Yes. (10; Glacial [2])

10; Glacial [2]

 

“Okay, I know it’s been a while since we spoke and things aren’t great between us right now, but I can totally explain.”

Taeyeon adjusted herself on the hospital bed, trying to ease the tension in her back muscles while maintaining the glare directed at Hyoyeon.

“Yes, it’s been a long time,” she said. “Too long. Almost any period of time is too long. You can start by telling me why we got blown up when we went to the location you suggested.”

“That was totally not my fault,” Hyoyeon said immediately, raising her hands. “I had no idea that was going to happen. I like that café; I go there often. I thought it would be nice to meet up there so I can get a slice of my favourite cheesecake while we talked. I didn’t know it would blow up in your face!”

“Yeah, well, your cheesecake must have clouded your mind, because that place was closed.”

Hyoyeon frowned. “Closed? But it doesn’t close until much later than the time we arranged to meet. That’s odd…”

Taeyeon sighed. She closed her eyes, relaxing her body, and said, “Give me all the possible information you have on that place. Who owns it, who goes there, anything that could lead to a connection. I don’t even care what the connection is, just bring me something. If they have a barista who’s the third-removed cousin of the Dalai Lama, tell me.”

“Since when did I become your slave?” asked Hyoyeon, crossing her arms.

“Since you nearly got me killed,” Taeyeon replied. She opened her eyes slightly. “Look, I’m trusting you. You could be lying to me. I’m going to make my decisions based on the chance that you’re really just a confused journalist who means well, despite your association with Daniel Lee and your tendency to send me in the direction of bombs. I’m choosing to believe that blowing people up isn’t really your style. You always seemed a little nicer, in my opinion. Just a little.”

Hyoyeon grimaced. “Okay, okay. I’ll put together the information on the café. Speaking of Lee, do you want to talk about what I originally called you there to talk about?”

“I’m going to guess it was something along the line of Daniel Lee’s big plan to take over the world, right?”

“That’s your guess?”

“It’s the only thing that makes sense right now.  A lot of people seem eager to stop him. He must be planning to do something that would affect a wide range of people otherwise he wouldn’t have a whole crusade out for him.”

“A lot of people?” Hyoyeon echoed, intrigued. “Who else is trying to stop him? Care to drop a few names?”

“You’re too much of a journalist, Hyoyeon,” Taeyeon sighed. “Is that what you were going to tell me? Lee is trying to get rid of all of his competition by becoming the top criminal?”

“More or less,” Hyoyeon said vaguely. “You’re not in a great mood right now, and that’s understandable. We’ll talk more later, okay?”

“Sure. Just get me that information about the café.”

When Hyoyeon was gone, Taeyeon contemplated. She was becoming a little grumpy with the way this case was going, and risking carelessness. She took a deep breath, and made herself relax fully.

The thing that frustrated her most, other than Tiffany in general, was the pace at which she was able to get information. It was slow, excruciatingly so, like a giant mass of ice barely beginning to sweat. It wasn’t as if all of her cases had been quick and easy, but this one seemed especially adept at doing nothing much at all. Yet it seemed to hold a lot beneath the surface. It was easy to summarize it as ‘Lee’s plan to be the biggest villain, everyone wants to stop him for whatever reason’ but that really was only the surface. There was still all the meat inside, about how and why and when and how to stop him without one or more people getting killed. Too many times, they had gotten close to that line. The shooter and the explosion at the café; were they the same person? The writer of the messages in lipstick, was that the same person too and why did she feel so oddly that Yoona was somehow involved?

And now Taeyeon needed to help Jessica with that little case before they could get a step further in the direction of Lee’s operation. That didn’t leave her with much else to do outside of that. She didn’t like that she had to waste time on this when they were probably pressed for time, but it was the only way to get through that door and right into Lee’s system.

Taeyeon twisted around on the bed, trying to adjust herself again. This hospital was starting to annoy her. She wanted to go home and take off the stupid neck-brace so that she wasn’t such an invalid anymore. And even if she had to continue the investigation while lying in her bed, at least she would feel comfortable returning to her element; less face-to-face interaction.

Tiffany was about to be discharged, and Taeyeon was sure that she could convince the doctors to set her free too, even if she did have to keep the neck brace on.

