Steps

Note: I uploaded a chunk of this story last year, back when youmeanyes first began, on my old livejournal. So some of you might recognise it. I did change a couple of things in the beginning, but you’ll probably read it from the start anyway because it’s been so long since you saw it, right? Here we go.

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Taeyeon didn’t waste time cleaning the table. She stacked the smudged shot glasses and picked them up in one hand before taking the bowl of pretzel crumbs and adding it on top of the stack. Balancing carefully, she tugged the cloth from her half-apron’s front pocket and began the equally delicate manoeuvre of wiping the table while avoiding the dark red hair of the lightly snoring woman whose cheek was pressed against the wooden surface.

She had passed out a while ago, stopping mid-sentence and fluttering her eyelids before clonking onto the table. Whatever she had been talking about must have drained the last of her energy, considering the physical requirements of exasperatedly waving arms and recovering from falling from chairs, and the emotional requirements of wailing about some man who apparently would not recognise a woman who was not a whore if she bit him on the ass. Taeyeon had considered this briefly, contemplating the nature of a woman who went around biting men on their posteriors, before deciding the statement was logically flawed.

With one last glance at the woman’s sleeping, slightly drooling face, Taeyeon took the remnants of the woman’s last round of shots and devoured pretzels to the bar. It was long past closing time and even the other staff had gone home, fed up with waiting for the woman to wake up. Taeyeon had taken responsibility for her; somewhat believing that it was possible to wake her up. This conviction had been mistaken, as the woman was far beyond any human contact.

Taeyeon dried the last shot glass, now clean, and added it to the collection of others. She gave a brief whistle as she tossed the cloth over her shoulder, not bothering to check if it landed in the little laundry basket behind the bar because she knew it always did.

She made her way over to the dozing woman. She stood by the table. She crossed her arms.

“If only my telepathic powers could work on demand,” she said sadly, tilting her head to one side. “I’m pretty sure that’s the only way to wake you up, lady.”

She reached out and poked the woman on the shoulder. The response came in form of a snort and renewed snoring.

“Or is that telekinesis?” Taeyeon wondered. “Maybe telekinesis would help.”

She poked the woman on the shoulder again and didn’t even get a snort this time. With a sigh, she straightened up and crossed her arms over her chest once again, regarding the unconscious woman like a Rubik’s Cube.

“Let’s see now. If I was drunk and asleep in a strange bar, what would wake me up?”

Taeyeon spent several minutes pondering the hypothetical situation before deciding it was once again logically flawed because alcohol made Taeyeon go all funny in the tummy so she would be in hospital getting her stomach pumped rather than sleeping in the bar.

Having reached this conclusion, Taeyeon decided to push the woman off the chair and see what happened.

A loud ringing stopped her before she had put her strength into the push, causing her to jerkily paw at the woman’s shoulder as she jumped in shock. Her eyes traced the source of the ringing to the large, expensive-looking handbag on the floor. Sensing an opportunity to leave the woman in someone else’s care, she pounced on the bag.

After much struggling with the bag, finding out a flap was actually just for decoration, yanking the zip in a way that made it jam rather than cruise open, sticking her hand inside only to be jabbed by some massive bunch of keys and finally almost ripping the bag in half out of desperation, Taeyeon located the cell-phone which was smothered in a pink cover.

Fearing the end of the potential call before it had even begun, Taeyeon almost broke a nail trying to open the pink cover and smeared her thumb all over the screen in all the possible ways that could answer a touch-screen phone call.

“Hello?!” she screamed, pushing the phone against her ear only to realise it was upside down, which made her scramble to turn it around and drop it and try to pick it up only to drop it again before she finally, at last, answered the call.

“….Hello?” came the voice from the phone. “Tiffany? Are you okay?”

“Um, yes, hello, this is Taeyeon,” stated Taeyeon. “The owner of this phone is kind of passed out here and I was -”

“Oh my god, did she just go get drunk again?! I told her that wouldn’t help! She could’ve at least told me!”

“Uh, yeah, but I was hoping that -”

“Look, don’t let her know how much she drank when she wakes up, okay? Finding out always makes her even more depressed.”

“Well, okay, but do you think you could -”

“Oh and make sure to take her shoes off before too long, her feet always kill her when she wakes up with them on.”

Taeyeon glanced at the unconscious woman’s feet. Noticing the exact height of the pink heels, she raised her eyebrows and was not the slightest bit surprised that such things would hurt. She shook her head, focussing back on the phone call.

“Could you just –”

“Anyway if she’s not going to be meeting me tonight then I guess I’ll just find something else to do,” there came a sigh.

“Ah but -”

“Tell her to call me back, okay?”

“Okay, um-”

But the mysterious caller had hung up some time after the letter “k” left Taeyeon’s lips and Taeyeon was left staring into space.

“Aha! I can call back!”

She took the phone away from her ear and eagerly looked at the screen. However, the screen had locked after the call ended and Taeyeon was faced with a small wall of numbers. With a dejected sigh, she gently closed the cover of the phone and safely stored it in the ruffled-looking bag.

She stood up again and dusted herself off before turning to face the woman again.

“Either you do this a lot or your friend is a bit of a frenemy,” she commented, accepting the sound silence that followed.

The woman even stopped snoring.

Taeyeon frowned and leaned closer, looking at her face.

“So, Tiffany, right?” she mumbled.

Quietly, she brushed a lock of hair from the Tiffany’s face. The woman was still sleeping, and it didn’t seem like she was any closer to waking.

Taeyeon smirked suddenly. “Hey there sexy, what’s a place like you doing in a girl like this?”

Then there was the sound of clapping and light wheezing as Taeyeon cracked up laughing, rolling on the floor.

A murmuring sound came from Tiffany, who shifted in her chair.

Taeyeon jumped up, eyes locked onto the woman. Tiffany shifted again, bringing a slow hand up to half-heartedly run through her hair. The other hand pushed against the table and she made herself sit up with difficulty, slumping backwards in the chair.

