Asleep Are the Dogs: Chapter 10

June 26, 2013 in Asleep Are the Dogs, moonrise31 by moonrise31

Lassie, stay home.

Chapter 10: Of Shedding Some Light and Extending Some Shadows

“Are you sure it’s really nothing?”

Yes, unnie,” Jessica sighed, glancing upwards as if looking at the ceiling would somehow help her escape the questioning. “Your only priority is the president’s safety, and I guarantee that what I’m involved with doesn’t concern him at the moment.” Of course, I guess Ahn could potentially do something crazy involving the Blue House, but…I’ll leave that out.

“Alright, alright.” Minyoung chuckled from the other end of the line. “I can hear you rolling your eyes at me, Sica-yah, so I’ll stop. But you know I’m here if you need me.”

“Of course. Thanks, unnie.” Jessica’s grateful smile dropped into a frown when she heard Tiffany’s head make contact with the desk. “Let’s talk again soon, but right now I have to play the therapist.”

Minyoung laughed and wished her luck before hanging up. Jessica closed her eyes, exhaling once before squaring her shoulders and turning around to raise an eyebrow at the dejected hacker. “What’s the matter with you?”

“I suck,” Tiffany grumbled, lifting her head up and then slouching in her chair. “How did I miss that?”

“We all missed it,” Jessica corrected matter-of-factly as she leaned against the desk. “But Yuri and the others still saved everyone, so it turned out in our favor anyway.”

Tiffany groaned and hid her face in her hands. “That doesn’t make things any better. He still got me. He won—ow!”

She glared at Jessica, rubbing the now stinging spot on her forehead. Jessica huffed as she refolded her arms. “Stop that.”

“Stop what?”

“The ‘me’, ‘I’, ‘my’. Seriously. We’re all in this together, but heaven forbid I crack eventually and have to slap some sense into you to make you remember it.”

Tiffany stuck out her tongue. “You stop trying to act tough all the time, then.” She waved a hand. “And you all know I have dependency issues. It’s an ongoing process.”

“Don’t brush it off,” Jessica objected. “You’re not Taeyeon’s patient just for fun and giggles, so be serious about it.”

“I am,” Tiffany defended indignantly. “I can deal with it, okay?”

“We’re only trying to help,” Jessica amended, tone softening.

“Thanks,” Tiffany mumbled, looking away. “Really, I appreciate it. But it’s not necessary.” She let out a long breath. “Changing a mindset takes a lot of work, you know. And then I have to get used to it. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth anything, ‘cause it’s not like I’m not doing fine without changing it right now, anyway.”

Jessica hummed softly. “Is that so?”

“It is so,” Tiffany affirmed, perhaps a little more emphatically than needed. “I mean, independence is a good thing, right? Anyone back in the States would say so.”

Jessica remembered a time a few days prior, when Taeyeon had pulled her off to the side, all smiles, and said that Tiffany had called Jessica a friend. Then she had proceeded to assure Jessica that it was a good thing. “She gets lonely,” Taeyeon explained in a low voice. “It’s not like she’s closed herself off entirely or anything, but she’ll get advice from others and still do it herself. So it’s great that she’s labeling us as friends, since it’s hard for her to do something like hand responsibility over to someone else. ‘Cause five years ago, she let her mother go out to buy groceries instead of her. And she’s regretted it ever since.”

“Just because your mom passed away doesn’t mean that you can’t ever rely on anyone else again,” Jessica said quietly.

Tiffany froze, the room plunging into a thick silence, but then the door opened and Taeyeon stumbled in, Yoona practically hanging around her neck and a pensive Sunny following behind. “For the last time, Yoong, I’m not going anywhere.”

“It’s true,” Tiffany agreed, expression slipping back into her usual smile. Her lighthearted demeanor had returned, although now her tone practically dripped with overdone cheeriness as she looked pointedly at Taeyeon. “Taetae will be staying in this room for the rest of her life so she doesn’t go running off doing dangerous things by herself anymore.”

“I don’t need a chaperone to hold my hand, thank you very much,” Taeyeon huffed, straightening her lab coat once Yoona finally released her. She let out a strangled exclamation when Tiffany tackled her next. “You know, sometimes I wish you’d go back to being all acquaintance-y and formal and ‘Doctor Kim’ so then I could at least pretend that what I say has some sort of importance.”

