room, but she already has the sleeping bag and a tarp over her mattress so she’d have no reasonable excuse to explain herself to the others. Then she considers, for an even briefer moment, going to find Joohyun, but Seulgi has even less of an excuse to do that and so quickly pushes it away. What would she even say, anyway? Hey, Joohyun, do you want to sleep with me?
Seulgi blushes at her unintentional innuendo, just as a loud crack of thunder rings out above her. Sighing, Seulgi curls further into the sleeping bag and resigns herself to another night of fitful sleep. It’s as she’s on her phone, casually watching some old reaction videos online that she hears the knock on her door. Curiously, Seulgi pokes her head out of the sleeping bag, bravely weathering the rain drops.
Joohyun opens the door quietly, stepping in unsure. She’s dressed for sleep, face completely washed, and Seulgi thinks she looks beautiful so late at night.
“Were you still awake?” Joohyun asks, closing the door softly behind her.
Lamely, she waves her phone screen at Joohyun. “Yeah, just watching some videos.”
“I couldn’t sleep either,” Joohyun says and Seulgi swallows. The staccato rhythm of her heart weighs heavily in her chest, and Seulgi wonders how it’s possible for Joohyun to somehow make her feel both nervous and calm at the same time.
“What are you doing?” Seulgi asks, wide eyed as Joohyun begins to unzip the sleeping bag.
Unfazed, Joohyun just pushes at Seulgi so that she’s as far to the side as possible. “Relax, just move over.”
“This is a one person sleeping bag!” Seulgi squeaks even as she moves to accommodate Joohyun sliding carefully in next to her. Thunder continues to crack intermittently above them, and Seulgi hisses as stray drops of rain make their way into the sleeping bag.
“We’re both small,” Joohyun reasons even as she struggles to zip the sleeping bag over them both, eventually giving up and raising the top of the sleeping bag over them like a blanket instead.
Close together like this, Seulgi can feel the heat radiating from Joohyun’s body against her own. She can also feel Joohyun’s eyes boring into her, and, resolutely, Seulgi looks away, focusing instead on the collar of Joohyun’s shirt and how Joohyun’s throat bobs with an inaudible swallow. She's shared a bed with Joohyun before, but not like this. Something feels different this time. A change in the air that has little to do with the rain over Seulgi's head and more to do with the way Joohyun's hand rests awkwardly between them—so close but also just out of reach. At Joohyun’s amused exhale, Seulgi finally meets her eyes.
Even in the dark, Seulgi can see the intent way Joohyun is looking at her. Her eyes—wide and serious—study Seulgi carefully and Seulgi's never felt so exposed in such little lighting.
“What?” Seulgi asks eventually, voice barely above a whisper.
Joohyun gives a wry smile. “You feel so far away from me."
Seulgi frowns, nodding down towards the hair’s width of space between them. “We’re in the same sleeping bag; I’m not exactly far.”
Joohyun lifts a hand to her cheek, and Seulgi's breath stutters. “And yet it’s still raining.”
The pitter patter of the rain against the sleeping bag suddenly feels louder. A booming soundtrack to a moment that feels too important for Seulgi to ignore.
Seulgi furrows her brows. “What does the rain have to do with it?”
“Nothing,” Joohyun smiles crookedly, “just thinking out loud. Let’s go to sleep, I have an early start tomorrow.”
Seulgi wants to ask what Joohyun means, wants to ask what any of this means, really. But then Joohyun pats Seulgi’s cheek lightly, smoothes the pinch between Seulgi’s brows with her thumb, and then, without any preamble, moves forward to wrap an arm lightly over Seulgi’s waist. Seulgi freezes as Joohyun cups her other hand around the back of Seulgi’s neck, pulling Seulgi neatly under Joohyun's chin. The faint smell of her lotion wafts over Seulgi in an intoxicating scent, and on instinct, Seulgi inhales deeply, nose pressed to the hollow of Joohyun's throat. Like a drug, Seulgi feels herself relax at Joohyun’s comforting weight against her. Her own arms coiled tight around Joohyun, hug her close as Joohyun traces soothingly up and down Seulgi's back.
Seulgi’s not sure when she falls asleep, only that when she does she can no longer hear the distant hum of the rain above her. In the morning, Seulgi wakes alone—nothing but the faintest memory of gentle hands carding through her hair and the ghost of a kiss pressed to her forehead.
With everyone gone for the day, Seulgi finds herself in a familiar position on the couch, staring listlessly up at her rain cloud. After two days of continuous rain, it almost feels normal. The sudden shock of cold against her skin is still surprising at times, usually in moments when Seulgi doesn’t even realize her thoughts have drifted far away from her, but she’s come to expect it as something that’s just a part of her. It’s both strangely satisfying and incredibly humiliating to have such a visible broadcast of her emotions out on display, but maybe it’s what she needs. Seulgi may not have realized it until recently, but perhaps this is the universe’s weird way of telling her she is grossly lacking in self awareness.
Still, it’d be nice to know how one even goes about getting a rain cloud tied to their psyche in the first place, or, even better, how one goes about getting rid of it. If you even can at all.
She wonders what Joohyun would think about it if she knew. Joohyun would probably think it’s funny, or, worse, she’d feel bad about it. Like it was somehow her fault Seulgi didn’t know how to deal with her feelings.
The morose thought triggers another round of rain, and Seulgi groans, rolling over so that it hits her back rather than her face. She lets out a long suffering sigh into the couch cushion.
“Can’t you stop thinking about her for more than two seconds?” she asks herself dejectedly as the rain continues its steady beating against her back.
No, the rain seems to answer with every tap tap tap, you cannot.
