Asleep Are the Dogs: Chapter 14 (END)

July 16, 2013 in Asleep Are the Dogs, moonrise31 by moonrise31

Good boy.

Chapter 14: Of Loose Ends Wrapped and Epilogues Concluded

“Yoona-unnie, I’ve got your—” Seohyun stopped, closing the door behind her and noting the empty secretary desk. “Yoona-unnie? Taeyeon-unnie?”

“In here,” was the faint reply, and Seohyun followed the voice into the inner office, where she found Taeyeon lying on her own couch, staring at the ceiling with her hands folded behind her head.

“Unnie?”

Taeyeon shook her head back and forth a few times to show that she’d heard. “What’s up, Seohyun?”

She lifted the bag she was carrying. “Yoona-unnie wanted me to drop this off. Something bothering you, unnie?”

“Nothing much.” Taeyeon waved a careless hand. “I’ve just never been wrong before, is all.”

Seohyun settled herself in the armchair beside Taeyeon’s head. “What were you wrong about?”

“Ahn,” Taeyeon replied distantly, now staring at the back of her raised hand as if there was something more there than pale skin over white knuckles and barely visible veins. “It’s my job to get inside people’s heads, you know. I thought I got into his, but…I didn’t. I didn’t, in the end.”

Seohyun tilted her head. “What do you mean? The only reason we were able to get anywhere at all is because you were able to tell how he thought.”

Taeyeon exhaled loudly, letting her hand fall limply and dangle off the edge of the couch. “I never figured him for a quitter.”

“Quitter?” Seohyun echoed. “I’d like to think we won fair and square.”

The therapist managed a listless shrug from her position. “Maybe we did, maybe we didn’t. Sunny told you, didn’t she? That remote he had disarmed the bomb under me even as it activated the one under him.”

Seohyun leaned down and took Taeyeon’s hand in hers. “He told you himself that it was going to be the last stage. He didn’t want to stick around if we came out ahead, I suppose.”

Taeyeon shook her head. “His question, Seohyun-ah. Even if he didn’t like my answer, he was going to push the button. ‘Boom’, he said. Except it would be him, not me. It doesn’t make sense, unless he was planning to lose all along.”

“Or maybe,” Seohyun suggested quietly, “He knew that you were going to win.”

Taeyeon paused. Is that it? It had been two days after their final encounter with Ahn, and she was still itching to know if it had all really happened just because he’d been “bored”. Perhaps it had started with something more, like vengeance for not being able to fit in exactly how everyone else wanted, military or otherwise. Then he’d wandered into the darker dealings of Seoul, and he’d been able to come out on top. Maybe it made sense that he’d eventually grown tired of not being challenged, now above those who used to beat him down.

He got bored of winning.

“There really is only one way to stop playing, huh?” Taeyeon said out loud.

“He ended up using a cheat, though,” Seohyun replied quietly. “But I guess it wasn’t really about the game for us, was it?”

“I guess not,” Taeyeon agreed. She thought for another moment. “And I guess, in a way, we have to thank him.”

Seohyun couldn’t keep the disbelief out of her voice. “Why’s that?”

Taeyeon shrugged. “He singled out Sunny as someone who could challenge him. Probably Tiffany as well. Just those two alone brought the nine of us together, one way or another.”

“I don’t think that was his doing,” Seohyun objected matter-of-factly. “We were all connected before this, you know. I grew up with Yuri-unnie and Yoona-unnie, the first who knew you and Sica-unnie through university and the second who also knew Hyoyeon-unnie through work. Fany-unnie was your patient, and she was already best friends with Sooyoung-unnie. And Yuri-unnie and Sunny-unnie were in the military together, regardless of whether Sunny-unnie ended up coming to you for therapy, since you could argue that she might not have needed it if it wasn’t for Ahn—”

“Okay, okay,” Taeyeon interrupted with a chuckle. “I get it. Our wise maknae, huh?” She sat up and turned to face the other woman, addressing Seohyun’s earlier question. “Sica called Yoona for something awhile ago. I imagine she’ll be back eventually.”

“Jessica-unnie just keeps going, doesn’t she,” Seohyun commented.

Taeyeon shrugged. “The bad never rests, so the good can’t either.” She gave Seohyun a curious glance. “Although, I wonder if that makes any sense to you anymore.”

“I suppose,” Seohyun said slowly, “some ambiguity keeps life interesting.”

Taeyeon laughed and reached up to tuck a strand of hair behind the younger girl’s ear. “Life really did throw you for a couple turns these past couple weeks, didn’t it?”

Seohyun chuckled quietly. “It really got me thinking about what we usually call good and bad. Park Jeongsu-ssi, all of you unnies, even Ahn Tisong-ssi. No one is ever strictly one or the other, it seems.”