Taeyeon gazed at Tiffany’s face. The woman had fallen asleep again, sprawled over the chair, lips parted and arms hanging limply by her sides.

“So close,” Taeyeon whispered. “Why isn’t there a spell for waking up drunken ladies?”

Briefly imagining the world of Harry Potter with the addition of such a spell, Taeyeon released a little giggle. Then turning serious again, she looked at Tiffany.

“Sadly, Tiffany, I am short,” Taeyeon began. “I’m only saying this because I know you’re not listening. So anyway, I can’t carry you anywhere. And no, I’m not calling you fat.”

Taeyeon ran her eyes over Tiffany’s figure and silently declared that ‘fat’ was certainly not a word she would use to describe Tiffany’s body at all.

“Maybe the invigorating scent of Colombian coffee will rouse you from your slumber.”

With hope, Taeyeon produced a fine cup of coffee and placed it strategically so that the caffeinated fumes would envelop Tiffany’s senses. She waved her hands a little, blowing the coffee breeze a little stronger towards Tiffany.

To her delight, Tiffany stirred and blearily opened her eyes.

“Ugh, gross.”

And Tiffany clenched her eyes shut again and fell off the chair.

Taeyeon rushed to her side, helping her sit up again.

“Are you okay?” she asked worriedly.

Tiffany had a hand on her head, squinting around, and turned her squint to lock on to Taeyeon at the question.

“Uh, I don’t know,” she replied. “What….Who are you?”

Taeyeon grinned. “My name is Taeyeon. You’re Tiffany.”

Tiffany squinted even more, if it was possible, and looked a little lost. “Um…?”

“Oh, your friend called a little while ago. I didn’t catch her name. She says you should call her back and she seemed rather disappointed that you were unavailable to hang out tonight.”

Tiffany groaned, letting herself fall back onto the floor and covering her face with her hands.

“Whatever. What time is it?”

Taeyeon consulted her Toy Story watch. “About half past three in the morning.”

Tiffany groaned again. “Great.”

They shared a silence for a moment and Taeyeon’s muscles started to ache from her half-crouching half-kneeling position. She settled herself cross-legged on the floor and gazed at Tiffany.

“So, now that you’re awake, will you be able to go home?”

Tiffany sighed. “I guess.”

She parted her fingers to look at Taeyeon and a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.

“You look like such a kid. Who did you say you were?”

Taeyeon smiled, well accustomed to that comment. “I’m Taeyeon. I work here.”

Tiffany raised herself onto her elbows and regarded Taeyeon with that half-smile.

“Really? Well, thanks. For hanging around and letting me sleep here. And answering my phone, I guess.”

“Well, I had hoped your friend might be able to come get you, but she didn’t seem to think I might be a serial killer or something. Which is an okay perception to have of people generally but I would have thought in this situation it was a tad flippant. Is it that I sound like a kid over the phone, just like how I look like a kid?”

Tiffany grinned. “You don’t sound like a kid to me. You’re funny, Taeyeon. I heard your little pick up line, by the way. Cute.”

Taeyeon blushed. “Oh, um… Sorry about that. I’ve just always wanted to say that to a gorgeous girl in a bar. Figured it would be a nice change from the usual pick-up lines they must get.”

“It was,” Tiffany said softly. “I like it. Thanks.”

Taeyeon looked anywhere but at Tiffany, finding herself feeling nervous. “Should I call a taxi for you or something?”

Tiffany shook her head, starting to get up from the floor. “No, it’s fine. I recently moved in to a place at that apartment block right around the corner.”

“Oh,” said Taeyeon, jumping up. “Well, let me walk you home. I, um, I live there too.”

Tiffany grinned, a genuine full grin that made her eyes curve into lines and she clapped her hands together happily. “Great!”

Walking with Tiffany made the darkness easier to bear. Taeyeon noticed the difference, the way Tiffany made everything brighter and more fulfilling. Not that she had ever been displeased with her environment, but Taeyeon found something new in the way Tiffany hopped every now and then and smiled as she talked about the stars and cooed at a stray cat that ran across the road.

It was nice.

There was none of the anguish Tiffany carried with her when she entered the bar to drink herself away. Whatever had been plaguing her, it seemed forgotten as she walked down the block with Taeyeon. Sweet Taeyeon, who laughed at her jokes and paid attention to what she said and just calmly walked beside her with her backpack hanging over one shoulder and her Toy Story watch glinting in the light of the streetlamps.

“So how long have you lived around here?” Tiffany asked, running a hand through her hair and adjusting the strap of her handbag.

Taeyeon thought. “Must be almost five years now.”

Tiffany looked at her, surprised. “Five years? But then, you must have moved here right after high school!”

Taeyeon nodded. “That’s right.”

“To the very same apartment where you’re living now?”

Taeyeon smiled. “Yes, that’s the one.”

“Sorry, I’m just surprised…Those apartments aren’t expensive but they aren’t cheap either. Do you have roommates or something?”

“I had two. One moved out a while ago and the other is in New York for a couple of years.”

“Oh, wow… So you’re alone now?”

Taeyeon gave her a sly look. “Yes, I am. You sound like you’re about to case the joint.”

Tiffany laughed. “It’s not like that. I live alone too. We should hang out some time.”

Taeyeon took a long look at Tiffany as they neared the apartment building. This woman had gone from drunk and unconscious to bright-eyed and cheerful at an impressive rate. She thought of what had driven her to drink, and what her friend had said that made it seem like this wasn’t the first time she had been in such a situation.

“Yeah,” she said, cutting through her own lazy thoughts. “We should hang out.”

They reached the lobby of the apartment building and stood together by the elevator, waiting for it to arrive.

“Thanks again, Taeyeon,” Tiffany said softly. “If it wasn’t for you, I hate to think what could have happened to me.”

Taeyeon cocked her head to one side. “It’s no problem. And there’s no need to make it sound like you were in some terrible danger.”