She must stay like that for longer than she thought because, soon, Seulgi hears the sound of the front door opening and closing. Footsteps tread carefully into the room, stopping next to her prone form, and Seulgi makes an idle bet with herself guessing which member she’s made herself vulnerable to now.
“Hey,” Yerim’s voice sounds as Seulgi feels a finger poke at her back. “Hey,” Yerim repeats.
Seulgi rolls over slightly, peeking up at Yerim with one eye open. She does her best at a nonchalant smile. “Hi.”
Yerim lifts her brows, most likely confused by the current state Seulgi’s in, but, graciously, she says nothing. It’s probably the first time Yerim hasn’t taken the easy bait to tease Seulgi relentlessly, and Seulgi makes a mental note to thank Yerim for it later when she’s no longer a walking storm.
“Wanna play a game?” Yerim asks, flashing her phone in indication.
Seulgi’s not entirely in the mood, but it’s not like she has anything better to do other than wallow by herself. Yerim also looks so hopeful that Seulgi couldn’t say no even if she wanted to. Seulgi shrugs. “Sure.”
Yerim shoves at Seulgi’s legs so that she can sit on the couch—just out of reach of what Seulgi has affectionately dubbed the splash zone. Seulgi pulls up the shooting game they’d both been into lately on her phone and together they quickly settle into the simple, mindless rhythm that comes with mobile gaming.
As much as Yerim likes to poke fun at her, she’s always been easy company. Seulgi’s always looked at Yerim like the little sister she’s never had, and as much as Yerim tries to deny it, Seulgi knows Yerim’s always had a sort of quiet admiration for her as well. So it’s only a little surprising that when they’re halfway into their second round—as Seulgi’s furiously debating if she wants to attack an entire group of other players or wait it out—Yerim speaks up again.
“You know sometimes I have a lot of thoughts about things,” Yerim starts, tone casual despite the sudden shift onto a decidedly heavy subject. Seulgi lets her character stop, eyes still on her screen but her focus on whatever Yerim is about to say next. Yerim continues, “You always listen whenever I want to talk and it helps, even if I don’t say it. So if you ever want to talk, or you need something, you can come to me. If you wanted to.”
Seulgi looks at her then, but Yerim’s eyes are fixed determinedly on her phone, a light dusting of pink on her cheeks. Yerim’s not usually the type to be so forthcoming with her feelings, and Seulgi can appreciate the effort, especially when it’s for her benefit. Touched, Seulgi blinks back the burning in her eyes and nudges Yerim’s shoulder with her own.
“When did you get so mature,” Seulgi jokes goodnaturedly, and Yerim rolls her eyes. Seulgi smiles sincerely. “Thank you.”
Inside her, something lifts. The heavy anchor Seulgi didn’t even realize was attached to her heart has begun to release with Yerim’s support, and Seulgi welcomes the weightlessness. Above her, the steady rainfall stutters to a stop.
“Hey,” Seulgi calls, nudging at Yerim again. She smiles cheerily. “You know you’re my favorite right?”
Yerim scowls at her. “Don’t ruin the moment.”
Seulgi laughs, feeling lighter, until she notices the mischievous grin begin to grow on Yerim’s face.
Seulgi narrows her eyes, suspicious. “What are you smiling at?”
“You’re about to die.”
Seulgi’s eyes widen, turning back to her phone where her character had been standing, forgotten in the middle of the crowded battlefield. “Wait, no!” Seulgi yells just as Yerim shoots her down.
Yerim’s cackle is loud enough to drown out the sudden roar of thunder that comes with Seulgi’s brief flare of annoyance. This time, though, Seulgi doesn’t mind the rain. At least not when she crawls over to Yerim, forcing her underneath the rain cloud as well, and Yerim laughs, too, trying in vain to push Seulgi off.
Shared like this, Seulgi thinks, the rain doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming.
Belatedly, Seulgi realizes she is maybe starting to feel the effects of staying inside for three days straight with no direct sunlight. Normally, she doesn’t mind being home. They travel so much and are out so often that the opportunity to be in bed all day usually feels more like a well sought after luxury rather than a punishment. But with the choice of leaving suddenly taken away from her, Seulgi finds herself desperately craving fresh air.
So when Yerim leaves to take a shower, Seulgi pulls a hat low over her head, grabs an umbrella that she holds both over the rain cloud and herself to hide, and discreetly attempts to make her way out of the dorm. She doesn’t get very far, though, because as soon as she opens the front door, Joohyun is standing on the other side of it, hand raised like she was about to enter.
She narrows her eyes at Seulgi’s appearance. “What are you doing?”
In a panic, Seulgi drops the umbrella. “Nothing.”
Joohyun steps inside, shutting the door behind her. She looks down at the umbrella on the floor, then to the shoes Seulgi had just put on, before finally landing on the rain cloud floating above Seulgi’s head. She raises a brow, patient.
Seulgi drops her head. “Fine. I was going to go outside, but only for a little bit!”
“You know you can’t do that.” Joohyun frowns.
“I know.” Seulgi throws her head back with a groan, shuffling back into the living room disappointedly. She flops bonelessly onto the couch just as the rain starts. She pulls her hat down over her face but otherwise makes no effort to protect herself. “I’m just so bored.”
Like this, she can’t see Joohyun, but she can hear the rustle of the tarp as Joohyun moves to sit next to her. She pats sympathetically at Seulgi’s leg.
“There’s nothing you’ve been wanting to do once you had free time?” she asks.
“It’s kind of hard to do anything when the rain keeps getting everything wet,” Seulgi answers, remembering her brief attempt at drawing earlier that had ended almost as soon as it had started when the rain had ruined her brand new drawing paper.
