nine muses/t-ara, kyungri/qri, 2780w, pg
notes: for rules1through8 i feel like i took eight thousand years to write this but i hope you like it???
The sky is blue, the ocean is deep, Christmas is on the 25th of December, fire is hot and ice is cold. It’s fact, Kyungri thinks, biting her cheek so hard that it hurts. If you don’t breathe then you die, if something goes up then it has to come down, there’s seven colors in a rainbow, and when she walks into a room heads will turn. Fact.
It’s not complicated, it’s not difficult to understand. In fact, it’s so far from complicated that Kyungri, in moments of pure and unrestrained vanity, sometimes wonders why they don’t start teaching it in kindergarten along with the alphabet. She can see it now, written in bright, bubbly letters and surrounded by squiggles and cartoon flowers: Park Kyungri, god’s gift to humanity.
She shakes her head, trying to push the thoughts and vague annoyance out of her mind for long enough to try and catch the eye of the disinterested barista. It’s not like it should be hard; she’s the only person at the counter and one of the only people in the cafe. “Hello?”
It works, a little bit, and the barista heaves a sigh and drags her eyes over Kyungri’s face as she sits up straight on her stool - which Kyungri is sure is breaking some kind of health and safety rule and shouldn’t even be behind the counter. They stay like that, staring each other down until Kyungri clears her throat.
“Can I get a latte?” Kyungri asks - squeaks, really, and cringes when she hears her own voice.
She nods, taking Kyungri’s card and punching in her order. There’s no name tag pinned to her shirt which Kyungri thinks is probably against work policy and she sneaks a glance at the screen beside the counter to see if she can find a name. Jihyun, the screen reads and she mulls the name over for a moment before deciding it doesn’t fit her at all.
Jihyun hands her card back without saying a word - no “thanks, it’ll just be a minute”, no “have a nice day”, not even a smile - and wanders over to the espresso machine without sparing Kyungri another glance. Kyungri huffs, half-seriously contemplating complaining to Jihyun’s manager about bad customer service.
“Thanks Jihyun,” she calls when she decides against it, trying to put as much cheeriness into her words as possible in the hope that Jihyun would get the hint and smile a little.
She doesn’t and she shoots Kyungri a glare over the top of the espresso machine as Kyungri walks over to her seat.
“Don’t call me Jihyun,” she says when she brings Kyungri’s latte out.
She barely looks at Kyungri as she says it, putting her coffee down on the table and walking off without waiting for an answer or even confirmation that Kyungri heard her.
Kyungri stares after her, eyes following Jihyun until she’s back behind the counter and flipping through a magazine. Jihyun doesn’t look up again and Kyungri tries to enjoy her latte as little as possible.
It’s hard though, she finds out when she starts drinking it, because as bored as Jihyun looks, as dismissive and rude as she seems, she makes a damn good coffee.
Kyungri goes back the next day and Jihyun is working again, sitting on her dumb stool and staring at the oddly horrific art hanging on the cafe walls. Again, she barely spares Kyungri a glance and, even though Kyungri doesn’t want to admit it, it does bruise her ego a little that Jihyun is so disinterested.
“Hi Jihyun,” she says, smiling at the way it gets Jihyun to snap her eyes onto her, “can I get-”
“Qri,” Jihyun interrupts, “and a latte, got it.”
Kyungri pauses, mouth hanging open, “What is your issue?”
“Cash or credit?” Jihyun asks, ignoring her and holding out her hand expectantly.
“Credit,” Kyungri snaps, handing over her card, “and you’re wrong. I want a mocha today, Jihyun.”
Jihyun - Qri? No, Jihyun, Kyungri’s stubborn brain insists - blinks at her and hands her card back, holding it just far away enough from Kyungri’s outstretched hand so that she has to reach out and grab it. She smiles at the frown that passes over Kyungri’s face momentarily and, beneath her slight annoyance, Kyungri has to admit that it suits her. Jihyun looks good.
So she beams back, if only to prove that she can look just as good and chooses a table in full view of the counter just so that Jihyun can see that she keeps up the smile even after she takes her seat.
Jihyun doesn’t look at her again, save for a split second glance and a monotone “enjoy your beverage” when she brings it over.
Kyungri stops smiling after that and shoots Jihyun scathing glares over the rim of her cup, comforting herself with the fact that Jihyun’s mocha isn’t as good as her latte was.
“Caramel macchiato,” Kyungri says the next time she goes in. She doesn’t bother waiting for Jihyun’s acknowledgement before laying her card down on the counter just so it’s hard for Jihyun to pick up.
Jihyun stares at it a moment before reaching over and sliding it off the counter and picking it up when it gets to the edge, lip twitching upwards as she does. Kyungri bites her lip and tries to stop herself from frowning. Of course Jihyun would think of that, of course Jihyun couldn’t just go along with it and let Kyungri see her struggle.