Taeyeon reached for her new phone, and picked up her spare pair of glasses that Sooyoung brought her earlier. Once she was settled again, she put on her glasses and opened the e-mail app on her phone.

No new messages; she made a grim line with her lips before tapping to compose a new message. This one she sent to Sunny, the informant who was quickly becoming her strongest connection to the person who was most likely trying to kill her on Lee’s orders. She listed the information on the lipstick again and the trace to Yoona, and pondered for a moment. Mentioning that she felt inclined to investigate Yoona based on instinct and an abstract dream didn’t seem like it would do much good for her reputation, so she left it out and said instead some basic vague statement about the strong possibility of a link.

The door opened and Tiffany came in, looking fresh and more energetic than she had since they arrived at the hospital. The effect of the explosion and the stress of the case had taken their toll on her usual level of brightness, but a few nights of good sleep clearly provided good reparation.

“Hello,” Taeyeon greeted her, and smiled. “So, what’s the verdict?”

“I’m free to go,” Tiffany replied. She went to sit on the edge of the hospital bed that had been hers, and looked at Taeyeon intently. “I asked what they thought your chances were and they didn’t seem enthusiastic about releasing you. Maybe you could talk them into letting you leave.”

Taeyeon scoffed as her heart sank with disappointment. “If they said no to you, I doubt I’d have much more of a positive effect.”

Tiffany tilted her head to one side. “Oh? Why do you think that?”

“Because,” Taeyeon mumbled, barely conscious of what she was about to say, “You’re an amazingly gorgeous person. Just by flashing a smile, you have the kind of influence that could make world leaders cancel international assaults. So if they said no to you, I surely don’t stand a chance.”

She knew Tiffany was frowning and she tried her very hardest not to look up from the screen of her phone. She touched the screen repeatedly and shakily with no intent, causing her to add a postscript to the e-mail that went along the lines of ‘aosibfpihebgerslndf<MSf qiwuj’.

Finally she heard Tiffany move, but still jumped when she realised that Tiffany was standing next to her bed and staring at her.

“Do you really have such low self-esteem?” Tiffany asked. She didn’t say it cruelly or harshly, simply curiously, as if she really wanted to know. “Because I would have to disagree.”

Taeyeon blushed. She blinked at Tiffany – she wasn’t even aware that she had given in and diverted her gaze from her phone until then – and wondered what to say. Theoretically an answer to the question would suffice but Taeyeon found herself thoroughly incapable of organising her thoughts into any kind of usable manner.

In the end all she came up with was, “Oh?”

“If you base your opinion solely on looks,” Tiffany began, “then you should be aware that you are a beautiful woman, Taeyeon. Just because we don’t look the same doesn’t make me better-looking than you. Furthermore, regarding my influence, I don’t think you realize the effect you can have on someone. I know you think you’re just awkward – okay, you are pretty awkward – but you have an intelligence and capacity for comfort that makes me feel comfortable even though you might think you failed at a social interaction. And you’re funny, too.”

Taeyeon stared at her. Her brain was in total shutdown. There wasn’t even a mess of incoherent thoughts or the noise of panic, only emptiness. And Tiffany.

Where was all this coming from? Maybe this was finally the sign she had been looking for since Tiffany arrived. Some indication that Tiffany was at least interested her; although this was perhaps even more than that. Certainly the look on Tiffany’s face was one Taeyeon had not seen before. Her expression made Taeyeon sure that she was being sincere, which left her with an absent thought of all the other expressions having held some edge of falseness. Tiffany was hiding a lot, and sometimes Taeyeon wasn’t sure if that showed in her behaviour or if she just imagined it, but right now as she said these things to Taeyeon there was no doubt about their strength and solidity.

Tiffany smiled at Taeyeon’s silent reaction. “I still want us to be close, Taeyeon. No matter what happens in this case. Okay?”