“Movies? TV shows?” Joohyun tries.
“I haven’t been in the mood,” Seulgi responds truthfully.
Joohyun squeezes insistently at Seulgi’s leg until Seulgi lifts the hat from her face. She gives Seulgi a small smile, barely there but full of intent.
“We can figure out something to do instead,” she says lowly and Seulgi swallows, suddenly nervous. The rain feels harsh against her, but Seulgi barely registers it, rising slowly so that she can face Joohyun properly. She’s hyper aware of the hand still pressed to her calf and the way Joohyun’s staring at her—so open and wanting it has Seulgi stuck on an exhale.
“What are you guys doing?”
Seulgi snaps her head to the hallway where Yerim is standing, eying the two of them weirdly. Seulgi opens her mouth to say something but nothing comes out—her breath still far away from her.
“Seulgi’s bored,” Joohyun supplies helpfully. Seulgi nods emphatically.
Yerim frowns. “We were just playing together.”
“And then you left me so I got bored,” Seulgi tells her.
Yerim makes a face. “You’re so needy. Want to play a game then?”
Joohyun sits up straighter. “What kind of game?” she asks interestedly. There’s a wolfish glint to her eye that Seulgi already doesn’t like. She has a half a mind to tell them no just to see the kind of reaction Joohyun would have, but smartly stays quiet, waiting for what Yerim has to offer.
Yerim goes to one of the bookshelves in the corner, pulling out a deck of cards. She waves it gleefully. “How about a drinking game?”
Joohyun makes a noise of intrigue, and Seulgi sighs, the rain pouring heavily on top of her.
It’s going to be a long night.
The soju is smooth down her throat, but Seulgi winces anyway. If Seulgi were to guess, she’s already gone through two bottles on her own, and the pleasant buzz she has is beginning to teeter into something dangerous. Beside her, Joohyun is entirely sober—only having taken a few sips so far. The game they’re playing is confusing, relying mostly on reaction times and pure luck. Seulgi, evidently, has neither going for her tonight.
“I don’t want to play with you anymore,” Seulgi declares, rubbing her arm where Jooohyun had knocked into her to get to the deck first. Joohyun just grins, holding up her newly won cards happily.
“Don’t be a sore loser,” Joohyun admonishes though not even a moment later she yells triumphantly, having beaten Yerim as well. She sits victorious with the full deck in her hands, and Seulgi is both annoyed and endeared at the happy smirk on her face.
“We’re not sore losers; you’re a sore winner,” Yerim mutters, narrowly dodging the pillow Joohyun throws at her. She sticks her tongue out at Joohyun but Joohyun remains nonplussed, pouring Seulgi and Yerim each another glass. Yerim raises her glass bravely towards Seulgi. “Cheers.”
Seulgi downs it in one go, biting back a grimace. She lets her glass clink heavily against the table; Yerim slumping over tiredly next to her. “I think that’s the last round for me.”
“Me too,” Yerim agrees, her own face pinched together in a scowl. “I don’t think I can handle any more.”
Joohyun giggles, far too amused for Seulgi’s inebriated state to handle. “Not my fault you guys are bad at this.”
Yerim looks like she wants to dispute this but wisely keeps her mouth shut. Instead, she points sluggishly at Seulgi. “You had fun though, right? You haven’t rained this whole time so that means you had fun?”
Seulgi blinks at her, confused. She hadn’t realized it, but she supposes the rain had stopped when they started playing and hadn’t picked back up again. Though why Yerim’s using that as a marker for her mood, Seulgi doesn’t know.
“I had fun,” Seulgi reassures her, and Yerim smiles happily. She must be more drunk than Seulgi realized, though she’s not surprised. Yerim’s always liked to chew more than she could swallow as far as drinking is concerned.
“I’m glad you had fun,” Yerim tells her. “I don’t like it when you rain.”
Seulgi doesn’t know what to say, isn’t sure she can say anything really. She feels decidedly more sober than just a few moments ago, but even then, Yerim’s admission settles fiercely inside her.
“Me too,” Seulgi replies eventually as Yerim grins.
“I think it’s time we all go to sleep; it’s getting late,” Joohyun suddenly announces. She begins cleaning up the table decidedly, then shoots Seulgi a pointed look when she remains unmoving.
“Right,” Seulgi says, rising. She helps gather Yerim up from the table, carefully leading her to the hallway towards her room. When she looks over her shoulder, Joohyun’s standing motionless at the table, eyes following her meaningfully.
That night, when Joohyun knocks on her door again, Seulgi isn’t surprised. She quietly opens it at Seulgi’s permission, tip toeing in as Seulgi wordlessly holds the sleeping bag open. Joohyun's feet are cold as they slide along Seulgi's legs and Seulgi shudders unintentionally, turning around so Joohyun can press against her back.
"Tomorrow night," Seulgi whispers, grabbing Joohyun’s hand from around her waist and dragging it up to lay against her chest, right where Seulgi’s heart is, "you don’t have to knock."
Joohyun says nothing, just wraps her arms around Seulgi a little tighter and buries her face somewhere in the space between Seulgi’s shoulder blades in silent agreement. With every inhale, Seulgi feels them both relax further into each other. Her heart beats steady, Joohyun’s hand a comforting weight against it.
Above them it is eerily silent; the absence of rainfall noticeable to them both though neither say anything. Seulgi just holds Joohyun closer, willing any remaining space between them to disappear.
She wonders if, even pressed tightly together like this, Joohyun still thinks Seulgi’s far away.