Tiffany grinned. “Still. You saved me. Thanks for helping me out.”

She pulled Taeyeon into a light hug. Taeyeon was startled, but found her arms loosely reciprocating the move anyway. It wasn’t that she was unused to this kind of contact, it was probably more the fact that Tiffany was really warm and soft and comfortable. In her mind, Taeyeon decided it was definitely most likely to be the best hug she had experienced to date.

The elevator arrived and Tiffany pulled away, and Taeyeon smiled.

“What floor are you on?” Tiffany asked, hand hovering over the panel of buttons.

“Third floor.”

Tiffany’s eyes widened in surprise. “No way. Third floor? I’m on the third floor too…”

Taeyeon frowned curiously. “Really? Wow… Why didn’t I ever notice you moving in?”

“It’s a pre-furnished apartment so I only had a few boxes… huh, what a coincidence.”

She gave a little laugh and jabbed at the third floor button. They stood next to each other as the doors closed and jointly eyed the numbers above the door as the elevator moved.

Taeyeon suddenly remembered again that the woman she was talking with had been passed out less than an hour ago, and she examined her from the corner of her eye. Tiffany was still smiling slightly, gazing up at the numbers quite happily. She stood straight and didn’t seem drunk anymore at all. Taeyeon raised her eyebrows in wonderment, just as the elevator came to a standstill. She thought perhaps Tiffany did get in these kinds of situations all too often.

They stepped out of the elevator and realised they were going in different directions down the hallway. Stopping, they faced each other again.

“Well, then, I guess this is goodnight,” said Taeyeon. “It was nice to meet you, Tiffany.”

Tiffany grinned. “It was nice to meet you too, Taeyeon. Thanks again for your help.”

“No problem,” Taeyeon answered, and she meant it.

Looking after Tiffany had been quite a task at first but she had no regrets about deciding to take responsibility for the woman’s safety when it became such an interesting little adventure. They stood together under the pale lights of the hallway and shuffled a little on the beige carpet.

“We’ll hang out again, right?” Tiffany asked, still grinning.

Taeyeon nodded. “Of course.”

Taeyeon gazed down at her scuffed Converse sneakers and felt her lips curling into a little smile. She felt Tiffany’s eyes on her. Neither of them was going anywhere.

“Unless,” Taeyeon began, glancing up at Tiffany again, “Unless maybe you’d like some hot chocolate. To help you feel better.”

Tiffany’s eyes curved with her response. “I think that would be very nice.”

Taeyeon blinked as she unlocked her apartment door and flicked on the lights inside. At some point, her mind reminded her that the person she was holding her door open for was a stranger she had met in a bar; but Taeyeon didn’t feel that way. It was nice to be with Tiffany, therefore she went ahead and showed her where she could leave her bag and her shoes, and led her to the kitchen.

“So, where did you go to university?” Tiffany asked, as they sipped on their hot chocolate, leaning against Taeyeon’s clean white-topped kitchen counter.

Taeyeon shook her head. “I didn’t.”

Tiffany raised her eyebrows, watching Taeyeon blow a little air onto her hot chocolate before taking a sip. Taeyeon noticed and gave her a smile.

“When I moved here, I needed to work full time to afford it, even with my room-mates,” she said nonchalantly. “I was never particularly interested in going to university anyway, so I felt no loss.”

“Oh. So, where did you work? Always at that bar?”

“No, I’ve only worked there for a year now. When I first came here I worked in a pet shop, then a book store, then a café, then a hotel, and finally the bar.”

“Wow, that’s quite a list.”

Taeyeon chuckled. “I like it. Sticking with the same job for too long gets boring for me. How about you? What do you do and what have you done?”

Tiffany took a quiet sip of her hot chocolate before answering. She stared down at the floor for a while and absently noticed Taeyeon’s kind patience.

“Well, I’m working at that big advertising company a few blocks away, managing the accounts,” she started, tucking her hair behind her ear as she spoke. “But, um… It isn’t really what I want to do. I don’t know what I want to do. I studied Business at university, but I don’t really know why I did that either.”

She laughed briefly, then bit her bottom lip, and took a gulp of her hot chocolate a little too fast. She gasped, almost choking, and felt the burn on her tongue from the drink. Taeyeon was suddenly by her side, holding out a glass of water, a tea towel in her other hand, and a determined expression on her face that made Tiffany want to crush her in a hug.

With a sheepish look, Tiffany drank the water gratefully, letting Taeyeon take her mug from her hand and gently wipe the tiny droplets of hot chocolate from where they had spilled onto her arm.

“It’s okay,” Taeyeon said softly. “Not everyone knows what to do.”

Tiffany examined Taeyeon’s face, taking in the peaceful expression and restful gaze, and felt her heart make a strange little extra-hard thump.

“Thanks,” she said, her eyes curving up again as she smiled. “Thanks for everything, Taeyeon.”

Taeyeon reflected the smile. “No problem, Tiffany. No problem at all.”

They stood in the hallway again, this time on the other end of it, by the door to Tiffany’s apartment. That side of the hallway had the token potted plant, huddled in the corner with its big greenish leaves. The apartment building was quiet, which was natural considering it was almost dawn, and Taeyeon watched as Tiffany put her key in the lock and turned it, but didn’t open the door.

“We should exchange numbers,” said Tiffany. “I really… I liked spending time with you, Taeyeon.”

“Me too,” said Taeyeon. “Next time we hang out, I look forward to finding out more about you.”

Tiffany looked down. Her immediate thought was that Taeyeon probably wanted to know what had happened that led to their meeting; what man had affected her in such a way that she wanted to drink to no end.

She bit her bottom lip, thoughtful. Then she kept her gaze on the carpet as she spoke.

“Um, he’s a guy from the company where I work,” she said quietly. “He’s the head of the department. He’s a really charming guy, really, but… apparently I’m not good enough to even be seen with him. He just played with me. And I’m such an idiot for believing everything he said again and again, for believing in the future he painted for me. God, I’m so stupid.”