That was a big ask. It was risky to say something like that now, when the case was taking so many turns and Tiffany was looking more and more suspicious. So Taeyeon cursed her initial instinct to just say yes and stay friends with Tiffany even when the truth was revealed about Lee and her involvement and what she was really after. Because the times when they were just two people developing a connection – not two people on potentially opposite sides of a dangerous mess – those times when they were getting to know each other made Taeyeon feel like the heart attack she got from socialising might not actually be the end of the world. And most of those times, she was able to pretend Tiffany was definitely not hiding some dark secrets and lying to her. Perhaps because it was becoming clearer at this moment that some things Tiffany hadn’t lied about, and those things were the times when they were becoming friends.

Taeyeon’s head was spinning as expected. She was getting far too used to it.

“Okay,” she said, completely uncertain of what else she could possibly say.

Tiffany smiled again. “Good.”

Good. That was yet to be seen. But it sure felt good to Taeyeon, which made her worried.  She decided that at some point she was going to have to stop this back-and-forth thinking in her head because it was getting her nowhere, and she really wanted to go somewhere.

“Um,” she said, regaining control, “So, you can just call Sooyoung to take you back to your hotel, if you like. Even if I manage to convince the doctors to release me, it will probably be on the grounds that I stay one more night.”

“Okay,” Tiffany said. She still had a warm look in her eyes that made Taeyeon unable to cease blushing.

The sound of someone clearing their throat captured their attention. Sooyoung stood with her hand raised to knock on the open door, and grinned.

“No need to call me,” she said, lowering her arm. “Although I am sorry to interrupt.”

“Oh, hi.” Tiffany was the first to respond, sounding surprised and looking awkward. “How long have you been there?”

Taeyeon stared at Tiffany. For one thing, they were clearly having the exact same thoughts, but also Tiffany was blushing and Taeyeon found that utterly awe-inspiring.

“Long enough,” Sooyoung answered smoothly. She stepped inside. “I’ll give you a ride whenever you’re ready. As for you,” she continued, turning to Taeyeon, “I have news. Yuri has arrived safe and sound, and I sent her out on the first part of her job. She said she’ll find time to visit you later, but she wanted to get into it right away.”

“That’s nice,” Taeyeon said. “Thanks.”

There was a beat of silence. Tiffany shuffled her feet, and started to gather her things.

“I’ll just get ready so we can go.”

She disappeared into the bathroom, and Taeyeon knew instantly what Sooyoung’s expression would be. She was right.

“Don’t even bother,” Taeyeon said immediately, trying her hardest to look suitably menacing while wearing a neck brace and lying on a hospital bed. “From now on, all comments about me and Tiffany are strictly off-limits.”

Sooyoung raised an eyebrow. “You and Tiffany, eh? Didn’t realise you were an item now.”

Taeyeon rolled her eyes. Sooyoung laughed.

“Okay, okay. Starting now, I’ll give you a break.”

“Thanks,” Taeyeon said, with true gratefulness. Teasing was the last thing she needed in the middle of this case. “So, you got my message about Jessica Jung’s request?”

Sooyoung nodded. “All set for your little quest. Do you want to start it while you’re still in hospital or try to get out first? I heard you say you think you’ll be here for another night either way, maybe you should rest now and wait until tomorrow.”

Taeyeon sighed. “I suppose it would be best to get the hospital out of the way. I’ll monitor everyone through e-mail.”

Reminded of e-mail, she lifted the phone in her hand again and erased the random gibberish, feeling embarrassed. Once it was done, she sent it to Sunny.

“Oh, how about that meeting with Yoona?”

Sooyoung shrugged. “Haven’t heard back from her yet. She’s hard to contact – she has a press manager now.”

“Hmm.”

They pondered quietly for a while, each turning over the facts of their situation in their heads, wondering how all the parts could possibly fit together. Eventually the bathroom door opened again and Tiffany stepped out.

“Ready to go?” asked Sooyoung, already heading towards the door.

“Yes,” Tiffany said. Then she seemed to hesitate for a moment.

She went over to Taeyeon, and gave her arm a squeeze. Taeyeon’s arm became very warm for a moment and her eyes widened even though she tried to stay calm.

“Hopefully I’ll see you out of hospital tomorrow,” said Tiffany softly, keeping her eyes locked on Taeyeon and holding a now familiar smile. She leaned closer slightly. “And I’m sorry for driving you crazy,” she whispered, “I’d like to get that sorted out too.”