By the fourth day, Seulgi is decidedly over it. Her manager is too if their phone call this morning is any indication. Seulgi thinks her manager is close to just saying ‘to hell with it’ too and letting Seulgi out—rain cloud and all. It doesn’t help, either, that this time, Seulgi had been awake when Joohyun had left that morning with a soft caress to her cheek and a quiet, whispered goodbye. It had thrown off her whole day, if Seulgi's being honest. Caught between wondering about what it means and what's going on with them and how the rain fits into all of it. The more she thinks about it, though, the more confusing it is. And the more confused she gets, the stronger the rain seems to fall.
Annoyed by the constant downpour and tired of being in a perpetual state of anxiety and confusion, Seulgi grabs her phone and fires off a text to the first person she can think of.
What time are you coming home today?
Seungwan's response is immediate.
I was gonna go practice so probably late. Why?
Seulgi purses her lips. She was hoping Seungwan would be home sooner, but Seulgi doesn't want to take away from her practice time.
Let's eat together when you get back.
And then because she feels like she should specify:
I think I'm ready to talk.
Seulgi watches as three dots pop up instantly. A minute goes by as the three dots linger before finally they disappear. Seungwan's response is short and Seulgi knows she must have typed out something longer before erasing it to send this instead.
I’m on the way.
They get through an entire meal and have moved onto drinks before Seulgi mentions anything. Seungwan’s in the middle of opening a bottle of cider, battling with the stubborn cap when Seulgi suddenly feels compelled to blurt, “How do you know if someone likes you?”
Seungwan pauses in her struggling, setting the cider aside.
“I guess you don’t unless they tell you,” she answers seriously. It’s not the most helpful, but Seulgi doesn’t really know what she was expecting to begin with. Seungwan looks at her curiously. “Do you think someone likes you?”
Seulgi blushes, pulling her hood lower on her head. The rain hasn’t stopped once today, but Seulgi’s gotten good at ignoring it. She mumbles, “No.”
Seungwan hums, thoughtful. “Do you...want someone to like you?”
If possible, Seulgi feels her face heat up even more. She almost debates pulling her hood off, if only to cool her flushed skin.
“No,” she mumbles again. Thunder cracks overhead in stark opposition to her obvious lie; Seulgi retreats a little bit further into her raincoat in an attempt to hide.
Seungwan tries again. “Do you like someone?”
Seulgi doesn’t want to lie again, but telling the truth still feels like something too big for her to grasp. She can feel it, though. The answer is on the top of her tongue, begging to be released. It’s not like she has to specify who, she reasons.
Warily, Seulgi nods. “Maybe.”
Seungwan shuffles closer, ignoring the rain that had previously kept her away. “Are you planning on telling them?”
Seulgi sighs. “I don’t know if that’d be a good idea”—she makes a vague motion to the cloud above her—“you know, all things considering.”
“Maybe that’s exactly why it would be a good idea.”
Seulgi’s brows knit together in confusion. “What do you mean?”
Seungwan shrugs. “I just think that this cloud is here for a reason. You’re struggling with something; I can tell. If telling this person how you feel will help you then I say go for it.”
Seulgi gives her a wry smile. “I don’t think you’d be saying that if you knew who it was.”
“It doesn’t matter who it is. Your feelings are your feelings, and I trust that you'd only like someone who's worth it. Otherwise you wouldn't be beating yourself up over it like this.”
Seulgi rolls her eyes, shoving at Seungwan lightly. "I'm not beating myself up over it."
Seungwan raises a brow. "No? So the rain cloud is just for fun?"
Seulgi huffs but the slight quirk of her lips tells Seungwan she's not really offended.
"Seriously," Seungwan says, "I know you've got it in your head that everything has to be a certain way, and the romantic in you is probably telling you it's not supposed to be like this, but I think if you keep this inside you any longer you might combust." Seungwan smiles at her sadly. "I just want you to be happy. We all do."
"I'm happy," Seulgi tells her seriously. Because she is. Seulgi doesn't have anything to be unhappy over. Not really.
"I know, but even if you weren't, that's okay,” Seungwan replies and the words hit Seulgi more than Seungwan probably intended. Seungwan gives her a long look. She's always had a way of knowing things about Seulgi before Seulgi herself did. "You know you don't have to be perfect all the time, right? You're allowed to make mistakes, or want things you shouldn't. You're allowed to like people you don't think you should."
The words sting more than Seulgi thought they would, something about being read so clearly by another person making her feel equal parts embarrassed and relieved. At least this way she doesn’t have to say all of it out loud herself. If there was anyone Seulgi felt comfortable sharing something like this with, it's Seungwan. Even still, Seulgi has to force the words out of her mouth.
"I'm scared," she finally admits. And then, because that doesn't feel like enough, she tells Seungwan softly, "I don’t want to ruin everything."
Seungwan makes a sympathetic noise, hand soft where she's laid it over Seulgi's. When she speaks again her eyes are serious, willing Seulgi to hear everything she’s saying and Seulgi feels some of her doubt begin to quell. "You won’t, and even if you did, we’re here for you. Always."
Comforted by Seungwan’s words and in a moment of bravery, Seulgi reveals what’s been weighing on her mind since she noticed Joohyun all that time ago and couldn’t stop noticing her since, “I think I might be in love with someone.”
Seungwan smiles kindly. “That’s great! I’m glad you told me.”
And because the weight off her chest feels so good, Seulgi reveals the other thought that’s been lingering incessantly in her mind. The one she didn’t want to think about but couldn’t stop herself from doing so either.
