Play the Ace. (one)

“She’s watching you again.”

Tiffany glances over her shoulder, not really trying to be subtle any more, and catches the furtive twitch of eyes looking anywhere but her. “You think so?”

“She’s nowhere near as sly as she thinks she is.”

The comment makes Tiffany smile. It’s undoubtedly true, and everyone in the office knows it by now. When a large number of people spend double-digit hours per day together in the same confined space, it’s pretty easy to notice the one-two-three constant glances between one person and another.

It’s cute, Tiffany thinks. She knows there’s little chance of a direct approach because she’s the mayor’s daughter and this is the mayoral office, but it’s cute that there’s so much interest that this kind of thing is unavoidable. It’s not like she gets it a lot, anyway. Usually people are not interested enough or they’re not shy at all. So this – the attempts at sneakily watching her from afar and then flitting away when the game is almost up – it’s endearing. And it’s been going on for about a month now. That makes her think it really means something.

“You’re okay with her doing that?”

She turns at the question, confused at first, then schools her expression. “Oh. Yeah, it’s fine. She’s cute. Why would I complain?”

Her father’s campaign manager shrugs. “If you ever find it creepy, just let management know. She can be gone within a day.”

Tiffany resists the urge to roll her eyes.

She does not want to be babied. She just finished her master’s degree and earned this position in her father’s office through regulated hiring processes and achievements based on her own qualifications. She gets enough of people falling over themselves to make sure she’s satisfied with her workplace and her personal life – if she’s okay with getting checked out by a girl, then she’s okay with it.

“Sure,” is all she says, and she looks over her shoulder again.

Their eyes meet this time. Tiffany is greeted by a shocked expression and she sends a cheeky smile in reply. The contact is interrupted by a passing intern and her father arrives.

“You all right, kid?”

She returns her father’s hug with one arm, the other gripping her coffee like a lifeline.

“Hi, Dad.”

“Were you looking at Taeyeon just now?”

She blinks. “I don’t know? Maybe.”

He looks at the other side of the room and waves. “Yeah, that’s Taeyeon. Bright young woman. She just moved to the States last year – very keen to get into the American world.”

Tiffany narrows her eyes at her father. “Is she one of your pet projects?”

He laughs. “You could say that. I want to make sure she gets well settled here. She’s a good kid.”

“You call everyone a kid, Dad. Did you miss your political correctness classes?”

The campaign manager snorts. Her father shakes his head.

“You are kids, the lot of you. Anyway, you doing okay today? Any issues?”

“Dad, I’ve been working here for a month now. I think I’ve gotten the hang of the basics.”

He gives her a friendly half-hug again. “Okay, young one. I’ll see you at dinner.”

Tiffany watches her father travel along the rows of employees, stopping to talk to a few and make some well-placed office-type jokes that make them want to keep working here no matter the political climate. Soon he’s going to start making sure he has their votes, too, as they get closer to re-election. His campaign manager packs up his file and disappears, leaving Tiffany to finally enjoy her coffee in peace while she still has some time left in her break.

Taeyeon. Well, Tiffany thinks, Taeyeon is cute.

She casually leans to one side so she can look behind her again, but the enigmatic Taeyeon isn’t there, and she decides to accept only mild disappointment at this fact. While she may be okay with getting checked out by a girl in her workplace, she is still the mayor’s daughter and there will always be people like her father’s campaign manager wanting to prevent any perceivable inappropriateness. So even if she were able to tell the whole world that she would be perfectly okay with getting checked out by a girl, getting picked up by a girl, and getting –

Taeyeon is right in front of her.

Tiffany almost falls off her chair in surprise, then tries to hide it.

“Hi,” says Taeyeon, and smiles.

Yeah, Taeyeon is cute.

“Hi,” Tiffany replies. “I wasn’t expecting you to actually talk to me at any point.”

Taeyeon looks down shyly. “Yeah, well… it takes me a while to build up the courage.”

