The fact that Taeyeon’s boss thought he knew what was going on made no difference in the end when it became clear that he did not know nearly as much as he thought he did.
Yuri was a cop at first, and then an undercover cop, and then she seemed to settle into her double life entirely too comfortably. He let her stay, because she had her uses and he saw something of himself in her at times. She wasn’t quite his protégé, and she could never be until she finally ditched the police, but she had a way of playing this particular game that he couldn’t help but admire.
Then there was Taeyeon. She was a little weird. She followed his orders very well, to the letter, never stepping a foot out of line, but also never taking the initiative. She wouldn’t do anything unless he told her to. He found it useful in some ways because she was a sharp tool to have total control over, but she would never rise much higher in the ranks of her community if she retained the subservient mind-set.
Tiffany was a pawn, and he wanted to have her so that she could be carved into a queen. Not for himself, but for later. He wanted to take her and turn her into something even better and stronger than himself, so that she could take his organisation to new heights. The moment he met her face-to-face, he knew her reputation was truer than true. She was intelligent, determined, quick-witted, but bored with her life and entirely willing to take risks, especially after the sudden death of her family. He knew she could be trained to use that mixed bag of powers for exactly what he wanted her to become.
And that was what he thought he knew. He thought that was how it was, the whole scene.
He underestimated them all a little too much.
What he didn’t know was that all those traits he had identified in his toys were precisely the traits that led to them doing exactly what they were doing now: arguing with each other in the closed office of Tiffany’s club.
Yuri didn’t like Taeyeon’s plan, and Tiffany liked it a little too much.
“Why would I want to leave everything I have here?” said Yuri, crossing her arms, seeping with anger. “I’ve made a life for myself which I rather enjoy. I’m getting the best of both worlds in this grey area of mine.”
“You can’t be serious,” said Tiffany disbelievingly. “You’re crazier than I thought you were, Yuri.”
Yuri shrugged. “So? Look, I’m flattered you think I’d join you, but I’d rather stay.”
“The boss doesn’t like you quite so much anymore,” Taeyeon replied, eyes cold. “He’s let you play your game for long enough that you both know exactly what’s happening, but now you’re still playing and he wants you to get serious.”
“I am serious,” Yuri said, frowning. “I’m serious about doing exactly what I’m doing now.”
“Well I’d rather get the hell out of here,” Tiffany contributed. “I’m sick of being stuck between a rock and a hard place. The cops and the gangsters all want me to do their bidding, this place needs me to stay afloat; I’m over it. I just want to be free. I have nothing and no-one left for me here.”
Taeyeon looked at her. “So you’ll come with me?”
Tiffany looked back. “Yes.”
“Excuse me,” interrupted Yuri, “I hate to stop your moment of intimacy but what the hell is going on? Are you two really just going to ditch everything and run?”
“We are.” Taeyeon absently ran a finger over the scar on her hand. “This organisation was my only family for a long time, since the moment they gave me this scar as my identity, and it’s time for me to move out of my parents’ house, so to speak. I want to have my own life now, and it would have to be away from here.”
Tiffany stepped closer and wrapped an arm around Taeyeon’s waist. She kissed her lightly on the cheek.
Taeyeon still didn’t know what to feel about Tiffany. She was very confused, kind of happy, and rather scared. She invited Tiffany to come with her, anyway, so now that was going to happen.
“You two really are weird,” Yuri said, and she shook her head but she smiled. “And I wish you luck in your future, because the boss is not going to be willing to let you go that easy.”
“He won’t be a problem for me. It’s you who should be worried. He’ll get tired of you.”
Taeyeon and Yuri eyed each other for a long time, communicating something deeper than what they showed on the surface. They had both been part of this same family for a long time, and both were genuinely convinced the other would not succeed on their different paths.
Yuri smiled, and shook her head.
That was the last time they saw each other.
Because Taeyeon never liked to do important things half-assed, she planned to make her exit a big one. It was going to be spectacular, so that she could leave a message to her boss. She wasn’t a lackey, she wasn’t a pushover, she wasn’t just a weird kid; she was Taeyeon.
And she had Tiffany.
She knew it would piss him off when he found out that Tiffany went with her. The old man had made it clear that he wanted Tiffany to join his organisation very much, and so it was an easily identifiable weak spot. Take Tiffany, and she would break him just a little more.
That wasn’t her main motivation when she asked Tiffany to join her, and she knew it. It was something she only considered later, as she lay beside Tiffany in the darkness of Tiffany’s bedroom. Sounds of the city brushed past the curtained windows and drove her thoughts. So far she had pondered her feelings for Tiffany, the strategic points of having Tiffany with her, and now it was time for suspicion to settle in. It was only right.