Jessica snorted. “Don’t be absurd. If we hadn’t listened to what you’d said, then you’d still be with Ahn and that hospital would still be full of people.”

“Point taken,” Taeyeon acknowledged.

“Come to think of it,” Tiffany realized, releasing a slightly frazzled Taeyeon from her embrace, “Jessi caught onto your hint right away, Taetae. Roommates in university, huh?”

Taeyeon brightened. “I knew she would. See? Overexposure to me ended up being a good thing after all, Sica.”

The other girl snorted, hiding a smile. “It wasn’t the overexposure I complained about. It was having to spend energy paying attention as well.”

“In that case,” Taeyeon replied with a 90-degree bow, “my utmost gratitude for having been bestowed the honor of being worthy of your precious effort, Sooyeon-ssi. You listen well.”

Jessica twitched. “Of course I do. Now stop throwing around my Korean name like it’s your puppy’s toy.”

“Will you give me ice cream if I stop?” Taeyeon asked cheekily.

Her former roommate rolled her eyes. “It’s always ice cream with you, isn’t it.”

“Damn it.”

Jessica turned and noted the pout on Taeyeon’s lips. The older girl was staring at the sign displayed on a cart in front of them. “What’s the matter?”

“They increased the prices on the ice cream,” Taeyeon replied, half mortified and half enraged. She dug around in her pockets. “Keys, phone, paper clip, cereal bar wrapper…I still don’t have enough.” She stared forlornly at the crumpled bills clenched in her hand.

“You’re so hopeless,” Jessica sighed, pulling out her wallet. “Here.” She walked up to the vendor and handed over the money, returning with a popsicle. “Red bean is fine, right?”

Taeyeon beamed at her before accepting the treat. “My favorite. You’re the best, Sica!”

The two found an empty table in the university courtyard and settled down, Taeyeon happily munching away while Jessica watched with half-closed, amused eyes. Moments later, the shorter girl was halfway through the ice cream bar and had paused enough for a breath of air and one question. “Something bothering you?”

Jessica continued to stare into space for a few seconds before she realized that Taeyeon had spoken. She jerked back to reality and gave the other a wistful smile. “Not really. I was just thinking.”

“Is that so? Then it’s definitely not ‘nothing’ after all,” Taeyeon teased. “Please enlighten me about your thoughts so we can make the most of this rare occurrence.”

Her good-humored jibes were rewarded with a belligerent glare, but Jessica quickly relented. “Just some trouble with my group thing, is all.”

“Oh, your wildlife preservation club, right?” Taeyeon nodded and took another bite before speaking through a mouthful of red-bean-flavored ice. “Not saving as many dolphins as you’d like?”

Jessica shook her head. “Our budget is pretty much next-to-nothing. What we need are some heavy-duty fundraisers, but we’re students already on tight schedules and you’d think that people would jump at the chance to save any manner of adorable sea life, but it’s just not happening.”

Jump at the chance?” Taeyeon echoed. “Was that a dolphin pun? I guess not,” she promptly amended when she found herself at the receiving end of Jessica’s chilly glower. “But I’m sure you’ll find a way somehow, Sica. You always do.”

Jessica sighed. “I dunno. Will I?” She rested her chin in one hand and stared at the table, tracing the wire frame with her finger. “Everything just seems to be about money these days. Money for school, money for fun, money to get a stupid ice cream, for crying out loud. Not even charities can escape since they’re centered around donations of the damn thing. Organizations, volunteers—you need money for supplies and transportation and aid and support and why can’t we just be able to make a difference if we want to?”

Her outburst had startled a few nearby pigeons as well as some curious students walking by, but neither girl paid any attention. Taeyeon sucked on her popsicle stick thoughtfully. “Those rich people have it made, huh?”

“Exactly,” Jessica agreed bitterly. “Screw hard work or faith in success. All you need to make the world go your way is money.” She practically spat out the word. “How is it fair that there are mafias and triads running around with more finances than they can empty a machine gun at, while things like orphanages and relief groups are struggling to stay afloat? Aren’t the good guys supposed to be winning here?”

Taeyeon tossed the stick into the garbage can behind her and turned back with a grin. “Well, you can do something about that. Just look at you: young, full of life and potential and passion. You can make a difference. Once you graduate with that business degree I know you’re going to go places.” 