Tiffany winked. Taeyeon felt as if she wasn’t even alive anymore and nothing around her was real. She could have been in space for all she knew. Tiffany stifled a laugh before letting go of Taeyeon’s arm and giving her a little wave.

Taeyeon didn’t even process Tiffany and Sooyoung’s departure until the room was dead silent again, and she let herself start breathing again.

She felt a strong urge to swear at herself loudly and repeatedly.

Before she had even fully recovered, her phone rang. She composed herself and stretched to reach it, once again feeling hatred towards her neck brace.

“Hello?”

“Detective, it’s Jessica Jung. I understand you’re still in hospital but Tiffany has been discharged. What kind of indication can you give me on time frame for the task I’ve given you?”

Taeyeon raised her eyebrows. “You move quick. I’m hoping to be released tomorrow, and I’ve been advised to wait until then to begin the search.”

“Alright,” Jessica said, and there was a tone in her voice that sounded almost like solace.

They both stayed on the line without speaking, until Taeyeon decided to express her thoughts.

“You know, I read somewhere that no one ever hires a detective to solve their mystery. They already know the answer. They hire a detective to show that their mystery is unsolvable. Is that what you’ve done? You don’t want me to find her, because you don’t want to face her; you want me to prove that she can’t be found, so that you don’t ever have to face her.”

Jessica seemed to absorb this comment for a moment. “Do you even know what you’re talking about? How dare you assume my emotions regarding this task -”

“I’m not completely idiotic,” Taeyeon interrupted, surprised at her own daring. “You gave me all her personal details and I’ve done a sweep of more basic sources. She’s your sister, and you feel a lot of guilt about something, and a lot of pain.”

“Just find her,” Jessica said, her voice as sharp and cold as a shard of cut-throat ice. “Don’t analyse me and don’t overstep your boundaries. Just find her.”

The line went dead, and Taeyeon was relieved that she didn’t end up dead too.

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A/N: Because of the challenges I got in askfm. Maybe not quite what you’re expecting…

_____________________________________________________________

 

You’re my favourite mistake. Did you know that? Of course you didn’t. You’ll never know how it was supposed to go and how I messed it up, and how much I love it.

Sometimes I think of telling you, but that would be so boring. Too low-key, not enough flair. I think if you were to find out about my mistake, it should be in a big way. Huge. Something you’ll never, ever forget.

I think about that day a lot – during the times when I can’t watch you, when I’m at work. I think back to the day when it was supposed to happen; the thing that I didn’t do, which made you my first mistake. I haven’t made any mistakes since you, because I haven’t even tried. I don’t need to, not when I have you.

And I definitely have you.

“Tiffany? Is everything alright?”

It’s just a co-worker. I don’t even know her name. She really doesn’t matter, and I don’t know why she’s talking to me. No one talks to me. They know it’s not a good idea.

“I’m fine.” It’s my usual answer. Hopefully she’ll go away. I’m at work, sitting at my desk in my cubicle that’s more of a template than my own space. Other people put up pictures, drawings, posters, but I don’t need any of that. My cubicle is simple, grey, and blank, because that’s just how I like it, and just how I need it. I have everything in my head. I have you in my thoughts wherever I am.

Only three more hours until I can see you again. I can’t wait. It’s a Wednesday so you’ll leave work early because your boss doesn’t need you for the last part of the day. You’re going to take a sketchpad and some supplies down to the river and just sit there in the evening light, creating. You always look so beautiful when you do that, your hair falling enough to cover your face slightly as you lose yourself in another world. It’s okay to do that. I know you feel guilty sometimes because your parents always told you it was a waste of time, but it’s okay. You can go into that other world for a while, and I’ll watch over you.

I never thought of my mistake as a bad mistake. I shouldn’t have made the mistake, but I’m glad I did, because otherwise you wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have you. But really, it would have been better if I didn’t deviate from my pattern, fall out of my habit, because now look what you’ve done to me. I love you so much. Do you even know? Maybe you feel it sometimes, the essence of being loved.

Finally it’s time. I don’t even know how it happened so fast, but I’m excited. Nothing else appears to me in the world; it’s all a seamless foggy shape around me as I go towards you. I hope you’ll be on time today. I wonder if you’re looking forward to going to the river.

