Asleep Are the Dogs: Chapter 4

May 20, 2013 in Asleep Are the Dogs, moonrise31 by moonrise31

Heel.

Chapter 4: Of Close Calls and the Number Nine

“B7.”

A sigh. “Hit.” A pause as she scratched her head. “C9.”

“Miss,” Yoona smirked.

Taeyeon rolled her eyes. “Of course.”

The two looked up as the door suddenly slammed open. A somewhat frazzled Tiffany entered, wild eyes flicking from Taeyeon perched casually on the reception desk to Yoona seated behind.

“Hello, Tiffany,” Taeyeon greeted as she stuck a white plastic piece into the board in front of her.

Yoona grinned and waved as she guessed, “A7?”

Taeyeon sighed again. “Hit, and sunk. How many times did I lose now? You could really have a career in professional Battleship, you know.”

“Just because I beat you doesn’t mean I’m amazing, Taeyeon-unnie,” Yoona teased as she began removing the plastic ships from her game board, ignoring Taeyeon’s indignant mutters inquiring as to how all of Yoona’s ships could be placed any way besides downright diagonal. “What’s up, Fany-unnie? You don’t have an appointment today.”

“Uh…” Tiffany blinked as she tried to organize her thoughts into coherent sentences. “I have a problem.”

“Therapists generally try to help get rid of those,” Taeyeon commented, closing the lid of the Battleship box and leaning over to store the game somewhere behind Yoona’s desk. “What can I do for you?”

“Um…” Tiffany frowned, realizing that she was faced with a delicate situation. She couldn’t explain how she knew Sooyoung was in trouble without revealing her real line of work, so she decided to skip straight to the problem at hand while still trying to be as vague as possible. “Okay. Say, hypothetically, that you knew your friend was in serious danger, but you couldn’t help her—or him,” she added belatedly, “without getting into danger yourself. What would you do?”

Taeyeon shifted so that both of her legs were dangling off the edge of the desk, swinging them idly as she considered Tiffany’s question. “Well, first of all, the completely hypothetical you is doing a good job by not rushing headfirst into the completely hypothetical who-knows-what-kind-of-danger-this-is.”

Tiffany’s shoulders relaxed by the slightest fraction.

Taeyeon immediately noted the movement, nodding quietly to herself before continuing. “Now let’s try to narrow down this totally and utterly imagined situation into something more specific. What exactly is the danger?”

Tiffany pursed her lips. “It’s…life-threatening.”

“Life-threatening.” Taeyeon raised her eyebrows. “This isn’t just some friend who went off to get wasted beyond belief, right?”

“WHAT? Of course not! How could you even—”

“Alright, alright.” Taeyeon held up both hands to ward off Tiffany’s indignant outburst. “Just checking. And I’m guessing this isn’t the sort of danger that you could just go to the police about, or you would’ve done so already.”

Tiffany gritted her teeth. “It’s…complicated.” Suddenly, a thought struck her. “You’re taking this pretty calmly, aren’t you?”

“That’s my name,” Taeyeon agreed with a grin as she turned. “Now hand me the phone, would you, Yoona? This’ll just take a minute.”

Yoona passed the receiver with one hand and waved Tiffany over with the other. “C’mere, Fany-unnie. I’ve got the most adorable Totoro fanart to show you.”

Tiffany couldn’t stop a smile even as the anxious butterflies in her stomach continued to flutter. She leaned over the desk and Yoona turned the computer monitor so she could see the screen. Even so, both had one ear tuned to the conversation happening behind them.

“Hey, mind if I ask for a favor?” Taeyeon was saying. “I’ve got a patient who needs a…special kind of job done.” She listened and nodded, even though the person on the other end couldn’t see her. “I actually don’t know what, but I’m sure she’d tell you.”

Tiffany finally tore her gaze away from the cute cartoons to gape at Taeyeon. “Are you seriously going to help me right now?” Taeyeon gave her a thumbs-up and then choked back a yelp of surprise when Tiffany tackled her. “Oh my gosh you’re the greatest!”