“I’m afraid she won’t love me back.” Her voice shakes on every word, but she feels lighter for it. The admission hangs between them, palpable like Seulgi could grab it and tuck it back inside her, in its rightful place behind her heart where it’s safe.
"Oh, Seulgi," Seungwan says, voice gentle as she squeezes Seulgi’s hand. She gathers Seulgi into her arms, her hand rubbing soothingly up and down Seulgi’s back. “You don’t have to be afraid of love.”
Somewhere, deep inside her, something slots into place; the missing piece of a puzzle Seulgi had no idea she’d been looking for.
Above her, the storm finally stops.
In a rare opportunity, the five of them are all home at a reasonable time. With no early schedules in the morning to send them all to bed right away, Seungwan suggests a group dinner and movie night. They all agree to it readily, maybe missing each other more than anyone would like to admit. They order delivery from the place down the street with the best tteokbokki, grab all the soju and beer in their fridge, and arm themselves with a pile of blankets and pillows in the living room.
Seulgi's debating if she’s willing to sacrifice a blanket and pillow to the rain when she feels something rise above her. Looking up, she finds one of their many tarps being held on top of her to shield her from the rain, Joohyun holding it above them both as she pulls Seulgi down onto the floor next to her.
"This way is more comfortable," Joohyun says, fitting a blanket neatly underneath the tarp to wrap over them both. Seulgi grabs one end and together they settle underneath the makeshift shelter, their sides pressed comfortably against each other. Joohyun rests a hand on Seulgi's knee, casual even as her finger scratches against the fabric of Seulgi's pants. "What movie did they decide on?"
Seulgi shrugs, feigning indifference. "Not sure. I think Seungwan mentioned a superhero movie."
"As long as it's not scary."
Seulgi knocks into her shoulder with her own. Her cheeks burning, she says, "If it was, you could always sleep with me tonight if you wanted.”
“I was already going to anyway,” Joohyun answers, entirely unfazed as she squeezes Seulgi’s knee.
Under the cover of the tarp, Seulgi feels emboldened in the same way she does at night when there’s no one else to see their quiet affection. She reaches for Joohyun’s hand, letting their fingers slot together in a way that feels both familiar and different. Joohyun’s mouth parts open in surprise at the action; subconsciously, Seulgi’s own mouth does the same as her eyes dart down towards Joohyun’s lips. Joohyun’s eyes darken in response.
“Seulgi?” Joohyun questions quietly.
Without realizing, Seulgi leans forward—
“Hey, what are you two doing in there?”
Frantically, Seulgi rears back, almost falling backwards in her haste. Joohyun isn’t faring much better if the shaky breath she exhales is anything to go by. They give each other a look, silently coming to an agreement not to say anything about whatever that just was, and together, they pull back the tarp they hadn’t even realized they’d let fall down enough to hide them.
“Just waiting on you guys to pick something,” Joohyun answers nonchalantly.
“Uh huh,” Sooyoung peers at them knowingly. She nods to Yerim and Seungwan who are both lounging on the couch, drinks in hand. “Well we chose something if you two are ready to join us.”
Joohyun rolls her eyes while Seulgi coughs. Seulgi picks at the collar of her shirt, feeling warm, and hopes it’s not noticeable to anybody else, least of all the person next to her.
“We’re ready,” Seulgi replies, giving Sooyoung a thumbs up for a good measure.
Sooyoung shakes her head, mutters something that sounds like, “unbelievable,” and walks away to sit between Yerim and Seungwan. Yerim makes an indignant noise, holding her drink protectively as Sooyoung gracelessly drops down while Seungwan only frowns, easily accepting the leg Sooyoung throws over her lap.
Joohyun raises the tarp back over their heads, effectively blocking them from view again, which Seulgi realizes right after is an incredibly dangerous move. The movie is, in fact, a superhero one, but if Seulgi’s being honest, she doesn’t pay much attention to it. Immediately, she becomes too distracted by the way Joohyun plays with her fingers, scratching lightly at her palm and tracing the veins on the back of her hand; feels herself intently focus on the way Joohyun flinches at every unexpected explosion, inching closer and closer to Seulgi until her shoulder is flush against Seulgi’s chest.
From this angle, Seulgi’s powerless to the smell of Joohyun’s shampoo wafting to her nose, and it’s all she can do but lean her head against the side of Joohyun’s head. She feels Joohyun tense, the only indication that she’s noticed what Seulgi’s doing, before she relaxes further into Seulgi’s embrace. They spend a long moment like that, and it’s only the sounds of the others’ running commentary on the movie that keeps Seulgi from doing something stupid.
Like kissing her, Seulgi thinks then feels the rain begin to pour against the tarp above them. Seulgi sighs, pulling back to give them some space.
“Hey, Kang Seulgi,” Joohyun calls, squeezing at Seulgi’s hand still in her grasp until Seulgi looks at her. Joohyun’s eyes are bright even in the dark. Her smile is small, but Seulgi feels its calming reassurance. “It’s okay.”
Only Joohyun has ever been able to settle Seulgi with a gesture so simple. Where once that fact might have burdened Seulgi in ways she didn’t want to admit to, she latches onto it now, letting it wash over her like a soothing balm for an ache she didn’t want to acknowledge.
“Yeah,” Seulgi says, grinning back in a way she hopes conveys what she has yet to say, “it is.”
The storm recedes, but they keep the tarp wrapped tightly around them, hiding away this moment for just a little bit longer.