Tiffany was pursuing Taeyeon – or maybe she already caught her – and at first it seemed like she was making a silly and wild decision, but now that it was the night before their departure Taeyeon finally took the time to entertain the possibility that Tiffany was scheming.
In exactly the way Taeyeon was underestimated as a thoughtless lackey, perhaps Taeyeon was underestimating Tiffany as a foolish daredevil.
She made a list of things that had been too easy. Tiffany kissed her first, initiated affectionate embraces and touches, but never said words like ‘love, commitment’ or any of that junk. She obeyed when Taeyeon suggested they should go to Tiffany’s apartment, gladly accepted it when Taeyeon made a move, and didn’t try to cuddle when Taeyeon made it clear she didn’t want to. So how was this possible? It was the only kind of arrangement Taeyeon would ever allow in her life, and it all came together far too smoothly.
Taeyeon turned her head. She could barely make out the outline of Tiffany’s body beside her, curled up and facing away from her.
Disregarding the strategic double-guessing for a moment, she decided to sort out the whole ‘feelings’ thing.
Suffice it say, she wasn’t one for emotional intimacy. But as it turned out, this didn’t do much to blunt her emotions about others, and triggered by Tiffany were certain emotions that she was afraid of. They were the kind of emotions that distracted her, made her lose control, and could very well be used to make her the thoughtless lackey she pretended to be. And then were would she be? So she had to be incredibly certain that Tiffany was not just manipulating her.
But Taeyeon did not know how to do that.
She sighed, and looked at the ceiling again.
In the morning, she would begin to execute her plan, and Tiffany would be right beside her as they escaped the trap they were both in.
And she was inclined to go with it, just like that, losing regard of the doubts and emotions.
Tiffany stirred. She rolled onto her back, took a deep breath, and then rolled onto her side to face Taeyeon. Her eyes were only half open, her face almost indiscernible in the darkness.
“Tae…?” her voice held the thick edge of sleep, and the deep openness of something else altogether. “You’re awake?”
Taeyeon didn’t answer. She stared at Tiffany.
Tiffany moved again, wiping an eye and taking another breath. “You okay?”
“Tell me why I should trust you.” The words came very matter-of-factly; just a casual conversation, but the implications were daunting.
Tiffany took a few moments as if she was still waking up. She thought about what to say. Not only about whether she should lie, but also about what the truth was. Did she trust Taeyeon? She was surprised to find herself thinking that she did. Why? God only knew.
“Because I trust you.”
Taeyeon couldn’t hold back her frown. “What’s that supposed to mean? What do you trust me to do?”
“I trust you,” Tiffany continued, “to take control of your own life and get out of here. And I trust you to want me to join you, so that I can take control of my own life, too.”
Taeyeon sighed, long and heavy and full of the unspoken words she couldn’t grab hold of. She looked away, up at the ceiling, and adjusted herself slightly to be more comfortable on the mattress.
“Hey,” Tiffany murmured, rolling closer and laying an arm over Taeyeon’s waist beneath the covers. “Do you trust me?”
Taeyeon rolled her eyes, avoiding Tiffany’s earnest gaze. “I hate words like that. Trust, promise, belief, reliance, dependence. Horrible words.”
They lay together in the darkness. Tiffany shifted to curl against Taeyeon’s side, staring at the profile of her face.
“I know,” she whispered. “I know you don’t like those words or any other words you know I’m thinking of right now. Or rather, you’re scared I’m thinking them right now. You know them, right? Love, dating, all that stuff. I know you don’t like it. And I know it because I know more about you than I thought I did.”
Taeyeon moved, mirroring Tiffany’s curled-up position. “What do you mean?”
“When I kissed you, I wasn’t exactly thinking far into the future. I was basically just thinking that I’ve wanted to kiss you for a while so I might as well do it. And then we kissed some more the next day, and it kind of became a thing and I realized that I like having that with you. I thought about why I like it.”
Taeyeon knew where this was going. “Don’t go there, alright? I understand what you’re saying.”
Tiffany kissed her, fleetingly and then more pressingly, and breathed, “I like you. Is that okay?”
They kissed again, a smooth softness that became more familiar with each touch of their mouths. Taeyeon pulled back slightly and regarded Tiffany’s face so close to her own, felt the warmth of their bodies sharing the space of a bed, and the tingling sensation that always followed their kisses.