Taeyeon gazed at the woman in front of her, who was letting her heart leak out little by little. She reached out and put a comforting hand on Tiffany’s arm, giving her a gentle squeeze and a warm smile.

“He’s the idiot,” she said. “He’s stupid, for playing with you, and for wasting a chance to be with you. I may not have known you very long and met you in a bar when you were unconscious, but even I can see you’re better than what he thinks of you and you deserve to be treated better.”

She moved her hand away again and shuffled awkwardly.

“So, um, don’t drink so much anymore,” she said. “It’s dangerous, you know? And he’s not worth it.”

Tiffany looked at Taeyeon with shining eyes that had not shed their tears, and grinned.

“It seems like I’m going to spend a lot of time thanking you, Taeyeon,” she remarked. “You’ve helped me once again. I never thought I would end up spilling my problems in front of someone I’ve just met.”

Taeyeon laughed. “I think it’s safe to say that we’re friends now, Tiffany. Now give me your number and go to sleep, you’ve had quite a night and I don’t understand how you’re even standing right now.”

As Tiffany collapsed on her bed a short while later, she thought of how different she felt after that night, and how memories of that man’s smirk was replaced with Taeyeon’s kind smile and the continuous cute look on her face.

Taeyeon had barely set her head down to rest when she was woken by the sound of raucous banging on her door. Or at least, it seemed like it had been no time at all and it seemed like the banging was a barrage of buffalos when in fact it was almost noon and someone was politely knocking on her door. Despite having had nothing to drink, Taeyeon often felt like an invalid when she woke up in the morning, always wishing she could have slept longer, and today was no different; in fact, staying up until almost dawn no doubt worsened her state.

She blearily made her way to her front door, bumping her shoulder against the doorway of her room, hitting her knee on the coffee table in her living room, and stubbing her toe against her shoes by the door.

She clawed at the locks on the door and eventually managed to get them unlocked.

The short blonde-haired girl on the other side raised an eyebrow at the sight of Taeyeon slumped against the door with her eyes almost totally closed.

“Can I help you?” Taeyeon slurred.

“Ew,” commented the girl. “Are you just waking up? It’s almost noon already, you know.”

Taeyeon huffed. “Cool. Is that all?”

The girl clicked her tongue. “It’s me. Sunny! Remember? Your bestest friend in the whole world?”

Taeyeon cracked her eyes open a little further and examined the person giving her a sarcastic smirk. She straightened up a little and huffed again.

“Nope, have no idea,” she answered carelessly.

Sunny rolled her eyes and slapped her on the shoulder. “Whatever. I’m back from New York for a month. Super surprise!”

Sunny spread her arms wide and gave Taeyeon a radiant grin. Taeyeon stared blankly at her best friend and only briefly glanced at the mental image of Tiffany’s radiant grin in the back of her mind. At another time she may have tried to compare the two, but in her half-asleep state she was pretty certain no one could compete with Tiffany.

She shot up, standing up straight and her eyes snapped open. Memories from the night before came rushing back and she found herself smiling, remembering that she had made a new friend who even lived on the same floor as she did and had the best smile and gave the best hugs.

Sunny let her arms fall to her sides. “Did something just bite you on your flat butt or did you finally realise how much you missed your sexy, hilarious, genius best friend?”

Taeyeon looked at Sunny. She waved a hand dismissively and stepped aside to let her in, watching as her best friend shook her head sadly and dragged her sleek black suitcase inside.

“You’re still a weird one, I see,” she commented, throwing herself onto the couch and kicking off her shoes. “How are you, kid?”

Taeyeon picked up Sunny’s scattered shoes and neatly placed them beside her own pair before joining her on the couch and flopping her legs onto Sunny’s lap. Sunny grimaced and tried to push them off, leading them into a playful tussle that ended with pinching each other really hard and hissing in pain before laughing.

“You shouldn’t call me a kid, you know,” Taeyeon said. “You’re more childish than I am.”

Sunny scoffed. “Oh please. You still have that Toy Story watch, right?”

Taeyeon pouted. “So? It’s a good watch. Buzz is really good at telling time.”

“And the Despicable Me pillow?”

“Those Minions are a really good shape for a pillow…”

“And the Harry Potter toothbrush?”

“It’s really funny to brush my teeth with a Firebolt, you know!”

Sunny grinned. “You are a kid.”

Taeyeon shrugged. “Not everyone thinks so, I’ll have you know.”

“Sure, maybe people who’ve only known you for less than a second might think that.”

Taeyeon gave Sunny a shove. “Actually, people who’ve hung out with me for as much as two hours know that I’m not a kid.”

Sunny glanced at her friend, who was smiling quietly to herself and staring at her own hands. Her jaw dropped; she pushed at Taeyeon’s shoulder and then moved to latch on to her, putting her in a headlock and making her squeal.

“What the heck -”

“You met someone, didn’t you?!” Sunny exclaimed, almost strangling her.

“Could you not kill me pl-”

“You almost never make new friends of your own free will!”

“You’re really suffocating me yo-”

“I leave you alone for three months and you make a new friend?!”

“I can’t actually breathe so-”

“This is a momentous occasion! You have to tell me everything!”

“But I can’t speak bec-”

“I bet it’s a girl, you suck at making friends with boys!”

“Hey that’s not re-”

“She has to be a total dork otherwise how would this happen?!”

“Not really-”

“Where did you meet her, at the toy store?!”

Sunny guffawed loudly at her own joke and Taeyeon took the opportunity to have a little sulk before removing herself from her friend’s grip. She crossed her arms across her chest and moved to sit at the opposite end of the couch.

When Sunny finally stopped laughing, she moved over to Taeyeon and put her arm around her slumped shoulders.

“Okay, tell me all about her.”

Taeyeon shook her head. “No. You’re too mean.”