Taeyeon smiled and patted the other girl’s head as the voice on the line asked a question. Her eyes widened slightly. “Yeah, it’s Tiffany. You know her, Sica?” There was a click on the other end, and she lowered the phone. “Well, Jessica will be over in a bit.”

“You know Jessica too?” Tiffany unwrapped herself from Taeyeon’s waist. “Small world.”

“Probably smaller than you think,” Taeyeon commented offhandedly as she slid off the desk, and Yoona giggled. The therapist spun around and tilted her head. “Fany, I’m talking to you as a friend, so can I ask you a question?”

“Go for it.” Tiffany shrugged. Doesn’t mean I’ll answer, though. If it’s anything about how I know Soo is in danger or why I’m mixed up with Jessica…

“Why do you think you have to do everything by yourself?”

Tiffany blinked, caught off guard by Taeyeon’s sincere expression as much as she was by the actual question. “…What?”

“You think you have to do everything. Take care of everyone. Know all the information and be everywhere at once. Thank goodness you came here instead of rushing off to save your friend, but maybe it should’ve crossed your mind to go to Jessica first, since you know she’s good at those sorts of things anyway.” Taeyeon tapped her chin once, twice. “Asking for help—no, I take that back. It’s being dependent on others that isn’t easy for you. Why do you think that is?”

Tiffany stared at the other woman for two full seconds before releasing a loud exhale, lips curving into a sad smile. “You’re my therapist. You know why.”

The door to the office opened a second time before Taeyeon could reply. “This had better be good, Tiffany.” Jessica looked mildly annoyed as she slouched into one of the waiting room chairs, Sunny and Hyoyeon filing in and taking seats as well.

“Sica-unnie, you’re fast,” Yoona commented even as she tapped away at her keyboard.

“We were actually on our way over here when Taeyeon called,” Jessica explained. “Sunny’s on board, so we’re all ready to go.”

“Is this something I should be stepping out of the room for,” Taeyeon said as she leaned against the desk, making no move to leave.

“Jessi…before we do that.” Tiffany laughed sheepishly. “So do you mind if I ask for something personal first?”

Jessica looked at her blankly. “Are we on a nickname basis now?”

“Unnie!” Tiffany barely managed to sidestep the swinging door as Juhyun suddenly burst in. “I just lost my job. What do I do?”

“What?” Yoona spun around in her chair so fast, she almost banged her leg into the desk. “But you just told us that you were cleared!”

“I have no idea why this happened,” Juhyun’s expression was a cloud of frustration and despair. “Unnie, what do I do?” Her eyes began to tear up and Yoona immediately rushed over.

“Oh, hey, this kid works at the National Assembly, right?” Hyoyeon perked up.

Worked,” Juhyun sniffed, and Yoona glared at Hyoyeon as she patted the younger girl’s back and murmured soothing words.

“Don’t get mad, Yoona,” Jessica said, crossing her arms. “Your friend worked for Park Jeongsu, right? We can give her a job that’ll pay ten times better than the one she just lost.”

Yoona brightened. “Oh right, that’s true. You’re the best, Sica-unnie!”

Tiffany fidgeted with the hem of her hoodie. “Um, so, I guess I should try and tell you—”

“What the hell, Taeng?” Yuri stormed in, gritting her teeth in frustration. “Please explain to me why I was called down to Jongno to help with the victims of the gigantic explosion that caused hundreds of casualties only to be suddenly kicked out a few hours in? And while I was in the middle of tending to a patient, for heaven’s sake!”

Taeyeon gave Yuri’s shoulder a comforting pat. “If I had a single clue about hospitals or how they worked, I’d be the first to tell you. Take a breather, Yuri. Apparently we’re having a party over here.”

Yuri nodded once, standing next to Taeyeon and leaning against the desk as well, even as she continued to mutter to herself. “It’s okay, Yuri. They probably just got confused. Maybe some paperwork didn’t go through. There’s a logical explanation for this.”