She still has a slight accent. Even cuter.

“I’m glad you finally made it,” says Tiffany, and she leans forward ever-so-slightly and absolutely deliberately.

Since there’s no more attempt at subtlety, she might as well go for it.

“Me too,” Taeyeon says after a while, her face sincere. “I mean, I – wanted to introduce myself properly. My name is Taeyeon – Kim Taeyeon – or, Taeyeon Kim, I don’t…”

“It’s okay. Taeyeon, Kim Taeyeon. Nice to meet you.” Tiffany holds her hand out peaceably. “I’m Tiffany. I’d assume you already know that, but I was raised with manners and I’m determined to use them no matter what.”

Taeyeon laughs at this, and it’s only slightly likely to be purely out of politeness. She shakes the proffered hand, and they watch each other for a moment.

“My father already told me a bit about you,” Tiffany confesses.

Taeyeon’s eyes go wide. “Really? What did he say?”

“So many things.” Tiffany winks. “No, he said good things. I think he likes you.”

The relief on Taeyeon’s face is palpable. “That’s good then. It was so nice of him to let me have this job, I want to make sure he doesn’t regret it.”

“I don’t think that’s possible,” Tiffany says reassuringly, and she lightly strokes the tips of her fingers from Taeyeon’s elbow to her wrist. “He made the right choice by hiring you.”

Taeyeon’s eyes follow Tiffany’s hand and the look in her eyes is undeniable. Tiffany smiles. Taeyeon is cute, she was right – about that and more.

“I’m sure he didn’t just give you this job, anyway,” Tiffany continues, keeping her hands to herself now. “You must have earned it.”

Taeyeon shrugs, still with that look in her eyes. “Maybe. Maybe I just got lucky.”

There’s something about the way she says it….

“Well, maybe if you told me a bit more about yourself, we can see how lucky you are.” There are two ways of looking someone up and down slowly, and Tiffany goes hard for one in particular. “Maybe over drinks?”

And Taeyeon bites her bottom lip.

Tiffany is done for.

They kiss for the first time that night – totally unplanned and out of character – because Tiffany looks so passionate when she talks about the community she lives in and cares for, and Taeyeon makes her admiration so incredibly obvious when she’s watching her and agreeing with her. There’s no mention, at first, of the problems involved with their roles in the mayoral office; not even the fact that they’ll inevitably have to keep this quiet even if it’s just because they’re co-workers.

It’s only when they’re standing outside the bar, hovering, both thinking about suggesting getting a taxi. They look at each other and know.

“I had a good time tonight,” Taeyeon says, and the sincerity in her voice makes her seem soft to the touch.

Tiffany reaches out and takes Taeyeon’s hand in hers. “Me too. I know we started this with a lot of flirting and insinuation, but I didn’t expect it to go like this. I want to see you again.”

Taeyeon glances away at the darkness around them, the distant shapes and sounds of people laughing their way home with drunkenness. “Why do I get the feeling you’re going to say we shouldn’t?”

“Well, we shouldn’t.” Tiffany smiles, but she’s pretty sure Taeyeon can’t notice the shakiness. “But I want to. And I mean, my father is only the mayor and I’m only his daughter. I can’t think it would possibly create as big a scandal as some people seem to think it would.”

They watch each other, thinking.

“You know; the night is still young… Maybe we should go for a walk?” suggests Taeyeon.

They learn a few things about their city that night, like how many men are actually genuine when they offer to help them get home and how many raccoons it takes to ravage a trash bag. They learn that the streetlights on Fifth Avenue are dimmer than the other parts of town, and that the light on the corner of Thompson and Grey street is way too bright. They can see lights on or off in houses and curtains drawn, the flickering of TVs or the flashes of car headlights along the road.