Sunny grinned and gave her a squeeze. “Come on, kid, don’t be like that now. You know I have to tease you, it’s my duty. I have a responsibility, a moral obligation to-”

“Okay, whatever, just stop,” Taeyeon interrupted. “You’re killing me here.”

She gave Sunny a particularly hard pinch on the hand that hung off her shoulder, watching triumphantly as her friend hissed and retracted her arm. In response to the subsequent death glare, she poked her tongue out in victory.

“Her name is Tiffany,” said Taeyeon, leaning back against the arm rest of the couch. “She was in the bar last night, and got a bit too drunk. By closing time she was still passed out at her table so I let everyone else go home and said I’d take care of her.”

Sunny looked dubious already. “This is how you met? Last night, while she was wasted?”

“Yes, but… Just listen, okay?”

Sunny shrugged and let her continue.

“So when she finally woke up, it turned out we lived in the same building so I said I’d walk her home. She’s really nice, you know, and she’s the one who told me I don’t sound like a kid, even though I look like one sometimes -”

“Wait, she actually told you that you look like a kid? Ha! I like this girl.”

“Shut up. Anyway, we talked and when we got here it turned out she lives on the same floor. So, we hung out for a while and she’s really cool and I’m not lame and if you tell me I’m a cute kid I will punch you in the gut.”

Sunny grinned. “Well, you said it, not me. So, you made friends with some random drunken lady from the bar? I am really surprised and confused.”

Taeyeon smiled to herself. “She’s really great, Sunny. I had a good time getting to know more about her.”

Sunny narrowed her eyes at her friend. She shifted closer again and gave Taeyeon a few deliberate pats on the head.

“You better be careful, kid, you’re actually growing up.”

Taeyeon frowned. “Just because I managed to make friends with someone without you forcing me to?”

Sunny smirked. “Something like that. So, she’s that great, huh? I would hazard a guess that she’s quite pretty.”

“She’s gorgeous! So beautiful, and when she smiles her face lights up and her eyes curve into these lines and -”

“Okay, kid,” Sunny interrupted. “Calm yourself. Introduce me to her while I’m here sometime.”

“Sure.”

Sunny took a long look at her best friend, making Taeyeon shift a little and look confused. Then she pulled her in for a tight hug and sighed.

“I’ll get back from New York and you’ll be all grown up,” she muttered. “What will I do? Who will I bully and prank and torture and tease -”

“Yeah okay, geez. Leave me alone.”

Sunny broke the hug with another grin and got up from the couch to stretch intensively. “Anyway, I’m all cramped from flying, so I’m going to go lie down. My room’s still the same, right?”

Taeyeon nodded. “Yeah. And I swear I didn’t touch your spare DS, as promised in accordance with your death threats.”

Sunny looked smug. “Excellent. I shall now retire, peasant. Try to at least get out of those fluffy teddy bear pyjamas at some point today, okay?”

She skipped away to her room, cackling, and left Taeyeon to sulk on the couch.

A hesitant knock sounded on the front door and Taeyeon looked up curiously. She glanced at the clock on her wall and supposed it wasn’t really weird to have a visitor after noon.

Tiffany gave her a bright smile as soon as the door was open, and she smiled even more when she saw Taeyeon in her teddy bear pyjamas.

“Good afternoon, or should I say good morning?”

Taeyeon followed Tiffany’s eyes and remembered what she was wearing. A blush rose on her cheeks and she cleared her throat.

“Hi,” she said. “Um, sorry about the pyjamas, I kind of slept late.”

“Understandable.  I only woke up a couple of hours ago myself… Anyway, um, are you busy?”

“Not really. I don’t have work until six so I was intending to lie around like a bum and eat all day.”

Tiffany laughed. “I don’t blame you.”

How Tiffany was even able to be up and beaming and happy was a mystery, but then Taeyeon realised the change in her own demeanour from her usual morning blob. Another look at Tiffany’s face set off a spark in Taeyeon’s chest that she guessed must have been fuelling her.

“Do you want to do something?” Taeyeon asked, shuffling absently. “Or something?”

“Something or something, huh? Tough choice.”

Taeyeon looked away and laughed briefly. “Sorry…”

Tiffany gave her a gentle look. “Don’t be so awkward, Taeyeon. I’d love to do something. Is there anything you have in mind?”

“Well, it’s around lunch time so how about we go get some food?”

“Sounds great. You won’t be wearing those teddy bear pyjamas, will you? Bit of a daring fashion choice but then again, it might become the next trend.”

Taeyeon laughed, tugging at the sleeve of her pyjama top. “I’ll go get changed. You can come in and wait if you want?”

“Sure.”

Watching Tiffany walk in and move around as if she was there all the time made Taeyeon smile. She noticed Tiffany’s curious glance at the new pair of shoes.

“Remember that room-mate I told you about? She’s back from New York for a surprise visit.”

“Oh? That’s great. Is she here now? I’d love to meet her!”

“She’s resting right now. Maybe after we have lunch we can come bother her, I would love to do that.”

Tiffany giggled. “We should do that.”

Once Taeyeon had changed into less of a fashion statement, they made their way down the hall and took the elevator. Tiffany was more than happy to spend the time chatting about how her friend had reacted when she finally called her back after waking up, and the way the conversation had mostly regarded the abandoned friend’s tragic fate of having to watch a really bad 80’s movie on TV since her best friend ditched her to get drunk. Taeyeon laughed and expressed her continued amusement at the friend’s lack of concern about Tiffany’s safety.

“Oh, she’s alright really,” Tiffany said quickly. “Jessica’s just a little… Well, she doesn’t do so well with expressing her feelings unless it’s a really big deal. But I know she cares about me. Leaving me at the bar last night… Well, maybe that was her little revenge for not being able to spend time with me lately because of…that guy.”

Tiffany looked down at the floor as they reached the doors leading out of the building’s lobby. Thoughts of that man made her steps falter and she became distracted as she remembered all the reasons why she had gone to the bar last night.