“I don’t think so either,” Taeyeon agreed, standing up for a stretch. “It’s all pretty much clear as mud, isn’t it? But playing in the dirt can be fun.” She grinned and patted Seohyun’s back. “Let’s all have a good time, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Seohyun stood up and wrapped an arm around the elder’s shoulder, thinking to herself that for all of the stress she’d gone through lately, she’d also been smiling a lot more. Already, another one was tugging at her lips.

“Ayo,” Hyoyeon greeted as she burst into the Icee Queen, ignoring the “CLOSED” sign hanging in the window. “I hope I’m not late.”

“I’m already deducting from your next paycheck,” Jessica replied from her seat at the counter, but a moment later she was laughing as Hyoyeon bounced over and pretended to punch her in the face.

Sunny turned back to Sooyoung, seated opposite from her, and sipped her milkshake through a straw. “So how’s the book coming?”

“It’s only been a week,” Sooyoung snorted as she reached across and scooped some of the jelly worms floating in Taeyeon’s malt, paying no heed to the other’s indignant objections. “I’m barely halfway through the second draft.”

“You’ll all sign my copy when it comes out, right?” Tiffany grinned as she nudged Sooyoung in the side. “Especially you, esteemed author-nim.”

Taeyeon leaned back, licking some milkshake off of her lips. “So how are you writing this, Soo? A dry old news report, or an action-packed adventure with ‘shockingly true story’ printed on the cover?”

Sooyoung winked. “Well, when you put it like that, which way do you think I chose?”

“This means you’ll change our names, right?” Tiffany raised her eyebrows at her friend as she sipped her drink. “Make sure you choose a good one for me.”

“How about ‘Miyoung’?” Taeyeon offered, and then banged her knee into the table. “Ow!”

Sunny looked from the groaning therapist to the innocently smiling Tiffany. “What was that?”

“Nothing,” Taeyeon replied, sounding somewhat strained as she rubbed her shin where it had been kicked. “On second thought, maybe something like ‘Stephanie’ would be better.”

Sooyoung snickered. “Duly noted.”

“Oh!” Sunny perked up. “I talked to Sunhwa earlier today, Soo. She says you’re all set to be published, whenever you’re ready.”

Sooyoung grinned. “Awesome! This calls for celebration.” She swiped Sunny’s milkshake, ignoring the shorter girl’s protests as she gulped down a few mouthfuls.

This,” Yoona suddenly proclaimed from behind the counter, “is going to be amazing.”

Yuri pulled out a package of straws. “Ready, Yoong? First one to get brain freeze loses.”

“I think this is a horrible idea,” Seohyun informed them as she eyed the bucket of slushie the other two had concocted in the backroom.

“That’s why you need to play, Seohyun,” Yuri teased. “A brain freeze will stop all that ridiculous thinking of yours.”

“Anyone else wanna go?” Yoona asked, looking around at the rest of the girls, who were either already gathered around the counter or seated at the nearby table. “Actually, anyone except Sica-unnie. She’s already so cold, she’d win for sure.”

“Just for that,” Jessica said, lazily leaning over to pluck some bottles of food coloring from behind the counter and squirt their contents into the bucket, “I’m gonna make your slushie brown.”

“Ooh, count me in!” Hyoyeon declared, accepting Yuri’s proffered straw. “Then we can run out into the street and scare kids with our dirt-colored tongues.”

“In my professional opinion—” Taeyeon stood up and walked over, malt in hand to keep it out of Sooyoung’s reach.

Seohyun grabbed her arm. “Unnie, please stop them.”

“—I think this is an amazing idea,” Taeyeon finished with a cackle, equally as amused with the proposed slushie adventure as she was with Seohyun’s mortified expression. “Send any traumatized kids over to me—I need the extra cash.”

“Wow,” Sooyoung commented as she joined them, one arm around Tiffany and the other draped over Sunny, “This might change the characterizations I originally had of you guys.”

“I don’t think it’s possible for us to be any more awesome,” Yoona replied airily, flipping her hair in an exaggerated fashion. Then she held up her straw, an impossibly large grin on her face. “Alright, let’s go!

“Sica, be the judge,” Hyoyeon ordered.

Yuri pumped a fist in the air. “Bonus! If none of us manage to get brain freeze and finish the bucket before Sica falls asleep, we all get free ice cream.”

“Only if you pay for it,” was all Jessica had to say about the matter.

Sunny pulled up a chair and stood on the seat, resting her chin comfortably on top of Sooyoung’s head. “Ready, guys? One!”

Tiffany cupped her hands around her mouth before she shouted, “Two!”

“Three!” Taeyeon cheered.

GO!” The chorus roared throughout the room—although Seohyun would later deny that she’d taken any part of it.

The race quickly deteriorated into nine straws being stuck into the artificially-flavored ice, and the rest of the day was filled with brown tongues, plenty of laughter, and a picnic night on the rooftop to look at the stars.