“You guys,” Tiffany tried again, but Jessica, Sunny, and Hyoyeon were in some sort of deep conversation and Yoona was still comforting a teary-eyed Juhyun. Taeyeon had become distracted by the pencil holder on the desk and Yuri seemed to be talking to no one in particular. Tiffany took a deep breath.

“OH MY GOSH CAN YOU GUYS JUST PLEASE LISTEN TO ME FOR ONE MINUTE?”

Everyone froze, seven pairs of eyes locked on Tiffany.

Then, the door swung open one more time. Eight heads turned to stare at the newest arrival.

Tiffany gaped. “Sooyoung?”

When Sooyoung arrived at the abandoned warehouse, she wasn’t sure exactly what she had been expecting. Maybe another human being would’ve been nice.

Instead, she wandered around the place by herself for a good fifteen minutes, avoiding dirty puddles and half-collapsed beams, making her way carefully up a set of creaky, rusted stairs to the top floor. Once she arrived, she cautiously stepped into the one room with a light on—the one she’d seen from outside when the taxi had dropped her off. “Hello?”

The only object greeting her besides the bare bulb hanging from the cracked ceiling was a brand-new plasma screen display mounted on the wall opposite of her, looking painfully out of place in such a deteriorated environment. She frowned and approached it slowly, the rotting floorboards depressing slightly as she did so. The screen was dark and no button she pushed could make it turn on.

What time is it, anyway? She pulled out her phone to glance at the clock. 5:30. Right on time. Then she noticed the one new message from Tiffany. She unlocked her screen and opened the text.

[4:52 PM] WHEN YOU READ THIS, GET OUT. NOW.

Suddenly, the display on the wall in front of her lit up, red numerals flashing.

3:00

Sooyoung’s eyes widened. How did—

2:59

She swore and turned on her heel, dashing out of the room as fast as she dared, hoping the floor wouldn’t give out from underneath her. She caught a glimpse of the countdown just before she turned towards the stairs. Two minutes and fifty-eight seconds to get out of here.

She scrambled out of the building, cursing her shoes for having poor traction on damp cement, and ran as fast as her legs would take her. She glanced at her phone and watched as the time quietly switched to 5:33.

She dove to the ground and squeezed her eyes shut.

But nothing happened.

Five seconds of utter silence passed, only interrupted by a distant splash. She cautiously opened one eye, first realizing that she had dropped her phone. She picked herself up and straightened out her clothes, dreading the worst as she approached the nearest storm drain in the sidewalk and peered through the grating. Sure enough, she could see her phone screen glowing faintly from the depths.

She came to terms with the lost cause fairly quickly and turned around to stare at the building she had so hastily evacuated from. It seemed as rundown as before, but was undoubtedly in the same condition.

Sooyoung frowned. False alarm?

She staked out the warehouse for two more hours, keeping it at a two-block distance as she circled it again and again. She could even see the top floor room with the light still on, although the display wasn’t visible from the window. When the sun began to set, she decided that she’d waited long enough. Better call it a night.

She opted to walk instead of taking a taxi, since cabs didn’t normally service that area anyway. Only when she was halfway home did she realize that she hadn’t called Tiffany within the two-hour period she’d promised. Crap. And she was pretty freaked out, too.

Sooyoung glanced along both sides of the street, looking for a place that might lend her a phone. A flash of green caught her eye, and she realized that she was standing next to what seemed to be a therapist’s office, a pod of three happy peas advertising Dr. Kim’s practice. A therapist wouldn’t mind lending a phone to some random person, she reasoned.  I bet they’d have had stranger requests. She took a deep breath, grabbed the handle, and opened the door, ready to explain her phone-less situation.

Nothing could have prepared her for coming face-to-face with Tiffany and seven strangers somehow crammed into the tiny waiting room of the therapist’s office. Sooyoung could only stare back in dumbfounded silence.

Tiffany gaped. “Sooyoung?”

“Hi…” Sooyoung managed as she fought the urge to massage her temples. To say that today has been weird would be the definite understatement of the century.