Taeyeon put a hand on Tiffany’s shoulder and gave her a warm smile. “Well it’s okay now. So, where do you want to eat?”

Tiffany returned Taeyeon’s expression. One good thing that had come out of her experience at the bar was her new friend, and no matter how bad she was feeling about that part of her past, the enjoyment of spending her present with Taeyeon brought her back.

Shaking her head, she brushed the thoughts away for now. Shooting another grin at Taeyeon, she lightly took hold of her hand and tugged her out of the building.

“I know a great place!”

Taeyeon wasn’t sure if it counted as a date or not, but by the fifth time they went out together she was pretty sure it was a date. In fact, she was pretty sure she could have counted all their outings as dates and that they were dating each other, which kind of freaked her out because they had all five dates in the space of two weeks and that seemed fast – perhaps too fast, considering they were only thinking of each other as friends just a short time ago – but then again they were moving fast since the moment they met. Not to mention the confusion, the insecurity, and some more confusion. Was Tiffany always okay with dating girls? All Taeyeon knew about her dating history was the man who played her and broke her heart. And if she was okay with dating girls, why would she be dating Taeyeon, whom she clearly (in Taeyeon’s opinion) outranked in every way? And were they even really dating or was this something else completely?

She replayed every moment of their time together so far. She opened the door for Tiffany at the café three times, Tiffany looked down shyly while she laughed fifteen times, Taeyeon touched Tiffany’s arm eight times, Tiffany brushed a lock of her hair behind her ear twelve times, and flirting – how much of their conversations could be considered flirting? And their body language must have been sending messages – Taeyeon’s head was spinning and she remembered why she didn’t find it easy to make friends. Her brain thought too much.

Taeyeon eyed Tiffany out of the corner of her eye. They were in the cinema theatre, a film running on the screen without Taeyeon’s attention, the flickering of the light casting playful shadows on Tiffany’s features.

Obviously she wouldn’t mind if they were dating, if she just took it so lightly, but she had gotten to know Tiffany quite well by now and there were a few things that worried her.

“Tiffany,” she whispered.

Tiffany didn’t hear, staring at the movie.

“Tiffany,” Taeyeon whispered again.

Tiffany frowned, turned her head but kept her eyes on the screen for a while longer, and then met Taeyeon’s gaze. “What?”

“Are we dating?”

Tiffany leaned closer. “What? I can’t hear you.”

“Are we,” Taeyeon started, and the paused for a moment to move her mouth next to Tiffany’s ear, “Are we dating?”

“Um,” said Tiffany. She moved away, eyes wide, and said again, “Um.”

Taeyeon’s eyes widened in response, echoing her expression, and she said, “Uh, wait, I, uh….”

“Um,” Tiffany repeated. “Yes?”

“Y-yes?” Taeyeon stuttered. “Yes, what yes? You mean… yes?”

“Yes.” Tiffany blushed so hard the redness was almost visible in the dim light.

They stared at each other for a long time. “Okay,” Taeyeon said. They looked away again, turning back to the movie.

Taeyeon tried to calm her racing heart. She started out with the intention of asking all the questions necessary to clear up the situation, but the effect of Tiffany’s first answer completely threw her off and left her with heat creeping up her neck and the constant need to swallow nervously. So they were dating. Taeyeon was dating Tiffany. Tiffany was dating Taeyeon. She brought a hand to her face and tried to cool her cheeks. She cleared her throat subtly and straightened her spine.

She sat there feeling giddy for the rest of their date. She had no idea what the movie was about, who those people were, what they were doing, how it ended – she just kept thinking about Tiffany. There were a few things that she knew she needed to consider, all those questions that still needed answering, but holy cow she was dating Tiffany. Tiffany whom she only met two weeks ago, but Tiffany nonetheless. Suffice it to say she was pleased.

They held hands as they walked home from the cinema, shy and light with their touches, and grinning like idiots.

“I can’t believe you just asked me directly like that,” Tiffany giggled. She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and bit her bottom lip as she looked at the ground beneath their feet. “I was going to bring it up on the way home.”

“Ah,” Taeyeon replied, nervous, “Well actually I made a list of things I needed to ask you, and once I make a list it’s easier for me to just get into it.”

“A list?” Tiffany looked up, curious. “What’s on the rest of the list?”

“Uh,” Taeyeon hesitated, casting her eyes upwards as she went through the list again. “Why me?”

“Pardon?”

Taeyeon met her eyes again. She stopped walking, Tiffany stopping with her, and took Tiffany’s other hand too.

“Why, out of all the billions of people on this planet, are you willing to date me?”

Tiffany blinked at her. Then she frowned. For a moment Taeyeon panicked – what if Tiffany herself hadn’t considered this and the question just made her realise that Taeyeon was beneath her notice – and her grip on Tiffany’s hands tightened. Tiffany glanced down at their hands at this action, and gave Taeyeon a gentle smile of comfort.

“Relax, Taeyeon,” she said warmly. “Let me answer you. I’m not willing to date you. You make it sound as if I can barely stand to look at you. I actually want to date you. I want to be standing here right now, looking into those quiet, thoughtful eyes of yours as the light evening breeze sends shivers down my spine and your slightly sweaty palms spread warmth along my hands.”

Taeyeon blushed self-consciously. Her eyes darted away for a moment in embarrassment. “Sorry about that.”

Tiffany smiled. She leaned forward, barely giving Taeyeon a chance to avoid her if she wished, and she kissed her on the corner of her lips.

“Don’t say sorry,” Tiffany murmured, moving back slightly. “I’m still thanking you all the time, you know.”

“I won’t feel the need to say sorry if you don’t feel the need to say thank you,” Taeyeon said. “Deal?”

Tiffany grinned. “Deal. Now what was on the rest of your list?”