“Nice try,” Jihyun says when she brings Kyungri’s coffee over to the corner table where she’s sulking.
Kyungri gets her back by only drinking half of her coffee and emptying packets of sugar onto the table to spell “you too”. It’s petty, she knows, it’s childish and immature and just a general dick thing to do but Jihyun and her blank, unaffected stare gets on her nerves and it’s all worth it for the small flicker of annoyance she sees on Jihyun’s face when she goes to clear the table once she thinks Kyungri has left.
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t that worth it because Kyungri stops at another cafe three blocks over to order another macchiato and she almost spits it back into her cup as soon as she takes a sip. She might as well be drinking mud, Jihyun’s was that much better.
She sighs to herself, dumping her almost full cup into the trash. She could go back and order another one from Jihyun but that would mean admitting she liked the first one and that’s something she just doesn’t want to do.
She walks away and buys a croissant just so that she doesn’t have to think about how stubborn she’s being.
“Are you just going to go through the whole menu?” Jihyun asks when Kyungri comes in for fourth day in a row.
Kyungri freezes. It’s probably the longest sentence Jihyun has spoken to her and the first time Jihyun has spoken first. Jihyun tilts her head and waits for Kyungri’s answer.
“Yes,” she says once she gets over herself. It comes out a lot more defensive than she intended. “Just to make sure you’re as good as you say you are.”
“I never said I was good,” Jihyun says, raising an eyebrow and smirking, “do you think I’m good?”
Kyungri scoffs, “as good as you think you are then.”
“I never said I thought I was good either.”
“But you do think you’re good,” Kyungri huffs, “no one is that bored with the world unless they think they’re better than someone - everyone - else.”
Jihyun thinks for a moment and laughs. She looks just as good laughing as she does smiling and Kyungri fights the competitive urge to prove she can look that good too.
“Have you met yourself?” Jihyun asks, laughing harder, smiling wider when Kyungri raises an eyebrow in confusion.
Kyungri doesn’t quite understand what Jihyun means until she’s almost finished with her coffee.
“I don’t think I’m better than anyone,” she calls across the cafe.
Jihyun cracks a smile, “oh?”
“I don’t look like I think that either.”
“Really?” Jihyun says, “Really?”
Kyungri lets it go for the moment and finishes her coffee. It’s not Jihyun’s best - she’s still mourning the macchiato that she’ll never order again - but it’s good enough and Kyungri enjoys it as she drinks.
“I’m Kyungri,” she says as she stands.
“Qri,” Jihyun says seriously, not looking up from her magazine.
“Bye Jihyun,” Kyungri says as she leaves, enjoying the fact that she can practically feel the holes Jihyun is glaring into the back of her skull.
Jihyun doesn’t say anything the next day and Kyungri is only slightly offended.
“Thanks, takes a seat, it’ll be out soon,” Kyungri mutters as she walks away from the counter.
Jihyun is looking at her when she sits down, some vaguely amused look on her face and Kyungri considers it a small victory.
It doesn’t take long for harassing Jihyun to become part of Kyungri’s daily life. She really does just go through the menu, choosing things at random and waiting for Jihyun to make it for her. As much as she’d like to deny it, Jihyun really is good at the whole barista thing so Kyungri never makes the mistake of leaving her coffee untouched in some form of petty revenge again.
Kyungri makes her orders as complicated as possible in the hope that Jihyun will mess up and she can leave the cafe with her held high and her arms raised triumphantly in the air. She doesn’t really know why there’s a burning need inside her for that to happen but she doesn’t question it, just goes along with it and hopes she doesn’t fail.
Jihyun, for her part, takes it all in stride, nodding calmly at everything that comes out of Kyungri’s mouth and getting everything completely right all the time.
All that does is piss Kyungri off more.
Jihyun messes up her order exactly once. It’s deliberate, payback for Kyungri dumping a million coins onto the counter and counting odd numbers when Jihyun was counting even, making it a thousand times more difficult for Jihyun to count the coins.
Kyungri has no idea what Jihyun does to her coffee but it leaves an unpleasant taste in her mouth that sticks around for hours. It’s disgusting, if she’s being completely honest, and no matter what she does, no matter how much gum she chews she can’t get rid of it.
She apologises to Jihyun the next day - not directly, but she hands Jihyun a twenty dollar bill and puts all her change into the nearly empty tip jar and it never happens again.
Kyungri almost drops her card in surprise and she has to put all her effort into spluttering out a response. “What?”
It’s still not a very good one.
“Your skirt. It’s nice.” Jihyun smiles, starting on Kyungri’s tea - she’s moved onto tea now, having gone through literally all the coffee on the crooked chalk menu.
“Oh,” Kyungri blinks, and after a moment, “Well, yeah, I wouldn’t have bought it if it wasn’t.”