She burrowed her head into the crook of Tiffany’s shoulder, and in the night she mumbled comfortably, “Yeah. That’s okay.”
“Seriously? You thought I would hurt an old guy like that?”
Taeyeon slammed the door of her car. She was angry, very angry. Tiffany stumbled into the front passenger seat beside her and barely had a chance to shut her door before Taeyeon had the engine started and set the car jerking into motion.
She knew Tiffany was staring at her. She kept her eyes on the road.
“I’m sorry, okay? You just seemed like you were about to smash his head in or something.”
Taeyeon scoffed. “Haven’t you ever heard of an empty threat? Why would I kill some old guy during a bank robbery? I’m not stupid.”
Tiffany gulped and looked away. For a moment the only sound was the straining of the engine as it kept up with Taeyeon’s ever increasing speed, and then at last the sound of gears changing. They slowed, turned a corner, and settled into a more normal rate of movement.
“I thought you knew me,” Taeyeon said at last, softly invading the silence that was descending.
Tiffany’s gaze snapped back to Taeyeon instantly. “I do! I do… Please, Taeyeon, don’t get mad at me. I just didn’t want you to kill that man.”
Taeyeon sighed, and didn’t answer.
Within minutes, this part of town would be crawling with cops. Among them would no doubt be Yuri – because despite their intention to commit an anonymous robbery, there was now video and eye-witness evidence of Tiffany’s face being revealed as she removed her mask and yelled Taeyeon’s name.
“It was a foolish thing to do, I know,” Tiffany said. “I’m sorry. Okay? I’m sorry.”
“Apologizing is not going to keep us out of prison.”
“We won’t go to prison!” Tiffany sounded exasperated, desperate. “Yuri won’t let us, she’ll cover -”
“Yuri will do whatever is most beneficial to her,” interrupted Taeyeon. She glanced at Tiffany. “As a police detective it’s in her best interests to prosecute us. As the servant of my ex-boss it’s in her best interests to persecute us.”
Tiffany was quiet, lowering her eyes again.
“We’ve just got to get out here,” Taeyeon concluded. “Fast.”
So she drove, and they crawled their way past town borders. The sun reached its place to mark the middle of the day, and wind built up to push through sparse trees on the sides of the open country roads. Tiffany felt like her head was about to explode from the stress and the silence, when Taeyeon pulled over and turned off the engine.
They didn’t look at each other.
“Last night you said that –” Taeyeon broke off, and swallowed. She tried again. “You said that you knew me. How well do you think you really know me now?”
Tiffany reached for Taeyeon’s hand right away, as if afraid that she was missing her chance to do so.
“Taeyeon, look, I was just scared. I was afraid. We’ve done crazy things before, dangerous things, and this was fun – it was thrilling – until I saw that old man getting up to try to stop us and the look on your face as you shouted at him and got right up in his face. I was scared.”
Taeyeon sighed. She didn’t move her hand from Tiffany’s grip, and stared at their fingers touching. “Are you sure you want to do this? Whatever this is that we’re doing, that we’ll do, are you sure you want to do this with me?”
It was obvious what the real question was. Those words they whispered to each other in the dead of the night before were now lying on the side of the road where they sat, with hot sunlight beating down on them. Taeyeon wanted to know if words and promises and feelings that were born from brainless pursuits could stand up and walk on their own. And she wanted to know if Tiffany could breathe life into them.
“What you really want to know is if you’re running away from what I represent to you or if we’re running towards a big and scary future with something new connecting us.”
Taeyeon looked up, into Tiffany’s eyes, and she didn’t dare to blink.
Tiffany smiled. “I do know you, Taeyeon. I do. But sometimes I get scared, and I’ll just have to get better at not letting that fear cloud my mind. I know you. I trust you.”
She seemed about to say something else, but stopped. She leaned forward to place a light kiss on the corner of Taeyeon’s lips.
“I really like you,” she whispered. “I know you don’t trust words and I like that about you, because words can be fickle and thoughtless things. I’m not going to waste my time anymore with words I know you’re not used to yet. I’ll show you. I’ll stay with you and we’ll be together, and whatever comes our way I won’t let my fear crush what I know and believe; you. You’ll give me that strength, and I’ll give you strength too. Okay?”
Taeyeon would never admit it, but she was scared too. She started to feel like there was a chance that Tiffany knew that. Her fear was a thing she never showed to anyone, and maybe she didn’t have to because Tiffany knew her. And Tiffany was willing to trust her. Was it really so foolish and wild after all?
Yes. It was utterly brainless.
And she loved it.