They started walking again, fingers more tightly entwined. Taeyeon brought up the confusion surrounding the apparently inconsistent gender dynamics in Tiffany’s relationship habits, and Tiffany hesitated before telling Taeyeon about the first girlfriend she ever had. Her first year of university was stressful, alien, lonely. The cute girl whom she paired up with for her first project was funny, friendly, comforting. She thought long and hard about what she was feeling, who she was feeling it for, what it meant for herself and her future, and decided she needed the warmth the relationship gave her. The girlfriend cheated on her in the second semester, Tiffany cried and figured life was pretty much over, and then she realised she could still have her future so she picked herself and went on. She didn’t look at girls the same way as she did before her girlfriend made her think so much, and she cast her eye over the boys again and found something similar there.

The apartment building was warm, the heat filling them up after their stroll in the growing coldness outside. They kept smiling at each other as they rode the elevator to their floor, and Tiffany pulled Taeyeon in for another little kiss when they stopped in the hallway.

“See you tomorrow?” she whispered, staying close.

Taeyeon kept from fainting. “Yeah. See you tomorrow.”

They saw each other every day, and at first it was awesome and then it was great and then it was sentimentally rewarding and then Taeyeon started to get worried. Something was different. Something didn’t feel right. Something made her concerned and a little bit afraid.

She thought back to their conversations about Tiffany’s past relationships. The most recent, the man from work, was a total jerk who toyed with her and threw her away as if she was nothing, while she was heavily invested and emotionally dependent on the relationship. The two boyfriends before him dumped her for being ‘clingy’ and the girlfriend from university cheated on her.

Taeyeon pondered. She contemplated heavily. Her mind raced over it all almost violently. The patrons sitting by the bar ducked out of the way as she swept it with her cloth, the arc of her movement entirely too furious for its purpose. Nuts went flying.

“Calm down there, Genghis.”

Sunny brushed away fragments of nut and seated herself on a stool. She regarded Taeyeon curiously.

“Trouble in Paradise?” she inquired. “You know, you should have introduced her to me ages ago; it’s almost time for me to go back to New York. I could have provided you with a thorough assessment which would no doubt have saved you some time and grief, judging by the pained expression on your face. Thinking of your lover?”

Taeyeon stared at her for a moment. Then she threw down the cleaning cloth and leaned over the bar to grip Sunny’s shoulders.

“You have to help me,” she breathed. “I don’t know what’s going on. I think… I think… I think Tiffany may have issues.

Sunny rolled her eyes. “You have no idea how hilarious it is to hear you, of all people, saying something like that.”

Taeyeon looked undeterred. She let go of Sunny and started pacing behind the bar. A patron called for a refill and she poured the vodka on his Blackberry. He didn’t even know how to react, and she went back to her pacing.

“I just,” Taeyeon began. “I just. I feel like she’s really. She’s really intense. You know? I mean, we met and I walked her home and we bonded over her tragic breakup and regrets about life decisions and all of a sudden we’re friends, and we started hanging out a lot, and two weeks later we were definitely in ‘dating’ mode, and now it’s been another two weeks and I just, I just feel like it’s all going really fast.”

“Taeyeon,” Sunny said, getting off the stool. “Wow, dude, just calm down for a second, okay? Come on, let’s go talk in the store room.”

Taeyeon followed obediently, plucking off her half-apron and tossing it over her shoulder. The Blackberry man barely dodged it, and still didn’t know how to react.

Sunny closed the door behind them and crossed her arms over her chest as she regarded Taeyeon quietly for a moment.

“Do you remember how much I teased you when you first told me you and Tiffany were dating?” Sunny asked.

Taeyeon blinked, and nodded. “Yeah. Annoying. What’s your point?”

Sunny sighed. “I don’t want you to get hurt, Taeyeon. You mean a lot to me. You’re my best friend – no, you’re my family. I’ve got to keep you on your toes sometimes. You don’t exactly get out much, and I know how much a relationship can stress you out, and I know you know that too, which often makes it harder for you to be sure when there’s a real problem. So I want you to do one thing for me. Okay?”

“Okay,” Taeyeon replied slowly. “You’re not going to make me dance on the bar and sing ABBA songs again, are you? Because you said that would ‘keep me on my toes’ too.”

Sunny rolled her eyes. “No, this is serious now. Listening?”

“Yes.”

“Taeyeon, please just take this relationship with Tiffany one step at a time. Okay? Don’t think about speed, or intensity, for now just think to yourself about each step that you are taking with her. One step at a time. Then think about how you feel about each step, and the step after, and what steps you think you are going to take or want to take. And then you think about how fast you’re stepping, how deep your steps go. Get it?”

Taeyeon huffed, and looked away as she thought about it. “I guess. Think about each step, right? I can do that.”

Sunny watched her for a moment. She stepped forward and took Taeyeon by the shoulders.

“That’s my girl,” she said, smiled, and hugged her. “Now go talk to Tiffany about everything you’ve been thinking about, okay? Talk to her about every step.”

Taeyeon panicked briefly at the thought of confronting their problems, the fear of losing Tiffany snaking around her chest. Then she made herself calm down and returned Sunny’s hug. “Okay.”

They held each other for a while.

“How about you sing ‘Dancing Queen’ tonight?”

The memory of dancing on the bar and singing ABBA’s ‘Dancing Queen’ still haunted Taeyeon later when she was cleaning up after closing time. Somehow, Sunny was eternally capable of talking Taeyeon into doing ridiculous things, and sometimes she hated her for it and sometimes she loved her for it. As she dialled Tiffany’s number and asked if she could stop by when she got home, she took a moment to appreciate Sunny’s ability to talk her into doing ridiculous things like discussing her thoughts and concerns. Then she picked up the scrap of paper with a phone number on it, lying on the floor behind the bar where it landed when Blackberry guy threw it during the second chorus, and decided forcefully to remain neutral on the subject of Sunny for a while.

Tiffany was blinking away sleep when she opened the door, smiled drowsily, and pulled Taeyeon into a tight hug.

“Hey,” Taeyeon murmured, circling her arms around Tiffany’s waist as they stood in the doorway. “I didn’t realise you were sleeping.”