I know your name is Taeyeon. That was easy to find. It’s a good name, but I feel like I don’t even need it. I connect to you on another level, past the use of names, past the use of words. We’re something else altogether. I’m sure you feel it too. Especially after all you’ve done, pulling me in like this, after that very first moment when the sight of you made me slow to a stop. That instant was what made us. I’m sure you know.

Ah, there you are. Perfect, as usual. Beautiful inside and out. You have a kind soul, I can see it. That’s why I didn’t do it. That mistake I made, it’s your fault. You’re just too beautiful.

I want you to know about my mistake. I’m sure it will make you happy. You’ll be pleased that I made a mistake like that; of course you would, because you’re a beautiful and kind person. You should be happy that I didn’t do what I intended and fell in love with you instead.

If you saw me, you’d know. Eventually. Or maybe instantly, as soon as our eyes meet, you’ll be able to see in me what I can never show. And you’ll know that I made that mistake and it’s good thing but it’s so bad. It hurts sometimes that I made that mistake, but it’s better that I did.

You can never see me. I’ll make sure of that. This is better. I just love you too much. You would love my mistake but would you love me? I can’t cope with anything else from you. I need you to love me, just like this.

If I show you my face, you’ll have to marry me…

Brainless. 3; Wicked

Tiffany slammed the car door and smacked Taeyeon’s shoulder. “Go!”

The tyres screeched with the friction of their movement, and the car shot away. Taeyeon’s steering swerved slightly in the first few metres before settling, and she dodged the thin traffic with ease until they were ten blocks away. She slowed down on a long stretch of road and melded into the more populated lines of cars.

They sat at the red light, behind three cars and in front of twenty more, as Tiffany finally caught her breath. She loosened her grip on the backpack in her lap and let it slide to rest at her feet. Then the grin took over her face.

“I cannot believe I just did that,” she said. She laughed. “I can’t believe it!”

Taeyeon glanced at her, smiling slightly. “How’d it feel?”

“Fucking amazing!” Tiffany slapped her palms on the dashboard in front of them. “Amazing!”

“Good,” Taeyeon murmured. She reached out and flicked on the radio, turning the volume down a bit so that it wasn’t deafening, and she watched as Tiffany started dancing along and laughing.

It went well. Tiffany had gone in, settled, chatted, flirted a little, and then she grabbed the bag and ran. This was all exactly as it was meant to be. She didn’t have to know what was in the bag, she didn’t have to know who she just stole it from, and she didn’t have to know the consequences of her actions. She did it. Maybe she thought it wasn’t anything important, because after all why would an organised criminal leave something important in a backpack under the table of three low-level thugs in a bar? So maybe she figured it wasn’t a big deal to grab it and run. Maybe she even thought of it as a game, a light and playful thing.

It wasn’t.

Because Tiffany just stole a bag full of medium-grade heroin from a gang reputed for gruesome retaliation.

And Taeyeon was going to sell it through her newly formed independent network of dealers while keeping some as a supply for the men at the rose tables.

But she didn’t have to know that. She did it anyway. It was the fault of carelessness.

“Hey are you hungry?” Tiffany asked suddenly, still smiling, breathless. “Let’s go get some food.”

Taeyeon didn’t look in her direction, keeping her eyes on the road for a moment. Then she glanced at her watch; she needed to report to her boss in thirty minutes. She looked up in time to see the light change. The car was set into motion while she checked the rear-view mirror.

“Oh come on, just have dinner with me,” Tiffany said, reaching out to poke Taeyeon’s shoulder. “Surely you don’t just live off coffee?”

Taeyeon shrugged. “I like coffee.”

“Then have coffee with me,” Tiffany pressed. She moved her hand over Taeyeon’s shoulder. “Come on, I just wanna hang out.”

“I need to see my boss soon.” Taeyeon shrugged away Tiffany’s hand. “I’ll drop you off at the club.”

Tiffany sighed. She ran a hand through her hair and settled back in her seat. “Whatever.”

The ride was quiet after Tiffany turned off the radio. Taeyeon knew she was disappointed. It surprised her that Tiffany seemed to want to get to know her.