Jihyun laughs and Kyungri joins her after a moment. Not because it’s funny and not because of some strange competitive urge, but just because it feels like the right thing to do.
“Peppermint,” Kyungri says. She’s leaning on the counter as she stares that menu - they rearranged it and she’s lost her place.
“You’ve tried that,” Jihyun points out, watching her face for once instead of everything else.
“I have? What did I think?”
“How am I supposed to know?” Jihyun asks, “All you do is sit there and stare at me.”
“That’s because you ignore me,” Kyungri frowns. She taps her fingers against the counter, shifts her weight from leg to leg. “Okay, what about-”
“Why don’t you try having a conversation with me then?” Jihyun says, staring her dead in the eye.
Kyungri stops, the words dying in her throat. Jihyun has a point. She hasn’t exactly done much except walk in every day and expect Jihyun to pay attention and sulk when Jihyun didn’t.
“Iced tea,” she says, ignoring everything, “peach.”
Jihyun smiles, just a little, a tiny quirk of her lip and Kyungri frowns because it feels like Jihyun saw all the thoughts in her head.
“You’ve tried that too,” Jihyun says.
For once, Kyungri listens and the next day she comes in and actually tries to have a real conversation with Jihyun.
She waits at the counter while Jihyun makes her hot chocolate - it took them ten minutes of quiet arguing to get Kyungri to admit that yes, she has tried everything else and yes, Jihyun does know better and yes, she should just shut up and let Jihyun make her damn drink. It’s a little awkward (a lot awkward) and all Kyungri really wants to do it sit down and pout about Jihyun being right.
She doesn’t do that though, she fights through the urge and she sticks around to fill the silence with a forced “how about this weather” and “so do you like coffee” among other things. Jihyun doesn’t seem to mind though and she actually looks at Kyungri instead of away from her. It makes Kyungri a little nervous and she’s not sure if she prefers that over being annoyed at Jihyun for being uninterested.
Jihyun slides her drink over eventually and Kyungri finishes it faster than she would have had she been sitting at a table and staring Jihyun down from across the room.
“It was… nice,” she tells Jihyun, trying to smile but just showing her teeth instead.
Jihyun gets it anyway and she nods as she takes Kyungri’s cup away from her. “You tried.”
“I did,” Kyungri says, “just a bit.”
“Sit with me,” she tells Jihyun the next day, grabbing her wrist as she puts Kyungri’s drink of the day down.
“I’m working,” Jihyun says.
Kyungri holds tight to her wrist, looking around and taking her time as she does. The cafe is empty save for herself and one person outside who looked like they were just using the seats as a place to smoke. “Right,” she says, “because you’re so busy just like always.”
Jihyun stands still for a moment, thinking it over before shaking Kyungri off and taking the seat opposite her.
Jihyun is interesting when she’s not being annoyingly bored, Kyungri decides. Interesting and… just interesting.
Or maybe she’s a little bit more than interesting. Maybe she’s really interesting when she gets going because Kyungri hangs onto every word that she says, fidgets like she’s some grade school kid with a crush when Jihyun looks at her.
She’s pretty sure Jihyun notices. She’s completely sure Jihyun notices but Jihyun never says anything, just hands Kyungri her drink and sits with her and talks to her until she leaves and promises she’ll come back tomorrow.
Maybe that says something in itself, Kyungri thinks. Maybe.
“What is that?”
Kyungri catches Jihyun while she’s in the middle of hanging a new painting on the wall. It’s just as… interesting as the last one and she stares at while Jihyun tries to straighten it out.
“I don’t know,” Jihyun says, “but it’s kind of nice, don’t you think?”
“Nightmarish fits better,” Kyungri mutters.
Jihyun laughs quietly, “Hyomin can be like that. I like it though.”
“You would like it, you freak.”
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Jihyun says, walking back around the counter, “because if I did hear that I’d wreck your tastebuds for the day.”
Kyungri runs out of new things to try eventually and the day she does she says nothing to Jihyun, just stands in silence until Jihyun speaks.
“So what now?” Jihyun asks, twisting around to look at the menu behind her.
Kyungri shrugs. She’s not sure if Jihyun sees so she sighs loudly, heavily just to drive the point home.
“Guess you can’t be a pest anymore,” Jihyun says.
“I guess not.”
“I could make you a smoothie?” she tries.
“You’ve already made me a smoothie. You’ve already made me like ten,” Kyungri tells her, “and you sucked at it.”
“Well what do you want then?”
“I don’t know, something,” Kyungri says, “coffee? Conversation? You?”
Jihyun turns to look at her, keeps looking at her until it’s uncomfortable and Kyungri has to look away. “Let’s start again then. Latte?”
“Latte sounds good.”
“Good,” Jihyun nods, “just don’t be an ass this time.”
- fidelity (nine muses/t-ara, kyungri/qri)