“It’s okay,” Tiffany whispered. She squeezed Taeyeon. “I’m happy to see you.”

Tiffany tugged Taeyeon inside, barely allowing her to close the door and kick off her shoes, and pulled her along to the bed where they fell onto the mattress and she wrapped her in a warm, comfortable embrace. Taeyeon found it easy to drift off towards sleep, as they lay in the dark stillness with only each other’s touch and breath. But something started to nibble at the back of her mind, and she remembered that they were meant to have a big serious talk about their relationship.

She rolled onto her back, separating her and Tiffany slightly, and turned her head to look at her girlfriend.

“We need to talk about something that’s been bothering me a bit,” she said softly, eyes tracing Tiffany’s face in the dimness.

Immediately, Tiffany froze, her body tense. She blinked, and looked worried.

“Did I do something wrong?” she whispered. Her fingers grasped Taeyeon’s shirt and she swallowed nervously. “Please don’t break up with me.”

Taeyeon softened immediately. She pulled Tiffany closer, holding her gently. “No, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you freak out. You didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not breaking up with you. I… I just want to talk to you about something. It-It’s not really easy for me to talk about some things, especially if I’ve been thinking about it a lot; it’s hard for me to have conversations about it. But I want to be honest with you, and be more open about what goes on in my head.”

Another step.

Tiffany sniffed quietly and held onto Taeyeon. “Okay. What’s on your mind?”

“Don’t you think we’re moving a bit fast?”

Tiffany shifted so that they could meet each other’s eyes. They examined each other in silence. Then she burst into tears.

“I knew it,” she sobbed, “you want to break up, don’t you? I’m sorry, I’m so clingy, they all say that. I’m just so stupid.”

Taeyeon panicked. Tiffany was shaking with sobs, wailing about how she would never be loved and kept screwing everything up, and Taeyeon wasn’t sure how to make her stop. Clearly it wasn’t what she meant – she just wanted them to talk about whether or not the speed was likely to cause problems and if they could be prepared for it. She didn’t mean to make Tiffany think she wanted to end their relationship. But, considering Tiffany’s past relationships, Taeyeon wasn’t surprised that she was so convinced that Taeyeon wanted to leave her. And that was exactly one of the things that she was afraid would become a problem if they rushed into the relationship.

Sunny’s advice came back to her. The steps were the most important; then the speed and depth. This was a step they were taking in their relationship. Taeyeon opened up to Tiffany about her thoughts and feelings; Tiffany was (sort of) facing her abandonment issues. This was a crucial step for them if they wanted to continue. They could take this step together, and take it well, and then they could worry about how their speed might be dangerous. Once they took this step, Taeyeon thought, perhaps the danger of their speed would actually lessen. Now they just needed to step.

How?

“Uh,” Taeyeon hummed. “No, Tiffany, that’s not what I mea–”

“I knew this was too good to be true,” Tiffany wept, “it always-”

“Tiffany, that’s not-”

“Too clingy, too intense, too desperate–”

“Whoever said that stuff is a jerk, they’re all just jer-”

“I knew no one could ever possibly love me.”

Taeyeon was stunned. The gears in her head turned, and turned, and stopped and turned again. Tiffany sniffled and cried a little more. Taeyeon’s silence finally got weird and she looked at her again.

“Taeyeon?” she wondered hesitantly.

“I love you, Tiffany,” Taeyeon said. Her voice was firm, her tone determined. “Don’t you ever say stuff like that again. You can be loved, and I love you. You’re very lovable, you know.”

Tiffany stared. “But didn’t you just say we’re moving too fast?”

“A bit fast,” Taeyeon corrected. “I wasn’t complaining. I was just saying that I’ve been thinking about how fast we’ve been going, and it has worried me somewhat, because I’m scared of screwing up this relationship – me screwing it up – and losing you. So, I wanted to know what you thought about it.”

Tiffany blinked. Taeyeon smiled.

“I don’t want to break up with you, Tiffany. I want to focus on the steps we take together.”

Tiffany swooned. She never expected to hear such words directed at her. Her exes were jerks, Taeyeon was right, and she had no reason to think she would ever find someone who wasn’t a jerk. But she thought back to what Taeyeon asked her when they talked about dating, when she asked why Tiffany was willing to date her, and her answer. And she realised how similar their feelings really were. Neither could understand how the other could possibly deign to stoop to their humble level, and Tiffany for one always had a niggling feeling that it was too good to be true. She was all too ready to believe Taeyeon was leaving her, exactly as the others had.

Yet here they were. And Taeyeon had just said those three words that didn’t usually make an appearance after only two weeks of officially dating.

Taeyeon realised it too. “I don’t want to freak you out again,” she said hurriedly. “I do love you, but I know that’s another step we need to take together in the future sometime. So I’m not asking you to marry me or anything. I just want you to understand that you are worthy of love, and it’s happening with us.”

Tiffany just kissed her. She couldn’t think of a way to verbally express her feelings yet.

Steps? She could think about those all day long now. Taeyeon and Tiffany’s steps.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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6 thoughts on “Steps

  1. Aww this is so fluffy!!! Taeyeon with kiddy stuffs like toy story watch, harry potter toothbrush, minion pillow & teddy bear pj haha omg baby girl the cutest!
    Thank u for this cute fic author ssi ❤

  2. this is good! yes they are moving too fast but they already has something to click with. Sunny wise words to Taeyeon. I love it! Yeah.. Tiffany is lovable. thank you for the story. Following you! xD

  3. this is so lovely. and oh I want a firebolt for a toothbrush too!!! haha.

    question. are u more of a fluff or angst writer?

    thank u for posting this, please continue to write, taeny is just so lovely 🙂

    • thanks, glad you liked it 🙂 hmm, i’m not sure if i’m more of a fluff or angst writer… i guess both? i can’t really control it lol sometimes angst flows, sometimes fluff

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