As expected, Joohyun doesn't knock when she enters that night. Seulgi's waiting for her, sitting up on her bed. The fairy lights she'd strung up around her room for aesthetic flair are on, and the vibe of the room feels strangely romantic even if that wasn't Seulgi's initial intent. Joohyun seems to think so as well if the quirk of her eyebrow means anything. Even without the lights, it would still feel different between them, Seulgi thinks. Underneath that tarp they’d acknowledged a shift and now Joohyun is here looking at Seulgi for all the world like she just might be in love with her and Seulgi still doesn’t want to get her hopes up.
"All this just for me?" Joohyun asks lightly, gesturing around the room.
Seulgi blushes as the rain above her begins to fall. She’d left her raincoat off so her hair is at the rain's mercy, both damp and frizzy as it clings to Seulgi’s cheeks. Gently, Joohyun tucks a wet strand of hair behind Seulgi's ear.
"I just wasn't tired yet," Seulgi tells her, which is only partially true.
Joohyun hums. "What did you want to do then?"
Seulgi opens her mouth then closes it. The words feel trapped somewhere between her ribs, physically unable to be coaxed out no matter how much Seulgi tries. Talking to Joohyun has never felt so hard, and Seulgi tries desperately to recall the times it used to feel like the easiest thing in the world to do.
After a long, silent moment Seulgi groans, flopping back onto the bed. "Why is this so hard?"
Joohyun pokes at her. "Why's what so hard?"
Seulgi motions between the two of them. "This. Us."
"What about us?"
Seulgi makes a face, sitting up to stare accusingly at Joohyun. "Don't pretend like you don't know."
Joohyun rolls her eyes, patient. "I’m not pretending. Just say what you want already."
In a flash of annoyance—either at herself or Joohyun; Seulgi doesn’t know—a loud crack of thunder sounds. The rain beats relentlessly against her, but Seulgi makes no move to cover herself nor does Joohyun who’s certainly within range to feel the splashes off Seulgi’s body. Joohyun is calm, serene almost as she gazes back at Seulgi.
Curiously, Seulgi points out, "You don't get scared of my thunder.”
Joohyun tilts her head. "Why would I be scared of you?"
“I scare you all the time,” Seulgi says, recalling all the times she’d tease Joohyun just to get a reaction.
“I get scared by the things you do,” Joohyun concedes, “but never of you.”
“That makes one of us,” Seulgi blurts unthinkingly and immediately regrets it at the sight of Joohyun’s pursed lips.
“I scare you?”
Seulgi rubs at the back of her neck. “That’s not what I meant.”
Joohyun narrows her eyes, disbelievingly. “What did you mean then?”
Seulgi’s hands flail uselessly like she could pluck the answers out of the air.
“I’m not scared of you,” she says honestly. Because it’s never been Joohyun that Seulgi’s been afraid of. No, Seulgi could never fear her, but the things Joohyun made her feel were something else entirely. It’s easy to be afraid of something you’ve never experienced before, especially when it involves your oldest friend. She points between the two of them, hoping that Joohyun will understand what she’s getting at without Seulgi having to explain. “I’m scared of this.”
Joohyun’s brows furrow. She looks concerned and the sight only makes the storm overhead grow stronger. “Why?” she asks.
Seulgi’s been asking herself that same question for so long, but it’s only now—with Joohyun in front of her, open and honest—that Seulgi finally finds the words to answer. Thunder cracks just as Seulgi admits, voice barely above a whisper, “Because I don’t want to lose you.”
The silence stretches around them, interrupted only by the sound of the rain and the intermittent roars of thunder. Seulgi’s suddenly struck by what she’s just said—the admittance shocking even to her own ears. When she sucks in a breath, Seulgi’s not surprised at how it wavers.
“Seulgi,” Joohyun finally calls delicately, eyes softening as she raises her palm to Seulgi’s cheek, “you’re crying.” Her thumb brushes underneath Seulgi’s eye, wiping away the tear there.
Confused, Seulgi raises her hand to meet Joohyun’s, the pads of her own fingers featherlight as they dust across her cheek. It’s wet, but not from the rain and Seulgi realizes that Joohyun is right. Somewhere during their conversation she’s started crying.
“Oh,” Seulgi says, the realization making her tears fall more freely, and Joohyun frowns, reaching for her with both hands as if to catch them all herself.
“Hey,” Joohyun soothes, bringing Seulgi into her arms. Her body is warm against Seulgi’s soaked skin, her clothes dry where Seulgi’s wasn’t. Seulgi wants to hold her closer, steal some of the warmth Joohyun is so freely giving, but she hesitates instead, frozen from a fear she hadn’t quite placed until just now.
“You’re getting wet,” is all Seulgi says instead.
Joohyun just wraps around her more securely. “I don’t care.” Tentatively, Seulgi returns the embrace. She relaxes immediately, drawing strength from the way Joohyun’s locked herself around Seulgi. “You won’t lose me,” Joohyun mumbles; Seulgi can just barely hear her over the rain.
Resting her cheek on Joohyun’s shoulder, Seulgi smiles wryly. “I might.”
She feels Joohyun fiercely shake her head against her, squeezing Seulgi tighter for emphasis. “You won’t.”
Taking in one more shuddering breath, Seulgi closes her eyes. She relishes in this moment—possibly the last one she’ll get like this with Joohyun—and lets the rain wash over them both. It feels cleansing to share her rain with Joohyun.
Finally, when the silence has stretched for too long, Seulgi finds the courage to brave the storm.
“Even if I told you I was in love with you?”
She can feel Joohyun’s body tense, and Seulgi knows it was a mistake. She read the situation wrong; Joohyun didn’t feel the same. Seungwan must have been misguided because Seulgi was sure there was nothing scarier than this current moment. Seulgi prepares herself for Joohyun to pull away, even loosens her own hold so Joohyun knows Seulgi will let her go willingly, but then Joohyun grips at her shirt, fingers digging into the wet fabric.