Tiffany learns that Taeyeon likes to do puzzles and paint her nails. She has a dog that she paid to move with her to America, and two siblings that send her funny pictures from home. The dream she has for the future of the world involves a lot of peace and happiness, coming from common sense and conflict resolution. It’s the usual general utopia and Tiffany already knew they had similar political views, but what she didn’t expect was for Taeyeon to say –

“And that’s why I agree with people who say you should run for office.”

Tiffany stops walking, and tilts her head, eyes wide. “Office? Which office?”

“Any office,” says Taeyeon, smiling. “Every office. You should go for it.”

Tiffany blinks. “That’s a bit…. Heavy.”

Taeyeon coughs and looks away. “Right, sorry. Not really first-date conversation material, huh?”

There are a few that should not be discussed on a first date without caution – marriage, children, potential in-laws, crippling debts, politics (usually), exes, kinks – this falls into a category of major future decisions that’s a bit much but Tiffany isn’t scared off.

“This hasn’t exactly been a normal date for me,” she remarks quietly. Her fingers toy with Taeyeon’s and she looks down. “I mean; I’ve never connected this much with someone before. I don’t mind that you said that. It’s just an imposing concept. But I won’t lie, I’ve considered it. Maybe one day.”

Taeyeon’s expression is comforting and warm when Tiffany looks up again. She swings their joined hands and smiles again; the smile that is doing things to Tiffany’s heart that she can’t comprehend.

“Well, whatever you decide, I’ll support you one hundred percent. I just want you to know that.”

Before Tiffany can respond, Taeyeon leans forward and kisses her gently, soothingly, and so sincerely.

In the end, it was an easy decision to keep Taeyeon around.

This brings her to where she is now, years later, curled up in bed with Taeyeon by her side, and it’s the middle of the night. She never gets tired of waking up from a nightmare to find Taeyeon comfortingly close – this is a feeling she treasures deeply – but she’s getting tired of the nightmares themselves. Her decision to pursue politics came from an urge she within her that she couldn’t even misinterpret and now it haunts her at night. She wants to make a change, one that should be simple and shouldn’t have to be a battle but will be a battle and will be worth it. She has an image in her head of the world in a few years; not necessarily influenced by her plans but not without the concept either. One way or another, the world will change for the better, and if she has to be the one to feed it the medicine it needs, then she wants desperately to get started.

She tugs Taeyeon closer, savouring the brush of skin against her own, the warmth and serenity of Taeyeon’s sleep curving around her.

Tiffany thinks again of the upcoming meeting with her father and everyone necessary to make plans. It’s a big step, and if she backs out now this will be a dream she didn’t pursue that will make her bitter and miserable for the rest of her life.

“You’re thinking too loudly.”

Tiffany blinks at Taeyeon, who’s grimacing. “Oh. I thought you were asleep.”

“I was.” Taeyeon opens her eyes. “But you’re doing the teddy bear thing again so I knew you were worrying.”

The teddy bear thing is a regular occurrence lately. Holding Taeyeon close like a child would hug a teddy bear while her mind wanders.

Tiffany kisses Taeyeon lightly on the lips and doesn’t bother to confirm what she said.

Taeyeon can tell by the look in Tiffany’s eyes exactly what she’s been thinking about, so she gently closes Tiffany’s eyes with the tips of her fingers and kisses her slowly.

“You’re okay,” she whispers.

Tiffany sighs, and wiggles closer to Taeyeon. “How about you? How’s work?”

Since that day they met in her father’s mayoral office, Taeyeon has continued to work there with every mayor that has come through. She’s done some work for local government departments and written some articles on Korean-American relations, and all of it without a modicum of controversy. Tiffany can’t imagine how a scandal like this would affect her career – even after all this time.

“It’s alright,” Taeyeon mumbles. It sounds like she’s already going back to sleep. “No more talking now, okay? Just resting time. Everything will be bright in the morning.”

Tiffany smiles at the phrase. She quickly kisses Taeyeon one more time, then settles down to go back to her dreams. She tells herself it’s okay, because Taeyeon is here, and she drifts away again.