Not only was Taeyeon a weird young woman who worked for a criminal organisation, but Tiffany was working for the police in an effort to deconstruct said organisation. Why did she want to be friends? Surely she didn’t know the secrets behind Yuri’s involvement in the organisation. And she certainly didn’t know what was going on in Taeyeon’s head. Yet she seemed to consider it a good idea to forge a connection with Taeyeon, and she was either playing or she was foolish.

Taeyeon blinked.

The grey area could be hard to navigate sometimes.

“Do you smoke?” asked Tiffany suddenly.

Taeyeon glanced at her. They were nearing their destination. “No. Why?”

“It just seems like everyone else does,” Tiffany answered, looking out the window. “I just found it odd that I never saw you smoke, when the others in your line of work practically breathe nicotine.”

Taeyeon tapped her fingers on the steering wheel briefly. “I quit a while ago.”

Tiffany didn’t question her further, and when they reached the club she got out of the car without a second glance. Taeyeon watched her walk. She checked her watch. She went to see her boss.

“Now, regarding your next meeting…”

Taeyeon made sure not to look at Yuri. The room was dark, with only the desk lamp on to illuminate them. Their boss sat in his chair, and he didn’t blink.

“He’s an important man. Make sure to get a good deal out of the negotiations. He likes to think he has the upper hand. Remind him of the truth if needed.”

Yuri nodded, and Taeyeon blinked. Their boss flicked his gaze away for a moment before he looked at Taeyeon.

“At the end of the month, Tiffany will no longer be necessary. You’ve done a good job, we’re almost at our first goal, and soon the next stage of our plan can begin. I’ll let you take over the club by yourself.”

Taeyeon didn’t hesitate to nod.

Their boss grimaced. “I know what you’ve been up to, Taeyeon. This is your last chance. And if you move to defy me, you will all be dead.”

No one said anything else for a long time. Their boss looked at Yuri in a way that made them both certain that he knew. There was no real deception after all, and they were all a single step away from oblivion.

Taeyeon wasn’t scared. She had known that if he didn’t already know, he would find out, and she’d been ready to die because of the threat she posed. He had big plans, and he was ruthless in trying to achieve them. Any movement from her in the direction she was poised to pursue would go one of two ways; freedom or death.

He let them leave his office, and they walked through icy darkness towards Taeyeon’s car in the parking lot.

Everyone underestimated Taeyeon. She made sure of it. She was just a girl, she was just a lackey, and she did exactly as she was told without a care in the world. Her heartlessness seemed strange and it made it easier to keep people away from her. Even better. The best thing for her life was for people to think that she had no heart and no mind of her own.

So she smiled. Even though the boss knew she had been branching out into her own operation, he still thought he could control her.

He was wrong.

“What are you going to do about Tiffany?” asked Yuri as they reached the car. Her breath made a trail of whiteness in the air. “Will you kill her?”

Taeyeon looked at Yuri over the roof of the car. “She will no longer be necessary, he said. After everything she has been involved in, she must die.”

“You know she’s important to my case,” said Yuri. “You’ve never had a problem with my deception as a police officer, and you seem to have no concern about Tiffany working for me. Could you maybe not kill her and give us a chance to do what we’re here to do?”

“Just because I never had a problem with your attempt to convict my boss doesn’t mean I want to join you.” Taeyeon leaned forward, resting her arms on the car. “I’m not stupid.”

Yuri stared at her for a long time. There was absolutely nothing going on this night; no traffic in the streets, no planes overhead. There weren’t even lights on in the buildings around them. So when Yuri watched Taeyeon, it was as if she was confronting a dead world.

“What are you planning?” breathed Yuri. “He said he knows what you’ve been up to, and so do I. You’ve been building your own little business. Why? You work for one of the biggest guys around, why are you doing something on the side? Are you going to branch out and become a competitor? Surely you realize that’s suicide.”

Taeyeon didn’t say anything at first. Then she shrugged, and broke their eye contact. She unlocked her car. “Just making some extra cash. Do you need a ride?”

“No, thanks,” Yuri said immediately. She was frowning now. “You’re really weird, you know that?”

Taeyeon paused with her hand on the door handle. She shrugged again.

“Will Tiffany be safe?”

Taeyeon smiled at Yuri. “Tiffany’s a little weird, too.”