“Even then,” Joohyun says seriously. Seulgi sags into her, equal parts relieved and anxious. She buries her face in Joohyun’s shoulder, her damp shirt cool against Seulgi’s forehead. If she cries even more at least, like this, the rain will hide it. Seulgi’s ready to let her go when she feels Joohyun tug at her shirt. “Tell me.”
Seulgi raises her head, confusion momentarily outweighing any other emotion she’s feeling. “What?”
Joohyun finally backs away. Her hands move to Seulgi’s biceps, clutching there in what Seulgi thinks is desperation. When Seulgi looks into her eyes, they’re wet and shining as they bore into Seulgi’s. Her hair is wet now, too, sticking to Joohyun’s forehead in a way Seulgi knows she hates. Instinctively, Seulgi brushes it aside like Joohyun always does for her.
“Tell me,” Joohyun demands again, softer. At Seulgi’s questioning stare, Joohyun repeats, “You said if you told me you were in love with me.” Seulgi blinks, eyes widening at Joohyun’s words. “So now I’m asking you to.”
“Seulgi,” Joohyun huffs, impatient. “Please.”
Seulgi gapes. Emotionally, she’s not ready to do this again so soon—especially face to face—but Joohyun’s watching her so longingly, Seulgi feels like Joohyun can see right through her to the space in Seulgi’s heart Joohyun’s occupied for as long as Seulgi can remember.
It’s as the rain stutters to stop that Seulgi finds the will to be honest for the both of them.
“I love you.”
Her cheeks warm immediately and Seulgi almost misses the coolness of the rain. Then Joohyun smiles at her. It’s her real smile, the one she can barely control that always tells Seulgi exactly how Joohyun’s feeling. It’s the same smile Seulgi saw all those years ago, in an old practice room, when Seulgi had commented, offhandedly, that Joohyun was doing well as a new trainee. It’s the kind of smile that stays with you, and Seulgi has always promised in her heart that it was one she’d protect because as long as Joohyun smiled like that, then Seulgi knew everything would be okay.
Everything would be okay.
“I love you too,” Joohyun says sincerely, hands sliding up from Seulgi’s arms until they settle on either side of Seulgi’s face.
The words ring resolutely in the quiet room; Seulgi almost wishes she had the rain to drown it out. She knows her mouth is gaping, but her heart is pounding so hard and fast in her chest it reminds Seulgi of the rhythmic beats she associates with dancing. She knows what she heard, her body already reacting to the confession against her will, but still, her mind is far behind—stuck on a never ending loop of that simple four word phrase.
“You...do?” Seulgi wonders aloud.
Joohyun rolls her eyes affectionately. “Of course I do,” she answers easily but Seulgi can see the pink on her face, notices how her throat bobs and her breath shakes. She realizes, maybe for the first time, that Joohyun’s affected too, that maybe this has been just as hard for her as it has been for Seulgi.
“I had no idea,” Seulgi whispers, guilty for reasons she can’t explain. Like maybe if she’d noticed sooner all of this could have been avoided.
Joohyun chuckles. “How could you? I never said anything.”
Seulgi shrugs. “Still.”
Joohyun shakes her head, her thumbs making soothing passes along Seulgi’s jaw. She bites at her lip, seemingly debating something with herself before she finally admits quietly, “I was afraid too.”
Seulgi wraps her hands around Joohyun’s wrists, noticing for the first time just how small they are. Sometimes, Joohyun can feel like such an other worldly figure, Seulgi forgets that underneath it all is someone as vulnerable as Seulgi is. Maybe even more so.
“You’re not anymore?” Seulgi asks.
The corner of Joohyun’s mouth lifts in a smirk. “You’re hard to stay scared of.”
“I guess that’s a good thing,” Seulgi laughs, nervous because it feels like they’re on the precipice of something new.
Joohyun smiles reassuringly. “Are you still scared?”
Seulgi hums, presses her thumbs firmly to Joohyun’s wrists to feel her pulse there. It thrums soothingly and Seulgi uses it to ground herself. “A little,” she confesses, “but in a good way?”
Joohyun nods and in echo of what she told Seulgi earlier underneath the tarp, says, “It’s okay.”
Seulgi knows it is, can feel it even as her breath catches at the determined look in Joohyun’s eye. Joohyun loops a hand behind Seulgi’s neck, Seulgi moving forward willingly. Seulgi can’t speak much in the way of experience, but when Joohyun’s lips press against hers Seulgi thinks she finally gets it. Joohyun’s always been an inevitability Seulgi could never avoid, it stands to reason that her kiss feels the same.
When Joohyun’s hand buries itself in Seulgi’s hair, pulling her impossibly close, Seulgi’s mouth parts in a gasp. Seulgi would be embarrassed at the groan that escapes at the first tentative swipe of Joohyun’s tongue, but it’s hard to focus on any one feeling when Joohyun is kissing her like that. Joohyun certainly knows what she’s doing, Seulgi thinks idly, as Joohyun pushes up and forward. She tips her head back pliantly, the angle better this way, and wonders if kissing is always supposed to pull the air so harshly from your lungs or if it’s just because it’s Joohyun who’s stealing Seulgi’s breath away with every insistent pass of her lips.
It’s as Joohyun’s finally pulled away from her, mouth dragging painfully slowly across her cheek and down to Seulgi’s neck that Seulgi feels a familiar tug—right in the space of her chest where her heart feels close to bursting. When thunder roars and the rain falls down against them in cooling waves, Seulgi isn’t surprised so much as she’s annoyed. Joohyun seems to feel the same if the sigh she lets out is any indication.