“Or rather, I’ll end up where my money will get me,” Jessica grumbled, slumping in her chair.

“Then do it.”

She looked up, her forehead scrunched in confusion. “Huh?”

“Then do it,” Taeyeon repeated with a shrug. “Get your money. Do what you need to matter in this world.”

Jessica fingered the edge of her sleeve. “I dunno. It feels like whatever I have planned will take more than what I can ever make through legal means.”

A smirk curved one corner of Taeyeon’s lips. “Is Jung Jessica really going to let something as petty as the law get in her way?”

“Hey, I’ve got morals,” Jessica protested, wondering how Taeyeon could possibly be even the slightest bit serious. And at the same time, the other girl’s words struck a chord. Was she going to stop just because some old guys in a fancy building said so?

“We all have morals,” Taeyeon retorted. “But those get complicated and varied and just plain confusing. So I trust you. I trust that you’re not going to kill or hurt anyone. You won’t steal from someone—at least, not anyone who doesn’t deserve it. You’ll do what you think is right, and that’s all that matters to me. I’ll support you all the way,” she said, and at that moment, Jessica couldn’t recall an expression more sincere than Taeyeon’s.

She didn’t say anything for several seconds. “You would?”

Taeyeon nodded. “Who knows — maybe we’ve actually had it wrong ‘til now. Maybe,” she grinned, “maybe money can buy happiness.”

The two lapsed into a thoughtful, content silence, broken when a third girl approached their table. “Hey, Taeng. How’s it going?”

“Hi!” Taeyeon looked up, expression bright. “I’m alright. Care to join us?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” the other answered glibly, plopping into the empty seat between the two before turning to Jessica, who was barely paying any attention. The darker girl grinned and extended a hand, snapping Jessica out of her reverie.

“Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Kwon Yuri.”

“You guys all alive?” The door slammed open one more time and Yuri walked in, making a beeline for Taeyeon while Sooyoung slumped into an empty chair. Seohyun closed the door carefully behind them, and Hyoyeon laughed at her for being so gentle when she’d so abruptly run into the other three just an hour before.

“Unnie, that was an emergency,” Seohyun managed to defend before the room burst into excited chatter and relieved chuckles, the nine women mingling and hugging. Jessica blinked rapidly and complained about being tired, quickly rubbing her sleeve across her face. Sooyoung just sniffed loudly, managing to roll her teary eyes even as she handed the other her already dampened tissue.

“You seem a little tense, Sunny-unnie,” Yoona noted after they had quieted down somewhat. She patted the blonde’s head. “Relax a little, okay? We made it for now, at least.”

Sunny stuck her tongue out at the taller girl, but then her expression settled into something more serious. “I’m just thinking that we could’ve gotten him. Right there. Screw the deal; this guy is dangerous and clearly a threat to Seoul, if not the entire country. Why didn’t I just tackle him or something when he was two meters away from me?”

“And then what?” Taeyeon asked as she struggled fruitlessly to remove Yuri’s arm from around her shoulder. “Give him to the police?”

“You heard him,” Tiffany chimed in. “The authorities aren’t even worth getting distracted about anymore. So if we did somehow manage to get him arrested, you can bet that he’d be out and about by tomorrow, and we’d be back to where we left off.”

Hyoyeon grinned. “We just need to beat him at his own game. He can lay on all the rules he wants, and we’ll play by them, ‘cause you know what? We’ll still win in the end.” She punched Sunny lightly in the shoulder.

“Unless you were thinking of a different way of finishing it,” Jessica pointed out, raising one eyebrow as if she was daring Sunny to say yes.

Sunny scoffed halfheartedly, failing to stop the slight smile making its way across her face. “It’s not like you gave me a gun to do the job, anyway.”

“That would be called a cheat,” Taeyeon said, grinning when Yuri finally removed her arm. “And a shortcut would be no fun, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Sunny sighed, protesting weakly as Yuri walked over and ruffled her hair. “Yah, why is everyone doing that?”

Sooyoung shrugged. “Because we can. So what’s the plan, guys? I’d rather not wait around ‘til Ahn makes his next move.”

Sunny gently removed Yuri’s hand from the top of her head and turned to open the door. “While you guys discuss that, I’m gonna step outside for a bit.”

“Where’re you going, unnie?” Yoona called after her.

She looked over her shoulder and gave the other eight girls a smile. “Visiting a friend.”