She drops her head to Seulgi’s shoulder. “Is it going to do that every time?”
“I really hope not,” Seulgi answers, glaring up at the little rain cloud. It thunders again in answer, mocking Seulgi as it swirls about uncaringly. She hugs Joohyun to her in apology. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Joohyun says, letting Seulgi hold her soothingly. After a moment, Joohyun moves back. She pushes at Seulgi’s shoulder, and—while confused—Seulgi lets her until she’s flat against the bed. With some maneuvering, Joohyun manages to get the sleeping bag opened, pulling it over the both of them to block the rain. She hovers over Seulgi, the ends of her hair dripping water onto Seulgi’s cheek, and Seulgi is momentarily stunned at the sight of her. She grins at Seulgi, a mischievous glint in her eye that Seulgi’s come to associate with the look Joohyun usually gives her right before she’s about to mercilessly beat Seulgi in whatever game they’re playing. She dips forward and Seulgi readies herself for a kiss that doesn’t come, Joohyun moving instead to the hollow of Seulgi’s throat. When she speaks, Seulgi can feel her mouth ghost along her skin.
“I don’t mind the rain when I’m with you.”
Seulgi wakes long before the morning crawls by. Images from her dream still linger as she grasps onto full consciousness; fingertips dusting along the bare skin of her stomach, legs sliding insistently against hers, a gasp in the shell of her ear. When she comes to and feels the full weight of another body pressed to her side, Seulgi realizes it wasn’t a dream at all but the vestiges of a memory made so late at night it hardly seems real. Warm from both the additional body heat and the memories that come clearer the more alert her mind is, Seulgi pushes the sleeping bag down and then stares at her ceiling.
The white of her ceiling isn’t anything to marvel at, but Seulgi fixates on the sliver of light that comes through the small gap at the top of her window her curtain can’t block. As the hours tick by, Seulgi watches as the light grows brighter and hotter, streaking further and further across the ceiling confidently with the rising sun. All the while, steady breaths tickle at Seulgi’s neck and a dainty hand grips tight across Seulgi’s waist, clenching and unclenching Seulgi’s shirt in what Seulgi imagines must be an active dream.
By the time Joohyun stirs into wakefulness, Seulgi has catalogued every minute detail of the space above her just because she can. She rubs at Joohyun’s shoulder as Joohyun stretches slightly, smiling when Joohyun reciprocates with a squeeze to Seulgi’s side.
“You’re awake early,” Joohyun comments, voice still heavy with sleep. “How long have you been up?”
Seulgi hums. “A few hours maybe?”
“Hours?” Joohyun asks, surprise rousing her further. “What have you been doing this whole time?”
Seulgi nods towards the ceiling. “Just looking.”
“Looking? Looking at what—” Joohyun pauses when she notices what Seulgi has.
The ceiling is bright with the morning light, white and unblemished and without a dark, grey cloud to hide it from view. Without the storm looming above them, it feels surprisingly open in the room, warmth radiating through every corner. Seulgi’s almost forgotten what it was like to no longer be tethered to something so out of control.
“It’s gone,” Joohyun whispers in awe. “I didn’t think it would leave so quickly.”
“What?” Seulgi asks, the last part of Joohyun’s statement too mumbled for her to hear clearly.
“Nothing,” Joohyun mutters. “What do you think happened to it?”
“No idea,” Seulgi shrugs. She’s been considering it for the last few hours and has only come up with some vague ideas so far, but, eventually, Seulgi realized that it didn’t really matter where it went or why it even appeared in the first place. There was a danger that came with obsessing with uncertainty, and Seulgi isn’t going to let herself fall victim to it again. “I feel...better though.”
“That’s good,” Joohyun says. She lifts onto her elbow, splays a hand firmly against Seulgi’s stomach, and looks at Seulgi with a fondness that makes Seulgi feel warm all over. She smirks. “Does this mean I can kiss you freely now?”
Seulgi gulps, nodding tentatively. “I would say so.”
“Good,” Joohyun whispers already leaning forward. Even prepared for it, Joohyun still takes Seulgi’s breath away.
Seulgi’s running hesitant fingers along the curve of Joohyun’s back, tilting her head to the side for a better angle when her phone rings. Joohyun audibly groans against Seulgi’s mouth, falling back heavily to the bed after Seulgi pulls away with an apologetic grimace. Their manager’s name flashes across her phone screen.
“I should probably answer this,” Seulgi says just as they hear a pan clang noisily to the floor outside, followed by a combination of distressed yells.
Joohyun sighs. “And I should probably go check on that.”
They nod toward each other determinedly, but then Joohyun hesitates at the side of the bed, one knee still on the mattress. Seulgi quirks a brow as Joohyun tucks a strand of hair behind Seulgi’s ear. She smiles at the familiar action, Joohyun mirroring it, and though Seulgi misses the call, she finds she doesn’t mind; not when Joohyun’s looking at her with years of love in her eyes.
“What?” Seulgi questions when Joohyun remains unmoving.
Joohyun shrugs a shoulder. “Nothing. Just...everything is okay, isn’t it?”
Seulgi huffs out a laugh. “Yeah, it is,” she says, and finds that she truly means it.
Seulgi’s phone rings again as they hear more indistinct yelling outside, but none of it matters. The only thing Seulgi focuses on is this moment, in this room, where Joohyun’s eyes are shining as they look at her, a warmth to her gaze Seulgi only ever dreamed of being on the receiving end of.
In this moment, in this room, Seulgi’s in love, and she’s no longer afraid of it.